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1:10 PM on 07.14.2015

Intro to Trackmania: Why I Like It and How Much I Like It

On a daily basis, scientists ponder the mysteries of the universe and the answers to life's largest questions. We've solved gravity, understood quantum theory, created bombs out of the very fabric of the universe. And yet, even with our vast amounts of research, one question eluded us. 

How do we make a kart racing game MORE European?

Fortunately, Nadeo, a company now owned by Ubisoft, solved this question with a seemingly simple solution.

What Nadeo did with Trackmania is they removed collision detection and tightened the driving controls, basically removing direct player and AI competition from the equation. Unamerican, you say? You'd be RIGHT. Nadeo is French, and depending on your preferred stereotype, all of this makes sense. You're still racing against their times, for sure, but your first order of business is never about your opponent. This is what separates it from most racing games, quite obviously. While other racing games are more about your relation to other players, Trackmania is focused intensely on your relation to the track.

It's a game almost entirely devoid of context - this is fantasy racing, something that exists outside the realism or goofiness that most other Kart Racers try to achieve. It's the chaotic black hole in the middle, the singularity of realism and goofiness. It does not define itself - it is.

By removing collision detection what Nadeo has made is a glorified time trial - they've pitted you against the track, and your skills are the only thing separating you from the finish line. Your objective on any track is simple - finish with the best time possible, and then try again to get a better time. Beat the times posted on the tracks to earn medals. Rub it in your friend's face when you're ranked in the top 50,000 in your country. Keep racing, again, again, again, again... and with a dedicated restart button (which I promise will get a lot of use), the game doesn't stop until you finish the track. Since most of the tracks are 20 seconds to 1 minute, it never feels like a hassle to restart. There's always a turn that you can shave time off of, a straightaway that you can exploit, a loop you can make.

It ends up being an excercize in watch-making. Making sure every turn is timed right - squeeze efficiency out of your car and out of the track. It's a mix of understanding strategy and technique, mixing the two to achieve the best time. In a way it's extremely forgiving and unforgiving at the same time. You say "shit" after every time you make a turn, but then you hit *delete* after every mistake, and it's like it never happened. You soon find yourself in a Groundhog Day-esque rhythm, hoping to practice your driving enough to the point that you make it to January 3rd. The reason I love the game so much is that it's not only satisfying on a technical level, it's also rewarding on a strategic level. Both contribute to your best times, and your best races are always the ones where you finally figure out the track.

The racing controls are like driving a large block of wood on wheels - turning isn't egregiously quick, but the car is very stiff and responsive. Unlike, say, Mario Kart, where you're driving a mini-kart that moves as one sort of squarish blob, the trackmania cars are more like Formula 1 race cars, where you have to both analyze speed and control, or risk ramming into a wall on any side.

And then we come to the tracks. Most of the Nadeo-made tracks are handleable, but they're all about track interaction and how you're entering and exiting the turns. How you're driving on the different tiles is probably the most important thing as a beginner. Even then, the tracks aren't all about staying on the nice concrete or on the less-nice dirt. You'll be driving on the grass, on the scenery pieces, and most of the time, you'll be driving up a wall. There's an endless amount of variety.

Most importantly, the game comes with a comprehensive track editor that adds a major creative edge to the entire game, and this is possibly the best reason to own this game. I like to be creative, and the spirit of creativity is rewarded within the track editor. Track building is like building with legos. After you create the spaghetti mess that is your track, you can add music, special effects, ghosts, it's just SO MUCH FUN to use. It's impressive just how many combinations are available and how many blocks Nadeo has provided, and it's even more impressive what people have come up with as a result. There's also a built in skin editor and REPLAY EDITOR so you can be a cinematographer and fantasize about getting out of your day job.

It's a game that involves its community and has grown a sizeable following because of it. Nadeo has made it clear through the presentation of the game that it's just a base (an amazingly well-designed base, to be sure) and that it wants its community members to make it legendary. And it sort of has, is the thing. The community is magical, a mix of LOL racers and competitive racers, with multiple well-known track designers, and a great and still open exchange site. Be ready to hear everything from Aerosmith to Top 40's, and jump in to one of the most interesting communities this side of gaming.

Above is an example of some runtrhroughs of the competitive maps. Trackmania has a very tech heavy competitive scene, which I think is fascinating to watch, but this should give you an idea of it.

There is just so much to love about this game. My experience mirrors the paragraphs above, and ever since I've been a part of this game as it grows and evolves, it's been a ride. There's a huge collection of mods, tracks, and replays. With multiple techniques and always someone else you can beat into the ground, it's endless fun for EVERYONE!

With Trackmania Turbo on the way, I'd encourage everyone to at least the free version on Steam because the free version still gives you access to everything, with the exception of some server limitations and some features. If you do like it, I'd reccomend paying for it. It's worth the upgrade I think...

Thanks for listening,



9:21 PM on 07.13.2015

I Don't Want to Rant

My last blog was written in September of 2014. It is now July 14, 2015.

I never wanted this blog to be a rant space. I wanted to write about video games, for god's sake. I had this fantasy that I would write about my favorite games, like Trackmania, and Civilization, and SimGolf, and we would have fun. It would be Keurof's fun-land, just me and the community, talking about some games. I would be able to talk about and share my creations through the power of Destructoid. It was going to be fun, analytic, maybe even interesting. But something happened in my life in November that forever skewed my perception of the world and the lenses I see it through. And now my blog has become a rant space. Actually, it was something ever-so community related that drove me off a cliff. And it wasn't having an opinion on it that drove me to autism-esque insanity, it was NOT having an opinion.

Unlike last time, when I broke down in word form, I don't feel embarassed about what I wrote ten months ago. I feel fine about my post. I looked back at it and it was fine. I think I expressed what I was actually feeling at the time with varying amounts of success. Some of the symptoms I noted 10 months ago still swirl around me like a hurricane - my opinions don't matter, self-criticism to the point of delusion... you get the idea, but all of these things are passing. But November, and senior year of high school in general changed that. This time, the reason I left is something that touches the most sensitive nerves of the gaming community - social-political criticism.

Come Home

This is an issue I NEVER wanted to talk about. I never wanted to be involved in it even as early as last year. I wasn't color-blind, I wasn't perfectly gender-neutral, but I thought it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I tried to work on it. However, I was in an environment that analyzed these issues a lot, going to the only liberal college-prep high school in the immediate area. Now, I often portray myself as left-leaning, so I get along fine to a certain extent. Hell, I've drafted blogs about the positives of critical theory. But there was one day that I happened to bring up the one event that happened a while ago in the gaming community that I don't want to bring up because you all know what you did.

I got into a fight with someone at school about Iraq (I mean Gate) and Afghanistan (I mean Anita) and somewhere during this conversation, I was convinced we weren't arguing. I was listing off positives about the gaming community (specifically with gender issues and awareness) and the strides its taken to try to be more accepting, but I just turned out to be wrong. But the person I got into a fight with didn't explain why I was wrong, she said I was "Mansplaining." It hurt, but I should've just walked it off like any normal person. It should not have been that big of a deal. I should've made my mistake, put my ego behind me, and continued with the conversation. Instead, I had a mental breakdown. And of all the things I could have reacted with, a mental breakdown was probably the least correct. And it shouldn't have changed me, and I don't know why it did. I haven't been the same since, and it's been killing me.

This situation I put myself in may illuminate that I'm a competitive guy, and you'd be right. FUCK myself for that. I get attached emotionally and responsively to every single freaking event that goes on in my general thought vicinity. And this stupid-ass one time argument is what got to me. Now, this didn't have the effect you might expect of running to the opposite side, the anti-liberals. The civil rights jackasses as opposed to the social construct jackasses. I didn't go hide, cowering in their protection. No, in fact I wish it was that simple. Instead, it drove me into a meta-cognitive self-reflection about how everyone, including me, discusses things.

Snoopy 1

The reason I don't want to rant is that I don't know enough about really anything to actually create a coherent opinion on any subject. In fact, calling people jackasses in the above paragraph pushed my boundaries a bit. It's ignorant, and plain MEAN. If an opinion comes from the heart, through careful research of all possibilities, then I'll accept it - as long as you tell me that it is first. But the problem is that either the research isn't thorough enough, and/or that the opinion isn't coherent enough. If it's not, then you probably haven't spent enough time understanding the opposing idea enough. And when you read that sentence, don't put the side you hate under the microscope, put the side you're ON under the microscope and see how well it holds up under analysis. But I just don't know anymore. And I can already telegraph the attacks of my competitors to the point where I feel that my opinion doesn't make any damned sense. Every time I see some sort of reaction to an event, I get too scared from the idea that I'll turn into a raging asshole.

To you, thoughts and opinions of the other side are probably worth less than a penny. I don't know what they're worth to me, but they're probably worth more than a penny. I CARE. I want to NOT CARE, but no matter how hard I try, I DO. And now there are a number of events I just won't talk about because of that. I don't have an opinion that aligns well with either sides, and FUCK that because now I find myself caught in a cycle of just seeing each side line up fields and fields of strawmen just so that they can push it over righteously.

I've never understood the attitude of righteousness about opinions of all colors. The other side does not believe you, and they're going to believe you less if you act like a jackass. I know I'm not special when I say all of the above stuff. I know that nobody is all the way "right." How can anyone feel like they're doing absolute good in this world? Didn't Nixon kill that feeling long ago? Don't we have the mental capacity to evaluate our actions? How can you not see that everything is subjective and case-by-case? How can you see you're not acting like THEM?

Snoopy 2

Maybe it's because people are so passionate, and when they say passionate, they mean pissed off. I can't stand that attitude. Say what you want about radical politics, but understanding how to sit down and communicate is as big of a subject. And on random occasions I'll deny that and act that out in my head and go insane. I don't just pace the room anymore. I SEETHE. I have to calm myself down from SEETHING. It's a coping mechanism. I've begun to act out that righeousness that I hate so much in my head because just for one moment, I want to selfishly WIN. I want it, just someone to shut up and accept my opinion, because nobody does. And since whatever someone advocates for is probably against my idea of fairness or whatever the fuck you want to call it, you can say that this happens the majority of the time. But even then, I don't feel good, because I know I'm just acting like the complete idiots that don't want to solve his problems and is content in the self-hatred of himself if it means not confronting Clockwork-Orange-style the issues that he's facing.

If I had to at least approximate what schitzophrenia felt like, it would probably be something like what I'm experiencing - being dragged between two different parts of yourself against your will, and then beating yourself up for not thinking straight. And I NEVER see it coming. A thought'll just pop into my head and then take over my entire mental space. My brain will start to stress and then freak out and then what happens is I basically short-circuit. Fight or flight. It's insane. And then when I DO get interaction with other people, I get fooled by their calm demeanor. I misrepresent my stances and I'm never able to express my opinion fully. I don't agree with them, but from a distance, it might seem that I do. They're not correct, but I don't have the time or mental capacity to figure it out and then I just lose the opportunity to have a discussion. And then I beat myself up. And then I realize that the person I was talking to agreed on things and that I don't want to be that kind of person, and I break down. Even now, I don't want to be the type of person writing a meta-blog about his "struggles."

Charlie Brown

Let me stress one more time that this is my reaction to BOTH SIDES of the issue. I checked some old blog articles today. I don't know what to do anymore. We're all assholes who don't understand the world. Fucking ALL of us. I'd be content to bash my head into a wall until the noise from all of your opinions finally goes away.

Nobody will listen. Not because they're ignoring me, but because I'm nothing. And now, I don't want to talk, let alone change the world. My world would still lead to argument and pissy people. On BOTH SIDES.

No Dogs Allowed

During the writing of this blog, my parents asked me if I was angry at the internet. This statement probably devalues my opinion, 'cause I'm a stupid teenager, but the point is that this whole thing is enveloping my life. Say what you want about it being important, or unimportant, but it's fucking up my life and I want it to just fucking stop because I don't want to fucking live like fucking this. I KNOW.  And the worst part is since I believe both sides are being a bit bullish, I feel like it's a puzzle I NEED to figure out, and I'll only get angrier as I try to solve these problems. Hell, I can't even read things that use any sort of language involved with critical theory because I'm afraid that I'll just go on a rampage like the fucking Hulk off his meds.

And then we try to hide it. Hide it under multiple disguises. I can't do that though. Instead, I've discussed it with multiple real flesh and blood people that don't exist inside the internet.

My life had constantly fallen apart and rebuilt itself, but never like this. I want to get out of this god damn spider web, but the strings are too sticky. And maybe I'm not supposed to. I know that I'm supposed to confront these issues. I know I'm not supposed to be in the dark on this - otherwise it would be ignorant. For me, I know it's like a little prissy kid eating vegetables - if I just eat them first, then it'll be over, and I can go back to eating rice and various meats. Over time, though, I acquired a taste for vegetables (except brussel sprouts). I'm scared I'll never be able to acquire a taste for social politics.


This week has been a rough week on numerous levels - small-scale, like me not loving the Batman V. Superman trailer or feeling an existential pang while watching Gravity Falls, to mid-range, like Iwata dying or being surrounded by opinions or having small breakdowns, to large-scale, like just generally feeling like a piece of shit for having terrible thoughts. Maybe this is a phase. I pray to god, or just anybody who will fucking listen, that this is just a phase.

If you're worried, please don't be. Please, for the love of god, don't be. I'm writing a short blog about Trackmania and just about why I like it and how much I like it, and I'm making sure it's released tomorrow. It's going to be short. I'm also working on making my own board game as well as writing various other projects. My golf game is coming along. Everything that's not media (which is a big part of my life) is going fine. I guess all I wanted you to see in this article was you. Even though I know it's not going to happen, I want you to see you, and just once, think about something you've done and how you could have been better. I don't expect you to go all gung-ho, but I want you to just think about a situation you might've not handled aptly. If you even think about it for a second, I'll be grateful. I know I won't change the world, but I'd at least like to know I have an effect on someone.

This is bound to get less respect than my other blog, because it touches a nerve, and I'm not on the side of the nerve you want me to be. I definitely didn't write it for you, I'm terrified of your reaction. Ultimately, I don't know why I wrote this. I'm fucking stupid, that's why. I can already tell this is going down in the whiniest blogs category, and I wish you could see my reaction right now as people read this and label it. Honestly, words can't describe how conflicted I am, and since I can't describe it in words, I only have my pictures.

Snoopy Come Home



P.S. I wouldn't want to wish this on anyone else, so just in case you ever find yourself in an argument or blog thread that might sour, read this. If you think you already know this, then why hasn't the fighting stopped yet.


12:23 AM on 09.24.2014

Paranoia: Two Long Years of Controversy

Sorry for not posting. Today, I was going to go on this long-ass spiel on how I hate the Social Justice Warrior movement in addition to the Anti-Social Justice Warrior movement, but when I sat down at the computer, ready to procrastinate by not doing homework, I couldn't do it. I don't know enough to accurately explain or form an opinion on the subject, and I was afraid to discuss something I really had no idea about. I mean, that doesn't stop some people, but it stopped me.

So instead, I want to talk about the specifics of not posting for two years. What drives a man to do such a thing? Yeah, it was laziness, and yeah, it was schoolwork, but it was also pure, unbridled paranoia. And I want to talk about that experience. The experience of my first blog post and the experience of basically straw-manning myself to the point of near-depression.

Sounds pretty serious, right? Yeah, I thought so too, at the time. What could have led to that unbridled sadness, that unspeakable tragedy, that terrible ache that stayed with me for days? Well, it was Sim City.

This is like, my go to picture for Sim City. Still haven't played it.

Not the game itself. It was... well... It's complicated, to say the least. And I feel like my experience is worth sharing for a couple of reasons, but reasons that I don't really want to go into at the beginning of the blog post. It feels a lot more like aftermath stuff than precursor stuff.

So, let's jump back into our time machines and pretend it's 2013. At the time, I was pretty fuckin' hyped for this new game coming out called Sim City. All the pre-release hype pre-DRM was pretty good, and I wasn't pre-destined to hate Maxis. I actually liked them a lot. They had released some of my favorite games like Sim City 3000, Sid Meier's Sim Golf, The entirety of The Sims franchise, and so in my book, Maxis was pretty high on the list of Companies I Could Trust.

So this new game that comes out, I really like the look of it. Seems much like a unique take on the style of the visuals of SimCity (If there's one thing about New Maxis that I can say I definitely love, it's their Art Direction) and it looks hella fun to play. The Glassbox Simulation Engine was still kind of a hype machine, and all the additions, like add-ons for buildings, multi-city trade in online mode, and multiplayer in the first place just seemed like it might add up to the best time ever.

But I'm also getting a little off track here. I need to start getting to the part where I actually talk about what happened. And, well, DRM and the community happened.

Try for one moment to put yourself back in that place in time. Do you remember how angry everyone was? Comments were thrown about how people were going to protest the game, pirate the game, burn down EA, whatever. But I think the thing that bothered me most were the people protesting against it. They just showed NO RESPECT. I come from a community where open discourse is "valued" and this was about as closed-minded as it could get, at least in my eyes. Why was nobody even trying to reach out to the other side? Why is everybody assuming that all corporations are evil? Why wasn't EA and Maxis handling this situation? I didn't agree with anybody, and when I see something that I don't agree with, I get a little bit crazy.

I call this the Star Trek: Into Darkness effect for a very personal reason. I don't like Star Trek: Into Darkness, but for a completely different reason than a lot of people. And so I don't line up with either the haters or the fanboys, and that becomes really irritating because I think everybody around me is being irrational and straw-manning the hell out of each-other. I really do want to have positive discussion, but I just have no input. I feel almost left out. This is what happened to me with the Sim City debacle. I was Maxis lenient, and I felt like nobody agreed with me. That's when I started blogging on Destructoid, because I felt like it was an outlet for that kind of emotion. The feeling of hatred tormented me, and I just needed to let it out.

Silly me, I thought I was going to be amazing on my first try. I was going to get front-paged, or whatever for sticking to my opinion. I have no idea why I believed that, but I definitely felt like I could really make a difference in the world with this blog. On Destructoid. Seriously, I love you guys, but yeah I was a bit naive to say the least.

Yep, perfect.

I read through it once carefully, and then read it about twenty more times. I wanted to make sure every point was articulated well. I didn't want to be one of those people who was stupid as hell and tried to make an argument without backing it up. I wanted to be an intellectual. I wanted to be respected, and the only way I was going to be respected was if I was respectful in return.

I immediately regretted posting it. What if they didn't like it? What if they gave arguments that I didn't know how to respond to? What if I didn't know enough and was just being ignorant about the whole situation? I stayed up all night worried about it. Then the first daily recap or whatever it's called came out and while I can't remember what it said about my article, I remember to this day, I felt like it painted my review in a negative light, and I will never be sure if it did or not. I felt devastated though, I can tell you that. I felt like I had done a bad job conveying my point to other people. It must've been something I did, right? I said Maxis is amazing, didn't I? I was too hateful, wasn't I? What did I do?

I drove myself insane. I felt SO bad about writing that article. This was one of the first times I had expressed any emotions in a constructive way, and I felt like it was a mistake. Most people worry about me because they think I'm about to explode and have some sort of episode, and I tried to channel that instead into writing this article, and it didn't work. All my confidence that I had left vanished. I felt like I had been the asshole, the completely blinded fool ranting like the village idiot. How could I not feel dumb?

I looked up

It sounds angsty as all hell, I know, but I felt terrible. There were no words for the lump in my stomach that sat for three days or so. I didn't look at the comments. I tried to write a post about Professor Layton, but it didn't feel the same. In that specific moment, that blog post was the most heart-wrenching thing and nobody could convince me that anything was more important. 

Not to mention how I felt when the game actually came out and the problems were maximized by ten. At this point, I had fooled myself into believing that I had written that this was going to be the best game ever made and boy, had I messed up. It definitely didn't help that not only was I convinced that I had written that EA was amazing, but that everyone kept saying how EA wasn't amazing and it just drove me to the point where I kind of had a little tiny PTSD, like looking at Sim City caused my blood pressure to rise or something

Ever since, I've been afraid to voice my opinions, specifically about video games. I didn't feel right, posting. I felt paranoid to even click the blog button. I felt paranoid that everybody was going to remember and laugh at me. And when big events happened that I cared about, like Anita Sarkeezian or whatever and more recently Hashtag FuckIdon'tevenwanttotalkaboutitthiswholethingisamessandIjustwishtherewereobjectivetruths, I didn't want to talk about them. Nobody cared about my shitty opinion. I just had to bear the weight, and spend time walking around in my room mulling angrily to myself. it felt and continues to feel terrible.

People always try to convince me that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and that all of this ends eventually and none of it really matters, and I ask, how am I supposed to know this, and then why am I doing it in the first place? There are so many things wrong with this argument, but I think the biggest problem is that I interpret the world through my own eyes: You have perspective of someone who already went through that experience, that even if you tell me a million times that things are going to be okay, things are still shit in mine. How do I change my world? I'm a dot in a George Seurrat painting. Someone told me once when I explained one of my arguments, "You're very opinionated, but you won't be able to change anything," and I believe it. I can't do jack shit. How do I break the pattern? Is there a way?

It's probably wrong to act this way. It feels selfish, like my life has to be perfect. Wanting more would take away from others and I'm just a selfish ass who wants the world to be flowers and cupcakes for himself and doesn't have any real problems Oh god I'm doing it again

And that's why I've been gone for two long years. Cause I defended EA and I feel like an idiot. There were definitely some other feelings I had during that time, including those elusive feelings of "joy" and "comfort." So please, don't worry about me. As for the takeaways, I don't really know. I just kind of made up the fact that this had any point. I thought it might, but to me, it's just good to tell y'all about my problems. Here's what I'll do: You, reader, you go embrace your inner post-structuralist and find your own damn meaning.

And finally, before writing this blog post, I ventured to read the comments on my Sim City article and figured out that, yes, I was truly paranoid. You guys are a bunch of respectful people and wonderful to hang with. Maybe I'll pick up blog writing again, sometime soon. Thank you for all your support, Destructoid Community. Never stop being classy.

It's going to be hard to press the submit button, but when I do, please go easy on me?




9:32 AM on 03.06.2013

On Formulaic Games: Professor Layton

Sorry about last post. Crap be whack, and I think I defined Rant well.

Alright, time for something a little more light-hearted.

It's time to talk about the value of repetitiveness.

It seems to be a popular topic on message boards or Call of Duty posts to talk about how the industry isn't doing anything to innovate, pushing out yearly installments that are minor improvements over the originals. It's always centered around Call of Duty or Battlefield or Final Fantasy, or Kingdom Hearts, and the entire Mario empire.

It's come to the point that "innovation" and "reinvention" are the most overused buzzwords in the industry, and everybody points fingers at every other series that doesn't stay in a constant state of flux. However, EA and Activision, SquEnix, and Nintendo keep doing that they're doing, seemingly wishing to stick to the formula for years to come.

I understand where the hate is coming from. The wish to improve and change the way we play is always something to strive for. New IP's are always great things to have. But that creates a conflict between us and the Businesses, who want to guarantee a profit and not take risks, meaning the only new IP's we see in the Triple-A industry are from the big companies who have extra resources or aren't working on anything.

Also, please don't suck

So we're kind of stuck. While the indie game scene does alleviate this pain with a bunch of highly original games, we have to deal with installments that continue on this tradition of business. And people will always complain that companies aren't as bold as they used to be, or that the newest version of watchamacallit is old, overdone, and unoriginal.

But there is a right way to do repetition. It doesn't have to be all bad. In fact Level-5 showed us how to do it right. Companies should take notes.

Look at that cold killer. Look at that badass.

Professor Layton is a repetitive series. There's simply no way around it. Level-5 sticks to a formula that they created out of the boom of Brain Age, and the series still runs today.

Think about it. We've had five (FIVE) installments of this game so far, Curious Village, Diabolical Box, Unwound Future, Last Specter, And Mask of Miracle, with the last one to come out in Japan soon. In addition, it's spawned spinoffs (Vs. Phoenix Wright), Movies (Eternal Diva), and ripoffs (Rhythm Thief, which copies the story style to a tee). It's quite the IP. But I wouldn't say it's the most innovative series.

Six games is a lot of games. The sixth game in the main Call of Duty franchise was Modern Warfare 2. In fact, Many popular IP's today don't have more than three installments. This brings me to the question; why is Professor Layton seemingly impervious to fans after 6 installments? What makes it different than any other game? More importantly, Where are the Haters?

To asses that, of course, we need to show that the games are repetitive.

Is there any way to make this guy not a badass?

Professor Layton is a point-and-touch adventure game that happen to have a lot of puzzles in them. This stays constant throughout the entire series, and never once switches to another genre, like swordfighting or fingerpointing. It's just a puzzle game. You solve puzzles. That's it.

Well, just saying that would be doing the game disservice, right?

The meat of the game comes from the Story, in my opinion. While each entry gives you new puzzles, if you're playing the story, you're paying attention to that, as it varies from game to game. The mix of puzzles always works well with the story, like you're solving mini-mysteries while the big events unfold before you. But these stories aren't innovative. They're extremely formulaic. Go to Tv Tropes if you want to check. (Actually, forget I said that.)

Everything in the game is based a formula that has been, for the most part, either unnoticed or acknowledged. By the by, I'm going deep into vague spoiler territory for the rest of this blog post.

There's the beginning, which involves a letter being sent from... someone, explaining the mystery. In the first one it's... well, I haven't actually played that one. In the second, it's Dr. Schrader, in the Third, it's Future Luke, in the fourth, it's Luke. They embark to go solve the mystery, and along the way, Professor Layton will meet some quirky characters, have to collect a certain amount of something, and solve a bunch of mini-mysteries along the way.

There's some sort of dark and foreboding building they have to go searching, and they get in a fight.

Then there's the ending. I believe the ending to be most important, and in the case of Layton, the endings are really where the formula shows through. Through some Deus Ex Machina device, they uncover that something BIG is going down, have to solve a gauntlet of puzzles, and it always involves machinery of some sort. For some reason, it's ALWAYS machines and some giant robot or robots or something. Except for Diabolical Box, whose ending is probably the weirdest explanation I've heard for any mystery ever.

How is the Unwound Future SO GOOD?

And the feels. Man, the feels. Every single game tries to hit you right where you'll cry. These games are really sad. It's sentiment is always really well planned out, and it's character development and final revelations are a wonder to behold. I can't really Without going into spoilers, Unwound Future is the best example of this, as the love story is REALLY well planned out.

But the games stick to this formula, and you would think they lose some of the weight after a little while, right?

Professor Layton truly stretches the formula to the point where your suspension of disbelief is almost broken, but not. As you near the end of every game, things obviously get revealed, but over the course of the series, these revelations get bigger and bigger. Level-5 pushes the imaginative boundaries of it's own formula, but sticks to it to keep fans interested. As the games get less believable, if you've played them,they get blow to huge proportion, which is enough to keep us interested and excited. The mysteries get extremely unbelievable and explanations are ludicrous. But you don't care about that.

That's the secret. Level-5 sticks to formula, but makes each scenario grander than the last, letting us reflect on the past experiences these characters have shared to allow us to suspend our disbelief. As the tenseness of the situation grows over the course of three games, and solving puzzles really puts on more weight once these stakes are heightened.

The gameplay may stay relatively in a holding pattern, but that's okay with me. The constant output of original puzzles by these guys never fails to tease the brain. It's okay if the gameplay is similar, because the stories' grandioseness allow the gameplay to be similar.

For Professor Layton, the gameplay is really just the base where they build interesting stories on to. and that's what I think allows these games to do so well. The framework is well built, and what they make of it is always more eye-catching than their last installment.

I won't say it's timeless. That's something no game can attest to, as the wants of the masses vary. I think Level-5 knows this as well, as the Sixth installment will be the last. This may be another strength. Level-5 knows when it's running out of energy. Hopefully they end on a bang.

If a game's gameplay is going to stay exactly the same, they need to make up for it in a different department. Even then, if it is formulaic, it can be good by allowing that formula to shine, and polish it to a mirror sheen. Level-5 just gave us really good stories with the same frame. In the case of other games, they may not have an overly good story to build, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's all about how you use formula to entertain the player in different ways. It's all about the execution.

Thanks for Reading,

Keurof.   read

9:26 PM on 03.05.2013

A First Timer's Rant: The Backlash at Maxis and EA

You know when a community makes you so angry? When you see trolls in the forums and feel so inclined to respond just to make your position heard even when you know you'll only make it worse, or when people just downright say something that you think is wrong and you really want to say something about it?

That happened to me today.

Unfortunately, I don't run a blog on my own, so I had no way of telling anyone about anything that I wanted to say. I was alone in a big world, with what seemed like the entire internet against me.

I ran to the Destructoid community because I wanted an outlet. I wanted to say something and have the smalest minute chance of being heard. Maybe, just maybe, someone would agree. That's why you guys are here, right?

So, what was the heart-wrenching thing that happened today that brought me to my knees, wishing that someone would speak for me, but instead I had to say it?

Sim City.

Not at the game in general, mind you. It's more of an issue about the DRM policies, and when I say the DRM policies, I'm not going to rant about how DRM's bad. You know that already. I'm actually more pissed off at the general reaction to it, and not in the normal ways. There are some certain aspects of the community's output that I feel is downright abominable in the way we have treated this situation.

A preface before I begin, because nothing is objective, especially when it comes to video games.

Even though I've been a gamer since I was four, I've never actually had to butt heads with the digital rights management problem. I was a Nintendo fan as a little kid, which means I generally didn't have DRM to worry about, and as I grew up, even though I became more of a PC gamer, I was more enamored with 90's style tycoon and empire games. Not only until about two years ago did I find Civilization and discover Steam.


Actually, I remember one of the first computer games I fell in love with was SimCity 3000, after I learned you need Power and water to have your city grow (Hey, I was like, five, okay?). I always got enjoyment out of expanding outwards, and looking at the scenario cities, which were all really huge and had skyscrapers. I always thought the developers hacked the game or something to get the cities like that.

Naturally, when one day, I went to the mall with my mom to go shopping one day, and I saw SimCity 4 DELUXE (Dude, it has deluxe in the title! How could it possibly be bad?) I begged the crap out of my mom to get it, and ended up having Sim City 4. I had the chance to look at the instruction manual on the way home, and there was so much stuff you could do with your cities! Connect them, drive in them, build Tourist Traps and Huge Hospitals, everything seemed awesome.

And it was. With reckless regard for the fact that money is limited, I built highways, housing, overpasses, farms, windmills, monorails, water pumps, all in that new looking isometric view that we all know and love. It was truly bliss, especially because I knew what I was doing. Sort of.

That brings us to today. Ever since my school became a laptop school, I've HAD to use a mac. With not a lot of games, the hole that city building and planning creative endeavors had wasn't filled. I mean, Cities XL was fun, but I felt it was a little more shallow than the inner machinations of messing with taxes and train tracks of SimCity. So when I saw the SimCity trailer, and then learned it was coming out for Macs, I was STOKED. It was so sublime. Not only was there a great game to be played, I could PLAY it! This was going to be the savior of the new era, a simulation to revive the forgotten genre! Right? Right?



Apparently not, because EA. Things were going good for a while. With each new video Cloud Saves and Always Online came into the picture. I don't really count Origin, because, frankly, I was expecting that, and I think you were too. That's when thing went to shit. I saw things spiral out of control as EA, Maxis, or the community could get a hold on the situation. You probably already know. If you haven't seen the AMA on Reddit, where the Maxis team get ripped to shreds on the DRM, go see that. Also, see Jim's Post about the incident.

Now, while I like the whole backlash, and I think it is time to show EA that this isn't good business, specific communities' approach to the issue have kind of bothered me in the way they go about combating this problem.

The first thing: r/gaming.

I know, right? r/gaming isn't something I should pay attention to when it comes to gaming news. Full of meme garbage, and when a game comes out, they circlejerk it like there's no tomorrow to mine all karma out of it as possible. But, we have to assess the entire situation, because this whole thing kind of started there.

I don't think the AMA was at all respectful, or at least the top comments weren't. Yes, it did raise a good point, fans don't want DRM, but the Maxis team obviously wasn't equipped to answer these questions or was asked not to. So when we repeatedly bashed it into their heads, I don't think that was nessecary at all. Other than the comment at the top of the AMA, I feel like many of the original comments (not replies, I get those are different) were just kicking a dead horse, or, a crew who obviously wanted to get on with it, judging by the transcript of questions the did answer.

I feel like all the communities (Destructoid, Kotaku, Reddit, and many others) have fallen into the trap of beating the point to where it's become too redundant to hold any meaning, and at this point, it's just getting a little disrespectful and bashing. We can all raise a little "Hear Hear" about an issue, but everyone standing up and saying they agree is just kind of repetitive.

Now, I know the counter argument, more voices mean more persuasiveness, but I don't think EA dwells particularly over internet arguments, because at the end of the day, they make their money. They know we don't like it, but do they care? Well, if they did, we'd be in much better shape than we are right now. Even if we all stand up, they're only going to listen to the most persuasive voice, and right now this "movement" doesn't really have one, as we all seem content to say it's bad, but not warrant why.

Jim Sterling, you need to give a public speech outside a town hall or something. You could be our leader.

The second thing: Piracy.

This pisses me off the most. These kind of comments on forums, AMA's, discussions, and commenting sections piss me off the most.

I'm going to pirate SimCity so it shows those darn-dastardly corporations that they can't make money! -Some Dude

First, you have admitted that you want it. In fact, I'm willing to bet you want MORE games like it. And you know of a way to get it without paying the price.

You selfish asshole.

That's me looking at all these comments.

I'm one of those people who pay for video games. I don't find it a hassle. With Digital Distribution and Game Stores, not to mention Amazon melding both, it's pretty easy for me to justify paying the price. I am one of the people that believe that hard work should be rewarded in value, no matter who that is. I believe the best way to support a company whose games you like is to buy the goddamn game.

And what you're doing to us is selfish.

More than you will ever know, piracy hurts US. Or at least that's what I've logiced out of it. Think about what it proves to the Producer.

First: MORE DRM. This is the most obvious. And understand that I don't like DRM in the slightest. It's intrusive, works against us, and is annoying as hell. How in the world is doing exactly what they're afraid of going to stop them from using what they think is the solution? It may not be the solution, but if EA believes it is, it may as well be. If anything, they're going to KEEP DOING IT. Meaning more of this bull that doesn't serve a purpose.

Second: THESE GAMES DON'T SELL. Because EA never thinks it's their fault. It's Maxis' fault. It's Bullfrog's Fault. It's not their fault. By effectively not giving them profits, we're showing them Maxis didn't make a good game. Even though the ratings are good, EA is a business, and EA will look at the dollar signs. And if we don't show them that Maxis makes good games through that, then they'll take them outside and shoot them. Piracy doesn't support anybody at the end of the day. Because although Maxis is related to EA, I do see them making a good game if it wasn't hindered by EA's standards. (Not specifically Maxis' standards.)

In one situation, we get a win-loss, and the other we get a loss-loss. Piracy isn't the answer.

Although I will say I don't know what is.

I don't know of a way to stop it. I wish we could support Maxis, but not EA. If there was a way, I would do that and take that idea and support it wholly. All I know is that this type of backlash hurts me as well as you. This brings me to my next point.

The third thing: Talking, but not Acting.

While talking and acknowledging the problem is good, talk is cheap. When are we going to act on it? How are we going to finally show them that it's a terrible idea?

I've seen people rise over the stupidest things, like the Ending of Mass Effect 3 and the Cupcakes. But I think strength is only measured in when you can act on the important issues, and I see nobody stepping onto the plate. I know this sounds hypocritical, but I don't have the knowhow or money to, y'know, set up an alternate server and reroute SimCity to that, or support Maxis only. I know someone who likes SimCity probably does. So why can't that person or team organize to TAKE ACTIONS?

By the way, that person is you.

Words lose even more value through a computer screen. I don't think a comment on a message board is going to do anything. Go do something. That's what makes the gaming community awesome, it's ability to take on problems in creative ways. I truly believe we could change the system a little by taking action.

Bonus: Separation of the game and DRM.

There is one. SimCity is good, as the critics say, but the user scores on metacritic, focused on DRM, are lower. However, the game is not bad SIMPLY BECAUSE it has DRM. The game's enjoyment may be lower, but it's not a reflection on the game itself. These things may be a self righteous justification for why you didn't buy the game, but it doesn't make the GAME bad, it makes the BUSINESS bad.

Wrap up time. The only reason I care about this backlash is because I do care about the future of both the gaming industry and SimCity. I love the series, and I think the disdain may be misdirected. It's one of my favorite games, and I don't want it to die. When I see direct attacks at a company who, up until this point made really stand out games such as SimGolf and the first two Sims games. Redirect your focus towards helping the community, I truly think we can do this.

I'll just be here sitting, waiting to see how the Mac version turns out.

I would like to thank Destructoid for giving me the opportunity to speak my mind, and I'm sorry that it's not very light for a first post. Not all of these posts will be like this, I promise.   read

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