Archive for June, 2012

Your Daily McMaster: killing Kermond

, | Features

In light of the announcements that Kelly Wand, Desslock, and Erik Wolpaw will join Tom vs Bruces if the Kickstarter campaign reaches its stretch goal, I’m going to offer advice to those playing against Tom Chick in a strategy game. I spent most of E3 deathly ill at Tom’s house. In the rare hours I wasn’t sleeping or wishing for sweet death, Tom and I played games. This included Age of Empires III and Sins of a Solar Empire. I waged war against Commandant Chick for ownership of the age of discovery, the age of colonization, the industrial age, and even entire galaxies.

After the jump, wisdom. I has it. Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: my enemy, myself

, | Features

An online friend sent me a message after E3 asking how excited I was about the upcoming LBP karting game. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he made me miss LBP. I took a break to highlight Trials Evolution community tracks in this space for a couple of weeks, and while I love the game, it is somewhat limited in creative scope when held up against LittleBigPlanet. Motorcycles are cool, but are they really as cool as a helmet that shoots cupcakes? I’m a pie man, and even I’d have to say no to that.

Sadly, firing up LBP after a few weeks is going to mean updating. Not a problem with my Xbox, even when it has been similarly dormant. Somehow that works through the process without a hitch. But my PS3 updating LBP? That’s always going to take at least two days of various rebootings and the entire home network falling to pieces. So…

This week’s Trials Evolution track is Heavy Machinery 1.1. It was designed by Fruity Gudness. Yes, the Escher part took me about fifty tries to get past, but I love the shifty loopiness of this track. It brought to mind the orange Matchbox Car tracks of my youth. More importantly…

After the jump, fear of a chrome planet Continue reading →

In a cave without light, in A Valley Without Wind

, | Games

If you were to ask someone playing A Valley Without Wind what he’s doing at any given time, and more importantly why he’s doing it, you’re likely to get a multilayered answer, a set of goals like a Russian nesting doll. For instance, here in the world I’m playing now, why am I pushing blindly down through the levels of an undersea cavern, wading through dark acid water, dropping balls of light as I go?

After the jump, let me explain Continue reading →

Qt3 Games Podcast: the most dangerous arcade in Singapore

, | Games podcasts

This week we welcome Marvel vs Capcom 3 game diarist Charles Wheeler to the podcast to tell us about the most dangerous arcade in Singapore, followed by a tentative, brief, and polite discussion about whether there’s any place in videogames for rape. We do not once use the phrase “white knight” and no chairs are thrown, so it’s a pretty poor excuse for how to get the most out of a controversial topic. Which leaves us to talk about Quantum Conundrum, Unity of Command, Valley Without Wind, Saints Row 3 DLC, and Age of Empires III. Yes, Age of Empires III. The Qt3 Games Podcast is nothing if not untopical.

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Marvel vs Capcom 3: the ultimate

, | Game diaries

When I started writing this game diary, I was playing Marvel vs Capcom 3. But now, I’m playing Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. It’s better because it’s, well, ultimate-er. There’s a handful of new characters, a few tweaks to various characters’ moves lists, and even a fancy new game mode courtesy of the free Heroes and Heralds DLC. For these modest improvements, I got to pay Capcom an additional $40. These days, you hear a lot about game companies with consumer unfriendly practices, like online passes or launch day DLC. But I really don’t mind giving Capcom a little extra money for another disc. $40 for 12 new characters isn’t really that bad a rate, and for my trouble, I also get the assurance that there’s no userbase fragmentation: all Ultimate MvC3 players are going to have all the characters on the roster. No, it isn’t the money I mind.

After the jump: the unforgivable sin Continue reading →

In Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, Magic is more broken than ever

, | Game reviews

I don’t like Magic the Gathering. It’s a relic of a bygone century. Draw hands, hope you get enough lands but not too many lands, then lay out cards to do that awkward attack/block dance with the other guy’s cards. Much of the game is played between games, mostly at the counter of whatever store sells you your booster packs.

I mostly don’t like Magic because it’s success arguably killed better collectible card games. What fan of Jyhad, Legend of the Five Rings, and Decipher’s superlative Star Wars CCG wouldn’t be bitter to be playing Magic on Xbox Live, or Steam, or his iPad? Furthermore, who still bothers with Magic when games have folded into the actual game all that stuff about buying cards and tuning decks? Why would you play Magic in a post-Dominions world that has Ascension in it?

So after the jump, why would you ever read a review by me about the latest Magic videogame? Continue reading →

Valley Without Wind update stars Jatana Buffaloe

, | Games

In his exhaustive, frank, and informative write-up of the long journey between versions 1.0 and 1.1 of A Valley Without Wind, designer Chris Park begrudgingly concedes that maybe players will want to name their own characters. So that’s one of the many new features in version 1.1. But Park seems pretty proud of his random name generator. As he notes, it came up with the name “Judge Glass”.

I was all, like, yeah, whatever, Mr. Developer Man. I know game designers are proud of the effort they put into their fancypants randomness generators. I’m sure Valley Without Wind knows what it’s doing when it comes to terrain, because it makes really cool places for me to explore given the infinite breadth and depth of its world. But I think I’ll just stick to my own character names, thankyouverymuch.

At which point the following character name came up randomly:

Yeah, okay, you got me. Not only is that one going to stick, it’s probably going to make it’s way into other games. Well played, Valley Without Wind.

As for the 1.1 update, boy, it’s a doozy. If you played AI War, Chris Park’s last game, you know how drastically it was overhauled based on post-release feedback. That overhaul just happened in Valley Without Wind and I couldn’t be more delighted with how different it is. It went from being a game I respected more than I liked to a game I really like. No caveat needed.

Avengers pinball combats Loki, lovesick demigods, prostate cancer

, | Game reviews

Of the four tables in Avenger’s Chronicles, three are exposition heavy tangents into Avengers comic books I didn’t read. The World War Hulk table, for instance, has far too much Hulk reminiscing and not nearly enough Hulk smashing. For a table about an indestructible superhero destroying an entire city, it’s mostly concerned with spelling words as Hulk tells us about his sports buddies back on planet Sackarr.

After the jump, action figures you already have Continue reading →

Tom vs Bruce reboot is officially official

, | Games

Thanks to the largess of folks on Kickstarter, Tom vs Bruce will be starting up again in about two weeks. Unfortunately, we won’t be doing Diablo III despite my best efforts. I was hoping we could set up a hardcore game to see who could live longest, and I had every intention of luring Bruce into a deathtrap. I doubt he would have even made it to the Skeleton King.

But we’ve still got a few surprises in store. If we can reach a stretch goal, we’ll be collaborating with three very special guests. We’ll be announcing them over the next three days, as well as dropping hints about our first Tom vs Bruce. So keep an eye on the updates at our Kickstarter page and help us spread the word!

Marvel vs Capcom 3: easier since you can jump now

, | Game diaries

A super jump in Marvel vs Capcom 3 is accomplished by tapping the joystick down before jumping normally. Done properly, it launches you flying into the air, scrolling the screen upwards to follow you. The rules change a little in the air. All your normal attacks have different animations. Some special moves will still work, most won’t, and some new ones become available. And of course, you’re always falling. In many fighting games, it isn’t possible to block while jumping, leaving you particularly vulnerable. In Marvel vs Capcom 3, air-blocking is allowed. Combined with the super-jump, it’s possible to spend a lot more time in the air, a fitting place for the Marvel super heroes. Air blocking is actually one of the signature features of the Versus series. And it all starts with a super jump. But I couldn’t do it.

After the jump, I’m a bad carpenter Continue reading →

Age of Empires Online is ready for its close up

, | Games

If you’ve been holding off for Age of Empires Online to finally gel, now’s as good a time as any to try it. The latest update, dubbed the Summer Update, just went live, completely revising the game’s long-term economy and tech tree, and introducing its new endgame stuff. This is the last step in a dramatic overhaul the game has gotten over the last few months.

After the jump, some hands-on time with the particulars Continue reading →

Gods & Kings adds gods and spies instead of fixing Civilization V

, | Game reviews

This isn’t really the place to revisit my unhappiness with Civilization V, but I’m sorry to discover the game hasn’t gotten better a year and a half after I reviewed it. Instead of addressing the problems with the game’s AI, interface, and design, Firaxis has been nickel and diming you with DLC maps and civilizations. Now that they’re selling a full add-on, what better time to give it the overhaul it needs?

But no such thing happens in Gods & Kings. This is the same disappointing strategy game it was a year and a half ago, except that it now has two finicky and mostly unimpressive systems shoehorned in.

After the jump, gods & spies doesn’t sound quite as snappy Continue reading →

June 18: wallet threat level yellow

, | Games

Quantum Conundrum is from Kim Swift, one of the designers of Narbacular Drop, the puzzle game that inspired Portal and eventually led to Portal when Valve hired her. She has since left Valve. Quantum Conundrum is her first post-Valve game. As someone who didn’t play Portal for the puzzles — the genius of Portal is in the writing wrapped around a serviceable puzzle game — I’ll be curious to see what happens when you take a Portal designer out of Valve. Wallet threat level yellow.

Civilization V: Gods & Kings is the expansion for Civilization V. I’ve been playing it. Wallet threat level green.

A new version of Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers is out this week, giving folks a digital look at cards that won’t be out for reals until later this summer. Given how good the Magic videogames have been, and given how they’ve added gimmicky but effective new ways to play, this escalates the wallet threat level to yellow.

Pokemon Conquest for the Nintendo DS is a Pokemon strategy game from Koei. Let me write that again: a Pokemon strategy game from Koei. I’ve been playing it a bit, and it’s exactly what you’d expect. It reminds me a bit of the Devil Survivor games on the DS, but with squealing chirping Pokemons instead of devils, and with kidding Japanese warlords instead of Japanese school kids. Wallet threat level uhhh.

I heartily recommend half of the table in the Avengers Chronicles pinball tables from Zen Studios. Tune in tomorrow morning for specifics. And good luck trying to beat my high score on the Avengers table. I had one of those “OMG I Will Never Get This Lucky Again” balls in which the Avengers and I rocked that helicarrier. Suck it, Loki! Wallet threat level yellow.

Steel Battalion 2, also known as Steel Battalion Kinect, also also known as Steel Battalion No Thanks, is out this week. Wallet threat level green.

I haven’t played a Lego game since dinking around with one of the Harry Potters, but Traveller’s Tales sure knows how to get the most out of the formula. You might think Lego Batman 2 is just Arkham City for kids, but it looks like more of an open-world playground for DC Comics’ cast of superheroes. Wallet threat level yellow.