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by Nick Dinicola

10 Feb 2012


This post contains spoilers for the main quest of Skyrim in the very first paragraph.

After playing Skyrim for 90 hours, I saw something that changed my view of the world (the virtual world, that is). I saw one dragon bring another dragon back to life. The latter began as bones, but skin formed and stretched over its wings and skull until it looked alive, reversing the death animation that I’d seen a dozen times before. Then they started talking to each other, then to me. Since when did dragons talk? According to what Skyrim lore I know, the shouts that I had learned that can kill people and beasts are based on words from the dragon’s language; their conversations are battles. But here were two flying lizards, right in front of me, speaking in English and not killing each other. It blew my mind.

by Nick Dinicola

3 Feb 2012


The “Death From Above” level in Modern Warfare was a great, unique level, putting you in an AC-130 raining explosives down upon your enemies. Since then it’s been mimicked with varying results, and Modern Warfare 2 wisely avoided retreading this familiar ground. So it’s interesting that it makes a return in Modern Warfare 3 in the level “Iron Lady,” and it’s impressive that it’s not a repeat of what’s come before. Infinity Ward has changed how the sequence plays in subtle ways that reflect how the series has evolved.

by Nick Dinicola

27 Jan 2012


Video game controls are complicated. Not just using them, but creating them. Whether or not something controls well can be extremely subjective, but even if a developer creates a universally praised control scheme that everyone else latches onto as a template (I’m looking at you Call of Duty), that doesn’t mean that it’s an ideal control scheme. There is no ideal control scheme, even within a single genre (i.e. Halo to counter Call of Duty).

Amy, a recently released downloadable horror game, has taken a ton of flack for its broken controls. The curious thing is, however, they’re not broken. Not at all. Amy’s controls, being so deliberately derived from classic survival-horror games, aren’t so much broken as they are antiquated. However, old doesn’t mean bad. The mere fact that these antiquated controls are effective at evoking suspense is proof that they’re not broken. Rather, they’re just not player friendly. But isn’t that the point of horror?

by Nick Dinicola

20 Jan 2012


Minimaps can be helpful, but for some games (or most games, for me personally) they can be too helpful. Since a mini-map usually gives you more information about your surrounding than the surroundings themselves, I usually find myself navigating a world using the mini-map exclusively. This first became apparent as I played through Final Fantasy X, the first Final Fantasy game to have 3D environments. I’m sure they looked incredible, other people seemed to think so, but I never really noticed because I spent most of the time staring at the mini-map when I ran around each level. The word could be confusing, paths split into multiple parts and all of them looked the same. Whereas, the mini-map was a simple top-down view that stripped away all of that beautiful, confusing graphical detail.

by Nick Dinicola

13 Jan 2012


Thid discussion contains spoilers for Battlefield 3.

It’s good for a war game to be cynical; in fact it’s necessary. How else can you mow down hundreds of people with a machine gun and blow up global landmarks with glee? Cynicism and pessimism are—and always will be—inherent to war games (at least, as long as they continue to follow their current template), so it’s in such a game’s best interest to just go with that flow, embrace a cynical view of the world, war, and soldiers. Otherwise, you might end up like Battlefield 3.

EA’s and DICE’s latest offering wants to be cynical, it wants to tell a modern military story with an anti-hero fighting impossible odds, but it also wants to be a tale of heroism. It wants the good guys to win in the end without resorting to their own kind of terrorism, like the protagonists (not heroes) of the Modern Warfare trilogy. But by failing to take a stand either way, the story of Battlefield 3 stumbles in every important scene and becomes so inconsistent in tone that it’s more jarring than the shaky first-person camera that provides the player’s perspective.

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