The Purpose of Gaming? (drunken musings are fun)

  06:57:06 pm, by Damon   , 363 words  
Viewed 33112 times since 09/09/13
Categories: Misc

Two posts within days of each other! Won't happen again, but this is something I've been pondering recently: Why do we play games? In fact, this could apply to many things, such as movies, music, books, and so on. I've always been curious what is so enthralling about modern media?

Ever since art, ranging from painting to books to movies and games, there has always been an effort to put you into the world that piece wants to convey. At first, games were popular as a novelty, then as they became more mainstream and used to kill time, were used more and more often, and some people can spend hours at a time at a game. Why is that?

For me, and I am sure that many people agree with me, the reason I game or listen to that perfect song that tells the perfect story, or re-read that well written novel is because I want to escape.

Escapism. To lose myself in a world of fantasy that is far from what the normal world would present to me. To experience a novel life not experienced normally and to be what I want to be and live how I want to. To escape from the mundane, and become the supernatural. Even the worst case scenario in a video game still portrays a certain... Feeling. It's one of those hard to explain things, that you know is there, but can't logically explain. It's a beautiful, yet strange concept, being able to plug in to another world and be told a story alongside a series of pixels and code lines that make up a poor smith or a king, and feel like you belong.

I know what I want to say, but I am half asleep and wanting beer, so I probably don't make sense, and I definitely don't know how to say this. I normally close my posts to comments because of spam and stuff, but I'll leave them open. I am curious why people play games, why we seek escapism over real life, and so on and so forth.

The various inebriating substances are calling me, so I'm out for a while. Later.

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Splinter Cell: Conviction

  02:07:22 pm, by Damon   , 605 words  
Viewed 26603 times since 09/08/13
Categories: Games

Hey, UESP blog readers! Another sporadic post from me. This time, we're rambling about Splinter Cell: Conviction, a game I find really bloody amazing.

If you don't know, the premise of the Splinter Cell franchise is that there is a top secret agency in the United States government known as Third Echelon, and in every game you're the top Splinter Cell, Sam Fisher. Splinter Cells, in short, are highly trained field operatives trained in stealth and infiltration… A ghost who doesn't officially exist.

I've been a fan of Splinter Cell since the original was released, and I've loved every single game. Of course, I like the stealth genre, and games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid have naturally amused me.

On to the purpose of this post. I've seen a lot of people complain about Conviction. Primarily about the lack of traditional stealth-based aspects, like the ability to move bodies, have fancy gear, and perform "Split jumps", and other moves. Conviction, as a game, is a lot faster and deadlier than the previous instalments, with new moves like "Mark and Execute", where, after a melee takedown, you gain the ability to "Mark" enemies, and at the touch of a button, Fisher will begin a really fast execution of every single one of them, using his Centre-Axis-Relock gun handling. Fast and deadly. One shot is a kill every time with M&E.

The biggest complaint that I've seen is that Fisher can't pick up and move bodies after he's taken them out, similar to in the other games. The most "movement" you get is if you grab someone alive and drag them around as a human shield, before you perform a take down.

At the start of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, the game before Conviction, Fisher's daughter Sarah was killed in a hit and run while he was out on assignment for Third Echelon. After Double Agent, Fisher leaves Third Echelon to learn what happened to his daughter. In Conviction, he's driven by revenge in the first mission to learn about the truth of Sarah's death, then he's caught by Echelon and sent out by Grim to uncover an EMP threat against the United States president.

When you think about it, would Fisher care about stealth? He's got nothing to lose after finding out that he's been lied to by Third Echelon to keep him from being compromised during the story. He's not going to be concerned about being careful. The rule book has been thrown out, and he's his own man on his own mission. Grim is an ally of convenience, essentially. He's doing this for Sarah, and he says several times in the game to Grim, "if you cross me, I'll kill you". I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.

These advanced stealth moves, I hear, make a return in the latest game, Blacklist, which came out recently, though I've not played it yet, and can't say on my own. At this point, I'd assume things are normal again. Fisher's an infiltration agent for the US again, his daughter's alive, and reunited with him.

Honestly, I think that the Conviction story, for what the story was about, did better because of the lack of the traditional "Splinter Cell moves". While I am in the crowd who missed those advanced moves from the older games, I feel that the absence of them in Conviction was necessary to help push on the story and give that feeling of aggression and anger that Fisher felt towards Grim and Third Echelon as he was manipulated into this conspiracy that took the life of his daughter.

Please don't steal my stuff :'(

  02:55:25 am, by   , 837 words  
Viewed 26143 times since 09/01/13
Categories: UESP

Plagiarism of the UESP's content is a big problem. Please see our articles on common mistakes and copyright ownership. Basic rule of thumb: if you weren't the one who added some original content here, you don't have the right to take that content and publish it as your own somewhere else. It's just that simple. The rest of this is too long; don't read.

When I'm not monitoring the recent changes to the UESP or making minor edits small tweaks to pages, I'm often preparing a substantial update to one of our lore pages. TES easily has the most intricate world ever imagined for a video game, and yet much of the information we've been given about it is incomplete, ambiguous, misleading, and even intentionally contradictory (damn you, Bethesda). So please understand that trying to properly fact-check and expand a lore article is often an intensive and time-consuming endeavor. Once I find a project, I conduct a source pull: I comb through the UESP, the game data, and sometimes The Imperial Library for every scrap of relevant information I can find. Then I review it all and start a sandbox. If a page already existed, I copy and paste it, then review for inaccuracies and provide any needed citations. If I can't corroborate something, I go back to the sources, consult my fellow editors, and maybe even visit the high-functioning, usually good-natured sociopaths we keep chained up in the lore forum. If I still can't corroborate something, I remove it. Then I fill in any missing information in a logical way while trying my best to follow all the UESP policies (and we've got quite a few). This often leads to a complete overhaul of the page's layout. Even after I've finally published my revisions, I revisit the page several times over the course of several weeks to see if fresh eyes can detect any typos or other problems I had initially missed.

It is hard to do it right. Harder than it looks. This stuff doesn't just appear out of thin air. It's thanks to labors of love from people like me.

Occasionally, I check other wikis dedicated to documenting The Elder Scrolls and discover that someone else is taking credit for my words. Not Bethesda's words. My words. Instead of putting in the same efforts I did, these people decide it's far easier to essentially copy and paste onto other wikis the things I've worked so hard to put together. I'm sure it is much easier for them. Stealing is typically a lot easier than creating.

Now, to preface, I love The Imperial Library. It's not really a wiki, but I want to make clear that their contributors have not inspired this rant. Their out-of-game information is often summarized on the UESP (always giving them credit, of course). I've directed UESP readers to visit their site even if it wasn't strictly necessary to do so, such as here and the comment here, because any UESP user would benefit from a trip to TIL (so long as they can properly distinguish between in-game works, out-of-game works by developers, and pure fan fiction). I think the two sites have complementary strengths and weaknesses, and I've certainly never had to worry about anyone there plagiarizing work from the UESP.

I also don't have a problem with online videos about Elder Scrolls lore which basically lift parts (or even all) of their scripts from the UESP. I love watching them, and it's kind of a thrill to realize that a well-made video is quoting something I've written. I'm happy to indirectly assist the makers. Some other UESP editors might feel differently, but these videos aren't in direct competition with the UESP, either. We're not a video-hosting site. They're in a different media format, and their works are usually transformative enough that I don't think there's a real plagiarism issue. And, if anything, watching a video about TES will often give a viewer the urge to visit a site like the UESP to corroborate some things or to delve more deeply into a topic, so these videos probably benefit the UESP indirectly.

However, the case is entirely different when someone else decides to take my work and claim it as their own on a competitor wiki. It has happened many times before. To the best of my knowledge, it's very rare for a UESP contributor to take something from another wiki without permission. I've seen it happen maybe once in the more than two years I've spent here. Content on the UESP, however, is quite frequently added to other wikis. Most recently, I saw that a plagiarist on another site had received a formal award for his efforts - which were in large part actually my efforts for several different pages here. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but who wants to be flattered in the first place? It's uncomfortable. But I digress. Point is:

"This is not 'Nam. There are rules."
-Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

Achievements Are Awful (and also Alliteration)

  12:12:40 am, by Nocte Canticum   , 364 words  
Viewed 22938 times since 08/20/13
Categories: Games, Elder Scrolls

I hate achievements. I am a "completionist" and I hate achievements (okay, most achievements). One may ask "Nocte, why do you have so many achievements if you hate them so much?" (I really don't, but that's beside the point). Allow me to explain. There are three kinds of achievements, in my opinion.
1. The normal-gameplay achievement:
These achievemets are the ones that anyone who plays the game, regardless of skill level, will ultimately obtain. For an example (and to connect this marginally to the Elder Scrolls), look at the Xbox achievements for Oblivion. Every single one of those are obtainable by completing main quests or faction quests. They take no extra effort aside from the player, and are granted through normal gameplay. These achivements seem silly to me, because they reward me for playing the game (which should be rewarding in and of itself), yet I always seem to get them...
2. The grinding achivement:
These achievements are the ridiculous achievements that require repetition of the same or similar actions. As an example, consider the achievements "Defeat 100 'X' enemies". For an Elder Scrolls example, look at the Skyrim achievement "Reader", which requires the player to seek out and read 100 skill books. I tend to ignore these achievements, because grinding is not my thing (I get enough of that in JRPGs).
3. The exploration achievement:
These achievements are my favourite (lesser of three evils), and the only achievements for which I will excessively work. These achievements reward the player for finding unique locations in the game, or creating a unique event that not every player would encounter. The biggest example I can always think of (though not an ES example) is the Half-life 2 achievement Vorticough in which the player finds an alien singing in a cave. It takes a little effort to get to the cave, but the player is rewarded with an adorable in-game event (and the achievement too, I suppose). Depending on the in-game reward for completion, I will actually try for these achievements.

So, there you have it. My rant on achievements and why I dislike them so much. That being said... I am always willing to brag about the ones I DO have! :P

Skyrim's Lost Potential

  10:33:17 pm, by   , 468 words  
Viewed 41628 times since 07/31/13
Categories: Welcome, Elder Scrolls

We expect a movie critic to actually have seen a film's ending before giving a rating. Food critics who eat only part of their steak and skip the side dish altogether won't really know enough to give a review on their meal. Likewise, a major video game in modern times like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim cannot be judged properly until it has run its course. It stands as a perfect example of how such games are expected to have at least one major DLC. This expectation is built into the pricing model, the game design, and even the expectations of the fans. We don't just judge a game, we judge a game's promise, how much enjoyment we expect to receive from it in the future. Thanks to Bethesda's announcement on April 15, we know that we have seen the last of the Skyrim DLC, and while many of us may still be spending countless hours with it over the next few years, we can now look back and judge whether Skyrim's potential was realized. Upon doing so, however, I can't help but conclude that this seems like a game which stills needs one or two more additions of DLC to be complete.

The ways Bethesda could have resolved the civil war quest line are as numerous as they are exciting. Whether it's the Empire finishing off the Stormcloak resistance, the Stormcloaks securing their borders, or some less orthodox third option, it doesn't seem complete without players getting a chance to ensure their choice becomes High King. We only got four missions dealing with the Eight Divines; that doesn't seem right. That whole thing with the Forsworn and Madanach just sort of ended. What about the under-utilized Orc strongholds, and all those teasing loading screens about how Orsinium was rebuilt on Skyrim's border? As AKB wrote in his April blog entry "Consequences Matter", many of Skyrim's quest lines "don't conclude, they stop". Clearly, there were many areas ripe for new or expanded storylines which would have added significant depth to the overall game.

Instead of fleshing out these areas which felt, for lack of a better word, unfinished, Bethesda pulled the plug on Skyrim DLC. We can only speculate on their reasoning for doing so. Perhaps the profits from the first three were lower than expected due to the technical problems encountered with implementing them on the PS3, and maybe the economic downturn was a factor. They may have wanted to focus on making a launch game for the next generation of consoles. But I don't think the notion that Skyrim had run its course creatively holds much merit.

Despite its unrealized potential, I think Skyrim stands as one of the best games ever made. I just wish the artists had made a few more brushstrokes on their masterpiece.