Overhaul

You guys are awesome. It’s been fantastic to see refraction transform over the past year. and this growth has inspired me to expand operations. This is the comprehensive outline of the process of overhauling refraction and turning it into a proper gaming site:

-Two more writers

-A media correspondent

-Official podcast

-Video content?

-One CS:GO correspondent

-Patreon

-Discord channel overhaul

The next bit of content will be actual gaming related writing, I promise, but in the meantime Please tell me what you guys think on twitter, leave a comment and if you like what we do check us out on patreon. you guys are awesome so don’t be a stranger.

Cheers,

Harrison


Check us out on Patreon

Chat with us on Discord

Apply to write with us here

We are on twitter: @refraction grey

 

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Now accepting writers and social media correspondents!

Ever wanted to write for a kick ass gaming blog? Well here is your chance. As part of an upcoming overhaul of the site(Post coming soon about that) We are Informing you that we are looking for not only two more writers, but a social media correspondent.

We expect writers to write at least one post a month. The SCC is required to write at least one twitter post a day and keep the account alive. I know content is slow but we are working hard to make refraction what it was meant to be with this overhaul. So please sign  up below if you think you have the chops to join our wonderful team:

https://goo.gl/forms/Wz4hp1BmyYlyZD3Z2

Cheers,

Harrison

Find us on twitter! @Refractiongrey

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?ty=h&u=3310677

Discord: https://discord.gg/zhGzX

The Refraction Awards 2016

What a year. 2016 was a wild time to be alive with revolts, revolution and fear running rampant across the world. It was also a less destructively wild time to be a gamer. This year had the tough job of being a follow-up to the euphoric highs of 2015 and the cynical lows of 2014. It was a year of change for gaming, with old formulas being tossed out and the reclamation of ideas long thought dead. We have had flops, surprises and more than a couple of indie gems. So, without further I am proud to announce the refraction awards 2016!(AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!)

Criteria:

released or have released major expansions in 2016

Good

Me or my graphic designer must have played them


Best Action:

HITMANImage result for Hitman cover art 2016

It is hard to call HITMAN an action game. It’s definitely a stealth game but the title action game has changed so much since its conception and has extended to encompass anything that involves some sort of “Action”. And that kids is how an incredibly cerebral stealth is holding a spot normally stolen by big budget shooters. HITMAN is a stealth  game for those looking for something far more than stealth kills and simple puzzles. It is a perfect answer to the simple and dumbed down stealth mechanics seen in dishonored 2 and watchdogs 2. Its cerebral, engaging and rewarding But most importantly it is a great Hitman game.


Best Adventure:

Oxenfree

Image result for oxenfree screengrabs

Oxenfree is similar in concept to Firewatch. It’s an intensely personal game about human relationships and a very specific time in someone’s life with incredibly mysterious and paranoid undertones and spot on voice acting. Oxenfree is slick and beautiful doing exactly what is should with efficient art and simple but deep characters. Oxenfree is a joy to play.


Best Indie:

Stardew ValleyImage result for stardew valley screen grabs

Stardew is a pure form of escapism for city dwellers. It’s a low stress game about starting a farm in a small town. The characters are relatively simple and the mechanics aren’t the most complex, but goddamn. Before you know it your prepping for festivals and slowly falling in love with the tiny towns inhabitants. It’s a humble game with hundreds of hours of content. There are no dragons to slay or soldiers to kill here. It’s just the sun, moon, soil, pelican town and you.


Best strategy:

Battle BrothersImage result for battle brothers art

The exact opposite of Stardew valley Battle Brothers is a heart attack of a game. This mount and blade inspired turn based game will bring you to your knees. Be prepared to feel anger and grief as you stumble towards victory and inevitable doom as your band of mercenaries either rises to the top of its industry or succumbs to the dangers of the engaging dark fantasy setting Battle Brothers takes place in.


Best MMO:

Elite Dangerouscustom.jpg

(Photo cred: CMDR Jonuss of the radio sidewinder crew. Featured: CMDR Choopsha and CMDR Spycrab Surprise)

Elite Dangerous’ recently released Horizons season pass is a massive expansion on the ideas of the main game and adds just enough content to keep me trucking around the massive galaxy that is the milky way. The player base has definitely become really tight and very helpful to new players. This space game continues to provide a deep, focused experience which excels at everything it attempts. The universe feels alive, the player base is interesting and the world is engrossing. Oh and we just made out first contact with aliens so do yourself a favor and go get lost in space.


GOTY:

Firewatch

Image result for firewatch art

Firewatch is an incredible game. It could be described as playable indie film. The voice acting is spectacular, Rich Sommer and his co-star Cissy Jones are outstanding. Their voices bring the characters of Henry and Delilah to life, every inflection and nuance of these characters makes them unforgettable in every sense of the word. The story itself is gripping and interesting. The paranoid atmosphere and total isolation contrast nicely with the serene beauty of the surrounding forest give a feeling of mystery to every word Delilah speaks and everything you see. The gameplay is light and can be made much more interesting by turning off the YOU ARE HERE marker on your map.

The art in Firewatch is fantastic and serves the game well, driving home the otherworldly feeling of the woods. The Wyoming wilderness is keenly detailed making your walk from story point to story point interesting, dialogue heavy, and gorgeous.

Every revelation is gripping, every piece of dialogue well acted, and every tree beautiful and well crafted. That is why Firewatch is the refraction GOTY.

Sincerely,

Harrison

Find us on twitter! @Refractiongrey
Email me: hkaplanearle@gmail.com
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?ty=h&u=3310677
Discord: https://discord.gg/z5YqAUW

Sequels: What we want

This year has been full of sequels, and not just any sequels; Kick-Ass, tone shifting, pace managing sequels. The spectacular thing about sequels is that any game that is released as one is guaranteed some form of sales. This is, of course, the motivation for the continuation of most long term game franchises. Of course this practice does tend to breed a certain animosity against annual franchises and mars the perception of the titles released like a blender but this unavoidable cycle is also great for business. once you nail down a fan base they tend to come back for at least the second game if your first games is at least average. Not only is this fanbase a great asset but it is incredibly important to the further success of your game and to an extent you should gauge their interest in certain features. This gaging can be done in many ways; focus groups, user reviews,  and general content. You can engage your community  as a developer as well with developer live streams and contests. A great example of this is the wonderful devs over at league of geeks, developers of armello, the fantastic fantasy Virtual boardgame (isn’t that  a mouthful). The keep their company engaged with most of the methods I have already mentioned but they do employ one technique that is essential for multiplayer games and although less important to singleplayer games still serve to breath fresh life into games to keep folks playing it.

Content updates. Not to be confused with patches or hot fixes but good old fashioned content updates. We are talking maps, endgame content, story content and new game plus options. If you are thinking “but thats all dlc that could be monetized!” and “but what does this have to do with sequels?”. Well your sequel must raise the bar for the game series. It should elaborate and improve on the main of the first game and introduce at least one new system. One way to raise said bar is Just a SHIT TON of free content updates staggered through out a year. This shouldn’t be your primary means of improvement but more of a supplement the real focus should be on mechanics. Introduce at least one per game and make sure it gels with the tone and other mechanics fucking this will produce a game like Watchdogs 2. A game about taking down a evil corporation with scissor lifts, M@d H@kk1ng skillz and your crew of cartoon characters. it’s light hearted and the writing is silly and fun but… Your fun ragtag group of people who are basically just a marketing firm for a large hacker group, Shoot People? Why does this care free exploration of San Francisco have you gunning down security guards? I’m not against videogame violence but in this case it was such a departure from the games existing tone and felt at odds with the fantastic stealth mechanics. It even felt halfbaked adding to the inkling that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to shove it in a already silly, but great game.

Now this is just the opinion of someone who probably watched to much of this: https://www.youtube.com/user/McBacon1337/ featured but, hey customer is once in a while right, right? Any-hoo thanks for stopping bye and I hope you have a fantastic day. For real, thanks for reading.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Find us on twitter! @Refractiongrey
Email me: hkaplanearle@gmail.com
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?ty=h&u=3310677
Discord: https://discord.gg/GjQ49

 

So you wanna heist?

Payday 2 is spectacular and engaging game. With a a butt-load of content and DLC of varying quality. It is a gem of a co-op game with blood pumping action and incredibly tense fun. I am here to help you sort through all the interesting ins and outs of Payday 2. So, you wanna learn how to heist?

The DLC

The first thing you will notice about payday on it’s store page is the ridiculous amount of DLC. Parsing through this mountain of content can be a daunting task for new players due to the highly variable quality of the content. There are a few recommended DLC and some which are universally avoided, because they’re either obsolete or just kind of useless. Here are the essentials:

-Gage Mod Courier Pack (It’s basically required)

-Sokol Character Pack (Great perk deck, fun character)

-The BBQ pack (Burn baby, burn! Also, molotovs.)

-Gage Weapon Packs (Except for the sniper pack)

-Point Break Heist Pack (The most fun you can have in Payday 2)

The Baddies

They’re angry, unconventional and in many cases extreme. So many cops, so little time. So in no particular order, I introduce to you the big baddies of payday 2:

-Bulldozers: These armor plated titans are imposing in stature, but don’t be scared by their grizzly exteriors they’re very soft and fuzzy on the inside. Always approach dozers in pairs of two, to avoid being downed and to split aggro. When shooting dozers dump bullets directly into their face mask while cutting line of sight to reload.

-Cloakers: These sneaky bastards! if you hear a low whine or see smoke run the other way. They take a lot of damage but when they down you they can be easily shot by your teammates.

-Tasers: If you hear the charging noise break line of sight as soon as possible. If you don’t hear a whine just shoot right on back. If tased don’t focus on shooting just keep your gun pointed at the blue coated son of a bitch and the impromptu electro-shock therapy will do the shooting.

-Shields: Similar to dozers approach in pairs to split aggro. And work those angles harder than Cindy Crawford, when you find a opening shoot and shoot some more.

The Builds

The 4 step process to making a overkill effective build are as follows:

-Choose a deployable and dump at least 25% of your available points into it.

-Choose a weapon class tree (each specialty has a weapon focus) and dump another 25% of your points into it

-Choose a complimentary perk deck.

-Remember to have fun kids!

The Guns

Guns, guns and more guns. Lead is your best friend and there are many approaches to sending it downrange. your weapon choice should align with whichever weapon perks you dumped points into. There are some basic rules though:

-Assault rifle damage should be above 40

-Watch the total ammo a gun has and make sure that if you choose a gun that doesn’t have a lot of extra ammo you have the perks to support your aggressively small ammo pool (you know what they say about spare ammo size).

-It is super important to make sure you spend money on mods though. Most guns are not worth it vanilla.

SO. Now you know the bare basics of heisting. sorry for the light content but i will be back to my 1-2 post a month schedule soon (Just kidding that starts now, just, please not the face!),

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Hotline Miami: Blood, Bullets and Violent Reverie

(So we begin our normal stream of once a week content, Rejoice!)

You stand in front of a door. Inside there are bad people; Drug dealers and murderers. You slip on a mask to hide your face from your actions, enter and attack. As soon as you pass over the threshold of the building pounding techno music starts up, spurring you into a fast and violent frenzy. You break bones, bash heads, fire bullets and then its over. One final smack and the music dies down to a dull drone as you walk back to your car and take off your mask. It’s this contrast which makes hotline Miami so great. One moment you’re zipping between rooms taking out russian mobsters and the next your either bleeding out on a kitchen floor or walking back to your DeLorean covered in that days work. Both offer reflection into your next blood spattered try.

Gameplay is lightning fast. You die and kill in a single hit and you move incredibly fast  which makes combat frantic. Although your body count is high, you never feel like a god, in fact you feel more like a survivor. You scramble around avoiding bullets and backpedaling away from melee enemies, jockeying for firing positions. You kill and retry and kill and retry and kill and retry and win. Every victory feels hard-won and gratifying, like you have mastered every move at your disposal. The pace is also helped along by the music, OH THE MUSIC. It’s loud, techno, gets your heart beating and pushes you to take more risks with its pounding beat.

The pixel art is brutally efficient and distinctly detailed. It depicts stains on rugs and dying men with shockingly vivid abstractions. Occasionally between spurts of action you will see “Jacket”, the protagonist (if you can call him that) do something that makes you flinch and even feel guilt. See, under the phone calls and mass mobster murders hotline Miami is questioning you and  it’s asking “Do you enjoy hurting other people?” as well as “Who are you?” and my favorite “Who is calling your home phone and giving you gangsters address?”. The game’s story is cryptic and engaging. It tell’s a tale of psychotic murder, broken men and anti russian organizations fighting against a america which has been occupied by the USSR in 1985. Hotline miami is one of the first games that I would safely call insane. Go play Hotline Miami and it’s sequel then but in the meantime leave your thoughts in the comments.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Find us on twitter! @Refractiongrey
Email me: hkaplanearle@gmail.com
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?ty=h&u=3310677
Discord: https://discord.gg/GjQ49

Unreal Tournament pre-alpha Impressions

Unreal Tournament is a return of the critically acclaimed and fan loved Unreal series. It’s a glorious return to form and is fast, fun and freaking magical. Its a glorious return to form and although pre-alpha it shows more potential than most multiplayer games I have played in the last little while. The game is being developed by Epic games in direct cooperation with community leaders and modders. This cooperation will shape UT  into what the UT community wants, not what sells the most. The UT pre-alpha is completely free for anyone and Epic has promised to never release paid DLC and have no plans to ever charge for the game. UT community members can sell items on the marketplace but Epic has released a good amount of professional content for free.

UT is running on Epics own Unreal Engine 4 as with tradition. The game looks fantastic and despite a few frame drops runs smoother than George Clooney after two martinis. This is quite the feat due to the particle heavy nature of the high-resolution maps. The soundscape however is a bit weak, the voice acting for the character’s taunts is well done even if only half intelligible and the announcer sounds great but jesus christ the guns sound like god damb be-bes. Despite a few specials like the flack cannon, plasma rifle and rocket launcher they just don’t have the oomph they need to make blasting someone into little bits satisfying.

The gameplay of UT is actually relatively unchanged from previous games with few new addition. For the uninitiated UT is arena shooter in the purest sense with a few twists of its own. Well when I say twists I mean staples of the franchise that have existed since 2004 but lets move past that. It retains the same guns, movement(with the addition of sliding) and health system. It’s a game that requires and rewards skill, timing and a near photographic memory of the maps. And oh god, the maps! They are all classics designed by the masters of multiplayer map design. They are all drop dead gorgeous, balanced and filled with nooks, crannies and secret paths for those who have mastered the mechanics. The guns take skill and have unique mechanics that make them unique and fun to use.

Its amazing and it’s as fun as I remember. but I am not entirely sure this game is necessary or worth it. There is a feature complete and pretty popular version of UT already out there. Right now I can only recommend trying it preferably with a friend or two. Its fun and great but right now its doesn’t have nearly as much content as UT 2004 which justifies the 15 dollar price tag. The new UT is only a a fraction of the game that 2004 was. Not sure It should have been released in pre-alpha. A new UT should be more modern and give me a reason to play it besides a new coat of paint. Give it a bit and then well check back in. In the meantime sorry for the delay.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Find us on twitter! @Refractiongrey

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?ty=h&u=3310677

The modern shooter: A Renaissance?

I recently have had the chance to write a piece with one mister Jack Boyfeild. Below you will find for and against statements on whether or not the fps is devolving. Here is mine:

Game mechanics are always evolving. Although some remain constant, in time, most will change as the industry does. Such is the way of capitalism and thus our beloved pastime. The changes are subtle and do not necessarily manifest themselves in double jumps and faster movement speed but in subtler ways. Over the past 2 years I have seen more and more games abandon concepts like iron sights and sprinting. I honestly cannot explain where this trend is coming from but games have begun to focus on more old school design mechanics. Here is a list of Older ideas creeping into modern design and why they kick ass:

-Vertical movement: makes spacial awareness and a full degree of aiming more essential.

-Weapon specific ADS: Makes weapons knowledge more important and gives the player incentive to practice

-Weapon pickups: Forces players to learn map layouts

-Non regenerating health: Evens the playing field and gives less skilled players the chance to still progress

-No cross hair bloom: makes weapons more reliable and removes chance from the moment to moment game play. It also allows the player to move and shoot more effectively thus speeding up the game

-longer time to kill: This forces players to not just shoot first but to shoot second third and last. These extended periods of combat not only reward sustained skill but make encounters more dynamic due to players joining the fight or weapons being picked up during the engagement.

These mechanics are becoming more and more common amongst mainstream shooters. These include Wolfenstein the new order, Doom, Shadow warrior 1 and 2, and Overwatch. Their has also been a rise in the numbers of arena shooters like Toxikk, unreal tournament and Lawbreakers(Side note Cliff Bleszinsky Is awesome, see bottom for link).  Do I think that we are reverting back to the early 2000’s? No, some mechanics sucked and that is why they are being left by the wayside. Developers are realizing that there is a reason that people so fondly remember these older games. With these classic mechanics returning and the rise of the heroes shooter and online only gaming, the future of First person shooters is equally terrifying and exciting.

And here ladys and gents is the counter argument from the one and only Jack Boyfeild: 

The FPS was an absolute marvel when I was in my teens. MW2 was the most addictive experience I have ever had and I constantly rushed home from school to jump back into multiplayer. The entire experience was largely fresh to me and was one that I could not resist. The perfect combination of fast paced boots on the ground action with a wonderful sense of class customisation. The maps were beautiful and well designed and I remember the exact layout in my mind even now. Contrast that with my thoughts on FPS shooters now and it is largely different. Admittedly I don’t have as many friends to socialise with online as I did back that but i am going to speak of my thoughts on the direction I believe shooters are going in rather than my soured opinion on them. When one thinks of the generic annual releases one thinks of Battlefield and COD so that is my main reference point. COD is as popular as ever in terms of sales as each annual release is lauded over by the masses yet is it heading in the right direction? The high number of dislikes on the Infinity Warfare trailer such not and I cannot but agree. Whilst I do believe the fast pace is what the people want in a period where Twitch rewards the fast and the talented yet Activision just appear to be ripping off the ideas of first Titanfall which is outstanding and now feeding off of the space hype that comes with Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky. Battlefield on the other hand is one that is trying something new. It is a backwards step towards an era of warfare that we have immersed ourselves in before yet with the more powerful consoles we may see it on a grander scale. It is one which I will be much more likely to buy as I love historic warfare yet I don’t believe boots on the ground will be as popular among the Twitch crowd due to its inevitably slower pace. I hope dearly that it outsells COD but I very highly doubt it. In retrospect of these yearly releases, I can safely say I believe that the FPS is lacking innovation in the AAA annual market as the two big boys are relatively stuck for ideas. It is through the unburdened nature of lesser known titles such as Titanfall that we must rely upon in order to get the innovation we desire as true gamers. Yet they do not get the sales of the two games mentioned above and it is this that has caused the FPS market to stagnate and allow other genres to emerge triumphant such as MOBAs and MMOs (which I welcome). I challenge the big developers to create perhaps a FPS set in a relatively untouched setting such as the Old West or experiment with alternative historic events. When this occurs I will safely say that FPSs are moving forward.

Is this the renaissance of the modern shooter? Leave your comments below and have a beautiful day.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Jack:https://part-timegamer.com/

Cliff kicks ass: http://www.polygon.com/2016/5/6/11612912/lawbreakers-gender-neutral-bathrooms-boss-key-cliff-bleszinski

Open ended flaws: The 4 major (and totally avoidable) pitfalls of open world games

There is a reason games used to veer towards being Geographically linear. It allows designers to more easily create set pieces and instill a more planned set of emotions on the player as well as add more details to the game world. The concept of open world came about with the first GTA and has sunk it’s teeth quite firmly into the shin of gaming. Nowadays series much more commonly flaunt a open world as a feature. I, cynically, tend to see this as not automatically a good thing for many reasons. Open worlds offer the player a degree of freedom not seen in linear experiences. That said they do tend to have a lot of problems:

Boring traversal mechanics

whether it’s horrible car handling, drab landscapes or one button parl\kour it is important to engage your player on their way to point B from point A. Holding one button for 2-5 minutes is super boring and unless your world is the caviar of world design then you need to mix up your mechanics. Good ways to engage the player can be requiring them to jump, grab ledges (tomb raider) or avoid enemies. I say avoid enemies because even the best combat, if always required to move past a group of enemies, can be incredibly tedious. Also, bridge the gap between a big world and a”Oh my god 10km to the objective” world. you can also try to challenge the player on their way to point B requiring them to orientate themselves using the environment and more vague maps.

A useless leveling system

A lot of games feel the need to force the player to feel “invested” in the game through a pointless leveling system. The new mirrors edge has one, watchdogs has one, far cry has one, Just Cause 3 has one. Its a cheap tactic to pad out game length and the same job can be done through the unlock of equipment instead of limiting the basic mechanics available to the player. This is the seen of a lot of the problems Ubisoft games keep having.

feeling overpowered

A side effect of a leveling system is the chance that you may make your player overpowered. This feeling of being overpowered is occasionally fun and engaging (Just cause 3, Prototype) but most of the time it makes the game incredibly dull (any Assasin’s creed bar unity, shadow of mordor). The reason this lack of difficulty makes the game boring is the exact same reason that bad traversal mechanics get boring. The lack of engagement and thought causes the drop off of players later in a game.

Content

When i say “content is a problem in open world games” i am not speaking of a lack there of, but a focus on quantity over quality.  i would much rather play a singular well made level twice then a boring, Cooky cutter level 4 times with different colors. Their also needs to be a focus on content that doesn’t solely rely on mechanics but engages the player in other ways through story and enemy variety.

Open world games still have a long way to go and seriously need to listen to their communities. their needs to be a much bigger focus on quality and overall content that does more than just passes time. In the meantime however have a wonderful day.

Cheers,

Earlegrey

Assassin’s Creed: (Insert Noun Here)

The original Assassin’s Creed game was a breath of fresh air, something to break up the then shooter dominated market. Yes, it had it’s issues but it’s sequel, Assassin’s Creed II, fixed almost all of them and introduced one of my favorite game characters, Ezio Auditore. AC: Brotherhood was a very good game and had some really fun moments. I only recently picked up AC: Revelations while it was on sale and although it is not the best game I have ever played, the writing is fun and stealth is super satisfying. Then you had ACIII which I enjoyed although it has it’s flaws and was not all that I was hoping it would be. Then you come to what I consider to be the pinnacle of the series, ACIV: Black flag. By 2013 the series had obtained some really cool ideas which have lived and died: the ship you captain in ACIII and ACIV, the ability to train assassins and call them in during a fight, horses, bomb crafting, ziplines, the hook-blade from Revelations which greatly increased your speed while free running, two really great storytelling devices, saying to hell with all modern day stuff (my personal favorite), and some really great characters.

Alas Ubisoft decided that when the time came to bring AC to the next gen consoles that they would not keep a single one of these ideas. Ever since AC: Unity the franchise has had a major identity crisis. I think it’s time for the series to do a little soul searching and figure out what it wants to be. The publisher needs to take a year or two hiatus from the franchise. For the next game please, please, please, use a historical setting before the 1700’s, guns don’t work well with the control scheme and Paris and London are just boring and not as colourful as previous locales (no offense).

Cheers,

Earlegrey