Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Explore the World of the Walkthrough Writer

August 27, 2007

Friend, are your Ready for the Journey that lies ahead of you? Then access your Inventory to Equip the **150 Page Video Game Walkthrough .txt File.** Fight past the **Lvl. 37 ASCII Art** to reach the treasure chest at the bottom left of your map. Open it to find **An 8th Grader’s Grammar Skills.** Continue through the Corridor until you reach the Boss, **THE WALKTHROUGH WRITER.**

**THE WALKTHROUGH WRITER** is indeed a Fell Beast. A Hardy Species, he can be found in such Diverse Habitats as the Philippines, Eastern Europe, or the Deep South. Yet despite his near-Ubiquity, he can be Hard to Spot. Generally Quiet and Brooding, he often avoids direct Combat, choosing instead to seek Refuge in his parents’ Basement.

There, **THE WALKTHROUGH WRITER** will Engage in any number of Activities common to his Breed, including, but not limited to: Watching Anime, Drawing Anime Characters, Creating Anime Music Videos, Dressing Up as Anime Characters, Watching Anime Music Videos, Listening to Video Game Music, and Playing Video Games. Occasionally, **THE WALKTHROUGH WRITER** will Communicate with fellow Brood-members through a Mystical Device known as **The Message Board.** There he will Brag about his Extensive Knowledge of Non-Canonical Gundam Trivia or Participate in Ritualistic Competition regarding Superior Computer Specifications.

But his most Impressive activity, and certainly his most Fascinating one, is what gives him his Namesake: The Writing of the Walkthrough. Nothing less than a Rite of Passage, it is an Intensely Difficult and Lonely Process, the Details of which have always been Obscure to Outsiders. Indeed, while all Avid Gamers are Familiar with the Walkthrough, few have ever dared Investigate the Manner of its Creation.

For that reason, I have Dared to Approach one **WALKTHROUGH WRITER** and Speak with him so that I may Learn about his Ways. The Document is Copied below for your Convenience:

Noble Studier of Beings (NSB): Oh Great Walkthrough Writer! Be not Alarmed, for I come Bearing no Ill Will towards you or your Kind. I come instead to gain Knowledge! Please tell me of Yourself! Tell me of your Main Hobby!

Walkthrough Writer (WW): My name is Kevin Hall. I’m 27 years old, live in Mississippi. I’m currently unemployed though I’m in the process of getting a job at the moment. My main hobby is video gaming, which I suppose is very evident. It’s been my main hobby for quite a while now.

NSB: Kevin Hall, Mighty Writer of Walkthroughs! When didst Thou Forge from the Depths your Very First Walkthrough?

WW: The first walkthrough that I wrote was in the summer of 2001. I had a bunch of extra free time during college semesters, so I decided to try to write one for GameFAQs. I actually wrote it to try to win one of their bounty prizes. And yeah, I did win that prize if you’re wondering. It was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, so I started working on guides during the summers when I didn’t have anything else to do then I slowly started to write more often on a regular basis.

NSB: Mighty Kevin, You Crafted one of the Finest Walkthroughs to date, that for Final Fantasy XII. Surely this was your most Challenging Venture?

WW: Yeah, it has been the hardest so far. But the experience wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be since I enjoyed FFXII so much during my first playthrough and didn’t mind playing through it again or writing about it whatsoever. I used to sit back and wonder how in the world a guide writer could write a walkthrough for an RPG. There’s so much info! I suppose it all depends on how much you like the game. I would spend about 5 hours a day (maybe more) on FFXII. I started in November and I guess you could say the guide was complete by January. I still don’t view it as complete, but I’ve stopped working on it for the most part. There’s still a few areas that I’d like to add… and I might do that before the year is out.

NSB: If what Thou sayst is True — and I Doubt it Not — then the Process Endured well over 600 hours. Why Undergo such a Trial? Mayhaps for Compensation?

WW: I write them because I enjoy it. It’s the ultimate cure for boredom, and also I do it because it adds a lot more replay value to the game for me. With some of the games that I write for, I would usually toss the game aside after completing it fully, but while writing a guide, it gives me a new reason to go back through the game. I usually play through the game at least once before writing for it.

And no, there is no payment for the most part. I have done some Featured Guides that are exclusive to one site and received payment for those guides and I have received gift certificates or free games/services every now and then from other sites.

NSB: Do you Converse with your fellow Walkthrough Writers, such as Famed Alex? Is there Territorial Competition amongst you?

WW: I don’t keep in touch with other authors myself, though I do visit the GameFAQs contributer board every now and then to read about some of the stuff that is going on with them and the site. The GameFAQs contributor board is a very solid community with a bunch of fine writers on it. There’s a little competition among us. There has to be some there for all of us to write well. I think every writer is a little conceited in their own way.

And no, I haven’t spoken with Alex, or any of the other guide writers for FFXII, though I have emailed Split Infinity and sephirosuy a bit to discuss a few minor details on FFXII. I’m the kind of person that prefers to work alone. That’s just my style, though I would be open to some collaboration with the other writers at some point if they didn’t mind.

NSB: Yet surely you could not have Uncovered all the Secrets of the Game yourself. I Think of the Zodiac Spear, which can only be Obtained by Not Opening Certain Treasure Chests. How Discover you such Mysteries? Do you Communicate with Game Developers?

WW: Yes! The Zodiac Spear in particular was one secret that I had to find online – the GameFAQs message boards. There are a few treasure chests that were looked up online as well. I try to verify every single thing before I add it to a guide of mine, even if that means going through a long section of the game again.

And no, there is no help from the developers, either I learn through the info online or it is from my own experiences. Some of the boss stats were taken directly from the FFXII Bradygames guide since it’s impossible to find that info otherwise. Most of the writing in the walkthrough is based on my own experiences or reader submitted.

NSB: Having successfully written several Walkthroughs, how has your Life Changed? Have you Gained Friends? Does your Family support your Noble Venture? Dost Thou Seek Professional Employ in this business of Walkthrough Writing?

WW: I definitely have more online acquaintances. Not so many friends though since I tend to keep to keep a low profile most of the time. My family is slightly supportive. They know all about this hobby of mine – throughout the family. Though it’s not really something that I can sit down and discuss with them that often.

I’m really not sure how one gets into the business of writing a strategy guide professionally. For Bradygames and Prima Games, I have read that you basically just send off your resume after you post a guide up on GameFAQs (with a link to that guide) and hope for the best. I still haven’t tried that. If you look on Gameindustry.biz you’ll find a resume of mine up with the other resumes though. I’ve just recently posted that up.

NSB: Kevin, Walkthrough Writer, your Words have Struck great Rays of Light through the Obscurity of your Trade. I thank you, nay — the very World thanks you, for your Time.

WW: No problem. Glad to speak with you.

STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl

August 7, 2007

 

 

IN GAME 

I’ve been fighting the same battle for 45 minutes. The camp leader is dead. Sergiy, a guy I befriended at the beginning of the firefight, the man I gave my last set of bandages to so he could keep fighting, died by my side 5 minutes ago. The Polar Explorer, a jovial young fellow who had just arrived in the Zone, is dead. Before the battle we were sharing an energy drink.

Right now I’m sitting in a derelict toll booth, crouched under a broken window, and the bullets refuse to stop. Earlier I thought I had killed the last of them, so I wandered around the camp for a while. As I kneeled next to Bes’s body, mourning his loss and eating some sausage, a bullet ricocheted off the helicopter next to me and into my leg. I barely made it to this booth, where I have managed to stop the bleeding and reload. I’ve identified three targets over the hill, and they know I’m here. My only chance is to lure them into the valley next to the camp, where I know there are some radioactive anomalies which might slow them down. I’m turning off my flashlight.

[…]
I’ve found a bus in the valley to hide behind. They had to chase me around the camp fence so I had time to stop by Bes’s again and pick up his AK-47. It’s been upgraded with a muffler so the bandits will have harder time pinpointing where I am. The mutated jellyfish I’ve strapped onto my belt seems to be helping my blood clot, but the radiation is making me terribly dizzy. I’ve finished my last bottle of Journeyman’s vodka, but I feel like by now it’s doing more harm than good.

The bandits are getting closer, wasting their ammo on the side of this bus, but they seemed to have taken a position a few meters away from where I know is an extremely radioactive area. They don’t seem to want to get any closer.

[…]

Finally it’s over. The cold steel of a broken-down helicopter I’m temporarily calling home feels like a mother’s womb. A wasted whore of a woman who didn’t want me but who couldn’t keep Misha the tax collector off of her loins on a late Ukrainian night, but a mother nonetheless. By crawling over here I managed to lure the bandits into the radioactive trough – I watched with relief and disgust as their bodies writhed with pain in the throes of death, the alphas and gammas making short work of their ghostly porcine vessels.

As for me, I’m fucked. I must have sucked up dozens of rads walking over here, and my Geiger wont stop clicking. The anti-rads are sticking out of my arm like an Andalusian bull’s worst nightmare. For whom the bell tolls…probably for me.

OUT OF GAME

“STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl” is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a while. This shows that we don’t need Silicon Valley venture capitalists and preppy CNET journalists drinking free mojitos at E3 2007 to tell or define what makes a good game. If it were up to them, we would all still be playing Oblivion, a game which shipped with equal parts frustration potential and unoriginality.

The truth is that the creative Kiev-ites at GSC Game World, the developer that managed to put together this excellent game, know what your average intelligent and demanding game-player of the 21st century wants. I don’t know if I’m part of the principal demographic that most developers are trying to reach, I probably am, but I’m forced to write off most contemporary games as miserable failures.

The Ukrainians have rediscovered why I spent hours playing games like Chrono Trigger when I was a bit younger. Not that STALKER has anything to do with Chrono Trigger, and the appeal for each game comes from completely different sources, but they’ve tapped into the same quality muse which so rarely opens her arms to game developers.

I won’t go into the reasons why STALKER is such a good game, you can read this to see why, but everything about it makes me smile (even the terrible translation). The plot is loosely based on the 1971 science fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I can’t say much about it, but I know that the Scandinavian Congress on Science Fiction Literature named it the best book of the year printed in Sweden.

I’m still not very far into the game, nor have I ever even seen this book, but I know that it tells the story of treasure hunters looking for radioactive artifacts which have been imbued with powers which defy laws of physics as they are commonly understood. The most sought after of these artifacts, having achieved almost legendary status among said treasure hunters, is an item called the Golden Sphere, which has the power to fulfill your deepest desires. Even though I haven’t read the book, clearly Michael Crichton has.

A Second Look at Violence in Video Games

July 26, 2007

About a week ago a 16-year old teen stabbed his brother once in the heart with a steak knife after losing a video game and being asked to pass the controller. About six months ago a man killed his 17-month old infant daughter after she unplugged his XBox 360. These were just Philadelphia-area incidents. Who knows what’s going on nation- and worldwide.

You could condemn the killers, and plenty of people have. But my reaction is a little different. The fact that these are murders of passion separates these killers from those who premeditate the slaughter of their family members. And the fact that video games are causing these violent outbursts is worth thinking about.

Because I think that very few avid gamers can say they have never freaked out after their character dies, their quarterback throws an interception, or the power goes out. I’ve flung Playstation controllers. I’ve smacked TV screens. And it makes me wonder that maybe the only thing stopping me from being a fratricider is the fact that I don’t have a brother.

Let’s face it: video game rage is real, and no one is talking about it. In the media’s obsession with the vague connection between playing violent video games and committing real violence, the very clear connection between playing video games and getting extremely pissed off has passed under the radar.

There are 2 facts about video game rage that strike me as significant. 1, even people with normally calm tempers are prone to video game rage. It seems like it’s easier for people to get worked up over a video game than real life. 2, the murders and spaz-outs all come when something happens out-of-game. The man killed his daughter because she unplugged his XBox. The teen killed his brother because he had to give up the controller. And the German in the video is freaking out because the game has a very long load time. A pulled plug, a lost game, and a slow processor are all out-of-game incidents.

With these 2 things in mind, I can formulate a half-baked theory. Let me explain it in a kind of roundabout way.

We could split the things that make you spontaneously furious — let’s call them rage stimuli — into 2 categories. A rage stimulus can be out-of-game, an example being the revelation you are being cheated on. Or it can be in-game, an example being your quarterback throwing an interception in NFL Madden ’07. It’s my hypothesis that spontaneous crimes of passion are more likely to result from in-game rage stimuli than from out-of-game rage stimuli. That’s pure speculation — I don’t know of any relevant studies — but I have a reason for believing it’s true.

Let’s flesh out the two examples.

Case 1: You come home from work and your wife is crying. She asks you to sit down and then tells you that she has cheated on you. You are pissed! You scream. Gesticulate wildly. Cry. Maybe you slam your fist on something, but it’s totally unlikely that you get violent.

Case 2: Your team is down by 5 points late in the 4th quarter. Your quarterback, Eli Manning, throws an interception. As furious as you are, you have no in-game means of expressing it. So the rage accumulates and when your brother demands the controller you stab him in the fucking chest.

The difference is that out-of-game we are able to express our rage as it comes to us. In-game, we are unable to express our rage and so it simmers until we can find an excuse to express it out-of-game. Spontaneous violent acts like the ones mentioned above are the out-of-game products of unexpressed & inexpressible in-game rage.

If this theory is right, then violent games like Grand Theft Auto are actual cathartic rather than damaging. If something irritating happens in-game, you can kill a prostitute or beat the shit out of an old lady. And if this theory is right, more games should incorporate in-game means of expressing rage. FIFA 1998, Road to the World Cup comes to mind. In that game, which came out for the N64, you could press a button that would have your player kick the nearest player as hard as he could. It was a terrible strategy, since your player would almost always be ejected from the game. But we pressed it all the time.

More recent FIFA games haven’t had that feature. After all, violence in video games is bad, right? Don’t be so sure. If there’s anything to what I say, then it’s the lack of violence in video games that’s dangerous.