Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Ghost House SMB1" - Super Mario Maker WiiU


"Ghost House SMB1" from Super Mario Maker on WiiU
Composer: Koji Kando
Game Developer: Nintendo

I first heard this theme on my first day with MarioMaker.  It was playing in the background of a very cool custom level called "Bad Plumbing." It was ghost-themed, and I didn't know where the music came from, but I noticed it instantly.  Because the original Super Mario Bros did not include ghost houses, a new theme had to be made to suit this new environment.  I think it sounds great. Appropriately low-fi and spooky, but still sort of poppy and catchy in a Mario kind of way.  


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pack Watch: Flying games

Play as a girl who can turn into a bird.  Fly around to floating islands!  Nice looking, colorful polygons that aren't too complicated.  I think this art style is what N64 was going for a lot of the time.  Low res, not complicated textures, but looks great!  The technique is called 'flat shaded polygons'
I saw my first glimpse of this game over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.


Sky Rogue 
This game just looks fun!  I'm not sure why, given I don't normally like flying games much, but every so often, something jumps out.  I think it's the flat shaded polygons.  Head over to Rock, Paper Shotgun, for more info. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "The New Century" - Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC)

"The New Century" from Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs on the PC.
Composer: Jessica Curry
Record Label: Self Released; Digital
Game Developer: The Chinese Room

I've been listening to a lot of Jessica Curry for the past couple of days.  Be it her music from Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, or Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.  If you have not heard any of her music, it's all available either through Spotify or over on her bandcamp page (except the Everybody's Gone to the Rapture score).

Believe it or not, the soundtrack does have spoilers and there's even a disclaimer that if you haven't completed the game yet, you shouldn't listen to certain tracks, so I decided upon one that was not a spoiler, even in title.  I find "The New Century" to be a beautiful duet between piano (performed by Jessica Curry) and a cello (performed by Jonathan Byers), except that it's not entirely a duet as the soprano sneaks in 2/3rds of the way through the song.  It's a very moving, intimate song and even more so after completing the game and knowing the events.

Granted it's not music for all occasions as the other night Conklederp asked if I could change the music to something less melancholy after she came home from work, which is completely understandable.  But sometimes, it's music like this that just hits the spot.  And now I have an urge to go through the game again.


Monday, September 21, 2015

First Impressions: Super Mario Maker (WiiU)

I did it.  I went and bought it.  And now it's all I think about, day and night.  Super Mario Maker. It's a lot of fun.  It is basically exactly as advertised:  a really easy to use level editor for Super Mario Bros games. They make level editing easy and fun!

Mario Maker is full of Easter eggs.  There's a lot I still don't know about it.  You aren't given a full palette to start with, but it is released slowly over 9 days.  However, you can unlock different tools faster by playing the game in editor and play modes. So far, I've got 3/5 rows of tiles unlocked, and it is more than enough for me.

It's still totally fun to build with a limited pallet, and also to play levels, both the ones designed by Nintendo and ones by random players.    (it comes with like... 50 levels designed by Nintendo.  some are full levels, others are just one screen.  they are designed to give you ideas)

One of the cooler things I should mention is that the game reverse-engineers different environments.  For example, the ghost house is playable in Mario 1 skin, even though there was never a ghost house in that game.  You can also get items like the Shoe and other stuff in Mario 1 skin.  (also, being able to get the shoe, previously featured in only 1 level of mario 3, is almost worth the price of admission itself)

So yeah, best $300 game I ever bought.  There are criticisms.  But for now, they are all minute specks of dust that I have already forgotten.  I'm sure to talk more about this game. 


Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing a D&D Quest

Okay, I need to step back and take a break.  Another one.

Back in 2002, I wrote a Dungeons & Dragons quest for myself to DM, using the 3.5 edition rules.  I had a physical copy that I printed out after I had completed that story and I've been schlepping that physical copy around with me for the last 13 years.  Earlier this year, I decided that I should make a digital copy of the story so that I wouldn't lose it because I liked the story so much.  At the time, it was in a fictional world that wasn't associated with any existing realm (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Planescape, et cetera).  So I sat down and started transcribing what I had written with the plan to convert everything to 5th Edition rules.

That was the plan.  That plan happened, more or less.  That plan is still happening.

During the process of typing out what I had previously written, I decided to expand on some story ideas that I hadn't been 100% with, such as the main antagonists motivations for doing what they were doing.  I didn't do anything like make them a more sympathetic character even if their motivations were, in their own mind, completely justified.  Their actions were still very messed up and always in the chaotic evil realm.  What happened was that I started expanding on the other characters in the story and when that happened, I ended up taking different routes then the ones I had at first intended.

These people (who shall continue to go unnamed) started having their own motivations for doing things, which in turn fleshed out the geographical region that I had created.  A town that I had placed next to a river turned into a small fishing village and that village needed a temple to a god.  But which god?  So after some research I found the perfect one, which then made me think about the different deities that the other villages/towns in the region would have.  As it turned out, that first deity seemed to fit with a number of the villages, so I placed temples in the other towns as well as clerics and acolytes to man those temples.  

Then I saw a picture of a hooked Chinese spearhead and thought that that would be a great weapon for a character to have.  The unnamed character that I thought might have that type of spearhead ended up with an entire backstory that I hadn't even considered the day before; such as why did he have that type of weapon when everyone else around them had the more conventional sword?  That lead to more backstory.   I then wanted to play this character because I liked him, but I also wanted to see how he fared in combat.  Sure I could just run a mock combat by myself, but I felt like I wanted to show off this character.  I don't want to give more away, so I'll move on.

There was one town that all I had was a numbered map without any of the descriptions.  I know I had typed it out back in '02 because I recall one of the features I put in the town, but I lost the papers along the way.  So I started in coming up with the descriptions again.  This town ended up having a very involved backstory and before where there were not any named citizens, I now had at least ten because they needed names because shops needed owners and those owners couldn't simply be "Barkeep Bob" or "Bar Wench Wendy."  I had also looked up what types of occupations would be present in a 12th century English village because I felt like too many of the towns were made up of sundry shops, taverns, blacksmiths and a temple.  I needed some variety.  And in the process of looking for that variety, I found an occupation that I hadn't considered, which forced me to reconstruct the history I had previously come up with for the entire town, alter some of the relationships in town and then go back to mentions of this town earlier in the story and alter those descriptions to make sense with how the town was to be constructed.

The point is, the little bits started filling themselves out.  All I did was ask "why is that there?" or "what would the populace's reaction to this be?" or "how is that thing done?"  So I decided that I would take a break, to let my brain calm down and then come back to the story with a fresh mind.  That plan was working until I let another story idea get into my head (this was back on Tuesday September 8th) and by the 9th, I had most of the storyline completed.  Once I started typing everything out in an outline though, that was when things started to change and flesh themselves out in ways I hadn't thought about.  Characters were given names and reasons for doing the things I wanted them to do.  But after just a bit of naming and giving them occupations and even the slightest bit of backstory, their motivations changed and could no longer do the things I wanted them to do, so I had to create new characters for that purpose.  I'm sure I look like a half-obsessed person to Conklederp as I sit here in the mornings, afternoons, evenings flipping through pages in the DMG, PHB and MM, as well as through online sources for which god-like deity would possibly be mentioned based on certain characteristics and beliefs that people might have.  

Unlike the previous quest, this one does take place in Faerûn so I felt that I had to do some research into the world.  I found out that in the present D&D setting, the year is 1481 DR and in order to make this story not clash with  Faerûn's history, I needed to do some/a lot of research into specific areas.  Okay, I didn't have to, but I wanted to because I couldn't justify changing a fictional past.  That lead me to introducing some new characters which have taken the PCs away from their main quest and are sidetracking them, because I feel that is what might happen under the circumstances that are a part of the main story.  

If there is a massive increase in the number of Orc raids on settlements around Neverwinter, wouldn't the citizens of Neverwinter and the surrounding area be wary of even half-Orcs?  And wouldn't that mean that there might be lynch mobs out looking for Orcs, even half-Orcs that are part of an adventuring group?  And now those citizens, who previously were unnamed, unnumbered and simply "Commoner" have a small background and motivation for their actions in attacking the PC adventuring group with a half-Orc in the party.  All because I wanted to write a story about a Hobgoblin warlord (who is not actually an Orc, but the masses haven't had much time to compare Orcs and Hobgoblins) who is trying to steal magical weapons so that he can become the leader of all the surrounding clans.  That might have been the plot, but now that angry citizens are involved, the PCs are in a more complicated position.  And what about those magical weapons?  Are they really magical?  Where did the orange glowing greatsword that Garthyung the Hobgoblin acquire it?  Or maybe the acquisition of magical weapons is part of a larger story involving demons or undead, that can only be harmed by magical weapons?

This is why I now need to step away from this new story now.  Maybe for the weekend anyway.  Until I feel the stories tugging at my brain again and I have to come back.  Because I know that it will happen.

It always does.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

First Impressions: The Secret of QWERTY (PC)

The Secret of QWERTY is a very small indie game.   I've given it only 15 minutes of play, but I actually think that is enough to give you my impressions.  The game is free to download, and you have the option of donating.  I think I might donate, because this is a fun little game, and I think it has a lot of potential.

Like many of the indiest of the indie games, QWERTY looks like the rough draft version of what could be a really cool, higher production game.  The graphics are very low-fi, and the level design is haphazard.  But it is still a lot of fun.

The gameplay is basic RPG gameplay:  explore maps, fight monsters, collect gold, buy equipment, level up.  Most of these qualities are superficial, but also familiar and comforting to anyone who has logged weeks worth of hours on NES RPG games.  The real hook in QWERTY is the combat system.  Attacks are made by typing a given word or phrase that appears beneath your enemies.  There is a fast timer ticking away at all times, and the enemies will attack and hit you if you don't type fast enough.

I found it very amusing, and not just in a whimsical way.  The physical sensation of typing against time is a lot more action-packed than most old school RPGs that QWERTY draws its visual aesthetic from.  On a more whimsical note, the typing theme opens the game up for lots of silly puns, place names and other jokes based on typing and keyboard layout (see: the title).  I see the potential for a "Phantom Tollbooth" style of humor and creativity.

It only takes a couple minutes to download and install.  I definitely recommend giving The Secret of QWERTY a whirl. 


Thanks to Boing Boing for originally pointing me to this game.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Prologue Movie" - Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)

"Prologue Movie" from Final Fantasy Tactics on the Playstation (1998)
Composer: Hitoshi Sakimoto
Record Label: DigiCube SSCX-10008 & Square Enix SQEX-10066~7
Album: Final Fantasy Tactics Original Sound Track
Game Developer: Square

I like this song.  I also like the opening movies that the song is associated with, both the original Playstation game and the remake-retitled Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions on the PSP.  The music is the same in both versions, as in the same music file was used, at least that is what my uncultured ears tell me.

Something I like about this song is that it introduces at least four themes during an introductory movie that does not tell you much of anything about the story or the characters.

First there is the theme played by bagpipes that I am pretty sure is "Backborn Story" and is only used during the beginning of the game, although I could very well be mistaken. Secondly, there is "Alma's Theme," which is speckled throughout other songs as well, but here is introduced in a somewhat more fanfaric manner than how the song is usually presented.  Thirdly, there's the "Hero's Theme," being Ramza, although who the hero is in this game is very dependent on whose perspective you take.  The song picks up with a theme that I could only locate in the end of "Battle's End," which is played after you win a battle.  This last theme might be hinted at in other songs, although I was unable to find it after listening to the soundtrack (specifically listening for this one theme through 75% of the soundtrack anyway).

Now I feel that I want to go back and play this game again (all 120 hours of it).  And I feel that that is what good music should do, be it from video games, movies, operas, musicals.  It's all good.

Inside Plays A Lullabye

Monday, September 14, 2015

Game Review: Clash of Clans (Android)

Yes, I've played Clash of Clans.  I have played this mobile game for roughly 521 days.  Not everyday of those 521 days, but fairly consistently and for a couple of minutes each day.  That's actually a lot longer than I realized, although it's less than a year and-a-half, so that actually makes me feel a little better.  But I am here today to talk about those 521 days of playing this simple freemium cellphone game.

I was first encouraged to start playing this game from Conklederp's oldest youngest brother, we'll call him Guy#1.  So I decided to join up and give this game a try.  This was on Friday April 18, 2014.  I guess that is all the background that is required.

In its simplest form, Clash of Clans is a form of MMO tower defense game.  It's a simplified Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in one location meets the asshats of the internet.  The game is quite addicting, but not so addicting that I put real world money into the game.

Plus, the game does look pretty good.

Either zoomed in all the way (as above), or zoomed out to see the entirety of your village (below), all the lines are crisp and the color are bold.  The only way I could imagine this game to be better visually, is if there was a way of rotating the camera around the village to see it from any angle.  But, that would probably require more programming that the developers would not want to have to deal with.

So what made me play Clash of Clans for 521 days (have I mentioned the number of days yet?) and what made me stop?  The answer to those questions are the same.  A few months in, I realized that the fighting goblins in the single player campaign, which consists of sending troops up against a goblin clan who have their own village and defenses (using the same defenses as all the other players) and looting their resources which become your own.  The thing though with the goblins, is that you are able to attack the same village as often as you want, but their resources (gold and elixir) only exist the one time you actually take them.  Once they're looted from that one particular village, they never replenish.  As you progress through the goblin villages, they become more and more difficult, requiring the player to further upgrade their troops by using gold and/or elixir.  I had decided that I would only play long enough to finish the goblin campaign seeing as I had no real interest in making it to the top of the online leader boards.

So on Thursday September 10th, I managed to earn the coveted three stars on the final goblin mission by destroying 100% of the goblin's village.
Visual proof that I done did it.
For those of y'all who want to know, the troops I sent in were as follows with the maximum number of troops (each troop member has a point value) I could take into battle being 200:

I had previously tried attacking the final goblin stage a number of times and had even managed to take all of their resources, but the remainder of my troops were killed trying to destroy the last of the defences.  I do not actually recall my specific strategy when I beat the goblins for the final time.  I think I used the rage spell on a pair of P.E.K.K.As and some wall breakers and again when the P.E.K.K.As were around a clump of defensive buidings.  As per usual, I used the Barbarian King's heal/rage after he took some damage and I think I used my last rage spell on him and his summoned barbarians after his heal/rage ability wore off.

So, now that there is nothing left to do in the game but spend months upgrading everything so that I can keep higher level players away from my resources.  Before completing the goblin campaign, I was upgrading my walls (as in each large pointy section of the walls are considered 1 Wall), which costs 500,000 gold to upgrade a single section of the wall (between Level 7-8 is 500,000 gold; from Level 8-9 it's 1,000,000 gold or elixir per section of wall).  Mining gold at 21,000 an hour means that it takes at least 23 hours and 49 minutes to mine enough gold to upgrade just one of the walls.  I have 193 walls to upgrade which means it would take an additional 96,500,500 gold or 191.5 days to mine enough gold (that is if noone raids my village and takes a certain percentage of my gold in the process).  Ain't nobody got time for that, so I'm going to be calling it quits.  That type of game is not really me and in the end, I feel good about everything seeing as how I completed the single player goblin campaign.

Now, as I say goodbye to this game, I leave you with my village

Now onto my next mobile game, which may have just been introduced to me by Dellaños just today.  We'll have to wait and see though.  Now I just have to uninstall Clash of Clans. . .


Friday, September 11, 2015

GOGgling the Steamy Origins of Desura.

Wow, I guess I hadn't realized that so many logos are some variation on a circle.  Looking down at my task bar confirms this realization as well.  Chrome, Scrobbler, Skype, Open Office, even Audacity's logo is rounded.  Sure there are a few outliers: K-Chart LE, Guitar Pro 6 (although it is rounded, but not circular), the open folders tab. . . But I'm getting away from my own train of rambling though.

I had initially set in to write a post comparing Valve's Steam client and GOG's new (beta) Galaxy client.  I had a few pictures all set up  too that I was planning on using, but that turned into a "which games do I want to publically display that I have on Steam?"  There was even something about how similar the clients were, but in reality they are not, at least between Galaxy and Steam.  Mentally I think I had this expose-type post planned but I decided to scrap that idea when I realized that I would not be able to put down all of the words the way that I wanted them to.  Maybe it's because I haven't had my daily dose of liquid caffeine yet.

Basically what I think the article boiled down to was that with GOG's Galaxy client, I find myself more apt to compare games there to the same games on Steam.  Something that I really like about the Galaxy client too is that all of the goodies that come packaged with a lot of the games (concept art, developer interviews, soundtracks) are accessible through Galaxy and can be downloaded to Galaxy's download folder.  This ease of access, not only to the games and the extras has made me a lot more likely to not only use the games I have on GOG, but to be more likely to purchase games through GOG.

And just because I noticed that The Witcher series has gone on sale this weekend over on Steam, and I already have the first game in the series (The Witcher: Enhanced Extended Director's Cut) over on GOG.  All three games in the series, through GOG come packaged with some combination of maps, making of videos and the complete soundtrack, and all for the same price when sales are not taken into account.  Granted not all games on GOG are packaged with videos and soundtracks, but those that I have noticed that are (7th Guest, Baldur's Gate Complete, The Witcher, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Sanitarium) are all equally priced over on Steam and from what I can tell, do not include a soundtrack.  We like video game music over here by the way.

And then there is Origin, the gaming client from EA where only IP's that EA owns are sold.  I'm 97% positive that it has already been mentioned, but I think this is Origin's biggest weakpoint.  What few games I have on Origin are mostly freebees through their "On the House" program which offers a free game every few months.  Games like Sim City 2000, Syndicate,  Wing Commander III, Bejeweled 3 and Crusader: No Remorse were all "On the House" offers that I gladly snatched up because why not, they're free.  I'm not sure where The Sims 3 came from and it might've even been a freebee around the time The Sims 4 was coming out, but The Sims 2 was a promotional offer to new Origin accounts over a year ago.  I think the only thing that I've bought on Origin was a DLC for Dead Space 3, but that was when they were having a Dead Space sale so I didn't even buy it for full price.  Other games I acquired through an EA Humble Bundle.  Basically for me, Origin is a game client that only offers EA games that I feel I could already get on Steam or Galaxy.

The last video game client that I have is Desura.  I acquired it sometime around January of last year (2014) when I found out about the Half-Life 2 demo for The Stanley Parable.  So I went ahead, got an account with Desura, picked up The Stanley Parable Demo and then noticed that Desura had also imported access to a number of the games that I normally run through Steam.  Perhaps in an act of retaliation, I later found that I had access to The Stanley Parable Demo through Steam even though I had not added it myself.  

So what does all of this talk about video game clients boil down to?  Basically, I still have Desura because I just haven't gotten around to uninstalling it.  I have Origin because every so often they offer free older games that might be fun and is the only way I will be able to play Dead Space 3.  I use Galaxy in order to have access to older games that are not available on Steam or are comparably priced on Steam but offer extras that entice me to purchase the product through GOG.  I use Steam because that is what solidified me in the PC gaming arena, the frequency of the sales for games that I would like to acquire (and hopefully get around to playing), it's what a lot of my friends use, and I really like the interface.

So what can we gather from all of this?  That GOG's Galaxy and Valve's Steam are my preferred clients for running video games on my little laptop although during the writing of this article, I did locate a couple free games on Desura that looked interesting enough for me to pick them up, so we will see in the future.

As It Is Written

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pak Watch: Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

I am super-duper HYPED about Super Mario Maker.  It looks great.  It looks like the spiritual successor to Mario Paint, which was an awesome game.  Of course, there's a lot of hype about this game floating down my twitter feed, so that contributes a great deal to my own excitement.  But, but!  There's lots of hype about lots of things, and I still am more excited about Mario Maker than anything!  All of my favorite publications are writing about it.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night creator Koji Igarashi had fun playing it.  
I feel like a little kid; getting hyped about the latest Nintendo product.  I have always loved level editors, from Excitebike to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and I encourage more of them.  Somehow, with Super Mario Bros, It all seems more accessible. I'm excited to make levels and to play some of the online posted levels.  The interface on this game looks really cool.  And it comes with this crazy idea book, which you can view online.  

Super Mario Maker comes out tomorrow (9/11/2015) and I am seriously considering buying a Wii U just so I can play this game*.  A real shame it isn't coming out on 3DS.   I really hope Nintendo will do so at some point. 


*And Mario Kart 8 and some various Mario games that came out on the Wii.  But Mario Maker might be what pushes me over the edge.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Level Clear" - Tetris Attack (SNES)

"Level Clear" from Tetris Attack on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1996)
Composer: Masaya Kuzume
Record Label / Album: No Official Soundtrack Released

This might be an odd choice from a game that has quite a lot of great music in it, both from the original Panel de Pon game in Japan and the rearranged some of the tracks taken from Yoshi's Island.  Until I was able to locate the music from the game (because no physical soundtrack was ever produced), I had always known this music to be the "Vs. Mode Fail" music as opposed to the "Level Clear" music that it is frequently titled as.  And before you  jump to conclusions, no I did not hear this tune a lot because I was bad at the game, it was because my Mother was blazingly amazing at this game.

But this song, I would love to listen to and I would let it play through at least twice before continuing on with the game (unless I was playing Vs. Mode against a real person).  I love how simplistic the melody is, being played on what I perceive to be a xylophone or glockenspiel along with a second one to play chords at certain points throughout the song, along with water droplet sounds and a hi hat beat  Plus, I'm always impressed with how great songs from video games can flawlessly loop before you realize that the song is repeating.

So I hope that y'all enjoy this short little song-bit.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Monthly Update: September

A little late in coming, I understand, my apologies.  Here are some things I've been up to lately:

Welcome to Night Vale.  I mentioned this earlier, and I am mentioning it again because I enjoy it so much.  I've finished year 1, and the current running year is year 4, so I have a lot to go.  I think I will give them some money soon, because I really am enjoying this podcast.  They have such an easy time being strange, I just love it. 

Jane and I played through Portal recently.  I still really love that game, and it's so nice that it's not terribly long.  However, my one complaint on this time through was the second to last test chamber.  It includes a room where you have to use your falling momentum to launch yourself from platform to platform to platform, covering quite a bit of vertical distance.  If you miss one of the tiny platforms, you fall into poisonous slime and have to start all over.  It is frustrating and really not fun.   Just a nit pick; I still love this game.  I have yet to complete it, but I am really happy to show Jane the final level. 

I had a chance to play a couple rounds of Exploding Kittens last Monday at a local 'board games at a bar' event.  The game features artwork by the Oatmeal, and gleans some of its value from the jokes on each card.  It's a quick-format game.  We had five players and the games took like fifteen minutes or less.  I didn't get a strong sense of the mechanics of the game, but they seem really simple.  Action cards, responses, don't get the exploding kitten!  It was like a highly simplified version of Munchkin, maybe. Highly. Simplified.

Ultimately, I wasn't impressed.  It was pretty well forgettable.  But the game has already had incredible success on kickstarter.  The way I justify this to myself is by saying that purchasing this card game is like saying 'thank you' to the oatmeal for all the laughs that have thus far been delivered for free.

On the TV front, I watched the first Season of Rick and Morty, which is a filthy humor sci fi cartoon show.  Once I got used to it, I came to really enjoy Rick and Morty.  In parallel, I've been watching Adventure Time, which is much more of a kids show, but with plenty of adult-oriented inside jokes.  Adventure Time is a great show with a generally positive vibe, that I find fills the 'feel good' watching niche quite well.  I also started watching Fringe, and I've gotten into a good rhythm with that show.  I really enjoy the actors, particularly John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop.  There's just something about his fragile and enthusiastic genius character that I appreciate.  

Finally, I also want to mention that the other day I went to roller skating rink for a friends birthday.  I had only been to one once before, at the more appropriate age of 10 or so.  I'm happy to report, that once I got over the awkwardness of it all, I found roller skating to be very enjoyable.  It was like skiing on flat ground, relaxing, but also exciting.  If I had been able to last, I could go around and around the rink for hours.  I had a great time.  Then, coincidentally, I came home and watched an episode of Parks and Rec where Ben has a party at a roller rink.  Fun coincidence. 


Video Games?  What are those?

Welcome to Nightvale (Podcast Review)

"The world is a quickly fading illusion, revealing a void of dark, endless fire beneath, burning our lives and the memory of our lives slowly away. "

Welcome to Night Vale is awesome.  I love it.  It is mysterious, spooky and funny.  The writers clearly have an appreciation of HP Lovecraft, and can toss out lines about the vastness and meaninglessness of existence in an off-the-cuff fashion.  If you like that kind of thing, then it will come across as hilarious.   

The structure is straightforward:  every episode comes to you from radio DJ Cecil, as he reads public service announcements to the city of Night Vale.  They are immediately strange, and often quite silly.  At times, I recall my own time as a DJ with Jaconian, and I think of how much fun it would be to read stuff like this. 

I highly recommend Welcome to Night Vale to anyone who likes the spooky and the strange.  


P.S.  here's a transcription of an episode, in case you're at all curious, but don't want to download or listen on youtube.  

Game Review: Fallout Shelter (Android)

Prior to Fallout Shelter being released on Android devices, I had heard a lot of hubbub about the game and I was excited for its release on a device that I owned.  I purposefully did not look up any information about the game and prior to downloading it, all I knew was that you played a person in charge of a vault in the Fallout universe.  As it turns out, you play the Overseer who is the one in charge of a vault in the Fallout universe where you oversee the vault dwellers and the further construction and development of you particular vault.  That is basically about it.  There is no overarching story, at least that I was introduced to after two weeks of playing.  The game is primarily about human and resource management.

I actually quickly realized that this was how the game was going to be pretty early on yet I kept playing for an additional week and-a-half for a number of reasons.  First, and probably most importantly, I really liked the visual aesthetic of the game.  The character design is based off of the Vault Boy from the Vault-Tec Pipboy2000.  It's very cartoony.  Even the raiders and from a screenshot, the Deathclaws all have the same artistic style associated with them.  It's also a very clean looking game and after getting used to the user interface (considering it's on a touchscreen), I became comfortable with how to navigate the various menus and visual cues of the rooms.  Secondly, I like the post-apocalyptic universe that Fallout takes place in, with its slightly retro-futuristic design of everything.  Like the look of the world is still very 1950s even though it's the 22nd century,  even though the war (that never changes) happened around 2060.

I probably spent about two weeks playing Fallout Shelter and then I just stopped, cold turkey and it wasn't intentionally either.  What happened was that I had forgotten to check my vault one morning and then didn't have my phone with me the rest of the day.  The following morning I realized that I hadn't check the vault the previous day and so I, what I thought was temporarily, put it out of my mind.  The third day of not checking, I thought to myself, "You know what?  That was a good two week run.  I feel like I understood the game without sinking hours upon hours into it, and I'm okay with that."  

For me, what I've broken the game down to is a few aspects.  You have the resource generators (power, water, and food) and your required amount of food/water is dependent on the number of people you have and in order to have more people, you need to build more living quarters for the people who live in the vault who also work in one of the resource generators based on their abilities (Strength/ Dexterity/ Intelligence/ Perception/ Charisma/ Luck) which then requires more resources in order to keep those sections of the vault operating.  Then your vault is open to attacks from raiders, rad-roaches, rad-moles which drains the life of your vault dwellers which requires you to manufacture stimpacks and radaway (anti-radiation medicine) which requires you to have more vault dwellers to manufacture those items, which requires you to have more living quarters, and on and on.  If there is an endgame, I certainly do not what it is and it was never made clear.  The only purpose of the game was to build more so you could have more which required you to build more.

This realization that Fallout Shelter was a storyless Skinner Box of sorts made me a little sad.  Sad to the point that when I realized that I did not want to play any more, that again, I was okay with that.  There was never that feeling of "Wow, I guess I'll never find out what the end of the game is like."  Sure there are minor goals that rotate in and out as you complete them such as "Collect 1000 Energy" or "Put out 10 Fires" where you might earn 100 caps (in-game currency used to build more facilities/resource generators) or a lunchbox that includes 4 items, but I felt that those were there to give the daily grind some meaning in the short run.  

With Fallout Shelter, I do not feel that there is a "in the long run" to this game.  And again, that made me a little sad.  And so I stopped playing.

When There's War And All Is Hell

Maybe it's just me, but this seems wildly inappropriate. . .

Friday, September 4, 2015

Monthly Update: September 2015

You know, I had thought about updating. . .nevermind.  I'm going to let that running joke (as in not a joke) just go ahead and die.

Well, as it turns out to be as expected as I had hoped that it would not be, I was not nearly as productive as I had wanted to be last month.  I have yet to actually play Exploding Kittens and the only reason/excuse that I can come up with is because when there have been more than just Conklederp and myself around, we are usually doing something that does not involve sitting around a table, unless that table is currently being used for Dungeons & Dragons. I'm a little sad by this fact, maybe because it's a game that I was really excited to play but there either doesn't appear to be interest or time, or perhaps both.  We'll see in the coming month if I can dredge up a bit of either.

Dungeons & Dragons has happened only once since my last Monthly Update, but that was due to normal scheduling happening and it looks like we'll be getting together again at the end of the month as Conklederp, myself and her parents will be visiting the coast and central Oregon in the coming weeks.  Maybe we can play (the SFW version of) Exploding Kittens?  Maybe not though.  Maybe I'll just bring Munchkin along as they seemed to like that game last time we played.  But back on the D&D front, I finally finished painting the miniatures that represent the PCs in our campaign.  I also made some quick props that have either not been found yet, or were destroyed when the monster carrying them were thoroughly destroyed.

I now genuinely believe that I am less than five hours away from completing Radiant Historia on the 3DS.  In Fallout Tactics, I find myself switching back and forth between the Easy and Normal difficulties, but that's usually when those damnable Deathclaws are around.  I will probably also get around to posting a review of the Bethesda mobile game Fallout Shelter, which I was playing on a regular basis on my android phone up until Tuesday (9/1/15), but that reason will go into the review and maybe by then I will have more information about all that.

OH!  Over on GOG, Bethesda has "allowed" the release of two previously very rare games in the Elder Scrolls series: Battlespire and Redguard.  These games were originally released in 1997 and 1998 respectively and were only just released to be available through GOG.  I will probably be waiting before picking up either of theses games as you are most likely well aware, by games queue is overflowing with titles that I have even yet to touch.  Oh, and the first three Fallout games are once again available through GOG too.

In the coming month, I hope to have some more miniature painting completed, as well as finishing both Fallout Tactics and Radiant Historia and then moving on to something else, maybe not post apocalyptic or fantasy related.  I do have games that are not in either of those two genres by the way.  I have. . . I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and Shank, and Resident Evil: Revelations and 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors.  And then I also just found out that Escape Rooms are a thing and the three that are operating out of Portland have received very favorable reviews (from what I've read anyway), so I'll be trying to get our D&D group to cough up $15-30/person to have an hour of panic laden fun.

I think that's enough rambling for now, time to get on with my day.

And welcome to September.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

MIDI Week Singles: "Katamari on the Rock ~ Main Theme" - Katamari Damacy (PS2)

"Katamari on the Rock ~ Main Theme"  from Katamari Damacy on the Playstation 2 (2004)
Composer: Yu Miyake
Sung By:  Masayuki Tanaka
Studio:  NAMCO

There are actually a lot of songs that I could pick from this wonderfully crazy and eclectic soundtrack, but I probably would have felt bad if I had not started off with "Katamari on the Rock," being a portion of the music that plays during the bizarre intro movie that doesn't actually have anything to do with the gameplay, but it sets the mood for something very out of the ordinary.  I find it very difficult, if not impossible to listen to this song and not feel happy afterwards.  Even the lyrics come across as happy black metal-esque nonsense.

There are so many different aspects to this song that I love.  The trumpet sounds very crisp and bright without being a typical 1st Trumpet and blaring out the highest notes possible.  The drums are always seeming to be padding away.  The background choir singing's "chu-chu-chu-du."  

So seeing that neither Dr. Potts nor I had shared any of the music from the Katamari series here, thus was my inspiration for using "Katamari on the Rock" for today's musical selection.