Meet Stacy: My GTA: Online Character

Stacy, taking bathroom selfies with her friends.

This is Stacy. She’s my GTA: Online avatar and I have a strange affection for her.

When GTA: Online first launched in October last year, it was a disaster that most users experienced. It wasn’t until Rockstar had figured out how releasing an MMO-style online experience for their wildly successful game probably needed a LOT more server support that it originally had, that everyone started to really enjoy the experience. My friends and I created a crew for our clan and rode around on the Vespa knockoffs, which we had customised in various shaded of neon colours; just to make it that much more special and it felt like our characters could actually be real; if Los Santos was a real place full of gun-toting psychopaths who rode around on hot pink scooters.

She likes selfies

Selfies with the Vinewood sign.

I wanted to give my avatar a little more life and for whatever strange reason, I fleshed her out a little bit. I named her Stacy. She looked like a Stacy to me. The story I’d picked was fairly generic; when Stacy turned 18, she got all her stuff and moved to LS to become something, not sure what that something was, but it was more than the menial job she was in at whatever small town she was leaving.

After arriving in LS and performing the first few jobs she could to raise some money, she met her friends (seen in the bathroom selfie) and despite them being the bad kids your parents warn you about, these were her people.

As someone who doesn’t really get THIS in to RPG’s, it’s funny that I’d grow so attached to Stacy. It’s like having a Barbie, but in an ultra-violent setting; I change her hair, make up and clothes regularly and make sure that she’s not too bruised up. Although, if you’ve seen the way I ride a motorbike in game, Stacy bares the brunt of it.

She’s my favourite part of GTA: Online. When it’s released on PC and my friends finally start playing again, I hope that I can transfer her across. I’d be a little upset if I couldn’t continue to play with my virtual Barbie.

 

A Random Thought About Ocarina Of Time

Water-TempleOne of the funniest things I can say to people who know I want to write about games for a living is “I’ve never played Ocarina of Time.” Apparently, that’s some kind of slight against the gaming Gods and I’m generally a bad person.

When I was growing up, I never had the opportunity to play it. I didn’t have a Nintendo 64 and none of my friends actually owned the game. In fact, the only Nintendo consoles I’ve ever owned at GameBoy handheld consoles.

It wasn’t until I was preparing to fly halfway around the world that I picked up Ocarina of Time when I was buying my 3DS. Even now, I haven’t finished it, despite being heavily encouraged by a friend of mine.

A lot of people encourage me to play it and the only reason they ever actually give me is “It’s the best game of all time!” That’s it. Nothing else matters except that it’s the best game of all time.

I guess I can’t argue since I’ve never played it the whole way through; I can’t say they’re wrong. But when you’re trying to convince someone to play something, shouldn’t you say WHY it’s the greatest great ever. What makes it great? So far, I’m failing to see it. Maybe I don’t see the appeal because I don’t have the gleam of nostalgia in my eye and remembering the gameplay fondly.

As a responsible writer who shouldn’t discount the opinions of others, I should just endure how bored I am of it and finish it. Maybe once I’ve discovered the Hell that is the Water Temple, I’ll see it in a new light, but right now, it’s just not my cup of tea.

 

My First Win

I remember when I was a kid and my Mum got us our first computer. It was a giant cream coloured beast. I was so excited because I could play the copy of “Age of Empires” that was the prize in a box of Corn Flakes.

I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere.

After installing it and starting a new Blue civilisation, everything went downhill. I was so happy hoarding resources, I forgot I had an opponent to defeat.

Within a few ages, the Reds descended upon me. It was a massacre. Luckily, a few innocent Blues managed to escape the carnage. With all the food, wood, gold and stone I’d collected before the first downfall of my empire I rebuilt stronger and with new determination. My new purpose was to crush my foe.

This was difficult with a population cap of just 50, but my small legion of builders made me an army that made my Red opposition tremble.

With a tide of horses and archers, I rained fiery Blue vengeance on those tiny red pixel people.

“You Are Victorious” flashed on to the screen, and I had my first taste of video game victory. This innocuous silver disc, pulled from a box of cereal is what I remember as my first real video game.

It started a love affair not only with the RTS genre of gaming, but could be responsible for my drive to write about games. I have fond memories of other games, but none have the nostalgia that AoE does.

I’ve got AoE games that follow that first game, but none draw me in like Age of Empires 1. They’re still fun, but they don’t hold a candle to the woo-loo-looo of AoE 1.

State of Decay: Sink Your Teeth In

sodState of Decay is one of those games I’d heard great things about but already felt burnt out on. The zombie genre is a favourite with developers and the market is flooded with hoards (puns!) of them. But when my lovely friend gifted me the base game and the DLC, I decided to have a go at it.

At the time of writing, I’d played almost 10 hours straight without realising it. Thank GOD for days off, right?

State of Decay is a third-person zombie shooter with elements of stealth, resource management and base building thrown in. These gameplay elements help add extra depth to the immersion for the player. You need to make sure that all your characters are at full health, that there’s ammo available and you have an escape plan to get out of any sticky situations. My problem with a lot of zombie/survival games is that it’s run and gun; there’s no strategy. But State of Decay almost encourages you to have a strategy.

As you gather up more survivors to play as, they have mood swings and rely on other members of your group to help them through. The characters have enough personality to give you someone to pick as a favourite, but are plain enough so that you can put yourself in their shoes. Although, the way I’m playing, it’s a bit like an episode of Game of Thrones; I get attached to one particular character and then BAM! Eaten by a zombie. It’s a little tragic.

Gameplay and mission can lull from time to time, making things feel a little boring and repetitive. There’s a lot of potential for a variety of missions, but it’s mostly: go here, clear out this, come back.  I’ve currently found myself going around trying to find resources, waiting for missions to spawn because I’ve completed all the available missions. The missions I have completed have a good learning curve. You can do them on your own comfortably, or take along a fellow survivor to watch your back. Although, the AI can be a little… backwards when it comes to watching out for zombies; either super helpful or a major hindrance. The more you use a particular character, the better their stats get and the more helpful they can be.

My major problem with the game are a few rather annoying bugs I’ve come across when it comes to starting or closing the game. I found the game would crash when the music was muted, and I’m not sure what’s causing my game to bug out and crash when I’m trying to close the game from the main menu. The developer forums are helpful for finding work-around solutions for these bugs, but patching them hasn’t worked as of yet. From some Googling, my problems seem to be fairly common, so I’m hoping the developers are working to patch these out.

The music and graphics aren’t astounding, but it’s not a major drawback. In a world where everyone focuses on lifelike graphics and Oscar-worthy music, it’s kind of refreshing to have something that’s “not up to scratch”. The animation is a little buggy when zombies look like they’re outside, but are actually just clipping through a wall. I’ve wasted many a bullet hitting a wall where I thought I was aiming perfectly at a zombie’s face.

For a fairly generic zombie survival game, I’m sinking a disgusting amount of time into it. It’s got its claws right in and doesn’t really want to let go. The Lifeline and Breakdown DLC have great reviews online and the friend who gifted these to me raved about them when he bought them originally on Xbox Live. If you’re looking for a time sink, some good old fashion violence and nothing too complicated, State of Decay is perfect.

E3 2014. Does Anyone Else Need a Cigarette and a Cold Shower? #XboxE3 #SonyE3

e3-2014

E3 is like Christmas in June for the video games industry and gaming fans everywhere. With the new generation of consoles being launched, purchased and firmly ingrained in households, Microsoft and Sony came out with a new line up of games and console attachments for their next gen consoles and some great stuff for their current gen consoles. Let’s talk about what Microsoft and Sony had to say at this year’s conference.

Let’s start with Microsoft, since they were the first off the mark.

The thing that got me the most foaming-at-the-mouth excited this year was the announcement of Halo Master Chief Collection. Microsoft reminded us that Halo 2 is 10-years-old this year (anyone else feel old?) and for the anniversary, they were going to combine Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 on ONE disc for all your intergalactic, space needs. Bringing back Halo 2 multiplayer and rendering it to current generation specifications. Seriously, you guys, they announced this and I stopped paying attention. Along with the Master Chief collection being released, there’s also a Halo 5 beta you can get in on. Reason 1 why I now need an Xbox One is because Halo. Yes, I am a fan girl.

Another series that made everyone terribly excited was further offerings from Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed: Unity which includes up to 4-play co-operative mode. Set during the French Revolution, you form your own brotherhood of Assassins and get stabby with it. While separate from the single-player mode, this was the main showcase of the Assassin’s Creed presentation.

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series any more. After everything that Ubisoft continues to bring out, I gave up on having a good story in lieu of being used as a cash cow. It’s disappointing because the new multiplayer aspect looks terribly well done. Unity continues the tradition of looking gorgeous, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s enough. It seems to be for fans of the series.

Fans of the Tomb Raider series will be happy to hear that there’s a new Tomb Raider gaming coming to Xbox One. Set after the end of the last game, Lara appears to be going through therapy, trying to work through the events of the island she was stranded on. She’s definitely becoming the Lara we’re used to: ass-kicking, strong and won’t take crap from anyone. Like the last game, this trailer looks full of promise.

There was also stuff about Call of Duty…

Sony is up next with what was a fairly… mediocre presentation but had some excellent games and hardware to show off.

The biggest surprise for the crowd was the announcement of Grim Fandango being remastered and bought to PS4 consoles around the world. Everyone I know holds Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango in their hearts with loving nostalgia. I’d never played Grim Fandango, but last year at PAX Australia there was some excellent cosplay and listening to Ron Gilbert’s keynote speech reminded me of why those games mean so much to people. This would definitely be a good reason for me to pick up a PS4.

Another reason to pick up a PS4 would be Little Big Planet 3. Three new characters to help you get around more player-made levels and new levels of depth, why wouldn’t you pre-order this now? Little Big Planet is the game I show my non-gamer friends who want something easy to play, but you can spend hours being terribly entertained. Also, Stephen Fry.

Sony didn’t focus solely on the games. They announced a white PS4 coming to North America in September. It looks stunning and it’ll definitely give me enough time to wait for all the games I want to come out and drop in price. Although, the Australian time frame hasn’t been confirmed, hopefully a global release is in our future and some awesome bundles come along with it.

It’s hard to decide a “winner” from the battle of Microsoft and Sony but, personally, I think Microsoft won it. Out of the two conferences, Microsoft had the best offering of games that interested me. Sony has some great ideas coming up for Sony branded TVs, for the Vita and Playstation TV (which sounds AWESOME), but a lot of their non-game related stuff didn’t really grab my attention. However, this is just my opinion.

What did you guys think? Who was the big winner for you and what grabbed you the most?