Small blog note

Going around and deleting a bunch of old blogs that weren't very good but were only 1 or 2 pages back. Not important, thought I'd just note. If you want to see old stuff try the wayback machine or something.

I don't intend to delete a ton of other stuff like forum posts or tweets or whatever, it's just that old blogs from 10 years ago were literally 4 pages back because I don't write that many these days. Too close to the surface for comfort.

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2018 "List of Games I Love" Update

Many years ago when Lists were new to the site I made a List of Games I Love. I've been adding to that list ever since but never removing from the list. Nearly 10 years is a long time. I do not feel the same way about many of these games as I did then. So, it's time to take stock. In this blog I will list the games being removed, and why so there will be some record as to what was on the list.

Team Fortress 2: I loved Team Fortress 2 in the late aughts but there is no denying that now the game is dead to me. It died in the early tens (tens? Teens? 2010-2020) when I realized I was spending so much time idling for weapons but never actually playing the game anymore. Once I stopped idling the game became forever inaccessible to me. I'd never be able to catch up. And then Overwatch came out and it had learned from TF2s mistakes and I loved it. I still have some nostalgia for it, but what I feel now is not love. It's more complex and sad. Mourning, perhaps. (Note: Orange Box remains on the list)

Shadow Complex: This is an above average Metroidvania. There are plenty of those not on the list. Order of Ecclesia for instance, or Axiom Verge. It does not hang, and is now gone.

Starcraft 2 (Terran and Zerg): This is more of a consistency thing than anything else. While Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm were important to me at the time, more than enough to make the list, by the time of Legacy of the Void it was not, despite me really digging it as much as the first two, it didn't make the list. I still appreciate what SC2 was for me, and its role as a gateway to Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone.

Diablo 3: I had a really good time with Diablo III and appreciated the changes they made to make it more accessible and flexible. That said whenever I've tried to play it since I've been bored. I am taking that into account and removing it from this list.

Borderlands 2: This game was just really solid and I liked the guns a lot. Which is a really good thing in a game about guns. That said in retrospect I dunno that really hangs with the rest of this list of all time greats. Plus the story and writing is bad. Sorry Borderlands 2, you're still better than you should've been.

Sound Shapes: I had a lot of fun with this game, but it's not one of the all time bests. It originally had an impact on me because with its level creation tools I was able to create 3 really cool levels. That was big at the time, but a few years later Mario Maker helped me create ~65 levels I love. It just doesn't compare.

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#MariosConquest (A Mario Maker 4-World Series)

I’ve always tried to do new things with my levels and while I’ve done 40 very diverse levels (and written a blog/piece about doing so which Waypoint’s Austin Walker liked), I’ve never done a 32 level multi-world series. So that’s what this is! Four world of four levels a piece, each world building a new locale, each level setting itself apart on top of that. #MariosConquest

Avalanche Lodge is four very good levels set on a ski retreat. They came together really well! Was surprised how many real good moments got into each. Hope to keep that up.
Avalanche Lodge is four very good levels set on a ski retreat. They came together really well! Was surprised how many real good moments got into each. Hope to keep that up.

World 1: Avalanche Lodge (Out now!) (SMB3)

The first world I've done is a snow world taking place in a rundown but, admittedly, sprawling Ski Resort up in some snowy mountains. It's got snow covered slopes, cozy warm cabins, and everything else you'd expect to see at a ski retreat except, perhaps, safety regulations.

The Spa's interiors are a nice break from the rest of the Lodge's theming.
The Spa's interiors are a nice break from the rest of the Lodge's theming.

1-1 Cabin Fervor: The main installation. Everyone here is a bit jumpy from being indoors. This is a simple intro level built around one of my favorite mechanics from my first 40 levels.

1-2 Thrift Lift: They cannot legally call it a chairlift because it has no chairs. This is my take on DKC1’s Trick Track Trek. Enemies board your lift and try to dislodge you.

1-3 Secret Sauna: A hot spring turned tourist trap. The water outside is boiling hot, and that goes double for the lava inside! This level is super cool. It was inspired by Fez!

1-4 Diamond Drop: A dangerous downhill course. Great for beginners! A lot of this level is a fun and fast snowshell ride to close out the world. Can't do a ski lodge world without snow sports.

Subsequent Worlds

When additional worlds are released I’ll post a breakdown of them as a new post and link to that post here. Most worlds have taken about a month to make, except World 4 which took two. I will be taking a break now that World 4 is out but will return before the end of the year.

Unreleased worlds are italicized.

Igneous Park is the second world
Igneous Park is the second world

World 2: Igneous Park (Out Now!) (SMB)

World 3: Literary Pursuits (Out Now!) (World)

World 4: Glam Rockface (Out Now!) (New U)

There’s also optional red coins to find in every level except 4-4. 2 red coins are easy to see but can be tricky to get, 1 red coin will always be right before the end, and 3 red coins will be in the elusive Red & Gold M. If you collect them all I suggest commenting to prove it!

(When SMM2 Was Announced) Declaring this complete since never made progress on world 5 once the Switch came out. To celebrate the announcement of SMM2 I released the one level of world 5 I made as a stand alone.

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40 Stages Later

Nearly 6 months ago on the 11th of September, 2015 I got Mario Maker. Last week I reached 40 stages. Today I reached 1440 stars. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

My first stage, Malpractice Platform, was a shorty. I made tall goomba stacks on platforms until I maxed out the editor and ended it. Come a long way since.
My first stage, Malpractice Platform, was a shorty. I made tall goomba stacks on platforms until I maxed out the editor and ended it. Come a long way since.

Running is fun. Fun stuff works well

Saunter/Halt Station’s go go go bits have Mario hit P Switches to stop dangerous conveyors. This creates urgency with style.
Saunter/Halt Station’s go go go bits have Mario hit P Switches to stop dangerous conveyors. This creates urgency with style.

It's easy at first to want to milk every screen to make the level last. I did that a lot my first few levels, focusing on putting obstacles in front of Mario that were tricky to get past safely. It wasn't until my fourth level, March of the Wayward Spiny, that I just tried having stretches where you run and jump freely. Running is fun. Find fresh and novel ways to do running bits and you'll do well.

Also remember that power ups are fun too. Before there were conditional power ups I made sure to make later power ups the full variety. Even now I make the last power up in most levels a guaranteed flower/cape/etc. Unless it's an Amiibo level. Amiibo levels unfortunately can be a little mean due to only ever having 2 hits.

“Nacho” your gameplay mechanics

Smokey Soirée’s Wiggler Jumping and Podoboo Avoidance developed throughout.
Smokey Soirée’s Wiggler Jumping and Podoboo Avoidance developed throughout.

Another thing that was super successful about March of the Wayward Spiny was simplicity. It used one enemy, Spinies, and only a few elements, Donut Blocks to run over and springs to propell the Spinies in interesting ways. This is how you should approach mechanics. Go over the possible choices for enemies and objects, choose a few and figure out interesting/flavorful way to build around them. Ideally you build these mechanics in layers like Nachos.

I tried out
I tried out "Deep Dish Nachoing" myself in Who Called In The Fleet?

First you introduce them, then you evolve and combine them in interesting ways through the level. Really develop those flavors.

Another thing- I recently did DKC1, DKC2 DKC3 & DKCTF remake remix stages and do you know what I noticed? Rare was never afraid to introduce entire mechanics in the back half of a level. Take Krockhead Klamber for instance. The Krockheads over which you clamber don’t appear until just after the midway! Also notice how the reed climbing and flitter jumping from before is layered in with the Krockheads. This “Deep Dish Nacho” method adds a little zesty punch to the back half.

Mario Maker is a Buffalo - use every part

In Stormdrain Cellar I used Ghost Wheels to make cramped spaces that worked great with Cheep Cheeps.
In Stormdrain Cellar I used Ghost Wheels to make cramped spaces that worked great with Cheep Cheeps.

I’m sure as a player there’s a lot of parts you simply don’t like. I’m not big into ghost wheels because I think waiting is dull, I’m not into Cheep Cheeps because they’re usually too low to be dangerous.Vines are slow, burner cycles are annoying, etc, Here’s the thing though, to continue making novel stages you need to get everything you can out of the kit and that means using every part at least once. Look for ways to combine objects you’ve avoided or simply not used. You may surprise yourself by the cool opportunities you might miss if you play favorites.

The Reef With A Heart of Gold is New U & underwater. Gross, right? Not so! Vertical swimming and conveyors speed it up enough!
The Reef With A Heart of Gold is New U & underwater. Gross, right? Not so! Vertical swimming and conveyors speed it up enough!

It’s not just about individual items, it’s also about whole types of levels. Try to make as many breeds of level as you can, both in terms of what’s done in the level and the overall genre. It’s not just about types you haven’t done, but also about types you haven’t wanted to do. When I started I said “I want to make this kind of level, never underwaters/kaizos/ryckerts.” Now I have underwater levels which accelerate swimming to my liking. I got joke/gimmick/theme levels which are amusing. I have a Boss Rush filled with quick kills. Levels in which you need to fly, levels in which you need to backtrack. I even have a Kaizo level where you can finish the level early like in Rayman Origins. Real great stuff! It’s easier to bring something new when you’re taking on something new to you. (Edit: The Kaizo-ish level, Smoking Room Soirée, was deleted for having the word "smoking" in its title.)

Be sure to check out my incredibly cool “Shooter” level The Blue Shell Incident.
Be sure to check out my incredibly cool “Shooter” level The Blue Shell Incident.

(Word of warning: People like stages they can finish. The conversion rate of plays to stars is awful on hard stages. My Klepek ender Short Fuse Frustration really struggles to get stars. Still, I'm personally really happy with its villainy and I'm glad I made it. Check out my 40th level if you want a Witness style clue to the intended solution! If you know it it's really very doable!)

It’s Easy to Watch People Play Your Stages

The first stage of mine I watched played was Beneath the Runway when it was featured in a blind race. I wrote a whole blog about the experience, but suffice it to say that watching someone play your stage is super informative. Reminds you of something obvious, that everyone plays differently.

What I want to say today is that watching someone play your stage is actually really easy. You don't have to get famed Paper Mario runner iateyourpie to feature it in a race, all you need to do is go to Twitch, find someone streaming viewer levels, doesn’t matter who, submit your level and wait for the streamer to ask if you’re still in chat. Mario Maker Twitch streams are great to have in the background while Mario Making, playing another game, even cooking. If you don't feel like multitasking chatting with other Makers and seeing the levels they brought is rewarding on its own. Either way you’ll see your stage in action and likely get a star.

My 40th, stage, Malpractice Epilogue, takes the half baked idea of my 1st and fleshes it out by mixing in idea from the other 38. It's my Animal Antics.
My 40th, stage, Malpractice Epilogue, takes the half baked idea of my 1st and fleshes it out by mixing in idea from the other 38. It's my Animal Antics.

Anyway, I'm super happy to have gotten to 40 stages, all of which I'm super proud of. From Malpractice Platform to Malpractice Epilogue, each level manages to be its own thing and do it well. It’s a great set of 40 levels, and I hope you play and star as many as you have time for. Now I'm taking a nice big break to prepare for my next big Mario Maker blindspot, an 8 world saga called Mario Mario's Conquest. It's going to feature 32 levels in 8 uniquely themed worlds and possibly use red coins as optional collectibles throughout? I dunno.

Hope you guys find these things useful in your own Mario Making. Do fun stuff, give your levels a rich flavor, and buffalo! Also Twitch makes it easy to see your level played. Go for it!

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Seeing, Believing & Playtesting: Beneath the Runway

Tweaks may be as small as moving one enemy one square to the left.
Tweaks may be as small as moving one enemy one square to the left.

The hardest part of level design in Mario Maker is playtesting. You can't do any sort of limited release and you definitely can't see how everyone plays it even once it does release. All you can do is play it yourself extensively and hope for the best. This is what I've been doing. Designing levels while occasionally testing each part and trying them in as many different ways I can think of, making minor tweaks along the way. I've done this because I believe that making as many different approaches as viable as I can manage is the right approach. I do this and see clear rates in the 10%-30% range and feel good. I’d never seen my levels played, but the average person took a few deaths, clears it and is likely to star it. Seemed a good enough impression to me.

Yesterday however that changed for me. Yesterday, for the first time, I did actually get the opportunity to watch people play my latest level. Beneath The Runway was one of seven courses in the second week of Mario Maker Mondays, a blind race of Super Mario Maker levels which dozens of runners and players participated in. Exciting! I would actually see players (albeit skilled players) take on one of my stages! Unbelievably cool!

Beneath the Runway, 92AD-0000-007A-FF5F
Beneath the Runway, 92AD-0000-007A-FF5F

The first two levels go quickly. My level comes up. I excitedly IM my buddy watching the race. The commentator sells the idea of this rundown abandoned runway as runners run down conveyors speeding along its length. At the end coins rise into the sky where becaped runners will eventually fly into the sky and soar to the exit. First though they must venture into the unseen area beneath where Boos, Thwomps and lines of yellow blocks breakable through spin jumping lie. Things go about as well as I wanted for the runners. There's a few deaths here and there for the four on stream but they get through the level in short order all the same. My friend complements my stage and I feel good. It showed really well.

The race goes on and racers start to finish around 22 minutes in. They switch out runners further and further behind in levels 7 and 6 until I tune out around 50 minutes in. At least, I tune out until I'm told that my level was back on stream a few minutes later. I didn't see how that was possible. I pulled back up the stream to witness a struggle.

allyoucaneat1620, like most people on earth, has never played Mario World
allyoucaneat1620, like most people on earth, has never played Mario World

I like to believe my levels are fair. I’ve been conscious that there’s a lot of things Super Mario Maker does not teach. There are people who’ve never played Super Mario World. Players who don’t know how to spin jump, don’t know spin jumping breaks blocks, don't know it allows you to bop on Thwomps, don't know how to fly. I tried to account for this as much as I could. I introduced spin jumping to break yellow blocks by trapping Mario in a room with a breakable floor, a mushroom and the letter R. I showed that Thwomps can be spin jumped on by making the next time you break blocks you landed on a Thwomp. But flight? Couldn’t do it. Didn’t see a way to test player’s understanding of that before the actual flight.

You can imagine my joy as Mario Galaxy runner allyoucaneat1620, who’s never played Super Mario World, cleared the last actual jump in the level (tricky to do if you don’t hold Y in the air turns out) and you can imagine my horror as allyoucaneat1620 went out onto the runway, jumped up and slowly floated to down to his death. What was meant to be the ultimate payoff backfired. I didn’t like it any better when it happened again a few minutes later.

“I believe you can fly!” became the refrain of the chat
“I believe you can fly!” became the refrain of the chat

I panicked and did what you shouldn’t do during an actual playtest. I went to him stream and explained that he had to hold down Y to fly. You really shouldn’t do this because you’re not always going to be there to explain to everyone who struggles in this way. I wasn't exactly alone in this but still. Soon the main stream ended and hundreds of viewers flocked to cheer him on. His Twitch chat became a blur of “I believe you can fly!” Once he got back to the end he took a few quick practice flights over the runway itself and, after confirmed he could in fact fly, he soared off towards the exit finally finishing my level. Course cleared.

I believe a man can fly, once told how to fly by chat .
I believe a man can fly, once told how to fly by chat .

Whether or not you see them players like allyoucaneat1620 exist and that’s what playtesting can highlight. It reminds you that not everyone plays in the same way, even if you honestly believed you were accounting well enough for that. In all my tests I never tried doing runs where I let go of Y because that would honestly have never occurred to me. Additionally it had never occurred to me that the space over the runway could be used to practice cape flight for those who are inexperienced. If I had seen allyoucaneat1620 play my level before it went live maybe I could’ve put some extra coins above the runway to encourage that sort of bonus flight and give him people who struggle with flying the idea to experiment sooner. Those are things you don’t see without playtesting.

Currently Beneath the Runway sits at 14% completion rate which is well within my normal range, but I feel uneasy about it. It turns out looking at a statistic is one thing and seeing something struggle is quite another. The difference between suspecting there might be issues and seeing and believing. That's the difference playtesting makes.

If you'd like to play Beneath the Runway the code is 92AD-0000-007A-FF5F. I would appreciate it if you starred my stage since the most starred level maker each week gets major props and a chance at 100 dollars down the line. It's well worth a star too, it's an awesome level!

If you'd like to play the rest of this week's MMM levels put in the code 0BAC-0000-007A-D78D and look at that user's Starred Courses. That's the official MMM Playlist. Follow its account if you're interested in access to it. I proposed this system, it's quite clever. This makes it really easy to find all the MMM levels with only 1 code put in.

Small addendum later in comments/thread.

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The Lost Gem Of Rare Replay

A lot of people are buying Rare Replay tomorrow (most preordered game of E3) and it's not hard to see why. 30 dollars for a large sack of 30 games is an incredible deal. And not just any games, huge, long, meaty games included! Games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, Kameo, Viva Pinata, even Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts. Any two of those games could justify the 30 dollar price even without the rest of the package. Amazing value, anyone can see that. However what you can miss is among those big meaty games is one game that's easy to miss because, well, everyone did miss it. It's not a tentpole game like the others I've mentioned. Indeed it was a commercial failure and only now will have a chance to unleash itself upon a wide audience. That game is Grabbed By The Ghoulies.

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This was before motion comics were a thing.
This was before motion comics were a thing.

The story is simple. Cooper and Amber, an Englishman and an Englishlady respectively, are lost somewhere in the woods of South West Britain after a wrong turn and happen upon the very creepy Ghoulhaven Hall. Situation being what it is (a storm brewing) they pop their heads in and well things get hairy from there. The mansion is full of ghoulies! Nasty ghoulies, really burning hot ghoulies, misshapen ghoulies, televised ghoulies, wizard ghoulies, hairy ghoulies, even nice friendly ghoulies. All sorts of ghoulies! The thick of it is that Cooper openly speculates that the Mansion is owned by a freak which sends Baron von Ghoul, the owner, into a rage. He sends a pair of ghoulies to grab Amber to teach them some manners. The game is super corny lighthearted fun and is told in a silent movie style where the dialog appears in black boxes to musical stings. Its also got a huge cast of characters ranging from the Hagrid like groundskeeper Fiddlesworth Dunfiddlin (whose exclamations such as "pick my plums!" and "sniff my snapdragon!" are the best) to the dependable and resourceful Ma Soupswill.

Ghost Door wants a piece of Cooper
Ghost Door wants a piece of Cooper

The meat of the game is punching and kicking various ghoulies in a vaguely arcadey way. You run around with your left stick and kick and punch in the direction you tilt your right stick. Sort of like Too Human only not a pile of wank. It played as a melee duel joystick shooter/brawler and kept things fresh throughout the game by introducing new enemies and combining various challenges, conditions and weapons in fun ways. The game is divided into rooms. Most rooms start quiet. Nothing much going on. There's a little suspense, you know, a little mystery. Wham! The doors swing shut with a slam. Cooper yelps. Skeletons burst from paintings, you're told to not kill the Haunted Coat (if you cock that up an air guitar playing Grim Reaper will come try to kill you Spelunky Ghost style) and you're off to work. You grab an onion gun, you shoot a few skeletons, pistol whip them and the walking television too and exit through the door! Provided its an actual door and not a decoy.

I don't want to seem cocky but I totally beat Challenge 21.
I don't want to seem cocky but I totally beat Challenge 21.

This may seem especially strange but I recommend actually you don't just play it once. I recommend you keep going and I'll tell you why. The combat for me of this game didn't click until I went through Challenge 21 which is basically Super Hard Mode. In it you play as Amber instead of Cooper and you get no health/speed/whatever pick ups and only have enough health to withstand 1 hit. Basically you have to be perfect. The prereqs to playing the mode are pretty stiff- you have to get all the collectible books in the main game and do the 20 previous challenges which are one off things. But if you're looking to have a ball with a really hard challenge it's one of the best in Rare Replay.

The Rare family of games has many gems and this is one of them. It's probably not the best gem, it's probably not the most polished gem. It's not the deepest gem nor the most beautiful gem. What it is is a simple little gem that's pretty charming and no one played. Now that with Rare Replay you'll likely own a copy of this lost gem you should probably give it a go. It's not the meatiest game, but it's got it where it counts! Don't give it the shaft!

(Note: The name of the game "Grabbed by the Ghoulies" is a double entendre in the UK since there Goolies means is another word for balls. This was the whole reason they made the game.)

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20 Years of Donkey Kong Country

20 years ago today (November 21st) Rare’s first super huge hit Donkey Kong Country hit store shelves in North America. It was an amazing showpiece featuring at the time incredible sprite work, incredible animation fidelity, a profoundly great soundtrack, snarky manual writing, solid fast paced gameplay and attention to detail which was rare then. It was a sensational game that was hard to find for ages and revitalized the SNES in its last years. Yes, it had issues which would only be fixed entirely in its sequel DKC2 but that doesn’t diminish what DKC was. An accomplishment.

One of the things that I love about DKC is the atmospheric qualities. Mario always seemed sterile and lame in comparison to me. DKC had lush jungles, beautiful sunsets, dark stormy weather, background wildlife, fluid character animation with 30 frames of animation per second (for comparison Mario’s SMW run animation has 3 sprites whereas DK’s has 20), charming baddies which made honky noises when they were felled, etc etc. It had life. I loved that. Still to this day while the prerendered graphics are no longer cutting edge I can see that life and the detail in it. It’s best seen in GIFs I think where the animation quality can really shine.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

Anyway, what should you do to celebrate? Well for one Smash Wii U is out today. Maybe write your congressman, tell him that K Rool should be DLC for it. He’s one of the most popular requested characters right now and it’s his 20th birthday as well! Another thing you can do is buy Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for your Wii U. It’s a phenomenal game in its own right that’s as good in 2014 as DKC2 was in 1995. You can also buy the original trilogy on Wii U VC if you’re in Europe. Sadly Nintendo of America hasn’t seen fit to rerelease them yet. Again, write your congressman. Maybe watch a speedrun of DKC or DKC2 from one of the Games Done Quick. DKC2 is the 8th most common game ran at Games Done Quick because it’s a great speed game and 1 and 3 are not too far behind. You could also just play some DKC or think nice things about it.

I’m probably going to just play some of it and think nice things about it. Happy Birthday DKC! I love you. Quick, make a wish!

Edit: More things to check out if you're down for it! Here's a link to a Twitch Non-Highlight VOD (It'll vanish one day) of a DKC Anniversary Race the SpeedRunsLive guys put on. There was also an update to DKC-Atlas's Maps feature that adds navigable overworld maps, music, animation and other cool shit. Check it out!

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Metroid Conspiracy Theory

I watched a speedrun of Metroid Fusion yesterday. I've been doing that a lot lately after watching AGDQ 2014 and wanting to see more. Watching it I recalled that, despite whatever harm Other M did to Fusion's characters, it's setting and premise remained cool. It was a novel concept that this massive research lab was taken over by a nasty parasite that could replicate anything it came across and half Metroid Samus was the only one suited to stopping them. It also had a bit of shady business coming from the humans for once which was a pretty cool aspect. It's all very solid and well thought out but thinking on it yesterday I realized something didn't add up.

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How did the X Parasites get a hold of Space Pirate DNA? There weren't Space Pirates on SR-388. That must mean they had Space Pirates somewhere on the Space Station. Were they experimenting on Space Pirates? That would make some sense given they were breeding Metroids and planned to breed X as well. To what end were they experimenting though? Were they just trying to figure out how they tick or... Were they breeding Space Pirates too?

I looked into this a little. Apparently Space Pirates are always genetically engineering themselves better. They've also got a knack for getting a hold of more Metroids and powerful creatures somehow. I thought about it a bit. And I've come to the conclusion Space Pirates are an inside job. The space station in Fusion is clearly designed for illicit breeding and bio engineering but not just for Metroids I think. I think the Galactic Federation actively has bred and engineered the Space Pirates both to keep outlying worlds from Browncoating and to keep the military budget, both in terms of weapon development/research and manpower, strong and steady. The pirates are in some ways ideal for that since while they have a number of strongholds which they're not especially good at holding that can be contracted out to independent parties (In Prime 3 and Hunters it's established there are dozens of hired guns each capable of taking out a Pirate leaders even within their strongholds) the main danger of Space Pirates is such that they could be anywhere and they could attack any undefended ship at any time. Easy to rationalize how they can return to strength after having their bases wiped out time and time again when they always can bounce back to guerrilla tactics.

Additionally doing some reading on other elements of the Metroid fiction some things fall into place with this theory. A lot of what the GF does in the games can be justified by wanting to keep pace with morally bankrupt Pirates. For instance the Pirates use Phazon Weapons which slowly poison the user. So does the GF. An upside of Pirates continually upgrading themselves biologically is that the GF can continue to get more powerful as well. Additionally one an raise an eyebrow at previous Metroid plots focusing on how Space Pirates have managed to clone Metroids and breed/engineer them to make them more dangerous which is exactly what the GF was doing on the space station. Had the X situation not turned as raw as it did odds are Space Pirates would've just found Metroids again and the GF would say "unbelievable! They did it again!" Additionally there's the bit where Mother Brain and the Metroids were made by the Chozos.

Here's my theory about Mother Brain and Metroids. One, Metroids aren't bad by default, they're made that way through breeding/engineering. The Metroids in Metroid 1 are little more than guard dogs and don't leave Tourian even though there would be little risk involved for the nigh unstoppable Metroids. Also obviously the ones in Metroid II were in nature and really shouldn't have been hunted to extinction for no reason. Two, Mother Brain went off the reservation. Saw the big picture for what it was. Took control of a band of pirates and wanted to do more with it than scare the natives. She failed and was killed by Samus.

Basically the theory is this. The pirates are too evil and loose too many strongholds too often to keep up the research necessary to dramatically change all their soldiers every few years, especially since they often lose their leadership when they lose their HQs. The GF have the resources and facilities to do this research and, additionally, do conduct some research in the same fields the pirates do ostensibly to keep pace. They see enemies as a tool for control and aren't concerned how dangerous they are or what the collateral damage is as evidenced by their intentions with the X. Basically the Pirates are created and supported by covert human research out of labs like the one in Fusion and serve to support and maintain military spending.

I would like it if this was the direction of a post-Fusion Metroid game since in any case you'd have to do a plot like that as Samus and the GF aren't on good terms after Fusion. Plus Samus is half Metroid now, maybe she could get a Castlevania Bat like move where she becomes a Metroid along with other crazy Metroid inspired moves. That'd be cool.

Phazon was totally a real and legit threat though.

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My Biggest Surprise of the Year

Earlier today I 100%ed Katawa Shoujo, the first visual novel I've ever had a genuine interest in after seeing it on Day[9]'s Metadating show a week back. While it's a game with fantastic relatable characters, solid writing and a pretty great premise however truth be told these weren't the things that hooked me. The thing that hooked me was that Day[9] and crew actually had genuine interest in not only playing the game for the show but also playing more of it beyond the 2 hours of the show. That's what got me to download it (it's free), that's what got me in the door. That's what got me over the fact that up until now I would never have imagined myself ever playing a Visual Novel or even being interested in one. I hope what I say here might inspire others to do the same.

This "game" ended up hitting me harder than any book, game, film or show I've seen in the last year. And I played Walking Dead. And I read the Steve Jobs Biography. Nothing made me more emotionally invested and, ultimately, more introspective this year. I related to characters more reading/playing this than I have done anywhere else all year. Even real life. Especially real life. Parts of this game make me wonder if I'm doing everything wrong. It makes me think about death, the future, insecurities, communication, everything really. I don't know. That's the end of that thought. I just don't know.

Katawa Shoujo jumped into my heart over the course of this week and jumped up into my top 10 for this year at #3 right behind Fez and Sound Shapes. I'm really glad I watched that episode of Metadating and I'm really glad I gave it a chance. I think you should too.

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Out In Force: Stray Thoughts About Large Casts

(Note: This blog was originally on May 19th, 2014 but since I deleted that blog and regretted it I edited this older blog, to take its place. This blog aint great but it's not bad.)

This blog thing will mostly about Super Time Force. Okay, now that I’ve established that let’s travel back in time to the late 90s so I can avoid that topic for another 60 seconds or so.

The year 199X
The year 199X
Seriously though I would like a Banjo game where you could play as Klungo, Chief Bloatazan and the Cool Pet Thing.
Seriously though I would like a Banjo game where you could play as Klungo, Chief Bloatazan and the Cool Pet Thing.

So it was 199X. I was X years old naturally since I was born in 1990 and Rareware ruled the Earth. They made most of if not all of my favorite games! Banjo-Kazooie was out, Donkey Kong 64 was either out or soon to be out, and I believed deeply that casts of playable characters could only go up from there. As an X year old it made perfect sense really. Banjo-Kazooie had just B-K together & animals, Donkey Kong 64 had 5, Banjo-Tooie was going to have an transformation in every world, Mumbo and Banjo and Kazooie separate. Clearly a trend of cast sizes going up. I imagined single player game franchises that would go on for decades, continuously adding characters and getting up to a roster of dozens over time.

A silly idea now obviously as clearly adding more characters to a Banjo Type game is the last thing people want and backtracking and character switching were big issues for many in DK64 and Banjo-Tooie. But at the time it made sense and, honestly, I did like it a lot in DK64 and loved it in Banjo-Tooie. And while time has made me see DK64 for what it is, a platformer with its content randomly split between 5 characters who play mostly the same, I still love Banjo-Tooie as its characters manage to work quite differently from one another and the game isn’t terribly over padded as a result only slightly so. Clearly the imaginary games I wished for would've been terribly overstuffed or would feature characters not meaningfully different. Anyway oh shit we’re back at the present. Wait, what? I just said something about Super Time Force in the first paragraph. Oh wow!

The year 201X
The year 201X

In the wierdest way imaginable Super Time Force is my stupid idea from the 90s seen to fruition. There are so many characters in Super Time Force, all of them are novel in some way, all of them can find a place while playing and you basically, through the mechanisms of time travel, use them all in tandem. It’s amazing actually. It’s really cool learning how to handle each one, learning to use their strengths to do things that other character can’t do as well or can’t do at all.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

For instance there’s Zachasaurus, the Dinosaur on a skateboard. He’s equipped with a short range bite and some long range goo, but that’s not all! He can also jump on enemies and bop off them because he’s on a skateboard! So it turns out that makes him super useful for just booking through stages since where other characters would just die if the fastest jump happens to land where enemies are Zack will just happily bop off them. Kookabunga!

There’s also Dolphin Lundgren the dolphin with a machine gun. At first I thought he was a bit weak since his normal is just a sonic ping which is short range and really weak. However eventually I got to using his special on a boss, which is a concentrated stream of bullet fire, and realized he’s fantastic for concentrated fire.

There’s more where those two came from. There’s Squirty Harry who can send off fart clouds and light them on fire for a great AOE. There’s Cleo who can surround herself with boomerangs which can stop bullets and protect Cleo while damaging others. There’s Lou Don Jim whose lightsaber is pretty powerful and can deflect projectiles making him real good for quickly dealing with streams of bullets without Blocky. And of course the main 4 are all pretty solid and there are others that are quite good and others still who I haven't oh god I’m out of time. Going back a bit.

No Caption Provided

Okay, now that that’s taken care of I’ll spend some time farting around with collectable lines of inquiry. Like does Super Meat Boy qualify and what about the MOBAs of the world? For Super Meat Boy I don’t really think so because at the end of the day Meat Boy was always the correct character choice and it never felt like the levels were meant to be played with the other characters. As for MOBAs I’ll say it’s different here because Super Time Force is single player but I do admire how they make characters of a team seem special unto themselves. The characters in a MOBA game are like star athletes. They’re all bigger than life like Shaq, Hulk Hogan, President Obama, the Undertaker, Magneto or Jerry Springer. It’s very cool.

Let’s wrap this bad boy up. So when I was a kid I dreamed of games with overly big casts that managed to be super diverse offering loads of gameplay opportunities and making each character matter. Games that were like amped up Banjo-Tooie's. As as 2X year old I’ve since come to the conclusion things aren't that simple and such a game would naturally be burdened by backtracking and copying but here is Super Time Force making the dream come true in a way I could've never imagined. It’s quite good. You should probably buy it.

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