Rival Bombs: Another GB Bomberman Clone

Yeah, that's right. You've probably already seen BomberDuder from @fobwashed, but there's another Bomberman clone in this town. Admittedly, this idea spawned from the head of @fobwashed with the primary goal of producing a functional Bomberman clone to play while waiting in PAX lines.

Box City!

Brad in all his plaid glory. Basic movement spritesheet.

While I did start working on this prior to @fobwashed starting his, I actually haven't made quite as much progress on the mechanics at this point. I've only got very basic movement and bomb mechanics at the moment, but now that I have a bit more free time I should be progressing at a decent clip and will hopefully catch up to him soon with kicking and throwing and what not.

I have a long list of features I'd like to implement (using the best Bomberman - Saturn Bomberman - as the blueprint), but for the time being, it's basically just a race to make something vaguely functional and fun within the next 1.5 weeks. Whether or not I continue to work on it after that is up in the air.

I'm working in Haxe/OpenFL with the HaxeFlixel framework. I plan on compiling Windows, Mac, and Flash builds - I'll probably out of convenience only be doing Flash and/or Windows builds of the initial demos that I post here. I'll also eventually open up my GitHub repository for anyone that wants to dive into my code for whatever reason.

I'll keep this blog post updated as I progress and make some demo builds available along the way.

Latest Build - 04/10/2014

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Game Jam Roundup - Mini-LD 44 aka #7dRTS

Intro

Yep, I'm back with yet another look at a bunch of games from a recent game jam. This time looking at games from Mini-Ludum Dare #44.

If you aren't familiar with Ludum Dare, it's one of the longest running and most respected game jams out there with the likes of indie game pioneers like Notch gracing it with his presence (even before he was Notch). The Mini-LD isn't quite the same as a full on Ludum Dare game jam: a host is selected which picks a theme they want and the rule set and ratings are relaxed. The participation is generally much lower in these events that fill the gaps between proper Ludum Dare events that occur once every four months, but you still often see some interesting things coming out of the event.

Mini-LD 44 offered up a pretty straight forward theme - Seven Day RTS (7dRTS). As the name implies, the goal was to make an Real-Time Strategy game over the course of a week. Of course, this theme comes with the typical encouragement to experiment and push the boundaries and with this being a Mini-LD there's even less pressure to stick to what's expected.

As with the previous game jam roundups that I've done, the standard disclaimers apply. I haven't played everything, and inclusion or exclusion from this list doesn't necessarily imply anything about quality. These are just a sampling of games that I've played that I found to be worth telling people about. I encourage you peruse the entire list of 99 entries if you get a chance.

The Highlights

The Great Story of DOTS

This is my favorite game of the bunch. It simplifies RTS base building and unit movements down to just drawing lines and geometric shapes. It's entire presentation is polished and nice looking, too. Everything about this package just comes together perfectly, and I'm really hoping that the developers take the time to expand this into a full fledged game, ideally on iPad since I think this control scheme would work extremely well on a touch screen device.

Lode Storm

Lode Storm is possibly the most atmospheric game that I've played. The audio does an excellent job of establishing a tense mood, and the Command & Conquer style radio chatter just sounds flat out cool. The gameplay is stripped down to just controlling a few individual units in a battle for control points, and it has a very slow and deliberate movement speed to it that feels pretty unique in comparison to today's more twitchy RTS games.

Icarus

Icarus is another entry that does a pretty good job of using audio to set the tone. This game puts you in charge of rescuing people in a galaxy with an ever expanding sun that is swallowing up entire planets, but the overall tone of the game is simply one of impending doom which lets you know that not everyone is coming out of this alive.

FrogForce

Dungeon crawlers and Real-Time Strategy aren't two genres often seen together, but FrogForce does an admirable job of combining them into one lighthearted package. It puts you in direct control of a hero unit along with a set of three compatriots controlled through fairly conventional RTS controls. It even features a pretty healthy upgrade system which goes a long way toward making this feel like a deep full-fledged game.

Chess

If you've ever found chess to be slow and boring, this might be the game for your. Essentially, this is just chess, but with the twist that there is no turn taking, it's all in real time. Chess pieces still follow their standard movement rules, but now rather than having to wait your turn, you're only limited by a small cooldown placed on pieces after they've been moved. The bottom line on this one is just that it's good hectic fun. Try it out.

Love Squad

When a developer with a hacker alias like DogShitEmpire puts out a game, you pretty much know it's going to be something crazy. Love Squad doesn't disappoint. This game puts you in control of the "Lovenecks", the 7th Battalion of the eponymous Love Squad. Your goal is to spread love and fight the Hateitis pandemic. Honestly, what else can I say other than that. It's a bit incomplete and buggy, but just go try it out anyway.

Oh, and I also made a game. I guess you can check it out if you want to.

Start the Conversation

Goodbye, Ryan! Thanks for Everything!

I'm still really struggling to come to terms with this whole thing.

In the past five years, I've really come to count on GB as a point of stability in my life. There's always been something immensely comforting to me knowing that Ryan, the rest of the crew, and this amazing community were always just a click away regardless of what I had going on.

I know that a lot of people out there probably do raise an eyebrow when they see someone with a personal connection to a website and the community and personalities that inhabit it, but that's just because they don't have the same set of experiences that we do. I'll be honest with you guys, I've always struggled a bit to fit in socially (I'm sure I'm not the only one here that feels that way). I wouldn't call myself socially awkward exactly. I'm capable of being cordial and carrying on casual conversation, but it's extremely rare that I'm able to connect with people on a meaningful level and form rewarding long term relationships. However, connecting with GB's staff and community has always felt pretty natural to me.

We might be on opposites sides of a screen, but it's always felt like we're all kindred spirits here. I never met Ryan in person, and I lament that now I never will, but it already felt like we were buds. That was really the magic of Ryan, and it's a testament to just how special this little experiment called Giant Bomb really is. GB isn't just yet another assembly line for trailers, rumors, and reviews. It's a platform for real people to put their life, passion, and assorted eccentricities on display for all to see, and Ryan thrived in that environment. Not because he was good at his job (even though he was pretty damn good at it), but simply because he was an amazing human being with the sort of larger than life personality that can fill a room. His booming laughter will forever echo in our hearts and minds, and his stories and life will live on in GB lore.

Thanks for everything, Ryan! And because I know you'd probably groan if you ever saw us being so serious about this whole thing, here's this:

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The Reluctant Death of a "M$ Shill" - A Defense of the Old Xbox One Policies

I'm burning my hat and briefcase! The door to door defense campaign is at an end. Where's my money, Microsoft?

With today's news of Microsoft dropping their originally proposed digital purchase policies from the Xbox One, I thought it fitting to sum up my feelings in a blog post on why I think this might not be the best direction for console gaming.

He's not a bad kid. He's just misunderstood.

Personally, I stand by my defense of a lot of Microsoft's policies. While it was certainly marred by horrific PR messaging on an unprecedented scale, I think that the all digital future that Microsoft was pushing for the Xbox One had a lot of potential benefits both for users and the industry.

There certainly would've been backlash from some regardless of the way MS delivered the news, but the inconsistent and muddled messaging added a lot of fuel to the fire. Personally, I think if people calmed down and were a bit more rational about things, most of them would see this as just the reality of the modern video game landscape and a necessary step, if maybe a premature one, in the path that games have already been headed down for the past few years. I also think that those policies really would've only negatively impacted a small portion of those that were screaming. However calmer heads and rationale never really had a chance in the face of today's internet hivemind culture and what I personally view as an increasingly overwrought sense of gamer entitlement that is running amok.

I'll admit that I think MS should have provided a bit more flexibility. There are several proposed methods out there that I think could have kept digital purchases secured while making things easier for people with limited or no internet connectivity available. However, this half step that Sony, and now Microsoft as well, are making toward digital doesn't seem like enough to me. Sure, I'll appreciate the convenience of making day one digital purchases when the clock strikes midnight, but the firm foothold that the Xbox One and PS4 will continue to have in the physical media and retail space is going to continue to be an anchor.

I know his attitude can be a little abrasive at times, but the dude made Jazz MOTHERFUCKIN' Jackrabbit. Clearly he knows a thing or two about video games.

There's a reason that guys like David Jaffe, Cliff Bleszinski, and Mikey Neumann were out there supporting these efforts. They've seen the numbers and are highly aware of the harsh realities of modern game development. A lot of publishers and developers are really struggling out there right now. If we want video games to be a healthy industry, something has to be done.

Purely digital storefronts ala Steam, unencumbered by discs, shelf space, and traditional retailer pressure, are able to provide more flexible pricing models and remove sources of potential lost revenue such as used game purchases and rentals. However, by sticking with the status quo, developers and publishers of games on the PS4 and Xbox One are going to have to stick with the same practices that gamers have been complaining about for the past several years. The "keep the disc in the tray" mentality. Things like tacked on multiplayer, microtransactions, preorder bonuses, online passes, and unfriendly DLC practices are all here to stay.

Over the course of this generation, I'm sure that digital purchases will continually gain ground in the marketplace, and at some point probably supplant the vast majority of disc purchases. Whether you like it or not, games are going to continue to become increasingly social, connected, and more representative of services rather than property. At a certain point, a once per day authorization might even seem trivial because more and more games will be relying on persistant worlds and other "cloud" features as core parts of their experience.

It remains to be seen if games like The Division can deliver on the promise of the oft-misunderstood "cloud", but I'm really hoping that they can.

My fear is just that in the near term this reliance on the "tried and true" has the potential to be a real burden and could do more harm than good. Winning over the hearts and minds of users and selling hardware preorders might not matter all that much if developers are hamstrung by the same old song and dance they have to do to keep their doors open for business. For the time being though, I'm willing to concede to the popular opinion while hoping that digital distribution gains momentum and can come to prominence in a slightly less forced manner when more people are ready for it.

</rant>

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Ludum Dare 26 "Minimalism" Roundup - A Quick Look at What I've Played

Source: http://www.icoderogue.com/2013/05/all-ld26-games-on-one-mosaic.html

Intro

This past weekend marked the 26th official running of the long-standing Ludum Dare game jam competition. For those unfamiliar with the event, it's a 48 hour solo competition that challenges game developers to create a game centered around a core theme that is selected through a series of community votes. A few years ago, in order to encourage more participants, a "relaxed" 72 hour jam that allowed for team entries started running in parallel with the traditional solo competition. If you ask me, producing a solid game even in 72-hours with a team is still pretty damn stressful, but it does certainly seem to have served it's purpose of drawing in a larger crowd with a wider range of skill levels.

This time out the community selected theme was "Minimailism", and in spite of some initial moans and groans about the selection, the turnout was massive! With a bit over 2300 entries (~1600 in the 48 hour compo and ~700 in the 72 hour jam), the community has a hell of a lot of game playing to pack in over a three week period in order to give all of the entries a fair assessment.

Over the past few days, I've started digging through some of the games, and what I've brought here is a sampling of some of the games that have stood out to me. This is by no means a definitive list of everything worth playing though. With so many games to try out, a single person can really only give so many of them a fair look. That's why I strongly encourage you to go take a look at the full list in addition to what I've called out below. Do a bit of digging, try out some random games, and give some encouraging and constructive feedback to some people. Making a game in 48 hours isn't easy, and everyone that managed to complete something deserves some major props, so go give them some.

The following list is in no particular order, and I'm sure that there are plenty of awesome games that I missed, so feel free to tell me about them.

Highlights of What I've Played That I Have Time to Write About

Drop by Notch

While Notch may have elected to not actually submit this game he made last weekend to the Ludum Dare competition, it certainly deserves to be listed alongside them. Drop is something of a minimalist action game tribute to Mavis Beacon. As someone that genuinely has a fondness for some of those old "learn to type" edutainment titles, it's always interesting to see that extended to something resembling more of an actual game. While it certainly isn't as outlandish as Typing of the Dead, this game is definitely worth a look.

The Road by George Broussard

Hail to the king, baby. Yup, the father of Duke Nukem decided to drop an LD entry. The Road really embraces the minimalism theme by keeping things simple: go as far right as you can without hitting a spike. It sounds simple, but it's deceptively challenging. Luckily, as a consolation for dying over and over again, you get a humorous randomly selected message about the obstacle in your life that ended it. Maybe it'll be "laughing too hard at a Louis CK joke" or maybe "waiting too long for Firefly to come back". Regardless, I had a pretty enjoyable time throwing myself against spikes for a while, and it's satisfying to see that somewhere buried deep inside of George Broussard, he still knows how to make good games.

Lumiere by Orihaus

Lumiere is by far the most visually and technically impressive game that I've seen coming out of this LD crop. The game sets the player free to explore a procedurally generated sprawling mass of metal, glass, and light adrift in space. It's a downright beautiful vista to float through, and it's something of a showpiece for what can be done in a very short timespan with the Unity engine. The one knock against it would be that its touted "no enemies, no puzzles, no obstacles" certainly fits with the theme of "minimalism", but it makes for an experience that's pretty slim on gameplay.

The Sentient Cube by Taro Omiya

The developer of this game describes it as combining "Katamari Damacy and Crazy Taxi" which is a pretty accurate comparison. The Sentient Cube puts you in control of the eponymous polygon and challenges you to roll up other objects in an increasingly larger mound and get your ball of junk into a goal within a time limit. The physics based gameplay and the camera control can at times spiral out of control to a point where it goes from entertaining to hair-pulling frustration, but I still managed to reach the ending without failing a level.

100% Safe Download by 3.14

While initially this game seems like simply a maze crawl collectathon, things get pretty interesting after you pass over a check point and hear the laughter of an evil Russian hacker echoing through your speakers. While the look and feel of this game certainly embrace the minimalism of old-school Adventure, the extra atmosphere that the voice-over brings certainly makes this something a bit grander.

REVOLVENGARDE by Andrio

This game feels like a place where Bit.Trip hero Commander Video would feel right at home. Players rotate a set of paddles around an orb in the center of the screen to deflect color-coded blocks (and potatoes...don't ask...). It captures that simple satisfaction of classic block-bounding gameplay of things like Breakout and Warlords with a slightly modern feeling twist. A banging track in the background also helps to keep pulling you back in for just one more round.

(Follow the) Line by Chman

It doesn't get much more minimalist than this. All you have to do is just press one button to make a line turn so that it stays on a predefined path...and yet, somehow something so simple is a massive challenge. In much the same way that games like Super Meat Boy have you trying over and over again to make one jump, this game will have you trying over and over again to just make that one turn. While it could use a little work to make the controls more responsive, overall this is a very polished experience.

Katana Senpou by Studio Miniboss

What's more minimalist that Rock, Paper, Scissors? This game puts you in the middle of a Ninja Gaiden title sequence style duel between two ninjas where you each must simply select rocku/papperu/scizoru and attack when signalled. While you can play this solo, it really shines as a multiplayer game. Since each player can see which option the other player has selected, there's very much a mind game element of deciding whether or not to throw in a last milisecond change or just shoot for having the fastest response to the signal which could save you if your opponent picked a stronger option. Slick and stylized visuals also help this game really standout.

Cube Cube Cube by rezoner

Hey, remember Tetrishpere? Well, this game isn't actually all that much like it (maybe a little), but I just wanted to know if people remember Tetrisphere. On the subject of the game we're actually looking at here, Cube Cube Cube, it's a match three puzzle game where you rotate a circle to stack blocks of different colors. It's a competent and fun little puzzle game with some pretty graphics, but the real highlight here is the soundtrack. With every 100 points you get, another layer is added to the music which really keeps propelling the game forward as the speed also ratchets up and the block stacking becomes more frenzied.

Broke Down by saguaro

One of my favorite indie gaming experiences so far this year has been Even Cowgirls Bleed, a quick but very cleverly written and delivered visual novel experience authored by Christine Love. Broke Down managed to scratch a similar itch by delivering a well-written and shockingly non-traditional story (emphasis on shocking, this is some highly NSFW reading material here) with an interesting visual novel format. If you're still looking for more fun with branching stories, also give Nod a quick look.

Toom by Mike Kasprzak and Derek Laufman

Out of the LD games that I've seen, this single room point-and-click adventure is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing, with a beautiful art style that seems to pull both from Lucasarts classics and modern art house hit Sworcery. Some of the leaps in logic in the item combinations didn't really make sense to me, but overall it was a pleasant experience.

Gods Will Be Watching by GreyShock

Gods Will Be Watching puts you in charge of a small crew that have become stranded on a distant planet. In order to survive, you have to manage your food, medicine, and sanity in order to repair your radio and survive 40 days until you can be rescued. Like Toom, this game also offers single screen point-and-click adventure style action in a visually appealing package. However, what I think makes this a better overall gameplay experience is that the stakes are higher and there's much more logic in the way you approach how you manage your crew and supplies. The juggling act of making sure everything gets done that needs to get done makes this feel a bit like a puzzle or sim management game. Highly recommended!

SPACE TEST 48 by Lazy Brain Games

Looking like something straight out of Llamasoft, SPACE TEST 48 is a unique and genuinely fun action game with some major acid-trip visuals. The mechanics are simple yet refined and challenging. For the sake of not ruining the game's invitation that "YOU FIGURE OUT RULES, IS PART OF SPACE TEST", I won't go into details about how the game works, but just know that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of making my way through the nine levels of the space test.

i need to lie down by Andy Sum

If you have any issues with asthma or hypertension, maybe you shouldn't play this game. I have a pretty healthy heart and set of lungs and this game still made me feel like I was going to hyperventalate or have a heart attack. In this game you take control of a little blue scribble trying to stay away from a mass of black scribbles that is constantly increasing in size. As that black scribble increases in size, it's gravitational pull also becomes stronger making it increasingly more difficult to stay away from it. It's a stressful gameplay experience that is perfectly underscored and heightened with an impressive set of audio and visual stressers. This game really expertly demonstrates that even with very minimal sound and graphics, you can evoke a very real physical and emotional response from a player.

Games That Are Very Good But Can Be Difficult to Play If You're Color Blind

A Few Other Games I Tried Out That Are Worth a Look

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2013 Seven Day Roguelike Roundup

Intro

As the name implies, the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge (7DRL) is a game jam that challenges developers to craft a game in the roguelike genre within 168 hours. 7DRL has been around officially since 2005 and unofficially for a decade which makes it essentially a game jam institution in comparison to all of the newcomers that have come and gone in recent years.

The 2013 7DRL Challenge just wrapped up this weekend, and after digging through the entries, I've assembled a list of 10 games that are my favorite of the bunch. I'm not following the official 7DRL evaluation metrics here. I'm also not penalizing games for not strictly sticking with an established definition of a roguelike, a subject of much heated debate amongst some, because I'd rather not muddy the waters here with mention of Berlin Interpretation or other competing definitions. These are simply 10 games that came out of the 2013 7DRL challenge that stuck out from the bunch as being fun, polished, and/or interesting when I was browsing through the completed entries.

The Highlights

Quadropus Rampage

Quadropus Rampage boasts a crazy amount of polish for something produced within the span of seven days. Its slick visuals and fun action RPG style gameplay just seem like they shouldn't be achievable by mere mortals within such a short time frame, and yet somehow the guys at Butterscotch Shenanigans managed to pull it off. Also, a note to Gearbox, it might not be a bad idea to get these guys working on the random weapon name generator for Borderlands 3.

EliteRL

As soon as I hit EliteRL's 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired title screen, I was interested. Then, I hit its space sim gameplay inspired by the C64 classic Elite, and I was totally in. The game also manages to paint some pretty good-looking space vistas in ASCII, which in my opinion is deserving of bonus points in a roguelike challenge.

Dungeon-Themed Starvation Simulator

In a lot of ways, this is the most traditional roguelike in this lineup that I've selected, but the slick presentation and adept handling of turn-based traps really made it stand out. There's just something about slipping between pistons without getting crushed that feels extremely satisfying.

Sunk Coast

Sunk Coast is a game from Jonathan Whiting, a member of the Sportsfriends crew of developers, which challenges the player to take on the role of a dirt poor undersea diver that has decided that the only way to put food on his family's table is to take his last cylinder of air and retrieve some gold doubloons 200 fathoms under the ocean. The game's visuals do a lot with a little, thanks mainly to a well selected color scheme, and the gameplay seems balanced and surprisingly fun. I haven't managed to make it to 200 fathoms yet, but I can definitely see myself loading this game up occasionally to give it a shot.

So Many Jagged Shards

The tweets from the creator of So Many Jagged Shards make it sound like he considers this a depressing failure, but I have news for him, this game is one of the the best of this year's 7DRL pack. The graphical filters and effects, distinct visual style, and free-flowing gameplay make this game really stand out in a field mostly comprised of rigid pixel-art and ASCII grid-based games.

Double Rogue

Double Rogue does something that I haven't seen many other places by combining puzzle games with the roguelike genre. It's a free game you can play in your browser, so I'll spare you what would probably be a poor description of the gameplay and just recommend that you go play it.

24killers

24killers is an attempt at merging roguelikes and muder-mystery theatre, where you ask questions of a crowd of 24 creatures in an attempt to identify the one that wants to murder you before you get close enough to let him stick a knife in your back. If you've ever played the classic kid's board game "Guess Who?", then you've got a pretty good sense of what the gameplay is like.

Kali's Ladder

Kali's Ladder is a game that I give a lot of credit to just for feeling very feature complete and polished. It also has some good looking and well animated pixel art, along with relaxed low-stakes roguelike gameplay that makes it a really good way to burn a little time.

Inside Out

A lot of the tropes of the survival-horror and roguelike genres seem so parallel that I'm always surprised that there aren't far more games that attempt to do both. Inside Out is an entry that does a pretty good job of merging the two and also brings along some "non-Euclidean" geometry that seems to be all the rage with a lot of indie developers these days.

Forest Story

This game comes by way of Proteus developer Ed Key, and in a lot of ways, it totally makes sense that this is the sort of game he would make. Both this game and Proteus are largely about being dropped into an unknown world and exploring. The chief distinction is that in the case of this game, if you make a poor decision, you die.

Other Games Worth a Mention

If you get through the 10 games mentioned above, here are some more that you might enjoy taking a look at. If you want to dive into the full list of entries, you can find that at this link.

  • BRS-081 - This is a game from the creator of McPixel that requires a printer to play. Nothing else I really need to say about it. That first sentence communicates the proper level of crazy.
  • Khu-Phu-Ka - A roguelike platformer for up to four players. Castle Crashers-esque art style.
  • 86856527 - It looks cool, and if I understood how to play this game, it probably would've been on the list above.
  • Borstal - High concept game about surviving as a 13 year old kid alone on island trying to find your father.
  • Chicken and Thyme - Essentially the roguelike equivalent of the movie Primer, but somehow the time travel in this game actually makes less sense.
  • Untitled Terry Cavanagh Game - He unfortunately hasn't released a build to the public, but he has posted a few videos.
  • segfault - A game that I made that I'm slipping into the middle of this list so I'm not accused of doing this entire post just to self-promote.
  • Versus Time - An interesting attempt at a multiplayer roguelike.
  • Dungeon X: Flesh Wounds - Fairly polished game about running booze as red-riding hood and her pet wolf.
  • Han YOLO and the Mysterious Planet - Second best title among this year's entries.
  • SkullDorado - The BEST title among this year's entries.
  • Attack the Geth - A roguelike set in the Mass Effect universe.
  • Caverns of Shrug - Maybe a bit more dual-stick shooter than roguelike, but still quite solid.
  • Rogue's Eye - A pretty good first person dungeon crawl.
  • STARSHIP REX - Apparently there are some GB staff members in some of these stasis pods.
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Chaser324's 2012 Game of the Year Awards

2012's Game of 2011

Skyrim

Solid DLC kept bringing me back to the dragon infested realm of Skyrim this year, and if I let myself, I could easily dump another few hundred hours into playing it. A full year later, this is still an incredible game.

Runner Up: The Witcher 2

I feel bad for ignoring this game prior to its console release, but once I played it, I was really thrilled with the beautiful graphics, varied combat, and the incredible storytelling and world building.

Most Disappointing Game of 2011

NFS: Most Wanted

Perhaps its biggest mistake was claiming that Most Wanted would be the successor to the classic Burnout Paradise, but Criterion really messed up here. As someone that spent 100+ hours in Paradise City getting 100% in single player and doing barrel rolls and flatspins in multiplayer, I was barely able to motivate myself to work my way to the top of the Most Wanted list. There are a lot things you can point to as reasons why this game is a failure, the baffling design of the single-player and uninteresting city being chief in my mind, but the bottom line is that I just couldn't manage to have any fun.

Runner Up: Street Fighter X Tekken

I actually like the core fighting (though maybe it does end in a draw a bit too often) and the cast of characters quite a bit, but the experience is really diminished by the gem system, DLC debacle, and bumpy online play.

Soundtrack of the Year

Persona 4 Arena

A veritable greatest hits of tracks from Persona 3 and 4. This being Giant Bomb, I think those games are already lauded enough that I don't need to say anything else.

Favorite Tracks: Heartbeat Heartbreak, Now I Know, Burn My Dread

Runner Up: Hotline Miami

An expertly crafted collection of tracks that pair perfectly with the 80's acid trip visuals and plot.

Favorite Tracks: Daisuke, Crystals, Hotline

Games that Missed the Top 10 but Deserve a Mention

  • CoD: Black Ops II - A surprisingly well crafted single-player experience (except for the "Strike Force" missions). Same great multiplayer as always.
  • Halo 4 - Congrats to 343 for crafting a game that makes me care about Halo again. I can't wait to see more from them.
  • Far Cry 3 - The first Far Cry game that feels to me like more than just a tech demo.
  • Borderlands 2 - The humor is very hit or miss, but the co-op is still consistently great and the increased variety of terrain is appreciated.
  • Spelunky - Great HD update to an indie classic, and its finally a way for me to give Derek Yu some money for all of the time I spent playing this game for free.
  • Max Payne 3 - Rockstar's brand of storytelling is in full effect here and delivers an excellent gritty tale of Max Payne's alcohol and painkiller fueled trip through Brazil.
  • NBA 2K13 - MyCareer continues to be the best experience available in sports games.

The List

10. Fez

On its face, this game is an excellent puzzle-platformer with beautiful retro-inspired visuals. However, once you really dig deeper (cue the Inception sound), this is a game unlike any other. I also feel a bit obligated to put this on my list because I fear Phil Fish considers hurting himself every time he sees a 2012 GotY list without Fez on it.

9. Rhythm Heaven Fever

The reason I love Rhythm Heaven Fever is because it's exactly what I've come to expect from the previous two entries in the franchise: simple yet demanding rhythm gameplay with cute visuals and a dash of Japanese weirdness. Thank you Nintendo for keeping it simple and not ruining this with horrible waggle controls.

8. Diablo III

It's more Diablo...so yeah, it's pretty great. The only real surprise here is that it isn't higher on this list.

7. Mass Effect 3

While it might not have closed out Shepard's story in the best way possible, Mass Effect 3 still provided an excellent action-packed romp around the galaxy. The third-person shooter action is the best in the series and made for a surprisingly satisfying multiplayer experience, but it lacks the little intimate character moments that made Mass Effect 2 feel so special.

6. Forza Horizon

Coming out of E3 2012, I thought this game would pale in comparison to Criterion's latest effort, but I couldn't have been more wrong. NFS: Most Wanted turned out to be one of my biggest disappointments of the year, and Forza Horizon delivered an absolutely incredible experience with its drift-tuned Forza driving in a jaw-droppingly beautiful open world. Considering the pedigree of the guys at Playground Games, I'm not sure why I ever doubted them.

5. SSX

I spent more time playing the demo for this game than I did with some games I paid $60 for. I wasn't a huge fan of some of the survival aspects (especially the caves), but the basic feel of tricking and boosting down a mountain is still extremely satisfying. The excellent collection of indie and electronic tracks on the soundtrack were also a real bonus.

4. Sleeping Dogs

A game with a development history as tumultuous as this one had no business being more than mediocre GTA-clone shovelware, but against all odds, Sleeping Dogs is fantastic. A charming lead character, unique setting, and satisfying beat 'em up mechanics earn this game a spot alongside GTA IV and Saints Row 3 as one of the best open world crime games of this console generation.

3. Journey

Similar to The Walking Dead, Journey is a game where you could easily criticize its lack of gameplay, and in the case of Journey specifically, you could even criticize it for the lack of any real exposition. As pretentious as it sounds, Journey is a game that uses the video game medium to communicate tone and emotion in ways that have never really been done before. A truly unique and special experience.

2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This is the revival that XCOM has deserved for a long time. Firaxis managed to capture all of the magic of the classic tough-as-nails turn-based gameplay with a whole host of improvements, refinements, and streamlining to make it accessible for a new audience.

1. The Walking Dead

There's really no praise I can heap on this game that dozens upon dozens of video game critics haven't already. This is the game of the year, go ahead and crown them. In terms of actual gameplay, The Walking Dead is little more than a shallow point-and-click adventure with occasional quick time events, but what it lacks in interactivity, it more than makes up for with a great cast of characters and some of the most emotionally affecting storytelling ever seen in a game. The Walking Dead is simply the best experience I've had with a video game this year, and it's a pretty good bet that it will be a touchstone for video game storytelling that critics will refer back to for years to come.

5 Comments

Escape to Alpha Centauri - Progress Update #1

So...I certainly doubt any of you recall when I switched gears off of the old Ice Cube Game project for something that I intended to be a bit smaller and simpler. Well it seems that I still don't have sufficient time to dedicate to even something "smaller in scope", nor do I seem to be able to grasp the concept of a game that's "smaller in scope". I've only in recent weeks managed to carve out the time to start turning any of those concept images from so many months ago into something playable, and the game has slowly grown in that short time to be something very different from what I originally intended.

As you have no doubt have forgotten, Escape to Alpha Centauri was to be a hybrid of an old-school vertical-shooter and Oregon Trail style resource management. Well, as I have discovered, all those fond memories you have of Oregon Trail probably have less to do with its thrilling gameplay and more to do with the fact that it got you out of doing actual schoolwork because your teacher thought it was "educational". I'm here to tell you once and for all, Oregon Trail was never actually fun (except for maybe those hunting parts).

After extracting all the resource management, what remains of EtAC is a fairly traditional vertical-shooter. I hope to still be able to spice it up here and there. A simple upgrade mechanic, fairly refined gameplay (for a flash-game), and a few curveballs from the norm here and there will hopefully be able to hold interest throughout the full length of the thing.

The demo here today is most of what I have so far that's actually playable. No enemies, no obstacles, no sounds, and no levels. Just the basic flying and shooting mechanics are in there, but I'm just here to prove that there is still a flicker of life in this project.

Demo Notes:

  • Only "Escape Mode" is available. Clicking any other option on the title screen will probably take you to a blank screen.
  • Don't adjust your volume. There really are no sounds in there.
  • Not sure what's going on with the BG color during the initial load. Something with the way GB embeds work seems to be ignoring that parameter.
  • Arrow Keys - Move. X - Shoot.
18 Comments

Tiger Woods '12: Lessons in How to Not Handle DLC

Tiger Woods '12: Lessons in How to Not Handle DLC


Don't hate the digital player, hate the digital download game.
Recent years have seen a huge boom in the volume of DLC and microtransactions on the market, and by far one of the most active participants in this trend has been EA. Whether it’s through “limited” editions, online passes, pre-order kitsch, or any number of digital downloads, EA has been determined to get consumers to pay $60 and then some for every game purchased.

In general, I haven’t found myself really bothered by the trend because typically none of these digital add-ons and knick-knacks feel like a required component for my enjoyment of the game. In almost all cases, DLC and microstransactions are an “added value” proposition. Maybe they accelerate my pace through the game, make things easier, look cool aesthetically, round out the plot, or just simply increase the amount of gameplay, but as long as they don’t feel like a required missing component, I don’t really care. If I like the game enough, I more than likely will buy this stuff so that I can prolong or increase my enjoyment, but I never want to feel like I’m being penalized for not making the purchase.  

 Meh...I can live without your control rod. [That's what she said]
EA has continually blurred the line between DLC and main game content by weaving in offers of digital purchases into gameplay, but again, while it does sometimes feel a bit intrusive and a little too much like aggressive marketing, I’ve been largely unbothered by it. As long as the DLC mission this guy in my camp is trying to sell me is clearly optional and those spiffy plaid golfing slacks or shiny car rims can be obtained through in game means and not just through my wallet, I don’t really care. Hell, I’ve even been able to for the most part overlook the sleaziness of on-disc “downloadable” content.

However, in spite of my relative apathy about the issue, I feel like EA has sort of crossed my line in the digital sand with Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘12: The Masters. All of the equipment can be purchased with MS points, but I don’t really care about that because it can also be unlocked through just playing the game. I also in principle don’t mind the fact that there are 19 downloadable courses available from day one because I feel like the 16 courses on the disc are more than enough content to justify Tiger Woods ‘12 as a $60 purchase.

Where I begin to take issue is in the pricing of these additional courses and the way they have been integrated into the main career progression. In “Road to the Masters”, the main career mode in this year’s game, once you’ve made your way through the amateur ranks and onto the PGA tour (which only takes about 3-4 rounds of golf), you’re presented with a calendar of events for the upcoming PGA tour season. Among these events are some that take place at DLC courses that you are unable to participate in unless you purchase and download that course.

The problem with not being able to participate in these events is that your AI competitors on the tour don’t have the same restriction. So while you might have to skip a week because you don’t have a particular DLC course, your computer-controlled counterparts will be out on the links potentially earning points towards the season’s Fed-Ex Cup and climbing up the world rankings. This is a situation where you are clearly being penalized for not purchasing DLC, and this is definitely not something that I can abide. Now, the majority of events do take place on the 16 courses included in the game, so you probably do have enough of an opportunity to take number one on the world rankings and win the Fed-Ex Cup, but it can’t be denied that it would certainly be easier to do both if you weren’t handicapped by being forced to skip tour events. My ultimate fear is what happens if I’m going for the 281 consecutive weeks at number one achievement, and I end up getting to 280 weeks, have to sit out of an event that I don’t own the DLC for, and drop down to second place. It’s an edge case that probably wouldn’t happen, but it certainly could happen and that alone is enough to make it a major problem in my opinion. 

  K THX BAI! NOW GIMME ALL UR MONIEZ!
What really makes this issue even worse is that the 19 available DLC courses are quite overpriced in my opinion. If they were in the neighborhood of one dollar a piece, I might be tempted to buy them. Unfortunately, most of them are priced at $4.00 with a few costing as much as $7.00. You can buy them packaged into a $15.00 five course pack and a $35.00 pack with the remaining fourteen, but together that’s nearly as much as I just paid for the full game. So, what the hell EA? I feel like I’m being cheated a bit by not having this DLC, but you’ve made it so overpriced that I can’t really justify buying it. Even if it were bit more reasonably priced, I probably still wouldn’t buy it just based on principle and the fact that I feel like you’re trying a bit too hard to force me to make the purchase.

So, as it stands now, playing Tiger Woods ‘12 makes me feel like I’ve just signed the papers on a new car and the sleazy car salesman across from me has immediately gone into a pitch where he’s trying to make me pay extra for the muffler. Sure, I might be able to get by without it, but it’s going to be a constant nagging concern every time I go for a drive. 

 What's it going to take for me to get you into some new DLC missions today? How about if I throw in the protective clear-coat for free?
26 Comments

Free Stuff Get! #2



The Intro

This is Free Stuff Get! #2. This month I'm giving away an old copy of the You Don't Know Jack spin-off Head Rush, and all you have to do is tell me your favorite You Don't Know Jack style pop-culture infused trivia question. You're free to pull the question from any of the classic JellyVision titles, or if you're clever enough, you can make one up on your own.
 

The Contest

The You Don't Know Jack series is well known for it's own special brand of trivia filtered through the lens of pop culture. All you have to do to enter this month is tell me what your favorite You Don't Know Jack question is. If you're especially creative, you can even come up with your own YDKJ style trivia question and use it. I'll randomly select a winner from among my favorite posts.
 

The Prize

The prize this time is my very own copy of the 1998 JellyVision release Head Rush. It's essentially just You Don't Know Jack, but everything has just been skewed to appeal more to the 90's teenager. I'll ship the original disc, case, and manual straight to you. For that reason, I'm going to have to limit entries this month to US residents only. If you're in the UK, feel free to still share your love of trivia with us, but just know that I'm not going to pony up the shipping costs to send you a copy of the game.  

 Scanned from my very own copy of the game. Isn't it just so perfectly 90's?

The Rules

  • Post your entry here by Midnight EST on February 20.
  • One entry per user.
  • Winner will be contacted on February 21 to arrange for shipping the prize.
  • Only US residents are eligible to win. I'm not paying to ship a CD overseas.
10 Comments
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