We're a geek culture podcast and blog covering video games, music, food and more. We are the kinds of people who evangelize whatever we are into - it could be anything - but it's usually pretty geeky. We're casual, conversational, NSFW and hopefully interesting. We hope you enjoy it.
As astute readers may have noticed the Penny Arcade Expo was last weekend, and it took Seattle by storm. I attended with our fearless editors Chris and Jinny and was left as amazed and exhausted as they were by the whole event. I got to see some great games, stunning cosplay, and meet some cool new people.
As the exhaustion prevented me from getting into fresh new foods yesterday I humbly submit a few of my favorite photos from PAX in lieu of an article on cooking. Click through below to see my favorite photos, or check out my PAX 09 Flickr set - and of course check back next Tuesday for your regularly scheduled dose of dish!
When Alexei Pajitnov first ordered a load of bricks from Karpov Abramtsevo's workshop, workers there were wondering who could be interested in all those right-angled blocks. No one in 1985 could have imagined those concrete Tetriminos would become world famous and constitute Russia's deadliest weapon against Reagan's America.
A series of images by Marc da Cunha, for AMUSEMENT, depicting the industrial underpinnings of some of our most treasured videogames; revealing the toil, sweat, and craftsmanship that goes into their construction. We may call these games but, as you can see, they are indeed serious business.
It's no secret that I enjoy dressing up like video game characters at PAX. This year, I'm dragging Jinny along for a joint Fallout cosplay. I'll be posting the costumes (and instructions on how to make them!) but first, let's talk accessories. Nothing ties a costume together like attention to detail, so I decided to whip up some little Fallout doo-dads to stuff in our belts. I've made some Nuka-Cola caps, a bottle of Buffout, and some Med-X. And you can, too! Here's how to do it:
Print the template and cut out the cap tops. Paint some rubber cement on the underside of the paper and on the top of the bottlecap. Let it dry. This technique allows for maximum adhesion. Be sure to get the edges! Touch up the sides with some red paint. Use a spray sealant (matte or gloss, doesn't matter) to make them shine.
You'll need: Small syringes, spray paint (get the stuff formulated especially for plastic)
Print out the template to the size of your bottle. I've made the template a standard size, but you can shrink it to fit any size bottle you'd like. If your bottle isn't black, you can always spraypaint it. Buffout bottles in-game are black with a white lid, but really any bottle will do. Use the same cementing technique for the label you used on the bottlecaps. Fill with candy and give to small children! They'll love the sweet delicious taste of Buffout.
Up next: Wasteland wanderer costume, Raider costume and some nice shiny glowy Nuka Cola Quantum. Stay tuned!
To be sure, Duke Nukem Forever has been in the news more lately than it has been in many, many years. With the shuttering -- or not, depending on who is doing the talking -- of 3D Realms there has been a flood of art and game-play footage release as well as a nifty lawsuit.
Certainly there are those that doubt the sway that 3D Realms's long suffering game holds over the masses, our fearless Editor-in-Chief being one of them, but for those naysayers I offer up this. If this does not prove the power of Duke Nukem Forever, I'm not sure what else will. Birthed from the fetid mind of a true acolyte, this is a glimpse into the abyss; the churning mass of insanity that festers in the depths of the pit. Whether it is a warning or prophecy I am unable to say but I would advise against repeat viewings lest your will be crushed, your irises split in twain, your mind be taken as well; the only sound reaching your ears as you unleash a soundless scream being these terrible words:
"Duke Nukem Forever is coming. Mortal men may not craft him, gods might not live long enough to play him, the very universe itself may fold under his might, but he will come and there will not be a toilet big enough to park his bricks in."
posted by Chris on April 27, 2009 10:14 AM in Games
With all of the incredible shit that you can download directly to your consoles these days, there's almost no reason anymore to get off your ass and head to the store. Unfortunately there's a bunch of stuff out there in the cloud, and not a lot of games rise to the surface to separate the great from the crap - just look at all of the horribleness that's on the XNA community games list. The WiiWare lineup is just the same, it's mostly cash-in half-assed crap that's not even worth your time. Heck, I hadn't even turned my Wii on in months were it not for this game. This amazing, beautiful game. This wonderful, glorious, deliciously difficult game. This game is bit.trip beat.
Disclaimer: bit.trip beat is the kind of game that feels catered just for me. I only want to play bit.trip beat for the rest of my life ever. The upshot is that it's PongRez. Or RezPong. RezPongGuitarHeroRockBand. In space. With Atari graphics. From the future.
Basically bit.trip beat is one of those games that seems like some form of therapy made specifically for autistic children. It requires so much concentration as it progresses, my brain started to hurt in ways it hasn't hurt since Braid. Much like Flower, bit.trip beat is smattered with those moments that make you grin a cheshire cat smile. A sort of "I see what you did there" respect for the developer. The best example of this is the death mechanic. As you miss (and you'll miss a lot in the beginning) your life meter goes down until finally you enter the "nether".
When you enter the Nether, the graphics become pure black and white. The music and beats become monotone - and they play only out of the Wii remote speaker. The small, tinny beats are so effective in motivating you to win back your life, it makes me wonder why more games haven't included something like this. It's perfect.
Even the motion controls don't bother me. Normally I'd scoff when a game tells me to control something using only the tilting back and forth mechanism of the Wii remote, but the controls don't feel tacked on like in other games. The controls feel perfectly suited to the gameplay, and vice versa. I can't imagine playing the game any other way.
bit.trip beat is only 500 Wii moon moneys, which translates into about five of your American dollars. It is worth twice that. It has replay value up the wazoo and rewards multiple play-throughs. You'll love whipping it out at parties to show everyone the incredibleness.
Did I mention it also has 4 player local co-op? If you don't have any friends, now's the time to kidnap some.
posted by Chris on February 20, 2009 10:01 AM in Games
I love these photos from the Puzzle Quest: Galactrix launch party at Meltdown Comics in LA. My friend Pinguino was there and captured the pure essence of these events; lots of booze, half-naked girls, loud music, and scores of nerds in t-shirts trying to avoid each other. Even in such dense fog they cannot be swayed from staring intently at their DSes. Truly these are gamer's gamers.
Seen above: an awesome Galactrix mural done by artist Jim Mahfood. See the rest of the set at Pinguino's Flickr.
posted by Chris on February 12, 2009 10:07 PM in Games
Art evokes, inspires, makes you feel. No matter what anyone says video games are art as long as someone asserts they are art. If a piece ignites you, sets the gears of your mind working and gives you that little jolt of inspiration or awareness, that's art. Flower is art. Flower is essentially a short, compartmentalized platform game with incredibly forgiving controls. But that's just the construction of the piece. That is the medium. That is the wood framework and linen canvas and gesso. Flower is the piece and Flower is awesome by the very definition of the word.
During the dusk sequences I can literally feel the cool summer evening breeze sweeping over me, in the sunlight I can smell the grass and the crickets chirping and wind rushing past my ears literally made me tear up. One button to go fast. The motion controls move you around, and the whole package is one of the smoothest, most satisfying play control schemes I have ever played with.
Like tasting all the individual ingredients in a dish, I can see all the different individual game influences in Flower. Katamari Damacy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Braid, Okami, Yoshi's Island...
I am so gay for this game. Buy it with your ten dollars on the Playstation Network now, please. Flower is beautiful and great and everything I love about video games and the hobby surrounding playing them. I have no complaints.
A few weeks ago I purchased this sweet Little Sister porcelain figurine from the Take 2 website but had no Big Daddy to go with her. I avoided the limited edition Bioshock package that came with the golden Big Daddy, mainly because I thought the figure looked like crap. The official figure is standing up too tall, not hulking and slouched over like the Big Daddy Bouncers in Rapture proper. What is a Bioshock fan to do besides make their own?
Made from a Mini Munny, Sculpey and some wire I made a sort of chibi-Bouncer to go with the little Adam-sucker.
I'm ready for dreamtime, Mr. Bubbles
I took a few photos of the process to show you guys but they didn't turn out very well. The lighting was way off and I didn't document the painting process. So! To make up for it, I'll be posting a video of me making a Vault Boy Mini Munny shortly. Hopefully that will suffice!
Scoundrels win me over every time. It's the charisma, the disarming smile. The inherent honesty in their actions. Characters in TV and movies like Don Draper (Mad Men), Al Swearengen and Seth Bullock (Deadwood), Malcom Reynolds (Firefly), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica) and Han Solo (Battlefield Earth). These guys, and they tend to primarily be men, all march to the beat of their own drum and make a ton of mistakes along the way. They are self-centered bastards with hearts of gold. I love them. I am instantly drawn to any character with moral gray area. I find that gray area adds a refreshing sense of realism to the typical hero story we're familiar with, and any time you can show that your hero is real, it endears them to the viewer. In a video game they would be considered neutral characters, neither good nor evil. It's my favorite alignment. Why is it then that I can't manage to remain neutral in games that give me that choice?
Scoundrel! Scruffy-lookin nerf-herder!
Perhaps it's the definition of neutral that is the issue. Take Fallout 3 as an example. In the game your actions have a direct scoring system called Karma. If you do something good, you get "good" Karma points. Do something bad or socially unacceptable and you get "bad" Karma points. As your points add up they begin to shape your character and the way the world reacts to them. The amount of variation and choice in how you complete a quest or a speech challenge in Fallout is impressive and one of the most engaging elements of the game. Too bad I have a problem being anything but the pinnacle of All That Is Good when I'm playing a game.
RPGs such as Fallout 3 or even Fable II are escapism for me. I tend to gravitate toward what I feel is my ideal self (consciously or sub-consciously, I'm not sure.) I'll display a sense of self-sacrifice and a paladin-ish level of honor. I selected "The Sacrifice" in Fable II because I felt guilty choosing my own needs over the needs of others. I actually felt guilt! Same with doing anything morally gray in Fallout 3. I literally feel guilty.
I started a new game in Fallout 3 trying to remain neutral. I suppose I could just avoid anything that would give me Karma at all, be it positive or negative. But since I like to consider myself a neutral person in real life (always fair, logical, level-headed and Zen-like) I figured I'd just comport myself in the manner I would in meatspace.
It's difficult to be yourself when faced with the option to be a better person.
You gonna get in trouble...
I enjoy watching these characters on TV because they feel real. They are flawed and charming and endearing. They are a reflection of humanity. Fallout 3 is one of the few video games I've played that feels the same.
There are people who play games that take great pleasure in burning down villages, gleefully tormenting innocents and generally making a mess of things, and then there are people like me. Ross had mentioned in a podcast that he has a hard time playing anything but a perfectly good character, and I was wondering who else out there feels the same? What alignment do you naturally gravitate toward when you pick up the controller?
posted by Chris on January 27, 2009 8:48 AM in Games
Imagine one day Shigeru Miyamoto, exhausted from years of creating standing simulators and games that aren't games decided to enlist the help of someone such as pixel god Paul Robertson to create a brand-new Zelda title to reinvigorate the franchise -- taking classic Zelda tropes and translating them into elements of an engaging arcade platformer. You'd have The Legend of Princess, seen above and created by someone named Konjak. The amount of detail and love that went into this short game (PC download only at the moment) is stunning. The sprites are instantly recognizable both as elements of Zelda games and as Konjak's unique art style. A difficult thing to pull off with such precision. Every frame of animation is optimized to provide you with the utmost satisfaction in viewing it.
It goes to show that the Legend of Zelda formula can be translated into different genres quite well. Legend of Princess has all the essentials: secret treasure chests, rupee collecting, lamp-lighting to open doors... just distilled into pure arcade-style short attention span joy. It's unfortunate that the majority of Zelda games that break the mold do so poorly at retail. I'd love a stab at something like Legend of Princess on a console.
posted by Ryan on January 7, 2009 8:00 AM in Games
*This post but tip-toes around the idea of suggesting game content/plot, barely mentioning the games Fallout 3, Fable 2, Bioshock, and Portal. Purists beware.
The older I get the more my moral palette shifts, black and white merging to a solid gray which envelops subjects previously immune. Increased information breeds a complicating density that cuts facets in even the sheerest of topics, new dimensions compounding earlier standpoints and thereby rendering them obsolete.
One such arena is that of the Spoiler.
Having proudly sported the label of "Anti-Spoiler Purist" (which means zero external input) it was not quietly that I changed camps, only recently allowing concessions that previously contradicted my own personal dogma. There's a one-time magic to discovery in any medium, be it literature/movie/video game, and the preservation of such something I saw as not only critical but sacred to the designer's intended work. Anything diluting that singular experience was to be outright avoided, a task whose difficulty has only increased over the years regardless of medium.
The twist near the end of Bioshock, ending to Braid, or initial exposure to Portal's subversive scrawling are all worthy of such preservation, but with the advance of increasingly dynamic and less linear games there are often experiences that can be entirely absent from the experience unless a line is crossed in to Spoiler Territory.
Take Fallout 3 and to a lesser extent Fable 2. Both offer varied game play based on the player's choices to the point where consequences could be irreversible. While the differences in personal experience are certainly a strength, some of the side quests are not to be missed. Armed with the knowledge that completion of the main story in Fallout 3 would bar my continued exploration of the incredibly rich, sprawling wasteland my game play experience was substantially broadened. Conversely, my ignorance of the consequences of choosing "The Needs of the Many" at the end of Fable 2 has soured my potential enjoyment of the yet unreleased DLC.
It's a thin line and undoubtedly a dangerous one as a single blurb can separate the unacceptable from the enriching. As such I'd prefer to err on the side of caution, relying on carefully crafted hints from trusted gaming accomplices. In truth such suggestions do not Spoil, motivations instead pushing towards a richer appreciation. It is this shift in intent that changed my stance from Purist to Realist.
So where do you draw the line? Do you prowl GameFaqs for the hidden areas in Serious Sam? Rely on word of mouth? Or do you isolate the game entirely, prolonging anticipation at the risk of missing something awesome?
posted by Chris on December 1, 2008 8:12 AM in Games
Like all good kids of the 80's and 90's, one of my favorite things to do was to stay indoors on sunny days, avoid mowing the lawn, and play Street Fighter II on the SNES against my little sister. I was horrible at the game, but not quite as horrible as her, so I got a pretty good self esteem boost out of beating her senseless. We always stuck with Street Fighter II instead of Mortal Kombat (the two natural competitors at the time) because of its less realistic nature. It was a cartoon, an over-exaggerated spectacle of super powered fighters allowing me to dominate my little sister in a wholesome, non-violent way.
One of the most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade releases this year for me is also one of the most disappointing. As it sometimes happens, the hype for a game builds and builds until release, ultimately letting you down. I've been watching the screenshots and new art come out of Capcom for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix (SSFIIHDR, unless you're not a fan of the whole brevity thing). The game is essentially a carbon copy of the original Super Street Fighter II we remember from the 16 bit days, but with hand drawn sprites displayed in high definition. As screenshots emerged, fans drooled at the gorgeous new art depicting their favorite characters. But it always struck me as a little off, something just wasn't right about it. When the game was finally released last week it hit me: there is a massive disconnect between the way I remember the characters and the way they have been redrawn.
The game was pitched as redrawn. That is to say, the sprite scaling was matched by the artists, essentially traced to give more definition. The playable character sprites and the character portraits (along with all of the level backgrounds, etc) were redrawn completely to scale. The problem with this is that when the art was made for the 16 bit version, they were attempting to create the look and feel of each individual character based on the portrait using the limited pixel definition of the 16 bit era. Lots of visual shorthand was used, and characters were simplified. This wouldn't usually be an issue if the artist were skilled and knew the characters well, they would just add more detail, right? Look at a character like Dhalsim in-game. His portrait (and what we know of his character design from later games in the series) portrays him as a sickly-thin yogi. His playable character art, being based off of the 16 bit version, looks way too beefy in the chest. All of the characters just look vastly different than their portraits, making it obvious that different artists worked on these portions of the game without really communicating with each other.
But the biggest disconnect for me was the fact that the framerate is completely the same as the 16 bit version. Sure, the sprites have been redrawn, but every single character animation is the same 4 frame animation as it was before. This has a surprising effect on the newly redrawn sprites. Instead of looking shiny and fresh in HD the low framerate actually breaks the experience and makes it look completely dated. I almost think that it makes it look more dated than if they went the completely opposite route and inserted more frames of animation into the game and used the original 16 bit sprites.
It feels a little lackluster to me. At the very least it feels more like cheap nostalgia pandering, a way to get me to buy yet another version of Street Fighter. With at least 500 different versions out there (give or take 400) I am not sure if this is the definitive one. Anyone else notice the disconnect?
posted by Ryan on November 4, 2008 4:58 PM in Games
As a devout in the church of digital recording I don't see many live commercials. It was only recently, by some odd twist of fate, that I had some of this calculated marketing thrown my way.
Words and images flashed as I imagined a face-splitting paternal grin focused on a buzzing child as he skipped over to his machine, assuming the obligatory position of undeniable euphoria at the chance to pedal his way to self-sustaining television. Gone was the pasty skin and doughy physique, this kid would be cycling his way to a greener lifestyle while being entertained. Mom would wipe her floured hands on a modest apron and smile as little Johnny powered their home towards a brighter future.
But I had it wrong; this was some sort of kinetically enhanced video game whose focus was, of all things, learning. Despite the jumpy tune, brightly lit environment, and questionably sane toddler I couldn't decide how to peg the device. Home arcade experience or mechanical babysitter churning out super intelligent, thickly calved Über Children?
It didn't take long prowling the Fisher-Price site to see that this was, in the minds of some spendy parents, a cheaper alternative to getting their 4-year olds a Wii. The presence of near-daily reviews also confirmed that, despite a release date nearly two years ago, the niche this toy fits in to remains a strange one. The thing I don't understand is why.
In the U.S. over 30% of children age 2-19 can be classified as overweight or obese. Blame who or what you want, but surely the presence of physically involved entertainment couldn't hurt those numbers for the ones young enough to be "tricked" in to exercising at play time. General consensus is these toys are in fact so stimulating the little tykes have to be pried off or their time limited.
I like that toys like this exist. They remain the antithesis to the infernal Power Wheels (from the same company) I never had (thankfully) in my youth offering stationary advancement in place of whining, electric acceleration. Sooner or later someone will come up with a better formula that combines the slick stimulus of video games with the clever physical ingenuity of say, a jump rope. Perhaps the need to trick tiny spawn in to exercising, like wrapping your dog's pill in bacon, will become less nefarious.
While I personally can't be bothered to waggle a controller to swing a virtual sword I can see a niche of youngsters that would benefit from kinetic video games. It's not like little league teams or school sports are on a decline, but socially this is a whole different environment due for some innovation.
posted by Chris on October 17, 2008 8:14 AM in Games
The story of Starmen.net is a perfect example of Nintendo's complete lack of regard for their "hardcore" fanbase. For the past decade, this site has been dedicated to bringing the Mother series to American shores. Mother 3 was released in Japan and Starmen.net printed glorious fan art books. These devotional tomes were shipped to various people in the games industry (including yours truly) and apparently didn't make an impact. Nintendo ignored the fans yet again. So what does an obsessed game community do? Make their own damn translation.
The Mother 3 fan translation hit the web today, and from what I hear it's quite remarkable. A crazy amount of work has gone into keeping all the quirk and humor of the original Japanese translation, while still feeling familiar to Western audiences. If you've never experienced the beauty of the Mother series, now's a fine time to start. Perhaps once more people discover how stunningly brilliant Mother is Nintendo will finally take notice and start releasing games their most vocal and devoted fans actually want. Perhaps.
posted by Ryan on October 15, 2008 8:00 AM in Games
It was as if a looming concrete wall stood in my path, flaunting its lack of hand holds or crevices by which to summit its blank-faced stare. Truth be told I had put the thing there myself, gradually adding layer after layer until the original foundation was all but obscured and original purpose a mystery. It is with this strained metaphor that I relate a past decision to block the way in to modern console gaming, a choice steeped in misguided thoughts of self-preservation and efficiency.
I didn't want to start and be unable to stop, self control fading late in to nights that would inevitably lead to sleepless mornings. It's how it was back in school and my productivity... suffered, but surely that is all behind me. As an Adult I have learned a modicum of responsibility and time management so that wall went a crumbling and just last week I emerged on the other side holding a sleek 360 Elite.
And it has been awesome.
But I'd been out of the scene for a while, the last game I recall purchasing being Wind Waker and before that a used copy of Soul Caliber to replace the one I wore out. Barring the sudden appearance of an aged mentor to whisk me through an appropriately themed training montage (as I imagine was the case with Jinny and Chris) I would have to reach out to the prolific gaming community for the low down on how one avoided the dreaded MSRP.
posted by Chris on October 13, 2008 9:29 AM in Games
A few items from this week's Tokyo Game Show have piqued our interest here at The Weekly Geek which we will be discussing on tonight's podcast, stay tuned! But this video was charming enough to warrant a post. Gomibako is an upcoming downloadable puzzler for the PS3 which looks to take the basics of Tetris, mixing it with gorgeous photo-realistic garbage-based visuals. It looks like there are a few new mechanics thrown in there for good measure, such as a bit of the screen that's underwater, the ability to set some trash on fire and a load of variable shapes and sizes. I love a good puzzle game, and Gomibako looks like it may shake up the formula enough to provide an interesting new experience.
posted by Chris on October 8, 2008 12:46 PM in Games
Mike, one of the developers I worked with this past weekend on Doom Clock Robot Pirate Defense, has posted a great post-mortem outlining his trials and tribulations from the XNA game jam weekend. If you're interested in seeing a few more screenshots and reading about the development process from the game mentioned on the podcast this week, head on over to his blog and tell him how much you want to play this game.
I don't normally just re-post things without an image or starting a larger discussion, but Penny Arcade has the absolute best take on Mega Man 9 I've seen yet. I won't spoil it. Click here and delight in the last frame. Brilliant.
posted by Ryan on September 18, 2008 12:00 PM in Games
Though I can no longer claim the title there was a time when I considered myself a hardcore gamer.
The games and platforms varied through the years but it was those by Blizzard that left their mark more deeply than others. While Warcraft II forced memorization of my modem's INIT string during the hours of agonizing multiplayer setup it was the Diablo franchise that left a visible callus on the ghost of my gamer's heart.
My buddies from high school, the original crew of tower-toting LAN party professionals, instituted a mandatory cross-country gaming night about a year ago. The four of us span two coasts and three timezones, each with vastly different professions and lifestyles. Despite surprisingly full schedules we all set aside a couple hours each Tuesday night to regress back to our Mountain Dew-can-stacking, dice-rolling, stay-up all-weekend selves. We fire up Vent, shoot the bull, and live the dream that is modern day internet gaming.
When Diablo 3 was announced we knew we had to go back and reinstall The Deuce.
The only thing that surprised me more than an eight-year old game still being stocked was the fact that every brick and mortar I rambled in to sported an empty slot. The multimedia strewn announcement for the third iteration was a taste of warm nostalgia to those that had been sober for years, a drop of blood in the shark infested waters thick with previous addicts that went in to a frenzy snatching up new copies to get that old fix. More than a few gamers had the same idea and even drove this classic to the top of Amazon's game sales (it's currently at #75).
And it was addictive. The sound of an item dropping still elicits a tiny Pavlovian rush of adrenaline, the promise of digital riches in the form of stat-heavy weapons and armor only growing stronger the deeper one delves. Blizzard had to know what they were doing, setting the hooks in the Normal mode with the lure of greater treasure in subsequent difficulties of the same game.
We ate it up.
Hack n' slash is good stuff and randomly generated dungeons with steadily increasing difficulty keep that thrill going three times longer than other games dare. Diablo 2 built on the original's appeal and tipped it over the edge in to a more deeply immersed gaming experience which laid a lot of the groundwork for how the massively successful World of Warcraft would be structured years later.
It's taken just under three months of casual gaming for that thrill to wear off. I now maximize game play for a greater loot to time-spent ratio which was what turned me off of WoW a couple years ago. Blizzard kept the new content coming, engaging to say the least, but advancement was measured in the items acquired and that meant dedication with time-intensive logistical planning separate from actual game play in order to tackle dungeons that often required no less than forty people to complete.
Gaming became Serious Business.
So Diablo 2 is getting replaced in the Tuesday night rotation. Each of us will count the weeks we spend clean while wiping the gradual saliva until we can relapse again with a new Diablo.
As sore as my feet were from Saturday, I lived to fight another day at PAX. Walking around on Sunday was a bit like being in a survival horror game full of nerdy zombies - ready to crash (or possibly eat brains) from a weekend of energy drink fueled madness.
Anyhow, the crowds had thinned enough for me to get in and actually play a lot of the games the lines wouldn't permit on Saturday.
11:01 - Dragon Age Demo - BioWare are apparently "getting back to their roots" with a Baldur's Gate style game. The Mass Effect-like decision tree is nice, especially for a fantasy game, but the novelty is wearing off a little bit. The cut scene graphics are a tad underwhelming, especially when it's postponing action to tell me a generic medieval story. The gameplay itself is fantastic though - especially the huge area of effect magic spells and beautifully gory finishing moves. Combine that with a story that changes vastly based on your class and race choices, and we may just see this title winning over the Baldur's crowd.
11:39 - Fallout 3 Gameplay - Bethesda may have the best shooting game of the year on their hands. Incredible detail is present even in just the demo builds for the convention. The V.A.T paused targeting system adds a whole new dimension to the genre. I'm amazed by the amount of time investment and the level of detail in the menus; even if they are taking a page out of the Bioshock plasmid tutorial book, it's still the best move that Bethesda could make to build on the multi-console success of Oblivion.
12:25 - Animal Crossing: City Folk - *Squeeeeeeeeeee* So excited for more cuteness from the only Nintendo franchise I give a shit about anymore. New to this version: the ability to play over WiiConnect (as expected) and finally the ability to skin your animal with the Mii face of your choice - no longer will we have to accept the random animals they spit out at us. The graphics are a nice, neat little step up from the GameCube's Animal Crossing and at any time, you can emote with your cute little bundle of joy. Stomp in anger when you lose a fish or jump up and down when you pay off your damn mortgage to Tom Nook.
After I procrastinated with my registration last year, I made it to PAX 2008. It was both eventful and stuffed to the gills. Unlike all the gaming bloggers tapping away in the lines with their laptops, you aren't gonna get any news from me first. But hopefully, if you weren't able to make it, you'll be able to live it vicariously through my delayed, analog-transferred coverage.
9:52 - Is it bad that the first thing I notice about PAX is how the line smells like a used baby wipe?
10:28 - From everything I can tell, Rock Band 2 looks smoother and more polished. Almost like Rock Band was rushed to the market and that this is the game we were meant to get originally.
10:32 - Tales of Vesperia is every bit as gorgeous as Eternal Sonata. Let's just hope they made the battle system less repetitive.
10:46 - Gears of War 2 looks amazingly clean. Didn't think the graphics could improve that much. I was wrong.
10:52 - If Mirror's Edge wasn't visually stunning, I'd say it's just another FPS. I'm seeing really clunky shooting mechanics and glitches all over the place. Let's hope those are demo jitters.
11:02 - From appearances, Fable 2 has gone a decidedly Diablo-esque direction, facade-wise.
11:14 - Little Big Planet and Blu-Ray continue to be the only selling points on the PS3, for me at least.
11:25 - Fallout 3 officially wins best booth design at PAX. Happy family scene on one side, post-apocalyptic nightmare on the other. Well done, Bethesda!
2:27 - Monster Lab actually appears to be a well done mini-game collection quest extravaganza for the Wii.
3:42 - Love living downtown; taking a break from PAX to walk my dog.
5:07 - It's proving nearly impossible to get in panels without camping for an hour. Could PAX have outgrown this place too?
Stay tuned for more PAX coverage from the The Weekly Geek! At some point, I'll distill my thoughts on one of the most interesting panels Saturday, where several gaming minds broke down the "Casual vs. Hardcore" argument.
Things were a lot simpler 22 years ago, weren't they?
Saturday Morning Cartoons were still on until noon, there was no Disney Afternoon yet and pop can openings were pretty small and not yet to their "X-Treem" levels of wideness introduced in the winter of 1999 to address the reality that we, the consumers, simply weren't doing the Dew hard enough. Yes, these were the days of hardcore pay-per-view Shelley Duvall action, the heady months of April O'Neil showing us the first popping cleavage on afternoon television, and the lagging, long-toothed seasons of A.L.F.
Of course, Lucasarts had had a hard year. Howard the Duck had ebbed and waned and waned again, and it looked like Willow was a million years away. Hell, even Maniac Mansion was a year off. So, after laying the not very metaphorical egg that was Howard the Duck, Lucas hired a team, including future-gaming guru Ron Gilbert, to create the first MMORPG, Habitat.
20 years preceding World of Warcraft, Habitat seems a little silly today. The video walkthrough seems laughable (the idea that players would say grammatically correct things like "IT'S A GOOD DAY FOR A TREASURE HUNT!" is particularly quaint). Back when Commodore 64 ruled the world, though, it was amazingly forward thinking and, as revealed in the fascinating article, Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat, many of the common difficulties MMORPG developers face were already in play way back when.
The crux of this rant, however, is about Griefers, both in MMORPGs and in odder places, such as LARPs. I make no secret about the fact that I am a member of The Camarilla, the fan club for White Wolf's Vampire: The Requiem, and in the interest of journalistic/rant-tastic integrity, I must state that I've earned a few paychecks by doing freelance work for them. The Camarilla attempts to do in real life interaction what Habitat attempted to do way back when: build a coherent world of thousands of players who try ("try") to stay in-character and remain friendly out of character with each other. It's a fascinating study in human relationships and cultural dynamics... and... sadly... Griefers.
A Griefer is defined as a person in a gaming environment who actively enjoys attempting to break the system, ruin the enjoyment of others, and basically bully everybody and everything in their way. Habitat's small player base and intimate control mechanisms allowed in-character corrections to be made around these people. For instance, when a Griefer succeeded in killing an "unkillable" Boss, and making away with their super-powered boss weapon, the Habitat staff made an event out of it and had the Boss's gang trap the Griefer's character in the city, where violence couldn't occur. Then, in an amazing pre-Something Awful show of player bravado and developer sensibility, the Boss demanded the super-weapon back, exchanging the super-weapon for several thousand virtual dollars.
In LARP, of course, the consequences are a little deeper. You have to stare at the person trying to fuck you over, and attempt to not rip their lungs out and stuff them up their enormously obese, smelly ass. Some LARP Griefers, just like some online Griefers, actively enjoy seeing other people pissed off at them.
Now, I'm not against a good sense of humor, and I'm all for pranks, mischief and working the mechanics of a game to your benefit. Habitat, and The Camarilla, can teach game developers several things:
- Players need spaces where they can interact with each other without violence. Some players aren't there to level up endlessly or grind through an army of zombies... some players, myself including, prefer to just run around aimlessly and meet new people. A space without risk is necessary for this to occur. Habitat invented the "no violence in town" rule, but it should be expanded to "No violence until I turn off this button which I can't turn back on again".
- Griefers should not be rewarded, nor hindered. Just let them be and eventually they'll piss so many people off that nobody will give them the time of day anymore. Then they'll move on to annoying the Scientologists.
- Always accompany your video game with a video narrated by Sir Ian Holm.
posted by Chris on August 7, 2008 12:57 PM in Games
If you haven't checked out the brilliant new XBLA platform puzzler Braid, go do so. I'll wait. No, don't worry. It's completely worth the 1200 points.
Back? Good. There's a super interesting article up at Gamasutra discussing the art direction in Braid, from the first initial developer baby steps to the final working product.
When I sent these to Jonathan, he jumped on the rectangular "cut out" on the bottom of the center platform. It was a conspicuous geometric variation in a puzzle game where the player will assume everything has been placed for a reason.
It would be bad for the player to get stuck trying to figure out the puzzle-solving purpose of something with purely aesthetic value. As we went along, I got more disciplined about eliminating stuff that might distract or confuse the player.
Really fascinating read for anyone remotely interested in delving into the creative process.
posted by Chris on August 1, 2008 9:34 AM in Games
Back in the saddle again. A slew of summer downloadable titles have caught my attention, and the consoles have been switched back on in favor of...
Geometry Wars 2: The original Geometry Wars was one of the most compelling reasons to buy an Xbox 360, and the sequel (just unleashed upon the world this week) has proven itself somehow MORE ADDICTIVE than the first. I'm getting flashbacks of my obsession with the first game, there's something about Geometry Wars that perfectly realizes what makes games great. First off, it mimics arcade games to a tee. When was the last time that a high score was relevant in a game to you? With GW2 it raises the bar by focusing heavily on the leaderboards. Just like walking into your favorite arcade and seeing that someone named "KKK" or "ASS" beat your top score on the Ms. Pac Man cabinet, GW2 keeps that frothing style of competition flowing. The high score of the person on your friends list immediately above you will always be displayed in the top right corner like a carrot on a stick, giving you immediate goals to strive for. You can even see the top leaderboards at a glance while you are selecting what mode you'd like to play. I will defeat you, Nick Chester. Yes, one day you will fall from your ivory tower and I will claim the top spot on my friends leaderboards!
My only criticism happens to be a major one. While the updated graphics look incredible, they somehow managed to load MORE particle effects onto the screen, making it even more impossible to tell what the hell is going on. On top of that, Bizarre Creations decided to add a ridiculous amount of bloom, so I am obsessively trying to clean my glasses while I am in the middle of a match. Literally, it was so blurry it was giving me a headache. Can I please have a way to turn off that shitty bloom? Please? I want to play your game but it makes me physically ill! This has not happened before! Argh!
PixelJunk: Monsters and Eden. It makes sense to me that Q Games (not to be confused with the equally great Q Entertainment or the marginally okay Q Fulton) is comprised of people from the SNES era, President Dylan Cuthbert was responsible for most of the original Star Fox's look and feel. The PixelJunk series feels like if people were still developing for the SNES, this is what they would come up with. The same style and atmosphere, only with updated HD graphics. I am perpetually perplexed as to why we moved into this shitty polygonal confusing headspace with gaming and didn't follow the path of beautifully drawn 2D graphics. PixelJunk delivers with easy to pick up, hard to master game play and that warm fuzzy feeling that the SNES gave so long ago. Looking forward to more time with these nuggets of joy.
I'm also considering picking up Soul Calibur IV for the weekend. Anything new on your plate?
I suck at Geometry Wars and every time I play, I get crushed by the sheer weight of defeat. My high score is probably in the range of 30,000-40,000. Pitiful, I know! My dear friend, Capn Rocket, on the other hand, was at one time "best in the world" on the original PGR2 version of Geometry Wars and puts me (not a very difficult thing to do) and most others to shame. Fortunately, I was able to tap into the psyche of an accomplished Geometry Wars pro to bring you some tips. Here they are, straight from the horse's mouth:
In light of the upcoming release of Geometry Wars 2, I thought I'd throw out some GW:RE tips for those needing to brush up their skills on the 360's original killer app.
1. Unlike the original, GW:RE is a multiplier game. Once you get to about 5x or so, use your bombs to keep that party rolling.
2. Try to make every shot count. The rapid fire is obviously the best weapon. Although the spreadshot helps against black holes, it will usually put you on the defensive. Bomb when the boot-to-ass ratio slips into the negative.
3. Use your ears. Once you've learned what sound each enemy makes when it spawns, spin up a playlist well-suited for rampant destruction.
4. Make the bastards chase you. Running laps is still the accepted method for staying alive.
5. Beware the loner. It's always the stray oddball that gets you.
6. Play until you need to buy another controller. Consider tracking down some Gel Tabz thumbstick covers.
Green diamonds: line these passive-aggressive hippies up against the wall and mow them down.
Pink squares: You can't outrun the pigs, but you can out-corner them. When surrounded, you can finesse an escape if you don't shoot toward your exit.
Black holes: Neither black nor holey, you can activate them to buy some time. For maximum points, destroy them after they're about to go supernova. If you can't, better get good at picking off Blue Cheerios of Death as you run like a little girl.
Red magnets: You can 1) kill them immediately 2) Hope your rapid fire overwhelms their shield or 3) sidestep them at the last second. Ole!
Snakes: Shoot at their heads until a path is clear. Remain still if surrounded. Like the magnets, they are highly succeptible to black holes. Curse Cakebread and his minions for inventing these.
Mayflies: Think of them as multiplier fodder. This will keep you from filling your pants as you try to punch a hole through the line. Try bombing partway through the spawn to reduce their numbers. You can also try flying to the opposite corner to buy time.
Final tip: You can check your multiplier by dividing the point value of a green diamond by 100.
Good luck, Chuck! You're gonna need it.
There it is folks! El Capitan has spoken. You can also check out a video of his amazing accomplishments after the jump.
Kind of a bit of self-promotion here, but in light of it being E3 week and one of Microsoft Game Studio's biggest holiday titles being shown, I thought it appropriate. For the past few months we've been working hard to launch a brand new Gears of War community site and I have to say this is one of the coolest things I've ever had the privilege to be involved with. I've been able to work with some fabulous designers and developers who listened to feedback, embraced creativity and were open to suggestion. This hardly ever happens when working on a large corporate website. We had our bumps and our struggles but ultimately I am very very pleased with the way the site came out. So, I have to say thanks. Thanks! I am super stoked to put this in my portfolio.
Check out the fruits of our labor over at the brand spanking new Gears of War 2 website. You can explore many new features of the game and check out screenshots, concept art and download a few cool wallpapers. Now back to your regularly scheduled geekery.
Just a little disclaimer, The Weekly Geek isn't affiliated with MS in any way, I just happen to work at Microsoft Game Studios currently.
I live in a tenement. Sure, it's called "comfortable urban living at sustainable lease rates," but it is, in fact, a tenement. During the day it sounds like a cross between an octogenarian Jewish guy's memoirs of Brooklyn, circa 1937, with screaming kids with names like "Sparky" and "Squeezit" playing stickball while their mothers chat away folding laundry outdoors and their fathers trudge off to work in the coal mines or for some guy named "Lucky", and, by night, a Tijuana Red Light District, with more arrests for drugs and prostitution per evening than the Netherlands has a year.
But hey, there's rent control.
My upstairs neighbors recently moved away, and they've been replaced by a new gaggle of titwits who can only be described as the worst, most obnoxious sort of gamers. Now, mind you, I write here for God's sake. I write tabletop supplements. I am comfortable with gamers, even bad ones. Like paraplegics, pedarasts and puppeteers, they're my people. I enjoy watching their strange habits and they generally keep their distance, except for Chris, who has become so clingy in his senility that I've had to expressly forbid him from standing less than two feet of me. He's taken to poking me with a bamboo rod, but I'm willing to compromise. He's a good kid.
Still, my upstairs neighbors cross the fucking line. They went and got Wii Fit. These kids weigh a good 500 lbs between the two of them, and even walking down the hall to take a piss is like the the scene in Jurassic Park with the waterglass and the tyrannosaurus. I'm a fan of loud music, so I, too, can adapt. I'm very good at adaptation.
Now, of course, Centaur #1 and Centaur #2 have decided to get in shape, and using Wii Fit is their ticket to ride. At least, I think it's a Wii Fit. A complete alternate theory exists in my head, and that is it's actually a BDSM dungeon. I hear a lot of pounding and rhythmic thumping, with grunts, moans and plenty of swear words, and that's a complete possibility. All I know is that I can't sleep.
And, like the Incredible Hulk, you wouldn't like me when I can't sleep.
Anyone heard of Chrono Trigger? A little game released back in 1995 for the SNES? I realize it's obscure and all but I expect you pinnacles of geekery, you princes of Maine, might have heard of it at some point in your exhaustive games-centric research. Chris informs me (between Chrono Trigger induced pants-wetting sessions) that the original SNES version of Chrono Trigger is "one of the rarest SNES games you can find".
Well, come this holiday season, a version of Chrono Trigger that isn't a complete and total clusterfuck like the PS1 port will be coming to the DS. Excited yet? The mere mention of a port to the DS is enough to cause spasms of delight in even the most stoic of geeks. So I hope you're sitting down, as the DS port will add wireless multiplayer and a new dungeon to explore with your friends. In the palm of your hand. On Chrono Trigger.
Every time I begin to doubt that it's the future something like this happens. Screw flying cars and pill-food, I'll take Chrono Trigger on a device the size of my hands thank you very much.
Too often when we play games from our childhoods do we experience the "rose colored glasses" effect. Our memories of these games are marred by the gaps - when encountered with the original product after so many years, we often end up disappointed. Lucky for us Capcom has remastered Street Fighter II in order to match our memories. The HD remix remarkably manages to be just like you remember Street Fighter II. No crappy port to 3d. No gimmicky control scheme. Just pure concentrated childhood. Thank you Capcom for your surprising amount of restraint.
Yes, yes, yes. We're all aware that the Spore Creature Creator has been released. The above blasphemy oozed forth from the Cthonic mind of Scythemantis, lead proprietor of www.bogleech.com. And while the fact that several thousand literal Cock Monsters will be flooding forth from the vile reaches of the Youtub, the question remains: "Why, and to what end?"
God Games have long been the "intellectual" gaming alternative to the more plot/explosive based games of tomb raiding and war craftsmanship. Will Wright, of course, has made his Carnegie-esque fortune off exploiting the public's fantasies of being meddling civil bureaucrats, ant colonies, and combination voyeuristic sadists and micromanaging interior decorators. His latest, Spore, promises to combine the finicky nannying of his previous creations with the rough and tumble world of MMORPGs, essentially fusing Felix Unger and Oscar Madison into one freakishly, well, spore-like spore of Odd Couple.
Ultimately, of course, we pause and ponder if this is good for us. We now have within our power to literally be gods, any time we wants, when we wants. While one part of American society is obsessed with "Intelligent Design", another wants to be able to design their own little intelligences, cute though they may be, running around a virtual landscape. While I'm not saying it's wrong to want to play God now and again (Victor Frankenstein was, of course, the HERO of the book), my idea for Wright, SimEtary, never really got off the ground. Or rather, out of it.
posted by Chris on June 20, 2008 10:09 AM in Games
This the first generation of consoles where I've finally been able to experience all the medium has to offer. That's right, I've finally completed the set and picked up an 80gig Metal Gear Solid 4 Playstation 3 bundle. My reasons are most likely different than most, I'm not a fan of the Metal Gear series and most of the titles out for the PS3 don't really intrigue me. I was more interested in the backwards compatibility since I no longer own a PS2 due to circumstances. Divorce circumstances. That's right, I lost custody of my PS2.
There are a few games I am interested in, most notably the Playstation Network titles such as Echochrome and Everyday Shooter. And hey, maybe I'd like Metal Gear too. Who knows.
After a few hours with the machine, I have a few issues. Now that I have "caught 'em all" (to use Pokémon parlance) I feel like I have a nice objective view of what the Playstation 3 offers and doesn't offer versus the other systems.
First off, cons:
Game installation. Why in the name of sweet zombie jeebus am I forced to install games and still suffer long loading times? Is this my consolation prize for purchasing games from lazy developers? If I am committing a small portion of my hard drive to a certain game, I expect some sort of benefit. One of the main selling points of a console is that you don't have to tinker with it like you do with PCs. I don't have to worry about having compatible drivers or the most advanced video card. I don't have to worry about spending hours installing a game and downloading patches, I insert the disk or cart and it just works. Even the PSN games have this problem, you have to download them and then install them and only then can you run them. And you have to do all this manually. Which brings me to...
Convoluted Information Architecture. I'm a web designer with a specialty in user experience and semantics. I think about information architecture wherever I go. For the unfamiliar, information architecture (or IA for the cool kids) is the discipline used to develop user interfaces for websites. Basically you wireframe and mock up how a user will flow through your website and ideally you streamline the process to make it as easy as possible for people to access your information. This will make or break a website. Have you ever been to a website that has one too many registration forms before you go to the shopping cart, and you abandon the cart in favor of Amazon's on-click ordering? That's poor information architecture. Sony is horrible at IA. From having to blindly accept license agreements that have zero bearing on my own personal use of the console, to putting my money in a virtual wallet instead of just outright purchasing the damn game instantly, everything feels like the worst puzzle fashioned to confuse and discourage. It's like they had focus groups that told them that hands down they loved watching loading bars, and they all got a perverse sense of satisfaction from selecting "I accept" over and over again. No, I don't want to take your survey. I could give two shits about your licensing agreement. No, I don't want to receive product information and deals from Sony. I just want to play your damn game. Can I play the game I put in my system now, please?
Feature bloat: Subtlety is a skill Sony truly lacks. From the obnoxiously shiny outer shell, needlessly flashy touch-sensitive eject and power buttons and the useless compact flash/sd/memory stick slots, the Playstation 3 is trying way too hard to do too many things at once. It forgets that it needs to do ONE THING well - play Playstation games. Why not sacrifice the outmoded compact flash slot for a Playstation 1/2 memory card slot? While memory cards are indeed old-tech, it would have been nice to not have to purchase an adapter to transfer my old save files. I want to play games on your game console, not have a locked-down system that pretends to be a media center. If I want to transfer my photos via compact flash somewhere, I'll use my existing computer, not my freaking game console.
Lack of features: Seems like a contradiction, but stick with me here. Even though the Playstation 3 has a load of features, they don't tend to be the right features. Sure I've got this media center where I can play games and music and videos, but I already have a place where I store my videos and music. I'm not about to transfer my entire music collection over to my game console. I want the ability to stream my content over your box, and I want it to be as easy as point and click. Every solution I've found to stream media from my Mac to my PS3 has been a tinkerer's dream and my nightmare. I don't want to have to run Terminal every time I want to play music. I just want to be able to press start and have it go. I don't want to have to tweak a bunch of settings in order to run my games and media at their max potential, I just want it to work. Just make it work. Update: I was pointed toward Nullriver's MediaLink software, which works like it was built-in to my Mac. Should have known the creators of the excellent Connect360 would have my console streaming solution.
Jeebus that Earth views visualizer is pretty.
Additionally, the lack of a system like Xbox 360's achievements is one of the biggest failings. Xbox has set a new standard for how games are played, an innovation classically reserved for Nintendo. The d-pad, analog stick, rumble... all of these changed the way we play games, and now with the persistence of the Internet and social media we want a way to show off our progress to our friends. While the 360 feels like a party every time you hear the blip and see one of your friends sign on to Live, Sony's system still feels insular, like a console for loners. I'm not compelled to flesh out my friends list like on the Xbox.
And now, Pros:
Now I can play my PS2 games again.
Are any of you PS3 owners? Can you fill me in on why people think this console is so awesome? Cause I'm just not seeing it at the moment. Even Metal Gear Solid 4 feels like the most popular game in some parallel universe.
Oscar Wilde once stole a bit from William Shakespeare, who in turn stole it from me, when he said "Brevity is the soul of wit." To verify this undisputed truth, old people are very rarely funny. Occasionally you'll meet a truly hilarious geriatric delinquent, like those old bastards who yank out their dentures to scare small children and rodents, but for the most part, old people aren't very funny at all. The longer something goes on, the less funny it is. This is a solemn, brutal reality, and something I'm about to prove, because this is going to be a very long article, and I dare you to find something to laugh about while reading it.
Take, for instance, The Satyricon by a dead old Roman named Petronius. The thing is supposed to be a hilarious comedy of errors as a slave is freed and suddenly inherits millions of drachma, in sort of a Sid Meier version of Brewster's Millions. This thing goes on and on and on and on, until finally you realize that there is absolutely nothing funny about it all, and you're just reading pages of what the nouveau-riche Roman ate for dinner (flamingo tongues and stuffed dormouse, BTW). It's absolutely dreadful. Still, they classify it as a "comedy", and it apparently was considered to be so in it's day. The Emperor Nero, a man with a high sense of camp if ever there was one, found absolutely nothing funny in The Satyricon, and sentenced Petronius to commit suicide for besmirching his family's reputation with anti-comedy. To further prove that drawing things out beyond their duly alloted minutes is unfunny, Petronius spent his last evening alive reading poetry loudly while slowly bleeding himself to death, tying and untying a tourniquet around his arm during the course of this terminally unfunny party.
Watching Kung Fu Grip is very much like watching Petronius commit suicide. It's long, it's painful, and there's a certain post-ironic bent in knowing that everything about it has already been done somewhere else, funnier. The concept is relatively simple, much like it's intended audience. Some fleeting source of gamer humor is drawn out, suffocated, drawn, quartered, defenestrated, and finally dunked under an icy lake like Rasputin with action figures and dolls. Much hilarity is presumed by invocation of rape, poop jokes and casual racism.
Now, to be fair, I like jokes about rape, bowel movements and casual racism. I am quite the connoisseur, actually. To do these sorts of jokes correctly, they must be served like prosciutto, not like Spam. Thinly sliced, delicately positioned, and surrounded by as many tasteful things as possible. And then jammed up one's nose.
The problem is that we've already seen this thing before, both in ToyFare Magazine's "Twisted Toy Theater" and the mindbogglingly dreary Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network. The advantage that both of these have is production value and the creative goad that is editors/producers/advertisers. The Internet, being srious bizness and all, tends to breed a certain sort of "entertainer" without any sort of limitations to guide the flow of their creativity, leading to a free-for-all of bad taste, bad production, bad timing.
I hate to end a review on a hateful note, call it the softening of this barnacle encrusted heart of mine. Kung Fu Grip... I admire your Mickey Rooney "HEY KIDS LET'S PUT ON A SHOW!" kind of mentality.
Onward and upward!
On the opposite end of the scale is Broken Pixels, a weekly offering starring the Internet's version of Baby Jane, Seanbaby. Seanbaby is a firm believer in the Law of Anti-Charisma, which states that you will be much more interesting, funny and charming if you surround yourself by persons who are socially inept, unfunny and boring. Broken Pixels is a show about old, bad video games, territory that Seanbaby staked and claimed over a decade ago.
For those of us who are old timers at this Internetting thing, Seanbaby used to be the end-all-be-all of awesome websites. His site was witty, well designed, original (for the time) and, most important for the New Media, completely self-absorbed. Seanbaby is an arrogant ass and we loved him for it. He knew we love him for it. And we kept going back. Then, in about 2001, his site went dead, a bleak relic of what we thought was the end of an era. He resurfaced in EGM as their "Crazy Back Of The Magazine Rant" Guy (i.e. what I do here) and occasionally showed up on G4 shows from time to time.
Broken Pixels is a mixed bag. Like I said before, brevity is not this show's gimmick. While each episode is about 15 minutes long, it's at least broken up into several bad games before wrapping up. The hope is to be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for video games, with Seanbaby and pals yakking it up and exposing some true horrors. Unlike the utterly brilliant Zero Punctuation, which takes brevity to a level of grandeur not seen since Peppin the Short, Broken Pixels takes it's time. Seanbaby takes many long, languid sips of beer.
At the risk of continuing to talk and breaking the brevity thing (oh well, you weren't laughing anyway), most of the games Broken Pixels is mocking have been mocked ad nauseum online for years. The Cho Aniki series, for example, is the standard by which Japanese weirdness can be measured, the Greenwich Mean Time of Nippophilic Insanity. The oddball rail shooter, Space Pirates, has been dissected and snickered at for almost as long. There's just not that much ground here to cover that hasn't been covered.
And there is a but! There really is! I swear!
The real charm of Broken Pixels is not the video games, not the set-up. The charm is the feeling that you're sitting around, listening to guys tell bullshit stories and goof off. At the risk of sounding like I'm hitting on him, Seanbaby has some really, really great stories to tell. One story, referred to here as the "Spunk Burrito" story, is worth the entire price of admission. What Broken Pixels does that I can appreciate is basically take an established format, surround it with a specific topic, and then let a few funny people be funny. It's similar to Stephen Fry's Q.I. in that way. Kung Fu Grip takes the same approach, but fails. Why? NOW YOU KNOW WHAT'S IN THE BURGERS.
Oh hai! Just thought I'd come and check in on you guys, here. What's up? Gearing up for the long weekend? Are you going to be going outside and grilling animal flesh with the rest of the US, or perhaps you will shun the sunlight as I do and partake of some games? Here's what I've been playing recently, what are you playing this weekend?
GTAIV - Of course, this game really doesn't leave my Xbox. I haven't had much time to devote to gaming this week (hence the lack of game diary posts) but when I do get a chance I like to sit down and envelop myself in the trials and tribulations of one Niko Bellic. I'm a good 70% through the game now, just got all my friends to over 90% and I'm spending a fair bit of time just messing around with the side quests, whereas a week ago I was completely into the main storyline. The main storyline continues to amaze, don't get me wrong, but I really appreciate how I can just sit down and do a few side quests in a short period of time. Very good for the hard-casual gamer such as myself.
The World Ends With You - Seriously, you guys need to be playing this game. I have no idea why the gaming press hasn't covered it more because it is completely brilliant. It's the perfect commuter's game, great for short bursts of satisfying play, and is as deep as you want it to be. I want all games to be this thoughtful, precise and engaging. There's little sense in explaining it. You have to experience it for yourself.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 1 - Like any good PA fan, I downloaded the shit out of this game and proceeded to devour it. It's a gorgeous game and genuinely hilarious, though the battle system took me a REALLY long time to figure out. I'm still not sure I understand it. I'm playing the XBLA version, which apparently was designed last as the controls are horrible. It's difficult to target things for one, but it also doesn't help that the UI is slightly confusing at times. It took me a while to make sense of the battle UI and it took me even longer to realize which player was highlighted. I'm also having conflicting thoughts about the massive amount of dialog for every single little thing. On one hand it's consistently hilarious, and on the other hand I feel compelled to check every trash can and mailbox, which feels like a shallow gameplay device. I'd rather the locations I can investigate be a bit more hidden instead of right there in my face. But maybe it will pick up? At the very least, congratulations you guys. It's awesome to be able to say "this dude I know made his own video game". Despite any niggling concerns, you guys did a fucking fantastic job.
Below the jump, in all its uncensored glory, is a new ad for Sony's Playstation 3. It's below the jump because it is most assuredly NSFW. Looking at this ad I can't help but wonder about just what exactly it is they are trying to imply. Is it alluding to a rare talent that only the discerning PS3 owner possesses? Is it encouraging a new kind of play or is it a call for genetically modified, but sterile gaming supermen? I have no idea but I can tell you that I am afraid.
I've avoided making Game Diary posts this last week because A) I've been taking a "vacation" as it was my last week of unemployment and 2) I've just been playing Grand Theft Auto IV. That's not to say I haven't had any fun, I've been enjoying the crap out of it. The story, the game play, everything about this game is a love letter to the video game industry as a whole and if you haven't checked it out for whatever reason, at the very least rent it. You'll most likely enjoy the sandbox as much as I have. Niko, as a character, is one of the most compelling I've seen in a game, right up there with Gordon Freeman for me. He is a criminal, sure, but his motivation for his actions is something you can actually relate to. The dialog wanders from funny to poignant, surprising you in its serious tone.
I'm only about 50% through, as well. The game is just plain massive. I can see it's going to stay in my Xbox for quite some time. I haven't even taken the shrink wrap off of Mario Kart Wii...
What have you guys been playing? Anything interesting I've missed out on?
When I first heard about Midway's 8th incarnation of their Mortal Kombat series Mortal Kombat vs DC I was stoked. As my friends moaned and whined about how illogical it is for the Mortal Kombat cast to go up against the DC Universe I was busy imagining all the ways Batman was going to make Scorpion his blood-soaked, weeping, reptilian bitch.
My keen optimism lasted for about a day. A day which rapidly spiraled into the sad realization that in all likelihood this game would not be the game I was hoping for. Between Midway aiming for a T for Teen rating, DC being obsessively picky about what they'll allow to befall their characters, and the subsequent abandonment of the Fatalities as we've come to know and love them through the years it looked as though Mortal Kombat vs DC was going to be just about as lackluster as the Oracles at Gamephi proclaimed.
But according to Ed Boon, the brains behind Mortal Kombat, that's all a load of hogwash.
There was never any statement on our part that fatalities will be gone or that finishing moves will be gone. We did acknowledge that we won't be able to do the same kinds of outrageous moves, like tearing someone's head off and the spine being attached to it. But there are a lot of assumptions that there will be no blood in the game, that there are no fatalities in the game. It's an assumption that, because the DC characters will be in there, those features will have to be dropped. My response is that, no, we're modifying fatalities. But I have every intention to keep finishers.
That's great and all, but if you're the kind of Mortal Kombat player that I am, tearing someone's head off and triumphantly jiggling the attached spinal column as it drips blood on the viscera covered floor is the highlight of my day. Although to be fair I have been playing Mortal Kombat since 1992 and as we all know violent videogames turn you into a bloodthirsty maniac.
As far as creating a plausible storyline for how Sub-Zero is able to wail on Superman I'm still not concerned. Oh Ed claims there will be one, but let's take a moment to get a little perspective, shall we? Mortal Kombat is a game about magic ninjas using their magic ninja powers to magically ninja their way into the back of your skull by way of the front. Adding a cast of DC superheroes to that mix doesn't shatter my suspension of disbelief and to be perfectly honest, they could do away with storyline altogether so long as I'm able to rip Superman's still beating heart from his chest like I've always dreamed. Everything else is just dressing.
Nintendo's insistence on using an arcane series of numbers to connect to friends on the Wii hasn't stopped the majority of intrepid internet users, as yet another website is making it easier to link up to friends for some hot kart on kart action. WiiTransfer has a nifty tool that allows you to share your friend codes with other Twitter users, so if you have a bunch of friends who like to be kept up to date with every single mundane detail of your day, this service is for you.
Now if only Nintendo would bring voice chat into the game, it may actually be playable online.
You know those booths at comic book or anime conventions selling game soundtracks? Yeah, those are usually dirty pirated bootleg knockoffs. Same goes with soundtracks you buy on eBay or from *most* websites. Square Enix bootlegs are notorious, considering they have such a vast library of hard to find soundtracks. The official SE store has a sale going on right now, so you have absolutely no excuse not to purchase the official Chrono Trigger Soundtrack for $16.99. Also on sale are soundtracks for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and The World Ends With You. Sweet!
We all feel that sense of dread when we have to call customer service to try and troubleshoot a malfunctioning product. You have to wait while a computer routes you to a disinterested associate who may or may not solve your problem and may or may not be polite to you. Some dude named Jason has figure out how to get to escalate your problem quickly to someone who is a bit more skilled than your typical call center specialist.
Wondering how EA and Harmonix were going to make the Wii version of Rock Band successful without all of the amazing downloadable songs? Today comes the announcement of Rock Band Track Pack volume 1, which brings a nice selection of 20 songs previously available for download on the PS3 and 360 versions to the PS2 and the Wii. Set to be released on July 15th, here's the track list.
30 Seconds to Mars The Kill
All American Rejects Move Along
Blink – 182 All the Small Things
Boston More Than a Feeling
David Bowie Moonage Daydream
Faith No More We Care A Lot
Grateful Dead Truckin’
The Hives Die, All Right!
KISS Calling Dr. Love
Lynyrd Skynyrd Gimme’ Three Steps
Nine Inch Nails March of the Pigs
Oasis Live Forever
The Police Synchronicity II
Queens of the Stone Age Little Sister
Ramones Teenage Lobotomy
Smashing Pumpkins Siva
Stone Temple Pilots Interstate Love Song
Weezer Buddy Holly
Wolfmother Joker & the Thief
**All 20 tracks utilize original master recordings**
What I'm curious about is whether you have to switch your disks out when you want to play these specific tracks, or if just inserting the disk into the system somehow unlocks them on the original disk? Hm. While this is a great thing for Wii and PS2 Rock Band owners (personally the DLC is the best part of the game for me) I'm really curious as to how it will be implemented.
Up for sale on Etsy as of today, a painting I did in college called "The Death of Peach".
Mario is grief-stricken in this nightmare scenario where Princess Peach is impaled callously by a giant pirahna plant. Toad watches in horror as Mario prepares to hurl a Bob-Omb and avenge his love. Oil on canvas 38"x36"
posted by Chris on April 30, 2008 8:03 AM in Games
Like most socially under-developed geeks, my mood is directly affected by the weather outside. While I don't like to go outside (I hear there are bears?) when the sun shines brightly through my apartment windows it lifts my spirits immensely and gets me motivated. Besides other activities such as painting and website stuff, I've been playing...
Call of Duty 4 - Still slowly progressing through the single player campaign and still being blown away by the production value. I've avoided online multiplayer like the plague, but a friend of mine suggested just shutting off voice chat, which seems to work like a charm!
Rez - Nothing like sitting down early in the morning to play through Rez in beyond mode. I like the fact that they give me a bunch of bonus modes and options to tweak things like my starting form and beam type. I've been messing with the sound and visual filters too, just for a little variety
Grand Theft Auto IV - Like everyone else in the world. It came early Tuesday morning and I played it into the night. I'm essentially a GTA virgin, though I did play a ton of the old top-down GTA 2 back in the day. I'm really enjoying GTAIV, way more than any of the previous titles. It has its flaws - visuals are often hit and miss, voice acting is dubious in parts (why does everyone sound like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog?) and your character controls like some sort of tank. Other than that, the story is fed to you in even enough intervals where you don't get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you can do in the game, and the cell phone menu system is clever and very well integrated. I'm noticing little moments where Niko rests one foot on the curb while the other is on the street while chatting on the phone, or small details about the city that make it feel alive such as pedestrians getting phone calls themselves and having full conversations. I imagine I'll be discussing it more as I progress.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try and make my in-game girlfriend not hate me anymore.
Thought you guys might enjoy watching a video of me hit by a sudden burst of inspiration today. I've been thinking of something to fill up this canvas I painted over a month ago. The subject? Only one of the creepiest villains in game history: a Combine Hunter from Half Life 2: Episode 2. I wanted to keep it simple and exercise my brushwork skills while capturing the strangely vicious kinetic energy of the things.
It's been a strange week, filled with job interviews and exhaustion, leaving me little time to play as much as I wanted. Though it has allowed me to think a bit about my play habits. As of late, I've been a sort of ADD gamer, bouncing from one title to the next. After all the progress I made in Rock Band I've had a craving to explore a lot of other games that I haven't given much time to. I've also secretly been anticipating GTAIV. Don't tell anyone! What I did play this week was awesome, however.
Lost Cities - If you haven't at the very least downloaded the demo of this awesome XBLA game, you owe it to yourself to try. It's perfect for picking up and playing a quick game (each game takes maybe 20 minutes total to complete) but you'll soon find yourself saying "just one more game and then I'll take the dog for a walk". When your dog starts peeing on your rug in front of you out of spite is when you know you're a bit addicted.
Devil May Cry 4 - Ridiculous, overwhelmingly Japanese, violent and wonderful. I don't care what anyone else says, I like the over the top action cut scenes, even if the characters do crazy tricks that I have no hope of ever attempting in-game. There's a certain visceral satisfaction from being able to juggle an enemy in the air, constantly grappling them back up to you and slamming them down again.
Call of Duty 4 - I've avoided this game for no other reason than I dislike the stigma attached to people who play only online shooters. I don't like online first person shooter deathmatches because I am horrible at them. Also I have tender, virgin eardrums that catch on fire whenever a cuss passes through them. The single player campaign in CoD4, however, is stunning. It has an exciting pace and does well to make you feel like you are actually there. The story is a bit generic, but it's so well presented I am willing to forgive it.
This weekend I'll probably be delving further into CoD4, what are you playing this weekend?
I'm admittedly a huge fan of ultra-nerdy board and card games. We try to have a board game night at least once a month which really ends up just being an excuse to get together, drink a bunch and throw salted cashews at each other when things aren't going our way. This group play seems an awkward fit for the Xbox Live Arcade (mainly due to the lack of cashews, salted or otherwise), but in this reviewer's opinion the majority of XBLA games in this genre are gems. Uno, Catan and Carcassonne are some of the best games available, period, for the XBLA, while games like Word Puzzle and Sotrilo Solitaire flop. This week we see the newest in the board/card game genre, Lost Cities.
At first glance this game is super complicated, but like with any good game in this genre you spend the first couple rounds incredibly confused until all the pieces fall into place and it clicks. This process, at least for me, is pretty darn satisfying. It took only two rounds of demo play before I purchased Lost Cities, and I've spent all afternoon with it since. It is a fairly unique yet instantly familiar game, straight from the first menu which displays random semi-literary looking characters. I like the grey-haired bespectacled professor the best, who incredulously lifts his eyebrows and grimaces as you scroll through the different options. I heard him in my mind saying things like "huzzah! achievements!" or "what what leaderboards pish posh!"
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