Hey Everyone, It’s Tuesday: Saying Goodbye to Ryan Davis, and Thank-you to Giantbomb.

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“Hey everyone it’s Tuuuesday!”

It’s strange to say that a website has changed your life. In more ways than one, the crew behind Giant Bomb have shaped the direction of my life profoundly. Tomorrow, I leave for a three week trek though Iceland, a trip that in many ways was sparked by Patrick Klepek’s stories of his own trip to Reykjavik; I recently changed my degree after being inspired by the video production work done by Vinny Caravella and Drew Scanlon; Jeff Gerstmann’s enthusiasm and criticism for videogames has kept me interested in the medium, even in times where I felt my interest in them waning; Brad Shoemaker introduced me to the strange, terrifying microbes and insects of the world; and for five years of my life, I, like thousands of others, waited each and every week to hear a funny, exuberant, sincere, and just plain awesome man named Ryan Davis assure us that it was, in fact, Tuesday.

And, like numerous others have said, today I cried over the loss of one of the closest friends I never met.

I can’t imagine what Ryan’s friends, family, and colleagues are going through. While I never had the pleasure of knowing him personally, I did get to spend a few hours each week listening or watching Ryan speak, and it was always a joy. He was someone I respected immensely. To have Ryan be a part of your life personally must have been something truly special, and I am sincerely sorry for the loss his family and friends are facing. If by any chance any of the Giant Bomb crew or extended family are reading this, I feel I speak for all fans of Ryan and of Giantbomb when I say we all loved that big duder and we are all with you in this difficult time. To Jeff, Brad, Patrick, Vinny, Drew, Dave, Matt, Alex, Alexis, and any and all past/current members of Giant Bomb, I hope you know that your work has touched so many of us in ways we can never fully express, and we are all so grateful of how much effort you put into the content you create for us. No other site, podcast, or community is quite like Giant Bomb, and we are sincerely thankful for what you do.

I hope Ryan knew that too.

Pour one out.

-Brendan

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E3 2013 — I’m back in on videogames, guys.


I Almost Went To E3 2013.

It was just about two months ago I wrote about my lack of interest in where the videogame industry was. My oh my, how things can change in two short months — or, more accurately, four days. Before I jump in to the convention itself, let me give you some context for just how big this E3 was for me.

About 3 weeks before the convention, I was offered the opportunity to attend the show (I know a guy who knows a guy). While I was initially interested in the idea, I ultimately turned it down, largely due to conflictions with work and class, but also because recent changes in my life led me to question whether I really cared about games all that much at all. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially my disinterest stemmed from a sense of stagnation in the industry, and a rather sinister notion that games were becoming a little too big — that gamers (and developers) were getting short shifted by console manufacturers in favor of  publishers and retailers hitting their projections and bottom lines. As much as I was interested in Xbox One and PS4’s next steps, at the time I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to actually go to E3, despite the offer I was given.

It goes without saying but holy shit did I make a huge mistake.

A Shot In the Arm; A Shot To The Head

E3 2013 was without a doubt the best E3 I’ve seen since I began following the event about 10 years ago, and arguably the most impressive convention since its inception.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that, if you’re reading this, you saw the conferences, read the previews, and watched and re-watched trailers over the past week. You witnessed every moment I did, and are probably excited about many of the same games as me — no need to recap the news or highlights. But I’d like to take a moment and talk about the things that really mattered to me.

Sony and PlayStation 4

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First and foremost, Sony. God damn, Sony. I was already interested in the PS4 after the February event (and even more so after the Xbox One reveal last month), but let’s be honest, Sony — no, ‘scuse me, Jack Tretton — slayed Monday night. I’ll admit, the always online and used game ‘controversy’ surrounding the Xbox One didn’t affect me, and in fact I found the entertainment-slant of the system to be far more offensive. Still, Sony’s showing of good faith towards gamers resonated with me. Sure, I’ll probably be mostly buying my games digitally from here on in, but the fact that Sony are keeping the option to buy and trade physical copies is a positive. Not to mention they’re launching at a whole $100 cheaper, despite being the more powerful system. I’ve heard some say that in those five minutes where the used games, PS+ cross over, no online restrictions, and price were all announced, that Sony won this new console war. Whether or not that’s how this all ultimately plays out, it was enough to completely change my feelings on console games, so much so that I preordered the PS4 the moment the press conference had concluded.

The Games

No matter how awesome any console is on its own, it’s nothing without games. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, but damn were there some amazing looking experiences on show this year. Here are the ones that really caught my eye.

 The week started out strong, with Microsoft opening their conference with what was my personal favorite of the show, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Open world Metal Gear, featuring Keifer Sutherland as Big Boss, and some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game? Yes. A thousand times yes. This is shaping up to be something of a reboot for the series as well; while it’s clear MGSV will maintain Kojima’s brand of goofiness and absurdity, the trailers shown at E3 also feature some of the darkest moments in the series by far, including torture, child soldiers, and a (literally) gut-wrenching scene in which a package is removed from Paz’s body cavity. Between the gameplay demoed and the the themes being explored in the story, MGSV is steadfastly affixed to the top of my anticipated games list.

Not only did Monday begin with a bang, it ended with one as well. Bungie’s gameplay reveal of Destiny was one of the first moments of the show where I started to really see the potential of this new console generation. Sure, it was a sci-fi FPS, but the scope of the world, the polish of the multiplayer gameplay, and the (again) the graphical fidelity on display really captured my imagination. Bungie has never let me down before, and I have high hopes for Destiny.

The third big surprise for me came in the form of Final Fantasy XV. I have always had an interest in the Final fantasy series, but the past half-decade for the RPG franchise have been rocky at best. After years in development hell, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has emerged as Final Fantasy XV. Yeah, it looked really Japanese — in a way that would usually turn me off from a game. But the speed of the gameplay, the design of the characters, and the setting the trailer took place in really grabbed me in a way few JRPGs (or, frankly, Square Enix games) have since the PlayStation 2. While at this point I am maintaining cautious optimism, I can see this becoming one of my most anticipated games.

Finally, in terms of “next-gen” games, The Witcher 3 sounds like it’s shaping up to be the fantasy RPG to play. It’s more than a year away, but early impressions from the show floor have been so overwhelmingly positive, with many stressing that the game is the best example of “next-gen” on display this year, my already-high expectations have only been bolstered. The previous games in the series are some of my favorite of the previous generation, and I look forward to closing out the trilogy with what sounds like will be a groundbreaking role playing experience.

But those four games weren’t everything; Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag secured itself a spot as my PS4 launch title of choice next to Infamous: Second Son. Sony’s support of indie developers was one of the PS4’s biggest selling points for me, and Super Giant’s Transistor was the highlight of their indie showcase; I’ve seen that trailer dozens of times, but it never fails to give me goosebumps. And, despite my tepid response to the Xbox One in general, Titanfall looks like an immensely fun multiplayer game, and I’m thankful I’ll be able to play it on PC as well. Finally, these will come as no surprise to those who know my taste in games, but Dark Souls II and Rayman Legends. That is all.

So many questions about the next gen were answered this week, and for me, the answers we got were beyond my expectations.

What Next?

Of course, in light of all my excitement, this does bring up personal questions: will I start writing about games again? Does this invalidate many of the statements I made just a few short weeks ago? Well to be honest, no, not really. I was compelled enough to sit down and knock out these E3 reactions, but I’m only now beginning to feel excited about games again after almost a year of struggling to stay interested enough to even play them. A lot of that was caused by forcing myself to pay attention to aspects of the business I really dispised, and try to play or be interested in games I had no interest in. I think I need to just enjoy videogames as a hobby for a while. However, that said, this E3 has sparked my interest in an ENTIRELY NEW aspect of the industry and games press. I’ll expound more about that soon, but I guess it’s worth saying that I’m not quite ready to write off the gaming industry as a possible career path, certainly not like I was a couple months ago.

Ironically, about a week before my “epiphany” that maybe games weren’t for me anymore, I finally bought a Playstation 3 and PS+ membership. Tomorrow, I will purchase and play The Last of Us and finally put some real use into the system. For some, the game represents the swansong for this console generation (they forget Dark Souls II is still several months out), but for me it’s the first step into the next generation, and I can’t wait to experience it.

Guys, I’m really excited about videogames again. It feels awesome.

Return of the old school RPG part IV: Might & Magic X Legacy

I am scornfully resenting my inability to have attended this year’s PAX East convention because there were some great announcements: SuperGiant’s next game, Transistor, was shown off; The official name for the Double Fine’s Kickstarter Adventure, Broken Age, was revealed; Capcom announced they would be remaking the classic platformer Duck Tales (which elicited such nostalgia-soaked hysteria from twitter it was almost allarming); but in keeping with the spirit of this column, I want to focus on one announcement in particular: Ubisoft’s upcoming Might & Magic X Legacy.

When the title leaked a couple days prior to the official PAX announcement, I figured it would be yet another strategy game spinoff Heroes of Might and Magic — which to be fair are absolutely great games, but they’re not exactly the old school RPGs. The role playing series as been on hiatus for nearly 12 years, ever since Might & Magic 9 hit back in 2001.

Might and Magic X looks and sounds undeniably old-school.The game take place in a massive world filled with indoor and outdoor dungeons to explore, turn-based combat, and a first-person perspective the dungeon-crawling series is known for. The graphics are lush and the art distinct and charming. From the sounds of the skill system and character building, it sounds very much like a classic dungeon crawler.

What surprises me most here is that this is Ubisoft releasing the game. At a time where most publishers are looking for massive hits and sure-things, Ubisoft seems to be striking a balance. Sure, they’ve got Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, and Splinter Cell as their big, primary franchises moving them forward, but other games like ZombiU, Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, and now this Might and Magic sequel give me the impression that the company isn’t quite as averse to new ideas or niche markets as other big-name publishers. I would have expected this to have been a Kickstarter project or an indie studio before I ever would’ve guessed Ubisoft was actually taking the reins. It gives me hope that maybe things are changing, and for the better. Between this and the recent announcement that the Legend of Grimrock folks at Almost Human are working on Grimrock 2, it looks like we can add dungeon crawler to the list of resurrected RPG sub-genres along with Rogue-Likes and CRPGs.

Until our next meeting, mortals!

Shootin’ the Shit: March 8, 2013 — Angry Mobs

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Hey! Been a while, how have you been? After weeks off, I’m finally getting around to posting again, and with that comes a new addition of Shootin’ the Shit. On the site itself, I posted two features, The Return of the Old School RPG parts 2 and 3, both of them follow up to my original from a few months ago. But that’s not all that happened this week.

News

So much has happened these past 5 days. It seems like almost every day this week has had a big story. With those stories, came droves angry internet mobs, so lets cover the big ones.

SimCity Launches… err, sorta

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So this week, the new SimCity was released. Despite relatively high initial critical praise, the always-online city building sim quickly came under fire once the the servers went public. EA’s Origin servers were bogged down by the thousands of players, rendering most unable to even access the game due to it’s persistent online nature — if you can’t get online, you can’t play. Moreover, many players found their save data lost, setting progress for some back hours. To combat these issues, Maxis (the makers of SimCity) removed a few features from the game to reduce server strain. However, anecdotal evidence seems to conclude that many players find the current state of the game unplayable in spite of these changes. Many, still, cannot access the game itself. EA has even ended marketing campaigns, and has asked affiliates to cease promoting the game.

The current state of the game led to some outlets amending their review scores to account for these issues. Some that were not privy to early review code have offered scathing reviews due to SimCity’s current state. This had led to major backlash; both against EA and SimCity, but also against the outlets themselves for amending scores. My opinion? I don’t think games — especially games that require a 3rd party in order to work — should be held to their scores. If the game is reviewed prior to release, but the retail version of the game is markedly different, reviews should reflect that. I don’t know what that means for reviews, nor how gaming publications should fix it, but I feel those that reduced their scores for SimCity had the right to do so.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Announced

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After being leaked earlier last week, the veil was finally lifted on the new Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. We learned the new game will feature Edward Kenway, grandfather of ACIII’s Connor Kenway, and will be a more open-world focused game. Set in the Carribean in the early 1700’s, ACIV seems to be a pirate game first, and assassin game second. Certain key Assassin’s Creed features, such at the notoriety system, have been removed in favor of more expanded nautical gameplay from ACIII, and numerous pirating activities to indulge in, including treasure hunting, naval battles, exploring ruins, under water sections, shark fighting, and whale hunting, not to mention non-linear assassination missions. However, these promises have been met with some skepticism, especially after the tepid critical response to ACIII.

Personally, I feel both Assassin’s Creed II and III had their issues. Despite this, I still feel both are great games, though I would never have expected to be excited about the franchise again. Despite all this, here I am eagerly awaiting Black flag. I’m a sucker for nautical themes and open-world games, and the fact that Black Flag seems to be focusing on pirates more than the assassins is a plus for me. However, it does make me wonder if this wasn’t an entirely different, non-Assassin’s Creed game before at some point. Still, I’m up for a good pirate game, Assassin’s Creed or otherwise, so count me in.

Big news for RPG fans

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I’ve already covered the week’s big RPG news in my Return of the Old School RPG parts 2 and 3  this week, but just for reference:

  • Richard Garriott has announced a new medieval RPG project, Shroud of the Avatar. The game has a new Kickstarter page as well.
  • inXile, the dev studio behind Wasteland 2, launched a kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spitirual seuql to Planescae: Torment. It surpassed it’s funding goal in a matter of hours, and broke $1.5 million in less than 12 hours.
  • A brandnew video showing off Shadowrun Return‘s Alpha gameplay and combat has surface and it looks awesome.

My response to all this?

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Videos

  • Not a whole lot was watched this week. However, Anita Sarkeesian released her first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games. It’s received quite a mixed bag of responses  some of which make me feel a little ashamed I consider myself part of gamer culture. Anita is a hardcore gamer, and very obviously cares about this medium, but her criticisms are sharp, sobering, and valid. While the video doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the conversation, it does articulate many of the issues of women in gaming very well:
  • If you still haven’t watched the new gameplay video for Shadowrun Returns, you should hurry up and get on that:

Words

  • Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera wrote an interesting piece regarding videogame difficulty and aging. I might only be in my early twenties, but I found parts of his editorial to be universal, as many of the thought’s he’s had (“what will be my last videogame”) have been thoughts I’ve legitimately had in the few few months, especially in moments where the industry seems to crumbling.
  • The review that started it all: Polygon’s SimCity review and subsequent score amendments. This has been the epicenter for much of the story, garnering both criticism and praise from fans and other writers, and even understanding on behalf of EA. While the entire thing is tragic, it serve as an example of why ubiquitous always-online gaming isn’t yet a feasible option.

Misc.

That’s really all I have to offer this week. It’s certainly been an interesting one — one that’s certain to define the tone for the entirety of 2013. I always figured it’d be a big year, but I didn’t realize just how many things we’d be talking about.

A short word about Power Cords: some may be wondering why we’re not using The Cascadian Crew or why we resumed posting here. Primarily, it’s because we wanted a more focused outlet to talk about games and media in a tone that we feel clashes with the concept behind The Cascadian Crew. While it offers us a broader range of topics, we felt fully articulate our thoughts on gaming and film in exactly the ways we wanted warranted resuming posting here. Personally, for a few months I questioned my investment in gaming, and was struggling to find the motivation to cover stories or even play many games. Fortunately, between the announcements of the PS4 and plenty of exciting new games, as well as the success story of several indie project and crowd funding campaigns, I’ve once again found myself compelled to write about not just the industry, but games themselves. I aim to continue this new-found motivation.

While it’s mostly been just me these past few weeks, I’m working hard to get other projects rolling with other memebers across the entire Cascadian Crew. I have some new ideas, some of which my result in changes. However: Power Cords will not be chaging. Other than some possible changes to the layout, and perhaps even some new writers and the return of others, Power Cords will remain. We realize we have to work to get back the readership we had at our peak last year, but I feel we can get there in no time. Thanks to all of you who still read, like, and comment — we promise we’ll have more content for you in the future.

Anyway, that’s it for me this week. Keep an eye out for a new Gaming Journal post this weekend. Otherwise, we’ll see you next week!

Return of the Old School RPG Part THREE!? — Richard Garriott and Shadowrun Returns

Shroud of the Avatar

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There is probably one name more synonymous with old school role playing games than any other: Richard Garriott. He pioneered the idea of games as worlds, crafted the earliest CRPGs with the Ultima series, and sparked the MMO genre with Ultima Online. Hell, he even was the first guy to sell a game in a box. He’s a pretty important dude, in RPGs or just gaming in general.

Admittedly, I haven’t played nearly as much Ultima as I probably should have. In fact, other than a few brief hours with a couple of the games, the series is pretty foreign to me. For me, names like Chris Avellone, Feargus Urquhart, or even Todd Howard carry more weight when attached to an RPG project.

Nonetheless, in the world of RPGs, when Richard Garriott speaks, people listen. Today, he called down from the mountain tops, announcing his own crowd funding campaign for a new multiplayer RPG, Shroud of the Avatar. The game seems to be a split online/offline game, and promises classes character creation, meaningful narrative choices, a fully interactive world, innovative PVP, and player-run homesteads and real estate. It sounds quite ambitious, and I hope the final product encapsulates all of Sir British’s ideas. You can check out more about the game on the Kickstarter here. While I may not be quite as excited by this news as many others are sure to be, it does drive home this idea that RPGs are really coming back; if Richard Garriott is making a medieval role playing game, then the future must be bright.

Check out the Kickstarer here.

 Shadowrun Returns

While Garriot’s Shroud of the Avatar and inXile’s Torment: Tides of Numenera are in the early stages of development, some of these Kickstarter role playing games are finally beginning to show some real progress.

One game in particular is Harebrained Scheme’s Shadowrun Returns. Shadowrun is another series I have little experience with — I never played the original RPG, nor the online FPS that was released a few years ago. However, Shadowrun Returns looks to be a promising game. The developers have released a new gameplay video showing off some alpha footage of the new game along with some commentary. The art style looks great, and the tactical combat seems fun — very reminiscent of the original Fallout games. Plus the setting is awesome (cyberpunk elves? Street samurai? Sold). Peep the video below. I highly recommend it; I’m not sure how this game has flown under my radar for so long, but it is now among a growing list of exciting RPG projects coming in the next few months/years.

You can check out more Shadowrun Returns here.

RPGs seems to be a growing topic of conversation here on Power Cords. While I’m really excited about that, I’m also going to try to get some other topics/voices going again too. At any rate, you can be sure that if anything important occurs in the world of RPGs, I’ll have something to say about it.

The return of the Old School RPG part 2 — Torment: Tides of Numenera

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Perhaps one of the single most exciting videogame announcements of the past several years occurred a few weeks ago. A spiritual sequel to one of the greatest games ever made, Planescape: Torment, will be appearing in the form of a new, isometric CRPG called Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Today, inXile — the development team behind Torment, as well as the upcoming Wasteland 2 — launched their Kickstarter campaign, aiming to fund $900,000 over the next 30 days, surpassed its goal in under six hours, and at this time has raised over $1.5 million from 28,173 backers, myself included. Obviously, as an RPG fan I am ecstatic; as a Planescape: Torment fan, I am thrilled. To hear that the development team features many of those who worked on the original game, and that they are working hard to create and world and story full of depth, drama and truly mature philosophical questions is not only reassuring, it’s exciting. It’s even been endorsed by Chris Avellone, director of Planescape: Torment, himself.

Here’s a brief excerpt of the game’s story from the Kickstarter page:

You are the Last Castoff, the final link in the chain of the lives of the being they call the Changing God. He once was a man who discovered a way to use the relics of the ancients to cheat death and skip across the face of centuries in a succession of bodies. But he never knew that his bodies lived on as his consciousness fled, a new consciousness arising in each. Now he has awakened an age-old enemy, the Angel of Entropy, and his days of change are gone as the Angel hunts him and all his works. That includes… you.

That sounds awesome.

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I’ve written in the past about my love for various RPGs, as well as my excitement that the genre is making a comeback in a big way. By that I don’t mean in terms of games like Mass Effect or Skyrim selling extremely well and being fantastic games, but also in the fact that classic styles of role playing games are making a comeback thanks to the like of Kickstarter. Obsidian’s Project Eternity, and inXile’s Wasteland 2 and now Torment: Tides of Numenera are exactly the kinds of games I want to be playing. Sure, I’m excited for the PS4; I’m happy the Thief series is returning; and yes I love the idea of Assassin Creed IV’s open-world pirate adventure; but Torment: Tides of Numenera is bar-none the single most exciting game-related announcement this year (now, if Dark Soul II had been announced this year instead of last year, it might have been a closer call).

Thanks to these successful Kickstarter projects, I’m getting the opportunity to play (and by extension, help create) exactly the kinds of videogames that I want to exist. Of course, this is taking it on faith that these games will be good, or even come out in the first place. But even if they fail to live up to our expectations, the fact is that these projects give me hope that videogames aren’t on the verge of some sort of massive collapse — or worse,  water-down homogenization — and are instead evolving and splintering into sub-communities much like other artistic and entertainment mediums. That’s a future I can get excited for.

Check out inXile’s Kickstarter page for the game here. And while you’re at it, you might as well go buy the original Planescape: Torment for cheap on gog.com because it’s a great game.

Reacting to Sony Meeting 2013: The PS4 is Real.

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And there you have it.

The PS4 is real; it’s powerful, it’s innovative, and easy to use for both developers and consumers, and we’ll be playing it this Holiday season.

But most importantly, we saw games. New game, new IP. Sure, there were sequels, but there were so many amazing looking announcements. I’m still processing and decompressing — that was a solid 2 hours of impressive footage and exciting ideas. I don’t want to over-hype it, but the system sounds impressive. It ‘s seems like a truly next-gen machine, and Sony has clearly made some important partnerships. There are still questions — most notably price, exact release date, and form factor — but we also got a bunch of great things to look forward to.

I wonder what Microsoft will do. But right now, I’m just very happy about what we saw. The developers showing off their games, and talking about how easy to use the hardware is were really good to hear. I’m just very pleased with what we saw. I’m excited for E3 and getting more info because right now, I can see myself owning a PS4 and getting a lot of use out of it. I may even buy a Vita.

Sony’s Big Announcement: Will it Bring Innovation, or More of the Same?

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Today’s a big day; Sony is poised to announce the “future of Playstation” in just a few short hours. We can only assume this means the next Playstation console. I’m very excited, not because I’m foaming at the mouth for a new console, and not because I’m a Sony fanboy  (I haven’t owned a Sony device since the PS2/PSP days); it’s because finally, hopefully, I’ll start to see the changes in video games I’ve been hoping for.

For the past few years, I’ve had a pretty interesting relationship with video games. Mass Effect and Metroid Prime got me back into games in a big way. I was given an Xbox 360, and for the first time in my life became a console-centric gamer. I now own my first handheld in close to 6 years with the 3DS. But at the same time, I found it harder and harder to find the types of gameplay experiences I wanted. I don’t care much for shooters. I don’t play much multiplayer. Neck stabbing or violent combos don’t sell games for me; and most importantly, I don’t play games on my phone. At times, these past 4 or 5 years, I’ve felt left behind in terms of the type of gamer I am and types of experiences I want.

It seems like the driving force behind a game today is “how do we make it marketable?” Who the fuck cares!? Games feel more like products these days and creative experiences. I understand this is a business, but for a while there I really thought we were on to something. I used to see games big and small being talked about as artistic creations, lauded for their creativity and innovation. Now I just see pandering and stagnation. I don’t mean to say that all the big game franchises out there are simply “products,” but from the way games are marketed, to the way they’re covered in the gaming press, to the way they feel and look, the entire medium looks dull.

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There are literally thousands of games out, right now, that you can go play and experience. Games from throughout the medium’s history, from a plethora of genres. There are thousands of unique characters to meet, hundreds and hundred of worlds to explore, and a near-infinite number of stories for you to create. But those games are out. We’ve played them. No matter how much I try to convince myself there’s change coming, it won’t: older games are irrelevant compared to the new Playstation; The Ouya won’t outsell the next Xbox; An iPad will be more appealing to the mainstream consumer than a game console. Maybe, these pandering money-grubbing companies will leave consoles behind and flock to tablets and phones. And though the PC and console markets will shrink, they could be home to the game creators who are interested in making interesting and creative adventures and stories for us to explore. Or, maybe, we’ll all just be playing Angry Birds on our TV’s for the rest of our lives.

Gaming has (hopefully) reached its peak. I say that not because I don’t want people to experience the creativity or innovation of videogames, but because I want the medium to stop caring about catering to the mainstream. I’d be more than okay if the next generation of consoles weren’t as ubiquitous as the Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3. Maybe the gaming landscape would become interesting again.

So here were are, mere hours away at our first glimpse of the next generation of consoles. Whether or not you’re a fan of Sony this is a big day. I am filled with hope and excitement, but also anxiety and concern. The seemingly immenent failure of the Wii U disappoints me because I felt the Wii U represented the type of innovation the industry was (maybe) moving towards. Now, I’ unsure.

I don’t know if I’ll be buying into the next gen consoles. I feel like I’ve been playing (or at least seeing) the same games over and over. I’m ready for new ideas. I’m ready to wowed. I don’t care how powerful these new machines are – I’ll always prefer PC to console in terms of processing muscle. I care about games and experiences. I hope Sony delivers.

Marshal’s Top 7 Films of 2012

2012 has been a phenomenal year for movies. Despite not being able to watch every worthy film I still had an excessively long list from the movies I was fortunate to watch. With that being said, I would like to reiterate that the movies on this list are the movies that I personally enjoyed the most out of the ones that I saw this year.

Before jumping into the list I would recommend checking out the video below. Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr. makes these amazing compilations each year of all of the films that have come out and it makes for a perfect reminder of all of the gems that we got in 2012.

 

 

And with that let’s move onto the list!

7. The Cabin in the Woods

At the bottom of my list sits Cabin in the Woods. Cabin in the Woods while at a quick glance looks like any other teen horror flick is actually more of a self aware mockery of the genre. You come into this movie easily foreseeing what is going to happen next and then it breaks the format and your mind starts to get blown. The movie has a really fun cast and is written by Joss Whedon and while arguably not a horror film it is easily one of new favorites of the genre.

 

6. Skyfall

Prior to this year I had not been sold on Daniel Craig as Bond. Casino Royale was fun but not spectacular and I honestly can’t even remember anything from Quantum of Solace. Let’s just say that after Skyfall I am now all on board. Skyfall was hands down one of my favorite Bond films ever. It found that perfect mix of old Bond style and that new dark and grittier tone. On top of that we get Javier Bardem playing an absolutely amazing Bond villain and the entire film just looks stunning. I can now safely say that I cannot wait for Craig’s next venture with the character.

 

5. Life of Pi

While I loved the book, movie adaptations more often than not miss the mark. That definitely was not the case here. Life of Pi was one of those books no one thought could be made into a movie due to major lack of dialogue and the fact that the majority of the film takes place with Pi by himself in the middle of the ocean with a tiger. Despite these challenges Ang Lee was able to perfectly retell this fantastic story while still maintaining all of the magic that the book had.

 

4. Moonrise Kingdom

 

This year Wes Andersen presented us with another one of his loveable and quirky films and like the rest of them it was glorious. Moonrise Kingdom has one my favorite casts in a movie ever and each actor plays his or her respective character stunningly. While the film did have a lot of big names in regards to older actors the story was in fact one of two kids in love creating a nostalgic tale of that awkward and passionate young love. The more I find myself thinking back on this film the more I feel wrong putting it only at number four but there really are just a ton of amazing movies this year. You can read my full review of Moonrise Kingdom here!

 

3. The Dark Knight Rises

I know I am not alone in the belief that Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are the best superhero films to date and this year we got to see the final installment of the trilogy. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is forced to once again take up the cowl as Gotham is threatened by Bane. While the Dark Knight and Ledger’s Joker were tough act to follow, we are given a movie which does so swimmingly and a villain who is absolutely terrifying. The term epic is thrown around way too loosely these days but this trilogy and especially its conclusion I feel are more than worthy of the term. You can read my full review of the film here!

 

2. The Grey

Anyone who is curious why the movie about Liam Neeson punching wolves made it this high on the list clearly has not seen this movie. This isn’t just an action movie about men fighting wolves but it was the single most though provoking film I saw this year. The film takes a look at the nature of life and death while simultaneously providing an adrenaline rush of a thriller. Liam Neeson stars and delivers an absolutely stunning performance due to similarities between his character and himself. Hands down my new favorite Liam Neeson film and for the vast majority of the year the Grey sat in my number one spot.

 

1. Django Unchained

The reason this list took so long to come out was because I just had to wait for Django Unchained to be released. I am so glad I waited. Django Unchained follows in the same revisionist footsteps that Inglorious Basterds took and provides a bit of an alternative take on history. Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx play one of the best duos I have seen in years and their performances are only rivaled by the villains of the films who are played by Samuel Jackson and Leonardo Dicaprio. The movie is just so emotive, exciting, fun, funny and an absolute thrill to watch. I just got to watch Django within these past few days and have yet to write a review for it and I am not sure if I will because despite all of my best efforts I have yet to find or think of a bad thing to say about it. If I were to write a review it would be less of a review and more of a rant about why it is so awesome. Django Unchained is hands down my number one movie of the year and one of my new favorites of all time.

 

Honorable Mentiones

The Avengers

Looper

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Safety not Guaranteed

 

So these have been my seven favorites of the year. What were some of your guy’s favorites? What were some of the movies that you feel deserve a spot on here? Leave your thoughts and your own personal lists in the comments below!

 

 

Shootin’ the Shit: 2013 is going to be nuts.

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2012 is just about over. The holidays are wrapping up, the new year draws nearer by the minute, and we can start getting excited about the coming year. I’ve got plenty to say about everything from games to music to movies, so let’s take this one at a time. First off, games!

Games in 2013

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2012 had some awesome games, but 2013 is going to be a big year. We’re all anticipating announcements from both Sony and Microsoft regarding new consoles; Valve is hard at work on a mysterious “Steam box”; The Ouya promises to give independent creators a new open source platform; and Nintendo begins their first year of the Wii U’s life cycle. But none of that matters if the games aren’t good. We’ve got a year left with our 360s and PS3s, and my oh my, what a year it will be.

Obviously, the first quarter of 2012 is going to be insane and I could list a ton of great looking games here that will be dropping between now and March (Bioshock Infinite, Deadspace 3, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3) The rest of the year is shaping up quite nicely as well. However, I’d be lying if I said those were the games I’m most looking forward to. My interests lie in the slightly-less-than-mainstream sector of the videogame market, and these five in particular have me literally jumping for 2013.

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate – My love of Castlevania has been well documented on Power Cords. I love Symphony of the Night and its sequels, and the entire series is filled with great, memorable games. Even though I have some reservations about Castlevania: Mirror of Fate, I’m optimistic. A new 2D Castlevania is almost as exciting as a new 2D Metroid, and beggars can’t be choosers.  Definitely on my radar.

Sir, You are Being Hunted – It’s really hard to describe this Kickstarter-funded indie game. So instead, I’ll show you the video that got me excited for the game in the first place. Keep in mind this is an extremely early build, but it still shows what the game is going for.

Double Fine’s Projects – I’m gonna cheat — instead of talking about just one game, I’m going to talk about THREE! Ever since Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, Double Fine Productions have remained a favorite studio of mine. Thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, the studio is now hard at work on a brand-new adventure game. But that’s not all! In just a few days, they will be releasing their 2D adventure The Cave on Steam. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! The company recently lifted the veil on their internal design contest, Amnesia Fortnight. Aside from being an amazing community- and charity-building event, Amnesia Fornight gave birth to new projects. One in particular from a previous internal event, Brazen, is a Monster Hunter-esque action game where Greek-inspired heroes battle mythic beasts. All these games look great, and further cement Double Fine as an important and special studio. Actually, speaking of Monster Hunter…

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – While a lot of people (many Power Cords contributors especially) get into capturing and training pocket-sized monsters, I spend my time hunting and trapping giant ones. Monster Hunter is my Pokemon — or at least it used to be. I haven’t played Monster Hunter since the gen 1 games (Monster Hunter Freedom, specifically) but I cannot wait to get back into the series with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. And with Monster Hunter 4 hitting in Japan this year and hopefully North America soon after, there are plenty of epic hunts in my future.

Dark Souls II – The announcement of Dark Souls II took me by surprise; I wasn’t expecting a sequel to one of my all-time favorite games so soon. In fact, I wasn’t really expecting one at all. While some fans reacted harshly to early details about the game, this article put many of the concerns I had about Dark Souls II to rest. I don’t want an easy mode as much as the next guy (I sincerely doubt there will be one, just for the record) and I wish Miyazaki had a stronger presence in the design, but I haven’t been this stoked for a game in years. By far my most anticipated game of 2013.

One man's despair is another man's joy.
One man’s despair is another man’s excitement.

While those five may be the big ones for me, there’s more out there to be excited about. Phantasy Star returns with Phantasy Star Online 2. Retro Studios is working on a still-unknown project, and there are rumors of new Zelda, Donkey Kong Land, and Yoshi’s Island all on 3DS. And, if the promise Everquest Next pans out, it could be a truly revolutionary MMORPG. 2013 is going to be absolutely nuts. Oh, and there’s going to be another Castlevania game next year, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2So, yeah. Nuts.

Movies and Television in 2013

Movies and television are kinda Marshal’s bag, but I dabble. A while ago, I made the conscious decisions that film would take a back seat to my preferred entertainment medium, videogames. However, there are still some big movies and tv series I look forward to seeing. First off, Game of Thrones returns in April, and season 3 officially marks me not knowing what happens next in the series. Then, of course, the final season of Breaking Bad. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best crime drama series I’ve ever seen, and I’m eager to see the end. For films, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is my big one. It’s a year away, sure, but An Unexpected Journey was really good, and I’m excited for part 2. Finally, Guillermo del Toro’s next big-screen hit, Pacific Rim hits next summer. It may look like just another summer tent-pole blockbuster, but the Kaiju Monster fan in me sees something more…

Oh, and maybe show off more of the new Godzilla? Please?

Music in 2013

2012 was a pretty good year for music, but not amazeballs like 2011. In fact, it was kind of a lukewarm year, and I spent a lot of time with bands that weren’t the uber-extreme-disgustingly-filthy metal I’ve been blasting into my skull the past few years (check out my top 21 albums of 2012 here). I rediscovered my love for prog rock, stoner metal, and electronic music. In the past couple years, I’ve become a much more casual listener of music overall. Still, a bunch of great bands will be releasing new music next year, and I plan on reviewing and talking about these releases more actively.

New Year’s Resolutions

I want to read more. I was given a large stack of new books for Christmas, including a few new graphic novels. I enjoy reading quite a bit, and could really stand to spend a few more hours each weekend with a book. So that’s my new year’s resolution. I’m also making an effort to write consistently, but with so much excitement and what is sure to be a news-packed year, I doubt that’ll be much of an issue.

Power Cords in 2013

We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve got big changes coming up soon. In fact, we’re just a few days away from finally making our announcement. What will it be? You’ll have to wait and find out, but I can assure you we’ll have plenty of new things to talk about next year. There will be more features, more reviews, more videos, more podcasts, new topics, new voices, but the same passion and identity we do our best to create. I’m really excited.

And with that, thus concludes regular posting on Power Cords for this year. Marshal’s got a list or two saved up for you guys, so stick around for those. But don’t take our silence for laziness — we’re hard at work on our next venture, and can’t wait to finally unveil it!

Happy New Year, and best wishes,

-Brendan, and the Power Cords crew.