Hey. We Made a Website.

Despite not being very vocal, I've been a member of the Giant Bomb community since before the site was a wiki. But I've held a dark secret. I've been secretly making video game websites since 2000. Back then, I started a community called Kerneldump based around phpBB 2. Instead of being smart and paying money to host it in some datacenter, I threw a linux based Pentium 2 together and ran it out of my condo with no backup. Yeah, you can probably see where this is going.

Kerneldump grew fairly large, we had lan parties, we interviewed Harmonix about FreQuency and Amplitude, then the goddamn thing crashed and burned and never came back. At that time, my roommate had lost interest in helping run a video game website and we were both getting married. So life moved on... but I still kept going.

Next up was Gamer's Pouch. It was more or less a project I wrote in PHP and MySQL to help learn both. It was a game cataloging website where the database was built by the community. I had a decent amount of people on there, but unfortunately, once people added their database of games they had no reason to come back so it stagnated. Lame.

After that I rolled a new website called Sochl, based on the database and concepts of Gamer's Pouch but with a... get this... more "social" focus. Users stlll built the database and added information, and added their own collections, but there were a slew of tools that would help you find others who owned the games you did, and if they were online, even help meet up with them through messaging and stuff. It was pretty rad, but I was a dude with one other dude helping on and off. Despite being my most ambitious project up until that point, no one, at all, used it. It was super depressing... so I decided to stop straight building sites.

Around the time Sochl was being stagnant, Giant Bomb launched and I had moved on to be the newly appointed Editor in Chief of EvilAvatar.com. That was a volunteer gig. During this time I built up a nice little editorial staff, started a podcast, wrote a bunch of reviews, and made some rad relationships with people in the industry. It was cool and a great opportunity, but around the time of my third child's birth, it was time to leave. My real world job was changing for the better, and I had grown tired of the news thing.

Then, the staff I had helped foster convinced me to get going on a new project. As stated before, I was way done with that stuff. I wasn't going to build a site but this time, there were people that were eager to do that aspect. After some hemming and hawing and planning, we went for it. We knew we didn't want to do news, we didn't want forums, but we needed a few hooks to entice people. Splitkick was born.

Through multiple conversations and brainstorming sessions, we decided that we'd do two podcasts with two groups of folks (Tuesday and Thursday), focus on editorials about the gaming industry, and reviews. But our review process is something different. When we're playing games, we let everyone know with an "Open Review" allowing the community to post questions about what they're personally interested in with a specific game. We then compose the review into a more personal one, focusing on the points brought up in the questions.

On top of that, when reviewing a game, we track how much 'fun' we're having every time we sit down with a game. We give each session a score, 1-10, and the final score of a game is an average. Hell, we even chart it out so you can see about where the high and low points with games are.

It's very low pressure, a bunch of cool people, and, I think, some interesting concepts to drive a site. Considering I'm the podcast host of Rocket Jump, I think that show is radical too. If you feel like checking it out. I'd love any feedback on any of the aspects of the site.

www.splitkick.com

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The Shotgun Podcast - e92 - Our Pixels are Twisted (Interview)


   
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Modeps and Kragg sit down for a fireside chat with Josh Bear, Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of Twisted Pixel. Josh answers the community’s questions about Comic Jumper, Twisted Pixel’s development process, and a little bit about what the future holds for them. We also get all “after school special” and talk about the importance of being yourself, never settling for mediocrity, and making sexist jokes.

All this and some hardcore Forest Whitaker references, on a very special episode…of Shotgun.

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The Shotgun Podcast - Episode 90 - It's Crafty


   
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 Ahoy Shells! (That’s what we’re calling you now?!) Apparently…because on tonight’s show Adam announces the winners of our L4D2 “The Sacrifice” giveaway. He also spins us a yarn about his mystical journey with Der Auslander to Season’s Beatings, and how there IS such a thing as too much Street Fighter. Speaking of yarn, Jim previews Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Spoiler alert: Kirby is adorable. We also announce our Halloween giveaway with Frictional Games! They want to hook you up with a free copy of Amnesia: Dark Descent, and we let you know how you can win. Kragg also gives his final words, and lots of them, on Castlevania Lords of Shadow. 3 out of 5 is a good score people! All that and an absolute TON of weekly releases on this weeks Shotgun!    
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The Shotgun Podcast - Episode 89

 
 
Hey, I saw other folks were posting their awesome podcasts, so I figured I'd post mine starting at the latest one we did.  This doesn't feature the three normal dudes, only two normal dudes and one guest who's mic doesn't sound so hot, but hey... here you go. Next show with the normal crew is on Monday. 
   
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 We’re Kragg-less tonight, but that doesn’t stop Modeps from rapping a little bit about New York Comic Con from this past weekend. Hands on with both Undead Nightmare, Epic Mickey with more to come next week. Jeff the Great sits in and shares his feelings on Castlevania while Modeps blasts the crap out of the newly released NBA Jam. Oh, we’ve got another giveaway and some user feedback too. Enjoy!    

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Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers Preview

There's been a few Magic: The Gathering games, and none of them have been really that great. Magic: The Gathering Online unfortunately made you purchase your own cards and booster packs digitally to create your decks. At that point, why not just play live with real cards? It worked well enough but always felt a little too clunky for its own good, never having that bit of polish that could have helped it excel.

Trying to capitalize on this wonderful game created in 1993, Stainless Games has attempted to reproduce the duel experience with Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers, making it accessible to veterans and newcomers alike. I was able to get my hands on a preview copy thanks to the kind folks at Wizards of the Coast, allowing me a peek and see how it was shaping up.

Anyone familiar with the card game should feel right at home here, but in case you aren't, there's a pretty straightforward tutorial game that you can play through showing you some of the basics involved in playing. Concepts such as mana, tapping, instants, sorceries, haste, first strike and more will be taught throughout the tutorial and as they come into play during the campaign mode. Each is introduced in a gradual way until you're familiar with all the rules and phases of play.

While the tutorial was a great refresher for myself (I used to play but have not in some years), my concern is that newcomers, even with the nice tutorial, will be a bit lost without someone there to ask questions of. This isn't a problem with Duels mind you, just the general way Magic works. There's just a ton of stuff to take in with all the minor rule clarifications that can come into play with stack order and resolutions.

Opting for a more streamlined approach, Stainless has removed the complexity of deck building and instead went with a trimmed down customization system in it's place. As you play though the campaign, you'll unlock additional cards which you'll then be able to insert into pre-built decks (which also are unlocked through the campaign). As many M:tG players know, building a deck from scratch is a time consuming, iterative process that takes quite a bit of playtesting. I have a feeling that this current system will allow players to tune their decks with just enough variety to keep things fresh and interesting removing the whole aspect of having to run out to your local nerd shop and buy more boosters.

Speaking of boosters, I did inquire about downloadable content for Duels. While no specifics could be provided to me as to what would be included in relation to cards, I was told players can expect periodic content available post launch, and information on that would be forthcoming. Also, there has been word that premium themes will be available based on Duels as well as alternate in-game playfields and backgrounds.

The game in general looks superb. Everything was very crisp and easy to read on my HDTV, and the card art looks fantastic no matter what level of zoom its at. During the game you're able to select any card in play and press the right trigger to enlarge it, giving you a perfect view of abilities, flavor text, toughness, casting cost, et al. The only way this could possibly get any better is if you were physically holding the them. Card sets included with Duels run anywhere from Invasion to Shards of Alara. Additionally, folks who are into the lore of Magic will be happy to know that there will be info related to Nissa Revane, a new Planeswalker, that has not yet been released.

One of my minor quibbles with the look though is that its very vanilla. What the developers aimed to do, they truly succeeded. They created a digitized version of you sitting at a table, playing cards against someone. There's no animations on the cards themselves... no 3D modeling of creatures attacking one another and only minor spell effects. While 3D creatures beating up on each other could get old, it would have been nice to see a little extra pizazz added. After all, you're two mages throwing crazy powerful spells at each other.

A second small issue I had was that the musical backing track presented in my preview (which may or may not be there in the final build) was atrocious. It was about as generic as you could get. As it stands now, I would have preferred emphasis on the general SFX and no music. If this remains, be sure to have a custom playlist ready for your dueling.

One of the features of Duels I was not able to get my hands on (but desperately wanted to) was the multiplayer... I was given some information to disseminate on that regard though. You'll be able to play MP games with 2 to 4 players, both competitively and cooperatively, ranked and unranked. Game modes revealed thus far are free-for-all matches and my personal favorite, two-headed giant, where two teams of two players play against each other, sharing a life pool of 40. This can be done vs AI or real people in Duels.

Lastly, in addition to the campaign, training, and multiplayer modes mentioned above, there will be a set of puzzles and challenges where you'll be asked to perform a certain task within the confines of a specific scenario.

While I feel that nothing can really take the place of a well seasoned Magic: The Gathering player teaching someone how to play live and in person, what Stainless Games has produced here is just about as close to the live experience that you can get in a digital format. If you're a Magic player (new, old, retired), or even someone interested in playing, be sure to give this a look when it comes out. Even in it's trial build, its great.

Preliminary Score: 4.5 out of 5

The Good
  • This is a near perfect digital representation of Magic: The Gathering
  • Fantastic looking high-resolution cards and artwork
  • Plays very well with a 360 controller

The Bad
  • Horrible soundtrack
  • Vanilla

The Ugly
  • Three Spined Wurms (5/4) with Overrun (a +3/+3/Trample). OUCH.
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