Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Congratulations Tweens!

A tween, so occluded by the attention of the people around him or her and his or her self-awareness, might be able to twerk.  A tween so twerking might escape notice, but far more likely a tween twerking will attract attention to their situation, moving up and down wildly, as if twerking were life.  A tween so aligned might twerk their way into their lover's heart, or a tween, so twerking, might fail miserably at doing so, might embarrass oneself or crash into a table and light a portion of a house on fire.

A tween so twerking might become a twerking machine, incapable of cessation of said twerk activity, perpetually trapped in a framework of movement known as twerk, undulating up and down selectively.  A tween so twerking might become famous, might stick their tongue out, might capture the spirit of a nation or just one boy or girl for years to come.  A tweek so twerking might get ripped as needed to sustain such action, but we here at Sexy Results do not advise that tweens twerk under the influence, as the power of twerk is not to be underestimated and tweens, as well as know are dangerous.

Whatever happens, whatever the outcome, we recommend that all sober teens of sound mind and body twerk at some point during the day today.  I mean, do you have a good reason not to?  #YOLO

Congratulations Tweens!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Congratulations Spasm!

You'll begin somewhere in the foot, deep down, where the brain barely even acknowledges what's going on, a spark, a hint of the potential that we all have inside ourselves.  You'll ignite and surge, up the leg, into the brain, where you'll be interpreted as a command to move the arm, the right arm specifically, forward and down in a pressing motion.  The arm will obey.  After all, the brain knows best.  But the arm won't know what your owner's eyes and ears and much of his higher cognition knows: that there's a button where the arm is moving, and that that button is actually "The Button," the means by which nuclear weapons can and will be launched once it is depressed.

Your owner will experience a feeling of terror which will, in turn, shift to dread as he realizes that what he's done will forever shatter the world, that all the training in sitting and reading comic books that the air force put him through was, in fact, useless.  He'll look at his office mate, with whom he shares the underground bunker that things like this happen in.  His office mate will look at him with the same fear, the same knowledge that the world above, whatever it may have been, will be gone now, replaced with something horribly new and unknown.  Your owner will consider kissing his office mate on the mouth, just to see what it's like before the world really starts to fall apart, but we aren't sure if he'll go for it.  We're limited to your perception here, and by the time anything happens or doesn't happen between the two of them you'll be gone, the energy that made you occur dissipated within the firmament of your one-time-owner.

Congratulations Spasm!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Congratulations Germ Warfare!

Mondays, am I right?  Who needs them?  Hardworking germ warfare scienticians, that's who!  Scienticians like your creators, who were sciencing pretty god damn hard on the day they came up with your sexy little bod.

See you're a collection of weaponized germs, and today you're going to get released to the public.  At first, people will be a little uncertain.  They'll be all, "Is this the best time to expose the world to a virulent plague of our own making?"  And you'll be all like SHAZAM! and boom, half the population will be dead within four days.  By the end of the month, nearly all of mankind will be replaced with germ filled corpses.  Within a year, the handful of survivors who didn't die horribly because of you will all finally finish the messy business of wiping each other out, which will leave you as the dominant life form on the planet.  Have fun with Earth!  Or at least, what's left of it now that we're done.

Congratulations Germ Warfare!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Super Nerd Sunday Presents: The Pedigree of Titanfall!

In the long long ago, in the days before free-to-play games, in the era before multiplayer-only titles could be released for full retail price, there was a game called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.  Modern Warfare was, at first glance, a well built, meticulously structured FPS title that did a lot of things right, told a pretty okay story, and had clean, well-crafted gameplay with a robust customization system running under the hood.  Upon closer examination, a highly optimized, extremely polished multiplayer game revealed itself, coupled with an arcade-style replay mode for the single player campaign that tapped into feedback responses both modern and ancient.

The company that made Modern Warfare then made Modern Warfare 2, which kind of went a little bit overboard while trying to expand on what Modern Warfare did right, but was still pretty okay.  Then, amidst an ugly internal power struggle between Activision-Vivendi and Infinity Ward, the vast majority of Modern Warfare 2's development team was fired.  Bonuses were rescinded for many developers who had been attached to the project since before it had a name, Infinity Ward was rendered a shell of its former self, and key members of the dev team for the first Modern Warfare game started work under the name Respawn Entertainment.  They set up shop under EA's umbrella and, four years later, they released a new project called Titanfall that took every lesson learned during the first two Modern Warfare games and used the sum total of those lessons to make one of the best fucking first person shooters I've played since the first Modern Warfare title.

Modern Warfare turned on a wickedly well constructed feedback loop that nearly invariably convinced players they were doing better than they actually were - I'd argue it understood how to do this better than any game before (and, until the release of Titanfall, I would've said since).  The framework surrounding that feedback loop involved things constantly happening: rewards for particularly skillful play, or rewards for picking yourself out of a slump.  On the other side, its Arcade mode encouraged frenetic, score based killing that took the FPS genre and made it into a kind of quasi-arcade game about movement, momentum and timing, fraught with popping numbers and up-ticking scores.

Titanfall joins these two systems into a seemingly aberrant multiplayer-only proposition that, shockingly enough, lives up to the hype surrounding its release and then some.  By joining the "arcade shooting" single player game and fast paced iterative multiplayer game together through the inclusion of bots, a nominal campaign structure, and a series of time-released rewards, Respawn managed to make a game that actually improved on Modern Warfare's feedback-loop system while deftly avoiding the feature creep and balance pitfalls that plagued Modern Warfare 2.

See, Modern Warfare 2 was, for the most part, a lot like the original Modern Warfare, with a few notable exceptions.  Modern Warfare 2 featured around a dozen killstreak items, to the first Modern Warfare's three.  It also featured more perks, more guns, and some substantial balance problems revolving around attempts to make FPSes a little less FPSy - things like teleporting ninjas who never need to stop sprinting or shotgun-wielding dickheads who can present a never-ending stream of two-fisted buckshot with a longer effective range than most hip-fired assault rifles.  The game was, at its core, well constructed, but it fell apart under its own weight, as those elements that had been tacked on to make the game feel like it was "more than" Modern Warfare started to interfere, rather than elevate, the tight, tautly crafted play of Modern Warfare's systems.

This concern, often referred to as "feature creep," relates to a point where a game acquires more elements then it needs.  Best case, these elements are simply redundant, additional things that operate exactly the same way that other things operate.  Battlefield 4 is big on this kind of feature creep, where assault rifles and carbines are constantly added to the game, and almost always function in a way that only the most concerned players comprehend.  The more common result of feature creep is a problematic experience for new players, who are unable to develop skills or understand game systems in an overcrowded framework, and are forced to endure a "hell state" until feature roles begin to coalesce for them.  DotA 2 is a superlative example of this kind of feature creep, where new players are asked to memorize the interactions of over one hundred heroes with little or no readily accessible documentation.  Feature creep can also negatively impact developers, who are unable to effectively balance each feature in the game system while still preserving a unique role for all of the varied elements making up the whole of the game. 

Modern Warfare 2 had all three of these problems.  Titanfall has none of them.

It's not that there isn't a lot going on in Titanfall.  There are plenty of toys, each distinct, each fun, each very different.  The options for customizing characters and choosing a role to play are rich, and unfold in a manner that allows new players to easily find their footing by keeping the number of variables at play relatively low.  See, Titanfall keeps things simple, but the combination presented by its systems, and the robustness of each available style of play, keeps things from feeling anemic.  Even though there's really only a handful of guns available to players, with only ten pilot weapons and six titan weapons, each weapon is very distinct and useful, so nothing feels superfluous.  And the manner in which combinations of gear pair with "Tactical Abilities" (which range from things like "running real fast" to "making yourself invisible" as a pilot, to "filling an area with deadly electrical chaff" or "projecting an impassable bullet shield" as a Titan), ordinance (game speak for grenades or mines for pilots, or secondary missiles for Titans) and "kits" (equivalent to Call of Duty's perks) keeps things fresh.  Sure, you might like playing with that auto-aiming Smart Pistol when you've got the ability to run on walls faster and higher, but what if you pair that Smart Pistol with the ability to move around without making noise?  And what kind of Titan kit will you pair it with?  A menacing pilot-shredding Stryder with a chaingun and cluster missiles?  Or a heavy hitting Ogre with a Quad Rocket and a Multi-Missile target system?

The parts are easy enough to understand, but playing with how those parts fit together takes time.  I've spent nearly 20 hours playing so far, and I've still just barely scratched the surface.  I'm still finishing up weapon unlocks, and I've only really used one of  the Tactical Abilities - the promise of being invisible has just been too sweet to pass up, at least for me.  But Titanfall doesn't care - it's not punishing me for not using a particular system, or if it is, I haven't noticed yet.  And as time goes on, maybe I'll explore the game more.  The balance of the whole affair is superlative, and the manner in which the game populates its world with bots as a sort of "bullet chaff" is a brilliant way to keep the play from ever getting dull, clearly drawing from the arcadey feel that made playing through the first Modern Warfare again and again so darn fun.  There's something about mowing down a row of slack-jawed bots and watching points stack up and knock seconds off my Titan's deploy time that feels satisfying, like watching numbers pop up above my head after I pick up a piece of fruit in Pac Man.

Not to say that Titanfall is flawless.  Two of its gameplay modes are thoroughly redundant, specifically the Attrition mode, where you get points for killing anything, and the Pilot Hunter mode, where you earn points for killing pilots.  The end result of each mode is indistinguishable: you play a Team Deathmatch like setup, and the momentum of the game is almost always insurmountable.  But that's nitpicking; it's only a significant issue when you compare the way those modes play to the way the games other modes, which orient themselves around different concerns like map control, movement, or, in one case, terse, taciturn, respawn-free combat.

There are also items that are, straight up, just better than most other items.  While every gun has its use, certain guns feel like "the best" out of the gate.  For example, the 40 millimeter cannon, a massive Titan weapon that fires huge semi-explosive rounds at considerable velocity with no range decay and a healthy semi-automatic rate of fire, outperforms every other Titan weapon in most situations.  There are outliers, sure, but you'll never regret choosing the 40 mil, which you can't really say for certain about other Titan weapons, the usefulness of which is often of extremely conditional.  Pilot weapons are a bit better rounded, but, for my money, the CAR, an SMG/assault rifle hybrid, seems to be the most effective weapon, especially when it gets kitted out with a combination of doodads that allow you to fire while sprinting and hip-fire while running with the same spread characteristics that you'd have while standing still.  It has its problems, sure, but it makes the game feel a bit cheap when you fight an entire team alone and come out on top of them thanks to your tricked out CAR and your frenetic wall-leaping habits.

Of course, that same scenario is also super exhilarating, and that exhilaration is at the heart of Titanfall.  It's an extremely polished product, and those balance issues have never made me feel like the game favors a particular sort of meta - unlike Modern Warfare 2, where players were punished for not dual wielding shotguns or using a tactical pistol with a knife, Titanfall rests on a robust system permitting a multitude of play styles to collide in an interesting way.  The end result is a fast-paced, smart first person shooter with an immersive, engaging progress-system.  There's no aspect of Titanfall that qualifies as boring, and no aspect of it that doesn't, in some way, seem to derive from Repsawn Entertainment's storied pedigree.  All in all, it's extremely well crafted fun that has just the right amount of artifice behind it all, demonstrating its ability to learn from previous systems during its development without ever losing its own voice.  The end result is something incredible: the best multiplayer shooter that I've played since the original Modern Warfare.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Congratulations Million and First Man!

When you arrive on the street he'll hold up his hand, meticulously gloved.

"Sorry," he'll murmur.

"What?"  You'll really want to attend that march that he's acting as some kind of conceptual doorman to.

"We at capacity."  You'll be so upset that you won't even think to correct his poor elocution, particularly unfortunate given the circumstances surrounding his presence.  Instead you'll just throw up your hands and start to huff.

"Don't you get how this is the exact kind of exclusionary behavior this event is aimed at combating?  And how your very presence is a demonstration that this event is simply not living up to its own full potential?"

He'll look at you for less than a second before shaking his head.

"You're not getting in."

You'll walk away, thoroughly discouraged, and get on a bus back to Boston.  On the ride, you'll work on lesson plans, and wonder, for a few furtive moments, if an organization that wouldn't let one more person into a million person event really has society's best interests at heart.  It will tug at you for a long while, until the scenery pulls your attention away and you tumble into your own consciousness, pondering the passage of space around you.

Congratulations Million and First Man!