Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Saga Continues (part 2)

Here am I back with part two of my analysis of the Metal Gear Saga. Since our last outing with our hero Solid Snake, Snake has infiltrated a warehouse full of nukes. He was told by the now-dead weapons company exec that he needs to find Dr. Hal Emmerich, creator of the Metal Gear project. After facing off against a ninja-cyborg (who seems to know Snake from somewhere else), our hero finds Dr. Emmerich. The Doctor, who prefers to be called Otacon, explains just what the Metal Gear project is. The project is to create a giant bipedal walking battle tank fully armed with nuclear warheads, able to fire its nukes from anywhere on the planet. Unfortunately Otacon thought the Metal Gear would be used only for defensive purposes, only now realizing that his project will probably be used for more something more nefarious. There are many parallels here with the guilt behind those who took part in the Manhattan Project. Not fully realizing the implications of nuclear technology, some of those scientists felt regret the rest of their lives. It's actually layed on pretty thick here, with Otacon revealing that his grandfather had been involved in the Manhattan Project and that his dad also just happened to be born the same day as the bombing of Hiroshima. Kojima seems to enjoy laying things on thick. As we saw with the eight minute long speech against nuclear weapons in our previous outing, Kojima really likes to drive the point home, perhaps even overshooting it a bit. It's like he wants us, the player, to know that he is specifically addressing us. This goes against the writer's adage of "show, don't tell". Sometimes it seems that Kojima would just rather tell us. It can definitely pull you out of the game.

And it would seem that Kojima likes to pull the player out of the game. Continuing on, Snake meets up with Meryl (pictured above), the Colonel's daughter (it's a long story but the Colonel who's giving Snake the orders has a niece who joined Fox-Hound before they went renegade). What's interesting here is Kojima's use of "self-reflexive awareness of the game as a game" (I stole this from somewhere else, excuse me). After meeting up with Meryl you exit out into a hallway. Meryl calls attention to the fact that guards are no longer patrolling the hallways, which she finds odd. Then Snake replies, "What happened to the music?" It's then that you realize as the player that the game is talking to you, because in fact, the music in the game really has stopped. The tense spy-action background music, something the player probably never paid much attention to before, has ceased playing. I had trouble finding a good clip of this, for now go all the way to the very end of this one to watch.

Imagine in a film if during a particularly quiet scene one of the characters mentioned that there was no music. How odd would that be? Then, just a few moments later, when you enter a new part of the building the music starts back up again. When you get a call on your radio, one of the characters working with the Colonel specifically asks you if you've heard any strange music lately, and Snake responds with something along the lines of "Yeah, when I entered this part of the building I started hearing a little tune". Kojima seems to enjoy playing with the person playing the game, and not just the characters involved in it.

There are a lot of humorous moments in the game too. I'll get into that more next time, along with a discussion of the lengthy cutscenes as I promised last time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Me and Louis Wu? Yeah, Weez Tight

Me and Louis Wu? Yeah, I know him. If you don't, he's the webmaster of, the main fansite for all things Halo related. His real name is actually Claude Errera, but no one ever calls him that (his name comes from a character from Ringworld. Halo - Ringworld, get it?). His website is basically the main hub of the Halo community, with daily news postings, discussions, and anything related to the world of Halo. Louis is in fact so well known that his name appears in the credits of all three Halo titles, even the first, and also had a character in one of the games named for him. There's even a whole segment on the special edition of Halo 3 where they visit his house and interview him.

Sometimes if I see an interesting bit of Halo-related news that hasn't appeared on HBO (as the fans call his site) I'll send in an e-mail with the news. So far I've managed to make the front page twice, here, and here (look for Herr Zrbo).

So this morning I saw an interesting bit of news, checked out HBO and thought that I hadn't seen it posted there, so I sent off a little e-mail to Louis informing him of it. After I sent the tidbit I checked out the site again and noticed that the news I thought I had heard first was actually the first news item of the day, having been posted a few hours before. Whoops.

BUT, I did receive an e-mail from Louis! It read:

"Was the first news post of the day - still on the front page. : )"

Yeah, that's right. I got a personal e-mail from Louis. Like I said - me and Louis? Yeah, we go way back.

Friday, July 18, 2008


This week, in the middle of the videogame industry's largest showcase, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a tragedy befell the videogame community. For the past few months Bungie Studios, creator of the Halo series of games, had been teasing that something new was in the works. Many speculated that it would be another entry in the Halo series. Last Friday Bungie put up a countdown clock, ticking down to Wednesday morning. Fans were ecstatic, on Wednesday they would get to see something new, something marvelous. That day never came.

With just 12 hours to go, the countdown stopped. A message appeared on Bungie's website from Bungie president Harold Ryan, it read:

"For the last several months, we've been building toward a reveal of something exciting that Bungie is working on. We were looking forward to sharing that with our fan community during the week of E3. However, those plans were changed by our publisher.

We realize that many of our fans are disappointed by this turn of events. Members of the Bungie team share that disappointment."

So Microsoft, the 'partner' mentioned above, decided at the last moment to pull the plug on the reveal. Fans went nuts. Websites went nuts. Even the LA Times went nuts, interviewing Don Mattrick (the strangest portmanteau of a name ever), head of Microsoft's Xbox division, who claimed that the reveal was pulled " help trim its E3 presentation to under 90 minutes, from 2 1/2 hours, to accommodate attention-challenged reporters. 'We had an embarrassment of riches', said Mattrick." Thanks Don.

So it looks like we'll have to wait to see what gaming goodness Bungie was going to reveal. In the meantime, please enjoy this video above - it's the funniest thing I've seen all week.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Herr Zrbo Calls It

Alright folks, here it is, I'm calling it. I'm gonna say the Mythic map pack for Halo 3 will be released September 23rd.

How do I know this when the map pack hasn't even been given the name 'Mythic', nor when any possible release window has even been discussed by Bungie studios? Well, with the release of 'Cold Storage' this past week for free (an excellent remake of the original Halo's 'Chill Out') Bungie has bought itself some time until it needs to release the next map pack. The last set of maps, the Legendary map pack, was released last April. We've got about two and a half months now until late September, the 25th being the one year anniversary of Halo 3's launch. Since new content is usually released on Tuesday, the 23rd looks like a fine day to release a map pack celebrating that anniversary. Considering that the map packs so far have been named after the difficulty levels in Halo, even though Mythic isn't an actual difficulty level, it's long been associated with Bungie studios.

You heard it here first folks, and if I'm wrong, I owe you a Coke.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Saga Begins

I've recently taken it upon myself to try out the Metal Gear series. Just a few weeks ago the final chapter of the series, Metal Gear Solid 4, was released. As I've posted before, it's been receiving rave reviews, with some reviewers calling it one of the best videogame narratives ever. After procuring (on-site?) a Playstation 2 and a copy of the original Metal Gear Solid (1998) I've begun my journey.

The man behind the MGS series is Hideo Kojima. He is both the creator and director of the series. One of the problems with videogames not being taken seriously as an art form could probably be attributed to the fact that games are made my many, many people, so there's usually no one identifiable person who leaves their distinctive mark or stamp on a game like there is with movie directors. This is not the case with the MGS series. Hideo Kojima, who is seen as a sort of auteur, is the driving force behind MGS. Some people think of Kojima as a visionary- a complete master of his craft, able to tell amazing, complex (actually, really complex) narratives. Others see his games mimicking cinema so much that they say he's in the wrong business, that he should be making films instead of videogames. For an interesting look at Kojima check out this article at the Brainy Gamer which compares and contrasts him with D.W. Griffith.

Metal Gear Solid starts out with the main character, Solid Snake, being given a mission to infiltrate a nuclear waste disposal facility in the Bering Strait which has been taken over by a rogue private military contract group called Fox-Hound, of which Solid Snake used to be a member. The game relies on you, as Snake, to sneak around and figure out what's going on.

What makes the game interesting, at least for me, is that the story is basically an analysis of the American military-industrial complex told from a distinctly non-American perspective. First off, the whole gameplay revolves around stealth. Fighting is usually a last resort, with sneaking around making the game much easier than if you try to fight everyone you see. I find this in contrast to most American made games, which usually have you shooting anything and everything, with violence being the easiest, if not the only answer. Whole books could and have been written on America's fascination with violence, but I think it shows here when your character doesn't fight all that much, even though you're told you're a top tier secret agent with deadly skills.

The other observation I've made so far is just how anti-violence prone this whole game is. There have been increasing anti-war/anti-violence themes and messages cropping up as I go along. Currently I'd say I'm a quarter of the way through the game. After rescuing a kidnapped weapons company executive (think Halliburton) the player is treated to an 8 minute long cutscene which goes into a whole history lesson about post-Cold War nuclear weapons disposal, how much nuclear waste is created each year, out-of-work Russian scientists looking for a job, and a whole diatribe on the evils on nuclear weapons. Watch it here (skip to 5:15 to get the real history lesson).

As the length of just this cutscene shows (and there are many more lengthy cutscenes), Kojima is fond of fashioning his games like they were movies, and that's what I'll explore next time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Im in ur internetz

From Gizmodo comes this great idea: Why have your wi-fi router named something mundane like '2Wire5420' when you could name it something more clever. Some of the examples they include are here for your enjoyment.

  • YourDaughterIsaWhore
  • Keepthatnoisedown
  • Thosepeoplein1583lookliketerrorists
  • YourWifeCheats
  • IHaveYourMail
  • GetYourOwnDSLCheapskate
  • MyNetworkIsLockedJackass
  • ISawYouNaked

So many options to choose from! Anyone else have any good ones?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Greatest Game of All Time

And now ladies and gentlemen, the intro to the game that sparked a thousand bases belonging to us - Zero Wing: