Monthly Archives: August 2013

#267 The Mystery of Scribblenauts

Good news everyone, a few days ago I received my confirmation email that I was accepted into the Hearthstone beta. I would like to believe it is thanks to the charm I have when I met Blizzard at this year’s PAX East, or it could be my ability to write about videogames to a ridiculous degree that got me the invite, or maybe it was my profound ability to opt-in to the Hearthstone beta test pool. Wither way expect  a first impression from me next week about the beta.

For today’s post I want to talk about a game I played while the Heathstone game was downloading and setting up, Scribblenauts.

I picked up this  game from the Steam summer sale and I only picked it up to get prepared for Scribblenauts Unmasked, the game that claim will have every major and obscure DC comics character from the DC comics history.

Listen game designers when I type in "Green Lantern" I want this game to ask which one? Alan, Hal, Guy, John, Kyle, or Simon.

Listen game designers when I type in “Green Lantern” I want this game to ask which one? Alan, Hal, Guy, John, Kyle, or Simon.

I downloaded and installed the game after a bit of playing I soon came to the realization that Scribblenauts is like a point a click game without the adventure. You choose which themed zone of the map you want to go to and in a small area populated with NPCs that have a simple problem and  it is up to you to help them and make them happy. In proper point and click adventure games where you have to explore the area for that solution in this game you open up your magic journal and summon the item you need. 

a bunch of monsters in a haunted house wants to throw a party, spawn a DJ

a bunch of monsters in a haunted house wants to throw a party, spawn a DJ

There is almost no challenge in the game you just need to read what the problem is then find the best fit solution. After I came to that conclusion I then asked myself, why can’t I stop playing? Currently I am on track to 100% completion with no desire to stop playing the game.

I think major draw is because Scribblenauts has boiled the idea of success and rewards into its purest form, you see someone standing in front of a field of corn that drops clues of wanting popcorn so summon a sun and BAM! the corn turns into popcorn, the NPC becomes happy, it adds another tick in your game’s progression  and you move on to the next problem.

But I think the true appeal comes from the very subtle references the game developers added into Scribblenauts when they where creating the puzzles. For example there is this one puzzle at a Dinosaur park where you have to help a scientist get dinosaur DNA sample out of some amber to get into a cloning device. 

It nice to recreate non-Jurassic park

It nice shot for shot remake of non-Jurassic park

and I am not one hundred percent sure but I think they also added a Sarah Jane Smith (from the BBC’s Doctor Who) Easter egg in a puzzle about the Butterfly theory.

I dont know, It looks awfully close to the  character when she first appeared on the show.

I don’t know, It looks awfully close to the character when she first appeared on the show.

Lately I have also been playing a game against Scribblenauts of trying  to make the most obscure answers to problems presented and see if Scribblenauts accepts the answer.  A woman needs someone to take along to the movies, the proper answer would be a boyfriend or a best friend my answer a cat, BOOM still got credit. Another example I had a puzzle this alligator saying “I haven’t had a bite in weeks!” the normal solution would be any create any type of food or prey but I wanted to see if a pair of dentures would work, following that age-old comedy joke and much to my surprise I still solved the hungry alligator’s problem.

Although it may be because alligators eat almost everything you give them.

Although it may be because alligators eat almost everything you give them.

That’s where Srubblenauts really shines, the fun is not from the game you get at face value but the undercurrent of references and humor that younger players might think about, the same way a well written Saturday morning superhero episode or a children movie can still entertain the parents who were dragged along my their kids.


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#266 League of Legends, Iran, and the Power Vacuum

Hey everybody, do you know what I haven’t talked too much about on this blog lately? politics in videogames. And do you know where the best place to talk about politics in videogames? Iran.

Specifically their recent announcement to ban all female League of Legends champions, except for the child champion Annie, from competitive play.  (The source can be found on the WCG official rule book which can be found here, the entire document is Persian so you might want to consult Google Translate)

In the past Riot has always tried to comply to each region’s cultural differences, in China for example all of Karthus’s skins has his cowl’s shadow mask his skeletal face because the Chinese culture have great respect for the dead and they frown on the idea of zombies or raising the dead. 

Fun fact it was also the reason why Blizzard's Wrath of the Lich King took so long to release in China

Fun fact it was also the reason why Blizzard’s Wrath of the Lich King took so long to release in China

 

But today, as some of you might be glad to hear, I am not going to be talking about the policy itself or the historical/political background that lead up to the decision to change their tournament rule book.

It's a bit to new and messy to write a proper post about within the first day.

It’s a bit to new and messy to write a proper post about within the first day.

Instead I want to focus on the impact it will cause with for future professional WCG League of Legends matches with a most of the female champions banned from playing. In my travels on the internet I stumbled upon a very nice article by Noah Kantrowitz that breaks down the gender ratio in the current roster of League of Legends champion.

pie

The post goes into more detail about the breakdown of champion’s genders in each class role.

That means that about 34% of the player pool is gone and in a game that puts a lot of emphasis on champion picks, counter-picks, and banning other player’s favorite champions this could be disastrous to the Iranian League of Legends end/metagame. Imagine if out of the blue, and in mid-season no less, a region of the world banned 6 out of the 18(33.33%) Pokemon types from all of their tournaments or they removed more than a fifth of the colors cards from the Magic the Gathering card game, it would completely skew all future games for everyone 

In the competitive games I just mentioned, game developers takes great strides to make sure that everything in their games interacts with everything else in the way as it is intended, especially when there are legions of players theroycrafting the best possible way to get a competitive edge over the enemy team. To create a sudden widespread power vacuum in the game could prove dangerous for the state of league of leagues in the nation of Iran and internationally if any of these Iranian e-athletes face off against other professional players outside of Iran.


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#265 Being Truly Surprised by an Easter Egg

Spoiler Alert! This post talks about the game, Dust: an Elysian Tail, and the Easter eggs about the game. If you are currently playing through the game or plan on every playing through it without a game guide please skip this post

As the warning would suggest, today I want to bring to light an experience I felt while playing through one of the games on my backlog for the month of August. As I was playing through the main story of Dust when I was exploring the snow level -and there is always a snow level in these fantasy/adventure games-  when I discovered a door that was artistically different from literally everything else I saw in the game leading up to this point.

The door was a lot more rugger while everything else was hand painted. I should mention that everything from coding to art design was made by one person, he deserves major props for that.

The door was a lot more rugged and blocky while everything else was more hand painted. I should mention that everything from coding to art design was made by one person, he deserves major props for that.

What was stranger was once I entered I was teleported to a weird pixelated puzzle dungeon where I had to navigate from one side to another with the entire screen out-of-order.

it's hard to describe the challenge itself but imagine you were platforming through an animated 2d sliding puzzle

it’s hard to describe the challenge with a still picture but imagine you were platforming through a field, viewing it through a 2D sliding puzzle 

After proving myself with three different puzzles, I was greeted with a treasure box that needed four keys to open (compared to the normal treasure boxes that only requires one key), after a simple QTE button sequence the protagonist of Fez popped out with an achievement and a notice that I received a 5% bonus to my health

Tah Dah!

Tah Dah!

 

While it is nice to see game developers pay tribute to other game developers what really makes this story noticeable was that I was completely surprised by this Easter egg. As I was exploring I was expecting a rare in-game item or a special piece of armor, not a 4th wall breaking treat and that was truly surprising.  Being genuinely surprised is a rare experience to have when you are playing a videogame during the age of the internet.

The Internet have done great things for the advancement of humanity in almost every aspect imaginable but it has kind of ruined any and all the surprises in videogames. We are in a time where videogame websites, wikis, and guides provides step by step instructions on to get through the game’s story, side quests and gather all the collectibles that are available for public consumption within days of a game being release. With all that instant information it makes stumbling upon a secret that you did not know about before hand a very rare treat. This one Easter egg was the first time in, I am willing to bet in years, where I was  caught off guard by game’s secret that was truly a secret to me and not just a secret to everybody.

 

P.S: I am aware of the irony of dedicating a whole post about truly hidden secrets while spoiling the one in Dust but there was no other way of writing this post without talking about it. You know how the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few Easter eggs. And I did ruined any other surprises the game had in store for me once I went online to see what and where the other friends are.

No body puts Meat Boy in a box.

That’s because no body puts Meat Boy in a box.

 


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#264 Be MOP’s Recommended Reading List

Over my blogging adventure I have dedicated a majority of these  posts about the discussion of videogames and the events the surrounds videogames themselves, but I have yet set some time aside to talk about other media that focuses on videogames. With the new school year just around the corner I think it is only right to provide all inquisitive minds a list of books about videogames that I have enjoyed.

The first book is called, Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood by Jamie Russell and follows the development of videogames from the early games of Pong through out this current gaming generation with a focus on the videogame’s evolution from pixel blocks to an interactive experience with top of the line graphics and the interaction the gaming industry had with Hollywood over the past decades. GenXbox-cover I will say it when the book started talked about the Spielberg’s ET game for the Atari 2600 and the infamous Super Mario Bros. movie it was like reading a great suspense/disaster book, the kind where you already knew how it was going to end.

The next book is about the history of one of the oddest juggernauts of the videogame world, the one and only Nintendo. Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan is all about Nintendo’s ups and downs of entering into the new frontier of the arcade market and their transition to the home consoles  market from the original Famicon the DS handheld and Wii.

It is a bit bias towards Nintendo but it still gives a satisfactory backstory of all of the best Nintendo's greatest hits.

It is a bit bias towards Nintendo but it still gives a satisfactory back story of all of the best Nintendo’s greatest hits and when I got to the chapter about the N64 I was hit by waves and waves and waves of nostalgia.

Up next is a series titled Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning and it currently has three installments and each book is a collection short essays that are all about overanalyzing the various writers’ favorite games. Wp While some of the essays may be hit or miss based on you personal taste and gaming history the first two installment are free to download for the people who have a Kindle or the Kindle App on your phone or tablet.

If you are not a fan of reading book, shame on you, but I would recommend the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, which shows the behind the scenes of the three biggest game developers in the indie game community; Team Meat, Johnathan Blow (creator of Braid) and Phil Fish (creator of Fez). Showing the hardships they all had when making their videogames. Recently the movie released a DLC pack that offers more short films and provides a continued epilogue of the three game developers after their games made it big.

Indie_Game_The_Movie_poster

Seriously I would have never guessed in million years that a movie would have DLC

While we are on the topic I have to ask,  what is your favorite book or movie that is about videogames? After reading all of these books I am looking for recommendation for more, currently I have my eyes out for Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon. I am always open for suggestions, feel free to leave a comment down below.

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#263 Screenshots of Pandaria Part XIII

My apologizes for a lack of a post today I’ve been caught up in some mini-games and grinding sessions in the MMO I’ve been playing called “IRL”. As a result I did not have enough time to write a proper blog post so instead I am offering a gallery of interesting screenshots from my recent gaming adventures.

In one of my many Tf2 matches I caught this red pryo just chilling on the job.

In one of my many Tf2 matches I caught this red pryo just chilling on the job.

This was a humoriuos result from a Scribblenauts puzzle. This Half-Elf was in prison and wanted something to remind her of home. My first thought would be to make a half-dwarf....this was the result. I still one the puzzle.

This was a humorous result from a Scribblenauts puzzle. This Half-Elf was in prison and wanted something to remind her of home. My first thought would be to make a half-dwarf….this was the result. I still won the puzzle.

No matter how many times I played this one scene always takes my breath away

No matter how many times I played this one scene always takes my breath away

I was going to make a blog post drawing the parrelles between Walking Dead's Crawford, Bioshock's Rapture and videogame developer's love for politically right wing  extreme dystopias but I could never get it off the ground.

I was going to make a blog post drawing the parallels between Walking Dead’s Crawford, Bioshock’s Rapture and videogame developer’s love for politically right-wing extreme dystopias but I could never get it off the ground.

2013-08-18_00002

While playing through Dust this first chance scene gave me a mini-heart attack and the controller vibrating at the pace of a beating heart didn’t help at all.

Also Dust has some credibly well written humor

The game does make it up to me for having some amazing well written humor

I really should change the name of this screenshot series now that I am no longer subscribed to World of Warcraft. Hopefully I do not need to worry about coming up with a new name for a long while.


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#262 The Allure of Indie Games

I have some great news today, last week I actually stayed true to my schedule and completed a game my August backlog! The title was Telltale’s The Walking Dead while I will not spoil anything for the ones who hasn’t played through all of it, but that game was one of the very few games that left me speechless once everything was said and done.

Whoa, just whoa.......

Whoa, just whoa…….

With those Walkers and Quick Time Events out-of-the-way I now turn my attention to the next game on my list, Dust: an Elysian Tail, and hopefully I can finished the main story soon so that I can play a bit of Borderlands 2 before this month comes to a close.

I mentioned on this site before that I have a special place in my heart for indie games, but I never could put my finger on why I liked them until I experienced a (very) late night epiphany. For me, the reason why I prefer playing the small indie games to AAA games is because when an indie team wants to make a game, either because it’s the developer’s interest or restraints on resources, they tend to only focus on one type of gameplay, but when they do those developers polish that one aspect until it shines.

Just look at  Super Meat Boy for example, Team Meat focused on precision platforming over story or graphics and they delivered the best collection level designs and character controls I have ever seen.

When I say 'the best levels' I mean the best to raise your blood pressure.

When I say ‘the best levels’ I mean the best to raise your blood pressure.

Thomas was Alone focused on delivering the best story they could create with the best voice actor they had, Limbo gave its audience the best way to ruin any good feelings they might have had going into the game and Dust: an Elysian Tail has some of the smoothest two button hack&slash castlevania-style 2D combat.

And The Bastion must have set their sights on making the best game ever because that videogame succeeded in delivering expectation shattering  musical score, combat, story and lore.

Another game that left me speechless when I finished. the third game was Limbo.

Another game that left me speechless when I finished. The third game was Limbo.

 

I’m talking about indie games because I want to give one last shout out the second annual Boston Festival of Indie Games is just around the corner (September 14th) and I wanted to make sure that this event gets its fair share of public exposure for any interested gamers in the Boston/New England area, admission is free and there will be plenty of new indie games showcased the event.

boston FIG

also I’m arising awareness because east coast videogame events are few and far between. 

 


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#261 The Art behind professional A.R.T.S games

Gather around summoners because we are half way through  Riot’s Season 3 Championship series. While I am not the biggest fan of any of any one professional League of Legends teams or the individual professional players, I have been following the official US/EU summer split steams.

Those League of Legends streams acted as the gateway for me to get interested and watch other professional e-sport matches, whether it be Team Fortress 2 and StarCraft 2 matches or the Pokemon World Championship series or the Dota 2 International series (which surprisingly both took place last weekend).

I tried watching some of the Dota 2, but with no background on the champions I must have felt the same as my dad whenever I and my brothers hook up the twitch steam to our big T.V

I tried watching some of the Dota 2, but with no background on the champions I must have felt the same as my dad whenever I and my brothers hook up the twitch steam to our big T.V

Whether I was watching an intense match of shooting people in bright hats, a game of science fiction Real Time Strategy or the turn based pocket monster games I just was not satisfying the itch that I got whenever I watched a proper Action Real Time Strategy (A.R.T.S) match like League or Dota 2.

I'm calling League and Dota2 A.R.T.S because the title M.O.B.A is not any less accurate of the game's genera.

I’m calling League and Dota2 A.R.T.S because the title M.O.B.A is not any more accurate of the games’ genera.

 

With the raising popularity of eSports I think we will see A.R.T.S games take the lead and clear the pathway for professional, competitive players of different games to be recognized by the general population.I make this claim because both League and Dota 2 hits the trifecta of what makes a IRL sports, like Football, Baseball, and Soccer, so enjoyable to watch, both of these eSports are team focused, offers the right about of strategy and action in a given match and they are created in such a way that the fans at home get to see everything that is going on in the battlefield.
The various teams acts as a common interest in the gaming community, a way to get people to bond over something and create some rivalry between the fans in matches, just like the conflicts between the fans of the Red Sox and Yankees or between the two US political parties. From my experience it is easier to lend support to the idea of a team than supporting a single player. 

 

Just go on any message boards (political or sports) and you end up seeing the same arguments and ad hominem comments appear, no matter the topic.

Just go on any message boards sports or political) and you end up seeing the same arguments and Ad Hominem comments appear,over and over again no matter the topic.

But beyond the teams, League of Legends, Dota 2, and  all other A.R.T.S brings that special balance of action and strategy to the game. In the professional games there are plenty of wonderful players and team fights to get the viewers at home excited and interested and gets the crowd going at their live events. On the flip side, after every play, team-fight and match there are sports/shoutcasters that are able to dissects, analyse and provide play-by-plays on exactly what happened . While the action is what draws people in and what makes a proper turn based strategy tournament game like Pokemon games a bit tough to sit through if you do not know all of the optimized move sets off the top of your head.

I watched a bit of this and maybe because I haven't been following the meta game of Black/white 2 I just wasn't hooked in as I used to.

I watched a bit of this and maybe because I haven’t been following the meta game of Black/White 2 I just wasn’t hooked in as I used to.

 

But most importantly of all in an A.R.T.S match that trumps all others in how the spectators can see everything that is happening on the map in real-time, just like how professional IRL Sports are viewed. 

I recently watched a documentary of a TF2 Lan that showcased a match between the best TF2 teams in the US and EU and while it went into the background of the players the documentary also showed a bit of the game that was broadcast in front of an auditorium full of fans and it was all fast passed with it’s fair share of action I just could not get into it because you could only watch the game from either the individual player’s perspective or from a fixed camera points around the map. There was no roaming, and to pan left or right on the map, now compare that to the ability that League and Dota 2 has of giving the fans a bird’s-eye view of the map to see what every player is doing on the field that gives us a strategic advantage over the  best in the world.  And while a team set up a trap  at one of the key objective in a game is entertaining to watch, there is just as much value to be had seeing all the pieces be set in place, from both sides get set up and fall the way it does.

 

Very similar to the viewing layout of a football game

Very similar to the viewing layout of a football game

 

With the growing popularity it would not be foolish to think that in a few years the both Riot’s and Valve’s tournament might draw an audience outside of the gamer niche and appears in the T.V cable sport channels and pave the way for the more obscure  professional gamer, like BOILeR tournaments, to be recognized, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an eESPN channel by the end of this decade.

 

But I want to know what you think, do you follow any professional eSports events, if so which ones? Do you think there is a chance all or any professional videogame gamers to be recognized by the sporting society? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear what you think.

 


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