Thursday, February 16, 2012

Game Review - Gotham City Impostors (PC)

I've played a bit of Gotham City Impostors and it's a pretty fun and colorful game. The premise is that Batman and the Joker are too busy with each other on occasion to bother with a large group of boozed up, crazy, weirdo Gotham City residents who take it upon themselves to dress up in make shift Batman and Joker gear and duke it out.

First I'd like to point out that the game is very much for adults, so please don't buy this for your kids thinking it's going to be a silly brawler. There's a lot of bad language and behavior from the introductory characters and the costumes are not exactly modest at times. That's not even to mention that listening to the actual players in voice chat is much like stepping into a Call of Duty match online. Lot's of talk about how they were screwing your mother last night and questioning the size of your junk.

The gameplay itself is a team based FPS and I've seen a lot of reviewers compare it to TF2 which I think is not even remotely accurate. Beyond being a team based FPS the game is really its own beast. That's the one part I think they did a great job with. There are a lot of unique moves and I love that the maps encourage you to make liberal use of gliding through the air, jumping high off of trampolines, and using grappling hooks. You don't have to play that way to be effective but it's cool that they give you much more opportunity for it than any other game I've seen.

There are three multiplayer game modes, a tutorial mode called "Initiation", and a challenges mode that is pretty self explanatory but nice in that it let's you test out all the doohickies and explore the maps. The multiplayer is the meat of the game and has the following modes:

Team Death Match - This one is your typical team vs. team gameplay. There is a set time limit and plays to 50 team kills.

Fumigation - This one is a capture point game. You stand next to gas dispensers and if you stay close for long enough that point belongs to your team. Basically you win by having your gas push out the other team's gas. It's all based on percentages, the team that controls the majority of the points gains percentage in the game and this continues tug of war style as the points are captured and lost. In the end the team that can hold the majority for the longest, until they hit that 100% saturation of their gas, wins. This was my favorite of the game modes.

Psych Warfare - I hated this one. It's steal the bacon. Grab the battery, take it back to your hypnosis propaganda machine thing and plug the battery in. Keep the enemy away from it long enough and you win! Except once the enemy team has the battery plugged in, it's extremely hard to turn the game around. I didn't think it was very well implemented, though waving your arms in front of you when your team loses a point and you're driven crazy is kind of hilariously fun.

One thing I didn't like about all the game modes was that there is no customization. The game chooses the time limits, kill limits...everything. The most you can do is object to the map that the game picked for you and hope that others also vote it down.

As you play you earn points for various achievements, kills, etc. Once you have enough points you can put them toward unlocking costume items. As you progress in levels you also start to unlock weapon keys and upgrades. When you first start the game you have a whole lot of nothing, which I was a little frustrated with. However, things seem to unlock relatively quickly and eventually you get the ability to start customizing your character. This was something that I both liked and disliked about the game. You don't get to choose whether you're a Batman or a Joker, you get randomly assigned. However, you do get the option to customize both costumes.

I like the ideas behind this game but you just don't get enough bang for your buck.

This game may work better on console than it does on PC. There is just too much neglect when it comes to the PC version and options. This is especially apparent when you have to start out the game battling with Games for Windows Live.

The match making system is total crap. It tries to do everything for you and makes the choices poorly. There is also not a huge player base, which is not really the game's fault, but still adds to the crappiness that is match making. There's no option for running a dedicated server. There's no option to pick where you connect to. So, you can't filter out a game that you might have a bad connection to. If it happens to be some guy hosting from Mongolia somewhere he's going to be the only one with a decent ping and rip everyone apart until they get out and hope for a better match next time.

There is supposedly a fix coming for this terrible match making, but I can not stand when devs think it's OK to push such a poor and clearly unfinished product.

To add to your troubles, I had a lot of difficulty connecting with a friend. In the end, he was able to grab me in and send an invite from his Games for Windows Live list while I was not at all able to locate him on mine and do the same.

At $15 I can't recommend this game. However, with some big improvements that the devs should have LAUNCHED the game with, I can see it easily being worth the cash. As of right now, I say skip it and wait for a few updates.

As it stands I give this game a reluctant 3 out of 5 because I can see it potentially climbing to an easy 4 out of 5 with suspected improvements. I know that seems a little high based on a mostly negative review, but it's hard to describe how original the gameplay feels. It's a lot of fun if you have the patience and fortitude to look past its many faults.

Rating Key: (0) Burn it with fire (1) Bad (2) Meh (3) OK/Average (4) Thumbs Up (5) Marry It

Note: A special thanks to [MR] Teatime for his collaboration on this review!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Puppeteers: Karlyn Meyer

I was inspired by a photography project done by Robbie Cooper where he took pictures of gamers and matched them with their in-game Avatars called "Alter Ego: Avatars and their creators". I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I decided to start a similar project. I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at the people behind the Avatars, the puppeteers if you will, and why they designed their Avatars the way they did. If you are interested in participating, feel free to email me for details!


The wonderful Karlyn
Fallout 3 badassery

Alistair lovin' City Elf from Dragon Age: Origins


Name: Karlyn Meyer

Why did you choose the Avatars you did, and what games are they from?

The first is from Fallout 3. This was my first experience with character creation. The whole process was really thrilling for me, and this remains one of my all-time favorite games. The second is from Dragon Age: Origins and Awakenings. She's a City Elf rogue. I included her because she's a character I really wanted to be able to identify with, but I had to work pretty hard to get her to that point.

How do you feel when you play this Avatar? Does it elicit any special emotions, or is it just there to reflect your style? 

Both avatars are near to my heart because I created them to reflect my personality. I select attributes that feel realistic so my characters remind me of myself. They tend to be intelligent, cunning, and persuasive, but not really strong or graceful--and they know nothing about magic. I like giving them other little pieces of myself as well. For example, my Fallout 3 character always wears glasses, like I do. I love that there's this little woman out there dominating the postapocalyptic wasteland in glasses.

Why do you think you need/like/want to feel that way? 

I love the fantastic setting that gaming provides, but I relish the ability to experience it through characters who approach situations as I would. I prefer there to be very little disconnect.

Did you try to create your Avatar to look like you actually look, or did you make one that looks how you want to look? Why?

I spend far too much time attempting to create avatars who look like me. I've been excited by the surge of women of color in video games; I rushed out to preorder Left 4 Dead 2 when I saw Rochelle on the poster, and it meant so much to have Alyx Vance alongside me later in the Half-Life series. But on balance, I've spent years playing beautifully written games in which my onscreen persona was a white man. I so seldom see a playable character (or even a meaningful NPC) who resembles me physically, so when given the opportunity, I create her.

Do you feel like you succeeded in creating the Avatar you imagined? 

In some ways. But I always struggle with skin and hair. I've run into the same problem that Eye-shuh mentioned in the first Puppeteer's interview: I have never been able to replicate my skin tone in a character creator. I err on the side of selecting shades much darker than I am (as with my Fallout 3 Avatar), just because I like seeing a brown girl on screen.

The Dragon Age character was especially frustrating. I achieved her shade only by completely maxing out every color bar, and she's still barely browner than a cafe au lait. This was compounded by the fact that all the NPCs in the game appeared white, including my character's family. Incidentally, both of the characters I included here have an origin story in which their mother passed away, and they interact with their fathers in-game. The Dragon Age character's father was of light complexion, as were all her cousins in the village where she grew up. In contrast, the father in Fallout resembled my character. In Dragon Age, it was hard not to think that brown-skinned characters--and the players who would create them--just weren't contemplated. But I just decided that the City Elf's mother had been very brave, very clever, and very dark.

If you could change one thing about Avatar customizations in video games, what would it be? 

In addition to my thoughts on skin tone, I'd love to see more options for hair texture. You'll notice that my Dragon Age avatar is bald. I have natural hair that ranges from a tight afro in the winter to a large, wild, kinky masterpiece in the summer. It's my favorite thing about my appearance. In games, however, I see dozens of choices for straight hair in many lengths and styles, but very few different textures, if any. You're lucky if you find loose waves. I'll stay on the lookout for a game that will let me give my character a nappy fro. In the meantime, I use the "male" styles in games that share one hairstyle bank between male and female avatars. And where that isn't an option, I go bald. :)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Puppeteers: Tasha Schmidt

I was inspired by a photography project done by Robbie Cooper where he took pictures of gamers and matched them with their in-game Avatars called "Alter Ego: Avatars and their creators". I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I decided to start a similar project. I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at the people behind the Avatars, the puppeteers if you will, and why they designed their Avatars the way they did. If you are interested in participating, feel free to email me for details!


The beautiful Tasha
Jaliyah the Mirialan
Tamsin the Chiss
Siobhan the Human (Cyborg)

Name: Tasha Schmidt

Why did you choose the Avatar(s) you did and what game is it from?

All three avatars are from Star Wars: The Old Republic, as this is the game that takes up the majority of my time these days. I picked these three specifically because I thought they showed the best range in style. I'm not really one who always plays a certain race or skin tone, especially in games where your race effects game play very little.

How do you feel when you play this Avatar? Does it elicit any special emotions, or is it just there to reflect your style?

My emotions are really quite separate from those of my avatars. Mainly the emotion I feel when playing a game is amusement, I guess. My characters might be hot-headed, evil, or a push over but I don't feel the emotions connected to those things. Particularly in SWTOR I might feel shocked based on what someone else in the story did, but that has no relation to what my character would feel (Siobhan, for instance, is an Imperial Agent so she probably figured it out way before I did).

Why do you think you need/like/want to feel that way?

It's important to me to keep my emotions separate because it allows me to do all sorts of things I couldn't in real life, both good and bad. I have friends who won't play an evil character because of the way it makes them feel. While that's not necessarily a bad thing I personally want to experience all the paths games have to offer. On the other hand there are those who legitimately enjoy being evil and I certainly don't want to turn out like that either. I also don't strive to be like Jaliyah who always makes the good choices, even when they don't benefit her. I have a bit of a selfish streak in me and I'm okay with that. =]

One thing that has some up with SWTOR is the romance options and how those in "real-life" relationships are dealing with them. For me it is easy for Tamsin to marry her companion, and for Siobhan to have countless one night stands, because my emotions aren't tied to that of my avatars. My husband has no need to feel jealous because he's not competing with my romance options for affection.

Did you try to create your Avatar to look like you actually look or did you make one that looks how you want to look? Why?

The only time I've made avatars to look like myself was when making a family to represent my own on The Sims. They do share certain stylistic preferences though, such as my affinity for having at least part of my hair up. Green and purple are my favorite colors, so there's a good chance one or both of those will make an appearance. I'm also partial to freckles. I will admit that I'd love to have red hair, so I make characters with red hair fairly frequently. Other than that it's less about how I want to look and more about what I find aesthetically pleasing. Occasionally however I will deviate from that entirely if I feel it's more inline with my avatar's personality to do so.

If you could change one thing about Avatar customizations in video games, what would it be?

I love the idea of "barber shops" and wish they were in every game! I shouldn't necessarily be able to change my face or height/weight, but if I can change my hairstyle and make-up on the fly IRL I want to be able to do it in game, too. This is especially important for games that add new styles after the game has been out for a while. I usually play my characters for years so being able to change them up a bit keeps them looking fresh.