I Tried to Play ‘There Came an Echo’ and THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED

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So it’s about midnight mid-week and my boyfriend comes home from work to a sight that was somewhat unusual. There is me – his boyfriend – covering my entire body and computor monitor in a blanket. From underneath this he can hear me clearly speaking ‘Corrin. Move to the stairwell’.

Adi's ridiculous trials.

THIS IS A NORMAL WAY TO PLAY A GAME. SHUT UP. I’M NOT CRYING.

Then again ‘CORRIN. Move. To. The. Stairwell‘.

And then ‘FUCK, GODAMMIT‘ and a female voice responding ‘Maybe you’re talking to loud?’

I remove the blanket and see him, and he beats me to the punch for witty quip with “Adi, I know you jerk off you don’t have to hide it.”

Brent Corrigan

A fair enough assumption since sometimes I do have to cover my lower body with a blanket when watching Brent Corrigan… uh… act.

Of course, he originally assumed I was doing some voice-recording and was using the blanket to block sound. I’m a semi-professional voice-over artist whose done a few paid local commercials but more often than not, I lend my voice to friends who need a narrator or a wacky voice. It’s fun, etc, etc. Which is what he assumed I was doing.

He was wrong. Very wrong. I was in fact, trying to play the game ‘There Came an Echo': a sci-fi isometric strategy game starring Wil Wheaton, Laura Bailey, Yurilowenthal, Ashly Burch and more. Basically voice actors that most nerds know from other awesome video game roles, or in the case of Wheaton, our childhood crushes.

Wesley Crusher

Here’s the thing – Wesley was often written and came off as smarmy, but at the same time when I was watching reruns, he was a slightly older teenage boy in very tight grey spandex. IN SPACE.

Its primary claim to cool, though, is that you control the game entirely using voice commands. The idea of commanding a squad to move to different points in a pitched battle was intriguing to me since I hate multiplayer and axiomatically the idea of headsets to talk to other players (I’ve been called ‘fag’ enough in high school and I’M VERY SENSITIVE ABOUT MY MOTHER).

But unfotunately, ‘There Came an Echo‘ just wasn’t ready to work for me, which is odd. Voice Recognition is famous for not understanding accents, as many a Youtube Siri video made by Scots can demonstrate.

Glaswegian Kiss is a slang term for a headbutt - saved your a Google search you clever but very unworldly person.

This iPhone just recieved the affectionate ‘Glaswegian Kiss’ from a Scottish man trying to use voice commands

But it seemed that this game was incredibly hit-and-miss. For as many good-to-positive reviews there were I could find a fair number of reviews complaining that the voice command system just never worked. I found even more frustrated players on forums with similar problems.

In fairness, the game can be played with a mouse-only, but that’s kind of like playing Guitar Hero with your controller and not the fun guitar accesory. Or seeing a PG-13 version of Robocop: It really defeats the premise.

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LOOKS LIKE YOU’LL HAVE TO ARREST ME FOR ARSON ‘CAUSE YOU GOT BURNED.

Voice Recognition is just not ready for prime-time in games, I think, because it’s so hard for designers to test.

Unlike traditional inputs, you have two massive variables – One is the microphone, its quality and calibration, and the second is the voice of the person speaking.

You can’t guarantee that any person’s microphone will be up to the task nor can you guarantee they won’t have a tiny mouse voice like my boyfriend or my (apparently) booming mountain-man voice no matter how quietly I spoke. I watched demo videos of someone succesfully using the commands and I honestly couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

The game looks fun, it has a great cast, and though its tutorial is an almost verbatim ripoff of The Matrix’s ‘office escape’ sequence, it still worked through a combination of a meta-awareness of the scene it was replicating and some decent one-liners with the acting talent behind it.

I wanted to play more, because I assume the game’s plot was going to take off from there. Perhaps in a full review I could have said that

“by using The Matrix‘s office sequence for the tutorial it helped acclimatize the player quickly because they knew what to do”.

But I couldn’t get past that point in the game, really. You need to understand it’s not that I didn’t try to make this work – GOD I FUCKING TRIED – but instead of feeling like I was giving directions to a character played by Wil Wheaton I felt like I was actually trying to direct real life Keanu Reeves

Whoa

Yes that was ‘HARSH’. Now CLOSE YOUR DAMN MOUTH, YOU’RE NOT A BALEEN WHALE.

1. My first attempt was with an old headset. I use this to Skype occasionally if I have to type while talking, or if I’m working my dayjob as a sex phone operator (I’m Amber, a cheerleader from Oregon – THAT’S HOW TALENTED I AM). Unfortunately the microphone is good enough for Skype communication but the quality was just too low for the game. Fair enough, though, it’s a damned old headset.

Sorry, this is not who you were talking to. But the headset's about right.

Sorry, this is not who you were talking to. But the headset’s about right.

2. The Rode Video Mic – This is the microphone I mount on my camera or attach to boom poles. With its narrow field adjustment I can make it aim directly at my mouth, and limit background noise. Unfortunately even after calibrating the microphone physically and in my computer settings and in the game, I was still having no luck. While SOME of omy commands would get through, most of time I was being told by an in-game character I ‘might be talking to loud‘ . If I wasn’t yelling before, I FUCKING AM NOW.

Worse though, is that the game started reacting to its own characters so suddenly the game would pause, or act as if I’d given an odd command. So I switched to headphones. But alas, still no luck with voice commands.

How could you fail me Rode? Wait, is it because that slash in the 'O' means I'm saying your name wrong?

How could you fail me Rode? Wait, is it because that slash in the ‘O’ means I’m saying your name wrong?

3. Time to break out the big guns. I have a professional voice-over mic that takes an irritating amount of time to set up because of its settings and how it reacts to background noise, but it’s what I use when recording for clients. So I set it up, put on my headphones, and then draped a blanket over myself, the microphone and the computer screen. That’s when my boyfriend came home and that’s when I just gave up.

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The most frustrating part of the whole experience was the amount of ‘helpful hints‘ on the load screens and before starting the game telling me ‘to enunciate’, ‘to speak clearly‘, ‘to not yell‘ during loading screens.

The game is giving 'helpful hints'... right.

You’re really patronizing me here.

As someone whose done voice casting sessions these are directions I would normally give actors, and I’m perfectly aware of the level of my voice.

Weirder still, my accent is a Southern Ontario accent from someone raised by British parents. In terms of North America, I varied with my normal voice and eventually tried the ‘news reader’ accent you hear a lot where one deliberately flattens their affect to not seem regional in any real way (I mean, there’s always going to be a bit of Canadian in there from me).

If you’re going to buy this game, you just need to be aware of this. If you’re in it for the acting and the story, and you don’t care about the intended gameplay, then you might be fine with the mouse controls (though I’ve read even that’s a bit glitchy. I wish I could corroborate but I DIDN’T GET THAT FAR).

Sadly, there’s no demo through which you can test your microphone and voice, which seems a pretty serious oversight. The developers have said that with deadlines the idea of a demo was just too much extra – and fair enough – but if you could have at least let players test their voice and mic with the calibration software to see if the game is playable, because it seems very, very random for whom the game works.

So in conclusion, I may try again one day once they’ve smoothed things out. I empathize with the designers in the difficulty of voice recognition but really, if you make a game designed on it, it needs to work before the game goes out. You wouldn’t release a game in which 2/3 of the players ‘R1‘ button or ‘X‘ button didn’t work (Unless you’re EA! HAHAHA!) so maybe extending their deadline to get it right would have been the correct call.

Sorry... Jay Leno wrote that joke

Sorry… Jay Leno wrote that joke

I’m assuming they used a third party piece of software they bought the rights to use. And if I find which third party that was I will find THAT company and I will tell them “YOU HAD ONE JOB! ONE. FUCKING. JOB.” and you know what? They won’t understand me.

Because I was speaking too loud.

3 Advantages to Being a (Male) Gay Gamer in the 90s

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Being a fag in a small town is tough. In general. For my boyfriend it was tougher still as getting on the bus to school meant a litany of insults through the day.

He’s not a tough guy, he’s more the cute femmy gay, but he’s got gorgeous eyes and fantastic arms and I have to be honest, he’s got a great ass.

Did that make you uncomfortable? If so, you’re my momSTOP READING MOM I WARNED YOU – if it made you uncomfortable and you’re not related to me, well, then you’re just a homophobic dick. But despite people like the POTENTIAL YOU (Sorry if you’re not that potential you) there are some serious advantages to being a fag gamer from my generation (born 1983. Yes, I know I’m gay-middle-aged now)

3. You got sex so easily as a teenager

In the 90s gaming was basically an all-boys club. And maybe for this brief period in time (no menstrual pun there, really).

I literally wouldn’t have any image to put here because I have never seen a vagina in real life.

I literally wouldn’t have any image to put here because I have never seen a vagina in real life.

The best way to get to know a guy you wanted to fuck was video games.

I had a lot of guys from Elementary School who I had… uh… fantasies about. I only censor that because it’s so damn creepy and weird to look back on them in school photos and think “Man, I was 12 and I was thinking of doing pornographically intense things to that CHILD– OH GOD I NEED TO CALL THE POLICE AND HAVE THEM ARREST ME 20 YEARS AGO

At least I’d get to meet the cast!

At least I’d get to meet the cast!

Now, the normal thing for straight kids who have crushes to do is to try and get close, and find some way around their parents so they can be alone together (Apparently becoming a parent makes your biggest fear the idea that your progeny may have an orgasm in proximity of someone else their age). And typically the male of our species will try and have some sort of mild sexual experience with the female.

Obviously this didn’t work in the same for a queer guy in the 90s because if I had said to a boy I was attracted to You should come over to so I can try and bone you I would be risking rejection and physical assault. But I COULD say “You should come for a sleep-over so we can play Final Fantasy VI”. Easy. If they weren’t gay? Well, video games are fun. And if the guy happened to end up being gay? BAM. You were in. Your parents just thought you were playing video games late at night when instead you were fucking like bunnies. (Well, depending on the costumes you were wearing. I have never understood the bunny-ears appeal)

What does adding these to a woman do for straight guys? Are they not aware rabbits are rodents?

What does adding these to a woman do for straight guys? Are they not aware rabbits are rodents?

2. It continues to help in terms of dating.

This entry is short – unlike video games – which is the point. Basically so many awkward dates occur when a couple attracted to each other realize they have less in common than they thought, but again gay guys born in the mid-80s were kind of guaranteed there is some game they have both played, and better still, it was LONG. Games range from 8 to 40 to 60 hours, and it’s a great icebreaker that again didn’t really work as well with most 80s-born straight girls. So the fags of my generation have that one more advantage again.

Unless you both played this game. In which case the female on this date should probably excuse herself.

Unless you both played this game. In which case the female on this date should probably excuse herself.

1. It just continues to get you sex.

While my boyfriend and I have been together for 14 years, the number of guys we’ve made friends with due to our mutual love of games is… quite high. And the number of guys who have made visits to our place to play video games is also quite… high. Even the very few guys who don’t play games (Maybe they’re slightly older, or younger, or just played dress-up as a kid instead because

YOU NEVER LISTEN! IF I UNPIXELATED THIS YOU WOULD DIE OF SHOCK!

YOU NEVER LISTEN MOM! IF I UNPIXELATED THIS YOU WOULD DIE OF SHOCK!

their family couldn’t afford a SNES) still enjoy a good fighting game or trivia game. And when a guy agrees to visit to play video games? It typically leads to other games. (I TOLD YOU NOT TO READ THIS ONE MOM, DAMMIT).

Obviously, it’s important to remember this applies only to a specific generation, and it’s great that the increase in female gamers means straight teens can hook up more easily.

I fully support your sex because it means gay guys will realize they’re gay a lot sooner. Even my progressive stances are just selfish

I fully support your sex because it means gay guys will realize they’re gay a lot sooner. Even my progressive stances are just selfish

But the reason that this was such an important topic to me is because it’s how I met my current boyfriend, and because there are so few advantages to growing up gay in the nineties and early noughts, so it’s nice to look back and think that my friends were looking at dial-up porn while I was spending my weekends with a fuck-buddy.

Remember that modem noise? That’s how your parents knew you were jerking it.

Remember that modem noise? That’s how your parents knew you were jerking it.

Was Asimov Sexist, or just a Lech?

It was sort of widespread and fairly well known at the time that prolific author Isaac Asimov had a bit of a thing for inappropriate touching. But there is a bit of disagreement as to its degree.

He once suggested – in jest – that he deliver a short speech on ‘bottom pinching’ and received as response from the organization to which he was to speak with enthusiasm for actually delivering this lecture. But his own reply was that he would only do so if all parties involved (Meaning the recipients of the groping)  consented.

Imagine this was the lecture. Guess which half of the audience would be incredibly uncomfortable

Imagine this was the lecture. Guess which half of the audience would be incredibly uncomfortable

There’s also allegations of affairs, but consensual affairs are the stuff of tabloids and muck-raking. I don’t really care if he was a womanizer, my concern is his playing what – at the time – would have been referred to as ‘grab-ass’ with women he met or ‘slap-and-tickle’ if this were a Monty Python sketch or pantomime, but we currently refer to as ‘Sexual Harrassment’ because that is what it is in no uncertain terms.

Monty Python can add some levity here.

I’m not here to excuse his behaviour, but perhaps suggest that that we allow him a bit of context. First and foremost, Asimov was an extremely progressive writer, championing not just equality for women, but also speaking out against racism and probably most shocking of all for his time – promoting equal rights for gay people (Indeed in ‘The Naked Planet’ Lije Bailey – an agoraphobic – finds himself overwhelmed stepping outside and clutches himself to the chest of his humaniform companion in a very homoerotic scene)

Look, I’ll admit it: I would totally fuck Daneel.

Look, I’ll admit it: I would totally fuck Daneel. This isn’t the best representation of him, just read the books.

So when I look at Asimov and compare what he did to, say, what other famous authors did before him, I would encourage us to look at him with an understanding that he may have been lecherous, yes, but he was not malicious. H.P. Lovecraft is enjoyed by many geeks, but the man was insurmountably racist and unapologetic about it. Conan Doyle – though I adore his works and own the Annotated Complete Sherlock Holmes – was racist (Particularly a joke Holmes makes in ‘The Adventure of the Three Gables’), and Harlan Ellison, well, his views on queers have been very much voiced and documented during our lifetime.

It's a picture of a dick.

Yeah, because I really need you to tell me where to stick my dick, Harlan.

And that’s one of the key differences I think we need to observe – Asimov’s behavior is inexcusable, but it didn’t come from a place of hate and malice. In my opinion, he genuinely probably thought his behavior was ‘a bit of fun‘ or ‘incorrigible’ no more nasty than a schoolboy with a crush pulling a girl’s pigtails (IS THE ROAD TO AVONLEA SONG PLAYING IN YOUR HEAD? IT SHOULD BE!)

Gus is hot though.

Why did we watch this show? Oh right, it was on before Star Trek The Next Generation.

But the second point that is just as important – some of his male peers should have had the courage to step forward and told him to cut it out. If it was the ‘open secret’ as it appears to have been, people who are not the victims have a responsibility to stand up for those who are, especially when a victim would have to be the first to complain.

The term ‘sexual harassment’ was not even present in the lexicon at the time, and so it really behoved his male friends to simply say ‘These women are not impressed, stop it‘. It would have been great at the time had a woman said this, but unfortunately as is all too often the case, victims are dismissed because ‘No one has complained so far’.

So, let’s not lump Asimov in with Lovecraft, Ellison, Doyle, or Bradbury. The degree to which every person can enjoy the works of someone who contained an amount of bigotry borne of hate is up to each individual person to decide.

But Asimov was a man of his time, and let’s hope that were he around today, he might apologize.  Somehow I doubt those other authors would even consider re-evaluating their views.

Am I wrong on something? Don’t hesitate to let me know. Just know that ‘inexcusable’ is the closest I’ll get to being an apologist for his activities.

Hey, you guys know I write elsewhere, right?

I’m a massive geek, as you all know, and so a lot of my writing is available on the site ‘GeekPr0n.com’ so you can check out my ranting there.

Your Top 5 Gameplay Nightmares

Hotline Miami 2 Review

Gaming’s Top 5 Unsung Protagonists

And there’s more, but… well, they’re mostly news. Anyway, go read ’em before… they… expire? Explode. I’m going with explode.

Chris Redfield indicted for steroid use; former collegue confirms

You know it's satire, right?

Albert Wesker testifies. (AP File photo and an amusing photoshop)

Chris Redfield was arrested today under a continued dogged investigation – both literal and figurative – by Federal Prosecutor Adam Schiff, who refused any comment regarding Redfield’s case saying that the ongoing investigation into the behavior of “S.T.A.R.S.” (“Special Tactics and Rescue Service”) would continue until it reached its natural conclusion.

In the first public senate hearing on the Federal matter, Albert Wesker’s attorney Danielle Melnick confirmed her client was co-operating with the Federal Courts given his medical condition of “Insequituious Perpituous” a rare form of the mutagen “T -Virus”

The mutagen that prevents any person from permanently being killed provided they receive a constant stream of irrational plans to dominate the world through bizarre means

The mutagen that prevents any person from permanently being killed provided they receive a constant stream of irrational plans to dominate the world through bizarre means

which requires a person remain alive so long as the protagonist tries to continually kill him. Wesker confirmed that he was indeed ingesting a drug that had caused him to mutate into such a form that it allowed him to actually remain alive in a volcanic environment. He questioned why this indictment had been such a long time coming, saying “The man literally punched through a boulder to try and kill me… what the hell? If I’d known that was possible without hideous mutations I’d have been doing it years–” He was cut off at this point by his own attorney.

POV radio shot of Chris Punching “Pictured: Chris Redfield’s biceps”

POV radio shot of Chris Punching “Pictured: Chris Redfield’s biceps”

 

Unusually, Schiff allowed Wesker’s testimony and the subsequent questions related to it and Chris Redfield to be open to the public, alleging that S.T.A.R.S. had shown an “extraordinary violation of public protocol that not only endangered the lives of its citizens but whose actions before and after the ‘Raccoon City Mansion Incident’ showed a reckless disregard for human life.”

Footage from the Raccoon City Police station shows Jill Valentine participating in a bizarre scavenger hunt for idols and seals in order to open a door clearly navigable by other means during a T-Virus outbreak

Footage from Jill Valentine participating in a bizarre scavenger hunt for idols and seals

Several Senators, including James Imhofe (R-OK) questioned the wisdom of hiring Rebecca Chambers, to Jill Valentine, the wisdom hiring an 18 year for her “moxie

 

Chambers listed her work experience as ‘Moderator of her My Little Pony Facebook Fan Page’

Chambers listed her work experience as ‘Moderator of her My Little Pony Facebook Fan Page’

and his opinion was agreed only given the odd nature of radio contact between the S.T.A.R.S. members during the initial incident. Barney Frank (D-MA) questioned “The stilted nature of contact seems to indicate some form of intoxication” noting that S.T.A.R.S. member Barry Burton seemed at one point to suggest Valentine may have been an edible sandwich after a narrow escape from a trap. “Your demeanor in that mansion was impossibly stiff and uneven, I see no other explanation other than recreational drug use that could allow you to remain so impervious to the very plainly obvious

Barry and Jill after the trap, barely moving or reacting to their near-death experience

Barry and Jill after the trap, barely moving or reacting to their near-death experience

Further questions were raised regarding Chris Redfield’s relationship with the late Piers Nivens, which soldiers described as “overtly sexual and inappropriate

behavior occurred during a time which DADT was still in effect

This behaviour occurred during a time which DADT was still in effect

but “Do you want to deal with a guy with arms like Redfield’s ?” Many in the gallery admitted that Nivens’ ass was “hot as hell , but I’m totally straight” including Representative David Schock (R-IL) surprising no one.

Chris Redfield’s arms again as Prosecution People’s Exhibit 47C

Chris Redfield’s arms again as Prosecution People’s Exhibit 47C

Although called to the stand, an “Ada Wong” was unavailable for comment, though sources confirm a woman in an impractical dress was seen running from the courthouse rooftop using cables that had not previously been seen in any functional use before.
Leon Kennedy was called to testify regarding S.T.A.R.S conduct, and was questioned as to how he was able to escape a horde of zombies, leap onto a bus, then onto a helicopter narrowly avoiding a crashing F-15 Fighter Jet before crashing through solid plate glass only to immediately recover and comment “I’m Fine”. He simply quipped “Maybe it’s Maybelline ” as a gust of wind took his hair just slightly asunder and wooed all those present despite the room having no doors or windows open.

Kennedy’s hair, pictured from file photo

Kennedy’s hair, pictured from file photo

Hearings are scheduled to continue as soon as Wesker has made a daring escape and is prepared to execute a ridiculous and circuitous plot whose outcome is murky and nebulous at best.

This mission exists in ‘Sleeping Dogs’. It actually does.

In the game ‘Sleeping Dogs’ the mission: “Important Visitor” – has Wei – the protagonist – get a call that a music producer is coming to Hong Kong and is told to show him around.

King

Pictured: “Dialogue” according to the game’s writers: “It’s real cool to meet you. We’ll see you around”

The producer is an awkwardly racist caricature who seems to have been written by someone who has never heard an actual black person speak outside of fiction written by white guys. There’s a rumour he might have at one point been voice by Pharrell Williams but the game’s redevelopment from the True Crime series forced Square (for some reason) to recast. I have no way of verifying this although I would hope Williams might’ve actually improvised a bit to improve the script..

You take the character – King – to a club, and then walk slowly around the rather sparse dance floor collecting pokemon girls and escorting them to the VIP room so he can ‘party’ with them.

And then you have to play a DDR style mini-game to sing Karoke in the most cringe-inducing sequence I’ve seen in recent history. I actually just turned the speakers off.

Guess what this didn't make me? I'll give you a hint: IT'S THE OPPOSITE OF A PHARELL WILLIAMS SONG.

Guess what this didn’t make me? I’ll give you a hint: IT’S THE OPPOSITE OF A PHARELL WILLIAMS SONG.

After you leave, a bunch of rival Triad members show up. You tell the producer to get in the car, but he refuses since this is “jus’ the icing on the cake, man” (That’s from the helpful subtitles) and proceeds to help you fight, because of course he can: he’s black! And involved with Hip-Hop and drugs! (Note for the spin-off – if he returns he should say at some point “Don’t fuck with a black music producer, we know how to throw a beat down” because that would be absolutely perfect)

I mean, it’s like there was a gas leak that made all the writers kind of dumb, mildly sexist and slightly racist and then someone who writes bad fan-fiction wrote the dialogue for the mission because they all passed out.

As always with shoddy game writing, the question that pops to mind is just – why did they write this mission? Why not have it so that the music producer shows up and… well, perhaps you scout possible music video locations with him? Perhaps he needs to find some background talent and you have to find the best dancers at a club (Hey! They could be male AND female!)? and why was it necessary to involve

THIS IS IMPORTANT TO THE STORY.

THIS IS IMPORTANT TO THE STORY.

him in a fight when the main protagonist – at this point in the game – could have easily dispatched all the attackers in less than a minute? What purpose does it serve? I mean, it wouldn’t have been at all an issue had you not made him a walking stereotype. But they did, so it is.

Best line from the character? “Man, I didn’t realize Hong Kong had such beautiful women!” Really? It’s kind of known for that. Would the character also have expressed surprise that New York was crowded or that Tehran is quite hot?

I mean, I hate writing teachers who insist on every line being seriously motivated because that way of thinking leads to way to many dull movies with only 40 lines of dialogue and a lot of wistful looks. The flip-side is a Tarantino film in which nobody ever shuts-up, but in that case at least they’re exchanging dialogue, not just spouting random lines that come close to being tautologies for the sake of filling the horrific void left by the sight of the game’s really awkward, pointless, and photo montage that somehow made it from concept to final product despite. Everything about this mission reminds me of people who use the term ‘colored’ or ‘blacks’. It’s not quite racist, but anyone using those terms clearly isn’t quite as aware that it’s 2015 as they should be.

SleepingDogs1

I have no idea why he chose the two Russian girls when I brought him three girls native to Hong Kong. It’s all just… really godamn weird.