Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Xbox Arcade

Last week I decided it was about time to finally put Battleblock Theater to rest on my Xbox 360. I love Castle Crashers, I loved Battleblock Theater when I started playing it, but never put it at the top of my list of games to finish. When I got my PS4 I thought I would never pick up my 360 again because the PS4 was just so damn pretty. Little did I realize when I made the jump to Playstation that my ISP (Comcast) blocked HBO Go on Sony devices which meant we had to keep watching Game of Thrones on my 360 (obligatory reference to Comcast being the devil). AND THUS the last gen console was on, I was browsing my games, and I booted up Battleblock Theater again.

After I got through the campaign I decided to try to go for some achievements because I was here, I was halfway through them anyway, and most of them seemed pretty easy to get in multiplayer. I rarely play multiplayer in games, even co-op. I get self-conscious about how I’m performing as a teammate or even as an opponent. When people leave a match midway, I wonder if they were disgusted with me and so frustrated they left. I realize how self-centered that all sounds, and believe me I’m working on it, but those are the general reasons why I don’t play games online. I also mostly expected that when I would try to get into multiplayer it wouldn’t match me with anyone since the game is years old. Much to my surprise, I jumped into a quick match almost immediately. And there were no emotes or chat, so I couldn’t be harassed even if someone wanted to harass me! Ya hoo! Small victories!

As I kept getting matched with new team members and new opponents, I was also trying to trade with everyone (one of the achievements is to trade with 10 different people) and I realized I was actually enjoying multiplayer. It was low risk, low cost if I messed up, and we just bounce from one match to the next so there were quick chances to redeem myself. Some multiplayer achievements include playing and rating 10 user-created levels, winning 100 matches, and win one match in every multiplayer mode. As I was whittling away at the list I realized one secret multiplayer achievement is to kill a team mate at least 50 times. I laughed to myself and decided I would just jump in to some quick matches to get the achievement. I was sure I was fairly close already, through doing half the game in co-op with my brother when I first bought it, and from accidentally killing my team mates enough times throughout matches when I was actively trying to win.

What I didn’t really expect is how bad I’d feel every time I threw a fireball to light my own team mate on fire. This person was legitimately trying to win the match, win their own achievements, and I was being the trolling asshole. I felt as if their frustration was palpable. Afterwards I took a step back and realized how affected I was by someone with a gamertag I didn’t even know. I dunno, I guess there isn’t really more depth to this thought at the moment. It hailed back to some thoughts I had while playing Journey, and the MOBA Smite, but in short – it kind of boggles my mind how game developers have struck on something as simple as “make two players match colors and inherently there will be a bond that will promote a certain path of player behavior.” I suppose that was struck upon before game developers though – just by people developing corporate strategy or team building exercises or education or . . . many other applications.

Like I said this is actually the tip of the iceberg on my wonderment and the relationship that can be created between strangers online. I’d like to re-play Journey and write up how amazeballs I think it is. I think my next installment in the near term though is going to be about the deep dark world of MOBAs that I’ve fallen into. Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar relationship with someone if just for a brief moment while playing silently together online; I’m really curious about this social phenomenon and would love to hear more about other people’s experiences!

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Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.

I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!

The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.

Why donate? Why am I doing this?

A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.

B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?

C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.

I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.

Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,

Laurie


I thought before I typed this up, I should check out the Wikipedia page, see if anything about the developer stood out to me that could be a better talking point than just writing up how much I did or didn’t like the game (because I know this game is ages old and me talking about it now is poor form). This is a quote from the Wikipedia entry for this game: “He [the developer] did not expect it to be a success, and that he was ‘half-expecting it to fail for being too stupid of a game.'”

Despite his concerns, this game is dirt cheap and a good time so you should definitely pick it up. Aside from that, I’m going to touch on, once again, how much I love indie games. You’re welcome.

You know why indie developers are great? Because they just wake up one morning (might have been years ago, before all of their incredibly dedicated, hard work, but all the same! it started one random morning) and decided, “This idea is awesome. I’m going to make it myself because it will be awesome. If no one else thinks it’s awesome, that’s too bad, but at least it was awesome to me.” I think I love this mindset (or that I’m particularly a sucker for it) because I’m so the opposite. I get defeated so easily (see: my track record on this blog . . . ) and never have confidence in my own creativity. Actually scratch that. I have a lot of confidence that some of my ideas are pure gold – I also just recognize the amount of effort they’d take to execute and I give up before I begin. So when one dude decides he’s going to make a game out in Microsoft XNA and assumes it’s going to be too stupid to even make him any money so he sells it for $1, and then it becomes an underground favorite – yeah. I love that guy, and all of his aspirations. Having said that, I never played his other game The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, but all the same! He’s a boss. Cheers to you, Mr. James Silva. Live your dreams, and long live the dreams of all indie developers everywhere.

Speaking of indie developers! My friend made this game called Cyber Heist for his senior thesis/project in a video games development-centric Master’s program and that is awesome that he is in it, and it exists. The game is getting crazy hype and he is getting crazy hype and I couldn’t be more over the moon for him and his cohorts working on the game. Although the premise is tongue in cheek (hackers trying to get into the system to erase all of their student debt), the idea of the second player and first player having complete different gameplay experiences is . . . fairly novel. I can’t think of another game that does that besides Wii U games (people with the Wii U controller in New Super Mario Bros Wii U for example, place jumping blocks anywhere on the screen, and don’t control a character). Comment! Correct me with examples, because I’m sure I’m wrong.

Speaking more about indie games! Tripleslash, the team that made Magnetic By Nature (which I am in love with), is releasing a full version of the game in the next few months. Details seem a little sparse on any official outlet, but it looks like the fully-funded Kickstarter plans on delivering a newly polished, full version in Q3 of 2014 on PC, Linux, and Mac OS. I’m also pretty sure the “Ultimate” version on the official website is for the new, upcoming release, even though the demo video still shows the gameplay of the $1 title on the Xbox Live Indie Aracde (still great, by the way).

Anyway. You know me and indie devs. I’m just a regular fangirl, droolin’ all over people makin’ moves and fulfillin’ dreams without corporate backing. I love you indie devs. Get it, girls.


It’s been awhile. I want to say “I’m making awesome video content!” but what’s really happening is I’m constantly checking my Amazon purchases and my Gamefly account to see if all necessary software and hardware will arrive soon so THEN I can start recording awesome video content. In the meantime, I should be writing up a storm on this blog, but alas – holidays always throw me for a lazy loop. But enough of this! On to the bee in my bonnet.

I was browsing Xbox Live accounts online at work today and I realized I needed to not be lame and just drop some points for some non-lame avatar threads. I started with updating my hair (since I chopped it all off a few months ago) and the thought crossed my mind “Maybe it’ll look weird since I have to choose a guy’s haircut to put on my female avatar.” Without much surprise, the hair looks fine on the avatar, so I moved on to updating my pants and shoes to something less frumpy. I opted for some standard shorts that look like what I wear most summer days, and then I realized that there weren’t any shoes that looked like shoes I wear. I then realized that I was only looking at the women’s shoes options. “Ah, makes sense. I did choose the female avatar body. But I bet I can find some shoes I like in the men’s section.” I came across some Oxfords, thought “Perfect!,” and tried to preview them on my avatar.

ENTER GENDER BINARY OPPRESSION. I got an error message telling me “Oops! These shoes are for the other gender” or something very similar to that message. The “Oops!” was definitely there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to protest Microsoft, and I wasn’t distraught for days. If someone has run across this error message before and has subsequently protested Microsoft or was distraught for days – I feel you. Those are appropriate responses. That rejection of how you identify can be really frustrating and even traumatizing. For me, it wasn’t, but I was bummed out, and annoyed at Microsoft’s short-sightedness.

Gender-specific clothing? Really, Microsoft? I just . . . man. What a antiquated thing to code into your social service. Clothes are just clothes! People make avatars to be a cooler version of themselves. I don’t own Oxfords, but I want to, and I want my dang avatar to wear them, because I hate flip flops and clunky tennis shoes. And if I were a dapper butch lesbian, I’d want to have my tie on my avatar and my loafers, ya dig? Microsoft shouldn’t pidgeon-hole people or how they identify. Free the clothes for all, Xbox Live!

Add me if you so desire: lbizz66 (note that the shoes my avatar is currently wearing are not accurately representative of the persona I’d like to project on Xbox Live. Thank you).

Have you run into a bummer like this before? You identify as a dude that loves heels, or a chick that loves ties? Leave a comment, rant against The Machine (Microsoft), and let’s keep our eye on the avatar editor to see if Microsoft figures it out sooner rather than later.


Tripleslash Studios Magnetic By Nature: Awakening

From Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace

On Tuesday night I went to the first (annual?) Utah Game Wars. It was an event for local game developers to get funding to further their projects. Out of I believe a total of 12 submissions for consideration, 8 finalists made it to the evening to showcase their games to judges first, then to any member of the public who registered for the event. The devs submitted their works as either developed (published on any kind of platform, available to the public) or undeveloped (not yet released anywhere), and the public got to cast their vote for a people’s choice award. Developed games could win $10k, undeveloped $15k, and an extra $500 to the crowd favorite.

I didn’t research any of the games before showing up, nor did I read the print and eat the free food that was provided, so it was off to a rocky start when I showed up around 7pm. As I perused the room and listened to developers explaining their projects to people, I was . . . surprised. There was an educational game, a sports stock exchange website, a isometric high fantasy regurgitation for tablets, and other equally equally forgettable games. I was excited to go to the evening because I thought I’d get to see the next Super Meat Boy or maybe something really radical like Hotline Miami or something. Instead, it was all safe, tame, and not very enticing to the stereotypical indie gamer.

Thankfully, the developed game category winner (and people’s choice winner) Tripleslash Studios pulled through and made the whole night worth it for me. Back in the corner of the layout was Magnetic By Nature, developed by a handful of University of Utah students who make up Tripleslash. After a successful Kickstarted seeded them $10k, Magnetic By Nature: Awakening was released on the Xbox Live Indie Games. For 80 credits, I can tell you its a steal. Here was the only game at the event that was by gamers for gamers.

You control a robot in a 2D side-scrolling environment. As the title suggests, your magnetic body traverses the art deco inspired background and a darkened foreground (ala Limbo) by attracting to different magnetically poled spheres. In a word, the whole look is incredibly charming. Although the foreground reminds all of Limbo, the lively backgrounds and obstacles you run by brighten up the gameplay and make the world fun to go through.

Tripleslash Studios Magnetic By Nature: Awakening

From Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace

I didn’t get a chance to oust a small child off of the demo machine and try the game myself, nor have I purchased the game on the Xbox Live Arcade yet (yet being the operative word . . . I want to buy this game, and I will), but the gameplay seemed to be three primary buttons – jump, attract to a blue magnetic pole, attract to a red magnetic pole, and of course, the analog stick to run forward or backward. Like all great puzzle games, the complexity comes layered into the finesse with which you can navigate spinning sawblades and swirling seas that threaten to end your life, not in the gameplay mechanics.

And if the description and screencaps don’t convince you enough to give this game a shot, then the amiability of the developers should. I chatted at length to two of the gentlemen on the team and they were very willing to answer my questions, hypothesize about the future, and reminisce about the beginning. I was pleased to hear that they have ideas for more games in the future and would love to keep pushing into the industry with their studio, Tripleslash. First priority though, fattening up Magnetic By Nature though. The developers excitement and enthusiasm was infectious as they started talking about sprucing up the artwork and adding more mechanics (one dream mechanic was being able to throw your head and then attract your body to it to get through levels).

I’ve talked about this before but it’s the same every time I get to interact with Good Guy Greg developers – I just want good, nice people to succeed, 100% of the time. Tripleslash Studios are good people, and their victory (including the people’s choice) at the Utah Game Wars just warmed all four chambers of my heart. I hope to watch their meteoric rise with this project and all their future endeavors.

The official website doesn’t work right now but I’ve been assured the Facebook page is a good way to get a hold of the developers if you’re interested. You can also follow their updates on their official twitter account, @TeamTripleslash.


Originally published on 10/30/12

So this is old rage by now, because this draft has been sitting, waiting to be finished, for at least a week, but you know me and my ability to hold on to rage . . .

I saw GameSpot.com tweet an article with some inflammatory lead-in like “Are all gamers stupid?” or something ridiculous, so naturally I took the linkbait and then watched a GameSpot.com video feature Edmund McMillan, Cliff Bleszinski, and a number of other prominent gaming names, articulating their opinions about whether or not games are getting dumber.

I was almost instantly incensed. What kind of dumb generalization is that, “all games are being dumbed down”?! Of COURSE “all games” aren’t being dumbed down. Are some? Naturally. There’s a huge market for the less intelligent who also love video games. And really, you know what, I shouldn’t even be that dismissive. Really, there are people that buy from that pool of games because they don’t want to think when they play video games. And I’ve been there, I get that. Sometimes you’d rather mindlessly kill things than work through puzzles or an emotionally compelling story. That doesn’t mean you’re missing brain cells, it means you just want a relaxing, thought-free evening every once in awhile.

I wrote out paragraphs and paragraphs of a tangent, but I reigned myself back eventually to what my point is (you’re welcome): the gaming community and industry is now too big to say crap like this. Back in the day, you could make sweeping generalizations about gaming and video games and your exceptions would be one or two titles, so people got away with it. Now? There are hundreds of games released in a year. Potentially thousands, depending on what you’re counting. Some people enjoy “dumbed down” games, some people only enjoy those games once in awhile, and really, those games that appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamers are the biggest cash cows for publishers, so yeah, they get a lot of face time in the media (and some games get media time because they’re just awesome and not dumbed down, like Dishonored).

But there is so much more out there! And the sad thing to me about the video was that Edmund McMillan (co-creator of Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the hardest games of its generation) and Cliff Bleszinski know that. I know they know that. But they must be seeing the games that demand more out of players as exceptions rather than norms. And really, I’m not sure there is a gaming norm any more. Again, the industry is too big for generalizations.

We’re seeing factions and pockets of specific gamers pop up all over the place. Indie gamers, racing gamers, only platformers, only MMO  players, only FPS players. There are all kinds, and I’m grateful, because it takes all kinds to make this beautiful gaming world go round. When you get that kind of genre passion, that leads to experimentation to take something you love so deeply to another level, just to see what can happen. And that innovation elevates the industry, despite any of the “dumbed down” games that some think are ruining it.

I guess in the end my rage was really just sadness. I’m sad that from the inside out, the industry is being hated on from people that a) worked to change it in the first place and b) have seen it’s growth and should know better than to generalize such a diverse place. For shame E and Cliffy B. For shame.


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whoa! I’m alive! For what it’s worth, sometimes I write personal thoughts on gettribal.blogspot.com. So more recently, I’ve taken to that transmission vector. Mainly because I’ve gamed so little in the past few months. So. little. It’s depressing. But about a month ago, my brother took the initiative to set up a weekly gaming date for us so we can get our game on and spend some time “together.” Good times! We’ve moved on to playing Halo 4 (fun, horrendous storyline, post forthcoming about that) but we started playing Iron Brigade, by Double Fine and so I thought I’d pass along a little ditty about that since weeds have started to grow over this blog . . .

This is confusing to buy on Xbox Live Arcade because when the game was originally released in 2011, it was called Trenched. A month later, due to copyright issues, the title was changed to Iron Brigade. It’s a third-person tower defense game, set in the mid-1900s but to an alternate history. Frank Woodruff (good guy) creates a new military tool, mechs (called trenches) that soldiers can equip and upgrade to fight in the field, as well as set emplacements to defend military points. Vladimir Farnsworth (bad guy) tried to push his technology, Monovision, to  let everyone see whatever they want, but from the comfort of their homes (hur hur hur, social commentary . . .). He disseminates his vision via “devices” called Tubes, who you are trying to kill because you don’t believe in Monovision. That’s . . . a really, really rough synopsis, but that’s essentially what’s happening. Killing Tubes, stopping the forward progress of Monovision, stopping your once ally/friend, Vladimir.

You saw my rave review of Orcs Must Die! so you know how I thoroughly enjoy third-person tower defense games. I like the strategy, and the army you create for yourself with emplacements, on top of getting to get your hands dirty and jump in the action yourself. Iron Brigade has some great mechanics to force you to compromise strength for speed and emplacements. It made a lot more sense to play this with other people than trying to tackle it solo. Some trench chassis allow you to use “heavy” emplacements that do tons of damage, but cost more scrap (the currency essentially of the game) to place, whereas chassis that tend to have more armor and can equip more weapons have less emplacements slots, and out of those slots, no heavy emplacement slots.

It goes without saying that the dialogue and artwork were superb. We’re talking about Double Fine! Very funny narration, good voice acting, funny animation, and great art between action. Without a doubt, this was worth the $5-$10 I paid for it. Short, not incredibly difficult, but fun achievements to keep you coming out, and a great experience to play with more than one person.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.