Just down the block from Sinners Alley: Saint’s Row Retrospective, Part 1-Introduction

So, I’ve had this blog for weeks now.  Weeks.  And yet I haven’t done any things with it yet.  Should we do a thing?  I think we should have done a thing already.  Are you ready to do a thing?  I’m home alone and have had way too many margaritas.  That makes it the perfect time to do a thing!  Let’s do a thing!

What thing you ask?  Well, you probably ask that because you’re too impatient to read the post’s title.  In memorium of THQ, we’re going over the Saints Row series!


So, we’ll be doing this in five parts.  The first post, which you’ll be reading here, will give an overview and my thoughts on the series based solely on memory.  Kind of a summary of things to come.  Then, I’ll play through the games, making a post for each one as I finish them.  We’ll get more in-depth in the analysis there, covering the various characters, the plot, the gameplay, all that fun stuff.  Then, at the end, I’ll give a more informed retrospective of the type of stuff the series covers.  Interested?  Of course you are!  Hit the jump to find out more!

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So my stats tell me that at least one of you is using Lost to the Aether as your go-to source for news on the THQ bankruptcy, from this post.  Since a single visitor makes up approximately 83% of my web traffic at this time, I figured I’d give you what you want and talk of THQ a bit more.

There’s not a whole lot of business analysis or explanation to do here, like there was last post.  THQ is done.  Over.  Dead.  Dismembered.  Drawn and quartered.  Basically, what happened is that the individual parts went up to auction, and collectively sold for more than the $60 million Clearlake Capital offered for the full organization.  Not a whole lot more.  Only about $72 million, at the time of this writing.  This still isn’t a good deal for the creditors.  They’re still making dimes on the dollar.  They’re still getting shafted.  But they’re getting shafted slightly more gently than they were under the initial offer.  Like, the person doing the shafting is actually pretending to love them this time.  Still, they’re better off than the stockholders.  It’s not looking like they’ll be getting anything.

But hey, stuff was being sold, so that means that parts of THQ survive, right?  Let’s figure out what’s going where!

I’m kind of lucky, in that both the Volition studio and the Saint’s Row IP are going to the same place: Koch Media.  The Metro IP is going along, too.  Koch Media is a media publisher whose American games arm, Deep Silver, has published Catherine and a bunch of other games I haven’t played.  It doesn’t look like they’re into the development side of things, so I can’t imagine there’d be much in the way of redundancies between them and Volition.  Considering that Volition is supposedly already working on the next Saint’s Row game, I’d imagine that they’re going to go relatively unmolested.  Not sure what the plans are for the Metro IP, though.

The studio Relic, who almost entirely makes PC titles such as Homefront, Warhammer, and Dawn of War was the hotly contested item, ending up in the hands of Sega.  THQ Montreal, maker of later entries in the Metro,and WWE franchises are now owned by Ubisoft.  We’ll have to see how those are handled.  Since they’re going to companies that already have game divisions, there could be some layoffs in the future, although it shouldn’t be enough that the studios close down.  They’re being bought independently of the IPs they’ve worked on, so the companies are most likely buying them to increase their own capacities.  I’m pretty certain THQ Montreal is going to be renamed.  Just a hunch.

The Homefront IP is going to to Crytek, and the South Park game is going to Ubisoft along with THQ Montreal.  The big weirdo among the IP purchases is that of Evolve.  If you don’t remember playing any games from that franchise, well, that’s because there aren’t any.  Take-2 paid a mint for it, though, far more than I’d have expected it to be worth.  Guess they were impressed with what they saw.

Vigil games and the franchise they developed, Darksiders, noticeably didn’t attract any buyers.  Vigil hasn’t really done anything of note outside of the Darksiders series, and the franchise kind of flopped commercially with the second installment, so that’s not really a huge surprise.  THQ may find a separate buyer for them, outside of that big auction.

Also noticeably without buyers are the WWE, Nickelodeon, and Pixar franchises.  Dealing with the sizes of the companies who own the licenses to those, however, it seems probable that they’re not transferable, that they wouldn’t even be listed as up for auction.  I imagine those who own them will find new publishers for their games soon enough.

Digital: a Love Story Review

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So let’s start with the basics, shall we?  Digital: a Love Story is an indie game written and developed by one Christine Love, billed as a romance/mystery.  It’s available for free here and it’s pretty short, so if you’re interested in the stuff I talk about in this review there’s really no reason to not give it a try.  It’s so short in fact, that I run the very real risk of spending more time typing up this review than I actually spent playing the game.  Digital: a Love Story is a visual novel, one of those things that we in the western world aren’t quite sure where they fit in the video game sphere.  You could call it an adventure game, if your one of those people that likes to combine the two genres.  I think the official test for adventure game vs. visual novel is whether or not you have to hit a yeti in the face with a pie.  You do not have to do that in this game, so I guess visual novel it is.

Digital is set in 1988, and takes place entirely on the screen of your computer, with all your interactions taking place over Bulletin Board Systems.  Supposedly, it’s all very historically accurate, but I’m not so sure about that.  I don’t remember 1988 very well, but I’m pretty sure computers were made out of rocks, and their proto-internet thing was really just a bunch of cans tied together by string.  Anyways, you play the role of Badman “Aether” Wargang.  It gives you the option to pick your own name and nethandle, so I suppose you could play someone else, but I don’t know why you would want to.  You are the lucky recipient of a brand new Amie computer, which comes equipped with a music player,a messaging system, a dial-up modem and… well, that’s about it.  Still, I’m sure that was the top of the line for 1988’s rock-based technology.  The dial-up modem lets you connect to your first Bulletin Board System, which works pretty much like our modern forums do.  You read topics, make friends, learn about other BBSs, and meet a girl.  You and that girl send messages back and forth for a while, before she decides to do… something.  It’s not exactly clear at the time, and I don’t want to spoil it now, so you’ll just have to sit on that.  Anyways, she decides to do something, and right before she does that something, she sends you one last message confessing her love for you.  Then she disappears and the BBS you both were using crashes.  And the Sysop for the BBS finds a cry for help directed to you in the wreckage of the BBS’s code.  And that’s where the mystery part comes in.  Using what clues you have, and what hacking programs your BBS friends can give you, it’s up to you to track her down.

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What Games Bring to the Table-the Downsides

Hey, do you remember this post and this post where we talked about the advantages video games had with storytelling?  Those were pretty awesome times, right?  Talking all about the ways narrative was improved within our favorite medium, and only getting a little distracted with me mentioning how good I look all the time.  Well, we weren’t finished with our discussion there.  Every medium has both advantages and disadvantages when presenting a story.  Video games are no different.  I know, I know, it’s hard to discuss and read bad stuff about stuff we all love and negativity sucks in general, but I think it’s worth discussing the challenges a lot of games face when presenting a story.  So, below the jump, lets talk a bit about the disadvantages video games have when telling their tales, and what developers are doing to overcome these challenges.

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Everything You Like is Fine

It seems that every couple of years, I’ll decide try and socialize a bit on the internet.  I know you wouldn’t think it, but it gets really distracting when every conversation partner you have in meatspace is getting constantly distracted by how good you look, so the faceless, anonymous form of dialoguing the internet offers is actually quite nice in comparison.  So I’ll do what hundreds of thousands of good internet denizens do and find me a nice forum.  Everything will be all good and fun and dandy at first, and I’ll be enjoying myself, but I’ll inevitably leave the forum within a year or so.  There’s just one sort of mentality that I always seem to run into, that I’ve honestly just grown tired of.

I seem to be a little unusual among the type of people who post on forums, in that I like most of the games I play.  I love the good games, of course, but I’m also usually able to find some sort of enjoyment in the bad ones, too.  Doesn’t mean I won’t rant and rave about them, of course, but usually I find them to be worth my while.  Same with most other media I actually bother to talk about.  Now, I’m far from an optimist.  I do see the glass as half full, but it’s half full of sewage.  However, with the various forms of entertainment I partake of, I seem to enjoy more things than do most people who take the time to write about them.

Well, apparently, that’s wrong.  It seems that there’s certain categories of every media you’re not supposed to like.  Talk about things that are too popular, too mainstream, too unique, too simple, too incomprehensible, too casual, etc., and there will always be some person there that pops up with “That thing sucks!  What’s wrong with you for playing/viewing/reading that?!”  And you know, the thing may suck.  But the problem here is that a) dude is applying a value to you personally for experiencing it and b) this sort of statement always seems to be toxic to discussion.  And that’s really all the fun of bringing it up in the first place, but once one person’s gotten judged for it, no one else is willing to speak up about it.  This isn’t a mentality that seems particularly common, but it’s out there enough that it’s popped up in every forum I’ve been a part of, and I absolutely hate it.  Not being able to talk about what I experience just ruins my point in joining forums in the first place.

So, good thing I have a blog, eh?  No one can stop me talking about things here.

The thing is, there’s really no wrong way to enjoy something.  With most entertainment materials, there’s not even wrong things to enjoy.  It’s art, everyone’s looking for different things out of it, and if the things you find lead you to love the material, there’s no way you can be wrong.  If you like something, it’s good, no matter what the general consensus says.  There’s no way to be wrong, whether you like something or not.  Well, except for my beauty.  That’s a universal constant, and if you don’t enjoy it, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

It always seems to get in vogue to hate something.  The mainstream loves a singer or author, and the counterculture rises up against it.  Neither are wrong, or right.  It’s art, whether you like it or not, and art applies itself individually.  It’s ok to like whatever you like, no matter what anyone says about it.  Justin Bieber, Twilight, Slut Soirees 23, if you enjoy something, that’s just what it means to you, and don’t let anyone else take that away.

What Games Bring to the Table, Pt. 2

Here’s part 2 of the wildly popular series!  Part 1 is over here.  Or you could, you know, just scroll down a little bit.  It’s like, right there.

Last time we covered how games have unique potential to immerse the player, how games have the advantage of a really flexible span of time in which to execute their tale, and how both of those enhance a game’s ability to tell you its story.  Today, we’re going to go over three more advantages video games have when telling its story.  What are they?  Oh, I can’t wait to find out!  Join me after the jump, and we’ll see together!

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What Games Bring to the Table Pt. 1

Are we a video games blog now?  I think we are.  As of this post, roughly 2/3rds of my content is going to be about video games, and that first post barely counts as anything.  You know what?  I can dig it.  If I got words to say about video games, then that’s just where this blog will be, until I decide to talk about something else.  Probably ponies.  I do love ponies.

Anyways, there’s been a lot of discussion on the games=art concept over the years.  And because most of that discussion has taken place over the internet, there’s also been a lot of arguments over the years.  Bad ones.  By the types of people that leave those really dumb comments on YouTube videos.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  We’re not going to get into that argument today, but there is a related topic I’m wanting to talk about.  Whatever your feelings on games as art, you can’t deny that storytelling has been growing into a more and more common component of our interactive electronic entertainment systems over the years.  The importance of narrative in video games has long been on the rise, to the point where it’s the primary purpose in some games now.  With this post, I’m wanting to talk a bit about what advantages video games offer to stories.

I’m excited, aren’t you?  Let’s get started!

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Dissecting the THQ Bankruptcy


THQ, maker of the Saint’s Row franchise and a bunch of other games I don’t care about BUT YOU MIGHT has fallen on some hard times lately, eh?  Well, “lately” is kind of a polite way of putting it.  Truth is, they’ve been circling the drain since 2008.  But last year was an exceptionally eventful one for them!  Layoff’s, a change in power, a desperate move to keep from being de-listed from the stock exchange, it’s been rough times.  And now, it’s coming to a head with this bankruptcy.  And bankruptcy is nothing anyone wishes on them.  Well, unless you still hold a grudge for 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand or something.  Anyways,  we’ve been getting all sorts of conflicting messages from them.  President Jason Rubin says everything’s going to be fine, thank you for asking, how are you?  If you take the statements he was making at the time the bankruptcy was announced, they’re just hitting a rough patch, and they’re going to come through it harder, better, faster, stronger than ever!  On the other hand, THQ’s creditor’s and the general games journalism sphere don’t seem so optimistic.  So what’s really going to happen?  If only there was some incredibly smart business/video games blogger around that could enlighten all of us.  Well, truth is, it’s really hard to say just yet.  I may be incredibly smart, and I might end up blogging about business and/or video games, too early to say just yet, but right now, THQ’s at too uncertain a place for true enlightenment.  I can attempt to help you understand the situation  better, though.  Would you like that?  No?  Well I’m gonna keep typing anyway!

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First Post!

Ha!  I have a blog now!  And there’s nothing you can do about it!  Just look at that, my own little corner of the internet.  I may just move in here.  Get my furniture all set up just how I like it.  Declare myself lord regent.  This is my site now, I can do what I want!

Right.  Now that all the self-congratulation is out of the way, let’s get on with things, shall we?  To be honest, most first blog posts are kind of worthless.  Sure, I could talk about what I’m planning on doing with this blog, or why I was driven to start a blog, but really, it doesn’t matter.  You already know all this stuff.  How do I know that?  Well, if you guessed I could read your mind, you wouldn’t be completely off the mark.  You wouldn’t be completely right, though.  While I can read your mind (by the way, yuck!) I really know that you’re not reading this post when it’s new.  You’re some sort of strange future person, either working your way backwards through my posts, or you decided you’d just check the archives from the very beginning.  I know, spooky, right?  Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Thing is, almost nobody reads newborn blogs.  And why would they?  There’s almost nothing there! Just incredibly beautiful first-time bloggers posting about posting.  And meta as that may be, it’s kind of worthless of me to be talking about my blog at this point, isn’t it?  Everything I could say about what I’m going to do with this page of mine, you already know more about than I do.  If you’re interested enough in my content to read this far back, you already know what kind of things I talk about, and where my areas of interest and expertise lie.  One of the benefits of reading from the future, I guess.  Ooh, I hope I’m famous!

Anyways, I want to make sure this post is not just wasted space, so here’s the deal.  If you’re reading this, put a comment below.  I don’t care how long it’s been since this first went up, I don’t care if you don’t normally comment on blogs, I don’t care if I’ve been dead and gone for centuries by the time you’re getting to this.  Just leave a comment below.  Preferably something along the lines of “Oh Aether you’re so sexy and I love every word you type!” but really anything goes.  If you’re the shy type, just put down “Yo”, or something like that, but anything to let us know you’re alive.  Or if the robots have taken over the world in the future, leave “01001000 01100101 01101100 01110000 0100000 01101101 01100101”, just to give the rest of us pasters a warning.

I don’t care what it is, just put a comment below.  This will be our secret clubhouse, kept private and pristine away from all the hundreds and hundreds of fans I’ll undoubtedly have in the future that haven’t yet gone back through the mountains of content I’ve created.  Here in Aether’s First Post, we’re all friends, and we’d like you to join us.