No Man’s Sky: Travel With Me

One of this year’s most anticipated titles has finally been released and has been out now for about two weeks. The game, No Man’s Sky and according to Steam the reviews for the game is practically at a dead lock. 49,257 reviews and 52% of those votes leave No Man’s Sky at a less than stellar “Mixed” review. But why? Did we over hype this game like we tend to do with every other game or did Sony and Hello Games just mislead us, it could be both. Regardless, No Man’s Sky is still a very unique game that inspires the gamer to embrace his or hers sense of adventure through time and space.

I haven’t yet put in the time that I wanted to in NMS and with Legion just around the corner I may not be able to fully give it my attention but it’s not going to keep me from trying. Collectively I have put in a little over 20 hours in NMS and so far from what I have done and what I have felt, it’s that the space odyssey game that is shrouded in mystery I have been looking for sense I finished Mass Effect for the third time.

The beginning of the game was a little rough I can admit. Mainly because I wasn’t really sure what I was playing. And when it comes to playing a game with limited direction the feeling of being overwhelmed by a new game can be defeating. Also it didn’t help that the red blob known as Atlas wasn’t much help in guiding me on my new found journey. So safe to say I spent the first hour or so trying to figure out the mechanics of the game. Honestly I’m still learning but the further I delve and the more words I learn throughout the planet the bigger fan I become.

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NMS is at its core an immersion game. A game that drops you in the middle of a desolate planet with not much more advice other then “just survive.” It’s a lonely game that at times has made me feel exhausted about seeing the same mountain or hill over and over again. But to know that there might be something new just over the mountain range keeps me trekking along. Scouring the planet for a particular metal or element while your life support meter drops and the flashing of lights from your suit begins. This brings out the fact that this game isn’t just about exploring and discovery but it’s also about survive. When I play NMS or any game for that matter I easily let the want to adventure get the best of me. Luckily in most games it’s not such a bad thing because of the sand box map layout. However in NMS adventuring just a couple meters beyond a valley could really get you turned around, but If my feet can take me there. I’m going. The great thing that I realized on Sunday was that you can actually ping a marker in distance through the binoculars. Whether it be a trade hub, drop pod, or battered down shelter the marker tool helps keep you moving without getting to far from your target of interest. This for me makes the game that more immersive. Not only are they areas to save your game or to upgrade/sell your gear but they become these areas that you actually look forward to. They become areas of great relief after walking for hours on end in hopes to discover more of the games lore. This past Sunday I made it a personal mission to dig a little dipper in the language in the game and because there is no actual map of reference you just need to follow your feet. So I went. In a span of two days I discovered a fair amount of words.a-strange-planet-landscape-from-no-man-s-sky-video-game-by-hello-games But the crown jewel was when I came across a massive stone that showed me more of the language which led me to understand that there is way more to this language then just game filler. I’m on a planet that is mostly inhabited by creatures native to this planet and yet there are stones with lore enlightenment willing to teach me. But because I was low on inventory, because I’m a hoarder, I needed to return back to my ship. It took me at least an hour to get back. Sure the marker said “Arrive in 21.00” but it doesn’t count if and when you get side tracked. On arrive I had this rye smile that I was home or at least somewhere where I knew where things were. Close to home as I’m going to get for now.

Which leads me into, what I think to be a very special part of the game, the alien interaction and their language. It’s not known why or how you arrived on this planet. Are you the last hope for some nearby dying planet that is looking to relocate or are you simply a rocket man burning out his fuse up in this galaxy alone. We don’t know yet. But we aren’t alone that’s for sure. The language is a key part throughout No Man’s Sky. If you want to trade you will need to know a few words so you don’t offend or scare one of the organic life forms. More importantly the language is going to further delve into the lore of NMS and with a game that is going to be further expanded through patches I would recommend that in this universe word farming is pivotal. Also to get a better understanding of what the language lore might bring in the future check out the official PlayStation Blog NMS a Universe Filled with Lore and Language.

All in all I enjoy No Man’s Sky. I look forward to finding new planets and species. Learning more languages and meeting new aliens. Sure it may have been subjected to over hype by us gamers and maybe we expected it to be so unique that maybe we can’t even appreciate it in our time, much like the Nintendo Game Cube. However No Man’s Sky is it’s own game and if you ever dreamed of drifting alone through space in hopes to find adventure and mystery No Man’s Sky is your game. Take it for what it is and not for what the mass media painted it to be. No Man’s Sky is a unique adventure and a breath of fresh air.

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The Humble Beginning to Clarity

How am I going to go about getting into the industry. As I write this and the many other drafts I have sitting in the draft bank, It sounds silly to say “This is how I’m going to get into the gaming industry.” Kind of a far-fetched idea. I’ll admit it. I know the mountain that stand in front of me. I do. Am I intimidated. Hell yes. Do I think it’ll work out? No. But I just can’t sit back and let this opportunity go by me. I just wouldn’t feel right.

So what about gaming has me thinking that I can maybe, somehow, possibly, make some kind of career out of this.

Let me explain.

As a child I grew up with playing the NES and Super Nintendo. Like many other children of the 90’s. I used these consoles even when the first PlayStation came out. Actually I don’t think I stopped playing Super Street Fighter until we got a PlayStation 2. So you can do the math. The reason why I continued to use these systems in the early 2000’s isn’t because I was hipster before you. No. It was however because we just couldn’t afford the new systems. In my family birthdays and Christmas’ weren’t a time to get gifts you wanted but those of things you needed. Like underwear. A sweater. It’s okay, this isn’t a sob piece. I’m simply painting the picture that we grew up understanding the value between want and need.

Now we did have a PC. It was a 98′ Windows 95, Compaq PC. It was a beaut! And heavy as bricks. I swear if I close my eyes I can still hear the hum of the fans whirling around in that thing. What a machine. Being the son of a mother who was a computer teacher I had good access to computers. I got to spend a lot of with them. Learning how they work and the programs they use. I remember working on word and creating 3D shapes thinking I was on my way to making animation shorts. I tell you this however, those skills I learned messing with computers served me well.

But that good ol’ Compaq PC is where I got my first taste of superior gaming. With the release of the new DOOM game around the corner it only seems right that that was my first PC game ever played. Doom. You remember. The game that took four, count them four floppy disks to install! Yep, that’s the one. It was my first chance at what we now call an FPS. It was gory, violent, scary, it put the fear of the devil in me as a child, and it was great. I won’t even pretend that I didn’t use the God Mode codes when things got tough. This was the beginning of something great for me, PC gaming.

Doom lead me to Quake. Quake lead to Half Life. Keeping with the genre of a first person view, gore fest, and disgusting demons coming for you  with blood curling screams! Honestly it’s amazing I didn’t turn out to be one of those kids who were at risk because of violent video games. Maybe it’s because I later made the change to game builders and real time strategy games. Mainly anything “Age of Empire” based and a little “Roller Coaster Tycoon” where I aimed to kill anyone that came into my theme park. Okay, maybe I was somewhat influenced by the doom and gloom of Doom. Maybe. But as the improvement of games began it left me behind. That is until I found console gaming.

Console gaming back then is kind of crazy to think about now. Now we focus on mainly two systems, PlayStation and Xbox. As a kid there was, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Game Cube, PlayStation, Dream Cast,  and too many others to list off here. I know that there are some years between some of those listed but they were all relevant. It wasn’t like today where you bought one console and were set for seven to eight years. Tech was changing left and right back then. Saying “back then” makes me feel old. I’ll do my best to choose some better words to remind me of back then, dammit. Anyway, there were so many game systems back then it was hard to keep up and pick one. The PS2 is finally where I found a home. After countless of Christmas’ where I hoped to get one we finally got one. But not on Christmas. It was during some other time. But nevertheless we had a a system. Growing up with mostly brothers and being 11-ish at the time. We played mostly sport games, extreme sport games, or shooting games. The same could be said for when we got a PS3.

It wasn’t until I got a chance in high school to experiment with other video game genres. I remember it like it was yesterday. My cousin whose father was and still is a big fan of video games had a pretty sweet computer rig, which we weren’t allowed to touch. Unless he was there to monitor, kappa. My cousin in turn was lucky enough to have the up to date consoles. So he had an Xbox 360 at the time. Now I was there because we were going to spend some days out of town for spring break so we had this great plan to stay up all night playing video games and sleeping in the car ride over to San Antonio. So the night started off with some Godfather until it stopped working. At this point it’s about 12 AM and my cousin is in this losing battle with his heavy eye lids. I begin to riffle through his games and there it is. This green box with a brownish tan back splash with gold text written across reading “Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion.” This is where my taste in games changed so much. I remember asking him what this was but he was knocked out. So I throw the game in and started it up. A there is where it began. The voice over begins telling you about some sort of secret society that once guarded some ancient bloodline that lead to some old Emperor named Tiber Septim. And now in the dying wake of the old emperor the blood line now lies in your hands to find its last member, which lies in some secret love child. By the nine I was hooked. Next thing I know I’m sneaking my way through some rat infested dungeon with nothing but a torch, a shield, and a loosely fitting loincloth. I’m pretty sure I just convinced myself to go back and play that game. I knew I had found my home. I played this game until day break and it was wonderful.

There was something about this game that I couldn’t get over. The depth of history this game had was ridiculous. I have never experienced anything like it before. The idea of a video game having such detailed lore to me was foreign. I wanted and needed more, and it didn’t help that “Lord of The Rings” had just come out that same year . I was pretty much in on this fantasy world high. And Elder Scrolls was my drug. So I took to wiki pages and online sources of Todd Howard’s Elder Scrolls to feed my need for more information.

The point is playing certain games like Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, and even Hitman changed the way that I looked at video games. No longer were they just these mind numbing things children played for hours on end to avoid playing outside. They had become works of art to me. Something on the level of a good book or a American movie classic. Video games have evolved over time and sure some are still just about gore and crime. But others like Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted” tell an expansive narrative based on mystery, love, crime, history, and adventure. All centralized around beautifully crafted characters with their own tones and personalities. These are the qualities that make a movie great or a novel a best seller. For video games it’s no different. I believe I’m ready to take on this challenge to properly evaluate them.

The Edge of Immersion

The idea I have for this blog is that this place will be my own spot on the internets to talk about my gaming experiences, my likes, dislikes, and ideas among other things. This is here to be my take on gaming, my feelings for characters, events, new IP directions, but mostly it’s here so I can be true to myself.

So let’s start.

I figured out in 2007 that my taste in video games went past just playing “Madden” or “MLB the Show.” Don’t get me wrong. I like those games, especially baseball, but there isn’t a dire need to buy one every year. I realized, thanks to an up all night gaming session with “Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion” that there are some pretty badass games out there. And all I need to do is broaden my gaming horizons.

What was once just something I did to pass the time with on weekends slowly trickled into a serious passion. Suddenly I was looking up information about games, old and new. I wanted to see what other games were out there like Oblivion and because at the time I didn’t have a PS3 I was forced to live vicariously through others. But when I finally got that PS3 you better believe that Oblivion was the very first game I purchased. That and Assassin’s Creed. The historian in me couldn’t pass that one up.

These two games lifted me to a whole other world. Suddenly I was wrapped up in some ancient grudge between Assassins and Templar’s that was ultimately leading to some real world conspiracy. All while I was trying to both close the gates of Oblivion and preventing the bloodline of Tiber Septim from perishing. Just remembering it now reminds me of all the hours I spent exploring and immersing myself into these games. That’s what makes gaming so special to me.

Video games aren’t just games to me anymore. I’m not just sitting in front of a screen jumping over barrels and firing turtle shells across a rainbow road to sabotage other drivers. True, that may have been super fun but now I’m immersing myself into these games. I throw myself into these worlds and I become one within it. Sounds overly dramatic right? Well I would agree, which is why I don’t say that out loud. But for all the hours I spent walking about in the cities of video games I become invested. It’s funny to think about it now, but the other day I had a customer come in to the store asking me about “Tom Clancy’s Division.” He asked me what kind of game it was. So I explained it’s a third person shooter with elements of an MMO. However in this game it’ll remind you of the Rainbow Six games of old. You know the one where you had four extraction teams and it was your job to go in quickly and quietly to rescue the hostages from the terrorist; I put some miles on that game. But one thing was always sure. I always tried to walk out of the missions without any collateral damage or any deaths to my team, kind of like “Socom Navy Seals.” Never leave a man behind. Either we all go down or I’m dragging you out of this mission by your collar. But if I lost a man, it hurt me. I honestly felt bad. I didn’t realize it at the time but thinking about it now. I realize that my “immersion” approach to gaming goes back to when I was even 11 or 12. It’s an approach that either really sells me onto a game or doesn’t.

Oblivion for example was my first game in the Elder Scrolls series. If you have ever played any of those games you’ll know that there is a ton of lore in them. The history addict in me loves this. It makes it that much more real. The fact that you could dungeon crawl into old Ayleid ruins always gave me goose bumps. I loved it so much my house in Skingrad was a shrine dedicated to the Ayleid relics of old. Collecting relics wasn’t even part of that game. I just loved to do it. I wanted to know more about the lore of the game, so I read books, in game and out of. I read web pages and wiki notes. I couldn’t get enough. And yes, you better believe that when Skyrim released I spent at least four years playing it consistently over the span of seven characters, maybe eight. The point is I immerse myself in my games. This is my edge. I hope. I see things in the way of my character. I role-play if you will. So much so that sometimes it drives me from a game. Sometimes I can’t deal with certain aspects of a game and emotionally I need a break.

Crazy huh?