Wham, Bam, Thank you GAAM


The VGX show this year (previous the VGAs) was an all-out cringe fest. Whoever runs these things seems to want to pick hosts who seem edgy, cynical, and completely out of touch with the gaming community. It is not only disheartening to see the game industry so poorly represented by those who are involved with major media outreach for it, but also that it isn’t really being taken seriously. This is despite the fact that video games continuously outperform both film and television in entertainment sales, globally. It shows that people who game are still looked upon as these immature kids (and adults) who will go crazy for anything labeled “video game.”

NOTE: (I wanted to post the video with the scenes in question, but Viacom has since blocked it on Youtube)

Then you have something like GAAM (Games Art and Music). I was fortunate enough to be informed of the event by some friends in the Jacksonville, Florida area. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I had a friend in town from Savannah and thought this would be a good way to spent a low-key night checking out some nerd-culture in the area. What I ended up finding was a refreshing and well-organized collection of people who are passionate about gaming and the culture that surrounds it.


The entrance was modeled after a sewer tunnel, and that green light is no coincidence. The theme for this GAAM event (which is held every three to four months, and moving to become more active) was Ninja Turtles. There was nothing there about the new Michael Bay film thankfully. Instead, it was a nostalgic throw-back to the days of cowabungas and shell-shocking martial arts action. The line of people as we waiting to get in was full of name dropping of obscure characters from the shows and video games. Cosplayers were well represented, but it wasn’t until I got inside that my excitement hit it’s peak levels.

GAAM art

We got there really early, so the art displays (which are all local artists) were easy to get good views of before the auctions.


“Realism” for the turtles.

ME3 art

Video game art was intermixed with the Turtle theme

TMNT bit art

This bit-art was some of my favorite.

Splinter TMNT

Photographic composition of Splinter.

There was live music both indoor and outdoor, with plenty of beer and booze that came included with the $50 dollar admission ticket. A local grilled cheese food truck was parked for everyone to eat from, and the outdoor venue was well lit and relaxing to sit in.


The pictures were taken early on in the evening. Despite how it may look, this place was packed. The guys at GAAM even had a video game section set up where people could play every system from Nintendo to the modern PS4 and Xbox One. Pokemon Stadium and Smash Brothers tournaments were held to cheering crowds and curious onlookers, while a few scantily dressed cosplayers pulled attention from the screen every now and then.



My apologies to this random stranger who I blinded with my flash mid-fight on the Xbox One.

Perhaps my favorite room was where some indie developers and artists had set up shop for the night. They were extremely open to demonstrating their products and just talking shop. Two develops who really impressed me were the folks over at Immersed Games (www.immersedgames.com) who are using a Unity-based design to help instruct people about educational courses that doesn’t seem like learning. It’s a brilliant concept that was born of playing MMORPGs and realizing that they were learning management skills, organizational abilities, and strategy development without even being aware at the time.

For the hobby-developers there was a group called Artific Games (www.artificgames.com) who had a very impressive system on display. I highly suggest checking out what they have been creating over at their site, especially if you are interested in any facet of game-design and execution.

All in all, this was an outstanding event that was well organized and a refreshing reminder about the people who actually make up the gaming community. It wasn’t pretentious, edgy, or pandering to its crowd. Instead, it was a genuine experience that had a clear goal in mind. Check out GAAM at http://gamesartandmusic.com. They really are doing something pretty great down here, and I can only hope it continues to grow.

As for the artists, I’ll be doing an exhibition of commissioned work here on the site in the following couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for the work, and I’ll be posting their site and contact information if you like what you see.



GTA Online is Dead: A DLC Idea

GTA Online is a cool and expansive world to drive around in and hear people talk shit, grief kill, and sell drugs to each other (seriously, I heard this happen the other day in the background of someone’s mic). However, the gameplay in the online mode is kind of … well … boring. Fetch quests, long drive to kill someone and then take whatever item they held, or some parachute racing (with ridiculously long wait times for people who aren’t pressing the right buttons to continue after a match) tend to drag my excitement on the pavement. So, how can Rockstar continue to keep interest and furor into their hugely successful title?

The obvious answer is to drop some DLC for everyone to play, and I have no doubt that this is in the works for a Q1 release. My buddy and I, the same one who came up with the Assassin’s Creed V: Wings Over Berlin idea, were throwing around some ideas for what would be the most fun aspect to have in Los Santos. And it isn’t aliens.

Before you brush this off, just read the idea. Admittedly, if I saw someone say “zombies” for the DLC then I would probably groan myself, but we think that this could provide one of the best online experiences possible (while we wait for State of Decay to get their game MMO). Oh, the idea for the DLC is zombies if that wasn’t clear. Here’s how it would play out.

Someday, all this will belong to the dead.

Someday, all this will belong to the dead.

The Story:

Your atypical scenario where a virus breaks out and turns everyone undead. This is a no-brainer (get it?). Merryweather and the military are charged with containing this outbreak (and clues you discover along the way will hint at them having a hand in the epidemic). There would be roaming patrols of Merryweather soldiers that you would have to avoid or fight depending on how equipped you think you are for the situation. Your goal is to gather intel and broadcast it from any certain point in the city (that would vary depending on the situation) in order to try and get help from outside of Los Santos. Cell phones are replaced by walkie-talkies because the Government has shut down services.

There is how the logistics would play out. Instead of money, your currency is supplies. Your and your crew could form “outposts” instead of apartments where you could store your cars, food, medical aid, whatever. Robbing banks and stores is replaces with looting and pillaging supply depots or other AI controlled outposts. These supplies and tools can be used to upgrade your outpost; give your car some new abilities (like cattle guards, mounted guns, more places for your friends to shoot from), and upgrade your guns.

Your cell phone is replaced with a walkie-talkie, but it still serves the same function. Instead of apps you have broadcast channels, and this is how you would get the services you need (like car delivery or calling in help from upgraded perks, yatta yatta).

Like supply drops, your map would give an indicator to a recently discovered supply depot, and you and the other people on the map would have to fight for these supplies using a king-of-the-hill type capture system, or loot and scoot back to your base. Mind you, hordes of the undead are trying to eat you this entire time.

Then there is the intel system. If someone gathers a piece of intel then they become the red dot that we see with the car delivery missions. If a person is able to bring a piece of intel to a broadcast point then they are that much closer to getting a dedicated supply drop from outside help to their base of operations. This would include guns, car upgrades, ammo, etc.. Other people can kill them and take this intel for themselves.

To incorporate the bounty system that I personally find to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of GTA Online, there would be a supply reward task from Merryweather. Instead of an AI character putting a bounty on you for stealing their car, Merryweather will put a reward on someone who is doing a significant amount of damage to their outposts or patrol groups. This is their way of having the animals eat the animals in the zoo that is now Los Santos.

New missions for online could include escorting someone who might have a cure, or playing off of some of the other film winks and nods that we’ve seen in the game’s regular mode. There is a ton of zombie culture references and scenarios that already exist in pop-culture, so the options are numerous.

Regardless, the idea is still just in infancy, but we thought it would be a cool drop for the game. Feel free to bash or enjoy as much as you see fit!

Assassin’s Creed V: Wings Over Berlin (an idea)

Recently, me and another friend were discussing the path that the Assassin’s Creed games have taken over the years. We both hated Assassin’s Creed 3, and thought it was way too ambitious for it’s own purposes, not to mention just kind of boring. The cityscapes that once served as dense concrete forests to traverse were replaced with tiny wooden buildings and actual forests. For us, it kind of flopped.

We then started joking about the most recent installment, Black Flag, and how they took the only likable aspect of the third game and just seemed to run with it, despite the fact it has nothing to do with being an assassin. Yes, the ship combat is really fun, but the rest of the game does nothing to provide the feeling you had as Altair or Ezio, as you moved through massive city settings doing  your best to blend in and actually assassinate.

I then jested that the next title of the Assassin’s Creed games was going to keep going down a path that had nothing to do with assassins, and be titled Assassin’s Creed V: Wings Over Berlin. Terence and I had a brief chuckle, but then after a contemplative pause we both thought, “Hey, that might not actually be that bad.”

Think about it:

The game would force you to get back to the original aspects of silent killing. You wouldn’t have guns or be some kind of Zaitsev type of sniper laying in wait. You would have to be sneaky and agile in order to traverse WWII Berlin to get your mark. Just look at this city; it almost begs to be scaled:

There are viewpoints and everything!

There are viewpoints and everything!

The following are the main aspects of the game, and how we thought they should be developed.

The Main Character:

He is an officer of the Nazi SS. He is someone who believed in the initial cause but becomes nauseated at what it turns into. His responsibilities are to hunt down artifacts that could benefit the Reich. He is not of Jewish descent, as that would be too obvious a trait for a protagonist in WWII. Making him American or British would only serve to dehumanize the people that were a part of the Nazi party. By no means should the game try to be an apologist for what the Nazis did, but they were people who believed that this was the right decision of the time. He would have no knowledge of the concentration camps at first.

The Assassin’s Guild:

Renamed, “The Thule Society.” Not only are they tasked with the occult and finding items of ancient lore to build up the Reich, but the assassin’s are placed in different levels of Hitler’s cabinet to monitor dissension, and eliminate both external, and internal threats. The main character would be assigned as an agent to the Middle-East and Africa. As the main character’s views on the Nazi party change he would have to fight the other members of his brotherhood that either know of Hitler’s grand vision and follow it, or those who are kept in the dark and wish to fulfill their duty to their country’s leader.

Erwin Rommel:

The main character would meet Rommel in Africa. Rommel’s base of operations would be the player’s base of operations for the Africa missions. The player would initially be tasked with killing Erwin Rommel, but joins his cause after speaking with him and learning of Hitler’s true goals. The player would then become a part of the Valkyrie plans, while also being responsible for tracking down items like The Apple. Instead of assassinating Rommel, the player would have to convince Goebbels to have Rommel be killed at some other time — that his abilities are too important for the war effort, despite Hitler’s insecurities about Rommel’s ability to usurp his power as the country’s hero.

Joseph Goebbels:

Goebbels would be the primary antagonist of this game. Because he controls the strings of the Nazi party through its propaganda and advisement he would be the main focus after the player switches sides. At the beginning he would be the person that the player reports too. After going over to Rommel’s side the player becomes a double agent.

Things that definitely shouldn’t be in it:

  • Albert Einstein, as he left Germany in 1933.
  • Don’t make the main character responsible for every major development in the war. His role should be small, but important, and not the tide-swinging antics that were present with Conner in AC3. It’s comparable to Lucas making Anakin Skywalker the builder of C3PO. It’s just lazy.
  • Any heavy emphasis on the Animus. AC4 did a good job of making these stories optional, but informative.
  • The combat system. A lot of people seem to like it. I find it to be boring and simplistic. The visuals are cool, but it doesn’t take much thinking on the player’s end, and there isn’t ever really a sense of danger once you figure out every AI’s move set.
  • Sniping or gun missions. It would be very easy to start putting a lot of ballistics into this game and the player’s hands considering the time period. Don’t. A small pistol like in AC2 would be fine. I could easily see the developers making a tank fighting mission with similar mechanics to the pirate ship’s. However, this is unrealistic, as an assassin wouldn’t have the know-how to operate a tank. They aren’t bicycles.

This isn’t a formal pitch or anything (if that wasn’t obvious from the structure) but we thought it would be a cool setup for the next installment of the franchise. That is, after Ubisoft milks the pirate theme for three years with expansions and additions to Edward’s narrative.

See somewhere we could improve? Let us know!






The Last of Us — E3 Gamplay Reveal

Just from a game mechanics standpoint this looks amazing. Watch how fluidly the interactions are with the environment as well as the NPCs. I really hope that this scene isn’t too scripted with gameplay programming and that this is actually how the game will play. “Wow,” was my first thought upon seeing this, I think you’ll have a similar reaction. Enjoy; I certainly did.