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Andrew Kauz's blog

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.


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

9:24 AM on 11.09.2009

Thank you for calling the Review Score Crisis Helpline

Thank you for calling the Review Score Crisis Helpline. For English, press 1. For Nerdrage, press 2.

[happy music] You have reached the Review Score Crisis Helpline, your devoted friend in this time of crisis. This is the main menu. Your call is very important to you, so please refrain from hanging yourself with your wireless controller until you've listened to all of the following menu options.

If you have recently read a bad review of a game that you have an irrationally strong emotional connection to, please press 1.

If you are a console fanboy upset by the high score of a game on another console, please press 2.

If you are thinking of leaving an angry comment regarding a recent review, please press 3.

If you are thinking of writing an angry blog in response to a recent review, please press 4.

If you are angry about a review score but have not read a word of the text, please press 5.

If you have sworn off a website based on a review score, please press 6.

If you are experiencing number meaning confusion, please press a number no lower than 9, or we may not be able to process your call properly.

[ding] We understand that you have recently read a bad review of a game that you have an irrationally strong emotional connection to. We are very sorry to hear about your situation, and we promise to get you through this tough time. In fact, you may consider yourself very lucky: if you have selected this option, you have yet to do something unwise about your situation. We're here to make sure that you never do.

First, close your eyes and count to ten. When you open your eyes, envision all of the things that caused you to have this emotional connection to this game. Unless you worked on the game personally, you should see nothing at all. Good! You're on your first step to getting over your irrational emotional connection.

There may be some lingering emotional feelings. This is perfectly natural, and it's nothing to be alarmed about. However, you want to get rid of those feelings as soon as possible. We recommend ending the call and visiting your local game store. There, you may procure a copy of the game for yourself, play it, and form an intelligent opinion. This may take some practice, but once you master it, you'll find that the bad review can't hurt you inside anymore.

[ding] We understand that you are a console fanboy upset by the high score of a game on another console. This is a serious problem, so please stay on the line.

You may be a young player. This is OK. Some of us grow up much earlier than others, and if you're still thinking these dark thoughts, it doesn't mean that your life can't be saved. But it won't be easy. A young person cannot grow into a mature gamer overnight, but there are many steps that you can take to get over yourself.

First, bear in mind that you are not being subtle. Your minor jabs here and there do not go unnoticed by your preferred gaming community, and your overall angry demeanor is quite visible. Denying that you have a problem will only make that problem more apparent to onlookers. Acceptance is the first step in your recovery.

Once you have acknowledged your problem, your recovery process will be accelerated tenfold. Yet there is even more for you to do. Seek out the assistance of friends and family. They may have recognized your problem long before you did, and friends tend to be affected terribly by your fanboyism. They'll be waiting with open, glowing disc slots to help you get over your condition.

If you require additional help immediately, please schedule an appointment with one of our trained Fanboyism Extraction Specialists. Please note that your recovery may involve playing games for enjoyment and learning to use strange, foreign controllers.

[ding] We understand that you are thinking of leaving an angry comment regarding a recent review. We are glad that you have sought help before making this tragic decision. Please keep your hands off the keyboard until we have had an opportunity to talk you through this difficult time.

You may be thinking that leaving an angry comment will solve all of your problems, and that it will make your dark feelings go away. But such a rash action will not solve anything. It will not make the pain go away, for the pain is not contained in the review. It is in your heart. You are broken.

But there is hope! You can rid yourself of the darkness in your heart if you try. Reading a bad review doesn't have to bring your inner demons to the surface. If you fight them--if you fight the urge to post that scathing comment--you can eventually defeat them. The darkness in your heart will disappear, and you'll be able to contentedly accept opinions that differ from your own. Stay strong! You can do this!

[ding] We understand that you are thinking of writing an angry blog in response to a recent review. You may want to consider using the nearest firearm on your computer case as a preventative measure. You're about to make the biggest mistake of your life.

What would your family think? Imagine if your father were to walk in on you as you were writing an angry response. You'd try to hide your screen in shame, but he would know. It would change you both forever. Shame would fill your eyes at the very sight of him. Word would spread to the rest of your family, and your friends, and soon, you would be known as "that guy" all across the Internet.

Don't be that guy. The best way to not be thought of as a gaming invalid is to not do something stupid. So close that browser window and begin your rehabilitation.

[ding] We understand that you are angry about a review score but have not read a word of the text. You are unlikely to listen to any of the advice recorded onto this service, so we will now play soothing music with subliminal mental encouragement in the hopes that you might learn what all of those crazy symbols on those websites mean, and how enriching they might be to your life.

Listen, and let the music change you. You are better than rash reactions to numbers.

[ding] We understand that you have sworn off a website based on a review score. We're sorry to inform you that there's little that we can do for you. An agent will be by to confiscate your cable or DSL modem shortly. Since you'll likely end up swearing off every other site, we might as well make it easy on you. If your threats were hollow, perhaps you should not have cried wolf.

[ding] We understand that you are experiencing number meaning confusion. Numbers, like words, are very hard, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Luckily, you only have ten of these cryptic symbols to learn, so let's get started right away.

Though you may be surprised to hear this, there are, in fact, more numbers than simply 7, 8, 9, and 10. Yes, truly! This opens up a whole new world, as no longer do you have to regard a seven as the lowest possible score in the rating spectrum.

Indeed, numbers start at 1, or zero, depending on the particular site. Those numbers are very bad numbers. Even two, three, and four could be considered quite bad by most people. You should learn to keep these numbers in your mind at all times. If you do not see these numbers before you, the horror that they suggest shouldn't enter your mind. Soon, those sevens and eights won't seem so terrible to you anymore!

Better yet, you can learn to acknowledge those crazy words that accompany the numbers. This may not be easy at first, as it is so much easier for your brain to understand those simple numeric characters. But imagine the possibilities of a life with words! Don't let numbers become your prison. Break free, and frolic in a meadow of philological bliss.

We are glad that you called the Review Score Crisis Helpline in your time of crisis. Have a nice day.   read

5:15 PM on 11.03.2009

Uncharted 2 and the burden of excellence

Much has been said about how much Uncharted 2 does right. The Destructoid review offers a ton of praise for the game, especially its ability to offer thrilling moment after thrilling moment, keeping your adrenaline pumping and your controller gripped tightly in your hands. These moments are truly excellent.

Yet this excellence, for me, proves to also be one of the more disappointing things about Uncharted 2; not the excellence itself, but the moments in which the game doesnít offer the same level of quality as its high points. Indeed, Uncharted 2 seems torn between the incredible scripted thrills that it offers a couple of times per level, and the same tired, poorly done shooting that leaves the player feeling unsatisfied.

Iím not here to review Uncharted 2 for you, but rather to look at a specific issue that the game brings upóhow excellence ends up making something ďgoodĒ feel simply mediocre. Iíll be discussing specific scenes from the game, just to warn you.

Itís my feeling that the majority of the incredible moments in Uncharted 2 are made so excellent largely due to how they look; theyíre visual wonders, taking our breath away much like the view from a snowy mountaintop does.

Take the example of the opening train sequence: one that contains so many incredible scripted events that, as Nick suggest in his review, it instantly propels itself above the somewhat lacking ďadventureĒ films of recent memory. You instantly feel as if youíre participating in a truly grand adventure.

Much of this feeling is due to the visuals, both technically, artistically, and what Iíll call ďsituationallyĒ for lack of a better word. Itís fairly apparent that Uncharted 2 is an incredible game visually, and these three elements combine to make it leaps and bounds above other recent games.

First off, the screenshots of this game show of just what the team was able to pull of technically. Whether the characters are inside or outside, everything looks incredible. Textures are fantastic, characters move fluidly (for the most part), and environments look impressive.

Similarly, the artistic side of the game is quite extraordinary. Dilapidated cities have the look and feel of real dwellings, and old temples, despite having seemingly been built with Drake and his jumping ability in mind, have some incredible designs. But perhaps the most effective artistic choices are related to camera angles and movements, giving the game a far more cinematic feel than any game before it.

When youíre in control of your character, the camera is in constant movement, especially during those heavily scripted events Iíve referred to before. But letís take a simple example of squeezing through a crack in the landscape. This is necessary a few times during the game, and while itís an incredibly basic and, frankly, meaningless action, Naughty Dog has managed to make it look exciting simply through the use of camera movement. As Drake approaches the crack, the camera sweeps extremely close to Drake, showing both him and the crevice itself in extreme detail. You can see every body movement required of Drake as he squeezes through, and you even share in the feeling of contorting your body to pass through the crack.

But whatís most important to the overall quality of Uncharted 2 are the situational visuals that pop up in scripted events, and theyíre the things that make an event like the opening train climb so thrilling. To offer an example, the struggle of climbing the hanging train car ends just as the rest of the train is falling off of the cliff, and Drake must make a last-second jump from the falling car to the cliff. If the scene sounds incredible, youíd be right, and the best part is that youíre in full control throughout, from rushing past the seats as the angle of the car rapidly approaches vertical to the last-second jump.

The visual details here are the main source of excitement. Chunks of rock and snow fall as the car slips closer and closer to its inevitable plummet, sparks fly as metal grinds on metal, and the camera remains in constant motion, getting closer to, getting farther away from, and sweeping around Drake. Even as Drakeís grip on the cliff slips, and control is finally taken from the player, the sequence remains completely gripping. The camera lags behind Drakeís movement, making it appear that he has fallen from the cliff.

These are the moments that define Uncharted 2, yet they are, for the most part, moments that last for no more than, well, a moment. Put together, their sum provides one of the most compelling experiences this year, but not all is well in Naughty Dogís well-crafted world.

The core mechanics of the gameówhat remains when all of the incredible visual qualities are stripped awayóare far less compelling. In essence, the game mixes jumping and climbing with cover-based gun battles, very similarly to the way that the previous entry in the series did. Is there anything inherently wrong with this? No.

But the fact of the matter is that those levels in which youíre simply progressing from point A to point B, jumping over and shooting anything in your path, pale in comparison to those heavily scripted events like the one described above. Your average firefight against the gameís bullet-sponge enemies simply doesnít elicit the same excitement.

But in my disappointment over the regular jumping and shooting, I realized something: thereís nothing bad about them. Plenty of other games, like Borderlands, have bullet-sponge enemies. Prince of Persia made nearly an entire game out of jumping, and I thought it was great. So whatís the problem here?

The excellence of parts of the game was making much of it feel quite a bit worse to me. Itís something, as the title suggests, that I started to think of as the burden of excellence. If youíre going to make some sections of your game so unforgettably awesome, you must also be prepared for how it will affect the rest of your game. Here, unfortunately, I feel that itís a negative effect. Parts of the game that are simply good seem mediocre or even poor simply because our expectations are raised so high.

Of course, I donít want to suggest that Uncharted 2 fucked up by being so damn awesome. I still consider it to be a fantastic game, and among the best this year. But it does show us the danger of putting so much into a certain part, section, or aspect of a game. In this case, impressing the player with visualsówhether theyíre technical, artistic, or situationalótakes precedence over the actual gameplay mechanics, and if you ask me, the game suffers somewhat because of it, even if the game doesnít necessarily do anything ďbad.Ē Good enough isnít good enough when itís paired with pure excellence.   read

11:04 AM on 10.29.2009

Home Alone: The most difficult game ever created

OK, so maybe thatís a slight exaggeration.

But take a short trip with me into the past. A Mega Man poster hangs on a young boyís largely undecorated walls, situated directly above a television to which an NES is connected. Inside the slot is a game called Home Alone, inspired by the Macaulay Culkin film of the same name. For weeks, this boy has been toiling away, repeatedly being caught by the Wet Bandits despite his best efforts. Completion of this game seems impossible.

In fact, he dreams one night of completing the game. He keeps one eye on the gameís timer as it expires, while the other watches for a last-second Wet Bandit ambush that never comes. Before he knows it, he has beaten the game. Dollar signs light up the screen as if he has won the jackpot at a casino. Victorious music plays, and he halfway anticipates a suited gentleman jumping out of the screen just to shake his hand and celebrate his triumph. Instead, he awakes with the dim light of morning flooding through his window, and the still uncompleted Home Alone waiting in his NES.

Only the truly difficult games can make a young boy dream of their completion. So, just what was it about Home Alone that made it so difficult? WellÖIíll take a shot in the dark here, but it might be the fact that it was inconceivably terrible. And the best part? It was developed by Bethesda Softworks. Yes, that Bethesda.

Home Alone was released for the NES in November of 1991. The basic premise of the game was the same as the movie: youíre a kid who was accidentally left at home by his parents, and youíre being chased by some home intruders. Itís up to you to remain in the house and fuck with the intruders rather than go seek help like a rational person.

I suppose it makes a bit of sense, as the police are slated to arrive 20 minutes after you start the game. The game actually has a twenty-minute timer that constantly counts down, and the sole aim is to stay uncaught for twenty minutes. Thatís it. In essence, itís a game that lasts for twenty minutes, at least in a perfect world. For those twenty minutes, however, youíre on your own against two dudes who walk really damn fast.

The game gives you plenty of tools with which to fend off the two bandits, including boxes with Christmas ornaments on them, boxes with light bulbs on them, and boxes with paint cans on them. Yes, you pick up these little symbols, and you set them down again. This temporarily incapacitates the bandits, giving you a chance to put some distance between you and them. And by incapacitate, I mean that they appear to melt into perfectly square bundles of limbs. Itís one of the most bizarre animations that I think Iíve ever seen. As a side note, the design and animation of the main character, Kevin, makes him look like heís constantly riding an invisible bike. Occasinally, heíll refuse to turn around when you want him too, and heíll instead just backpedal. It looks like heís fucking moonwalking. That is not a widely accepted method of avoiding home invaders, but I appreciate the creativity, Bethesda.

You also have a few hiding places in which you can take refuge. You can hide inside the Christmas tree, which is completely inconspicuous since your head sticks out the whole time. Yet the Wet Bandits will walk right by youÖbut only a total of two times. See, theyíre only fooled twice by each of the gameís eight hiding spots, so once youíve used them up, they become useless, and youíll get nabbed if they walk by you. It might not sound like a big deal, but in twenty minutes, youíll want to use hiding spots a lot more than that.

You also have the whole house that you can run through, including a pretty large basement, a tree house, and the outdoor area directly in front of the house. The various sections of the house are connected in a variety of ways that sort of make sense. You have staircases of course, which are surprisingly difficult to actually get the character to employ successfully. The front porch steps are especially great, as despite their rather large surface area, Kevin seems able to only use an extremely small portion of that area, and if you attempt to ask him to do anything differently, heíll just stand there. If he does manage to mount the stairs, he walks up them at a speed that would make an amputee frustrated. Stairs is hardÖ

The main section of Kevinís home and the tree house happen to be connected by a line that Kevin can climb across, which is a model of responsible parenting. Seriously, itís a two-story fall, and itís as if they thought, ďHey, we might as well train Kevin to be on Ninja Warrior one day!Ē Then again, I suppose Home Alone is one big critique of the modern family and its hands-off approach to parenting. Or it might just be a way to cash in on a cute little kid. Whatever.

So, what makes all of this nonsense so difficult? Well, if you can get past the punishing boredom of essentially running around in circles for twenty minutes straight, youíre presented with the harsh reality that youíll be doing this for much, much more than just twenty minutes. See, there are no checkpoints in this game, and no forgiveness. If you happen to last for nineteen minutes and fifty-nine seconds, only to be caught, then itís game over. Youíll start the game again with twenty minutes remaining.

This wouldnít be such a big deal if it werenít so infuriatingly easy to get caught. Little Kevin must suffer from some sort of degenerative leg disorder, because not only does he run like some sort of gremlin, he also does it far more slowly than the Wet Bandits. So, if one of those assholes is on your tail, youíre screwed unless you have an item handy.

Even worse is the inability to see where the two bandits are until theyíre right on top of you. If youíre heading in one direction, and one of them comes at you from the other direction, youíll be caught in a matter of milliseconds. The number of times that youíll be running from one bandit only to have the other one appear directly in front of you is enough to make you want to kill a child. A specific child, but a child nonetheless.


So, just what level of difficulty will you experience in this game? Well, Iíll be impressed when I find a single person who finished this game on the NES. None of this emulator, save state crap that pervades YouTube. If you try to do this right, you will lose. This is not a game that you will beat. It will beat you. Most of the time, I was captured within two minutes. Two freaking minutes. Those times that I did manage to last about ten minutes were perhaps worse, because I knew that all that progress was immediately made meaningless.

Itís hard to know just what to say about a game like it. People still play it and post videos on YouTube, likely just to make the recurring nightmares from their childhood cease. Itís an absolutely terrible game, surpassed only by its sequel, Home Alone 2. If ever there were a game that I could call a waste of time, this is it.   read

12:35 PM on 10.23.2009

A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands

Youíve been telling yourself to stay away from that latest gameplay video even as youíre clicking through the post and staring at the screen as the video buffers. The rise in your hype level is palpable as the sound thunders from your speakers, and you sit in your orthopedic chair wondering why you canít just play the game now, why it canít be here when you want it. You immediately regret your decision to watch the video.

Finally, the day of the gameís release comes, and you purchase it on your lunch break knowing full well that you cannot play until the evening. You tear the game free from its packaging and stare at it like itís the first videogame you have ever owned. A sense of pride washes over you even as you set the game down and return to work, where you waste the companyís money for your remaining four paid hours.

That night, you forget to eat dinner. An hour of play turns into six, and you groan quietly as you finally look toward the clock and realize that work starts in a short five hours. You resolve to sell some items and quit. Two hours later, you finally turn your console off and stumble into bed.

That night, you dream that youíre playing. You wake up disappointed and consider calling in sick to work. Your conscience gets the better of you. The level of your uselessness at work approaches the caliber of Peter Gibbons, and you realize a startling fact: you are consumed, and youíre helpless to stop it.

We have all been there to some extent. Games have a definite power to draw us in and refuse to let go, consuming our time despite our efforts to fight against it. But is it simply the high quality of a game that leads to the consuming of our lives, or is it something beyond that. To me, not all high-quality games possess this. Instead, there are a variety of independent qualities that affect whether a game can suck us in or not, and they act in rather different ways upon us, even if the result is the same.

There are two recent games that have consumed me in very different ways: Demonís Souls and Borderlands.

Demonís Souls, as many have said, is not an easy game. You may disagree about the level to which it is difficult, but it is, without a doubt, a game that will kill you often. Itís the sort of game that is liable to make you go crazy if you donít take a break from it fairly often.

So how is it that, despite my desire to take frequent breaks, I can never force the game from my mind?

You may have read other blogs about this game discussing the strategizing that goes on in your head even after youíve put the game down for the night. Well, all of these blogs are 100% accurate. Demonís Souls is the sort of game that requires your complete attention; in fact, perhaps it is more correct to call this a demanding game than a difficult one, though I do believe that both apply. However you decide to categorize it, one thing is completely clear: if you are not constantly thinking, you will die. This is not a game that allows you to turn your brain off and have some mindless fun. It will punish your lack of attention with ample doses of frustration.

But once your brain is switched on, it is extremely difficult to switch it off, even after your PS3ís light has dimmed. It consumes your thoughts, and even as you have vowed to stop playing for the night, you will invariably come back to it, sometimes far sooner than you have planned. Somehow, it manages to be the only game that Iíve ever experience that you find extremely difficult to put down even as youíre consistently threatening to give up on it completely.

So, what is the source of the gameís consuming power? Itís not the difficulty itself, but rather how the difficulty interacts with you. Some games (Brutal Legend on brutal difficulty, for instance) offer a brand of difficulty that doesnít do much in the way of sparking your mental powers. Itís a difficulty that is made so artificially. The game was programmed with one difficulty in mind Ė a normal difficulty Ė and both the easy and brutal difficulties do not represent the true experience of the game, the one that the game itself suggests is the true difficulty.

Therefore, the difficulty leads most often to frustration. The game is made to feel more difficult than it needs to be, and you wonder why you chose that difficulty at all. It seems like mindless self-violence inflicted upon you simply because you thought that a tougher setting might be enjoyable. A slider that make you die more easily and your enemies die more difficultly is not difficulty.

Demonís Souls is difficult because you, as an in-game character, are rather easy to kill. One solid thrust of a spear is quite enough to kill you in many instances, and these thrusts often come out of the shadows when you least expect them, leading to more deaths than you might be willing to admit.

But in this case, it is the only game experience. You arenít able to make the game easier, giving yourself more health and your enemies less. Thereís no easy way out. If you are dying too much, and you want to find a way out, it is up to you and you alone to find a way to progress.

But the main quality here that will lead to you being consumed Ė the one that so many reviews have mentioned Ė is that when you die, you know that it is your fault. Sure, the camera has occasionally led me to get killed, and the hit detection has been a little shaky a few times, but in the majority of cases, I have died because I did something stupid. ďHey, is that gigantic dragon asleep? Letís find out!Ē

While other games make you frustrated at the game, Demonís Souls makes you frustrated at yourself, and it is this frustration that keeps you moving forward. After all, we all want to believe that we can achieve difficult things if all of the required tools are presented to us. Indeed, Demonís Souls does this. There is no challenge in this game that is insurmountable if your actions are chosen very carefully and executed flawlessly. If you fail, it is because something went awry either in your planning or execution. Perhaps you didnít realize that a room would have three magic users rather than two, and you were killed. Next time, you know that you must plan ahead to tackle all three casters at once.

The idea of ďnext timeĒ is absolutely central to the game ability to suck you in. Whenever you die, you immediately begin to think of what you can do differently next time, and, before you know it, you are consumed by your desire to plan and act out your next brilliant strategy. So, you plan, you execute, and you succeed. The feeling is inimitable Ė the great feeling of accomplishment, one that, in a demanding game such as this one, is intoxicating. So you play again until the next time you fail, and you begin strategizing once again in your head. It is an endless cycle, and one that does, without a doubt, consume you.

So, whatís the one unifying quality that makes Demonís Souls so engrossing? Accomplishment. It a brand of accomplishment that isnít gained by unlocking achievements, beating games on artificially difficult settings, or winning an online game of Madden (though human to human interaction does provide a very interesting concept of difficulty). This is true difficulty, the kind that is incredibly rewarding. Perhaps the fact that it is so rare in games is what makes Demonís Souls such a consuming experience. We can only hope that we begin to see it more.

Borderlands is a very, very different game. It isnít the sort of game that you would call difficult, especially not in the same manner that Demonís Souls is. Yet thereís no doubt that it has a similar power to consume your thoughts and free time. I have already had far too many nights where I have told myself that I was ready to quit, only to continue playing for hours and hours.

For the very few of you who might not know, Borderlands tosses you into a world of loot, guns, ammo, and plenty of badasses to hunt down and kill, all seen from a first-person perspective. It has been considered Diablo with guns, and while this title is only partially accurate, it serves at least as a decent introduction, and it does prepare players to be consumed in a similar way to what Diablo did to us so many years ago.

But accomplishment isnít what gave Diablo its consuming power, nor is it what gives Borderlands its own power. It would be easy to suggest that it is pursuit of loot that makes it so hard to put the game down, but I think thatís selling the game short. After all, while I enjoyed Sacred 2, I never felt as consumed by the game as I do by Borderlands. Something else more powerful is in play here.

I think the source of Borderlandsí consuming power is progression. Now, all games have progression to some extent Ė you progress through a story, through tiers of fighters, and so on. What Borderlands does differently is give you many, many things to progress through all at once. You have a main story to progress through, a variety of side missions, character statistics, weapon proficiency levels, a large set of specific challenges, skill treesÖthe list goes on and on. Thereís just so damn much to progress through that you always have something on your mind that you want to do next.

Again, the idea of ďnext timeĒ reappears, but itís very different in this game. Rather than thinking ahead to next time in order to plan out a new strategy, your thoughts of the future will be how you can next progress. Maybe youíre ever-so-close to that next level, and you want to hit it before you go to bed for the night. You get your level, but now you see a chest off in the distance, so you decide to run over to it quickly before you go to bed. You find an amazing sniper rifle, but your skill level is a little low, so you decide to pop off some enemies before bed to get your skill up. Before long, hours have passed and you still have so much left that you want to do.

So, Borderlands succeeds in being an engrossing game because it always gives you something to focus on to allow yourself to progress. Youíre never at a loss for meaningful things to do, at least up until that nasty level cap. But while it lasts, Borderlands will grab you, and it wonít let go.

So, these are obviously two very different games, and they go about grabbing hold of the player in very different ways. But the one thing that connects them is that they put the thought into the playerís head of ďwhatís next.Ē All games should do this, whether itís with an incredibly engrossing story, a fantastic character progression system, a rewarding sense of difficulty, or any other quality at all that contributes to this feeling.

Any developer needs to approach the creation of a game with this idea in mind. It canít just be something as simple as ďWell, this waypoint will tell players where to go next!Ē Thatís not at all what I mean. It needs to be a desire created in the player to know whatís next, and that desire needs to be strong enough to compel a player to either continue playing or to constantly thinking about playing next. It is what makes a game great, and what makes it memorable.   read

10:26 AM on 10.19.2009

Toxic megacolon and other fresh status effects

For part one of this three-part status effect miniseries, head over to this post, Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone. For part 2, head over to Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart.

The walls have ears, and I know what youíve been saying. ďOhh, if you hate status effects so much, Iíd like to see you do better!Ē you said in your best Scottish accent. Bagpipes played softly in the distance.

Well, Iím here to take up this challenge in my best Armenian accent. To you I say ďBring it on!Ē Letís do this thing.

But wait. Thereís a voice from the darkness. ďYouíre not going anywhere without me,Ē it says in a stunning Ethiopian accent. Impressive! I didnít even know what that sounded like. A figure emerges from behind the curtainÖ

Öitís walkyourpath! His stern glare burns holes of creativity in my soul, and I know what I must do. Itís time for a tagteam.

So sit back, relax, and keep your panacea bottle handy, because weíre about to bust some mad status effects all over the place.

Trollbait: The trollbait status causes all of the affected character's actions to be replaced by random idiotic statements, inciting rage within the party. All other party members may attack the affected character until he is incapacitated or until the status is cured by item "forum beatdown." All characters with intelligence stats above level 12 are immune to this status.

Toxic Megacolon: This status may be inflicted upon a player character through various infectious bites or attacks. This terrible medical condition causes the affected character's colon to become highly enlarged and the blood to become toxic, rendering the character ineffective in battle. If not cured quickly, toxic megacolon may cause poison in other party members as the floodgates open. This status can only be cured at a town hospital.

Noodly Appendages: A character afflicted with noodly appendages loses all muscular control of his or her arms and legs, causing an inability to move in battle and a severe reduction in damage. However, the character is still able to counterattack melee damage by flopping about, though this damage is extremely low. Item Viagoro can instantly cure this status, but may have unwanted side effects. Characters are advised to seek medical help for an erection lasting longer than four hours.

Roidrage: This status is automatically put into effect if a single character uses three or more attack stat buff items in a single battle. This causes the character to increase all stats by one for one turn as euphoria kicks in. On the character's next turn, the character will begin to attack with reckless abandon, extending to trees, rocks and other background objects. The character may also attack fellow party members. After five turns, the character will commit suicide. Item "Bobby McFerrin's Panpipes" has a 50% chance of curing this status.

Puberty: This status has a random chance of affecting younger party members and causes a variety of negative effects. As the affected party member's voice cracks, spells that rely on vocal recitation have a 50% chance of failing. The affected party member may randomly become enamored with party members or enemies of the opposite sex, causing them not to attack. A character with "puberty" may also randomly acquire the "fapping" status, which stops all battle actions until item "nude portrait of Carrot Top" is used. If two party members of the opposite sex are afflicted with "puberty" simultaneously, both have a random chance to get the "experimentation" status, causing them to disappear from battle for no more than two minutes. They will then acquire the "embarrassment" status, causing them to fight in different rows of the formation for five turns.

Bleeding Heart: Affected party becomes a monster-rights activist and will interpose himself between the monster and any attacking characters, absorbing all damage dealt. The affected party will also throw a red dye potion at any party member wearing leather armor or bear-skin items. The affected character may also summon celebrities to assist them. Any healing items containing monster meat or other substances made from monsters will be ineffective.

Gender Confusion: Androgynous characters may receive this status when item "mirror" is used upon them. This status causes the affected character to attack himself/herself for the remainder of the battle. This is an incurable status in any game in which the status applies and will remain in effect until the end of the game.

Papercut: Player only receives this status from damage equaling 1hp. Affected character takes no action until a healing item is used on him. Character's moral is lowered until the end of the battle. Status also has a chance to inflict fear and sadness.

Identity Crisis: This status can only be acquired if spell "Severe Concussion" is used upon the character. As soon as this status is inflicted, the character will immediately be transported out of battle and a popular character from another videogame will take his place in battle. This character will have a personalized skill set based upon the game that he or she comes from. Others members of the party can cure this status either by using "Freud's Herb" or by attacking the character's head with a lightning spell.

Gump: The gump status is afflicted randomly upon party members. If gump is active upon one character in the party, the entire group will be unable to flee from battle until the status is cured. It does not disappear over time, and can only be cured if "leg braces" is equipped on the affected character. The character also has a random percentage chance to replace the selected action with the special skill "Life is like a box of chocolates," causing the character to cast a random spell.

Babydaddy: This status affects only male characters and can be acquired at any time. Upon receiving this status, the affected character begins to slowly lose energy points, and money begins to be deducted from the party's wallet. Using item "paternity test" has a chance to cure this status. This chance is calculated based on the character's charisma and luck stats.

Apathy: Upon being afflicted with this status effect, the character ceases to be interested in combat. If the character is attacked, any counterattack will be replaced with a shrug and a sigh. Character's theme music will change to an emo song, and any equipped armor will be temporarily replaced with a Hot Topic t-shirt.

Passive-Aggressive: With the Passive-Aggressive status, an affected character is unable to directly inflict damage on their enemy, and may only cast status effect spells in response. The spells Guilt Trip, Poor Me, Backhanded Compliment, and Undermining Gossip all double in duration and potency for the player.

Impotence: When stricken with impotence, the character's equipped weapon becomes malleable and noodle-like. If attacking, the character will inflict no damage, and immediately apologize to the enemy. "This has never happened to me before." will become a dialogue option in conversations. Player can remove this effect using the Powdered Bull Horn item.

Fanboy: The affected character is restricted to one type of attack and one weapon to the exclusion of all others for the duration of the battle. Any attempt to swap out the characters attack or equipment will result in character being afflicted with the Nerd Rage status effect as well.

Severe Allergies: Any character under this status effect will be unable to use plant-based healing items for the remainder of the battle. Any use of herbal HP items will result in sneezing for 3 turns. Player may use the item Benadryl to remove this effect, but at the cost of halving their action speed and losing all initiative rolls.

. . .But What Am I?: An enemy may cast this status effect spell once they are under 25% of their original HP. Player's HP/SP are changed to the enemy's. Players may negate this effect with the use of the Snappy Comeback skill.

PAX Plague: Any player affected with PAX Plague will immediately lose the ability to take all actions other than feverishly sweating and clutching their swag items. Character will gain immunity from item theft. Unless the character is removed from battle, all remaining party members will also receive this status effect the following turn.

Ahh, so much to fear. The world of RPGs is truly a terrifying one. But the horror doesnít need to stop at the end of this post! Indeed, I have created a forum thread for the status effect party to continue forever! (Doing so here in the comments of this blog would be too difficult due to the lack of bumping ability.)

Please join the party! Invent status effects funnier than the world has ever imagined!   read

4:25 PM on 10.14.2009

Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart

For part one of this three-part status effect miniseries, head over to this post, Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone

The nightmare continues. What, you thought that it was over? Unfortunately, this is not the case, as status effects are nearly as numerous as the hitpoints of a high-level Final Fantasy character. I donít want to talk about all of them, as some of them actually make sense. But whereís the fun in that? Itís not the JRPG way, man!

So, instead, letís take a look at some of the other bizarre, nonsensical, and pointless status effects from the world of RPGs. Is it going to be a fair and accommodating look at them? No. No it is not.


Voodoo shit. Execration (not excretion). Hexing (not Hexen). The fine art of cursing is something that weíve probably all tried at some point. That dick stole my money in the lunchroom, so Iím going to recite a curse that will cause his head to be replaced by his ass while he sleeps. They never work, unfortunately, not even with the use of a voodoo doll or an elaborate ritual site crafted in the luggage closet.

However, the world of Final Fantasy does not play by our rules. In fact, a curse is a very dangerous thing to even the greatest of heroes, as a curse spells certain doom for someone who does not act to nullify this terrible affliction. How so? Well...thatís the tricky part. Sometimes, it kills you after a certain number of turns.

Or it makes you unable to use special attacks.

Or it lowers your stats until it is cured.

Or it just up and fucks your whole party with poison, disease, confuse, and sap.

Seriously, canít someone standardize this shit? I mean, calling it ďcurseĒ is pretty damn vague anyway. How about ďBullshit?Ē Itís far more representative of the actual spell, especially for the last one.

Honestly, what the fuck kind of shit is poison, disease, confuse, and sap all at the same time? For everyone in the party! It basically means that youíre going to slowly lose health in three different ways, and cast random shit on your fellow party members. Good god.

No matter the particular version of curse, it can die in a fire, which would probably be more effective than trying in vain to get one of your characters to heal it.


As long as weíre on the subject of stuff that makes no sense, letís have a chat about confusion. The basic concept behind a confusion status is that a characterís brain got rewired temporarily, and heís no longer able to tell who is a friend and who is an enemy. Heíll often respond to this with plenty of sword swipes, fire spells, and sometimes even beat the shit out of himself.

Holy hell, where to begin.

First off, I donít know if youíve ever seen a JRPG enemy, but letís have a quick look at this guy:

FUCK. OK, now letís have a lookie here:

What is enemy? I do not know! How do I tell? Is it the one that I most want to have sex with? Hmm, still canít decide!

Not stupid enough for you? OK, how about this? When you get confused about something, whatís generally your instinctual response? To attack the thing nearest to you? Or to, I donít know, maybe take a step back for a second, reevaluate the situation, maybe have a nap? I typically donít get cast-happy when Iím confused, but maybe thatís just me.

I also donít start cutting myself with a sword. Is this some sort of psychological doppelganger response here? Oh god, Iím confused! I think that perhaps this enemy has replaced the real me with an evil twin, and to defeat this evil, I must defeat myself! I suppose it isnít that farfetched considering how often you have to fight an evil shadow version of yourself in JRPGs. But, come on man, in that case you donít actually have to try to light yourself on fire!

How do you cure confusion? In a way thatís more likely to cause confusion than anything: by smacking the afflicted character in the face.

Hereís what the game assumes:

Party member 1: ďOh no, Iím confused! Better start punching myself in the crotch!Ē
Party member 2: ďIíll save you!Ē *smacks party member 1 in the crotch*
Party member 1: ďMy eyes have been opened! You are a gentleman and a scholar.Ē

Hereís what the situation would really be like.

Party member 1: ďOh no, Iím confused! Better start punching myself in the crotch!Ē
Party member 2: ďIíll save you!Ē *smacks party member 1 in the crotch*
Party member 1: ďWhat have you done to my fucking crotch? Youíll die by my hand, you evil bastard!Ē

The best part of confusion is that you lose all control of your character, which is awesome when your healer gets confused and you happened to be all about of panacea bottles. Itís even better when your whole party gets confused and you get to watch some ultra-violent version of The Three Stooges play out in front of you. Dammit Curly, stop spamming firega.


Remember playing ďRed Light/Green LightĒ as a kid? When someone yelled ďred light,Ē you had to freeze in place; if you moved, you were out. You could only move when the leader yelled ďgreen light.Ē

Stop, otherwise known as temporal stasis (I guess), is very similar. Someone yells stop, and you stop. You canít move, attack, use items, or do anything. You just stand there.

ďOh, you mean like paralysis?Ē you say. Yes, just like that, except that it doesnít make any sense! No matter how you understand stop, itís total bollocks.

Letís say that itís just as simple as someone stopping because theyíre servile and they were told to, just as in ďRed Light/Green Light.Ē Maybe they just really like that game, and they couldnít really get over it as a kid. Either way, as their friends die around them, youíd think that theyíd say, ďHey, maybe I could recite a healing spell under my breath and still win the game!Ē

If temporal stasis is more to your liking, youíre going to be disappointed. Temporal stasis means that a person experiences no passage of time, even though the passage of time continues around him. To him, massive amounts of time would pass in an instant. Now, to achieve stasis, the actual space around that person would have to be affected, as would anything that entered that temporal field. So, letís say a jackass tries to swing a sword at the stopped character. Nope. Impossible, because as soon as that sword enters the temporal stasis field, it would be subject to the same rules as the person in stasis. No movement would be possible, not even that of inertia, so a sword stroke that began outside of the stasis field would still stop instantly.

Also, my scientific logic is as impenetrable as my conception of a stasis field, so step off.

And with that, friends, the prosecution rests. There is nothing left for me to say about status effects, and I hope youíll agree that we should cast petrify on those little bastards.

But the fun isnít over yet. This is but part two of three in this series of happy fun. Part three will be a great time, of this I am sure. What could it be, you ask? Well, Iíve talked about all of this existing status effects that I hateÖbut what about new status effects? A new star is born every day, right? Letís give birth to some stars, baby.

Gross.   read

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