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.

26 April 2012

Pac Watch

Three more Pac-Man wannabes for your consideration.

I found an amazing YouTube series called "Let's Compare" while working on this one, in which people show footage from every different port they can find of old arcade games. I had to spend my younger years convincing myself that Atari 2600 Pac-Man and Donkey Kong really weren't that bad, even though I had played the real games in arcades. Looking at some of these comparisons, there's no denying it - home ports were mostly terrible, albeit in some fascinating ways.

25 April 2012

You Can Do the Pac-Man

I've started a new two-parter about Pac-Man knock-offs, and I've managed to get through the entire first part without making any reference to that Buckner & Garcia song. Yay, self-restraint!

Take a seat, grab a bowl of Pac-Man Cereal, and get ready for more delicious derivatives on Thursday.

24 April 2012

The New Crazy

Remember yesterday when I wrote about the need to cut back on my articles' length? Whoops.

I'm not saying I wouldn't go back and edit this down a bit if I had the time, but I do think there's a point here that's worth making. My rambling has a purpose.

While researching this topic, I was reminded that The Land of the Livid Dead has actually appeared in the Rayman series before, in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. I forgot all about it, which isn't so surprising. I've forgotten almost everything about Rayman 3. It's one of only five games I've ever rented, and I beat it in a weekend. I had a blast with it, but even as I was playing, it seemed forgettable. A perfect rental, really.

Anyway, TLotLD is is better in Rayman Origins than it is in Rayman 3 because you don't have to listen to John Leguizamo.

23 April 2012

What's a Sleestak?

I'm back with a new article, suckas.

Sorry for the unexpected disappearance last week. I'll leave it at "work was nuts." I know it's not a satisfying excuse, but something in my schedule had to give, and it ended up being this site.

The bigger issue is that I need to reevaluate my approach. I've gotten into the habit of believing that articles I create here aren't good enough for publication if I don't spend six hours researching, writing, and creating visuals. I wish I could spend twice that much time on this site every day, but I have, like, one reader, and I don't make any money off this. As much as it pains me, I can't justify putting that much energy into a hobby.

I kept telling myself that I would work overtime to write enough articles to make up for all the missing days last week, but it's not currently possible. Maybe one day I'll be able to fill every blank in the calendar, but the goal for now is to get back to daily updates. That might mean shorter, leaner pieces, or it might mean more sleepless nights. Probably a combination of the two.

All I know is that I have get ready for work in a few hours, and you can expect more Rayman Origins musings tomorrow. See you then,

22 April 2012

Sunday Free Game - This is the Only Level

This is my favourite Flash game.

Gosh, I wish I'd come up with this idea. I'm so insanely jealous of designer/programmer jmtb02. What he/she lacks in a real name, he/she makes up for in brilliance.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't said what this game is, or why you should care, and I'm going to keep it that way. This is the Only Level looks like a platformer, and it plays like a platformer, but it's not a platformer, and that's all I'm saying. The more you know before you play, the less you'll enjoy it.

Without saying anything about the content of the game, however, I do want to draw attention to the structure. As you play, notice how little happens when you die. The feedback you receive is perfectly minimalistic, yet perfectly communicative, and you're immediately returned to the game. There's a place in games, of course, for more elaborate death sequences, whether drawn-out animations or Mario's simple shrug-to-the-camera-and-jingle, but sometimes the best solution is an uninterrupted return to play. Even compared to Super Meat Boy, the delay between death and rebirth in This is the Only Level is miniscule. If you make a mistake, your progress is impeded, but you're not punished.

You must learn from your mistakes and prove your knowledge to succeed, and you are not discouraged from making mistakes. This is the secret to good teaching.

This is the Only Level is essentially a tutorial. This is a game that teaches the player skills, but, more importantly, this is a game that teaches the player to think and act according to its own internal logic. Most games (like most teachers) think that education must be solemn and straightforward. They lecture and they test. They demand perfection, with no room for trial and/or error.

This is utter nonsense.

Play the game, and pay attention to what you're being taught, as well as how you're being taught. Then feel jealous that you didn't think to make a game like this first.

21 April 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Back From the Dead!

 John Cleese on Creativity
This is not directly about video games, and it's maybe a few decades old, but it's about creativity, which is timeless and encompasses games. If you are involved with making games, please, please watch this. If you're not, watch it anyway, unless you hate listening to smart, funny people say smart, funny things.

Al Lowe on the leisure, the suit, and the Larry
I never get tired of hearing about the old days at Sierra. Plus, Al Lowe seems like a swell guy. This interview gets the Hot Lavy Seal of Approval.

Playing Saints Row and The Witcher on Facebook Works Surprisingly Well
The future is arriving even more quickly than I predicted.

The secret to a strong tutorial: Make it fun!
You don't actually need to read the article. I just like that ideas like this are so radical that they can make the front page of Gamasutra. Fun video games? Ha!

Star Command Demonstrates How Quickly Kickstarter Funding Can Disappear
You mean an easy solution to a difficult problem isn't as perfect and foolproof as people think?

Why the Halo Movie Failed to Launch
You mean Microsoft is arrogant?

It Came From the Molyjam: Peter Molyneux
I give Molyneux a hard time on this site, but, as a person, I like him. Most of the articles written about him these days seem to revolve around isolated quotes, which are easy to mock. This, however, is a lovely chat with the man, and for once he isn't trying to promote an overly ambitious game, and he isn't being monitored by Microsoft PR. Just a passionate, eccentric guy talking about his love of games. This is the Molyneux I like best, even if he's not as funny as Mr. "I hate buttons."

Wise fwom youw gwave!

16 April 2012

AOL Keyword

Here's a dumb concept for an article, but the dumb ones are always so much fun to research.

I got the idea to do this after my older sister sent me a link to the still-functional Space Jam Web site, which is every bit as amazing as you'd hope. I might continue with this topic tomorrow depending on how many old game pages I can find. It's really quite tough, but if the official Space Jam page from 1996 still exists, I know there are more treasures waiting to be discovered.

15 April 2012

Sunday Free Game - Octodad

I first played IGF Student Showcase winner Octodad about a year ago, after Ryan Davis (of Giant Bomb) described it as a college student's first experience smoking pot turned into a video game. More recently, Jonathan Holmes (Destructoid) offered a fairly literal interpretation, positing that the game is about struggling through self-doubt, and coming to terms with one's identity as a spouse and parent.

Octodad, on the surface, is about an octopus in a suit pretending to be a human dad, which should be reason enough for everybody to play it immediately, but it's the rich subtext that makes it memorable. A wacky concept alone does not a good game make, and Octodad is absolutely a good game.

By the by, there's a remake/sequel in the works. Freed from the constraints of student game development, Octodad: Dadliest Catch will be made with such wonders as time and a budget. It looks just as hilarious and weird as the original, and it's near the top of my most-anticipated games list. My only concern with the trailer is that Octodad's previously dead eyes seem more expressive now. It could signal a major shift in tone and theme.

But then I listen to the Octodad (Nobody Suspects a Thing) song again, and you know what? I'm down for whatever tone they want to throw at me.

14 April 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Fun Pass

The Wind Waker Concept Art
I've played enough video games that I have to hesitate before calling any game the best anything, but... Wind Waker is the best-looking game ever made. Here's a huge collection of concept art, much of which is sketchy and unfinished because it's concept art and you don't need beautiful, gallery-quality paintings to explore concepts. Take some notes of the process, publishers and developers.

Cutscenes Aren't A Failure State
Thanks, Jim Sterling, for articulating my opinions in shout-y Internet videos!

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel passes away
The biggest news of the week. Thanks for everything, Jack!

Box vs. Box
A Tumblr page comparing Japanese boxart with the American equivalent with a new entry every day. I've seen a thousand one-off articles that make the same comparisons, but putting it in the format of daily entries is one of those beautifully obvious ideas that makes me crazy jealous that I didn't think of it.

Dev says lack of focus makes for bad games

9-year-old's DIY cardboard arcade gets flashmobbed
Cute! Clever! This is an adorable story that ends with one of the lamest flashmobs I've ever seen, but the rest is nice. (Sent to me by my older sister. Thanks, Jaime!)

Super Mario Advance 4 - ALL Exclusive Features in World-e
I'd heard that the eReader-enhanced Game Boy Advance port of Mario 3 was the definitive version, but I had no idea it was this insane. Probably the coolest ROM-hack I've ever seen, and it's an official Nintendo release. Totally crazy.

Q&A: Mega Man Creator Wants Japan to Admit Failure
Nope, I'm still not tired of hearing Inafking complain about modern Japanese game development. I wish America had a high-profile counterpart.

OP-ED: Where Do Gamers Draw the Line Between Creator and Creation?
Smart and challenging writing that makes me uncomfortable and doesn't offer any easy answers. Yay!

100 Games Cupcake Game
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here are some cupcakes decorated to resemble 100 different games. This gallery is two years old, but it's new to me.

Videogames Can’t Afford to Cost This Much
I don't like GameStop, but any publisher or developer who uses used games as an excuse for their game's poor sales is just being lazy. Anyone who sacrifices quality and features in the name of combating used games sales should get out of the entertainment business right now.

Is this fun yet?

13 April 2012

Work, Work

Friday's article should go up sometime Saturday. I just got back from work after a very long day, and I have to get up in four hours to go back, followed by a few hours at home, and then going back in the afternoon to close again.

12 April 2012

Take My Control... Please!

Today's article is about Smash Bros., but it's really not about Smash Bros.

I originally intended to write about several different instances of what I've dubbed "Control Texture," but it's exceedingly rare. One could make the argument that that driving games have textured controls - there's a curve to acceleration, the car handles differently on different surfaces - but this is control which is still perfectly predictable.

That's why I focused on one game for the article, but I have another example of the effectiveness of textured controls.. Outside of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the best use of random (but purposeful) control flaws is in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. As you encounter horrific monsters in Eternal Darkness, your character loses sanity, and eventually you experience fourth-wall-breaking "Sanity Effects." Bugs crawl across your TV screen, blood drips from the walls, and your character's head falls off and recites Shakespeare, to name a few of the many hallucinations. Afterwards, the game generally admits that it's messing with you. The screen flashes, and your character shouts, "This can't be happening!"

But sometimes it's more subtle. Sometimes your character will swing his or her weapon without input from the controller. You'll press left, and your character will drift right for a split second before obeying your command. I would argue that this fine texture - the barely perceptible randomness in the controls - goes further in toying with the player than any other effect in Eternal Darkness.

As the definition of video games expands, I want to see more of that.

11 April 2012

Don't Take My Word For It!

Writing online is one thing, but we all know that the only way to achieve legitimacy as an author is to have a real book published. That's why I'm so pleased to share an excerpt from my upcoming release. I'm still looking for a publisher, so if you work in the hardcover business and you're interested in making THE BIG MONEY, set up a meeting with my people.

Multinational publishing offers only, please. I don't have time to waste with people who aren't serious.

Here are few illustrations that didn't make it into the book:

10 April 2012

Get a Job

Sha na-na nah! Na-na-na na-nah!

Hey! Here's my first personal essay on this site that I don't hate! The woman in this story was actually super nice, and so was her daughter. They both seemed cooler than cool, but I'm so sick of having this same conversation that I had to write something about it, and they were, unfortunately, the most recent offenders. Sorry! Wrong place at the wrong time, dudettes.

09 April 2012

Women and Men

You, Me, and the Cubes is available for 200 Club Nintendo FunBuxx this month in America. It's an excellent way to spend your fun money, but I'd recommend it even if you have to pay actual legal currency.

My review doesn't go into much detail about the music or the multiplayer mode, but rest assured, every part of You, Me, and the Cubes is just as wonderfully and woefully discomfiting as what I've described.

I also neglected to mention the game's creator, Kenji Eno, although knowing he made it undoubtedly influenced my conviction that You, Me, and the Cubes is about more than tipping boxes in space. I found a fascinating ten-page interview Shane Bettenhausen and James Mielke conducted with Eno prior to this game's release while preparing this critique, and I highly recommend reading the whole article, even if you've never heard of Kenji Eno before.

08 April 2012

Hopping Down the Yoshi Trail

Happy Easter, one and all!

Today's article was inspired by a 1993 Mario Paint-themed Easter egg decorating kit that own, despite the current year being 2012. Remember the days when a drawing application could get a big marketing blitz? I wonder if I still have my Mario Paint brushes (free in select boxes of Kellogg's cereals). Of course, there's a reason those days ended. What is Mario Paint's identity? Are kids going to paint the flyswatter from the minigame on their Easter eggs? That must be why Paas gave up halfway through and turned this into a Zelda "Egg-Quest."

From Agahnim and all of us at Hot Lavy, have a safe and wonderful Easter!

07 April 2012

Saturday Supplemental - Everything Free in America

Dragon Quest x Google Maps: 8-bit Google Maps for NES!
If you have an Internet connection, and I'm betting you do, there's a good chance you've already seen Google's 2012 April Fool's Day gag. While the "Quest" maps are no longer active, this video is certainly worth your time if you missed it last weekend.

Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’: Best Games of 2011
This is the best kind of HAWP episode - fast, funny, and far more insightful than a silly sketch about two people arguing over video games has any right to be. I'm going to be quoting Ash's line from the end of this one for a long time. (Bonus: The first new HAWPcast in months.)

Gridiron Solitaire!
Bill Harris announces his first game, a combination solitaire/football game. As I've said before on this very site, football is man's most boring creation, but after years of reading Bill's writing about both life and games, I can't wait to see the fruits of this passion project. Plus, it was inspired solitaire/golf hybrid Fairway Solitaire, which managed to be great despite its golf roots.

MolyJam Game Archive System
A depository of over 300 games made at last weekend's "What Would Molydeux?" gamejam. I haven't even begun to sort through these, but expect to hear more about this in an upcoming Sunday Free Game.

Electronic Arts named worst company in America, reacts to news
That headline isn't referring to video game companies. That's out of all companies in America. I'm glad to see The Consumerist challenging EA, but America's worst company? Are they kidding?

Grasshopper's Suda on Lollipop Chainsaw and the new media landscape
More questionable statements about the landscape of American business, but this time they're coming from Suda51, and that guy is the best.

Parenting Is Not an Escort Mission
Joel Goodwin lambastes game developers for the lazy way parenting is depicted in games, and offers alternatives.

For a small fee in America.

06 April 2012

Sunday Free Game - Let's Play: Ancient Greek Punishment!

In belated celebration of April Fool's Day, we'll take a look at a free game which makes a fool of its player each Sunday this month, except for this week, where we'll pretend that Friday is Sunday and Sunday is Friday. Cool? Okay.

Like each and every one of the Greek gods, this game is a jerk. Pick a figure from Greek mythology, suffer his punishment, curse the gods, repeat. I love it.

05 April 2012

The Final Chapter

Pour some out for your bros. We've lost two video game shows in the last week.

I'm assuming that The Tester is over forever, but I make the same assumption every year, and it keeps coming back. That show is more resilient than Jason Voorhees.

04 April 2012

Suffer for Fashion

There's my whole attitude toward clothes, but my taste broadens dramatically when I play video games.

It's all very confusing, but at least talking about fashion affords me opportunities to reference both The Kinks and Of Montreal.

Also, big thanks to GoNintendo for linking to yesterday's article!

03 April 2012

Worthless Piece of Scrap Metal

Fun fact: Back in the nineties, I bought the original DOS Mega Man. This one:

I bought that. With real money. I paid $10 for that at Target. It was probably the only game I got that entire year.

A few years later, I bought the DOS port of Mega Man X. And I loved it!

As today's article illustrates, the music had some flaws. It's easy to complain now, but at the time, the mere fact that there was music qualified this game as a great success in my mind.

02 April 2012

Take This Job

I once had a friend who would frequently question the purpose of critics. I think most of us just accept that it's a viable role without giving it any thought, but try defending the need for professional reviews. It's harder than you'd expect.

That friend thought critics were useless, and I understand and respect the perspective. Ultimately, though, I support the people who write about games. Obviously. A good critic can be as insightful as the work's creator, and I've certainly read reviews that were more entertaining than the game, itself.

In my ongoing job hunt, I've applied for positions making games, writing about games, and doing completely unrelated to the field, and I've found reasons to get excited about all three. There are developer jobs that are way better than video game site editor jobs, and vice versa. I don't see either as the clear winner.

01 April 2012

Sunday Free Game - Be Good

Here's a video game you can play for free. It was made by some idiot.

And while we're on the subject of that Jake Spencer dork, here's an interview/podcast/ramble-thon I did recently:

In other news, I'm 24 now. Please update your records.