Monday, 17 December 2012

Blind Ignorance Follows Tragedy Almost Everytime

Hello.

It's been a while yes. But there's been things happening between now and my last post. I went to Barcelona which was awesome. I had lots of studying for my Health and Safety exams - yes...I'm a gamer, who blogs, is addicted to a sci-fi franchise AND I work in Health and Safety - super nerd. Super married nerd with 4 kids though baby. Awwww yeah.


Anyway. Onto the crux of this post. I wish my first blog back would have been something more jovial, something more jolly, something more festive considering the time of year. But alas, as with some things in life, the dice just didn't roll that way. This is of little to no significance however compared to recent events which have shocked the decent world.


Columbine. Waco. Virgina Tech. Utoya Island. Places of pretty much zero world-wide interest or attention before the tragic events that took place there. We now have the unfortunate requirement to add the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton to that rather macabre list.


Being a gaming blog however, it may or may not come as a surprise that this event would be mentioned. Some of the tragedies mentioned above were politically motivated, Waco and the events in Oslo and Utoya Island for example, but as with most of these events the conservative media and the over-reactive elements of society will find a scapegoat. Things seem so much simpler when you can point an angry finger of blame at something or someone and unfortunately video games have bore the brunt of that angry finger for many a year now.


Violent video games will take the main hit obviously, I mean you're not likely to get angry people blaming games like FIFA or Viva Pinata for gun-slinging massacres are you? No.


People will point at video games for many a year to come still, but I feel that not enough is really done in the media to defend them from what is mostly ill-educated, angry and very ignorant people.


Let me take a step back in time to start this lecture. 20th April, 1999, Columbine High School, Columbine, Colorado. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gunned down 12 students and 1 teacher, injured over 20 more and then shot themselves - not before trying to blow up the school with home-made explosives. It's clear that they were something of a pair of social outcasts, but that they had a variety of mental disorders, Harris was a clinical psychopath with a messianic-level superiority complex and Klebold was a depressive who was a follower. Harris masterminded the killings, but thankfully didn't mastermind the bomb building or the death-toll would have been much, much higher.


However, apart from famously blaming Marilyn Manson, the other channel of blame was aimed at iD Software, more specifically Doom and to a lesser extent Wolf 3D.



Wolf 3D and Doom
The first kings of the shoot em up, FPS genre - Wolf 3D and Doom are etched in my soul as such sublime pieces of gaming, yet I (along with millions of other gamers who have indulged in them) have never played the game and thought "Hey, that looks like fun. I'm gonna go to school or work and do some of this!". Firstly, Wolf 3D for those who don't know is about a POW being held in Castle Wolfenstein, who fights his way out and needs to fight through the Nazi hoards of the castle to escape. Doom is a sci-fi FPS, which revolves around a lone space marine, battling the forces of Hell who have escaped hell through a portal on one of the moons of Mars.

The games, Doom more so, were targeted by an angry society as one of the key reasons why Harris and Klebold committed their terrible acts. Forget the psychological problems involved, forget the social problems involved, they did what they did because they played Doom and wanted to emulate it. Morons.


Let's move on in this grim tour. Let's move forward 12 years to 2011, I'm going to skip the Virgina Tech massacre, simply because I don't know all of the ins and outs and don't want to feed you with misinformation. All I know is that the amazing Counter-Strike was scapegoated for a while. (A Multiplayer game which pits Terrorists against Counter-Terrorists).


In 2011 we saw 2 shootings, firstly one that I mentioned on here a while back - the HMS Astute murder and secondly Anders Breivik's "lone wolf" terror attacks in Norway. Now I mentioned the murder of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, and how the British newspapers blamed Grand Theft Auto for the actions of Able Seaman Ryan Donovan - I went into quite some detail, go back and read if you want.


I'll go into the actions of Anders Breivik shall I? He set a car bomb in Oslo, then went to Utoya Island and killed 69 people. An awful, horrible man (loosest meaning of the word) who doesn't even deserve death, someone like that deserves to be kept alive as long as possible, and to live in a state of perpetual anguish for the heinous crimes he's committed. Him and every paedophile out there. Anyway, going back to the topic this one is slightly more controversial a choice to try and defend. I'll explain.



Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Actually I'll let this extract from The Guardian website explain: Anders Behring Breivik has described how he "trained" for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer using the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
The 33-year-old said he practised his shot using a "holographic aiming device" on the war simulation game, which he said is used by armies around the world for training.
"You develop target acquisition," he said. He used a similar device during the shooting attacks that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on the island of Ut√łya on 22 July.
Describing the game, he said: "It consists of many hundreds of different tasks and some of these tasks can be compared with an attack, for real. That's why it's used by many armies throughout the world. It's very good for acquiring experience related to sights systems."
Basically, Breivik used CoD:MW to practice his aim and happily stated as much in court. This led to people blaming CoD:MW for the entire massacre, even though the guy was determined enough to set up fake businesses and plan the fucking thing for 5 years, it was all because he practiced on CoD that he managed to do what he did. It couldn't have been his political beliefs or his clearly disturbed mind that led to the killings, no it was because he could use pixels for target practice that on CoD:MW that it all happened. Forget the whole determination thing I mentioned before, forget that if he was THAT determined, that if he didn't use CoD he would have no doubt found another way to practice. Forget that CoD IS actually used by various military's around the world due to it's realism for trained soldiers to protect civilians, so it's probably contributed to saving more lives than ending them...I'll move on.
We now move onto what I feel is the most ridiculous of all the video game blame namby pamby's out there. A few short days ago, Adam Lanza killed his mother, went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and killed 27 people, 20 of which were children all aged 6 and 7 before killing himself. Whenever things like this happen, I try and distance myself while watching the news, however watching Barack Obama fighting tears while addressing America, brought a tear to my eye, thinking about the words he said as they resonated with me, especially with me as a father of a child almost the same age as the victims.
Then I read something. Obviously as with most of these shootings and massacres, the blame game takes place. This time that angry finger pointed at my all time favourite game series - Mass Effect. This was for me, the straw that broke the camel's back. Anyone who has played Mass Effect will know that the game's underlying theme throughout is that of hope, the game is more about character development and building relationships while trying to defend not just your country, or your planet/species, but to save the entire galaxy. For anyone who's been on here a few times should be aware of my love and admiration for the ME Series.
Considering what happened and the main age group of victims let me let you in on something that happens to the main protagonist in the third game - Commander Shepard (you) have to escape Earth from an ancient race of sentient bio-synthetic machines, in doing so you see a small child who you had previously try to help, die in an explosion caused by one of these machines and the guilt of not being able to help him consumes Shepard throughout the game.
Shepard with the child in one of his nightmares
Well here's why it's ridiculous. Even though the game does involve combat with guns, the main crux of the games is what I've already mentioned, it's emotional, it's thought-provoking, it's inspirational the blame of this game isn't what is ridiculous, it's the way it all went down. Angry finger pointers looked up the suspected murderer on Facebook and found who they suspected was the murderer and saw that he "liked" Mass Effect on his profile. Commence the blame. The following are actual real quotes from the Official Mass Effect page on Facebook, steady yourself for some hate:

"Good job guys. You have blood on your hands that wont wash off"
"BAN THIS GAME"
"Ban this game and the people who created such sickness"
"Burn in hell!!!"
"I'm sure none of these precious children had this game on their Santa list...God help protect us from all the evil our society promotes"
"This is EXACTLY why i do not let my children play MOST video games...i do not want to destroy their innocence with this bulls--t"
And lastly
"Ryan Lanza, the 24 yr old that has killed 18 kindergarten children, 8 adults and his own mother, was a fan of Mass Effect. What are you and other games of your ilk doing to our society? Think on it."

Hang on..."Ryan Lanza"? Ryan Lanza, the older brother of Adam Lanza the ACTUAL murderer? Oh HE liked Mass Effect? Not Adam? Oh.

Before getting the facts and before even knowing the actual numbers of victims, the angry finger pointers had already leapt onto the angry bandwagon of hatred and misinformed ignorance to spew their misguided judgement onto a game that had nothing to do with the ACUAL MURDERER! Amazing.

As I said, for anyone who actually knows these games, knows that it's not a mindless hack and slash or shoot em up, it's a tactical third person sci-fi shooter, with it's main emphasis being on story, characters, relationships. It isn't sickness, any more than Jules Verne's War of the Worlds is sickness, any more than Star Wars is sickness. Evil? Innocence destroying? No.

It then led me to this painfully obvious thought: do these people think that if there were no video games then murder, mass murder and massacres wouldn't take place? Like these things are a symptom of video games that were non-existent in the harmonious "before-time".

Bonnie and Clyde? The Moors Murderers? Jack the Ripper? Albert Fish? Pol Pot? The Zodiac Killer? Many, many more on top of those as well, what video games were they playing to inspire them?

I for one cannot wait for games to finally be accepted by the masses as just another entertainment medium, not as a wrongly perceived way for innocent people to be turned into murdering psychopathic maniacs.

And on that note, despite all of this, the world is generally a decent place, don't forget that! And if I don't do anything on here between now and the 25th December: Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Toolbox24

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Walking Dead

Evening all.

As a gamer (in my spare time between working in the MoD and being a dad) I find that sometimes you just feel like a complete change. Sometimes you might want to read, listen to music, scan YouTube for hilarious videos of people eating ghost chilli peppers and other such ventures in your free time.

A couple of years ago I had the misfortune to contract pneumonia, bad times indeed but it did give me a ton of time to lay back on the sofa and rest...albeit whilst struggling to breath without pain, but still beggars can't be choosers.

Anyway, one thing that got me through that shitty ailment was a little something called The Walking Dead. I don't mean the tv show that's returning to our screens later this month, I mean the comics that the series is loosely based on. I say loosely because if it followed everything in the comics tv audiences would be a bit more shocked than they alread are. However, I digress.

I read through volume after volume of the comics reaching a point where the events of Hershel's farm in season 2 seems like very old news to me. He'll even the discovery of the prison that is going to dominate season 3 seems like a distant memory.

The books captivated me, and for the times when I was reading them, the pain seemed to fade for a while. So, good times yes? Yes. Well when the tv show came out they originally had this little online game you could play which looked a bit poor if I'm honest, so I never indulged in it. Earlier this year however TellTale games brought us The Walking Dead Season 1, done much like their Back To The Future games. And that is well.

The games are riveting, immersive and so fun it feels much like the comics and the tv show, while creating a new story arc, and every couple of months they have released a new episode, with ep4 due to come out this month, and the season finale due in December along with a boxed retail version of the game.

Well that's all great, and what's even more great is that apparently TellTale have been commissioned to make Season 2, eps 6-10 in 2013. Excellent news ja?

Not just that but The Walking Dead fever doesn't stop there, nosirree bob. Coming soon will also be a TWD FPS game featuring tv show characters Daryl and Merl Dixon in a story set before the tv show started. Not too bad, but me? I dunno, it looks good but you gotta understand, I'm a TWD purist, and I hate to tell you but Daryl and Merl are characters that are only in the tv show, they don't appear at all in the comics, so for me, they shouldn't be there. And to have a game that is based around them seems a bit weird.

Now the TellTale games story and (almost) all new characters feel great be ause they aren't a part of Ricks group, they are a different set of people following a different course. And I like that. I think the potential is there in TWD universe to create something like a great RPG or even MMORPG, too many zombie games take the "BLAST THEM ALL TO SHIT" route, which admittedly is something that happens a fair bit, but it's the survival aspect, the people, the food shortages, the looking for shelter that is what a zombie survival game should be about. Christ even a Sims mod could work.

In fact an RTS TWD game could work as well...that's usually about resource gathering, keeping your base or "safe zone" well...safe. There's an awful lot of scope for TWD but predictably, they're going down the FPS route. Oh well.

Anyway, I've written this blog over 2 nights because of various technical reasons, and the flow I had when I started has gone a bit really. So I'll leave it there.

Basically the outcome of this blog is that TellTale games TWD Season 1 has episode 4 coming out this month with episode 5 coming around Christmas with an expected Season 2, Eps 6-10 coming out in 2013. Not just that but The Walking Dead Video Game is coming out focusing on the Dixon brothers before they joined the group outside Atlanta in the TV show. But you know all this. You've just read my blog.

TTFN

Toolbox 24

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Yes...more Mass Effect stuff..but this is BIG

POTENTIAL SPOILERS Y'ALL

Hello.

You'd be forgiven for thinking this blog is actually solely for Mass Effect and my views etc on the games. Well there's the occasional other post, but fuck it, I love Mass Effect and while I'm doing this blog, for now while Mass Effect is the apple of my eye (my glowing red Renegade eye) more Mass Effect stuff you'll get.


Right well the last post told you about the Leviathans. The ancient (and by ancient I mean roughly 1 million years) race of huge cuttlefish type guys, who basically - through their lack of programming skills - created the AI we know as The Catalyst or StarBrat, who's only function was to preserve all life in the galaxy whatever the cost. Basically the AI took it's function too literally (well it is an AI with 1 function...) and ended up creating the Reapers in order to preserve life across the galaxy through brutal means of harvesting the spacefaring races and creating new Reapers in the Leviathans cuttlefish form. I could go on, but I wont. This post is about more Mass Effect as confirmed by BioWare General Manager, Aaron Flynn.

Firstly, he announced the news that BioWare founders Dr's Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka are retiring from the gaming industry after 17 years. The Docs have a fascinating back story. After graduating from Med School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the 2 friends thought "Hey, after all that hard work, how about we get out a C$100,000 loan and start a computer games company?" well they did and BioWare was born.

But again, this isn't the point of this post. I wiggle and waggle around. Like a puppies tail on the arrival of his master from a long day of work. Nice huh? The point of this post is, MORE MASS EFFECT STUFF.

Basically since ME3 was released, everyone who has played the game (and played ME2) fully expected one of the DLC packs to be based around Omega. For reference, Omega is a space station in the Terminous Systems that is a haven for the criminal scum of the galaxy - imagine Mos Eisley Spaceport from Star Wars in space. And that actually feels dark and threatening. Basically the space station is near the famed Omega-4 Relay, the unpassable relay to the home of the Collectors. After the events of ME2 enables the Normandy and then Cerberus access through the relay to all that lovely technology, Cerberus think "Hey, let's take over that criminal space station so that we have a lovely huge space station home near all our new technology."

There's a lot of "Hey let's do this..." thinking at BioWare - FACT.

For further reference, "Omega has no titled ruler and only one rule...don't...fuck with Aria."

That's Aria T'Loak the "boss, CEO, Queen if you're being dramatic" of said space station. She's sitting pretty in ME3 on the Citadel, telling Shepard that The Illusive Man (Cerberus leader) right at the top of her shit list and that she's going to take back Omega. And then we never talk to her again. That is until the Omega DLC comes out in the next couple of months, as officially announced in the recent blog from Mr Flynn the GM of BioWare.

Awesome, I'm still yet to play Leviathan to be perfectly honest. I've just started my evil Shepard playthrough of ME3 and am close to being able to activate the mission so I'll be able to give a proper insight and review of it soon.

So that means that additions to ME3 include From Ashes - Introducing us to Javik the Prothean; The Extended Cut - making the abrupt shitting endings PDG (Pretty Darn Good); Leviathan - showing the origins of the Reapers and now Omega - taking the space station back from Cerberus and probably getting some tasty War Assets as well, and hopefully some more extensions on the ending.


BUT THAT'S NOT THE BIG NEWS!!!!!!!

NO WAY FUCKERS!!! NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST!!! Instead of me mincing any words read this lovely following quote from the blog that I've mentioned a couple of times already. I'll help you out by highlighting the most important sentance in the paragraph.

"MASS EFFECT – Executive Producer Casey Hudson and his team are coming off an amazing eight-year run with the Mass Effect trilogy. But they’re not done yet. We are releasing more multiplayer content and we have more single-player stories coming throughout the next six months, including Omega which is coming in the Fall. But the Mass Effect universe is vast, and Casey and our teams have plans for another full game. “Where to go next?” with such a project has been a question a lot of us have been asking, and we’d all love to hear your ideas."

That's right. There will be a 4th Mass Effect game. At the moment, that confirmation is enough. It's obviously still in it's preliminary stages, hence the "Where to go next?" question tacked onto it, and if you scour the BSN forums you'll no doubt find an awful lot of suggestions, one of my favourites being the now infamous Dinosaur DLC - the theory that Dinosaurs weren't just wild big reptiles that acted like wild big reptiles, but that they were sentient, that they were advanced and that they traveled between the stars - only to be wiped out by the Reapers - not ended by a big arsed asteroid.


But seriously how to go on? A prequel would be alright, but has been met with a lot of negativity from the fans - mainly due to the almost pointlessness of it. Yeah it would be cool to play as John Grissom or even David Anderson and play through a game that helps set the scene for ME1, but that would be a better area for another medium - books most likely.

Some have suggested that yes a game set after the climax of ME3 would be awesome, but make it thousands of years after so that you could iron out the effects of Control, Synthesis, Destroy or Refuse into a new storyline, but doing anything set too far off wouldn't appeal because quite frankly the technology is already massively advanced from what we have now, setting it even further ahead of time might make things a smidge ridiculous, and you wont feel like what happened in ME3 had any real effect.

For me, there is only 1 option. And that is to first look back at ME2. They gave you the option to play the game in such a way that when you destroyed the Human-Reaper embryo, Shepard then died. They said that this ending would be the end of YOUR Commander Shepard, and that that story-arch would end there and any playthrough of ME3 would be a stand-alone experience detached from the first 2 games. However, if you played ME2 and your Shep survived, then you could import him/her into ME3 and continue that story.

Therefore, to continue YOUR Shepards story, you need to pick Destroy. Destroy is the only ending of ME3 that provides a "Shepard Lives" cutscene at the end (providing you have a sufficient EMS) and it would provide a perfect platform for a new ME game set maybe still a few decades after ME3 (so Shepard could be a "Anderson" character as opposed to the protagonist) and set just far enough off to show that the relays had been repaired and also the newly placed Citadel could still be a "hub".

Basically the other 3 endings just don't leave a lot to be desired so far as a 4th game goes. 1st - Refuse. Everybody's dead Dave and it's up to the next cycle to finish what the Protheans and the Human Cycle started - to kick the Reapers arse to such a degree that they end up eradicated. So it would involve a whole new set of races, and no humans. Nothing familar in the slightest, apart from the relays and the Citadel. So no thank you.

2nd - Control. Control was the option of choice for The Illusive Man, who was clearly indoctrinated and it would also result in Shepard being dissolved into the Reaper consciousness and using them to fix the galaxy and protect everyone - so kinda pointless to have a game where Shepard is knocking about in the Reapers heads stopping anything shit happening for all of time. 

3rd - Synthesis. Just no. It's stupid. It's shite. It's also kinda what Saren wanted. Well kinda. Ish. He talks about forging alliances between Organics and Machines, and also about the joining of the 2, the advantages of both, the weaknesses of neither. It does tend to lean to the thought that if Saren was stood with StarBrat on the Citadel he'd have leapt into the Crucible Beam without hesitation. This ending as well would result in Shepard dissolving and everyone in the galaxy sharing some lovely DNA. No thanks, it doesn't really give you much scope to create bad guys in way. Everyone is fairly much the same, even the geth and EDI, everyone I would assume have the same strengths and weaknesses - even squirrels. So no.

So I think that they say this - The only way to continue your story from your ME3 save-game, is to choose Destroy with a high EMS. If you choose the other 3 endings then that's perfectly valid, but that would result in the end of YOUR Mass Effect playthrough. This is why I think they are giving us more War Assets for the DLCs (Eden Prime Resistence Movement and the Leviathans to name a couple) and it's why they changed the amount of EMS that you need to get the "Shepard Lives" ending to be more attainable with the normal 50% Galactic Readiness.



Mark my words. THIS.

Anyway, it's late and I need to go off and play....Football Manager. Happy Hunting.

Toolbox 24

EDIT: PS Here is a LINK to the blog post from Aaron Flynn that sparked this post.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Leviathan Release Date and Cost


Well hello there. It seems that I try and get away from it for a bit, but Bioware just pull me back in.

I honestly thought to myself, “Right, that’s it. No more Mass Effect for a while, I don’t want to get bored with it or anything like that.” So I played a little Knights of the Old Republic, then a little Football Manager. I started playing KotOR II but got bored part way through Nar Shadaa. I might go back to it. I even started playing some Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis on Steam.

Then I thought, sod it. I’ll do a “shitty evil bastard” playthrough of Mass Effect with my mega bitch, Millicent Shepard.

I went through Eden Prime, punching the crazed scientist, telling Kaiden to suck it up and belittling Ashley whenever I could. I then told disrespected the Council, and made something of a fool of myself, in front of the galactic audience. Saren had pwned me.

After being told Anderson was out of the investigation, and I should speak to Barla Von or Harkin…I saved the game. Turned it off. Put on Family Guy.

“Jessica Biel and Megan Fox, wearing nothin’ but their socks, is all I really want for Christmas this yeeeeear!”

Last night as I switched on my Xbox, I thought, do I continue Millicent’s rampage of being a true cunt across the galaxy? Nah, tonight I’d rather use a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle to get to Hook Island to insult Meathook’s baldness – in other words I put on The Secret of Monkey Island SE, and played about 15% of it before calling it a night. Content thinking that no, I would hold off on Mass Effect at least until I find out the release date of the Leviathan DLC. I was going to play through Monkey Island, then maybe continue that Indiana Jones game, then I dunno probably play some GTA.

Then I wake up this morning, get up and out of bed. Ready for work. I go to work. While I’m sat there working, I figure it’s time for a quick break – I don’t take fag breaks or tea breaks like most other people, I take gamer breaks. So I went onto the Bioware forums, onto the announcements page and BAM!

Yes…”BAM!”. There it is, Leviathan Release Date. Tuesday 28th August for the Xbox 360 and PC, and Wednesday 29th August for the PS3. At the moment I know it’ll cost 800MP for the Xbox and 800 Bioware Points for the PC, so I’d expect the price to be in the £6-8 range for the PS3.

So in 2 weeks time, actually 12 days time, Leviathan will be here and from what I’ve seen of the trailer it looks the fucking shit. It really does.

I for one, am now going to finish Monkey Island, then continue my evil Mass Effect playthrough. By the time I get to ME3, Leviathan should be out, and my experience should be seemless. My last evil playthrough didn’t go as I’d planned. I’d softened up a bit by the time I reached ME3. Not this time though, Millicent looks evil, and that’s the way she’s gonna stay!!!

So yeah, mark it in your calendar, and get starting on that Mass Effect playthough, like me, by the time you reach ME3 (if you just play in the evenings), Leviathan should be downloading onto your Xbox, PC or PS3.

So here you go, the trailer for Leviathan...You have come too far...



Toolbox 24

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Red Dead Rebellion?



Well it's about time I tried to start bringing you some more news. I should really try and move away from BioWare since my last 2 posts have been regarding their latest epics Mass Effect 3 and The Old Republic.


So I move on to Rockstar, with their wonderfully crafted Red Dead Redemption still giving gamers the world over hours of enjoyment and torment as you battle through New Austin as John Marston, ruthless gang member turned family man, turned government lacky against your will.


The further through the game you go, you realise more and more than John has had his family taken against their will and he is being forced to cooperate in order for their safe return. It's really like GTA thrown back a century, with the themes of the government being seedy and underhanded starting here, only to continue into Rockstar's modern epics, GTA.


Right anyway, Rockstar are an enigmatic company, while sometimes they'll do a very lovely trailer for a new game, most of the time they'll just say a few things that leave you asking questions and wanting more answers. In this, they are experts, and by being experts they allow us all to sit, mouth-watering until the next morsel of information, or image is released to make us waiting peons speculate further on what could come from them.


Take the trailer for GTA:V. There was an older gent in the trailer, which immediately led to web outbursts and speculation that the older gent was Tommy Vercetti from Vice City. So much so that Ray Liotta's agent had to deny that the actor was returning as the 80's gangster and eventual crime lord of Vice City.


Now, according to ITK (In the Know) types, Rockstar has begun development on RDR2 and it is due to be called Red Dead Rebellion, this news is a few months old, but it's the "insiders" that leak little bits here and there which is something I would not put past Rockstar to include in their mighty arsenal of advertising weapons. Release "secret" information as an insider source, and even if it's 100% accurate, people will discuss and debate whether it is true or not and speculation rises further.


The latest morsel however came from Rockstars own Ask and Answered blog. Someone from Facebook asked if a new RDR would be coming "anytime soon" and Rockstar responded with:



"We love Red Dead too – and are thrilled that so many of you loved John Marston’s tale and are excited for more epic Western action."
"As we mentioned in our last set of Asked & Answereds to similar questions about the future of other game franchises like Bully and L.A. Noire, we don’t always rush to make sequels but that does not mean that we won’t get to them eventually."
"Stay tuned for further announcements about the future of the Red Dead series."
So RDR2? One day maybe....
Rockstar are a wonderful games company, their games are developed and published by themselves so they don't have to abide by anyone's rules but their own. If they say that yes there'll be another RDR they'll do it, when that will be is anyone's guess because they can afford to spend as much time as they want developing the games to publish them when they choose to do so.
Here's a surprise, I'm going to refer to Mass Effect - well BioWare really. Mass Effect 3 came out roughly 2 years after Mass Effect 2, a lot of time to some maybe, but for games of this caliber more time should be taken. Now I'm one of Mass Effect's biggest fans, a look through the blog should testify to that, but a lot of the themes were missing from the 3rd, the Dark Energy plot that was hinted at in ME2 was missing and the endings weren't best received by the fans of the series. A lot of the blame however has been placed squarely at the feet of Electronic Arts, who seemed to rush the development of the game, giving a release date months in advance only to put it back by 4-5 months.
It all seemed a bit, ridiculous really, especially in the months leading up to the release, when you couldn't swing a dead cat around without hitting a new image or trailer for the game.
Rockstar however do not have this problem, they are their own beast and can dictate their own timetable, only giving out release dates when they are damn sure how realistic it is.
But the last comment from Rockstar is what really grabs peoples attention - "Stay tuned for further announcements about the future of the Red Dead series." Now that is a good enigmatic, open ended comment. The future announcement could be that a new RDR DLC is coming, along the lines of the Lost and the Damned from GTA:IV, or it could be that Red Dead Rebellion is coming, or it could mean that because they are focusing on GTA:V nothing in Red Dead will be coming anytime soon.
It's left to the readers to discuss what was meant and what the future could bring for Red Dead.
Also good to see was mentions of Bully. I liked it but never really got into it that much, but the wife loved it! I must try that again one day...
So there it is, Red Dead Rebellion? Oh yeah, Rebellion was the name given by someone ITK back in April. I suppose we'll just have to fall in line with Rockstar and stay tuned for further announcements...
Toolbox 24

Mass Effect 3 - Leviathan DLC and Other Stories


Spoilers Aplenty - Just Sayin'...

So BioWare have officially announced the Leviathan DLC as you can see here:


It also has a trailer – Check this shit out!



Well that’s brilliant! 800 MSP for some DLC which will give you more narrative into Kasumi’s mission, I should assume more narrative when Balak shoves a gun into the back of your head (if he survived you encounter in Mass Effect 1’s DLC – Bring Down the Sky) and has already been pretty much confirmed to give you some more dialogue with The Catalyst.

Looking back at the DLC for ME and ME2 this does look rather promising. Bring Down the Sky and Pinnacle Station for ME1 for me felt more like XP drives as opposed to anything that added to the story, so they were all good with me. Like a couple of little side-plots that didn’t matter if you got them or not. Then ME2 came out, and with it the DLC’s came thick and fast with the following DLC:
  • Normandy Crash Site
  • Firewalker Pack
  • Zaeed – Price of Revenge
  • Kasumi – Stolen Memory
  • Overlord
  • Lair of the Shadow Broker
  • Arrival

Not to mention the Cerberus Network, a crap load of alternate appearance packs, weapons etc etc. BUT the crux of it is this, look at the playable DLC above - much more than the 2 packs for ME1. And of them, the only one I don’t like that much is the Firewalker pack, because let’s face it the M-44 Hammerhead is shit compared with the Mako. Fact. And it doesn’t really add anything, apart from like a silvery orb at the end of it. Whoop.

Normandy Crash Site felt like a very personal little side-quest, added nothing to the story but I ensure I do it every time I play through.

Zaeed and Kasumi DLC introduced us to a couple of the franchises best characters. Zaeed for his gruff British, hardman status and Kasumi for being a funny, Japanese kleptomaniac. Not to mention their skills as well.

Overlord DLC

Overlord gets me every time, the first playthrough of it I thought “Shit the bed, the sound of that electronic shouting is just pissing me off!!” but then as you progress through and realise what happened to David…”The square root of 906.01 is 30.1…it all seemed so harmless…” – honestly? My honest opinion? I’ve never been quite as moved by a computer game as the reveal in Overlord. My next playthrough of it made me realise that the shouting throughout – even at the start when it just sounds like shouty noises, is David screaming “Please make it stop”. Urgh, now I’ve got goosebumps and shivered a little.

Now we move onto the 2 heavy hitters of ME2 – LotSB and Arrival, 2 of the best chapters in the ME trilogy in my opinion. LotSB follows on from some of those little side missions that you did for Liara on Illium, where Cerberus, being the nice chaps they were – kinda – gives you some intel on the Shadow Broker which Liara can use to find out where he’s hiding. It all culminates with some brilliant story-telling, epic battles, funny asides (“Remember the days when you could just slap Omni-Gel on everything?”) and a great ending which sets you up nicely with Liara’s story going into ME3.

Then you have Arrival. An absolute must for any player wanting to go from that Eden Prime run with Cpl Jenkins to meeting The Catalyst. Part way through ME2, Admiral Hackett gets in touch and tells you about an Alliance deep cover agent who had been captured by the batarians in their space. It’s up to Commander Shepard to make use of the Normandy’s stealth drive, and his own badass-ery to get the agent out and back to their project. It turns out, that the agent had found a Reaper artefact on an asteroid, set up a massive base around it and it was indicating the imminent arrival of the Reapers into that particular system. What makes things worse is that, that particular system’s Mass Relay is known as the Alpha Relay – able to jump to any other relay in the Galaxy – which is presumably why the Reapers parked outside the Galaxy nearby to this system.

Arrival DLC

Originally the project’s plan was to slam said asteroid into the Mass Relay, destroying it and delaying the Reapers arrival by months or years. But after a while you find that the entire project has become indoctrinated, and you have to fight your way through all of them to launch the asteroid, since they are all of the opinion that they must just sit and wait for their master’s glorious arrival. Anyway, you end up sending the asteroid into the relay just getting out in the Normandy in time as the resulting explosion destroys the nearby batarian colony and Cdr Shepard becomes a mass murderer of over 300,000 people, hence his incarceration on the Earth at the start of ME3.

On to ME3 – most of the DLC so far has been multiplayer DLC, so I wont go into that (even though the MP on ME3 is brilliant) and a lot of pre-purchase DLC involved robo-dogs and hoodies. I’m here for the Story based DLC, of which there have been 2 chunks of thus far – From Ashes and the Extended Cut.

Both have caused controversy, firstly From Ashes - the Day 1 DLC. This caused uproar amongst the ME community because if you didn’t go for the Collectors Edition, you had to pay 800 MSP to play it, which is about £6.99. The reason this got peoples goat was because there was a lot of hoo-ha about the From Ashes files being with the normal edition of the game, prompting theories that it was never meant to be DLC – just a part of the normal game, and that it was cut out and sold as DLC to earn a quick buck. Whatever, I don’t care I got the Collectors Edition.

Javik - The Last of the Protheans in From Ashes DLC

Anyway, From Ashes for me was another thought provoking piece of DLC and a fantastic addition to this was the extra scenes through the game, the addition of Javik the Prothean, and the addition of unique dialogue from squadmates through the mission. One thing that rankled me in ME2 during the DLC was that, apart from Liara in LotSB, nobody said anything. From Ashes hopefully was a sign of things to come in ME3 DLC.

Then came the equally controversial Extended Cut DLC – probably the best DLC in all the ME games. Right, I played ME3 and felt let down by the ending, but I played through again, and enjoyed every second – up until the crappy old ending. Then a load of shit happened with cupcakes and donations to a charity and finally the Extended Cut was released. And all was forgiven. The ending made more sense, and actually felt like an ending! Except the Star Gazer bit, I don’t like that. EC adjusted the endings and added a 4th “fuck you” ending to the series. For me, it was a resounding success, brilliantly signing off the series and giving me personally the sense that any future ME games will either be prequels or set way off in the future – fortunately Liara will probs still be in it…man if those titties get any bigger…

Anyway, I read today that Leviathan (which was hinted at heavily on the BioWare forums shortly after EC released) has officially been announced by BioWare and is going to be 800MSP. It looks like it’ll follow the plotline in the post I did a few weeks back (http://monkeyboxgaming.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/mass-effect-3-extended-cut-mp-dlc-and.html) anyway I read the article and thought – YES!!!! AMAZING!!! I cannot wait. I really can’t, I’m giving myself and my wife’s ears a break from ME for a while, while I plough through KotOR and KotOR2, and I’ll probably jump back in once Leviathan has been given a date.

But then I thought, I’ll look through some of the comments on the GameSpot UK’s article.

Then instead of being elated at the news of DLC, I was angry at some of the comments. Ignorant, closed-minded and generally thick as pig shit gamers moaning about – the ending…still. The ending is vastly improved, and is a better ending(s) than you get with a lot of games, you’re not funnelled into 1 ending like the CoD games or things like that, and the ending scenes show you the effects of some of your decisions.

But no, still lots of moaning and whinging and lots of “OMG it’s not even free, well fuck you BioWare” type comments and lots of “urgh BioWare didn’t listen to us, they just want our money, they suck, the only way to change things is to boycott them.” – these weren’t actual posts, but paraphrases of a lot of posts.

Right, firstly let me get this clear – I hated the original endings. They were sloppy, confusing and left too much open – they seemed rushed. Secondly, the EC addressed an awful lot of what was wrong with the original endings, and makes the game that much better for it. I would have given the game a 9.9/10 before the EC, but with the EC it gets a perfect 10. The game itself was brilliantly put together, the combat vastly improved, and the character development out of this world.

A misquote from Abraham Lincoln which is still true says “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” It was actually “fool” not “please” but the point stands and still makes sense!! You will never make 100% of people happy with 100% of what you have done, it’s just that some people are unwilling to shake off this view that BioWare are suddenly bad game makers and poor story-tellers – which is just a complete crock of shit.

For those people though who go on about the ending, and how they’ll never play it again? More fool you. The game is epic, the endings are amazing and the experience of playing through the 3 games is the best gaming experience I’ve ever had. If they want to miss out because of some misplaced sense of pride or something, then I’m not going to coax them back, let them come snivelling back when people have forgotten that there was even a ME3 without the Extended Cut.

But yeah, so BioWare have announced Leviathan DLC – personally I can’t wait, and am going to amuse myself with other games while I await its arrival onto my Xbox 360. Happy Days!

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Epilogue: Something else that’s confused me. A lot of comments on various sites have been along the lines of “Why should we give a shit about Earth? It’s barely touched upon in the other games and your Shepard might be a spacer or a colonist – so I don’t get why the importance of getting Earth back.”

Really? People want more motivation than the fact that we live on Earth, and that it’s where human’s originate from or in other words – it’s our home planet. It really confuses me that people could really be so thick as to question the importance of Earth, like it needed an explanation. Like some of the people who don’t get why it’s so important don’t realise that the Earth in Mass Effect is a future sci-fi version of Earth from the here and now. Hence why you can see Big Ben in the Earth finale. Really though, if anyone can explain why people feel so detached from wanting to save Earth, I’m all ears.

Even Miley Cyrus get's it. Durrrr.....

Right one point I can kinda get, why should the other races give a shit about Earth when their own homeworlds are burning? Like Palaven or Thessia. Right, basically to start with, it’s made pretty clear that Earth faces the brunt of the invasion, the batarians got butt-fucked by the Reapers due to their own shortcomings and the fact that most of the government and influential people were indoctrinated by Leviathan. That much is clear. The Reapers rolled over the batarians before they could warn the rest of the galaxy. Then they assaulted Earth and Palaven seemingly at the same time, however Earth got the brunt of it because A: Commander Shepard has continually bitchslapped them, and B: It’s made abundantly obvious in ME2 that humans are versatile creatures, and that when the Human Reaper is being made, it looks like a human – not like a Reaper Cuttlefish.



So it would make sense for the galaxy at large to assault the Reapers en mass at the point of the fiercest fighting – then it’s made clear that the Citadel is the Catalyst for the Crucible, therefore the battle should shift from Earth to the Citadel. Then the Reapers move the Citadel to Earth – their most heavily populated point, so the battle still focuses around the Citadel, but they need to sneak in the back door – via Earth. London. Possibly Hyde Park. I’d like to think it’s Hyde Park.

Anyway, epilogue over. See you later.

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Free 2 Play




A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away…

That’s what the opening line is to every film, and pretty much every game am I right? Yeah I am right. Probably. I can’t speak for the Clone Wars animated series, but I would have thought that for 20-25 minute episodes that they might forgo that one line that has become so synonymous with Star Wars it may as well just say “HEY LOOK IT’S STAR WARS!!!”

Well an earlier blog post that I put up on here told you all about the Top Ten Games from 2003, with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic coming top of the tree and with good reason to. Just thinking about the game was enough for me to rush completing Mass Effect 3 again (with the new Extended Cut) and dive into BioWare’s other amazing RPG from 9 years ago.

Being set so far back in the universe’s timeline gave the developers a lot more freedom to put their spin on a story, to not have to include as many things that needed to be approved by LucasArts – for they are famously protective of their storylines, and Star Wars Canon. However, Bioware and in particular Drew Karpyshyn, were given a lot more creative freedom to create their own Star Wars epic that wasn’t anything to do with the Rise and Fall of Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.

Anyway I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, or behind myself, I can’t think which. To cut this long story short – for a KotOR review post will be coming in the weeks ahead – KotOR finished, then Obsidian picked up the pieces and made KotOR II: The Sith Lords, which was panned by a lot of people and loved by a lot as well, but the more I play through KotOR the more I want to sink my teeth into the sequel which I personally loved. KotOR2 was another phenomenal game – rushed in places yes, with a shit load of cut content, but still a brilliant game that improved a lot on some of the aspects of the first game.

Anyway for years, I – along with thousands of others – searched and digged for news of KotOR III, we had to have more. MORE! MOAR!!!!

We craved the trilogy, it’s Star Wars for shitssake! It’s an epic story for gossake! Give us No. 3!!!!

But no. Nothing, for a while hope was there with LucasArts confirming that a 3rd game was on the way, then Lucasarts had some money problems, and couldn’t finance it.

Hearts were broken, mine included. You might think that sounds a bit melodramatic, a bit much? It’s a computer game right? Well what if you said to one of the millions of horny housewives that the much loved 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t going to have its 3rd book. That after the second one, EL James said “Well, I was going to do the third one, I even had the storyline kinda figured out, but I just can’t commit myself to it” and then never spoke of it again. How would those women (my wife included) feel? I’ll ask her shall I?

“No ending??? No bum-flogging, arse-melting cane-whipping panty-ripping bra-pinging ending??? Seriously? If they had told me I had sat and read two books full of Sunday tea-time Grey porn, ‘cos lets face it, its only shocking the first time he ties her up in his Red-Room o’ pain and gets down to the kinky fuckery by eating her nipples and caking her bum in Nutella and sprinkling jelly babies on top, after that I was skipping ahead to see if he died a big sexy dramatic death!

“Anyways, forgetting all that, to be told that the trilogy you’re reading is mentioned, dangled like a carrot to be cruelly snatched away without so much as a by-your-leave, would be Hell!

“I want answers, and I want endings! because that’s why we love our books and our games isn’t it? As unlike in real Life, we actually get to see where our final decisions take us and leave us. We fall in love with characters in books and games, make them a little extension of ourselves, in books we give them life, we give them faces, and in games, we ARE those people, we are the ones fighting the battles, and to be told you have come this far with a character you love, for the writers to cruelly say ‘Nope, end of the line bud!’ is plain n simply like being ditched by a lover! Best thing to do when this happens, start shagging around, or in other words, play summat else and forget the cheating bitch!”

Shit isn’t it?

Well that is what basically happened to me and a whole lot of others. We were shat on.

Then hope. BioWare and LucasArts started stirring things, as did EA (who in the meantime had purchased BioWare). Things started circulating…was No. 3 in the pipeline?

YES! And no. YES in that BioWare were developing a new Star Wars game. YES in that it would be set in the “Old Republic” era. And finally YES in that it would be a sequel to the KotOR series.



No in that it wouldn’t be Knights of the Old Republic III. No in that it wasn’t to be a direct sequel per se. No in that it wouldn’t be an RPG as we have been used to from BioWare.

It would be an MMORPG. You see, EA have been keen for quite some time to tap into the vast resource of devoted online gamers, much like with World of Warcraft. WoW have around 10million monthly subscribers, each paying around £9 a month to play the game with full access (you can play free, however you’re quite limited to the things you can do). Let me put it into context for you maths style. Let’s say that 9 million of the 10 million players pay their monthly fee, and don’t just go for the half access of the other millions. At £8.99 a month that equates to a monthly income of £80,910,000. No wonder EA wants a slice of that pie.

Anyway, with that The Old Republic was born. Promises from BioWare that the game in essence would be KotOR 3,4,5,6,7 and more with the amount of content. Reported the most expensive game ever made, with estimates placing the cost of development at anywhere betweem £150-200 million. It was always too much to hope that it would be F2P from the start.

“F2P” to those who don’t know stands for “Free to Play”. Focussing on micro-transactions in game to get by as opposed to a monthly subscription. Players will still have the option to pay monthly, if they play enough and get as much use out of the game as possible then why not? But if like me you don’t get all the time in the world to sit and play, then it’s a waste of money.

The Old Republic came out in December 2011 to a huge amount of fanfare and promise, with immediately around 1.7 million players the game looked set to be a winner. Then by May that figure had dropped to 1.3 million players, and in July that figure dropped to below 1 million.

EA had to take action, people were switching off in record numbers. I haven’t played the game yet, but from what I’ve read it’s not got enough about it to warrant people paying monthly for it. DLC is set to come periodically (the latest due to include HK-47 – meatbag killer extraordinaire!!) but will it be enough? Some people saying the game is too short to warrant paying monthly for it. Even if you can play through an entirely different storyline depending on whether you’re a Jedi or a bounty hunter or a Sith or a soldier or whatever. So EA has made the decision to go F2P from November 2012. And in November 2012 I will be getting my copy of The Old Republic – or I’ll wait for Christmas! I think Christmas. Read that WIFE!!

This has led to some bold predictions, with some theorising that TOR could attract as many as 50 million gamers. However, there is quite the caveat involved with this F2P…

Some might have gotten the impression from what I’ve written that the game will be free, much like Battlefield Heroes. Well no, you’ll still need to buy a copy like most other games, but to play it you won’t need a monthly subscription. Well you won’t if you only want to get to level 50 and have restrictions on some player features and new content.

With F2P comes Cartel Coins. Something that monthly subscribers will get 150 of a month, and that lowly F2P players will only get when they want them and pay per coin – I assume (I haven’t yet found a pricing structure, however I’m sure it’ll be lovely). Cartel Coins will be the virtual currency of TOR and will let players unlock in-game items and “convenience features” – whatever that will be.

Now I personally think that this is quite an unfair way of doing things, by all means enable the 150 Cartel Coins for the fee paying players, but to confine  the higher levels to those who pay monthly? Is that their way of sucking you in, only to say “oh yeah, if you want to reach a higher level to advance your charcter, we need your dosh.” I would hope that levels higher than 50 could be purchased maybe using the Cartel Coins, but even that makes me feel a bit desperate. The player would have paid out for the game, and shouldn’t be punished by having to pay a levy to play the game in full. Micro-transactions should be the only way they play it – you want this special lightsaber crystal? That’ll be 10 Cartel Coins. You want the ability to make grenades? That’ll be 15 Cartel Coins. You want this special armour? That’ll be 20 CC. Surely this would be the way to go, people will purchase these things. Some observers have predicted that using F2P for TOR, would result in such a higher number of gamers, that the losses they would make from the £8.99 a month subscription, would be more than offset by the millions of pounds going into the game from the Cartel Coin transactions.

Ever better though, I know – for a fact – that people buy characters. As in people will pay real money to buy an in-game character that is already a high level. An old friend of mine from college used to do this – not buy characters, but sell them! He’d level up characters to a nice high level, then put them up for sale, and he’d make quite a bit of dosh!

Why don’t EA/BioWare do this? You want to start the game with a Level 30 Jedi? That’ll be £xx please. The character itself could be whatever you wanted it to be, looks, personality the whole sha-bang. But would start at Lvl30 instead of Lvl1.

Anyway I’m rambling quite a lot.



The point is – SW:TOR from November 2012, 11 months after it’s world-wide release, will be F2P. However there will be restrictions on play and it could lead to some wanting to pay the sub fee after playing for free version for a while. By November/December time, TOR should be pretty cheap to buy anyway so should be well worth a punt.

More details should be forthcoming from EA and BioWare in the coming weeks and months. For more information, go to www.swtor.com.

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