GamesRadar - Updates, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:00 -0800Backlog backed up? Here&#39;s how to conquer it in 2015 <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When you're a kid, there's no such thing as a video game backlog. You get a few new games a year as birthday or holiday gifts, and you have all the time in the world to play them courtesy of summer vacation. But you and I are adults now, and backlogs are a very real, ever-present part of our continuously growing game libraries. Disposable income and awesome year-round sales give us the means to buy tons of worthwhile games, but real-world responsibilities have robbed us of the time we need to actually play them all. <p>But I'm vowing to put a dent in my overwhelmingly giant backlog (which you're about to see some selections from) over the next 12 months - and judging by the responses to <a href="" target="new">GR+'s 2015 gaming resolutions</a>, it seems like a lot of you are in the same boat. Of course, saying you're going to conquer <a href="" target="new">your Steam library</a> or the stack of unopened games on your shelf is quite different from actually <i>accomplishing</i> it. If you're determined to finally beat your backlog this year, I've got some sensible tips to help make it happen for the both of us (fingers crossed).</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>I started doing this in 2013, and it's amazing how much it's helped me to chip away at my backlog. Make the list wherever you like - Google Docs, various game-tracking websites like <a href="" target="new">The Backloggery</a>, a piece of scratch paper, whatever. But being able to look at just how many games you've plowed through, all catalogued in one place, is strangely empowering. Suddenly, it becomes that much more exciting to finally complete a game, so you can add it to the list and move right along to next one. Whittling away titles from your backlog feels so much more meaningful when you've made a record of their completion, rather than letting the experience fade into the aether of your gaming memories. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>There's always that game that you'll totally start playing... tomorrow. Time and again, you notice it, smile at the thought of diving into it one day, then return to the game you were actually looking forward to playing. It's time to stop kidding yourself. I've been meaning to play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion since the Game of the Year Edition in 2007, but you know what? I'm never going to make the time to do so, and I need to be at peace with that. It's not the end of the world to have bought a game but never play it. Instead of thinking of it as wasted money, treat it like a constant reminder to be more deliberate with future purchases. In other words...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>It's so tempting to snatch up the new hotness, isn't it? There's always the fear that if you don't, you risk missing out on the latest zeitgeist or having secrets spoiled for you by random dopes on the Internet. But too often, we buy games at full price and only find the time to play them when they're being sold at a ludicrous discount. I've talked at length about <a href="" target="new">the many advantages of being late to the party</a>, but I'll trumpet it again: good things come to those who wait. In the long run, staving off the impulse to pre-order or buy AAA releases on day one without the express intent of playing them <i>immediately</i> will keep games out of your backlog and money in your wallet.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>If you think you're going to happily crank through every Final Fantasy or Grand Theft Auto game in order, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Playing multiple RPGs or open-world games back-to-back can be exhausting no matter how enjoyable they are, because the breadth of content will start to feel like a neverending grind. Instead, alternate between the bigger games on your backlog and shorter, bitesized experiences. I recommend using the excellent site <a href="" target="new">HowLongToBeat</a> to figure out which of your backlog games will take the most time, making sure that you don't stack all the biggies and burn yourself out in the process.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Speaking of calculating the time it takes to beat a game, it's best that you set some guidelines for yourself when taking on your backlog. My recommendation? Stick to the main campaign and forget about 100 percent completion or DLC missions, even if you already own them. It's totally fine to make an exception for the games you're really loving - but if you're determined to attain every hidden collectible, perfect mission score, and challenge mode to get the most bang for your buck, you're going to end up hating yourself. Forget those fleeting leaderboard positions and ultimately pointless achievements - this is about beating your backlog.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Remember how I talked about making a list of the games you beat? Well, why not do what I seem to do subconsciously in all aspects of life: turn it into a competition! There's a good chance that you and your buddies skipped many of the same games, so why not egg each other on to see who can strike them from the backlog list first? Once you get going, you'll be breezing through your stockpile just to one-up your friends. Yes, you might get accused of padding your list with short indie games (like yours truly) - but you know what? Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet wasn't going to beat itself.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Of course you can't play through all your backlog games at once - <i>that's absurd</i>. But if you think you can just bounce back and forth between them, you're just going to distract yourself to the point of inaction. Instead of trying to inch your way through a bunch of games simultaneously, pick one or two to commit to, and don't allow yourself to play the rest until they're complete. It takes discipline, but when you refuse to let yourself get sidetracked, you'll end up reaching your goal that much quicker.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>There are some games that people feel like they need to play for reference, be it a timeless classic like Earthbound, a continuously popular release like Skyrim, or a touchstone of gaming culture like BioShock. But if you boot up the game and just aren't feeling it after a handful of hours, my recommendation is that you just move on. Yes, some games only 'get good' after a dozen hours of investment - but that's time you could spend playing through backlog games that you enjoy every second of. Unless you think you're going to regret your decision on your deathbed, don't force yourself to play through something just to say you did. And hey, that game will always be there if you change your mind. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Before you jump back into a backlog game that you started but never finished, really think about what that might mean. Will you remember the mechanics and controls that got you to your most recent save point, or be able to pick them back up fairly quickly? Did you retain the crucial plot beats up to that point, enough to feel the impact of any twists or revelations that might lie ahead? Do you remember what made you stop playing in the first place, and are you ready to overcome it this time around? If you're unsure about these three questions, then there's a hard choice you have to make: either start the game over from scratch, or just nix it from your backlog completely. Sometimes, it's probably best to stick with the latter. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Looking at a hard drive full of unplayed games can paralyze even the bravest would-be backlog conqueror. When you have so many games just staring you in the face, all of them waiting to be played, it can induce the same anxiety as a stack of unopened bills or those 200 pages of <i>War and Peace</i> you need to read by this Friday. Instead of downloading your digital library in bulk and trying to trudge your way through it, only install the games you plan on playing <i>right now</i>. Unless the Steam/Xbox Live/PSN servers all explode overnight, you'll be able to download your other games at any time - and it's so much easier to complete a task when you divide it up into manageable chunks instead of one monstrous burden.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>I'm not saying you should stop playing Destiny, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, or whatever happens to be your online drug of choice. But you have to realize that every moment you spend grinding for gear or climbing the online ladder is time that could go towards your backlog - something that actually has a tangible end point. If you're serious about clearing that stack of pressed-on-disc shame, maybe you <i>don't</i> need to run that raid for the seventh time in the hopes of a lucky drop. If you're hopelessly hooked, then by all means, enjoy it - just manage your expectations about the amount of backlog you can burn through. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>This one may be frowned upon by some, but I'm not ashamed to say that I've done it, and will continue to do so. If you're playing a game to experience the story, or explore its rich world, there's nothing wrong with dropping the difficulty down to Easy. Sure, you might not experience the same memorable roadblocks as other players - but when you think about it, is it really so terrible to miss out on an unpleasant shared experience? Easy ensures that you'll cruise through the story at a brisk, constantly engaging pace, without any slogs through grueling sections to discourage you from reaching your goal.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>So, think the aforementioned tips won't help? That means it's time to go nuclear. For instance, what if you could add 10 or so hours to your day? All you have to do is buy two of those IV drip chambers they use in hospitals, then fill one with saline solution and the other with Mountain Dew. Once you're all stocked up on adult diapers, you can lock yourself in a room with your backlog and refuse to come back to the known world until you've conquered your entire game library. Be sure to adjust your eyes to natural light slowly, lest you go blind in an instant.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>With all that money you saved picking up games on sale, you've got some chump change to throw around. So why not hire a surrogate who can just play through your backlog for you? You can take naps, spend time with friends, or be there for your kids, all while someone else goes through the trouble of playing your games to completion for minimum wage. Once they're finished, ask them to compile the CliffsNotes version of each game, so you can get the same experience in a fraction of the time.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Gather your backlog of games, cases and all, into a sturdy knapsack, then begin the harrowing trek up the tallest mountain you can find. Once you've reached its rocky summit, breathe deeply to fill your lungs with cool, calming air. Raise the sack of games above your head, then with all your might, literally hurl your backlog off a cliff and watch as it tumbles into the unseen wilderness. Who knows - perhaps a game-savvy camper will stumble upon it someday, and your backlog can become theirs. As for all those digital games you own, just commit multiple counts of credit card fraud and your account's as good as suspended! <i>[Editor's note: Do not actually do this.]</i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I can't guarantee that these tips will eradicate your backlog in one fell swoop - but let's you and I give it our all this year! Do you have any other insightful tips for keeping an ever-expanding backlog at bay? Which games will you be prioritizing on your to-do list? Tell me all about it in the comments section below. Oh, and just FYI, the games you've just seen from my backlog are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Saints Row The Third, Final Fantasy 7, GTA 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (donezo!), The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Earthbound, Etrian Odyssey 4, The Witcher 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, Fallout: New Vegas, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, and Uncharted 3 - a mere fraction of what I have to get through before I die. And truth be told, I've already beaten Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, pictured above - I tossed it in here for Lorenzo's sake, and because it looks so cool. <p><b><i>And if you're looking for more, check out <a href="" target="new">7 normal, everyday things that are impossible to explain to non-gamers</a> and <a href="" target="new">13 hardcore challenges invented by players</a>.</p></b></i></caption> </div> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:00 -0800 gaming resources that change how you play for the better <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>In a perfect world, video games would be self-contained packages that provide everything you need to derive maximum enjoyment from the product. User guides, tweaks, mods, community gathering places - it would all just be in there, officially supported, with no need to ever punch 'how do I get gold' into a search engine. We don't live in that perfect world. But fortunately for us, there are tons of free sites out there just waiting to augment your every experience and answer your every question. Y'know, besides the awesome one you're currently browsing. <p> I'm talking about resources that not only enhance your enjoyment of a game - they can downright alter the way you experience it. Whether it's build guides for your favorite online competitions or vast mod repositories for enhancing solo adventures, you're bound to find something new and awesome in the pages ahead.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you didn't fill out a <a href="" target="_blank">Dragon Age Keep</a> profile before you started Dragon Age: Inquisition, you missed out on one of the most downright useful tools BioWare has ever created. Rather than fret over cross-gen save compatibility, Keep lets you fill out all the pertinent choices from Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2, then download your custom world state straight into Inquisition. <p> On the one hand, it does quell a little of the lore's magic to see it distilled into a big ol' illustrated list. But on the other hand, sitting down for a half-hour to fill the darn thing out really lets you appreciate just how mutable Thedas is by the time you reach the third game. Don't feel limited to recreating old saves, either. Ever wonder what the Inquisition is like if you <a href="" target="_blank">killed off Leliana</a>? Now you don't have to play the whole series again just to find out.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Are you playing GTA Online without a crew? The lone wolf thing is kinda played out, don't you think? To be fair, it's a bit difficult to join one from the game itself. Instead, it's much easier to head over to the <a href="" target="_blank">Social Club</a> via a browser to join Rockstar's edgy clan equivalents. It's kind of an odd extra hoop to make players jump through, but you'll be glad you did it. <p> Not only is it nice to roll with a bunch of like-minded players, but belonging to an active crew can net you extra reputation points and XP. You can also adorn your clothes and cars with the crew emblem, so make sure you pick one with a nifty logo. Even if you couldn't care less about GTA Online, the Social Club still offers a bunch of nifty stats from your single-player campaign, including a big ol' checklist and a map that's indispensable for completionists.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you want to get far in Destiny, you've got to either work hard or work smart. Since this is not a well-paid job but in fact a <i>goddamn video game</i>, I hope you'll choose the latter. And when you do, you'll find plenty of tools to help you out - like <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, which should be the first stop for people who like their 'shared world' shooters to actually involve other players. Rather than hanging out in the Tower bleating about raid groups or sitting in matchmaking just to wind up in a disjointed group, you can simply scan the forum for other players who are interested in teaming up. <p> You can even optimize your open-world patrols with the <a href="" target="_blank">Destiny Public Events Timer</a>. Pull it up before you head out and you'll be sure to arrive on time for your favorite impromptu battles. Much better than puttering around and hoping a good one pops up while you're in the area, if you ask me.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Dark Souls is better known for its crushing difficulty and influential multiplayer than its narrative, but that's no mark against it. You can only get to know the many characters, factions, and regions that underlie the events of the game by paying close attention to every little scrap of info - every offhand reference from an NPC and every bit of flavor text attached to an otherwise unremarkable item. So yeah, it takes a bit more work to understand what's really going on than watching a five-minute expository cutscene. <p> That work includes regularly consulting the <a href="" target="_blank">Dark Souls Wiki</a>. Getting a baseline understanding of the events leading up to Dark Souls will make you appreciate all its characters (in particular the fierce menagerie of bosses) so much more. The rise of Gwyn, the fall of Big Hat Logan, the tragic tale of Artorias and Sif - it's all the kind of stuff you could easily miss without an outside resource, so don't be afraid to consult the Cliff's Notes version.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Skyrim came out in late 2011, and if you haven't played it by now, you've missed out on some kinda international phenomenon - a true cultural touchstone. In fact, I'm just going to assume you already played Skyrim and loved it, along with the rest of modern civilization. But have you played it <i>stuffed to the gills with mods</i>? If not, then I have wonderful or terrible news (depending on how crippling your Skyrim addiction became with the vanilla version): your adventure is only just beginning. <p> <a href="" target="_blank">NexusMods</a> hosts <i>thousands</i> of tweaks for Skyrim that offer everything from tiny systemic tweaks to refined weapon models to entirely new followers. It also lets you add a bunch of distressingly buxom women and an inevitable assortment of nude mods, as found in the NSFW section. But even if that's not your thing, there's still a <i>metric buttload</i> of fun, game-changing stuff to try out. <p><i>Image by <a href="" target="_blank">frank213</a></i></p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>World of Warcraft was huge when it launched. Now that it's had ten years of expansions, content updates, and tweaks lovingly plastered on top, the <i>sheer amount of stuff</i> it contains is absolutely mindboggling. There's no way you could experience it all without quitting your job, paying the internet bill a year in advance, and bricking yourself into a room with your computer. <p> That's where Wowhead comes in. It's a player-assembled directory of <i>everything in WoW</i> that was basically a Wiki before Wikis were such a big thing. And instead of relying on petty editors, it automatically datamines much of its info via the optional Wowhead Looter addon - so you can help document the unknown corners of the world (or at least further refine the loot tables of some weary old boss mob) every time you play.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Hearthstone is so incredibly easy to get into! Somehow it even makes deckbuilding - a notoriously demanding aspect of collectible card games - breezy and fun, with plenty of graphs and automatic suggestions for players who may not be comfortable starting from the ground up. And that's all perfectly fine if you want to experiment on your own, and don't mind waffling around in casuals or low-ranked matches for a while. <p> But if you've found your progress stalling, it may be time to consult some outside help. <a href="" target="_blank">Hearthpwn</a> (yes, that is really its name) offers thousands of player-rated deck builds complete with the total Dust cost you'll need to build all of their cards right in the corner, along with thorough breakdowns of every card's rarity, stats, and purpose in the deck. Again, assembling your own stack of cards is a lot of fun - but if you want a shortcut to competitiveness, you know where to go.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>League of Legends' in-game tools and tutorials have improved in recent years, but they're still not enough to get you out of the SCRUB ZONE. Even after you get the fundamentals down, you'll still need to figure out how to build an effective champion, and choosing the right ability boosts and item combinations can get pretty damn stressful in the middle of a match. That's why I strongly recommend you start out with a guide. <p> It's best if you have a second monitor or tablet to keep <a href="" target="_blank">MOBAFire</a> pulled up, but it even helps to just commit the important bits to memory or do some Alt-Tab-fu. Yeah, a big part of the game is adapting to match conditions, and no guide can cover all the potential variations of group composition and performance. But having a good framework to fall back on makes MOBA life so much easier.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Counter-Strike: GO is fun enough to actually play, I guess, but you know where the real game is? Items. Trading items. Thousands of items. Every day, people barter back and forth to get their favorite guns and gear in all their favorite flavors - and the really savvy ones do it all through <a href="" target="_blank">CSGOLounge</a>. Trust me, you'll have way more luck posting a potential trade on the database than you will spamming match chat - and all the other players will appreciate it, too. <p> But trading is just half of the equation. You can also lay down bets on upcoming big-name pro matches using the very same items, with set values and odds assigned by the Lounge. Whether you win or lose, it's a fun way to raise the stakes. And who knows? You just might get lucky.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Remember back when Nintendo made Advance Wars? Those were better times, when you could get your fix of cartoony tactics in a humble cartridge and maybe even find some local players to match wits against. These days, the franchise is what I would gently refer to as <i>dormant</i>. You're about as likely to find another person with a GBA and a copy of the game to play against in the wild as you are somebody with a PSP and Metal Gear Acid. <p> But now your search is finally over, oh portable tactician: <a href="" target="_blank">Advance Wars By Web</a> offers a lovingly homebrewed version of the series' classic multiplayer right in your browser. No downloads necessary, just sign up for an account and jump into a match set on one of countless custom maps. I love it when fans fill this kind of niche - I just hope that Nintendo sees it the same way, and keeps its Cease & Desist toting attorneys far, far away.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>That's just a small sampling of all the official and player-made online resources out there. What are some sites you've stumbled on that forever altered your gaming experience for the better (other than GamesRadar+, you charmer)? Let me know in the comments below! <p><b><i>Looking for ways to change the game? Check out these ones where <a href="" target="_blank">you can kill your allies</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">14 unlikely (but awesome) new announcements we'd like to see in 2015</a>.</b></i></caption> </div> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:45:00 -0800 Only true RPG fans will answer these questions, 28 Nov 2014 06:00:00 -0800 chop! 13 big bad video game butchers <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>What is it about the everyday job of butchering meat that makes it so frightening in a horror context? Is it the thought of the those big, shiny knives and cleavers slicing up human victims instead of steers and pigs? Is it the idea of encountering a madman inside a walk-in freezer with blood caked on the walls and floor? <i>Does no one want to know how the sausage is made?</i> <p>Whatever it is, butchers are scary as hell when you run into them in video games. Some stab at you with giant meat hooks, while others opt for even crazier weapons like buzzsaws and sharpened bone. But these are the choicest cuts of all. Let's start with a nice chunk of...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Detective Ethan Thomas travels all over Metro City during his investigations, and at one point he finds himself in St. Joseph's Secondary School. A large figure taunts him as he explores the hallways and classrooms, dispatching minions to stop the gumshoe for good. Eventually, he reaches the freezer, where the butcher herself attacks. <p>This crazed cafeteria work stands seven feet tall, with plenty of weight to throw around. She can absorb entire magazines of ammo--only well placed headshots or blows from melee weapon can take this elementary schoolers' nightmare down. Still, she’s only 5% more scary than the lunch lady I grew up with.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Larry Chiang. The name isn't intimidating, but when you watch this guy drag your friend Carlito into his meat processing plant, you know he's pure evil. His plan is to <i>grind Carlito</i> into "fresh meat" after all. <p>The boss fight that follows is a series of meat cleaver slices and thrown meat: Larry actually pulls down choice cuts to throw at hero Frank West during the fight. He'll even eat some canned mystery meat during the fight. Stopping him means saving Carlito and taking the meat cleaver as your own weapon.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When you play a Silent Hill game, you expect to run into big bad Pyramid Head, and you try your best to keep your bodily functions in check when you do. That's not the case in Origins. Instead, Travis Grady encounters the equally horrifying Butcher. <p>He first shows up in The Family Butcher shop, slicing a nurse (the monster, not the kind that takes your blood pressure) from the belly down. Later on, he is found in front of the shop with the same nurse’s wound now spread open. In a final showdown in the Riverside Motel, you can end the Butcher's reign of terror for good--by stabbing him in the spine with his own cleaver.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Meat cleavers? Carving knives? The Butchers in Dead Island have no time for your silly weapons. Instead, they use their own forearms: their flesh and muscle have been removed, leaving them with sharp bones jutting from the bicep. Get too close with a bat or wrench, and their bone-blades will make short work of you. <p>Luckily, they only appear in the jungle in the first Dead Island. Solution: stay out of there. But in Dead Island: Riptide, the Butchers show up in all sorts of missions and locations. Good luck avoiding these handless horrors, buddy.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Lumbering giants with meat cleavers are hell<i>ish</i>, but Diablo's Butcher (returning from the first game) is literally <i>from Hell</i>, a blade-wielding cousin of Baal, Mephisto, and the other Evils. You can find him in the Chamber of Suffering--a fitting name given how the boss fight goes down. <p>The Butcher can swipe and slam his carver into the ground, but he also wields a sickle and multiple spears. That's a lot of weaponry to dance around, and I haven't even mentioned the fire below your feet. That's right: the grates on the floor belch fire throughout the fight, just waiting to cook up what the Butcher filets.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The Water Street Gang are already pretty ruthless, choosing to use knives or their bare fists in combat. Their leader Winston Chu is the toughest of the bunch, but even he pales in comparison to his mother, Mrs. Chu. <p>Mrs. Chu owns the Golden Koi restaurant, where the Water Street Gang does its business. At first she just appears to be a tough manager, yelling at her kitchen employees. But it's in that kitchen that she butchers rival gang member Johnny Ratface and forces his boss Dogeyes to <i>eat pieces of his corpse</i>. The term "momma's boy" never sounded so sinister.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Who needs a dinky little butter knife when you've got a giant buzzsaw? That's the mentality of the Butchers in Dishonored's DLC pack Knife of Dunwall. They're found in Slaughterhouse Row--that level name should be your first red flag. <p>Those saws aren't for slicing up lunchmeat, either. These Butchers carve up <i>freakin' whales</i>, using the ocean mammal's mysteriously powerful oil to power their buzzsaws. Don't think you can just run off with one of their badass buzz-weapons either. Listen to their conversations, and you'll learn that they cut their coworker's hands off just for touching the damn things.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>He's called the Evil Butcher, and he's hideous. Despite this, he is the vampire's official cook, tasked with feeding the beasts that roam the castle grounds. Once Gabriel slips into the vents and reaches the kitchen, the battle with the Butcher is on. <p>The Evil Butcher wields--you should see this coming by now--a giant metal cleaver, which does heavy damage. Other tools in his kitchen are just as deadly in his hands: hooks, dinner bells, you name it. You can't even finish the big guy off until he makes the mistake of dropping a large soup pot on his own head. Appetites are a common weakness among evildoing freaks, I guess.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The titular Shank has a bit of history with this husky hulk. The Butcher used to win fights thanks to some shady Mafia deals, and that made him a renowned wrestler. Then Shank and his buddy Falcone beat him up for missing one of his payments to the mob. <p>Later, the Butcher was sent to kill Shank, though he only succeeded in fracturing his skull. Shank gets his revenge in spades: he strangles the Butcher with his own chains, strings him up, and sends him through a meat grinder. He <i>butchers</i> the Butcher.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There are only two of these ladies--yes, they are women--in the entirety of Dark Souls, but you won't soon forget them. When you encounter the first one in The Depths, you'll catch her preparing a meal for the freaks that live down there--a meal made of her fellow Undead. <p>They wield both a meat cleaver and a wooden stake, and they know how to use them. Get hit by their stake attack, and you'll be pinned to ground. Then they bring the meat cleaver down into your torso. Ouch.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The Dark Souls ladies may be horrifying, but they've got nothing on Meat Katie, found only in House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut. She trades her set of kitchen knives for one massive, two-hands-required meat cleaver. <p>More horrifying is her size and armor. She's a giant wearing a cow skull with large horns, and she's attached an actual udder to her gut. When protagonists Varla and Candi manage to drive her into a meat grinder, she dies with a bone-chilling "moo." You won't want a glass of milk for a while after this encounter.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>His name is Biggy Man, and he has given up cleavers in favor of <i>chainsaws attached to his arm stumps</i>. Toss a burlap sack over his face, and you know you're in for a chaotic, sparks-flying battle. <p>Biggy Man is found on a bridge in the classic Splatterhouse or at the end of the Meat Factory in the remake. In the newer version, you learn just how sinister he is; he's watching you through the factory's cameras, totally freaking out your Terror Mask companion. If you manage to take this cunning cut-master down, you'll be rewarded with a chainsaw of your own--once you rip it from his arm stump, that is. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The city of Windhelm has its own Jack the Ripper type, and it's up to the Dragonborn to track him down. Three young women have been killed, with gruesome gashes across their bodies. Who is this madman? <p>The search will lead you to some leaflets labeled "Beware the Butcher!", as well as several journal entries from the "butcher" himself. After some investigating--spoiler alert--you'll catch elderly museum curator Calixto Corrium in the act. Move quickly, and you'll stop this butcher from carving his next lady-steak.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Well, that was frightening. Remind me to stay away from meat for a while--I have a sudden urge to go vegetarian. In any case, which of these freaks scared you the most? <p><b><i>Believe it or not, meat was actually used in a Resident Evil marketing ploy. You can read about in these <a href="" target="_blank">15 awfully (and totally real) video game marketing campaigns</a>. And if you want to know what meat "sounds" like, check out this classic episode of <a href="" target="_blank">SoundRadar</a> featuring the music of Super Meat Boy.</b></i></caption> </div> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:00:06 -0700 life or death situations that you can procrastinate on <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The big bad bossman is in his gothic tower, cackling maniacally. Lightning crashes across the apocalyptic wasteland. Lava seeps in through the cracks of this hellscape, and winged beasts fill the night sky. All would seem lost if it weren't for the fact that our heroes have arrived at this final castle, this last bastion of evil, and they are ready to kick some ass. But wait… is that an arcade next door? Sweet! I wonder if they have Battletoads?</p> <p>Many video games do a great job at making you <i>think</i> the stakes are at their highest, but because they give you the freedom to go wherever you want, that great cataclysm will usually wait while you shirk your quest and play some minigames. These are some of the more extreme examples.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You've been through hell to get to this point. You've witnessed the girl of your dreams' (unless you went out with Tifa. Or Barrett.) impalement first hand. You've waded through the Lifestream and come out on the other side with a serious case of Mako sickness. And just when things are looking up, a giant meteor hovers above the horizon, ready to tear the Planet a new one. So who wants to go to a theme park???</p> <p>By the time you reach the final disc in Final Fantasy VII, you've unlocked the final dungeon, and the ultimate battle against Sephiroth awaits. But you're likely not <i>quite</i> ready yet, so while the end of the world literally hangs in the air, you're able to spend dozens of hours dinking around with Gold Saucer's minigames, or breeding chocobos to get that final summon. Weeks pass, the meteor is no closer than it was a month ago, and you start to wonder if the Planet is actually in any legitimate danger.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>So Earth has been destroyed, and the last remnants of humanity are chillaxing on Emperor Zinyak's private space cruiser. Well, chillaxing isn't exactly accurate; more like being held prisoner in a virtual version of the city you and your friends spent time in during Saints Row The Third. Fifteen years later and we're still getting Matrix jokes…</p> <p>Anyway, even with the Earth 'asploded and all, time is of the essence. Zinyak's gotta pay for what he's done, especially since he continues to torment you the entire game. Still, that doesn't mean that the ultimate galactic smack-down should be rushed. Oh no, there are races to run and data clusters to find that, while boosting your virtual super powers, will in no way affect your abilities in the real world. So, it's like an actual video game, then.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Converting a major section of a large city and turning it into a murder carnival for convicts will end up on the list of worst mayoral decisions ever made. Still, it provides ample opportunity for the more vigilantism-inclined to explore and get into some real trouble, even if there's the threat of mass murder looming over the entire city of Gotham.</p> <p>As Batman stalks through the night, Doctor Strange pipes in over the intercom, updating the city's inhabitants of the countdown to "Protocol 10." "Five hours left," he chimes, as you're scouring every nook and cranny for balloons to pop or Riddler trophies to nab. Luckily, time seems to stand still in Gotham City, and as long as you don't pursue the main storyline Protocol 10 is no closer to happening than Batman finally taking Robin seriously.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>A quick visit to the year 2300 reveals a world ruined by the evil Lavos. People huddle in corners, sheltering themselves from the cold. Food is incredibly scarce, but revitalization machines ensure that people are able to stay alive, even if that means going hungry for another day. To prevent this horrible future from coming to pass, you and your crew of intrepid heroes need to find this Lavos character and deal with him ASAP.</p> <p>The thing is, Lavos ends the world in 1999, and you're from the year 1000, so you've got a lot of time to kill before you hop in your time-jumping ship and blast off into the apocalypse. It certainly gives you a lot of time to beat up on Gato's metal joints. If you win, he'll give you 15 silver points!</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>A mysterious man named Lan Di came to your home, killed your father, and stole your family's precious Dragon Mirror, all right before your eyes! It's enough to make you run out and get a part-time job. Wait, what? Well, in order to find out where Lan Di's run off to, you'll need to wander around your little slice of Japan, interrogate sailors for clues, and save up enough money for a ticket to China. But if you want to ignore your passionate quest for revenge, well, go for it. There are plenty of distractions.</p> <p>Sure, there's a time limit imposed on you, but you're given nearly half a year of game-time to investigate the whereabouts of your father's murderer before the trail goes cold. So there's plenty of time to nab capsule toys by the truckload and waste hours of your life playing Space Harrier. And since Shenmue 2 came out over ten years ago, it's not like the story will ever be finished. So game on--none of this matters, anyway...</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>A skyscraper-sized demon known as The Imprisoned has busted out of his, well, prison, and is making a beeline for the Sealed Temple in order to destroy it. Conveniently for him, that temple is a short jaunt up a hill. Link is the only one who can stop him, and he needs to rush on over and stop him before it's too late. Over and over again.</p> <p>You know, or not. Whether you're carrying way too many pumpkins at once (what could one person possibly do with all these pumpkins!) or slicing bamboo stalks in half, there are plenty of sidequests to keep you busy while the world is falling apart around you. Don't worry, though; The Imprisoned will wait for you. He's an honorable beast.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Shortly (OK, immediately) after the opening of Mass Effect 3, the galaxy-ruining Reapers show up on Earth and start doing a little landscaping with their giant lasers. Being the last hope and all, it's up to Commander Shepard to leave Earth and find a weapon capable of taking them out. If he happens to come across a nightclub, well, that's just gravy.</p> <p>The thing is, <i>the reapers never stop attacking Earth,</i> even while Shepard is off doing sidequests. So while you're gallivanting across the galaxy, surveying moons, shooting the shit with Garrus, or trying to hook Seth Green up with a robot, the Reapers are tearing the human population a new one. No, please, go find that woman in the Citadel's heirloom necklace. I'm sure it's <i>literally killing her</i> to be without it.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Dragons are back and they are <i>pissed.</i> There's a particularly nasty one known as Alduin, and you don't get a nickname like "World Eater" by filling your day with sunshine and rainbows. He forms the backbone of your quest, and it's up to you to stop him from causing the prophesied destruction of the world of man.</p> <p>That is, if you can pull yourself away from crafting your own weapons. Or stealing anything that isn't nailed down. Or cooking delicious meals. Or wandering around the countryside and ducking into any hole you can find. Or assisting Skyrim's residents with millions of inane requests. Once you finish all of that, then maybe, <i>maybe</i>, you can finally give that Alduin what for.</p> </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>According to Assassin's Creed 3, a single assassin named Connor was conveniently involved in almost every major event of the American Revolution, like the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere's ride, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Even more convenient is how incompetent everyone is, as they are incapable of winning a battle without Connor's direct involvement. Maybe this is why nothing happens while Connor is busy making sure his homestead has a decent innkeeper.</p> <p>So sure, make Connor chase down Benjamin Franklin's invention schematics, stalk wild beasts for a hunting club, or play a rousing game of Fanorona. Lord knows that the revolution will wait for you, considering everyone's appalling ineptitude.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Sure, the world might be ending as we speak. But at least you can sneak in a quick round or twelve of G-Bike. What other heroic events have you procrastinated on? Let me know in the comments below!</p> <p><b><i>Be sure to check out these <a href="" target="_blank">8 zero-point achievements that will make you cry</a>, or the list of the <a href="" target="_blank">winners of the 32nd annual Golden Joystick Awards.</a></b></i></p></caption> </div> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0800 talkin’ to me? Gaming’s 15 best living weapons <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There are many types of living weapons. Some crack inane one-liners like annoying ‘80s comedians, while others exhibit all the consciousness of particularly dangerous houseplants. Some are traditional--think immortal swords imbued with the spirits of demons--and some improvised, like a makeshift, rabid-badger chainsaw.</p> <p>Whatever the case, if it’s sentient and kills things then it’s got a place on this list. Without further ado, here are gaming’s 15 most bizarre living weapons.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The K9000 Cyberdog Gun is more than a gun powered by the brain of a dog. It’s taken on distinctly canine characteristics. Mounted to the weapon are two metallic ears, which move excitedly when the gun fires, as well as a ‘sense sniffer’. It sounds like a dog, too, even whining when unequipped. It’s the closest you’ll get to starring in one of those ‘coming home’ videos where a loving pooch greets a returning soldier, because you’re not brave enough to be a soldier and no one will ever love you.</p> <p>Having it in your possession triggers various comical reactions, like robotic brain-bot Dr Klein worrying the K9000 will "hump his chassis." One of New Vegas’ rarest weapons, the K9000 is part of the Old World Blues DLC. You can obtain it in two ways: either loot it from the X-12 Research Centre, or talk to the think-tanks at Big MT and pass a guns skill-check of 50.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Don’t let The Wind in the Willows fool you--badgers are vicious. This is a blighter from the same family as polecats, weasels, and wolverines. Their skulls have evolved in such as way that it’s near impossible for their jaws to dislocate, allowing them to remorselessly maintain a bite until they either die or get bored and wander off. Postal 3 pays the fearsome four-legged omnivore due reverence, letting you carry around a rabid, overgrown badger so that it can maul anyone dumb enough to piss off someone carrying a rabid, overgrown badger.</p> <p>Your character will sometimes shout "Badger! Badger! Badger! Mushroom! Mushroom!", in reference to the deeply modern <a href="" target="new">viral video</a>. Which is now over a decade old. Nice and relevant, then.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The Hivehand, also known as the Hornet Gun, is a living assault rifle that spews out multitudes of tiny living organisms. These bio bullets intelligently seek out hostiles, pursuing them around corners like a particularly dedicated picnic wasp. Ammo is infinite too, seeing as the weapon can produce them on the fly (wait, was that a pun? Uh, yes. Yes, I meant that. Continue). The Hivehand went through many iterations, and its final design heavily borrows from a cut weapon dubbed the Alien Organic Chainsaw, which was kind of like a giant wearable Venus fly trap.</p> <p>It’s not Half-Life’s only dance with living weaponry. Oversized termite-like Snarks act as homing grenades, even making a beeline for Gordon if there are no enemies around. Their idle animations see Freeman tease it with his finger and almost get it chomped off in the process. Half-Life’s expansion, Opposing Force, introduces the Shock Roach (an electric insectoid appendage), Spore Launcher (an infant Shock Roach that purrs cutely) and Barnacle Grapple (can latch on to humans and scenery).</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Soul Edge is the primary antagonist of the Soulcalibur series, and that’s saying a lot when competition for the title includes axe-wielding mega men, stab-happy zombie pirates, and freaky gimp contortionists with Wolverine claws. It’s powered by the soul of Inferno, who acts as a parasite, feeding off the sword’s wielder. According to legend, Soul Edge turns red after witnessing too much bloodshed, similar to how flamingoes go pink because of their all-shrimp diets. The Hero King Algol, wanting to counter its power, created a holy blade from its purified shards--the blade known as Soul Calibur.</p> <p>Though the design of both weapons vary, this is routinely a crystalline construction as opposed to Soul Edge, which often sports angry tumours and a gross-out eye. While Soul Edge is parasitic, eating the healthbar of its owner during fights, Soul Calibur is symbiotic, regenerating health but dealing less damage. In Soulcalibur V, Soul Calibur has a physical manifestation called Elysium. In Voldo's ending of Soulcalibur IV, meanwhile, not only does Soul Edge talk, but it's voiced by actor Yuri Lowenthal--aka Ben 10.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>In the first two Bioshocks, the Insect Swarm Plasmid unleashes hundreds of suicidal bees at enemies, damaging and temporarily distracting them. In Bioshock Infinite, this is replaced by the Hitchcockian Murder of Crows Vigor, which functions similarly but sounds infinitely cooler and allows me to use the word Hitchcockian.</p> <p>Plasmids are special serums made from ADAM that mutate users. Active Plasmids require EVE for use, while passive Plasmids, called Gene Tonics, provide an effect merely by being equipped. Vigors, meanwhile, were made by businessman Jeremiah Fink who made them drinkable by way of an oxidizing agent. Some weren’t fit for public consumption. Take the marketing blackboard in Bioshock Infinite which details failed vigors. Under the Amnesia Vigor, which makes the drinker forget everything they know, some ads man writes, “How do you plan to sell this dud?!” Then there’s the Plant Peeper Vigor to read the inner thoughts of your houseplant (marketing note: “No demand for this type of product”) and Dead Ringer to re-animate dead loved ones and pets (marketing note: “No one wants a moldy puppy!”).</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When the first piece of concept art came through for Skyward Sword, people were immediately suspicious. “Why, the tip of Link’s sword looks like a particularly pointy blue head,” they said. This wasn’t mentalism, because it was exactly that--specifically, the head of a spirit called Fi. After Fi appears to Link in his dreams foretelling him of his destiny, she guides him to the Statue of the Goddess and bids him to draw the Goddess Sword (later tempered into the Master Sword) from its pedestal. Since Fi resides within the Master Sword, and the Master Sword appears in every Zelda game, you could make a case for her as a major recurring character.</p> <p>Fi functions as Link’s guide like a Navi or Midna type, essentially a device through which Nintendo communicates to the player directly. She divulges enemy weaknesses and the time of your current play session, gives advice on the next objective, offers event summaries, and can even scan for treasure. And Fi isn’t even the only sword spirit in the game; the evil Ghirahim is her emo-haired counterpart, turning into a mighty black blade during particularly bleak days.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The ever frugal Stranger rifles through nature’s bountiful ammo store to enact his titular Wrath, grabbing any and all animals and stuffing them into his crossbow as they sit there giving him the stink eye. Fire a Bolamite spider, for instance, to wrap foes in thick webbing. The cutesy Fuzzles, meanwhile, are essentially deadly mines. ThudSlugs are like one-hit KO riot pellets, and Stunks explode into clouds of noxious green gas that cause anyone caught in it to throw up violently.</p> <p>All things furry, spiky, and otherwise fit into three ammo categories. The immobilization set is used to deplete an enemy's stamina for crowd control or live-capture bounty hunting. There’s straightforward damage-dealing, good for bounties who need not necessarily be turned in alive. And there’s trap/lure, which can kite enemies into certain positions and imprison them. Each creature has an upgrade, too. Stunkz become electrified Spark Stunkz, pulling groups of enemies together. Combine this with the upgraded form of the explosive Boombat to blast them all together. Mixing and matching your unfortunate ammo cache is key to wrathful victory.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>"Apparently this Pokémon is born when a departed spirit inhabits a sword," reads the Pokedex entry for Honedge. "It attaches itself to people and drinks their life force. If anyone dares to grab its hilt, it wraps a blue cloth around that person's arm and drains that person's life energy completely." Terrifying. It evolves into Doublade at level 35, which itself evolves into Aegislash when exposed to a Dusk Stone.</p> <p>The idea behind these Pokemon comes from the folklorish Japanese concept of tsukumogami, in which objects forgotten by their owners become animate. Animator Hitoshi Ariga’s creation also contain hints of the Tyrfing, a magic sword of Norse mythology that was cursed by dwarves to kill someone whenever it was drawn (again, terrifying). Visually, these Pokemon combine the two inspirations, looking equal parts eastern jian sword and western viking sword. Some potentially earth-shattering, potentially meaningless trivia for you: no other Pokemon shares the same type combination as these guys, a unique ghost/steel type.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>In Suda51’s action-horror Shadows of the Damned, Johnson is many things to protagonist Garcia Hotspur: shape-shifting firearm, rad motorbike, sassy talking skull who speaks like a slightly more belligerent J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man. According to his biography, he’s a demon with a taste for strawberries, and regularly frequents the red light district in the City of the Damned. Well, he did until he was cursed and banished for being a dick. Now he’s Garcia’s tour guide, transport, and weapon rolled into one.</p> <p>Johnson, you see, has several functions. As a firearm he morphs into the Boner revolver (snigger), Teether machine gun (tee hee) and Monocussioner shotgun, while melee mode morphs include a rock-hard scepter. He’s even been known to rap, at one point donning a pair of headphones and <a href="" target="new">rolling out rhymes</a> like: "Demon keeps dreaming of a demon town, motherf***er bi**h f**k s**t went down." Hey, no-one said they were good rhymes.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Lilarcor, also known as Lawrence Lilarcor, is an enchanted sword who’s REALLY ANNOYING. Talk with him by clicking on the converse button while examining the weapon in the inventory menu and he’ll say lines like, "I'd appreciate some quality time in my scabbard. Take a break... ahhhh, who am I kidding? Attack! Battle! Kill! Hee heeee...... this is what I live for!" It’s novel for all of five seconds--like if your spoon started breakdancing--but it gets old fast.</p> <p>During battle he’ll yell, “Bring 'em on! I ain't done!", and he doesn’t shut up when you’re idle either, whining "Boring. Boring. BorIIING!" and “Come on let's kill something NOW!" While enchanted weapons are usually valuable in Baldur’s Gate II, Lilarcor isn’t, despite being of reasonable quality. This is probably because he is REALLY ANNOYING.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Consider the following: to make Daedric weapons and armor in The Elder Scrolls games, one must bind the spirits of Daedra to the forging materials. You’d assume this would ‘use up’ the spirit, like mixing eggs into cake batter and losing the chance to raise a lovely little chick like Joey from Friends. But Daedra are immortal. So, what’s the horrifying implication of this? All Daedric weapons are alive.</p> <p>In Skyrim, for instance, players create Daedric items by tossing Daedra hearts into the smithing process. This would be an inconvenience for all the poor Daedra would it not be for the fact each one exists in a Time Abyss, which means a thousand years is nothing. Although you might justifiably get a bit restless residing in a scabbard for five centuries, to Deadra it’s nap time. And ‘death’ for them simply means returning to another realm to reform their bodies. Forging them is mutually beneficial: you get some of the most powerful and badass-looking weapons, all jagged ebony edges and glowing red filigree, and the Daedra get a nice little holiday. Everybody wins!</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Like in Bastion, the narrator in Transistor loves to natter. Unlike in Bastion, you can pick up this narrator and swing him over your head. That’s because he’s a sword. The exposition-spouting weapon, resembling a kind of lavishly gilded giant microchip, belongs to Red. She was a famous singer in a city called Cloudbank until it was attacked by The Process, a robotic force commanded by a group called the Camerata. After being knocked unconscious in the clash, Rdd wakes up next to the mysterious Transistor, him smoking a cigarette with the smuggest look on his face (that last part may or may not be true).</p> <p>Like any sentient sword worth its sentient salt, this weapon absorbs souls (or Traces) to gain specific Functions. One such Function is a voice, and Transistor uses it to speaks to Red almost like a lover. In fact, the first person killed by the Transistor is a man whose jacket Red wears throughout the game, so the Trace speaking is implied as Red's love interest. This is possibly a nod to William Gibson's Neuromancer, in which a person's mind can be stored on a hard drive. Except this particular hard drive is capable of chain-kills.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Mercifully, the four living weapons in 2007 shooter Prey are the quiet type. First up is the energy-shooting Hunter rifle, whose secondary fire causes an appendage to attach itself to your eyeball and give you binocular vision. Next is the auto-cannon, a rapid-fire machine gun with multiple barrels complemented by an organic flak grenade launcher.</p> <p>Speaking of grenades, crawler grenades are three-legged crab-like creatures that can be used in two ways: by ripping off all of their legs and throwing the explosive abdomen, or by ripping off just one leg and treating the crawler as a sticky proximity mine, which is as disgusting as that sounds. Pressing secondary fire makes Tommy flip the Crawler over, letting you select how to abuse it. Finally there’s a rocket launcher that fires crawler-filled spheres of crustacean justice. Secondary fire on this bad boy vaporizes the crawler into a lingering cloud of acid that shields you from projectiles. Yuck.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>In Metroid Prime: Hunters on the DS, Kanden favours the Volt Driver because, well, who wouldn’t want a gun that shoots hyper lightning? That’s a no-brainer. There’s nothing much to give away the fact this weapon is actually alive, shaped as it is pretty conventionally in the form of a firearm (as conventionally as mystic alien weapons can get, anyway), but the Scan Log refers to it as a living thing.</p> <p>The butter-yellow Volt Driver, firing from a supply of universal ammo, turns magnetic fields into electric waves then uses these waves as projectiles. It was created as part of the Enoema Living Weapons project, and has since earned a fearsome reputation in multiplayer where players use it to distort the visors of others, annoyingly. During Hunters’ story, Samus finds a Volt Driver of her own in Data Shrine 02 of the Celestial Archives. It’s not Kanden’s particular model, but a piece of tech that allows her Arm Cannon to mimic the Volt Driver’s effects.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Black-eyed flowers are staples of Mario games, first appearing in Super Mario Bros. as the now iconic Fire Flower. Uprooting the blooming fellow from his home soil lets you harness his power to throw fireballs. The plumber’s plucked all sorts of plant life in his time: Ice Flowers appear in Mario Party 5 in the minigame Panic Pinball. There’s the Power Flower from Super Mario 64 DS which lets Mario float for a short period. There’s what’s simply termed ‘Flower’ in Super Mario Land, which allows Mario to turn into Superball Mario. In the Nintendo DS game Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Fire Flowers are referred to as Bros. Flowers.</p> <p>And flowers aren't constrained to Mario platformers. In Mario Golf: World Tour, Fire Flowers increase shot distance and burn through obstructions, and in the Super Smash Bros. series they also spit fire themselves as held items. All four Animal Crossing games even let you purchase the Fire Flower as a furniture item. That’ll save on the heating bill.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There a lot of games out there. Many of them contain weapons. Chances are some of these weapons are alive. And for some reason 'HIS ARM IS HIS WIFE' keeps coming to mind. Odd, that. So: Got any more you'd add to this list? Let us know in the comments.</p> <p><b><i>And if you're looking for more, check out <a href="" target="new">The 100 best weapons in games</a> and <a href="" target="new">The Top 7 silliest weapons in serious games</a>.</p></b></i></caption> </div> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 06:00:00 -0700**k-it list! 7 tough life goals you can easily complete in games <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Ahhh the Bucket List. While it's nice to think of all the things you'd like to do before kicking the proverbial bucket, how many people actually have the time (or money) to complete even one of their life goals? Well, let’s not forget the cheat’s way out--you can tick off a load of them by completing them <em>in games</em>.</p> <p>What do you mean, ‘that doesn’t count’? I believe that the gaming experience can actually enhance your enjoyment of completing your bucket list. There's no horrible long haul flights, no putting your body through exertion and, best of all, you can do it while still in your pyjamas. And it’s… y’know, ‘gams’. So, grab a drink and get comfy because we're about to experience the very best that life has to offer from the comfort of our chairs.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There's a haunting beauty to the Northern Lights. Their ethereal patterns (created as plasma ejected from the sun collides with atmospheric particles, fact fans), have inspired humans for millennia. However to see them ‘IRL’ you normally have to go to the Arctic Circle... in Winter... at night. And you don't need me to tell you how cold that is. Do you? Really? It's... really cold.</p> <p>It's far better to jump aboard Shadowmere, climb to the Throat of the World and enjoy the show from there. The Aurora is the crowning glory of Skyrim's achingly epic game world and just as awe-inspiring as the real thing. It even has the potential to distract you from whatever wild beast is gnawing on your face at the time.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>It takes years of dedication to master a musical instrument but, when you do, the results are phenomenal. Our recent article on<a href=””> metal covers of video game theme songs</a> is proof of that. Learning an instrument gives you the ability to play all your favourite songs, to have an audience in raptures as you amaze them with your skills, and--let's not forget--music is the food of luuurve.</p> <p>But who has the time? There are so many other things to be doing with your life... gaming for instance. Rock Band knows this and makes it easy to ‘master’ two instruments (and the drums) in the space of a few short days without the painful blisters and frustrating years of practice. </p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>For the ultimate adrenaline rush there's nothing more thrilling than skydiving. Jumping out of a plane with only a piece of canvas between you and an inevitably messy end contradicts every rational human instinct. Despite this, people flock in droves to have a go. Oh, and before anyone asks: NO, I will not sponsor you for doing it!</p> <p>As exciting as it may seem, it cannot compare to the opening of Just Cause 2. This sees you skydiving in the dead of night to catch a gunner in mid-air while being shot at by anti-aircraft guns. As if this wasn't enough, immediately after landing you must infiltrate a military base to steal back a memory card and then rappel onto a helicopter to make your escape. Try doing that in real life and... well, you'll die.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Who wouldn't want one last, Hangover-style blowout before they go? And where better to do it than Las Vegas? From the multitude of casinos, to the unique shows and even a wedding chapel, this city offers everything needed for a hedonistic night that you'll probably be glad you don't remember.</p> <p>Now imagine all this, but with added robots, and you're pretty close to the Fallout: New Vegas experience. The game allows you to gamble until you're bankrupt, drink until you're addicted and even destroy the Hoover Dam, all in one night. Best of all you'll emerge from the experience free of real hangovers (unless you do it drunk) and regrets (ditto). Ideal.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Swimming with dolphins is number one on many people's bucket lists. Dolphins are amazingly intelligent and totally at ease as they frolic with people in the water. The experience is described as therapeutic, uplifting and even life-changing. Unfortunately, our desire to swim with dolphins can have negative repercussions on the animals themselves. Stress, repeatedly being called ‘Flipper’... you get the idea.</p> <p>If you play Ecco the Dolphin you'll be doing the world a favour, then. You control Ecco as he embarks on a quest to save his fellow sea creatures. His journey takes him from his home, to the Arctic and even to flippin' Atlantis, meaning you can see a dolphin in environments tourists never could, all the while feeling smug about what an eco-warrior you're being.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The Pyramids of Giza are the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World and still stand proud over 4,000 years after they were built. They are an engineering marvel and offer us a glimpse into Egypt's incredible history.</p> <p>In Rome: Total War you are transported back to the Ancient World when the Egyptian Empire was on the wane and ripe for the taking. Egypt is only a short sail across the Mediterranean from the heel of Italy and, instead of just <em>visiting</em> the Pyramids, you can vanquish the Egyptians and have them all to yourself. In fact, you can conquer all the Wonders of The Ancient World, which bestow a unique bonus on your civilisation. Bonus: visiting Egypt virtually means you won't get a thunderous dose of the bum-runs after drinking non-bottled water.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Everest, Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc... climbing one of these is a bucket list favourite. You certainly get a nice view from the top and a sense of achievement. But is it really worth it? You’ll probably suffer cold weather, altitude sickness and blistered feet. Not to mention the possibility that one of your team-mates might eat you.</p> <p>Thankfully for people who like to get high without the effort there's always Grand Theft Auto. Mount Chiliad first appeared in GTA: San Andreas (although most recently it's in GTA 5) and is the highest point on the map. At the top, Rockstar has handily laid-on a parachute, a bike and a ramp. You’ll soon be trying to see how many backflips you can do before you reach the ground. Something you <em>can</em> do in real life, but is probably worth saving for the end of your list.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Hopefully this list has shown you there’s no limit to how lazy you can be when it comes to completing your bucket list. Do you even have a bucket list? If you do (you lazy bastard) what items could you tick off in a game. Let everyone know in the comments below.</p> <p><i><strong>Want more features, do you? Here's one about <a href="" target="_blank">Games We Know Existed (But Can't Tell You About)</a>. Or--if you're into this sort of thing--a piece on <a href="" target="_blank">Gaming's Most WTF Fanfic Mash-ups</a>. Weirdness.</i></strong></p></caption> </div> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:00:00 -0700 single-player games that got crazy multiplayer mods <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Everything is better with friends--drinking, travelling, starting a cult, but mostly gaming. Of course, not every game is meant to be played with others. Titles like BioShock Infinite and Resident Evil 4 are great single-player experiences because they were designed that way. <p>But what happens when you take a game meant to be played alone and open up the Pandora's Box of multiplayer? Savvy game-modders create shared experiences in massive worlds like Skyrim, or entirely new game modes for strategy titles like Mount & Blade. Games like these didn't need multiplayer--they weren't meant to have it--but got it anyway, thanks to the mod community.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Just Cause 2 is a study in vehicular insanity--few games let you leap from a plane in mid-flight, pull out your grappling hook, and zip into the cockpit of a different plane. That grappling hook, in fact, leads to some of the most insane, nearly game-breaking moments you can have with Just Cause. You see, the grappling hook can attach to <i>anything</i>, letting you zip toward an object or attach two things together. This leads to pure chaos in single-player. <p>Now imagine what grappling hooks can do in the hands of dozens of other players. People hijack speedboats, attach cargo to planes as they take off, and chain their friends to moving vehicles--that's just part of what this multiplayer mod allows. Others get into vehicle races, but these quickly devolve into clusterfraks of people latching onto the jeep in front of them, while racers in jets above just crash into each other. It's basically Michael Bay's wet dream.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>"It's like a single-player Diablo!" was the cry of many a Torchlight player when the original hit Steam in 2009. They were right--this randomly generated dungeon crawler lets you level a class, sling spells, and grind for sweet loot. It was everything Diablo-ites could want, but it only let them play alone. <p>Then came the Synergies mod. This takes everything good about Torchlight--dungeons, combat, and item drops--and opens it up for others. More than that, it totally overhauls the leveling, crafting, and dungeoneering systems, even adding high-level raids. This takes Torchlight 2 vanilla and blends it into an awesome Torchlight MMO frappuccino. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>In Oblivion, you wake up as a political prisoner in a dank dungeon. In Skyrim, you ride a cart with other POWs to your execution. These are memorable openings of two of the best Elder Scrolls journeys, but the tales you create in the lands of Tamriel are for you alone--those other prisoners are nothing but NPCs. <p>Not so with Oblivion and Skyrim Online, two mods that are exactly what they sound like. These take dozens of your Cyrodiil- and Skyrim-bound heroes and throw them together in their respective games. Jumping through Oblivion gates and screaming Fus-Roh-Dah at dragons never feels as cool as with a party of fellow dragonborn. The best part? Both mods preempted Elder Scrolls Online--way to go, modders! </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Elder Scrolls isn't the only Bethesda series to get the multiplayer treatment. If you're more into post-apocalyptic sci-fi than wizardry, look no further than the Fallout 3 multiplayer mod. Remember that cancelled Fallout MMO? Looks like we didn't need it after all. <p>All the laser-blasting, perk-picking adventuring of the Wasteland can be played with others on dedicated servers. Even better, the mod is completely open to Fallout 3's DLC expansions and other user mods. It's the Fallout 3 you remember, coated in user chat and whatever craziness you decide to add to your journey. Now <i>everyone</i> can fight over the Naughty Nightwear. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Most of you will think of Grand Theft Auto 4 or 5 when it comes to Grand Theft-ing with friends. GTA 4 started the craze of vehicle races and death matches on Xbox Live, and GTA 5 took this to new heights with GTA online. But things actually got crazy much earlier with GTA: San Andreas. What's more shocking is that San Andreas polices itself. <p>As in, you literally play as police--the mod works like a giant game of cops and robbers. You can make arrests or be arrested, and any cop cars on your tail are driven by real-life players. It's an internet anomaly of gangs and police squads, all working with and against each other in San Andrean harmony. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>What's more fun than trucking precious cargo around Europe? You can shift and cruise through proud nations like France, Narnia, Poland, and the UK--one of those might not actually be real--in real-world big rigs. Do well enough, and you can even hire other drivers to do your business for you. <p>Oh, was none of that interesting to you? Then what about doing it all... <i>with friends?</i> Yes, with the Euro Truck Simulator 2 multiplayer mod, you and your driving buddies can haul the goods together Or, you know, just turn the thing into bumper cars and blast some Adele on your custom radio station. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>For RPG buffs who would rather swing swords than sling spells, there's Mount & Blade: Warband, which forgoes all fantasy elements for a more authentic feel. It's action-oriented--you battle in fields, forests, and forts--and you spend a lot of time on horseback. Makes sense that the multiplayer mod would let you take on other players in full-on medieval warfare, right? <p>Wrong answer buzzer noise! That's what the regular game does! Warband's Full Invasion mod is actually a lot more like the horde modes of Gears of War and Halo 3: ODST. You and a buddy mount up, blade up, and survive as long as you can against waves of enemy knights. This mod was so popular, it warranted a Full Invasion 2 mod. Way to go, mounter-bladers! </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I know what you're thinking: "Everybody knows about this mod. It's just Counter-Strike!" Well, you just answered the Mount & Blade question wrong, and here's your second buzzer. This isn't Counter-Strike--it's GoldenEye. <p>That's right, this is a total conversion of the classic Half Life 2 into the equally beloved GoldenEye 64. The team behind the mod worked to recreate all the details of the Nintendo 64 title, and it looks even better on the Source engine. Modern advances like dedicated servers and party systems mean you don't have to gather everybody together on the couch to have a good ol' fashion 007 time. Slappers only, no Oddjob, no Gravity Gun.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Let's stop for a moment. The previous mods on this list are all pretty nuts, and although we never asked for them, they're much appreciated. But this final mod--a hack, really--is easily the most mind blowing I've ever seen. <a href="" target="_blank">Just look at it.</a> <p>This is Ocarina of Time with four-player co-op… and it runs on a brick-and-mortar Nintendo 64. At its core, it adds nothing to the game, but there's something undeniably amazing about watching four Links running around Kokiri Forest, working together to slash grass and break pots for rupees. It makes many a puzzle much easier to solve, too. Four Swords ain't got nothin' on this. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>These games were never meant to have multiplayer like this, but savvy players made it happen. Now, those crazy single-player moments can be shared with others. Do you support these sorts of game-changing mods? Do you think it's nothing more than cheap hacking? Let us know in the comments below. <p><b><i>Want to dig into some more mods? Check out these <a href="" target="_blank">8 hilariously ridiculous mods for games you know and love</a>. If you're in the mood for more shooting with others, check out the <a href="" target="_blank">best FPS games</a>.</b></i> </caption> </div> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0700 awful (and totally real) video game marketing campaigns <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Marketing is important to all forms of media. We're bombarded with literally thousands of billboards, TV commercials, magazine print ads--all types of advertising every day. If done right, we remember a great slogan forever, like Nike's "Just do it" or Disneyland's "Happiest place on earth." <p>But when a marketing campaign doesn't go as planned, we remember it for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes companies make claims they can't back up, plan a stunt that just doesn't work, or fail to go viral with a weird art display. Whether we see them online or in person, their screw-ups live on in infamy. These video game marketing campaigns are the most bizarre of the bunch, starting with...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> For those who missed out on this lovely PC title in 2000, here's the quick pitch: rival samurai clans battle it out in the future. Sounds cool, right? And it's from John Romero, the guy who made Doom, so you <i>know</i> he knows his games. That's exactly why he hyped up Daikatana with the PG-rated ad you see above. Sure, it's not <i>that</i> vulgar, but it's quite a claim for any game to make. <p><b>The result:</b> Total shame for Romero--the game<a href="" target="_blank"> sucked</a>, and his claim was unfounded. No bitches here.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> "Hey kids--everything your mom hates is cool! She says you can't play scary games because they're too icky. What a loser!" That was basically the premise of <a href="" target="_blank">Dead Space 2</a>'s ad campaign, which plopped mom down in front of the game's scariest, goriest moments so we could watch them <a href="" target="_blank">react with disgust</a>. Totally radical, right? <p><b>The result:</b> Every Dead Space game has an understandably strong M rating, but the ads seemed to target boys in their teens and younger. The ESRB was called out for allowing such advertising to be broadcast. Whoops. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> <a href="" target="_blank">Skyrim</a> released on 11/11/11--a people of all regions can actually read the same way. But that special launch date wasn't enough for developer Bethesda. To generate <i>more</i> buzz, it offered a lifetime supply of all its current and future games to any parents who would name their child "Dovahkiin," meaning "dragonborn." But here's the twist: The birth must be on the same day as the Skyrim release. It was a nice prize Bethesda probably figured couldn't be won. <p><b>The result:</b> <a href="" target="_blank">One couple</a> totally had a kid that day and named him Dovahkiin. Way to set him up for a lifetime of bullying, guys. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> <a href="" target="_blank">Homefront</a> is the story of North and South Korea uniting to invade the United States--think ‘80s flick <i>Red Dawn</i> (the devs promoted it that way, after all), minus the Russians. When I think Communism, I think red. What's red? A balloon! What I'm getting at is that Homefront publisher THQ decided to promote the game by releasing hundreds of red balloons over the city of San Francisco. <p><b>The result:</b> Those lovely balloons rose and deflated, landing right in the bay. THQ had to send out cleanup crews before the they caused dolphins to choke to death. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> THQ had balloons in San Francisco, and Zynga had counterfeit cash in New York City. As a bit of viral marketing, the company took fake dollar bills and glued them to city sidewalks. It's unclear what the goal was here, especially since Zynga's Facebook titles, like Mafia Wars and Farmville, were already played by millions. <p><b>The result:</b> Just like the balloons, the fake Zynga bucks had to be removed by the sanitation department. Fun fact: it is <i>illegal</i> in New York to attach print ads to the sidewalks. Ba-Zynga. (That hurt to write.) </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> Back in 2003, cell phone company Nokia decided to try its hand in the handheld market with the N-Gage--part cell phone, part gaming device, all awkward. To ease that awkwardness, Nokia turned up the heat at E3 with some lovely booth babes, who paraded around in little clothing, with the N-Gage's price crudely written on their torsos. Objectification? Check. <p><b>The result:</b> Raise your hand if you actually own an N-Gage. Obviously I can't see your hand through the internet, but I'm willing to bet it's <i>not</i> up. The campaign was sexist, and the device completely flopped. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> The marketing scheme for EA's video game adaptation of historical poem <i>The Divine Comedy</i> (which begins with <i>Inferno</i>) had two parts. Part one: a "sin to win" contest at Comic-Con, which asked attendees to--this is the real quote--"commit acts of lust" with booth babes. Uh... Part two: fake a Christian protest at E3. EA hired actors to picket the event, claiming that the game made light of Hell and their faith. <p><b>The result:</b> "Sin to win" just meant "take pictures with the models," but that didn't stop convention-goers from (rightfully) complaining about the distasteful campaign all over Twitter. As for the protest, the farce was discovered, leading to an <i>actual</i> protest by Christians, who weren't exactly thrilled about being mocked. Third time's the charm, EA. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> It's hard to talk about Dante's Inferno without mentioning God of War--Inferno totally copied Kratos' style, including an identical chest-opening move--so here we go. When <a href="" target="_blank">God of War 3</a> released, Sony held a launch party in Greece. And this one had everything: booze, food, party favors, and a very real decapitated goat. Wait, what? You read that right. Sony had a "goat sacrifice" on display as the party's centerpiece. <p><b>The result:</b> Where there are dead animals, there are animal rights activists. Sony caught a lot of flack for this gory party display and promptly returned the goat to butcher who performed the beheading. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> Picture this: You're chilling in a New Zealand bar, knocking back a few brews and having a good time. Suddenly, a man bursts into the bar, brandishing a gun in his bandaged hands. He starts walking around, threatening the patrons with his weapon. Confusion is quickly replaced by utter panic when he starts walking toward you. Oh, and by the way, he's a paid actor whose presence is somehow meant to promote <a href="" target="_blank">Splinter Cell: Conviction</a>. Seriously, what the Dante's Inferno-protested hell was Ubisoft thinking? <p><b>The result:</b> Some guy brought a (fake) gun into a bar. What do you think happened? When the cops arrived, they didn't even know the gun wasn't real until they examined it closely. The guy was lucky he only got a stern warning. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> <a href="" target="_blank">Mercenaries 2: World in Flames</a> takes place in Venezuela, and much of the plot focuses on fuel tycoons. Great. That gave the marketing team plenty to go on. What did they end up with? Offering thousands of dollars of free gas in major cities like Los Angeles and London. Hmm, wonder what would happen if a gas station were to offer free gas, particularly during rush hour traffic? <p><b>The result:</b> Easy answer. The giveaways started just before rush hour, meaning thousands of commuters all over the world were gridlocked for hours. More like "world of flaming mad." Authorities eventually shut down the gas stations to get traffic flowing again. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> Does a game like <a href="" target="_blank">Resident Evil 6</a> need a lot of promotion? It's a numbered entry in a massive franchise, after all. Well, Capcom wanted to do something, so it set up a special butcher shop in London called Wesker & Son Resident Evil Human Butchery. That name couldn't mean… yes. Yes it could. They actually sold meat in the shape of human limbs. <p><b>The result:</b> Again, <i>they sold meat in the shape of human body parts</i>. All proceeds went to charity, but that didn't stop, like, everyone from being disgusted by this. And neither Wesker nor his son Jake is a cannibal, so this whole things just makes zero sense.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> <a href="" target="_blank">Watch Dogs</a> had a massive ad campaign from its announcement, through its delay, and up to release. The hype train was flying down the track, but Ubisoft decided it needed one last push at launch. And by "push," I mean a marketing campaign that involved delivering a ticking safe to an Australian media office." The Aussies immediately panicked, thinking they had been sent a bomb. Can you blame them? <p><b>The result:</b> Not learning from its Splinter Cell mistake, Ubisoft got the authorities called in once more. This time, it was a full-on bomb squad, flocked by multiple police units. Oopsy. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> The picture you see above was plastered on billboards all over the Netherlands. Sony was going for an "out with the old, in with the new" vibe, but the ad just comes across as <i>super</i> ill-conceived. Why? <p><b>The result:</b> It'll take you about half a second to look at the ad and reel away in disgust. Sony had a few other, less bothersome pictures of the PSP models, which they quickly sent out to try to save face, but who the hell thought this would go over well with <i>anyone</i>? </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> The goal of every Hitman game is exactly what the title implies: killing a target for a high-price contract. It's pretty dark, but that darkness fortunately stays in the virtual realm. At least it did, until publisher Square-Enix created a <a href="" target="_blank">Hitman: Absolution</a> Facebook app for killing your friends. No, seriously--this app let you "take out hits on your friends" based on characteristics like hair color and genital size. I so wish that last sentence weren't true. <p><b>The result:</b> Understandably, people weren't big fans of having their friends murdered, virtually or otherwise. The app was pulled from Facebook within hours, leaving only a few friends-list corpses in its wake.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>The campaign:</b> If you're unfamiliar with Acclaim, it's the team behind Turok, Burnout 2, Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance, Virtua Tennis 2, and Shadowman--those are about dinosaurs, racing, gladiating, playing tennis, and journeying through nightmares, respectively. So how did Acclaim promote these nifty games? For Turok, it put up a 10 thousand dollar bond to the first parents to name their kid "Turok." For Burnout, it offered to pay your speeding ticket if you rushed to the store to buy the game. For Gladiator, it wanted poster ads to actually spurt blood. For Virtua Tennis, it painted pigeons like tennis balls to be thrown into Wimbledon matches. And for Shadowman, it literally posted ads on tombstones. No respect. <p><b>The result:</b> Utter insanity. Acclaim shut down in 2004, had its logo bought by someone else, and shut down <i>again</i> in 2010. Pin an ad on <i>that</i> grave. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There you have it--a bunch of marketing ideas that totally backfired. Some were bad from the start, and some had a chance but never found success. Which campaign do you think was the worst? Are there others you remember? Let us know in the comments below! <p><b><i>Want to see some more video game ads? Check out these <a href="" target="_blank">gaming slogans you can never forget</a>. If you want more screw-ups, then have a gander at these <a href="" target="_blank">blatantly sexist video game advertisements</a>.</b></i></caption> </div> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:00 -0700 unbelievable video game patents you didn&#39;t know existed <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The world of patents is an odd one, and it happens to be familiar ground for the video game industry. For the uninitiated, patents give the original creator or creators exclusive rights to said idea, gizmo, or gadget for a set amount of time. The “Pong Patent” is considered to be the most important patent pertaining to the industry’s beginning decades ago. <p>But not all patents are game-changing ones. Some of them are downright ridiculous. Others make a lot of sense once you know what all the legal jargon actually means. This list is but a small sampling of the thousands of patents on the books, and you’ve no doubt played a game or used a device that has at one time or another been involved with a patent filing.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>The advent of the load-screen mini-game comes from the ‘80s. Now you might be thinking, "but they didn't even have CDs yet! Didn't those games load instantly?" While gamers weren’t fond of some PlayStation era load times, those of yesteryear were made to wait up to 10 minutes for the Commodore 64 to boot up--a good deal worse than tapping their foot for a few seconds while a match of Call of Duty loads up. <p>Load-screen mini-games were a way to not bore people before they could start controlling some on-screen pixels. Apparently, Namco liked mini-games tiding over gamers until the main course was delivered so much that the developer implemented a slew of them in some of its titles. Aging arcade games like Galaxian and StarBlade have popped up during load screens to keep gamers busy while they wait to play the likes of Ridge Racer. The FIFA series has similar distractions during load times, but nothing as complex as a full-on game. It sure beats the heck out of masking loading screens with lengthy elevator rides (here’s looking at you, Mass Effect).</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Speaking of the Mass Effect series, it’s considered by many to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sci-fi franchise in gaming history. Some of the reasons it works so well is because of the freedom of choice, the story, the gameplay, and the generally great banter between Commander Shepard and his entire motley crew. <p>Much of the chatting plays out via a huge amount of dialogue choices presented on a wheel. Players simply rotate the analog to a response--questions, normal salutations, and naughty or nice responses--to keep up the conversation. It’s a simple concept, but really enjoyable to use. It certainly debunks the idiom, “talk is cheap,” and has even made its way to the Dragon Age series. Some gamers may have gotten bored with the simplicity of the wheel, but the concept, no matter what you think of it, has helped shape some of the greatest role-playing games of the past decade.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Sega, like many companies on this list, has a huge amount of patents filed. One of them happens to be for Sonic the Hedgehog’s animation when he runs around in vertical loops in his old Sega Genesis adventures. But that’s hardly the company’s most vague patent for on-screen directions. That honor goes to Sega’s insistence on being the only developer to provide a giant arrow showing players where to go. <p>If you used to visit arcades or owned a Dreamcast that might sound familiar. The helpful guide of a floating arrow was used in the Crazy Taxi games to show people where to drop off their eclectic mix of clientele--it’s unclear if playing songs by Offspring is also part of the deal. Sega took this patent seriously enough that when The Simpsons Road Rage was released by EA, the home of Sonic sued for patent infringement, which lead to the issue being settled privately between the companies.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem remains a cult favorite to this day because it’s a unique take on the horror genre. And it uses more intense scares than a simple zombie dog busting through a window. What makes Eternal Darkness unique is its “Sanity Meter” measuring the impact of “Sanity Effects,” concepts Nintendo saw fit to patent. When players run into something that would make anyone freak out--like the hideous Bonethief, a creature that wears human skin as if it were a casual suit--their character starts to lose a grip on reality. <p>As players start to lose their minds, odd things will happen, including blood dripping down the walls, paths suddenly being blocked with doors that weren’t originally there (followed by your character’s terrifying screams), and the GameCube pretending to reset. All of the creative effects make for a unique horror game, but planned sequels and spiritual successors have all failed to materialize. And thanks to Nintendo patenting the concept, no other games can present horror in quite the same way, because a lengthy legal battle is scarier than anything Eternal Darkness can conceive. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>This is essentially a patent for Dynasty Warriors, and it’s a long one at that. It’s officially named the “battle method with attack power,” take a deep breath, “based on character group density,” and strictly pertains to the way players do battle. It seems Koei wanted the name of the patent to mirror the titling of series entries like Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Complete Edition. <p>The jargon in the patent is a little heavy handed, but it essentially boils down to this: Koei’s million or so Dynasty Warrior games have staked a claim on the one-versus-an-army genre. The series may prove divisive, but Koei may have made a smart move by trying to limit any competition in the genre, and have had enough success to keep the series moving along on virtually every platform available. The company’s gameplay system has even been used with Gundams, and will place Link from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series into his very own Dynasty Warriors-esque game. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Toys and video games--not everyone could have predicted the impact that would have had before Skylanders was released. Sure, arcade games in Japan have used similar ideas for Pokémon and soccer games, but Activision’s ploy to revive Spyro gave birth to the Skylanders series in what was the first time the concept became so popular on this side of the globe. <p>The patent filed is for “server based interactive video game toys” and the use of a platform able to identify such toys. Anyone familiar with Spyro’s new game series will understand those as covering the avalanche of toys and “portal,” available for purchase everywhere that has screaming children. Interestingly enough, the patent did not cause Disney Infinity any problems when it was released, and Nintendo seems to be in the clear to work on its own interpretation of Skylanders’ toys-to-life approach via Nintendo’s stable of popular characters, much to the chagrin of wallets everywhere.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>The Xbox 360’s controller is one of the best ever made, save for one flaw: the awful directional pad. It seems like such a small, easy problem to fix in controller R&D, but here’s the thing: Nintendo had a patent on the simple design since it was first used with the handheld Game & Watch devices pioneered by engineer Gunpei Yokoi. It’s such a successful design that even the 3DS and Wii U GamePad use the very same d-pad more than 30 years later. <p>For a number of years the big N was the only console maker able to have a controller with the iconic plus sign design, which ended when its patent on the “multidirectional switch” expired in 2005. This means other controller developers can now create a non-Nintendo gamepads decent enough for 2D sidescrollers and fighting games. Now everyone else could take advantage of the cross-shaped d-pad, which remains is one of the most well-crafted items ever put into a controller. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>It’s hard to imagine video games without secrets to unlock. There are entire websites dedicated to the secrets hidden within the virtual worlds many have enjoyed. This patent, however, is only partially related to that. It’s actually linked to unlocking secrets via a special controller. So, although the title is misleading people into thinking Midway is patenting the idea of finding Yoshi chilling out on top of Peach’s castle in Super Mario 64, it’s actually about selling more controllers. <p>You see, Midway’s patent was to help the developer sell peripherals that would unlock “extra features or secrets of the video game which are not otherwise available.” With third-party controllers typically not the most sound way to invest money, it’s probably good this idea never caught on. If you think DLC characters are bad, imagine having to buy a specific controller to use Scorpion in Mortal Kombat.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>This one is a bit vague, but the gist of it has to do with how enemies or characters not controlled by the player handle themselves. In other words, it’s all about motivating the player to engage enemies, and how those enemies will decide to confront players in a 3D space. One specific part of the patent is how enemy characters originally on a mission to make sure you have the worst day ever react after exposure to, say, a smoke bomb. It also locks down the act of using a “device” to make enemies spar with each other. <p>This could have been specifically filed for use with the Tsurugi arcade cabinet Konami developed in 2001. Using a plastic sword, players take on samurai after samurai, which would sometimes react strangely to your attacks. Further proof is given by reading the language of the patent. It uses the word “sword” so many times that it would be understandable if you thought the developer was patenting the ancient weapon along with the gameplay concept. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>The Elder Scrolls series, as well as many other open-world role-playing games, do their best to fill their worlds with interesting non-playable characters. Well, as interesting as they can get while continually reminding you of taking arrow to the knees. Rampart Studios found the role of such NPCs so valuable it decided to file a patent centered on how they change what they do in a game. <p>It means the company wanted to patent what a character would do in the morning, and be able to have a server assign a different task or two based on the NPC’s status. According to the developers, it was meant to make “the game-playing experience ever fresh and challenging” by making NPCs as unpredictable as your cat on catnip. According to internet cats everywhere, those results can be utterly devastating, as well as hilarious. Indeed, that’s kind of like what players get in open-world RPGs like Fallout 3 when NPCs get stuck in rocks or randomly run headfirst into Radscorpions.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Getting friends together to play Halo or Call of Duty online on the Xbox 360 was never a chore, and Microsoft knew it had a good thing going for it with sending online game invitations through your friends list. Hit a button, send a request. Play the game. Simple stuff, it would seem, and Microsoft knew well enough that the idea might be a good thing to file a patent for. The company has been leading the online gameplay accessibility ever since… unless you really dig typing in Friend Codes on your Wii. <p>Many more of Microsoft’s patents come from the development of the Xbox 360. In addition to the game invitations is a patent for Achievements. So, even though a patent of Nintendo’s meant Microsoft couldn’t give a great d-pad to the 360 controller, it did have the edge on everyone else with its online implementation and awards system, something some competitors are still struggling with.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption> <p>Square Enix has created a lot of great gameplay ideas over the years. One that seemed very important to them is the penalty system introduced in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Taking cues from soccer’s governing bodies, the handheld game’s imposing judges dish out yellow and red cards for players unfortunate enough to break one of the battle’s rules. This could mean removal from a match for casting magic by accident, changing the battle’s outcome immensely, and then fining players a sum of money to add insult to injury. <p>Deciding to patent this idea seems a bit strange considering every game essentially dishes out penalties for failing to do what you’re supposed to do, but the “Law” system in the Tactics games featured on Nintendo’s handhelds is a large part of the subseries. Stranger still is the fact that Square Enix hasn’t revisited the idea in nearly six years. The HD remake of Final Fantasy X would’ve surely been improved by having yellow cards been dished out during Blitzball.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>With new ideas in the industry arising all the time, it’s safe to say patents aren’t going anywhere fast. Whether good or bad, the industry will most likely be shaped by them--no matter what they happen to be centered on. So, what do you, dear readers, think about these patents? Are there any other ones you’ve heard about that left you scratching your head? Let us know in the comments.<p><i><b>And if you're interested in more, check out <a href="" target="new">lawsuits that changed gaming forever</a> and <a href="" target="new">the most fiendish anti-piracy tricks</a>. </b></i></p> </caption> </div> Tue, 20 May 2014 11:00:00 -0700