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by Ethos

Sunday Soapbox: Seasons of Gaming

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Where are the pegs? Or zombies?

Where are the pegs? Or zombies?

Well that was a bit of a silly week, no? Low-key, maybe, but fun nonetheless. In fact, it was nice to create a list of games that I would otherwise never talk about. Not one of the games in my Sunshine Games List would crack my top ten favourite games, or maybe even my top 25, but they were all easy picks for me. Even Flower is too melancholy, and FFIX too melodramatic and involved to be considered. And it was interesting devising my list because my criteria essentially consisted of two categories: “Fun-loving” and “Fun to play”. This made me wonder how much fun I actually have playing the games I typically find myself playing.

It should come as no surprise that I’m a RPG guy. But I like them for customization, story, mood, and the feeling of satisfaction in seeing direct benefits to the time I put in. I’m really having the same amount of fun I have when I see a movie. I enjoy myself, and I’m taking in an experience, but it’s rare for me to be giggling furiously in my seat because of all the fun I’m having. Next up is sports games; I essentially play them like RPGs. I create my entire team from scratch and the actual matches are just means to an end. The end being staring at stat pages. Finally, I can be a racing game fan on occasion, but even then I’ve enjoyed the Gran Turismo series and Forza 3 because you start with shitty cars and the more you race, the more you unlock more races and better cars. See the pattern here?

Now I’m not knocking this at all. I love the games I play and the reasons why I play them, it’s just interesting to compare a game like Tecmo Stackers to a game like NHL 10 and notice that one is more of an activity and the other more like a “game”. Not to make this soapbox into another tired “we need a new word for ‘games’” because I disagree, “game” is a fine term, and it’s not going anywhere. The term “graphic novel” is accurate, but you’ll still sound like a pretentious asshole when you say it.

That's better.

Believe it or not, what I’m trying to say with all this is that I love that we celebrate the seasons here at Riddlethos and I love that we try to draw arbitrary parallels to the gaming world as well. Because – like the seasons – all facets of gaming have their place and – like the seasons – these different sides can actually compliment and juxtapose each other very well. Just tonight I enjoyed the hilarious writing and incredible music of Lunar, then I made my season in NHL 10 extremely unbalanced by making all the settings wildly in my favour just to see how high I can get my stats, then finally I came to my room and tried to beat my high score in a survival mode with Plants vs. Zombies. How gloriously diverse. I was able to soak in the art of others, exploit settings to boost my ego, and give myself a challenge all within a few hours and all within the same medium.

But I should wrap this up before it becomes more scattered than the recently troubled Scatter Storming column. The point is that like long Canadian Winters, sometimes the beauty and novelty of 82 hour RPGs or 82 game NHL seasons starts to wear thin, and stupid fun like Peggle can melt away gaming fatigue like seeing blossoms on trees that you forgot were alive. Wow, when the similes get that bad, it’s time for bed. Goodnight, and I look forward to seeing you all for Backlog Week 2!

Sunshine Games – #1: Plants vs. Zombies (PC)

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Ethos’ Sunshine Games Countdown is a completely arbitrary list of games that make him smile. They are games that are pure unadulterated fun with none of the heaviness that might come from more epic titles. They are games that make you giddy just thinking about them, and have the same refreshing optimism that Spring yields.

Plants vs. Zombies (PC)

PopCap goes two for two in the final entries for this ridiculous list. Plants vs. Zombies wins over Peggle because not only is it the better game, but the main resource is quite literally sunshine. For those who don’t know, Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game that pits the odd combination of plants defending a house from zombies. I’m not a big tower defense guy, but this game still has me addicted. It’s creative, funny, addictive, and occasionally quite challenging. Y’know that “just one more level” quality I was talking about with Peggle? Well Plants vs. Zombies has it in droves. The reason why I specify PC (and iPad too, I suppose) is because although the iPhone version is great (and cheap), it doesn’t have the wide range of modes that the PC version has. Mini-games, creative spins on the gameplay, and survival modes are topped off with a “Zen Garden” which is quite literally a virtual garden for harvesting cash. While the tone of the game is more tongue-in-cheek as opposed to Peggle’s overwhelming happiness, Plants vs. Zombies is still the undeniable Sunshine Games champion.

Sunshine Games – #2: Peggle

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Ethos’ Sunshine Games Countdown is a completely arbitrary list of games that make him smile. They are games that are pure unadulterated fun with none of the heaviness that might come from more epic titles. They are games that make you giddy just thinking about them, and have the same refreshing optimism that Spring yields.

Peggle

Does this even need to be explained? Just some of the Sunshine parts of this game include many Spring-themed backgrounds, a flower that makes pegs bloom, happy music, a unicorn, and Ode to Joy playing every time you beat a level. In fact, I don’t think the game could get any more happy-go-lucky if it tried. Plus, the writing is funny, and the game is endlessly addicting. PopCap just knows how to make games that are pick-up-and-play but can hook you for hours and hours of “just one more level” fun. Peggle is silly and happy and fun and almost the perfect Sunshine game, but it just loses out to a game with a bit more depth and a bit more fun, though perhaps not quite so soaked in sunshine in the same sense.

Games where the Sun Don’t Shine – #1: Dead Space

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

“Games where the Sun Don’t Shine” is a completely random, arbitrary, and pointless list of games that give off a dark and/or depressing vibe. What better way, after all, to celebrate the season of Spring?

Dead Space

And here’s the big kahuna. Granted, I haven’t played many “scary” games in my life, but Dead Space is without question the most frightening interactive experience I’ve had. And when I say that, it’s a compliment.

Dead Space, to me, is kinda like what would happen if you took the Metroid Prime series and injected it with some first-rate horror elements. Like Metroid Prime, it maintains an masterfully oppressive, isolated sci-fi atmosphere. But while Metroid Prime’s intent is to convey a sort of haunting beauty through its world, the intent of Dead Space is to make you fear for your life at every corner, corridor, and elevator. And, it pulls this off with terrifying effectiveness. Graphical presentation, sound design, and the utter hopelessness of the premise itself combine to make this one game you’d be better off playing with company.

Oh, and just for consistency’s sake: the sun definitely does not shine in deep space.

Dead Space is the scariest game I’ve ever played by far, and one of the most atmospheric. Definitely an easy choice as my #1 pick.

And that concludes my list of Games where the Sun Don’t Shine. While I don’t expect you to feel enlightened, informed, or even entertained, it was definitely… a list. And for what it’s worth, I personally guarantee that each and every one of the games I’ve listed here are worth your time and money. That is, as long as you’re not looking for anything light-hearted. Check out Ethos’ Sunshine Games for that.

Games where the Sun Don’t Shine – #2: Heavy Rain

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

“Games where the Sun Don’t Shine” is a completely random, arbitrary, and pointless list of games that give off a dark and/or depressing vibe. What better way, after all, to celebrate the season of Spring?

Heavy Rain

While Ethos seems to be turning to titles of old for his Sunshine list, I’m (apparently) sticking closer to more current-gen stuff. Stands to reason, I suppose, since you don’t find many oppressive and/or dark 2D experiences. Or maybe you do, and I’m just not familiar enough with past classics.

Regardless, I have no shame in naming Heavy Rain my #4 game on Games where the Sun Don’t Shine. As you can gather from it’s apt title, you don’t see the sun very often in Heavy Rain. In fact, you see it for the first two levels and that’s it. The premise of the story is a psychopath who drowns his victims in rainwater – so naturally, rain is falling the entire time. Sure, rain is a cheap atmosphere buff, but it’s also effective – and, in fact, it’s more effective in Heavy Rain than most other places.

SPOILER ALERT

Aside from the somber premise and awful (beautiful) weather, Heavy Rain makes things even more depressing by requiring you to do (for lack of a better phrase) some fucked-up shit. In order to save his son from death by drowning, Ethan Mars must engage in a variety of dangerous and/or unpleasant tasks – from driving against traffic to killing a man begging for life. The latter, in particular, is one hell of a scene. I was re-thinking that one in my mind for quite some time afterwards. Sort of stunning, actually, for a videogame.

END SPOILERS

And now I want to play Heavy Rain again. Hrm.

Well anyway, stay tuned for my final entry. And hopefully two more from Ethos.

Lazy Saturdays #02

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Well, once again, we have an extraordinarily lazy Saturday on our hands. Or I do, at least. The rain is pouring, the sky is dark, I’m still unemployed, and I’m getting pretty hungry. I sense Little Caesars in my immediate future.

I got into a car accident last night. Well, sort of. I wasn’t actually driving, and it wasn’t much of an accident. Charlie and I were on our way back from Nashville to Murfreesboro, and we were sideswiped while trying to merge onto the interstate. It may actually have been our fault, too – we’re not 100 percent certain which way the “yield” sign was facing. Regardless, the dude just kept driving and essentially vanished into the night. So… yeah. Technically a hit-and-run, I suppose. People these years, I swear.

Like last week, I figure I’ll throw a few interesting links your way. Alleviate the boringness of your Saturday. And if your Saturday happens to not be boring, just consider it an additional perk.

Digital Foundry Breaks Down 3D Game Development for PS3Maybe you’re one of those people waiting for the 3D gaming era with bated breath. Or, like me, maybe you just aren’t. Regardless of that, if you want more information on the process of creating 3D games, as well as the advantages and drawbacks of the technology within the sphere of gaming, I highly recommend the above read. It probably won’t do much to change your mind on the matter, but if nothing else, it gives ammo to both sides.

What’s most interesting – and disturbing – to me is the sacrifices developers have to make in order to get a game running in 3D. Super Stardust HD, for example, doesn’t run in 1080p when converted to 3D – a bit of a shame, seeing that that’s always been one of the game’s main accolades. Games such as MotorStorm, which already only displayed in 720p, has now been reduced to a sub-HD image. (Thank goodness for the PS3’s upscaling, eh?)

One day, I will write a detailed soapbox concerning my thoughts on 3D. For now, I will merely say this: when you have to sacrifice one cutting-edge technology to make room for another – in this case sacrificing HD for 3D – then it’s clearly too early to attempt bringing the technology to the mainstream. Wait until you don’t have to make such drastic concessions for the sake of what many people few as little more than a gimmick.

Android OS Now Has Over 50,000 Apps AvailableConsidering a Droid OS alternative to Apple’s apparent throttlehold on the smartphone market? Well, this might nudge you even more in that direction. I had no idea there were so many Android apps available, and I’m glad to see that it’s garnered such support.

Happy Fifth Anniversary, YouTubeFive years? It’s that all it’s been? Sheesh. Proof, I suppose, that occasionally time doesn’t fly. I feel like YouTube’s been around as long as the internet. Anyway, hit the link to see the first YouTube video ever uploaded. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s a shockingly pointless 18-second clip of some dude looking at elephants in a zoo.)

Alright. It’s pizza time. And maybe Avatar time, since Charlie bought it. Have to thank him for that – effectively answered my question of whether or not I should purchase it.

Oh, and enjoy the pretty picture.

-Riddles

Sunshine Games – #3: Tecmo Stackers

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Ethos’ Sunshine Games Countdown is a completely arbitrary list of games that make him smile. They are games that are pure unadulterated fun with none of the heaviness that might come from more epic titles. They are games that make you giddy just thinking about them, and have the same refreshing optimism that Spring yields.

Tecmo Stackers

Fuck yeah, I’m bringing on the obscure with this list. Bet you didn’t even know I had played more games than Flower, Pokémon, and Final Fantasy IX. Turns out I have, and some of them are weird, old, and completely fucked up. Just watch the first few minutes of this YouTube clip and you’ll see what I mean. Incredibly annoying music, tacky backgrounds, weird blobby blocks that lick menu items to select them, and men without shirts starting each round of this forgotten puzzle game.

Why is this my #3 Sunshine game, then? Because I can’t play this game without laughing my ass off. I mean, the puzzle/versus mechanics are fun and everything, but the plain obscurity and stupidity that oozes out of this game puts a huge smile on my face every time I think about it. Not to mention the fact that it’s easy to turn it on and play a few matches against a friend which will be almost guaranteed fun. Tecmo Stackers is the sort of game I picture being developed by two giggling Japanese men who haven’t slept in 6 weeks and are wearing prescription glasses although they do not require them. Then it somehow got green-lit for a stateside release, and here I am, laughing about the game even when I’m only writing about it. This game may have even made it higher if it had more than 3 musical tracks. It adds to the humour, yes, but it also adds to the annoyance.

Games where the Sun Don’t Shine – #3: BioShock

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

“Games where the Sun Don’t Shine” is a completely random, arbitrary, and pointless list of games that give off a dark and/or depressing vibe. What better way, after all, to celebrate the season of Spring?

BioShock

Well, this one’s a no-brainer. If any game belongs on this list, it’s BioShock. Not just because it’s one of my all-time faves, but because you spend the entire game underwater – so the sun, quite literally, never shines. Pleasant, no?

Rapture is a beautiful, immersive place for so many reasons, but it’s definitely not a place you’d go to get a pick-me-up. A ruined underwater paradise crawling with mutated freakish humans, ugly little girls, and hulking Big Daddies. It’s dark, messy, dilapidated, and violent. And all of Rapture’s “citizens” have a really weird sense of humor, too, which tends to make things awkward.

They also have a bad habit of jumping out and scaring the piss out of you when you’re in the bathroom. Odd fetish, maybe.

Alright, well, that’s enough content for today. Look for Ethos’ third and fourth picks tomorrow! Or don’t. You wouldn’t be missing much anyway.

Games where the Sun Don’t Shine – #4: Persona 3

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

“Games where the Sun Don’t Shine” is a completely random, arbitrary, and pointless list of games that give off a dark and/or depressing vibe. What better way, after all, to celebrate the season of Spring?

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

Ah, Persona 3. I’ve actually written about it before, during our JRPG Relapse Week. In that article, I touch on how dark the game can be. Sure, it’s set in a high school, and there are plenty of instances in the game during which the sun is, indeed, shining.  But it’s actually the realistic setting that makes Persona 3 such a gritty, atmospheric experience. No castles or queens  here; only teenagers with guns, a dark hour, and big, creepy tower.

(Hey! That rhymes!)

Ahem. Anyway. The premise of Persona 3 involves a phenomenon called “The Dark Hour,” which occurs when the clock strikes midnight. Only certain individuals (aka Persona users) can experience the Dark Hour, during which time everyone ELSE in the world turns into a coffin of some kind. Weird, yes, but that’s kinda the point. The Dark Hour itself is a pretty trippy place to be; obviously, it’s dark, but it’s accentuated with psychedelic neon-greens, bright blood-reds, and, and a lot of nasties known as Shadows.

It would be a bit of a misnomer to label Persona 3 as “oppressive,” per se, but it’s definitely dark. And not just because of the Dark Hour either – you’ll find that the game touches on some oddly mature themes that most JRPGs steer clear of. So, while it’s certainly going to be one of the more unorthodox choices on my list, I think it earns the #4 spot.

Not that that’s any sort of accomplishment, at all, whatsoever. Anyway. Time to write up #3!

Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah! #005

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Hey, you assholes! So first I was MIA, then Riddles decides to not show up with his list. Whattagwon with that? I was even at a party in a different city and I could keep up with my list! Psssshaw! Oh well, here’s your 2nd edition of the new news-ified Tingle! Tingle! Kooloo-Limpah! And because I only had one story last time, I’ve decided to treat you guys this time. TWO STORIES!

Metroid: Other M has a Metroid: Other Release Date

Err, that means it’s been delayed. A good two months, actually. It was scheduled for June 27th, and now it’s theoretically going to be released on August 31st. This is almost nostalgic for me, because there have been so few Nintendo releases recently worth hyping up that I’ve forgotten what it was like for the big N to delay a title to ensure its quality. And hey, it worked for Ocarina of Time, so I’m not complaining. Plus, it seemed a little too close to Galaxy 2.

Speaking of, in the same breath Nintendo delayed the release of Sin & Punishment 2 until June 27th from June 7th. This time, Nintendo was blunt in pointing to the close proximity of the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 as the reason for the delay.
(IGN)

More ex-Infinity Ward employees are respawning.

Get it? Because Respawn Entertainment is the new development studio headed by Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. Enh? I’m a genius. Anyhoo, since the dramatic firings of the two aforementioned heads, 13 employees have left Infinity Ward and we learned yesterday that a few key members have joined up with Respawn. Todd Alderman was a Lead Designer at Infinity Ward and he now holds the very similar title of Lead Game Designer at Respawn Entertainment. Adding to those numbers are Lead Environment Artist Chris Cherubini, and Lead Animators John Paul Messerly and Mark Grigsby.

In addition to a few other members making the switch, including some programmers, Activision insists that they have a “deep bench” of talent remaining. We’ll see what happens when the now scooped out Infinity Ward pits its next product against Respawn Entertainment’s self-described “big blockbuster”. I’m more of a Call of Duty observer, but I’m extremely interested in how all this plays out in…oh…2 years from now.
(IGN)

That’s it! Maybe next week you guys’ll get three stories from me, but I don’t know if you can handle it! Especially because I’m so much better at this than Riddles. I mean, does he have awesome hokey headlines?!