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[Gamer Diary] – What I’ve Been Playing… May 2012

2012 June 8

As promised, I actually played games this month! I started off with Portal 2‘s Perpetual Testing Initiative (which I mentioned last month) I tried my hand at the Puzzle Maker to make a few test chambers.  You may notice from my efforts that I might, maybe, possibly, probably, harbour a teeny love of Deadly Goo.  Having attempted to use Valve‘s Hammer Editor in the past to make maps for Portal 2, I can say that the new in-game Puzzle Maker is much simpler.

Obviously the simplicity has benefits as well as negative points: it’s simpler to use, so therefore more of the community can try their hand at map-making for an extremely popular title.  This is demonstrated by the fact that since the Puzzle Maker has been available, the number of Steam Workshop files for Portal 2 has shot up to nearly 100,000 (by comparison, Team Fortress 2 has close to 5k and Skyrim just over 7k)1 despite being the newest edition to the Workshop repertoire.

Screenshot of a test chamber from Portal 2 by the author.

My first test chamber for Portal 2

The negatives, I feel, come with the restrictions you face with what is available to you in the Puzzle Maker: e.g. you can’t add extra doors for staged testing.  Plus, try as I might to create things exactly as I imagine them in my head, it never seems to be quite right as not all the tools are available to you.  The solution here would be to learn how to use Hammer properly… but for a lot of fans that’s a bit too confusing to contemplate.

So, you may be wondering why my production of test chamber blueprints stopped mind-May… the answer is Diablo 3.  This hit internationally on May 15th and domestically (in the UK) May 18th.  After some very irritating cock-ups from various pre-order suppliers, I eventually got my hands on it for the UK release date.

I must say I’m sort of glad I didn’t get a copy until May 18th as Blizzard had some serious issues on the international release. Let me explore these. D3 is both single and multiplayer but you have to be online all the time, on’s servers even to play on your own.  No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  Couple that with the fact that their servers clearly weren’t ready – nor capable – of handling the volume of people trying to connect.  Again, just to play single player.

Error 37 screengrabs were plastered all over the internet as eager fans were raging at Blizzard.  That’s not to say I didn’t escape: I’ve had three instances since I got the game where I’ve been unable to play because the damned servers were having a tea break (or eating themselves, I dunno) with Error 35 taking out the game on May 20th for over 9 hours and Error 37 rearing its ugly head again nearer the end of the month (Error 35 = servers down for maintenance; Error 37 = servers are busy).

That’s the one major drawback of the game.  The interwebs have been awash with rumours of an “offline mode”, but whether Blizz decide to actually do it or not only time will tell.

Enough of that.  The game itself is great fun with brilliantly detailed graphics and fun attacks for all classes.  This is the first RPG of this type (the hack’n’slash) that I’ve actually finished – albeit only on normal difficulty – and am now going through it again to try and find better loot (so far unsuccessfully).  The fact that I haven’t got bored yet is praise in itself as I do have a tendency to just wander off despite all my intentions to play through as every class and on every difficulty.  Again, time will tell if I do end up admitting defeat.

Blizz have done OK with the female characters; yes, they start off fairly under-dressed but so do the male counterparts.  My one criticism is the fem-Demon Hunter’s boots… why would you wear heels (at all!) to fight the prime evil?  Seriously.  Oh, and the occasional armour vs. cleavage fail is a given.

In between my battling of evil I made a brief foray into the world of the mod.  The mod in question is Centralia: Part 1, which is the opening sequence of a game developed as a mod for Half Life 2: Episode 2.  I’ve written a more general review over here but I felt it worth a mention as a) it doesn’t involve shooting guns or killing things and b) yeah, OK, my brother is one of the devs.

The idea behind it is (I paraphrase) “to make creepy places fun”, so they’ve taken an extraordinary story from real life (Centralia, PA) and added some more spooky to the mix.  Even though it’s pretty short for now, it still managed to make me jump a couple of times.

A still from the beginning of Centralia

It is a genuinely interesting concept for a game and I’d quite like to see where it goes, but to do that I first have to persuade my bro to set up a KickStarter fund, then he has to get funded through it.  Blah, blah austerity etc.

Tropes Vs Women in Games: a cool thing for you to throw money at

As I’ve mentioned KickStarter, we here at BR had this drawn to our attention.  Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is the brainchild of Anita of Feminist Frequency who is hoping to make a series of films based on, well, tropes of women in video games.

“The series will highlight the larger reoccurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.”

This looks promising, and who here wouldn’t want to get paid to play games and make films about it?  Exactly.

Next Month:

There will be Max Payne 3 – as the PC edition got delayed so it didn’t have to do battle with Diablo 3 – and probably (finally) some AC: Revelations as I now have a copy waiting for me.  I suspect there will be more but I haven’t thought that far ahead yet!

But! Before I go, an Assassin’s Creed note…

Just quickly, this has just popped up on the internet: promise of a female protagonist in an Assassin’s Creed title!  It will be a “companion game” to AC3, subtitled Liberation, but will only be on the PS Vita.  Borderhouse (follow the link) say:

What’s interesting and exciting is that the protagonist of the game will be a woman of color named Aveline.

Admittedly, yes, that is pretty interesting – and awesome – but being me I have to push the cynic buttons and raise two points. First, we’ve talked about this before, and I will keep banging on about it until it surfaces for definite: is this the “her” Juno mentioned at the end of Brotherhood?  This mysterious lady-assassin that Desmond has to find before he can defeat the Templars?  My guess is: no.  If it’s running concurrent to AC3 he can’t have found her yet as, surely, her story comes after his ends (after another three games).

Secondly, PS Vita?  Really?  An over-expensive handheld with few titles and not nearly as many users as Xbox 360/Ps3/PC?  That’s where you decide to premiere your first femprotag of the franchise?  You don’t think that’s a little bit sidelining?  I suspect the peeps over at Ubisoft are expecting only the die hards to buy it, which means they aren’t too bothered about offering up a viable femprotag for the mainstream just yet.

Or, maybe they’re testing the waters for the Elusive Female Assassin that will save the world.  Or, maybe Aveline is “her”. Prove me wrong, Ubisoft, please!

  1. as of 9am, 31.05.12 []
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  1. Russell permalink
    June 8, 2012

    This may just be my own tendency to over-analyse everything, but I’m not sure I’d be so quick to “pass” Diablo 3 from a feminist perspective. Aside from the Demon Hunter’s boots, the characters of Adria and Leah surely need a little more analysis; on one hand Adria at least breaks away from the traditional fantasy/fairy tale “evil step-mother” trope by being Leah’s birth mother, but on the other, surely there are some issues with her depiction as an evil witch, not to mention her apparent heel-turn from the first game in the series. I’ve had the privilege of watching the interview DVD with the creators, and the discussion of Leah is interesting, not least because it’s very strange watching a bunch of male programmers discuss how hard it is to create a young, likeable, attractive female, but also from a storyline perspective with regards to what happens to her; a thing that is done to her, a total violation by the male antagonist of the series. Speaking of which, how about the fact that that antagonist is now apparently transgender? And what about the depiction of the Witch Doctor, is it racist?

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