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April 1, 2015 / Andrew Nino

Counter Strike Commentary – Virtus.pro vs Ninjas in Pyjamas

Poland, March 2014 – With a $250,000 prize pool on the line, Virtus.pro and Ninjas in Pyjamas went head to head in the EMS One Grand Finals. paszaBiceps scored the final kill getting Virtus.pro the win 2-0 with 16-10.

The grand finals began on Mirage with Ninjas in Pyjamas starting as CT. As with the end of the game, paszaBiceps began with the opening kill [37:55] getting Virtus.pro the pistol round victory. Virtus.pro had a strong start winning three rounds before Ninjas in Pyjamas won their first round with a bomb defusal. [42:07]

Virtus.pro managed to win three more rounds with relative ease. Ninjas in Pyjamas ended the win streak by baiting Virtus.pro. After an uneventful early game, sNax wandered into the trap setting off a chain reaction getting Ninjas in Pyjamas their second round with no casualties. [49:53]

With the end of the first half looming with Virtus.pro leading 10-3, Ninjas in Pyjamas had a great bomb retake ending paszaBiceps and sNax despite his earlier triple kill. [59:02] Virtus.pro in turn responded by closing out the final round of the first half setting the score to 11-4.

The second round began with Ninjas in Pyjamas poised to make a comeback with pistols only. However with a well placed grenade from byali, Ninjas in Pyjamas became much more manageable with Get_RiGhT, Fifflaren, and f0rest all taking significant damage. [1:04:40] Despite some trades, byali still managed to defuse the bomb.

Following that loss Ninjas in Pyjamas came back in force, charging into B with both sides incurring heavy losses. Despite landing a double kill, and being poised to finish the round, Xizt came back from a two on one getting Ninjas in Pyjamas their first win of the second round. [1:06:00] High off the charging victory of the last round Ninjas in Pyjamas began the round with a charge towards site A. However a change of heart led Ninjas in Pyjamas back to B, this time getting Ninjas in Pyjamas the bomb plant with no casualties. [1:07:40]

With these two victories, the crowd went noticeably silent. The confidence Virtus.pro had coming out of round one had vanished. Ninjas in Pyjamas continued their rampage winning another round with only one casualty.

Virtus.pro clearly had enough, with sNax making an amazing play sneaking behind Xizt and holding fire until friberg was also in sight before revealing himself and scoring a silenced double kill. Fifflaren was caught off guard allowing sNax a triple kill and a win for the round. [1:11:50]

For the final round, trades were had on both sides. Though the trades begun a chain reaction of kills. Each player revealed themselves only to be killed by the enemy back and forth until Virtus.pro snowballed, and managed to end the game with three players left standing. [1:19:00]

The first round of the second map began on Inferno with quick aggressive plays on both sides. First blood went to neo killing GeT_RiGhT [1:34:36] the round followed suit with Virtus.pro winning the pistol round with relative ease. The next round followed with neo landing a well placed grenade killing friberg, and wounding the entire rest of Ninjas in Pyjamas. From there, Ninjas in Pyjamas funneled themselves through the catwalk feeding kills to sNax and neo. [1:38:20] Virtus.pro continues their streak in the third round, with neo getting a first kill off frilberg. The rest of Ninjas in Pyjamas again collected together forming a large target for Taz and byali to finish the round with. [1:39:18]

Four rounds into Inferno and Virtus.pro was up all four rounds. For its fifth round sNax opened with the first grenade kill against friberg. However byali carried the round coming out from behind a corner with a FAMAS getting four kills and finishing off the rest of the team. [1:41:47]

Ninjas in Pyjamas did come back after a five round loss streak though, with a messy turn around with both sides making aggressive plays. sNax attempted to unload against four enemies but failed against friberg. [1:43:15]

After such an aggressive round, both sides played a much more defensive game. As the clock ticked down to the end of the round Taz managed to take out Xizt, beginning a mad dash to plant the bomb. GeT_RiGhT managed to plant the bomb and hold sNax and Taz back until the end of the round. [1:45:00]

For every round Ninjas in Pyjamas won however, Virtus.pro would win multiple. With a score of 8-2, Ninjas in Pyjamas began the next round by focusing on specific players and picking them off one by one. [1:50:12] sNax attempted to turn the tides of the round by baiting Ninjas in Pyjamas only to bail out of the unsafe situation. [1:51:25] Though with two enemies and the bomb ticking down, sNax ultimately failed to turn the round around.

With little money left Ninjas in Pyjamas chose to play a defensive round. However neo threw an incendiary grenade at the same time that the plan changed and Ninjas in Pyjamas ran headlong into the fire as well as an onslaught of bullets from neo and sNax. [1:53:30] The final rounds of the first half leaned heavily towards Virtus.pro with Ninjas in Pyjamas winning the last round. Putting the score after the first round at 11-4 with Virtus.pro continuing to lead.

The second half began with Ninjas in Pyjamas realizing this was their final chance to turn this match around. With pistols only Ninjas in Pyjamas had a strong defense, and managed to flush out neo and win the first round. [2:01:59]

With the second round, Virtus.pro was poised to make the final turn around. sNax opened the game with two kills at A [2:03:07], however the rest of Virtus.pro was too commited to going after B. This led Virtus.pro to be slaughtered by the remaining portion of Ninjas in Pyjamas, leaving sNax helpless to push his advantage. [2:03:16]

With the score going 11-6, Ninjas in Pyjamas began to work on closing the score gap. friberg managed to get four kills leaving sNax to try and cost Ninjas in Pyjamas as much to kill him as possible.

The gap quickly closing, Virtus.pro attempted a team smokescreen to plant the bomb. After placing the smokescreen and planting the bomb with nearly no shots fired, [2:06:44] the chaos ensued. Ninjas in Pyjamas attempted to wait for the rest of the team to arrive, but was forced into an early engagement that resulted in most of both teams falling. Ninjas in Pyjamas managed to beat out the majority of Virtus.pro and defuse the bomb. [2:07:18]

11-9, Virtus.pro was clearly getting nervous. After a mostly passive round, both teams started to fall like flies with neo alone remaining with four health. Subsequently, with only neo and f0rest at full health remaining the crowd grew quiet. When neo stumbled upon f0rest and defeated him without a shot fired in retaliation the crowd and Virtus.pro went wild. [2:11:27]

Virtus.pro kept up the wins leading the score to 14-9. It was then in a last ditch effort that Xizt started off the round with a triple kill [2:16:26] leading Ninjas in Pyjamas to earn another win. Virtus.pro took the opportunity to crush Ninjas in Pyjamas the next round with zero casualties.

With a game point looming for Virtus.pro, the crowd began a chant for the team. Virtus.pro moved in to attack cautiously, perhaps worried they may throw the game so close to victory. sNax broke the silence with a kill against Get_RiGhT crippling Ninjas in Pyjamas. [2:19:38] Though friberg came out of hiding and killed byali before himself being defeated by paszaBiceps. Xizit and Fifflaren came rushing out of B only to be mowed down by sNax. However, sNax also fell shortly thereafter to a headshot by f0rest. [2:19:55] paszaBiceps then came out in a firefight killing f0rest and winning the game.

The crowd gave Virtus.pro a standing ovation while leading a chant for the team. As Virtus.pro went to the Ninjas in Pyjamas side for handshakes and well wishes, the audience chant changed to NIP. The chant must have given the team some much needed support after such a long and harrowing game.

To find the match, visit the ESL Youtube page, and follow ESL on Twitter and Facebook for future coverage.

 

March 19, 2015 / Andrew Nino

The Day I Became American

I remember that Tuesday for all the wrong reasons. I was eight years old, living in that blissful ignorance that comes with having an age in the single digits. My life goal was to live to be ten years old.

As with most things, having a goal is the key to success. To boot, I even had an ability that most of my peers didn’t have. I could speak an entirely different language! You see, I’m not from around here. Well, I mean I AM from here. In fact, I was born in Riverside, Calif. However, my family was not. The idea that I could be something unique, unlike my friends, where I was special was a huge ego boost to me. I’d tell everyone about it, it’s one of my top three conversation starters. “Hey, do you play Pokemon?”, “Are you also scared of the dark?”, and “Did you know I can speak a different language!?”

I mean, what kid wouldn’t be excited? It’s like having a superpower, almost like being a secret agent in fact. If you want to get a message across while there are “bad guys” around just say it in a different language, who would’ve thought it could be that easy? I was the kind of kid who was so happy to be unique that on forms that asked my ethnicity I always checked “other” because it felt so edgy to not be in the majority.

Salico’s, is what I used to call my friends. It’s not a word, in fact it can not be used in any version of Scrabble.

I don’t know why I called my friends that, I know how to say friends. It just had a nice ring to it, and I had the power of knowing what was really a foreign word and what was gibberish.

Anyways, so Tuesday rolls around and I hear that something terrible has happened. America has been attacked, by terrorists! “Oh my gosh,” I think to myself, “someone has to catch them!” Something was off though, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The whole week was weird, in fact my parents noticed it too. They told me to be careful. Why?

That Saturday we went to church, like we always did. We were Seventh Day Adventists and we went to church in the morning to get together and learn about the bible. I have my own class for fellow third graders, and I’m at the age where I can go to my class alone. I’m so old and mature, I can basically do anything on my own now. I’m basically a grown up in my head, so I confidently stroll into my small church classroom.

Something is wrong though, no one is inside and the lights are all off. But, looking at the clock in the hall I see that it’s time for class. I decided to  just wait inside until everyone showed up. I entered the room, and reached for the lightswitch behind the door. However, before I could reach it something stopped me. Someone or something grabbed my hand, and shut the door. It was pitch black and I screamed. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear them, and feel them. The chants went, “Andrew Bin Laden, Andrew Bin Laden, you’re a terrorist! Go back to your country!” Fists were flying as I was hurled onto a table. I heard screaming and laughing all around me, but I had no idea where it’s coming from. Suddenly there was a sharp pain coming from my sides and my back. I was being punched from the side while my legs and arms were held flat against the table.

After what seemed to be an eternity the teacher, my savior came to my rescue. Walking in with a confused look on her face. “What’s going on here?” she asked while turning on the lights. I looked to see who my attackers were, they were friends acquaintances, children. Nonetheless, I’d been attacked by my peers and as I realized the situation my eyes began to well up. I cried running to the main hall where my parents would be. I burst through the doors wailing as onlookers stared while my parents picked me up and out of the church.

With a quick explanation between sobs my parents understood what had happened, and took me home to give me the talk.

See, when someone does something bad it can seem like anyone “like” that bad person could be a bad person as well. Being Lebanese meant that I was being perceived as a bad guy. I didn’t understand, the event had just happened. All I knew was that some bad guys from a place I’d never heard of took a plane, and hurt a lot of people.

However, I learned that the country where these bad guys were from – Afghanistan was in the same part of the world as Lebanon. A place called the Middle East. Despite being an entirely different country with two different national religions, Islam and Christianity respectively. I – a civilian, and more importantly a child was lumped with terrorists. People who murdered hundreds of people had enough in common with me by the geographical location of our home countries, a country I’ve never been to, in order to warrant beating up an eight year old child.

I learned what to do to stop that though. I just had to become someone else. I was no longer an exotic child that had a cool trick up his sleeve. I was a potential terrorist with a dark secret – my heritage. I stopped calling people Salico’s, and ceased to mention I could speak another language. In fact, I would just deny ever having been able to speak anything besides English. My parents helped me make my cover, I had light skin, and a “normal” name. I could pass off as being American.

Thanks to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, I essentially entered a family created witness protection program to not only protect myself but my family. The suspicion brought onto Middle Eastern families during that time  could have been on par with American paranoia of American born Japanese people.

My name is Andrew Nino, and on September 15, 2001 I became an American.

August 30, 2014 / Andrew Nino

Game Informer Magazine Analysis

Demographic –

  • 88% of readers are male, 12% female.
  • 21% of readers are below the age of 17, while 64% are between the ages of 18-34, 15% are aged 35 and above.
  • 73% of readers are single, with 27% married.
  • 5% of readers listed video games as their top interest.

Departments –

  • Features
  • Game Previews
  • Game Reviews
  • Industry Interviews
  • News
  • Guest Articles
  • Reader Questions

Advertisers –

  • Progressive
  • Splat Color Gel
  • Federal Drug Administration
  • AMC
  • Netflix
  • Disney
  • Full Sail University
  • University of Advancing Technology
  • Five Gum

Example Stories –

  • New game Assassins Creed: Unity feature story.
  • Current event discussion: Net Neutrality.
  • Industry Professional Adam Boyes interview.
  • List: The top Mobile Games of 2014.

Circulation –  

  • Circulation is provided by GameStop. Signing up for a GameStop membership comes with a subscription to Game Informer.
  • As of June, 30 2013 the circulation was 7,829,179.
  • This was a 4.2% decrease from 2012 where the circulation was 8,169,524.

Staff –

  • At least one guest writer per Issue.
  • Little to no freelance work.

Article Style

  • Articles vary greatly in length, with some spanning a single page to ten pages depending on the subject matter.
  • Tone in the magazine is informative while being understanding that the majority of readers are much younger than the magazine staff.

Number of Pages

  • The September, 2014 edition of Game Informer had exactly 100 pages.

Subscription statistics were received from the Alliance for Audited Media, as well as the Game Informer 2014 Media Kit.

  1. http://www.auditedmedia.com/news/blog/2013/august/the-top-25-us-consumer-magazines-for-june-2013.aspx
  2. http://media1.gameinformer.com/images/site/advertising/2014_WebMediaKit_5.pdf

In Depth Analysis

Despite showing all the sign of a struggling publication, Game Informer has managed to not only survive the trend of waning interest in paper magazines but has also managed to thrive. This success is due mostly to the partnership Game Informer has with gaming juggernaut Game Stop.

In order to incentivize customers to subscribe to their rewards program, Game Stop has begun to offer a yearly subscription to Game Informer in addition to the rewards benefits. So as Game Stop membership has grown, so too has Game Informer circulation. Additionally with the funding of Game Stop, Game Informer no longer relies on advertisement revenue exclusively for profit. As such, while there are some advertisements it’s a far cry from the pages and pages of advertisements found in most mainstream magazines.

As for the staff, they seem happy in being in the game journalism industry. However, the fact that their audience skews so young and male seems to take its toll on them. I say this based on some of the digital content that the staff creates. In an effort to maximize reader/writer interaction the staff sets up interviews with prominent figures in the industry and allows the readers to ask their own questions.

While this is a great idea, even after screening the questions they aren’t great. The writers know this and are clearly a bit bothered by how silly the pen names of readers are as well as the questions which are generally about topics that have already been discussed, or have been prefaced as being off limits. Hearing the general embarrassment of the staff during these segments is a bit uncomfortable. However, given the partnership they have with Game Stop it seems unlikely that they could do anything about it. Trying to rebrand as a more mature magazine would most likely have dire consequences for their current (successful) advertising model.

Even then, having a more diverse and mature audience doesn’t seem to be a top priority for the publication. Digital publications have reigned supreme in recent years, and Game Informer has not been oblivious to the fact. Game Informer is one of the only remaining print gaming magazines, and it’s by far the only one as popular as it is.

As such, there has been a conscious effort to transition readers to a digital version of the magazine, which includes support for most tablets, and computers and provides exclusive content as an incentive to switch.

The management at Game Informer seems to be spread a bit thin, with the staff tackling multiple fronts. These range from the magazine, website, podcasts, YouTube videos, and the digital version of the magazine. This long term effort to transition readers to a digital version could consolidate all of those fronts into one, greatly reducing the effort and manpower needed to maintain it. At a cursory glance I believe this attempted grouping is the best course of action moving forward for the publication.

May 15, 2014 / Andrew Nino

Trader’s Tale Art

1 2

 

Art by Ethan Persico

March 19, 2014 / Andrew Nino

Trader’s Tale Storyboard First Draft

1 1B 1C

March 1, 2014 / Andrew Nino

Trader’s Tale Design Doc

Title

Trader’s Tale

Abstract

A dark force has swept the land. It’s up to you to supply the defense.

Concept

Fantasy setting. The game takes place in your small shop.

Overview

Using your shop, you must use your stock of weapons and potions to supply the various townspeople, and warriors. They in turn will defend the village your shop is in from an ever spreading darkness. The game is a top-down trading game.

Background Story

You live a simple life in a town and have contacts with nearly all the towns people. Unfortunately, a dark force has begun spreading through the land intent on destroying anything and everything. Thus, the townspeople turn to you, in their time of needing supplies to fight.

As you enter the game players will find that it’s a balancing act of either giving individuals weapons so that they can fight, or forcing people to pay so you can invest that money in better fighters and items.

Objective(s) Is to support the townspeople in pushing the darkness all the way back where it came from, and then finally eliminate it. Trader’s Tale is a top down view that allows you to speak with customers as well as town’s people for trading and town concerns.

Outcome(s)

There are three different outcomes to Trader’s Tale

Town Saved – Poor – When trading, the darkness is pushed back and eventually vanquished, though the town has long ago run out of money. As such, you have been simply donating items and weapons to individuals with no expectation of getting that money back. Your shop is saved, though you’re poor, and while you supplied the heroes with items, they are heralded as heroes while you are left on the sidelines.

Town Saved – Rich – The townspeople manage to push the darkness back and vanquish it. The town had run out of money, but while they pleaded with you for weapons, you forced them to earn it. They sacrificed their homes, their lives, and in some cases their families to pay for the weapons. While the town is saved, the town is in ruin and you alone hold all of the wealth.

Town Destroyed – You failed to help the towns people enough to fight the darkness. You enter the store one day and dark goo begins to spill into the store. Fade to black.

Gameplay

Top down view. Click on shelves to stock them from your “warehouse” a back room represented with an open door leading to darkness. Click on characters to speak with them. Speaking with a character will begin an interactive cut scene.

Character(s)

You: Capabilities include speaking, trading, and investing in the town. Depending on your actions, such as ripping off the townspeople or being charitable your character may end up overweight but with many riches, or gaunt and in rags. The players’ motivation is keeping their business alive.

Towns People: Individuals with various roles in the town, with various incomes. For example, a woman may discover her child is missing. In her time of need she’d come to you to help her equip herself for her journey to find them.

Warriors: Wandering adventurers out for an adventure, usually better equipped to fight, and with more money. These characters adventure for the fame and fortune it brings. For them it isn’t about what is right and wrong. It’s about what will get them the most cash and fame.

World

A shop, the arrangement of the shelves is fixed. However, stocks can be placed and arranged by clicking and dragging items from the warehouse.

Controls

Touchscreen or mouse used to manipulate the world.

Gameplay Aids

A daily newspaper shows the progress, the newspaper appears at the start of each day and can be accessed by clicking the newspaper icon on the top left corner of the screen at any time.

-Daily Newspaper with daily progress

– The “Darkness”

– The shop/town and Player Character

Audio

Sound Effects

Humans speak in gibberish like-language, and have written text for the player to read.

Music

The game starts with slow, peaceful music, but as it progresses the music speeds up and gives a sense of urgency to the game. Depending on the ending, there will be different tracks. Death (Slow piano playing) Poor (Cheerful piano playing), Rich (Fast and menacing piano playing).

 

February 22, 2014 / Andrew Nino

BattleField 4 Lives

For this topic I’ll be discussing Battlefield 4. Battlefield 4 is by far the most traditional shooter in recent years in that aside from it’s massive scale, it’s absolutely average. It has a story mode and a multiplayer component, but what I want to look at is the story found within the multiplayer.

As with most shooters (Call of Duty, Halo) there is no actual story in Battlefield. However, what the massive scale battles do offer is a venue for some of the most fantastic emergent stories I’ve had in recent years.

Games like Rust, and DayZ popularized emergent stories in which a series of gameplay events serves as the characters story.

With Battlefield this couldn’t be truer, every respawn in Battlefield is a new opportunity for a new story. Rivalries are formed at objectives, and surviving in a firefight feels like a respectable accomplishment in its own right.

A simple example of a typical multiplayer life in Battlefield goes along the lines of: Respawn in the Battlefield on a helicopter, your pilot circles around the top of a skyscraper with a heavy encampment of enemies, your allies unload clips of bullets into the enemy and they are returning fire. You take the chance to secure the point and drop out of the helicopter onto the roof. When on the roof you assist the helicopter on the ground, and manage to chuck a grenade into their corner of the rooftop. Once you manage to secure the point, and enemy tank blows the supports of the building and it begins to fall. You take the opportunity to jump off the roof, activate your parachute and glide down as a skyscraper falls besides you. You land at the base of another objective, and see an enemy running towards a building. You give chase, he enters an elevator and as he closes the doors to the elevator you squeeze in, and stab in the back. Once the elevator reaches the top floor you’re greeted by two enemies with their sights on your head, and like that your battle is over.

While not every life will be that exciting, the fact that events that would feel at home in a traditional cinematic single player experience could even occur in a multiplayer environment are very exciting to say the least. So in that sense, I’d argue that story and gameplay really do intersect, even if it wasn’t the developers’ intent.

Unfortunately as with most shooters Battlefield is a zero sum game. You either win or lose, but as with newer shooters like Titanfall, some non-zero sum game elements are incorporated. For example, if you’re riding in a helicopter and it is then shot down by an enemy player, the enemy player is rewarded with experience for destroying the helicopter. However, if you manage to escape and land safely, you’re given the satisfaction of having foiled those players’ plans. Though it’s not intentionally built into the game, these non-zero sum elements give the game a more rewarding feel, even for losing players.

Some examples of explicit challenges are obvious, such as the types of vehicles you’ll be fighting against, the terrain you’d need to traverse quickly and safely, and the accuracy in which you can fire your weapon against enemies.

Some example of implicit challenges could be deciding whether to pursue an enemy vehicle, or an enemy squad. Even positioning, like whether to focus on being a land based solider, a pilot, or a sailor. When surviving a falling helicopter, your ability to navigate in the sky to a safe destination could also be considered an implicit challenge.