Games

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reaper of souls ps4

Sony’s 2013 E3 press conference was the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Playstation 4. It was also the exact moment I knew I’d be buying a Vita for the second time.

I had abandoned my first Vita the previous year due to a lack of compelling games. But the PS4 itself promised good indie support and none of Microsoft’s then draconian policies. I also preferred Sony’s exclusives over Microsoft’s first party stable. But what really pushed me over the edge and back into the waiting arms of the Vita was remote play.

After the jump, is that a devil in your pocket? Continue reading →

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Adweek, a venerable publication that covers the world of advertising, has put together a cute video of some of Kevin Spacey’s appearances in commercials. The Academy Award winner — I’m just assuming since I can rarely remember who actually has and hasn’t won an Academy Award — has shilled for American Airlines, E*Trade, and some bank I’ve never heard of and can’t even spell.

But among the clips from commercials, Adweek includes cutscenes from the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. How are these ads? Granted, they’re used in ads. But they’re not ads. They are scenes from a work of entertainment in which Spacey performs. They’re no more ads than the scenes used in commercials for House of Cards, American Beauty, or Horrible Bosses, none of which appear in Adweek’s cute video.

It’s really disheartening to see the videogame industry growing up and going so frequently unacknowledged. For instance, it really bothers me that publications so often put videogames in the technology category, alongside stories about mobile phones, Facebook’s latest shenanigans, and the ongoing uninterest in Google Glass. That’s not where videogames belong. They belong squarely in the entertainment section of any publication that cares enough to inform its readers about the current state of entertainment.

But at least most publications don’t mistake videogames for commercials. You’d think Adweek of all folks wouldn’t be the ones to get that so wrong.

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wasted

I gave your studio $20 to Kickstart this game and now you’re telling us that you’re making another game at the same time? And you need to Kickstart that one too? You suck! Stop working on other projects! You have an obligation to finish the game you started! Oh, and why are you selling the alpha on Steam early access? Those people shouldn’t get the same deal the Kickstarter pledges did! I’ll never trust Kickstarter, early access, or your company again! Please send me some free swag.

After the jump, what happens when regular Joes see how game companies actually work? Continue reading →

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FarmingSimulator15_logging

Everything you’re about to read is written entirely in earnest. I am 100% sincere and unironic when I say I’m superpsyched for Farming Simulator 15. I haven’t played any of the previous 14 farming simulators. But as a longtime Harvest Moon fan (with the stuffed cow to prove it!) who fondly recalls SimFarm and who has since spent his share of wasted time picking crops in various free-to-play farming boondoggles on Facebook and whatnot, I can appreciate the appeal of laid back agrarian gameplay.

I’ve been indulging this most recently with the curiously sedate but curiously engaging laid back country road gameplay of Euro Truck Simulator 2. Here’s me, hauling 20 tons of sand to Lodz, listening to Led Zeppelin IV on the ingame radio, using my turn signal when I switch lanes just because. I don’t get any points for using the turn signal, but I do it anyway because this is that kind of game. “I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon,” I murmur, “waiting for the eastern glow…” I’m already mentally preparing a playlist for Farming Simulator 15.

Farming Simulator 15 has a bunch of new features, but none of that means anything to me, since even the old features will be new to me. To wit:

…face the daily challenges of a modern farmer as you grow crops, sell produce, rear livestock and manage and develop your own farming complex in two immense open worlds.

But the really prominent bullet point is that Farming Simulator 15 adds logging!

You can now manage forested areas in the game environment using a range of new vehicles and machines designed specifically for this activity: harvesters, chain saws, chippers and even trailers.

Farming Simulator 15 is out in October on the PC. This-gen and next-gen consoles get their turn sometime in 2015.

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Mario_workings_fast_food

You’re playing too much Mario Kart 8 when you look at the above photo of a Mario Kart 8 event at a Los Angeles McDonalds to promote Nintendo-themed Happy Meals and the second thing you think is “you know, those kids might be getting extra top speed by equipping the slick tires, but they’re really sacrificing traction and acceleration, so they should consider swapping them out for sponge wheels, or maybe rollers, depending on the track”.

Of course, the first thing you think is, “man, Mario is really creepy as a life-sized fast food worker”.

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GW2_season_1

In preparation for the next story arc in Guild Wars 2, developer ArenaNet has posted a video recap of stuff that happened last season. I didn’t see any of that! Flamethrower robots? A tree monster? A fleet of zeppelins shooting missiles? A hundred foot tall puppet? I just logged in one day and found the city was gone. I am the Encino Man of Guild Wars 2.

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Obama_controller_gesture

During an address in Poland, President Barack Obama mentioned The Witcher as an example of Poland’s cultural and economic contribution to the rest of the world. I’m okay with that. I mean, Kieslowski’s Red, White, and Blue are great and all, but they don’t have much swordplay.

What I’m not okay with is President’s obvious bias against PCs, which are the primary platform for the Witcher games. When he mentioned The Witcher, he made the above gesture, as if he was steering Geralt around with a controller’s thumbsticks. Pfft. And to think I voted for the guy.

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Watch_Dogs_watching

Someone who worked on Thief once said that stealth games make you feel like you’re getting away with something. That’s what I kept thinking while I watched SuicideMario shopping. I think that’s what she was doing. She sat there in her car for a bit. She got it. She went into a store. She came back out. She kept looking at her phone. I mostly sat in my car observing from a safe distance. I drove along slowly, following her. I even turned off the radio in the car just like you turn off the radio when you’re looking for an address. She might not have even known she was being followed. I was that sneaky. I was getting away with something.

After the jump, private eyes, watching you Continue reading →

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Velocity_2X

Speed runs in platformers are uniquely gratifying and uniquely frustrating. They’re also a real joy to watch after you’ve been fumbling with a game. Almost inspiring. ‘So that’s what it’ll be like if I get better,’ you think to yourself. And if you do get better — even just a little — you know there’s a sense of satisfaction as you glide by the bits that previously bedeviled you. You know to flick the stick left at this point and jump just so much at that point and then shoot in this direction to anticipate that barrier and then just hold the stick all the way to the right to get around that obstacle. Muscle memory, sure, but it’s something like flying, like dancing, like choreography, you and the level designer creating a thing of grace with a sense of rhythm. THIS, then that, then THIS, then that, then THIS. My most recent experience with this has been the superlative Rayman Legends. My earliest experience with this was probably a Sonic game. Speed, finesse, precision, and the ensuing exhilaration, punctuated by lots of “oh, fuck me!” when you mis-time a jump.

Velocity 2X, a platformer for the Vita and Playstation 4 due out later this year, wants you to get better. I spent some time getting slightly accustomed to its unique teleportation gimmicks, which include dashing through obstacles, throwing beacons, and dropping points around the map. You can tap anywhere on the screen to instantly teleport to that point, or you can flick the controller to move a reticle and jump to it with a button press. James Marsden*, whose muscle memory was already conditioned because he’s the guy who made the game, explained that if you roll your finger from one button to the other, the timing is easier to finesse. Ah, so it is. The tapping is a hard habit to break, but the flicking is so much faster. There are also puzzle elements that use the beacons. Marsden called up a map and showed me the points where I’d inadvertently dropped beacons as I hammered away at various buttons trying to figure out what to do. I could teleport back to any one of those points. Never before has my fumbling afforded me so many options! These beacons are mandatory in some timed puzzles where you have to hit a sequence of points on the screen before, say, a door closes. There are also points around the level that you can only trigger in a certain order, so you might have to backtrack.

Velocity 2X is the sequel to a shoot-em-up, but this sequel splits the game evenly between ship-based shoot-em-up and on-foot platforming, instantly switching between them when you fly or run into a transition point. There are collectibles that you can ignore if you don’t care about that part of your score. There are weapon power-ups you can ignore if you don’t care about the shooting. But you’ll want to pay attention to both to do the really dazzling stuff. For instance, Marsden jumped ahead to the 46th of Velocity 2X’s 50 levels and he showed me how quickly you can get through a level once you learn the dance (fast forward to the 19-minute mark of this Polygon interview from GDC to see it in action). So that’s what it’ll be like if I get better. As you might guess from the name, Velocity 2X is a platformer/shoot-em-up hybrid ultimately built for speed.

* I know enough about how often people hear comments about their names not to say anything.
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Helldivers

At first glance, Helldivers seems to have a certain simplicity to it. Four guys running around shooting aliens, doing dynamic missions on procedurally generated maps. Space Diablo, but instead of classes, you get unlockable weapons, perks, and special powers. It even looks a bit spartan, perhaps because it’s designed to support cross-platform play among Playstation 4s, Playstation 3s, and Vitas, all online as part of an ongoing metagame in which everyone’s progress is applied to hold back invading aliens.

But if you look a little closer, if you actually take up the controller and play, you’ll see a couple of things that earn Helldivers the first part of its name.

After the jump, a few reasons you might not be ready for Helldivers. Continue reading →

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early_access_loser

Early access is a double-edged sword for developers and customers. Many people think early access games are a relatively new phenomenon but anyone that purchased any of the Battlecruiser titles can tell you that it’s not. Developers have been selling games in development for years. The idea has always been that the work-in-progress would eventually be completed, but that the developer needed the players’ support (and feedback) to continue. Sometimes this worked out and sometimes it didn’t. Crowd-funding and Steam have made early access more prevalent – which is great for developers that need the funding – but it’s also made failure more public.

After the break, let’s check in on a few early access games! Continue reading →

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Infested_Planet_horde_mode

Infested Planet, a really cool real time strategy game that isn’t quite like other real time strategy games, got an update over the weekend that adds a couple of things. The first is a command for your units to stop moving. If you’ve played Starcraft II, or even just watched people play Starcraft II, you might appreciate the value of tapping a button to tell your dudes to immediately stop moving and commence firing. It’s sort of a power-player tactic. And now you can do that in Infested Planet.

The other new feature is a horde mode. It had never occurred to me that Infested Planet should have a horde mode, partly because the game itself is a kind of horde mode. But now there’s a new scenario among the weekly challenges officially called “horde mode”. Whereas Infested Planet is normally about capturing territory, this mode is about defending territory. You get points for holding bases around the map, which gets increasingly difficult and eventually impossible as new waves of aliens spawn with new mutations that make them harder to defeat. You will eventually be driven back to a single base, which will eventually be overrun, at which point your score goes on the weekly list. Can you beat the 20,500 points I made with grenades and turrets? I think I’m going to try investing heavily in flamethrowers next time.

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Good_Will_Hunting

It’s no secret that the games industry hates licensed titles. Most of them turn out OK at best and mind-numbingly awful at worst. Every now and then a game comes along that represents it’s source material well. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Spider-Man 2 come to mind. This is not about those games. The games in this article were so bad they never saw the light of day and all the information surrounding their production and release was covered up…until now. I recently stumbled across a hidden archive file full of screen shots from these ill-fated games.

After the jump, I bring them to you Continue reading →

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