A 27 year old student, Katrina enjoys her writing, yet acknowledges it could be better. She spends most of her time looking for something to write about. She misses the Destructoid crew, but admits her other writing obligations keep her quite occupied. She'll keep an eye on the Monthly Musings, since those are always worth her time.
For those who enjoy her writing, it's now archived under that hypertext. Catch her Twittering in the third person on a somewhat regular basis.
MAGfest. Known by some as the Music and Games Festival, but celebrated by many as the New Year NARP. I have celebrated the New Year with three MAGfest's to date, but none nearly so memorable or enjoyable as 2013. I'm here to highlight some of my experiences on the return to the mountain timezone before the convention grade S.A.R.S takes me out of the game for a few days.
The Planning Phase:
This year I was not expecting to attend MAGfest. The hotel they chose to host the event at is expensive and I just hadn't really thought about it after a fairly “meh” MAGfest 2012. Last-minute I heard about an indie games showcase booth, which I may or may not be able to volunteer for at for a hotel room. Some ups, downs and risk involved, I purchased a plane ticket to leave January 3rd, 2013 on December 28, 2012. This type of spontaneous travel has advantages and disadvantages:
Advantage: The excitement of going on a trip doesn't have time to subside, so from moment of purchase to departure I was pumped.
Disadvantage: It's a tad bit expensive to wait that long. December 27th would have been ideal, I think.
The Packing Phase:
This is what I packed for January 3rd-January 6th
-Clothing enough for each day plus a spare in case of party foul/beer spillage/other incident.
-Chargers for phone and iPad, USB charger adapter
-Toothpaste, deodorant, hand lotion, face wash and benadryl
This left enough space in the backpack for one key item: a fleece travel blanket, for sleeping on flights.
Advantage: I didn't have to carry a heavy bag between the airport and hotel, around the hotel, between hotel rooms, or anything else.
Advantage: I didn't have to pay to check a bag, or worry about messing with overhead bins on the plane. Everything fit nicely under the seat in front of me.
Disadvantage: Nothing. Part of me, for about fifteen minutes during the weekend, wished I'd had brought my 3DS to participate in Street Pass. That feeling was ultimately fleeting, since I was one of the few that wasn't walking-and-playing in the halls, or curled up on the floor staring deep into the eyes of my 3DS instead of socializing.
The Arrival Phase:
Once I arrived at the hotel, there were some room mix-ups with the volunteers. I was supposed to be comped a room for the weekend with Dtoid NY's very own Tino, but the room they put me in was full, and Tino was dropped from the volunteer list entirely. About 5 plus years ago, piling up on the floor of a hotel room would be like a camping adventure that I'd brush off after a nice shower. As my elders often say “these old bones certainly aren't what they once were,” and I was much less willing to sleep on a hard floor.
This is where Jonathan Ross came in. I was generously offered a place to stay after some of his roommates dropped out. It was not a party room, so getting to sleep worked out wonderfully, sharing a queen sized bed with also-homeless Tino.
The final night, I wanted to change things up since I felt super guilty for taking up space in Jonathan's room, so Tino and I transferred over to Dyganth's special space. The space was greatly appreciated.
The Indie Phase:
As I mentioned earlier, I spent time at the indie games booth. Though they stiffed me a room, I was still present to help at the booth basically the entire weekend, save for a nap through the Destructoid panel (what a jerk, right?) The Indie Games Booth of MAGfest was a lovely thing. The convention sponsored several tables for indie game developers to set up at basically free. All they had to do was pay for admission.
Notable Indie Games According to Kat:
High Strangeness – an adventure game created by our very own Agent Moo. The visual style was reminiscent of both NES and SNES era games, with a wonderful chiptunes soundtrack to go with it. Clever game mechanics and quirky characters had a lot of attention over the weekend.
Camp Keepalive – My personal favorite, also created by former Dtoiders (who are named Joel and Chris in the regular world, but I have no idea what their handles here are). It's a turn-based strategy game where you play as one of four camp counselors, each with a different ability, and collect campers that have wandered off. The danger here comes in the form of 80's horror movie staples, viewed at the show were Swamp monsters, slasher villains a-la Jason Vorhees and wolfmen. They had plans to add more beasties later on. Your goal was to collect campers and bring them to safety before a monster got to them. Some time after the show, they plan on releasing a public beta – which I highly recommend.
Electronic Super Joy – A beautifully designed action platformer set to a beat. The complex and challenging level design, visual design, sound and high polish really made this one stand out.
Kinship – A side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Gradius with a heavy story focus, also featuring a great soundtrack (what? Games with high sound quality at a (italics)music and games festival? Outrageous). It was early in development, but showed high potential.
Saturday Morning RPG – A kickstarter success story, Saturday Morning RPG is an RPG that features a whole lot of nostalgia. The game features a kid in high school during the 80's (with some 90's references) that wants to fight the forces of evil to save a girl at school. He gains powers from a wizard in the form of a trapper keeper that holds spells, and scratch-and-sniff sticker powerups. The game has several episodes out on iOS and has several more planned, I played Episode 1 in the hotel room because I just couldn't wait to get home for more.
Tone-Def – a tower defense game set to a beat. You use instruments that attack on rhythm to defeat robots descending on you. The design on this is ultimately unique and surprisingly catchy. The developer also made a game called Wiggity Wings, which – okay, picture in your head that paper airplane game in school, where you had to avoid obstacles and gain altitude by hitting air vents. It's like that, only you're powered by wigs. Quirky and awesome, for sure.
Holy crap – okay, I'm getting carried away with this. Those are SOME of the great titles that were on the showcase. Here, the list with websites.
The Party Phase:
Last years MAGfest 2012 had one specific hitch in it that really bummed me out. At the time, I was unable to drink alcohol due to a body malfunction that has since mostly-corrected itself. This year, I was very happy to enjoy my favorite American lager in the form of Yeungling (not available in the glorious state of Colorado) this weekend on multiple occasions. My only hardcore “party night” was Saturday, where I spent most of the time with Dtoiders in groups of varying size, before crashing a party with many notable types, including the *Epic Panel Guy, and nearly all dtoiders in attendance at the show.
During this party, I had mentioned that one of my goals for the weekend was to start a **Colossus power-up that was echoed back to me. Since the weekend was winding down, it was suggested by Keener that I start the power-up yell in the room – and it was glorious.
Alcoholic beverages consumed:
Yeungling (sometimes alternately Yeungling light)
National Bohemian, better known as Natty-Bo (Which I'd never had, so I decided to try it)
Dragon's Milk, an amazing Stout provided by Jess and Dyganth.
The Reminiscent Phase:
By Sunday, much fun was had but it was definitely time to go home. Most people had left by the time I even got myself out of bed, so I really just lounged around with Dyganth and others until it was time to take the shuttle back home. This basically brings me up-to-date where I realize my Dtoid life has changed. In 2009, I knew nothing but peoples online handle. Now I don't remember those handles and only know them by their real names. I have seen people I know from around the world face-to-face more often than I'd have been able to without these events.
It has been quite some time since I've posted with the C-Blogs here. I am aware that most of the people I see on a regular basis were Dtoid, but are about as active as I am – but there is no better place to share this.
As many of geek culture tend to do, I did make it home with a single souvenir. See, I have made it a habit to collect money from various cultures. Small monetary value, often coinage. This trip offered me a new coin to collect. One which makes me very happy and makes a wonderful addition to my current collection.
I am so glad I saw the people I saw. I miss people that couldn't make it, but I was overjoyed with how things went overall. I'd have tagged more people in this post, but I honestly don't remember handles here. I am more familiar with real names at this point - I guess that means the Destructoid community has evolved to fit real life.
*During the Destructoid panel at MAGfest, there was a guy that took a fair amount of time awkwardly grilling Neiro and Dale (and whoever else was on the panel) about integrity on the site. I missed this panel, as my sissy self fell asleep, but I heard glorious things about it. Later in the evening, it was decided that Destructoid should invite this Epic Panel Guy to their epic room party, where he proceeded to behave much like one would have expected. Epic Panel Guy/Tom: If you're reading this, make an account.
**The X-Men arcade cabinet has been present at MAGfest for quite some time. When the event was held at a smaller hotel, the sound of Colossus using his mutant power could be heard basically everywhere. Since then, MAGgoers have been yelling “Ooooaaaaauuuugh!” in the hallways and had it happily echoed back to them. I had never participated in this tradition, until this year.
It goes something like this:
and came from this (It's nine-minutes on repeat, you only need to see about 15 seconds of it):
After some unfortunate tornado business a few months ago, I've finally managed to get settled in a special place. I remodeled this place just for me. I am no longer above ground, so tornadoes can't reach me, and I have all my gaming stuff set up once again.
Here's my new entertainment center, with new High Def TV. Xbox 360 replaced (yep, it didn't survive for more than a week as originally thought,) PS3 checked out, and Nintendo Wii is invincible.
Speaking of the Wii:
Decals! Yea, my Wii got a retro makeover. It's less glaringly WII on my shelf now, the grey toned it down enough.
This is my up-close set-up, yes, I do have all 3 systems...and a DVD player.
And my collection, per request:
Since myself, and at least one other was concerned about the condition of my gaming chair:
It's a bit tattered, but it survived the storm over-all. So far, no splintered glass in places where glass doesn't belong due to sitting in my golden throne, including my kitties.
Oh, and I have a desk now.
And I even have a view from my desk/office area:
I can play video games while I surf the net (which will be more important when I have a desktop PC,) or watch movies while doing homework.
Next up on the Shadokat agenda; I will be posting the PAX paper I wrote for my English class, just have to add some profanity or something first. Cheers!
Image compliments of BAPengin at Co-optimus.com - it makes me laugh, a lot.
Recently I've noticed a disturbing trend in the gaming market. It is the addition of game-altering exclusives with nearly every pre-order on the market, primarily at Gamestop. Yes, this is a bit of self-whoring, but I am pretty sure this subject effects the community here, as much as where I originally posted it (sorry, can't copy paste from there, it's against the rules.)
Over at www.co-optimus.com I delved into this trend a bit to spark some debate; does game-altering exclusive content available by pre-order only effect the way you feel about games, developers, or publishers - or are we just overreacting when we say we don't get the "full experience" if a piece of the game is cut out for everyone else?
How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story." - Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart.
I gently slide the lantern hatch open until a sliver of light cuts the thick black of the room. The light arouses the old man from his sleep - his dreaded eye is open, peering into my very soul! The pounding of his heart fills my ears, I must put a stop to it. I hastily take his life, and carefully dismember the body to be hidden far from prying eyes. "There was nothing to wash out - no stain of any kind - no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all - Ha! Ha!" I proclaim to myself after carefully bagging the pieces. I swiftly carry the limb-filled bags to the old mans own room. I pry the floor boards free and carefully deposit the bags. It's done! It isn't until that sound - the throbbing heart fills my head, and I expose my crime to the officers who came loudly rapping at my door. "It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
Some time ago, my parents were keen on giving gifts with educational value. They indulged me with many educational video games over the years - games that were often left ignored or rarely used. Much to their surprise and delight, the gift of The Dark Eye, pushing the literature of Edgar Allen Poe at me through video game form, was one of the most appreciated gifts of 1995. By leaving out the words "educational" when handing over my present, I was none the wiser in my endeavor to fully explore the many twisted tales held within the Edgar Allen Poe PC game. I was Montressor, I was Fortunato - I was murdered, I was a murderer. Creepy claymation characters unfolded the stories for my young mind. I played with the lights off, I explored the many rooms of this game to uncover the tales within the tale - The Tell-Tale Heart hidden in a fish head, The Cask of Amontillado in my reflection from a wine glass.
Much of the game allowed me to explore the tales held within as either the victim, or the murderer - other tales were read to me with stunning visuals and an eerie narrator. Anabell Lee was given a whole new meaning when the characters were composed of wire hangers and paper mache. The Masque of the Red Death made a wonderful Halloween project for a literature class to watch on my antiquated laptop. Then there was the integration; time to figure out how to trigger the next part of well known stories. "Did I check the pot on the stove?" I'd ask, "What about the drawings in the study? Perhaps it's there." I glide my cursor over every inch of the room until another dialog of Poe's famous stories starts up once more.
Halloween comes around, and I dust off the old box, reinstall The Dark Eye and sit down to have my nerves rattled once more - it's been 14 years of this. I personally attribute my favoritism toward Survival Horror to that first fateful encounter, at the impressionable age of 10, playing The Dark Eye. Now I savor the unusual, covet the bizarre, and play any survival horror game time permits.
Sadly for this game,
the action was obscure,
no grenades to lob away,
no gold to gather here.
Though, The Dark Eye did have me,
many gamers've never seen,
The erudite side of fear
that was inSCAPES twisted dream.
Leaving The Dark Eye here,
a forgotten dream within a dream.
Oh - and the Bells, bells, bells....bells.
The Dark Eye had received a Premature Burial, never getting the chance to claw its way into the hearts and homes of many literary gamers. You can quoth this raven, "Nevermore."
Gamestop has always been a bit questionable to gamers in their retail tactics. First, they give you crummy trade-in value for your games at a fraction of what you originally paid. Then, they have exclusive deals that say "buy with us, or miss out on something great that will make your game sub-par." Now, they've crossed the line by lying to a gamer that just wanted to play as Sgt. Johnson and be a part of the Halo Reach Beta.
Here's the situation. First, I have been covering Halo 3: ODST's release on a website called Co-optimus.com. We focus on co-op gaming, so the Sgt. Johnson release for the Firefight mode was a big deal to us. However, as a bit of a book-nerd, I was more looking forward to playing the Halo: Reach beta, which requires the ODST game disc to play.
When I went to Gamestop inquiring about Halo 3:ODST's in-game exclusives, the guy behind the counter told me something that I knew wasn't true - but I took his word for it, since he worked at the company and I didn't. He told me that Halo 3: ODST was going to have Reach beta codes with it, but only with a very limited supply. This was absolutely not true - all you need is the Halo 3: ODST disc in approximately a year when the Halo: Reach beta goes live.
This blatant lie was a violation of my personal being for a number of reasons.
1. He made me question myself ...and I fell for it.
2. He made me feel taken advantage of when I double checked what I already knew, and found out he flat-out lied.
I actually feel can blame the corporation on this one, not just the skeeze that got a (canceled) pre-order out of me. While that guy was still at fault for lying in the first place, Gamestop puts so much pressure on their staff to make pre-order quotas that they'll do almost anything to keep their jobs. Apparently that means lying, though hopefully when I speak with the manager of that store, it's less condoned (and I get a Sgt. Johnson code anyway.) Gamestop is one of my biggest pet peeves in the gaming industry right now.
I used to shop with them for their relatively cheap used-game selection simply because I am poor - Now, I won't even be doing that any longer. Their exclusive pre-order incentives that are rarely (if ever) made available to gamers that don't pre-order with them was the first straw, but when they lie about those incentives I'm not going to make another attempt to pre-order again.
Many people who follow me on twitter, or have any idea about my Facebook may have noticed a series of strange blurbs about a tornado that rampaged through parts of Colorado recently - most specifically, my apartment complex. Convincing myself I'm a writer, I thought I'd put down the ordeal in a written account. (Also, a few pictures to curb boredom.)
It all started on a rather quiet evening. I was finishing up an evening of playing one of the most interesting arcade games I've played in quite some time with the developers of said game. I gave them my impressions, and went on my way to writing the review at about 10:15pm. Not two minutes after signing off of Xbox LIVE did the power begin to flicker. No rain, no wind, just flickering power for about a minute.
"That's weird," I thought, praising myself for the pretend forethought to turn off my (7th) Xbox 360 before surges ruined it. I proceeded to unplug my Mac for the same reason, and was half-way through a second review sentence when the thunder started cracking close to the apartments accompanied by hail and rain in a flash. It was the wind that did it, really - drive me to the bathroom, that is. Don't worry, no britches were soiled. I didn't have time for that.
Hail the size of golf balls came at a sideways angle toward the North side of the building, shredding glass, trees, cars, and some homes in the process. My pathetic single-paned glass was no match, and it didn't take long for the hail to rip through my apartment. The noise was unbelievable! I was shouting for the cats at the top of my lungs, and I could not hear anything aside from thunder and breaking glass. The best way to describe it would be gunfire at a slow, powerful rate.
As I wrangled the cats to the bathroom, expensive laptop in hand - the young kitty became far too spooked for sensible judgement. Silly Dax ran toward the breaking glass, and bullet-like hail. Since common sense in a situation like that is rare, I went into the shredding livingroom after the frightened cat! Somehow, my tank-top and jeans provided enough protection to avoid any serious injury - though, I could've sworn I was hit repeatedly with glass in the shoulders and back.
After wrangling the second kitty, we 3 huddled in the bathroom (the only room without windows) for about 10-20 minutes before things calmed enough to venture out. Two cats who normally barely get along, were huddled together in the safety of a bathtub, while I was taking a mental inventory of things that needed to be dried off immediately. Ah, family.
"What the Hell was that?" I repeated, while fumbling in my toolbox for a flashlight (after I'd picked up my Xbox for drying - priorities.) I flicked on the dim emergency bulb to survey the damage, and this is what I saw:
(Not the gaming chair!)
It took maybe 5 minutes to actually realize: I've been hit by a tornado, and made very poor decisions in the process.
While trying to figure out what to do next, I sent a few shocked text messages and called my mom warning her that it might be headed that way. I also spoke with my neighbor and multiple other friends who all had a similar "did that just happen?" reaction. I paced on the phone with my boyfriend for a while, mildly freaked out, when I realized I wouldn't be able to sleep in my own bed until the ice and shards of glass were removed. I was already dealing with slivers of glass in my shoes, pants, and shirt - just brushing my skin enough to irritate and itch like razor splinters.
It was time to decide what to do next. I packed up a few overnight things, and called my sister for a camera to document (partially for insurance, partially for my own recollection) the damage. Since things occur to a shocked mind in stages, it was also time to worry about my material posessions after all creatures were accounted for. Three wide-open windows, a nice new PS3 or Xbox 360, some movies, and loads of pawnable video games prompted me to grab boxes and start packing up.
At about Midnight, my sister showed up with the camera, and we wandered around taking pictures of anything and everything. I convinced her to hold on to a few boxes of irreplacible/out of print comic books, and the aforementioned material goods at her apartment - since my car would be full of kitties, and things like clean clothes.
While we were putting things in her car, my neighbor called to warn me that the gas main near our apartment was leaking - it was time to go. I picked up the following items and prepared to drive my illegal car (spider-webbed windshields are not street legal to drive):
1 litter box
1 kitty food container (with kitty food, and cat-nip inside)
1 laundry basket full of clean clothes, shredded blinds, and glass
1 Xbox 360
I settled into my mothers house at 2am, in time to get about 3 hours of sleep before my first final of the semester. What? Did I forget to mention that? Yes, this is finals week. I did a paw-check for broken glass, and crawled into bed with my head in a bizarre state of unrest in spite of being completely exhausted.
The next morning, I drove back to my apartment to pick up a few more things, and get daylight photos of the whole mess before class. Trees were down in the streets and on top of cars, power line poles were cracked like toothpicks, street lights were bent, many of the 50,000 homes without power were still without power. I've now got a new windshield on the way, boarded windows, a functional Xbox 360, and a warm bed to sleep in with my fuzzy monsters.
The more I think back on it, the worse that whole thing should have turned out.
Reasons this was weird:
It was a TORNADO! Actually, to be more precise, it was a flash tornado - with no siren, or even weather warnings whatsoever. I know I'm not in a high-class area, but I don't even have wheels on my home! (And now, I don't have windows, either!)
My 55 gallon fish tank on the wall opposite the largest window in the apartment was hit repeatedly with ice and/or glass. There are nicks in the glass throughout the front - yet, somehow, it was still standing, full of it's own water and fish.
My xbox, which was all but on the floor in front of the broken window, has turned on and connected to Xbox live without trouble. After practically dancing through 6 other xboxes before it, I was sure this one was a goner.
I have met all of my neighbors, most of whom I didn't even exchange greetings with on a regular basis.
My car suffered extreme hail damage which looked like I parked at a golf driving range and a severely cracked windshield. Yet my motorcycle that was parked on the north side of my car, suffered no damage whatsoever.
I really, honestly, should have been shredded by that hair brained cat-rescue. Actually - the cat should've been shredded as well, but I'm more than grateful we weren't.
I am still going to PAX. No Tornado could ever stop that!
Also, apologies for not being around much! I miss D-toid!
One of the most ongoing epidemics in video games for generations has been the Missing Princess Syndrome. Your princess has been abducted by a rather unsavory character, and you're on a mission to rescue her from an uncertain fate, thus proving your chivalrous adventuring attitude. Only, your princess doesn't stay saved. She's always in another castle, kidnapped by the evil sorcerer, or simply eluding your manly touch.
Let us now find the long lost princess, or condemn her to a fate with a giant snapping turtle. To those Princesses about to die...
She's in another castle...
Abducted by monkeys, and giant snapping turtles is the very royal Damsel in Distress, Princess Peach. She has been destined to be rescued by our favorite plumber on repeat for over two decades. She even gets two different abductors, to add a bit of variety to the rescue missions.
Before he became a good croc-stomping-monkey guy, Donkey Kong had "King Kong" syndrome, instilling a strange desire to steal a girl, and throw barrels at her plumbing rescuer. Once Mario reaches the top of a vertical maze, his generic princess (currently "Pauline") will be rescued, then stolen many times in a single sitting. Thus, making me wish the monkey would just get it over with already!
In Mario specific titles, the Princess now dubbed "Peach" lives in a far away castle, guarded by a single toadstool henchman - which makes her constant abduction by mutant snapping turtle Bowser, and his army of Koopa turtles, a certainty. Bowser's goal is the same as any other mutant snapping turtle, except maybe Tokka, he aims to kidnap the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom to steal her throne.
It's never completely clear what Bowsers intentions post-kidnapping are, presumably marriage since that's how that whole Monarchy thing works. I'd almost call Princess Peaches story one of vanity, where the big ugly turtle gets denied because of his looks. But, the hero is Mario, so that theory doesn't really hold water.
Thus is born the Princess in Peril stereotype.
She's not that interested...
Of course, as games began to demand variety and political correctness, the focus went from "Save the Princess" to "Save the Kingdom, there may be a Princess in it for you."
She can use telepathy, yet is still completely helpless.
Which brings us to the most notorious princess, holding the game franchise name, rather than her pretty-boy knight in not-so-shining armor, Princess Zelda. The palaces Royal Sorcerer, Gannon/Gannondorf/Agahnim will stop at nothing to steal the throne, either using a powerful spell that requires Princess Zelda to be sacrificed, or by kidnapping a usually-under-aged girl as a bride. Princess Zelda will always play a part in Gannons plot, and somehow the commoner boy in green, Link, is always roped into rescuing her.
By the end of each game, after rescuing said princess, she gives you her thanks and maybe a piece of the mythical Tri-Force - yet somehow, Link has yet to officially be made a prince. Simply restoring a Monarchy that frowns on the poor fairy-folk seems like such a gyp. Once again, wishing ill on the princess that won't properly reward her rescuer, or at least stay out of danger!
She wore her hair down to there...
Now let us fast forward in time to the present, with arcade games taking center stage in the gaming market. The cryptically named arcade game Braid has an elusive princess for the main character, dubbed Tom to alter time to find. Unwinding the story of how his princess with braided hair, left him, and he has to quest to find her again.
Where have we heard this before. Oh, right.
I think this brings us full circle with time travel and Princesses. Now, wake me up when my knight in shining overalls shows up just in the nick of time.
How many princesses have to almost-die before we give this tradition a rest?
What do Deadpool, the Wizard of Oz, and Starcraft have in common? Well, it certainly isn't "Zerg", "Rainbows" or "Poptarts", so it must be "awesome"! That's exactly what you get in this Q&A session with the worlds greatest 'player two'. (I'll give you a hint, the wind doesn't whisper "hostiles" at him.)
Carlos Ferro, AKA Dominic Santiago, AKA Domination, AKA "the character responsible for the majority of my achievements in the Gears of War series", has taken a moment to chat with me on behalf of Co-optimus.com. He talks about Voice acting, toys, Gears, and Batman.
What happens when the apocalypse happily meets up with starting a new, animal filled life? Crossing4Dead is the latest game from Farcical Studios to the nethersystem, which takes the survivors of Left 4 Dead and gives them a new life among the animals. Join Regn, after she's survived the apocalypse, but been separated from her team, make a new life in the world of Animal Crossing.
Meet new friends, maintain a town, and most of all...Survive. Write anonymous letters to be mailed by stork to random strangers to answer the age-old question: are we alone post apocalypse? How would you survive, what would you do? Play the game**, decide your destiny.
**This is not actually a game, this is an editorial by yours truly for Co-optimus.com. My goal is to have you enjoy what you read, and hopefully you enjoy "Crossing4Dead", Cheers!
After reading this article, in which lies the next top secret Nintendo advancement, which will allegedly stream a player hints in video form, solving puzzles for “stuck gamers,” I became very nervous for the next generation of players. With the Wii, it felt like Nintendo was working hard to swat the stereotyping “gamers are lazy” fly, but now they appear to be feeding the fly our minds.
“The patent hinges on a form of automated gameplay -- likely sequences pre-recorded by a game's developer -- that users can turn on, described as "digest moving image." For example, it could show a game's character navigating a level to reveal its solutions to stuck players -- or simply to allow players to experience it [the game] without investing the time for an entire playthrough. ”
Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I seem to recall Nintendo's most notorious games are adventure/platformers. Adventure/platformers put as much an emphasis on gameplay, as they generally do on puzzle solving. Being someone who finds puzzles to be engaging, challenging, and fun, I would be very upset if someone sat down with my 6-year-old-self and showed me exactly how to solve a puzzle, or I were allowed to simply frame the puzzles box and take credit for the completed works. Stacking empty video game boxes on your shelf to show off would have a similar effect.
People need challenges so their brains learn, children especially need this type of mental stimulation, to start problem solving early on. Problem solving with most adults is difficult enough, but if our next generation just tapes a box to a wall to take credit for a job well done...well, we're in trouble.
Sure, there are people that become very frustrated with games (and are very frustrating to watch), but if they are to learn to play games, or in essence, solve their puzzles, they need to practice. People need to get stuck, so they can figure out how to get out of a situation – be it in video games, in the workplace, at school, etc. One of the best life lessons is failure, because “Why do we fall, Bruce?”
Many games have included their own hint system in the programing. Many of the hints are an optional “check this screen if you are stuck”, but others are more , what's the word, irritating? When it was impossible to bypass some problem solving fairies. But to develop an entire system devoted to bluntly solving problems for you...Where's the sense of accomplishment that gamers crave, if they "solve" something by watching someone else do it, instead of trial and error?
As a 23 year old gamer, I have thus far avoided feelings of “Dern whippersnappers – why, back in my day we were happy with this, none of your fancy, shiny graphic thingies.”
But if this new form of gameplay, where the game may actually play itself, I will likely take the geezer stance on games, and boycott the next generation a decade or so prematurely. There does appear to be an "off" switch to these helpful tips, but am I mistaken in thinking many people will take advantage of this system and abuse it to some extent?
When art, satirical humor, Mushrooms, and Nintendo collided earlier this December, we were given the beautiful independent game: Mushroom Men, developed by first timers Red Fly Studio. I explored the game thoroughly, and enjoyed it more than anything I'd played on the Wii in over a year (or, ever.) I then took notes, and dropped my two cents into the vastness of the Internet, which was magically picked up by someone at Red Fly Studio.
This gave me the opportunity to interview Red Fly Studio Lead concept artist, Frank Teran (also known for his artwork on Vertigo Comics.) Along with co-founding the independent studio with Dan Borth (CEO) and Kris Taylor (Art Director), He was primarily responsible for giving life to these Mushrooms through his drawings and paintings, cover art for both games, and (in his own words) “extraneous gameplay ideas/concepts”. I was excited to sit down (on-line) and learn something about this game from an insiders perspective, and have quite a bit to share on the experience.
I would imagine there's an interesting story here, so I have to ask: Why Mushrooms?
I think I'd really have to ask my friend Dan that same question, since he was the one that thought of the whole mushroom angle. I'd say my part was making the mushroom viable as a character the players could ultimately latch onto, and I think the fact that a fungus would be in the lower spectrum of the totem pole, it'd make them the ultimate underdog. They're kinda given life, but at the same time hamstrung with having to deal with the huge world that surrounds them.
I also think Dan and Kris focused on mushrooms as a nod to the gaming roots of the Mario universe.
While the final product is very original, including the humor, music, and story - what would you say inspired the development of this game the most? What inspired you, personally, while working on this project?
I think the inspiration for me were the things I remembered most from my awesome childhood. The sense of wonder and things that I embraced and loved, like Harryhausen movies and old sci-fi flicks, as well as humor that gravitated to the mad magazines, e.c comic books and wacky package trading card types of satire...you'll see glimpses of that thru out my concepts and hopefully in the game as a result...it's like a bizarre amalgam of my nostalgic brain-seepage that makes its way to the digital canvas when I work on ideas.
My initial draw to the game came from a pack of promo-cards a game store employee gave me, with incredibly interesting visuals. My question then would be: is Red Fly doing anything additional to use the art to it's advantage?
Haha - well, I'd love for them to compile an art book, but I'm pretty biased. I leave that up to the fans of the game to request, power to the peoples. I also think the 'lil resin figure was a great idea.
With the darker art style, twisted sense of humor, and the advertisement with “Teen+” rated comic books, what specific demographic would you say this game is targeting?
I'd hope it appeals to those within the range of a gamer that can handle the stuff we toss at 'em. The humor is pretty much in line with stuff I grew up with in old cartoons and mad magazine, like i had mentioned. Hopefully no one is truly disturbed by the artwork, being a bit creeped out I'll take though - since I like making the gamer feel something emotionally when they encounter anything I had imaged out.
Do you think they'll ever let you take the art to comic books, perhaps for a miniseries, or one-shot of Mushroom men, to maybe include your old crowd?
I would be more than happy to visually narrate any type of prologue for those who think it'd help round out the story. I think we're going to add a lot more into the next adventure to help answer some questions, but also up the ante with more stuff. I can't tell you how amped I am for the next chapters to unfold, hopefully that'll happen.
What sort of feedback did you, or Red Fly, expect on the “users” front? What has the reception from gamers been thus far?
I'd say from my perspective, we really don't have any expectations. I'd hope that the fans would embrace something like mushroom men; the weirdness, the satire, the retro feel, all that stuff I would hope the players could dive into and dig. The feedback thus far has been great actually, the enthusiasm in the comments from those who have played the game are really, really encouraging. It's one of those magic moments where you get to see what others get out of what we wanted to get across. It's funny seeing the wide range of what folks get out of it.
So you're finding a lot of Internet feedback?
Yes indeed, and I love all of it! Even the harsh, dismissive, cynical stuff. I basically use that as fuel. It's what I feed on in the wee hours of the night when I work.
Basically, you feed off the Internet “trolls?”
Yes. I flip it and use them to my advantage. Bosses grow more fangs, and become more fierce as a direct result.
This game seems to defy most expectations of the Wii fan base, so the question here is: Why Nintendo?
I don't wanna speak for the folks who were directly involved in that decision making, but I think we possibly chose Nintendo because the style of platforming game we were aiming for seemed to dovetail perfectly with the platforming/adventure gaming base that's already established there, as well as the innovative tech/controls that the Nintendo offered. I'm personally still fascinated with the Wii-mote, and the potential gameplay uses. Mind you, I was raised on the joystick and trackballs for innovation, so this is like...THE FUTURE.
To expand on that, why split up the two games to the two separate Nintendo systems? Would it be beneficial as a player to play them “in order”?
Splitting up games sure is a risky venture, yes. But then again, we're a 3rd party developer who's 1st IP is a platformer on the same system that Mario is on, some would say that's a risk as well. I think if you want to have more insight into the mushroom men universe, playing both would offer some more narrative prologue, and offer different gameplay at the same time - but that's a decision we leave up to the gamer.
So, you'd say they're relatively independent games from one another?
Relatively. there are aspects that connect them, but not to the point where one is dependent on the other. I actually had painted 50+ illustrations for the DS versions cut-scenes, so there are aspects in basic storytelling within, they are a nod to my career in comics. That's what made the experience so rewarding, taking my storytelling love and applying it to the mush universe.
While trying to generate mini-buzz about the game on my level, the reaction I got from people was; well, not great. I'd heard this game called “Just another platforming game”, What then, would you say to this - what distinguishes Mushroom Men from the rest of the platforming games?
Well, I think that we bring a new angle to the genre that didn't exist before. Artistically I think we didn't mimic anything, so we're going to maintain that type of sensibility and just build on top of it. The gameplay will start to expand and bloom into something folks have never quite experienced, but that will be up to the gaming audience. Hopefully the audience will want to see the further adventures of Pax, since I'm already in full steam concept mode for the next step in Pax's future. I am confident that even at this stage, it's going to be one heck of an adventure.
I think Red Fly Studio is Pax - there is a parallel. We're brand new to this game, it's our first, we're goin' head to head with the monoliths of gaming, we'll take our lumps, but we'll keep fighting.
Tiny is the new big, and I see Red Fly making a big splash with a very tiny hero. Experience Mushroom Men for yourself, or gift it to someone who could use some quality time with their Wii.
In the spirit of judging things by their cover, I stumbled on Mushroom Men: The Spore War based on a small pack of artistic cards promoting the game – they must have made some impression, because I was instantly intrigued. Being a new franchise, I wasn't sure what to expect beyond the pretty cover, but I decided to give the little guys at Red Fly Studios a chance to knock my socks off.
During my preliminary research, I noticed a lot of the art and humor style seemed to be influenced by the Oddworld series - one of the heavyweights (and my favorites) in artistic “indie” gaming. These are pretty big shoes to fill, and I was curious to see how Mushroom Men would hold up. So, I put down the one-and-only preorder on the game at my local store, and after dusting off my neglected Wii (not my fault...) here's my experience.
System: Nintendo Wii (prequel on the Nintendo DS) Genre: Adventure, platforming Rating: Everyone; just enjoy yourself! Suggested For: Anyone who enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy and would enjoy something similar (minus the motion sickness,) the next generation of Oddworld fans, or anyone who really needs an excuse to power up their Wii.
The story begins, as so many do, with a meteorite crashing on the Earth. This meteorite doesn't appear to have impacted our world at all, at least - not on our level. However, the world of mushrooms and other plant life are brought to our level of thinking, talking, and warring. Once peaceful Mushroom tribes begin warring over pieces of the meteorite, a few tribes grew strong, and more peaceful tribes went underground.
Now, follow the hero Pax on his adventure to find where he belongs, after his tribe was completely wiped out. He'll meet up with plants, and other mushroom tribes who will assist him along the way, but he accidentally absorbs a meteorite from a peaceful tribe. His quest for companionship turns to a promise to quest and find this particular tribe a new meteorite – one that Pax can't absorb. Mushroom Men: The Spore War is this quest.
Being a mushroom, Pax has a very different point of view of the world – it's still our world he's walking around in, it just looks much, much bigger. This makes house-hold items that one might discard or lose, very useful as improvised weaponry. Pax will collect specific prerequisites (called “Scav”) to create a simple, yet effective, weapon. For instance, a Pencil, Zip Tie, and Toothpick create a very unorthodox stabbing weapon, and a Match, Thread, and Exact-o knife create a useful slashing weapon.
Defending oneself in time of war, even small-scale war, is very important. Aside from the improvised Weaponry, Pax is armed with special powers he gains from his accidentally-absorbed Meteorite pieces. “Sporekinesis” allows Pax to use his will to move, throw, and activate objects without touching them. “Will of Spores” allows Pax to control plants that may be helpful, and “Spore Punisher” gives you a special direct attack on weak or injured enemies. Really, the “Sporekinesis” is the most useful of the spore powers, and you should use it to bowl for moles whenever possible. Trust me.
Of all these powers and weapons, though, I really have to say my favorite “item” in the game was the grappling hook. Actually, it's a child's sticky-hand toy, the kind I personally used to put sticky “hand” prints on the television as a kid, to drive my parents crazy – Pax uses it much more constructively while exploring his surroundings. I even enjoyed the grapple-points, which were things like “Vote for...” campaign buttons, or quarters stuck to various surfaces with chewing gum. Brilliant.
On this scale, the attention to tiny detail becomes increasingly important. Fortunately, I don't have to tell Redfly that, as all the nails, woodwork, mold, and scattered debris were just as I would imagine them being, were I the size of a mushroom, which I think about regularly. Though they may be only aesthetics, detail is the kind of thing a lot of people seem to be looking at most with games, and where much of the criticism against the Wii lies – so, do not fear, Mushroom Men is still beautiful, and is even accompanied by very unique music.
One aspect I am always worried about with the Wii's unconventional controller, is the movement control and gameplay. For anyone who has played Super Mario Galaxy, I can tell you the way the wii-mote works is very similar – which is to say; not too bad. Moving Pax around the screen is fairly straightforward, battles work smoothly, and aiming your interactive cross hairs on the screen works as well as any other Wii game.
It's once you incorporate the camera into this equation that things are a bit more frustrating, as I ended up standing still, taking much more time than I would have liked to center the camera where it needed to be. But, this camera issue was only bad in especially tight areas, while free-roaming, and fixed-camera areas, the game works best.
Humor and character design is very important in a game where the primary storyline is searching for rocks, and you're a mushroom. Mushroom Men measures up to the clever giants of gaming by utilizing a slightly askew idea of the way things work. For example, the enemies fit an array of different pint-sized animals, most of which are rarely considered a threat – unless you're a plant. The Rabbits are the first to come to mind, with their bunnicula presence, the plant kingdom (called “Kudzu”) fear the Rabbits above all others, and request help from Pax to defend them. This species is even taken a step further with a very odd Jackalope enemy; a pretend species of Rabbit with antelope horns.
Another example of very off humor is the health-bar system – as Pax takes a hit, a piece of his mushroom cap goes missing, and his radioactive brain is exposed, until no cap remains. Even regenerating health comes from an odd place, when you have to beat dead rats that have fungus growing on them, to retrieve the fungi-spore health bits. Sounds disgusting, right? How many kids tend to favor disgusting things? Exactly.
In many action-adventure and platforming games, some of the most memorable characters are the side or alternate characters you run into on your path. Whether you loathe them, or they made you feel guilty for all the times you abused them, or they freak you out a bit, you're bound to remember these characters. Unfortunately, I felt that aspect was a bit shallow for Mushroom Men. While Pax is adorable...in a fungus-sort-of-way, there weren't many quirky characters to banter with, or anyone particularly memorable.
This isn't to say the character design is completely lost, as the different mushroom tribes each has it's own social personality and traditions – I'd personally like to see at least one sequel, since the gameplay and design is just right, they can maybe focus on the writing aspect a bit more. Or, perhaps I missed enough storyline by not playing the prequel, which is on a different game system altogether – probably not the best idea, guys.
That is, indeed, a cactus riding a lizard. It definitely makes sense.
While this game may not fall into the “all-time favorites” list, it was certainly a wonderful experience, and a welcome change from the music and mini-games that seem to be Wii's primary focus. If I were you, and you happen to enjoy a fun, mildly twisted, platforming game – I'd definitely recommend at least a once-over, especially if your Wii needs a bit of exercise as mine did.
Now, imagine me, only trying to figure out where this fits on a rating scale of 1-10. (8/10, or an A-? Almost great, with a few kinks that held back great potential.)