I think I restarted the original Metro game probably five or six times. It wasn’t because I wasn’t very good at it, or that I didn’t enjoy it, but every time I’d get up to one part, but then I’d run out of filters and die in the harsh environment of the post-war Moscow. Or I’d come up against innumerable enemies, waste all my ammunition, and die. Or maybe I’d lose my way, frantically run around trying to find the next area to go to, run out of filters, and die unceremoniously in some dark corner, panting for breath as everything slowly faded to black.
I probably played through the first few chapters five, maybe six times, each time growing more and more frustrated with a game everyone was raving about, all because of its incredibly atmospheric gameplay and fantastic plot — an atmosphere and plot I was being denied time and time again, due to my own inability to survive on the irradiated surface.
It even got to the stage where I wanted to play through the game so badly, wanted to experience it for myself, that I looked up cheats for “infinite ammo”, or some kind of god-mode invincibility so I wouldn’t have to worry about using my hard-earned military-grade rounds buying filters for my mask whenever I got the chance. I’m usually against cheats, but in this case I was making an exception. I was desperate to play the game, but it seemed as if the game didn’t want to be played. At least, not by me.
So I played other games. Every time Metro 2033 came up in a Steam sale, I pushed away the guilt of never having played what was by all accounts a fantastic game, ashamed I couldn’t even beat it on the easiest difficulty. My pile of shame grew, but Metro 2033 sat squarely on the top of the pile.
It wasn’t until Metro: Last Light came out that I read a review of Last Light that said the first game was supposed to be played as a stealth shooter. Then it dawned on me almost as if I had just stepped out of the underground tunnels of the metro and into the harsh sunlight above ground: that was exactly what I had been doing wrong all along. Instead of sneaking around in the shadows, crouch-running through the tunnels, I had been going in all-guns blazing. Instead of conserving my ammo, I had been neglecting my knife when only one or two enemies were between me and my goal.
Looking back at it now, I’m reasonably surprised I didn’t think of playing 2033 as a stealth game. I must have restarted the game some five or six times without changing my play style, each time expecting to Rambo through sections with wanton abandon and then dying out in the unforgiving tunnels and surface. But after learning about playing it as a stealth game, everything changed. Suddenly, I had more filters than I knew what to do with. My knife became my best friend for dealing with one or two bad guys, and ammo, while not exactly abundant, became plentiful enough.
The game changed.
Instead of a game where my every thought was on survival and finding enough filters, it became a game about exploration and discovery. Fear was replaced by a curiosity that could only be sated by exploring every nook and cranny for supplies, with little fear about how many filters I had or which direction I was going — although that could also be attributed to my compass, which always lead the way to the next objective, to the next rendezvous.
Sections that had seemed impassable before due to the numbers of enemies between myself and my object now seemed easier, somehow, either by use of stealth or a little ingenuity on my part. The game didn’t become any easier, necessarily, but the simple act of playing it differently meant that I could see and explore places I wouldn’t have had the chance to had I just sprinted through rooms filled with enemies.
I started to enjoy the game.
And what a game it was. The reviewers and critics were right: Metro 2033 was as deserving of every accolade it earned, and for good reason. As an introduction into the subterranean life of a post-nuclear-war Russia, it was unparalleled. As a look into the life of one individual’s journey through the dark tunnels of the Metro, the harsh wasteland of the surface, and deep behind enemy lines, it was an awe-inspiring experience.
Forging your own path was easier if you shot out all the lights first so that you could remain unseen, as indicated by your handy watch. Stealthily taking down enemies wherever possible meant you raised the least amount of suspicion, meaning a longer time undisturbed looking for ammo, military-grade rounds, or secret caches filled to the brim with ammo, filters, and military-grade rounds.
But as much as you thought you were the silent killer lurking in the shadows, you never felt overpowered compared to the enemies you encountered — human or otherwise. Part of the reason you had to sneak around in the first place is because you’d quickly run out of ammo if you had to engage the enemy, particularly during the section where you’re between two sets of enemies on either side, where you have to jump around and avoid being spotted. The only time you feel on top of things is when you’re journeying towards the D6 compound with your fellow Rangers — only because there’s safety in numbers, and even then, only when those numbers are comprised of the Ranger elite.
In terms of gameplay, Metro 2033 is a shining example of how to do stealth right. There’s parts where stealth benefits you greatly, combined with parts where you can’t stealth due to environmental conditions, and just have to run and gun. Your watch helps you immensely, and paying attention to it is usually the difference between a successful stealth attempt and tens of soldiers being alerted to your presence and opening fire.
The plot of Metro 2033 isn’t too bad either. You meet a couple people and do a few things along the way. You’re never completely alone except for a few short parts here and there, and you always have a clear sense of purpose, even when you’re given the freedom to roam around an underground establishment or and above-ground environment.
For the most part, other characters will be there to guide you through various sections. It’s a little hand-holdy at times, but means you’re never really thrown into a situation you can’t handle. I usually hate escort missions, but this isn’t like that at all — if anything, it’s more like a reverse escort mission where you’re the one being escorted through the bowels of post-nuclear-war Moscow, being taught survival tips and tricks along the way. If another character tells you to jump, you don’t even have to ask how high, because he’ll tell you.
The introduction at the start of the Metro 2033 is brilliantly executed — the whole “play through this first part, then flashback to the beginning of your journey, playing though until you come back to this section again” aspect is a plot device more frequently used in TV, but it still works here. It creates enough intrigue to get you hooked and just enough action to blow you away, at which point it dials it all back a few notches so you can start to ask questions and get truly into the plot and story that Metro 2033 presents during the course of gameplay.
Make no mistake: Metro 2033 is a great game.
Top to bottom, left to right:
N7 Valkyrie — the two-round burst is more annoying than helpful, in my opinion
M-55 Argus — three round burst coupled with a relatively slow firing speed, avoid
M-37 Falcon — the only mini-grenade firing weapon worth using is the Striker Assault Rifle, this just seems like a worse weapon by comparison
Phaeston — a decent alternative to the Cerberus Harrier, if you haven’t unlocked that
N7 Valiant — the only thing that lets down this reasonably-fast-firing sniper rifle is its 3-round mag size
M-90 Indra — haven’t actually unlocked this weapon yet, although from memory it wasn’t too bad in single player
M-13 Raptor — a fast-firing sniper rifle that’s probably closer to an assault rifle, but I think I’ve only seen it used successfully in one game
Javelin — the small delay between pressing the mouse and the Javelin means you constantly have to follow your target with the mouse, which takes a bit of getting used to, otherwise, it’s actually the sniper rifle that does the most damage. The scope is a little unorthodox.
Scorpion — sticky grenades might seem like a good idea, but they rarely are. Doubly so if you can’t aim
Arc Pistol — one of my favourites, able to be either shot as-is or charged up and shot. I use it whenever I’m using a biotic character, although I know people that favour the Scorpion as a secondary for characters that don’t have to consider cooldowns
M-358 Talon — a pistol that fires like a shotgun? Since when did that seem like a good idea? I haven’t used this in combat though, so I can’t tell you how it fares in-game
The designs are essentially the same for North America and Europe, aside from the local ratings boxes. Which one do you intend to pick up — Pokémon ElkSwag or Pokémon Come At Me Bro?
Cannot wait for Pokémon X and Y. Thinking I’ll skip Black/White and go straight to X and Y (also, the first time the name of a Pokémon game hasn’t been based on a colour).
And yeah, totally getting Pokémon ElkSwag.
Alternate title: I think I would have made a good Arts student. Maybe not a great one, but at least a good one.
It all started when I realised that there weren’t enough Computing units this year for me to do that I hadn’t already done, or didn’t have the prerequisites for, or just plain wasn’t eligible for, in order for me to graduate this semester. A quick email to my degree coordinator revealed that I was allowed to do units outside the School of Computing and Information Systems, and that was that: I started looking for something a little different, something that I would actually enjoy.
And truth be told, I’m interested in a lot of things, but wouldn’t necessarily want to do a course at Uni on them. Take statistics, for example: I like knowing how statistics are derived and an intrigued by the whole numbers side of things, but from what I’ve heard, statistics at Uni is more of a mathematical nightmare than it is “fun stuff to do with numbers”. With that in mind, it was basically a toss up between some photography-based unit, and some writing-based one.
Photography would have been cool. I’ve been wanting to get into the whole darkroom development side of photography, and I’d like some kind of formal training rather than just reading PetaPixel posts on how to be a better photographer. Then I read something in the unit outline which said that you needed to do a certain number of hours of photography per week, and that kind of turned me off. Reason being, most, if not all, of my photography is done for my own enjoyment, not so I can impress someone else with my compositional technique. Forcing myself to get out there and shoot might have turned me off photography altogether, and I’m a little scared by the prospect of someone else critiquing my work, as much as I might want them to.
With photography out of the picture (so to speak), I looked towards a writing-based subject. Of those, it was a choice between some journalism based unit or a writing-one — not having the prerequisites for a more advanced unit, I chose English 1A for two reasons. One, I thought I’d be able to get feedback on my writing process, and two, it would be something a little different. Plus, I thought I’d be able to get decent enough grades without really having to try. Sue me for being lazy.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but honestly, it all turned out pretty great. I always looked forward to the tutorials, even if they were at the end of a long Monday of other classes, and even though I couldn’t go to lectures due it a clash with another subject, I was there in spirit whenever I listened to the recorded lectures at home. But that wasn’t the same as the real thing, as I soon discovered…
About two-thirds through the semester, I realised that it was probably time to start blowing off the other class (which wasn’t really worth going to anyway, seeing as all the material was given to us online), and start going to English lectures. Starting around week 9 of the 13 weeks in a semester, I went to my first ever English lecture, and just like the tutorials, they were an entirely different experience than the Computing lectures I was used to.
I mean, they still had someone who delivered the lectures, obviously, and they still used PowerPoint presentations, but the kind of lecture delivered was so much different. There was interaction! The lecturer asked people questions to do with their opinion on certain ideas, certain aspects of whichever text we were studying at the time — something that is pretty much unheard of in Computing lectures. The atmosphere of an English lecture was just so different — people seemed more engaged, attendance always seemed great (although this was a first-year Arts unit, so not entirely unexpected), and yeah, there were heaps of cute girls. Again, not entirely unexpected — although welcome — for a first year Arts unit.
Don’t you hate it when you can’t remember the name of something? Of course you do. Everyone does.
I’ve been looking for the name of a book for a number of years now. Every now and again, I Google a few things about a plot in the vain hope that I’ll be able to find something that will point me in the right direction, but because I can’t remember anything specific such as names of characters or places, or anything that would lead me to a title or ISBN, I don’t ever find anything.
Still, I Google.
What’s even more frustrating is that even though I can describe the plot is great detail, everywhere I’ve asked hasn’t been able to name the book that I’m talking about.
I don’t really care about the book itself. Even if I did find the title I probably wouldn’t be able to buy a copy. The only physical copy that I did read was probably destroyed, or exists in a place I no longer have access to. But still, it grates that I can remember everything about the plot, but nothing about the actual book.
I’ve included a detailed plot description of the book below. If you’ve read the book, recognise the plot, and remember the title, get in touch.
I had an exam so I couldn’t really get up to watch the keynote, but I did watch it earlier today. Since I didn’t get to live-tweet it with a few of my best buddies, I put together a few random thoughts — there’s a great summary of the event over at MacTalk, written by Rémy Numa, but this just what I came up with while watched the keynote earlier today. In somewhat chronological order, but still mostly just Things I Would Have Tweeted If I Was Watching It Live…
A great parody of the brilliant original.
I am all kinds of confused and conflicted about my photography right now.
I’ve long since reached the point where I have to go out and force myself to finish rolls of film just so I don’t have half-finished rolls of film sitting in my camera. Not only that, but somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to tell which of my photos are good anymore, and which ones are bad.
It’s gotten to the point where no photo I take with my rangefinder is bad. Literally, none. They might not be “perfect” examples of photography, but every photo that comes out of my Bessa these days is good, perhaps even great, and the worst thing is, I’m not sure if that’s me, or if it’s just the camera that’s doing all the work.
When I first started out with my Bessa, I really had no idea what I was doing. My first rolls were nothing short of sloppy — missed focus, totally-off exposures, you name it. But over time I’ve learnt the ins-and-outs of shooting with a rangefinder, and in particular, the ins-and-outs of taking photos with the combination of lens and film that I have. I’ve probably done upwards of twenty rolls of the same film now, and it’s getting to the point where I’m not sure if I’m improving, or if I’m just getting so comfortable that it means even the most average shots turn out to be pretty decent. There’s far less out of focus shots and far less wacky exposures, but again — is that because I’ve gotten better at photography, or just because the camera, lens, and film combination I’m used to shooting with do all the hard work for me?
I like shooting film, I really do. It’s just that I’ve reached the stage where I can’t find fault with my own work. The colours are taken care of for me thanks to the brilliance of Ektar 100, and the camera and lens pretty much takes care of the rest. Even the most mundane photos that show now photographic spark turn out to be good, if not great, all thanks to film and camera.
So I’ve been asking myself: if I can’t find anything wrong with my photography, is it actually all that good? It’s like that question of when someone takes a photo of a particularly photogenic subject: is the resulting image a good photo because the photographer is a master of composition, lighting, and has the vision to see his creativity realised in picture format, or is it a good photo because the model is particularly beautiful? I mean, even an average photo of a pretty girl is still going to turn out pretty well, but where’s the line? What defines a good photo from a bad one?
In my case, do I think my photos are good because I’ve consistently improved at taking the kinds of images I do, or is it just that I’m getting lazy with my composition and subjects, not challenging myself enough or pushing the boundaries of what I take photos of, therefore taking these “safe” images that aren’t particularly great, but always turn out to be at least good?
I think what I really need is someone to look at my photos and say: “they’re shit”. I’d even accept “you’re shit”, if it means I have to throw things out and start from scratch. Because as much as that would hurt my feelings in the short-term, I know it’d make me a better photographer, long term.
Or at least, that’s what I’d hope would happen. In reality, I’d probably just stop taking photos for a while.
But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.
Chris Hadfield is an amazing human being.
Alternative title: “that’s not what she said!”
I’ve been thinking about buying a 3DS XL for Fire Emblem Awakening, but Nintendo’s decision to region lock their hardware is making it harder than it should be.
In an ideal world, I’d be able to walk in to any good gaming retailer in Australia, pick up a 3DS, and be on my merry way. And in theory, I can totally do that — provided I’m happy with missing out on a massive (okay, decent) selection of games.
Thanks to a combination of region locked 3DS hardware, strange decisions by publishers, and the very nature of a Japan-centric games company, if I buy an Australian 3DS it means I might not ever get to play titles that are released in the US. That’s crazy.
To be fair, this has always been an issue for Nintendo. I completely understand when games are released for the Japanese market that aren’t available in other regions, as much as I want to play the latest Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton title at the same time Japanese folks get to. I get that titles need to be localised for non-Asian markets, voices need to be re-done, etc. But when titles suffer lengthy delays or aren’t released for other markets outside the US, then that’s when I start to take notice and get angry. Fire Emblem, for example, was released in the US back in February. Europe and Australia, however, didn’t get it until late April — why? What possible reason could the publishers have to delay a title that was already localised for English markets an entire two months after the US release?
No possible reason that makes any kind of sense.
I already own a PS Vita, and for the record, Sony does a lot better on the region locking front for the simple reason that the console and its games aren’t region locked. At all. The US and Australian PlayStation Stores are different regions as you might expect, but I’m no stranger to that — the iTunes Store is exactly the same. If you buy a Vita, you can set it up with the US PSN store pretty easily, and your console will buy and download games no problems. Switching between the two stores can be done, but doing so frequently isn’t practical as it involves a device reset every time. In the year or so I’ve owned a Vita, I’ve never wanted to switch to the Australian PSN, and I can’t see this changing anytime sooner — the game selection on the US PSN is far superior to the titles offered on the Australian PSN, games are released earlier, and they’re usually cheaper, too.
If I want to access a larger selection of games and games released months earlier (and, not to mention, cheaper), then it seems the obvious solution is to import a 3DS XL from the US, right?
Nintendo, in their infinite wisdom, also region-lock their games. A US Vita can play Australian-bought games just fine, but a US 3DS will only be able to play games bought from the US. No problem, I can just download them directly from the eShop and call it a day, right? Wrong — I don’t know whether it’s a publisher thing or just a Nintendo one, but for some crazy, insane reason, about half of 3DS titles sold at retail can’t be bought from the eShop. Again, don’t ask me why, because I just don’t know.
In contrast, the PSN offers a much wider selection of games than are offered at retail: not only Vita-exclusive titles, but also PSP ones, PS One classics, “minis”, and the best thing about it is that every title released at retail is available for direct download on the PSN. Like it should be.
So if I do buy a 3DS from the US, here’s how it stands. I won’t be able to buy local titles. No big loss, but it does kill off that instant-gratification factor that comes with buying from a brick-and-mortar. Any game I do want to buy which can’t be bought from the eShop (about half of all the titles available), I’ll have to import from the US — although given the lead times for Australian games so far, any delays in getting the game due to shipping will still mean I get the game before it’s released locally.
My point in all this is that it shouldn’t be this hard. The Vita and its games aren’t region locked in any way, and that’s a massive plus in my book. Anything else is making it harder than it really should be.
Now, if only Amazon had the colour 3DS XL that I want in stock, and if only they would ship it to Australia. But that’s a tale for another time.