Rade Reviews: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a Borderlands addict. My addiction led to nearly 600+ hours in Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2, I own both the Borderlands 2 pre-order chest and the Diamond-played loot chest, a CL4P-TP figurine and David Eddings signed Gentleman CL4P-TP figurine. I also convinced my cousin to name a foal “Butt Stallion” and I’m an avid Krieg cosplayer.

…yeah. I have a problem. Clearly, the solution was to get my hands on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Borderlands: The Presequel! is told like a flashback by Athena, a highly-skilled mercenary captured by Lilith, Brick and Mordecai. Throughout the game, you’ll hear commentary from Athena and the others about the events you’re playing through. BL: TPS explores Handsome Jack before the mask; back when he was just John. An attack on the Hyperion orbit station, Helios, finds you teaming up with the future pretzel-eating villain to, get this… SAVE Pandora’s moon, Elpis and the people who inhabit the surface.

Crazy, right?

aaaaaaFour entirely new classes have been added to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Instead of Assassin, Siren, Soldier and Gunzerker, you get:

Athena: The Gladiator. Athena made her first appearance in the Borderlands 1 DLC “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.” Her shield packs a punch which you can throw at enemies, and of course, shield yourself with.

Nisha: The Lawbringer. Nisha will be familiar to Borderlands 2 players. She was the Sheriff of Lynchwood, the Eridium-mining town. Nisha’s skill tree “Law & Order” can give buffs to gun damage, health or shields. You can also duel-wield when you spec Nisha’s “Fan the Hammer” skill tree.

Whlhelm: The Enforcer. As you spec Wilhelm’s character, you slowly see him develop into the cyborg-human death machine that you fight in Borderlands 2.

Finally, you’ve got Claptrap: The Fragtrap. His “vaulthunter.exe” skill tree gives players (and co-op partners) buffs based on their current situation. He can also use skills used by previous by the previous vault hunters. At last, he’s the badass he wanted to be.

Gameplay is essentially unchanged from Borderlands 2 at its core, but with some interesting changes. Because you’re on the moon, gravity and oxygen are a new challenge to wrangle with. Instead of relics to change character stats, you now collect Oz Kits; masks that give you oxygen to breathe on the moon’s surface. They also provide elemental bonuses for your gravity stomp. Which is awesome.

Using gravity to your advantage, you can jump or boost jump (another Oz Kit advantage), you can slam down on your enemies and inflict elemental damage. With that elemental damage and a swift shotgun blast to the face, enemies can be promptly dealt with.

Gravity jumps and boost jumps can be a little difficult to work with in the beginning. Having your character accidentally jump off the map because of a misguided jump gets old pretty quick.

Another noticeable inclusion is the hundreds of Australian accents. Borderlands: TPS was developed by 2K Australia, so you’d expect one or two references about Australia (Like the bosses “Red” and “Belly”, to make “Redbelly”. A notorious snake in Australia), but it’s more like the residents of outback Australia were abducted and transported to Elpis in some bizarre experiment to see what Australians can survive. (Hint: It’s everything.) Plenty of jokes to keep Australian gamers happy, but maybe some of it will go over everyone else’s head.

I do have some complaints. While the writing is still on par with previous games, the ‘Straya thing it’s got going on can be a little (or a lot) over the top, and borders on insulting in some parts. I can appreciate the effort in trying to capture Australian culture, but sometimes it comes off more like a Crocodile Dundee movie than anything close to real Australian culture (says the city-slicker)

It also doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the series. Characters clipping through moving platforms and AI bugs are a few things I’ve encountered through my gameplay. A little disappointing considering the quality of the previous two Borderlands Games.

All that said, the new heroes, new setting, new characters and new story work well with the old formula that made Borderlands and Borderlands 2 so popular.261640_screenshots_2014-10-19_00009

If you’re looking for something new from the Borderlands series, maybe wait until Tales from the Borderlands is released. If you played Borderlands 2 until you were blue in the face (like I did), then Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is right up your alley.

STOP BEING ELITISTS YOU GUYS

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There are a lot of problems in video games at the moment, and the one I’m super sick of (other than everything else) is this whole “Master Race” PC gaming bullshit.

Today, my friend linked me this Imgur post where OP essentially calls console gaming a niche market and that it’s ruining modern day gaming using screenshots from the currently unreleased Star Citizen and ArmA 3 games. He also applauds Cloud Imperium and Bohemia Interactive for not releasing the games on console because it would “ruin our games for PC gamers.”

What I’m getting from this is that he’s angry that there are really shitty PC ports of games and that it’s somehow the fault of people who game on consoles and NOT the fault of lazy developers.

Bad PC ports are awful, I’ve played a few in my time but I don’t blame people who enjoying playing games solely on their Xbox or PlayStation. The blame lies on developers who aren’t optimising their game for computers.

Console gaming isn’t ruining the video games industry, elitism about what platform you “correctly” play on is destroying video games. Whatever happened to playing games because you enjoy escaping into some fantasy world to avoid reality, or sitting down with your friends for a several hour long grind session? Is it too much to ask that people stop trolling others because “Hurr, you’re gaming wrong”?

Guys, let’s have a serious talk here: Play on whatever you want to play on, whether it’s on PC or on your Xbox, PlayStation, GameBoy, Wii, or whatever you play games on. If playing your favourite game gives you joy, don’t let any elitist asshole try to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it right because you’re enjoying video games, and that’s what’s it’s all about.

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So you want to be a video games “journalist”?

Over the last few months, I’ve had people coming to me for advice about wanting to break into the video games industry as a reviewer or journalist. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure I’ve actually gotten into the industry yet but I’ll give you whatever advice I can give. I’ve also asked friends who work in journalism or video games about what advice they’d give people, so that’s thrown in too.

“Video Games Journalism”

Let’s be honest with each other, there aren’t that many legitimate journalists in the video games industry. Not traditional journalists, anyway. A lot of what video games journalism is these days is regurgitating media releases and reporting on rumours. Doing legitimate journalistic work is pretty hard to come by, it’s more editorial work. Not that there work isn’t out there, but it’s probably being done already. You’ll need to prove yourself.

So, the advice I’ve got:

                On writing

It sounds simple enough, but depending on where you want to get into, your writing style needs to suit that style of publication. Read previous reviews of the publication you want to write for and get a feeling of their style. Having a range of writing styles is a great thing to have in your arsenal as a writer.

Write about anything and everything, it’s the only way to improve this utmost vital skill. Find press releases and rewrite them, write fake news stories about the characters in games, write reviews on everything you’ve used, played, seen or read. Start yourself a blog and put your opinions out into the world. You’ll get a range of people looking at your stuff and they’re going to give you their honest opinion. Just remember, all criticism can be useful if you don’t get upset by it.

On video games

Understanding how video games work is probably important if you’re interested in video games. Ask developers what goes into making a game, or take a basic coding course (there are some available online) to give you a greater insight into how what goes into a game. Your passion for video games is what got you interested in this kind of writing, a deeper understanding never hurts.

On industry shows

Go to every event you can get in to. Last year at PAX Australia, I introduced myself to indie developers showing their wares and built relationships with people. A few weeks later, I got an email from one of the guys I’d met asking me to review their game. I took down business cards with my contact details (work email, mobile number, website) and they sent me a copy of their game. Going to industry events is important for networking. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s in your best interest to know everybody.

For stuff you can’t get to (E3, anyone?), streaming and live-tweeting are going to be your friends. Getting involved in hashtags will help you get into the conversation and gauge the reaction of your intended audience.

On the Internet

The Internet is a big, scary place and it’s full of individuals who have strong, conflicting opinions and you’re likely to meet someone who disagrees with you. And maybe, they’ll disagree with you so much they’ll call you nasty names, say horrible things about you to their friends and try to rubbish you so that you don’t get more work. It’s bound to happen. What’s important to remember is that there are people who agree with you, too.

It’s also a vital part of what you want to do. Traditional print doesn’t have much room for video game editorials or reviews (outside of video game publications), so it’s best to make yourself an online presence.

About yourself

Be honest. People will read your work under the impression that you’re being completely honest and transparent in your work. This is especially important when reporting news and writing reviews, even your editorials needs to accurately represent your opinion. If someone pays you to write something; announce it upfront. If you’ve been provided with a product; acknowledge that the product was provided by a company. If you don’t disclose everything, people will find out and you risk your reputation.

Have confidence in yourself, and your writing. If you’re not confident of what you’re writing, it’ll be reflected in your piece. This is something I struggle with time to time, but I have a good circle of support to help me realise that sometimes I write English good (yes, that was intentional.) Find people who are willing to read your work and give you feedback, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

If you’ve got the talent and the drive to be successful, you’ll be successful. People respond to people who are confident in their ability to progress and succeed. With help, I’ve written for Player Attack, been retweeted by PAX Australia and reviewed for ASUS and Walk-Thru Walls. Have the guts to ask for help and send your stuff to everyone. If they reject you, ask for feedback about what you can improve. If you’re accepted, ask what they liked about your piece. Every little bit helps.

 

Thanks to James McGrath, Lauren Grey (and her friend) and Scott Rhodie for their help with this post.

Kickstarters and Crowdfunders: How it’s changing video game development.

With crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter giving developers direct access to fans and Steam’s “Early Access” …thing (what is it, anyway?) allowing people to test their games on the fly, it’s a pretty sure fact that gaming has gone through some dramatic changes. Except, I’m not entirely convinced it’s for the better.

Let’s talk about Yogscast; some great evidence about what I’m talking about.

For those who don’t know, Yogscast is a YouTube channel who gained thousands (if not, millions) of fans by doing Minecraft videos, backed on the success of their podcast. They had the idea of creating a new videogame; inspired by Minecraft’s design. By all accounts, this should have been a pretty simple Kickstarter and everyone walked away into the sunset.

But it wasn’t, and they didn’t.

The Kickstarter itself was successful. Yogscast and developer Winterkewl Games raised double than the original goal of $250,000, but money isn’t everything when it comes to developing a game.

Winterkewl Games was new to the development world and it started to show almost immediately. Rumours of people making ridiculous amounts of money for little work circulated like wildfire, their December 2012 release date was broken with the alpha release of Yogscast game being released in March 2013.

Winterkewl addressed their lack of experience and nearly impossible goals in the official Yogscast forums, citing that the project was too big and their team (only consisting of 6 people) was too small. By 2014, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Backers (some of which donated $10,000 for high-tier rewards) were denied refunds after the project failed but promised free games in compensation. Yogscast incorrectly stated they were under no obligation to return the money to the backers, which directly conflicts with Kickstarters Terms and Conditions.

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfil the promises of their project?
Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfil all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfil. (This is what creators see before they launch.) This information can serve as a basis for legal recourse if a creator doesn’t fulfil their promises. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfil.

Everything went to Hell in a flaming hand basket.

Finger pointing was rampant and no one really knows what happened. I doubt even those involved in this mess actually understand how it all went so horribly wrong.

The story of Yogscast and Winterkewl is a prime example of why I’m weary of video games being backed through crowd-funding. Ambitious projects can be easily spun to impress fans and no one ever considers the risks. Once all the money that was so generously given is gone, there’s very little people can do about getting it back. People are left in the lurch with very little legal recourse.

The same goes for Early Access on Steam. The idea is that you pay a smaller fee for the game now (while it’s still being developed) and get access to the game through its various stages of completion until it’s finally ready for release. It’s a pretty alright idea, as long as it’s executed properly.

People who buy into Early Access games are promised frequent updates in exchange for their continued support of the game. These games are being purchased by people with massive parts missing. Some games, like Don’t Starve for example, were still worth their price when they were in Early Access. I was impressed with how it was reviewing and purchased it. But this isn’t always the case. You can go through the pages and pages of Early Access games and see how people who have purchased these unfinished games and see the scathing reviews they’re getting. Games aren’t being updated and are still unplayable.

I’ve got genuine concerns for this trend of games boasting finished game price tags, but are only sending out half a game. Most developers stay true to their promise of completing a game, and it gives gamers a better understanding of how games are actually developed, however there are a lot of developers in the Early Access section who has little experience in development and publishing, setting themselves unattainable goals and inevitably tricking their customers into buying a game which will never be finished.

Maybe I’m too cynical about these practices and I’m entirely wrong, but the evidence seems to point in my favour. It’s interesting to see how gamers investing their money into games has changed the industry and I can only hope that it continues in a positive fashion.

PAX Australia 2014 Survival Guide: The PAXening

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Last year, I made a post about preparing for the upcoming PAX Australia convention. I drew on knowledge I’d gathered from other events I’d been to, and asked people who’d been to PAX cons in the US for advice. All my research still didn’t prepare me for just how massive those three days are! Now that I have some firsthand experience, I’m hoping that Survival Guide 2.0 helps new attendees and seasoned con veterans prepare for the event.

Hotels

With PAX Australia being just over two months away, getting any last minute accommodation sorted out would probably be a good idea. Hotels near the area would fill up fast, so look for ones near public transport (see below) for an easy commute. If you’ve already got your accommodation organised, call your hotel/motel/etc about a week before to confirm your booking and check in times. Some places have late arrival times, so knowing what time you can dump your luggage is going to be handy. Make plans if you’ve got some time to kill before you can get into your room.

Travel to/from PAX

The closest airport to the event is Melbourne International Airport. As well as having rental car and taxi options for your convenience, there’s also the Skybus which travels to the city centre from the airport every 10 minutes. The timetable and routes are available here.

This year, PAX is being help at the Melbourne Convention and Entertainment Centre (MCEC), which has five paid car parks scattered around close-by. These car parks are owned by Wilson and can get kinda pricy. ($12 an hour pricy) Carpool if you’re driving and split the cost. As the MCEC is a major convention centre, taxis ($$$), trams, trains and busses are all available and will have a stop close to the centre. Investing in a Myki and having credit loaded on to it will save you time and stress. Check (and double check) routes from where you are to where you need to be.

Getting lost sucks.

Getting lost in an unfamiliar city sucks more.

Tickets

Tickets for the event have sold like hotcakes. 3-day passes are sold out, as are Saturday day passes. International 3-day passes (for those of you flying into the country) are still available, as well as Friday and Sunday day passes.

What to wear

Enjoying yourself is key at events like this, but Melbourne is notorious for its temperamental weather. To avoid some of the PAX Plague, you’ll need to dress and pack accordingly. (Edit: A commentator on Twitter mentioned that when it rains, it pours in Melbourne. Take an umbrella or one of those $2 ponchos.)

Shirts: T-shirts are always comfortable and you’re bound to have a few favourite nerdy shirts lying around.

Pants: Jeans will keep you warm while you’re outside but aren’t going to overheat you while you’re inside. Let’s face it, you’re going to be doing lots of different activities (walking, sitting, gaming) and you’re going to need something that moves with your body. If you wanna wear skinny jeans, you might find they’re a little difficult unless they’re a day old or so.

Jumpers/Jackets: This is where things get difficult. A warm jacket is great for when you’re waiting for transport outside or outside the event, but they can be bulky. Try for something that you’re not going to be bothered carrying around with you all day and night. If you can put it in a bag (or tie it), the better. Same with any accessories like scarves and beanies. Any extra bulk is extra weight that you’re going to have with you the whole day.

Shoes: Whatever you know you can walk in for 8+ hours. It varies from person to person.

Note to Cosplayers:

Cosplayers, remember a jacket at least or layer up so you don’t fall into the same trap I did the first time I cosplayed Black Canary and end up with some kind of death plague because you didn’t dress appropriately.

PAX has some rules about what cosplay weapons you can and can’t bring into the convention. Information is available on the official website, and the Penny Arcade forums.

The organisers also say “Cosplaying attendees may be asked to alter or modify their costume if it is considered to be overtly sexual.” More information about this is available on the official PAX website, under the “Booth Babes” heading. These rules are to make sure that the event is enjoyable for everyone, since PAX is still a family event.

Planning ahead

Planning can be what makes or breaks your weekend. Last year, one of the few complaints people had with the convention was the size of some panels and how long the queues were. Deciding what, who and where you want is going to give you a fighting chance at seeing everything you want. The schedule is available here.

The Guidebook app was a miracle last year and I’m expecting the same this year. It’s available on Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry so everyone is covered. The MCEC website also has a map of the area, which can help plan where you want to meet up with friends. Edit: PAX released their map of the event, available here.

 

Keeping Fed/Watered

The days will be VERY long and it’s important to keep your energy up.  Keeping yourself fed and watered is going to make sure you’re going to have the energy to get through the day. Make sure you’ve got a bottle of water in your bag so you’ve got something to sip other than energy drink and Coke is going to make sure you’re always hydrated. Lunch and snacks are going to be your major issue.

Either bring food with you, or bring some money for the stuff that the cafes that the MCEC is going to have available. Having cash on hand is going to come in handy for the whole event, but having it with you to buy a quick bite is going to save you bank fees and a lot of time.

The south wharf promenade along the Yarra River has a great selection of bars and restaurants for you to grab a bite to eat during the day. Melbourne is famous for its bar scene, with some of the best places to eat and drink being in the city. PAX have organised a discount for PAX attendees with the owners and licensees of the venues!

Edit: A friend mentioned the 4-2-1 rule.

4 hours sleep (it’s a LONG weekend.)

2 square meals a day (actual meals, not snacks or something)

1 decent shower (for the sake of everyone)

Finally

Remember, have fun! That’s what is most important. There’s tonnes to do over the weekend in and around the event itself so be on the look out for cool stuff to do so enjoy the weekend.