When Games Meet the Stage

Hey guys!

Last night, Sony and Naughty Dog, the Sony game dev company, produced what has to be one of the most amazing things I have seen in a while. It was called The Last of Us: One Night Live. The essential premise of the presentation was an impromptu showing of a selection of The Last of Us scenes on the stage, along with selections of the soundtrack performed by the original artists. It can be viewed here.

With little time to prepare, there were some obvious flubs with mics still being on, props misplaced, actors breaking down, and periodic interruptions with commentary by Neil Druckmann, one of the directors of the game. However, the performance chose the best, most heartfelt scenes in the game, allowing for all of the major feels of the game to be relived in full. Occasionally, points came during the performance which brought back specific memories of the first time experiencing the story, drawing the same emotions as before and bringing a tear to the eyes of viewers, myself included. They even performed the alternate ending to the game, which you can see here! Overall, it was amazing.

This post isn’t just to write about the wonderful amazingness that is The Last of Us, which I can talk about for days. Instead, I want to analyze an amazing development Neil and his team created. That is the showing of a video game not only as a form of interactive entertainment, but also as a piece of art. I am of a firm belief that a video game itself is art, the amount of hours that goes into designing locations, characters, story, and interactions creates a wonderful environment and place to become lost in, similar to a novel or story. Please note that I only intend for this title to be on games such as The Last of UsThomas Was AloneFez, and other games with a great story, evolved characters, and many layers, not cookie cutter games such as Call of Duty, although they too have their own beauty. Never before have video games been viewed in the light of a performance art. I feel as though there has been a lack of respect for the part acting plays in the creation of a game and the ability for the actors to advance the story line further than any player interaction within the game itself.

This performance changed all of this for me. It illustrated the versatility and importance of the actors’ role in the creation of a masterpiece. The transference of key scenes from the MoCap studio to the live stage perhaps created a sense of emotion and objective that becomes lost in the creation of animated characters. It allowed for the art of a video game to be brought to the masses, those who don’t play games, those without the proper console for the game, and those who believe that games are a waste of their time. The performance broke the stigma that games are solely about killing as many people as you can, much as the original game itself was, often putting the player in situations where they can avoid killing and solve the various levels through stealth rather than violence. It presented the prowess of good storytelling in games by showing that all of the action and fluff in a game that keeps the player entertained can be removed and the story still hold its power and emotion. It created an environment for the actors to showcase their individual talents without having a post-production team alter their MoCap to fit their needs. It allowed for the viewer to appreciate the artistry behind the music and showed them how the music creates the mood for the game and the power behind the notes. Finally, it showed the versatility of the actors to successfully relive the moments that stretched themselves as artists and brought the power of the stage to gamers and showed them that games are not just fun, they are art.

In the works is a The Last of Us movie, being produced by Sony. I am extremely excited for this as it will allow for the artistry behind the game be brought to a larger general audience. The performance last night truly was the first of its kind, hopefully it is not the last. I look forward to seeing other game creators follow this lead and help to bring the artistry behind games to a larger audience through film and, in some cases like last night, to the stage where the games and scenes can truly be brought to life.

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The Power of the Story

Hey Guys!

Sorry I haven’t written to you in a while! I’ve been super busy writing for HearthstoneElite.com! Check out my posts under strategy, look for the title Strategy Forge. Anyways, I feel like I’ve been neglecting you, so I wanted to talk today about storytelling in video games. These aren’t particularly eSports related, however they are near and dear to my heart and they have managed to blow me away.

There is a myth with gamers AND triple-A devs alike that more impressive looking games are better games. Sure, this is true from a sales standpoint, I mean Call of Duty: Ghosts made upwards of $1 billion in its first 24 hours. These stunning visual displays do not necessarily mean its a better game. In fact, I quite dislike the cookie cutter nature of most AAA games that have been produced lately. Predictable and recycled plots do nothing for me anymore. I’m not saying all AAA games are bad, in fact later I will cite one of my favorite AAA games that manages to tell a large story and keep you engrossed for hours.

The first game we’ll look at is called Thomas Was Alone. This indie platformer was released by indie game creator Mike Bithell in 2010 as a Flash game and produced as a Windows and OSX game in 2012. The gameplay in Thomas Was Alone is simple, the player moves a series of rectangular shapes around a simplistic black and grey world, using the shapes unique abilities to solve puzzles and fit the shapes into their respective little dotted white line holes. It is not this simplistic gameplay that gives Thomas Was Alone its raving reviews, but instead it is the story involved. Thomas, as you learn, is an AI existing in a computer mainframe. A glitch in the system makes him and a group of other quadrilaterals self-aware, causing them to try and escape the mainframe. I won’t spoil the story for you, but that’s it in a nutshell. Frankly, moving a bunch of rectangles around in a platformer is kind of boring, but it is the story that makes Thomas Was Alone such a success. I would highly recommend it. It manages to keep you engrossed for hours.

Earlier I bashed on triple-A devs for creating games with simplistic plotlines, focusing on great graphics and popular titles to sell copies. This is not, however, true in all cases. Let us take a look at The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. This game, produced by Bethesda Softworks, I personally found the main story to be relatively dry and not too exciting, but where the game redeemed itself in my eyes was not in the spectacular graphics or amazingly large open world. It was instead the countless hours of side-quests and intricate secondary plotlines that made the game so incredible! The DLC’s, something not many indie games get to have, showed that the prowess of a triple-A developer can be beneficial in expanding stories in an already incredible world!

Indie games and AAA titles all have the ability to make something awesome happen when it comes to storytelling. They have the power to keep you engrossed in play for hours and to make you care about what happens to the little red rectangle you’re moving across the screen. Where many games, particularly AAA titles, fail is in creating relatively dry stories and forgettable characters, only making up for it with well-known titles, exciting multiplayer, and awe-inspiring graphics! These are great, but what truly makes a game is its story.

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HEARTHSTONE: HEROES OF WARCRAFT REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Fellow Gamers!

So yesterday was my birthday!!! But that’s besides the point. In my email hidden through the spam crap I found a wonderful little gem! This just happened to be a little email from Blizzard Entertainment with, wait for it, a HEARTHSTONE BETA KEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, I screamed like a little girl for a bit and probably pissed someone off on RaidCall, but anyways, I digress. I hit download and went out for some frivolities and, when I returned, it was fully downloaded. Needless to say, the next two hours were spent playing and enjoying Hearthstone for all its glory! Here is my review.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play, deck building game set in the world of Warcraft. The best way to describe it is a pseudo-Magic the Gathering game, so if you are familiar with that, you should catch on really easily. The basic premise of the game is that each turn you gain one mana until you wind up with a total of 10. With this mana, you are able to play cards which are also drawn each turn. These cards can be summed up into three categories: spells, equipment, and minion. Spell cards are exactly what they sound like, you play it and whatever action is on the card occurs, be it six damage is given to any card of your choice or draw three cards, there are a variety of spells for any strategy you wish to perform. The next card type is equipment. These are weapon cards played on your hero that have an attack and a durability, granting your hero attack points for a certain number of attacks. The final card is your minion card. Minion cards are exactly like creature cards in Magic, they are there to do the bulk of your damage as well as to protect your hero from losing life points. Like Magic, these cards have the potential to have special abilities attached to them, but this doesn’t really matter right now.

Anyways, now that you know the basics, the game actually starts off by giving you a really cool tutorial which gives you a chance to play as the Mage hero as you fight some of the variety of characters that populate Hearthstone. This section is definitely your standard tutorial, essentially rigging it so that  you are guaranteed to win these first couple of matches. 

So I played the intro rounds and proceeded to work on gaining access to new decks by defeating the AI whose deck you’re trying to get. At this point, I have four of the nine decks unlocked. I’ve also leveled up the decks that I have, which allows for access to new cards. This is a pretty sweet dynamic. When you play a game like Magic: the Gathering, you only get new cards whenever you purchase them. With Hearthstone however, you are rewarded for time played in the game by leveling up and gaining new cards as well as gaining tokens to spend in the store to purchase new packs! There is also the option to spend real money and get new packs with the highest purchase being $49.99 and the cheapest being $3.99, the same cost for a Magic: The Gathering booster pack! So with this there’s a trade off on whether or not you want to put ridiculous hours in playing to get new cards or drop some dough and get them instantly!

As a game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has a variety of elements which make it a fun and exciting game to play. Magic: The Gathering players will find that it is very easy to catch on to! It also provides an excellent tutorial which teaches the finer intricacies of the game quickly and effectively. My only problem with it is that it can take a while once you start to get to the point of some of the people who have been playing the beta since day one unless you’re willing to drop a ton o’ cash to get a bunch of boosters! 

Pros:

Easy to learn, exciting interface, cool game play locations, and awesome character relations to the Warcraft universe.

Cons:

Requires a lot of gameplay to get to a point where you’re getting many new cards while maintaining the free-to-play aspect and not using in-game purchases.

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The Little Things

Hey friends!

I’m here at work at 3 AM and I just wanted to talk to you guys about keeping games in your life, even if you are too busy to actually play them yourselves! These are just a few tips and tricks that I use to keep in touch with gaming news as well as just little things that can keep you close to the games you love, even if you aren’t playing.

The first tool that I do is I ALWAYS am reading gamer news sites like Kotaku, IGN, or the PA Report when I am out on public transportation. That way I can keep up on whats going on in the world with regards to gaming as well as to comment on and share articles to make connections with people all over the place and be able to chat about them with people who have the same interests as you!

Another tool that I use is I watch streams on Twitch.tv. Examples of streams that I watch are the WCS from Blizzard, showing the pros play Starcraft and be able to watch pro casters break down the games and allow you to check out the popular builds on the pro circuit. The other stream that I watch is that of Sean “Day[9]” Plott who streams Monday through Thursday breaking down Starcraft play and Fridays playing random other, non-Starcraft games. His website can be found here. The website for Day[9] has lots of different threads and section that you can comment on to discuss all aspects of gaming life with friendly people who are there to both help you be a better gamer as well as to discuss gaming news, games in acadamia, and working on your Starcraft play. 

The final thing that I do is check the apps for the WCS and the League of Legends eSports app. These are basically my ESPN apps for eSports, allowing me to follow all of the pros and to get the best news in the eSports world. 

Anyways, I hope that you guys found this informative! If you have any ideas for future blog posts, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments and I will put them into my current topic pool to discuss here! 

As always, follow me on Twitter @j3comics and remember to check out my vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/tenbonestv and let me entertain you there!

Love ya! ~ SkyCaptain

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An Unfortunate Confession

Hello Guys!

I have an unfortunate confession to make. As of late, I have not been playing Starcraft as much as I should be. However, my reasons for not practicing are valid. I am close to graduating college and therefore I have a ton of work to be focusing on in order to graduate next December. This unfortunately leaves little time to actually just play the ladder, let alone put time into practicing and working on builds, timings, and APM. This got me thinking and here are just a couple of the methods I have come up with to work on your Starcraft skills while trying to maintain a busy schedule of school, homework, and having a social life.

1. Play at least one ladder game a day!

This one is really simple. All it takes is about half an hour out of your day to just keep yourself playing Starcraft. I’m not saying that this will automatically improve your play, it won’t. It takes time. This is just so that you have those RTS wheels turning in your head day after day and are able to maintain some of your basic mechanics even if it means getting a few losses on the ladder.

2. Play the Campaign.

If you are like me, you usually make a decision of what game you are going to play when you sit down at your desk, couch, whatever. If you don’t want to face the hassle of being berated on the ladder, I would suggest that, instead of picking up GTA or Battlefield, you instead play the campaign in SC2. I am aware that the units are not all the same and that there are slightly different things you need to watch out for in the campaign, but it is a great way to work on both macro and micro, as well as your other game mechanics.

3. Get a Coach

This may sound ridiculous, but Starcraft coaches are out there. In fact, many professional players offer will offer coaching sessions for around 50-100 USD per hour. These typically are played while skyping the coach so that they can give you in game advice as well as help to analyze the replays afterwords. Additionally, many of them will stream the sessions on Twitch so you can get feedback from others as well and also use that to determine if the coach you are looking at would be a good fit for you.

4. Watch Livestreams

I cannot stress enough the importance of watching the pros do their livestreams. Most of these are on Twitch.tv and more often than not the pros will be giving advice and explaining how they are doing their build and why they are doing it, as well as explaining the counters they are going for and what they saw that made them go for that particular build. Another great person to watch is Sean “Day9” Plott. Day9 is a former Brood War champion level player turned caster who is currently, so he claims :P, ranked Grandmaster in HotS and is one of the largest names in eSports. Every Tuesday through Thursday he does analysis of  pro-level games and breaks down the latest strategies in HotS. Mondays, he breaks down replays of a topic that is picked to be a fun view into cheesy plays in the game. If you go onto youtube and look up Day9 he has a playlist called “Newbie Tuesday” where he helps to introduce ways to practice the basic mechanics of the game as well as how to analyze your play. The best part about this over coaching is…… ITS FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways, these are some of the methods that I use to try and get some practice in during my hectic schedule. I hope that all of you can put at least one of these tools in your belt and keep playing more Starcraft!

Have a great day! – Sky

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @j3comics and if you’re ever playing on the NA servers and come across Skycaptain, thats me!

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Hello and Welcome!

Hello!

My name is John and I am a college student. In addition, I am also a gamer. No, not a pro gamer, just a regular gamer like you! I don’t compete in major tournaments, nor do I claim that I am good enough to do so. Instead, I have come here to talk to you wonderful people about our favorite games, as well as about what its like to be a gamer in college.

Here’s a little about me and what I enjoy! From a gaming standpoint, I started way back when playing on both the Gameboy Color and the original Playstation when I was about six. This was about the time when Pokemon Blue and Red came out. Some of my favorite games back then were definitely Pokemon (of course) but also Ape Escape and A Bugs Life on the Playstation as well as Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the GBC.

From here I naturally progressed to the GameBoy Advanced and SP. But thats a progression that continued a love for adventure games and platformers. My next console progression was to the Xbox. It was here where I first experienced a major fps game as well as good sports games such as Madden and the 2k NHL games. Being a history nerd, I found the original Call of Duty games absolutely fascinating. They were excellent at putting the player into real historical events while keeping an interesting story. I also enjoyed the fact that the Xbox allowed for DVDs to be played, eliminating the need to have two devices. From the Xbox I moved on to the Xbox 360 Arcade. This continued the trend of playing fps’s as well as my first forays into the wonderful world of Star Wars: KOTOR and Battlefront. The end of my Xbox life was actually quite recent with the latest version of the 360 with my Kinect. I no longer have this, for I have made the switch over to Playstation.

I made the switch for a couple of reasons. The first reason is simply because I wanted to play The Last of Us, a game created by Naughty Dog Studios and only available on the Playstation. The next reason is because one of my good friends was the only one in our little friendship circle with an Xbox and I wanted to be able to play Borderlands 2 with him. Another one is that I was tired of having to pay 10 dollars a month to play online with people who were just going to verbally abuse me without knowing my life. Finally, I was quite disappointed with the Xbone announcement and it kind of turned me off of Microsoft products for a while, but that’s a rant for another day. 

Recently, I have been into PC gaming as well as on the Playstation 3. My favorite computer game is, by far, Starcraft. Now, I am by no means good. This season I have zero wins and last season I had like one, but I find it fascinating. There’s so much that you have to think about and work on and multiple elements that all have to come together to create a good game and a good player. I am in Bronze League and I play Protoss primarily. Additionally, of all the gaming communities that I have experienced, the one for Starcraft has definitely been the most welcoming and helpful, allowing for you to easily find somebody to help you improve. Thats definitely on the list for another topic. 

To wrap it up, let me tell you about my school life. I’m a third year student studying History with a double minor in Political Science and Asian Studies. I have a decent gpa and can crank out papers like none other. Additionally, I work about 35 hours a week. This doesn’t allow for a lot of time for gaming, but I intend to focus on this and help you be a great gamer while maintaining your primary job as a student. 

Anyways, remember that you can always follow me on Twitter @j3comics and check out my YouTube channel!

 

 

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