I honestly just can’t believe it’s over (or is it?).
I honestly just can’t believe it’s over (or is it?).
Imagine a Super Smash Bros. ever being bad?
I’ll start this off the same way I do every blog about a particularly nerdy or granular topic: this probably isn’t for everyone. I’m going to be diving into very trivial matters of the video game world that, like, five people besides me care about. I won’t feel that offended if you don’t bother reading this. That being said, you should still read this.
So, as I am every year around this time, I’m deep into Assassin’s Creed. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is awesome. Ancient Greece is one of my favorite time periods and it’s just a good game (if you’re wondering why I haven’t reviewed it yet, it’s because it’s so huge and I physically can’t get myself to ignore the non-main story elements. And I’ve been busy doing other stuff. Like voting, NBD) (Yeah, I voted. Got a sticker and everything. Yes, it does make me better than you). Anyway, as I explore the massive world, the same thing that struck me when I was playing Assassin’s Creed Origins hit me now: this is just Witcher 3 with a different skin. My thoughts were mostly drawn to the presence of undiscovered locations on the map represented by white question marks. The first picture is from Witcher 3. This is from Odyssey:
Not exactly straying too far from the mold, are they? And that’s not the only thing, either. The combat is pretty much the same, both in mechanics and the way damage is calculated through your own level and gear. The armor rarity and perk system is pretty much the same. I don’t really mind, that much. Why fix what isn’t broken? But this is far from an isolated incident in the video game industry, and I don’t really get why no one cares.
Outside of the people that made PUBG, it seems like every video game company is kind of fine with everyone else just jacking their mechanics and ideas. Take the franchise that started it all. Assassin’s Creed (the first one) is probably the most influential North American game of the 21st century, if only for creating the “climb up to the tallest point to unlock more of the map” thing that every open world game since has included. Every AC sequel, the Arkham games, Spider-Man, Breath of the Wild, a billion others. Horizon Zero Dawn at least put their own spin on it, but it was still the same (by the way, the Mass Effect game that came out a few years ago was literally just Horizon Zero Dawn set in space). Did Ubisoft not care that their IP was being passed around like a hot potato? Or were they more worried about the fact that the counter-based combat system they created was perfected by Arkham Asylum and Batman got credit for it? That same combat system was then stolen from Batman by a million other games, as well, and was the basis for the combat system Witcher 3 created. Which brings us to the most egregious offender of all, Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War. Mordor literally took everything that made Assassin’s Creed Assassin’s Creed (the free running, the climbing, the viewpoints, the kind of weird storyline) and added, beat for beat, the Arkham combat system. I was stunned no one did anything about it. It was theft, pure and simple. But, to bring everything full circle, Odyssey turned around and stole a bunch of War’s skill tree and completely bastardized the nemesis system, Mordor’s crowning achievement, with the mercenaries. It’s a giant human centipede of gaming ideas and everyone gets a taste of someone else’s game. It’s preposterous.
And this isn’t solely and American thing, either. Our friends from across the Pacific are, if possible, even more shameless than we are. There’s about 10,000 franchises that are bald Final Fantasy imitators (shoutout Lord of the Rings: the Third Age). Random encounters didn’t always exist. Now, try to imagine a JRPG (or any RPG, for that matter) without them. Turn based combat and large parties consisting of a brooding lead, a spunky teen, a jerk with a heart of gold, and a weird mascot/animal who turns out to be a powerful magical creature are now more expectations of the genre rather than novelties. And it’s all because of Final Fantasy. And, to be fair, pretty much every game since Ocarina of Time was released has been at least tangentially based on Ocarina of Time. Shadow of the Colossus is practically set on the same map. Pokémon, which obviously owes a ton to Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda, was the direct inspiration for, like, a billion handheld games, including the forgotten G.O.A.T. of Gameboy Advance, the Megaman Battle Network series (don’t @ me). Obviously, Digimon was started as a pure Pokémon imitator, but, in a funny twist of fate, the newer Pokémon games wound up stealing the Digifarm from Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth. Like, it’s literally the exact same thing. Poké Pelago in Sun and Moon/Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is the Digifarm. You store your Digimon/Pokémon and they can level up/find items passively without the player needing to do anything. It has the same expandable islands, the same feeding system, the same ability to customize training focus, it’s literally the exact same thing. And one of my favorite series and one of the more surprising franchises I’ve ever played, Danganronpa, is just Phoenix Wright set in a high school. They didn’t even bother changing up the objection system. Everyone just takes each other’s ideas. It blows my mind that none of them care. Blows my mind. In music there’s a lawsuit if someone uses a similar chord structure. In gaming, it’s all fair use, apparently.
It’s one thing for a massive studio like EA to have all of their games be the same, but the fact that different, non-affiliated studios continue to use each other’s stuff is baffling to me. I’m pretty sure Madden was the first sports game to have the card-based team creator, and I’m shocked they didn’t try to crush 2K for taking it. I get everything’s a copycat league and you want to imitate successful properties, but can we switch things up a little? I realize there’s only so much you can do and I don’t want to be “enough remakes and sequels” guy but at some point maybe change things up? I mean, it’s not like the mechanic hive-mind has really prevented me from enjoying any of these games, but still. Maybe my problem is that I only play the huge AAA titles that are only concerned with making money so they’re more likely to just do what works instead of actually try and innovate. I know I should start playing more independent games if I really want originality, but I need to be able to contribute to the public gaming discussion, and no one cares about independent games. Guess this is more of a me problem, isn’t it? Oh, well. Just had to get this off my chest.
Welcome back to the Burning Questions Mailbag. Everyone’s favorite recurring segment has returned with a vengeance, and this is the biggest one yet. The people didn’t disappoint and submitted more Burning Questions than ever before, and I’m more than happy to answer
all some of them. Let’s dive right in.
Jerry S. asks: What’s the deal with math?
I’ll be honest, this was my question, not Jerry’s. This is what prompted me to revive the BQMB. What’s up with math? Why do all these complex equations and formulas exist? Every single one of them is an arbitrary human construct designed to solve a problem that humans created. It’s all fake. What real world application does calculus have? When’s the last time algebra helped anyone? What’s the point of any mathematical function outside of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division? Who decided what pi is and who decided it’s infinite? Sine and cosine are the fakest, most pointless things ever. Like who gives a shit what the area of an isosceles triangle is? Why do we still teach our children this crap? If you want to spend the rest of your life playing make believe with all the other mathematicians, you should have to declare yourself a math loser in like, fourth grade so everyone else doesn’t have to waste valuable education time on such a nonsensical and impractical discipline. Like the math problem from Good Will Hunting? Why does that even exist? Why are there unsolvable math problems if math itself is 100000000% man-made? Why did we create something we couldn’t solve? Just proves my point that advanced math is illegitimate and clearly something that should be kept in Neverland where it belongs.
pestooneverything asks: Why would Tory Lanez use a stage name when his real name is Daystar Peterson and what would your stage name be?
That’s a great question. As for the first part, you’d have to ask Tory Lanez himself. I tried contacting him, but he’s not returning my calls at the moment. It’s a long story. As for my stage name, I’m not quite sure. It’s have to be something catchy, and probably short. Maybe I’ll just be Brian. I don’t know, needs workshopping. One thing I know for certain, though, is that my nickname would be Mr. Mistoffelees. The nickname to the nickname is arguably more important, and I need to let people know what I’m all about. I think Mr. Mistoffelees gets the point across.
WhiteKong asks: What’s the worst city in America?
There are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of contenders for this. There’s my hometown of Rutland, Vermont. There’s good ol’ St. Louis. There’s my new home of New York City. There’s probably ten thousand terrible cities across this great country. But, in my mind, the big three of terrible American cities are Reno, Nevada, Detroit, Michigan, and Tampa, Florida. Detroit is obvious and kind of sad, but Reno and Tampa are living monuments to the most reviled sect of the American population: white trash. Nevada opened itself up to cities like Reno getting so bad by making the entire state a lawless commune. If you have the opportunity to trick people into thinking you’re just like Vegas, you’re gonna do it. It’s just when you don’t have any of the allure and panache you’re left with a hellhole of epic proportions. And Tampa is like if every stereotype you have of white people in Florida was a city.
ConfusedReader asks: Can someone focus on their career and have a family without compromising on either end?
Welcome to the Dear Abby portion of the program. Friend, I don’t know if you’ve ever read this website before, but I’m about as close to having a family or fulfilling career as I am to curing cancer, and I can assure you I’m not particularly close to curing cancer.
Out of goodwill, though, I must answer. I’d say yes, because people have been wondering this since the dawn of time and nothing about the way we structure professional lives has ever changed, so I’m guessing people figure it out? If you’re super dedicated to your work, a workaholic, or just plain old obsessed with your career, good luck finding someone that puts up with that longterm, but if you’ve got a regular 40-hour-a-week position, I don’t see why not. As long as you make it to little Jimmy’s baseball games so he doesn’t resent you for not being there, I think you can, at the very least, trick your family into thinking you care more about them than that nice promotion on the horizon.
movieman asks: I’m a little late, but I should totally get MoviePass, right?
Totally. Love MoviePass. It’s how I can afford to see all these movies and live in New York at the same time. Really, if you go like, ten times in a year it pays for itself. Wait, what’s that? MoviePass literally ran out of money and had to get a $5 million loan and is now raising prices and restricting access to blockbusters? Yiiiiiiikeessssss. R.I.P. MoviePass. It was a good run that seemed too good to be true every time I used it. Turns out it was. A free tip for every fledgling business owner out there: make sure you have a way to make money. Hard to stick around if you don’t.
Brian asks: Who was the first underwear manufacturer to account for erections?
Wonderful question, Brian. I’m not sure the answer to that, but I do know who has the most comfortable underwear. That’s right, it’s MeUndies! Right now, my readers can get 10% off their first purchase. Just go to meundies.com and enter the promo code: Brian.
DesperateLover asks: What’s the most polite way to ask for nudes?
“Excuse me, can I please have some nudes?”
BlacktopLebron asks: What’s your current All-White NBA Team?
Don’t know if you mean American white or Euros included, but I’m gonna include Euros just because.
G- Luka Doncic
G- Evan Fornier
F- Gordan Hayward
F- Kevin Love
C- Kristaps Porzingis
F- Dirk Nowitzki
F- Doug McDermott
G- Kyle Korver
C- Marc Gasol
C- Pau Gasol
G- Matthew Dellavedova
G- JJ Redick
We’re scoring a lot of points, buttttttt defense might be a bit of an issue.
X asks: Now that Dad Hats are back, what will be the next cool hat?
Cycling hats. Trust me, these things are gonna be huge.
AngryPerson asks: Why did you love Mamma Mia 2 so much? I hated it and loved the first one.
Well, you have my condolences. Being born with no taste must have been very hard for you. Mamma Mia 2 is better because it takes the best part about the first one (the music) and puts it front and center. Mamma Mia tried to have a real storyline, when, in reality, this is quite possibly the most far-fetched franchise plot-wise in history. Mamma Mia 2 embraces the absurdity and just gives the audience banger after banger, while Mamma Mia was caught trying to be both Les Mis and Grease, which didn’t work. 2 knows what it is, 1 didn’t. Both are still fire movies, though.
GuythatworksforXboxandisalegitimateInsiderwhothinksIhaveactualanswers asks: What’s going to be the next big technology that changes gaming? Better AI? 8K? Cloud computing?
Just going off my gut instinct, here, but the next big shift in gaming technology is going to be physical gaming. Imagine this- you have a representation of the game’s world in front of you (let’s call it a board), and a piece (or two, or three, etc.) that acts as a stand-in for the avatar, and, using things like random number generators and games of chance, you move your piece across the game board, fulfilling objectives, collecting loot, and competing against other players. I just think that’s where games are going.
Joseph asks: What’s the most annoying fan base?
I feel like I’ve touched on this before, but the five most annoying fan bases are 5. Patriots (I concede we can be very annoying and easily #triggered at times, but when the entire world makes it their mission to #trigger you, I’m sorry if I have a short fuse) 4. Star Wars (they hardcore fans that complain about everything and make me like the movies less) 3. St. Louis Cardinals (like Yankee fans but midwest) 2. Kobe (Kobe is not a top ten player of all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time. Kobe is not a top ten player all time) and, of course, 1. Yankees. I’m admittedly biased. But that stupid candle-light vigil for Aaron Judge (who hasn’t even Earned his Pinstripes, IMO) is why the entire country hates every single one of those mongoloid losers. There isn’t a more self-serious and self-aggrandizing group of people on the planet. Please @ me so I can tell you how stupid and detestable you all are.
DP asks: Why are you so soft on Kevin Durant?
Because everyone is so hard on him, and it makes me feel smart to go against public opinion, especially when the basis of most people’s argument is the imaginary concept of “loyalty.” Yes, it completely shattered the competitive balance of the league, but, I don’t know. I just don’t care.
FootballJunkie asks: Who’s your top ten skill position (non-QB) in the NFL?
God, just seeing the word football has me fiending something fierce. This is summer is last in my seasonal power rankings- training camp is the longest period of time ever. I just want some regular season action. Feed me Bengals-Colts on Thursday night. Anyway, top ten skill guys, non-QB.
Mr. Thoughtful asks: What’s a good first anniversary gift to give my girlfriend? She likes adventures and traveling but I have no money 😦
Ahh, the age old question. How to keep my significant other appeased despite the fact that I don’t have the necessary funds to shower them in lavish gifts? A true dilemma, if I’ve ever heard one. A love of adventures and traveling, you say? Hmmm. I think I know just the thing! How about a trip to lovely Reno, Nevada! It’s
all some of the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas at half the price! It’s an adventure because you won’t know if you’ll get sick from the used needles on the side of the road or the extreme second-hand smoke inhalation, and it’s traveling because I’m assuming you’re a real person and don’t live in Nevada. It’s a win-win! Or, you could make a bunch of artistic renderings of the two of you in all the places you’d like to go and hide them throughout the house. She might appreciate the effort.
BlacktopGriffey asks: Who’s your top ten current MLB players?
A lot of lists this time, but I’m always game to give definitive player rankings that no one can possibly dispute. I’ll do top ten position players and top ten pitchers.
Briansden69 asks: Remember when you went to the Denver Airport and became indoctrinated by the Illuminati? Whatever happe-
Well, I think that’ll about do it for this edition of the Burning Questions Mailbag. Always good to hear from readers and ease their troubled minds. I’ll keep my brain churning to come up with some more Burning Questions as long as you all do, too. Remember, if you have a question, I have the answer.
So usually after I post a video game review, I just kind of leave it at that. I know no one else really cares as much as me and there’s not a huge demand for my in-depth thoughts on the complexities of Nioh’s combat system. But Pokemon is different, and, as I wrap up my Ultra Moon experience, I had to talk about one of the more unique challenges I’ve had in gaming recently: if you’re good at the game, the new Pokemon games are so easy it makes it harder.
First off, yes, I know these are supposed to be children’s games and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. Well if they weren’t meant to be taken so seriously, they wouldn’t have such an intricate metagame. But yeah, they’re kids’ games that adults like me still hold on to. Even still, the 3DS games are quite easy. And what I mean by easy is that there’s so many more ways to level Pokemon up faster than ever. You get EXP from catching Pokemon. EXP Share gives EXP to the whole party and you get it really early in the game. If you use Pokemon Refresh (or Pokemon Amie in X and Y), the more hearts your Pokemon has, the bigger boost in EXP you get. Then add in the fact that Super Training, a system of maxing out a Pokemon’s stats introduced in X and Y as a series of mini games, is now even easier (you don’t even have to do anything. You just put the desired Pokemon in the right section of the new Poke Pelago and wait until the training is done) (They totally stole the Poke Pelago idea from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth) (Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the most influential Japanese game of the last five years don’t @ me), and you’ve got an easy recipe for an overpowered team.
You probably think this is a lot of crying over nothing. “What’s so bad about having a powerful team? Just turn off EXP Share and don’t use the optional training aids.” I mean, yeah, I wound up turning EXP Share off for a while, but I’m like a dog with a treat on its nose. If you offer me a way to soup up my team, I’m going to take it without thinking twice. I can’t control myself. My brain won’t allow me to pass up any possible advantage. And literally the only reason any of this is a problem is that, for the first time, I actually felt the pressure of the level restrictions placed on you as you progress through the game. In the traditional 8 gym storyline of past games, every couple badges you earn unlocks the ability to control higher level Pokemon. In Sun and Moon and the sequels, there are only four such increases, and each one only bumps you up 15 levels, despite the fact that it’s easier to gain more than 15 levels than not as you progress through each island. For example, after you beat the third island you’re able to control Pokemon up to level 65. Well, in between beating the third island and beating the fourth, you have to do two separate events that are important to the story, one of which forces you to face about a million trainers. I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. Then on the fourth island, I spent the entire time actively trying not to level up my team. When I beat the fourth island, three of my six Pokemon wound up being over level 65 and unusable. Yes, I easily could have remedied that by swapping them out for lower leveled Pokemon from the PC, thus adding more depth to my lineup, but who has time for that? Not me, apparently.
Listen, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty small complaint. The more I think about it, I actually don’t think it’s a complaint at all. I kind of enjoyed managing the levels of my Pokemon, because it was a different challenge and different experience than the typical Pokemon formula everyone is so accustomed to. Ultra Sun and Moon are still great. Sun and Moon are still great. I understand they were supposed to introduce a new generation of fans to the game, so more forgiving gameplay certainly makes sense. But maybe hold off on some of these advantages until the postgame next time? I don’t know. That’s why I don’t work at Game Freak, I guess.
If you’ve been waiting for a Pokemon game that isn’t excellent, I’ve got some bad news for you.
I’m way more excited for the Coon and Friends movie franchise than the D.C. one.