Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunny Skies Ahead: Heroes of the Storm Alpha Impressions

As demonstrated in my live stream earlier this year, I'm an absolute beginner when it comes to Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs). While I've improved a bit in the past nine months trying my hand at several popular titles, I concede that I'm still a liability to my team. With this in mind, my commentary below can’t be called ‘expert analysis’ but after spending about 30 hours with the Heroes of the Storm technical alpha, I'm ready to elaborate my feelings on Blizzard's foray into the genre. Obviously, my impressions are based on an unfinished product so pretty much everything is subject to change before the game is officially released.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No Game to Rule them All? - 2014 Game of the Year

A bit over a week ago I summed my opinion of 2014 in PC gaming as good but not great. What I was aiming at was that while a lot of high quality titles came out over the last year, there weren't any that stood out; there was no 'must-have' game. I feel that my opinions from the PC translate fairly well to gaming as a whole. The titles that had people pumped for 2014 (Titanfall, Destiny, Dragon Age) turned out to be pretty good but didn't quite live up to the bloated marketing hype. With this in mind, I consider that my pick for game of the year is more a nod that it's the best of the bunch rather than a truly seminal title.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where's Passion for Pixels?

This is just a quick update on the Passion for Pixels podcast that has been a bit silent as of late. In short, the podcast is still around but all the usual shenanigans of working life and the upcoming holiday season have put a crimp in recording time. Couple this with Stian and I living in different cities and you can imagine the difficulty in coordinating the recording and editing process. Our plan is to begin recording again in January and we should have the first podcast of 2015 up and ready by early February. We’ve been thrilled with the response since we started earlier this year and appreciate all the positive feedback. If you have a topic suggestion for a future episode let us know!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014 - A Good (not Great) Year to be a PC Gamer

2014 is coming to a close so that means every gaming site worth their salt is publishing ‘year in review’ feature pieces and picking a ‘game of the year’. While sometimes the process of picking the defining title from the past 12 months is little more than a formality, this year I’m finding the task more difficult than usual. I think this is likely due to many good but few great games being released. A lot of titles were solid eight out of tens representing achievement within their genre but few transcended to be unequivocal must-own titles. While I intend to give my breakdown of the best overall games of 2014 next week, I figured I would whet the appetite by exploring my favourite PC exclusives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Messing with My Mouse - Controls in Dragon Age: Inquisition

I was intending on giving a full-fledged review of Dragon Age: Inquisition but after 20 hours of gameplay (including a few replays of the prologue spurred on by some truly hideous creations in the character builder), I feel like I’ve only made marginal progress into the main story and barely scratched the surface of the content on offer. Suffice it to say that, thus far, I broadly agree with the reviews that are already out there and that I recommend the game to anyone itching for a modern RPG experience and especially to those who have played previous iterations and are looking to explore the rich world of Thedas even further. Despite feeling ill-equipped to give a proper review, I do feel that I can confidently offer some areas of criticism, especially when it comes to the PC experience where mouse/keyboard controls seem to have been neglected. As I’ll be picking apart the pieces I haven’t liked thus far, this article will probably come off as overly-negative so I’ll take the chance now to reiterate my recommendation and offer that the issues I’m highlighting are the small negatives in an overall great game.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 16 - Violence in Videogames

Mario is a murderer. Photo: Keenakorn / CC BY

What really counts as a violent game? Do we really need to worry about the children? What's really at stake? On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we tackle the nebulous issue of violence in video games and do our best to provide our answers to these questions and more!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Megaserved - What do mass server merges mean for WildStar?

WildStar is the best MMO to be released in recent memory and it's on life support. At least that's what the naysayers will have you believe as they square off against the fan boys who blindly insist that every word from the development team is gospel. While we could endlessly debate the significance of key staff leaving and how specific design choices have led to current circumstances, the hard fact is that WildStar was steadily losing active players to the point where some servers were dangerously underpopulated. The recent implementation of megaservers will put a cork in the problem of empty cities but is unlikely to stimy the greater problem subscriber bleed. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 15 - Boss Fights (Three Hits And He's Dead)

Photo: Brian Talbot / CC BY

Did you know that the first computer game to have boss fights was a dungeon crawler called DnD, that ran on a computer called Illiac, owned by The University of Illinois? Boss fights have been a staple of video games ever since, so we decided to dedicate a whole episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels to our favourite (and least favourite) boss fights. Which are the cliches we can do without? What are the criteria that makes a boss fight a fulfilling challenge? Who tops our list of most memorable boss fights? Download or stream the latest episode to find out!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sauron's Mini-Bosses: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (review)

The news ticker for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor reads 'Assassin's Creed meets Tolkien' and while I wouldn't suggest that this analogy is necessarily a bad thing, I feel that it does sell the game short. Assasin's Creed may be lean on innovation, but each successive entry proves that the base formula of parkour, stealthy kills, and well-timed parries is still a blast. Shadow of Mordor admirably builds on this through a robust nemesis system that has a few flaws but is ultimately a ton of fun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 14 - Retro Videogame Controllers

Photo: Jeffy Can / CC BY
From the ludicrous Jaguar pad to the sublime DualShock for the Sony Playstation, on this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we dissect the evolution of controllers.

Find out our thoughts on the best overall pad for retro gaming with a modern setup along with our feelings on the best and worst ergonomics. Also, did you know the Sega Genesis/Megadrive pad works out of the box with the Atari 2600?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Is Blizzard okay without Project Titan?

Project Titan Cancelled. The headline reads ominously but given Blizzard's propensity for nixing titles that don't meet their stringent quality standards, I can't say that the news has left me shocked. Still, the public has been left to ponder exactly what Project Titan was and what Blizzard has coming down the pipe to replace it. While no one is rationally touting that the end is nigh for Blizzard, I do believe they're in for a rocky spell in the medium-term future. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting for the Next Epoch: ArcheAge (review)

If you've read any of my impressions of some of the recent MMO launches you will have, no doubt, sensed the recurring theme of a lack of innovation. My complaint isn't so much that the likes of WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online haven't made advances in the genre, it's more that they haven't changed enough to make the stale mechanics of skill bars and level grinding feel new. I had a lot of hope for ArcheAge, and the sheer number of features Trion has built into it, but my experience from the horrendous server queues to the actual gameplay have left me disappointed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Long Trip to the Past: The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie (review)

For the better part of a decade, James Rolfe has been entertaining the YouTube generation with his Angry Video Game Nerd character. Riffing on the foibles of classic games with strings of cusses that could make a sailor blush, Rolfe has developed an international following and is a bona fide internet celebrity. It's this celebrity that enabled Rolfe to generate $325,000 through crowd funding in order to pursue his dream of making a feature length film. The resulting Angry Video Game Nerd Movie is a competently constructed film that ultimately suffers from uneven pacing and a run time that stretches about twenty minutes too long.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Filling the Fall Feedbag - What game will you be playing next month?

Summer holidays are officially over and so is the lull in quality releases. It's not that great stuff didn't get released over the past few months (Wildstar, Ultra Street Fighter 4, and Shovel Knight made for a pretty epic June), but the reality is that the release schedule is always a bit light when the sun is out as publishers emphatically believe that games don't sell as well during these months. In any case, there are a bunch of hype-worthy titles on the horizon to sate the appetite and below are some of tastiest cuts on offer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 13 - Retro Racing Games

Photo: Galgen TX / CC BY

Retro gaming podcast Passion For Pixels is back from summer holidays! In this episode we catch up on what we’ve been playing the last couple of months, before we delve into our main topic: classic racing games.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Winter is Coming - Seasons and More for Diablo 3 Patch 2.1

After two months in public testing, the next major content patch for Diablo 3 (patch 2.1) is poised for imminent release. While I feel every major update since launch has been a decided improvement, it should be noted that the fundamental gameplay has remained largely unchanged. After plugging away on the PTR, I am definitely stoked for the new patch but doubt the staunchest naysayers will be impressed. In any case, below you will find my biggest joys, fears, and don't cares about the latest patch.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poison Prices - Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas Impressions

Just before Hearthstone launched, I offered my limited impressions of the closed beta. In retrospect, I was probably a bit too harsh as I chastised the game for not making enough use of the digital medium to facilitate actions that would be too cumbersome with a physical card game. I chalk my criticism up to a lack of experience with Hearthstone (something I admitted could be a factor in my early impressions) as, in reality, many of the card mechanics do make decent use of the platform. Now, several months later with much more play time invested, Blizzard is launching the first expansion to Hearthstone - Curse of Naxxramas - is it worth your time?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Stylish Space Cowboys - Wildstar (review)

I'm of two minds when it comes to the current MMO lineup. One part of me enjoys the satisfaction of working tightly with a team and downing a big boss, the other part hates the repetitive grinding play to get there. I've sampled almost every MMO since Dark Age of Camelot and none has ever been able to sell me on the leveling experience. WildStar is the brainchild of Carbine studios which is comprised of a bunch of ex-Blizzard developers and promises to cater to the hardcore player with pull-no-punches raids that offer minimal hand-holding. Carbine ultimately does an admirable job of porting classic MMO tropes to a modern feel but doesn't bring anything groundbreaking to the table.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 12 - Trading Thoughts on Trade Shows

As the gaming industry took off in the mid 1990's, so did gaming trade shows. From E3 to Blizzcon, this episode covers the good, the bad, and the ugly of gaming trade shows. Are they really all they are cracked up to be or is it just useless hype? 
Did you know that when Sega introduced the Saturn at the very first E3, they added that the console was already on it's way to retailers. This rushed North American launch is by many seen as a big part of the consoles failure to compete with the sales of Sony's Playstation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 11 - The Cool Winds of Blizzard

Few companies have dominated the gaming scene as Blizzard Entertainment has for over 20 years, and their logo has become synonymous with top-notch innovative games that are unquestionably worth your money.

Blizzard, known as Silicon & Synapse in the early 1990's, are today known for franchises like WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo, but on this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we also take a look at their older classics, like Lost Vikings, Rock n' Roll Racing and Blackthorne.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 10 - Point and Click Adventure Games

Point and click adventure games like Lucas Arts' Monkey Island and Revolution Software's Broken Sword had their heyday in the mid '90's. After having been more or less dead for the last 15 years the genre is now seeing a small resurgence, with among others, Tim Schafer getting back to making adventure games with his new studio Double Fine.

In celebration of the return of the adventure game genre, retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels get into our favorites of the golden age of adventure gaming, and it turns out that Stian and Danny don't have the same games at the top of their lists.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 9 - Shareware Games and John Carmack

For this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels we finally turn to PC gaming and talk about late 80's and early 90's shareware gaming.

The shareware gaming era started with bedroom programmers making their own games and shipping them out to their customers. It grew from there into a profitable business, and one of the main innovators of the time was John Carmack. Carmack was one of the founders of id Software, the company behind shareware titles such as Commander Keen and Doom.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Well Balanced Weapon - Why Haven't Two-Handers Been Fixed in Diablo 3?

Diablo 3 has just received its fourth major update since the launch of the Reaper of Souls expansion earlier this year and each of these patches has made significant efforts to balance the game. That’s to say that work as been done to ensure that all classes are as effective as each other and various builds for each class are equally competitive. It’s a tough job and no one expects perfect balance from an incongruous system where each class uses dramatically different play styles, but I have been puzzled by the developers routinely overlooking one obvious area for improvement in their balance passes – two-handed weapons. Why?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 8 - Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid

Is it a game, or is it a movie?

This episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels starts off with us talking about Japanese game director, producer, writer and designer Konami's Hideo Kojima. We talk about the games that inspired Kojima to become a game developer, his earliest work (ever heard of Penguin Adventure?) and how his most well known series of games, Metal Gear, came about. Once again it's a story of how the limitations of the console's hardware forced the developers to think outside of the box.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Still Alive

I just wanted to pop in and say that 'YES!' I am still maintaining this blog despite the nearly two months since my last written post - hopefully the podcast posts in between have kept everyone going. Unfortunately it's been a crazy time in my professional (ie. non-blogging) life as well as personally. Suffice it to say that I'm in the process of moving to a new country and time has been at a premium. I am intending on being more active in the coming weeks but if posts are a bit scarce it's because, quite simply, I'm embroiled with personal matters that require attention. In any case, the Passion for Pixels podcast should continue at its twice monthly clip and you can catch me periodically posting stuff on Geek Binge (as well as streaming every Wednesday and Sunday). Thanks for understanding!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 7 - Classic Console Launches

Photo: Dimitri Robert / CC BY

On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we're talking classic console launches, starting with the launch of the Nintendo NES in the US in 1985. We talk about figures and facts from launches spanning the NES to the Sega Dreamcast, reminisce about our memories of the different launches and talk about how the advertising impacted us in different ways.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 6 - The Final Word on Final Fantasy VII

Finally a full episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels dedicated to talking about one of the most well known games of all time - Final Fantasy VII. Stian and Danny discuss the impact this seminal title has had on the gaming industry, dissect the story and consider modern remakes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 5 - Shigeru Miyamoto and Videogame Journalism

On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Stian and Danny talk about the godfather of gaming Shigeru Miyamoto and his indelible impact on the industry. Did you know that Nintendo's programmers meant Miyamoto's ideas for the original Donkey Kong were impossible to recreate with the hardware they had available? We talk about this and much more regarding Shigeru Miyamoto's early career.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 4 - Rebooting a Videogame Franchise

Photo: Greg Dunlap / CC BY
What is the difference between an evolution of a videogame series and a reboot? On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, Danny and Stian look at differences between the Mario and Sonic series in this regard, and talk about how much the gameplay has to change to be considered a reboot.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Upgrading the Town Center

It's been a few months since I've given a general update on the state of this blog and figured now was as good of a time as any as a lot of pretty significant stuff has happened over the last two weeks. Overall, I think the blog is going in a good direction even though it seems to be constantly morphing into something different than I initially envisaged. I'm really open to feedback, so if you want to see something in particular over the next while let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do to make it happen.

Passion for Pixels: Ep 3 - Retro Graphics and Sound

Photo: Fjölnir Ásgeirsson / CC BY

Stian and Danny talk about the appeal of retro graphics and try to define what old school graphics are, on this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels. Most people think of pixels and sprites, but how about those clunky old polygons? The guys also talk about why retro games has such catchy and memorable songs and melodies, and why the SNES destroyed the Genesis in sound quality. Lastly Stian and Danny reminisce about Street Fighter, and talk about their memories of playing what was the most popular game of it's time.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 9

As February wraps up, gamers are preparing for several weeks of epic releases. The Elder Scrolls Online, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, and South Park: The Stick of Truth are all coming out soon and all managed to find their way into the news cycle. Also this week, a new Tony Hawk game stirred some excitement until we all realized that is a mobile platform exclusive and Seth Rogan announced he is making a movie about the 1990's Sega/Nintendo rivalry.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Playlist - No Medal for Blogging?

Between a thrilling Olympics and work, my time was squeezed this week but I still managed to get a bunch of stuff published - gold medal for me! Gaming wise, I played some more Titanfall along with a bunch of classics ranging from Blades of Steel to Heroes of Might and Magic. If you want to find out where you can find my Titanfall beta impressions, my feelings on the Year of Luigi, or anything else I've recently written - keep reading!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 7-8

A two-for-one this week as I wasn't able to publish a Weekly Roundup last week. The gaming world was hit by a lot of unexpected news both positive an negative. On the positive side, the Titanfall beta ended up being open to everyone and showcased some pretty fun shooting. Also, Doom 4 is still in development and we might see a beta in the near future. On the negative, Irrational Games is downsizing and future Bioshock titles are unlikely to be helmed by Ken Levine. Also this week, Flappy Birds riled up the internet and the Year of Luigi got an end date. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sofa Story: Original Sin

After spending several hours with the Titanfall beta, I initially intended to write about my reflections on the gameplay but have decided leave that for another day. Suffice it to say that I am tempering my expectations for release but am still lining up to apply for my Titan pilot’s license on launch day. Instead, today I’m going to seize the opportunity to rant about Origin after being forced to install it to play the beta.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Passion for Pixels: Ep 2 - Retro Gaming With Emulators

Photo: GogDog / CC BY

On this episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels, we talk about old school graphics, emulators, Square-Enix and more! Want to weigh in with your own opinion or have a topic you would like us to cover? Leave us a comment below!

The Playlist - Diabolical Titans

My week was dominated by further testing of the Diablo 3 PTR and time with the Titanfall beta. I'm planning on doing a complete write-up on my experience with Titanfall and already published my feelings on Diablo 3. Writing wise, a virus (unfortunately not the computer kind) had me out of action for several days and I had to skip a few articles.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Playlist - The Big Bad Wolf

A sort of light week in terms of stuff going up but a lot going on behind the scenes. I worked on a few more podcasts and presented my opinion on EA's Origin service while working on technical details for my stream and doing a ton of background prep for future articles. Also this week, I joined the party and played The Wolf Among Us.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 6

A fairly eclectic week headlined by more Titanfall news and The Last of Us taking home more awards. Also there was a bizarre story about some prankster causing Ubisoft to (temporarily) rescind their trademark for Watchdogs. Rounding things out was Amazon purchasing Killer Instinct developer Double Helix and the announcement of the EVO 2014 game lineup.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Playlist - New Show, New Review, New Week

A busy week as the first episode of my new podcast - Passion for Pixels - went live! Writing wise, my review for the first act of Broken Age also went up. You'll have to read the whole text the get my complete impressions but suffice it to say that I give it high praise. Gaming wise, I screwed around with a few random steam titles and made a bit more progress in Final Fantasy 7.

Passion for Pixels: Ep 1 - What is a Retro Gamer?

Photo: david_a_l / CC BY
The inaugural episode of retro gaming podcast Passion for Pixels is finally here! Stian and I talk about what it means to be 'retro', some of our early gaming memories, and Mario as the mascot for all gaming. It's early going and a bit rough around the edges, so leave a comment let us know where we can improve.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 5

This week saw a ton of massive gaming announcements. Between Microsoft acquiring the rights to Gears of War, PlayStation 4 backwards compatibility, Nintendo entering the mobile market, and the Titanfall open beta announcement, gamers on all platforms had something big to whet their appetites. Also this week, Sly Cooper will be made into a feature-length animated movie.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Playlist - Milestones

I'm not usually one to make a big deal out of arbitrary events but admit that they can be an excuse to have a bit of fun. On that note, this week, I'm celebrating my hundredth post! It seems like just yesterday I started writing (time flies) and I would like to thank everyone who has read and enjoyed my stuff over the past months. With that out of the way, last week was super busy with podcasts, posts, and Punch-Out. Where can you find all the stuff I worked on? Keep reading this article (and my next hundred) to find out.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 4

Lots of numbers to wrap your head around this week with Free-to-Play revenue statistics for 2013 and Xbox One December sales figures both coming out. In both cases, the news is pretty clear that the gaming industry is doing well. Also this week, some supposedly sordid details about a Microsoft advertising scheme, the Elder Scrolls Online gets an M rating from the ESRB, and Titanfall says 'no' to microtransactions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sofa Story: The Magic Spot

I've always been interested in the concept of 'the zone', a mindset where you transcend whatever activity you are doing and the flow comes naturally. While in the zone, you are at your absolute ability peak and can be unstoppable. The zone isn't just smoke and mirrors and has been backed by scientific literature. Some of that literature, which traditionally covers athletic endeavours, discusses that the same mindset can be achieved while gaming. I can attest to this and many gamers have tales where everything seemed to click, here's one of mine.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Playlist - Sick and Lazy

Last week was disappointing. A combination of laziness and illness cut my writing production and ultimately led to me cancelling my twitch stream. Even worse, my gaming time was significantly cut leaving me unable to take advantage of the Saints Row 4 freebie weekend on Steam. Oh well, c'est la vie. I did end up playing a bunch of comfort games including Team Fortress and some lighter fare stuff including Hearthstone.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 3

A bit of a slow news week to go with a dearth of new game releases. Topping most tickers was EA/Maxis' announcement of an offline mode patch for Sim City. Naturally, the internet took the opportunity to flame EA and moan some more about always-on DRM. Also this week, WiiU sales under-performed projections, RBI Baseball is coming back, Syrian hackers mess with Microsoft's Twitter, and Gabe Newell keeps the awesome going.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Playlist - I Is Brain Surgeon!

The year is in full swing and, despite my holiday mindset protesting, I have picked up the pace with my writing again. To help keep things fresh, I grabbed the latest Humble Bundle and chuckled my way through a few rounds of Surgeon Simulator. Also, to complete the 'difficult controls' experience, I played some QWOP and CLOP.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 2

2014 is only a couple weeks in and we are already getting some pretty big news. This week was headlined by the Consumer Electronics Show and news of the PlayStation Now service and Steam Machine specs. Also this week, China sanctions sales of next-gen hardware, DayZ beta access breaks a million sales, and Shaq Fu 2 might be a thing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Belated Bioshock Infinite Impressions

I am a horrible person worse than even the most salacious lows humanity can produce. Or at least that's what the internet would have you believe because I waited *gasp* eight months to finally work my way through Bioshock Infinite. How could I have committed such a crime against gaming? Truth told, sometimes life just gets in the way of playing games (even great ones!) and once I had moved past all the launch hype I didn't feel any urgency to rush the experience. With some free time over the holidays, I finally managed to give a proper play through and am ready to give my impressions.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Playlist - Lamenting the Loss of Holiday Gaming

Hello 2014! Changing the last digit of the year marker makes little tangible impact in the world around us but still makes everything feel so peculiar. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you know that something is different. Anyway, I had a great (albeit short) vacation and am ready for another 365 days. Over the break I managed to catch up on some of the biggest games of 2013. I finally completed Bioshock Infinite and ran through the short, but enjoyable, Gone Home. Also, I relaxed with a bunch of of my mainstays and picked up a few things for cheap during the Steam sale.