Thursday, April 21, 2011


Five Years of Talking to Myself

Five years ago, I bought an Atari Flashback 2 and I loved it so much that I wanted to write something about it. But since I had no idea who would care about such a thing, I figured I'd need to create my own platform for it. Nearly 200 posts later, here I am, still writing things nobody is going to read about things that nobody cares about but me. It's not the most rigorously-maintained blog, but I think that's for the best -- it speaks to how far I've come toward freeing myself from this money-eating, time-killing hobby. I've gone from being a total addict to finding some balance. I've made some progress reining in the pretentious bullshit and toning down the blatant fanboyishness. I've dabbled in making some games of my own. And I've written a few things that I'm pretty happy about.

So here's some of my personal favorite posts from the last five years. If this continues to be fun, maybe I'll make some more.


Babysitting My Video Games
Thoughts From the Press Conference
Thoughts From the Other Press Conference
Top 10 Gamecube Underdogs
The Gay Kid In Earthbound
What Dragon's Lair Did Right
Taking On The World
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon
The Golden Age of Black and White
Mario Party Advance


Pokemon Trading Card Game
Game & Watch Diaries
Graphics Versus Gameplay Steel Cage DEATHMATCH
He For One
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends


Why Do I Play?
Beating Harvest Moon GB
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Wii Fit
Super Smash Brothers Brawl Characters
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games


Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Wii Music
Video Game Review Scores


Third Party Failure Completely the Fault of Nintendo Wii
Wii Sports Resort
Dragon Quest Wars
Wolf Quest


The Multiverse Celebrates Mario's 25th
Setting the Record Straight
The Animal Crossing Trap

There we go. If I don't spend the next year playing nothing but Desktop Dungeons (a very real danger), then I'll see you in 2012!


Friday, April 15, 2011


OMG WII 2!!!!!

Does anyone actually care?

The Wii just doesn't matter to me anymore. Sure, it was exciting when it first came out. Ooo! Motion gaming! That'll change everything! And it was really cool to see things like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Wii Music. But that was it -- it was like Nintendo ran out of ideas, and god help us all if third party developers can be bothered to contribute anything. Wii Ware went to shit and Virtual Console is all out of steam. A Wii 2 isn't going to fix the problem that there aren't any games that I care about.

I'm starting to feel like Patrick Alexander -- I don't need these huge games that cost $50 apiece when all I have the time and energy for is free indie stuff. Oh, but Nintendo doesn't want to deal with any of those garage developers, do they? One more reason not to give a shit what they're doing.

But beyond the fact that I don't care, is this really going to make a difference to the world at large? Nintendo's problem isn't, and never has been, hardware; it's always been about image. The Gamecube was more powerful than the Playstation 2, but that didn't stop Sony from mopping the floor with Nintendo. If you suggested the superiority of Gamecube hardware to the average video game fan, you'd get a response about how "kiddy" Nintendo was and how "mature" Sony was in comparison. So, what, Nintendo's going to release an HD console, and suddenly all these fucks who are so preoccupied with how "casual" Nintendo is are suddenly going to rush out and buy one? Or are they planning to push the Wii 2 to the same people who bought the Wii -- the ones who never bothered to upgrade their standard definition TVs and haven't bought a new game since Wii Fit?

What is even the point of all this?

Speaking of Nintendo hardware upgrades, how about that 3DS, eh? In spite of my misgivings about the hardware, I had expected that I would need to really fortify my sales resistance in the face of the onslaught of news and impressions from all around the Internet to keep myself from running screaming to the nearest store and stabbing everyone with my credit card -- I'm pretty sure that's how you purchase a 3DS -- because... y'know, that's what I do. Game hardware comes out, I buy it. I'm a total sucker.

But it's dropped off the radar pretty quickly, hasn't it? As I've said, there seems to be this period before a game launch where everyone is excited and up in arms, and now that a couple weeks have gone past, it really doesn't matter anymore. Everyone who wanted one has one, and they've said all they want to say about it already. Maybe there'll be more excitement as more games come out for it, but I don't know. If all we're going to get is the same sort of stuff we've already seen on other consoles, what's the big deal? I'm surprised that I still don't want one, and not even in the sour grapes sense -- I'm really, genuinely not in the mood for a new console right now.

So we'll see what comes of all this.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Desktop Dungeons

The pitch for Desktop Dungeons is immediately enticing: all the fun of a dungeon crawling RPG with none of the timesink. And while I have yet to finish a dungeon in the promised ten minutes (what can I say, I play cautiously), I still really love this experience.

On its face, it looks like a really, really simple game. Everything you need to have a ten-level dungeon crawling experience has been crammed onto a single screen -- monsters, treasures, shops, altars, potions, spellbooks -- in a maze that reveals itself as you explore it. Click somewhere to move there. Click an item to grab it. Click something in your inventory to use it. Click a monster to attack it.

Nothing in the game moves except for the player character, and you can jump instantly to any point in the dungeon just by clicking there. This gives the game a really unique feel that's difficult to put into words. In a normal RPG, a lot of time is spent traveling. You wander through the maze, you spend time going back and forth to town, you have to deal with monsters you meet along the way, and so on. There's none of that in Desktop Dungeons. There's still an exploration element to it -- you only have access to the things you've revealed by walking through the maze -- but the screen is more like a menu, and anything you might want to do is always available. If you run into a monster you don't want to fight, you can ignore it until you're ready. If you're ready to fight a monster, it's right there on the screen. If you're ready to fight a higher-level monster, it's also right there on the screen; you don't have to find a staircase to take you to another level or whatever. If you want to go to a shop and buy something, that's also right there on the screen, and so on. You can see how an entire game could be played front to back in ten minutes if you were being really efficient about everything.

The website touts it as a hybrid between a roguelike and a puzzle game, and the more you play it, the more you start to see the puzzle aspect. It's largely a numbers game, and nothing is hidden from the player. You can mouse over anything on the screen and get all of the information you need about it -- how many hit points it has, how much damage it can do, what level it is, what special abilities it has, and even what will happen if you attack it. I don't die much when I'm playing Desktop Dungeons because the game will come right out and tell you, before you click on a monster, "You'll die if you do this." A lot of roguelikes and RPGs try to hide information from the player so that every action is sort of a gamble. In this game, you know everything you need to know to make your decision; the challenge is only to make the correct decision.

What sorts of decisions will you be making? Mostly it has to do with the order in which you do things. There's a significant experience point bonus for defeating monsters that are a higher level than you, but that comes with a much greater difficulty in defeating them. If you want to maximize your experience gain in order to face the dungeon boss, you'll have to be clever about fighting the most powerful monsters you can without getting overwhelmed in the process. The other thing to take into consideration is that you regain hit points and mana by revealing unexplored sections of the dungeon. This is, in fact, your most reliable source of recovery. When you run out of ground to discover, you have to fall back on more limited means of recovery, like potions. So the question becomes, will you press further and squander your limited recovery resources in the hopes of finding new monsters to slay and items to help you, or will you make do with what you've already found first?

And that's just the basics of the game. On top of that, there are all sorts of little details that bend the rules this way and that. Your character class and race give you different attributes that have a major impact on the way you play. There are altars to various deities that you can choose to worship -- doing so will grant you boons, but only if you behave according to that deity's rules. Different monsters have special abilities -- magical or physical resistance, powers that affect your regeneration ability, first strike ability, petrification, and so on. It's just like a proper roguelike -- all sorts of tricks and strategies and surprises are waiting to be discovered. This is why I don't finish a dungeon in ten minutes; I like to take my time and assess all of my options before jumping in.

And the game grows as you play it. The first time you play, you have five races, four character classes, and one game mode available to play. Every time you beat a boss, a new wrinkle is added to the game -- new items are added to the shops, or a new character class opens up, or new monsters with different special abilities start showing up, or special challenge dungeons open up. It's like having a board game with all sorts of different expansion sets -- it's simple the first time you play it, but the more you come back to it, the more there is to discover.

It's really really excellent. And it's free. And you can play it on a Windows machine or on a Mac. Download the game, then flip through the wiki for a taste of some of the strategies the game has to offer. If you're fond of board games or RPGs that rely more on strategy than grinding, it's a good bet that you'll enjoy this.


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