Month: October 2015

Interview: Greg Miller – Kinda Funny

Unlike the two lovely hosts for The Know that my co writer interviewed at RTX 2015, Greg Miller entered the Gaming Industry through a more “traditional” route. Greg Miller attended The University of Missouri in Columbia, commonly referred to as Mizzou. While growing up in the Chicago-Land area Greg decided that he wanted to write about games. So he went to the best Journalism School there is in order to gain the skills necessary to cover this entertainment medium: The Missouri School of Journalism.

Greg, as a magazine student was a writer and covered stories for the student ran magazine Vox “for one semester.” Greg culminated this with his capstone at Mizzou “being an editor at Vox for a semester.” After graduation, Greg wrote for the Columbia Tribune “for a year and a half.” He then went to write for IGN for several years. During this time frame he covered all things Playstation related at IGN. From the Playstation Podcast Beyond, to IGN’s talk show esque Up at Noon, Greg succeeded in delivering enjoyable and informative content to the IGN community. He worked at IGN until this past January when he, along with 3 other coworkers/friends, decided to break away and form their own Channel on Youtube called Kinda Funny.


The first time I met Greg Miller in person was at RTX 2014, in Austin, Texas. For me personally, it was probably the peak moment of the entire event. Greg, along with several other content creators of the gaming industry (but him specifically), were and still are a huge inspiration to my writing and coverage of all things gaming related. After standing in line for over an hour, I was the first to meet Greg along with Adam Kovic who at the time still worked for InsideGamimg. I expressed to Greg my intentions to write about video games while he signed my Xbox 360 Controller that I broke 200K Gamescore with (which probably felt shameful since he covered all things Playstation related for IGN). After which he informed me that I should look into the Missouri School of Journalism, that I should “learn the Missouri Method.” I took that to heart personally and have followed through with his suggestion, The University of Missouri in Columbia is number one on my list of colleges (I have already filled out the applications and are currently waiting for their decision). Later during RTX Greg picked me to play Destiny, Bungie‘s new shooter, on stage in front of everyone at the convention and watching online. This was because I yelled “BEYOND,” the name of the Playstation Podcast he was then in charge of for IGN, when he asked for volunteers. After this I managed to take a “fantastic” selfie with him and I was honestly surprised and pleased by how down to earth and sincere he was in person.


Over the past year Greg has been incredibly insightful when it came to answering my questions about Mizzou over Twitter. He even recommended some fantastic establishments to eat at while in Columbia. This lead me to ask him over Twitter if I could interview him for this series at RTX 2015. We agreed on a Saturday during the event but Greg had to cancel because something came up, but he offered to do the interview over Skype instead. As a content creator that has seen the coverage of gaming slowly transfer from a solely text based medium to a blend of video and text I found his opinions and comments about the industry were thought provoking and backed in facts. When I asked him why he thought that the change occurred he explained that “well it’s giving the consumer what they want. Right? I think that you have seen it time and time again that the user base wants their content in a specific kind of fashion. Whether it be print or through videos.” This trend and change that Greg mentioned is relevant not only in the coverage of the video game industry but also in News and Sports alike. Consumers want their content faster and Greg made the point that “it is easier to interject opinions into the content if its through a video.”


When I asked Greg if he wished he had done anything differently during College he said that “since he wanted to write about games, he should have been writing about games all throughout college. Not for the Trib, or Vox, or anything like that but for a blog, a fan site, something like that.” He pointed out that he should have been “more consistent” with his writing. Tying in with that comment I asked if Greg or any of the other members of Kinda Funny had any intentions to add a text element to their content. Greg explained that “Colin (a member of Kinda Funny) kicks the idea around every so often that he would like to get back to that but right now we are so strapped down by 5 guys in our company and traveling from event to event that we just don’t feel the need or have the time to do so.”  He also expressed his regrets about only taking “a single photography course” while at Mizzou. He thought that he would simply go write for IGN after college and he would just need to have the skills to write in order to be successful in the field of gaming journalism. He laughed explaining over Skype that he wished he “had learned how to close a stupid green screen” since he had just filmed a video before our recording. Essentially Greg expressed the idea that to enter this field as a content creator or journalist, “you need to be an omnitool, you need to be able to work with a lot of different things. I never thought that I would be editing clips for Up At Noon for IGN with Premier but that is just how it happened.”  Lucky for myself personally, Mizzou offers several classes that help journalists learn how to utilize various forms of software in order to create the best content through their Convergence Program.

My interview with Greg, although brief, proved to shed more light on the ever changing environment of the Gaming Industry. I enjoyed learning tips from him about the industry. Hopefully one day I might even work alongside him. Only time can tell. If you want to learn more about him check him out on Twitter @gameovergreggy or on Kinda Funny’s Channel on Youtube.

Review: Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection

Frantically jumping from seat to seat, the vertigo setting in, I panic as I make my way up the train. Everything inside the train begins tumble out the back into the valley below as the train inches closer to tumbling off with Drake inside of it. His leaps become more sporadic and desperate as the realization of the dire situation begins to fully sit in. After several more heart stopping leaps of absolute faith I make my way off of the cliff face onto relatively solid ground. This retelling of one of my favorite moments from Uncharted 2 in the Nathan Drake Collection. 

The Collection follows, the charismatic adventurer and thief, Nathan Drake on three escapades that lead him and his friends (and enemies) across the world. The Collection itself is actually three games remastered through the same engine Naughty Dog used in The Last of Us when it comes to visuals. The three games remastered are Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. All three of the games have an average Metacritic score of over a 91/100 and Uncharted 2 was the official Game of the Year in 2009. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was given perfect scores from IGN and Gamespot.  Overall these games are action packed almost cinema esque adventures. Yet, what makes them stand apart from the average action adventure game?


Naughty Dog, the game’s developer is no stranger when it comes to making noteworthy franchises. They in fact are one of the few developers that has made noteworthy games in three completely different genres. Crash Bandicoot was a phenomenal platformer on the PS1 and PS2. On the other end of the spectrum The Last of Us cleaned shop and won Game of the Year for being a story driven survival-horror game and is regarded by many as being one of the best games ever made. Uncharted at its core is an action adventure third person shooter. However, it also has fantastic platforming puzzles and over the top cinematic gun play experiences as well. Yet, it accomplishes this in a light hearted manner. Not a single Uncharted game has been rated M for mature audiences (although the upcoming Uncharted 4 might be). All of this is combined with perfect voice casting and acting. Nolan North absolutely lives this role when it comes to his performance as Drake. The characters in this series ranging from the father like figure Victor “Sully” Sulivan to the witty journalist and love interest Elena Fisher are also all expressed through expressive performances. The Villains in general are well written. So just from a story perspective, the series has an incredible advantage over other games in the genre.

Now to break apart and describe the various kinds of gameplay one will find in this collection. Each game does a fantastic job of incorporating a controls tutorial into the actual story in each game. For example, the basic mechanics of how to climb and maneuver a 3D spectrum are introduced to the player while they are attempting to climb out of the cliff side train in the opening scene of Uncharted 2. Climbing, whether it be inside an ancient monastery in Nepal to a warehouse in London, inhabits a large portion of the gameplay. Puzzles at times have to be solved through jumping to specific points in a ruin that would be unreachable by any other means. Shooting mechanics are also added to the climbing functions. One moment Drake may be climbing up the side of a burning apartment building in Nepal and may need to shoot a mercenary from the ledge of said building. It shouldn’t have to be stated that Drake cannot wield a two handed weapon such as an AK47 or a M4A1 during these encounters but I felt like I should at least leave that tip in here. The climbing portions and verticality of what would be tedious single planed environments in other shooters is essentially refreshed with the ability to scale the environment in order to get the drop on your enemies.

The moment to moment gameplay centers around run and gunning from cover to cover. As stated earlier, these do not suffer from being repetitive due to the added verticality in the games. You are never simply fighting enemies on a level environment. This is thanks to the level design and creative directors at Naughty Dog. The screenshot above is from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves during a boss battle with a Hind Attack Gunship. Most games would put the player in a courtyard or inside a building. Instead this fight takes place on several burning rooftops in a city in Nepal. The player is forced to frantically jump from building to building, utilizing any weapon they can find in order to take down the chopper. All while dodging gunfire from not only the chopper but also rooftop enemies. The weapons themselves in these games are what one would expect in an adventure game of this genre. The player has the ability to pick (in many cases off the corpses of enemies) weapons ranging from simple nine millimeter handguns to RPGS and Grenade Launchers. There are also usually a variety of each class of weapon Drake may find. In other words there are normally two to three different kinds of assault rifles or pistols to pick from. Some players may favor a classic revolver that deals a lot of damage but lacks ammunition capacity. Others may prefer a semi automatic Colt .45. The decision is up to the player and will drastically call for different play styles. However, the game does force players to part ways with their preferred weapon sometimes during specific encounters. For example you simply cannot beat a tank with an assault rifle, so you are forced to use an RPG. These moments feels necessary though, so I personally did not mind them that much.


Visually, all three games look fantastic. Obviously the best change visually from the original to this remastering is the graphical upgrade for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the first game. Seeing Nathan Drake being rendered through the same process in all three games in the remastering truly blends all three games into a seemingly transition-less story. I find it enjoyable to play several chapters in each game without really noticing any basic changes to the graphics. The special effects from everything from an explosion to the candid torchlight deep underground all seem incredibly polished and organic. Organic in the sense that the effects seem to be all unique in the specific encounters. An explosion inside a cave simply doesn’t behave or look the same as an explosion that occurs on top of a roof. The sounds design in the game is also incredibly noteworthy. I find the attention to detail, such as the ringing that occurs after an explosion that goes off in close proximity to Drake a nice touch to theses games that sound and look almost like a movie. I can best equate these games to a modern take on an Indiana Jones style adventure game.

The Uncharted series is a must play franchise for any player new to the franchise or a series veteran that seeks a nostalgic trip through incredible set environments and intriguing stories. The franchise has literally never looked better. The shere amount of content a player recieves for $60 is an absolute steal. Three outstanding games that received countless awards for the price of one, who honestly wouldn’t want to play these fantastic games found only on Playstation? I personally cannot wait for the next iteration in the series: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which comes out next spring but until then, this Collection will suite my cravings for the franchise.

Verdict: 9/10

Review: Forza Motorsport 6

Rain, high speed, stunning visuals and super fast cars. What more could a car enthusiast want? This year marks the 10th anniversary to the first Forza game. To mark this great milestone the developers over at Turn 10 Studios have created this phenomenal addition to the franchise: Forza Motorsport 6. In my opinion this is the first iteration in the franchise that truly feels next gen. For those unaware theForza franchise has been exclusive to the Xbox platform, this is the second game to be solely developed for the Xbox One (The other being Forza Motorsport 5). Yet, this game finally delivers in my opinion when it comes to the amount of content and the overall feel of the game.

forza6_3The Forza series at its core is a racing simulator. The RoundUp’s very own Editor and Chief, Blake Delong ’16, describes it as “very visceral and tactile experience due to the audio and physics.” This is a practical interpretation of the series. Every turn of the steering wheel, just the slightest touch of the breaks has a domino effect on the track. In other words this is by no means a casual racing game. Sure the game gives the player the option to set racing difficulties to novice and even allows players to rewind in real time to correct an awful turn or pass. However, if a player wants to be any good at this franchise, the player has to know their own limits when it comes to reaction times and the limits of their current car. These are the minimal requirements to being mediocre at this game. The mere attention to detail Turn 10 Studios put into this iteration is mind boggling. For example, cars have less grip at night due to a cooler tarmac, this tiny detail is even reflected in the gameplay. Another small detail is how water pools in certain parts of the track, this creates spots of low traction. The developers went to each circuit and mapped all of the low points on every single track in order to provide this realistic aspect. Combining all of these features with countless others provide the foundation to a solid racing experience.


Now to the actual racing in Forza Motorsport 6. The typical race features a grid start with up to 24 other racers. The majority of your opponents are the “drivatars” or avatars of other real racers in the game’s community. These can even at times be your friends if they have ever played a Forza game. Most races require intense concentration, this is due to the shear havoc a driver can encounter on a circuit. These range from simple 2 lap sprints to endurance races that require several hours to complete. The first type of race mentioned is incredibly easy for new players to jump into. Meanwhile, the latter of which call for far more experience and general knowledge of racing. Other details and effects that do not effect short races such as tire wear, fuel consumption, and dynamic weather all contribute to the greater difficulty in these endurance races. Tires losing grip will more than likely be the first challenge racers will encounter on the circuit. This will force players to literally get better or quit this portion of the game altogether. Tires in this iteration of Forzaabsolutely matter. Fuel honestly isn’t that much of a problem, if you as the player notice that your fuel gauge is low, simply enter the pit stop. Yet, deciding which lap one should stop for gas on is entirely up to the player. My suggestion is you enter the pit stop during a long race sooner rather than later. This allows you some time to catch up to the other racers.

The most difficult aspect when it comes to racing in Forza Motorsport 6 is building experience and mastering the ability to drive in heavy rain. Rain is absolutely unforgiving in Forza. A powerful horsepower filled beast such as the Audi R8 or Pagani Zonda can be reduced to a chunk of scrap metal by simply breaking to much or too little in the rain. The team over at Turn 10 Studios as previously stated went to each individual track and got the precise measurements for the track. This allowed them to properly place where on the track pools of water occur in heavy rain fall. These pools can honestly be a racers worst nightmare since they can lead to hydroplaning and a loss of stability. To make things worse, the player must also watch out for other drivers that may hydroplane themselves and then obscure or block the track. In other words player awareness should be double what it normally is in non wet conditions. Possibly the worst conditions to race in are rainy tracks at night. My experience’s during those kind of races were by no means pleasant ones. This added difficulty in turn tested my abilities as a racer and proved to be absolutely worth it. After mastering (in my opinion) racing in wet conditions, racing in dry conditions proves to be second nature and even easier than before.

Challenges make a return in this iteration of Forza. These challenges are a decent break from the typical racing. One of my favorite challenges puts the player in a super car and they are tasked with passing as many cars as possible. I personally find this enjoyable considering the cars you end up passing are either old VW Bugs or old Fiats. These challenges are also where players can find endurance races and challenges in exotic cars. The challenges as a whole are a nice piece of additional content to a game that already has a fantastic single player experience. The multiplayer is more of the same that the single player is but the drivatars are replaced by actual players so it is nothing ground breaking. However, I find that this isn’t a bad thing to the slightest degree. In fact it is nice that the developer didn’t half make a crummy multiplayer system.

Forza Motorsports 6 is probably my favorite installment in the series or at least ties with Horizon 2. The precise and calculative gameplay is only matched by Gran Turismo but that series is yet to have a next gen installment. If what I have said earlier doesn’t convince you to get this game as a racing fan what I am about to say will. I LITERALLY BOUGHT an Xbox One to play this series. My Xbox One is my Forza & Halomachine. In other words, I was willing to pay the money to just be able to play these two game franchises because they are that good.

Verdict 9.1/10