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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 3: Quitting Demon’s Souls

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Renouncement

After more than two months since my last entry, I admit I’m in a bit of a rut.  I don’t want to go back and play Demon’s Souls and I also don’t feel I’m getting any better.  As it stands I’m trapped in area 1-4 about 15 or so hours into the game and I have no desire to play it.  Yes, as my previous entries have stated, I’ve found the right items, I’ve discovered how to outwit (and even kill) the red dragon, and I have upgraded my equipment.  I think my biggest problem is leveling, which is a grind of the grandest degree, and no matter how many times I run 1-1 to kill the red knight for my 2,000 souls it just doesn’t feel rewarding.  I’m at level 18 or so and none of the stats seem to have a large effect, especially compared to the gap from levels 1 to 5 or even 5 to 10.  This game’s jank is also starting to get to me.  Whether it’s the stuttering at the top of the stairs in 1-1 or the framerate hitches in the back halls of 1-3, I now get annoyed with the glitches.  I’ve heard all of the decries as well.  Play as a mage, do this thing here to cheat, do that thing there to by pass some of this, “git gud.”  Yeah, I’ve heard it all before and I don’t like any of it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

Midwest Gaming Classic 2018 Photo Album

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Check out all of our great shots from the show!  Click on a photo to enlarge it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 18, 2018 at 11:00 am

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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 2: Beginning Demon’s Souls

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Version

Someone pointed out that I claimed to have the European “Black Phantom Edition” in my story from Part 1, but then when I posted to Twitter that I was starting this crusade I clearly had a copy of the US “Deluxe Edition” in that photo.  Keen eye, although many are aware the box art is completely different.  Yes, it’s true, I no longer own the “Red Phantom Edition” because I sold that sucker for over $250 on eBay back when Dark Souls took off and demand was extremely high.  Mind you, I did this only after walking into a local GameStop and seeing them selling a copy of the US Deluxe Edition for the standard $59.99 price tag, which I think was a discount.  In the US the Deluxe Edition only came with the strategy guide (with a worse cover), but those that pre-ordered also got the art book and soundtrack as a bonus.  The employee admitted that a pre-order had never shown to claim their copy and despite being rare and in high demand, no one in the south suburbs of Kansas City seemed to care at all.  He also admitted that one of the other employees had already snagged the free bonuses (art book and soundtrack) so I wouldn’t be getting those and thus the discounted price.  Side note: it always baffles me nonchalant GameStop employees are about the terrible things they do to their customers; this was not the first employee to flat out admit that when a pre-order goes 5 days unclaimed that the employees are allowed to descend upon it, pick it apart, open it, take it home to play it, and you get this semi-used sloppy seconds version of a game you are paying full retail price for.  The game had been out for at least several weeks in the US and, yep, this copy had been opened and clearly played but thanks to that magical circular sticker they put on the box it was considered “sealed” by the GameStop gods.  I didn’t care, I could keep my copy of the same game – now specific to my region – and it came with the most important item: the strategy guide.  It also helped that I was able to rip the soundtrack before selling my other copy and you could find quite a few amazing high quality scans of the art book in PDF form, which are still live today.  Granted, it’s not the tangible book or disc, but neither are the art books, strategy guides, and soundtracks in future versions (other than my UK version of Dark Souls III), so technically this now just matches my others.  Either way, that’s why my pic had the US Limited Edition, which is not that far in value these days from the Black Phantom Edition so bully for me.

Black Phantom Edition (UK)

Deluxe Edition (US)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

It was time to go back, return to the game that brought me nothing but defeat and frustration.  A game that I paid a very high price for, imported when it wasn’t in my country, and thought was utter hype garbage.  I wouldn’t be going in half-cocked, however, despite what some may think this is not a crash course in masochism.  I wanted to be prepared, not only for the rough mechanics, but also how to overcome many of the flat out bad design choices that were played off as a difficulty spike.  When a game drops a boulder on you that you cannot avoid unless you know it’s coming, that’s just bad design, not a challenge.  The easiest way to prove this is when you have the knowledge of the boulder, it isn’t a challenge at all and can actually assist you in taking out enemies you no longer feel you need to fight.  This is where and how I draw the line between difficult and bad design, and I knew Demon’s Souls was chock full of both.  So I did what any planner or student would do: I read the guide.  It was so coveted, even by me, for so long that surely it would have some helpful information.  It did, but like everything else with this franchise, it was hardly straightforward and read more like an encyclopedia than a guide.  Again with my definitions.  A guide should walk you through the process of the game, allowing you to basically follow your progress in the game along with the page number of the guide with the occasional diversion chapters for filler.  An encyclopedia just dumps all the information in one organized place and forces you to determine what knowledge you need and seek it out.  This guide had spreadsheets, characters sheets, leveling info, item lists, enemy lists, tips, and several sections on higher gameplay tactics, but it never has a single page that covers how you start out.  There are 10 starting classes all with different stats, abilities, and perks, many of which won’t even matter until you’re at least 10-15 hours into the game and at which point you may have to restart the game if you selected the wrong build.  Additionally this title is a game of melee combat, ranged combat, magic, or different combinations of these attacks so you can understand why I was puzzled by a Thief class or the difference between a Knight, a Soldier, and a Temple Knight.  If you know this game well you’re probably tearing your hair out because the differences are distinct and real, but you would never know most of this without looking it up online.  While my guide gave me the different stats of each class and some random distinguishing characteristics, it really didn’t help you decide who to go with.  Hell, I had played Bloodborne and I still didn’t know who I wanted.  In this regard, the guide was somewhat useless because although it gave me stats and told me equipment, I didn’t know what the equipment did.  I later learned that if I went over to the equipment section, I could have looked each item up, but I think it would have been more helpful to just simply say something like “Silver Coronet – increases MP” to assist.  Games typically tell you what an item does when you get it, right?

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 1: Starting Point

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Welcome to my new series, The Soulsborne Diaries.  This will be an ongoing documentation of a yearlong journey through various video games belonging to From Software’s, shall we say sub-genre, of games that currently encompasses Demon’s SoulsDark Souls I-III, and Bloodborne.  I’m going to come right out and say that this isn’t a guide by any means – I’ve not played most of these games – and this is also not a series of deep dives into the concepts, lore, or mechanics of these titles either.  If you want that may I suggest Bonfireside Chat, a fantastic series  by the main crew at Duckfeed.tv.  The purpose of these diaries is an opportunity for me to digest my experiences in an attempt to discover why people are so drawn to them and also if I’m compatible with that drive.  This series would be best suited for the uninitiated hoping to journey vicariously with me or the seasoned veterans to get a glimpse into my process, my challenges, and my (hopeful) achievements.  In this process I do hope to open up a dialogue or at least hear out comments, but I must stress that I am no expert and undoubtedly a series with this passion may draw individuals who despise what I say or my lack of knowledge on various topics.  If this is you, please let your voice be heard in the comments below or by writing an e-mail, but I do ask that you remain civil as the treatment and response you receive will be equally respectful.  That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree and that you can’t be exasperated in your response, by all means.

Introduction

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly new to Soulsborne titles.  I got on the Demon’s Souls bandwagon before the game even came to the US, nabbing a European “Black Phantom Edition” that included an art book, a soundtrack, and a strategy guide.  Admittedly my initial draw was the popularity it was garnering on the import site I frequented at the beginning of the PS3’s life – for those that didn’t live in a region-locked world, having the PS3 region free was huge for me.  When it arrived I have to admit that I was enthralled by the art book, which was filled with grotesque creatures and massive monsters all with a medieval theme.  It reminded me of the first time I flipped through the pages of the Dungeons & Dragons Monsterous Manual, wide-eyed at the horrors you could encounter in that world.  After looking over the book and making a spot on my shelf, I didn’t touch the game for several months, a trend I’m guilty of even today, but it was particularly bad at this time.  Later, when Atlus released the game here in America, a few of my friends started asking me about this game that was apparently huge in Japan and Europe.  I don’t know that it was initially successful, but the long range sales of Demon’s Souls can’t be denied and this was definitely a jumping point for From Software to do something greater, albeit without the help of Sony Japan, who funded this first game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Community Question: Regarding Your Speech…

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Since we don’t necessary have a podcast coming up and a really good question was asked, I figured I’d answer it here.  It comes from Andrew and it reads:

Hello again, whoever is hosting this time. This one goes to Fred, but, whoever you are, read anyway; Fred will listen to this.

First, I do admire more effort being put in research and actually playing the games covered on the show. That is always a welcome change. However, there is ONE teeny problem. I am very much against the “GAMES ARE SRS ART THAT WILL EDUCATE US AND ELEVATE HUMANITY TO A NEW LEVEL OF SUPERIOR EXISTENCE” crap. The very moment you start taking fun seriously, you lose your ability to enjoy it. Do you really want to go there, Fred? Do you want to kill the fun, and treat games like some boring obligatory chore for mature adults such as yourself? I will be blunt: the moment you forget how to have fun and enjoy things without ruminating on the serious socio-political implications of “the experience” immediately after, will be the moment I stop listening. I am surrounded with enough mature adults who forgot what fun is already.

With that out of the way, I will sadly not be able to contribute any articles to the site. I am very picky, and only play games that I really love, meaning my personal knowledge of games extends almost exclusively to titles I played. I will not be playing anything I do not like because I have to. I could join you on a potential Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, or Sly Cooper episode, I know everything you need (and don’t need) about those series….. es. There is nothing else I can help with. Other than sending you soundtracks if you ever need them.

Well….. bye?

P.S. Thinking your perspective on a game is a fact is not rare, most people are like that.

My response is below:

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

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The Mini Console Craze and Why It Can’t Really Work Moving Forward

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Last week Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, aka the “SNES mini,” to the masses.  The launch went well and most people who either pre-ordered or who went out early on the morning of release were able to successfully get their hands on a console.  For those that didn’t, there’s still hope as Nintendo has now promised to keep producing them until the supply has met up with demand.  This comes on the coattails of the debacle that was the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition (NES mini), which last year was nearly impossible for consumers to find on store shelves but countless quantities were available on eBay with a considerable markup.  This has caused both consumers and business to prove, yet again, that they understand nothing of the true demand that fueled these particular consoles and why their interest and value will drop considerably once they are available on store shelves.  Not only does the mainstream not get it, but clearly video game web sites – who should know better – continue fueling the fire by making waste of text articles about their hopes and dreams for future iterations.

Let me come out and say it: there’s little hope for more “mini” consoles in the future, especially if you want anything from the 32-bit era on and anything that used a CD-ROM or larger for its games.  Here’s why.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

Let’s Build A Raspberry Pi/RetroPie (Part 1): Building and Installing

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Description from the video on YouTube:

In this video Fred, who has no experience with a Raspberry Pi, tries to set up a RetroPie on the fly. Within the 60 mins of this video he is able to build it, hook it up, and get roms playing. Sorry for the sound sync issues at the end. Not sure what happened. Part 2 will come soon that is all about setting up the customization for a RetroPie.

Links:
RetroPie: https://retropie.org.uk/
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B at Micro Center: http://www.microcenter.com/product/461129/3_Model_B
Accessories Kit purchased on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Raspberry-Pi-3-Model-B-Retropie-Game-Console-Accessories-with-Gamepad-/192273501334
Accessories Kit Referenced on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073VDNR6X/sr=8-3/qid=1505505595

***Please feel free to shop wherever you want for your hardware, I get no kickbacks from these links or any other shopping site. Just giving people the links to where I shopped.***

Written by Fred Rojas

September 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

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Opinion: My Love/Hate With Nintendo Continues

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I got a press release this morning, like early this morning, from Nintendo.  It wasn’t that long, but still too long for this piece, so I’ll lightly extract the important parts.  “Due to incredible demand for the upcoming…Super NES Classic Edition system, Nintendo plans to ship the retro-inspired product into 2018.”  Oh, it gets better.  The press release then goes on in the third paragraph to say, “Next summer, Nintendo will also bring back the…NES Classic Edition system with new shipments.”  I’ve already had some celebratory readers, all of which I believe were unable to snag either console to date, reach out and basically say, “we did it.”  I’d like to believe these decisions have to do with our combined outcry or even the handful of petitions available to sign online, and either way these efforts have now seen results.  With this news comes new questions, concerns, and potential futures, but for now lets just sip our coffee with a smile on our face.  While the NES Classic and SNES Classic may be the focal point of my intro, I’m taking all of Nintendo to task with both the great and terrible moves it has made in the past few years.

Why The Nintendo Hate?

This shortage of consoles is nothing new.  I think I’ve been waiting for Nintendo products to come in stock for at least 30 of my 35 years on this earth.  In 1987, I was 5, I got an NES for Christmas and wanted to go pick up two games I’d read about in the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter: Castlevania and Mega Man.  You see, my birthday is on January 6 so when I would get a new console or portable for Christmas I could usually purchase a game or two immediately following.  In January of 1988 it was impossible to get those games, but I can’t tell you whether it was the apparent chip shortage that would plague the holidays in late 1988 or some other factor.  This continued with Super Mario Bros. 3 being stealth launched in Summer 1990, frantic shenanigans to get my hands on an N64 (and Mario 64 because the two weren’t always available together) in September of 1996, then similar problems with the GameCube in 2001, and I camped in front of a Best Buy in November 2006 to get a Wii.  This doesn’t even account for the waiting for several first party games, terrible customer service on servicing consoles, woes with portables, and so on.  I’ve been waiting for Nintendo my entire life and I’ve allowed no other company to treat me this way while still getting my money.  To try to make sense of it is an exercise in futility.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Learning from the Past: The Arcades

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We live in a great time to be a gamer. The quality and quantity of games available is at an all-time high. We can even hop on our systems and play against people in our living rooms or halfway around the world.

This holds even more true for retro gamers. It is getting easier to gain access to older games, whether through the internet, local stores that focus on retro gaming or services like Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Older PC games are making a comeback as well, with Blizzard releasing StarCraft Broodwar for free and services like Good Old Games (gog.com) optimizing the settings for programs like DOSbox so gamers don’t have to fight with it.

There is one experience, however, that will probably never be the same as it was back in the hey days of the 80s and early 90s: the local arcade.

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Written by azrockslide

June 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

Blog: E3 2017 Reflections and the State of Video Game Coverage

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The circus is over, the massive booths have been torn down, and apparently the BET Fan Fest is taking over the L.A. Convention Center this weekend.  E3 2017 was an odd one, not only because the “public” was there – given how many friends and family of industry people regularly show at E3 it’s a bit of a stretch to not put scare quotes around public – but because the industry itself is in a state of flux.  We saw record numbers of attendees, approximately 78,000 compared to the roughly 55,000 we typically see, and with the inclusion of the public came astronomical lines and big ugly neon green lanyards that basically said “avoid me.”  At the same time there was rampant coverage of the show from so many angles instead of a set group of major web sites who are all friends with each other and the public relations reps they meet with that overall cast a much more positive light on E3.  Listening to coverage from Polygon, IGN, and Giant Bomb it was clear that the media hadn’t changed its tune, mostly dogging on a majority of what was shown, but what shocked me most was the take on the public presence.  It was also a turn for the convention as a whole given that the ESA (the entity behind E3) now has to adjust the way the whole show is handled and I think we’ll see the emergence of a large public show to rival GamesCom in Europe or Tokyo Game Show in Japan.  As a person who went with the “pleb pass” (public pass) instead of applying for a media pass, which I’m fairly certain I would have gotten, the whole show confused me.  I’ll come out and say it: I don’t understand where video game media coverage is at right now.  Despite this fact, I have some thoughts on the key topics from E3 2017.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

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