Fallout 4: A Nuclear Family

If, for some reason, you’ve been living underground in a bunker for the past decade you may not have heard of the Fallout franchise. If this is the case, I am sorry. I urge you to bust open that Vault door, step out into the light, and grab hold of Fallout 4. Fallout 4 follows the same trends that the established franchise has always experienced: vast open-world experience, exceptional story arcs, and riddled with enough bugs to make a radroach colony jealous. I say this to preempt this review, because I want people to understand that just because a game has flaws, doesn’t mean that it’s not a magical, fun experience that should be enjoyed.

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First off, let me start by saying Fallout 4 has so many complexities, so many side quests, and so much of well – everything, that I can’t begin to cover it all in the scheme of a single review. This game will eat up hours of your life, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Even with the technical hiccups that sprinkle themselves throughout the coding, like a frosted doughnut, Fallout 4 is just too good to put down.

As in all Fallout games you become the unnamed citizen who escapes the fallout of a nuclear explosion by securing yourself within a Vault, an underground bunker designed with the soul purpose of protecting citizens. In Fallout 4, you are a survivor of Vault 111, finding yourself staggering about the future in search of your family. This is about as much as the game gives you initially, and it’s the perfect way to start things off. The more vague the initial storyline is the more enjoyable an RPG game, such as this, can become.

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You feel like you have a sense of choice and decision making in Fallout 4 that I hadn’t felt in previous renditions. Fallout is know for giving exceptional player agency, and this is no different, but the method in which they go about it is. The stat system: S.P.E.C.I.A.L, and the massive Perks chart allow for endless possibilities of playthroughs. If you’ve never played, but want to have a specific style I recommend checking out FudgeMuppet on Youtube for specific builds.

The biggest change in the Fallout system is V.A.T.S. The “Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System” has been around in previous renditions, but accessibly, this new version falters where it’s predecessor succeeded. V.A.T.S used to pause the game entirely, which made the game more accessible for players with mobility based limitations to play it. The ability to be able to time your attack and prep where you want to shoot is a necessity to some players. Bethesda has removed this from the game and instead V.A.T.S. now slows down time, instead of fully pausing it. It functions all well and good, but many of the Fallout 4 enemies have faster A.I. and response times than the V.A.T.S has time to slow properly.

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The actual mechanics of shooting and moving around the vast environment are a rise above that now makes Fallout 4 a less clunky and more like a streamlined shooter. The crafting system in the game is massive, and I mean, MASSIVE. Each and every single piece of gear you can equip can be altered. It is a beautiful thing to behold. Now, no matter what gear you have, know you’re going to experience death – a lot. Fallout 4 doesn’t shy away from making the wasteland of the Commonwealth a beautiful, challenging death trap. If you can bear with the fact that there is key remapping, a requirement of precision skills in lock-picking, and lack of V.A.T.S. pause – you can get through Fallout 4.

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The soundtrack is beautiful and the dialog between characters, while sometimes expected, is quirky, exceptional, and keeps me coming back for more. The subtitles didn’t always play in certain parts of the game, and often times, would overlap one another if I had a radio signal on. The audio cues and subtitles don’t take away from the accessibility of the gameplay though, so you can finish the game without sound. Visually, it’s the most stunning game I’ve seen to date. The sprawling world of Commonwealth, combined with the lush NPC’s you can experience, gives such a depth that I couldn’t draw myself away.

Bethesda has really attacked the visual market by allowing for HUD, subtitle, and menu colors to be adjusted for ease of use. The color pallet for the game is varied enough that it shouldn’t affect colorblind players. I can’t speak to it, because I’m not colorblind myself, but there was nothing jarring or off-putting as I walked around Fallout 4. The subtitles can sometimes be difficult to read, but you can easily get past this by adjusting the color to something you can see from afar. If you can move past some of the jarring visual bugs and crashes, then Fallout 4 will wrap you up in it’s post-apocalyptic beauty.

Wrap Up:

Fallout 4 has one of the most well written and entertaining worlds I’ve ever experienced in a game. The Commonwealth is littered with people, and not just wall flower NPC’s I casually interact with. These companions, characters, and even vendors have such a depth that I wanted to play with each one of them. I wanted to experience their life stories, goals, and ups and downs, as much as I wanted to craft my own. They became a part of my family. I grew eager to see what would happen next on this journey. I now see what Fallout fans have been clamoring about for years. A beautiful world with such character you can’t help but be caught up in the chaos – and spend days exploring every facet of it.

It may have it’s hiccups from time to time, and Bethesda could do more to make the game more accessible in future iterations, but this version is quite refined. Fallout 4 gives the player so many options to experience the story however they wish. The crafting systems and settlement building feel like a whole separate game in and of themselves, and I could spend hours just altering my homestead. I haven’t touched the DLC yet, but from what I’ve experienced, I can’t wait. I want to get lost in this world again, and again, soaking up new stories of the Commonwealth like radiated Nuka-Cola.

  • Mods fix a lot of the problems in the PC and XBox One versions, but I wasn’t able to experience these first hand. The review is solely expressed with my PS4 journey, which doesn’t currently allow modding. 

No Man’s Sky: Far from Hyperdrive

There, before the grace of man, go the infinitesimal cosmos that stretch out before us. We yearn to step out into the great beyond, and as the cockpit opens up with a hiss from the airlock, we step out into the great unknown. This was the anticipated mood that No Man’s Sky built up. In the past few years I’ve been eagerly anticipating this game, like a kid waiting with his parents to watch the first moon landing. I was on the edge of my seat, and now that I finally have it – it’s far from the hyperdrive I was expecting.

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Hello Games promised a massive undertaking of a open world system that was seemingly endless. In every trailer I ever saw the set pieces were sprawling and beautiful, lush with foliage and fauna that would make any biology lab blush. They achieved a technological feat that has not been seen in games before, an algorithm to procedurally generate planets. Now, while that may sound amazing, it’s the implementation that matters. All the hyperdrives in the world don’t get you anywhere if you can’t deliver that sense of scale you promise.

Hello Games manages to deliver that sense of scale, but in doing so they faltered in delivering the other aspects of gameplay. The games control system is very limiting, and so players who may have mobility issues can’t adjust the control scheme to fit their needs. Each task is assigned to a specific button, which makes it difficult to achieve certain tasks. There is no tutorial in this game either, which essentially throws the player out into the wilderness and expects them to survive. Now, for able bodied players this may take some time to learn, but it’s still achievable to meander around aimlessly, learn a few buttons and play the game. The thrill of experiencing that first few hours of the game is at least worth something.

No Man’s Sky would certainly benefit from some sort of guided tutorial, especially when it comes to crafting and inventory systems. The game provides you with objectives, but doesn’t really give you any means of understanding how to accomplish them. It’s like throwing an astronaut out into the vastness of space without a spacesuit. The lack of explanation to some of the gameplay mechanics, especially crafting and advancing weaponry and upgrades, is a real downfall for the game as a whole. Players aren’t one to ask for you to hold their hand, but at least having a furthered tutorial would give players a better sense of how the world functions.

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In regards to functioning, let us break down the main core gameplay of No Man’s Sky. In the hours I spent playing the game, I found that there was a distinct pattern to every quest line which, within a few planets, became monotonous. You gather materials, you craft new supplies, you travel to a new planet, you repeat the process. It seems like fun, in theory, but the end result becomes this massive quest of scavenger hunt that has no real payoff. In addition to this, the game was riddled with functionality bugs which made what gameplay there was, difficult to cleanly experience. Crashes, crafting menu issues, freezes, and in a game that has no autosave functionality – that’s heartbreaking.

I enjoyed what time I did manage to spend in the world, but once I felt I had experienced all that No Man’s Sky had to offer me, I felt lost. What do you do when a game offers you no real end goal? A countless, endless sandbox with almost Pokemon Snap picture archiving of new world items, with only the reward of monetary units to draw merit? No Man’s Sky does have an end goal – to arrive at the center of the universe, but it’s so vaguely depicted that I just felt like I was running my own game. The visuals weren’t enough to keep me entertained, and what I did manage to see was not user friendly.

The color schemes are vastly jarring and often similar from planet to planet. I’m not colorblind, but I have friends who are, and this color pallet is composed of a lot of reds and greens. It doesn’t help that the actual HUD that is present is fairly small and fairly transparent, making vision impaired users lives much harder. FOV sliders apparently were provided in the coding for the PC version, but with the PS4 version had no such functionality. It would be more optimized for users if players could have change the color of the HUD to make it more visible from a distance.

There was fun hidden in this gem amongst the stars, but the spaceship wasn’t entirely accessible. I had fun when I didn’t do what the game directed me to do, when I went off into the vast frontiers and just explored. I got caught up in dogfights with space pirates, and got to see vast galaxies. In truth, while they may have been similar, I did have fun during moments. The soundtrack is phenomenal and there are hours and hours of visuals to explore. It’s hard to have fun though, when you’re so bogged down by programming issues, crafting requirements, and a combat system that seems like it favors the AI over the user. A universe that seems endless, yet contains only a handful of similar alien NPC’s for me to briefly interact with.

Wrap Up:

No Man’s Sky feels like a game that got released while it was still being built. They launched it without the full mission in mind, and thus, the passengers began to dial S.O.S. back to Huston and request a do-over. I know the struggles of being a designer and wanting to provide a polished, finished product on a time table, and so I want to commend Hello Games for what they did with No Man’s Sky. They accomplished a beautiful set of tools that they can be proud of. They delivered a set piece that would make most movie studios drool. The next step is to allow a gameplay system that functions with accessibility in mind.

The team is already hard at work cleaning up patches to fix the glitches, but they also need to be aware of everyone in their audience. A few settings changes are desperately needed: An Accessibility menu, a colorblind filter that crafts colors to fit vision concerns, and an optimized lock-on system for enemies that isn’t linked to an upgrade that’s hours invested into the game.

I desperately want to love No Man’s Sky, because I feel like it’s the game I’ve always wanted as a child. I can’t though because, in the words of Robin Williams, No Man’s Sky has given me:

“Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty-bitty living space!”

All the tools in the world can’t magically craft gameplay to be a fun experience. I hope they get all of these aspects sorted out and No Man’s Sky becomes fantastic in the coming months, but for now, I think I’ll just stay grounded until those tools are more refined.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Years ago, when I was a kid, I would have given anything to be Indiana Jones.

I was enamored with the world of archeology and that sense of adventure. When Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in 2007, I immediately gravitated to the franchise and Nathan Drake’s journey. Nathan became a staple of my gaming life, and I went on each Uncharted experience yearning for my childhood sense of adventure. Naughty Dog captured it all, and made me love what gaming could do on an emotional and personal level.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End brings about all of the past joy and fun I had, while expanding on the narrative and making nostalgic and meaningful choices to Drake’s journey.

If you’ve never played a Naughty Dog game, the studio prides itself on making story-driven narratives that leave the player lingering on dialogue, enamored with setting, and emotionally drawn to the characters. They fulfill all of this in Uncharted 4 to a spectacular level and even bring in new mechanics that make the game more accessible for players.

You follow Nathan Drake on his last adventure, and in doing so, the studio has taken ample strides to really showcase that this is the end. There are no bits of treasure left undiscovered, nor maps to be followed. This is the end, and it feels refreshing to see a studio who acknowledges this and gives us the most heartfelt send-off to an iconic character. Uncharted 4 displays it’s usual sense of adventure and intrigue, while showing us that Nathan is not an invincible video game icon. He is human, he is flawed, and he is, as always, that quick witted hero – now facing the realities of his decisions at the twilight of this journey.

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It wouldn’t be an Uncharted game if you didn’t start with a cliffhanger [ quite literally in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ]. In Uncharted 4, we’re given a glimpse into the life of Nathan Drake that we haven’t seen before. His personal life comes under a microscope, and it’s an emotional wave of happiness, sadness, and struggle. We get to see Nathan engage with Elena, Sully, and now his brother, Sam, in a way that past Uncharted games didn’t give.

They strip away the mysticism, the folklore, and the over-arching paranormal that usually pervades the Uncharted series. They give us a meaningful story about the people Nathan loves, and the chemistry between all of the characters is impressive to say the least. The journey this time isn’t some paranormal means of finality, but they simplify it to a simple search for buried treasure. That’s it. A lost city of pirate treasure,  begging to be discovered by Nathan’s long lost brother, Sam, thought to be killed 15 years ago.

Uncharted 4 explores what it means to be drawn into a passion with unbridled obsession, enough to even make a man forget what is truly important in life. Are you still going about ruins and exploring exotic locals, laying waste to countless mercenaries on your way to an undiscovered treasure? Absolutely. Are there still tombs and puzzles for me to solve? No doubt! Does it mean more, and are the relationship deeper than before? Yes. They are. What matters is that Uncharted 4 really provides depth where past iterations were merely scratching the surface of what it means to be Nathan Drake.

 

Mechanically, the game functions just as beautifully as it’s past predecessors. It focuses on that stealth cover and shootout gameplay that veterans of the series will love, but they’ve made the mechanics and ease of use seem simplified.  It felt more fluid than ever before to be Nathan Drake, and with small additions to mechanics, it didn’t overbear the user with a whole new set of tasks to undertake. In fact, Uncharted 4 gives the player a list of options to make ease of use and access to entry much easier from an accessibility stance.

Upon opening the game, beyond the opening music that always gives me chills, I investigated the Accessibility Options menu. Yes, the game has it’s own Accessibility menu. I was blown away by the plethora of options that gave more ease of use, even to players who have full functionality. If it’s modality you’re worried about when asking yourself, “Can I play Uncharted 4?” the answer is, “Yes. You can!” They’ve identified trouble areas from past iterations such as:

  • Repeated Button Presses – Player to hold button vs. pressing in QTE’s [ Quick Time Events ]
  • Camera Lock On – This allows you to use the Lock On function with just one stick.
  • Aim Lock On – This allows for the gun to snap to an enemy automatically.
  • Vehicle and Camera Assist – To allow ease of use by moving the camera around the player.
  • Subtitles – Detailed subtitle settings for deaf/hard of hearing players.
  • Colorblind – Minor changes in color setting for Multiplayer teams.

All of these features made the game accessible, and even for an able-bodied player like myself, I found them useful and helpful in regards to experiencing the journey at it’s full potential. I got to experience new mechanics, like the grappling hook, without feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t bogged down with mechanical hang ups, which allowed me to focus intimately on the story that unfolding in front of me. I laughed, I cried, I shot thugs in the face – and it was magical.

Wrap Up:

My journey with Uncharted 4 has been a long one, but one that I feel has come to one of the most satisfying conclusions in the history of my gaming life. There are countless fan service easter eggs tossed about this journey, and the fact that Naughty Dog went about making it so that these moments could be accessible to more than just the able-bodied community is a blessing in and of itself. Thank you Naughty Dog. Thank you Nolan North. Thank you to everyone who has been a fan of this series, and who has been given the opportunity to be the most bad-ass, charismatic, and memorable treasure-hunter since Indiana Jones.

There are no cheap sells of a half-assed prequel or sequel on the horizon. Naughty Dog gave a memorable story, combined with accessible use, exquisite storytelling, and characters that breathe. They actually have goals, fears, obsessions, and for me – that’s what sells a game. A game where I can FEEL the story. A game where I’m not restricted to my real life, and I can view myself as Nathan Drake for at least a few hours more… and that’s all I can ever ask for.

Thank you Naughty Dog. These past few years have been a blessing. I look forward to the next story you write, as I watch Nathan Drake fade away into treasure-hunting retirement.

I am fulfilled, satisfied, and damn it – I want to go treasure hunting now.

Tech Talk: Button Mapping Gets Updated!

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into the realm of console gaming.

The other day, while playing around with my PS4, I found that they’ve released some pretty awesome updates for game accessibility. In 2012, I was just discovering that game accessibility was a discussion that needed to be had. I hadn’t the slightest idea on where to start though, that was, until I found The AbleGamer’s Foundation. AbleGamers helped to inspire me to create this site and focus on a generation of gaming that would be inclusive, accessible, and fun for everyone.

I’m so happy to see that finally we’ve reached a generation of gaming where no matter HOW you play, you are given methods TO play. Inclusion vs. Exclusion.

Now, on to the topic at hand: BUTTON MAPPING and other ACCESSIBLE updates.

In the last few updates for PS4 and Xbox One they’ve included a segment in the settings called Accessibility Features. In the Accessibility Features there are a number of different menus which can aid you in customizing the game/system experience:

PS4:

PS4_Accessibility

TEXT TO SPEECH:

  • This function allows the user to use a Text to Speech function via the On Screen Keyboard. It’s not perfect as it currently only works via English language setting, but it does allow you to control the system with vocal commands and in messaging in some games. I will say that blind gamers, I want to hear from you because I can imagine you’ll rejoice in this new functionality.
  • It’s only available with some features though, so the limited functionality makes it a work in progress. It provides settings for reading speed and volume of narration [ 3 settings for slow speech, 3 for fast speech ] The functionality is just beginning and it’s going to be a massive boost for players with mobility and vision issues regarding texting, messaging friends, creating groups, etc.

    I can only hope that this’ll improve to provide more to game experiences as well.

ZOOM:

  • The Zoom feature allows the user to Zoom in on items on the screen to see them better. I can’t say how much I appreciate this aspect and it’s fairly simple to accomplish on the fly. You merely have to press the Square and PS button and initiate the Zoom feature. The D-Pad or Analog stick allows you to move the Zoom around the screen.
  • In games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Witcher 3, etc. I’m overjoyed by this function, because the menus/descriptions/writings are all done in such a small text that it’s often hard for me to see items in-game. The Zoom feature essentially pauses your current game, not allowing you to play the game as long as you’re zoomed in. It only provides one level of Zoom, but that’s more than enough to provide aid.

INVERT COLORS:

  • Invert Colors functions exactly like it’s namesake says, and while I would love for them to change “Invert Colors” to an overall “Colorblind Adjustment” feature – the feature works as described. It changes darks to lights, and lights to darks, reds to blues, etc. It can definitely help in certain areas as it functions in both menus and in-game. If you take screenshots though, you’re out of luck. The colors will stay static to the original.
  •  I will definitely be taking this functionality for a spin via games like Arkham Knight – where the Detective Modes of some of the characters can be highly disorienting and jarring. If the functionality works on these areas of the game, then I think we’ll have hit a home-run with it’s current functionality. Here’s hoping for further color pallet changes and I’m excited for this one!

LARGER TEXT:

  • This function increases the size of text in menus, and presumably in games. I haven’t given it a go in games that have smaller text, but I’m going to give Inquisition a go here in a bit and update if it works. It definitely does a number on being able to read smaller range text. I don’t have great vision and sitting from my couch the Larger Text function works wonders so I don’t have to sit closer/strain my eyes to see.

BOLD TEXT:

  • This function increases the visibility of text by making it bolder for the user. It’s pretty much self explanatory. I will say that this function, in it’s current state, only applies to certain aspects of the system like menus. The in-game text stays the same, but I would love to see this functionality expand to games. There are so many games I’ve played where text is too fancy or too small to read from far away.

 I will test this further, but for now it’s a step that needs further work to be polished.

HIGH CONTRAST:

  • This function increases visibility of text and buttons by, essentially dimming the screen or adjusting colors to make items more visible for players. This is a really nice feature and it works fairly smoothly in most cases. The small test I ran with it: It runs wonders for system menus, reducing the shimmer of the standard PS4 blue. Premium themes, however, are not affected – so I suppose simple is better?
  • In-Game the High Contrast works, but not great. You do get a bit of an adjustment and it is visible, but overall it’s nothing that adjusting your own Brightness and Contrast settings via the game couldn’t already do. It may not work on all games either, I merely used a small sampling of games, but for now it’s a welcome change from what we had before.

CLOSED CAPTIONS:

  • We’ve all heard of these before. The Closed Captions functionality is nothing ground-breakingly new, as it’s been used via TV shows and movies for years. I was excited about this, however, because I have deaf friends. Closed Captions options would do wonders for their overall enjoyment of gameplay, and I was hoping that it would outshine the standard “Subtitles” functions that most games offer. If it turns out it’s simply for videos and DVD services I’ll say this is an opportunity missed.
  • I’ll have to delve into this in dialogue heavy games, but essentially, it’s supposed to allow for not only subtitle text but sound text/qualifiers during games/movies/etc. I do appreciate the functionality menu being able to be customizable for the Closed Captions. Giving players the option to set color/font/text size/etc. is really a wonderful approach so as to keep the new features from being too intrusive on the game content.

BUTTON ASSIGNMENTS:

  • Here we are – the promised land. The holy grail that console players have been searching for in accessibility for years. This is it, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Well, sort of.

First, let’s start off with what PS4 does well. The functionality and ease of use in this button mapping system is genius and very well done. It allows for the user to pretty much remap any button to any other button. I can officially take the X button and change it to D-Pad Left, or the L2 trigger and change it to O if I want. The combinations are amazing, but why does this affect you – the gamer?

 

  • Well the functionality is easy to use. You can swap buttons pretty much on the fly by dropping in and out of game to make button configuration changes. The only downside is getting accustomed to your new controller baby. You now have your own personal ‘special-snowflake’ controller, and the game functionality is hard coded. It doesn’t recognize that you changed your X‘s with your Y‘s or your L3‘s with your R1‘s.
  • VERDICT: If you’re a Tutorial based gamer, you’re going to need to train yourself in your new setup, otherwise this is like walking on the moon for gamers. Is there more that can be done? Absolutely. Will there be more done? I certainly well hope so!

XBOX ONE:

NARRATOR:

  • Now I don’t have an XBOX ONE, so this video above is a nice buffer on exactly what the functionality of each piece does. Let’s start off with Narrator. Narrator is a lovely little device acting much like a digital reader for many. I am fascinated by this functionality [ and if it functions as well in-game as it does in this example…] because it speaks, quite literally, volumes to blind players who could use the benefits of a narrator function to navigate games, menus, etc.
  • The voice is very much like Tom-Tom or the old MS-DOS voice cast, but I’m going to hope that eventually they’ll give us other methods than just speed to adjust the narrator we wish to have.

  How cool would it be to have a celebrity voice narrate your XBOX experience?

MAGNIFIER:

  • This function is identical to the Zoom function on the PS4. However, there is something I’ve noticed that Magnifier does that Zoom does not. It has the ability to zoom further instead of being a static zoom setting. This could be really useful if I’m playing in a highly detailed game and need to spot an objective or a pathway and I can’t clearly see it. It works in menus though, and based on what the Support says about Magnifier it seems that it’ll pause all other controller functionality when Magnifier is on.

CLOSED CAPTIONS:

  • This function is exclusively for the XBOX video/DVD/Blu Ray functionality. You can create a custom captions style, but the fact that the functionality is limited simply to their video services is pretty short coming. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to deaf gamers who’d prefer if the subtitle/closed captions settings of games gave them the ability to not ONLY read TEXT, but SOUNDS, MOTIONS, etc. If a player knows more of their surroundings, the more they will be immersed in the game.
  • Come on XBOX, get on that bandwagon and make it happen. A cross-game Closed Captions function would make the accessibility market crack open for you guys. It does give the players access to text customization options, but if it’s only for video captions, then it’s falling short of what expectations ought to be.

HIGH CONTRAST:

  • This function is similar to the PS4, however, it’s minimal at best.
  • The only contrast it provides is making the dark areas darker and providing a bright turquoise with white borders instead of the standard color scheme. It also turns off any custom backgrounds and content, so as to ‘unclutter’ the visual space. I think it’s nice, but other than ease of reading it doesn’t change much. I hope it changes aspect like this In-Game as well as Menus.

BUTTON MAPPING:

  • In the battle for best Button Mapping setup, PS4 wins. The simplicity of the XBOX setup, while it may look nice, is only shown in Standard Controller. The Advanced features that extend past 1 configuration setup per user, are only extended to the Elite Controllers. This is something they don’t show you, but if you go to the XBOX ONE Support, you’ll see the Configuration information.

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  • The Ease of Use functions are simplistic and easy to use, but with the sort of minimal aspects you can adjust at a time, it’s a bit of a disappointment. I am proud to see that they took into account the need of button configurations, but asking players to buy secondary controllers to gain additional ease of use options for button mapping it’s a shame. I hope that, at some point, the button mapping options will just become standard, but until then, they’ve made a start and it’s lovely.

 

If you’re still interested in game accessibility and the strides that are being made I have two sites for you guys to take a look at. Both of these organizations are making insanely, fantastic strides in the realm of game accessibility:

AbleGamers Foundation: http://www.ablegamers.com/

Special Effects [ UK ]: http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/

Keep on gaming everybody, and remember:

One Input at a Time, We Aim for Access for All.

Inspirational Gamers: A Knight’s Tale

It is rare that we find aspects of our life that evoke so much passion for us on a daily basis. I recently read a series of articles written by blogger T.R. Knight and his wife, Angie. These articles were so moving and evoking of what I aim to shed light on in the gaming universe that I couldn’t hesitate to share them with you all. I hope you read through these articles and you share in the same joy, respect, and admiration that I have for this couple’s commitment to each other in gaming and in life.

T.R and Angie

T.R. Knight is a fellow blogger and gamer whose personal journey in gaming brought me to tears the first time I read his article. He and his wife, Angie, are living a gamer’s life and making it work even through the struggles of MS. Angie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in July 1997, and yet, that hasn’t slowed down this couple’s love and drive for gaming. It is their passionate and loving story that I am so attached to. Tabletop gaming has become an outlet for them, as it helps fit within Angie’s current MS symptoms.

I will admit, as a writer and gamer, I never thought that tabletop gaming could be used in this fashion. A therapeutic, social interaction that allows for those with agility/mobility and memory issues to still be active within the gaming community. T.R. and Angie are sharing with me a whole new outlook on how to run games, what aspects to focus on, and what styles of gaming are most accommodating to patients with MS. I am blessed and honored to be sharing their story with you now.

T.R. has taken it upon himself to give a valuable resource of MS symptoms and how they have impacted Angie and their gaming life in his most recent blog. Angie has also taken to his blog and posted her personal perspective on what games appeal to her. I’m going to definitely take these aspects into account as I go forward and progress as a game designer. I hope, T.R. and Angie, that one of these days I’ll have helped a company build a game, or design my own, that both of you will be able to enjoy.

Please feel free to read through all their articles, as they are a joy to read and offer amazing insights into a side of the gaming universe I think many of us rarely see, or forget exists.

Freelancer and Care Giver: Freelancer and Caregiver

Accessibility in Game Design: Accessibility in Game Design

Angie’s Perspective: Angie’s Perspective

T.R., you are truly a knight among men sir. I am honored to be among your supporting guild, and will continue to share the knowledge you and Angie have to give the world. God bless you both on your path as family, loving companions, and exceptional gamers!

 

Accessibility for All. Happy gaming to you and your family!

Game of the Week: Halloween Edition

Well the pumpkins are carved, the little ghouls have been fed, and the costume stores are closing up shop and selling costumes for a DOLLAR! [ Thanks Wal-Mart! 🙂 ] – and thus marks the end of Halloween. It was good while it lasted, but now November’s here and I’ve got to look forward towards a mouth full of turkey and a wallet that will soon be emptied by holiday shopping.

         Games don’t care about holidays though. They’re like superheroes. They work 24/7.

This is why this week I’m devoting an entire Game of the Week to Halloween!

Here are two games that will certainly have you addicted to bumps in the night!

1. Monster Park – Kiwi

Now folks who follow this blog probably know my taste in games by now. I’m pretty much opposed to any game that has me farming/collecting anything besides Pokemon. It is my deepest regret [ and overwhelming joy ] to tell you all that I was introduced to Monster Park by Kiwi. Things have never been the same since. Now, what is Monster Park?

Here’s a brief overview for your viewing pleasure:

It’s designed for mobile devices and I have to say it’s a joyful, easy, light-hearted experience. The game breaks down your Monster Park into tasks which are fairly simple to accomplish. The game mechanics are simple with one touch interface via touch screens. This game is so unassumingly addictive because of how easy it is to get started, but once you’re a few monsters in – it’s hard to stop. The biggest downside to this game is wait time, but that’s a bonus with mobile titles. You may have to wait 24 – 48 hrs for a project to finish, but – hey, at least you can play any time.

I’m a Monster! Rawr!

Pros:

  • Art is comical, enjoyable, and child friendly for all ages to enjoy.
  • Color scheme seems to be colorblind friendly, though some monsters are harder to distinguish, due to pallets and housing backgrounds.
  • Simple touch screen mechanics make the game limited mobility friendly.
  • Special mythical creatures, and holiday events add specialized achievements
  • Audio isn’t important, or required, to play this game. Plus for deaf players.

Cons:

  • Wait times can be horrendous for certain tasks [ Game Room/Some Hatching
  • Music track can tend to get repetitive after a time, if playing continuously.
  • Breeding based on randomized algorithm. No guarantees that you’ll breed X over Y. [ i.e.: Expect to be disappointed sometimes if you don’t get what you’re after.]
  • Purchasing Mythic creatures seems to be too expensive for players to achieve

Monster Park uses a Free-to-Play method of game design – so, if you’re into collection games, and want something fun to do this fall besides eat the rest of your kids Halloween stash pick this game up! It’s available on all Android mobile devices! You’ll be dying to play it more and more as you gain levels!

2. They Took Our Candy – Level 1 Wizards

I love the retro gaming era. I know I wasn’t born till the later of it, but I can’t help but find myself falling in love with pixel art and any game associated with it. That’s why when I saw this game,  I just knew I had to write about it. They Took Our Candy by Level 1 Wizards is a heartwarming, nostalgic montage to the days of our youth.

Zombies take our brains… but Aliens want our SUGAR!

 

Oh, and did I mention that you play as a group of trick-or-treaters bent on saving the universe from alien invaders who want to take your candy? It must have slipped my mind! If you like this concept though, then you’ll love They Took Our Candy this Halloween season! Grab up your goodie bags and set your fazers to KILL – in this retro-modern alien blaster!

For Reese! For Hershey’s! FOR SUGAR HIGHS EVERYWHERE!

Here’s a brief look at the game and it’s content:

Pros:

  • Game is set to auto-fire. Excellent for limited mobility gamers
  • Game increases slowly in difficulty and allows time for upgrades
  • Games color scheme is vibrant and varied enough for colorblind.
  • Game doesn’t require audio to play. Visual cues easy for deaf to use.
  • Game adds additional challenges via Survival Mode

Cons:

  • Game doesn’t have an WASD function. Left-handed gamers will have trouble.
  • Game enemies can become increasingly overwhelming in certain levels.
  • Game only allows access to new characters/new strategies after certain XP is hit.
  • Games soundtrack, while awesome, can become repetitive after a few sessions.

Overall the game focuses on being quite an accessible game, and makes for a joyous Halloween treat this year. You can stop in and play this wonderful creation over at Kongregate.com today. I would love to see a mobile version of this produced, because I think nothing would be better than blasting aliens for candy while I’m filling up with my morning coffee.

Thanks Level 1 Wizards for an exceptional Halloween treat that everyone can enjoy!

So there you have it folks! Now pig out on candy, while it’s still around. Grab your mobile or computer devices and enjoy these little indie chunks of heaven. Share them with your friends and make the sugar high monstrous addiction come to LIFE! Muhahaha – I mean…

Happy Halloween and enjoy your Fall season!

Gastrogamer – Insert Coin to Replay

I’m… BACK!

[ Insert Coin NOW! ]

Gastrogamer took a bit of a fall hibernation due to increased schoolwork, but Full Sail has been good to me lately and I’ve quite enjoyed the course work over the last few months. Now, with Fall in my sights, and a slew of holiday gaming sales on the rise – I’m sort of amped up on an endorphin high with the excitement of getting my hands on some of the newest games hitting the market.

I’ve got everything from web-based indie games, to AAA blockbusters to cover, but I plan on doing it in a timely fashion. Here’s what I’ve got on my schedule in the next coming month:

  • Indie Game Coverage Galore
  • Assassin’s Creed III Review
  • Amazing Spiderman Review
  • Holiday Gaming List
  • More Inspirational Gamers
  • Wreck It Ralph! Review
  • A Tabletop Discussion: DnD and Pathfinder
  • Personal Game Development News

So, stick with me folks, and I assure you I’ll continue to provide you with continuous game info, accessibility, and discussion as we head towards the holiday seasons!