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March Update – Camp Alaska

March 5, 2014

I’ll be leaving in one week to go to a “camp job” in Alaska. For those unfamiliar with the term, I will fly into a very remote site that has basic amenities, and I will be without my family the entire time. I won’t be able to do much of anything except work, exercise, watch TV, and play offline games. The camp has rudimentary internet, but it’s about as fast as 1992 AOL dialup. This will relegate me to playing offline games only. I’ve already got a pretty big stack of games for the PC that I bought during those crazy Steam sales, and another fairly decent stack of XBox 360 games that I buy on GameFly – so I’m not without entertainment. I’ll also be catching up on the many, many movies I’ve picked up over the years but never watched. Nevertheless: No PlanetSide 2, no online CoD, no MMOs (hah).

Today I found a whole bunch of old notes I squirreled away that I intended to post here – most are about six months old now… so bear with me, I’ve got terrible OCD so I won’t be happy until I get them posted. 🙂 For what it’s worth, some (if not most) of this will be a re-hash of topics I’ve already covered.

Co-Op Thoughts: I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of cooperative gaming (aka coop or co-op), ever since I started gaming as a kid. Gauntlet at the Arcades, Contra on the NES, and so on – I always, always loved co-op. I even “hoarded” whatever co-op games I could find, even if the games were old or poorly rated. Only recently did I ever wonder: why am I so fascinated with co-op? The answer is friendship. While buddies can have fun playing versus / competitive games, I find that competitive games can create hostile gaming atmospheres, whereas co-op usually does not. I’d rather work /with/ someone than /against/ them.

Mass Effect 3 Ending: After having finished the game, I was surprised how much negative press it received. Granted, it was weird, but I don’t think it was /awful/. What also surprised me is how uncommon it was for people to draw comparisons between ME3 and either Deus Ex or the Matrix. As with Deus Ex, the player has three possible choices as to how the game will end: the anarchistic / anti-tech ending, the “merge with technology” ending, or the control all technology ending. Really, the three Mass Effect ending choices parallel the three choices at the end of Deus Ex.

While there have been a /few/ decent comparisons to Messiah stories (including biblical analogies), it was uncommon for people to bring it up. The story I liken the Mass Effect messiah parable to the most is that of The Matrix. An otherwise ignorant protagonist learns of a massive, unstoppable machine enemy, and sacrifices himself at the end of the story for the salvation of humanity (and all non-human races in the universe too). I liken it to the Matrix primarily due to the order of events, and with the sacrifice being at the end of the narrative without any chance of resurrection – unlike the biblical messianic analogy.

I’ve also ran across Angry Joe’s Indoctrination Theory video, which definitely puts a new spin on the ending, and helps explain a very plausible (and more palatable) theory behind the confusing ending to the Mass Effect trilogy. I /highly/ recommend watching that video, as well as the source material video that Joe cites.

PlanetSide 2 – Once again, this deserves its own section. I probably won’t write everything that I wanted to, but at least I’ll fire off a few thoughts about the game. First of all, I can confidently say that it’s displaced TF2/TFC as one of my top favorite games of all time. It took a year and a half of updates for the game to finally become what it is, and for me to really get into the rhythm of the game. With that said, I’ve invested more time into PS2 than into TFC and TF2 combined, and almost all of that time was well spent.

I’ve noticed a particular dearth in Harasser buggy usage. Until the Harasser nerf, you’d see at least as many buggies on the field as you would tanks – often times rushes would consist of five buggies and a tank or two. That’s how OP they were, that they could be zerged. I still run one instead of a 4-wheeler when I can, and I’ve had some great success spawn-camping with the machine gun – but I don’t see them nearly as often as I used to. <shrug> I normally play as infantry anymore, so it’s a /good/ thing for me that there aren’t as many Harasser buggies – as they were absolutely lethal against infantry.

Personal Top Games of All Time
This list has been surprisingly consistent over the past decade plus, with a few dropping in and out once a year or so. I figured that I would list it here so people know my tastes in gaming. How I “ranked” games is based on how much I enjoyed the game, how much I’ve played the game (hours put in, number of times completed), how much it has influenced my tastes, and how much it made me /think/. I won’t provide any commentary this time – perhaps I will expand on it other time – right now it’s just a list to indicate what my tastes are in gaming.

There are plenty more games than the ones that I listed that I greatly enjoyed playing – however for the sake of brevity I’ll only list the ones that I can confidently put in order, and these are the games that I’d take “to a desert island”.

1. Mass Effect
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
3. World of Warcraft (vanilla)
4. Planetside 2
5. Team Fortress Classic / Team Fortress 2
6. Baldur’s Gate
7. Red Dead Redemption
8. Deus Ex
9. Fallout 3
10. Skyrim
11. Ultima Underworld
12. System Shock
13. Master of Orion II
14. Star Control 2
15. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
16. Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic
17. Super Mario World
18. Half-Life
19. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
20. Magicka
21. Thief: The Dark Project
22. The Legend of Zelda
23. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
24. FarCry 3
25. BioShock
26. Battlefield 1942
27. Mass Effect 2
28. Wing Commander: Privateer
29. Just Cause 2
30. ChronoTrigger
31. Battlefield 2142
32. Thief II: The Metal Age

Overwhelmingly, most of the games are either an RPG, FPS, strategy game – or a combination of RPG/FPS. I should also say that at about #5 you can add “current generic shooter” – as I am very hesitant to put any individual short-lived FPS on the list, but at any given time I am always playing through some generic shooter. Over the years this has been Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake II, Unreal, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, and so on. As a /genre/ and a staple of my gaming, they really do deserve a spot in my top 5, however very few individual titles stand out on their own merit to warrant a spot in my all time favorites.

The only game that I actually did “lump” with another is TFC and TF2. To me, they were almost indistinguishable in terms of the play style, and if I had to pick one over the other I couldn’t. I enjoyed TFC more, but TF2 was overall a better game in every way, and I’ve spent about equal time with both games.

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