World destruction comes in small shrink-wrapped packages...

2009/03/21

Human Rights Day



Apocalypse Then: Resident Evil 2, Thief II: The Metal Age& Tribes 2

Today is a day of sequels.

On this day, Resident Evil 2, Thief II: The Metal Age, and Tribes 2 was released in 1998, 2000, and 2001 respectively.

Resident Evil 2 is of course the sequel to the progenitor of the now hugely famous Resident Evil series.

I am particularly a big fan of the Thief series, and Thief II: The Metal Age is one of my favourite games of all time. It was preceded by Thief: The Dark Project, which was good, but not as good as said successor. I also happen to have a couple of Thief fan-fiction pieces that I’ve written. 

Tribes 2 is the sequel to Starsiege: Tribes, a game that had a big multiplayer focus, which is now freeware.
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Games and violence…against animals?

Okay, so now gamers are not only racists (Resident Evil 5), and psychotic killers (every FPS shooter game), but now they’re sadists and animal haters too.

Breanni Lucci, who is the president of a private high school’s Animal Rights Club, started a petition after seeing her brother shooting dogs in Call of Duty: World at War. Apparently, more than 100 classmates have supported the petition which she will send to Activision.

The last time we had something like this was when Nintendo demanded that id software had to take the attack dogs out of
Wolfenstein 3D for the Super NES version, which were replaced with giant rats.

The killing of dogs isn’t the main aim of the game, as you have to take on the axis forces of Germany and Japan in the game. These were also violent dogs that could kill the player, and so if you were to leave them alone, they would either be gunned down by someone else or they would kill you. That’s self-defence in my book.

Once again, clueless people who don’t play games rush to conclusions and act without thinking. Let’s hope Ms. Lucci doesn’t take up politics and we end up with a Jane Thompson on our hands.

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2009/03/20

Diablo 3 looking dazzling rather than dreary

This is something I’ve come across more than once, both on the web and off it, like when reading a gaming magazine. People are complaining about Diablo 3’s new art style. Not only are fans of the series unhappy, but even a former Flagship head honcho and original Diablo developer is not a fan either.

People claim that Diablo 3 is too bright and cheerful, while its predecessors were darker and more…grey. Fans are begging Blizzard to change the style and have even come up with a petition for it- and it is backed by thousands. Rumour has it that it got so bad that the art director, Brian Morrishoe, left the company, although some say this isn’t the real reason why he left.

Blizzard has even jokingly taken the piss with fans by posting screenshots of Diablo 3 that contain some rather bright and cheerful action scenes.

I’m actually looking forward to Diablo 3, and let’s face it, even with sucky art direction, it’s better than no Diablo 3 at all. Think about how long it’s been since Diablo 2 came out.

Are they going to change the art? Probably not.

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Apocalypse Then- TES IV: Oblivion& S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl


On this day, in 2006 and 2007 respectively, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was released. 

Oblivion is an excellent game, and it gathered a big following of people who sought to improve it by adding custom made items and mods that made the game more challenging. Oblivion is the sequel to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a great game in its own right.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is like a more modern form of Oblivion, except it’s foreign, having been developed in Ukraine. It was buggy, the translation sucked, and yet it was the start of something incredible: exploring the vaunted Zone of Chernobyl in 2011, 25 years after the infamous Chernobyl Incident. It became a hit despite its shortcomings.

It was followed in 2008 by S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, which promised a lot, but came up as an even buggier game, with not a heck of a lot of new stuff to offer. It acted as a prequel to the events in Shadow of Chernobyl. There are rumours of a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 3 that have been circulating around the internet for about 3 or 4 months now at least.

What I find so funny, is that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was originally going to have Oblivion in its subtitle. It was going to be named S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Oblivion Lost.

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2009/03/19

Apocalypse Then: Breed

On this day, in 2004, Breed was released. Apparently it sucked, according to players, although some reviewers were more forgiving.
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2009/03/18

Powerless

Today we were without power right from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Some vans from Eskom came to trim the trees because apparently they were getting in the way of the power lines. In the end the guy in charge said that our trees weren't so bad after all, but they still proceeded to do the rest of the neighbourhood and not to mention, took some rather long tea breaks as well. I had to cope without power for hours. 

I had a plan though. I stayed up late last night to work on my blog a little, check my accounts, and do some other stuff online. So I went to bed at about 4 am and slept until 11. I went back to bed in the afternoon, all in an attempt to waste time until the power came back on, hoping that it would do so by the evening otherwise I would be pissed. The whole episode reminds me of the power cuts we had in the past few years and right in the bloody middle of winter too.

Eskom still hasn't sorted out the whole power crisis thing, and some areas still have scheduled outages to this day. And thanks to them, I also have to put up with the irritating little messages at the bottom of the screen when I watch TV that tell me to use power sparingly, with that picture with a needle and a power gauge with green, yellow, and red sectors. It's all so reminiscent of the scare tactics the Bush administration used with the terror alert system. 

It just goes to show how much we rely on technology like television, computers, the internet and the like. Today I actually became so desperate that I started typing out things on my Nokia E90, including this post.
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Resident Racism

Resident Evil 5 has come under a lot of criticism lately, particularly on the racist front, with people claiming that mowing down black zombies leaves them shuddering with guilt. Now gamers are not just murderers in training, but racists as well, according to the media.

In fact, Resident Evil 5 has come under fire since it was first previewed at E3 in 2007.

Capcom should have thought this one through first. 

You saw what they did with Far Cry 2, right? They had black enemies, as well as white and people from different ethnic backgrounds. Did you hear anyone complain about Far Cry 2? No. There might have been some, but they were likely in the minority since I didn’t hear anything about it. Nobody complained of racism as far as the other games in the Resident Evil series are concerned either. Those games took place in America and Europe where there is a mixed bunch of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

The story of Umbrella and the T-virus spreading meant that sooner or later it would reach Africa, and indeed, Resident Evil 5 is set in a fictional country in Africa that happens to contain a lot of black people. Big surprise there; people of ethnic origin make up most of the population in Africa and so Capcom had to be demographically correct. They certainly couldn’t have all white, or pink or purple people running around.

Well, the game is out there, and you have people in different camps. There are those who claim it’s racist, there are those who claim it isn’t, and there are those who claim it isn’t, but still get an uneasy feeling when they play it, and sort of sit on the fence and hum and ha, before going in for another session to 'investigate'.

Well, Capcom didn’t intend to make a racist game, I’m sure. They meant to continue the story of Resident Evil and its spread throughout the world, and the player having to contend with the real enemy behind it all- the Umbrella Corporation.

The only way to go now is to make the virus spread to Asia, and infect Japanese people, and have Japanese zombie ninjas and killer Koi. It would make sense since Capcom is Japanese. 

Remember folks, it’s just a game.

Just do us a favour and don’t venture into the Middle East. That is pushing it a bit, and we don’t want them getting upset…

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2009/03/17

St. Patrick's Day

Apocalypse Then: Descent

On this day, in 1995, Descent was released.

It spawned two sequels, and there are 'plans' for a fourth game. Descent 4 was cancelled years ago, in 2000, then development restarted in 2007, with 'plans' the bring the game out sometime. Last year Interplay re-registered the trademark. This is what we call 'development hell'.


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2009/03/16

Games and Violence

The real enemy…

There are a lot of naysayers out there that try to put down games nowadays. Some claim that they inspire violence in children and even adults. There have been several big stories in the news about killings at school, like Columbine where two kids killed several other children, or the Virginia Tech Massacre, where Seung-Hui Cho killed several of his classmates and then himself, or the German Counter-Strike player who did the same. Recently another school shooting in Germany, perpetrated by Tim Kretschmer has revived concerns and of course reawakened the old tradition of blaming the media and things that kids are exposed to nowadays electronically.

You might be thinking now that this post should be labeled ‘Games and the news’, but later on in this article I’ll be getting onto the good stuff, up until now I’m just trying to establish the fact that some terrible things have happened in recent years, and the media are always quick to blame…media. It’s always the TV, computer or music that the child has been listening to that is the supposed source of instigating violence in timid little children. With all the above actions, this may be the case, but due to the sensationalist perspective of the average reporter or editor, the whole truth is not focused on, but there are parts that are put under the microscope for analysis because the events share the same supposed ‘cause and effect’. In all of the cases above, it was discovered that the teenagers involved, had computers, played games, and watched TV, but then again, who doesn’t nowadays? I haven’t met any child, teenager, or adult in my life that didn’t have a TV, radio, or at least some sort of electronic contraption capable of entertaining them in some manner. Well, that’s not entirely true, there was a kid down the road who didn’t even have a phone, but the whole family had red hair, sort of like the movie Carrie, but that’s off topic now.

The papers, films, documentaries and countless other types of media that have tried to explain away the events talked about earlier, and throughout the world, have overlooked that fact that it was something in school that triggered the kids to be overcome with such viciousness and hatred; bullying. I’ve been there, so I would know. It was also a common event that was shared in at least all cases mentioned in this article.

The Question Mark kid, Seung-Hui Cho, was a quiet young Korean man that had come over to the states at nine years old. The other people in the same lecture hall or classroom made fun of the way he spoke, and taunted him with phrases like, “Go back to China”. He was diagnosed with autism and told to see a therapist, while the ‘other problem’, namely bullying, was ignored. He planned his revenge, even made a video detailing his last words before the event. He reportedly killed and injured several kids in the class, before killing himself.

The Counter-Strike killer in Germany entered the classroom one morning, armed with a submachine gun and a sidearm and sprayed the room with a hail of gunfire before taking his own life as well. He left a note behind saying. “All I learnt in school was that I was a loser. Those @$$holes ruined my life, and they deserve to die.” Those @$$holes were the kids in his class or possibly the entire grade.

As a lot of children will testify, bullying is a real problem in schools, and it can even occur with adults in the workplace. In fact, bullying is now keeping up with the times as nerds and geeks are being bullied over cell phones and the internet among other devices, where other people, called bystanders, even from other countries can join in the ‘fun’. So now you have cyber-bullying, which begs the question, aren’t the bullies also geeks and nerds because they are proficient with technology?

A common result of this latest craze is ‘bullycide’, where the victim commits suicide because of the intense situation they are in; they would rather die than face any more humiliation. Schools don’t do enough to curb the problem, and others just accept that it is a part of life and that it is character-building. Well, for God’s sake, that is a lop-sided argument, because the only person who could possibly ‘benefit’ from bullying is the perpetrator, who then learns that violence, intimidation and more violence is key to getting one’s way, and then goes on to become an even bigger bully- a self-centered, arrogant, narcissistic, chauvinistic idiot who is otherwise known as ‘the businessman’.
 
I have had the pleasure of reading other articles in some reputable magazines that happen to be supporters of gaming, written by journalists that are not blind or stupid, and can see the whole situation and not be fed the typical bullsh1t that every other Tom, Dick and Harry wants to try and shovel at you, perhaps in the hope of one day writing a novel, ‘Why gaming is bad’, with the subtitle, ‘Why I’m so great’.

These people, the ones that are awake, know that bullying isn’t just another problem, and isn’t going to go away if you ignore it long enough; quite the reverse. They, like I, also know that gaming, television, music and virtually any other ‘virtual’ entertainment is a form of escapism, when life just gets on your nerves and you need to get out for a while. True, you could take a walk and do the same thing, but if you grew up in a typical suburban neighbourhood and were bullied by other children who lived there, you’d be too scared to go out the front door, wouldn’t you?

Not all games are violent, and not all violent people play games. Why? They are the ones that have better things to do, like making others’ lives miserable any way they can.

If you think about it, it was revealed that the terrorists that hijacked the planes on 9/11 played Microsoft Flight Simulator in order to train for the big day, to become familiar with the locations that were digitally represented, like knowing where the twin towers were. Other than that, what is violent about that game? It’s a flight simulator- are you going to request that all flight simulators are shut down, including the ones used by the military and others? Yeah, good luck with that.

I have been a player of games, a listener of music, and a watcher of TV for many years and I can tell you, it takes the edge off dramatically. Some have drink and drugs; I like to play my music and write. I will listen to Megadeth because the music comforts me, lets me know that at least others know that there are things seriously wrong with the world we inhabit. I will play Fallout 3 because it’s fun and beats the hell out of actually having to beat and kill people in real life, because it’s too much effort, and illegal, at that. I will watch Dexter, not because it teaches you how to become a successful serial killer, but because frankly, I’ve never seen a movie where a cop leads a double life as a killer, or at least not any memorable ones. And it’s better than most of the cr@p on TV nowadays.

There is the argument that art imitates life imitates art, but that depends on whether you know right from wrong and assuming you haven’t been raised in the wild. Going into detail on what makes a killer is something different to what I’m trying to say in this article, but bullying or other sorts of social problems could be issues, since it’s a provocation of sorts; an action that can force a reaction. I’m not saying it’s a good one, but you think the other kids would’ve learnt their lesson by now?

So, to recap, problems arise at school or at the hangout with the kids involved. They come home and want to escape by playing games, watching TV, listening to music, going on the internet. Then, when the tormentors he’s been trying to get away from start entering his own private space through the chat-rooms or e-mail, he no longer has that safe haven to retreat to any more. The pressure becomes so great that he might kill himself, or kill others and then himself, known as homicide-suicide, in doing so, knowing that if he goes to hell he’ll take them with him.

Arguing that playing games is a good trainer for real-life situations; I’d say that a lot of activities that involve extreme violence are far different from simulations. True, the military use training simulators that are essentially videogames, but shooting a gun in reality is different than in games. Driving a car is very different from that portrayed in Gran Turismo, as Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear and Clarkson’s Car Years will confirm. Even in more domestic games like The Sims, running a household and going to work is harder than just typing in a few cheat codes to get $ 1000 instantaneously.

It’s not the games that caused the feelings of those children involved; it was events in real-life. If you look further back in history at some killings that happened before computers, mp3 players and even TV were invented, brutal killings still happened. In the 1920s, what spurred two rich teenagers on to abduct a young boy, murder him in the car they were driving in, then dump his body in a canal, his face covered with acid to burn his indentifying facial features? That wasn’t technology’s fault, obviously. What was the argument then? What did they have to blame back then like today? Nothing.

Nowadays in the UK, and perhaps other countries too, with the spreading phenomenon of feral kids, they are rampaging all over the place, taking out their anger on innocent folk without remorse. It’s not technology, but once again, real-life situations like growing up in a dysfunctional family, in a broken home, or as an orphan raised in a home or by several foster parents.

Some argue that killers that commit these school shootings are mentally ill, and suffer from depression, stress, and a disorganized mind- who doesn’t nowadays, right? And who can blame them?

Different situations I hear you say? There’s that one common thing that all these examples share: real life, reality; not necessarily virtual reality.

* Let me just say that I in no way endorse the actions of the shooters, nor am I trying to shift the blame on anyone else in particular. My main aim here is to get rid of this stereotype that gamers are killers in training, and get the focus shifted on to real issues and motivators that lead to these actions.
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Apocalypse Then: Unreal Tournament 2004

On this day, Unreal Tournament 2004 was released. 

Any plans for an Unreal 3 single-player game were further put to rest.



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PC games due out this week

March 17, 2009 Tom Clancy's HAWX

March 18, 2009 The Path 

March 19, 2009 Runes of Magic -Chapter 1: Rise of the Demon Lord

March 19, 2009 Unreal Tournament III: Titan Pack


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2009/03/15

Apocalypse Then: Resident Evil Movie

On this day, Resident Evil was released in 2002. It used elements from the first and second game, and although it was a commercial success, it received flak from both critics and fans.
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Apocalypse Then- Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

On this day, in 2001, Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel was released. 

It wasn't considered as a true Fallout game by some, as they claimed it was just a spin-off of the series. In fact, even the creators of the the original series claim that the game only took place in the same universe, and didn't continue the story of either Fallout or Fallout 2, and is considered non-canon.


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AAA Update: Celebrating 100 posts

This post marks the 100th post on Apocalypso’s Atomic Arcade! The blog’s now been running since January 24th this year, which makes it 50 days old.

Thanks for visiting, whether it’s your first time, or you’ve been here before.

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What does AAA stand for?

It's not an abbreviation of anything. It just means the best of the best... 

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