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Streaming Seattle’s Second Son Soon

I’ll be streaming some inFAMOUS: Second Son tonight at 7PM EST. Well, 7ish. You know how these things go. You can either watch the broadcast here or head over to my Twitch channel at Twitch.tv/misterbinky to get the full streaming experience. Note: the full streaming experience means that you can drop comments in the chat window and maybe have them addressed by me but probably not as I seriously doubt I’ll be able to play and read comments at the same time.

Here’s a handy FAQ to answer all of your burning questions.

Why are you streaming this game?
Why not? Seriously, I have no idea. I’ve wanted to try streaming stuff and Second Son looks like a good place to start as it’s supposed to be a good game.

Why would I watch you play instead of just playing the game myself?
I have no answer for that.

Weren’t you going to stream AC IV at one point?
I was. I often say I’m going to do something and then I don’t. In the business we call this “being untrustworthy”.

Are you going to talk over the stream?
I plan on it, but it all depends on my mood. The PS4 doesn’t allow you to mute the game’s audio, despite what the internet might tell you, so I won’t be talking over important story bits but yeah, if I’m just running around blowing stuff up, I’ll probably be chatty.

Your audio is low! What gives?
Past test broadcasts have been less than successful on this front due to the unfortunate microphone placement of the “headset” that comes with the PS4. I bought a new headset to see if that fixes things but unfortunately, headsets quickly jump from twenty bucks to a hundred bucks and I’m not about to spend a bunch of money on a headset or shunt my 7.1 home theater sound into headphones just so you can better hear me blather on. Sorry. I think the new headset will be fine but if not, know that whatever it is I’m saying that you can’t hear is extremely witty and insightful.

How long do you plan on streaming?
About an hour. I gots to get to mah stories.

I don’t want see you streaming. I want to see Bill streaming Dark Souls II. How do I do that?
Wish real hard and then prepare to be disappointed.

Now Playing: Spec Ops – The Line

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line has accrued a bizarre reputation as a third-person cover-based shooter that stands against violence. This is obviously and annoyingly oxymoronic, to have the game condemning the source of its own entertainment value. I’m not the first to say so.

But the contradictory nature of the narrative does offer a surprising level of motivation, pulling you deeper into the game to see what sort of knots the protagonists will tie themselves into next over the games’ central moral conundrum. The writing and acting are excellent, and the script does its very best to scale the impossible face of paradox.

Lucky job too, because as a shooter alone it’s merely fair to good. All the essential ingredients are there, but the context-sensitive controls are often frustratingly clumsy, and the initially impressive library of weapons have a tediously indentikit feel. In play terms alone it’s hard to see why you’d pick this over a Gears of War or a Band of Brothers.

The answer is that struggling, wriggling plot. And the more of the game I’ve played, the more I’ve come to suspect that a lot of critics got it wrong: this isn’t a violent game condemning violence so much as one that tries to unpick the often-flimsy motivations and justifications offered for violence by its perpetrators.

Once I’d seen it from that angle, it became a much more subversive and less problematic experience, allowing me to soar over the games’ jagged narrative canyons with a clearer and more appreciative eye.

The Line demonstrates that a compelling story can often trump detailed mechanics when it comes to video games. It’s a lesson more AAA writers and producers ought to learn.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #200

No High Scores Podcast Logo

You do a 200th episode with some people and they just vanish, leaving you to tell the world about it. Some people. I know Todd usually does this but I think he’d been eaten by yetis in the frozen wastelands of…uh…wherever he lives. Middlesomeplace, USA?

Whatever.

Hey, we did a show! The 200th show to be exact. Bill was on! We talked a little about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, some Gone Home, some state of gaming and of course TV Talk. Bill also talked about what he’s been doing now that he’s not playing games. He’s a busy dude.

In all seriousness, thanks so much for sticking with us throughout all of these shows. I’d like to say that we’ve gotten better as we’ve toiled in the mines of podcasting these four long years but I think we’ve just managed to put out shorter shows. Maybe year five will be our breakthrough.

iTunes Link
Past Episodes
Edit Type: Skype

Wife-less in Whiterun

Skyrim Dawnguard 1

For reasons even I don’t understand, I recently started playing Skyrim again. That’s not entirely true. I fully understand the reasons. A friend got the legendary edition of the game, complete with all of the DLC, so there was no monetary price to pay to be able to get the rest of the achievements and obtain the same 100% I did with Oblivion. I say “monetary” cost as there’s a substantial cost still to be paid in time and self respect but when it comes to games I typically have plenty of the former and very little of the latter so back to Skyrim I go.

When you haven’t played a game for close to two years, coming back in can be a painfully disorienting experience, even more so for a game with such obtuse systems and interfaces as Skyrim. How do I equip things? Why does this button store one thing when looking at my stuff to put into a chest but takes everything when looking at what’s in the chest? How do I access favorites? Why would I want a favorite in the first place? Why am I just sitting in this chair? Where’s my wife?

Skyrim Dawnguard 2

That last question is of particular importance because in order to get all of the achievements, I have to become a werewolf so that I can get all of the werewolf perks. I also have to become a vampire at some point and get all of the vampire perks, Bethesda plumbing the considerable literary depths of such classics as “Underworld” and “Twilight” for one of the DLC’s plot points. While becoming Head Companion, or whatever it’s called, I cured myself of lycanthropy because I was tired of not getting a resting bonus and of being told I smelled like a wet dog as I traversed Skyrim. The only person who can cure me is Aela the Huntress, who also happens to be the person I think I married.

I say think because from what I can tell, I’m married. I have the achievement and I have a wedding ring in my inventory. I wouldn’t have married Lydia because that would have been creepy. I didn’t hang out with any other women and I certainly don’t trust anyone in the Thieves Guild or that freaky club of assassins to marry one of them. A quick search of the house doesn’t turn her up which means she must be in my other home.

Unfortunately I don’t remember where my other home is. I also don’t know why I have a full set of orcish armor in my inventory. Such are the risks of two year absences. Lydia is around, doing whatever it is Lydia does when she’s not following me and getting killed, namely pacing, but Aela is nowhere to be found.

Fine, I’ll go find her. At this point, all of the “quirks” of Skyrim start flooding back. Unlike Fallout, where DLC was accessed by getting a new radio transmission and then heading to the place mentioned in the transmission or Dragon Age where DLC was accessed by purchasing it from Bonfire Bob, Skyrim starts its DLC by having people talk to you. Many people. All at once.

Skyrim Dragonborn 1

As soon as I left the house, here’s a courier telling me I can now adopt kids, an idea I can only label as “catastrophic” due to my inability to keep track of my wife and my general insistence on putting myself into situations in which men and beast alike want to kill me. Fine, whatever dude, I’ll swing by and pick up a kid later. Next up is a cultist. He wants to know if I’m Dragonborn. Yeah, I’m Dragonborn but apparently I’m not the “true” Dragonborn as he starts talking shit and then tries to kill me. This would have been fine if some huge Ebony Warrior guy didn’t decide to tell me that he’s got nothing to do at the same time that a summoned demon thingy is trying to show me my insides. I tell the guy that I’ll come fight him later, try to hit the demon, miss, hit the Ebony Warrior and now he’s also trying to kill me.

Sigh. Reload.

This parade of quest gives goes on in a similar fashion for a couple of reloads until I got smart enough to leave my house and immediately run away to put some distance between me and the Welcoming Committee. This works well enough and soon I have a new white arrow to follow once I figure out where my wife is.

I go to the Companion Hall thinking maybe I didn’t marry Aela and she’d be there. It was nighttime so I knew she wouldn’t be off doing whatever it is she does during the day but a quick rousting of everyone from their beds doesn’t turn her up. Bummer. Then I head to Riften because I think I bought a house there. I did and in it I find a woman I don’t ever remember meeting. Apparently she’s my housecarl, whatever that is. When I talk to her she doesn’t mention any spouse-y things, so I’m assuming I didn’t marry her, a good thing as shit was about to get awkward.

Defeated, I go back home to Whiterun and who’s walking around the house but Aela. I don’t have the option of asking her where she was the last time I was here so instead I ask her to make me a werewolf again. I also ask her for my cut on her store’s earning, a whopping hundred bucks. Don’t quit your day job, Aela. Newly beastified I leave Whiterun to begin my journey of eating dead people as that’s what it takes to become a better werewolf, eating dead people.

I’m not going to bore you with more stories of what has happened since I restarted playing but friends were made, people were eaten, friends were lost, dragons were killed and my Xbox locked up completely because Skyrim. The game is just as irritating and soulless as it’s always been, a series of trips to the Great White Arrow with instances of monster killing and pointless dialog in-between. Nothing happens if you don’t talk to people, the whole world sits still waiting for you to get up out of that chair and go adopt some kids.

It’s also satisfying to torch raiders and capture souls, to shout a dragon out of the sky and hack it to bits, to see what the next silly quest is going to be, to marvel at the landscape and the interiors. It’s Skyrim. It hasn’t changed. The DLC just adds more of it. It’s also a great game to play while exercising in the morning, which is the only time I play it. As this current generation winds down, I’m starting to run out of options for the morning so if I can wring another twenty to thirty hours out of the game with no cost to me, yeah, I’m going to do it. At night I’ll play all of the games in my backlog until March comes with its bevy of next-gen riches.