15 December 2012

Untold Ludo-Narrative Dissonance

Hey! I have written anything here in ages! But sometimes I write stuff on other parts of the Internet, like today when I left a long comment on the Untold Entertainment blog, and I'm not above recycling blog comments as original content for my own site. This was a response to another reader's comment. You can get the full context over there, but all you really need to know is that the subject was the validity of linear storytelling in interactive works.

What you’re talking about is “ludo-narrative dissonance.” The story you’re being told doesn’t match the experience you’re creating, like when you gleefully blow up thirty cars with a tank and then immediately follow it by watching a cutscene where Niko Bellic kvetches about not wanting to hurt anyone. And then you fire a bazooka at a helicopter flying above a busy downtown intersection.
This is bad, inconsistent storytelling, but it’s silly to say that games should never have canned story elements just because so many games suffer from sloppy execution.
You mention that player actions should be accompanied by animations and sound effects, but are these not canned, as well? If I accelerate a car in a game, I expect to hear engine sounds and see spinning wheels. This is reasonable feedback. It would be confusing to hear footsteps and see footprints left in the mud behind the car. Unless Fred Flintstone is driving, in which case it would be perfectly appropriate.
I think the reason you see so many people eagerly deride linear storytelling in games is not because games and pre-written narratives don’t work together, but because they are frequently mismatched. In fact, and I hope I’m overstating this, ludo-narrative dissonance is the norm in story-driven games.
Pairing interactivity with defined narrative can work, but it often falls apart when the story is about the player character’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, and actions, because, guess what, the player’s own decisions might not match what some writer had in mind. But rather than looking at the elaborate, movie-like scenes of today that I suspect you find unsatisfying, let’s peek back at some of the earliest cutscenes in games. After all, it was the early examples that must have convinced later game developers to keep moving in this direction.
In Pac-Man, a circle with a mouth eats dots and avoids ghosts, except sometimes he eats the ghosts. After every few levels, control is mercilessly wrestled from the poor player’s hands, and an unskippable, non-interactive cutscene rears its ugly head. In the first, Blinky chases Pac-Man off the screen, only to chased himself by an enlarged Pac-Man. It’s cute, it’s quick, and while this event couldn’t play out exactly this way in-game (Pac-Man never gets bigger) it’s true to the nature of the characters and mechanics. An individual player may not actively try to eat the ghosts, but the scenario doesn’t deny the player’s experience – Pac-man isn’t crying because he just wants to stop eating dots. Moreover, this scene reinforces that the relationship between Pac-Man and the ghosts reverses when the ghosts turn dark blue. Now, please, please try to tell me that Pac-Man is wrong for including linear storytelling.
One more example: Maniac Mansion. There’s a good explanation of why Maniac Mansion had cutscenes in an era before they’d hit the big-time in 1UP’s Maniac Mansion retrospective from earlier this year (http://www.1up.com/features/maniac-mansion-retrospective), so I’ll stick to what other games could still stand to learn from this game. The player gets to choose a set of three characters at the start, and while each has a broad personality, they’re all fairly blank. Rather than trying to tie together a story about whichever characters the player uses, and trying to keep that story in line with the player’s actions, most of Maniac Mansion’s cutscenes, in fact, CUT to other characters in other locations. These characters are seldom even aware that the player’s crew has entered the mansion. Their thoughts, motivations, and actions have nothing to do with the players, and they shouldn’t. The cutscenes aren’t about you, but they more than justify their existence by being entertaining and informative. And, yes, it helps that there are different outcomes depending on how you affect the mansion, but that’s not essential to the concept of cutting away from the player and focusing on outside characters.
(I’ll stop now. If you want more, I wrote an essay on this subject once, specifically as it relates to Rockstar Vancouver’s Bully. It could have used a little editing, but here you go: https://sites.google.com/site/hotlavy/all-articles/bully-a-course-in-narrative-disconnect)

04 November 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (VII)

I played a little Final Fantasy VII this morning, even though I haven't enjoyed any part of the game so far. Aside from some of the music, nothing has grabbed me yet. Overall, I think it's not only overrated, it is an actively bad game.

But after seven long hours, I've finally moved beyond the first city, and the game is opening up a little. I'm still being funneled very much in one direction, but the characters are holding back their inane dialogue, at least a little, and I'm finally getting enough equipment and magic spells that I'm able to tailor my team to my liking. In other words, I can focus on the game part of this video game. After successfully working out a strategy to catch a giant cartoon bird, and then riding it through the world's expansive valleys while that classic Chocobo theme played, I found that I was almost beginning to enjoy myself.

Then the game crashed and I lost an hour's progress.

03 November 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (VI)

[CLOUD runs across a narrow metal pipe in a narrow industrial metalscape. Steam billows out from a pipe. A blue glow emanates from the metallic, industrial abyss below. CLOUD twitches back and forth as he attempts to grab a slowly swinging chain. He jumps on the chain, then accidentally jumps back on the platform, then twitches until he jumps back on the chain. He climbs down the chain and jumps onto the broken pipe below. He deftly jumps across the gap where the pipe is broken onto the other end of the broken pipe. Steam continues to billow in a cycle of two repeating frames. CLOUD runs across the narrow metal pipe above the blue light until he reaches a platform near a piece of industrial metal machinery covered in wheels, switches, levers, blue diodes, and pipes that emit two-frame loops of billowing steam. You know, technological science stuff. BARRET and TIFA ignore the laws of conservation of mass and walk out of CLOUD.]

BARRET: Shinra! %$@!


TIFA: Mako materia SOLDIER Shinra.

BARRET: %#$%#! Damn!

TIFA: Midgar Sephiroth Shinra. Mako Planet life-force.

[TIFA waves her arms expressively.]


[CLOUD waves his arms in a way that expresses nothing.]

BARRET: #%@&! AVALANCHE Jenova! Promised Land. Midgar &$#@!!!!!!!!

[CLOUD slowly walks in an arbitrary direction, pauses, then walks back to his original place. He raises his arms, then lowers them, and places his head in his palm. He shakes his head, as if to say, "..."]

CLOUD: ...

BARRET: Damn! @%#*&!

[A SOLDIER from Shinra appears. He is defeated by CLOUD, TIFA, and BARRET. CLOUD is a good soldier because he is ex-SOLDIER. He is very good at selecting ATTACK from the menu until the SOLDIER (not from SOLDIER) turns red and fades away. Everyone receives EXP. The party receives a potion.]

CLOUD: ...

CLOUD: Mako Shinra. Midgar Sephiroth.

[BARRET and TIFA walk into CLOUD. The platform shakes. CLOUD falls. Fade to black.]

CLOUD: Materia Jenova... Sephiroth.

[Fade to a slum made. Buildings are made from sheets of discarded metal. The ground is dust with no traces of plant life. Neon lights are everywhere. A MAN walks east, then west, then east again, repeating this cycle for the duration of his existence, pausing only to wave his arms and say, "Shinra Mako inn potion!" when interrupted by strangers.]

AERIS: I have a bodyguard. Planet.

BARRET: #%@!

[The party runs out of the desolate neon slum in search of the next steamy, industrial tower lit by blue lights.]


29 October 2012

Here Are Some Links Related to Video Games

Well, well, well! At last, my overtime has come to and end, only to replaced by...temporary unemployment. That's life in the video game business. I don't know yet if that means I'll get back to regularly updating Hot Lavy or if I'll find other ways to busy myself. All I know is that I have a bunch of links.

Andrew Groen - Game|Life
‘Routine’ Game Industry Layoffs Kill Creativity
Hey! Yeah!

Adam Conover - CollegeHumor
Hardly Working: Most Retro Video Game System Ever
The hilarious Adam Conover introduces us to the Skaris One-Bit.

L. Rhodes - Culture Ramp
The Critic
A wonderful interview with my wonderful friend, Jenn Frank, about video game journalism, games as time travel, our generation's "Odyssey Years," and so much more. Brilliant and heartbreaking. Part three in Rhodes' series, "The Ludorenaissance."

Bill Harris - Dubious Quality
EA re-released FIFA 12 for Wii this year, but now they're calling it FIFA 13, pretending it's a new game, and charging $50 for it, which is just one example of the wonders of modern video game market. Says Bill Harris, "This is why I've stopped caring whether any of these companies survive. Their incompetence and greed has destroyed the traditional retail ecosystem. Not piracy. Not used games. This is not dinosaurs getting destroyed by an exogenous event. It's strip farming, followed by starvation when the soil is depleted."

Ryan Rigney - Game|Life
Apple’s Favorite Strategy Game Is a Financial Disaster
$300,000 to make; $40,000 in return. This is a fantastic and terrifying look at the luck and economics of iOS and free-to-play games.

Patrick Klepek - Giant Bomb
The Authorship of a Video Game
Patrrick Klepek talks to 5th Cell's Jeremy Slaczka about the collaborative nature of studio game development and the intent behind putting one author's name on a video game.

50 Attempts At Speech In Early Videogames
You know what I like more than hearing super-compressed speech being force out of video game systems that had no business reproducing human voices? Neither do I. My only problem with this list is that it's too short. No Awesome Possum? No Bubsy? No World Class Leader Board? What a drag.

Jason Tanz - Game|Life
How a Videogame God Inspired a Twitter Doppelgänger — and Resurrected His Career
That would be Peter Molyneux and @PeterMolydeux. The story is actually kind of weirdly heartwarming.

Leigh Alexander - Gamasutra
'As a woman': Misconceptions in the diversity discussion
As a dude, I think diversity is pretty neat.

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Deadly Premonition: the cult of split-personality
A special edition of Deadly Premonition, the best game on Xbox 360, is coming to PS3. This is good news not only because more people will have an opportunity to play the bizarro not-Twin Peaks adventure, complete with all new bicycle-riding, but because it means this should be the first of many interviews with director SWERY I'll be reading in the coming weeks. One question: When did everyone start calling him Swery65? I thought his name was SWERY, and Swery65 was just the name of the bar in Deadly Premonition. Right? I know some gamemakers have unusual nicknames, but let's not get SWERY mixed up with Suda51.

Alex Navarro - Giant Bomb
Major Round of Layoffs Reportedly Hits Zynga
Yep, life in the video game business.

Ryan Creighton - Untold Entertainment
Men Helping Women Use Computers
Because evidently women can't figure it out on their own.

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw - Extra Punctuation
It's About Characters, Stupid
I got into a conversation with some people at this summer's Penny Arcade Expo about Resident Evil. At one point, I stopped the arguing and asked each person, one by one, if they care about the series' increasingly prominent and convoluted story. A few hemmed and hawed, trying to defend it, but, in the end, not a single person could feign interest. In this article, Yahtzee breaks down why we find it so dull, and reaches a convincing conclusion about entertainment and storytelling in general.

Game Center CX
Game Center CX: Special Feature - Iwata Asks the Chief
Arino talks to Balloon Fight creator and Nintendo president Satoru Iwata on a recent episode of the delightful Japanese TV show Game Center CX. Both guys are just so likeable that it's impossible not to smile through the whole clip.

Please, just call me York. That's what everyone calls me.

19 September 2012

Takin' Care of Business and...

Updates will continue to be light for a while longer. I'll be working overtime every day until the higher-ups tell me otherwise, and I have some additional demands on my free-time that will limit my ability to write about video games to the extent that I'd like.

12 September 2012

Escape From the Lavy

There was not a proper update yesterday because I spent my afternoon walking across town to pick up free a guitar. And what better way to test out a new axe than with melancholy covers of Sonic the Hedgehog songs?

I was hoping to have two updates ready today, but scheduling gets a little hard to predict when you start recording music and video. I've planned for a week of Dreamcast music, though, and all the songs I picked will make it onto Hot Lavy in as timely a manner as reality allows.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that my plans for today's embarrassing Dreamcast Music update have been rudely disrupted.

The bad news is you're getting double updates tomorrow.

While I'd hate to waste one of the bet Dreamcast songs on a half-hearted update, I'd feel terrible if you traveled all the to Hot Lavy for Dreamcast tunes and left empty-handed, so I'm going to spend a few minutes browsing YouTube for music from games I haven't played as a consolation...

This is a cool background track from Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future entitled "Dolphin's Intrigue." It's not the kind of music that demands your attention, but there's certainly a lot going on if you want to pick it apart, especially in the instrumentation. There are so many sounds here that don't typically go together. I think I can hear a sitar, an organ, and something that sounds oddly similar to the Dreamcast start-up, just to name a few.

...And that's all I have. I was really hoping to blow some minds by discovering a secretly-wonderful song from PenPen TriIceLon or Floigan Bros. or something, but, nope, it appears those games have terrible music.

I'll do something extra stupid tomorrow, I swear.

10 September 2012

Samba de Hot Lavy

Samba de Amigo is a great Dreamcast game with great music.

This video is...I don't know, you guys.

Dreamcast Music Week continues tomorrow. I'm so, so sorry.

09 September 2012

Happy Birfday, Dreamcast!

13 years ago today, a great video game system was released in America. (It was a Dreamcast if you didn't know. Maybe you're allergic to that goofy font I use for titles?)

Dreamcast, as we liked to say back in 1999, was da bomb. Like, groovy, baby. It was most Napster, dawg, and it deserves a grand tribute, but I've been kind of a loser on this site lately, so I'm instead going to go with a little tribute. Each day this week, we'll have ourselves a listen to one of the best songs to grace the Caster of Dreams.

To be clear, this week will not be highlighting the Dreamcast's best games, but the Dreamcast's best tunes, although the overlap between the two is pretty remarkable.

We'll start this feature, as is so often the way, with the beginning. Admittedly, it's stretching the definition of the word "song" to include this on the list, but when you're writing a sporadically updated video game site with an average of three hits per month, little things like "consistency" and "making any sense at all" don't seem terribly important. Jackhammer petunia dice.

What are we actually hearing here? Some echoing rain drops? A cymbal crash, slowed and played in reverse? It's remarkable how effectively a few abstract sound effects can create a mood. Every time I listen to this audio and watch that little orange bounce and swirl around, I'm back in 1999, witnessing the future. It's simultaneously traditional and forward-looking. These aren't video game sounds, or the wild techno-laser blasts we loved so much at the turn of the millennium. I think I'm picking up a Japanese vibe, which would be appropriate, but it's nothing overt. There's a sense of vastness and grandeur, but the whole thing is over in less than ten seconds.

We're dealing more in feelings than absolutes, and I think that fits a console called the Dreamcast just right. When I try to describe why I love the Dreamcast, there's always something more to it than I can convey. I can talk about the games, the controller, the modem, the VMU, its place in history, my own nostalgia...there are plenty of concrete reasons why the Dreamcast is remembered fondly more than a decade after going out of production, but the feeling of the Dreamcast - that je ne sais blah blah - goes beyond reason. We Dreamcast nuts are all a little crazy, and I think that's why the system crashed and burned in the marketplace. It was weird, and it did aspire to be great in ways that weren't easily communicable. Financially, Sega needed for it to be a console for everybody, but, fundamentally, it wasn't.

It's unsatisfying as a writer to say something like, "This is good and important and interesting just because it is," but that's the case. This sound was pure magic for me the first time I heard it, and it's remained that way ever since. For most people I know, it has no such effect. You hear this sound that so perfectly encapsulates the Dreamcast experience, and you either get it or you don't, and nothing I write will change that.

Tomorrow: Actual music!

02 September 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (V)

You may have noticed that the four previous installments of Finally! The Seventh Fantasy have dealt with specifics. I haven't made any broad statements about Final Fantasy VII's story, structure, or mechanics, and that's intentional. Reviews and criticism tend to recap the big picture upfront, but that's difficult to while writing about a game as you play it. Now that I've finally played enough to get a sense of what's happening, I can make some effort to break it down for you, dear readers. Today, we'll talk story.

Our adventure begins with AVALANCHE, a radical eco-terrorism group, attacking a few machine gun-toting guards with swords and automatic weapons of their own. To be fair, the dystopian city of Midgar is awfully bleak, but it's a troubling way to be introduced to our supposed heroes. AVALANCHE is a ragtag bunch of infighting guerrillas with their own motivations for fighting. Barret believes the Shinra company is sucking the life out the Planet, which I guess is a thing in this universe, maybe? Cloud is a bad boy who plays by his own rules, as bad boys are wont to do. Biggs and Wedge...want to remind you that Star Wars exists? That's enough reason to risk your life blowing up power plants, right?

Okay, so it's not so difficult to accept that Shinra, a gigantic energy company, could be a little corrupt, or that their plants could cause environmental harm. Let's just go with that, because your first objective as a player is to sneak into a Shinra facility and bomb a generator. It's more comforting to think that you're delivering comeuppance to an Enron or a BP than it is to imagine the lights shutting off at Midgar Medical Hospital because some guy with a gun in place of an arm told you that Mother Earth is crying, man.

After successfully pulling off the mission, the members of AVALANCHE hop aboard a train back to their hideout, and I have to say that I appreciate AVALANCHE's efforts to stay green by riding public transportation. The base is hidden in the basement of dive bar lit by a neon sign that says "Texas," which is a baffling sight in a fantasy world. Is Texas actually a place here? Is Texas a fictional brand of beer, maybe? I can only hope these questions will be answered by the game's end. For now, I am helplessly nonplussed.

The next day, our plucky crew sets out to bomb another generator, and that's exactly where we'll pick up tomorrow, children. 

18 August 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (IV)

If you've been following this feature, you know that I haven't played enough Final Fantasy VII to pass any judgement on its overall quality, and yet today I feel confident telling you that anyone who claims this is the best game ever made - and there are plenty who would - is patently wrong. Look! I have proof!

In this scene we have some manner of control console with three stations, and the buttons at these stations must all be pressed simultaneously. Barret and Tifa automatically press their buttons, while the player is left controlling Cloud, who must match their timing. There is no real indication of when Barret and Tifa will move, and precision required is ridiculous. Hit the button a tenth of a second too early or too late, and Tifa will reprimand you and tell you to try again. Unfortunately, the button used to skip through dialogue is the same button used to make Cloud act, so when you're on your ninth attempt, and you're mashing your controller, frustrated by the text scrolling across your screen once more, it's all too easy to keep pressing until you've triggered another early button press. Ugh.

What is the point of this segment? There is nothing remotely enjoyable about guessing the correct time to press a button. There is no consequence for failure except having to try again. It doesn't develop the characters, world, or plot. It's a moment of sloppy, needless frustration with no purpose, and I hope it doesn't indicate anything about the rest of the game.

16 August 2012

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (III)

It was fairly late yesterday by the time I installed Final Fantasy VII, set up an account to start playing, and wrote nonsense about it on the Internet. I stopped playing before I even reached the first save point, so I had to start again from the beginning today.

I think the enjoyment in a game like this is in the progression. Tetris never changes, and yet I'll keep playing that game until I drop. I don't have to reach the end of Super Mario Bros. to feel like my playing time has been well-spent - I will gladly run through World 1-1 a thousand times, because the sheer act of running and jumping is its own reward. Moving through the world - seeing surprising new sights and overcoming ever-more-difficult challenges - enhances the game immensely, but it you can still have a great time while dying over and over on the first stage.

In a story-driven role-playing game, progression is essential. Even when you're running around in a field fighting the same slimes and rats for hours on end, you're progressing. Your actions as a player may be the same in every fight, but the in-game character is gaining experience points, levels, gold, and items. Something is changing. There's an arc from where you were when you started playing to where you are when you finish, and that's why players tolerate and even crave repetitive RPGs.

Likewise, most RPGs I've played - okay, most video games in general - have had cringe-inducing-ly bad stories, and yet players really latch onto this tripe. I've heard several game developers claim that games are superior to movies because once a movie starts playing, it will continue to the end, even if no one is present to watch it, but a game requires a player to push it forward, and this means the game/player bond is closer than that of the movie/audience. While I personally find this viewpoint absurd, the fact that some people do buy into it goes a long way toward explaining why video game fans hail certain video game stories as brilliant, while they would never tolerate the same story if it were presented in a movie. The written narrative of a Final Fantasy game does not take the player's choices and actions into account, but it also wouldn't be told without somebody being present to hit the "Continue" button every few seconds. There is a connection to the storytelling process, even if that connection is largely an illusion.

More important than the content of the story is its presence. That is, it doesn't matter so much if the plot or characters are worthwhile, as long as the story is present enough to create a sense of progression. Cutting to a cinematic sequence conveys the idea that something, anything, has happened. Has the state of the game changed between when I started playing and when I ended? Good enough.

Over the years, I've probably gone through the opening scenes of Final Fantasy VII half-a-dozen times. If I play Sonic the Hedgehog's Green Hill Zone two days in a row, I'm going to have a blast both times. If I play the intro to Final Fantasy VII two days in a row, on the other hand, my characters will have lost all their gained experience, and I will already clearly know exactly what awaits me in the story. That isn't to say this is a bad or invalid way of designing a game. The blame is on me for not pressing on to the next save point. Still, I expect my excitement levels for this game will remain pretty tepid until I finally reach a point I haven't played before.

Finally! The Seventh Fantasty (II)

Ordinarily, I appreciate both privacy and cookies; often at the same time. However, a glance at the fine print here indicates that this agreement has less to do with me eating sugary junk food alone in my bedroom, and more to do with me paying for the right to let some company spy on me in exchange for the chance to play an old computer game. Yes, I have purchased, downloaded, and installed Final Fantasy VII, but I will not be granted permission to play until I have created a Square Enix account and agreed to the terms above, or signed in with a Facebook account, which can't be any better.

Why? Why is this a requirement?

--- A few minutes later ---

I'm in the game now. I've played the intro before, many years ago, so there shouldn't be any real surprises for me at this point, and yet there are. I shouldn't be surprised by the over-indulgent, heavily compressed cinematic scenes, and yet I can't believe how much time I'm asked to spend looking at CG stars. Like, a minute of erratic camera swoops showing nothing. Pixelated white blobs on a black background. Then there's some girl, then some city, then, okay, fight!

I guess I like getting thrown straight into a battle more than I would like heavy-handed tutorials teaching me how to walk, but the jump in pacing these first moments provide is startling. I fight a few policemen (Is that right? Policemen?), then learn that my spiky-haired little name is a guerrilla/terrorist guy named Cloud. Or he would be named Cloud if the game didn't give me the option to rechristen him "I am dumb," because that's totally funny, and there's no way I'll think my little joke is stale when I'm still reading it 100 hours into my adventure.

It was at this point that I tried to take a screenshot to show off my enviable wit ("What's your name?" "I am dumb." "I am dumb, eh? Hmmm..."), and it was at this point I learned that you can't take screenshots of this game with the Print Screen button. It just saves a blank black image. I'm sure I can find a way around this limitation, but come on. What harm am I going to do by taking a picture of a game that came out fifteen years ago?

Oh, right, I'll probably take pictures of the ridiculous bugs. Within two or three minutes of starting, I'd already discovered a simple method for making I am dumb appear upside-down at 200 times his regular size. Whoops.

I kept going and met a character who was happy to provide a bit of exposition. "You were in SOLDIER," and I guess we don't like SOLDIER, because he followed it up by telling I am dumb, "I don't trust you." Well, gosh, what a way to hurt a guy's feelings. Sorry, "Barret," from now on, your name is "Meanie."

Finally! The Seventh Fantasy (I)

I identify with this wild-haired youth.
As mentioned on this very site just last month, I have never played Final Fantasy VII in its entirety, and I consider it a shamefully significant gap in my personal video game history. The game has engendered such frightening adoration and torrid debate that basing my impressions on popular opinion and the scattered segments I witnessed at friends' houses in the late nineties seems horribly inadequate. Quite simply, it is a game that I, arrogant video game snob that I am, must play. It's too important to the medium to ignore.

Fortunately, Square Enix released a slightly updated version yesterday. This edition looks like it should make the game a bit more functional on modern computers than the original, without any changes to how the game plays. The story and characters which are still inspiring embarrassing fan-fiction and anime convention costumes to this day should be completely intact, and I am ready to judge them with my modern, jaded perspective.

Here's the plan: I'm going to play this whole game, and I'm going to record my thoughts from start to finish. Recaps, criticism, video with commentary, drawings - anything is fair game. Each time I play, I will also, in some way, document my experience, until I discover that I was on Earth all along, or whatever happens at the end of Final Fantasy VII.

28 July 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Stretching the Meaning of the Word

Matthew Burns - Magical Wasteland
To Jane Doe, Electronic Entertainment Expo, 2012
Recently I haven't been keeping up with the video game news as well as I normally do, so I finally have a chance to link to a few slightly older articles this week. I've been sitting on this delectable little bit of satire for far too long.

Ryan Rigney and Chris Kohler - Game|Life
The iPad Game That Took 9 Years (And an Epic Disney Fail) to Finish
I first heard of The Act three or four years ago when I met one of the bitter ex-Disney animators who worked on it. He didn't seem to have much love for the project, and what I've seen of the game looks totally unimpressive, but regardless of the final result, there's a great making-of story here that's well-worth reading.

Jeff Rubin, Adam Conover, and Jared Logan - The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show
Videogame Debate Club w/ The Metagame
I can't imagine many situations where I would actually want to play The Metagame - an argument facilitation tool that requires at least three video game-literate players - but listening to one of my comedy heroes, Adam Conover, get geeky with his friends for an hour-and-a-half is a fine substitute.

polygon - YouTube
The evolution of PC games
I don't know how I feel about the word "evolution" in this context. Nothing against newer games, but this video does remind me of how I adore the aesthetic of '70s/'80s/early '90s computer games. Those distinctly garish palettes and tortured sounds speak to me in a way slick polygons and clear audio can't quite match.

Ben Kuchera - The Penny Arcade Report
The $40,000 patch? Fez won’t be fixed, but blaming Microsoft is only half the story
Yeesh. Nobody comes out of this mess looking good.

Critical Path Project

Dozens of bite-sized interview clips from game developers. Nolan Bushnell, Will Wright, Toru Iwatani, John Carmack, Jordan Mechner... This is incredible, although I hope they can talk to more non-American developers in the future.

Chris Baker - Game|Life
Will Wright Wants to Make a Game Out of Life Itself
Because I never get tired of being reminded that he is a magnificent genius, here's another interview with Will Wright.

Elaine Low - Jezebel

Confessions of a Sometimes-Booth Babe
"Maybe those who frown upon slutty-looking costumes should petition game developers to stop designing slutty-looking video game characters." Um, yup.

Mara Wilson - Mara Wilson Writes Stuff
Top Girl: The Game for Everyone!
Games for boys may have sexist depictions of women, but games for girls...also have sexist depictions of women. Yeah, Top Girl sounds dreadful, but as is so often the case with the worst games, it makes for captivating discussion, especially in the talented hands of the brilliant Mara Wilson. 

Is it still "supplemental" if it's the only part of the site that ever gets updated?

14 July 2012

Saturday Supplemental - May the Lord Smile...

Ryan Henson Creighton - Untold Entertainment
Stocking Your Office with Human Props
In my experience, the very worst thing about making games (and there are loads of bad things about making games, even if they're outweighed by the good) is the amount of effort gamemakers are expected to waste trying to impress people who don't understand what making games entails. Oh, who am I kidding? That's what every job is.

Jeremy Parish - Telebunny
Let’s Kill a Stupid Videogame Cliche
I'm having a hard time remembering many games that end with an unearned gimmick, but that's probably because I immediately expunge them from my memory upon completion. Yep, kill this cliché with fire.

Alex Navarro - Giant Bomb
Valve Announces Steam Greenlight
It's been a few days since I read this, and I'm still not quite sure what to think of this. Will Steam Greenlight make it easier for great games to find an audience, or will it force tiny, no-name indie developers to become their own cheerleaders in Twitter and Facebook campaigns to find an audience for their unreleased games rather than directing their efforts toward publishers, and... ughhhhh. I don't know what to make of this.

Eric Caoili - Tiny Cartridge
Hello Kitty the Hedgehog
What is this monster? Apparently Sega and Sanrio have teamed up to make ungodly mutant plush toys. Is this really, truly real? This can't be happening.

Bob Mackey - 1UP
What Telltale Learned from Bone
Man, I remember being so excited when I found out that someone was making a Bone game. Plus it was a point-'n'-click-'em-up? I was so excited. And you know what? It was pretty good! But it wasn't the best fit for early Telltale, and everything Bob Mackey says in this piece is spot-on.

Mike Rose - Gamasutra
Lessons learned from The Real Texas' voluntary 18-month delay
Yeah, taking some time to cool down between making a game and releasing it is great to do if you can, but it's not like every game developer has that option. Regardless how obvious or infeasible this advice may be, The Real Texas looks sweeeeeet.

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Jimquisition: Xbox 360 and PS3 Are Just Very Crap PCs
Pretty much.

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Grasshopper says it's Killer7's seven-year anniversary!
If I'd had a little more warning about this anniversary, I would have put together some kind of Killer7 tribute of my own. I mean, if I still wrote more than one article a week. Anyway! Play Killer7. It's one of my faves.

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw - Zero Punctuation
Spec Ops: The Line Review
I have no desire to play Spec Ops: The Line. Even the positive reviews seem to agree that the storytelling is the only element it gets right, and even then, only by video game standards. But, man, I enjoy the conversations it's inspiring.

Ryan Henson Creighton - Untold Entertainment
Why Kickstarter Scares the Crap Out of Me
This is just one of many reasons for me, which isn't to say that it isn't also exciting and maybe wonderful. I don't know, but I am suspicious and hesitant. I guess I'm not big on jumping on bandwagons without asking questions and considering the potential pitfalls.
...and the devil have mercy.

12 July 2012

Tomorrow Is the New Today

This is not what I wanted to write tonight, especially after scaling back the number of updates.

Today's update has been delayed. I think you'll prefer a better considered and better researched article to one comes out in time to meet an arbitrary deadline. Man, that Phantasmagoria thing just took way longer than I expected. Wrecked the whole week.

There's still a chance I'll get three articles published this week, but, um, don't count on it.

11 July 2012


More than two months after I started, here is part two (of five) in what's already a mammoth Phantasmagoria review. Was I crazy to commit to this? Doesn't matter - I'm deep in it now.

I'm hoping to have part three finished next week, but I also thought part two would be done in mid-May.

09 July 2012

Yo, Adrienne

Just a reminder - Hot Lavy has switched to a three-days-a-week update schedule. There's no new feature today, but the second part of my Phantasmagoria review will be available tomorrow. This might be a good time to check out the first part if you haven't already.

Edit: The written review is done, but my computer reset itself while I was capturing screenshots. I hadn't saved any of them, so I'll have to go back through the game and find them all over again. Sorry for the delay. Check back Wednesday night.

08 July 2012

Sunday Free Game - The Dream Machine: Chapter 1

This week's Free Game is a point-and-click adventure with Claymation visuals that got some positive attention at the Independent Games Festival. No, not that one.

I really like the way this game starts. You're dropped on a tiny island with limited resources and left to fend for yourself. It isn't difficult to see how the folderol strewn about the island fits together, but the process of exploring this manageable space and combining your bric-a-brac serves as a fine tutorial for anyone who hasn't tried this type of game before, without being dull and insulting in the way that experienced players so often find tutorials.

It's a wonderful scene, teaching you everything you'll need to know with hardly a word of explanation, and it's over much too soon.

The rest of The Dream Machine: Chapter 1 is good, but it never shows the same level of skillful game design. The opening scene is pure interaction and logical puzzle-solving, but that's quickly tossed aside in favour of narrative. There's nothing wrong with a narrative-focused adventure game, of course, but it's an approach that demands stronger storytelling than what's on hand here.

It must be noted that only the first chapter of The Dream Machine is free, and it's the only chapter (of five) that I've played. I don't know where the story will end, but from what I've seen, we have a tale of ordinary people in ordinary circumstances whose lives are shaken by an extraordinary twist. Unfortunately, any suspense or weight that said twist might have carried is undercut the second our hero leaves the island. Right away, the haunting music and grim, dirty visuals conspire to say, "Watch out! Weird, creepy things are going to happen!" And then weird, creepy things do happen, but who cares? Without a baseline for normal, it's hard to feel any empathy for these sad characters and their bleak little world.

Meanwhile, the puzzles which were so sensible at the beginning (use a fishing rod to...catch a fish) fall into the trap of ridiculous dream-logic that plagues so many adventure games. Why do I have to rub baby oil on an elevator door? Because the game designer said so, that's why.

Once again, The Dream Machine: Chapter 1 is good and worthwhile to the end, but there's a swift dip in quality after an opening whose promise is never quite realised. Occasionally you're treated to some silly dialogue or a throwaway reference to another game, and the bits of levity might keep you playing, but then the soft piano music strikes up and the developers fall back into taking themselves too seriously again, and you'll sigh and think twice about buying the full version.

07 July 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Berlin At Night...

Jonathan Holmes - Destructoid
Talking to Women about Videogames: Lollipop Chainsaw Pt 2
I'm still up for reading more about Lollipop Chainsaw, and Jonathan Holmes still has more to say.

Adam Carey - Bitmob
YouTube is the next frontier for video game marketing
Wait... Are you trying to tell me you can watch videos on a computer now?

Leigh Harris - MCV Pacific
INTERVIEW: Deus Ex creator Warren Spector talks narrative, Heavy Rain
I'm still up for reading more about Warren Spector, and Warren Spector still has more to say.

The Associated Press
Woman Behind 'Centipede' Recalls Game Icon's Birth
In case you missed it, Atari turned 40 this week. Here's a little reminiscing from a former employee.

Chris Kohler - Game|Life
How Instant-Streaming Games Could Change PlayStation’s Destiny
The big new this week was that Sony bought cloud-game-streaming-thing service Gakai for $380 million, and people are suddenly talking about how streaming games could be a big deal. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that Hot Lavy was into wild speculation and unsolicited advice before it was cool.

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw - Extra Punctuation
Excessively Excessive
Yahtzee delivers the simplest, most reasonable break-down of what's wrong with sexist, violent, big-budget game development I've read in ages, and he delivers it with copious references to Weetabixes, zoetropes, and snot eating.

Jeff Gerstmann and Vinny Caravella - Giant Bomb
Quick Look: Roller Coaster Rampage
Weird... I've never linked to a Giant Bomb Quick Look on this site. This is a good one.

Chris Kohler - Game|Life
Cheat Your Way Through Final Fantasy VII on PC
I've played bits and pieces of Final Fantasy VII, but never enough to form a strong opinion about the game. I think I'll have to get the upcoming re-release when it comes out just because it is such a historically significant game, and one that elicits some serious passion, good or bad. At any rate, I like the trailer because the voice-over says, "Download and play the quintessential Final Fantasy experience today!" despite the big "COMING SOON" sprawled across the screen.

David Houghton - GamesRadar
Exactly how many studios has Activision actually closed this generation? THIS many
"THIS many" is not a meaningful response to that question, Mr. or Ms. GamesRadar Headline Writer, but I'll allow it since the vague answer is less depressing than the truth. No wonder it's so hard for gamemakers to find work these days.

Ian Wilding
Super Metroid and Super Mario 64 Posters
Some dude made some posters based on some great games. I doubt these would mean anything to anyone who isn't a fan of the games, but, come on, who doesn't love Super Metroid and Super Mario 64? (If the answer is you, you should play Super Metroid and Super Mario 64.)

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
New game invites players to beat up Anita Sarkeesian

Tiny Cartridge
Golgo 13 Watches
"Watches," the noun; not "watches," the verb. Although the man with the custom M-16 does watch.

An Iron Curtain just doesn't seem right.

06 July 2012

My Mom Is A Bear Cub

Ever want proof that I am a cool guy, and not at all a gigantic dork? BAM! Video of me talking to my mom while playing old video games!

My only goal with this video was to learn how to capture game footage while simultaneously talking to someone in another part of the world who could see the same footage and talk back. It's tough to even write that as a coherent thought, and it took a lot of screaming at my computer to make it work, but work it has.

Apologies to my mom, for making her be my guinea pig. I didn't tell her anything about what we were doing until the video started rolling, and she was a real trooper to the end. In fact, she took what I was treating as a dry, technical experiment and made it sort of adorable. I mean, if you mute all the parts where I yammer on about video game trivia that may or may not be true.

Of course, all my experimenting would be pointless without larger aspirations, and, indeed, I have plans for a new video series. Stay tuned...

04 July 2012

Make a New Plan, Stan

I'm working on hot new Hot Lavy content, but I'm not expecting to have it up by the end of the night, and I missed yesterday, as well. I'd like to work my way back up to daily updates, but all I'm doing right now is under-delivering on my promise, so I'm going to scale back until I feel like I can confidently hit my original goal.

Until further notice, Hot Lavy will be update not daily, but three times a week, plus the regular "Saturday Supplemental" and "Sunday Free Game" filler on weekends. That should be much more manageable, and it will allow me more time to finish articles and less time wasted thinking about how I'll fill the week. Plus, it's about the same rate I'm reaching now, without the stress of missed deadlines.

Should be good. I hope.

02 July 2012


I drawed a thing. It's suitable for framing or using as a computer background.

Alternate versions below...

01 July 2012

Sunday Free Game - Snakes On A Cartesian Plane

Yes, this is one of those eat stuff / grow longer / don't run into your own tail snake games, and, yes, the name is a terrible joke, but... you should play this game. It's good!

Remember how Atari 2600 cartridges like Combat would boast about containing "27 VIDEO GAMES," but they really only had one game with 27 minor changes? There would be the "game" where you had two tanks trying to shoot each other, and the other "game" where you had two tanks trying to shoot each other, but now the bullets bounced off the walls. And they'd do this 27 times! How about having two tanks that shoot at each other, but now the bullets bounce off the walls, and also there are more walls then there used to be?

While calling each of these modes a "VIDEO GAME" was a liberal use of the term, the addition of so many variants on a simple concept like Combat made the game. I can sit and fiddle around with those stupid little tanks for hours because the sheer number of options is enough to provide ongoing stimulation to my A.D.D.-riddled mind.

The "28 VIDEO GAMES" in Snakes on a Cartesian Plane take that same mentality and apply it to Snake. And unlike Combat, you don't need an Atari 2600 or a second player to enjoy it. Not all 28 games are winners, but there are so many of them that it hardly matters. (Check the Options menu to unlock everything.)

There are plenty of Snake knock-offs, but this is easily the second best I've seen. (The first, of course, is the four-player Anaconda mini-game with the amazing music from TimeSplitters 2.)

30 June 2012

Saturday Supplemental - The Industry's Out of Touch

Jim Sterling - The Escapist
Jimquisition: Rape vs. Murder
My advice for real life? Don't do either.

Chris Kohler - Wired Game|Life
7 Games You’ve Never Heard of That Changed Everything
There are some people in the comments who really want it to be known that they've heard of these games. I think they think they're making themselves look smart and cool, but it's not working so well.

Bill Harris - Dubious Quality
Futures [Part One] [Part Two]
Bill looks at the stock prices of America's biggest game publishers over the past sever years. The executives at these companies always seem so proud and confident, which is a baffling stance considering the evidence presented here. It's not like I know the solution, but if you are responsible for growing or maintaining the value of any of these businesses, congratulations! You're doing a terrible job.

Allistair Pinsof - Destructoid
Minecraft XBLA was a rushed deal before E3, says Spencer
Speaking of woefully out of touch publishing executives...

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Have an obnoxious, petty SimCity Social trailer
There's so much to hate about this trailer, but the worst part was having that song stuck in my head for a whole day.

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Tekken producer to fans: stop whining
I've never played a Tekken game, but after reading this rant from producer Katsuhiro Harada, I am an instant fan.

Chris Person - Kotaku
The Video Game Roger Ebert Loved
That game is The Cosmology of Kyoto, and it looks wildly unique.

Darren Wells - GamesRadar
An Interview with Warren Spector
I've never gotten into any of Spector's games, but he's been doing some great interviews lately. Maybe Epic Mickey 2 will be the one to turn me around.

Brandon Sheffield - Gamasutra
Opinion: Video games and Male Gaze - are we men or boys?
Presumably, many of the people who will read this article are neither. The article doesn't really have much to say about feminism and games that hasn't already been said, but it hits on most of the big bullet points of our time. This is a good place to start if you haven't kept up with modern controversies and debates.

The new millennium's tough.

28 June 2012


Daily updates? Psssssssh.

Here's the thing about being an upstart, amateur Web master with a full time job: You can make all the promises you want about daily updates, but sometimes you run out of deodorant in the middle of the week and have to spend an afternoon riding your bike to the grocery store.

I have after-work plans for tomorrow, as well - plans that fortunately have much less to do with armpit maintenance - but hopefully I'll have enough time to finish the thing I started today. No promises, of course, but I can at least give you a little taste:

27 June 2012


Sometimes I go after dangerous, demeaning foes like sexism. Other times I train my cross hairs on people who say stuff in a way that's different that the way I say stuff.

It's a good thing I don't have any readers to alienate.

26 June 2012

We Can Do It!

I expected today's article to be a real downer. Imagine my surprise when it ended up being the most feel-good piece I've written for this site.

Of course, the video game community has been kind enough to remind us recently that it can just as disgusting and misogynistic as ever, but at least the big authorial voices are getting better.

25 June 2012

Always Gets a Replay

New from your friends at Hot Lavy - it's original video content. Hoorah!

I know this video's not exactly short by Internet standards, but I could have easily made it two or three times longer. There were so many games to play, and so much to say about most of them, that I eventually had to force myself to stop talking and start cutting for length. I don't even mention, for instance, how I learned that Night Driver is the secret scariest video game in existence, nor do I tell the story of meeting Gary Stearn or Steve Weibe (who suggested that I buy my own Donkey Kong arcade cabinet in the same off-handed manner one might use when telling somebody to pick up a few rolls of toilet paper next time they're out). Subjects for another day, I suppose.

I paid $15 for one-day admission, and it was worth every penny. Seriously, it was the best time I've had in a long while, and it was clear that the people who aren't as video game-crazy as I am had a blast, as well. I give the NW Pinball and Arcade Show a big thumbs-up, and I highly recommend that you check if your own city offers an equivalent.

24 June 2012

Sunday Free Game - Fix-It Felix Jr.

Aw! Thanks, Disney! You didn't have to make a whole movie just for me! And you made a little game to go with it? Oh, you shouldn't have!

I've been aware of this movie for a few months now, but my faith in Disney has dipped over the years, and I was feeling tepid about the whole affair...until I saw the trailer. M. Bison sitting beside Dr. Robotnik? Kano and Bowser hanging out in the background? Q*bert being Q*bert? Talking Heads music? Oh, yeah - I am definitely on-board.

But aside from all the video game character cameos and New Wave, I was curious about the fictional game from whence Ralph was born. Check out the Donkey Kong-inspired marquee and phosphorous glow on that cabinet in the trailer. Someone obviously put some thought into an authentically '80s-looking aesthetic, and I wondered if they went as far as to design a believable game to go with it.

Fix-It Felix Jr. seemed like it would answer my question. Sadly this is not the Fix-It Felix you'll see in Wreck-It Ralph, but it is a competent little arcade facsimile in its own right. Felix scales the side of a building, repairing shattered windows by smashing them with a hammer, as any good video game man would do. Meanwhile, Ralph attempts to drop bricks on our hero while roving birds provide further impede Felix's progress.

It ends up feeling like an extremely tame version of Crazy Climber. Maybe they should just call this game "Climber". The pixelated sprites and "everything wants to kill you" logic certainly recall a bygone era, and some of the sound effects are ripped straight out of Mega Man, but there's no mistaking this for anything but a modern Flash game. Arcade games were built to take all your quarters. The challenge was always stiff, and death came swiftly for those who lost their concentration. Fix-It Felix Jr., on the other hand, exists solely to promote a movie. It's cute and toothless for the first ten or fifteen stages. The pace quickens a bit after that, but the difficulty ramps up so gradually that I'd lost interest by the time I got that far.

I recommend playing it, but manage your expectations. This isn't the neo-arcade-classic I was hoping it would be, but it is an above-average Flash game, and that's good, too.

23 June 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Girl Power!

Jonathan Holmes - Destructoid
Talking to Women about Videogames: On icons & minorities
Some people think Lara Croft is cool and empowering. I do not. In fact, while I eventually learned to appreciate the games, I passed over the Tomb Raider series for years because I was embarrassed by the pandering character design, so the idea of retooling ol' Pyramid-Chest sounds fine with me, but replacing her with a dirty, moaning, sexual assault victim is so much worse.

Jim Sterling - Destructoid
Objectification and Lollipop Chainsaw
I've been a diehard Grasshopper Manufacture fan since the moment I first played Killer7, but very little about the marketing for Lollipop Chainsaw, the company's latest release, has done much to grab me. There's nothing especially enticing about the "hilarious" premise of a sexy lady who cuts up zombies, and even if there were, I've played more than enough OneChanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (i.e., more than thirty seconds) to slake that thirst for life. Still, I trust that Grasshopper wouldn't lean so heavily on male gaze and cliché without some subversive purpose, and Jim Sterling has a compelling theory about what that purpose is.

Lucy O'Brien - IGN
Shigeru Miyamoto Talks Competition at E3
This is the correct attitude: "People come to E3 and they want to talk about competition and who won the show, and all these companies combating one another. But what we’re meant to be doing is bringing fun to the world. So rather than focusing on competition, I feel it’s my job to go up on stage and show how I can bring fun to the world by having fun myself.”

Simon Parkin - Chewing Pixels
The Rise and Collapse of Yoshinori Ono
Capcom's is the wrong attitude, which is probably why so many of their most creative and talented people are leaving the company. I really hope they turn things around before they lose anyone else.

The DOs and DON'Ts of Gaming Gender Relations
This video purports that anyone can be not-awful, but the comments section provides a convincing counterargument.

Christian Nutt - Gamasutra
Serving 'damn good sushi' is the Japanese developer's path, says Team Ninja
As opposed to "hamburgers." It's refreshing to see Yosuke Hayashi soberly admit that Ninja Gaiden III was misguided, especially at a time when I'm sure his bosses would prefer that he hype the upcoming Wii U port.

John - tikisaurus
Ken Sugimori’s original Pokemon Red/Green Concept Art is Awesome
Those "Capsule Monsters" sure looked like dinosaurs back in 1990.

Jean Pierre Kellams - 1UP
OP-ED: Mainstream Gaming and the Male Gaze
Like Lara Croft, Bayonetta is either an icon of female empowerment or an embarrassing sexual caricature, which goes to show that applied feminism is full of complications. Fittingly, this essay by a Platinum Games employee raises more questions than answers.

Jessica Citizen - Player Attack
Australian R18+ game rating gets the go-ahead
I thought I'd reported this before, but I guess it's really real this time. For real.

Mark Brown - Wired UK
Judge Declares iOS Tetris Clone ‘Infringing’
Good! It should be illegal to copy existing games and sell them as your own.

Julia Lepetit - Dorkly
How Games Are Meant To Be Played vs. How You Play Them
A funny comic.

Maki - Sci-ence
On Playing Well With Others
A serious comic.

Like a Cheep-Cheep without an Excitebike.

21 June 2012

New Non-Update!

After an unfortunate incident where Google claimed I was in violation of their terms of service and took my site down, I have managed to resuscitate Hot Lavy. Status quo has been maintained!

Actually, it's been Cold Lavy around these parts for the past (eek!) month-and-a-half. Wow, that hiatus went much to long. Okay, let's get the Lavy flowing again - regular updates begin again this weekend.


23 May 2012

Who's That Boy? (Who's That Boy?) It's Jake!

Hey, girl. Whatcha knowin'? It's been a long time, but I have a new job, a new place to live, and Hot Lavy should be back with real updates any day now. For now, hi, and thanks again for sticking with the site through these slow times.

See you soon.

08 May 2012

Heeeeeere's Johnny!

You guys, I am in love with Phantasmagoria.

I've written about the series before, but I still have so much to say. In fact, this review will be spread across five articles, and the best part is that you won't even have to change discs to get to each part.

Perhaps you noticed that I didn't post any original content last week. The last time I missed a week (it wasn't long ago), I cited "work" as my excuse, without going into details. It's the same story this time, but now I can announce that I have submitted my resignation at my crummy retail job.

I'll be starting a new job soon, one with consistent hours, better pay, and more enjoyable work. Hopefully, this will mean a more consistent update schedule is forthcoming, but expect the next few weeks to be even rockier than usual. In addition to transitioning from one job to the next, I'll also be moving across the country. I may be leaving as soon as the middle of next week, which mean I have days to get a plane ticket, pack my things, and find a new place to live. In other words, there's not much time for writing about video games on the Internet.

Hopefully, this all leads to a better Hot Lavy in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, is anyone reading this site? I'm still getting a few hits a day. This would be a fine time to introduce yourself. I may not have time for lengthy articles right now, but I'll happily find a few minutes to respond to comments.

See you on the other side.

06 May 2012

Sunday Free Game - Perfect Strangers: Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now

I'm just a bit too young to have many fond memories of watching classic (?) sitcom Perfect Strangers myself, but I'm old enough to be eminently aware of Cousins Larry's and Cousin Balki's zany misadventures. What little nostalgia I have for the show certainly increases my enjoyment of this week's Free Game, but I'll take my ignorance of the show as proof that anyone who appreciates spirited cheesiness will get a kick out of it.

I've been surprised how strongly the Internet has taken to this one. I was worried at one point that I wouldn't be able to link to the game this weekend, after so many players logged onto the site that they crashed it, but was a temporary traffic-overload going to stop this game? Well, of course not, don't be ridiculous!

05 May 2012

Saturday Supplemental - The End Is Near

Surviving the Bloodbath: Perspectives on Our Industry's Cycles
The booms and crashes of the video game industry. This would be an astute (but controversial) talk if it were given today. That it was presented at the 1997 GDC is incredible. It's also incredibly sad that the industry at large hasn't managed to accept these simple, economical facts fifteen years later. (Skip the second half, when he starts taking audience questions - the audio quality is poor, and the questions/tirades are mostly off-topic.)

With the App Store flooded, is partnering with a publisher becoming necessary?
At least Trip Hawkins is smartly realistic.

Talking to Women about Videogames: Gamer Cred
So much to love about this video and article. Except the, uh, entire inciting incident. Goodness, "gamers" are an embarrassing bunch.

The best Wii games you didn’t play, handpicked by industry pros
A good reminder of the Wii games I still need to seek, and a good reminder of how many fantastic Wii games undersold - this list barely scratches the surface. It's also a good spread of  "industry pros" - from Alex Neuse to Bill Trinen.

Ryan Goes Overboard
I might have to go to a game jam at some point. Can't wait to see the conclusion of this story.

The Worst Things for Sale: Civilization, The Board Game
This site, in which Drew from Toothpaste for Dinner describes the worst things for sale, is so good. Other video game-related entries include Woodcutter Simulator and some Angry Birds nonsense.

Jimquisition: Better Does Not Mean Good
A lesson which extends beyond the Internet and video games (but we should apply it to the Internet and video games.

The Top 10 Things The Game Industry Can Learn from Film Production
I vehemently disagree with much of this article, and yet other parts could not be more poignant. Pre-production, post-production, paid overtime, strong direction - we need these things.

Don't Assume Players Are Stupid
The exact opposite of what we were taught in game design school, which is why I don't put much stock in the things I was taught in game design school.

Report: Microsoft to Sell Xbox 360 For $99 With Two-Year Contract
I'm not sure yet what I think about this, but it's noteworthy that it's happening.

Op-Ed: Android Piracy Is Huge Problem for Game Devs
The conversation surrounding piracy is one that's typically slanted and passionate. This is refreshingly level-headed. Even better, it's all backed up by numbers and facts.

The Collapse of Free Radical Design
TimeSplitters 2 turns ten this year, which reminds me that it's been about ten years since Free Radical released a great game. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say since they were allowed to make a good game. TimeSplitters 2 is probably my favourite first-person shooter ever, which makes this all the more bittersweet.

Before they Were Stars - Video Game Edition
Ha! Paul Rudd, Jane Krakowski, and other now-famous people in decades-old video game commercials.

Why 'ninja' developer Tose published its first game in 32 years
Tose is one of the world's most fascinating companies. I'll read any article written about it.

'EA Indie Bundle' ruffles feathers
Dear "indie" community: Please get over yourselves.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Video Games Cause Violence
Tee hee hee.

Stock up on bottled water, just in case.

28 April 2012

Saturday Supplimental - New: What, Do You Own the World?

Why the Super Mario Movie Sucked
The title of this article may be dead wrong, but the content is good. This is an excerpt from the new book Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood, which I think I need to read.

How Hollywood Managed To Not Screw Up Mortal Kombat, The Movie
More from Generation Xbox, this time with an accurate headline.

The Origins of Night Trap: An Excerpt from Generation Xbox
Maybe I don't need to find the book. It looks like half the stories are already online for free.

The Development of A Link to the Past
A 1991 Japanese interview with Miyamoto that makes me appreciate the third Zelda even more. I especially like when talks his attitude toward working overtime and getting enough sleep every night.

This Girl’s RPG Is No Cinderella Story
Level-5 made a game where you work at a hostess club (sort of like Hooters, but sadder and creepier, for those of you who aren't up on your Japanese culture). It's aimed at little girls. And you can date Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon. What, what, what?

This Season, Women’s Fashion is Inspired by…Video Games
These clothes are pretty much just clothes. Not, like, T-shirts with Koopa Troopas printed on them, or skimpy Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball cosplay nonsense, but clothes I can imagine real, not-nerdy, fashionable women wearing. When you think about the amount of effort put into iconic colour coordination in video game character design, the short leap to fashion makes perfect sense.

Nerd Room
An unscripted tour of the Angry Video Game Nerd's basement. Not much happens in this video, but I was happy to spend some time geeking out over his most impressive collection. Dude even owns a few game systems I've never seen anywhere else before.

Thank Christ: Xbox Live to feature even more advertising!
Yuck. I remember when Xbox 360 was first starting to find its legs, IGN ran multiple (sincere) articles about how Wii was a failure because you don't see enough ads in the system interface, so I guess some is happy about this news, but I say yuck.

Japan’s Social Game Publishers Limit Teens’ Spending
This is a small step, but I always applaud companies being responsible and holding themselves accountable.

Warren Spector "scared" about cost of next generation consoles
That is, the cost of developing games for next generation consoles. Sheesh. You and me, both, Warren.

Why Xenoblade Chronicles HAD to look like shit
Tying in nicely to the Warren Spector article above, here are more points in favour of "weak" hardware over bleeding-edge graphical technology.

 How do you own disorder?

27 April 2012

'Til Sunbeams Find You

Guess who's turning twenty?

We're reaching a point where many of today's most beloved video game characters are now several decades old. but few have managed to pack those years with as much variety as Kirby. Yes, Mario's taught typing, Pac-Man got shot with a sling-shot, and Sonic made out with a human, but Kirby's managed to extend beyond his comfort zone without embarrassing results. Kirby's Avalanche and Kirby's Star Stacker may not have been particularly inspired, but I can't think of a genuinely bad Kirby game.

Good on ya, little buddy. Here's to another twenty years.