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.
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.
A) Can I just rant about the spam comments on WordPress? Double digits! Every day! Spambots, relax, I know you are fake, please leave me alone.
B) Just a quick post today because I actually have some huge deadlines at work looming (hence the lack of post on Friday) but my co-worker and I were just chit chatting about Minecraft and he told me this story and it warmed my heart so I thought I’d share.
My co-worker is married, has one little baby, thoroughly enjoys video games but doesn’t have a ton of down time and would love to play games with his wife rather than spend their precious time together, separated. I’ve met his wife a few times and she seems like a wonderful woman. That is further supported by the occasional story he’ll come in with, like “We bought a random trivia game on Xbox Live last night and she played with me for awhile; she liked it all right! We had a good time.” Small spouse gaming victories like that are always heartwarming to me because I’ve always seen gaming as something that brings me closer to people (my brother, new friends, internet strangers who become friends, cashiers at fast food restaurants [true story]) so when I hear tales of the opposite variety, “My wife/husband plays Skyrim nonstop and I hate video games!” I get sad.
This morning my co-worker stumbled in, told us how he had been sick all weekend, and had told his wife Sunday would have to be a lazy, in-bed kind of day because he felt so terrible. So he started trying the Minecraft demo, having never played extensively before, and so did she, to keep him company. Sure enough, she fell in love with the game, as did he. Of course they bought it.
I laughed at his funny explanations of their botched attempts to build and farm and do other things in their first bout of playing the game. He told us about a sheep that wandered into their home that they couldn’t get rid of so eventually he proposed harvesting it for food, to which his wife exclaimed, “NO! You can’t kill Lamby!” I followed up all of this with the comment, “Well that is awesome that you guys can enjoy that together” to which he said “Yeah, that really is the best part.” D’awwwwww!
Hit me with your sappy, togetherness stories that gaming facilitated! I love to read ’em, I want to read ’em, and I want to celebrate what gaming can create, not what it can break when applied incorrectly.
YOU GUYS. 50 people follow my blog! My mind is blown. A hearty thank you to everyone who clicked the “Follow” button on this little site; dumb milestones like that make me feel good, even though I’m pretty sure less than half of that number actually read the content I write. BUT! For the non-zero number of you that do read the content, I love ya. Thanks, sincerely.
On that note, if you don’t look at your WordPress feed too often and want to keep up with my posts, you can like my Facebook page, Little Sister Gaming.
On to more important matters! Remember when I said gaming is not a chore? I still believe that, but I also think blogging shouldn’t be a chore. And even though I’m going strong on my daily-except-for-vacation blog posts, I’m still not exhausted by it. But with the vacationing, the moving, the unpacking, the all-the-other-things, I haven’t gamed in FOREVER. I finally got to game with my brother last night and we restarted the Halo 4 campaign on the Legendary difficulty setting. Damn, it is difficult. Mainly because I am not a valuable contribution to our duo, ha.
Anyway, my point is this blog is not a chore to me, I love it, I’m more motivated than ever now that we’re a thriving community, but I am scraping the bottom of an empty, dry, splintering barrel for content (e.g. yesterday’s repost of an article without even any critical thought from me – I AM SORRY, GENUINELY). This is all a lead up to an actual, legitimate question I thought of asking you all today:
What’s your gaming furniture/hardware setup?
I moved, and I had to buy a desk because I have a gaming desktop and awesome, massive monitors, and I kept getting perturbed by desks that required me to either put the desktop on the ground or in a tight, non-breathable cabinet. I also had to buy a TV stand that would hold my Xbox and my Wii and my games and controllers and other peripherals and movies and cables and headset. Booooo space. So I bought my second favorite desk choice (opting for speed of delivery over what I exactly I wanted) and I bought the cheapest, open TV stand (but didn’t think about cable management at the time, facepalm).
The cables behind the TV look pretty horrendous, but all of the stuff I’ve crammed into the shelf hides it fairly well. I had to STUFF that stuff into the shelf so it would all fit however. And I’m realizing the desk doesn’t have enough drawers/cabinet space, and the desktop has to sit on the floor (at least it’s a hardwood floor) and I’m just a little bummed out.
Do I just have to spend a ton of money the next time around? Do I just have to build my own furniture like a boss (even though I have no knowledge or means to do so)? Am I just anal retentive (yes)? Do you guys worry about cable management, or have you ever had to homebrew the perfect solution for your gaming set up? I’m also in the conundrum of finding a great gaming chair, since the couch in the living room is on the wall opposite the TV, and too far away to game properly. Any suggestions on that front?
Share your woes, celebrate your triumphs, give me some obvious advice that I need to hear from a stranger to know that none of this actually matters.
I read this article yesterday and was going to “review” it, but it’s just too good. If you love the concept of storytelling and exceptional writing in video games, you have to go read Susan O’Connor’s take on it. Who cares about Susan O’Connor? Oh, I dunno, she wrote some of the best video game plots of the past 10 years including Tomb Raider, Far Cry 2, and BioShock. She also headed up the Games Writers Conference. So yeah. READ IT. Then come back and talk to me about it 😀
Shortly after posting my blog yesterday, I bit the bullet and read a really brief synopsis of the release event. The only thing I can say might be good or bad that I can’t tell yet is the controller re-design. I think the Xbox controller is the most ergonomic and best designed controller in the history of gaming peripherals. Messing with that recipe makes me hesitant, but it looks good so . . . here’s hoping. Coming with Kinect seems cool. I have heard that voice commands, when they work properly (eyeroll), are very fun and really add something to the gaming experience. I also enjoy niche party games like Dance Central, so making Kinect better seems really cool to me. Also, I don’t have the hardware design. Boxy, sure, and bigger (which blows), but kind of utilitarian, and minimalistic, which I love. So hey! I don’t hate everything!
The lack of backwards compatibility is unsurprising to me; upping hardware specs will always eventually lead to that. What was saddening was the complete lack of an ATTEMPT to help gamers get their old content. And for the first time since my brother bought the original Playstation when I was in the third grade, I have a desire to purchase Sony hardware. When it was announced that the PS4 would not be backwards compatible, Sony conceded to their fans and said they would make some cloud space available for gamers old software. When asked point blank if Microsoft would do the same thing in the future, the Microsoft employee said no. ಠ_ಠ
From what I can gather, essentially used games are getting an added fee to play? A small, very quiet, optimistic part of my heart wonders if this will prompt GameStop to reduce used game prices (which frankly, I feel like are still too close to new game prices). Most of me realizes that this is just another way for Microsoft to stuff more green in their pockets. And it’s sad. But I do slightly get it. SLIGHTLY. People are always just trying to get money, and while it’s mostly helping Microsoft (it sounds like), it will slightly help developers. And I’m always all for that.
I really got the saddest bit of news this morning. Indie developers won’t be able to self-publish on the Xbox One. My literal facial expression when reading that can only be described as aghast. The hits of the past few years like Limbo, Braid, Fez, etc. won’t be able to reach an audience from the Xbox One. My heart . . . And I know what you’re going to say, that they have other avenues, it’s good they should just release on PC, etc. etc. etc. It’s undeniable though the audience that those devs reached by going through Xbox Arcade Live was massive. At the end of the day, for me, I recognize that every dev needs to eat, and I want people that are passionately following their dreams to get the most exposure they possibly can. Microsoft just cut off one really wide avenue for devs to be able to do that. A single tear rolls down my cheek.
What does this mean for me? Still nothing, like I highlighted yesterday. I now have a PC gaming rig that I’m in love with, and with games being cheaper through Steam, GOG.com, GamersGate, and other online distributors than new physical discs, buying Xbox games are completely unnecessary And really, I still have a great 360 that’ll last for awhile, so hopefully I’ll still be able to get in on any Xbox exclusives (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, ROCKSTAR, COUGHREDDEADREDEMPTIONTWOCOUGH). But it is interesting to me the differences between the Xbox One and the PS4. It’s making Sony very tempting to me, if for no other reason than voting with my dollar about how much better I think the PS4 grand entrance/innovations (air quotes, because both are pretty lackluster improvements for supposedly next-gen hardware) were than the Xbox One event.
Rant with me in the comments! I haven’t really read any defense of the Xbox One. I mean, usually you get at least one outlet being like “Now, now, this is actually cool” but pretty much across the board of all the major news outlets I read were disparaging about the poor showing. Do you want to defend? Do you want to fuel the rage? Comment!
Just call me controversial Cathy.
The perhaps most acknowledged/blatant reason is because I don’t have the money to buy whatever they’re selling. But even then, there are probably a lot of fans who are anxiously looking forward to the press event while knowing the won’t be buying this console for another few years at least. Tying into this reason: I just bought my Xbox 360 about a year and a half ago, it’s still in tip-top shape, I’m not replacing it any time soon even if I had the money.
I think my true source of apathy about the whole thing is a) overhype (I’m just a contrary human being so when people say “Be excited about this!” I instantly am not excited) and b) how great can this new hardware be? I highly doubt there will be anything groundbreaking in whatever is coming in this new box. Beefier hardware specs, a Blu-ray player, probably some cool integration features with Windows 8, Windows Media Player, and Windows Phone, but I don’t own any of those products. I think that’s all we’re going to see today. Cooler motion sensing? Great. Not something I have the space to use right now, but on an unexcited level, I can appreciate how that can lead to cooler peripherals/gaming experiences.
Partly this apathy must come from playing more on my PC as well. It’s beefier, games are cheaper, I have plenty of screen real estate, etc. etc. I don’t need a console, although the network is fun for playing with non-PC gaming friends. Also gaming on the couch instead of my office chair.
POST SCRIPT: Whoops, took too long to post this. It’s the Xbox One! Cool name, better than the 720. The depths of my apathy is that I’m not even going to read what they’re saying about it. I haven’t read any hypotheses of what will be in it either. Lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy.
Inspired by this post about the music throughout the Mass Effect series, I started thinking about all of the excellent soundtracks that I’ve enjoyed while playing games. This is by no means an exhaustive list; please comment and share some of your favorite video game soundtracks too! I’d love to listen to more.
Mass Effect 3 – It was highlighted in the article I linked to above, but it does make my personal list of favorite soundtracks. The compilation overall takes you through a range of emotions, but there are some individual tracks that can take you from elation to heartbreak to resolve within a four minute space of time. Definitely worth a listen through, if you’re looking for a well-rounded, very orchestral driven experience. Not to mention, it makes you feel like whatever you’re doing within your cubicle is contributing to saving the galaxy!
Red Dead Redemption – The soundtrack of RDR made a huge chunk of the atmosphere of this game. When the genre “western” enters most people’s heads, they think of hackneyed banjo music with a clanky washboard accompaniment. How refreshing then that the music used to great the bring depth to the western theme in RDR wasn’t twangy or cliche at all. Some of these tracks are unnerving, most are energizing, and a few (particularly the song through the credits “Deadman’s Gun” by Ashtar Command) can bring you to tears. Although the songs with lyrics are closer to the end of the game, the three of them are my favorites on the album. Do yourself a favor, get lost in the old west by listening to this soundtrack.
Splice – You can read in the game title link that I’ve already highlighted this incredible soundtrack. Ethereal and stirring, it brings you along a ride you didn’t think possible with a protagonist-less puzzler. The movement that takes the audience on a journey is the incredible strength in every song on this soundtrack. You’ll be doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t check out this soundtrack (free to preview in its entirety on bandcamp).
Bastion – This . . . this soundtrack is perfection. I saved the best for last. I’ve heard this soundtrack be compared to the Firefly soundtrack, which I thought was fitting. It gives off a non-western (hemisphere) vibe, mixed with a few, very subtle western (cowboy) themes. A diverse range of instruments orchestrate every track, and the songs with vocalists are . . . haunting, but in the best most moving way possible. I realize all of these descriptions sound very hyperbolic, but seriously, this one . . . the money soundtrack, undoubtedly.
Like I said, there are lots of other game soundtracks I love (Catch-22, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong, etc.) but these are really some of the cream of the crop. I’ll also take this chance to give a shoutout to a YouTube artist who does incredible acapella covers of video game songs. He hits some of the most popular jams (e.g. Guile’s Theme from Super Street Fighter 2) as well as a few more obscure hits that are just great songs (e.g. DuckTales’ Moon Theme). His username is Smooth McGroove and if you love raw talent recreating your favorite video game tracks, you have to go and subscribe!