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12:27 AM on 06.20.2012

Shoot the Breeze: Pineapple Cacophony

From the endless forest of scripture trees, all covered in the ivory ivy of time's filigree, comes the stirring of the Middle Gods, they, the Dixkin, who bespoke the sturdy lands of our wide world. The Gods who followed the Old, those of the wild flame, and preceded the New, those who now stir the pages with their endless winds. Can you feel the boisterous tremor in your marrow? They are come.

Which is to say that I've had a couple beers and find myself reflecting on the welcomeness of Om Nom's return to the blogosphere. About time I oiled up the ol' keyboard and tapped out a few letters myself, isn't it? Sure, why not.

I've been doing videogames with The Binding of Isaac a lot. Like, hella much. I think I'm almost at a staggering fifty hours of my life by this point. Fifty hours? Good lord. That's a straight two days of my life. What's worse is that I probably swore through at least 25% of that. That's, what, twelve hours? It's like a regular shift plus overtime all spent indelicately disparaging my ability to play the game and questioning my worth as a human being.

Pretty good way to pass the time, all told.

I bought the The Wrath of Lamb DLC. It's dece. Legit dece. The nature of the game under the extra content is interesting. At least going off my anecdotal evidence - as good as scientific fact around here - it's become easier to become grossly powerful, but at the same time, it's easier to get killed. I mean, you get mega swag insofar as collecting things, but the new enemies are trickier and deal more damage.

The new angel rooms are sick. And tight. Sick tight, yo.

But the spider guys are Satan's dong swaying gently to the rhythm of Cocorosie.

You may not know this, but I hate Cocorosie.

I mean, I love, what, like 80% of the sounds Cocorosie make. Beat box dude and operatic chick are rad. But then the raspy troll starts hacking out that sinus-y, phlegm-ish vocal nails-on-chalkboard and I want to forget that music, as a concept, is a thing that has ever existed.

Uh, this is them, FYI.

Anyway. The DLC kind of plays up the best of Isaac, which is to say, decking out your neglected child in the hellish garb like some sort of Occult Barbie. Watching as a toddler is transformed into a hulking demon draped in underwear is supreme, so with the seeming bounty of items, the DLC hits the nail on the head. The meaner enemies are about the only reasonable way of balancing out the upper awe factor. In that regard, it's done well.

That said, I'd be down for, like, a switch I could flip to go back to the days before spiders. The un-spider switch. Mad down.

The challenges that accompany the expanded core game are pretty good too. They offer slightly different twists on the normal play style, which is fantastic. Not radically different, but focuses on certain powerups, say. Anything mixing up the game to keep it fresh is good in my books. Challenges, extra characters, whatever.

Except for Samson. Guy's a wicked turd.

Aight. What else. Uh, man, I don't know if I can go back to Dark Souls. It's like, wow. Okay. The bar for playing the game is somewhere up there and I'm, man, I am miles under that bar. I am squinting up at that bar in the impossible distance. I am hiring top scientists to build a rocket to that bar. Our space program rivals Cold War Russia. Millions have been invested in a pen that writes in bar-space.

I'm at a part with these ghosts. Hang on, let me stop you there.

Ghosts. Ghosts, for Christ's sake. Ghosts.

And these aren't your namby-pamby Casper and Friends mischievous sprites. They are goddamn ghouls. They wreck your swag. Your swag is all kinds of wrecked. You have been denied swag insurance because the magnitude of their wrecking transcends time to become a pre-existing swag condition. Their wrecking of your swag is a fixed point, a truth constant in all universes.

I have no idea how to hurt these smug spooks. But I mean, whatever. I've been defeated before. The real problem is that I got into this discussion with a friend about Dark Souls vs. Skyrim where he argued for the latter because of its fun factor and I swung for the former because the sense of achievement it affords is damn near life-defining.

And to make sure I wasn't misrepresenting myself, I went back and played some Skryim.

And it was fun. And easy. It was easy to have fun.

It was this moment of, hang on, yeah, videogames. You play them. It doesn't have to be work. I don't have to be cringing while I do this.

Don't get me wrong, Dark Souls is important and I'm not done with it. It's just, I think I've exhausted myself for the time being. It's a lot. There's a lot there. It's like entering a hot dog eating contest, y'know? You take this casual thing and push it to its extreme and there's this beautiful artistic science to the act but me, I'm okay gumming a wiener over off where nobody's watching.

Oof. Okay. One more story. One more tale. What yarn can I spin for you?

So, the latest Humble Bundle yielded Lone Survivor. I assume you bought it? At this point, the Humble Bundles are a deal in name alone. They are a mandatory tax. The games are just a kickback.

Anyway, I haven't played too much of this guy and I'm torn. On the one hand. I think the idea of a possibly delusional protagonist is neat. This idea that the world through his eyes is maybe not the one we should be seeing, that's solid stuff. On the other hand, at a purely mechanical level, I don't know if I have the enthusiasm to carry myself through this guy.

It's fine, so far, it's just that, for me, the possible intellectual payoff carries the narcotic gameplay in its tow rather than being really complimented by it. I mean, mechanically, it's reasonable for what it is, but what it is is this slow, methodical survival fest and interest-wise, these days I'm more of a Canabalt kind of guy. What that means is that my progress through the game looks like it might be of the dragging-your-heels variety than one of untarnished enjoyment.

I don't know, that's a pretty harsh evaluation for all of twenty minutes. We'll see. Again, it's not the damn thing is bad, it's just maybe not where my head is at. Still, I'd love to play through 'er, so who knows.

Yeesh. Am I crappy writer or what? Ah well. Promised myself I'd get a blog out, come hell or high water, so even if we've got more than our share of both up in here, I'll send this guy out into the night. Still, I am feeling encrusted in rust. It's an unsteady writing, to be sure. That said, it's a pleasure to do it again.   read

12:08 AM on 04.03.2012

10 Things Too Many About Beyamor

Yes, the blog you've all been waiting for has arrived. At last, ten things about Swishiee!

Once you're done with that, feel free to wander back here, though I wouldn't encourage you to read the blog itself. It takes some weirdly intimate swerves, truth be told, but then we talk about robots, so I guess things work out. Hey, don't sweat it. Let's just hang out and shoot the breeze.

1. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do

Which is the stupidest thing. The stupidest thing. It's like arming a spatula with a rifle. There is no god damn point to anyone making any effort whatsoever to equip me for combat. If ever forced into a man-to-man confrontation, I will strip off my own pants and hand them over as a trophy before a single menacing glance is thrown my way. I will adorn those trousers with my tears and once a year, I will go over to my opponent's house to polish his fabric monument to my indolence so that it might never fail to catch the eye of those who might visit his abode.

I mean, c'mon, are you kidding me? Jesus.

2. My animal name is "Deer"

This is a fact which has never failed to haunt me. Back in elementary school, we went on this retreat to a Native American lodge and all the kids got animal names like "Dragon Hawk" and "Thunder Eagle Dick Punch," and the jaded lodge employee whose forefather had been a noble king of the land and had bequeathed his sons a crappy getaway program for kids who had to be reminded to blow their noses, this guy, he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and proclaimed me "Deer." And in that tired, listless sentence lay the condemnation of the rest of my life.

It was on that trip that I befriended the overweight kid in our class who made fart noises and together, we wandered into the forest and ate some leaves.

3. Listen, sometimes I drink

Last summer, I drank about two six-packs of beer a week which, for a guy doing it alone, in his apartment, wasn't a great decision. I was having trouble getting a hold of happiness. School had ended with some jagged relationships and, for a co-op job, I ended up moving to another city. So, it was me, there, all by myself, trying to figure out how to cope and boy, I didn't choose the best way to do it.

That said, I did some really neat things that summer and got to know people I never could have otherwise. Looking back, it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life and I don't regret that time for a moment. It also ended up being the point in my life where I was most online, doing FNFs and whatnot, and that culminated in PAX, so, all things considered, I'm more liable to brag about that time than I am bemoan it. It's a nice light-at-the-end- or, hell, light-all-through-the-tunnel thing that, if nothing else, helped me snag that happiness.

4. I've started collecting bottle caps

I've taken to stowing the cap of any beer I open in my back pocket. This started as an anchoring thing, a physical check to keep me grounded, but it's moved into something more full of good. These days, when my pocket jangles on the long walk home, it's because I've spent the night in good company. So, we've got that, you and I.

5. I once spent the day running around the city in a dress

And god damn, did I look good doing it.

6. I am afraid of supermarkets

As time progresses, I find myself growing less and less able to enter grocery stores. Like running water to a vampire, the automatic doors to that air-conditioned hell are a barrier of potent nega-energy. For whatever reason, as I walk through the place, an all-consuming existential despair rises torrent-like through my lungs and I find myself like a fish gasping for the crisp, sweet hydration that is literally anywhere else on earth.

I can't quite pin down what this is. I've never been good with crowds, admittedly, so there's that. It's also terrifying to think of, how do I explain this, how the stuffs around me are propelling lives forward? Like, that discount box of tater tots over there, that's going to be some guy's dinner. He's going to eat that, watch some Inuyasha and think about that girl from highschool who's married now.

So, at this point, I either starve to death or learn to forage on a diet of pine cones and pavement-dťcor bubblegum.

7. I'm on my last roll of toilet paper

Carrying on that theme, I'm down to the last precious toilet marshmallow and the pressure is on.

8. I don't know how to deal with death

I think that's how I want to say it, but I'm going to throw a question mark in here to illustrate that I have no dang idea? One of my grandfathers passed away a few weeks ago and, well, that's it. I'm pretty sure I should be missing him, but by the time I was out of diapers and able to confront him as anything more than the man who handed out cheap candy and crisp bills, he was, mentally, on the up and out.

I can say that I respect him. He worked his way up from meagre beginnings, earning his medical degree on the strength of his mind alone. That's an inspiration, certainly. On the other hand, I don't think he was a good father. Myself, I barely knew the man, but his children, my mother among them, have their share of resent, though I've never eked out the full story. In that light, maybe the tokens of my respect are rightly counterfeit?

Anyway. This is the first family death I've ever had to deal with and I'm not sure what it says about me that I can barely muster emotion about it one way or another.

9. I'm bad at arts and crafts

The last time I asked a girl out, well, the second time I asked that girl out, I was thinking of this time about a year earlier where we'd been walking along the beach and she mentioned how she'd love to build a tree fort there. For whatever reason, this stuck with me.

With that in mind, I decided to try something special. By way of some frantic papercraft, I built this tree and put a tiny origami house in its branches. Inside the house, I out a note about how gee, wouldn't it be swell if we went out some time? Now, my intention was to surround the tree with a beach, so I put this in a plastic container. And then, of course, I needed an ocean, so I engineering this tiny pool thing in the container. Almost good to go.

Big night comes along, and I just need to put the final touches together. After class, which is about six or seven at night, I run down to the beach by the university where we went on that walk. I scoop up enough sand to fill the container, then transfer some ocean water into the pool using my water bottle. At this point, everything looks great.

I start walking back and immediately stumble. The water from the pool spills out and soaks the paper tree, toppling it instantly. The whole thing is a mushy mess in seconds. Crestfallen, I walk back up to her place, mess in hand.

I knock on the door and she answers. Sheepishly, I present the monstrous masterpiece and we just, what can you do, we laughed until our faces were red.

That was a good moment.

10. I am a whore for cheap plastic

Some days, when I'm feeling whimsical, I'll bring one of my Transformer action figures out gallivanting with me. There is, I convince myself, an understated cool to a man unafraid to play with a cheap plastic toy and make bweep-bwoop noises to the beat of the crappy techno music stirring his party compatriots as he turns the damn thing into a truck. I'll say this, if nothing else, you make a few friends.

Anyway, one night, a lady friend and I got to bonding over our shared being pissed off at a mutual acquaintance which is, y'know, how most healthy relationships start. Before our evening got too casual, however, I realized that, for some big, adult reasons, we didn't have much of a future together and, responsibly, I made that clear. At this point, in a flirtatious gambit, the harpy absconded with my Transformer.

Well, tits. I'm a complacent man, but you don't dick around with a guy's Transformers. Action had to be taken.

Long story short, over the course of some make-outs, I reclaimed my Transformer, if not my dignity.


1:23 AM on 03.15.2012

A couple of silly Pokemon drawings I made when I was 22.

Tits amighty, I love a good whiteboard. The only thing more heady than the tremendous potential for illustrated imagination are the sweet vapours of the purple dry erase marker. It's taken me an exorbitant amount of time, but I've finally got my grubby hands on my own white whale, whiteboards for my living space. It's the most wondrous thing in the world. Hours whirl by like bubbles on a playful breeze as I wrestle my ideas into hieroglyphic submission on the melamine mat.

Of course, seldom do the idea progress beyond that, so every day I wake up to a brightly coloured monolith that stands in stark tribute to my perpetual procrastination, an all-pervasive talisman of my own self-defeat in bright pastels, but hey, at least the doodling is a good time.

"Tits amighty?" Is that too livid? Ah well, stay true, dear reader, that's hardly the worst your eyes will see today.

Tomorrow, I'm hopin' to make the weekly pilgrimage to Fat Burger on the way to the Game Dev Club meetup. It's impossible for me not to, in a large way, resent that establish. It has entirely too much personality. The dťcor is that of a 50's diner. Classic rock anthems pour like syrup through the radio. On request for the eponymous Fat Burger, the order is actually shouted across to the cooks, who shout it back. I am not a man who deals well with humanity as a concept, so suffice it so say, I'm looking forward to the day where our meals are a nutrient-rich paste delivered door-to-door. That said, I'm jonesing for this burger, man, you don't even know.

My printer's dead in the water which is, obviously, a bad place for a printer to be, what with the soggy paper and all.

God, that's just, that hurt. Somewhere, an angsty middle schooler in skinny black jeans is off writing a melodramatic poem about how much that sentence wounded him. Anyway, I guess this next one has paper for arms? The worst part of me wants to drop "Scyther" and name him "Toner." Let me tell you though, I sure miss that printer. Here, I wrote a poem about it.

I've been meaning to brush up on my calculus. It's just, it's nice, as far as math goes. Like, calculus makes sense. Set theory? Set theory is nails-on-sea-serpents-made-of-chalkboard. And don't get me started on chalkboards. Chalkboards are whiteboards for souless derelicts, mocking shells of people who, wriggling in their gleeful unwork, smother the good in the world with chalk dust. Anyway, it's Metapod with Newton's hair, so see what that does for you.

Heaven help me, I need a haircut. I don't have good hair. Hell, I don't have a good head, let alone the stuff the grows off it. I think perhaps the reason I try to frequent the barber so often is that, at least with a haircut, I have a scapegoat for my physical unattractiveness. "Oh yeah, no, it's just the hair, when it grows in again, I won't look like a muppet made of sandwiches, trust me." As the length comes back, so too does the awful, inescapable truth that my appearance is the stuff of children's terrors.

The guy below might look like the people's favourite Tangela, but in reality, it is a grisly self-portrait.

I'm playing through Mass Effect 2 again in preparation for the point some months in the future where I get around to picking up the end of the trilogy. I'm having a tough time playing games these days, but when I can sit myself down and grind out a few minutes, it's lovely to get back to those characters. My only complaint it, really, the combat. Not because it's poorly structured - heck, especially compared to the first game, it's cream on silk - but I have no passion for it. All I'm after is the space broship. The lengths I have to go through to get that are almost as painful for me as they are the goons I'm nuking with my astro-magic. I guess what I'm trying to say is, here's Blastoise as Wrex.

Oh, Kraid did a blog? That's neat.

Okay gang, that's all I've got. It's well past my bed time, so I'll leave this gem particularly unpolished. Still, as ever, it's lovely to see you.


11:40 PM on 12.14.2011

Shoot the Breeze: The Feed

Occams "I sure hope he's okay with me using this picture" Electric Toothbrush.

Good god, that's more than enough blog writing for tonight. Jesus. Okay. There's words down there somewhere. All yours. Go get 'em. Are they edited? Pfft. Pffffft. I'm going to go eat some pie. Where'd I get a pie? Hey, read a little, find out.


During the exam period, when I wasn't studying, pulling out hair, or vomiting tears, I played some Dungeons of Dredmor. 's pretty good.

If you haven't checked it out, Dredmor is a roguelike, but one dolled-up all pretty-like for those of us who, confronted with the ascii interface of a conventional roguelike, recall our perfectly rational fear of words and punch the monitor with both fists at once. This game slaps a pretty coat of paint on the traditional gameplay and boils the mechanics down to an easily grasped mix of combat, abilities, loot, and lutefisk. It makes the normally daunting barrier of entry that plagues games in this genre much easier to swallow, particularly because the randomly generated corridors have been sugarcoated with a healthy dose of humor.

Like it's kin though, it's not so much a game intended be won as lost less. However, Gaslamp, the developers, have done a wonderful job of presenting that to the player. Surviving the many floors of the dungeon is an almost hopeless prospect, but the game goes so far as to tell this to the player, making it clear that victory isn't as important here as the thrill of challenge. Death is as much a reward as it could be - it's not defeat so much as a chance to roll a fresh new character with a different selection of skills and plunge in again.

I've reached kind of a bizarre point with the game though. Like, this weird bit of limbo. After, what, a half dozen woefully unsuccessful attempts that ended in bloody defeat on the second or third floor, I started a game which has absolutely sailed above my previous attempts. After about a week I'm on the ninth floor. It's a pretty big deal. But the mathy part of my brain is arguing that my character doesn't have enough healing items to keep going for too long and this fluke is going to come crashing down around me. That week's worth of progress? Gone. And the thing is, if I had built up to this, died on floors four through eight getting here, it wouldn't be such a big deal, but this fluke? I need to hold on to this fluke. It has to go all the way.

So, to preserve that slim possibility of winning, I can never play again and thus, never fail. Yeah, this? This is healthy.

Deme, Deyou, Dehim, Deus

Played a bit of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And then put it down. Again. Good purchase, that. Worth every one of those hard-earned sixty dollars.

At a conceptual level, this game is to me what fruity pebbles are to Barney Rubble - a grim addiction that drives a man away from even his closest friends. Sci-fi that revolves around the sultry cyborg peach that is transhumanism? Nuanced characters with complex, human interaction? Arms that are also robot guns? Yeah, take my limbs, give me a bizarre fauxhawk-horn, and sign me up.

But, I don't know, this game. The ennui.

I can't. I simply don't have it in me. I understand what this game is, but I don't have the patience to put up with another violence-saturated role playing melange. Not in any high-minded anti-violence way, I'm just finding the shooting part of the game entirely too wearisome. I can't put my finger on exactly why it is, but the killing in this is draining. There's an argument that I could do most of the game via stealth and speech, but I ran into the first boss and it was frustration beyond compare to be forced, without apparent alternative, to resolve the issue in blood.

Again, I'm not sure exactly what's so wrong about this. I've started playing Borderlands again and hell, that game is made out of carnage. Maybe it's the honesty of Borderlands - it's about guns and killing people with those guns and nothing else. I think I expected a little more from Deus Ex - the option of intellect and, heaven help me, peace. Whatever it is, I've come away from my latest encounter disappointed and I don't see myself returning to the game any time soon.

Two Stacked-Up Eleven-Year-Olds

It's Jonathon Holmes' birthday today and truth be told, I'm a little sorry for the man because it looks as though the celebration of his birth has once again been eclipsed by the celebration of my own. Yes, the people are thronging the streets, full of cheer that they may pay tribute to me and the glory of me. And also, how dang old I am. Man, what a bummer.

I'll say this though, just as far as typing goes, 22 affords me a laziness I won't see for another eleven years.

And how did I celebrate another orbit around the sun? Boy howdy, did things get rowdy.

I, uh, I got my driver's license renewed because, surprise surprise, it expired today. So that was rad. And now I'm without photo ID for about a week, which is just, really, phenomenal as far as going out with friends to celebrate. Whoo.

Actually, it gets a little sadder. Since my friends and I have a pretty strict pact to not buy gifts for one another and since my family is a city away, I, gosh, I ended up buying birthday presents. For myself. Because no one bought me any. Yes.

But dang, I got me the sweetest Transformers. There's, like, a helicopter and a jet and an Optimus Prime. Truth be told, we're getting to a point where it's less practical to describe my collection in the currency of dollars than it is the currency of Optimus Primes. I also bought half a pie because I live dangerously! I know what you're thinking: Who is this lunatic of a man that dares eat half a pie? Well, I'll tell you who. The only man with the courageousness, the braviosity, to do what needs getting done.

Oh, you were thinking that this whole thing is incredible stupid? Yeah, fair enough.

Actually, I'm going home for winter break in a few days and I've reached that point where almost every perishable item has been consumed and I can't buy anything that either can't be eaten before I leave or produces a mess in preparing a meal. Guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm aiming to survive the next thirty-six hours on a loaf of bread, a carton of orange juice, and, well, we're down to a quarter of a pie now.


Speaking of answering questions no one was asking, I've got my next work term to look forward to when I get back. Hey, we can even jam this news into that tiny closet labelled "video game-related." I'm about twenty percent confident telling you that I'll be working at Inlight Entertainment doesn't violate the NDA I signed. So, no, I'm not exactly going to be living out the life of Clifford Bleszinski for the next four months, but c'mon, a job ain't nothing to shake a stick at. Eh, I'm not here to impress you.

And it looks like I'm succeeding.   read

2:09 AM on 11.14.2011

Shoot the Breeze: I Hesitate To Explain

It is irrefutably impossible to look cool while carrying groceries. Trust me. I've thought about this long and hard, run through countless simulations in my head. Crunched the numbers. It can't be done. The optimal situation calls for a baguette held jauntily with an air of aloofness, but even this barely scrapes a level above unremarkable on the cool spectrum. Most of us will find ourselves hovering around dweeby for the rest of our lives. Such is the burden of buying food.

Oh yeah, we're doing this two weeks in a row. Watchu got. Nah, but for rizzle, it was reading break and I got to play me some games. Don't expect the same next Monday - this is the infamous No Chincing Week, the seven days so jam-packed with assignments, projects, and midterms that we engineers made a pact to not slack off to play video games or do internet in the hope that we can keep our heads above the water.

And, truth be told, I saw the community love arkane9 was getting and I wanted to get me some of that sweet action, so I took the time to make a hip animated Destructoid gif that reflects my blog.

Yeah, it'll do that for a while.

Mom's Underwear

I approached The Binding of Isaac with nothing less than soaked-pants caliber fear. I still haven't finished Super Meat Boy and the thought of mastering its protein-powered protagonist gives me the night terrors to this day. How then could I have hoped to beat a game combining the raw and twisted power of Edmund Mcmillan with the give-up-and-go-home grind of a roguelike?

By manning the hell up and putting on my fighting bra is how.

Our own tall, dark man of misery - er, mystery - Corduroy Turtle covered The Binding in the Buy It/Avoid It Report, so affix your eyes on that for the peppy blow-by-blow. As a reminder, it's the procedurally generated Zelda-style shooter that draws some influences from traditional roguelikes and features a naked child armed with only his own tears. Groovy.

Let's be upfront about something here. I'm not very good at video games. Honest. For true. Straight up legit. I'm hard pressed to name a single game at which I really, truly excelled. Maybe Halo, back in my vigorous youth, but beyond that, I struggle to rise above mediocre. It's small wonder then that my first impression of The Binding was that victory wasn't measured in defeating Mom but in drawing-out death for the longest time possible. Still, in fits and spurts, in classes, at friends houses, and yes, on boats, my playtime crept up to a healthy twenty-four hours and in that time, I've managed to squeeze out three solid victories.

Yes, three. So much success. I am the Myspace of videogame players.

Yes, Myspace. Always topical. What'm I gunna say, Google+?

Yeah, actually, that might hit a little harder. Speaking of which,

I love the powerups in this game. Far and away the best. The basic shooty-shooty gameplay is fun, but man, you throw demon horns and high heels into the mix and you've got a hell of a Friday night. And, uh, a game, obviously. There's something satisfying in this wonderfully organic way about how the various items and abilities are collected over the course of the game, all building to this monster-child who is not only a blast to play, but a visual feast and, moreover, beautifully unique with each siege on the basement. It's just gorgeous, stuff with lasers and ladders and love.

The permadeath is all the sweet heartache of deepthroating an icecream sandwich and letting that sugar ride. The man in me who loves the idea of roguelikes is singing the praises of that factor in the game's white knuckle intensity, but hand-in-hand with that is the sense of ongoing discovery. Each play teaches, whether about the horde of items and enemies to be found or, and this is the important part, how to make the most out of the environment. What to blow up, when to spend keys, everything that makes the world of Isaac.

That sea of content is grand in and of itself mind you. Unlocking new weapons and foes is a huge draw to come back again and again. Conquer fresh pieces and you'll work your way to receiving more still in this splendid positive feedback loop. I've just now unlocked all of the characters and I'm damn pleased with everything it took to get me to this point. Worth it for the dude with the fez though.

Are we all over the place with this discussion? Yeah, apologies for that. There's a lot of good stuff here and I'm having trouble giving away its riches. Tell you what, let's trust it's all good and move on.

Dick Souls

I mentioned reading break somewhere in the muddle above? I managed to make it home for a few days. I also managed to transfer a file using asynchronous communication across an unreliable network by writing TCP from scratch, but maybe we'll save tales of my homework for another day.

Anyway, the last day at home presented me with a choice. It was the Thursday before most of my classmates dropped out of school to play Skyrim and my brother had decided he wanted to drop some coin to fight those dragons. To this end, he'd committed himself to trading in Dark Souls for a little extra dough. Herein I found my decision - save my money for my own Elder Scrollsey adventure or buy the game I'd been waiting to play since Demons Souls wasn't released for the 360.

So now I own Dark Souls.

And I'm not sure this was the right choice.

Now, I need you to understand this. I watched a friend play Skyrim for about an hour. I've seen what the game is about. It's all very impressive. Magic looks cool. The environments are beautiful. Now and again, there are, as promised, dragons. It all looks very fun. Dark Souls is not about being fun. Dark Souls never makes any pretense about trying to be fun. Dark Souls is about being rewarding. It's for that reason it's far and away one of my favourite experiences in recent memory. That said, I'm in agony.

I don't know what to do with this game. Right now, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, only the rock is two gargoyles, a laser-spitting hydra, and a cave of immortal skeletons and the hard place is every second of this goddamn game. Individual instances aside, I just, I don't know. I haven't grasped the game's parlance. Do I explore more nooks and crannies in the hopes of finding better loot? Do I grind to buff my character? Do I simply stop not being good? I'm paralyzed by my lack of understanding. In a way I haven't really felt before, I do not know what the game expects of me.

But heaven help me, I'll give it.

Regardless of how stuck I seem to find myself - very - I can't stop leaping back in. Hell, I can't stop thinking about leaping back in and what my next move's going to be. The clock says I've already sunk a good six or seven hours into this guy and while the net gain of that escapes me, I'm not displeased with the strength of my efforts. Naturally, their effect could be more tangible, but what's a boy to do?

Heck, maybe this is how it's supposed to be. Maybe this is what everyone does. They stumble. Maybe this is the natural hurdle.

Reason tells me this is not the case. Myspace of videogame players, if you'll recall.

Well. This is something I'd like to discuss at far greater length in due time. I know the machine-god knutaf has already done so, but a grave fear of spoilers, the hagfish of the independent mind, steers me too far away from his always pleasant works. Tell you what, my mind is drifting, so let's leave this blog for today, undercooked though it may be. Let today's epitaph read that I'm lost in Dark Souls and not disposed to navigate my way out any time soon.   read

1:04 AM on 11.07.2011

Shoot the Breeze: All Dressed Up and Nobody Cares

It's been some time since I wrote, hasn't it, dear reader? I hope you enjoyed the reprieve, but I fear the spell of serenity has been broken, the guileful spiderking of indolence fought from his keyboard throne and the cobwebs dusted off with him. A prodigal son among prodigal sons; an off-forgotten hero who fought his battles in the margins of the fairy tales never read; the, uh, the guy who wrote a blog once.

Prodigal? I meant procrastinating. Let's get this obscenity over with.

A smashing good time.

Oh lordy, Halloween. Was that only a week ago? I'm not a man to put much faith in a calendar, but by the best estimations of the soggy pumpkin cadavers still lining the street, their misshapen and moldy faces evoking more horror than their spirited carvers could ever hope to rival, it's been at least half a fortnight. November has come.

Here's hoping you had a good holiday, my ever-patient reader, one laden with a bounty of tricks and/or treats. Myself, I dressed up as Haskell, the hipster programming language - complete with jeans so skinny one might suppose I didn't purchase them so much as weave them about my lower extremities as a Pabst Blue Ribbon-loving caterpillar might do his cocoon. I lost my best vest to an aspiring pirate - a chain of events someone with more sense might have seen coming. And, of a marginally less uninteresting nature, I spread open my coffers that the latest Steam sale might loot the ever-lovin' bejeesus out of them.

Terraria I'll write off as a game whose painful inoffensiveness may never grab me and Amnesia was - well, was a waste of money. I'm never going to play that game. I'm not a tremendously courageous man - I'm too afraid to even install it. But anyway. We're here to talk about the lovely Zombie Atom Smasher, so let's do that.

Zombie Atom Smasher, by Blendo Games - a name I have let fly with cheer before - is a sort of real time strategy game pitting you against an army of zombies threatening to overrun mankind. Your primary goal here isn't to crush the legion of the undead that floods the metropolitan city sections - though a strong counterattack can reclaim these territories for mankind - your aim is to rescue as many of the stranded and helpless human populace as you can before they're consumed by the festering horde.

Uh, the "festering horde" would be the purple dots.

You'll start the game with only a rescue helicopter at your disposal. This valiant propellered steed attracts citizens to it as it swoops in for a landing, providing a means of shepherding the otherwise mindless humans to key locations and away from the incoming brain-eating mob. As the game progress, you'll gain access to a variety of additional forces like rooftop snipers, trip mines, and zombie bait, all of which you'll make keen use of in ever more desperate tactics against the growing undead threat.

One of the things I love about the game is how truly harrowing it is. Make no bones about it - or should I say no brains abo- okay, no, I see you're not a fan of that one - it's an unapologetically difficult game. If you don't make the most out of your troops and keep a careful eye on your wards, you can lose the city in a heartbeat. Moreover, even in the best case, you're going to lose some citizens. It's terrifically agonizing as you lose people to the horde. Some of the best moments come when you realize that you can't save everyone and victory is a matter of choosing who can't be saved. There's a real sense of personal responsibility to the gameplay and it's a real treat.

In fact, it's not difficult to get to a point where loss is inevitable. While the main game is this intimate strategy, it takes place within the context of an overworld divided into the territories which make up the battlegrounds. At the end of each battle, points are awarded to both you, the human team, and the zombies based on how many territories each group holds. A few losses can give the zombies a huge foothold which snowballs into almost inescapable defeat. However, even this feels right in its way - it gives the undead the power of being a credible threat.

But, of course, I'm not much of a strategist, so take any claims of difficulty with a grain of salt. I mean, my worst fear is that someday someone asks me to strategize my way out of a paper bag. That bag is going to be my coffin. They are going to bury me in that bag and the only condolence to my grieving family will be that the thing will be biodegradable.

Uh. Boy. Anyway. It's a really good experience. So, y'know, play it.

God take those windows

I'm back to playing Canabalt. It has become, in fact, the primary means by which I squander the precious hours of my day. I adore the simple flow which flourishes in the game, the minimal elegance that as only that the player play. The moments of absolute zen the space between heartbeats, between jumps, is the stuff of the sublime.

With more time, I've come to realize far greater depth. Nuance. The care of a tiptoe tap to make a toddler's hop over the smallest obstacle; the lungs-full-of-sky lunge that careens over rooftops; the weighty gamble of voluntarily crashing into a box to slow down, exchanging speed for safety at the bank of sure-hope-I-make-this-next-jump. I don't know whether this great hidden scope I imagine really exists or it's my feeble brain trying to justify the time I've frittered away with some notion of fully exploring the mechanics, but it's pretty enjoyable

The game has also taken on a new kind of meaning in the space of my friendships. Among my fellow software engineers - a virile and strapping group, make no mistake - there has arisen a sort of quiet rivalry about who can step furthest, who can fling themselves an iota more. At about twenty thousand, I've eked out a fragile lead, but that's largely inconsequential - there's celebration of our victories as a collective. It's a refreshing thing, that the sum is wholly positive, and it's something whose importance I haven't quite been able to put a name to. For today, let's say that just in this regard, the lives of the engineers are good.

But man, the windows in that game. Jesus. How many times have I hit my head trying to jump through 'em? A buttload, is how many.

Protest the Yeahs

For the past couple of days, I've returned to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Protest the Hero. And that's pretty nice.

You know Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They were in your Rock Bands or some such and besides, Heads Will Roll is scientifically accepted as the best sound that ever was. I'd forgotten some of the band's less glossy moments - the breathtakingly ragged Tick, for example - that really grab the soul and give it a shake. Anyway, guess I'd forgotten what Yeah Yeah Yeahs was about - just so we're clear, it's more than yelling "wait - they don't love you like I love you" on the streets - and it's pleasant to have reminded myself.

Protest the Hero is a band I'd never given much chance and I resent myself for that. The vocal range on that guy is a dream, transitioning from soaring falsetto to bloody-knives screams with the ease a man might normally reserve for flicking on a light switch. The thunderous and undeniably metal instrumentals are a treat too and, more important by far, the band can poke fun at itself which is kind of essential for a genre as steeped in posturing as this.

Riding the whirlwind

So that was a blog I guess? I wish I'd spared a few more words for Zombie Smasher, but man, some of us have midterms tomorrow. How'd we do here? This felt all sorts of lacking in charisma, which is always a concern, and I'm not sure whether or not I truly enjoyed it, but it's certainly a blog. Maybe we'll try this again in a month's time.   read

10:04 PM on 08.15.2011

Shoot the Breeze: Oof

This...this feels strangely familiar. Have we done this before, friends? Some time, long ago perhaps? Back when young Time mewled alone in the crib of the early cosmos?

Been a dicking long time, is what I'm trying to convey.

Some business before we get to. First, to my boy Qal, as I trust you're obligated to read this, no matter how much it grieves you, you've got a small apology coming your way. I promised you an ordering function for your recaps - it's coming, I promised. Life got in the way, but it's coming.

For the rest of you - and without the mandate of recapping to draw you in, I trust that's a meager few - don't worry too much. I promise there won't be a steady stream of breezes to be shot in the future and today is no more than a chance to excise some frustration, so words you will have, but brief they will be. For better reading, by the by, you won't go wanting today.

Give them a means to build it and they will come

Thanks to the gentle souls who indulged my hastily and poorly assembled contest. It was something that happened, as the people say. Curtailed by the might of my indecision, I ultimately resigned to picking names out of a hat. Congrats manasteel88, the toque was on your side. Sorry to everyone else, but you can't argue with a hat.

Well, you can, sure, but take it from me, you will look the fool.

Latin for "Peace;" Canadian for "I am full of suck"

Just lousy with suck. For the last month or so, some very patient - unbelievably patient - Friday Night Fighters have had to listen to me moan and flip-flop on whether I could go to PAX. Good news, gang, no more of that. Bad news, or, at least more news, looks like the rug has been pulled out from underneath me again. The plans to secure a place to live for the fall which hung like gossamer spiderweb in the dewy morning air have fallen apart like, well, like when you eat half that dang spiderweb accidentally walking into it while running out the door.

With those housing plans dashed, I'm left with about two weeks in which to find a place to live. Not a man who likes to bank on optimism alone, the decision I have to make is putting aside recreation until I can work that out. With a bitterness born of describing a guaranteed hug from Dixon as mere "recreation," I think I have to give up on PAX. I've got some sadness in me over that.

But hey, turns out jandals are a synonym for flip-flops, so that's pretty cheerful.

Insane Shadow Posse

Because I am the greatest man on the face of the earth - no, not just earth, any planet. Because I am the greatest man on any spheroid great or small, I beat Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

It was okay.

You oughtta know the shtick by now. A metroidvania from this year's Summer of Arcade with, like spaceships and stuff. Yeah, man, spaceships. Puzzles are solved, lasers are lased - or, no, lasers lase themselves, don't they? But maybe we digress. The presentation is a delight, especially so in the visual realm. We talked before about how lovely the splashing is, but a good deal of the environment feels lively in this neon-and-nadir kind of way.

The puzzles, the heart of the game, are a mixed affair. Some of them are really, truly brilliant. In particular, the bosses, at their best, are a seductive blend of thought and adrenaline, like plotting a flash mob bank heist. The worst of the puzzles are less appealing. Truly vexing moments felt more like being pushed along than pulled, moments that were more about following a path well than discovering the way. A positive sum though, with some truly splendid occurrences .

Honestly, and it pains me to say this because there is a lot that stands to be enjoyed, the game didn't leave me with much. That's about the only complaint I can level against it, but it's a grievous one. The experience simply didn't do much to move me. I know some neat stuff happened, but here we are, at the end of the day, and I'm just shrugging my shoulders. Even the finale of the game felt as though the designers sighed and let it slide to a stop.

But hey, don't get me wrong here, it's still a decent little title. Maybe it didn't land with me, but I can see the good of it and it's got a damn fine polish to boot. Go on, check it out.

Still a shark

I know. What're you going to do.   read

9:34 PM on 08.12.2011

Punch contest; get code.

Happy Friday boys and babes. I may have misplaced my avatar. Such is things.

Well, this is my last weekend of drinking away the all-encompassing loneliness and in celebration, Notch is getting married. So that's pretty rad. Hey, who wants to play Minecraft? Yeah you do!

Okay, swell. How do we do these contest things again? Uh. Hm. Hey, howsabout this? I dug the stories from metrocrap's last contest. Let's work with that.

Minecraft's been the talk of the town for awhile now. Why haven't you played it yet? What've you been doing instead? What was so dang important? Give me a story. Something bold. Something brave. Something that pulls at the heartstrings or yanks at the funny bone. Whatever you got. Objectively best comment as I judge them wins a Minecraft gift code. We'll let this disaster of a poorly-thought-out-but-well-intentioned train wreck chug along its merry course until Monday at whenever-I-get-around-to-it o'clock. Make it quickie.

Speaking of quickies, sorry about the short blog here. I don't really know what to say. Contest yeaaaaaaahhhhh.

Also, did you know Alexisonfire broke up? Feel free to weep openly, but don't let it bring down your contesting spirit. #fillingspace   read

11:12 PM on 06.19.2011

Shoot the Breeze: So Goddamn Dumb

[As a preface, this isn't exactly a review. At best, it's a collection of thoughts and stories I needed to share. At worst, it's a collection of my thoughts and stories. Make of it what you must.]

This weekend, I dove into Two Worlds once more. Er, 2, that is. After playing for about an hour upon first purchasing the game, I dropped it for, well, I can't recall, but something bringing with it a more conventional conception of quality, certainly. How was my experience, you might find yourself wondering? Allow me elucidate. Upon first re-entering the game, the following events immediately transpired:

ē I received a mission to kill ostriches.
ē I was chased down and killed by baboons throwing stones.
ē I was chased down and killed by wolfmen.
ē I killed one of those dang ostriches. Yeah dawg.

It was a good night on a few accounts. I had a splendid chat with Knut and Occams and played them Haloes with a good bunch of people (utterly humilating Corduroy Turtle with my l33t 'lite skills [<3 CT]). Naturally, I was my usual stutter-and-mutter self, but still, a pleasure. There was a lot of sticky white stuff. Uh. I can only hope to convince you that there was once a context for that.

Anyway, quite quickly, my heroical progression nabbed me a nag, a horse met with such warm reception one might suppose it had a horn. One tango with gravity later and I was at the bottom of a cliff face, fighting off a rhino and harvesting my short-lived companion for meat. I see it as a sort of tauntaun-esque situation where, in order to survive, I have to sacrifice my steed, only in this case, the harsh arctic environment is my blithe lack of care for sudden drops.

It turned out to be a long walk to the next mission. A mission which, as an absolute requisite, called on me to race with my trusty steed. Yes, the very same. Necromancy being a skill far beyond the reach of a man who found himself begging a stone-throwing Skittles-assed lemur for mercy, this was the end of that particular quest progression. You'll be relieved to hear geography held true Ė it was an equally long walk back.

Haven't seen 'em yet, but still so hyped for raptors.

Switching gears, the game is riddled with some absolutely bizarre choices. Not bad, exactly - something much more else. Let's say I tasked you designing a dialogue menu. Your only requirement is, in some way, to provide the user with a means of selecting a conversational branch. I know not all of you may have a mind to UI or design in general. That's okay. There's no pressure. Take all the time you need to put something together. I'll wait. Alright, you've got it? Now, the ambitious among you might have pictured something like Mass Effect's wheel. A more common choice could be a traditional list of items you might scroll through to select your pithy rambling, probably navigating up and down with your analog stick and confirming with A or X.

Allow me a paragraph to paint the picture of Two Worlds' approach. See, they do this, but only almost. There is an array of options, certainly. However, each is mapped to one of A, X, or Y. More than three choices? Reality Pump has you covered. You can scroll through with a simple press of the B button! Never mind the time-honoured tradition of input channels which actually have a vertical component - ie. the sort of thing which might actually let you navigate up and down. I'll admit, it's a novel approach. No means it is a point of controller-throwing aggravation, but it's one of the many, many things that gave me pause to wonder wut.

The balance of the missions is really just screwy. I don't know if it's because you're expected to pursue more of the side missions, but my progress through the main story has been dogged by some of the most unruly collections of overpowered enemies. Guy that'll tear through me in a hit or two by themselves teaming up with a few of their pals for a good ol' fashioned sodomy hoedown. The whole of my strategy is, as the Sun Tzu of the new millennium, getting in a quick hit, then trying to not bust a knee on a Slip 'n Slide made moist by my own fear urine as I run like a turkey. And since health regenerates like it's free morphine day down at the hospital (one of the perks of Canada's health care system) if and only if the hero's weapons are sheathed, it's like the game is encouraging decisive acts of cowardice. There are these weird pockets of minions that get cut up like a hot knife through a clichť, but for reals. The boss I just ran into takes me down in, quite literally, half a second. That is, before I can even finish an attack, I'm met with the you-died-you-suck-please-reload screen. Eugh.

This is a direbutterfly. They frolic in meadows and feast on souls.

But really, it's not even a bad game. Well, no, that's not true. But it's not without enjoyment. The things I once mentioned about its predecessor hold true. The traps and special moves make the combat more interesting than it's - and this might be a generous noun - peer Oblivion. Scrapping loot for upgrades and mixing and matching to make spells are both solid crafting systems, by and large. Levelling up feels like a lucid dream since the enemies which you've been pit against in that fit of insane sadism we talked about above slowly but surely become manageable. There's nothing half so rewarding as coming back to utterly demolish the baddies which once sent you screaming into the night like a gluten allergyer in a bakery.

Allergyer? One possessing allergies? I have no idea.

Like I said, I'm not going anywhere in particular with this. Take, as a point, if you need it, that Two Worlds 2 is a pretty okay game despite being, well, awful in a lot of regards. Heck, generalize that into something about the merits of B-level games if you're feeling highminded. If you're an English student, spin it into a thesis about the inherent parallels of man's imperfection and lust for dragons. Suffice it to say on my end, this was a game I played. And goddamn, is it dumb. Beautifully, beautifully dumb. I've come to compare it to getting punched below the belt for hours on end. Objectively, a terrible experience, but the mileage you get out of it really depends on your fetish.

Yes, that, I think, must be the note I close on.


9:40 PM on 05.10.2011

Terrible Tuesday [NVGR] [And sort of NSFW] [Also, kinda fail?]

Good god, what a day. I hate Tuesdays. They are, far and away, the worst day of the week, and are the worse for the lack of acknowledgement they receive on that front. They have almost all of the raw drudgery of a Monday, but with a cloying air of meekness. Worse still, they do all of this without the buffer of weekend rest that Monday has the dignity to afford. Tuesdays fill me with a tired resent.

And today, what a day. Did you see the blogs? Gads. That was a mess. Spammers and trolls devalue the blogs and frankly, can end up devaluing those of us who dog them, a group I won't deny my place in. Our Domo-loving dynamo, the one and only Funktastic, will sagely remind us time and again that we shouldn't feed the gunk of the internet. That said, no one can deny the spectacle of the thing. The cybernetic tiger shark has swept the whole thing into Davy Jones' locker by now and thank goodness for that, but it's still kind of a shame to miss the pictorial deluge of the swarming community.

Come, take a walk with me.

You know the face of the fail blog.

Luckily, we have a team of top men armed to the teeth with a means of fighting back.

The fight might be tough.

But the rewards are great.

Let's end this with a dance.

I probably missed a bunch of pictures. About half the fail blogs seemed to be completely wiped off the face of the earth and I had to go by the comment feeds of the most likely suspects. Also, apologies if this doesn't play out as well as I'd intend.   read

8:19 PM on 04.27.2011

Shoot the Breeze: Don't Stop Bereaving

Thanks to Corduroy for the blog title. Alright everybody, let's-

Hey. I know it's been a little while. Don't look at me like that. Come on, it's not like I meant for us to drift apart, I've just been busy is all. You ever have to take six engineering courses? Yeah, I- oh. Well. Really? That's much more impressive. And all while in free fall? Huh. Right, maybe we'll move on.

Come on baby, give me some love.

So, gosh, we're gunna be a little light on the words today because, at the risk of letting a terribly mundane cat out of a woefully uninteresting bag, things're (maybe) moving and (kind of) shaking, so all that is best saved for the time being. However, I've still got a sack full of wonder for you kids. Before that, some preface:

I suck. I suck to a truly tremendous degree. Like, a ravaging whirlpool of suck. A suck of such prowess that, could its force be redirected for use as a superpower, it would have the potential to wholly abolish crime in the first world if only I wasn't so, you know, sucky. This has led me to put off a much-needed blog for, sweet Jesus, two months now? God, so much suck.

I also lost my camera chord, but don't that mislead you. The delay was pretty much all suck. But anyway. Pictures.

The Toothbrush Saga: A Chance of Rain

In the dead of the blackest night, he came. A courier. An agent of chaos and the strange charm. His powerful rap against my door at the midnight hour rang out even over the roil of thunder. It commanded me to come and, bedraggled and clad in my best footie pajamas, I staggered to the door and threw it open to receive him. He stood crooked with ancient power, fierce red eyes glowing from the depths of his cowl, smelling of dead tongues and lilac. Lit by the lightning he doubtless claimed his steed, he thrust a withered claw towards me and, with a spartan nod, indicated I was to receive the package held therein.

With trembling hand and weak bladder, I reached out for the destiny-woven envelope. As my fingers latched around it, the ragged lightning flashed once more and at once, I was alone, save for the ponderous delivery I held. With trepidation, I scurried back to my bedroom and gently placed the package on my lowly sheet. There, the dim light cast impish shadows across its oddly sapient folds and creases.

With a thrust of curiosity-born courage, I ripped it open. Paper tore with the sound of weeping cherubs and the fragrance of memories filled the air. Fear and hope waged war within me. Was everything lost - or everything gained?

As the contents of the package spilled out across my humble sheet, sparks of bight magic pooled between the unimaginable collection of what could only be described as paraphernalia of the highest order.

Fine literature.

And, uh, more fine literature.

A new soundtrack to my day, narrowly beating out my non-stop medley of the Firefly theme and Billy Idol's White Wedding.

Why, a magic growing manta ray?

Finally, a pet for my longtime girlfriend.

A certain rabbit whose raw animal magnetism may have overwhelmed the camera.

At this point, I was at a loss to describe all the wonder before me, but I encourage you to drink it in until the sun goes down.

Now, this, this was something special. The stamp of unmatched blessing, the key to a club drunk on sunshine and boners.

But somehow, somehow, it got better. Oh god, so much better. There may been burly tears of joy. The records are fuzzy.

And then? Then I burst into flame because no body can contain such happiness.

Listen, I can't even begin to put words to how much joy Occams brought me with this. Our Lord of the GIS is, god, he's an inexpressible wonder. Goodness knows how much joy he has single-handedly brought all of us and you know as well as I what a king among men he is, but dammit, it simply can't be said enough. Thank you, Occams, you splendid, majestic, microcosm of gawk-worthy beauty. I'm a thousand times sorry for taking so long to get this out, but know I would happily do this a dozen times more in celebration of the good you do for all of us.

And we're drifting into the fanatical. Okay team, good session, we'll work on the hustle in the future. I'll see you around.   read

12:01 AM on 02.27.2011

Groundhog Day: Holes in the Ground

Fitting, I think, that my musing about a game I keep coming back to concerns one I've already brought up once or twice. Not necessarily because of the recurring theme of, well, recurrence, but because I'm something of a hack with no qualms about beating a dead horse further into the ground. And with that warm preface, let's grab our sturdiest pair of boots and go spelunking.

It's probably a safe assumption that you've at least heard of Spelunky before now, but as a quick refresher, Spelunky is a platforming adventure game with randomly generated levels and surfeit of emergent gameplay. It's a tough trek, but the solid mechanics and enjoyable sense of danger-fraught excitement make it a fantastic experience. Mind you, it was made by the nefarious Derek Yu, a nascent super villain who aims to bring about society's collapse with endlessly engrossing games and his sultry tumult of hair, so do approach with caution.

And that's a lovely heap of words, but there's a couple in particular I want to pull out. Sure, there's a bounty of things which make the game a ball to play, not least of which is the essential and oft-overlooked capacity to jump off a frog which subsequently explodes, but today we're going to furrow our collective brows and mull "randomly generated levels." While not exactly the heart of the game (see again: combustible amphibians), it's well worth talking about. So, let's try to do that.

Spelunky uses procedural generation to create its levels. That is, rather than being premade by hand, each stage is churned out by algorithms, making use of some intrinsic randomness to mix things up. Every time a new game beings, electronic abacuses clatter and clank, their binary beads thrown askew by the most wonderous forces, falling together in the math of the digital divine. All so you can get jumped on by one of those gorram spiders. To me, a man whose interest in procedural generation borders on the manic, this a heaping pile of win.

Procedural generation by itself is the most fascinating thing in the world. To not just design the elements of game, but to design the design of a game is to don your best attire and dance away the night at the providence promenade. On it's own, it's a wildly interesting subject and if you have the inclination, I'd encourage you to read up on it. Beyond the novelty, it's a practical means of creating a colossal amount of material for a game and it has the capacity to add far more in the way of challenges and rewards.

Giving the design of a gameís content over to the machinations of the game itself is a gamble. Working out algorithms which might ape human design is hard enough. To then consider that the output must not only suffice, but do so believably is humbling. That is, itís not enough to simply produce a level or a piece of loot. The level should not be full of disconnects, the loot should not be a game-breaking god-tier and neither should be shaped like a boner, unless youíre into that sort of thing.

That established, the pot on the table is worth the wager. Procedurally generated content serves as an able sidekick to the designer, ever willing to slap on the spandex and get down to the dirty stuff. Well done, it offers a means of populating the game with a huge amount of content, a quantity unparalleled by even the most meticulous code monkey. Better still, it has the potential to make each and every game wholly unique to the capricious dance of the virtual dice.

And I have come back to Spelunky time and again because it does this with such surety. It approaches the generation of its levels with a deftness that wholly masks the lack of a careful handís guidance. Each level is, if not a seamless work on par with, say, Megaman, at the very least believable and, moreover, entertaining. The game is so beautiful not because it describes its challenges algorithmically, but because it does so without sacrificing fun on the altar of formulae.

Iíve come back to this game time and again because on every occasion I was met with some grand new adventure, some fantastic tale woven around the same theme, strung along by the same characters, but original in every word. I can tell you about that time I blew up a vampire or crushed a giant spider with an equally huge rock or got killed by a ghost trying to jump my way out of a snake pit.

The point isnít so much that any one of these experiences is phenomenal on its own. Make no mistake, they are. I am a vampire-slaying bring of whip-bound vengeance. However, a much better notion to take away is that of the ever-emerging adventure offered by the game. Every fresh attempt is, without fail, met by something new, something which the player has never encountered before. The magic of the game, and procedurally content in general, is that the game can create, tirelessly, as long as the player is interested.

Iíll offer the caveat that throwing a whackton of content at the player is not enough to make a game enjoyable. Spelunky succeeds because Yu capitalizes on the bounty by backing it with strong, comprehensive core mechanics. The game world is unified in theme and action and the importance of that canít be understated. However, in my mind, Spelunky is a wonder not just because you can jump about and whip to your heartís content, but because going in, youíre never quite sure what it is youíre going to be jumping on or whipping at. I love Spelunky because the game I come back to is never the same as the one I left behind.   read

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