Blizzard’s Overwatch Announcement

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Pretty much everyone and their auntie was aware of this before me, but here goes. Blizzard Entertainment have announced that their next game release will be a First Person Shooter called Overwatch. It is a “team-based” game, which from the looks of things is a euphemistic way of saying “there’s not going to be a single player campaign, or if there is it’s going to be short and really just an adjunct to the multiplayer stuff”. From just the trailers it looks…it looks like Team Fortress 2.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Team Fortress 2 is an awesome game, although it is so ridiculously ill-suited to new players that anyone leaping into it now would have the following reaction: “Ok. I just died four hundred times and still have no idea what is happening.”  Extremely fast gameplay (powerful weapons, low health, and an overall movement speed that is *just* on the sane side of “frenetic”) combined with the fact that there are 9 playable “classes” in the game – it does not invite casual play.

So if Overwatch is more of the same (and with a dozen classes, it looks damn like it) I guess I’m out before it even gets started.

But the fact I’m unlikely to dip my toe into the waters isn’t the only reason to post. I was given this link on Twitter:

Blizzard wants its diverse fans to feel ‘equally represented’ by Overwatch’s heroes

While wanting to create a roster of diverse characters is a laudable goal – everyone wants to feel represented, of course – I had watched both trailers before I read this and having done so, it felt like the article was a bit of a joke. The characters on display in the trailer didn’t feel particularly diverse, and the women got – as ever in these things – a harsh deal when it comes to armour design. Still, I decided to go to the main site and take a look at each character in turn.

Tracer – English (white) woman, age 28. Outfit is pretty good – I’ve seen runners out in more mental leggings. In the trailer she has the most ridiculous English accent and is “quirky”. Manic Pixie Dream Girl Alert Status: Amber.

Zenyatta – A robot, age 20. A Nepalese guru, he’s also a fucking robot because the West apparently doesn’t dehumanise South Asians enough these days. *slow clap, Blizzard* He floats in the air and makes vaguely mystical gestures so I’m genuinely expecting a grab bag of New Age spiritual piggybacking in his voice acting.

Mercy – Swiss (white) woman, age 34. Presumably named after the one word she managed to yell when they crammed her into her costume. Luckily for a 34 year old, she has the physique of a late-teens gymnast, so the ridiculous boob armour fits like a glove. One of her three abilities is “Can Shoot A Gun, But Is Usually Better Off Not Trying”. I’m not fucking kidding.

Hanzo – Japanese (but still white, see description) man, age 38. This character takes the absolute piss. He looks like a Generic Male Character, of the sort you find in every other game ever. Blizzard should call him Adam Fucking Jensen, pay Eidos a cent every time he gets picked and they could add in those embedded shades from Deus Ex to ice the cake.

Bastion – Is a robot. Of all the exciting robot possibilities in the Universe, Blizzard have opted for one with two modes: Shoot Gun (Can Move) and Shoot Bigger Gun (Cannot Move). By giving him no base and no affiliations, Blizzard sidestep all awkward drone comparisons.

Torbjörn – Swedish (white) man, age 57. Basically they wanted a dwarf from the Warcraft Universe. He has the same name as a swivel chair from IKEA. His backstory is the plot of Iron Man.

Symmetra – Indian (POC) woman, aged 28. She’s a POC! Yay! They’ve dressed her as “Sexy Uhuru”! Boo!

Reinhardt – German (race unknown) man, age 61. He wears a giant suit of armour, and no hint of him can be seen. Might as well be a robot.

Pharah – Egyptian (POC) woman, age 32 – this is actually really good, IMO. Her armour actually covers her, she doesn’t have high heels, and she has an Offensive role that is reflected in the badass combination of rocket jump, knockback/shield and armour destruction ability, and a rocket launcher. In her backstory, she follows in her mother’s footsteps to serve in the military. Well done, Blizzard! The first character so far I find genuinely interesting.

Winston – Is a gorilla. Is a fucking gorilla. I can’t even.

 Widowmaker – French (PURPLE) woman, age 33. Has a physique that makes Mercy look like she’s been slacking at the gym. Wears a figure-hugging one-piece that has been slit from collar to navel, because all the very best sniper/assassins know that when you are hunting a mark, inner sideboob is the most important trait of all. Did I mention she’s purple? She’s purple. Blizzard would rather put a purple woman and a gorilla in their game than a black person, their commitment to diversity is so great.

Reaper – Name: Unknown, Age: Unknown, Affiliation: Unknown. Dressed in an outfit reminiscent of Death himself, this is high-order fanservice that makes the design choices that led to Hanzo look reasonable. There is fan fiction being written RIGHT NOW about Reaper, I guarantee it. I can only hope he turns out to be one of the weakest characters in the game because a lot of people will first pick him simply for looking “cool”.

This is all just conjecture, mind. Maybe Blizzard HAVE done a great job of representing everyone, but that effort won’t show until every character they’ve ever planned is out there. Of course, by that time the meta game will have become so complex that trying to get started will feel impenetrable to everyone, regardless of their race, creed, or orientation.

When fire burns, is it at war?

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I haven’t finished a single-player game since completing Mass Effect 3. When it came out, Lisa and I put an entire weekend aside to finish it in one complete play through. For the record, we were fine with the original ending (we chose Synthesis). As I later put it, the entire game felt like an ending, played out over a series of very emotional hours. The line “Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.” still gives me major feels.

But still, I haven’t really picked up any new games since then. While I appreciate the growing power of narrative in gaming, something in me just isn’t drawn as much towards them any more. I still like multiplayer games, and quite enjoy the social aspect of sitting down and having a stressful time with friends while other friends (or even complete strangers) trounce us over and over. I’m not very good at games. I was all right at Starcraft once,* back when I was procrastinating over editing a novel and playing game after game of it could fill the time quite nicely, but now I just feel angry and disappointed as everyone else seems to have mastered their sub-15 minute builds while I’m still dawdling over which building to make.

I don’t think I can play a MMO again, either. I enjoyed World of Warcraft when it started but by the time we stopped it had passed through feeling like a job (or an obligation, making sure we were ready to raid every evening) to something that we just happened to fill our evenings with, like Eastenders or trips to the local. Not that there’s anything bad about any of these things, but I was starting to get that itchy feeling at the back of my head, that feeling that I was spending all my time consuming and not doing a whole lot of creating. It’s no coincidence that I started writing almost as soon as I stopped paying my subscription. Your milage may vary on that sort of thing – certainly there are plenty of creatives who can and do juggle their time effectively – but nevertheless: that’s at least one thing I had to do to get my arse in gear.

But I still like games. I’d like to play more, or at least to have opportunities to play more. I’ve had it in my head for a little while that I would really like to build a little arcade table…well, build is a strong word. I’d like to drill a bunch of holes on a suitably-sized piece of easy-build furniture and put two arcade sticks in, then hook it up to a dedicated computer so that I could play arcade games on the tv with my other half or anyone else I could trick into coming to the house. Nidhogg looks like the most fun ever and I know there are other games that would equally fit the bill.

On that note, I think Johann Sebastian Joust would be an incredible convention game. It’d be hell getting it on the official programme (Health and Safety nightmare, or what?) but if someone were to suddenly start carting round a laptop and some Move controllers, I could well imagine a few people would be well up for it.

*Bronze league “all right” which is just north of “acceptably poor”.

 

What *is* the plural of Walrus?

This was a conversation I found myself having Friday afternoon after being asked to draw a graph of my week on a sheet of paper, days being the independent variable (time-limited) along the x-axis and my mood being dependent, indicated on the y-axis. Interestingly, on being asked that question, I had to instantly go back and amend my graph because in all honesty it was the best thing that had happened to me all week.

We agreed that “walruses” is boring and shame was poured on one contributor’s head for adding a superfluous apostrophe to make it “walruse’s” on the whiteboard (also prompting the question, “what’s a walruse and what stuff would it possess?“).

Walrice didn’t survive the screening process but walri? That felt closer to the mark.

What if we added an extra vowel? What if we doubled that shit right up?

Walrii. yes, my friends, that feels so much more comfortable on the tongue.

Being Scottish, I staunchly defended the possibility of an ancient, Caledonian flavour – hundreds of walrae, their sleek, heavy-set bodies crowding the rocky shores – but it was summarily rejected by the harsh, Southern tones of my English companions.
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If there was any justice in the world…

…Dragon Age 2 would be out today.

Wandered round the city today and popped into Game for a quick look around. Couldn’t see a single thing that whet my gaming whistle, which is sadly turning out to be the story of my life. Maybe I’m just getting old?

I’m still attracted to games like Starcraft 2, but the difficulty curve of multiplayer is so steep that playing online just feels like self-flagellation, without the kinky pay-off.

Dragon Age 2 felt quite nice in the demo – the human models have improved somewhat, being a little less uncanny to watch for any length of time (still not great, though). Background texturing still fails, though, and I was not surprised to find myself – yet again – running round a mountain environment that was covered in what looked to be purple-brown vomit. Maybe that’s a side effect of the ever-encroaching darkness?

The combat is a little better (camera still poor) but I don’t get why the control system has to mirror the Mass Effect model so closely. The ability cooldowns are all way too slow, the attack button needs to be hammered way too often, it just doesn’t feel like a “natural” combat system to me. That’s just my opinion, of course, and I didn’t spend much time using the Mage archetype, which might be better for me in terms of gameplay, but it defeats the point when I like playing characters who can mix it up in the melee.

So yeah. It hasn’t quite won me over yet, but it’s a big release froma studio that I’ve long been a fan of, one of the few gaming studios engaged in actual storytelling in their games. I’m willing to overlook my misgivings regarding the combat system just to see what fun I can have in the conversation system.

I also came close to picking up The Wise Man’s Fear, the follow-up to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The first book I didn’t pick up until I saw it on discount paperback and honestly because there had been so many people harping on about how awesomely great it was that I just had to get it over with. It was alright. I struggled with the Polgara-level smugness of two of the characters, so never got into it as much as I would have liked to – Kvothe I could just about get the point of since he’s announced on the jacket as the main man, but Denna was kind of pointlessly insufferable unless of course she turns out to be the female big bad.

Anyway, I almost picked up the second book as a hardback, because despite the nits I might pick, Rothfuss writes very well and generally speaking I believe people that you think are talented should be rewarded for their efforts. Whether or not he gets a better cut of the money from hardback, I don’t know, but surely any publisher doing decent sales on first release is going to be happy with their choice of author.

AAAAANYWAY. The cover put me off a bit. Sorry. Lovely border design and typeface choice, wonky-headed sword guy in the middle didn’t win me over. I might have said years ago that covers just don’t matter on the books I buy but honestly I like books that are gorgeous to look at as well, and the UK cover didn’t quite hit the spot – enough to put me off laying down the extra money.

/sigh. So much to do this weekend, a lot of it work. I might try and relax a bit though because I’m feeling a touch ragged today. Maybe the gym this afternoon, some chores and a nice dinner is the best course of action. I can maybe fit a couple of hours work in later on when it might not feel like a burden.

Game On.

It’s been a big week on the Xbox.  Lisa and I finished Mass Effect 2 in a little over 28 hours of play.  It’s a great game; the essence of a much larger RPG distilled down to a very streamlined product that puts characterisation ahead of everything else, and really establishes a connection between the player and their primary toon.  As an experience, Mass Effect 2 is the modern interpretation of Steve Jackon’s Choose Your Own Adventure books.

In that spirit, we did go back to re-attempt the final mission such that the resulting end sequence matched our “ideal” narrative for Commander Shepard going into Mass Effect 3.  I did think about re-starting entirely to pursue some more romance options early doors with her, but I really liked the little moment, pre-Omega 4 relay jump, that came from staying “celibate” this time around.

Despite the very strong character-driven story, though, the main plot itself was so much nonsensical bobbins.  I mean, I’m well aware that it’s space opera, and a certain level of nonsensical bobbins is expected, indeed demanded, but I had a fairly broad conception of how the proposed trilogy would pan out based on my experience of the genre entire.  Completely contrary to my expectation of a three-act structure, however, Bioware seem to have opted for two main acts, being I and III, with the middle being occupied with what appears to be a side story.  Maybe it will all fit together at the end, but I’m expecting some serious leaps in the narrative to make that happen.

Meanwhile, Microsoft have decided to remove support for all old Xbox titles on Xbox Live!  While in principle this is annoying, I can understand why they do it.  So few people play anything other than the current batch of AAA titles, that games like PGR, Crimson Skies and HALO2 must see absolutely bugger all uptime from the player base.  Even fairly current titles like  Sturmovik – are like stepping into a Purgatorial plane of Xbox Live existence, populated only by a few spectral souls hunkered down, shivering, in the steel bubbble that is an IL-2.  Purging the system of these ghost-town server slots must feel like a cleansing purge to the guy overseeing it all.

Anyway.  I was thinking about searching out a new game for the iPod touch, but instead I should probably play more Go on it.  I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I learned about how to play it properly, so the little computer-controlled app should keep me more than busy in my idle moments going back over it.

That said, I saw there was an Advance Wars-style, turn-based combat game recommended over on Kotaku, which almost became an impulse buy on the strength of the words “Advance Wars” and “turn-based”.  Given that when I was playing Advance Wars on the GBA SP I could barely find a night’s sleep that wasn’t occupied by little orange tanks sliding, like chess pieces, across a map to hold the choke points against a blue-armoured foe, I figured getting a clone for the iPod was probably a dangerous course to set myself on.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a gaming post without me mentioning Bejeweled Blitz…again.  Seeing as I get a living fuckton of hits from people looking for ways to cheat at it, I thought I’d oblige them with my own method of getting a really, really big number you can show off to all your friends on Facebook.

Step One: create a new comment on Facebook.

Step Two: type in a massively large number.

Step Three: Hit the submit button.

Step Four: If you have to cheat at a game on Facebook in order to get that endorphin-soaked rush of personal satisfaction, you are a malingering waste of space.  Go buy some fucking fertiliser for your Farmville farm or something, stop hitting up my website because you can’t match up symbols as quickly as you’d like to be able to.

Bad Company 2 demo

This was due Feb 4th on Xbox Live, but either due to a mistake or just overenthusiasm, it arrived on the Marketplace yesterday – the same day the PC beta opened to players.

You get one level to play, a multiple-stage assault where the attackers have to blow up eight installations in stages of two.  The defenders have to, well, you know…defend.  The games so far seem to be a rolling alternation of attack/defence with people hopping out when they get sick of it and being replaced by new players.

Sniper class?  Check.  No wander on the scope, it’s very solid – almost too solid at times, as people with knowledge of the high spots of the level can take disgustingly long shots with no drop on the bullet, no wind and no human error.  I managed a couple of headshot kills on runners that were literally just me holding my sights over a gap in a fence miles away and pressing the trigger when a black dot appeared.  I might as well have got a big red button that said “randomly kill some dude” on it.

Medic is fun, though.  I particularly like the fact that he gets a LMG!  Bullets for everyone!  I found myself quite enjoying the whole run around zapping people back to life, but my teammates frustratingly refused to stand near the health packs I was constantly dropping for them.  “Here guys! Have some free health!” “Oh no that’s not for us we like bullets in the face instead.” Boom.  Dead guy.  I resuscitate him again, drop a health pack because you ressurect at half health…he runs off and gets shot.

I endede up going and playing some MW2 instead.  Finally lvl 20, which gives me access to…nothing interesting.  Such a letdown.

Movies, games, and a to-do list.

Watched The Hurt Locker last night.  For the most part, it’s very, very good.  Kathryn Bigelow overcomes the majority of her urges to slip back into genre conventions, and the tight focus, both in shooting and script, on the three-man Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad is a decision that pays off consistently throughout the film.

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Even if you don’t play Team Fortress 2…

The Valve blog is still hilarious.

Here is yesterday’s post, written by the Soldier.

I don’t have to know what the hell twitters and texting and body sprays are to understand that they’re not the sort of thing men should be engaged in. Like conversations, or painting things that aren’t a house.

Genius.

If you’re not sure who the Soldier is, this should help (NSFW warning for cartoon violence and hilarity).

What else?

Oh yes, life and stuff.  I’ve been taking a little break from the gym as my joints were starting to protest frequently, and along with a change of sleeping habits (I was lying with one arm under my head and it has been making my elbow very sore) the rest has been really good.  I still feel quite fit and there’s no niggling pains.  Back to the gym it is, then.

When Lips (see the last post for a link) came out, reviewers seemed to rave about the microphones being really professional and sturdy and whatnot.  They feel very plasticky and light to me, like really cheap pepper grinders.  maybe I’m just a clumsy, thick-fingered oaf?

In any case, the game really falls flat when you come to look at the track listings and the available downloads.  It is so full of fail that it actually makes me wonder what drooling idiot authorised the release list.  By far the worst (or best, if you like really bad things) to download is I Saw The Sign by Ace of Base.

For those of you using Spotify still, my latest reccomendation is Incredibad, by The Lonely Island.  It’s a comedy album made by writers off of Saturday Night Live (or so I gather), and although some of the songs wear a little thin rapidly, the whole thing is redeemed by On A Boat (feat. T-Pain).  Such a good song.

Tonight I was planning to work on the story a bit more but I just realised that we’re going to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Snikt: Also Has Deadpool: But Does He Know He’s In A Movie: The Movie tonight and obscenely muscular grumpy men with metal claws in their hands override any other tasks including but not limited to writing, eating, or catching Coughing Pig Death.