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Game Dev Tycoon Review (PC/Mac/Linux Game)

gamedevtycoonfeatured Game Dev Tycoon Review (PC/Mac/Linux Game)So there I was, developing a new AAA title for my console The Best Games Console Ever, when disaster struck. My console was selling well against the GameStation and my games were critically acclaimed. I was a week away from launching the greatest MMORPG ever created. My profits dropped in the red during the development again–it happened a few years before when I first was developing the console–and this time, the bank said no more. The Best Games Company Ever went bankrupt and another developer bought all of my super popular franchises.

Game Dev Tycoon is a super slick game development simulator from first time developers Greenheart Games. The premise is simple. You are an independent game developer starting out a few years before the release of the NES (every company, organization, and game console has an alternate name off by a few letters, I’m using the real names as necessary from here on out). You are randomly assigned game subjects–ninjas, music, evolution, vampires, space, etc.–and can choose one of six game genres to develop for.

When you start, your choice is text-based or simple graphics games and a variety of sliders to allocate your resources. The sliders set how much time is developed. For example, do you spend more time on sound or world design in phase three to release a casual fashion game for the PC market? After the game is released, you receive four reviews that impact your sales and you can generate a report that lets you know the ins and outs of making a law/action game (and if that’s even a good combo to release at all).

Watch: What Is a Game?

I’m going to make a preemptive strike on my game awards this year. I like to experience something different in gaming. It’s how Super Hexagon, Dear Esther, Journey, and even browser games like Dys4ia and Orange Roulette made my Best of 2012 list. It comes down to how well the game is made and how strong the concept is.

I’m not going to lie. My 2013 list is going to be even stranger. I’ve become a Steam bundle addict in the past year so I play a lot of tiny little games that exist just to challenge the form and function of video games. For every Tomb Raider I rave about, there’s an Accelerator that does one thing so well and so different from other similar games that I go gaga over it. Which is better? Which will actually make my list? I don’t know.

What I do know is the new episode of Extra Credits tackles “What Is a Game?” with a resounding “Who cares?” They boil it down to interactivity with choice. I like that. It covers everything from 9.03 and Gone Home to BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us. There is no way that every game made will appeal to every gamer, but not liking a game does not make it any less of a game.

So keep that in mind when things like Long Live the Queen, Paranormal, and Papers, Please might wind up going toe to toe with Ni No Kuni, Metro: Last Light, and Arkham Origins. I still have a lot of games to play through but some really wild experiments are catching my interests more than some of the big console and PC titles this year.

Watch: Tropes vs. Women in Video Games: Ms. Male Character

With the first set of Anita Sarkeesian/Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series, I decided to dig into the subject matter in an effort to create a continuing dialogue with the series. Thanks to the trolls, Sarkeesian no long allows discussion on her YouTube videos and doesn’t engage in discussions on social media. She interacts more on the backer’s only updates at Kickstarter. I don’t blame her for guarding the work at this point. I applaud her for refusing to back down from her vision of online media criticism as educational tool.

With Ms. Male Character, I have absolutely nothing to add to the discussion. Sarkeesian’s presentation is air tight and fascinating. It’s totally worth a watch. I think it might be her best video yet including the Feminist Frequency series.

The Preston Files #2: Catch’em All

The new The Preston Files is up! I’m hoping to fulfill the Monday, Thursday, Saturday schedule I had printed on Moo cards last spring when Strip Search finally convinced me to get my butt in gear and start a new webcomic. Hey, I’m only half a year behind for once. That’s good for me. I got the camera equipment for my YouTube channel last December and only really started in August.

I’m a Pokemon fanatic and I have OCD. You can understand the dilemma. “Gotta catch’em all” isn’t a tagline for me; it’s a lifestyle. It’s why I cannot trust myself to play Skylanders or Disney Infinite. I don’t even trust myself to buy the Nightmare Before Christmas figures for my collection because I’ll feel compelled to buy the game and all the things that go with it. It’s not impulse control. I get anxious if I start a collection and don’t have everything. Shoot, achievements popping up on Steam can peak my anxiety because I know there will be more than one.

Bear with the quality. I need to figure out the best way to scan 9×12 paper on an 8.5×11 scanner. This is photography and a whole lot of photo editing to make it look as good as it does.

Read “Catch’em All” here.

The Stanley Parable: The Horror and Absurdity of Free Will

thestanleyparablemeetstanley 300x168 The Stanley Parable: The Horror and Absurdity of Free Will

Meet Stanley, a corporate cog in a machine he will never fully understand [click for full]

In the indie adventure game The Stanley Parable, you are given a simple choice: follow what the narrator says, or go against him. The first real game-changing choice is a room with two doors. Go to the left, as instructed, and you follow along a fairly linear story about what happened to all of your missing coworkers. Go to the right, and the narrator starts to fight against you.

This is the beginning of a bizarre experiment in surrealism and video games agency (how collective choices influence a game) from Galactic Cafe. The game is all about choice. The framework always goes narrator’s choice or other option. Move on as instructed or go off the path. The further you wander, the stranger the game becomes.

On my first playthrough (the scenarios vary in length, but it’s only a few minutes from beginning to restart), for example, I caused the total nuclear annihilation of my little world at work. That happened because of one anti-narrator choice. To call that a jarring start to a gaming experience is an understatement. Yet I was sucked right into this bizarre world because the creators went that far.

The NYCC Cosplay Experience: Putting It Out There

futuramafrysource 172x300 The NYCC Cosplay Experience: Putting It Out There

Fry from Futurama is a simple cosplay (except for the wig) [click for full]

I normally have some anxiety issues when I go to a convention. I am not good with crowds and do not like to be touched at all. You would think that someone like me would not want to draw extra attention at a massive event like New York Comic Con.

You’d be wrong. I’ve really grown to love the challenge and community of cosplay. I’d like to have a signature costume that people know me for. I also prefer to have multiple costumes instead of one costume for an entire weekend. That’s the OCD kicking in. I don’t like the idea of people thinking I don’t change my clothes every day.

This year, I set out to do three new costumes but got derailed by illness. Wander from Wander Over Yonder got replaced with an updated Fry from Futurama costume. That was Sunday. Friday was Wilson from the indie survival horror game Don’t Starve and Saturday was Chris from the web series Bravest Warriors. Both were brand new costumes.

The Binding of Isaac

thebindingofisaaclogo The Binding of IsaacMy name is Robert and I have a Binding of Isaac problem. Like some people might latch onto a Facebook game like Candy Crush Saga, I have become hooked on The Binding of Isaac. The roguelike adventure/horror game hits my tastes just right and refuses to let go.

Isaac is a six year old child trapped in a nightmare. His mother is a very religious woman who begins to hear the voice of God. His first message is to save her son from the corrupting influence of the world, resulting in all of Isaac’s belongings being destroyed. His second message is to save her son from all outside influences, resulting in Isaac being locked in his room. His third message calls on Isaac’s mother to prove her devotion to him above all else by sacrificing her son. Before God can pardon Isaac’s mom from the task as he did with the Abraham and his son Isaac in the Old Testament, the test is stopped by Isaac jumping in a trap door leading to a monster filled basement.

The game randomly generates a new map with each level of the basement. Three rooms–a boss battle, a golden room with a guaranteed upgrade, and a shop with ever-changing prices for a small pool of items–appear on every level. Otherwise, it’s a free for all. I’ve had it happen where I’ve fought the same combination of monsters and room layout four, five, even six times in a row before reaching a boss battle. Other times, rooms will never repeat for several playthroughs in a row.

Play It: The Witch’s House

thewitchshousetitle Play It: The Witchs HouseIn all my years of suggesting free computer games through Play It, I’ve never suggested a game that you had to download to play. I wanted a certain level of convenience to the feature. It’s always been browser games that you could click over to immediately.

Yet, with all sorts of fun, easy to use game creation engines like RPG Maker, Twine, and Ren’Py coming out, it seems almost short-sighted not to include the occasional downloadable game. They’re not huge files, they don’t have massive processing requirements, and they don’t take a long time to download. Once you get the client to play them with, it’s just as easy as clicking over to a browser game.

The first downloadable game I’m featuring on Play It is The Witch’s House. This is a Japanese puzzle/horror game originally released last October by Fummy. He created the game in RPG Maker and has very fair requests for using the material. vgperson has the approved English translation and it’s terrifying.

Slipstream #6: Surviving Indie Horror

This week on Slipstream, I continue on with the innovative horror mechanics in gaming theme and shifted over to PC titles. Two new indie horrors are redefining what survival horror can be in a big way. I’ve lost a lot of hours and a lot of sleep to these two games and I don’t see that trend stopping soon. It’s a blessing and a curse when indie developers say “we’ll just keep giving you free DLC updates to make the game bigger and better.”

Watch the episode below then click through for all the behind the scenes gossip.

Slipstream #5: Innovations in Video Game Scare Technology

This week on Slipstream, we explore the world of video game mechanics. Specifically, we’re talking about innovative horror games that pushed the limitations of interactive media to create a far more engaging and terrifying experience. These games tackle everything from simulating the struggle of real world relationships to transforming your home into a haunted house.

Watch the video then click through for all the behind the scenes gossip.

Asylum Jam is Coming

asylumjam Asylum Jam is ComingNo matter how hard I’ve tried, I have not been able wrap my brain around video game programming. I’ve tried various tutorials, books, videos, and gaming engines and it just doesn’t click.

That’s why gaming jams/challenges/dares appeal to me so much. Ludum Dare is one of the oldest, but the rules are largely the same for all of them. You have 48 hours to write/design/program a brand new game from the ground up on a given theme. That’s insane.

Asylum Jam is trying to do something different with the form. The rules have already been released and they have a positive message. This jam is inspired by a fantastic article on Kotaku from Ian Mahar called “Nobody Wins When Horror Games Stigmatize Mental Illness.”

Papers, Please (PC/Mac Game, Review)

Papers, Please is a thought provoking indie game that’s still a lot of fun to play. The message does not get in the way of the gameplay or the story. It just raises it to another level.

paperspleaselogo Papers, Please (PC/Mac Game, Review)You play as an immigration officer at a new checkpoint for the fictional nation of Arstotzka. It is a militant communist nation with strict rules and constant political upheaval. Your job is to check passports, permits, and every other document your bosses demand be added on to ensure the safety of your country. The rules change every day and so do the people you encounter.

Papers, Please plays as an intensely personal narrative. I became invested in my fictional household of my wife, my mother in law, my uncle, and my son. When my son died five days into my new job because I couldn’t afford medicine, I felt terrible. His presence haunted the home with a big red mark under his name.

Tropes vs. Women in Video Games: Damsel in Distress (Part 3)

tropesvswomendamsel3peach Tropes vs. Women in Video Games: Damsel in Distress (Part 3)

Peach can only be a hero in her game with the power of mood swings

The third episode of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games premiered a few days ago and Anita Sarkeesian knocked it out of the park. Any doubts I had about her argumentation so far were quelled with the third Damsel in Distress video.

This video focuses on flipping the Damsel in Distress trope and points out examples of female characters having to saved trapped male characters that are almost as disturbing as Bionic Commander.

I remember when Super Princess Peach came out. I really loved the gameplay, but hated the concept. Peach’s powers in the platformer are based on emotions. She’s incapable of beating the game without wielding her emotions as a weapon. Sarkeesian takes it a step forward, claiming the gameplay mechanic is a “PMS joke,” which isn’t a stretch at all.

Play It: Organ Trail

I know some people are burned out on zombies. Just this year, we’ve had Warm Bodies, that disastrous World War Z adaptation (the second film this year I could not bring myself to review after watching), The Last of Us, the re-release of The War Z (now Infestation: Survivor Stories), another season of The Walking Dead, and the constant threat of new zombie projects on the horizon.

Organ Trail, a retro-PC strategy game, is different. It’s a play on Oregon Trail reset during the zombie apocalypse. You make strategic decisions like choosing whether to wait out a zombie horde, drive through slowly, or shoot out a path before going through. You stock up on supplies in towns and can even pick up jobs to earn a little cash on the side.

organtraildark Play It: Organ Trail

Well, that turned dark fast

The new spin on this throwback PC-styled game (double nostalgia: the graphics in the shooting/exploration scenes are strongly influenced by Atari 2600) is the biggest draw and the darkest element. If one of your fellow survivors becomes sick, critically injured, or infected, you can choose to kill them.