The Pile of Shame [GO]
Jun 23rd, 2009 by Dan

Just about every serious adult (and employed) gamer has one thing in common, regardless of his/her tastes: the pile of shame. It sounds a lot worse than it is, because it’s definitely not a stack of Barbie Horse Adventure games or anything, it’s a stack of games that have all received critical acclaim or come highly recommended, but that the gamer has no time to get around to playing, mainly because of other releases or just being too busy.

The perfect time for burning through this back catalog is usually the summer. Releases have slowed down in anticipation for the upcoming holiday season and developers have only just started getting over E3 preparations, limiting their ability to release in the summer anyway. Plenty of other people are taking this time to burn through their backlog, but I find myself unable to focus on the rather considerable stack of games I have in lieu of achievement hunting or just purchasing new games.

It’s a serious problem when I’m in Best Buy seriously considering buying Resident Evil 5, the latest in a series of games that I never play because I hate horror video games, instead of just going home and playing Dragon Quest V or Suikoden Tierkreis, both games I’ve never played and own, or finishing the remakes that I’d started like the DS Chrono Trigger or GBA Final Fantasy VI. I keep having to resist buying Gears of War 2, even though I’ve yet to finish Fallout 3, play the Uncharted 2 Beta at all, or milk the remaining content out of Left 4 Dead or Mass Effect. Then again, should I really be all that surprised? People love the brand new and the allure of buying a new copy of Ghostbusters, despite its middling reviews, is just a part of human nature.

The main problem with my “problem” is that I don’t really have the cash to throw around to just be buying all sorts of new games. You may have applauded my self-control in resisting RE5 and GoW2, but the real deterrent is that I just couldn’t afford to buy them. I’ve flirted with the notion of starting some kind of retro-gaming feature to motivate me to both clear my backlog and give me new, interesting (video game related) writing topics. Honestly, if I could take easy screenshots or capture video more easily, I might be more likely to try and do something like that, but it loses some of its allure to have it be text-only.

This may or may not still happen. I’m going to do some research into cheap video capture mechanics and if I can manage it, then we might see me start to clear through my backlog with accompanying screens or movies. If not, well then this winding, aimless post is just me whining about having games that I don’t want to play because I want shiny new ones.

Ghosts, Zoey Clothes, Ten, the SML Theme, and Bit Boy [Game Overview]
Jun 12th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.


Death in a single-player game is a fairly private thing. You do something stupid and, if your friends aren’t there, no one knows it happened and no one can even see it. Heck, if you’re playing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Prince will even refuse to canonically admit that he died due to their unique narrative structure.

According to Kotaku, Demon’s Souls by Atlus is looking to change some of that with some creative coding. The system they’ve got in place will generate the ghosts in the game by recording other player’s actions. Other players can leave canned messages for other players to view as ghastly apparitions or just run around. The coolest feature was that examining blood stains on the floor will allow you to see ghastly representations of other player’s last seconds before dying. Totilo watched what was probably a beta tester’s ghost appear by a blood stain and promptly miss a jump, falling to his death. It seems pretty awesome in concept, that’s for sure.

Rhythm Heaven/Paradise/Tengoku

The latest Rhythm Heaven trailer has hit the nets and I can’t not post it. Come to think of it, did I post the second in that series?

Left 4 Fashion

Ever wanted to dress like Zoey from Left 4 Dead? Now you can!

The replica track jacket retails for $65. Awesome zombie-fighting posse and submachine gun not included.


The theme for Super Mario Land was way underrated. Enjoy this great rendition.


I leave you with Bit Boy!! The game has yet to sell me, but its concept is pretty cool.

E3 Extravaganza [Game Overview]
Jun 5th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

E3 is a magical time for video games. So much news happened in this past week that this is gonna be an epic post filled with tons of trailers and news. In no particular order, here it goes:

Look! A three-headed monkey!

First off we have the Monkey Island news again. Tales of Monkey Island will be debuting next month (!) on 7 July from Telltale Games. Yes, it’s super exciting…yes, Telltale has proven that they can have moderate success and timely release with episodic adventure games…but I don’t feel the humor of Ron Gilbert in the trailer.

I just hope the game is quality and we get to see a lot more MI.


Speaking of former Lucasarts comedic geniuses, Tim Schafer’s Brütal Legend (mind the umlaut) has had production suspended in what can only be known as a dick move by Activision. The litigious Activision dropped Brütal Legend not long ago when they merged with Vivendi and they claim it was because they never met milestones. Supposeedly they still retain the rights to release the game and will suffer “irreparable damages” for this.

My favorite part of the story, Tim Schafer’s response:

“Hey, if Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it,” Schafer said. “Oh great, now Beyoncé is going to sue me too.”

Seriously Activision? You guys look like major tools. I already don’t play much anything by Activision and I just might consider this a permanent decision. It’s unbelievable.

Back in Black (and Red)

Nintendo will be selling the Wii in black starting this summer in Japan and the DSi in red at the same time. Not a bad idea, considering that sales of Nintendo systems have started to lag behind some of the Sony stuff. It’s just the kind of Nintendo thing to do in this situation.


New Super Mario Bros. Wii is on the way! It will not feature online play =[

Left 8 Dead?

Left 4 Dead 2 is coming! A bit sooner than most expected, that’s for sure, but I think even Valve deserves to make some money every so often.

Melee weapons, incendiary ammo, new special infected, new AI Director sadism, new/updated weapons, and new survivors.

What’s more, you won’t be able to just camp for alarm moments, some won’t turn off unless you advance and complete tasks.

Nick reminds me of GOB. That makes me happy.

Metal Gear?!

New MGS games announced. Rising will be on the PS3 and Xbox 360 and Peace Walker will be on the PSP. I’m kind of bummed about PW being a PSP game, since it focuses on Big Boss, but maybe I’ll end up asking for a PSP for Christmas or something.


Funny tidbit from the Nintendo conference

Jedis go Boom

It’s just the cinematic that opens the game, but it sure gets me excited for the release.


Some more The Beatles: Rock Band info.


Also: Final Fantasy XIV?

Uncharted!!!! OMGOMGOMGOMG

Random Games


Tangled up in BlazBlue:

More Samus, No T or A

New Metroid game being made by Team Ninja?! Nintendo will probably keep the ridiculously large, bouncy boobs and thongs to a minimum, so calm down.

Galaxy 2?

New Mario Galaxy game. 90% new levels, some old ones remixed.

As a corollary, no new Zelda or Pikmin games announced today. Maybe next time.

Fallout 3 DLC


Seriously, this game has been in development FOREVER.

Heavy Lluvia

Still looks good.

Sunny Gold

Coming to the DS is Golden Sun! The RPG is BACK! I hope this iteration is more interesting.

Misc News

Social networking was the big theme of the conferences. From Facebook on DSi and Xbox 360 to Twitter making an appearance on the latter too, it seems like the next big thing.

Microsoft is also offering full games on demand on Live for real, non-MS point money.

All in all, a great conference. I know I missed some big news, but, hey, you’ve got the internet too, so quit being so damn lazy. Now if only we could rush to the fall and make these games come out already!

Mass Effect 2 [GO]
May 29th, 2009 by Dan

Guess what guys?


Shepard isn’t dead.

Words cannot describe how excited I am for this game. Mass Effect was one of the greatest games on the 360 based on its epic story alone. Bioware rarely disappoints and I’m psyched for this one.

EDIT: GT still has busted html. What’s going on there?

L4D Survival Mode [Game Overview]
Apr 24th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

The Left 4 Dead survival mode has finally hit the tubes and I think there’s really only one adjective that can accurately describe it: hard.

The video I posted below comes from Giant Bomb‘s Brad Shoemaker playing it on the 360, but let me tell you, the unprepared will fare no better, even on a PC.

It’s still tons of fun, it’s just also very hard. My best time with my roommate still barely reaches 6:44 or so.

I’ve yet to try out the new maps in Versus mode, but I imagine they’ll provide a helpful respite from the overplayed first two maps.

The inclusion of the new map Last Stand also leaves me optimistic for new campaigns in L4D. We all know that Valve is working on them, it’s just a matter of finishing their extensive testing. It seems to me that there would be no reason to work on that lighthouse level if it wasn’t part of a greater mission. Imagine how sweet it would be if you had an oceanside level where zombies could come out at you from the water. After reading World War Z, I think that would be just about the freakiest thing that could possibly happen.

Dwarf Fortress Intro Movie [Embedded Reporter]
Mar 23rd, 2009 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

You asked for it, you got it! The high quality, super-graphically intense Dwarf Fortress intro.

Recession Gaming: Dwarf Fortress [Game Overview]
Mar 20th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

We’re gonna take a quick break from talking about Final Fantasy villains until I take some time to figure out how I’m gonna tackle XI and instead talk about the game that kept me up until ~0345 this morning: Dwarf Fortress.

You’ve probably never heard of this game, but this incredibly robust one-man (!) coding project will knock your socks off. Here’s how I got around to it:

DF has been released since 2006, but I first heard about it on Three Panel Soul, Ian McConville and Matt Boyd’s followup project to Mac Hall. There was a strip in there describing a dwarf fortress whose entire economy consisted of cats. I was intrigued, but the game’s simple ASCII graphics made the interface look daunting and scary and kept me from trying it out right then. The seed was planted, I just didn’t have the time or patience to try it yet.

Fast forward to earlier this week. I’m listening to one of’s podcasts, Good Grief (you rock Tina!), when they started talking about the ancient roguelike Nethack. I had to pause the podcast to go to work, but memories of the Dwarf Fortress strip clawed their way back up to the front of my brain (admittedly not very well, I thought the strip was about Nethack) and I started looking for the strip to get information about the game. Again, I found the graphics daunting, but I learned of a graphical tileset available at May Green that allowed you to take the hyper complicated ASCII graphics and turn them into at least more recognizable icons.

Still, it wasn’t enough. The game’s interface was super daunting when I booted it up and I was too intimidated. Cue the timely rant reference to the game by Tycho of Penny Arcade. His intervention led me to a detailed tutorial that allowed me to finally come to grips with the game mechanics and implement all the stuff I’ve been reading about.

Phew, so that’s a long way to get to where we wanted to get with Dwarf Fortress, but I think it’s a great story. DF has totally blown my mind as a game. Right now I’ve got abou 12-14 dwarves under my command and as I have them bore into the earth, deforest the landscape, trap bears and kobolds in cages, and wrestle so hard their clothes start to fall off in the barracks, I find myself falling in love with this quirky game. Every tiny detail is tightly modeled. For instance, every creature in the game has an organ system. Battle can cause damage to a dwarf’s spleen, causing him to die if he doesn’t get medical care. Individual limbs can be damaged. The guy in the tutorial caught goblins in cage traps (my main defense right now) and somehow in the ruckus the goblin’s eyes were gouged out. Now it just sits in the cage, freaks out, and repeatedly passes out. Here’s an excerpt from a dev about development of these systems:

Today was compound fractures as well as fractured layers being knocked inward to damage soft inner portions. So a bone in the arm for example could break through the skin if the arm is struck by even a blunt weapon, and impacts can also force jagged skull edges into the brain or a broken rib into the heart or a lung (generally, the broken layers can cross body part boundaries according to the wound’s path over body part relationships)

I could go on and on for hours about my fortress, but I’ll hold off for a bit until I’ve got some screenshots and some story to go with it. Can’t wait to get home and play some more instead of napping.

L4D League [PC/M$]
Dec 17th, 2008 by Dan

Today’s the first non-WMQ Wednesday, so I thought I’d ease us into it with a discussion about competitive gaming, since that’s closer to a sport than, say, a book review.

Online leagues are nothing new to the computer gaming space. For as long as we’ve been able to play over our 14.4 modems (or slower!) people have been fragging each other in Doom and Quake in leagues, continued doing so through the most popular competitive shooter, Counterstrike, and are even now forming clans and teams within Halo 3.

Why talk about a L4D league then if the topic is essentially not that new. The real question that people are asking and that no one’s sure about is whether or not the games played in versus are standard enough to be considered fair and viable in terms of ratings. The X-Factor comes in the form of the AI Director, whose evil knows no bounds. In all seriousness, if the AI Director gives the infected a Tank in just the right place, but doesn’t give it to the survivors on the next iteration in the same place, is the game considered broken from a competitive standpoint?

When my roommate and I were discussing this last night, I mentioned that sports, while supposedly fair were actually inherently unfair. Geographic advantages, weather advantages, home field advantages, they’re all intangibles that could favor one team or another. His counterpoint was that they were intangibles, but bad Tank spawning is a real, measurable thing that can be proved to favor one team over another.

In a sense, the debate is more or less rendered moot by the fact that leagues will spring up regardless. The true proof will be whether or not they exist years from now when the game is old news. I’ll keep you guys posted on any league progress if I happen to join one.

And now: PA comic about ZOMBIES! I’m just glad they’re of similar mind…

Left 4 Dead [Review]
Dec 6th, 2008 by Dan

There was a day, back in my youth, when I abhorred first-person shooters. Sure, I played some Goldeneye here and there with my friends, but I was never a Doom, Unreal, or Halo fan.

Then something spectacular happened: a company that I’d heard of, but avoided their games because of my fps ambivalence released one of the greatest games I’d ever played: Half-Life 2. It revolutionized my understanding of FPS games and instilled in me blind trust in Valve. I loved Counterstrike: Source, Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

It was a foregone conclusion that I would then get Left 4 Dead, which I’ve come to see as one of the greatest multiplayer experiences I’ve ever played. Here’s the basic premise, if you haven’t picked it up from my other posts: you have four survivors from the zombie apocalypse whose aim in each level is to make it from the starting point to the next safe room. At the end of each movie (the name for each of the four campaigns) you have to fight off the zombie hordes while awaiting a rescue vehicle of some sort.

The real power of the game is that it requires you to play cooperatively. With each survivor that you lose, you will find the game that much harder. Letting teammates fall behind or leaving them behind yourself will always result in trouble. You also strongly rely on your teammates if you get incapacitated or knocked off a ledge. The icing on the cake is that Valve encourages even more teamwork with their achievement system. Unfortunately, Valve also seriously hates you and proves their enmity with the AI Director.

The AI Director will sometimes have pity on you and give you a lull so that you can revive your teammates or heal up, but that pity is just the AI taking pity on our organic weakness. Just wait until the inevitable evolution of the AI Director into Skynet. I’m just saying, it hates humanity that much.

Versus mode is plenty of fun, allowing survivors and special infected to all be controlled by rival human teams. It’s almost too unbalanced though, as a moderately well-organized zombie team will always be able to destroy a mediocre survivor team. I’m curious to see how balanced expert teams of both would be, since special infected die from a few hits and it’s kind of easy to overwhelm the survivors.

In any case, expect Valve to keep on updating L4D and continue bringing us a stellar multiplayer experience. I wholeheartedly recommend L4D so long as you have a good internet connection. If you’re playing without the net or you’re expecting a deep single-player experience, avoid it for now.

Valkyria, Tomb Raider, and Realism? [Sony]
Dec 4th, 2008 by Dan

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about it, but I’m still very excited for Valkyria Chronicles. I promised my family that I wouldn’t make any purchases until after Christmas (not that I should be making any at this point), so I have to wait until at least then to hope that I get what promises to be a sweet looking video game. Enjoy the video review.

We shall see if it’s as good as it’s claimed to be by people like Shane Betenhousen and the PA guys.

Now for a bit of a digression/editorial:

This excerpt from an Action Button Dot Net review of Tomb Raider: Underworld written collectively by the staff will spearhead our topic:

“Does anyone in the audience here have the upper body strength to do one pull-up? It’s really hard, isn’t it? Now imagine doing a pull-up and then, at the end of the pull-up, pulling down so hard with your biceps that you launch your entire body six feet into the air, then grabbing a ledge and doing another pull-up and launching yourself six feet into the air. It takes roughly six hundred times the upper body strength* (*these figures have not been evaluated by the Olympic gymnastics committee) to launch yourself six feet in the air after a pull-up as it does to do a single pull-up in general. Now imagine a wispy girl doing it, fourteen times in two minutes, and with two sub-machine guns on her back (about eight pounds each, we reckon), with a pair of D-cup breasts pressed uncomfortably against the rock.

We say, the better the graphics get in these games (current status of game graphics: “Prettttttttty! Good!”) the more ridiculous these things look. You might as well just make the hero of this game a super-hero. Iron Woman, maybe. As-is, you’re kind of giving impressionable young people the wrong . . . impression.”

So yeah, I mean, why bother worrying about stuff like realism when it comes to a series so clearly based in unrealism as Tomb Raider. Lara Croft is a caricature of what a real woman is like. She is, as many have said in their reviews, a Barbie running around these exotic locales (exterminating endangered wildlife the whole way through!) that are looking more and more photo-realistic with each iteration. Her face, her character model, her proportions, they just don’t fit in any more. Not to mention how unlikely her ability to complete the actions she completes are.

Call me a nerd. I’ll take it in stride. I write a blog! It’s mostly centered around video games. I have a strong desire to make this a career. How else can you describe me? However, there is a deeper level that you don’t know about. I’m an engineer, so I am almost physically wounded by witnessing bad physics in movies and games (so long as I’m thinking of it in a real context). Nathan Drake, for some reason, didn’t bug me as much. He’s a lot less ridiculous, but he’s also able to make leaps that require ridiculous upper-body strength and grab hold to precarious handholds. The rest does seem somewhat more realistic though…although the gunplay is equally ridiculous. A shotgun to the body should kill in one hit…

Sorry, I’ve been wandering…my point is that somewhere, deep within my consciousness, I crave a more realistic experience. I want a game where if you jump from a high enough location, you break your legs. I want a game where one good slash of a sword will kill you. Bullets should be more lethal. It seems like a really bad idea, but I think they kind of do that with the Rainbow Six series (at least the first one).

Then again, how would that be fun? Say you’re playing a regular Joe in one of these games. You probably couldn’t run full speed around the whole map without getting tired. You probably couldn’t carry infinite inventory and run as far as you could before. You probably can’t stuff a giant sword into your pants to store it.

There are people who love stuff like this, they’re crazy tabletop RPG players, but that’s not what I want to do. I just want to boot up a video game and complete a cool scenario that doesn’t require me to be a superhero. I want the game to be about a regular guy, have regular physics, and just make a lot more sense. You could still have aliens, but recognize that organic life is organic life. A good bullet to an alien will still probably kill them, right?

I’m rambling, but we’ll see if something like this ever happens in the future. We’ll see if anything like this will ever be fun.

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