Posters and Sleep-Deprivation.

So, I had been meaning to post something here for a couple weeks now.

“Woah! Ben is having trouble updating the blog? It’s not like that has been the case since August, right?”

Right you are, truth-dropper. But tonight I find myself in the shitty position of having to stay awake. Everyone has their techniques to accomplish this, and for me it mostly means writing a bit and then playing a fuck-load of Mega Man. You know, apparently not having a regular sleep schedule can have a noticeable effect on how long you live? With my track record for sleeping at odd hours makes me believe I may have about 13 more years left.

Irregular sleeping may not seem like the coolest way to die, but your body will actually explode. So it’s really just a matter of timing your death for a concert or a job interview.

Anyway, a friend of mine gave me some Ralph Steadman posters for Christmas, and even though I’ve had them up for awhile now, I still like talking about them. Looking at them. Learning from them. So let’s do some of that!

Ralph Steadman, for you empty shells pretending to be people, is an artist who is most often associated with the illustrative work he did with Hunter S. Thompson. In fact, the first poster is of what is probably the most iconic image from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is book that will easily throw lump you in with a certain crowd in High School, should a teacher find you reading it. It’s very easy for people to see it as just a crazy drug story, and it certainly fills that role. It’s probably one of the funniest damn books you could read (with a pretty great movie to match), but the book had a huge effect on me as a writer. The story was humorous, but Thompson also wrote it so directly and with such conviction, that there was always a strong spirit to the words, even when there wasn’t necessarily a message.

He was trying to communicate such a bizarre story, and the illustrations from Steadman remind you how fucked up the ride really was. What I love about Steadman’s illustrations here is how everything is distorted and rather ugly, but it really stops itself from going too dark with it. Everything is just weird. It can be ugly, and it can even be depressing at spots, but it keeps going. Even when you really want to stop and make sense of it all, you may only be able to hold on for dear life.

Probably reading too much into it, at this point.

Now, this rabbit is easily my favorite of the two. Alice in Wonderland is absolutely one of my favorite books, and Ralph Steadman’s style really fits the insanity of it perfectly. What I love about the story is how insane everything and everyone is, but there is still an abundance of intelligence and wit to it all.

Once again, the art itself is distorted in Steadman’s style, but once again it’s not making The White Rabbit something dark necessarily. It hits that sweet spot where the rabbit isn’t natural-looking or cute in contrast to something like the Disney interpretation, but he’s certainly not obnoxiously goth either. He’s an insane creature that will lead Alice into an insane world.

There’s also significantly more detail to Steadman’s Alice in Wonderland drawings in comparison to his F&L stuff. I like the simplicity and feeling of every line serving a purpose, but somehow the rabbit still carries that for me.

So, yeah, Ralph Steadman is pretty cool. And even if these are just posters that cost a few bucks, I find them frame-worthy. They look awesome now that they’re up on my wall, even if I fear that the rabbit one has invaded my psyche a bit.

Totally worth it.

I am Forever, you could say.

I currently find myself trying to write this update, listening to whatever music I have on my computer that will allow me to “rock the fuck out”, and watching Ghost Adventures (easily the best show on television if you ever want to pick a fight with a ghost. Maybe one stole your girlfriend or something). So, seeing if I can actually write this update after neglecting it for months should be interesting.

Now, when it comes to Ben’s Laboratory, you might be wondering where the fuck I’ve been. Maybe this post is like hearing a window break for you while you’re lying in bed. You’re startled, and a little scared. You come downstairs to find me completely shitfaced, clearly struggling to combine “Honey Bunches of Oats” with “Milk”, a task so complex that it has reduced me to tears. With the powerful scents of booze, sweat, and the many things you may find at a strip club all over me, you want to call the police but you’re afraid that if you open your mouth and taste these unique aromas, you’ll never stop vomiting!

So, yeah, I was at a strip club for over two months. Back the fuck off!

But yeah, I’ve returned to the lab, and posts will pop up here again. I can’t say with what frequency, or even what the actual content will be. My video game writing is still being focused towards nJoystic, so that sort of turns this place into something more personal again. Where I can sort of talk about what’s going on with me (Damn it! The world must know!), and maybe try writing some different stuff outside of video games which I’ve been writing about for over a year.

Of course, there’s no rule that says we can’t talk about those either if I feel it’s not suited to nJoystic. Hell, we can talk about whatever we want here. Do you pee in the shower? That’s fucking weird and gross, but we can talk about it if you want. No? Well, have a few more beers and maybe you’ll finally open up to me.

I also won’t make a habit of plugging nJoystic on here much anymore, and I won’t trouble you with listing every single thing we’ve done since the end of October. I assume anybody still reading the Lab at this point would have made the jump to the site. In case you haven’t, though, we reviewed some stuff, we talked about some stuff, and we also did plenty of Game of the Year stuff for 2011, including my personal Top 10. There’s also plenty of other non-GOTY pieces that are worth checking out.

For instance, did you know that Skyward Sword is probably the worst Zelda game I’ve played and that motion controls are pretty much crap? You see? You learn shit every day when I’m around!

And that’s enough plugging shit. The point is, nJoystic “work” continues to chug along.

So, yeah, just wanted to say I’m back, and you can expect to hear from me again sooner rather than later.

Actually, I could get distracted. Just assume you won’t here from me until December, so when I do write something before then, it’ll be a big surprise!

~Ben

How about a Spoooooky Update?

As I sit here full of candy, possibly dying what may be the most painful of deaths, I realized it has nearly been a month since I’ve posted on the old, forgotten blog. This place still gets views, though (No, I’m not lying. Shut up.), so I think a sort of recap of what I’ve been up is in order.

First of all, of course, things have been quite busy at nJoystic’s terrible, dank dungeons that dwell far below the Earth’s crust.

-The nJoystic Podcast has kept coming every Friday. Since the first episode we added new music, and I think we improve a little bit more every week. If you haven’t heard the 10/14 episode, it probably has my favorite ending so far. If you haven’t let us into your ear canals, here’s a handy page on the site where you can find every episode.

-We’ve reviewed things this month!

1. Rage: Overall, I liked Rage but, even by shooter standards, it was a very shallow experience.

2. Batman: Arkham City: I won’t even try to build suspense. I was extremely impressed with this game, but there’s definitely a lot to talk about with it.

Steve also reviewed Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (because honestly, I never would), and Tropico 4.

-As for some opinionated columns, we’ve certainly made our quota.

I wrote a little piece about my time with The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, basically describing my experience with ICO, how it compares to Shadow of the Colossus, and my thoughts on Team ICO as a developer.

Steve played Dark Souls. Steve also died a lot, but he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

He also had a class war of a different sort going on in his head, as Skyrim approaches. This probably sparked more discussion than anything since I joined the site.

-And of course, lots and lots of news.

So that’s what you may have missed on the site.

So what’s next on the agenda? Well, not much for the next two weeks, unfortunately. I wasn’t as big on Uncharted 2 as some were, so Uncharted 3 isn’t exactly a must-buy for me. The new Sonic Generations demo wasn’t bad, but it left me neutral on the game, like I’ve been pretty much all year (We talk about the demo some on the latest episode of the podcast). I’m not saying I won’t be getting either of these titles, but it will probably be around the holidays.

That leaves me almost entirely on news-duty until the 11th, at the earliest. I don’t know who will be reviewing Skyrim, but I know I’ll be playing it.

I know I’ll be playing it.

I’m planning on getting reacquainted with Oblivion until then. On the 15th, I’ll hopefully have Rayman Origins (that game looks amazing) and on the 20th there’s Zelda: Skyward Sword. November is turning out to be much more absurd than October in ways I could never imagine.

Especially considering I’m trying to restart a DnD game. How the fuck will that even be possible?

And with that, you’re updated! There’s nothing particularly Halloween-themed about this update unless you consider the fact I died from all the chocolate 10 minutes into writing it.

Yeah … Happy Halloween from the eternal void.

He Should Have Asked For This.

I have to apologize for going quiet on here these past few weeks. Since my little jump to nJoystic (and yes, I will keep linking it until you go there), I didn’t want to leave this place a complete ghost town, but that’s easier said than done.

Anyway, a lot of things have been going down over there besides just game news. I wrote a piece on where this generation of portable consoles could be going wrong (I know, it was a subtle title).

In even more exciting news, the official nJoystic Podcast launched last week! In this weekly show, Steve and myself discuss gaming from what we’re playing to what’s going on in the industry. I had a lot of fun recording the first episode (and a little less fun editing it all), and I’m excited to see how the show evolves. Already a few improvements are in the works so even if you don’t like it now, it can really only get better!

And along with that, there’s always the same offerings you can expect from a game site every week. Game news, trailers, reviews, previews, and all the things that should make you want to add nJoystic.com to your daily reading!

And with that, I’m done being a salesman for now.

After weeks, and all day marathon on Sunday, I finally put away Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I decided that I wanted to make sure I finished the game this weekend because once Rage drops this Tuesday, I’m not going to have the time to split things up. Rage will need to be reviewed, after all, and it’s supposedly a mammoth of a game.

My thoughts on DX: HR pretty much echo everybody else’s. I played stealth, hated the bosses, but had a great time overall. I said it on the podcast, but the game gave me a satisfaction that was reminiscent of Thief: Deadly Shadows in some ways, which you’ll remember I played a few months ago for the first time and ended up really loving. DX: HR played from a stealth perspective is almost like that game meets Metal Gear Solid. You have the futuristic, inflitration-style of MGS, but the world, tension, and satisfaction that I’ve only really gotten out of games like Thief 3 and the stealth parts of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

It was also really hard to not feel some investment in the augmentation situation the game deals with. When I started the game, I didn’t really care beyond the fact that augmentations made Adam Jensen more badass. By the end of the game I noticed that 1. I actually had something of a position on the issue, and 2. It was a little different than what I thought it would be going in. The game really gets its hooks into you in an almost subtle way. You’re exploring the world, going from mission to mission with plenty of side-missions to keep you busy on the way, and then suddenly you really start to care about what’s going on.

It’s actually pretty amazing. It took a good game with some flaws, and actually made it a great experience in my eyes. The flaws are still there, of course (died all the time, the load times sucked, and the bosses were lame). But overall, this game really left me impressed by the time the credits rolled.

So yeah, I highly recommend it. It was my first taste of anything Deus Ex-related, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Now, I look towards the future. It’s full of guns, mutants, wasteland, and … collectible card games.

Oh, Rage, you tricky bitch.

With every year, I grow in power.

Excuse the briefness of today’s post. At the time of writing this, I’ve been celebrating my birthday. I’ve been hanging out with friends, eating cake, and, of course, getting a few presents. Most importantly, I finally got a copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it before my new job starts, but at least I should be able to put a good chunk of hours into it.

I also got some spending money, and I decided to be as irresponsible as possible with it. Almost all of it will be going to preorders. Skyrim immediately comes to mind for 2 reasons.

1. I want that cloth map. Badly.
2. The full E3 demo left a huge impression on me.

Anyway, things are still moving along on the old nJoystic update train. The twitter account got suspended for some bizarre reason, but everything seems to be back to normal now.

So, yeah, I’m going to enjoy what’s left of my birthday by kicking back for the rest of the night. Have a good week.

September Releases.

After my post last week, I wasted no time getting to work on my first piece for nJoystic. And by that I mean, I wasted quite a bit of time on it. In case you’ve stubbornly refused to follow me over there like I ordered asked you to, here it is for your reading enjoyment.

Games are Easier. Here’s Why.

This is actually a topic I had been meaning to address for awhile but haven’t been able to because I wanted to deliver the message clearly, which is basically that a good challenge is only one way for a game to be engaging. Games have found other ways to be engaging since the brutal days of our youth, and that’s why games may seem easier. Overall, I’m proud of the piece, and you should read it.

After that I’ve pretty much been stuck with news duty. Fortunately, I’m starting to get some money coming in, so hopefully I’ll get caught up sooner rather than later and then maybe I can actually review some of these games coming out this year.

Alright, let’s talk about some September releases, because I didn’t really get to last week. I will say, I’m still a little pissed Rage isn’t getting released on my birthday since the pushed that to October a few months ago. Thanks, id. You bunch of assholes.


September 6, Dead Island (360, PS3, PC)

I’ve followed this game since I saw that trailer (You know, the one everyone fucking talked about), but I was pretty skeptical. Previews didn’t exactly make the game seem all that fun to me, even when the authors were positive. Now that it has been released (with a current Game Rankings score in mid 70% range), I’m still pretty unconvinced that this a game I want to get involved with at all, and I find it kind of hilarious that very little of the emotion of that trailer seems to be in the final product.

The promise of a lot to do and a lot of ways to kill zombies doesn’t win me over really. I’m not a fan of much of anything zombie-related these days, though. They just feel cheap to me at this point. They’re never really there to tell a story anymore. They’re just an enemy to hit.


September 6, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (360, PS3, PC)

I had been meaning to play the demo for this one for quite awhile, if only to finally figure if this is a game I should care about. I keep finding myself reading things from people who have too much affection for the series, and since I don’t know anything about Warhammer, that doesn’t really help me. For some people a chainsaw sword (Or Chainsawrd, if you will) sells the game.

For me, that just makes me wish a Chainsawrd was something you can actually buy.


September 9, Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)

Star Fox 64 has a warm place in my heart, but I’m not sure I have it in me to give Nintendo more money for another game I’ve already played the living hell out of. And judging from what I’ve seen, there’s only so much you can change with this game. In fact, some things shouldn’t be changed (like the voices). So, once again, another game I can probably hold off on.


September 27, The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (PS3)

I loved Shadow of the Colossus and I have no problem buying it again, but I don’t really care about being able to play it in HD or anything (even though it is a beautiful game). This is more about ICO, which I’ve wanted to play for awhile but never got to. For 40 bucks, this seems like a pretty good opportunity.

September Unspecified, Trine 2 (PS3, XBLA, PC)

This one is pretty frustrating because its development is still very much in “When its done” mode, though it is almost finished according to Frozenbyte. The original Trine was one of those games I really regret not getting around to, and sequel has been looking pretty great. But I’m a little frustrated we don’t have a concrete date yet. And combined with Bastion and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, I won’t ever under estimate what these $15 dollar games can do to your wallet if, god forbid, they turn out to be good.

Oddly enough, I’m getting more worried about time at this point.

And that’s all that really caught my eye this month. I know there are some big releases like Resistance 3 and Gears of War 3, but I guess September is more of a month where I’m looking to catch up, and a shooter doesn’t really interest me right now.

Change so thick you could bottle it!

At the beginning of the year, I took it upon myself to turn what was once my personal blog into something focused on games. Instead of random topics that were posted entirely when I felt like it, I focused my writing towards expressing my thoughts on gaming-related topics, and, since January, I’ve been (mostly) able to do it 3 days a week. I feel like my writing and my appreciation of games have both benefited from the time I’ve put in here, and that’s really all I could have asked for when I decided to go this direction. For what the “Lab” has always been, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do with it this year.

But nobody ever talks this way about something out unless they have some sort of bomb to drop, so I’ll just come out with it.

Starting today, Ben’s Laboratory will no longer have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday update schedule.

There’s a combination of things going into this.

First of all, I’m starting a new job soon. I don’t know if you know this, but it’s very hard to write about video games when you can’t actually buy the video games you’re supposed to write about. So this move was long overdue, honestly. That being said, I didn’t have any intention of letting this job, and its ridiculous hours, slow me down when it came to writing on here. But that leads me to the next thing.

One of the perks of running this blog the way I have this year is that I found a few sites that have become daily reading for me. One of which was nJoystic.com, run by a fellow named Steve who has commented here from time to time.

To cut to the chase, he sent me an offer to write for nJoystic, and I want to do it. I’ve been in a similar situation before, and while it didn’t work out, it didn’t deter me from my goals with this. I love writing about games, and I’ll admit that I want to do it in as “official” of a capacity as I possibly can. I want as many people to read my stuff as possible (with the end goal being hopefully a statue in my honor), so I’m going to take this opportunity and see where it goes.

Combined with this job, there’s just no way I can write for nJoystic and still maintain things here, and I really don’t want to split my energy between the two. That usually leads to lackluster content and eventually burning out.

Now, I don’t want to abandon the Lab entirely. I’m currently playing around with the idea of updating every Wednesday with something. There are some things I may want to talk about that just aren’t modern enough to talk about on nJoystic, and I’ll still be posting opinion pieces, just over on nJoystic that I’ll link to. But I want the majority of my writing effort to go to nJoystic for now.

So yeah, things are definitely going to slow down here. I want to thank you for reading, and hopefully you’ll join me over on nJoystic.

You know, unless I get fired or something.

Later.

Hype Weekend.

I have to admit, I was expecting PAX to be a lot more hellish in terms of game news than it was. Cons are usually the big times of the year where we just get bombarded with news and trailers, but everything seemed to be running pretty smooth.

Admittedly, I have been a bit distracted this whole week, so maybe I just didn’t notice a good chunk of stuff. It was essentially the last week of summer vacation, though, so I took the opportunity to hang out with friends when I should have been fulfilling my obligation of jealously watching PAX happen on my computer.

I am horribly sorry. I’ll torture myself extra hard next time.

But I also was actually pretty busy last week, too and I’m also actually pretty busy this week. I’ll just cut to the chase and say that things could be changing significantly around here. I’ll know more about this by Wednesday, and I’ll let you know.

Anyway, there were only three games that I ended getting really excited for over the weekend, so let’s see what exactly got me so hyped for these titles.

Bioshock Infinite: For some reason, I just get more and more excited with every little bit of info that gets drop for this game, which is impressive because I was very ecstatic when I first heard about it. I eat up every thing that I can about this game, and Ken Levine is one of those people I can hear talk for hours about whatever the hell he’s working on.

His description of the AI has me so interested in seeing this game for myself, and the panel was a fascinating insight into the development of this really ambitious title.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Once again, another game that I really didn’t need any help to be excited for. Skyrim was always one of those games that I will be buying practically no matter what. It would take a lot to turn me off to a new TES game, and frankly, I don’t believe Bethesda has it in them.

Fortunately, all the previews I’ve read over the weekend have been incredibly positive. Oblivion had a heavy amount of media getting thrown out before its release, but Skyrim seems to be a little more quiet, but confident title so far. They’ll still throw out some screens and trailers, but what’s really selling me this game right now is all the improvements. If what I read is true, Bethesda is just getting better and better at what they do.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Let me tell you a story about a boy who spent an entire summer playing Counter-Strike: Source until the early hours of the morning. In between the long time it would take to connect, he would play rounds of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He memorized each button to press to buy all his equipment before every round, and knew the maps perfectly.

And he still got his ass kicked 95% of the time.

It’s true. I loved me some Counter-Strike: Source back in the day. It really was one of first attempts into online gaming, and I think because of that, the simple Terrorist vs. Counter-Terrorist formula will never lose its charm for me. It’s very simple, very difficult, and very rewarding. I wouldn’t say an update is long overdue (CS:S is still pretty active, I believe), but it’s very cool. And the fact that CS: GO is going be a multiplatform release means that I can actually play this next installment!

This may not be a new Half-Life, but in a way, it’s actually a little more interesting of a move to me.

“Augment These Nuts!” Sincerely, Gamestop.

PAX Prime has been one of those things I’ve been wanting to go to for awhile now. After all, I only live on the other side of the state, so it’s really only going down a few hours away. I’m constantly telling myself, “Next year. I’ll be there next year.”

But “next year” always shows up, and I’m never there. I watch the event from a computer monitor and just sit there and hate all you bastards who have your shit together.

Well, maybe next year.

For today, though, there’s got to be something in the news that I can flap my gums over. How about that Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

Well, aside from apparently being just fucking great and making me wish I wasn’t absolutely broke (For the record, I’m very disappointed with Ben’s Laboratory from a financial position), it’s also gotten even more press with the help of the game industry’s good buddy, Gamestop.

For those of you who haven’t heard by now, Gamestop apparently had been opening up copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for the PC, removing a coupon for a free copy of the game through OnLive, and then resealing the game.

Obviously, some people had a problem with this.

Following the backlash, Gamestop decided to pull all PC versions of the game off the shelf, the reasoning for their actions being that they don’t want to promote competitors.

Square-Enix issued a statement saying that they failed to let Gamestop know about the coupon, and that they respect the retailers right to decide what they do and do not sell.

Since it’s pretty much worked out now, I guess all that’s left is to give my take on the situation. You see, I don’t think this was just Gamestop being the evil business that, frankly, it probably is, or Square-Enix trying to slide one past them. The way I see it, this was two related fucks-ups from both parties, but just because they were connected doesn’t mean one gets to pass blame onto the other.

For starters, that was a pretty stupid failure of communication on Square-Enix’s part, but I guess I could see it their way considering Gamestop is literally the only retailer who had a problem here. And I can’t lay into them too much since they essentially said, “That was our bad.”

As for Gamestop, I guess I’m a little less sympathetic. I mean, I understand not wanting to promote competition, but why was that your first response? You should have immediately moved to pulling the PC version off the shelf if it really was such an issue. Instead, you’re now painting a pretty shady picture of yourselves that shows Gamestop poking around in brand new games and just pulling shit out.

Classy stuff, fellas. As if you don’t already have enough of a reputation problem.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get actual mechanical arms so I won’t need to play Deus Ex. Or anything, really.

Because my arms will be FUCKING ROBOTIC!

Are Portables the Past?

Well, another day, another topic that I’ve been putting off addressing for awhile.

With the success of the 3DS and the Playstation Vita still very much uncertain, combined with the recent 3DS price drop, some people are wondering if portable consoles are a dying breed.

It’s a fair sentiment for many reasons. While I’ve been impressed with the hardware for both the Vita and the 3DS, it does seem to tell the story that portable consoles are usually just trying to emulate the same experience that you could get from a home console. Adding the fact that I rarely ever use the “portable” aspect of the systems and the success of games on phones and tablets, and there’s definitely a point there.

That being said, I think portables still have a place, if they have the right mentality behind it.

That means trying to provide experiences that are not only unique to that system, but also improved by what that system does. Even a remake like Ocarina of Time 3D is an example of doing this successfully. It has the basic improvements of a remake, but also improves the menu navigation and item management through the touch screen. This may seem like a small feature, but it does a lot to make the game run much smoother.

In fact, I think the touch screen is one of those features the home console will never be able to deliver as well on. The Wii U is going to try, but, as I’ve said before, I think that its tablet controller will be functional but not entirely ideal for that setting. With a portable, you’re staring at the screen you’re interacting with, so there’s no breaking your focus. This technology allowed for something unique when it first arrived, and many games used the feature in incredibly positive ways.

I’m not saying that every portable needs a new, revolutionary hardware feature. That’s just not realistic. But portable consoles need to play to their strengths, and provide an experience that feels full and unique. Before the DS, I thought games like Wario Ware Inc. and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories were great examples of games that were appropriate for the console. Wario Ware Inc. is known for variety which explained its simplicity. KH: CoM, rather than just trying to make a GBA version of a PS3 game, instead developed an entirely new gameplay system that felt more at home on the hardware.

When it comes to portable consoles, it’s really just a case of finding what you do, and doing it well.

As for the app market being a threat, I guess I just have trouble seeing it that way. I just don’t get the impression that they’re trying to do the same thing as gaming-dedicated portable consoles. Anyone who finds themselves choosing one over the other seems, to me, to be more concerned with “portable” aspect than I am. Like I said, I don’t buy portable consoles because I can take them along when I’m out and about. I buy them because they’re like any other console in that I want to play the games that are unique to them.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.