Cards Against Humanity gives out Oatmeal at PAX East

Cards Against Humanity gave out Pwnmeal at PAX East this year. It was just Oatmeal...but with exclusive Cards Against Humanity cards in the oatmeal.

I actually ran into one Giant Bomb user that threw away the oatmeal, not knowing there were cards in them. There were 27 cards in all and were totally randomized in the packs like trading cards.


Military Games and Their Gross Underdevelopment

In one of my last blogs I wrote about how Battlefield 3’s expert sound design pointed out I had the mental disorder, PTSD.

I’ve been on a quest to seek out a good military sim that encapsulates dismounted Infantry operations.

The only thing we really got is Arma, and that isn’t good enough. It’s a shame Arma 3 is severely underdeveloped. It’s a real stretch to call it a “sim”, it’s more like a traditional shooter with less flair and complicated mechanics for the sake of being so.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting in a profession and criticizing games for not completely emulating it.

Playing Madden probably doesn’t nail what it’s like to play American Football (although I’m terrible at both) and mastering a kick-flip in Skate takes less time than mastering a real kick-flip. Yet both those games capture the atmosphere and more nuanced elements of their source material.

What would it take to make a good military sim?

The bulk of actual combat is just throwing bullets in the general direction of the enemy. Or sometimes silhouettes. Soldiers aren’t killing someone with literally every bullet fired, like in some modern shooters.

The key to a military sim is nailing suppressing fire and AI that acts like a team.

Most bad guys in game just act alone and have no awareness of their buddies. If your squad is doing all sorts of fancy maneuvering and executing proper security, the enemy needs to be doing the same thing.

Real combat is about maneuvering. It’s about communication and moving slowly. I challenge developers to making shooting at a hillside for 45 minutes fun in the context of a game.

If the amount of people you actually kill in an entire military game that holds on to being accuracy is in the triple digits, it’s likely too bombastic.

Full Spectrum Warrior provided the puzzle that's applicable to real life warfare. I want that but with the visual and audio fidelity of Battlefield.

Imagine a shooter like Dark Souls. A game that's punishing, but fair. You can'y go storming in like Call of Duty and fight everyone at once. You movements would have to be deliberate.



Amatuer Dumptruck: Polygon's Colin Campbell about his Game Journalism book, Piranha Frenzy

I had a quick conversation with Polygon's Senior News Reporter, Colin Campbell.

He just put out a fictional story called Piranha Frenzy.

This book follows videogame journalist, Kjersti Wong, a female immigrant who works for the best (and worst) game publication. She struggles to articulate her feelings about a game in her review.

Her world shatters once that review is put out.

This podcast is spoiler free.

You can follow Colin Campbell on Twitter.

Listen to it here.



Reviewing Broadway? The Book of Mormon review

EDIT: Saw The Book of Mormon and really digged it. This review is a tad more formal than my usual stuff. It's going in a newspaper.

The Book of Mormon manages to satirize, offend, evoke laughter, make powerful statements on religion, and be heartwarming and irreverent all at the same time. The show brings in $19.5 million every month on average, making it the most successful musical in four decades. The show also recently swept through the Tony awards winning virtually every major award including Best Musical, Best Actress, and Outstanding Music.

Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame and musical writer, Robert Lopez, The Book of Mormon stems from Parker and Stone’s huge success in writing music for South Park along with their satirical take on American exceptionalism, Team America: World Police (2004).

The show is certainly much more crude than most Broadway goers are probably used to. There are tons of subtle (and not too subtle) sexual references and vulgar language. Yet like the past few years of South Park, the vulgarity isn’t there for shock value like Family Guy.

The musical tells the story of two Mormons on a missionary trip to Uganda to convert locals. The pair try to share their religious text that they believe is the third part of the Bible, The Book of Mormon. Only one of the missionaries have actually read the book and the Uganda village is more concerned with the war, famine, AIDS, and poverty that have always plagued them. The Mormons try to convince the villagers to seek help through Christ and slowly the pair question if faith is enough to combat serious problems.

The Book of Mormon certainly has the South Park flavor of sensibility and edge. The show points at the absurdity at Mormonism, and that is arguably just a platform to lampoon against religion as a whole. On the surface, the entire musical satirizes organized religion and challenges the credibility of Mormonism.

Yet, The Book of Mormon manages to be gentle at the same time. Yes, it presents people of faith as cartoonish and gullible. For instance in the song “I Believe”, the protagonist is recovering his faith and sings lines like, “And I believe God lives on a planet called Kolob, and in 1978 God changed his mind about black people!”. Those two statements are official stances the church takes and the character totally sings these lines as genuine beliefs, but is presented with a wink and nod to how silly the established church can be.

The Mormons are still presented as great and optimistic people that are just out there in the world doing their best. The ending is heartwarming and communicates that no matter how ridiculous or illogical religious doctrine might be that doesn’t take away from its power.

The Book of Mormon has the potential be offensive but it still managed to be one of the most harmonious pieces of entertainment I’ve seen. Stone and Parker are far more endearing to religion as opposed to someone like Bill Maher. On the surface there are constant jabs at religion, AIDS jokes, and suggests that the Mormon profit Joseph Smith was a total fraud. The show also flirts with the idea that religion is in a vicious cycle of reinventing itself to gain control over people. Upon further examination, nothing in the play comes off as malicious. Instead it feels like it’s trying to communicate that while a lot of beliefs are silly, Mormons are still incredibly charming.

I laughed at all the songs and jokes and appreciated the smart score. The Book of Mormon had me walk away appreciating the Mormons. It commands the audience to still respect these people. Despite being apart of a church, the group manages to be extremely devout, polite, and hardworking people. The play is more of a friendly hazing than rude. Stone and Parker continue to be the masters of crude humor while building a subtle and powerful punchline in the background.

Below is a video from the play showcasing the song I referenced:



My interview with a horror game developer. You should play Babysitter Bloodbath.

I'm way into slasher films. I grew up in the video store era and I spent a lot of time in the horror section. There are some good horror games out there, but non really capture the 80's slasher spirit. So I was stoked when I discovered a Halloween game. I later found out Patrick had it on Spookin' with Scoops.

The developer of that game is Pig Farmer Games, or specifically one guy making games from his house, Ben Cocuzza.

Listen to my 17 minute interview with Ben here!

Due to issues he can't disclose, the game is no longer Halloween. Now it's under the title, Babysitter Bloodbath. It's essentially the same game but with edits separating it from anything Michael Myers.

Babysitter Bloodbath is about a babysitter (weird, right?) trapped in a house and being stalked by a masked psychopath.

The game is free to play here. What makes it special to me is the idea of just having one enemy that can seemingly spawn at any point. Sorta invokes some Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It's incredibly stressful and a totally worthwhile experience.

You can check me out playing the first 20 minutes of Babysitter Bloodbath below!


All the menus are inspired by VHS boxes.
The game is made with PS1-like graphics. It took Ben a year to make Babysitter Bloodbath.
At one point the antagonist was Michael Myers, but it doesn't really matter anymore. This can stand as its own without a "license".


Amateur, Uhh...spookin' with Steve? Babysitter Bloodbath

This was originally a Halloween game complete with the classic music and Michael Myers. However after what's safely assumed is a copyright dispute, the game was edited. This is the newer version. Based on what I saw from the Halloween game, this is roughly the same.

Babysitter Bloodbath is a free to play game made by Pig Farmer Games.

The guy that makes these games is clearly a huge horror fan and there is so much cool attention to detail, including the amazing VHS box-inspired main menu.

There isn't a feature to control the game's audio. Like old horror movies, this game is really fucking loud when action happens.



Amateur Quick Look: The Banner Saga

Giant Bomb didn't have a Quick Look of The Banner Saga up at the time of this recording, so I figured a lot of you would be curious what it was all about. Normally my audio is a lot better, but the game is lacking a feature to control the audio. So I tried not to talk too much because the game is louder than me. This is the first 40 minutes of the game, mostly tutorials and story stuff.

I saw a review describe this as "Game of Thrones meets Vikings meets Disney", and that's totally accurate.

Check out Alex's review!




Amateur Encyclopedia Bombastica: Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout

I checked out DBGT: Final Bout and tried to sort through all the dumb Dragon Ball narrative and characters. Half this game's characters are Goku, so that makes stuff easier and even dumber! This game was heavily sought after by collectors in PS1 and early PS2 era. US copies were going for $300. There was even an entire bootleg scene making prints of these on Ebay back in the day! It got nuts.

A lot of folks bought Japanese versions of this game and got weird accessories to make it work on an American PS1. Needless to say, there was a lot of effort put in to play this by a lot of folks. So you'd think it be great, right!?



Lone Survivor Review

The combat is appropriately intense and doesn't get too stupid.

I really enjoyed Lone Survivor. As an Afghan vet, I truly appreciated a lot of the movie's attention to detail and for depicting one of the war's more infamous battles. This reads a little more formal than I usually write for this is a draft of what's going in a local paper.

Director Peter Berg’s adaptation of the infamous 2005 battle in Afghanistan has a genuine feeling of authenticity and care. It’s more grueling than entertaining. Lone Survivor is a true story and mostly isn’t a “feel good” kind of film, it’s an intentionally stressful take on a real life event. This isn’t a pleasant movie to watch, but is an important display of the horrifying and adrenaline filled environment of combat. I mean those criticisms in the best way possible. All those elements combine into an experience with real emotional resonance.

Based on the memoirs written by Navy SEAL Medic Marcus Luttrell whom is also the protagonist, Berg’s film intelligently zeroes in on the battle itself and the four American men that fought it. Berg drops the audience into a brutal and unforgiving battle that took the lives of 19 servicemen, making it the most devastating day for Navy SEALs since WWII. It communicates a visceral, worst-case scenario situation like Black Hawk Down (2001) but a little less loud and bombastic.

Their reconnaissance mission was to scale a mountain in Afghanistan’s deadly Kunar province to identify insurgent leader, Ahmad Shah. The mission goes awry when the SEAL Team is discovered by goat herders. Despite having suspicions these herders are Taliban supporters, the SEALs are then faced with a difficult decision whether or not to kill the unarmed “civilians”.

The mission goes bad when the SEALs were caught by local Afghans.

Following their moral compass, the SEALs let the herders go and hopes karma will be kind to their mission. Immediately, these Afghans report to a Taliban group about the American’s location. The SEALs are virtually surrounded immediately.

Even for folks that aren’t familiar with the real events the film depicts, its very obvious where the movie goes by title and trailer alone. Lone Survivor’s major plot points aren’t a secret. However, Berg expertly maintains a high-level stress environment. The story arc knows that you are likely aware of Marcus Luttrell’s life, so it’s going to tell this story from the angle of the stress and agony the SEALs went through that day. This story is more about the journey than the destination.

A couple of times throughout the movie, the SEAL team has no other choice than to jump down a mountain to avoid being killed or captured by Taliban. In various real-life interviews, Marcus Luttrell explained that every time their body made contact with the ground, another few bones broke and most direct encounters with the enemy left a few more bullet holes in their bodies. Every broken bone, every gunshot, is gratuitously depicted for maximum impact.

Despite that, there’s very little gore. The visuals and sound design mold together in creative ways to make you aware of the wounds these men are receiving without being gross or exploitative.

Several actors were even injured during filming. The stunt coordinator didn’t use dummies or wires for the falling sequences. Kevin Scott, was charged with these sequences and to depict realism, he tasked his stuntmen with falling 15-20ft sometimes. To properly mimic how the SEALs fell, Scott wanted gravity to take over and told his stuntmen, “Wherever you fall, just go with it”.

It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes Lone Survivor shine. While I was not a part of Operation Red Wings, I have been to the region in Afghanistan the movie is supposed to be emulating. The environment is about as close as you can probably get and even the make-shift bases for some of the earlier scenes in the film are convincing enough to me as someone who has physically been in most of the real-world counterparts. Even just the attention to detail as to the brand of gloves the servicemen are wearing are spot on and everything blends together to make this movie probably as close as you can get without just watching actual combat footage from overseas.

I wonder if Luttrell actually wore a green top or if that's for you to separate who's the main character.

Lone Survivor doesn’t take too much time to expand on its characters for us to get a real glimpse into who these real men were. Instead it wants to communicate how a real battle took place and the inevitable bond lead character Marcus Luttrell forms with an Afghan man that rescues him. It’s the kind of story that on its own would seem too Rambo if it were fiction, but knowing that the film follows closely as to what Luttrell and military reports say what happened that day separates this movie from Call of Duty or interlacing jingoism and cements itself as a genuine movie that can stand proud next to other great war story interpretations like Band of Brothers.