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1:50 PM on 08.03.2011  

Bastion and the value of intelligent difficulty (also hi)



Who's ready for a shortblog on Bastion and a bit of a fireside chat? I hope you are! Let me start with the chat part. The big theme? How's everyone doing?

To be honest, life has been absolutely insane over the past few weeks, and it is only getting crazier. I'm going to be moving to the D.C. area in a matter of days, a move that I found out about a mere couple of days ago. Stressful? Yes. Potentially ruinous financially? Oh yeah. Awesome? Thankfully, yes.

Why should you care? Well, for one, I need to apologize that the craziness has kept me away from you, and might do so again for a little while. I have so much that I've been meaning to do: bring back a weekly community recap, start some new cool things in the blogs, etc. I'm incredibly thankful that the good Sir Mr Andy Dixon Man is awesome and has been helping out the blogs so much in my stead. But at the risk of you thinking that I'm all talk, I want you to know that I have a lot of things in store.

I also want to ask you how everything is going. Yes, you. I want to make sure to keep up a constant dialogue regarding what you want out of the blogs. It's less about system upgrades (though if you have a great idea let us know that too) and more about what kind of content you most like seeing, and what sort of fun things we can provide for you. How awesome was the Community CREATE? Do you want more of that? Want some cool discussion based things from us? Tell us what you like to read, and then we'll also be sure to try to provide content that you like and encourage others to create the same kind of stuff.

Also, sorry about those travel blogs. Tricky bastards.



Anyway, I do want to talk about videogames a bit too. More specifically, videogame. Even more specifically, Bastion, which I've enjoyed quite a bit. After finishing my first playthrough, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in the whole "narrator" thing, and falling off of the world happened a few more times than I could really tolerate, but you can't deny that the game had some awesome character, incredible music, and was simply fun.

It also had the best approach to difficulty that I've experienced in a long time.

If you've yet to play the game, here's a little description of how the difficulty works. I can't imagine that this could be considered a spoiler, but if you're super sensitive to that sort of thing, I guess you could stop reading.

The game creates an added challenge by allowing you to activate the power of various deities. Each deity has a specific effect: one deity makes enemies regenerate health, while another makes them drop explosives when they die. Each deity also provides a nice experience and currency bonus to you. Want it to be insane? Activate every single god's power and get wrecked.

This is awesome for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it gives the player direct control over the difficulty rather than the indirect control afforded by most "hard" modes. Because of this, you can make the game more difficult in the way you want it to be difficult. Want smarter/harder enemies without a bunch of fuss? Go for it. Want crazier options like enemies that randomly turn invulnerable? Do that instead. You can make it just a little harder by turning on one option, way more difficult by activating them all, or anything in between.

I think my favorite part of this system, however, is the fact that it puts an actual reason behind each difficulty increase. It tells the player exactly what is going to become more difficult and exactly how the game will reward you. I like to know what I'm getting in to when I'm increasing a game's default difficulty; if I'm just going to end up hitting dudes thirty times more than normal in order to defeat them, I'd like to know ahead of time so I can break my fingers instead.

So, where does difficulty go from here? Can a system like this be improved? Are you crazy and prefer traditional difficulty levels?

Love you all   read


9:43 PM on 05.10.2011  

Threat Level Jerkface: How to Survive a Douchepocalypse



Today was what we might refer to as a "hot mess."

Normally, we'll see a spam blog or two per day, and maybe a harmless failblog or two. Today, it was a perfect storm of fail. The fails piled up like a stack of dino droppings, and not even the world's largest shovel could clean it all up. While the fail might be gone now, the scars will remain.

I hope that this never happens again, but the sad fact is that this has happened before, and it will happen again. It's not something that anyone can prevent, at least not without us turning into a site that frankly no one wants us to turn into. Destructoid gives users freedom, but when you violate that freedom so heinously, we'll come for you.

So, when the next hot mess happens, or what we can also refer to as a next douchepocalypse, what should we do? How can we survive? Well, follow along as I create a survival guide for the douchepocalypse from the top of my head in record time.

1. Don't panic

Yeah, the douchepocalypse is frightening. The spam, the idiots, and the trolls might number so great that it seems deliverance would be impossible. Perhaps your good blog has been bumped down to the bottom or, heaven forbid, the next page. Shitty, I know. But the worst thing you can do is freak out. Keep your cool and know that we're coming to clean up the mess.

2. Avoid calling for bans publicly

Spammers should be deleted. Jerkfaces should be banned. No doubt about that. But calling for them to be banned on the site is going to make things worse, especially in the case of trolls. It just gives them more reason to post more, screw up your own blogs, and come after you personally. We'd much rather have them bitch and moan at us and call us dicks. Community members don't deserve that shit.

Instead, just get in contact with someone. Follow me on Twitter and let me know if a situation is developing. Email me and let me know that someone's being a dick. Let Hamza know if I'm not responding, since my day job keeps me away from a compy most of the day. And, yeah, tell us to ban them. We'll do it, and hard.

3. Don't take shit

I'm not sure how often this really happens, but one thing I'm not going to stand for is people privately attacking (or publicly, for that matter) users of this site. If anything happens like that and it isn't visible to everyone, or if it is but I obviously haven't seen it, tell me. I'm not going to allow people attacking members of this site. Ever.

4. Don't let it scare you away from the blogs

It's easy to see a blog roll full of spam and think "Holy shit, if I post something now, it'll be buried forever. Guess I won't post at all." Please, please don't do this. If we don't have the great blogs that go up daily, even in the midst of a bunch of fail, then we've got nothing left. The terrorists have won. So by all means delay your blog until we've had a chance to clean up, but (and this goes back to not panicking) don't let incidents like today steer you away from posting blogs. If you post something great, it's going to get recognized. If you feel like a blog didn't get a fair chance because of a douchepocalypse, let me know.

5. Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes.

In other words, just keep doing what you do. Laugh at a day like this, flip the bird in its general direction, and continue being awesome. Look at a day like this as another great reason to write your own stuff on Dtoid and keep the blogs awesome. Keep commenting on the great blogs and fapping like your life depends on it (it does; my grandmother told me so). Ignore the shit publicly, tell us about it, and we'll nuke it as soon as humanly possible.

As a last note, I'm sorry days like this happen. I really am. It's not fair to anyone on the site, especially the people who have written something that day that's actually worth reading. If you ever have any concerns at all, don't hesitate to email me, pm me, tweet me, whatever.   read


6:10 PM on 04.20.2011  

C blog cheat codes: Getting your opinion on the front page



Hey community writer people types! Itís time for another C blog cheat codes post. Looking to get some awesome writing done? Hereís a great place to look for that little bump thatíll get your writing from awesome to slightly more awesome.

Today, our topic is topics. Namely, whatís going to help you get your preferred topic on the front page, and how should you choose that topic? How are you going to get your point across?

Not every blog on Destructoid is an editorial (or opinion piece, if you prefer), but these sorts of pieces come naturally to a lot of us since theyíre so damn fun to write. Rant for a while about what I think? Have a bunch of cool people read and care about what I say? Score!

So, if youíre looking to write something else, go for it. But if youíve got that great idea for an opinion piece that you just havenít written yet, linger for a spell. Letís have a chat.

Big head mode -- Pick something good to talk about

Yeah, I know what youíre thinking. ďOf course what I have to say is good!Ē Youíre probably right. But just in the event that youíre instead actually very very wrong, you might still want to read on.

The thing about good topics is that they come and go. What might be a good topic today might be totally outdated and useless a year from now. Hell, maybe even a week. There are a lot of ways that you can avoid this. Use this as a sort of checklist:

Is my topic timely? If your whole point is related to a ďbig thingĒ that happened months ago, Iím willing to bet people have moved on.

Did someone beat you to it? Yeah, someone has probably already written something similar to your idea, but if you can find another post on the same thing in the blogs, best to try a new topic.

Do you actually have an interesting angle or approach? Yeah, Beyond Good and Evil is a cool game, but unless you have something new to say about why it is cool, maybe save that for your buddies who havenít played a videogame ever.

Can you hold a readerís attention for an entire blog with this topic? Yeah, Iíve had to kill cool blog ideas too because I just didnít have enough to say. It hurts, but itís for the best. Reevaluate your topic or leave it until later.

There are millions of other things that go into a good topic, so try this: keep track of which of your blog ideas get the best response. Your readers will tell you when you write something great. Or, check out other blogs that have been put on the front page. What did they do to make their topics awesome?

And hey, thereís always the monthly musing!



30 lives -- Fully form your opinion and state it early

So, youíre writing an editorial. Cool. Wait, what does that mean again?

Youíre trying to get an opinion across, right? Youíre trying to explain why you think that Dragon Ball is better than Dragon Age. Awesome. So that blog you just titled, ďThe thing about games with Dragon in the titleĒ has words in it and all, but apart from that, itís kind of shit. Howís that for an opinion?

Before you even start writing, be sure you understand what you really think. Do you just want to write something about Dragon Age 2 because it just came out, or have you been thinking lately about how way cool the Dragon Ball universe is and how totally boring the Dragon Age universe is? Can you guess which of these is going to make a blog that people actually read? Take some time to actually think about your topic, and youíll immediately see changes in how your blogs are received.

Of course, you canít forget to actually get people to understand why they should read your opinion, which is why a good title and first few paragraphs are so important. Yes, Iíve passed up well-written blogs for promotion because they either had a crappy title or didnít say what the blog was about in the first few paragraphs.

Why? You have to understand the average reader. They want to know exactly what a blog is about just by reading the title (hell, sometimes they just look at the header image and stop there). If they get past that, youíd better believe that theyíll be looking to fully understand what your point is before they link through to the full post.

I hate to sound like a high school composition teacher, but your post needs a thesis. It doesnít have to read like a college term paper, and it doesnít have to outline the rest of your five paragraph essay. You just need to clue us in to what the hell your point is.



Infinite time -- Write a damn intro

Your post needs to be introduced. Thereís no getting past this. This is true whether youíre writing for the front page, writing for your dog Skippy, or writing for that little box under your bed where you keep your dreams. Why is your intro so important? Because most people wonít read a word past it.

Yep, the sad thing about the Internet is that interest is lost faster than a leggy blondeís virginity at summer camp. Youíll never grab your readerís attention if you just launch into this crazy ass rant about why Grasshopper should make the next Call of Duty game.

Every blog should have two or three paragraphs that do nothing aside from frame the topic, grab the readers attention, and get them into the full meat of your topic. Look at any editorial post on the front page. What do you see? Two or three paragraphs. What do they do? You get the idea.

It may sound like nitpicking, but I canít promote a post that doesnít have an intro. Itís even just a logistics thing -- how am I supposed to convert your post into two separate parts: before the jump and after the jump? I canít write an intro for you, so Iíd have to just cut and paste the two first paragraphs before the jump. You can imagine how this could make a post seem disjointed, ugly, and unreadable. Bottom line? If I canít find a statement in the first few paragraphs that clearly gets across your point, itís not going on the front page.

So write your intro with the front-page format in mind even though the blogs follow a single-page format. Not only does it help me promote your stuff, but it also encourages good intro-writing habits. Bottom line?



Level select -- Stay on topic, damn you

I hate to speak in generalizations, but Iím going to say right now that a multiple-topic post is not going to make it to the front page. Are such posts bad? No, of course not. They just donít work on the front page. Ever.

So, if youíre writing for the front page, make sure that youíre following the chart you set for yourself in your intro. Sure, little digressions are fine, but you shouldnít start at Halo and end at how much you like drinking root beer with no pants on.

You might be compelled to say that you just donít have enough to say on one topic, but thatís almost never true. Think about the last time you got into a really good verbal discussion on a game. How long do you think you went on about that? Yeah, now consider this: you were speaking that shit. No time to prepare, no time to pause and consider your next thought. Think then how much you could write about that topic. A lot.
Just keep in mind that a scatterbrained post is hard to read, and people want depth, not a bunch of dips in the shallow end.

Infinite money -- Make it look good

If your post is ugly, I donít want to bother fixing it for promotion, and no one will bother to want to read it anyway. For more on this, jump over here. Do that. Itíll work.



Kill everything -- Be careful about series

So, you have a really cool idea for a blog series and you want every single one up on the front page. Easy, right? Yeah, not so much.

I love a really good series, but there are a few drawbacks to doing this. For one, the tendency is to subconsciously write as if everyone has already read the other entries in the series -- maybe you make a subtle reference to past writeups in the series or you donít fully explain what your point is because you assume itís implied in the ďseries.Ē Iíve written a lot of series pieces before, and Iím talking about my own mistakes here.

So, keep a couple of things in mind if youíre going to do a long series. First off, consider not using the series name in your titles. Instead, put it in a header image or just in the blog itself. This helps people approach it and not feel like theyíve missed something. Of course, once you establish the series, having people identify its name can be a big help -- just donít expect them to all be on the front page even if theyíre all awesome. Itís just not feasible.

Next, just approach your writing style as if each piece is totally self-contained and not a part of a series at all. Sure, they might be in the same style and perhaps even about the same subject, but donít make people play catch up just to enjoy your post. Make sure any post stands on its own somehow.

So, what should you take away from all this? Basically, you want to make your blog engaging, original, well-formatted, and timely. Itís easy enough to think youíre doing all these things, but the best way to know for sure is to read. Read front page editorials, read promoted community posts, and really start to pick them apart. Why were they chosen for promotion? What is editor x doing that helps people enjoy his writing?

And, above all, just write. Write daily if you have to.   read


1:05 PM on 04.11.2011  

How to donate to the Jonathan Holmes burglary fund

Hey everyone. We've received a few requests recently from people who wanted to donate something to Jonathan Holmes after hearing that his place had been broken in to and a bunch of awesome stuff had been stolen.

No idea what I'm talking about? A few weeks ago, Holmes got home to find his place had been burgled. He lost some pretty awesome stuff: his PS3, Wii, his computer, his video camera, some rare games, etc. He posted a few things about it on his Twitter.

Over the past few days, we've received a few requests from people who wanted to send in some donations to help out. Let me be clear: no one is actually asking for donations. We all realize that there are many, many things for you to donate to right now. However, we also didn't want to ignore the people who kept requesting a way to chip in.

So, if you're one of those people, here's what you can do. Paypal allows you to make donations to an email address, so you can do so to mrdestructoid at gmail dot com. Just be sure to specify that it's for Holmes. We'll make sure all of it goes to him.

If you need any more information, leave a comment below or email me at andrewkauz at destructoid dot com.   read


11:56 AM on 04.02.2011  

Interviewing the interviewer: A silly chat with LawofThermalDynamics



Why the hell would someone want to interview a bunch of people all the time? Yeah, stupid question, but it's that question that led me here today to present this interview to you, which is pretty contradictory if you think about it.

In any event, you know that guy who interviews community members? I think his name is LawofThermalPoopmatics or something. I'm about 38% certain that he's the guy to whom I sent a bunch of interview questions recently. Topics included racism, the results of the 2016 presidential elections of the United Republic of Earth, and mechanical dentistry. The answers were fascinating and enlightening, so I decided to keep those for a few years to myself and sell them for profit. What follows is a different set of questions. Please enjoy.



Kauza: To start off, remember that one time a bunch of community members sent a bunch of questions for you to answer? Should I ask those exact same questions in a slightly different order?

The Other Guy: Well I guess no, seeing as though I already answered them.

Now that we've acknowledged my unoriginality, let's talk about your originality. Interviewing community members is a pretty cool thing to do. But let's hear it from you -- why do it?

It was the community itself that made me want to do interviews. If I had to find an exact origin point I would say that a community member (and talented pianist) named AlphaDeus once wrote a blog detailing the pain and troubles in his life. It really opened my eyes that the people here were real, not just usernames and funny comments (Ignorant I know, but the anonymity on the internet really creates a distance between people) . They are also the most interesting people that I have ever met and it was because I wanted to get in contact with them that I started the interviews..

Tell us the story of how you came to Destructoid, but somehow incorporate a polar bear, two Lebanese prostitutes and a copy of The Rocketeer on DVD.

I was a researcher located in the North Pole studying mating habits of the Polar Bear when my satellite phone started ringing. Knowing only HQ had my number I picked it up expecting them to demand all the research I compiled so far. When I picked up the phone it was indeed HQ but instead of my research, they told me there was an emergency back home and I needed to rush to HQ as quickly as possible.

I arrived the next day to find the offices in shambles. It seems that for Faculty movie night, someone put in Rocketeer thinking it was a bio flick of Elton John. It was safe to assume that a riot by the employees tore the place apart.

They told me they needed something, but my mind already in Private Investigator mode, ignored them and went to the only reliable source I knew for shady operations such as the one I imagined myself to be in. Two Lebanese prostitutes. At first they played dumb and refused to tell me anything saying things like ďWhat are you talking about?Ē and ďYouíre crazy!Ē but money opens all holes (Pun not intended) (WellÖit is now). They told me they once had a client who wore a robot helmet and that he ran an information websiteÖ.of all sorts of shady dealings I assumed. Naturally I followed the trail to Destructoid. And I was never seen again.



Do you have a favorite interview that you've done? If you can't pick one, pick a couple.

Dammit, they all have their awesome moments, but if I had to pick a couple it would be Elsaís because it was my first interview and because I couldnít ask for a better start. Getting to know Elsa was enlightening to say the least.

Conversely, did you ever try to do an interview that ended up just turning into a total disaster? If not, make up a story of the time you tried to interview me while I was hopped up on pop rocks and cola. Actually, do that anyway.

I may actually have an answer to the first half of that question. Guncannon still hasnít turned in an interview even though I sent one to him like 5 months ago. Still waiting on that one buddy.

As for part 2. Letís seeÖ

Once I tried to interview Andrew Kauz, but something was wrong as he was jittery, and his eyes were unfocused (I did this interview in person). I first thought drugs, but then realized who I was interviewing and instead settled on the more likely explanation of sugar and caffeine. I then asked him ďHey, how about that Metal Gear?Ē

The next thing I remember, I woke up halfway through Street Fighter The Movie with no recollection of the past 4 days and copies of the Metal Gear games and Kauzís writings all around me. And my wallet was gone.



Think you'll ever run out of people to interview? If so, what happens then?

My fear is that I wonít be able to interview everyone because there are so many of them I want to interview. Iíve resigned myself to the fact that I wonít be able to do this forever and when that time comes Iíll probablyÖI donít know what Iíll doÖbut for now, I'd rather not think about it.

What's one question that you've always wished someone would ask you in an interview?

Q: Can a swallow carry a coconut?

What's the answer to the one question that you've always wished someone would ask you in an interview?

A: Depends on the swallow.

The Internet has many gifts to give. What's the greatest gift the Internet has ever given you?

The world.

Honestly, thanks to the internet I've come into contact with so many people with similar, dissimilar; stories, creativity, art, information, Destructoid, friends I've moved away from, friends I've met for the first time, humor, videos, music, funny pictures. Everything anyone in the world can think of at the tip of my fingertips.

If you could sum yourself up in one image you randomly find from a Google images search, what would that image be?

  read


9:05 AM on 03.30.2011  

What's your favorite PC game?



Alienware has a cool community opportunity coming up for all of you -- something E3 related, if that gives you a good hint. So, how do you get involved? Great question.

If you want to be a part of this, start off by writing a C Blog about what your favorite PC game is and why. You can pick a specific game, a series, a genre -- whatever you think is best. Make sure to go into detail; don't just list it off and stop there. We need detail, images, and something interesting to read. Then, tag your post with the Alienware tag you see down under the "tag your post" drop down.

Next? Stay tuned, as an official announcement is coming soon. The mystery! The intrigue! What could it all mean?   read


10:06 PM on 03.28.2011  

C Blog cheat codes: How to do your first post



While your first blog at Destructoid isnít the best, most important blog youíll ever write here, itís close. A good first impression is key with the community here; take it from someone who didnít give a good first impression. Sure, my first post had words and all, but not much apart from that. It was a wall of text from a person that no one knew.

See the problem there?

So today, Iíd like to welcome you to a little series Iíll be doing here called Cblog Cheat Codes, and todayís topic is going to be for all you lurkers out there: how does one pull off a successful first post? The good news is that it really isnít all that hard.

God Mode -- Write an intro blog or fill out your profile.

If youíve not yet really ďparticipatedĒ in the community here, you might be surprised at how close we are. We chat all the time, go on podcasts with each other, and hang out in real life. This might seem scary to a newbie, but rest assured that weíre ready to welcome you to all of this. We just need some help.

Mainly, we need to know who you are. Pull this off in one of two ways: make your very first Cblog here simply an intro post where you spend some serious time telling us who you are and what makes you someone that we want to hang out with. A few paragraphs is really the minimum -- any less and you wonít give us a good idea of who you are. Have an awesome blog idea that just canít wait? No problem -- just be sure to fill out your profile before you post it, and follow the same guidelines as above. People will be much more willing to read your posts if they have even a general idea of what youíre like, why youíre here, and whether or not you suck.



Infinite Ammo -- For the love of god, use images.

Yep, I screwed this particular pooch on my first post. Got all my words together, put them in a post, picked a title, got too lazy for pictures, and posted.

Imagine if Destructoidís front page were like that! This place would be gone in a matter of days.

Thereís a good reason for that: pictures make things look better. They give the eyes a break from text, they give large blocks of text a greater sense of organization and a smaller sense of confinement, and they give color to an otherwise colorless area.

Honestly, what images you choose is far less important than simply using them. At the same time, you want to find something thatís appealing, high-res, and relevant to your content. Make sure your post starts with an image, and if you have a lot of text, throw in a few more to break everything up. Just donít use too many -- this ainít a pop up book. Lastly, donít forget to make them a respectable size so your post doesnít look like a kindergarten art project.

Invisibility -- Pay attention to your spelling, grammar, and formatting.

Again, this is one that you just need to attempt. Your first post might not be a shining example of proper MLA style and format, and you donít need to have your English class proofread it for you. Just show us that youíre trying.

Best advice? Just make your post as if you expected it to be on the front page of Destructoid. Itís extremely easy to read a few editorsí posts and see how we style the posts here. Itís similarly easy to take an extra five minutes to skim your post again to make sure you didnít accidentally forget to use the space bar. If your first post looks like ass, every reader that loads it is going to close it, and when your avatar pops up in the Cblogs for your second post, no one will bother opening it. Donít do your content a disservice by making it look or read like crap.



No Clipping -- Say something that people want to read

Iím sorry, but no one wants to read yet another article about whether games are art. No one cares anymore. No one wants to know that you played Double Dragon for the first time in years last night and that you still liked it okbai. And no one wants to read your repost of that news article that was posted on another site a week ago.

You really can post just about anything in your Cblog, but it really needs to take into account who your readers are: a group of extremely varied gamers with high expectations and a low threshold for bullshit. If thereís some popular topic that people have been writing about, you had better be prepared to approach it from an angle that no one else yet has. If you want to write about a game you really like, you had better have something more to say than, ďI like it because itís fun.Ē

Just take your time and make sure what youíre saying is something youíd find interesting to read if the roles were reversed.

Hope all you future blog all stars find this helpful. And for all of your readers out there, if youíve got some tips for those first blogs, share them here in the comments.   read


11:43 PM on 03.25.2011  

State of the Cblogs Address from the new Big Boss



In the interest of your time and to save some tl;drs, Iíll start off today with a summary: Iím Andrew Kauz, and Iím your new Cblog Commander, Blog Boss, or whatever you want to call me. In any event, Iím taking over as the main cblog helper on staff. That means if youíre a community member, I work for you. If youíre reading this right now, then what I have to say next will absolutely apply to you, so I urge you to stick with me for just a while longer.

I know a lot of you arenít going to know who I am. Iíve missed two straight PAXs now, been gone from the front page for a few months, and kept myself insanely busy doing a lot of things that havenít been Destructoid. So, if youíre reading my name for the first time, hello. Itís a damn pleasure to meet you, and Iíll look forward to getting to know you over the next couple of months. As for me, you can call me Andrew, Kauza (like cause-uh), or whatever youíd like. I spent about a year blogging like a madman before I became a contributor here, and now Iím here to talk about community.

And, really, thatís enough about me. This post is really about you -- all of you. The community. The thing that defines, motivates, and simply makes Destructoid. The reason Iím here, the reason youíre here, and the reason any one of us is here. It is, was, and always will be about community.

A huge part of the community here has always been and will always be the community blogs. Many of the people on Destructoidís staff, including myself, got started simply by writing in the community blogs. We all loved writing and appreciated having people we liked read what we had to say. We thrived on an environment that was at once supportive and ruthless, letting us know when we were awesome, and relishing the opportunity to inform us of when we sucked.

As the blogs got bigger, they became more and more like a Republicanís dream economy: self-guided, self-sufficient, and everlasting. For the most part, all of this has remained true. Less and less direction is required to make sure that the blogs keep going, and if youíll notice, there are tons of great community podcasts (321GoCast, Zero Cool), community events (Friday Night Fights, NARPS, event meetups), community member interviews (HUGE shoutout to LawofThermalDynamics for doing this), monthly musings, and individual editorials that appear every day. Think for a second about how awesome that all is! There can be no doubt that this community is incredible.

Now, letís make everything even better.

Thatís my mission, and thatís why Iím taking over as Cblog Baron. Itís going to be my sole purpose at Destructoid to be the person who makes all of your cblogging dreams happen, making sure that you have everything you need to write the great blogs you want, and to make sure that no great blog ever goes unappreciated.

Thereís going to be a lot that Iíll be doing over the next few days, and weeks, but here are some highlights.

Monthly Musings: These are still going strong, so Jonathan Ross will be keeping the tradition going with some awesome new topics and a lot of promoted blogs. As an added bonus, these posts are going to be even more visible on the site, making them stand out just as a promoted community post should. If there are any questions or concerns with musings, Iíll always be willing to help.

General Promotions: Great blogs happen all the time, and we want to make sure weíre highlighting those. While we may not always have the front page real estate to get every awesome blog up, Iíll be highlighting a lot of blogs in various ways, from tweets to various posts around the site. Of course, for those especially awesome posts, weíll find a way to get them on the front page if it kills us.

Blogs of the Week: Each week, youíll see a post from me highlighting some of the best blogs of the week. Itíll be a set maximum each week, so if you see your blog here, youíll know itís among the best the site has to offer, and we want to make sure weíre giving you the readership that your awesomeness deserves.

Asking for It: Yeah, it seems simple, but here it is: We want your blogs. We always have. But what Iíd like to do is be more vocal in my want -- my demand -- for community participation. I have read so damn many great, rewarding, memorable blogs from people on this site that I canít bear to see their names empty from the list of blogs anymore. Donít be surprised if I start contacting you and asking you to write things -- it means that youíre awesome and we canít live without your thoughts anymore.

Featured Blogs: This may not happen for a while, but weíre looking into more ways to make sure that blogs that the community really likes are featured. This may be an extension of the fap system or something else entirely, but for the present, know that weíre trying to find the best way to make sure your work is easily visible to the full sum of the siteís readership.

More staff presence in blogs: Dtoid staff is busy. Making website is hard work. Still, the staff loves the community blogs just as much as anyone, and make no mistake that everyone on staff checks out those awesome blogs. But weíre all going to make an effort to make more comments, write more blogs, and generally do more community chilling. That awesome new chat function helps, too. As for specifics, Iíll plan to make an occasional blog thatíll address certain things about cblogging such as helpful tips, shoutouts to awesome bloggers, etc.

YOUR Resource: Iím making myself available as your resource for community blogging. Let me know what you need and Iíll get it done. Tips on formatting? Help with images? Wondering why your post didnít get promoted? Hit me up and weíll talk. It may be impossible, but itís my goal to know everyone in the community.

So, what now? First off, I want to give everyone here my email address: andrewkauz at destructoid dottycom. If you need anything from me, donít hesitate to contact me. Also, follow me on Twitter: @kauza. Iím going to be tweeting about a lot of awesome community stuff as well as being my usual charming self.

In particular, Iíd love to hear your suggestions for awesome community blogging ideas -- anything I can do to make your blogging experience better is fair game. I donít have magical powers, but I am willing to try everything else to make your wishes reality. Any suggestion is fair game, so go nuts.

You can also use me as a sort of help line for the blogs. Is your video not scaling right? Are you having trouble uploading images? Let me know and Iíll see what I can do to help. My schedule can suck on occasion, but Iíll try to get back to you ASAP.

Lastly, just feel free to email me to say hi. I have so many incredible friends thanks to this site, and I canít wait to have even more. The better I know each one of you, the better I am able to help you out, and the better youíll feel about blogging for the site. Win win.

All right. Iíve talked myself nearly into a coma and this fantastic Mothership Wit I have in front of me is making me feel a little happy, so Iím going to wrap things up for the evening by saying this: Welcome to the future of Cblogging on Destructoid. Itís going to be awesome.

PS: Did you read this promoted post about Half Life 2? Pretty damn good.   read


10:48 PM on 05.11.2010  

A swag story in pictures: The Revenge of Atari



11:30 PM on 03.30.2010  

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose: A PAX East Blog



Yes, I'm using a football-related quote for my PAX East blog. But, at plenty of people have said in the past, it's extremely difficult to put your first PAX experience into words. At the same time, this was my first gaming event at all, and my first time attending something as "press." Essentially, this trip encapsulated everything that I am striving for in my life. So, yes, I hope you can excuse me if I must rely a bit on someone else's words.

But the end result of this trip is that I am left with clear eyes and a very full heart. I've never been so satisfied with a decision as I am to have traveled from the Southwest to the Northeast for four days of debauchery and JASON.

I joined Destructoid somewhere around this time last year, posting my first c-blog on the final day of April. Since then, I've come to understand that the joining of Destructoid is not a moment to take lightly. Those moments in which your fingers fly across the keyboard don't represent the creation of an account. Even saying that it's the joining of a community doesn't cover it. It's an opportunity. It's a doorway. It's a beginning.

For me, it has been a journey that, nearly a year later, seems to have been leading me toward a world that I dreamed about as a child, responding to printed documents in middle school asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was being serious, I would sometimes respond "radiologist" or "anesthesiologist." When I was being silly, I would say "I want to work with videogames." I kept this dream to myself for years, feeling embarrassed when I thought my friends or family might find out. I read GamePro, EGM, Nintendo Power, and so on, and I secretly wondered what it would be like to be surrounded by these sorts of people, those who were unashamed to admit that they loved videogames, and had every intention of structuring their lives to include them.

Registering on Destructoid was essentially the beginning of my journey toward the conclusion that, yes, I am justified in structuring my life in such a way, and I am unashamed. I "worked" at this convention they call PAX, finding myself in booths, hotel rooms, and press rooms, all the while doing what some might call work. Coming from two and a half years at the very definition of a dead end job, it felt like a life that belonged to someone else. It's a life that essentially began and ended at PAX, but for this brief, syncopated (to steal a word from Sentry) moment, I felt a sense of enhanced vision. I saw an entire world that I had only dreamed existed, and best of all, I got to participate in it. And I don't care how small a part of it I was, or how silly others think it may be: it was fucking fantastic.

But while I played and wrote by day, I filled my heart with memories by night. I got an early start on Thursday by meeting up with Danl Haas on the plane, and ending in near silence on a bus with Hamza. In fact, in that final bus ride, Hamza commented that we were both very quiet. On that Monday morning, my heart had truly been filled to capacity, and my mood had fully shifted to a sort of melancholic reflection. As we went our separate ways and I was essentially alone for the first time in four days, I felt far sadder than I had anticipated. With a Dunkin' Donuts coffee in one hand and my laptop on my lap, I sat in the near-empty terminal thinking of everything that hadn't quite fit into my girly purple wheelie bag or brown messenger bag.

I hadn't been able to fit all of the wonderful friendships that I immediately made, both among those who I have been talking to nearly daily since I joined the site, to those I had never spoken to before. No, they would have required far more than Southwest's comparatively liberal baggage allowance. Names innumerable, all tied for the first time to a living, breathing face. Bodies I embraced at first sight without the slightest hesitation.

I hadn't included the beautiful streets we walked together, the songs we sang, the JASONs we screamed, the beers we drank, the dicks we drew on Pictochat, and the really bad (and sometimes very good) food we ate.

So, what is the ultimate sum of this experience? I don't know that I can even guess at that yet. I know I have left Boston with quite a few more friends, and not just in the "I met you once and then added you on Facebook" brand of friend. I know that the experience is a marker on the correct path for me, one that I hope fate will allow me to tread again very soon.

You truly can't lose being a part of this community.

Does it get better than this? Oh, hell, I don't think it does. Soak it in.















































  read


11:33 AM on 02.16.2010  

An ode to the videogame password, part 1: Icarus, Samus, and the musical penis



If you flip to the back of your average game manual, you might find a window into the past, hinting at simpler, more infuriating times. If you're lucky, your instruction manual might have a section of blank pages labeled "notes." If you purchased your game used from Gamestop (and were lucky enough to actually get an instruction manual), you might find hand-drawn pictures of ejaculating penises and stick figure copulation.

This is not the intended use of notes pages, of course. Long ago, back before hard drives and autosaves, games relied upon passwords to allow players to retrieve their progress at a later time. Long strings of letters, numbers, and even pictures filled the lines, becoming messes of pencil marks and eraser shavings. A lost or improperly copied password sometimes meant hours of lost progress.

But not all was amiss in the land of passwords. They allowed us to access the wonders of games, giving us abilities far beyond what we had ever dreamed. God modes, flight, and ammunition immeasurable were just a few button presses away, spawning a new category of password forever known as the cheat code. For every pound of password pain, there was a morsel of password pleasure.

The age of the password was short, lasting only until games like The Legend of Zelda adopted an integrated save system. This is a tribute to that age, in all of its splendor and horror.




Passwords seem innocent enough; In this digital age of identity theft and pornographic pay sites, we all have to manage dozens of passwords. They're often stupid, akin to using "password" as your password. Which I definitely don't do for Destructoid. Of course not.

The case used to be fairly similar for videogame passwords. The above password for Kid Icarus, ICARUS ANDTHE ARROWS FLYING, is a real password in the game. It's kind of poetic in a "what the fuck is this shit" kind of way. But it falls into a category that many early videogame passwords did: the lets-make-our-passwords-say-stupid-shit category. Not quite the simplicity of the four-digit passwords of Adventure Island II or the completely unrelated idiocy of President Skroob's luggage combination, but it's a stark contrast to many of the passwords in other games.

You know, like Metroid. The original NES entry into the series was actually very similar to the system used by Kid Icarus. Thanks to the huge number of different states that the game can be started in (based on location, possessed power ups, etc.), the game required a nice 24-character password full of alphabet vomit. Most passwords were just random strings of nonsense.

However, Metroid became famous for some of the unusual passwords that were discovered purely on accident thanks to the game's use of algorithmic passwords. For instance, there's "some-1 set-up us-the B0MB11," which is sort of kind of close to that one funny thing from that one videogame that everyone knows about. Then there's the famous JUSTIN BAILEY code, which started Samus without a suit. There's actually a T-shirt with this code on it. That's the only female to ever wear that shirt, by the way. Verified fact.

Despite the joy of algorithmic password discovery, you can imagine what a chore it would be to keep track of 24-character strings multiple times over the span of a typical playthrough. The passwords were huge and annoying, and there wasn't a damn thing you could do about it except for dig your pencil into your thigh as you struggled to figure out if those were Os or 0s.

The only thing more huge and annoying (besides my penis, which likes to put on a top hat and sing Slipknot songs whenever I'm around old people) were the passwords for GT Advance Championship Racing. The game was originally developed in Japan for the Game Boy Advance, using a battery to save the game's state. However, presumably to cut costs, the battery was left out for the NTSC version, replaced with 16-character abominations like 0i$rf+r4YHf4e++.

I don't know about you, but when I play a portable game, I'm not really interested in carrying around a notebook that's larger than the god damn videogame console that I'm playing simply so that I can access my sweet new tires. And as one IGN reviewer put it back in 2001 (Jesus, passwords were still used in 2001?), if you put in a t and a +, and your handwriting isn't the stuff of the gods, then you'll likely stumble around trying to get the password right, and finally succeed right as your bus ride ends.



OK, so when it comes to length, there actually is something that's even more horrifying than Mr. Growly Fred Astaire Wannabe up there: the RPG. Swords and Serpents, released in 1990, was a dungeon crawler that put you in charge of a party of four, slaying and slaying your way through 16 levels and, eventually, the titular serpent. However, before all of the stabbing, you started with a lovely 12-character password.

12-characters, you say? I eat pieces of shit like 12-character passwords for breakfast!

Well, sir, I hope you have the stomach of Crazy Legs Conti, because another 12-character password follows right behind the first.

And another.

And another.

And another.

Indeed, a total of five passwords were needed for a four-character party in Swords and Serpents, four representing the stats of each of your characters and one for the overall game progress. In total, sixty characters had to be entered to continue your game. I imagine you'd spend more time inputting passwords than actually playing the game. You could alternatively fill up a piŮata with Alpha-Bits and go to town, and you'd get a similar experience, only without the hemorrhoids.

Yet some developers weren't content with using those stupid Latin characters that all of the other developers were using, so they came up with their own brilliant ideas. See Exhibit A below.



Of course, you'll recognize this as one of the password screens from the Mega Man series. It's not so bad. Rather than letters and numbers, this series opted to put its balls on the screen in strategic locations. Really, it's nothing more than a glorified letter and number system, only it makes you think, sort of like multiplication, only with more balls. Yeah, pretty much just like multiplication.

As a side note, I used to actually draw out the grids. I'd get out my paper, make up the grid, and copy the balls into it. For every god damn boss. Why? You'd have to ask 7-year-old me. It might have been all of the gin.

Lastly is perhaps the oddest of the password systems. Because balls are just so passť, the Genesis game Stargate decided to be extra classy and use hieroglyphics.



Yeah, so that's really necessary. If anything, it gave you a good chance to channel your inner Ancient Egyptian, copying down the symbols in exquisite detail. Or, you know, you could just write a word for what you thought each picture looked like. "Triangle with nipple, archway with vagina, triangle with nipple, Egyptian goatse, seagull three-way, triangle with nipple, archway with vagina." Your parents might find your notes and wonder if you've been sniffing glue again, but it's better than learning what that shit means. Remember, kids, no cheating by using that silly Internet thing! That's where the child molesters live.

I'm sure there are plenty more password systems that were just as ridiculous as those here. But I'd wager that the horror of the password nonsense found here is enough to make you praise your memory cards--even the ones that magically erased themselves or got eaten by your epileptic dog Sporky.

Not all uses of passwords have been quite as evil as these, however. The happier side of passwords and their evolution, however, will have to wait until another day. I have a piŮata shaped like three mating seagulls and filled with sweet marshmallow password fodder to bash. I think I'll tie three NES controllers together and use it like a flail. Until next time.   read


10:00 AM on 11.23.2009  

Thoughts on death and immersion



Death is an inevitability in life and in games alike, and in both we try to prolong the time that we get to spend on Earth, on Mars, in Hell, or in some generic fantasy land. Whether it's life over or game over, we struggle to persist, doing what is necessary to extend our time just a little longer. We may even extinguish other lives to pursue this selfish goal, yet at the end of it all, nothing has changed. Death is still coming. We may run from it, but it will eventually catch up to us. Death is a Kenyan.

Games are different in one important way: we have not one, but many opportunities to experience death. The gift of perpetual life is granted to us in the form of restart options, respawns, and arcade change machines. In nearly every game we play, death is not permanent. We have start at the beginning of a level, the last checkpoint, or even the very spot at which we made some fatal error. I can't imagine that many gamers are not thankful that these are the rules of life and death that we are governed by.

But when we pull some stupid shit and get ourselves killed, there's an inherent problem that crops up every time: we are taken out of the experience. Call it breaking immersion, or simply losing concentration if the term immersion isn't your bag, but the fact is that nothing is able to remove us more quickly from the body of a game character than death. It's comparable to watching a movie, approaching a climactic, action-filled moment, and accidentally having your friend sit his dumb ass right on the remote, skipping back a chapter on the DVD. You're no longer engaged in what you're watching, and your enjoyment of the moment is replaced by a sense of bewilderment that the jackass still can't take a quick peek at his target before hurtling toward it ass-first.

So, if we can agree that death is the ultimate immersion-breaker, can we suggest that the most immersive game would be one without death? And, no, I don't mean Nintendo's "Super Guide." I mean that a narrative-driven game that relies upon some incredibly immersive moments could benefit from keeping players fully inserted into the bodies of the characters that they're controlling. Yet a full-fledged narrative gaming experience without any danger of failure seems like an impossibility, especially for those types of games that we generally consider immersive. But is there any validity to this idea? I think so, but read on to see why I'm not ready to inject myself with the Jesus serum just yet.




Immediately upon starting to think about this topic, I was reminded of some of the best moments from Uncharted 2. Be forewarned that I will talk about some specific scenes, so this might be slightly spoilery. They're both very different scenes in context, length, and intensity. But they both share one thing in common: they're absolutely enthralling--the sorts of scenes in which you can't believe you get to participate.

The first of which is the opening Dangling Train scene, which is my unofficial official name for it because it reminds me of dangly parts. Anyway, if you were able to take your eyes off of the screen for even a moment in your first playthrough of this section, then you either have a lazy eye, are blind, or had a seizure. For everyone else, I imagine that you shared in my joy as you scaled the interior and exterior of the hanging train car. And if you're fortunate, you got through it unscathed.

The second is the now-famous collapsing building scene, for which I do not have a suggestive title. It's a fairly short scene compared with the full experience of the game, and before you have a chance to fully appreciate just how incredible the moment is, it is over. Just as the supports begin to give way and you realize, against all odds, that you are still in control, you begin that treacherous descent, hopefully making your way safely through the window and onto more stable ground in the next building. Honestly, with Chad's fantastic writeup about this moment, I won't go into any further detail on it, because no further detail is left.

Perhaps your experience was not the same, as I know it's quite possible to die in both of these places. But accounting for all of my many deaths in that game, not one of them was in either of these scenes. It also just so happens that, looking back, I was most engrossed in the game at these two points. Sure, correlation does not imply causality, but in this case, I think I can make a pretty damn strong case for causality.



Let's start with the obvious: death reminds us that we're simply playing a game. Sure, we never truly forget this. It's not as if the illusion is strong enough to make us believe otherwise, but in a truly immersive moment, we simply fail to care about the distinction. It's simply an experience, and a damn impressive one at that. However, the moment that death strikes and we're treated to a "game over" screen or simply an automatic restart from a checkpoint, this momentary feeling in us is destroyed. Sure, we're ready to try again, but immersion can't be regained instantly after it is broken. It needs time to develop, and each death means yet another lost opportunity to keep yourself immersed.

Above all else, death gives us a moment to think. When you die in a game, whether it is your fault or not, a certain amount of frustration sets in. You may curse the game, your AI companions, your own lack of skill, or any number of things. Soon enough, your mind wanders everywhere but the experience you're supposed to be having. Upon your next retry of that difficult section, you'll likely begin to plan out how you're going to avoid those deaths of the past. At this point, your approach to the game changes. You're no longer concerned with being immersed. You're simply concerned with making progress.

If you think I'm suggesting that death be removed from games, you're wrong. After all, where would a game like Demon's Souls be, where much of the game's appeal relies upon death and its constant threatening presence? And where would all games be without a difficult final battle, where the epic quality comes from the difficulty in taking down the world's greatest enemy? No, games absolutely still need death, difficulty, and a sense of dread.

Instead, I think that game designers can carefully plan the places at which a player can die. A lack of death can most benefit those scenes like the one's I described above, where death would not significantly add to the fun of the game, and instead would lead to a loss of immersion and, in the long run, a less enjoyable experience with those scenes. I can only imagine how death would have affected my enjoyment of, say, the crumbling building scene. Had I attempted to jump to the next building and instead jumped awkwardly into the wall, I guarantee that I would view that scene very differently in its aftermath. Its effect would be greatly lessened.

So, my proposition is simple: take those incredible, cinematic moments, and make sure that we experience them as they're intended to be seen. Many have described moments in Uncharted 2 as "cut scenes that you play," and I think this is fair. Just as a cut scene has one definitive version of the experience, these cinematic moments can eschew death to ensure that we experience that one definitive version.

Afterward, the game can go back to punishing us in whatever way it seems fit. We'll be too awestruck by what we just experienced to care.   read







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