30 June, 2011

AB 1179 Going Offline

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 30 June, 2011


Normally I list the games I'm playing first, but the Supreme Court decision on Assembly Bill 1179 is probably more important. :P They decided that games have the same first amendment protection as other media. Yay.

They also decided that the "evidence" for a causal link between violent games and violent behavior in children was insufficient. Considering that California had eight years to find proof, I hope we can put that particular argument to bed. There's no doubt that what we consume influences us. But the idea that any form of make believe somehow forces people to commit violent acts is irresponsible scapegoating.


I suspect I'll be without internet while I transition ISPs over the next week (which is why this post is so early). It's always an interesting test of dependency. The fact that I may miss good deals on the Steam Summer Sale is already making me itchy.

I won't be messing the the offline modes of TF2 or Killing Floor, I expect. They're just not as fun that way. I may have to unpack the PS2 and get my Devil May Cry skills back in anticipation of my next video series.

Nothing from GameTap will work, which is a bit of a loss as Divinity II just released on the service. I wasn't very enchanted with the demo, but trying to complete goals as quickly as possible before my internet goes plooie has added a nice sense of urgency.

I wonder if there are any Socially Integrated Goblins you can meet?

Terraria is still serving as digital knitting. What follows will spoil some of the game mechanics, so don't read it if you're sensitive to that sort of thing.

Here is my kill room in The Underworld. It's the deepest layer in the game. There are flying demons, fire bats, lava slimes, and giant bone worms, like you see me fighting here. None of them are pleasant. But the lava slimes are actually the worst. They do very little damage, but they leave lava behind when they die, which you are then standing in, which kills you very quickly.

So, in the deepest depths, in the midst of the lava sea, I built a place of murder. Enemies can be led in through passage on the top left. Of course the worms just burrow their way in. When slimes die, their lava runs down into reservoirs which can be cleansed by filling them with dirt, then digging them out again.

The room is a safe way to kill worms to eventually get the best weapon in the game (by my standards). But I wasn't even thinking of that at the time. I just enjoyed the challenge of taming the game's harshest environment.

26 June, 2011

Keepalive: Some Wii, Some Oldies

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 26 June, 2011

Epic Mickey is a chore. None of the actions you do are gratifying. The camera is terrible. I try and appreciate all the history that goes into it, but when nothing I do is fun, the history is not enough.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is not a bad game. But there is more momentum than I like. All I could think of was how many times I'd played that same game with better controls. Kirby's Epic Yarn is for babies, but at least it's novel.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was the best of the Wii games I tried. It's nice to fling stuff around and blow stuff up. But I didn't see anything in the first two hours that I hadn't in the first ten minutes. And the boss fights didn't seem to have much of a pattern to them. Then again, the lighting conditions weren't ideal, so maybe they had tells I couldn't make out. I may give it another shot.

Terraria continues to be patched, which is good and bad. On the plus side, there are many new potions and ingredients to find and play with. On the minus side the fancy multilevel mushroom garden I had just started is slowly collapsing because mud now acts like sand and falls down when not supported.

C'est la vie.

Team Fortress 2 went free to play, and an old acquaintance wanted to play, so I jumped into a couple matches. The thing that gets me about that game is that there are tutorials against bots that work fine. But playing co-op against bots isn't supported, so it will never be played at one of Matthew's LANs. That aside, the game itself is still fun. I was worried that all the new weapons and other changes would be confusing, but mostly it played like I remembered, fast and loony.

Killing Floor is still fun. I feel like an old hand, always useful to the team. I should probably play on Hard more, but Normal is a relaxing explosive zombie apocalypse. I can generally get to the last wave with only one or two competent people on the team.

Hopefully this time next week I'll have a bunch of Steam Summer Sale games to talk about.

19 June, 2011

Keepalive: Dull Games, PC Versions

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 19 June, 2011

Because of real life stuff and a spotty internet connection, gaming was on the back burner this week.


Terraria is a 2D crafting, fighting, and exploration game. You gather resources to build tools and weapons in order to gather better resources from more dangerous places to make better tools and weapons and so on. The combat isn't much fun. And until you get somewhat geared up, the exploration can be pretty slow going. But it's got enough environments and stuff to find and make that it's a decent time killer.

Here's my tower house, complete with a crafting station and chests to store materials and loot. When you meet certain conditions, friendly NPCs will move in and sell you stuff.

My current project is building a mushroom garden beneath my tower. I've planted some seeds in mud and put down a thin layer of water, but nothing's happened yet. I'll probably hit up the wiki.

Here is some exploration. I've dug an underwater tunnel (with occasional air holes) and am now fighting some evil plants and flying insects. There are treasure chests throughout the world, their contents varying by location. I'm trying to put together a set of jungle armor, at present. My current armor is better, but there's only so much to do in this game, so I've been reduced to collecting.

When's that darn Steam summer sale coming, anyway?

Settlement: Colossus

I tried a few more casual games on GameTap. Mostly they were terrible. But in some cases, they did the job. Settlement: Colossus is a hidden object game. That means the main play mechanic is looking at a picture and finding stuff in it. Colossus just dresses it up in the tiniest bit of city building / management. I could go gather mud down by the river to make pots. But at the rate I'm using food, I'd have to go farming just to get the potter to work next turn. It was just enough to think about with just enough bonus puzzles thrown in to get me to finish it.

Gaming News

Everybody's had their forums hacked. Most outlets are saying Duke Nukem Forever is lame. PC Gamer likes it, but that's probably because it's easier to play with a mouse and because the load times aren't so awful on an overpowered PC.

An interesting point was made on a recent podcast (Rebel FM, I think) that we're finally seeing a few big budget games that are best on PC, but that it probably has nothing to do with the strength of the platform. With the Wii U announced and multiple rumors about publishers having Xbox 3 dev kits, it's more likely that the industry is trying to ease the transition to the next generation. It's in everyone's best interest to have strong launch games. And spreading out the investment of upgrading your development tools keeps it off shareholders' radar. If PC users get a nicer version (which publishers can use for amazing looking "actual screenshots" in advertising), so much the better.

12 June, 2011

E3 2011: Only Potential

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 12 June, 2011

Even with one concrete hardware announcement, I didn't feel much got said at E3 this year.

Wii U

Nintendo announced their new console. Basically it's a Wii HD, and it has a controller with a big touchscreen in it. All we've seen so far are basic tech demos. And while there are theoretically a lot of cool things that could be done with the tech, there were a lot of cool things that could have been done with Wii tech.

The industry is focused on cross platform blockbusters which tack on support for special controllers, if they support them at all. And indies seem to move on after putting a few proof of concept videos online. There's a lack of commitment. Microsoft says they're trying to do better with Kinect, making sure it's being used in all games they publish. So maybe we'll eventually see some face tracking or other useful features come out of that commitment. But I'll believe it when I play it.


There are so many games that it all seems like a blur. A lot of the sequels (Batman, BioShock, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Mass Effect; Uncharted) sounded solid. A few sequels (Brothers in Arms: Furious 4, Prey 2) sounded vastly different from their predecessors, but that might be a good thing. The revivals / reboots (Deus Ex, Devil May Cry, XCOM) sounded like they could go either way.

It's really hard to tell. E3 is mostly trailers and rehearsed playthroughs, so what we see may be very removed from the final experience. It's probably too much to hope for, but I'd like to see more games ready for hands-on demos by the time PAX rolls around. Again, I'll believe it when I play it.