I started this draft ages ago – when the Oculus Rift was first becoming “a thing.” Now I’m revisiting and revising the entire post because I can truly back up my feelings with the OR team’s latest announcement.
On paper, I was incredibly jazzed for virtual reality – especially at the level of quality that the Oculus Rift was promising to deliver. The implications in a multitude of industries and fields for research and training were really exiting. Watching the early developer videos hitting YouTube of the roller coaster riders, and people getting executed via guillotine were mesmerizing. But when it game to gaming – I didn’t actually care that much.
And maybe that’s just because I hadn’t seen any actual game utilizing it. My previously mentioned nausea from narrow field of views might have also been playing a part in my lack of excitement. I just assumed that strapping the goggles on would make me ill.
On February 5th, the official Oculus Rift blog announced that EVE: Valkyrie will be the first co-publishing venture for the Oculus Rift and will be a launch title. All I saw from a news outlet that covered the news was the .gif I posted at the top of this article, and that alone made me wicked excited. For the first time since hearing about the Oculus Rift, I really want to buy it, and if a demo proves to induce illness because of a narrow POV, I will be truly disappointed.
Immersion, right? That’s always the name of the game. Space shooter don’t exactly get my blood boiling but if I can completely submerge myself in a world where there is nothing else pressing for my attention, then I’m at least intrigued, if not excited. Narrative and backstory combined with the hardware to block out all other distractions could really be the final destination for the best games of the next gen (since next gen is now current gen with the Xbone and PS4? I dunno, educate me in the comments).
Is virtual reality your thing? Are you even interested in trying the Oculus Rift, or are you ready to sign the dotted line for your own set of equipment? Let me know in the comments!
My people! Here’s a bit of news that might appeal to the general demographic we all belong to:
I started co-hosting a podcast with two (sometimes three) other gentlemen. They founded it and called it Go For Rainbow! and it is delightful! One of the hosts, creator of Pocket Tactics, suggested I like the Facebook fan page and a few days later the frontman posted a status from the page, asking for any female listeners who would be interested in co-hosting. I responded, and learned that this isn’t just some hodge-podge, fanboi mashup of opinions. These guys have a slick operation going! Sponsors, real celebrity guests (Ellen McLain [GLaDOS], Simon Parkin, Steve Gaynor, etc.). and a weekly schedule. Legit! Oh, and yeah, it all worked out and now I’m one of the regular hosts.
So. Subscribe on iTunes if you’d like. Like the fan page on Facebook if you want. Definitely listen every week because we get real guests and biz-ness. Just wanted to share all the links and let you know what I keep tweeting about! The most recent episode is particularly relevant to this group, I think, because we talked to Simon Parkin who is the games critic for The New Yorker, and he writes regularly for The Guardian, and multiple other gaming outlets.
If you have any suggestions, questions, whatever, leave me a comment and I’ll pass it along to the group!
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.
I started this draft awhile ago, and originally the title was “I will buy a Wii U for Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze.” I am the ultimate sucker for anything Donkey Kong Country related. Have you guys played Donkey Kong Country Returns? Dat game! So good! I don’t know what the critics ended up saying about it, but it had so much charm and the jammin-est tunes since the original Donkey Kong Country, I don’t know how people have survived without playing it. And yeah, I’m being hyperbolic, but Donkey Kong Coutnry Tropical Freeze looks so good and a beloved video game company is doing so poorly . . . I just want to help somehow.
I’ve always been a Nintendo kid. My pedigree includes the NES, SNES, N64, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, and the Wii. I’m a sucker for all Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda-themed games. I’m constantly on the fence about splurging and jumping into the portable Nintendo world again, just for a taste of some more Mario Kart, Zelda, and Super Mario Brothers. My frugality has won out so far, but with all of the headlines Nintendo has been making recently about a deeper and deeper plunge into the red . . . my heart breaks a little as I acknowledge my bank account is desperately incapable of helping even the amount of the price of a new console.
I used to think Nintendo was invincible. Even when the 360 and PS3 started eclipsing the Wii hardware, I thought “No way – Nintendo still has something novel here.” And even when the Playstation came out with the Move I thought “Too little too late, suckers.” When Microsoft came out with the Kinect, I thought, “Whoa. That’s pretty cool . . . but Nintendo will pick it back up shortly, they just need a few months.” Time passed, there were more and more reboots of the same IPs and still Nintendo stood in the shadowy plane of 720p behind it’s competition.
When they announced the Wii U, I thought there were some cool features (different functionality on the controller screen versus the main monitor, playing from the controller and being able to give up the TV on demand); unfortunately I knew deep down it would be up to developer buy-in to really launch Nintendo’s console over the moon. People were worried about release titles, but I sagely remembered that no consoles have good titles at launch, so who cared? Then, the hardware specs came out. All so disappointing. All so subpar. All so definitely not next-gen. Was Nintendo losing its touch?
Time has shown . . . that perhaps they have. I’m not saying I won’t still buy a Wii U at some point, but a Playstation 3 is definitely higher on my list, as are a lot of games. But where does that leave this title, and my favorite franchises? I don’t know, to be honest. It’s with a heavy heart and a hanging head that I doubtfully look at the Wii U price, and games available for it.
This is all very rambley and I know it. Grief is rambley. And of course this is all a little over-dramatic, a little tongue-in-cheek, but honestly at the end of it, I do feel anxious about Nintendo’s future, and how little they’re motivating me to help. I’m undecided if one classic title will be enough to make me pull out my wallet and jump to their aid.
Heeeyyy yooooouuu guuuuuys!
Shoutout to the Goonies fans.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you to everyone who liked the Facebook page, commented on my last post, and gave me some feedback about video content. I responded to Robyn’s comment explaining that I have some video content coming and I’d like it to get as much traction as possible, so maybe tinkering with it a bit to better address what you guys want to watch will help me in that. Also, all the Facebook Page Likes give me Facebook Insights (which is essentially Google Analytics for the Facebook page) which again, will maybe help me get some more readers, and gain some more traction.
Because so many of you graciously said you weren’t really participating in the giveaway, you just wanted to help me out, I made this a contest of two: Mikael and A4man. Drum roll please . . .
Out of the 50/50 chance (I flipped a coin; Mik was heads, Adam was tails) Mikael won! And because Bastion is cheaper than Portal 2 right now, Mik, you won Bastion! Also because I love supporting indie devs and it’s a stellar game (and soundtrack) and you should definitely see what it’s all about!
I’ll get in touch with Mikael and send him the game, but again, thanks to everyone who commented!
If you haven’t ever heard of Kentucky Route Zero, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Although the indie title from Cardboard Computer didn’t make a huge splash across all gaming news outlets, I had happened to read a rave review of it on Kotaku. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I believe it’s in a humble bundle of some sorts, but I can’t confirm (is humblestore.webs.com really affiliated with the official Humble Bundle website? Can’t tell).
I bought a this game full price on Steam because after reading it’s description, wouldn’t you?
“Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Gameplay is inspired by point-and-click adventure games (like the classic Monkey Island or King’s Quest series, or more recently Telltale’s Walking Dead series), but focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.”
Fun fact about me – magical realism is MY JAM. I love the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I love the idea of magical realism (inexplicable [“magical”] things happening in a seemingly realistic world), I just . . . love everything about the genre. I haven’t ever been a big sucker for point-and-click games, particularly if they involve guess clicking, but that last clause, “focused on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill” put a grin on my face as soon as I read it. I knew I had to buy this game.
Since the Steam Summer Sale is well under way, I had to start looking through my unplayed Steam games from last year’s sale and picking up the slack. I decided to force myself to start playing some of the games I had been looking forward to but never got going on, I would install them, so they would be staring me in the face. I finally installed Kentucky Route Zero and started it Sunday evening. Because it’s episodic (five parts), I’ll publish a series of posts as I play through each episode.
The intro menu is minimalistic, asking which chapter to start on – simple Courier New text on a black background. The title displays across my entire monitor, again, just white text on a black screen. Immediately I am charmed by the polygonal, geometric art work. All the colors are muted, and much of every scene is dark, but it helps that much more to see where you click to move forward the protagonist, Conway. The graphics indicating gameplay are clever: an eye to look at a person, animal, or object; a notecard to speak with someone; two stick figures holding hands when you and another party member can interact with an object or location point.
After a simple introductory fetch quest with an old man at a gas station, you jump in your moving van (Conway is a driver for an antiques shop) and hit the world map, which is essentially just a road map. Major highways are numbered, but only by driving down a road do you then learn it’s name. A handy logbook keeps track of your conversations that had driving directions. Your position on the map is indicated by a wheel that rolls along as you click on various roads. Points of interest only come up as you pass them. Some allow you to get out of the van and interact with a new scene, while others are strictly text-based wanderings through buildings (e.g. churches, museums, stores, etc.).
The aesthetic of the whole experience is very minimalist. There is no soundtrack – only sound effects that vary as you move through areas. One outstanding example of creating an atmosphere is when Conway enters a bait shop, and the game informs us that he sees a cashier and a row of tanks filled with water. As this text is populating, a faint water-bubbling sound fades in as though we’re standing near the tanks. If you choose to approach the tanks, the bubbling grows louder. If you choose to talk to the cashier, the decibel level of the tanks remains faint. These kinds of details aren’t new to video games, and we all know that good details like that are the best way to achieve immersion in a video game. All the same, that attention to detail from an indie developer, who is very aware that there are few sensory inputs in their game so every detail counts, is delightful.
By the same token, that minimalism creates a very . . . uneasy feeling as I played through the game. I don’t believe this is in the horror genre, and yet something fishy is going on. There are ghosts, and no one seems to be able to give you a straight answer about this mysterious Route Zero. I don’t ever feel like something is about to pop out at me, but . . . I also never feel completely secure in my chair. As someone who thoroughly dislikes being scared, this is a perfect medium. I am completely head-over-heels into this environment without being forced to jump out because it wants a cheap thrill. The sound effects and lack of soundtrack are what really bring these feelings home while playing through episode one.
My only concern as I gear up to jump into episode II is that there are sometimes a dozen different story options in one conversation. I’m playing by gut, just kind of approaching situations as though I were Conway, but because I’m a completionist (I’ve played Mass Effect 3 four times to make sure I’ve seen every different conversation choice), I’m wondering what I’m leaving behind by not repeating conversations. I hope all hanging plot points (there are a lot) get resolved by the end, but I suppose I’ll wait and find out!
Currently, Cardboard Castles has episodes I and II out, with promises of III-V coming before the end of the year. The two-man dynamo team also has an experience available for free called Limits & Demonstrations: A Lula Chamberlain Retrospective. From the page itself, it says “Marking the first major public showcase of her work in over twenty years, this retrospective exhibition of work by pioneering installation artist Lula Chamberlain comprises a diagonal slice through time, place, and form.” You know me. Any labor of love I’m definitely going to be checking out. Post forthcoming about that title, most definitely. Also, what a great way for me to be introduced to artist, Lula Chamberlain!
Thus far, a huge round of applause to the Cardboard Computer developers, Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is a treat audibly, visually, and intellectually. I can’t imagine the future chapters going anywhere but up. Pick it up now for 25% off at the Steam Store!
My people! I would love to give you something to show my utter appreciation for all that you do for me by just reading my blog, or clicking the “Like” button on a post, or even commenting. I love you all, and that is no lie. So! I figured I have at least one Steam game I can giveaway, perhaps more by the end of this Steam sale, but to make this so super legit it’s like I’m actually getting paid to do this or something (ha, wouldn’t that be great . . .) I’d love to use this chance to get some feedback! Here’s what I would love to see, if you want a free Steam game:
1. Like the Little Sister Gaming page on Facebook (here’s a workaround – just add it, then immediately click the drop-down arrow on a post in your Newsfeed from LSG and click “Hide…” THEN YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO SEE IT, but the Like still helps me! How does it help me? Once a Facebook page has 30 Likes, Facebook starts giving you analytic information about that page. Kind of silly for a blog as small as mine, but hey – it’d be nice).
2. Comment on this post about what kind of video game video content you like to watch. Do you love browsing Let’s Plays, or something more specific? Do you only watch machinima, or do you prefer vlogs about video game issues? Do you only watch video game video content if someone is livestreaming a game you really like?
3. IN THE SAME COMMENT AS ABOVE, say what Steam game you’d love to buy but can’t because you’ve sworn to not spend any money during the Summer Sale. I have a copy of Mass Effect 1 to give away. Old, so probably not a great incentive; if your wishlist game in your comment goes on sale for cheap sometime this week, I may or may not pick YOUR wishlist game to buy and let you choose which of the two Steam games you’d like (if your name gets picked). ALSO, if everyone really wants Half-Life 2 or something and it goes on a daily or flash sale, I’ll DEFINITELY buy it, so there is some extra incentive.
I’ll give this a week! On 7/21/2013, I’ll assign every comment a number in a spreadsheet, use a random number generator to pick a winner, post about it by 7/22 at the latest, and gift that person his or her Steam game.
Simple enough? Let’s get crack-a-lackin’! I want to spread some Steam love! A big, fat, serious, thank you to all of your!