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  • Announcements

    • We Moved from Mumble to TeamSpeak!   10/06/2015

      TeamSpeak 3 Guide
      Don't have Teamspeak 3?
      Download here: http://www.teamspeak.com/?page=downloads
      (Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, etc)
      Server Info:
      Server address: ts65.gameservers.com:9222
      (You can uses spaces in your name)  
      Need help setting up your microphone and sound settings?
      Tired of hearing that beeping/ding noise, when people post in TS chat?
      Can people not hear you while you have a game open?
      You should now have the basics of TeamSpeak set up. Welcome to the better VoiP program! You don't need to do anything extra so you can now come in and join us for events, find people to play with, or just to socialize.
        If you have any questions or need help, just ask a staff member or send me a PM!

      Guide to using plugins (add-ons) with TS3. This is NOT required: (Coming Soon)
    • Join us for the new SWTOR Expansion!   10/27/2015

      Does doing the right thing always excite you? Do you follow the path of truth and righteousness despite how hard it can be sometimes? Do you love Jawas and think Ewoks are adorable? No? NEITHER DO WE! As the guild that invented the dark side before George Lucas even thought of it, vVv Gaming is looking for other fun, sociable gamers to join us in our never-ending quest to exterminate everything cute, cuddly, and Jedi.

      While we are newly coming back to SWTOR, we have had multiple top guilds across many MMOs including Rift, Aion, and Warhammer Online. In addition to SWTOR, we support a number of other titles including League of Legends, Rocket League, Heroes of the Storm and Guild Wars 2.


      With our own TeamSpeak server that we purchased to justify drinking alone, we offer a space for all of our members, applicants, and guests to come join us and enjoy each others' company while also enjoying the game. We also have a website and forums that allows everyone to stay connected regardless how bad your sleep schedule gets. 

      Join us! We have alcohol...

      If you're interested in joining, we have no skill or experience requirements, but we do ask that you bring your personality, charm, and interest in getting to know your fellow gamers. We aren't going to tell you to be mature or any of that bullshiz, because we're too busy having fun. Oh, and you'll probably want to be on The Harbinger server, since that's where we play. 

      To join us, log onto our TeamSpeak server at ts65.gameservers.com:9222 and find one of our officers (usually in the SWTOR Channel) and ask for an invite. If you like us and want to be a part of something truly despicable, feel free to fill out an application on our forums


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About Zero

  • Rank
    Forum Athlete
  • Birthday 09/05/1985

Contact Methods

  • Twitter @vVvZero
  • Facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000219732384

Profile Information

  • Full Name Josh Stiles
  • Gender Male
  • Location Pembroke Pines, FL
  • Alias vVv Zero
  • Favorite Games Way too many to list. X3
  • Favorite Foods Cheeseburgers. 'nuff said. OH! And pepperoni pizza.
  • Favorite Movies Terminator 2 and Aliens
  • Favorite Music Rock, orchestral, and OCRemix!
  • Interests Playing games, fighting with games, breaking up with games, getting back together with games, then trading them in for younger, prettier games.
  1. Wow! over 110k views on this blog and still going strong despite the fact that I haven't written anything in months! So before I get into anything else I really want to say "Thank you" to everyone who reads (and apparently continues to read) The Zero Logs. I had a LOT of fun with the blog and, believe it or not, I sometimes miss playing those really bad games I wrote about. They were awful as video games, but they were all perfect examples of what NOT to do when creating a game. Even though I will most likely never make a game myself I was able to apply a lot of the lessons I learned to my life's work. So, again, thank you all for reading, laughing, commenting, sharing, and enjoying the best of the worst with me. (My only regret is not being able to play and review Deadly Premonition.) Words cannot describe how badly I wanted to tackle this one... Which brings me to why I'm posting here. First off, my name isn't Josh Stiles, it's Yeshua Espaillat. And if you have to ask why I called myself Josh Stiles instead just go back and try to read my real name again. Yeah, THAT'S why. Second, I feel like I need to come clean about something I've kept to myself for years. I don't have a high school education. I never made it to high school, but not because I was too dumb. In all honesty I have no idea if there's ONE thing that happened in my life that derailed my education. It could've been my hopelessly dark view of the world (9-11 had just happened), it could've been the issues I had and continue to have with BOTH of my parents (neither of them should have had kids), it could've been that my untreated depression eliminated my motivation, or it could simply have been that I stopped caring as a result of everything else combined. I ended up enrolling in a program supposedly for kids who were in my exact position and after taking a very long and very mind-numbing and difficult test, I obtained my diploma (not a GED. I wanted to go to college after that, but it never happened and now, thanks to our delightfully downtrodden economy, rising student loan rates, and lack of decent living wages, I will most likely NEVER be able to afford a college education. So with that little caveat out of the way... my first book is officially up for sale! Yeah, I wrote a book. Well... three actually. It was too long, so I had to karate chop it into three parts. The process has been a pain in the ass, but it was damn fun and very enlightening. I now know things I didn't know and have new skills I didn't have before just like when I started this blog way back. Maybe the book will sell and a new chapter in my life will begin or maybe it'll go nowhere, but regardless of the outcome I would just like to say once again: Thank you, vVv-Gaming! Eternal Requiem Act I: http://amzn.to/110eBNa [uPDATE:] I just realized I haven't really written about where this story came from or what I hope to do with it, so I suppose now is as good a time as any. When I was a kid, I grew up watching all the normal cartoons kids watched like the Ninja Turtles, Tiny Toons, the Power Rangers, Animaniacs, etc. and when the shows ended (or in the Power Rangers case when a cast was replaced) I was always more curious about what was happening afterwards (I don't think I know what retirement meant at that age, I guess, so the thought obviously didn't occur to me). Some shows had definitive endings that couldn't POSSIBLY go any further like the ending of Dinosaurs (the whole family freezes to death; it was depressing and it heavily applies to our current global situation), but others you just don't know. Like, does anyone here remember the green ranger from the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers? I stopped watching around the time the actor left the show, but I didn't know he came back years later to play the same character as a professor (and he was the black ranger that time). I've always liked to see growth and development and consequence, even as a kid, and that's where Eternal Requiem really comes from. The baby died, too! ;_______; So with that in mind, the first trilogy is aimed at a certain target audience: Young Adult (15 - 18) Why that particular age group? Two reasons related to one: Twilight! REASON A: We all know why we hate it; it was insipid. It was mind-numbingly, robotically, stupid, BUT (There's a legitimate one in there) those bad books and bad movies got a lot of teenagers into reading (Yeah, Harry Potter had them reading, too, but it's target audience was primarily younger children; the teenagers and adults into it most likely were fans of the fantasy genre). Twilight was meant as a dumb teenage "romance" (or a relationship based on abuse if you can read INTO it) and it succeeded in spades, so everyone has to give Stephanie Meyer props for proving it isn't hard to write for idiots. REASON B: I hate stupidity. I really, really, REALLY do. The kind of slope our entire society is on in nearly every way imaginable is so goddamn head-scratching that I don't understand why we have problems to begin with, but then I remembered most people are (say it with me now) STUPID. Too many awful things have done well that feed into the lowest reaches of the human brain that we've come to expect less-than-quality in everything now (like how Man of Steel was a bad movie that did too well and will likely lead to disappointing future films). So Eternal Requiem is there to give a younger, reading generation something more intelligent than they're used to, something that will grow up with them, AND something that gives them what they want to see (lots of action that would make great visual effects). F*ck you, Zack Snyder! Your Superman movie sucked!!! For now, it's a story following a trio of high school students witnessing the actions of adults around them and trying to grow into themselves, but it also throws in a lot of mystery using the adults in the story by making the teenagers (and thus the audience) think about what's happening around them. We learn that the situation the main character is being introduced to has been steadily building up over time, forcing him to grow up through the initial trilogy. When this arc is over, the story is nowhere near complete and there are consequences afterward (it's called Eternal Requiem for many reasons and that is only one). The whole point is to snag the audience while they're young using dumb action and relatable teenagers to enjoy what's coming in the future when the audience (and the characters) are in their 20's. The stories become much more mature and take on existential and political topics such as the military industrial complex and technological advancements for "defending" people being used against them. All are consequences of what is set up in this trilogy (like the Star Wars expanded universe, it all starts with one trilogy). I also wrote it in a certain way to allow for simple-adaptations. It's like an easy math problem that almost any Hollywood "genius" can solve without even realizing it, but I wouldn't let anyone make a movie without me there to make sure they don't mess something up anyway. I hope I've made sense to everyone. I know I tend to be redundant sometimes. It happens. Eternal Requiem Act I on sale now!
  2. I WOULD say I wish Atlus would produce more games frequently, but that would mean they'd have to follow the Activision/EA development cycle which would result in a rapid decline in quality and substance, so I'm perfectly fine with them putting out one or two great games a year instead of eight or ten average or piss-poor games with follow-up sequels released only a year (or less) later.
  3. Some people may have already guessed that I’m not the “average” gamer. Average, in this case, meaning I like my games having more substance than something like mother*cking Call of Duty. Seriously, you people who wait in line for hours to play the exact same game you played a year ago are causing a huge decline in quality. Remember the crash of 1983? It was YOUR mentality that did it! Anyway, since you know so well about the games I hate and I always talk about the games I love I figured it was time to list off some of the lesser known games I’ve enjoyed that I haven’t yapped about. So that means you won’t be seeing any mentions of Heavy Rain this time! So let’s get right to it and talk about the awesome games you may have missed. Limbo: These days hyper realistic graphics and frantic intense action are the bread and butter of the industry and thankfully this game has NONE of those! To me Limbo is the depressing head-scratching crown jewel of the Xbox Arcade and it was so good that it even managed to cross over into the PlayStation Store. The premise is pretty much up to you to figure out because there aren’t any voiceovers or dialogue balloons to help you fill in the ambiguous blanks. I’ll explain it, though. You play as the silhouette of a boy who wakes up to find himself in Limbo (the depressing space between life and death or heaven and hell depending on your views) on his quest to rescue either his sister or friend. It’s a platformer/puzzler that has you traveling across its dark miserable side scrolling landscapes cleverly battling or escaping from what I assume are the boy’s worst fears which include spiders, drowning, and other asshole kids. If you’ve never played it, I highly recommend at least testing out the demo before the next-gen consoles come out and, if you want, share your interpretation of the game’s story and events! That’s always fun. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! A beautiful d- ZOMG! That kid hung himself! TellTale’s The Walking Dead: Yeah, okay, so technically this game isn’t exactly underappreciated because it sold phenomenally well BUT I still hear people who haven’t even given it a chance bitching about the graphics and slow gameplay comparing it to completely unrelated zombie games like… no, I’m not saying it. I don’t care that it has a DLC zombie portion to it. F*ck that game! The Walking Dead has never and will never be about killing an endless horde of zombies until a timer runs out. You can slap ANY theme onto that type of gameplay and it won’t make a damn bit of difference. THIS game is all about stories and characters. The people you run into talk and act like actual everyday people, not combat-experienced soldiers, and they have very real problems of their own to deal with on top of the zombie apocalypse. There’s a diabetic who acts like an asshole, but makes strong points, a man desperately trying to protect his family, a teenager who was in school when the outbreak started and doesn’t know what happened to his parents, a little girl that tugs on your heartstrings, and all kinds of drama that makes you really think about what you’d have to inevitable deal with should the zombie apocalypse ever occur for reals. If you’re one of the few shallow gamers who haven’t played it just because you aren’t running and gunning in high-res environments you owe it to whatever’s left of your brain to play this game. This is one of the few games where the death of a character feels like a legitimate loss. Silent Hill Downpour: I’m very much aware of how much of a decline the Silent Hill series has seen since 2004’s Silent Hill: The Room (which started out as a different game and was later dressed up in Silent Hill skin by the way). The problems caused by later entries in the series had pretty much murdered the series for me, but Downpour managed to come back and correct MOST of them. The story was much more engaging and the interesting characters all had very dark motivations behind their vengeful actions. The running theme was all about redemption and forgiveness and playing as escaped convict Murphy Pendleton while he coped with the consequences of his decisions made for the best psychological thriller I’ve seen since – NO! I promised I wouldn’t bring it up this time! But it was THAT good! The combat was still frustrating at times and the game has a glaring glitch with its fast travel system (it doesn’t work… at all), but being forced to trek through the town’s streets made it more enjoyable. Silent Hill is as creepy as it’s ever been and the ambience is worth backtracking through the foggy streets. And the theme song performed by Korn’s Jonathan Davis fits the game just as awesomely as the older theme songs from Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Downpour isn’t the complete return to form fans may have been wanting, but it beats Homecoming by a long shot and is a LOT closer to Silent Hill’s roots than any other recent game in the series. Catherine: This puzzle game is f*cking hard! Some might say it’s too hard, but those people probably aren’t used to games of this genre. Ever since I played Persona 3 I’ve fallen in love with Atlus and this one is another one of their underappreciated gems worth taking a look at. You play as Vincent Brooks while he struggles with a very adult-oriented situation not often visited by video games: infidelity. Yep, this dude’s got two hot chicks (Katherine and Catherine) on his d*ck and he doesn’t know which one he really wants. Interested yet? His girlfriend, Katherine, wants to settle down, get married, and start a family and Vincent isn’t sure if he’s ready to make that giant leap. That’s when Catherine, the hot chick of his bachelor fantasies, shows up out of nowhere and they begin having an affair which haunts Vincent’s dreams where the core gameplay takes place. The game’s difficulty might turn some people off, but deciding to cheat on your girlfriend who wants to get married is an equally difficult situation to face, so it’s a perfect fit when you think about it. I’m starting to think the reason this game was so difficult was because of the *ahem* distractions. 3D Dot Heroes: Do you know what the difference is between a rip-off and a throwback? THIS GAME! As another gem from Atlus, this throwback to simpler times from years gone by is also a parody that acknowledges its VERY OBVIOUS NES roots. Just pull up a few screenshots to see for yourself. What’s REALLY surprising, though, is that Nintendo didn’t try to sue the ever-loving sh*t out of Atlus for making it. Remember when former attorney Jack Thompson tried to sue Midway for making it possible for players to create a character that looked like him so we could rip his head off in brutally satisfying fatalities? Well, this game gives players the option to create their own character from scratch and, wouldn’t you know it, the most fitting and well-known sprite from happens to be Link from The Legend of Zelda. You won’t be able to download him, but there are blueprints on the internet to follow so you can play a classic adventure game with the old-school icon. And despite everything being made up of blocks or “3D dots” the game’s visuals are surprisingly gorgeous! If you love old-school games and The Legend of Zelda this is a must-play for you. Seriously, how did they avoid a lawsuit?!?! Does Nintendo not know this game exists??? Well, those are my top 5 underappreciated games of this generation. If you haven’t played them, I suggest getting online to find them. They’re all worth playing and you’ll get a many more hours of enjoyment from them than anything you’re probably right playing now. There are more games than this which I loved that didn’t get the recognition they deserved and I might revisit this topic to talk about them later on if you guys want. Let everyone know what games you felt deserved the spotlight in the comments section below and then do these: Follow me on Twitter: @vVvZero Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vVvZero Until next time, I bid you adieu!
  4. “Never judge a book by its cover.” You’ve heard the phrase before and blah, blah, blah. I’m not here to lecture anyone about why you shouldn’t be judgmental, but let’s be honest with each other. We ALL judge everything based on first appearances. They matter, after all. That’s why you always want to look your best during job interviews and whatnot because you know the guy conducting the interview is going to be scrutinizing the way you look before you can even start spewing out the soulless corporate bullshit they all love to hear. So, the cover art for books, movies, and video games are like that first impression which we all base our initial judgment on. And the cover art for games in released in America are CRAP! (Like most things in America). Seriously, if you compare ANY game’s cover art here to the SAME game’s cover in another country the latter will undoubtedly be superior in making a good first impression. So let’s get to the part of this time-honored tradition of bitching out the industry! If you haven’t already guessed based on past posts I LOVED Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. I love it so much that I’m sure most people are getting annoyed hearing me praise it all of the time, so to stir things up a bit I’m NOT going to be talking about it in a positive light. Aside from its clunky controls, occasional glitches, and hilariously obvious French accents, the one thing that disappointed me the MOST about the game was the damn cover art they chose for its North American release. I’m pretty sure that most of the blame for incidents like this fall mostly on the publisher which would be Sony in this case. F*ck you, Sony! I’m getting sick of your sh*t! Stop pissing me off! On the left we have the North American cover and on the right is the Japanese cover art. Analysis: America sucks. Okay, seriously. Let’s compa – GOD, it just… it sucks! Sorry! I have trouble focusing. So the best kind of cover art is supposed to be able to catch your attention from the corner of your eye if possible. Heavy Rain’s story is a mystery filled with all kinds of suspenseful moments. The best kind of cover for a game like that has to be intriguing enough to make you want to walk over to the shelf and pick it up after you initially spot it. When I look at the Japanese cover art my mind starts racing with thoughts and questions. Whose body is that floating on the cover? Why did they drown? What the hell kind of game is this? All are questions that then make me turn the game over to read the description on the back. The American cover art features the four playable characters staring off in different directions with an Origami swan. The swan is the most interesting thing on the damn cover and frankly having four people cluttering up that small amount space is a bit messy. And the fact that Madison is the most prominent as opposed to Ethan (the game’s primary protagonist) boggles the mind. My best guess is that Sony believed only guys would play the game and guys like boobies so there she is front and center. You happy? Resident Evil 4 kicked off the revival of the series. With Umbrella effectively wiped out by the end of Nemesis and Code Veronica players needed a new enemy to fight and the typical slow-moving zombies of the originals weren’t up to the task anymore. Naturally, it was time to go in a new direction and usher in a brand new era in Resident Evil’s mythos and it was a huge undertaking and a big risk for Capcom to take with their flagship survival horror series. The original RE4 ended up in the recycle bin and later on became Devil May Cry and it seemed like all hope was lost at that point. But lo and behold, the final product blew away our expectations and forever changed the genre Resident Evil (technically) gave birth to. Analysis: The US cover art makes several things plainly obvious. Obvious thing #1: Leon’s definitely in it. Obvious thing #2: It’s got a bunch of Spanish guys in it and one of them has a chainsaw. Well… great. Those are two things we could’ve figured out by looking at the back of the box, but I guess here in America we’re just too lazy to pick up something that looks genuinely interesting. We don’t like interesting, we like stupidly obvious. The UK cover doesn’t throw info at you like that because over in the UK people prefer substance over “Hey, Leon is in this one!” The simplistic color choice of red against black pops out at you even when you’re standing 20 feet away just idly passing by the shelf where this bad boy awaits. Traditionally, the image of a flock of crows flying overhead symbolizes death and gives you a sense of dread and isolation. Then we have a silhouette of the chainsaw wielding enemy standing far off in the middle of a dark wooded area as if he sees you and instead of chasing you down he’s waiting in the darkness for you to make the fatal mistake of coming a little closer to him. Fear is the name of the game here and this cover art portrays it like no other. I never played Ico when it originally released on the PS2 *gasp*. I did, however, play Shadow of the Colossus and I loved every moment of it. So why didn’t I play Ico? It all goes back to judging something based entirely on first appearances. I f*cking HATE the North American cover art for it. I hated it the moment I saw it and for that sole reason I didn’t even bother picking it up to read the back of the box. I think I ended up getting some other lesser known game. Some game that had a mouse and a guy from Final Fantasy in it. I can’t really remember the name, but it probably doesn’t matter. I don’t think it did very well anyway. I just realized that, once again, goddamn Sony is the one to blame. I should write an angry letter to them, but I wanna be on The Tester at some point, soooo… Analysis: Believe it or not, the cover is widely believed to be one of the biggest reasons for the game’s poor sales and looking at it again I can see why. It’s got that kid with those stupid-looking horns on his head and he’s holding a goddamn stick… f*ck this game! That’s what went through my head when I saw this on the shelf and opted to play Kingdom something-or-other. Seriously, I f*cking hate that cover art! And so did everyone else apparently. The cover art used for the European and Japanese regions, on the other hand, are actual pieces of art! I’d LOVE to have this hanging on my wall. The colors are beautiful and the pulled back shot of whatever valley the silhouetted kid is running through is vast and gives you a real sense of adventure. You can still see him carrying a stick, but it doesn’t draw your attention towards it unlike the US version and you can barely see the horns on his head. As a game Ico is held as an example of video games as art and it’s a damn shame the cover failed to drive that message home. Unworthy Mentions: It’s a faceless guy sitting down holding a knife in one hand and a gun in the other. It’s actually a vast “improvement” over the original Black Ops cover art which was a faceless guy sitting down holding just two guns and no knife at all! …. f*ck Call of Duty. You saw this one coming. It needs no explanation. What the f*ck happened to Daniel Craig?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FACE?!?!?! If you’re an air traffic controller and you turn your back to the air traffic you’re supposed to be controlling you should be fired on the spot. Also, I love how there’s a dialogue bubble in this one. Like we couldn’t tell what he’s supposed to be by looking at the commercial jets flying recklessly in the background. Those pilots should be fired, too. And if they end up murdering people they should have a crossover with the Phoenix Wright series where they’re facing trial like that Denzel Washington movie. And let’s end on a funny note made of pure win: You know what? I would buy this copy. I’d buy it, frame it, and put it on my wall. Follow me on Twitter: @vVvZero Add me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vVvZero Check out my podcast “Cog in the Machine” here: http://citm.podbean.com/ And have a happy Monday!
  5. My Pet Project

    By the way, this post is NOT replacing the next post in The Zero Logs. That's still coming, so keep checking back for it.
  6. My Pet Project

    You guys may not be aware of this, but writing is my biggest passion. I've never been much of a reader (ironically enough), but I learned a lot about storytelling through the shows and movies I watched and the games I played growing up. Even now I'm learning more and more about great storytelling and how to piece an interesting plot together. Which brings me to the reason for this blog post tonight. When I was 11 years old I wrote a short story out of sheer boredom. The grammar was terrible and the plot was absurd, but I went back to it a week later and fixed it. Then, I rewrote it. Then, at 14 I stumbled on the file on my computer and decided to rewrite the entire thing using the main character and scrapping everything else. Now, here I am at 27 having written, scrapped, and rewritten the same story for most of my life. That crappy little short I started as a kid has evolved into a an entire series of novels I wanted to have published someday. By chance I've made a contact with someone who worked in the publishing industry and after I told her what I had been working on she offered to take my book, edit it for me, and pass it along to her friends in the business with her recommendation attached to it. It's the opportunity I've been waiting for since I decided I wanted to become a published author. So, I've been going over the last draft of the first book revising and rewriting as much as I could each and every day. Yesterday I completed chapter 6 and I'm happy to say that I'm really proud of myself. I feel I've come a long way and I want to share with everyone here the project I started when I was just 11 years old. The following sample chapter took me 20 hours to completely rewrite from scratch and it's been physically and mentally exhausting, but worth it. I hope you guys love reading it as much as I loved writing it. This is my novel. This is my dream. "Eternal Requiem" Chapter 6 Angels of Death The intensely bright yet beautiful and dazzling gold-colored energy kept flowing around the back room of Reed’s shop gaining momentum and creating a draft. The Sovereign, still trapped in the center of the anomaly he unintentionally created, disappeared in the chaos when the cloud became thicker and more difficult to see through. Eventually they lost visual contact of Zach and couldn’t even hear his shouting over the rushing whirlwind caused by the localized storm of light energy. Neither Reed nor Powell had ever encountered a situation like this before and both Guardians were completely lost as to what steps would need to be taken to stop it, but it was getting desperate now. “Do something!” Julia shouted to the men. The light storm had gained so much strength and speed that the wind it created started ripping up the wooden floorboards and tossed loose books around as if it were a hurricane. Stopping it was going to require an ingenious amount of unconventional thinking and luckily Reed was known in the past for thinking outside the box. “Zach!” he shouted over the gale-force wind in his shop. “You have to focus the energy into a form of some kind! I gave it to you in a sphere! You have to force as much of it as you can into a single form! Any shape and size will do!” The Sovereign could barely make out the instructions given to him by his Guardian, but he managed to piece together what he could of it and understood the basics. His lack of experience, however, made it difficult to understand just how he was supposed to accomplish the feat. He closed his eyes and focused all of his attention on the sixth sense he learned to use. The energy was more intense than he realized and it almost felt as though the cloud of light was shouting something at him making it difficult to concentrate on a form to give it. He was all but ready to give up on his efforts when the image of his nameless hero suddenly popped into his mind, wishing he would show up now and save him again. The golden haze then gradually decreased in speed, slower and slower until it stood completely still. Everyone in the room stayed frozen in place watching the energy as it hummed and flashed in brief intervals. Clearly something was happening to it, but there was no way to guess what that something was. The cloud continued to hum and flash louder and quicker until it stayed lit up so brightly that everyone had to shield their eyes. Then, the massive body of light energy moved inwards, compressing itself into a smaller form a few feet away from where Zach stood. “What’s happening?” asked Julia. But Reed was just as confused as she was, “I don’t know.” He rushed over to Zach when the energy had completely moved away from him and checked him over, “Are you alright? Do you know what its doing?” The Sovereign was shaking like a leaf and his eyes looked like they were about to start pouring tears of relief and he stammered, “I- I dunno!” Reed could tell the young man was terrified, “It’s alright, Zach. You’re okay now. You handled it well and you stopped it. I’m proud of you.” “Derek,” Powell called out and pointed at the energy still present in the room. The cloud had managed to shrink down to about six feet tall, but it stopped there while the width continued to slim down. The spectacle that threatened to destroy the shop had started to take on a very humanoid shape now, but it was becoming something more than that. It had clearly taken the form of a man; a man with wings! The four humans in the room stared at it in stunned silence except for Julia whose verbal reaction matched exactly what everyone else was thinking, “What the hell is that?” The featureless angelic figure stretched out his arms, tilted his head back, and his voice called out loudly proclaiming, “I am the light of God!” The bright glow emanating from his energy-infused body intensified and he stretched his wings outward unleashing a powerful gust of wind in the enclosed room. Everyone had to shield their eyes again as the creature flapped its gorgeous white feathered wings and lifted through the ceiling like a ghost causing no damage to the structure and leaving the humans bewildered and wide-eyed. Zach successfully averted total disaster by giving the energy a singular contained form, but just what form he gave it was beyond his comprehension. “Was that--,” and Julia paused at the impossible questions she was about to ask, but forced herself to finish the thought anyway, “an angel?” Powell, with his eyes fixated on the spot in the ceiling where the creature flew out through, said, “We might have a much bigger problem on our hands now with him on the loose.” “How do you mean?” asked Zach, still reeling from the trauma of nearly blowing himself to kingdom come. “Aren’t angels good?” And Reed responded, “It depends on which angel he’s supposed to be.” The Guardian pulled away from his charge and started walking to the front counter with everyone else following his lead, “He called himself ‘the light of God’ which could mean any number of things. I need all of you to start looking through every reference book here for those exact words; check under Judeo-Christianity and Catholicism.” “Wait,” Zach began as he rushed up to his mentor stopping him mid gait, “does that mean there really is a God and a heaven and hell and all of that?!” Reed placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Everything ever written has some basis on reality, even fiction and faith. Keep an open mind, don’t assume you know the answers to everything, and most importantly don’t let the things you see or read about affect who you are.” Zach was never a religious person and he believed that being a good person was the only thing anyone needed to do in life. That never eliminated the questions and doubts he had about the existence of God and the role religion played in the world and in people’s daily lives. Seeing an angel with his own eyes cracked his beliefs and the teenager felt cheated out of the answer he wanted, but after taking into account the things he had witnessed up until this point he understood Reed’s words better than he would have a week ago. Regardless of what demons or angels he saw, or even if he saw gods and devils in the flesh, he had to always remember that being a good person is what he originally believed in before his life as the Sovereign and it was just as important to hold onto that belief now more than ever. For the first time since this new life began Zach, Julia, Reed, and Powell began investigating the creature they encountered together as a team. Reed pointed out all the shelves where the necessary religious reference books were located and the teens grabbed as many as they carry piling them up on the front counter while the two Guardians checked through the tomes kept separate from the normal books. They had a better idea of how to narrow down the identity of the angel born from Zach’s accident, but hours went by and none of the four were close to finding the answers they needed. The sun had set and night had fallen by the time Reed decided the group needed to take a break. They had gone through dozens of reference books, all piled on the floor around them leaving rows of shelves completely empty in the store. Thankfully, Reed remembered to lock the door so the possibility of potential customers walking in or demons or human abductors coming to pay a visit were minimal. Julia huffed, placing a hand over her growling stomach, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving.” To their surprise, Reed reached behind him for the store’s phone and handed it to her, “Order a pizza for everyone. You can use the money in the register to pay for it.” “Pepperoni and extra cheese,” Zach blurted out from where he sat on the floor surrounded by musty old reference books. The Sovereign then dug into his pocket pulling out his smartphone and checked all of his social networking profiles to pass the time, but then an obvious idea dawned upon him making him want to slap himself across the face for not thinking about it sooner. He closed the profile pages and clicked on his phone’s web browser pulling up the greatest tool to come from his generation: Google. At first when he did a search for the phrase “light of God” the results which came back were the ones he should have known to expect consisting of nothing but websites promoting or discussing Christianity. Then, he added the word “angel” to the phrase and lo and behold he found the name the group had spent the entire afternoon searching for. He hopped up from the floor and held out his phone for all to see, “His name is Uriel!” “Did you really just Google search the angel on your phone?” Julia asked, forgetting she was on the phone before quickly returning the man on the other end waiting for her to complete the order. Powell let out a boisterous laugh upon seeing the agitated look on Reed’s face, “You’ve been spending too much time in this old fashioned shop, Derek.” “Well, it didn’t occur to you to check the internet, either,” he said, closing the book he had buried his nose in for the last hour. “I’m an old man, what’s your excuse?” Reed didn’t give one and turned his attention to Zach and his handy smartphone, “What does it say about him?” Zach felt rather proud of himself for finding the elusive information about their mystery angel and bore a satisfied smile on his face as he read the information aloud for everyone to hear, “Uriel is one of the angels of punishment and is a pitiless angel who scrutinizes souls. He’s one of the most important angels, described as an archangel, seraph, and cherub. Uriel probably means “fire of God” or “God is my light.” Uriel is often identified as one of the four primary angels, along with Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, possibly aspects of the angel of the lord. He is not part of the official Catholic canon, but he is prominent in Jewish texts and apocryphal writings.” “I suppose that’s why he wasn’t in any of these reference books,” Reed concluded. “We had the wrong religion.” Zach’s face then changed from smugly satisfied to deeply concerned, “Umm… there’s more here and it doesn’t sound good.” He continued reading the passage to the rest of the group, “Uriel is among the angels identified as the angel of death; angel of great counsel; angel of peace; angel of truth; and as one of the angels of the earth; angels of the presence; angels over the consummation and one of the angels of destruction sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Uriel is portrayed as a stern and punishing angel. Enoch said he is head of the seven archangels, and he presides over Tartarus or Hell, where he pursues punishment of sinners. According to the Apocalypse of St. Peter, this punishment consists of burning sinners in everlasting fire and hanging blasphemers by their tongues over unquenchable fires. On the Day of Judgment, he will break the brazen gates of Hades and assemble all the souls before the judgment seat.” Julia finished placing the order and hung up the phone, “It should be here in a half hour and I’m really worried about the part that says he punishes sinners. Do you have any idea how many things are technically sins these days?” “It’s true,” Reed agreed, much to her surprise. “Depending on how deep his convictions go he might kill everyone just for pressing buttons on Sundays.” “Okay, if that’s a sin then we’re all dead,” commented the young Sovereign. “Why did the energy turn into this guy anyway?” “Unfortunately the blame for his creation rests entirely on you,” Powell said to the boy. “You were the one to give it form and, for whatever reason, you somehow chose the form of a punishing angel who walks the line between darkness and light.” He then looked to Reed, “Possibly one of the most dangerous types of beings in existence.” “But I didn’t even know who Uriel was until I looked him up just now.” Reed sighed realizing Powell was once again reminding him of the conversation they were having and the dire warning given to him before Uriel’s creation, “What form were you trying to give the light energy?” “I don’t know,” he explained, “I couldn’t really think about it. I just kept wishing someone would save me.” His mind raced back to the thoughts he had when the energy cloud was threatening to destroy him finding the answer tucked away in his desperate mental wish for a savior, “I was thinking about that guy, though.” Of course, nobody knew quite who Zach was referring to, but Reed had already been working out the mystery of the only person everyone had met whose name eluded them all, “What guy?” “The one that saved us in the alley when we were attacked by the boar demons.” His suspicions were correct and Reed knew he was a step closer now to solving one of the many mysteries surrounding Zach, “Why him of all people?” The Sovereign suddenly felt himself shrink under the microscope as everyone eyed him waiting for an answer, “He came to me last night.” “What did he want?” asked his Guardian in a tone more dreadfully serious than ever before. Clearly, he didn’t approve of the nameless cloaked man who randomly appeared and kept his motives secret from everyone who encountered him. Zach didn’t think the man intended to cause any harm, but if thinking about him created an angel whose sole purpose was to pitilessly and indiscriminately punish people and whose motivations teetered between good and evil then maybe he really should have been considered a threat. The boy thought back to the words the cloaked man used to describe himself; the physical embodiment of chaos and loneliness. An archangel who walked on a fine line that weaved in and out of the sides of good and evil could probably be labeled with those exact words. “He’s chaos and loneliness walking through history’s shadow,” repeated Zach. “He’s dangerous,” said Reed in a scolding manner, “and if he appears to you again you need to let me know.” Powell released a tired exasperated sigh, “We’ve gone from a cloud of energy threatening to destroy the shop to a rogue angel threatening to punish every human being alive.” “Don’t start lecturing us,” said the younger Guardian. “Who said I was lecturing? It brings back a lot of memories,” he chuckled. “Oh, how I’ve missed this life.” “Was it like this with your Sovereign?” Zach asked him. “Oh, yes.” “Is it always like this?” With a delighted grin the elderly Guardian repeated, “Absolutely.” “You’re enjoying this too much, old man,” teased Reed. “The only time you ever truly feel alive is when you’re facing death.” He then turned to Zach and casually said with a kindly assuring smile, “Somehow we’ll find a way to stop your angel before anything apocalyptic happens.” Apocalyptic? Yeah, that’s nothing to worry about. The group spent the rest of the evening picking up the mess of books they laid out everywhere and replacing them on the shelves. Zach’s thoughts stayed on the nameless man and the archangel Uriel the whole time even as they sat together to eat the pizza which arrived a few minutes later than it was supposed to. Nobody seemed to mind the inconvenience, though, but he was the only one to notice it. Is that how they viewed the threat presented by the angel he single-handedly gave birth to? Was Uriel’s presence nothing more than an inconvenience like the late pizza delivery? If it hadn’t been for Powell’s nostalgic appreciation for facing what could lead to doomsday the Sovereign probably would have been frantically worrying about finding the angel all night. It may have been senility or it may have been that there simply wasn’t a reason to panic. If this was going to be an everyday thing, Zach was going to have to learn to take it easy. But he keeps looking at Reed like they’re hiding something… -- The school bell cut through the silence the following morning signaling the start of the school day and the students piled into the halls making their way to their lockers before settling into their respective classrooms. The archangel Uriel was still on the loose and the threat he presented felt like it should have kept Zach from attending school, but Reed and Powell convinced him to let them worry about tracking down the creature he created. He knew the responsibility fell on him to find Uriel and stop him from causing harm to anyone, but with his lack of skill and experience he’d most likely get himself killed in the process, so he went to school. As far as the rest of the world was concerned today was just a day like any other. The Sovereign couldn’t help but zone out when his teacher began the lesson of the day and his mind, as always, meandered between doubting his ability to succeed and worrying about the consequences of failure. Then he started thinking about who the shadow man really was and what role he played in the grand scheme of things. He didn’t seem to bear Zach any ill will when he saved him and if his intentions were to kill him he had the perfect opportunity to do so when he appeared to him and “hijacked” his brain. In his eyes Reed’s concerns about the man potentially having a dark motive were nothing more than paranoia simply because no one knew a thing about him. The girl sitting behind him tapped his shoulder with her pencil and whispered, “Hey, Zach.” He turned his head to look her in the eye; her gorgeous emerald green eyes slightly covered by a stray lock of blond hair. He had known her since the 4th grade and the two occasionally shared short discussions between classes, but he had ignored her the last few days ever since he became the Sovereign. It wasn’t intentional, though, he just had a lot on his mind. Trista was probably one of the brightest people he had ever met and her personality, along with her highly attractive Japanese and Dutch features, made her intimidating to him. She could always tell when something was wrong with him and after observing how much time he spent pensively thinking to himself, she felt it was finally time to approach him about it. “Are you alright?” she worriedly asked. “I saw you coming out of that bookstore this morning on my way to school and you looked really stressed out.” Oh no, not her. The last thing I need is Trista getting involved in this mess. He was about to come up with a half-witted lie to throw her off when, without warning, a lowly voice called out to Zach addressing him by title rather than name, “Sovereign.” His eyes went wide with terror, his heart started racing in his chest, and a cold bead of sweat ran down the side of his face. He stayed seated for a long moment unsure of whether or not he was having some kind of mental breakdown brought on by his own pessimistic thinking. Until, that is, he heard it call out to him again, but by name this time, “Zachary.” He jumped out of his seat, startling the other students and drawing attention away from the teacher to himself and deeply concerning Trista, “What’s wrong?” “Uh,” he searched the furthest corners of his mind to come up with some kind of excuse for his unusual behavior, but he was never any good when he was put on the spot. “I gotta go!” He hurriedly shoved his belongings into his backpack and fled the classroom as the teacher called for him to return to his seat. No one had ever seen him act so out of character and he was never one for skipping a class let alone running out of the middle of one. Unfortunately for Zach, by suddenly bolting out of class without giving anyone a valid reason, everyone was now talking about him and Trista was aware that something was indeed wrong. The Sovereign sprinted through the halls in search of the classroom where Reed was still acting as a substitute and burst through the door panting heavily and saying nothing. All eyes fell on him and everyone was shocked and confused by the irrational behavior of one of the most quiet and reserved wallflower students. Reed sighed in disdain at the lack of tact Zach used by his charge, but scolding him would have to come later. Clearly, there was something amiss otherwise the teenager would not have so rudely interrupted his class in such a manner. “Fitzroy,” Reed called out to one of the students sitting in the front row, “keep reading the passage to the rest of the class while I deal with our visitor.” The addressed student looked back and forth between Zach and Reed a couple of times before standing from his desk to resume the reading session that was interrupted. The Guardian walked through the aisle of desks and all of the students present watched as he put a hand on Zach’s shoulder and led him back out into the hall, closing the door behind them. Now there were two entire classrooms that had witnessed the boy making a scene and in high school that was more than enough for rumors to begin forming. “What the hell has gotten into you?” Reed scornfully asked the panicked Sovereign. “I heard a voice calling out to me,” divulged the student in a hushed voice. “First it called me “Sovereign” and then it used my name.” “Isn’t it possible what you heard was one of the other students?” “The only person in this school that knows what I am is Julia, but she’s a sophomore and we don’t have any classes together, Reed!” “Calm down,” coaxed the Guardian. “Try to remain collected, Zach. Things like this are going to happen a lot from now on.” “Not now! Not here!” he began, nearly on the verge of a total breakdown. “I wanna graduate this year and if these things pop up while I’m at school--” Reed cut him off midsentence completing it for him, “Then you’ll have to deal with them just like you would with any other type of crisis that happens in life.” Zach groaned in defeat reluctantly accepting the fact that his mentor and Guardian was right, much to his plainly visible consternation. Like it or not, for good and for bad, this was his life now and no amount of hoping or wishing would change that. Goodbye, high school diploma. “Now,” Reed began, “you should go back to class and leave the angel to me.” “But you didn’t even know it was here,” Zach protested. “How are you gonna find it when it only talks to me?” Now it was Reed’s turn to accept and admit defeat, “You’re right.” He was taken aback at Zach’s sudden willingness and desire to track down the angel and put an end to this problem, but then he recognized a perfect opportunity to put the young Sovereign to the test in a leadership role, “So what do you think our first step should be?” “Well,” and Zach’s gaze lowered as he thought to himself about what would be the best way to go about tracking down the angel not realizing that Reed was purposely handing over the reins to him, “I guess the first thing I should do is sense out his energy.” “Let’s go to work then.” With his finally cleared Zach’s determined resolve came back and he nodded in agreement with Reed, but as he was about to hone in on the angel’s aura Julia surprisingly popped up from around the corner. She seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and had her sights locked on the two males standing in the hallway as she approached them. The brunette had a look in her eye as though she were annoyed or even upset with one of them, most likely Zach since that was how it usually was. “What are you doing here?” Reed asked when finally met up with them. “I heard a weird voice in my head,” she began, “and I thought I was going crazy, but then I remembered I’ve been spending the last few days hanging around you to. So what the hell is going on?” “You heard it, too?” asked in surprise. Reed wasn’t ready to say the next thing on his mind, but there was no way around the fact he had already come to, “She should come with us.” “Seriously?” asked the teens in perfect unison. “The angel is speaking to the both of you,” he explained. “She’ll be safer with us than alone in a class where no one can protect her in case he decides to attack.” The voice then resounded in their minds again whispering as quietly as before, “Come find me.” Zach looked all around in bewilderment from where the trio stood, “Tell me you heard it, too.” “I definitely heard that,” she answered back. “I didn’t hear anything,” said Reed, perplexed and concerned that he was out of the loop. The Sovereign wasted no time and closed his eyes, cleared his mind, and focused all of his energy into honing in on the angel’s light aura. It didn’t take long before he started to sense something incredibly powerful nearby, but it didn’t feel like the source he was looking for. It almost felt like whatever he was detecting had somehow figured out a way to throw off his ability to sense its aura. Without saying a word to his allies he started walking through the school pursuing the spiritual energy to its source with Julia and Reed following closely behind. They eventually made their way to the first floor and reached the closed doors of the school’s auditorium. The presence Zach detected was somewhere inside, but unfortunately they could all hear there was an assembly in progress. It sounded like someone was giving a lecture to the crowd and Julia sighed, leaning against the doors in frustration. “What’s wrong with you?” Zach asked her. “I just snuck out of here to find you guys,” she replied. “It’s just some guy from Future Sight Industries giving a speech about energy conservation. It was boring.” “Did you say Future Sight?” asked the Guardian. “Come find me.” “I’m sick of this guy talking in my head!” Zach growled. He pushed open the left door and made his way inside as Julia followed his lead and Reed silently called out, “Wait!” “This guy is toying with us,” Julia stated. Zach then stopped cold in his tracks in the middle of one of the aisles leading to the stage and felt a cold shudder run through his body. The energy he had been following suddenly came into focus and he could sense three separate sources instead of just one. It was most likely the reason why it didn’t feel quite the same when he started zeroing in on it; they were combining and throwing him off. Reed came up behind them and yanked them back by their arms after sensing the extremely dangerous situation they had brazenly walked into. “Tell me you sense them, too, Reed,” Zach pleaded, hoping he wasn’t wrong about what he felt. “I do now,” he said, “and we need to get everyone out of the building before someone gets hurt.” Julia accepted the task and exited the auditorium, “Leave that to me.” Merely a few seconds after she left her two male counterparts the fire alarm broke through the entire campus interrupting the assembly and making everyone visibly jump in surprise. Following the fire drill procedure they were all taught since their elementary years the students all calmly departed from the assembly hall to the designated safety areas outside. The only people who stayed behind were Zach, Reed, the Future Sight speaker on stage, and Julia after she returned from setting off the school’s alarm. “Shouldn’t the three of you be outside with the others?” asked the speaker once he noticed the trio had ignored the alarm. “Reed,” Zach started, “he’s definitely one of the three.” “I know,” replied the Guardian. “You did a good job finding him, Zach. Now, take Julia and leave while I deal with him.” A powerful familiar voice then called out from somewhere among the darkened auditorium, “No. He’s mine.” Zach recognized the scruffy voice and spotted the man hiding in the shadows, pointing him out, “It’s him.” The nameless figure had returned, though it was Reed’s first time seeing him after hearing about his appearance in the alley. The Guardian noticed, however, that he kept his eyes locked on the speaker from Future Sight and showed no interest in Zach. By his count they made up two of the three sources of energy he and zach sensed when they entered the assembly hall, so where was the third one? And why is he hiding? “The three of you, leave,” commanded the shadowy unidentified man. “This has nothing to do with you.” The teens seemed willing to obey the stern command from the man, but Reed stepped forward defiantly and called him out, “Not until we get some bloody answers!” Zach and Julia were in shock at Reed’s sudden burst of outrage and rebelliousness from someone who he knew was easily a hundred times more powerful than he was. It was obvious to them that the cloaked man was just as surprised as they were judging from the silent way he gawked at the Guardian. Of course, the meek skinny speaker on stage was more confused than anyone else and he looked like he was about to take off running behind the stage, but the cloaked shadow knew he’d make an escape attempt. He made an impossible leap from where he stood in the empty audience to the exit on stage cutting the man off, his long tattered cloak darkly fluttered in a manner most terrifying making him look almost like death itself gliding through the air. The frightened defenseless man from Future Sight took a few steps back and away from the intimidating shadow, “W-who are you? What do you want from me?!” “Leave him alone!” the Guardian shouted to the aggressor. “You don’t know what’s at stake, Reed,” responded the shadow. “He has to die here and now.” The speaker loudly began to beg for his life, “I just came here to talk about--!” “Shut it,” the nameless shadow interrupted. “I know who you are and I know what you’re doing. I’ve known for a long time,” and he retrieved the massively-sized sword from underneath his cloak just as he had done in the alley, “and I’m here to throw a wrench into the machine.” “Someone, help me!” screamed the man as the shadow raised the heavy sword overhead to strike. Without mercy or reason the cloaked shadow swung down with his mighty blade ready to end the life of the trembling terrified man. Zach and Julia instinctively looked away knowing the sword would cleave the innocent man into a bloody mess. However, Reed couldn’t avert his gaze no matter how much he wanted to and he found himself frozen in place, lost as to how to handle the situation. He any attempt he could have made to stop the killing would have been effortlessly put to a halt by the man in the cloak; he was simply too powerful and far out of his league. So as the blade came down to deliver the killing strike all he could do was watch helplessly. Clang! The sound of metal striking against metal loudly resonated throughout the empty auditorium. Zach and Julia opened their eyes and daring to look back at the scene playing out on stage and, to the surprise of everyone there, another man appeared from seemingly nowhere standing between the would-be killer and his victim. He blocked the cloaked man’s blade with his own normal-sized sword which was covered with a slow-burning blaze. The man, standing six feet tall with bright blue eyes and short blond hair, stared the attacker down clenching his jaw and ready to fight. The Sovereign immediately felt the powerful aura emanating from the newcomer and pointed at him to Reed, “It’s him! He’s the angel!” “Things just became much more complicated,” was the older man’s response. The shadow leapt back and away from the angel to the other side of the stage and asked, “Who the hell are you?” “I am Uriel,” he proclaimed and then pointed his blade at the shadow adding, “and you are a man drenched in sin. Once I rid the world of you I will begin cleansing this Earth of its sinners until only those righteous enough to dwell in the kingdom of God remain.” Zach tugged on Reed’s arm like a child and timidly said, “I’m not sure whose on what side anymore.” “Hey, guys,” Julia began as she slowly started backing away towards the exit, “I think we should get out of here before we get locked in or killed or something.” Uriel sharply turned his gaze to the trio standing in the audience and erected a barrier of energy against the doors cutting off their escape route. Then he looked to Zach and sternly said, “You’re next.” The girl loudly groaned and threw her hands against her sides, “Goddamn it, I knew that was gonna happen!” “You just got in the way of the wrong sinner,” said the shadow before rushing at the angel with his massive sword held high overhead. Uriel then sprouted his stark white angel wings and with a single uplifting flap he evaded the shadow’s swing of his large unwieldy sword. He had the upper hand now that he was above and behind his opponent and quickly took advantage by diving back down to deliver a strike with his own blade. Without even looking the shadow swung his sword behind him, the width of his weapon acting as a shield deflecting the attack from the angel’s fiery blade, and rotated in place using the only the momentum from his defensive counter swing. The two unbelievably powerful swordsmen continued their duel across the stage, the sound of steel on steel filling the auditorium, and the speaker from Future Sight fled from the battleground towards Zach’s group. Reed caught the man and dragged him off with the teens in tow to the furthest corner of the assembly hall shouting, “Who the bloody hell are you and why is that man trying to kill you?!” “I’m just a scientist!” he shouted back in terror. “Reed,” Zach began as he took a couple of steps away from them with his eyes locked on the man they were now protecting, “he’s the third one.” “The third what?” “The third big aura here! It’s Uriel, the guy with the giant sword, and him!” Reed grabbed the scientist by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against a wall, “Start talking!” “I’m Dr. Stauber,” shouted the petrified man of science, “I just do research for Future Sight!” “I’m not a stupid man, Stauber.” Reed pressed him on, “What kind of research do you do for them?!” “Genetics!” “Why would Future Sight send a geneticist to host an assembly about energy conservation?!” demanded the Guardian. “I don’t know!” he cried. “I asked the same thing, but they wouldn’t give me an answer!” Reed didn’t like the answer, but he knew it was most likely true, so he moved on to the next two big questions, “Why the hell are you emitting a dark aura and why is that man trying to kill you?!” Stauber, still clearly frightened for his life, suddenly became tightlipped and fell silent. Reed slammed him against the wall again, this time making sure the scientist hit his head against its hard surface, and repeated the question. Stauber, however, passively refused to divulge the information demanded from him. His refusal spoke volumes, though, and Reed knew he was onto something. The Guardian reached under his blazer and pulled out his trusty sidearm holding it to Stauber’s temple, “We need to get out of this room and you’re just the man to take down the barrier locking us in.” The cowardly scientist went into a deeper state of panic at the sight of the Walther P99 and the feel of its short cold barrel against his temple. Zach and Julia’s jaws nearly hit the ground unable to process what they were seeing. Stauber may have been emitting a dark aura, but he clearly either didn’t know it himself or he didn’t know how to use the power it granted otherwise he would have used it to defend himself. Reed forced him over to the barrier of light energy against the door, still holding the gun to Stauber’s head and shouted, “Negate the light! Now!” “I don’t know how!” cried the scientist. “Please, don’t kill me!” Reed pulled back the hammer of the gun and harshly pressed it against his skin, “I’m not a very patient man, doctor! Now, figure it out!” Stauber was fearfully bawling tears with his shaking hands raised in the air. Zach called to Reed not wanting him to shoot the man in cold blood, but his Guardian ignored every word spoken to him. He smashed Stauber’s face against the barrier, breaking the frame of his corrective eyewear, and pulled him away only to slam him against it again screaming and swearing in his ear to take the barrier down. The geneticist could do nothing but cry and beg for his life, his heart pounding away like a jackhammer in his chest and his brilliant mind crumbled to pieces. The chaos all around him was too much for him to bear and through it all the only thing he wanted was to live past this ordeal and make it to tomorrow. He kept his eyes closed, never stopped pleading for mercy, and failed to realize his aura was strongly reacting to his desire to survive. The dark energy gathered around his hands and, when Reed slammed him against the barrier one final time, the energy he unknowingly summoned negated the light energy giving them access to the exit once more. The Guardian kicked open the doors letting the teens flee the assembly hall first before hauling off Stauber with the gun still buried in the back of his head. Further down the hall they spotted a squad of what looked a dozen SWAT members in full riot gear performing a sweep of the area. Stauber flagged them down and, when they all raised their rifles taking aim, Reed shoved the man into the nearest open classroom and dove inside while Zach and Julia took refuge in the bathroom nearby just as the first shots rang out from the squad. “Who the hell are they?!” Reed screamed at Stauber. “They’re here to rescue me!” he shouted back. “They wouldn’t open fire if they were rescuing you, you idiot!” Reed pointed at a door on the other end of the classroom with his gun, “We’re leaving through there! Get up!” Meanwhile, back in the auditorium, the battle between Uriel and the man from the shadows continued to wage on heavily damaging the large room in the process. The two stood on opposite ends with Uriel standing at the exit and his cloaked opponent taking a defensive position on the stage. The empty chairs which were once bolted to the floor had been torn from their places, the pristine wooden stage was now mostly a giant heap of fragmented wood, and the curtains had been scorched from the flame localized on the blade of the archangel’s sword. “That man needs to die,” the cloaked man said to his opponent from across the destroyed assembly hall. “I will be the one to pass judgment on him,” replied Uriel, “but not before I deliver you to damnation.” “You’re a little late there.” Uriel flew up with his flaming sword leaving a blazing trail in his wake and, just as he was about to make a strike, the cloaked man hefted his blade to his left hand, raised his right arm with his palm facing outward, and a bright flash of light shot from his hand blinding the angel. Uriel then lost control of his flight and crashed down to the ground rolling forward a few times before coming to a stop. His collision against the hard floor and damaged remnants of the auditorium disoriented him so badly that he found himself unable to immediately recover. He stumbled onto his feet loosely clutching his weapon and checked himself for injuries and when he looked over his left shoulder he felt a rage stir inside of him like no other. Half of his left wing was blown off and what was left of it had been badly burned by whatever the man of shadows had done. “You will pay dearly for--” And the cloaked man charged with his sword, “Let me finish it for you!” Uriel was still too disoriented from the crash to evade his foe in time and with one quick swing the cloaked shadow sliced off what was left of the wing and the amputated wing returned to its original energy form and dissolved into the ether scattering as particles of light before it disappeared. Uriel growled and tightened his grip on his sword intensifying the calm flame and turning it into a raging inferno, but before he could rush in to deliver an attack of his own a small group of six well-armed men garbed in black burst into the auditorium. The enraged archangel fled the scene vanishing into ribbons of energy that flew off in separate directions leaving his opponent alone to deal with the men. “There he is!” shouted the squad leader. “Fire!” The sound of automatic fire echoed through the halls of the school and Zach and Julia were still taking cover in the bathroom unsure of what to do. The situation had elevated so rapidly that neither of the teens could even think clearly in their own minds. The noise from the gunfire kept them afraid to leave the relatively safe confines of the restroom and through it all Zach’s innermost desire to make it out alive slowly began to take hold. One by one, he heard men loudly screaming and yelling and someone shouting orders to fall back as something attacked them in retaliation. The gunshots and the screams soon ceased and the school fell silent once again, but it was impossible to tell if that meant it was safe to leave the bathroom. Julia, who had been huddled in a corner with her head tucked behind her knees, looked up and quietly whispered, “Is it over?” “I don’t hear anything,” answered the Sovereign. “I can still sense two of them, though.” “Were those guys cops? Why were they firing at us?” “They definitely weren’t the cops.” Zach very cautiously poked his head out of the bathroom to examine the area finding nothing but the empty hallway and shell casings littering the floor. “It’s clear. C’mon,” he took Julia by the hand and helped her to her feet, “I can find Reed by tracking down Dr. Stauber’s aura if they’re still together.” “Is that a good idea?” “I dunno,” he truthfully replied, “but I can’t stay hiding in here the whole time.” She looked to her friend in disbelief at his apparent change in attitude and willingness to boldly head back out into a potentially dangerous situation, “When did you decide to grow a pair?” To which he said with a grin on his face, “After I crapped myself.” After taking a moment to recollect herself Julia accompanied Zach out of the bathroom and followed his lead as he followed the trail left behind by the geneticist. The search led the pair to the back of the school, through the cafeteria, and past the evacuated kitchen. It wasn’t long before they found Reed and Dr. Stauber, but they unfortunately weren’t alone. Stauber was huddled in a corner and Reed had his gun out and aimed ahead of him at the cloaked man, who had tracked the geneticist and the Guardian down much faster than Zach. “You don’t need to kill him,” Reed said to the cloaked man whose loyalties were now being severely questioned in Zach’s mind. “I do,” was his short response. Zach stepped forward and cut into the conversation, “Why? Who is he? What did he do to you?” “If you don’t let me kill him now he’ll bring about something no one here is prepared to deal with.” He locked his gaze with Zach’s and urged, “You know you can trust me. Let me kill him.” Reed then shouted back at the man, “Leave Zach alone! I’ve got no idea who you are, but--” The man cut him off, “I’m asking you one last time: let me kill him the way I want, quickly, or I’ll have to do it in a much more painful way. It doesn’t matter what anyone here says to me because one way or the other that man is going to die here. Today.” “That isn’t going to happen,” said a defiant Reed. “Then you leave me with no choice.” All of a sudden Stauber who was cowering behind Reed like a scared child started screaming at the top of his lungs, his skin had spontaneously burst into flame. He continued screaming in agony as Reed removed his blazer and desperately tried to put the out the fire. Zach looked to his right where a fire extinguisher was secured to the wall and tore it from its mount while Julia rushed over to a sink filling a large pot with water to throw onto the burning scientist. They did everything they could, but nothing worked and the man was on the ground still screaming his last breath as he tried rolling around to put out the flame. Reed rushed over to the sink, kicked off the faucet head which let loose torrents of water, and used his power to redirect the liquid onto Stauber. It was too late, though. The man had stopped moving, stopped screaming, and all that was left of him was a black scorched corpse still burning down until there was nothing left but ash. The cloaked man had disappeared amidst the chaos and the three stood over the burnt remains of Stauber in defeat. He died an agonizing horrible death and even though they did all they could, nothing could have saved him from the overwhelming power and unknown motives of the cloaked man from the shadows. Reed didn’t get the answers he needed and Zach’s hero was now a cold-blooded murderer in his eyes. “Let’s get out of here,” said Reed, his voice low and apologetic. Together, the three slowly exited the cafeteria slinking out the back to join up with the rest of the evacuated school with their tails between their legs. Zach had never known this kind of defeat; had never watched someone die right in front of him. The world around him shattered into a million pieces and all he could see was a man burning alive, screaming for help. A sight he felt would surely haunt his nightmares for years to come. The fear of failure was now more prominent in him than ever before with one thought – one undeniable truth – lingering at the forefront of his mind. I couldn’t save him.
  7. Today's "Cog in the Machine"

    Last week's test podcast for "Cog in the Machine" was actually a lot of fun to record and edit (also tedious) and I'm definitely going to do another episode, but after listening to the one I recorded earlier this week I decided I REALLY wasn't happy with how it turned out, so there isn't going to be one for today. If anyone actually liked the first one and was waiting for the new episode I apologize for the delay. Honestly I'd rather put out a good quality episode late instead of putting one I didn't feel was funny enough. You guys know how much I hate poor quality... and this one was a stinker. I promise the next episode will be an improvement cos I plan on having a guest! Cog in the Machine will be back next week!
  8. Wednesday Rant: You Damn Kids!

    There comes a time in one’s life when inner reflection becomes inevitable and a longing for days gone by whips up feelings of nostalgia for simpler times. Everyone will reach this point and hate that time and life don’t have pause or rewind buttons. Then comes the cynical phrases/stories we’ve heard from our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and every other elder we’ve ever met. Well… I slammed into that wall known as age a couple of weeks ago and it’s my turn to finally say the words I never wanted to hear myself say. I’ve been dreading this day my entire life, but it’s okay because there’s a bottle of Jack right next to me on the nightstand. Here we go… YOU KIDS HAVE IT SO DAMN EASY THESE DAYS! Aaaaaand there goes the first shot. I can’t tell which left a worse taste in my mouth, but they both sting. I might be forgetting the point I’m trying to make, so let’s call this one a rant for now until the right braincells click on. Anyway, it pisses me off immensely whenever I hear some little shit play a game I grew up with and say something along the lines of “The graphics suck!” or “This is the worst game I’ve ever played!” or “Call of Duty is way better than this!” Um, no. Fuck you and the broken condom that resulted in your birth. Call of Duty is NOT better than A Link to the Past and I should end your life for even THINKING you can utter such words in my presence, you mindless retarded underwear-staining little shit! I was actually a heavy drinker in Mass Effect. I almost wish that could’ve been a part of my Shepard’s character development. You goddamn kids with your advanced physics engines and your 1080p displays and your online multiplayer! Just because your game is shiny and looks like every other game on the market doesn’t make it better than the games I grew up with. In fact, just BECAUSE it looks indistinguishable from other games in the same genre automatically gives your crappy little Call of Duty a failing grade BELOW failing when it comes to being memorable or endearing. Google search “endearing” on the tablet your parents bought for you last Christmas in case your feeble underdeveloped mind can’t comprehend it. Start leveling up your vocabulary. Back in the 8 and 16-bit era the games that became icons were identifiable from each other even with their limited graphical capabilities. Mega Man and Mario looked NOTHING like each other, their enemies were as uniquely designed as they were, and the levels were vivid and colorful and a JOY to explore! Nowadays, the color palette of most games is gray and brown and the enemy design looks like they came from a shared template used by every artist working in the industry. Oh look! It’s a level out of every game made in the last decade! Let’s talk difficulty now. These days you’ve got tutorials that hold your hand and walk with you every step of the way. I HATE tutorials! Do you even know what it means to find enjoyment in figuring something out for yourself? No, you fucking don’t! Because if something becomes “too hard” there’s a goddamn tutorial ready to tell you how to fucking play the game. Why play it at all?! Why don’t you just sit down and let someone else play it for you?! Oh, wait, you do?! How many times have you played something once or twice, died, and then asked someone else to do it for you? Don’t lie, you little bastards, you know you do this all the fucking time. And you dare say Super Mario Bros. is too easy when you can’t even figure out how to flank an AI that doesn’t know how to look left? You seriously think running from the left side of the screen to the right is easy? Well… its fucking not, okay?! Yeah, alright, it SOUNDS easy but it really isn’t. Get the fuck out of here with your goddamn tutorials and go play with a stick or something. If you manage to beat the first boss in ANY Final Fantasy game without using a Phoenix Down I’ll concede that you are a better gamer than I. Oh, yeah, and there’s no respawning. Sorry. Now shut the fuck up and have your entire party get wiped out a million times. Yeah, that’s right. A party. You’re responsible for four characters simultaneously and each one has a unique set of skills so you better figure out how to make the best use of them if you want to make it to Kefka you better learn how to strategize in turn-based combat. You will NOT beat him the first time. You won’t even beat him the first three times! Your l33t skilz don’t mean shit here! Oh, so now you wanna talk shit about how you don’t understand what’s going on? I’m sorry my games don’t constantly have some asshole screaming at you over a radio to “Take out that turret!” or “Save America!” Again, fuck you! The princess has been kidnapped (again) and everyone else is too incompetent to save her so it’s up to Mario! Doesn’t get much easier to understand than that. If you want something a bit more complicated than let’s play some Chrono Trigger! No story gets as deep or complicated as one that involves time travel. You witness historical events and become a part of them, you pick up party members from the past and the future and deal with the problems of their respective time periods, you change history, and you end up creating paradoxes that would make Doc Brown flip his shit if he were there! Or better yet, try to follow the timeline from The Legend of Zelda series! The Legend of Zelda has such a complicated timeline and story that Nintendo had to release a fucking BOOK about it! And you better not bitch and moan about not having online multiplayer in any of my games. You know what that equates to? Me! Me standing next to you screaming and cursing in your ear as you prove how much you fucking suck in every game cartridge I smack you in the face with. The experience is basically the same except you’ll be crying for your mommy because you can’t mute or boot me from your play session! Isn’t it enthralling?! Don’t you LOVE being belittled and degraded in real-life by a REAL gamer who knows what systems came before the Xbox 360? “DOOOOOOOOOOOOODGE!!!” Thus ends my alcohol infused rant for today. “But, Zero,” you may say, “this really doesn’t seem like an appropriate thing to post.” Uh-huh. It’s MY blog! I’M ZERO! IT’S CALLED “THE ZERO LOGS”! I’ll post what I want and talk shit about whatever or whoever I want, so if you can’t handle that write your own damn blog. I do this for me, not you! Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to play Chrono Trigger again. I’ve only gotten through 10 endings. Oh yeah, there’s multiple endings, too! Does God of War have a dozen endings? No! Go fuck yourself!
  9. So unless you’re blind, deaf, and dumb you’ve most likely noticed that smartphone and tablet usage has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. If you read this blog then you more than likely own a smartphone and have probably experienced the type of gaming sessions possible thanks to Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and whatever other weird games exist on it. Angry Birds was my first mobile gaming experience and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities mobile gaming can bring. The Android operating system is probably the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get new games on the market for fledgling developer studios, but it begs the question of whether mobile gaming can replace traditional handheld systems like Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PlayStation Vita. In order to understand the answer to which is better and why we’ll have to take a look at each platform’s pros and cons (and I love trashtalking) so let’s do this! Hi, I’m an iPhone. I’m a DSi. And I’m a failure. We’ll start with the dominant leader of on-the-go gaming; Nintendo. Ever since the original AA battery-draining Gameboy the Big N has been the ruler of handheld gaming and for good reason. Their dedication to quality and innovation is a big part of what helped them secure their place as king of the hill and every new handheld they put out was like a natural evolution of portable gaming. Even the failed Virtual Boy seemed like a logical misstep for them to take. They’ve never been afraid to gamble on “gimmicks” they think would drive a system and most of the time it paid off extremely well like when the original Nintendo DS first launched. I remember reading maybe a dozen or so articles from different reviewers who labeled it as nothing more than a cheap gimmick which wouldn’t catch on. Nintendo itself was playing it safe and said the DS wasn’t meant to replace the Gameboy Advance and was more of a third pillar in the grand scheme of things. Well… we know how that played out. Of course, the biggest downfall for ALL of their handhelds is one that I can easily overlook: the graphics and processing power. Every time someone else throws their hat into the ring their system always boasts better visuals than what Nintendo offered like Sega’s Game Gear which had a fully colored lit display (at the sake of eight AA batteries that died after hours of steady gameplay) while the Gameboy was still monochrome, Sony’s PSP which had a laundry list of advantages. Nintendo is stubborn to embrace change and has always been the last hardware manufacturer to adopt new ideas like compact discs and online multiplayer, but still no one can deny that even with its faults as a company nobody makes handhelds better than them. Not for lack of trying, though. And here we can see Nintendo’s proud handheld lineage. *Virtual Boy not pictured due to embarrassment. Sony’s first foray into portable gaming, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), was a media monster when it launched. I remember being excited like a lot of other people because their home console of the time, the PS2, was THE system to own with amazing exclusives you couldn’t get anywhere else. On top of that, as I mentioned before, it had the ability to play movies on Sony’s experimental UMD format, the web browser, the ability to store images and music, a big bright beautiful screen, and an analog nub! Sony pulled out all the stops and managed to cram an arsenal of features into a single handheld device. So what went wrong? Well, Sony’s PSP touted graphical capabilities akin to the PS2, but the games released for it felt more like watered down console ports instead of actual portable games like Nintendo’s system. The whole point of being able to pick up a handheld device is to play games for short bursts of time. Sony didn’t understand this and a lot of their games featured long loading times and save systems that made tiny gaming sessions difficult without losing your progress. They didn’t look as a handheld gaming system, they treated it like a home console you can take with you and didn’t realize that handhelds and home consoles are two different animals. They seemed to have learned their lesson a bit and the PS Vita shows it, but they still have a lot to learn especially about giving people options. I HATE using the touchscreen on the Vita because the system is so wide that I have to let go of one of the sides to click on something. Sure, it’s got insane visuals, but… didn’t we just cover that? The PS Vita is a future FAIL which Future Zero looks forward to discussing… in the future. For now, though, we’ll let it ride out and reach its inevitable death. Get ready to hear me say “I told you so” when Sony announces they won’t be making handheld systems anymore. What’s it supposed to do again? Play games? You mean, those things that don’t exist for it? So, we’ve come to the newbie in town; mobile gaming. What started out as an experiment on the iPhone has turned into a brand new marketplace worth billions that costs next to nothing for consumers right now (I’ll get to why I say “right now” in a bit). My introduction to mobile gaming happened during my trip to Washington D.C. for the big MLG event. I was sitting idly in someone else’s hotel room after we had just arrived and I think it was Jason (vVv Paradise) who started playing Angry Birds on his Android phone. I recognized the annoying little noises immediately (I HATED mobile games at the time and wrote them off) but I kept my thoughts to myself about it. When Jason told me about the addicting simplistic gameplay and said “It’s perfect when I’ve got a couple minutes to kill” I started thinking to myself it was worth checking out. I downloaded the game to my Droid and a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. Mobile gaming actually CAN replace handhelds, but it won’t and here’s why: #1: The battery My latest phone (LG’s Lucid) had the worst battery life I had ever seen in ANYTHING. Even the Game Gear could outlive my phone until I ordered an extended battery. Playing games on smartphones drains the battery faster than drugs drained Lindsey Lohan’s career as the phones get thinner (like Lohan) they die faster which means full-fledged games aren’t ideal for the platform. #2: Full-fledged games The games that exist for smartphones are nowhere near as deep or as complicated as the offerings available on the 3DS or Vita. They can’t be. Not only would they require too much memory, but they’d also require buttons which are all but gone on today’s phones. I’ve seen really good attempts like Dead Space, but the unavoidably clunky controls and the strain on the battery kept from being a game I wanted to play all the way through. #3: A killer app Nintendo has Pokemon. You can’t play it on anything BUT a Nintendo handheld unless you download roms and emulators to play older games in the series. The Vita has… well, NOTHING. Androids and iPhones? They’ve got apps aplenty, but no game or app available has given me the desire to own either phone at any cost. WHY, SONIC?! WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS BE THE FIRST ONE TO SINK TO NEW LOWS?! Wondering what advantages mobile gaming has on handhelds? Well, for starters, it doesn’t take a million dollars and a thousand people to create games for smartphones. This has led to a lot of clone games not worth the $1 asking price like the dozens of Super Mario Bros clones you can find on the Android marketplace. At the same time, it’s easy-to-use and open nature has led to the birth of a brand new home console which has all the potential it needs to force the big boys (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) to start thinking differently and at a price point they can’t beat; the Kickstarter-funded Ouya system. What I think will hold it back from achieving its full potential is plain and simple greed in the form of downloadable content. Eventually, the game that only cost you one measly dollar will cost you three, four, or more when developers start shoving DLC down our throats… again. If this can be avoided then the Ouya could become legendary, but it won’t. Don’t try to justify the existence of this game. There only needs to be ONE Angry Birds title. God help them when they do a prequel trilogy themed version. There we have it. Mobiles vs. handhelds. Both are great gaming platforms for different reasons and both have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses, but neither is capable of wiping out the other. For the time being, my phone will be the system I go to when I’m waiting to be seated at a restaurant, my 3DS will be where I’ll go when I want to play phenomenal portable games, and my Vita… wait, I forgot I don’t have the need or desire to own ever one. Does anybody reading this have one? Convince me to buy one. Make me a believer in the comments section below… if you dare.
  10. Well, for more than a year I've been wanting to host my own podcast. I bounced around different ideas, struggled to figure out who I could bring on as co-hosts or if I could do the whole thing myself, threw the project in the recycle bin at least half a dozen times and resurrected it half a dozen more, but now FINALLY here it is. At first I wanted to try something along the lines of a radio talk show, but then I realized something like that requires structure and a better idea of current events. I'm sort of out of the loop on a lot of things at the moment, so THAT idea got scrapped too. So what the hell is my podcast about anyway? After recording the talk show portion of it I came to the realization that my shtick has always been bitching and moaning about things. I mean, that's what The Zero Logs became thanks to the monthly FAIL articles and the reviews of terrible games (which will both return in the future, I promise. I had a lot of fun writing the reviews particularly because I was basically reliving hilariously bad games as if I were simply talking about them. And my podcast was born. It's basically me reliving some of the funniest moments from jobs I hated and in the future there will be other people talking with me. If you wanna know where the name comes from... it's got a double meaning. These jobs which will be discussed made me feel like just another interchangeable piece of a much larger machine. And the podcast is basically a cog in MY machine. So without further ado here's the link to my very first episode of my podcast: Cog in the Machine! Enjoy! LINK: http://citm.podbean.com/ P.S. I know the sound quality sucks. Give me time to get my equipment and you'll notice dramatic improvements overnight.
  11. The Gamer Spectrum

    These days everybody can identify themselves as a gamer of some kind. From hardcore games like Final Fantasy and Call of Duty to mobile games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja there’s a wide variety of gamers who like or hate certain games for their own reasons which can be shallow or deep depending on a lot of things. I was working on a photoshoot today and while I was taking a break I got to play some kind of weird pipe connecting game on an iPad Mini. The owner is in her 50’s and if she’s ever held a controller in her life it was probably when the Atari 2600 came out, so she definitely wouldn’t call herself a gamer like you or I do. She’s the gamer who doesn’t know what it means to be one. So, today we’ll be taking a look at four gamer types I’ve personally met and observed as they spent mindless minutes or endless hours playing their favorite games. Behold! The fabled WiiStation 360! The only non-existent console as diverse as gamers themselves. The “Break Time” Gamer: The owner of the iPad Mini absolutely falls into this category. She doesn’t play console games and if she plays PC games she probably doesn’t go any further than Solitaire, Minesweeper, and MAYBE those casino themed PC games I’d never buy. The break time gamer doesn’t know publishers, studios, or creators by name and probably doesn’t yet realize that the Wii and the Wii U are two entirely separate systems. The games they play usually don’t cost more than a dollar (most are free) and levels can be completed in mere seconds without the use of checkpoints or respawns. When the break time gamer decides they want to take some time out for the pastime they enjoy it’s usually in short bursts during… well, breaks… or when they’re relaxing on the couch at night. I can guarantee however that they will ALWAYS be impressed by the graphics of modern day consoles and, depending on the game itself, they might even sit down and watch someone play for a while. Those games will rot your brain inside out, grandma! Welcome to the dark side. The “Simple” Gamer: This one can be complicated because of the genres and names you’re about to read, but it’ll make sense. Simple gamers play simple games. Simple. Okay, I’ll try to explain it a little better than that. Some people play Halo or Call of Duty exclusively and some will only play Super Mario or Donkey Kong. The gamers playing the first person shooters fall into this category because they like running around shooting up camps or planets during their game’s main campaign, but that isn’t the main draw to them. The reason why first person shooters are the ONLY games in their collection is because they simply enjoy the competitive nature of the game’s online multiplayer and the rest doesn’t matter much. You might find a stray hack-n-slash on their shelf and maybe even Mortal Kombat, but if you ask them when was the last time they played either one the answer would undoubtedly be “a long-ass time ago.” The gamers playing the platformers fall into the same category because other games are too advanced, so they like the kind of gameplay where you run from one side of the screen to the other and jump a whole lot. Hardcore or casual, simple is simple. This entire fake family looks like they fall into the “Simple” gamer category. Also… none of their controllers are on. The “Thoughtful” Gamer I’m definitely the kind to fall into this category, so hopefully it’ll be easier to explain. I’m the kind of gamer that gets a little deeper into the hobby. I read gaming news daily, I’ve purchased many dozens of soundtracks from my favorite games, I’ve got (probably) TOO much memorabilia at home like a life-size Buster Sword, and when I get my apartment I plan on having a coffee table with books featuring artwork from some of my favorite games. I love the things that go INTO gaming as much as I love gaming itself, so I learn about the music composers and follow their work, I watch interviews and behind the scenes footage from developers, and watching big conferences is almost like a sport in itself to me. My brainy ways make me a bit antisocial so online gaming isn’t necessarily my thing unless it’s for a challenging puzzle game like Tetris or its co-op. I’m not really a “pro” at game in particular, but I’m exceptional in the games I frequently play. Depending on their style the “Thoughtful” gamer could very well be a hipster. But I totally had hipster glasses BEFORE the hipster scene became a thing… and they’re prescription. The “Angry” Gamer I’ve only just seen this type of gamer in action in the last month and, honestly, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. These gamers can play hardcore or casual games and aren’t really picky about what games they play. This person’s game of choice is Black Ops 2, more specifically, the zombie portions (we have a Walking Dead obsession). When she (yes, she) picks up a controller everyone really should gather around and whip out something to start recording either audio or video because you’re going to be in for a treat. The angry gamer has little to no patience for other players and completely loses their mind when things start going south. The one I got to watch doesn’t own a headset so she’s incapable of communicating with anyone on her team, but that doesn’t stop her from screaming, yelling, and cursing up a storm at the game. She got so pissed off five minutes in that she started making up her own nonsensical insults that I couldn’t understand but were funny anyway like “Your mom’s chest hair!” Doesn’t make a damn lick of sense, but it doesn’t have to when an angry gamer starts losing their shit. Just be prepared to cover the ears of little little children should any happen to be within earshot… or 100 feet. They have range. This isn’t the “Angry” gamer I observed, but you get the point. That’s it for now. Some people might fall into more than one category, but that rule applies to all facets of life and since the gamer pool is a bigger melting pot than the entire United States. I’ll probably fall into more than one after I figure out the others and that’s okay; it means I’m just as diverse as anyone else. As I meet more gamers and observe their personalities I’ll continue compiling lists and making observations like some kind of wildlife documentary filmmaker and you can bet I’ll write about them. Happy Wednesday, guys, and you’ll be hearing from me again this Friday. Seriously, you won’t be reading anything. *Wink, nudge, hint* Coming this Friday… for reals this time.
  12. Telltale's The Walking Dead Game and Me

    I started the game trying to keep the peace within the group, but after Lily shot Carly, stole the RV, and Duck and Katja died it was pretty much all about keeping Clementine safe for me.
  13. The Benefits of Video Games

    “Video games are a waste of time!” “They’ll rot your brain!” “You’ll NEVER accomplish anything if you play games.” As gamers we’ve all had these insulting phrases thrown in our faces from everyone to our friends and family to our teachers and politicians and through the years we’ve learned to shrug them off. It’s true that gaming can be time-consuming and seemingly void of any worthwhile qualities, but the same thing can be said for ANY hobby. I’ve been told time and time again my entire life that gaming and even writing are equal wastes of time and that I should pursue more realistic endeavors like working in an office filing papers and answering phone calls from irate customers for a giant faceless corporation like normal people do. To those people I have this to say: I’m not wasting my time or my talent, YOU are. We live in troubling times in a troubled country where violent shootings occur daily and tragic mass shootings are reported every week. The media and many politicians have a talent for shifting the blame on things or people they don’t like such as Fox News and their racist remarks about welfare recipients being the perpetrators of these violent crimes and video games being the root cause of violent behavior. Anyone with a half dead brain cell knows they’re creating scapegoats to avoid the actual problems this nation is facing, but unfortunately there are millions out there who agree with this garbage. My favorite moments come from the “statistics” and “facts” that none of their “experts” can back up with solid evidence. In fact, the mass shootings we keep hearing about are carried out mostly by white red-blooded Americans and other countries have already done studies on violent behavior and video games only to find NO correlation between the two. So, we know they’re wrong, THEY know they’re wrong, and NO ONE has been brave enough to call them out on their bullshit where it matters most. That leaves one question: If video games aren’t bad for you then are there any benefits? The answer is “duh.” Let’s start off with one of the most beneficial skills a person can have: organizational skills. I’ve known a lot of sloppy people and at one point I was known to have a messy clutter everywhere in my room, on my desk, and inside boxes and cases. I still knew where everything was, but it was a hassle to sift through highly unorganized stacks of boxes or papers just to find ONE little item tucked away in a corner somewhere. You might not realize it, but there are two games that drastically corrected my organizing problem. Obviously, if you’ve ever played Tetris (and you’re GOOD at it) you know a thing or two about moving things around to make space for more shapes in order to clear a line or two and get a higher score. During gameplay the speed at which the blocks drop increases and forces you to think faster or face a disappointing game over screen, but the game that REALLY put those skills to the test was Resident Evil 4 with its perfectly logical inventory system. Players had a cache case which had a matrix of squares inside. Every in-game item picked up varied in shape and size, but took up a certain amount of space in the case, so it was up to players to micro-manage their inventory by moving things around or discarding less important items. These two games taught me a lot about prioritizing and organizing that I don’t think I would’ve picked up as a messy teenager. If you have OCD this is the inventory system for you. The benefits of gaming go beyond those simple examples, though. Another great example of a video game that helped me sharpen and hone an important skill to have is Capcom’s Ace Attorney series. No, you won’t actually learn how to be a lawyer by playing it, but you’ll definitely FEEL like you could’ve gotten OJ Simpson put behind bars the first time around after completing a tough case. And while shouting “OBJECTION!” and “HOLD IT!” at your DS is silly you’ll quickly realize that you’re shouting these things out because you’ve picked up on something critical. The Ace Attorney series is an exercise in memory and critical thinking skills that rely on the player being able to point out contradictions in witness testimony and back it up with evidence found during the investigation portions of the game. It’s a brain game wrapped in an anime-like courtroom drama and its one of the most fun I’ve had without pulling off gruesome headshots or hacking my way through hordes of undead monsters. Say it with me: J’accuse! No, wait, F*@K! I mean, OBJECTION! Speaking of the undead, last Friday I made a post about how Telltale’s The Walking Dead game brought out maternal feelings I was unaware I even had thanks to Clementine. It’s a violent game that taught me a bit more about being a nurturing person, but it isn’t the only example of a game that teaches this valuable skill. During the 90’s the go-to games for teaching one to be a nurturing person were the tiny handheld devices known as Tamagotchi, Giga Pets, and Digimon. These virtual pet games were PURELY based around nurturing your digital pet or monster from birth until it reached the inevitable end we all face, death. The core Pokemon series teaches the exact same thing and goes multiple steps further by introducing personality traits, moods, diets (puffins and other stat-boosting foods), and special EV training for your creatures to make them as strong as they can be. The United States could learn a thing or two from Pokemon. Pokemon teaches strategy too, but not as well as Real Time Strategy (RTS) games like Starcraft and Fire Emblem. Starcraft is an intense game in a science fiction setting that teaches players the value of micromanaging resources and coordinating large groups of soldiers in battle. I’ve watched gamers playing this game and it definitely isn’t for everyone. If you don’t know how to effectively multitask a dozen different jobs at once this game will make you a pro if you can make it through the hours of frustration that comes along with the required skill. Fire Emblem operates on a much slower pace and it’s a great game to start out with before attempting to tackle games like Blizzard’s Starcraft or Warcraft. The Sims is a game that doesn’t involve any strategy, but the whole thing is based around micromanaging your simulated persona’s life. I’ve watched many Sims soil themselves, starve, succumb to depression, and die from a lack of experience in certain skills like cooking. I have no idea what’s going in this mess, but I promise you that SOMEONE does. I’ve never been very coordinated with my fingers and, as a right-handed person, my left hand is basically useless for most things. Lo and behold, there are two games that can help people come one step closer to being ambidextrous; Guitar Hero and Rock Band! Ask vVv Paradise or, better yet, just watch his fingers fly on those instruments and you’ll see that in order to excel in either game you’ll need to gain exceptional command over your weaker hand. I’m definitely nowhere near his level, but I’ve managed to work my way up to the hard difficulty for most songs and, as a result, I’ve got better control of my left hand. I won’t be expertly pulling off insane guitar solos anytime soon, but I’m better off for playing those games than I was without them. Rock Band went a step further by introducing the drums which required the use of both hands AND a foot and, during the last release, even included gameplay for a keyboard. And if you like music you’ll end up finding new songs and artists you most likely never heard because you either weren’t exposed to them or didn’t give them a chance. You know what they say about guys who are good with their fingers. They’re experts at Guitar Hero. There are more benefits to playing video games than the ones I’ve listed, though. If you play competitively you’ll end up learning how to work in a team with games like Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty. If you’re like me and aspire to be a writer then games like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect will teach you all about dramatic storytelling and character development. Appreciation for good music is taught through Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Even games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row can teach players the basics of effectively driving through city environments and learning routes and shortcuts… and evading the police. So the next time some douchebag tells you that video games are a useless waste of time that teach you absolutely nothing send them a link to this blog and proudly declare “checkmate.”
  14. Like a lot of people these days I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead. I started reading the comics a couple years ago and as an intellectual property I noticed straight away that it had a LOT of potential. So when the time came for it to be adapted into the live-action fray I figured the movie probably wouldn’t live up to what the comics had done. Then I found out that it was being made into a TV show instead and I ended up confused about how they would pull off putting something so violent on television for people to watch. By now most people have watched it and the zombie craze is sweeping through the world like an actual virus. So what is it that makes the show and the comics so appealing? Well, it has NOTHING to do with the zombies to tell you the truth. The Walking Dead has nothing in common with any other undead stories we may have seen or heard anywhere else; it’s about human drama in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and surviving in a world where one person’s death could spell disaster for everyone else. If you like the show in any capacity you owe it to yourself to read the original comic series. When the show took off I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before someone started whoring it out and selling the license to make everything from clothes to crappy video games. I was so right about the merchandising, but I was so extremely wrong about there being a crappy video game (well… Activision’s game doesn’t count since it isn’t out yet). The very first time I played a game that made me feel genuine concern for the characters involved was Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain in 2008. To this very day it remains on the top of my list as one of the best games I’ve ever played, and I can’t wait for the studio to make another next-gen adventure game like it. I never expected anyone else to craft an emotionally striking experience like it ever again until Telltale announced they would be creating the very first Walking Dead game. My excitement went into overdrive after I heard the news and then it reached whole new levels when they said the game would be following the continuity of the original comics and not the show people were raving about. That was when I knew I was going to be in for a treat unlike any other. Let’s get one thing straight: I HATE kids in movies, shows, and games. They RARELY contribute anything to the plot and most of the time the only purpose they serve is to create unnecessary problems for adult characters. I got into a heated debate with a friend of mine about the character Newt in James Cameron’s Aliens and how much I hated her and blamed her for the downfall of the franchise. Long story short, I felt that if it weren’t for Newt the character of Ripley never would have died and the entire story could have continued in a much different way. Kids ruin things and even in The Walking Dead comics the kids sometimes screwed things up, but it was forgivable because Carl was finding his own way of adapting to a world full of the living dead. If you read the comics you’d know that some really fucked up things happened with and to those kids and it got DARK. So here comes The Walking Dead game where you play as Lee and its your job to babysit this little brat named Clementine. “Great,” I thought to myself, “so basically I’m playing Resident Evil 4 again.” I was wrong again. I’ll give you ONE guess as to what this kid did to his twin brother. You’ll NEVER see this in the show. Oh, Clementine. Poor, sweet little Clementine. Her name is odd in this day and age and at first glance she seemed like just another example of adorable walker bait with her little baseball cap and her big doe eyes. I was ready to hate having her around all of the time and the first thoughts that popped into my head was, “Can I get rid of her and save myself a lot of future trouble in this game?” Obviously, you can’t ditch her and letting her die in any situation results in the game ending, so protecting Clementine was priority number one. My feelings about her immediately changed before I even met her, though. It happened when I found out her parents were out of town during the beginning of the outbreak and struck a serious chord I didn’t even know I had when I heard the messages left by her mother on the answering machine. Clementine’s parents had obviously died and she had no idea because she had been hiding in her treehouse when things got bad; she didn’t know. It was the third and final message that got to me; it was her mother desperately trying to call her little girl to tell her how much she loved her. When I finally met Clem face to face my coldhearted attitude towards kids met its end. She was smarter than most kids in situations like these. She knew where and how to hide, she knew to keep quiet, she kept a lookout, and she knew what could be used as a weapon. Clementine was already armed with all the knowledge and instinct she needed to survive in this world, but her only disadvantage was not being able to fend for herself. I didn’t mind having her tag along now, I actually wanted her to stay by my side the whole time just so I could make sure nothing bad would happen to her. I did my best to explain things to her in ways she would understand and, in the beginning of my playthrough, it felt like I was patronizing her. As time went on she began to notice things and she made me realize she was much more mature than I originally thought. By the end of the first episode I was determined to keep her safe from everything dead or alive as if she were MY kid. For all intents and purposes, she might as well have been mine. Clem is the only video game kid whose death would be devastating to me. Having to watch out for Clementine and deal with the drama that came from being with other survivors was unimaginably more difficult than I thought it would be. Kenny had his whole family with him AND his annoying as hell kid, named Duck, Lily’s father was an asshole who just made things worse for everyone else, and I had to deal with everyone bickering while trying to make sure Clementine didn’t become a victim of their stupid decisions. I ended up getting involved with every other character and caring about them more than I probably should have and when they died it felt like I really lost someone I legitimately cared about. Through it all, the only thing that mattered in the end was protecting Clementine. The Walking Dead game made me experience the full range of emotions from worry and concern for Clem’s well-being, to anger and hatred towards Larry, to irritation with Duck, tragic sympathy for Herschel when his son was killed (in large part thanks to Duck), respect for Kenny even when we butted heads, and admiration for all of the other people I met during my Walking Dead experience. By the time I reached the conclusion of season one I was devastated by Lee’s death and even now I worry about what will happen to Clementine in season 2. The Walking Dead game even with its faults and the problems it had every month (like not having a new episode available every month as originally promised) was an emotional experience that I’m grateful exists. They say violent video games result in violent people, but that simply isn’t the case this time. This game was INCREDIBLY violent and through it all the ONLY thing I cared about was protecting Clem. It tapped into a side of me that I really didn’t know existed and if I ever have a daughter… I might just name her Clementine.
  15. Games I Miss

    So last week I was sitting around the house with my cousin and brother rummaging through the PlayStation Store when we came upon Parasite Eve in the Classics section. For whatever reason we started going through all the ported games dating back to the old school Sega Genesis days and I think each of us came across a few that made us reminisce about other games we played growing up and every time we found something that struck a chord we’d always say “I miss playing [insert retro game title here].” My brother missed playing Crash Bandicoot, Oni (the first game I ever bought him), and the original Tony Hawk games while my cousin missed games like Duck Hunt, Rugrats games, and Pitfall. I’m not sure if it’s just nostalgia or if those games really had something that today’s games lack, but that conversation made me really think about the games I missed growing up, so that’s what I want to talk about now. In NO particular order here are the games I miss and why: Battletoads Yeah, I know they were basically the poor man’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they’re missing a member to be equal, but those games were some of the most fun I had during the NES era. I don’t remember any of the toad’s names except Zitz because well… pimples - and I have zero recollection about the game’s story if it even had one. None of that mattered to me in those days, though. To me the Battletoads were about one thing; beating the ever-loving crap out of giant alien space rats and robots and sometimes (by accident) the other player sitting next to me on the couch. I’ve got very fond memories of starting up the game’s two player mode and immediately going for the second player to kick their ass. There was just something special about the way they fought and killing each other in a cooperative game as giant anthropomorphic toads with shape-shifting limbs spoke to me as a kid who just wanted to have mindless fun before playing the game for real. Sure, today’s games let people kill each other all they want, but something about grabbing a pipe dropped from an enemy and smacking my co-op buddy with it just for a laugh brought the kind of enjoyment that I used to get from old Tom & Jerry cartoons. Frogger has NOTHING on the Battletoads! Streets of Rage I recently heard somewhere that this game was going to come back with a new sequel for the modern day and I can’t help but to think back on how terrible the last Golden Axe game was. I really don’t want Streets of Rage to be the next Golden Axe. I’d rather Sega just leave it alone, let the series stay in the past, and keep the original games available as downloads for people like me. When you look at Street of Rage you can see that it was a hardcore product of its time (the early 90’s). From a gameplay aspect it really doesn’t differ from all the other arcade style beat ‘em up’s of the era, but for me it shined in other aspects. The music was the very first thing that caught my attention when I hit the start button because it sounded like it was taken from some kind of 80’s-90’s techno club like the one seen in the original Terminator film. It was loud, catchy, cheesy, and it fit the rest of the game so very well. The game’s story was pretty farfetched too: a secret criminal organization managed to completely take over a city including its police force and government and it was up to ex-cops Axel Stone, Adam Hunter, and Blaze Fielding to put an end to the syndicate and save their city on their own. In later sequels they would be joined by a kid on rollerblades, a cybernetic old Asian man, and a boxing kangaroo. I never said it made sense. All of these elements made for a pretty fun game that threw logic out the window, but who cares?! It had a boxing kangaroo! With boxing gloves! If this Deviant Art rendition of Blaze Fielding was a cop in real life I’d probably do things to get arrested on purpose just so she’d whip out the handcuffs… Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem Okay, so it isn’t as old-school as the previous games mentioned, but it’s old enough to be considered retro. Deal with it. Eternal Darkness definitely isn’t a game for everyone because of all the things it didn’t have. It wasn’t heavy on action, it wasn’t graphically stunning even for its time (the Resident Evil remake came out the same year on the same system and looked gorgeous by comparison), and the puzzles weren’t that difficult to figure out, but the game more than made up for these faults thanks to the size of the story and its unique novelty which, unfortunately, has never been seen anywhere again: the sanity meter! It’s the first game I can remember that consistently trolled me by dwelling on my fears as a gamer. The horror from this particular survival horror came from a brand new perspective and managed to weave itself into the game’s history-stretching story a lot better than I realized before. When enemies made eye contact with the player character the sanity meter would drain a little and the only way to refill it was to immobilize them and finish them off. Having your sanity meter completely drained resulted in “hallucinations” that made YOU, the gamer holding the controller, freak out. The hallucinations included the following: Making you think your controller was disconnected/busted while you were being attacked by a group of enemies. Making you think your memory card data became corrupted. A sudden random screen that basically said “Congratulations! You beat the game!” A volume meter on your TV lowering itself. And my personal favorite: making you think a bunch of cockroaches started crawling all over your screen. I miss you, Eternal Darkness. ”Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering… fearing… doubting” – Edgar Allen Poe Classic Resident Evil Okay, so this one is kind of a copout because unlike the other games Resident Evil still exists and just recently had a sequel come out, but classic Resident Evil and modern Resident Evil might as well be two completely different games for all intents and purposes. Gone are the days of wandering through a creepy mansion or police station decorated by mentally disturbing people with a fetish for puzzles. Ever since Resident Evil 4 I never felt like I had to slowly tread through an area listening closely for the quiet sounds of some nasty creature breathing or moaning or shuffling in my direction. There aren’t anymore journal entries from victims of the T-virus or creepy reports from researchers observing one of Umbrella’s manmade monsters tearing a living animal to pieces. Now, we’ve got monsters that make you very aware of their presence, an arsenal that would put Arnold Schwarzenegger movies to shame, and a partner to tag along for the ride. You have no idea how desperate I am for remakes of RE2 and 3 like the original on the Gamecube. I miss Resident Evil. Look at how CREEPY that is! I’d NEVER feel safe in a police station like that even if there WASN’T a T-virus outbreak happening everywhere! Get on it, Capcom! We’ll gladly fund it ourselves through Kickstarter! Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and in a decade or two these games will see some kind of comeback for future generations to enjoy. So what games do you miss?