Azubu Korea Closes It’s Offices

Just heard news that Azubu Korea have stated they will be closing their offices and as such laying off all of their employees as of today (June 28th). They have stated that they will continue to support Team Azubu (StarCraft 2) via its German HQ, although it is currently unclear how much longer other aspects of the company may exist for (streaming, media services, etc.)

While I am not an avid follower of StarCraft, I wish the employees of Azubu Korea the best of luck; it really does suck that the rug has been pulled right out from under their feet with less than 24 hours notice.

– FA.

Steam Summer Sale/Don’t Starve. NOW. Quick Update from Me.

Sweet lord of Gabe Newell, I need Don’t Starve in my life. Praying to the Steam gods that I might have it blessed upon me. If not I’m gonna flip my desk.

Just a quick update, I’m working to try and come up with some concepts for articles that will have more of a wide-spread interest — I don’t want to consistently review small-time Indie games as, while I like to bring these things to the masses, I don’t feel as though people are overly interested after a few, so I’m going to try and space them out. In the meantime, I have an idea or two for an editorial I hope people might enjoy.

– FA.

Cubes Are A Man’s Best Friend; Thomas Was Alone Review

When I set my controller down after a play-through of Valve’s massively successful Portal 2 sometime in the summer of 2012, it bemused (and to an extent, amazed) me that so much story could be packed into a box. A box has no emotion. No feeling. No place in the realms of “story”, and yet, incredibly, Valve had got me. The box I refer to, of course, is the infamous Companion Cube. A square with a love-heart that doesn’t have a single line of text or audio throughout the Portal series, and yet incredibly manages to be one of the most successful icons in gaming today.

Simplistic yet powerful when incorporated into the story of the Portal series.

I’d like to begin this piece by saying that I’ve played many games that can claim to have far more “developed” characters than what a cube may be considered to be. Take Infinity Ward’s latest effort, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, as an example; a game that featured some of my favourite characters of any FPS I’ve played, and they still couldn’t manage to hold a torch to a singular cube.

Its with some level of disbelief, then, that when I sat down to play Mike Bithell’s 2012 game Thomas Was Alone a few weeks ago, that I found myself engrossed in a story based solely off the journeys of not one, but an entire group of cubes.

Beginning life as a Flash game in 2010, Thomas Was Alone is a story based upon a computer mainframe. Within this mainframe, the AI, or artificial intelligence, has gone on the fritz, and given life and personality to multiple cuboids. What follows is a platforming adventure quite unlike any other. Centered around the antagonist (I never thought I’d be calling a cube that) “Thomas”, each cube has their own powers that make them unique. For example, Thomas is a relatively average cube that can jump a medium height, but cannot fit through gaps that the smaller cube “Chris” is capable of fitting through. However, Chris is only able to jump half the height of Thomas, and requires Thomas’ help throughout the game to help him reach higher ledges. “John”, by comparison, is a tall, yellow rectangle that is able to jump much higher than Chris or Thomas, but is incapable of fitting through most gaps the game presents him with.

Some of the characters from Thomas Was Alone. That’s right, I said some.

Stick with me; I know this is sounding bizarre.

So I know by now you’re thinking “Hang on Avenged, these are just cubes that jump around platforms. How on earth can there be any sort of personality behind that?”, and without the expert narration of comedian Danny Wallace, I’m almost certain that Thomas Was Alone would be half the game it turned out to be. The mechanics are fine, the game-play is great, even the background ambiance is perfectly okay; in-fact nothing in Thomas Was Alone is particularly bad, but its Danny Wallace’s amazing voice acting that bring the characters to life. Chris is no longer a stumpy red cube, but is instead a know-it-all that believes Thomas is a big-head. Later in the game you meet a character named “Claire”, who, at first sight is simply a large, blue square. You soon learn however, that Claire is capable of moving through water – something the other cubes cannot. This brings a whole new edge to Claire as a character, as she believes herself to be a superhero, able to save her fellow cubes from the perils of the water by ferrying them across.

Claire in all her glory.

What turns Thomas Was Alone from your typical 2D platformer to a true work of art, then, isn’t the art style. It isn’t the audio direction. In honesty, even the game-play, while addictive and interesting, isn’t really anything we’ve not seen before. It is the characters, and the bonds you will inevitably form with them throughout your adventure (and you will, trust me) that truly creates an unforgettable experience. Whether its listening to the inner workings of Chris as he valiantly tries to look better than “that guy” Thomas to impress a fellow cube, or watching Claire chime away as she ferries her fellow cubes from point-to-point, gloating mindlessly to herself, it is this aspect that truly allows Thomas Was Alone to transcend its peers and become a platformer that deserves to be experienced by players of all ages.

They say that big things come in small packages, or in this case, a band of unlikely cubes. It may not have grandeur landscapes or a soaring soundtrack, but when you’ve got charm and grace by the bucket-load, is all that really necessary? Take the time to welcome a few more cubes into your life, and you never know; they may just become your companions too.

Should I play this title?: Yes.
Most appealing quality?: The characters are memorable and incredibly well filled-out.
My personal rating: 10/10. A flawless platforming game while it lasts.
Price at time of writing: £5.99 [Steam]. Worth every penny, although I have seen it for cheaper.

Thomas Was Alone is a 2D Platforming game that is available now on PC, Mac, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

All content is used with the consent of Mike Bithell.

Editorial: Violence in Video Games; The Media Storm

Hey guys, Fully Avenged here. Today I wanted to discuss a topic that I’ve followed very closely for the past couple of months/years. Its a pretty sensitive topic and something that I’m well aware is a very difficult thing to write about, but please keep in mind the opinions expressed inside are entirely that of my own.

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Whenever I think about video game violence and the media attention it has managed to grasp in recent years, I can’t help but think back to the first time I personally came into contact with a video game that may have been deemed “violent”. For me growing up, most of the big video games at the times were akin to Crash Bandicoot or Spyro, the sort of game that took stabs at violence, but in the cutest and most ridiculous manner possible. For me, violence never really jumped out because it never really existed on that level.

My first encounter of true – and I use that word loosely – video game violence, then, would have been Rockstar’s 1997 classic Grand Theft Auto. At the time, I struggled to see anything in it rather than over-the-top humor and general comical value. For those a bit too young to have played this gem; it was top down, and everything was essentially a square. You were basically a square blowing up/running over/shooting other squares.

This was the grand-daddy of “computer game violence” when I was growing up. (Source: Rockstar Games via Wikimedia Commons)

Grand Theft Auto isn’t the only Rockstar game to drum up significant controversy either; in 2003, Manhunt became infamous for causing shockwaves throughout the world, with several countries deeming the game much too violent to be played by its citizens. A mixture of stealth-based game-play and brutality, even to this day Manhunt is often nodded to when the topic of video game violence is brought up by the press.

Let us take a step back, though, to consider something first; in the 90s, running over people and leaving bloody smears on the floor may have been considered a little “close to the bone” for certain audiences. Even as recent as 2005, video games like Manhunt are contemplated as being far too grotesque in its violence for any person to possibly want to play. However, despite this, many of the biggest AAA titles released relatively recently have their main theme seated in violence and, more specifically, the brutality of war.

Gears of War, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield – these are the obvious games that everyone points to whenever the topic of violence is brought up. However, there are far more titles than this which incorporate violence in their game-play today; in fact, I don’t think I can list a game without any violence in it that I’ve played in my recent back catalog. While violence may be considered “taboo” today, it seems that now, more than ever, every single game wants a slice of the action; quite literally.

So what exactly am I getting at with this blatant display of violence throughout the years of video games? The point I’m trying to make is that just because violence is more prominent in video games these days, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t always been there.  I am a stern believer in the fact that in recent years, video games have become a scapegoat for violence throughout the world. In the 80’s and 90’s, it was music (for those who don’t know, listening to rock and metal music definitely meant you were Satan in disguise and therefore must be purged), while in the 2000’s, that responsibility has shifted to video games.

The problem stems, partially, at least, from the fact that video games are such a massive part of culture these days. While video games used to be a pass-time for specific people, where it was typically associated with adolescents living in their mother’s basements, these days video games are a much more accessible part of society. Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles can all get involved with their Wii and their Nintendo DS, and one of my favourite games of the moment, League of Legends, frequently breaks five million concurrent players. While this is fantastic news for the developers, it also means its far too easy to begin pointing fingers when the brown stuff hits the fan;

“This young man attacked another young man and he played Call of Duty, therefore this must be the root of the issue”.

Its truly a sad time when you can say that this is a “common” excuse for violence.

Excessive? Yes. Gory? You betcha. Realistic enough to be used in a court-case? Apparently so.

Back in April, I read a story that was featured on Kotaku that was perhaps one of the most convoluted and ridiculous blame-games I’ve ever seen in my entire life. In a shocking story, a 14-year-old teenager attacked a fellow teenager, slashing his throat so deep it exposed his windpipe. Coincidentally, the two boys met online in 2011, when they played Gears of War 3 together. Supposedly a “sour relationship” built, and when the teenager lashed out, Gears of War was the fall guy for everything that proceeded. Admittedly, two teenagers of this age should not be playing a rated 18 game and this raises moral issues, but we’d be stupid to believe that nobody under the age of 18 actively plays these games or that a simple connection of “meeting over a game” can be blamed for such a inhumane attack.

This, then, leads me to an inevitable conclusion; violence in video games may not always be a good thing regardless of how much it may bring to the impact of the game itself, but to believe that simply playing a video game like Call of Duty can trigger such a reaction in one person that they would go so far as to kill a human being without motivation is a complete leap of imagination that I think too many media outlets are allowed to get away with these days. Regardless of whether a murderer played Mario, Call of Duty or Pokemon, there is almost always something deeply rooted in the human psyche that causes this behavior; sadly these people just happen to be gamers too.

Does this mean that video games are the root of all evil as some media outlets claim, and the violence perpetuates a reaction that is frequently dangerous and unpredictable? Possibly. But I know one thing for sure – there’s no smoke without fire.

So please, next time you read some jumped-up article regarding how violent someone was made by a video game, just consider one caveat; in the first week of sales, Black Ops 2, the latest in the Call of Duty franchise, sold well over 11 million units. How many of those people do you think turn out to be violent, and how many continue to live a happy, normal life free of the senseless violence you so often hear about in these stories?

Many thanks for reading, and please keep in mind that, as previously stated, this blog is entirely my own opinion. I welcome any and all comments.

– FA.

[Source: Kotaku, Throat-Slashing Blamed on a Gears of War Relationship Gone Bad]

My plan for this blog

For a while now I’ve been meaning to create a blog through which I can talk about whatever I like; be that video game reviews, discussion or just general ramblings about events throughout the world. Hopefully with a little bit of time and dedication I can turn this into something worthwhile, so maybe go ahead and check back every now and again. You may find something worth reading.

– FA.