Happy Birthday!

I updated once, then once again in the same day?! Don’t worry, dear readers, I haven’t gone insane and you’re not stuck in a time-warp where weeks have become hours. No, I’m posting again because of one very special thing.

It’s Archive Crawl‘s First Birthday!

That’s right! My first post, a god-awful review of Questionable Content, was posted on my shiny new WordPress blog on March 23rd, 2010. Since then I’ve redesigned the site, did it again, and again, then moved onto Archivecrawl.com for my very own site. My writing has changed over and over again, drastically altering how the reviews were written. I’ve laughed. I’ve been down. I’ve persevered, and now we’ve hit 151 published pages and one year of running!

I really can’t believe that I’ve been at this for so long. It has been a blast, let me tell you that.

A few people to thank

  • I would like to thank my friends for putting up with me while I spouted off about my blog, back before I realized that no one wants to hear about it.
  • Many thanks to the folks at Complex Actions, Daily Quests, Motokool/Nerf This, Roscott Inc., Chimneyspeak, and TOGM for referring back to me. Those pageviews mattered more than you might guess. Sadly. If I’ve forgotten you on this list then I’m SO SORRY but I love you still.
  • Thank you to all the artists that create the works that I review, your coattails are very soft. Also, thank you for not getting uppity in the legal sense when things didn’t turn out for the best.
  • A special thank you to Talthos of Complex Actions, who was my first fan on the internet and inspired me to keep working on Archive Crawl even when I was gettingone pageview a day, if I was lucky. Yes, Tal, I know that sounds creepy. But it’s true.

And, of course, a thousand thanks to my READERS!

I know that a blog actually requires a bit of effort to read compared to your standard internet fare, especially my 1000+ word articles. I appreciate your soldiering through. I hope that it has been fun.

Cake for everyone. And let’s go for another year!


Let's Play

I haven’t been reading comics this week because my time has been split between studying and delving into the fascinating world of Let’s Play. So, please allow me to speak on the latter.

Let’s Play began as an idea on the famous Something Awful forums, where someone had the idea to record game runs not for competitive reasons, but as a form of entertainment or education.

LP is a form of theater gaming (that’s really the best term I could come up with) where a person will run through a game and record it via video or screenshots while adding commentary. It could be a “blind” run, where the person has never played the game before and records commentary while playing, or the normal kind where the LPer knows the ins-and-outs of the game and records after filming. Personally, I prefer the latter, they tend to be better thought-out and technically competent. More on that later.

I’ve watched and read some LPs in the past, and I found them interesting but lacking. After all, what is the point of watching someone play a game that you’ve already played or plan to in the future? It’s silly. Then I noted a few LPs that Yahtzee linked to and found new life for my interest. Oh, and I know that this sounds like I’m copying Yahtzee; his article just prompted me to finish actually publish this draft.

It turns out that I was looking in the wrong places. I thought that LPs were supposed to make fun of the game, and while that is certainly true, it’s not their only function.

I can best explain this by using the videos of Chip and Ironicus. I went through their videos for MGS4, a game I thoroughly played and enjoyed, and found a wealth of interesting information that I would have never noticed before.

Because, kids, there’s always going to be someone else that knows more about a game than you do. And while you could play the game with one hand in a strategy guide, it’s much easier to just watch the LPs. Chip and Ironicus have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the MGS series and was able to provide a ton of insight into the easter eggs and references that stuff the game to bursting.

And what if you are unable to get a hold of the game, but want to understand the culture around it? Or what if you have a sequel but not the original, and you are lost for plot? Both of those issues explain why I’m going through OatmealRaisin’s LP of the original Dead Rising; I have very little interest in actually playing it, but I want to see the good bits.

And that’s really what the good LPs do. They poke fun, yes, but they are there to show of the good bits and some of the laughably bad without making the watcher wade through the tedium. While LPs will never replace actually playing the game, it really does help flesh out the world in ways that you might have ignored before.

In all, it’s a fun timesink if nothing else.

The best place for you to access LPs would be the Let’s Play Archive at http://lparchive.org. It’s basically all of the LPs that the Something Awful forums collected over the years; it’s pretty massive.

Other than that, enjoy!

Vox Populi

A Monday post! I know, how odd. I had free time today, so I’ve decided to address an issue that I’ve wanted to cover for quite some time.

For those unfamiliar with the term, vox populi is a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people”. It’s a journalistic technique that used to involve walking around the streets and asking the same question to a variety of people to get their opinions. However, you can now see examples of the idea in the Twitter feeds that they run on news broadcasts or comment sections in articles. While it may be a ploy to get people to dedicate themselves to the station, the general idea is to let viewers/readers see the opinions of other people.

Here’s the problem: the vox populi is an idiot.

No, this isn’t a Randian push to say that I’m better than the people, not at all. However, I do know one fact: everyone that I know, myself included, are not educated or cultured enough to judge the world in that way.

Let me explain.

There’s two ways that this principle applies: news and culture. I’m only going to touch briefly on the news aspect, because there’s no real way to fix it. I’ve said before that reading foreign news sites has taught me that my local news stations edit the hell out of reality, which means that they should never be fully trusted. This is no news flash (see what I did there?) because the stations have been corrupt for a long time. However, I would take biased, yet educated news over biased and uneducated any day. Journalists might have a slant, but they’re also educated on the proper ways to analyze a situation in a fairly objective way, even if they don’t report in the same way.

The populi, on the other hand, will view everything through a thick filter and only have a brief flirtation with reality. The idea that humans never act irrationally in the end is completely true; someone might look like they’re acting oddly in the short run, but you can usually take their background into the equation and arrive at a logical result. This is one of the reasons why the two-party system has stuck around, everyone votes for what is best for themselves in one way or another.

Let’s make this simple: The economy. There’s a very good reason why you should value the opinions of a team of economists over that of your Aunt Mary. The reasons should be obvious.

Now, culture.

We all know that the Oscars are at least a little political. They’re also run by fairly respectable people that are well-versed in their field. I’ve been surprised at the recent turn in the awards towards more popular movies, however. While I’m not a hipster snob that rejects anything popular simply because people like it, I’m worried that the Academy is starting to cater to the masses. And like I said early, the masses are idiots.

Let’s take me, your lovely Cat, for an example. I haven’t read a proper book (save my goddamn textbooks) in months. Let The Right One In was the most “cultured” film that I’ve seen in ages, if only because it was dark and in Swedish. I’ve been trying to “broaden my horizons”, but my Netflix account will tell you what I really watch; listed from present to past: Futurama, Freakonomics, Law Abiding Citizen, Prince Of Persia, Let the Right One In, Darker Than Black, and Defiance. They were all good, yes, but I’m betting that there was better.

When you boil it down, I run AC to give publicity to webcomics that are better than their statistics figures. While the reviews are nothing more than my opinions, I’d like to think that I’m more knowledgable about them than the layman. Does this mean that I’m an authority on them? By the gods, no. I’m a blogger, that’s it, my opinions are pretty much shit. Yes, I appreciate that calling my opinions crap in a opinion piece is odd, moving on. However, I can see how reading all these comics has altered my perception of what is good or bad. I remember looking back on my Questionable Content review a month or so ago and having to remind myself that I once thought that QC was the greatest comic out there. Now, since I’ve grown from experiencing the medium, I can put down a slightly better piece than the layman.

The same principle should apply to anyone in the entertainment industry with a voice.

I have a deep respect for Roger Ebert. While he has come under fire for a few unsavory comments about video games, he’s surprisingly tech-savvy for someone from the 40’s and I love him for his movie criticism. Ebert has the rare ability to take a movie for what it is, which is more rare than you might think. He has no qualms about saying that a popular movie is crap while giving very positive reviews for relatively unheard-of flicks. It’s not because of his film critic snobbery that this happens, however, it’s because these movies deserve what they get.

But why does his opinion matter more than mine, or yours? It’s because he has spent years entrenched in film, learning what makes a good movie good and a bad movie… you get the point. I don’t have that experience, you probably don’t, and I can guarantee you that the vox populi doesn’t either.

It sounds like I’m drinking the governmental Kool-Aid by saying that we should be told what to do by people smarter than us, and that’s partially true. Bear in mind that I’m not telling you what to think, only how you get your information. After all, a lot of critics liked Avatar; I hated it. There will always be personal taste, and we will always have access to the stuff that is mainstream; no critic can stop that. Instead, we need critics, newscasters, journalists, writers, bloggers, sign-wavers, basically people that know what they’re talking about; they should be the ones to tell us what is good outside of the spotlight. Otherwise genius will go unappreciated while the markets will fill with utter crap.

Want Hollywood to become more “intellectual”, to go back to an era of “good movies”? Of course you do, it’s the top criticism of the cinema at the moment. Nothing’s going to change if you don’t research into what is good outside of the posters hanging in the lobby, or how much your buddy loved Avatar. Go see Black Swan instead of Take Me Home Tonight. Failing at that, well, there’s a century of cinema to experience, give it a shot.

Rift: Impressions

Well, all, I’ve been playing Rift and in lieu of a comic this week I thought that I’d go over what I thought of the game thus far. Bear in mind that I’ve only gotten to level 20 out of 50, so keep that in mind.

To start, let me say that Rift is fun. The levels are well-designed, and the quests flow easily into each other. The soul trees are fun to play with, and the instances fun. But let’s poke specifics, shall we?

First of all, the rifts. For those unfamilair with the game, small pockets of the land will occasionally get “invaded” by enemies from one of the planes. You have to kill the enemies at the rift to close it, each clearing resulting in another level of difficulty until the penultimate battle with whatever is hardest, then the rift closes and showers rewards on you. Even more to the point, the game will sometimes have major invasions, where a plane will attempt to take over an area, opening many rifts all over the map as well as putting in world bosses.

While the rifts are a fun idea, a single rift isn’t a lot of fun. While it’s great to solo them, they just don’t have much impact on the world. That’s not to say that they’re boring, not at all, just not as grand as expected. Well, except for the major invasions.

You see, invasions have something that so many games lack: a non-player force that can pose a legitimate threat. Invasions, if left unchecked, will completely take over an area, turning it into a blanket of death. Why? Because invasions can and will attack towns. While the first wave or two might be fought off by the NPC guards, eventually they will fall. The beasts can then destroy a stone that controls the town and set up their own “foothold”. Doing so claims the town for them, and prevents all the quest-givers and so on from respawning.

Let me tell you about my experience. I was in the third area of the quest progression (inc. the prologue) and the Death realm invaded. We didn’t have enough people to fight back, so they took over the area and destroyed all the towns. I had to group with a few other people to systematically take back the area, and it was awesome.

Now, the souls. Rift’s classes work different than the rest. While you do still pick one of the classic four archetypes, each “calling” has several souls that it can use, each different. At one time you can have up to three souls active, in a way that acts as a convoluted talent tree. As you level up you gain more points to put into your souls. As you dump points into the upper part of the tree, which contains the usual “+1% to health” and such, you slowly unlock the powers of the soul by filling in the “roots”. Basically, each new power is about 2 more points in the tree.

This leads to many possibilities for the specs, of course, but it also allows for a bit of cross-role movement as well. For example, I play as a rogue, which has the possibility to be the classic sneaky-backstabby guy, the hunter/ranger, or the bladedancer. However, you can also spec into a fairly competent tank, using dodges and rift-shields to overcome you lack of heavy armor. It’s a pretty innovative idea, since the leading cause of alting is to try out new roles. Why role a warrior when you already have a perfectly competent tank with your rogue? Hell, you could even act as a terrible healer if everything in your raid goes completely to shit.

So those are Rift‘s two big calls to fame. But what about the rest of the game, you might ask?

Well, I do like how the levels are designed, and how the quests flow into each other. There’s a very clear progression of quests, they almost lead you by the nose to the next givers. This isn’t a bad thing, I’d rather be on a rope than wandering around aimlessly, but it also has the problem of being terrible for alts. There’s one, and only one, leveling road in the beginning, so I hope that you enjoyed it because you’ll be seeing it again if you decide to roll a healer or whatnot. They are rather fun at times, though, putting you in legitimate danger and sometimes doing the “use” objective instead of just “kill”. The stories are pretty good as well, it definitely shines at moments. My favorite thus far was a town of disguised aquamen that sold things like rotting cheese and clumps of hair as well as potions because they thought it was normal.

Also, I hope you can round up 2.5 platinum to buy a horse quickly because you will do a lot of running. There’s only on port per zone, so you’ll end up running everywhere. Again, this isn’t bad, it allows you to get a feeling for the size of the world. It does get annoying at times, especially when you have to take a shortcut through a field since every non-road area has the mob density of Manhattan, but it’s acceptable.

However, I must say that the enemy spawning is crap. Enemies tend to spawn rapidly, and they have an annoying tendency of spawning inside aggro range of you. You’ll sometimes clear an area down to the last man, then have someone run up and shank you from behind because he spawned five feet away. Not good.

Like I said, Rift is fun, there’s no denying that. However, I worry about its future. Once the population evens out and the beginning areas are not filled with new players (hypothetically, of course, my server Nyx is dead) I wonder how the game will go. You see, there’s no LFG system for dungeons, which means that new players will have to group with whoever they can find. Remember how WoW was before LFG came in? Not good.

Also, the world events (Rifts, invasions) are based on the population of the zone. This makes sense, you don’t want one man and fifteen rifts, or a battalion of players and one minor rift. However, what happens when everyone gets spread out, leaving just a few people in every zone? Are the rifts going to still be fun? Are invasions still going to happen? Will people even care?

We’ll have to see. Still, it’s a fun game and you should try it.

Oh, and Guardians are for losers, Defiants are the cool, leather jacket-wearing kids. If you want to play on a PvP realm, please come to Nyx, we need the pop. And if you’re there, join <The Academy>, run by a very sexy and eloquent fellow named Catal whom I have no relation to. Okay, that’s a lie.