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.)