Archive for January, 2013

Hardcore Casual

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

snow 3

So you are probably familiar with the term Casual Game … the majority of the games on Kongregate fall into this category. One of several ways I like to describe myself is as a hardcore casual gamer. Part of the reason is I like the juxtaposition of words. It sounds like it is an Oxymoron, but it’s not actually. I do get on Kongregate and achieve the Badge of the Day practically every day… Or more accurately most days, I’ve already achieved the the BOTD and it’s just a matter of loading the game far enough to collect my extra points. So in case you’re not familiar with this beautiful skinner box, here’s how it works. Each day they pick a game, and one the game’s badges to be the Badge of the Day. Much like achievements in Xbox and PS3 games, many games have badges you can earn for certain accomplishments, and each badge gives you 5, 15 or 30 points depending on how hard it is. The Badge of the day is worth extra points, and if you link your Gamestop account to your Kongregate account you also get gamer points. And just getting Kong points (and Gamer Points) is itself kind of a game. I did the math when this started a year or so ago, and getting the badge of the day practically every day, I am getting close to the point where I can get a free game from Gamestop.

On the rare occasions when I haven’t already gotten a badge I’ll usually go ahead and get all the badges for the game… most games have 3 badges, with the middle one being “complete the game”. Many of the games can be totally beaten in an hour or two though some require coming back to over the course of the week. Incursion and The Jumping line are my most recent plays, though I am looking forward to putting some time into  Hanna in a Choppa 2. There are tons of other great games in almost every genre on Kongregate, but most are pretty casual. If you have a favorite game I’d love to hear about it.

I want to close with one thing. If you have not played Frog Fractions, you need to do that right now. Seriously. Also don’t read the comments on the site, just go play it. Also no spoilers in the comments here please.

Drama Review

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013


Drama Cover

So everyone loves some good drama right? Well if you like interpersonal drama (Susan likes Ted, but Ted is secretly sleeping with Bill) prepare to be slightly disappoint. There’s some in this, but the name actually refers to the fact that the main character is on the stage crew for a high school drama class. I’ll be honest, this sounds really freaking awesome to me. I wish I’d gone to a High School where our Drama class had enough of a budget that we had a stage crew. The little Drama I did in HS the actors were also the stage crew. Then again, if I had had the opportunity to make props and sets that’s what I might well be doing.

If only I’d been born 15 years earlier maybe I could have been making star ship models for ILM and blowing up model tie-fighters in the parking lot. If I didn’t know that almost everything was done with CGI these days I might just pack it up and move to Hollywood right now.

So yeah… can you say tangent? Anyway, this book has a little bit of high school romance, including an almost Midsummer’s Nightesque mixup (which I alluded to above, but changed the names to avoid spoilers), but it’s handled well. I really hope that there is half as much acceptance in real life as was represented here … then again, he didn’t actually come out of the closet to more than a few people so who knows. Basically what I’m saying is it’s nice to see the issue come up, and be handled well without it being focus of the book. In some ways I feel that when we get to the point where gender identity and sexuality can be different from “the norm” without drawing undue attention … or being the focus of the story, or drawing away from the focus, then we as a species are maybe, just maybe, starting to grow up a little.

Anyways, yeah this is a great book. I’m not so interested in the Baby Sitters Club books, but I have added Explorer to my to-read list. So in summery, I’ve avoided really talking about the content of the book because I don’t want to spoil the whole thing… the play’s the thing right?

Miskatonic School for Girls

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

miskatonicSo as part of one of the many Kickstarter projects I’ve supported I got Miskatonic School for Girls. I love Deck Building Games, I liker player interaction, and I’m a fan of the Lovecraft Mythos. So here’s the premise, each player represents one of the Houses at girls preparatory school. The twist is that the teachers are all Eldritch horrors from beyond time and space. As with many games with a Lovecraftian theme, the goal isn’t so much to win, as to be the last person to lose, or in this case go insane.

Each turn you buy two cards. One is a student (that will generally be in your next hand) and one is a Faculty card, which goes to the player on your left. This is an important point, as long as your opponent is still sane, you are ruining their deck every turn. I bring this up because every card generates Nightmare points (to buy Faculty), Hearts (to buy students) or Either. That is to say a card might have both Nightmare AND Heart points on it… but you only get one. The reason this is important is if you concentrate really hard on hosing the person to your left, you’re going to neglect your own deck, and unless it’s a two player game the person to your right will probably end up winning because you’ll be an easy mark. However if you solely concentrate on honing your own deck you’ll also probably end up going insane, because you won’t be messing with your opponents enough.

One thing this game lacks is one of my favorite things to do in Deck Building games, which is deck thinning. Okay, there’s like 2 cards that do it once per game … which means I stand by my original statement.

On the other hand, this game also has another “game mechanic” which I love, though I use the term in the loosest of all possible senses. See your sanity track is split into 4 colors. When your sanity drops to a new color you have to laugh or cackle crazily to represent yourself going insane. The punishment for failing to do so is to be taunted by the other players. That’s it, the reprobation of your peers is the only enforcement of the rule.

LPX2 Operation Blinding Jester

Monday, January 14th, 2013

So the good news is Duncan’s head has been fixed. Hurrah for temporary bugs.

Base construction proceeds, a few more days and we can get the lift fully functional, then it’s simply a matter of building enough power stations to run everything we’ll need. I’m sure we’ll make the money somehow, unfortunately there is news of three alien abductions in progress, in Egypt, Mexico and Japan. We don’t have the manpower to interdict more than one of them. Japan’s panic level is higher then either of the other two countries, but they’re only offering money for our support. Egypt has promised 4 of their top engineers if we intervene, and we need the manpower to get the base up and running asap.

Everyone needs some experience where possible so in general we’re going to try and send at least one Rookie, and on this mission it’ll be Naeem joining Laura H, Wendy and Will. The skyranger set the squad down near the reported incursion zone, which appears to be a construction site. Naeem and Wendy move up to covering positions, and Laura flushes a pair of Sectoids. One of them “hides” in plain site of Will who takes it out with a single shot from his sniper rifle. The other moves to cover and critically wound’s Will who hadn’t even bothered to seek cover in order to nail the perfect shot on the first x-ray.

Will moves to cover now and bandages himself up. Laura ducks behind some pallets and fires a burst, but the alien ducks down behind some concrete rubble. Naeem also unloads on it’s position but to no avail. As Wendy moves up to try and finish the job she spots another pair of Sectoids which move into a flanking position. She decides she’s too exposed and falls back to a more defensible position; just in time too, as one of the Sectoids opens fire just as she ducks behind a back-hoe.

Laura moves up and connects with one of the aliens, but it’s psychic connection shields it and it stays up long enough for Naeem to circle around a bulldozer and finish it off. The coast now clear, Wendy plugs the remaining x-ray from the first pair. The final Sectoid burst from cover and trades fire with Naeem, both hit, but only Naeem remains standing.

Promotions for everyone, and even if half our squad is injured, no one is dead so that is some small reason to rejoice. Will is now at 7 kills and has earned the nickname “Hex”. Naeem has been promoted to sniper. It kind of sucks that both of them are wounded as no one else has mastered the sniper rifle yet, and I doubt the aliens will wait a week before their next annoyance.

We all go through the window

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Previous page (T11). This is page T116 of the Choose Your Own Damn Blog Post Adventure Story Thing, if you’re confused start at the first page of the Troll story.

Time still seems to be moving slowly, which means that even though you have only a few steps before you run out of roof, making the decision about what to do almost seems leisurely. There are pipes leading to the roof that you could probably leap up and grab, assuming you didn’t lose your grip. Wall sliding crosses your mind but it only takes a second to realize that this is real life, not a video game, and you’re pretty sure you can’t triangle jump either. This leaves a large window as your best route. As your momentum carries you inexorably closer to the edge you recall the opening scene of The Matrix where Trinity dives through the window. You’re wearing a bulky parka, not shiny skin tight leather, but you do have one advantage, namely the hood of the jacket will likely protect your head from the glass.

As you launch yourself you give yourself a little twist, so that you’ll go through the window backwards and hopefully get cut less by the glass. Time slows even further and as you spin the light of the rising sun takes on an almost magical quality, golden streamers silhouetting the the Eiffel tower to the west. As you pull your arm up to shield your face, you realize you’ve made a mistake: by going through the window this way you’re going to land on your back, crushing your laptop and emergency supplies. You pull your legs up and try to twist faster, but your course was basically committed when your feet left the ledge of the other building.

A second later glass is shattering around you, and have landed heavily on your side. You open your eyes and take a second to catch your breath, congratulating yourself on the final twist; you don’t think much if anything in your backpack actually broke. You sit up gingerly, mindful of the broken glass that isn’t actually there. You are sitting on a fancy carpet, in a style you’re not familiar with, which is bunched up comically behind you where you slid after your fall. The window you came through is closed and undamaged, and you can see a bright afternoon sky, maybe you hit your head and blacked out?

You hear a deep and resonant voice from downstairs, “Dija ‘ear summit?” so you probably didn’t pass out, however if you’re discovered they’ll probably call the police

What do you do?

CHOICE (T116)7 This place looks pretty big, I’ll find somewhere to hide, and then sneak out.

CHOICE (T116)8 I’ve been told I’ve got a silver tongue. I’ll talk my way out and get out of here before the police show up.

CHOICE (T116)9 Why stop running now? Who ever they are they surely won’t expect someone to go dashing by.

What I believe

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

 

Stare at the center of the picture for 30 seconds then click it.

Stare at the center of the picture for 30 seconds then click it.

So belief is a complicated, touchy subject. I generally don’t bring it up with people, because the starkness of reality tends to make people uncomfortable, besides which I’ve explored so many of the possible conversations that can be had on the subject that it tends to get boring. However I just watched a decent movie that like 5 seconds of terrible logic that pissed me off SO bad that I just have to vent. And venting has made me think that maybe it’s worth putting down my slightly insanely complicated belief system.

So you may know there is only one verifiable ontological truth. “I Exist”. I know I am. You know you are. A self aware being can be sure of their own existence, everything else is supposition. However we can make some fairly good guesses based on our perception of external stimuli. However everything else is a guess. I could be a brain in a jar being fed electrical impulses that simulate what I think of as reality. I could be a computer program, coded to be self aware. Reality could be something even more bizarre and unknowable, but there isn’t actually a way for me to find out.

I consider myself to be a Devout Agnostic … meaning basically I appreciate semantical exactitude. An Agnostic is someone who doesn’t believe or disbelieve in god(s), and possibly doesn’t believe it’s possible to prove or disprove either way. Perceived reality is so messed up and weird, and yet seems so normal all the time… I feel fairly confident that it’s not actually what my senses tell me. However there’s no way for me to find out what’s really going on, hence the Devout Agnostic nomenclature. I don’t think it’s possible actually understand the universe.

Now that’s not to say I won’t do my best to grok what my senses tell me, and form a framework of perceived reality that I can operate semi-functionally within. I regularly fail to be surprised when the sun rises in the morning. I try to develop a sense of ennui about the continued functionality of gravity and inertia. I’ve built up a fairly complex framework of cause and effects that can lead to something as complex as my thoughts telepathically being transmitted out onto the ether where anyone can read them… Yeah, that’s right, WordPress = Telepathy baby!

I’m just saying if tomorrow afternoon we find out that the research dept. has had their budget cut, and the computer that is simulating our existence is going to be unplugged, AND they bother to tell us, I’ll probably be one of the first to pick my jaw up off of the floor. Reality is a strange and beautiful place. I guess I’m glad I’m here, but I don’t recall being given an alternative.

Cthulhu Tales (Graphic Novel) Review

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

 

cthulhu tales cover

Do you like Lovecraftian Horror? Do you like Short Stories? Do you like Graphic Novels? If you answered yes to all of these things, you need to do yourself a favor and read Cthulhu Tales. Many of the stories have wonderful little twists. There’s even one that breaks the Fourth Wall. My biggest complaint with this is that it is way too short. I would have liked more stories, and maybe a couple that were a bit longer. On the bright side, it wasn’t until I was writing this review that I realized the book I read was Volume 2. There are three more volumes as of this writing. So that’s great, except that it just bumped my to-read list up to 229 books/series.

Do you have favorite stories from the Lovecraft Mythos? Games? It is an excellent Genre in my opinion, and I would love to know what you recommend!

Gauntlet Of Fools

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Gauntlet of Fools

Possibly the most fun you will have facing Certain Death. And I do mean Certain, as in everyone dies. The goal isn’t to survive; it’s to have the most gold before you die. More precisely it’s to have the most gold once everyone is dead. The Zombie can earn gold post-mortem after all, at least, as long as someone else is still alive.

So you may have played a dumb game around Xmas called Dirty Santa or Yankee Swap or White Elephant or any of near a dozen other names. Basically it’s Secret Santa with a twist that you can steal presents from other people. Why do I bring that up? Well because that is kind of the root of this game… except instead of presents, you’re stealing heroes. All heroes aren’t created equal, but even if they were, some work better with different weapons, and each hero get a random weapon. The glare makes it a little hard to see, but I’ve got a Priest with a Sword in the picture to the right. Now if everyone just took turns picking heroes, whomever went first would get the best hero, and the last player would be hosed. That’s boring, and you might as well just roll a die to see who wins at that point. This is where the White Elephant comes in… After I’ve picked a Hero (and whatever weapon he’s got this week) the next player can either pick a different hero, or they can steal mine, but to do that they have to make an additional boast.

hardchoice

Now in the game pictured to the right I got the Priest without having to boast at all, but he ended up being pretty crappy and I lost hard. I should probably have stolen the Armorer or one of the other heroes … but then, I didn’t know what we were going to face in the Gauntlet. See once everyone has a Hero (some of whom are hungover or have a hand tied behind their back, are a juggling, or what ever other extravagant boast they’ve made) you start fighting monsters. Whatever monster shows up, everyone faces it. Then the survivors face the next monster, and so on until everyone is dead. There are a couple exceptions like the Spear Trap which just injures everyone (except for maybe the thief) or the Gold Vein which gives everyone money. And then of course there is a the Side Passage … which often leads to an interesting decision… like do I fight the harder monster and maybe get more money or take the sure thing that isn’t worth as much. Other times it can lead  situations like that pictured to the left. “You come to a fork in the road. The sign to the left says “Trap” and the one pointing to the right says “Free Money” which way will you go?”

And yes, that was an actual pull in a recent game… unsurprisingly no one went down the trapped passage. Finally it is worth mentioning that if you get the Armorer with a half way decent weapon you can probably actually survive all the way to the end… since you’ll have to give up the gold from 2-3 successful kills to make yourself nigh invincible this still might not actually win you the game… you don’t actually get any kind of bonus from surviving… However, if you do see the armorer w/ a 4 dice weapon it’s probably worth stealing it unless he’s already Juggling, Blind-Folded, Hopping On One Leg and Hungover… then again, you still might be able to win it skipping breakfast as well.

If you can find a copy of this game at MSRP buy it. It’s pretty hard to find, but well worth adding to your library.

LPX2 Operation Falling Moon

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Duncan's Face

Things are going pretty well. Russian and Chinese are both moderately panicked. Though the government in China is still refuting the existence of aliens social media leaks continue to spread. Our engineers have built a pair of Satellites for us, but we only have the control capacity to launch one of them. We definitely need to get it in orbit in the next week or so. The question is where.

The council has gotten wind of an alien bomb in China. If we can defuse the bomb that may reduce the panic there, and then Russia would be the clear choice for where to deploy the Satellite.

I’m going to step OOC for a second here to mention that I just ran into my first bug w/ this game. It appears something has gone terribly wrong with Duncan’s face, and it’s been turned inside out and twisted around. It’s kind of hilarious, but hopefully it’ll be fixed next time I save the game.

Duncan's FaceMarch 23, 2015, The aliens have deployed some sort of nefarious device on the Liu To bridge in Hong Kong. There are several plasma Chargers we can easily spot. Joanna and Will moved up to the closest one and were able to disable it. It appears to be feeding some sort of runaway reaction, but shutting them off is pretty easy, and will likely buy us some time.

Laura H. moves over to disable a second device and spots a new alien. This one looks remarkably human-like, and might even pass as human in bad light. Unfortunately no one can quite draw a bead on it. Will and Duncan both take shots at it as it advances on Joanna’s position but it as very fast and takes cover on the other side of the taxi Joanna is hiding behind, and manages to wing her before ducking back into cover.

Will takes a second shot, and this time his aim is true and the x-ray explodes. No literally, it explodes into a miasmic cloud when it expires, fortunately Joanna is outside it’s poisonous influence and is able to tend to her wounds. Bandaged up she spots a Sectoid as she moves to disable the third device. Going above and beyond she not only disables the nefarious machine, but also puts down the newly spotted alien.

Time is a terrible factor, and control shows a growing energy source in the squads area.  Disabling these power nodes is slowing things down, but it’s not buying enough time, and it’s forcing us to move forward faster than might be safe. Duncan disables a 4th device, and Laura smashes the 5th. Joanna spots another Sectoid but chooses to take cover rather than fire from the open as she has already been wounded. Will can’t even see the beast and so moves closer. Duncan moves up to try and take a shot, but spots a third Sectoid. He trades fire with it, but loses the exchange and panics. Will waits till he’s in cover and then puts a bullet between the offending Xeno’s eyes. Joanna moves forwards and spots a different device, which can only be the alien power source.  Undistracted she trades fire with the alien she’d spotted earlier, and manages to put it down without taking any further wounds.

Objective in sight, the squad moves forward. Duncan grabs some cover and uses his medkit. Will reloads and Laura and Joanna both take point. Several cars have caught fire, and a couple even explode, but these soldiers are undeterred. Laura makes a mad dash to the alien device and disables it but control reports another wave of  x-ray is incoming.

Two more of the humanish looking aliens show up, as control predicted. Duncan manages to take one out, and Will snipes the other! The mission is a success. Duncan and Joanna are both mildly wounded, but the docs say they should both be ready for duty again in a week or two at most. Laura is a little bummed to be the only member of the squad to not receive a promotion, but things could have gone much worse.

I believe I can fly

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Previous Page (T1). This is page T11 of the Choose Your Own Damn Blog Post Adventure Story Thing, if you’re confused start at the first page of the Troll story.

You back up and as you prepare to make the possibly suicidal jump across the alley you glance back and spot an arm and part of a leg emerging from your dormer window. This steels your resolve; as you build up speed time seems to slow down. You can hear the leaves and trash on the roof crunching under your feet. The edge of the building bobs with your movement, and in your heightened state of awareness you realize you could get a bit more height if you traversed the ancient AC unit to your right. A small course correction, and a flawless leap and you’re four feet higher. The footing here is more treacherous, but  the Monsters and Adrenaline coursing through your veins have combined and it feels like you have all the time in the world to carefully place each foot on the rusty metal.

It isn’t until you run out of roof that you start to have doubts, but at this point it’s far to late. You push off, the metal of the box bending under your final jump as you launch yourself over the gap. In rapid succession you recall the motto for that other energy drink, and wish you did in fact have wings; then you see the approaching wall of the building next door and wonder if it’s true about your life flashing before your eyes right before you die. You don’t find out though, as you lift your legs and barely clear the lip of the roof. You tuck and roll and actually manage to come up running. Now you kind of wish someone WAS filming this, because that was possibly the most awesome thing you’ve ever done in the real world. You’re three quarters of the way across the roof before you realize you’re still running flat out. This poses a bit of a quandary, as you doubt you’ll be able to stop before the edge. There’s definitely a gap, but the next building is a story higher than this one.

What do you do?

CHOICE (T11)4 The gap doesn’t look too bad, and there are some pipes going up the building right there. I leap across, and use my momentum to go up the pipes and to the roof.

CHOICE (T11)5 I’m only one story up, I’ll slow down a bit, jump and slide down the far building. I wall slide all the time in video games.

CHOICE (T11)6 I’ve watched some parkour, but I’m no Jackie Chan. That window seems like a much safer bet.