I’m playing through Sleeping Dogs on PC. It’s a basically “Grand Theft Auto but in Hong Kong and you’re an undercover cop but don’t worry you still do awful crimes all the time.”
Here I am beating the shit out of some monks to steal flowers for a gang mamber’s future wife’s wedding.
(via Steam Community :: Screenshot :: Beat up some monks to steal some flowers and oh god i’m a monster aren’t i)

I’m playing through Sleeping Dogs on PC. It’s a basically “Grand Theft Auto but in Hong Kong and you’re an undercover cop but don’t worry you still do awful crimes all the time.”

Here I am beating the shit out of some monks to steal flowers for a gang mamber’s future wife’s wedding.

(via Steam Community :: Screenshot :: Beat up some monks to steal some flowers and oh god i’m a monster aren’t i)

I picked up Spelunky on PC. I’m falling in love with it all over again.
The thing about Spelunky is that every game is different, and sometimes you’ll have these really lucky runs. You’ll happen to get a ton of extra health or good equipment, and since most runs end in failure, I find myself getting anxious about how I’m going to blow it.
This particular run, I’ve got the freaking jetpack (arguably the best item in the game) plus a great amount of health, bombs, and rope.
I ultimately died somewhere in the last world, running for an exit without noticing a trap off to the right, which shot an arrow right into my stupid face as I tried to jetpack my way to glory.
If you’re playing Spelunky, add me on Steam. I’d like to see more Steam friends on the Daily Challenge leaderboard. Just click through to my Steam community page and add me there.
(via My Steam screenshots)

I picked up Spelunky on PC. I’m falling in love with it all over again.

The thing about Spelunky is that every game is different, and sometimes you’ll have these really lucky runs. You’ll happen to get a ton of extra health or good equipment, and since most runs end in failure, I find myself getting anxious about how I’m going to blow it.

This particular run, I’ve got the freaking jetpack (arguably the best item in the game) plus a great amount of health, bombs, and rope.

I ultimately died somewhere in the last world, running for an exit without noticing a trap off to the right, which shot an arrow right into my stupid face as I tried to jetpack my way to glory.

If you’re playing Spelunky, add me on Steam. I’d like to see more Steam friends on the Daily Challenge leaderboard. Just click through to my Steam community page and add me there.

(via My Steam screenshots)

FEZ, by Disasterpeace

Spending some time this morning remembering how much I enjoyed Fez’s soundtrack. Super psyched about Phil Fish announcing Fez 2.

GeoGuessr - Let's explore the world!

Wow. Play this immediately.

I just had an experience where I was on some gorgeous seaside road, and I finally found a small village. I was stumped (no language anywhere) until finally I found a car, and that car had a steering wheel on the right side. So I must be in England!

False. I was in New Zealand. New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road, too.

Stupid, beautiful New Zealand.

Borderlands 2 Impressions

AAAAAH HOLY SHIT THIS IS JUST LIKE BORDERLANDS 1 BUT EVERYTHING IS BETTER

  • More gun variety
  • Funnier writing
  • Quick warping is unlocked earlier so you’re not running every-goddamned-where as much
  • It’s incredibly easy to find your friends and play with them
  • I’m playing as a robot ninja
  • They used the word “bonerfart”
Oooh, burn. (Read the power-up description.)

Oooh, burn. (Read the power-up description.)

I’m playing through GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City and I love it. The Lost and the Damned storyline’s great. The main character, Johnny, is your typical “I’m a bad guy but I want to do better things” GTA protagonist, and it’s generally a lot of fun to drive around Liberty City with improved motorcycle physics. For example, you can now skid around corners with the handbrake instead of, say, flipping over and dying the way I swear I always did in GTA IV pre-expansion.
Anyway, there was this cut scene in which an Hispanic drug mule was being roughed up by a crooked customs agent, and I accidentally took two screenshots in a row. I noticed that if the two screenshots are viewed back to back, they kinda look like they’re dancing! That is all. That is literally the only reason I am posting this: a bad guy and a lady filled with drugs kinda look silly here.
Yep.

I’m playing through GTA IV: Episodes from Liberty City and I love it. The Lost and the Damned storyline’s great. The main character, Johnny, is your typical “I’m a bad guy but I want to do better things” GTA protagonist, and it’s generally a lot of fun to drive around Liberty City with improved motorcycle physics. For example, you can now skid around corners with the handbrake instead of, say, flipping over and dying the way I swear I always did in GTA IV pre-expansion.

Anyway, there was this cut scene in which an Hispanic drug mule was being roughed up by a crooked customs agent, and I accidentally took two screenshots in a row. I noticed that if the two screenshots are viewed back to back, they kinda look like they’re dancing! That is all. That is literally the only reason I am posting this: a bad guy and a lady filled with drugs kinda look silly here.

Yep.

Whenever I see someone using a rare weapon in Tribes: Ascend, I don’t think, “Wow, that guy must be really good!” so much as, “That guy spent a lot of money!”
Tribes: Ascend is a free-to-play first-person shooter. Like Team Fortress 2, there are non-default items to collect. These items almost always fall into 2 categories: items to accessorize your avatar, or balanced weapons to introduce new strategies to the game. TF2 has done this marvelously, with its bustling virtual hat economy doing so well that Valve hired an economist to study it.
TF2 lets you use real money to buy new items, too, but they’re never more than a couple bucks, and you can usually trade with other players to get them cheaper than if you’d paid real money.
Tribes, on the other hand, lets you pay for things with XP (earned slowly by playing) or with gold (which you buy with real money). You can buy a good amount of new weapons with just a few days’ worth of XP, and most of the time that item’ll just give you a new way to play.
But some items! They don’t do that at all! Sometimes I’ll find myself killed, and I’ll click over to clip of what my killer is using, and he’s got some gun I know is expensive. And then I’ll think about what it’d take to get that other, better gun.
For example, there’s this plasma gun that you can buy for 75,000 XP or 500 gold. Using an optimized strategy for earning XP (earning your 2,100 XP daily “first win” bonus and quitting after that, once a day for over 30 days), you’re looking playing the game for at least 12 hours to accumulate 75,000. That’s a lot of patience for one goddamn gun. That’s 12 hours of not spending your XP on anything else.
Or it’s about 5 goddamn dollars. When faced with an absurd time sink like 12 hours, that $5 seems reasonable. And that’s how they get you.
And it’s like these pricey items are kinda broken. I googled “tribes ascend plasma gun” and it gave me these results:
From the google suggestions and the video results, you can tell that some people want to know how much the dang gun costs, and other people are arguing that it’s overpowered. That’s how they get you! They waggle this overpriced, broken thing in your face and you want it! And now that people are definitely spending real money on this stuff (and not, say, trading for it the way they would in TF2) I imagine the game developers can’t weaken the gun with people saying “HEY THIS THING I BOUGHT WITH REAL DOLLARS SUCKS NOW.” So it might just stay broken forever.
I’m not outraged by this. The game’s chaotic enough where it’s not like people with these unbalanced, better weapons are winning every time. I still enjoy the game very much.
I guess what I find weirdest about this experience is that, for the first time, I didn’t respect someone for having nicer equipment than me. Rare items in online games are traditionally earned through skill or patience, but Tribes: Ascend was the first time I saw someone who’d probably just paid money for what seemed like a distinct advantage. I wasn’t impressed; I just kinda shrugged it off. You win again, People With Money.

Whenever I see someone using a rare weapon in Tribes: Ascend, I don’t think, “Wow, that guy must be really good!” so much as, “That guy spent a lot of money!”

Tribes: Ascend is a free-to-play first-person shooter. Like Team Fortress 2, there are non-default items to collect. These items almost always fall into 2 categories: items to accessorize your avatar, or balanced weapons to introduce new strategies to the game. TF2 has done this marvelously, with its bustling virtual hat economy doing so well that Valve hired an economist to study it.

TF2 lets you use real money to buy new items, too, but they’re never more than a couple bucks, and you can usually trade with other players to get them cheaper than if you’d paid real money.

Tribes, on the other hand, lets you pay for things with XP (earned slowly by playing) or with gold (which you buy with real money). You can buy a good amount of new weapons with just a few days’ worth of XP, and most of the time that item’ll just give you a new way to play.

But some items! They don’t do that at all! Sometimes I’ll find myself killed, and I’ll click over to clip of what my killer is using, and he’s got some gun I know is expensive. And then I’ll think about what it’d take to get that other, better gun.

For example, there’s this plasma gun that you can buy for 75,000 XP or 500 gold. Using an optimized strategy for earning XP (earning your 2,100 XP daily “first win” bonus and quitting after that, once a day for over 30 days), you’re looking playing the game for at least 12 hours to accumulate 75,000. That’s a lot of patience for one goddamn gun. That’s 12 hours of not spending your XP on anything else.

Or it’s about 5 goddamn dollars. When faced with an absurd time sink like 12 hours, that $5 seems reasonable. And that’s how they get you.

And it’s like these pricey items are kinda broken. I googled “tribes ascend plasma gun” and it gave me these results:

From the google suggestions and the video results, you can tell that some people want to know how much the dang gun costs, and other people are arguing that it’s overpowered. That’s how they get you! They waggle this overpriced, broken thing in your face and you want it! And now that people are definitely spending real money on this stuff (and not, say, trading for it the way they would in TF2) I imagine the game developers can’t weaken the gun with people saying “HEY THIS THING I BOUGHT WITH REAL DOLLARS SUCKS NOW.” So it might just stay broken forever.

I’m not outraged by this. The game’s chaotic enough where it’s not like people with these unbalanced, better weapons are winning every time. I still enjoy the game very much.

I guess what I find weirdest about this experience is that, for the first time, I didn’t respect someone for having nicer equipment than me. Rare items in online games are traditionally earned through skill or patience, but Tribes: Ascend was the first time I saw someone who’d probably just paid money for what seemed like a distinct advantage. I wasn’t impressed; I just kinda shrugged it off. You win again, People With Money.

Things that Quantum Conundrum has in common with Portal
  • You begin in an empty building with a disembodied voice giving you instructions and making jokes, all the while kind of showing you contempt.
  • Early puzzles introduce the main mechanic of the game by having a third party operate it on a timer. Then, after a couple puzzles, you finally get to control the mechanic yourself.
  • You’re putting cubes on floor switches to open doors, and pushing red buttons to make items fall out of machines.
  • Puzzle conditions reset as soon as you exit a puzzle room.
  • Lead puzzle designer Kim Swift

I’m about 30 minutes into the game and I like Quantum Conundrum just fine, I think. I went into the game very familiar with Portal, so maybe I’m just getting impatient before the game starts throwing difficult challenges my way.

I’m not sure how these similarities have to do with Kim Swift being involved, and I guess there are really only so many ways to open a door. Floor switch, wall switch, button.

Either way, it’s weird going into a new game and immediately feeling very familiar with what’s about to happen. I look forward to getting really frustrated at a difficult puzzle, only to suddenly get it, then smack my forehead and call myself an idiot for not solving it sooner. 

Past vs. present tense and old video games

I just noticed that in that last post, I described GTA Vice City in the past tense, and Saints Row 3 and GTA IV in the present tense. That wasn’t a conscious decision at first; I wrote them, then went back and noticed the difference, then kept them the way they were because that’s still what made the most sense.

I think this has a lot to do with whether I expect people to be playing these games anymore. I know that novels are generally described in the present tense, right? They’re narratives to be read whenever, making the present tense appropriate. They’re timeless.

But games often reach a point where they’re just not easy to play anymore. Grand Theft Auto IV and Saints Row 3 are on current-gen consoles, and they run great on a modern PC. In the back of my head, I think I consider them to be more “alive.” You can still play them; those worlds are more “awake.” I expect people to still be experiencing those stories right now.

But GTA: Vice City? It’s a classic - quite possibly my favorite of the PS2 GTAs - and it came out on the PC just like the games I just mentioned, but it’s certainly not something I expect anyone I know to be playing right now. It hasn’t seen a major rerelease, and people generally talk about it when comparing it to modern games. It’s the “old game”, the Empire Strikes Back of GTA games. It’s something to be remembered and celebrated, and it just feels weird to talk about it like it’s still happening.

Bank Heists!

Just wrapped up a Grand Theft Auto IV mission in which I robbed a bank with a few other people. I feel like I’ve robbed banks in a few games. It’s weird that I have bank heist expectations now, but I guess that’ll happen with experience.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had a bank heist. Tommy Vercetti was the most power-hungry of all GTA protagonists, and you spend a few missions assembling your team. There wasn’t too much of a twist. Two members of your team get killed - including your driver - leaving you to drive everyone to freedom. I don’t think I ever finished this mission. I kept thinking I was supposed to hop in a car and drive away from the SWAT team outside the bank. They shot up my car and I’d explode before I could drive away. Then I quit because it took about 10 minutes to get to that one moment where I had 20 seconds to figure out what I was supposed to do. I figured I could get escape the police barricade if my cab could jump. (You unlock jumping cabs after doing a huge amount of cab missions.) I got an hour or two into boring cab labor and then quit the game altogether. I’d already finished the main story and done everything else I’d wanted to, and this last task reduced the game to a dull grind.

Saints Row 3 has a bank heist, too. It’s the tutorial level, actually, and it’s pretty brilliant. Everyone in your group is wearing masks, including yourself, so the game can start with a bang rather than drag you through a character creation process. The twist is that you’re robbing a bank run by a powerful organization you’ve never heard of, and the situation gets over-the-top ridiculous. But it’s a tutorial level, so it never gets stressful; the level just establishes that this Saints Row game is going to be just as bonkers as previous entries in the series.

The bank heist in Grand Theft Auto IV is more business-as-usual than the other two. It’s not the culmination of any particular plot line, and nothing completely unexpected happens. Your team consists of 3 Irish guys, and they bicker until one of them gets shot by a civilian playing the hero. You flee on foot, escaping into the subway and running down the tracks, then finally stealing a car and driving home.

GTA IV’s bank heist does a good job avoiding the usual sequence of you committing a crime, where you do something illegal and then have to drive away from the cops. Running and gunning your way through the streets and then into a subway, then finally driving home is fun and straightforward. It’s also refreshing for your teammates to make all the plans and prove competent in combat. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a dangerous situation with idiot partners who can’t shoot and tend to die.

A bank heist mission always seems to say one thing: “Shit’s about to get real.” You know you’re going to have a ton of cops on you by the end, and at least one person on your team is probably going to die. It’s a familiar mission format in the open-world crime genre, and I’m not really sick of them yet.

Is it weird that I don’t really care about what’s at stake, though? What do I really get out of a bank heist? Game money? Saints Row’s bank heist is so early in the game I don’t really have a sense of money yet. I’m not greedy for game money yet. And GTA IV doesn’t really have anything you can spend your money on. Your main character keeps saying he wants money, but why? Why does this asshole keep doing everything for money, when you can’t buy safe houses or own cars or expand an empire? He’s greedy, but you’re not.

GTA Vice City’s bank heist made more sense to me at the time, because that game had safe houses you could purchase for a lot of money. Unfortunately, this bank heist comes at the end of the game, after you’ve finished the main story. (At least, it did for me.) So again, I didn’t really care. Great, more game money. Can’t wait to not spend it.

Anyway, the bank heist is a fun crime game trope, and I like going into those missions anticipating what’s going to go wrong and how I’m going to escape. Here’s hoping future bank heists get me to care about all the stupid money.

Also

I’m finally playing through Grand Theft Auto IV. I got a few hours in on the Xbox, then quit after some difficult mission kept killing me and I had to repeat the same bullshit every time.

But I’ve gotten over that. The PC version’s very pretty, and I’ve made my own radio station by dropping some mp3s into a folder. I can record little video clips very easily. I’m using my Xbox controller and everything’s going smoothly.

I’ve come to accept the game’s weird no-checkpoint policy on missions, and instead I do my best to enjoy driving through the best fake city I’ve ever visited. I’ve taken to buying armor before big missions, and preparing a little more carefully. It was a process that I first experienced in Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii; carefully readying myself before the hunt was part of the experience, and that made the extra prep time required become a little less tedious.

Oh, and when I got back to that mission that was giving me so much trouble, I beat it first try. I’ve realized the game will let you take your time in shooting segments. Someone may appear to be fleeing on foot, but the game will generally let you take your time shooting through dudes. There’s usually health hidden through the level, too. It’s GTA IV’s way of saying “listen, we didn’t use checkpoints, but we did hide health all over the goddamn place, so we’re sorry, and I hope this helps.” And when you actually see the fucking health, it works fine.

Whenever a game has one of those “shoot the guy holding your friend hostage” moments

It’s basically saying “Don’t fuck up this one shot, dummy, or you’ll have to start all over.”

Grand Theft Auto IV just gave me a moment like that. I was rescuing Niko’s cousin Roman from a warehouse full of dudes when it all came down to one shot that’d determine whether I’d finish the mission or angrily repeat the last 20 minutes of the game. I mean, it worked out fine, because I’m awesome, but holy shit, that raised the stakes.

It’s supposed to raise the stakes, right? “It all comes down to this,” is what that situation is saying. And they’re right; I was anxious, and when it was over, I felt good. But I was also really mad. Grand Theft Auto IV doesn’t use checkpoints, so I’d be repeating every-goddamn-thing I’d done before I got to that moment had I messed up.

And let’s say GTA IV did use checkpoints. Then I’d probably just start over to, say, a short time before the hostage moment. Then it wouldn’t really matter. If I shoot the wrong guy, I immediately try again. No more tension, not as much satisfaction when it’s over.

I guess what I’ve learned from this is that if you’re going to have everything come down to one shot, the game should put the odds in my favor but not tell me about it. Let there be some negative consequence to me messing up so I still feel good when it’s over, but don’t tell me the game’s rigged in my favor. Finishing challenges like that always makes me go, “wow, that was fun, but if I’d have screwed up, I’d hate this.”

Hell, maybe that scene was rigged in my favor and this is just something that games have always done, and I’ve just cracked the code without knowing it. And since not knowing is one of my conditions for success, I guess I’ll never find out, because I don’t want to.

Also, what’s up with a warehouse full of dudes being totally cool with me killing all of them? Why don’t people run away after 10 of their friends have been taken down by one guy? After I’d killed about half the dudes, they started taunting me. “This was all a trap! We got you!” I thought that was clever, letting me in on the secret once I was in too deep to get out, but if it was such a goddamn trap all along, why did I just kill over a dozen dudes? Shouldn’t it have been a better trap? Why are you idiots so cocky despite me shooting a bunch of people in the head?

I guess you can’t have half the bad guys fleeing halfway into every encounter. “Welp, he’s going to kill us again. I’m outta here!” That doesn’t work in a game where challenges often lie in killing a large amount of enemies instead of, say, one really tough enemy. It’s like the bad guys have to be cocky despite me having shot 3 of the guys next to them in the fucking face, because this isn’t a totally serious game, and you can’t have every major conflict get cut short with the other side running away in tears.

It’s just weird is what I’m saying.

Perhaps my greatest achievement this week was getting someone to correctly guess my drawing of Tom Hanks.

Perhaps my greatest achievement this week was getting someone to correctly guess my drawing of Tom Hanks.

slacktory:

Are you playing Draw Something? It’s on Facebook, iOS, and Android. Basically you and a friend take turns drawing words and then guessing what the other person drew. It’s really fun.

ABOVE:

  1. I drew a hadoken from Street Fighter 2 and a friend guessed it immediately. Awesome.
  2. Hippos eat marbles, in case you’re not sure that’s a hippo.
  3. My friend Tony drew a totally bitchin’ Skrillex (Why is Skrillex a word in this game???).

The game’s not really popular yet, but it’s getting there. I am recommending it because it has drastically increased how often I giggle to myself on the bus and I want other people drawing nonsense with friends.

Related: A weird drawing for “notepad” made me think about how old I am.

I’m really enjoying Draw Something, you guys. (Also, I blog for Slacktory now, so hey! There’s that.)

Get this game (it’s free!) and add me! Username: tehawesome. Draw a duck somewhere in your first drawing to me so I know you’re from here and not another random person! It’ll be our little secret duck of friendship.