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The Deus Ex Bible

Something worth checking out for fans of the series who may not already be aware of it: The Deus Ex Bible. It may not be entirely relevant to the series as it is today, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I’m sure the people currently responsible for the continuation of the Deus Ex universe have read the original design docs or at least independently gathered what information is publicly available from various sources to draw from to some extent.

This document is intended to summarize the key backstory information behind the Deus Ex universe. It is comprised mostly of excerpts from the design documents of Deus Ex 1, with a few additions and modifications for the sake of maintaining consistency with the final game. The hope is that the amount of information will be helpful without being overwhelming.

Be aware that much of the backstory detailed below never made it into the final game. Some of the events described were intended to be missions (Texas, the space station, moon base, Mt. Weather; etc.), and a lot of that content either doesn’t appear in Deus Ex or does so in glancing, fragmentary ways.

What that means is that the related pieces of backstory should be considered truthful and should be supported whenever possible but not necessarily with religious fervor. It would be perfectly valid to re-imagine what’s really going on at the “moon base,” for instance.

This document was also used for the foundation of Deus Ex: The Conspiracy for the PS2, and will probably be used in some fashion forDeus Ex 2 to maintain continuity.

I figure my neglected blog could use some sort of new content, so why not post my impressions of the Thief reboot? I got this as part of the second Humble Square Enix Bundle that was available not too ago and skulked my way through it over the course of a week. I won’t go into much detail because this post is just supposed to be a brief overview of the impression the game left me with rather than a proper review, and also because nothing about it was memorable enough for me to go into much detail a couple of weeks after the fact.

Thief (2014) Screenshot

Before I get to what I didn’t like, I suppose I should get to what I thought was alright about this reboot. Visually speaking, it sports a solid look—from the environments to the characters, lighting, shadows, and art style. That’s not to say that it holds up in every regard visually; a lot of people don’t like Garrett’s redesign with a common complaint being his black eye liner making him look “emo,” but it’s not that hard to overlook if you don’t get caught up on it and you could even come to view it as something that makes sense given his chosen profession. The change of voice actor also didn’t really bother me, which is another hangup some people have when comparing it to its predecessors—other voices are either good or mediocre.

Of course, the audiovisual side of things is less important than the gameplay, and in that regard I found Thief to be underwhelming but (mostly) competent–from the mission design, to the sneaking mechanics, pacing, level design, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of what’s good about the game gets bogged down by various annoyances which include:

— Lots of repetitive forced animations. Grabbing loot, opening drawers and cabinets (many of which are empty and just waste your time), opening windows, enemy takedowns, etc. There’s also a long animation of Garrett moving a wooden beam out of his way that they reuse way too many times—sometimes they want you to mash X to move it and sometimes they don’t, although unlike the windows (more on those below) these are always used to section off map areas within a map or serve as a transition to a new area.

— There’s no indication as to whether or not a window leads to a lootable room within the map you’re in, or if it’s a transition to another area until after you’ve already initiated the animation; if you get the prompt to tap X it’s a lootable room, if you don’t it’s a map transition.

— I don’t believe the glow on rooms that strictly serve as loot locations goes away after you’ve cleared them and left, so you might end up going back into an empty room at some point if you don’t remember all of the places you’ve been.

— Somewhat clunky, limited movement. The context sensitive run/jump/mantle function screws up sometimes. There are areas you should be able to get to but can’t because the rope arrows only work at specific points. I understand the need to keep you caged to some extent, but there were times where I felt my options where limited when they shouldn’t have been.

— Cutscene direction and dialog was a bit stilted, the story felt like it wasn’t fully realized and the ending was kind of a mess. The only thing notable about the “Thief-taker General” is his massive bald spot and his penchant for being a douche, other than that he was just a one-dimensional filler character that never amounted to much and got too much screen time.

— Awful audio mixing; sounds cut off abruptly instead of fading in and out and there are inconsistencies in how loud some sounds are compared to others.

—I understand it’s a reboot and they want to do their own thing, but I wish they had kept the Order of the Hammer in as a prominent backstory element. They only ever really indirectly refer to the Hammerites when they reference “The Old Gods” and with the brief appearance of the hammer symbolism in a specific area later in the game, outside of that it’s pretty much been taken out of the lore.

— Lastly, and perhaps most egregiously; the guards don’t indiscriminately call people taffers.

I don’t have much attachment to the original games but this one still managed to disappoint me in various ways; however, with all that being said I didn’t necessarily dislike it, it just has some glaring faults and questionable design decisions which left me feeling like it was largely wasted potential—unfinished and average in nearly every way.

The tracks featured in this installment have a chill sound to them and incorporate elements from genres such as jazz and hip-hop.

Note: I usually try to link to videos on official YouTube channels to minimize the chance that they’ll be removed in the future, but unfortunately that’s not the case this time around.

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Today’s theme is electronic music with what I guess you’d call a “dark” or “moody” sound. This post only exists because I’m bored and doing this is more productive than staring at my ceiling fan, so I can’t be arsed to write a proper intro—deal with it.

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While I was born in the 80’s, it was too late for me to be a child of that decade—not that I’m lamenting that fact, mind you. Despite appreciating its weird obsession with dystopian futures (which I figure was influenced by a global recession, the cold war, and cocaine) I consider the 80’s largely awful; it’s synonymous with bad hair, bad clothes, and bad synths. How odd it is, then, that I’ve found myself developing a liking to some music which aims to emulate the sound of the 80’s.

If what I’ve embedded below strikes your fancy here are a few good places to discover more of this nonsense: LuigiDonatelloNewRetroWave, and Maniac Synth.

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The Things

This is somewhat old, but I just stumbled upon it recently and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wasn’t aware of it before. It’s called “The Things” and it’s a short story written by author Peter Watts which takes place from the perspective of the alien entity in “The Thing”. The entity perceives everything in the context of a creature that experiences life as a single unified being and its thoughts are all structured as if it’s a world unto itself. It talks about being separated from and rejoining parts of itself, talking about how it has assimilated parts from other worlds before becoming stranded on earth, not knowing how long it had been in its frozen slumber on our planet and whether or not parts of itself are still alive elsewhere in the universe. The entity also expresses confusion at the concept of individuality, later showing discomfort toward it and pity toward those whose existence the entity feels is limited by it. I thought it was an interesting take on the events of the film, attaching a consciousness to the alien makes it a little more unsettling than when it’s nothing more than mindless space monster.

You can read the original text version here, but there’s also a reading of it available on YouTube which has background music added to it that I thought was neat (Part 1 & Part 2).

I enjoy a variety of music genres so I figured maybe I can try to spread the love a bit and potentially expose someone to something they haven’t heard before. Of course, music, like many things, is highly subjective; what sounds heavenly to one person may be tantamount to a Baboon farting into a coffee can to another. That being said, If anything in this or future posts sounds like aural diarrhea to you that’s fine, it just means you’re wrong.

As the title suggests, the theme of this first installment is music with a soulful sound.

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It has been a while since I last posted anything on here, so I figured I may as well put something up regardless of how insignificant it is. I bought a Macatz TE-S Fightstick a while ago to aid me in my fighting game misadventures and wrote a really lazy review of it. In the time between then and now I’ve made a couple of modifications to it, one being that I dual modded it with a Phreak Mods Cerberus to add PS3 compatibility (even though I don’t have a PS3 and have yet to actually use it with one…¬_¬), and more recently I installed a clear plexiglass cover, custom artwork, and a new set of buttons with noise reducing foam padding. Everything was purchased from Focus Attack except for the artwork, which was ordered from Art’s Hobbies. The foam padding for the buttons makes for a noticeable reduction in noise, although it does change the feel of hitting the buttons and that took a little getting used to at first. The buttons aren’t any less sensitive than they were before, the impact of hitting them is just softened due to them no longer making direct contact with the hard plastic inside the button casing.

Super Meat Boy Arcade Stick

Considering my rudimentary image editing ability, I think it came out alright.

The Cerberus piggybacks on the original Madcatz PCB.

The Cerberus piggybacks on the original Madcatz PCB.

Note: Apparently I wrote this quite a while ago, didn’t publish it, and totally forgot it existed until now. So, I’m publishing it now even though this was written during an earlier phase of this games development and doesn’t necessarily accurately represent what the game is like today.

 

The original Tribes is revered as a classic among team-based first-person shooters and was one of the earlier games to feature large, open maps and player-controlled vehicles. It was followed by Tribes 2, which was somewhat panned by overzealous fans of the original (who were later sated by mods fixing things they felt were left out) and was generally well received by others. Dynamix, the creators of the series, closed down not long after the release of Tribes 2 and three years later the series was brought back in the form of Tribes: Vengeance developed by Irrational Games. Irrational had hoped to reboot the series, keeping the core gameplay mechanics while trying to retool aspects of the game to reach a wider audience. Series veterans found Vengeance to be unsatisfying due to it’s more confined levels and some scaled-back gameplay mechanics while garnering a mostly positive response from a more general audience.

Inferno, a map set on a volcanic world. Scattered around the map are pools of molten rock that will damage you if you pass through them.

After stagnating for several years the intellectual property rights to Tribes was purchased by Garage Games, a company made up of former Dynamix staff who sell an engine which evolved from what powered Tribes 2. Following their acquisition of the license from Vivendi Universal they announced plans to create a new game set in the Tribes universe; unfortunately, financial troubles resulted in them having to re-sell the IP, which is now in the hands of the creators of Tribes: Ascend, Hi-Rez Studios. Garage Games did eventually release a Tribes-esque game called Legions Overdrive, which is also free-to-play.

Ascend invokes much of what you’d want in a Tribes game; skiing across its eight maps with hills and valleys while trying to gauge the right amount of distance to lead the target you’re tailing so you can nail them with a Spinfusor disk is as good as ever, as is the feeling of satisfaction when you pull it off. The capture the flag maps feature vehicles and bases with generators and turret emplacements while the Team Deathmatch maps go for more of an arena feel while still allowing for freedom of movement. Sadly, base defense is less important than in previous games in the series which leads to games favoring offensive play than a mix of offense and defense.

Water skiing after some opponents.

The way Hi-Rez has chosen to monetize the game is by giving players the option of spending cash to unlock new classes, weapons, various upgrades, and cosmetic features. These things can be unlocked using experience points earned through simply playing the game, although depending on how much a person plays and how patient they are it’s possible that just paying to unlock something would be the “better deal”. Of course, this does bring up the question of the game being “pay-to-win”. If you took two players of similar skill, one who was unlocking things without paying and one who just bought everything, the person who paid would have an advantage; however, at this time I don’t feel like that advantage is so much so that it negatively impacts the non-paying customers experience in a significant way.

In the end it’s a respectable attempt at bringing back a classic PC gaming franchise. It’s not free of fault, but I’d say the good outweighs the bad, and one would hope that the bad gets fixed as the game matures.

You can visit the official Tribes: Ascend website by clicking here.

Retribution is the sequel to Blacklight: Tango Down, which was released in July of 2010 and was panned by critics and end-users alike; suffering from unrefined gameplay and controls as well as a lack of content it failed to make an impression and was an all-around flop. Retribution hopes to remedy that, and for the most part it does. Movement feels tighter, gunplay feels more solid, and the game as a whole feels more well-realized than its predecessor. The current release isn’t without its problems—on my system Tessellation is broken and a friend and I have also experience some rather peculiar hit detection lag which has caused some impossible looking delayed deaths, but outside of that it has been more stable than not.

You'll spend a lot of time looking down your weapons sights.

As of writing this, BLR sports several maps playable across King of the Hill, Domination, and Deathmatch/TDM gametypes. Microtransactions in the form of cosmetic and gameplay additions (weapons, attachments, stat buffs, etc.) are utilized to monetize the otherwise free game. There are a few items you can only get through paying, but the vast majority of them can be bought by spending experience points earned from playing the game, and if you’d rather not go through the grind you can opt spend cash to get what you want instantly. I have personally not spent any money on the game yet and have not felt like I’m at a disadvantage because of it.

Hardsuits can dish out a lot of damage and are strong against standard gunfire, but watch out for flame throwers and rocket launchers.

It remains to been seen how much they expand on the base game going forward and if they tackle some of the technical issues in a reasonable amount of time, but if you’re looking for a F2P shooter I would certainly say you should give Retribution a chance. If they keep the game fresh with content additions and a stable player base forms this could be something to keep installed for a while.

You can visit the official website for Blacklight: Retribution by clicking here.

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