Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dreams: Splinters of the Mind's Eye

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

Dreams are easiest to remember and make sense of right after you wake up, so I usually try to write them down in detail right away. Sometimes I don't have time though, and so I end up quickly jotting something down before going to breakfast. I have several of these stacked up, and I present them here as they were worded by my half-asleep mind.

Video Game Idea
Medieval poverty simulator-the game gives you practically nothing, throws you out in a world that is not easy to live in for a peasant.

Sure, it can be a social commentary on current economic crappiness.

A Normal Day at Camp
I was with a bunch of camp staff, playing games together (such as hiding two people in a barrel and making someone who didn't know what was going on look for them). I could bounce up onto the roof to oversee everything. Some guy came to do some construction work or something. He found what appeared to be some take-out boxes, but they actually contained a couple of talking crickets that were our pets. Somehow he mistook them for food. I tried to stop him, but another staff (who looked a lot like the neighbor in Captain America Winter Soldier) was into him and told him that the rest of us were crazy to make herself look good.

Cast in Doctor Who
I was cast in Doctor Who as the Master (apparently he was going to make a return in the next season). My family was really excited and supportive, and it didn't seem odd to anyone that BBC was casting an American.

I Have No Idea
Midnight chicken nugget run turns into time travel, expose another time traveler.

Worst Podcast Ever
We were recording an episode of the podcast at +Dominick Benedetto's house. +Rachel Wolters was on the show as well. We were using my phone to record it and all of the show notes were handwritten. There were lots of errant noises that were loud and unacceptable. I kept my enthusiasm up though.

Hammurabi's Borderlands
Note: I was a passive observer in this dream.
The characters from Borderlands 2 were sitting around reminiscing over all of the glorious bloodshed they have caused. It comes back to bite them in the butt when someone comes and pays them back eye for an eye. In particular I got to watch Krieg get cut open with his own hacksaw. His insides looked cartoony, like the Heavy when you operate on him in Surgeon Simulator 2013.

The Walking Dead
Again, passive observer
The characters from the first season of The Walking Dead (the game, not the show) were all running from Larry. They split up, and Larry started chasing Mark down this weird set of stairs.

The Grumpster
Passive Observer
A movie about a group of aliens who have disguised themselves as a family going to summer camp. The part that stuck out at me was not the aliens. One of the other parents was played by Jeff Goldblum. One of the children called him a "Big ol' grumpster." He got all indignant and said with the grumpiest face you ever did see "Who you callin' a grumpster? I'm not a grumpster." And he proceeded to grumble for a good long while.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Wolf Among Us Episode 3 Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

You should probably read my reviews of episodes one and two to get a sense of what the game is about and how it plays. I will focus on the story in this review because the gameplay is familiar by now.
The plot of The Wolf Among Us seems to be falling into a pattern; the majority of each episode is spent dealing with whatever shocking revelation was the cliffhanger of the previous episode, then they turn around and give us a new cliffhanger. The end of A Crooked Mile wasn't quite as shocking because they hinted at it a couple of times throughout the episode.

I have been trying to have Bigby be as good a person as possible, which has been pretty difficult up until now because violence is a pretty natural shortcut. I believe I succeeded this time, mostly due to the fact that Telltale had Snow White present for many of the scenes. She has taken on the role of the moral compass the way Clementine did in The Walking Dead. The difference is that Clementine was a moral compass because Lee wanted to teach her right and wrong, while Snow White is a moral compass because Bigby is romantically interested in her.
I can tell that I am doing a good job because there are several characters who used to be quite hostile towards Bigby who are now rather amiable. Now that I think about it there were a few people that I pissed off more. But they were people I didn't like anyway.
A Crooked Mile is the first time I have seen Telltale make a self-referential joke. Conversations in their games will often have messages that say "So-and-so will remember that" when you have backed them up or opposed them. One scene involved a character who was on painkillers and decided to have a few drinks. After a while he passed out and the game said "He won't remember this." I was laughing so hard I was too late to take a good screenshot.

Overall I think this was my favorite episode so far, especially since the end scene suggests that we are much closer to getting to the bottom of the whole thing. If you've been on the fence about The Wolf Among Us, I feel confident in recommending it now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Burial at Sea Ep 2 Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

This is the biggest departure from the established Bioshock formula that we have ever seen; don't worry, in this case that is a very good thing. And don't get me wrong, I loved the rest of the Bioshock games.

Let's get right into it: in Burial at Sea Episode 2 we play as Elizabeth, which is the first time we have played as a woman in the series. I believe this is why Irrational chose to mix up the gameplay as well. This episode is very stealth-oriented, taking some queues from the recently released Thief. The only weapon that I used throughout the game was the crossbow, which can shoot tranquilizers, smoke bombs, or noisemakers.
Being able to sneak up behind people and knock them out is handy. And because it is extremely important to be aware of your surroundings when playing a stealth game, they introduced the "Peeping Tom" plasmid, which lets you see people through walls. In order to encourage players to take the stealth approach, the rest of the weapons are extremely underpowered; I can see this being annoying to some, but I prefer stealth anyway.
In terms of story I thought this was the easiest to follow story we have seen in Bioshock, and that gives it a lot of strength. The previous games reveled in being vague to keep us wondering, and then throwing a huge curveball at the last possible moment. The core story of Bioshock Infinite and the first episode of Burial at Sea were especially guilty of this. As long as you are familiar with the previous stories of the Bioshock series you will understand what is going on the whole time. That's not to say that you won't be surprised, but you will understand what is happening, which makes these moments all the more powerful.
One moment in particular was probably the most disturbing scene I have ever witnessed in a video game. Let's just say that transorbital lobotomies are pretty effective as a torture method.

I'm really glad that Bioshock is ending on such a strong note. Playing through Burial at Sea only makes sense if you have played the rest of the Bioshock games. Buying both episodes together as part of the season pass is definitely the way to go, and they are worth $10 each for sure. And don't forget to grab the songs from the episode. The pie song was my personal favorite.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dream: The Computers are Messed Up

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

I had this dream this morning in that stage where I had already woken up once, decided not to get out of bed, and went back to sleep. Weird dreams tend to come out of that stage of sleep.

In my dream my roommate +Declan Mccrory came in and woke me up by turning on our computers. He managed to log in to mine (no idea how he knew my password,) but then goes "What is going on here??" That got my attention so I jump up and have a look. At first I thought he just changed the wallpaper to mess with me, but I noticed that the taskbar went off the screen, the user settings were all gibberish, and I couldn't figure anything out. I do remember trying to update the graphics driver to see if that fixed anything.

Then I suddenly realized that there were toddlers in the apartment because our apartment mate +Brenan Cain was babysitting for someone. I remember thinking that we really should have vacuumed before agreeing to babysit.

Then +Nic McPhee showed up for no reason complaining about the weather (he said it was snowing again.) I took out my phone to check the weather and I noticed that my phone was acting strange as well; it was as though Project Hera had suddenly come out overnight and changed everything about how the phone worked. I couldn't even figure out how to look up the weather. At this point I started really freaking out because nothing was working the way it was supposed to. Luckily I woke up, and my computer and phone are working like they should.

Yeah, I have hardcore nightmares.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Amnesia Fortnight 2014

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Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight is a two-week period where they drop everything they are working on, get into small teams, and make four or five prototype games. Last year's Amnesia Fortnight resulted in a couple of games that will have full releases: Spacebase DF-9 and Hack n' Slash.

This year they made four prototypes: Dear Leader, Mnemonic, Steed, and Little Pink Best Buds. By contributing through Humble I got access to those prototypes when they were completed, as well as their soundtracks.
Dear Leader sets the player as the new dictator of a soviet nation that has just gone through a revolution. You have to make decisions and hand down edicts as you see fit. The game was created in the same engine as Broken Age, which makes a lot of sense because the art played a big role in the inspiration for the game and everything that you do is accomplished by clicking on things on your desk. I had a lot of fun with the prototype, spending over an hour leading my country and giving them slogans like "having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card" to support my five-year plan for education. I could definitely see this getting made into a full game.
Mnemonic deals with memories in a curious fashion; you start in a hub with doors leading to different memories. Each memory will pause at a particular point because your character cannot remember what happened next. In order to progress you find items in other memories that allow him to remember what happened next. It is an interesting concept, but I got stuck for a long time, which was frustrating because the game only took half an hour. It is an interesting idea, but it would need to be handled carefully if they made a game out of it.
Steed takes the trope of a boy and his horse and flips it around: you play as the horse, and the human is mostly along for the ride. Pun intended. I was really curious to see what kinds of interesting stories they could explore this way, but unfortunately the demo was extremely short; it only took me 10 minutes to play through it. With an idea as unique as this I was hoping to have a more interesting control scheme than "you can kick backwards as well as forwards!" I did amuse myself by pooping a few times though.
Little Pink Best Buds is easily the strangest of the bunch, which isn't too surprising considering it comes straight from the mind of Pendleton Ward. Actually I think the best way for you to get a sense of what the game is about would be to watch his pitch video:

I was definitely expecting to be able to pick which Little Pink Dude becomes my best friend, but apparently they didn't have enough time to implement all of that. The only one you can choose is Big Leg, and the whole thing is pretty scripted. This idea would require a lot of work to become fully realized in a game, but I really want to see it happen because it was hilarious. Oh, and the voice acting was simply the best.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become my biggest ongoing fandom this year, mostly thanks to the excellent show Agents of SHIELD that serves to whet my appetite between movie releases. As they have demonstrated before, they are very good at making sequels that are better than their predecessors, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier continues that trend. Granted, the first Captain America movie was inherently limited because it was an origin story; even so, The Winter Soldier blew it out of the water. I'll even go so far as to say that it is my favorite apart from The Avengers.

Part of the reason that I like it so much is because it ties into the grander story they are telling more than any of the other individual heroes' movies. Thor tends to deal with large cosmic threats, but doesn't have as much bearing on the lay of the land here on Earth. Even the Iron Man movies only deal with adversaries that matter to Tony Stark. With The Winter Soldier however, I don't think the world will ever be the same. I'm kind of worried about watching the next episode of SHIELD because I'm not sure how the show will change as a result of this movie. Bottom line: if you are invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a must-see.

The two main twists in the story were executed well, though I figured out one of them before it happened.
Because of the nature of the way the Cinematic Universe takes concepts from the comic books and reapplies them to this new context, it would be very easy to accidentally spoil things for yourself by looking up things that already exist but we have not yet seen in the movies. Luckily I managed to avoid anything like that.

The dialogue was spot-on (I laughed obnoxiously loud at more than a few jokes) and the action was so good that Sonja had to hold my hand to stop me from getting too riled up. There weren't even any secondary characters that I hated. Man, everything about this movie was good.

Obviously this is Captain America's movie, but Black Widow has a large part to play as well. I was really glad to see this, because I think that she and Hawkeye deserve more screentime than they have been given so far. I wish they could have a movie all to themselves, but that probably isn't going to happen. Honestly though, why does Ant-Man get a movie and they don't?