Archive for March, 2011

Rest in peace, Scott McKinnon, aka Mink Staccato

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When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.

-The Zero Effect

I’ve dreaded this day for a long time. Quarter to Three has been a small close community for over a decade. We know each other about as well as any group of online people can know each other. Which is to say we know each other pretty well. When one of us dies, it will really matter. We will feel the absence. We will grieve.

That day is here. Scott McKinnon, who has been posting as Mink Staccato for a few years now, took his own life on Sunday.

In addition to knowing Scott from the forum, I got to spend a few hours with him online when we recorded a podcast last November. It was one of the most enjoyable podcasts I’ve ever done. Scott and I clicked. He was the kind of guy who made me wish we lived in the same city. He was kind, friendly, thoughtful, funny, observant, smart, and just the right amount of cynical and world weary. He had gravity and substance. He was passionate about pinball, which is a pretty cool thing to be passionate about. He also seemed restless, like he wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere better, and he was determined to commit the time, effort, and introspection to get there. But for whatever reason, he chose another path on Sunday.

Scott was a photographer (above is a self portrait from a series of pictures he took of himself sitting in his various classrooms at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he was working on a degree in art). You can see some of my favorite of his pictures after the jump. You can see more on his blog here. And you can get to know him a little better in this podcast, which we recorded last November.

Scott, you are missed.

Continue reading →

Insomniac falls back to Main Street

, | Features

We’re queued up along the sidewalk outside the Egyptian Theatre, in the heart of Hollywood. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, you might think that’s a pretty cool place to be. Like Beverly Hills or whatever it means when people say “The Valley”. But if you live in Los Angeles, you know how trashy it is around all these famous stars’ stars on the sidewalk. The people here are teenagers in knit caps or hoodies, carrying skateboards, or homeless people, or hapless tourists, some of them dragging children along. A billboard for a reality TV show called Shedding for the Wedding looms over us. Various fat couples will compete to lose weight before their weddings. We’re all in line for Insomniac’s annual community day, which is like BlizzCon, but for people who like Ratchet and Clank and Resistance.

After the jump, we’re here, we’re normal, get used to it Continue reading →

Sims Medieval: unmarried with kids

, | Game diaries

Varric’s on a quest for a legendary fountain that will cure him of his fondness for the ale. When last we left him he was at the palace learning about a mysterious book that might lead him to his goal. There’s also the matter of an imprisoned peasant who won’t talk about what she’s seen until our hero somehow releases her.

After The Jump: A new, adorable, threat emerges! Continue reading →

Pokemon White: my six, my happy six

, | Game diaries

I test the challenge rock with my fist every day.

A quote by Battle Girl Lee. Her Timburr is no more.

I’m not one of these guys who talks smack. When I’m on the court, I just let my playing do my talking. As a coach I generally do the same thing. Yes, it is true that the bulk of my coaching experience involves kids around six playing soccer three-on-a-side, so trash-talk shouldn’t be an option no matter who the coach is. I’m just saying, in general, I’m not much for it. This won’t change here, either.

After the jump, the return of Team Tepig Continue reading →

Daily Little Big Planet 2: red sky at night two

, | Games

I almost gave up on this level, The Red Sky Evening. It was close. It’s a beautiful level, with some cool features, but I got to one section that I just couldn’t figure out. Thankfully the designer hadn’t put in a life limit so I could keep trying. Unfortunately said designer chose a music shift just before this juncture to some kind of shoo-bee-doo crap that was nails-on-a-blackboard to me. This did not help my frustration.

I left it last night and came back to give it another whack today. What a difference a day makes. Still took me way longer than it should have, but it was just so satisfying to slip past that wall of frustration. No matter how long it took me. Or how annoying the music.

One final note. The picture for this level is hard to make out. If you look carefully you can see my sackboy half in view, and half in negative view as the designer has a couple of moments where you have to duck into this cool negative land. Like a mountain x-ray. I love little touches like this. Especially when the designer has the good sense not to overdo it and make the level about the effect.

Sims Medieval: hitting a lady

, | Game diaries

Varric Tethras goes home, sleeps, eats, and easily gets through his dailies including praising the tastes of two customers and paying his taxes. Now our hapless merchant is flat broke. So much for bargain hunting in the village. Perhaps we’ll try playing fishmonger once the quest is back on track. For now there’s a missing peasant to find who might have some answers about the mysterious fountain that’s been haunting our hero.

After the jump, you won’t believe what Hawke is doing in the palace Continue reading →

Weekly iCross: so have you heard about this #sworcery thing?

, | Features

Have you heard about this Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP thing? It rocketed up the paid iPad apps chart upon release last week (behind, of course, the latest Angry Birds version and GarageBand), and it’s likely to do the same when it releases for iPhone next month. If it didn’t catch your eye there, you most likely saw a virtual bombardment of twitter spam with the hashtag #sworcery…strange, silly messages that don’t make a lot of sense. S:S&S is like that. It’s weird, brief for a $5 game, and it encourages you to spam your twitter followers with the most adorable nonsense. They’ll hate you for it, but you’ll love the game.

After the jump, mix one part Zelda, one part Loom, and one part Miyazaki. Then post on Twitter. Continue reading →

Pokemon White: what dreams may come

, | Game diaries

I’m not sure I should admit this, in fact I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t, but I’m going to anyway. The last couple of nights my dreams have been dominated by Pokemon White.

Last night was the worst. Generally the dreams have just been rather hazy and generic replays of various fights. Actually, that’s not even accurate. It’s not like they are actual replays, but rather just the feeling that I’m playing the game constantly. That I’m being challenged, mainly by wild Pokemons, and having to throw out moves over and over again all night long. I blame grinding for this. Grinding is for the birds, and dreaming about it, even in the abstract, does not make for a restful night’s sleep I find. Last night, however, it got specific.

After the jump, infested and infected Continue reading →

Tactics Ogre: quest for lich

, | Game diaries

It’s time to convert my wizard into a rare and powerful spell caster known as a lich. I did some research on how to pull this off, having encountered one in the game, as well as reading about them on various forums. It takes commitment, but I know I can pull it off.

The first step is to acquire a rare item known as the Ring of the Dead which can only be found in the 115-level dungeon called — fittingly enough — the Palace of the Dead. Specifically, there are some floors on which it will show up randomly. Such as floor 33. This is the first floor where you can find the Ring of the Dead, which means I’ll be battling through 33 levels to get to it.

After the jump, wait, what? 33 battles just to get a ring? Continue reading →

Daily Little Big Planet 2: barely just right

, | Games

Today was a day full of weird contrasts. Mediocre levels that bored me to tears mixed with cool levels that were just too hard for me to complete. I think I’ll mix some of the latter in later so you folks can take a whack at them and brag about how much better you are at this than I am. For today I’ll submit a level that was just frustrating enough, Wicked Woodworks. I’m not going to say I didn’t yell at this level a couple of times. I love the way it sounds. I like the weird desk dynamic I get. But I have to admit…harsh language happened.

Beckett estate is not amused at Beckett videogame

, | Games

My previous favorite “games are too art!” videogame was Waiting for Godot: the Video Game, based on the play by Samuel Beckett (pictured). However, it turns out Beckett’s estate consists of humorless killjoys. Mike Rosenthal, who made the videogame, reveals in an interview that he was legally bullied into changing the name:

To quote one of the several cease and desist letters I received from the French lawyers representing the Beckett estate, “Unfortunately we do not share your sense of humor.” They asked me to change the name “Waiting for Godot,” because they held the rights to it. Under American law, my game is considered parody and is protected under fair use, but I complied since I’m just a college kid who can’t really afford a lawyer. So I changed the name to “Samuel Becketttt’s Lawyers Present: Waiting for Grodoudou.” I even explicitly stated on my website that my game is now referring to the Australian Samuel Becketttt, not to be confused with the Irish Samuel Beckett. They didn’t appreciate that. So now it’s just called “Game.”

By the way, it’s worth reading the interview, which has a remarkable mystery and resolution in the first paragraph. Go here.

As for “Game”, you can play it here, or watch the YouTube video of its original incarnation here.

(Thanks to Dingus and The Daily Dish!)

Sims Medieval: leading a dwarf to drink

, | Game diaries

Varric’s hung up his crossbow, Bianca, and grudgingly taken up honest trade as a merchant in Sims Medieval. Perhaps there would be profit eventually but for now drinking is his primary pursuit and fatal flaw. Lo, a quest has appeared that promises redemption! There are rumors of a legendary fountain which can cure the imbiber of all ills. Imbibing is what Varric does best.

After the break: A drunken dwarf? Now, that’s something you never see. Continue reading →

War in the East: Baba Yaga’s hut

, | Game diaries

The German crossing of the Dnepr River and the subsequent battle for Smolensk has been the subject of relatively few wargames. Probably the best-known among people who know about that kind of stuff is PanzerGruppe Guderian, published by Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI) in 1976 and republished by Avalon Hill in 1984. It had some interesting innovations in game mechanics: untried units on the Soviet side were flipped over to reveal their strength only at the time of their first combat, which could be a surprise to both players and made exact odds calculation impossible. The slashing armored tactics on the German side were modeled by very generous overrun rules, which allowed attacks during the movement phase at very low odds differentials, unlike any other game to that date. No rules were included for bare-chested fighting.

On the computer, SSG released Across the Dnepr in 2003 as an add-on to its excellent Korsun Pocket. It had terrible balance issues, and I haven’t tried the second edition, released in 2010 as an add-on to Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets. I’m curious to see how the new version works, so that’s now on the list. The first Panzer Campaigns game from HPS and John Tiller was released in 1999 and entitled Smolensk ’41, and happens to have been the best one of the series. Draw your own conclusions.

I’m about to find out how the War in the East version stacks up, because at the beginning of Turn 5 I’m at the Dnepr, and don’t plan on stopping.

After the jump, Guderian’s not all that Continue reading →