Aliens: Colonial Marines – Aftermath


Rebecca “Newt” Jorden – Portrayed by Carrie Henn in 1986’s “Aliens”.

And here it is ladies and gentlemen, the latest Gearbox release, Aliens: Colonial Disaster. Not only a disaster regarding the game it self, but also all the bad PR revolving around it.

Let me state right from the start that I’ve never been compelled to join Gearbox’s forums or write about them before to say how awesome they were, I praised them for their amazing work with the Borderlands franchise and I showed so by buying and pre-ordering anything they threw at the market with a Borderlands logo. Or in a more common lingo – Voting with the wallet.

All of that is about to change…

At first I was finding it strange that my work colleagues were telling me on the release Tuesday that the reviews [of Aliens: Colonial Marines] were being terrible and destroying any idea that the game might be good. I dismissed it and thought it was bad and unprofessional journalism / amateur reviews.

After starting to read and investigate by myself, including the famous tester statement on Reddit, I still didn’t want to believe on these ‘rumors’ and opinions. It was a busy week for me so I didn’t have time to open and play my pre-ordered A:CM until yesterday, Sunday.

Before actually playing it thou, I was still curious and followed up these forums very closely, and that’s when I first bumped into this and even worse, this.
There is no escaping the facts when watching those two videos, they are not opinions, they are not make-belief, it was a real side-to-side comparison with what was, and what is.

As you might imagine I couldn’t wrap my head around it, how did something so big, something with such budget, something so revered by film lovers, and something with six years of development time, train wrecked so hard into release.
I’ve read all the conspiracy theories, money going to Borderlands, Outsourcing to TimeGate, Nerve and whatnot, SEGA knowing about it, SEGA not knowing about it. 8Gb Patch (not) coming. But to be quite honest, after all this dust settles and fingers stop being pointed I care only about one thing: How will Gearbox fix it, and will they fix it?

It’s hard to even begin to conceive how such a developer, publisher and literally bullet proof IP managed to achieve such negativity and failure after a six year project, but I’m repeating myself. My point being, Gearbox and SEGA cannot leave this as it stands, they can’t sit this one out, not in 2013, not with the amount of funds involved, and not with the Aliens trademark. We’re talking about an estimated 40 to 60 million dollars involved, obviously enough we can’t dig any official figures yet.

For someone waiting as long as some of us have, for a decent, really good game involving Aliens™, and specially after knowing it would be a direct (albeit parallel) sequel to Aliens, the E3/PAX demo was a Godsend, it was going to be an interactive Aliens, further exploring Archeron and mostly, discovering what happened inside the SULACO, mostly.

And those guys managed to screw it up…

Gearbox can’t even sleaze their way out of this one by blaming outsourcing, Gearbox is the name on the box, Gearbox for all intents and purposes is the main developer, it was their duty to verify, double-check and fix what was wrong prior to release.
But Gearbox couldn’t do that now could they? SEGA wouldn’t provide them more time after so much postponing, it would look bad asking for more time. Money was buried (or not) into Borderlands 2 development instead of Aliens, staff was short as well, so outsourcing was ‘required’, but the end result was looking so bad that something had to be cooked up out of thin air, something to show it’s actually looking good, and the E3 demo was born.

Are we close to the truth? Maybe, maybe not, we’ll probably never know. We’ll probably never see an apology or any taking of responsibility, not when the President of the developing studio says thing like “always profited from criticism” and giving away Shift Codes for A:CM with “Friend of Gearbox” on your customized armor, when he knows how poorly the game was received.

Don’t get me wrong Mr. Pitchford, it’s a great and humane attitude to “profit” from criticism if it involves learning from mistakes and improve yourself as a person. But that door swings both ways, if you don’t admit your mistakes in the first place, than you haven’t learnt a thing.
Considering the amount of revenue your company received from such a PR and critical fiasco, I think a “Fix” to this game is the least your fans deserve.
I’m not even asking for an apology, just action.

Remember “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, Nothing else.” – Gandhi.

Make things right Gearbox, and you’ll win back your pre-orders, but most of all, win back respect by the consumers and the media.



Warcraft – The Lost Tracks

If there’s one thing I loved – and still do – about the Warcraft™ franchise is it’s enthralling soundtrack. It was one of the first things I fell in love when I first picked up the series, and despite World of Warcraft™ being eight years old (and not aging all that well lately) it’s soundtrack is still one of it’s strong points, and some very talented people definitely work in their Audio department.

Russel Brower and Matt Uelmen’s amazing guitar twists (mostly in Diablo™ 1 and 2) are just two names from the top of my head. Yet, whenever I listen to one of the CD’s that come with the collectors editions, in the end there’s always some music missing, some takes, a lot of takes really. It’s that music you hear when playing the game, but you don’t recognize it from the official soundtrack CD because you’ve never heard it, or it sounds differently, something’s off. And after doing some mild research I found that in a lot of cases, the tracks we have in our esteemed CD’s are lacking content, the original work in some cases is far more extended.

Matt Uelmen on Guitar in 2006

Matt Uelmen on Guitar in 2006

I started rummaging around for the most obvious stuff that would be missing from the CD’s, the content updates. Despite the soundtrack of the original World of Warcraft being quite enriched with the song and music of Azeroth, things start to be different when we got to patch 1.7 and the release of Zul’Gurub, by patch 1.9  – The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj – the music library missing was becoming even more vast, and with 1.11 with Shadow of the Necropolis, we had three new raid dungeons with music we could only hear in-game. You can see where I’m going with this…

Eventually we got up to Cataclysm™ and the missing or different library was big enough to fit into a two CD set, provided you cut some track here or there.
With the easing up of digital distribution and broadcast, it became easier to gather all the out-takes, tracks and variances that I thought relevant, and with some time – you know, chillin’ – I started compiling all those tracks together to create a digital “CD”, of forty tracks…

It was amazing what I was finding as I went through all the tracks, extended cuts (like Reforged and Nightsong) that sound better and longer than the official CD counterparts, and even different cuts; Blizzard included two tracks in the Burning Crusade CD that were meant to be a representative of the music from Ahn’Quiraj and Naxxramas, but they were short and the Ahn’Quiraj track even had some remixed music found in the early areas of the Draenei race, far different from the audio you can rip directly from the source.
I also found that a lot of the tracks people ripped from the game and uploaded to, say Youtube, were basically a simple edit of those tracks into one, a copy/paste of several smaller music pieces into a large single file, leaving a lot of silence, in-between each music segment, which wasn’t very interesting to hear. Music got to a momentum, a climax, and slowed down to the point of complete silence, some long 20 to 30 seconds later it would start building up again, or just go straight to what should be it’s climax, it just sounded wrong, disperse and plain boring. So I adjusted that, overlapping, removing repeated bits, removing uninteresting climbs in sound and silences, so that three or four smaller music tracks would fit, adjusted seemingly into one bigger track.

Three-time Emmy Award-winner Russel Brower

Three-time Emmy Award-winner Russel Brower

By the time I was done Cataclysm was in it’s patch 4.2, and only by now, patch 5.2, did I find the resolve and spare time to actually consider ‘releasing’ this to other people who might also enjoy these works of art as much as I do.

So here it is, Ladies and Gentlemen, the – appropriately called – Warcraft: The Lost Tracks to download at will. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did assembling it.

Download link (236Mb)
(all the legal stuff in included in the file)

Cover Art

Cover Art

Crafting a story: Kallisto

Callendria 'Kalllisto' Istorghen

Callendria ‘Kalllisto’ Istorghen – Illustration by Rosalind-WT

Family name: Callendria Istorghen.
Known as: Kallisto.
Race: Human undead
Allegiance: The Forsaken / The Horde.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
Profession: High Priestess.
Traits: Tenacity and perseverance.

Undertaker Mordo was just rambling on carrying on his duties, and today was clean-up day. It was time to toss those that did not awake, into the fire. Rotten flesh is fine to the Forsaken and it’s more then welcome, but if it’s just taking up space then it’s much better to use it as literal canon-fodder for the machines of war.

Mordo slowly but surely carried on with his task, he grabbed some rotten corpse by the leg and dragged from the small niche where it layed to a small pile of carcasses ready to be carried upstairs to the entrance of the crypt, he then pulled out yet another unfamiliar body and placed it in the same pile… Now he grabbed one more by the rotting wrist, but this time, the body grabbed back…

– “Who are you?!” said the newly awakened corpse, looking stupified while grabing Mordo’s wrist, and as suddenly as she realized what she was grabbing she let it go, she was grabbing the wrist of Mordo, a walking, breathing, pale corpse. She started yelping a shriek, but contained her self, hands on her mouth, yet her hands were bony and rotting, she looked at them with incredulity, her eyes and mouth wide open in awe. She looked back at the “man” who woke her from her slumber. – “Wh.. Wh… Who? What.. happened to me? Where am I?” She said while looking around searching for anything that might be familiar.
Mordo was just staring back the entire time, no fascination whatsoever on his face, just an expression of boredom as if the situation was trivial to him like sweeping the floor is to a servant, finally he replied. – “About time you woke up. We were ready to toss you into the fire with the others, but it looks like you made it. I am Mordo, the caretaker of the crypt of Deathknell. And you are the Lich King’s slave no more.”

* * * * *

Found in a crypt after the aftermath of the third war, under what is know today as Deathknell, Kallisto was once a highly regarded priest apprentice of the kingdom of Lordaeron. Daughter of humble farmers, she was asked by her father to take the cloth and embrace the Light so that she could avoid the same fate of working the fields her entire life like her parents had to.

Kallisto had only taken the priesthood short of a year, yet the potential was reveling itself immensely, as if destiny had chosen her to take the path of the Light. Yet the wheels of fate turned in a way no one had expected, perhaps fortunately, perhaps not.

Her true story began only after she succumbed to the first outbreaks of the plague to the north of the kingdom just before the third war broke, word has it that she was put down by Arthas Menethil himself during his incursion to the north to investigate the first signs of the plague, but that’s merely folklore and mith. It was thought she was burned like the rest that fell to the effects of the plague, but the truth is her corpse was carried back and thrown with the rest around Deathknell to serve as an eventual recruit for the armies of the Scourge.

Yet, fate had decided that Kallisto was not meant for the despicable acts of the Scourge, in fact the entire events of the third war went by whilst the would be priest didn’t even flinch, until one day – some three years after the war ended – long after the Scourge had lost its ground, Kallisto had a rude awakening by a graveyard keeper named Mordo…

* * * * *

Kallisto is now regarded as one of the most powerful priestesses of the Horde. Under the banner of the Banshee Queen, Sylvanas Windrunner, Kallisto has succeeded in multiple campaigns against the enemies of the Horde. Her presence was most notable in conflicts such as the battle of Blackrock Spire to dethrone the offpsirng of Deathwing, Nefarian, down to the very bottom of said mountain, inside Blackrock Depts to push back Ragnaros to the elemental plane. The war effort in Silithus and the defeat of the Silithid empire and the Old God C’thun was also a feat not strange to her.

Despite these outstanding efforts, the Forsaken priest had hunger for more. Although manipulating the power of The Light is somewhat painful for the undead, she wanted to learn more about manipulating the divine Light and progress with the career she could not during life. Bringing down her enemies and the enemies of the Forsaken while learning the necessary traits of Priesthood was the fuel to her fire, so Kallisto kept fighting, aiding in the confrontation and pacification in the Outlands, beyond the dark portal.

Alas, one of her most successful campaigns was still to come with the incursion to Nothrend’s interior, where the threat of the Lich King reignited. It was a personal fight for her, the emergence of the Lich King and the plague of undeath was the entire reason she is what she is today, the world had changed completely to the eyes of a Forsaken.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted vengeance, answers or some sort of closure for everything that happened to her and the abomination of a race the Lich King had created; she just wanted something, anything, anything that made her feel alive and with a purpose.
Despite an immense loss of lives, and even inner turmoil between the Forsaken and the remaining factions of the Horde due to the incident with Grand Apothecary Putress, the Kingslayer was finally brought to justice.

By this time, the great priestess was considering to leave the battlefields permanently, as she had seen too much war and death already, but alas, when the Cataclysm hit it took the world by surprise, reshaping and shattering the continents.
Thousands of lives were lost, and Kallisto, upon request of her Queen, took up the banner of the Forsaken once more to represent the Horde in the Twilight wars that were to come and re-enforce the lingering alliance with the rest of the horde.
Old enemies re-emerged, Nefarian, once Lord of Blackrock Spire was brought from the dead. Ragnaros was now summoned in full force of his destructive capabilities, as he was never seen before. And at long last, the inevitable battle against Deathwing – the Aspect of Death – was at hand, in what was to be one of the longest and toughest war encounters in written history. Even with the aid of the remaining Aspects of Life, Time, Magic and the Dreamer, it still proved to be an extremely hard and tiresome battle.

Priestess Kallisto is today – and has been for several years – a decorated war veteran of the Banshee Queen, a Hero of the Forsaken and the Horde, fighting for years along side many other war Heroes like the orc hunter and beast master Prod’Gal, the legendary orc Horde warrior Marhug ‘The Shielder’, Forsaken brother of arms Christian ‘The Vermin’ Doming, master of dark magic and Warlock, and even the Death Knight known only as Rated the Hater, earning the name due to his harsh and strict opinion upon any poorly maintained war gear and weaponry of his colleagues.

And that is but an introduction of the story of the great priestess of the Forsaken. Once part of the living, without a clear path; now an undead with a path filled of victories.
Known many years ago as Callendria Istorghen, that name is now merely a memory, a distant whisper of a life gone by long ago, for now she is merely know as Kallisto of the Undercity.

“I’ll Put It On Your Tab”

Contents included in the C.E.

At least that’s what Chen Stormstout used to say back in the day I played Warcraft III, and boy was that game good. I was not the biggest fan of RTS’s at that time, but Warcraft stuck with me, to the point I was aching for an RPG of the franchise instead of a fourth RTS. Eventually WoW was announced, and I melted away in exaggerated young adult happiness.

Back then WoW was something to look forward to, it was the next big thing, it was their “Titan” at the time. I was probing forums about it and guild searching two years before it was actually released, and when it finally was I went with the obvious choice of a collector edition, and since then I’ve been collecting them all, building up a wall of Warcraftness at home, one by one, it looks amazing.

But you gotta have’em all, if you miss one then what’s the point, it’s like having an incomplete collection of something you love, it’s annoying. Although I’ve been loosing more and more interest over the years about the game, it’s been seven years after all, I can’t help but miss playing it if I make a pause of two or three months. Plus I still have the collection to finish, so now that Mists of Pandaria can be gazed upon the horizon I couldn’t help myself but to pre-order this and put it on my tab with Stormstout.

Although this expansion is receiving mockery due to the Pandaren, I find it unfair since the concept of the panda race existed long before the Kun-Fu Panda movie (a great movie by the way), and it’s extremly funny to see people jumping on the hate-wagon and drawing the line at pandas when it’s always been a game with cow-people, pig-people, fish-people-dragon-people, snake-people, bear-people, space-goat-people, insect-people, buffalo-people, I could go on and on, and people complain because it’s panda-people now? C’mon…

Rant #2

So last Sunday was my last day of that work-week, just before I went for my day off I had to hit the jackpot with a customer.
I’ve changed jobs since Rant #1 happened, but the work area is the same, ergo the same type of situations happen. Early morning a guy comes in and gets to have me attending the tills, and in his all-knowing ‘wisdom’ and quite bluntly he tells me he needs/wants a charger for the Nintendo DSLite he bought the day before and that we “have to” give one to him because we didn’t provide one.

The first thing you always ask is the receipt, he said he had it and proceeded to show it to me, he also had the DSL which he flashed over by me, it seemed legit but I didn’t even get to check the serial number because next thing I know is him now telling me we did give him a charger but it was the wrong one because it wouldn’t fit on the DS port, I said DS models have slightly different charger models and he was probably just been given the wrong model charger (it was the fat colleague with a lack of attention to detail but that’s another story).
Next I tell him to just bring over the charger he was given along with everything else (receipt and DS) and we’ll just swap for a correct one, he starts rambling that he just wants a charger and has the receipt, I tell him that we can’t just give him a charger if he already has one, he needs to bring the wrong one so we can give him the right one, obviously. He finally conceded, mumbling that he spent gas coming from whatever high-class shit-hole he lives in and should be handed a charger because he has no need for a wrong charger. Yes, you don’t need it, but we do… and we can’t just let you have two chargers now can we?…

Why the hell does he bring me the console and receipt but not the charger provided – which he first said we didn’t provide – is beyond me.
Listen people, and get it in your heads once and for all; If you buy something from wherever and something is wrong with it, you have to bring all of it, everything that came with that package, especially if it’s the wrong charger/screen/cd/manual/dildo whatever it is, you don’t get to keep the thing just because it was the wrong one. Yes, ‘we’ (the fat guy) did a mistake, but if I sell you a pair of Goodyear tyres by mistake, you bring them back and get the Continental’s you wanted in the first place, you don’t get to keep the Goodyears… Makes sense yes?

But wait, there’s more. After he reluctantly agrees to bring back the charger – remember all of this was always spoken in an aggressive tone and body language as if we were the incompetent ones (well, ‘we’ were, but he raised the bar).
Next he goes and brings me one DS and one 3DS game to pay for, I do the transaction without a flinch since the ‘gentleman’ already had me on edge. Before going further let me say this right now; usually with normal people that aren’t dicks I always remember to tell them that it’s a 3DS game, not DS (although we don’t have to), but this guy was so upsetting I didn’t even remember to do so.
He comes back just 5 minutes later and asks if this game will work on his DS. I said no it won’t, so he starts giving me a lecture that we “have to” let customers know that it was not compatible, and that I saw his DS, he showed it to me and that “I knew” he was buying it for that system.

Here’s another ‘trick-of-the-trade’ for people buying stuff in retail stores: We don’t “have to” tell you anything… If you ask if this game or device is good or not we give you an opinion, and advice. If you ask if this game is compatible with this console we give you a fact, if it is, or if it’s not. If you ask! If you don’t we don’t have to tell you a thing, so regardless of showing me that DSLite, he could be buying that 3DS game for someone else for all I know. So no, I didn’t “knew” he was buying that game for that DSLite because he was never explicit about it in the first place. It’s not my fault you’re uninterested in your kids hobbies and don’t perform any homework on what you are buying beforehand.

One thing I’ve learned in retail is that you never assume anything, because what happens later is what the bad guy in that shitty movie says. So a good retailer never assumes anything unless the customer confirms it by himself or after you ask “I assume that <insert text>” and the costumer confirms it.

Seeing as that peculiar customer was a rude man to say the least, and he left me upset and at the brink of my serenity, I didn’t remember to even ask, my primordial brain was just saying ‘get rid of him’, so I guess I didn’t want to do conversation. But I guess no one dealing with such a egotistical smart-ass person would.

So in the end, and not to prolong myself much longer, I enjoyed very very much telling him that we couldn’t cash refund the 3DS game, because it wasn’t our fault he was uninformed about what he was buying. But hey, you can get a voucher and spend it in the shop you now hate so much, that’s gotta count for something!

Moral of the story:

  • The best costumer is the one that does the homework prior to buying. Always ask retailers for opinions on items, not facts, facts we might make mistakes on, in this day in age ask Google if you want facts.
  • Be nice to the people that are serving you your items or food. Remember we can always screw you more then you can screw us, we don’t get fired because you decide to file a pointless complaint like this one, because the managers know very well the difference between a moron and a customer.


Let’s talk ‘SONY’

What the brand was, and what it is now.

Remember the time when you had the TV adverts coming up and one of them was about a new Sony product? Remember how it ended? I’ll refresh your memory: “It’s a Sony.” And indeed it was, but let’s be absolutely honest here, this catch-phrase doesn’t have the same impact as it had in the eighties and nineties does it?

Before firing my ranting arsenal at Sony, I’d like to state both to myself and anyone reading that they do make good quality products still and I won’t say otherwise in this article, but they definitely don’t have that techie ‘edge’ any more,  not to mention they severely overprice their products just for brand-sake. Several examples can be found of Sony products having higher prices on laptops and TV’s with the same (or better) specs and quality of competitors like Toshiba, Samsung or LG. That’s but one reason that’s been dragging Sony through the mud recently, because there’s a lot more…

Another reason would be ‘forcing’ proprietary media upon consumers, thus making them loose some fidelity from the target audience, like the introduction of Sony’s memory stick pro duo cards instead of simply allowing the use of  SD cards which can be used in pretty much anything, except – conveniently enough – Sony products. So instead of making their products dynamic and open to other media sources and formats, they restrict it to only their own, bold move Sony, bold move.

Same case with the PSVita now in 2012, with it’s own proprietary memory sticks, extremely pricey (as expected) in order to make people buy their Sony addons and peripherals to use on their own Sony products.
Have you bought a PS Vita? Great. Want to download games online for it because it’s cheaper to buy the digital version? Ok, but you need room for all that, so don’t forget to buy one of the new memory sticks. Don’t want to spend money on the memory sticks? Well, ok, buy the retail disc version of the game then, albeit more expensive.

It’s a never-ending loop of how to extract as much currency as possible from the consumers, and how can they get away with it so far? a) People actually vote for it with their wallet and buy it. b) Piracy! The whole memory stick thing on the PSP and Vita revolves around avoiding piracy as their scapegoat, which is not entirely true since they know just as well as we do the Vita memory sticks will be hacked and duped eventually. If Sony wanted to really fight piracy they would, inventing new memory sticks doesn’t solve the problem, merely delays it, and they know it all to well.

Another – in my opinion bad – business decision would be the Blu-ray, Toshiba and affiliated partners were already half way through implementing and defining HD-DVD as the next gen movie viewing standard superseding the DVD format, yet Sony remembered to intervene; “Wait! we want in on this race too” and brought in the Blu-Ray in a war that lasted too long between the two formats, and the main victim here was the consumer as always. They’ve lost in the Beta/VHS fight but they couldn’t leave it like that, they had to try again, and this time they won, how good for them, making money one day at a time by imposing their proprietary media on the market.

I suppose the difference between Apple and Sony is that Apple actually gets away with all the overpricing and over-rated hardware because they actually innovate here and there and they have amazing products – gimmicky and overpriced – but still great, no debate there. Sony on the other hand… They do not hold the edge on technology any more to actually demand the prices they do.
Even their 3D TV’s do not use what is considered by a lot of reviewers as the best (and inexpensive) 3D imaging tech available, Passive 3D (LG’s) versus Active 3D (Sony).

I also can’t let this article go without shaking my head to their Gaming branch. We can’t forget that the PS3 flopped on release due to (again) overpricing and was later dumbed down (partially due to user complaints I’ll give it that) into a cheaper build material/less ports/no backwards compatibility version. What was one of the best aspects and selling point of the PS2 was the Doom for the PS3. No wonder they want to name the next one differently.

The Playstation Move was another ‘ginourmous’ flop, literally copying the Wii’s control scheme in order to win some of that casual market-share, at least Microsoft didn’t blatantly copy Nintendo’s Wiimotes & Nunchuk with the Kinect. So where’s the PSMove now? Right, in that second hand goods drawer in my shop gathering dust, that one in the corner where we store our stool because no one uses that drawer anyway.

This is Sony now, in 2012 and has been for the past 8 to 10 years, imitating rather then innovating, creating good (but not excellent or ground-breaking) products with over the top price tags. No, saying “It’s a Sony” definitely doesn’t have the same impact as it did in the Walkman, Trinitron or PSX age.