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10:08 PM on 02.25.2014

New Daily Runs of Spelunky, Nuclear Throne, and Risk of Rain

This week, I've started posting daily runs of some of my favorite procedurally generated games to my YouTube channel. Today had a rough start to the morning, with a little bit of disappointment over reading reviews for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and particularly poor form in dealing with a Shopkeeper in Spelunky.

Later, I took another trip to the wasteland in Nuclear Throne. I've been playing with randomly selected characters and wound up with Muscle this time around. Not a bad guy to have; his dual-wielding ability can be really handy in a pinch and he's certainly nimbler than his appearance might suggest. But the Big Bandit did me in for the second day in a row to much sadness.

And then I took a stab at Risk of Rain, playing as the always enjoyable Acrid. I haven't played with him as much lately, but he's an amazingly potent character if you can get a few good buffs. I made it a good way in, but escape from the planet wasn't going to be in the cards today.

There's always tomorrow.   read

10:41 AM on 10.10.2012

Dtoid Book Club: Ready Player One Week 1 (-ish)

Sorry for the delay in getting this week's Dtoid Book Club post up. I'm blaming Dale entirely for this one, as I've been waiting to get his feedback on our current book, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. But I can'ts waits no more (and, at last report, he hadn't even started the book yet due to travel; here's hoping he can catch up).

As for me, I'm only through the prologue, I'm ashamed to say. I'll be traveling a bit next week, where I expect I'll probably be able to burn through most of it. The book is easy to read because it's easy to identify with. A thirty year future isn't all that distant a consideration, the problems humanity faces are essentially problems we're ignoring today. Our narrator, Wade Watts, is likeable and earnest, and we pretty much know who he is and what his basic philosophy consists of right away. He's meticulous when it comes to his research and he has a strong motivation to pursue Halliday's fortune.

Cline's done a pretty clever thing with the character of James Halliday, whom the book seems to be as much about as Wade, and Anorak's Quest, the pursuit of which is the main plot line. It's created a justification for the author to be as outlandish as they like with the pop culture elements and how they're represented without the reader having cause to question it. Of course the entire world would be gripped by Pac-Man Fever in 204X because the (dying) world's richest man started a contest surrounding his formative years. It only stands to reason.

Here's how the others are feeling about the book right now (except Dale, who hasn't started yet):

Jonathan Ross
One of the issues I really had trouble wrapping my head around, based on the prologue, was the idea that everyone lived in pretty much abject poverty, but still had access to the Internet/OASIS. There's a giant energy crisis, climate change has fucked everything up, major cities being nuked, global pandemics killing tons of people, and everyone is sitting around playing an MMO. Although, I guess, if the world was that fucked up, I'd probably want to engage in some escapism too. There's definitely a disconnect throughout the book though with what's described in the prologue and how the world actually seems to operate, but we can discuss that when you guys get further along.

I agree with you about the Halliday bit. When I started the book, I was concerned the whole thing would just be a bunch of forced pop culture references, but for the most part they all fit in pretty well with the story. He's also really clever with a lot of them, and there a just as many obscure/hidden references as the in-your-face ones.

Chad Concelmo
I am only a few chapters in, but I am already in love. I agree that the pop culture references feel organic and very natural -- they don't feel shoehorned in at all. I love the main character, and the setup -- about a mystical contest with a ridiculously lucrative reward -- is something I am excited about following. I can't speak too much on the details of the entire story yet since I just started, but I can't wait to read more.

The copper key has been found! Two more keys to go!


So, how about you? Have you been reading along with us? How far along are you? What are your thoughts?   read

1:52 AM on 10.02.2012

Introducing the Dtoid Book Club!

A few times in recent months, I've found myself trailing off on episodes of Podtoid to talking about books I'm reading or recommend books to others. It's prompted some people to approach me and suggest that I do some kind of book-related podcast or other content. To satisfy the both of you, I'm proud to announce the kicking off of Dtoid Book Club!

Each month, our panel of editors will select a book that we're all going to read. We'll update you on our progress here in the Cblogs every week and, at the end of the month, we're going to record a podcast of some kind discussing the book.

You should join us! To ease our descent into the world of literature, our first book will be Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a book set largely inside a videogame (which is centered around videogames). You should feel right at home. Future books will likely not be game-centric, but we thought it would be an appropriate way to kick things off (it also helps that most of us already had copies of it).

Now, allow me to introduce our panel. Joining me in reading Ready Player One will be Chad Concelmo, Dale North (currently traveling; we hope to hear from him soon) and Jonathan Ross. Here's a little bit from them to get us started:

Chad Concelmo:
I heard about Ready Player One and was worried it was going to be one of those books written by someone who knows nothing about videogames. Like, the videogame references would amount to not much more than " ... and then he went to play Pac-Man at his local bar." When I heard it was a genuinely great book with excellent videogame references -- one that any gamer would love -- I was super excited. I am really looking forward to reading this.

Jonathan Ross:
A few of my friends had been recommending Ready Player One to me, so I decided to pick it up. I was promised an entertaining, relatively light-hearted adventure story with tons of references to general pop culture and, of course, video games. So far, everyone I know who read it enjoyed it -- I'm looking forward to starting it!


So, who's up to do some hardcore reading?   read

10:55 PM on 09.27.2012

Tokyo Travel Log: What I bought

Hey gang. I did make it home from Tokyo and I'd apologize for not having done more posts while there but, truth be told, there wasn't much more to tell. The rest of the week was dominated by work-related things, with the exception of the final day, which saw us going to Rappongi in the morning and Akihabara in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it rained the entire last day of my trip and I was unable to get more than a few (crappy) photos.

But, what with Tokyo being one of those legendary places to bring home crap from, I thought I'd toss a quick post up on what I picked up on the trip. See, while there's a ton of things to buy (ESPECIALLY in Akihabara), there are a few things which kept me from purchasing more. First is the space concern. I bought a very small carry-on and a smaller shoulder bag and that was it for the trip. This was intentional, as a roadblock to spending crazy amounts of money but also for ease of passage through customs and security in various airports.

"Games are small," you say. "Surely you could have bought more than four of them on your entire trip!" Yes, you're right, but I also have an astounding capacity to talk myself out of making a purchase, no matter how small. I found a copy of Intelligent Qube for 100 yen (~$1.25), which seems like an asinine thing not to buy. But I didn't know what I'd really do with it sitting in my apartment, as I already have the North American release, so I let it go.

The things I saw, though! A Sega Saturn for 1000 yen. Piles of Famicoms and Super Famicoms stacked taller than me. I think it was Super Potato where I spotted a PlayStation 2 debug unit. Just insane.

Anyway, I stuck to simple choices. I went to Japan wanting to find a copy of Red Seeds Profile, the original PS3 release of Deadly Premonition and, with the help of Dale North, I did manage to succeed in that. Then, while browsing the fourth (!) floor of the same shop, I spotted Policenauts and couldn't resist it.

That's when I thought to look for Snatcher. They had three copies, all dirt cheap. I picked up the one in best condition and whistled my way up to the register. A pretty good score, if I say so myself.   read

9:12 AM on 09.18.2012

TGS Travel Log: Touring, shopping and lots of walking

(Just as a heads-up, at least one photo in this blog is really, really, NSFW.)

My dogs, they are barking. While Tokyo Game Show doesn't start until later in the week, we wanted to get here a little bit early so we'd have a day to just bum around and acclimate ourselves. After waking up and enjoying a breakfast of fine, packaged foods from the local Family Mart (popular chain of convenience stores). I had a hot dog which was...well, it was a hot dog. I don't know how enthusiastic one can really get about that. Dale made it a point to mention that the hot dogs here are more like proper sausages and, yeah, it didn't taste like the tube of fat and offal I usually get at a gas station, but it was still a hot dog.

From there, we hit the road, hopping a train to visit the Meiji-Jingu shrine. Serene, beautiful, all the things you expect from holy ground. And shade. Lots of sweet, blessed shade. It's not terribly hot here, temperatures running in the mid-80s, but the humidity is a nightmare and we were all pretty well coated in sweat after about fifteen minutes of walking.

We then passed Yoyogi park on our way to Shibuya. I suppose we could have walked through the park. It was certainly lovely enough. Instead, we just walked along the perimeter because we're dumb or something.

Once in Shibuya, we started touring through local shops. We hit a Tower Records, practically a relic as far as I'm concerned, but this bad boy seemed alive and well and occupying several floors. That's a thing here, stores which seem never-ending due to the number of levels they have. Dale rediscovered pop icon Debbie Gibson here, expressing astonishment that she is now highly attractive. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that the album he found consisted entirely of J-covers.

After a light lunch at a burger joint, we headed on to Nagano Broadway. This place is absolutely insane, a maze of strange shops filled with stranger merchandise. All manner of geekery could be found, from the junk store with its piles of old RAM and older cameras, to the seemingly endless rows of little plastic toys. Some of the stores are so packed with merchandise that there's barely enough room to walk between aisles. Just looking at all the vintage stuff alone would take you an entire day's effort.

And then there's just some weird shit. Allistair found one joint that had all of these rather unsettling paintings of incestuous relations. A pair of young girls scissoring on a couch, a mother masturbating her son while her daughter films her snatch, a grandmother with her face buried in the cooch of her granddaughter during a visit for tea. Really, really strange stuff.

I'm on a pretty tight budget, so I'm resisting the urge to buy all kinds of crap all the time. In one shop, we found three Super Famicom copies of Chrono Trigger, in box, for less than 1000 yen each. I don't even particularly like Chrono Trigger (always tune out around the post-apocalypse) and would have even less desire to try and struggle through it in Japanese but, at that price, I felt like a fool passing it up. Likewise, I skipped out on a copy of Intelligent Qube at 105 yen (already have the NA version). But then I spotted Quest for Fame, an adventure game starring Aerosmith and I simply couldn't resist, mostly because I picked it up for roughly a dollar.

What I did not find, the one thing I'm actively seeking on this trip, is a copy of Red Seeds Profile, the Japanese release of Deadly Premonition. That's the one thing I want to bring home, but not a single store we've visited so far has turned up one. The search continues.

I took a bunch of pictures and they probably tell the story better than I can at this point. I'm fairly exhausted and we have an early day ahead of us. I'm off to shower and bed, but I'll try to get another update in here before things get too crazy at the show. In the meantime, enjoy the gallery.   read

5:02 PM on 09.17.2012

TGS Travel Log: Arriving, sleeping

Sitting on the plane with about nine hours remaining in the flight. This flight rather sucks, if I'm being perfectly honest. There's no internet service available, for starters, which surprised the hell out of me. I would think that, by this point, all the major carriers had worked out getting wireless internet on their planes. And on an international flight? Fooled again.

Then there's the in-headset video display, controlled by a remote inside the right arm of my seat. Now, this *seems* like it would be a good thing, with a constantly rotating selection of movies and television shows to tune into. There's just two problems with it. First, while it's very clever to stash that handset controller (doubles as a phone) into the armrest, there's nothing covering it. It's just completely open across the top and in order to rest my bony arm on it and still be comfortable, I've had to put the 100% polyester blanket they provided me to sleep with across the arm.

Not that the remote seems to work all that well either. Every time I pick it up and hit buttons, the thing is either missing the content I am looking for (and it's the easy, informational shit at that) or it's completely unresponsive. Unless I'm not trying to use the thing, of course, in which case all sorts of weird crap has happened due to pressing on buttons with an elbow.

And I couldn't even use it if I wanted to, as the headphone jack in my armrest seems to have become misaligned or otherwise damaged. I can't insert the jack of the headphones they provided in all the way. A shame too, as the movie selection consists of a number of things I wouldn't mind watching. Men in Black III, Snow White and the Huntsman, stuff I wouldn't have gone out of my way to see but wouldn't mind if the opportunity (like this one) presented itself. Bummer.

Not that I'm bored, of course. There's still a little over 8 hours remaining in the trip right now and I have a bunch of writing I'd like to get done. A feature here, a review there; I'll be busy. And I downloaded several books to my tablet in preparation for the trip, so I'll probably tuck into that in a bit.


The plane ride wasn't awful, but neither was it wonderful. Customs took me in without a second glance and I was quickly ejected into Tokyo. Dale's flight was delayed, but he arrived within half an hour of me and Allistair just before, so the whole gang was together and we were instantly able to hop our shuttle (called a Limousine here; I'll not argue, it beats a bunch of crowded trains) and make our way to the hotel.

We're staying this year in the Park Tokyo Hotel, situated twenty-five floors up in one of the newer media towers. My expectation was that the hotel we'd be in would be tiny (all of my context coming from literature where people sleep in coffin motels consisting of a bunk), but we're in really good shape over here. Beds for everyone and there's still room for a desk. I guess we got lucky as hell (Dale keeps parroting that).

After checking in, we made our way out into the city to find food, traveling through a ritzy strip of stores. We eventually found a little chain curry joint, tucked in, and headed back in for the night to recover fom our travel. I managed to pass out pretty quickly, reading [i]1Q84[/] in bed, but Dale was still conscious at half past 2 when I got up to relieve my bladder. Lord knows how he's going to feel today.

Right now, it's 7am in Tokyo, I'm sitting in the lobby of our hotel waiting for the others to wake and doing a little work. Today, we plan to visit some gardens, do some touristy stuff and prepare our bodies for the onslaught of TGS. Stay tuned.   read

12:49 PM on 09.16.2012

TGS Travel Log: Getting there in one (conscious) piece

As some of you may be aware, I'm headed to Japan this week to attend the Tokyo Game Show. If this were a standard kind of trip, I would be ramping up my Twitter usage, communicating my thoughts about the trip as they happen. But I don't have an international data plan on my phone and, as I'm led to understand from Dale, the WiFi situation in Japan isn't such that I expect to be able to just hop on and give the blow-by-blow.

Just as well, really. If I'm taking the time to tweet out the totally awesome thing which just happened, what if I miss some further awesome mere moments later because I was absorbed in my phone? That would be some kind of tragedy, I'm certain.

So, I'm aiming to try and use my Cblog a little bit this trip to talk about my experiences in Tokyo. As I write this, I'm sitting in Los Angeles International Airport, having completed the first leg of my flight. I'm pretty damn tired already, but that's by design; part of my plan to combat the effects of jet lag.
I've always had challenges in regards to sleep. My brain doesn't shut off particularly well and usually depends upon my body's exhaustion to force it into submission. In my youthful, collegiate days, this generally meant a schedule of being awake for 36 hours, followed by an 8 hour respite once I became too tired to do anything but sleep. Over the years, I've learned techniques to force myself to rest when I'm not ready, but it's also conditioned me with what I can only compare to a kind of low-grade narcolepsy. And, if I have nothing pressing ahead of me, I'm capable of remaining asleep for twelve or more hours.

Due to the nature of their gills needing water to pass over them to perform their function, most sharks have to maintain moving or be unable to breathe. I'm somewhat like this in regards to consciousness. If I stop moving, stop thinking about something of importance (or, at least, interest), I become exhausted and will often just fall asleep. I'm the absolute worst person to vacation with, for example, because being a tourist bores the hell out of me and I'm perfectly capable of passing out on a park bench.

I mention all of this because I'm curious to see how I, with my already unusual habits, respond to honest-to-goodness jet lag. The irregularity of my sleep cycle can be frustrating, but it's also made me highly nimble in regards to adjusting my schedule. I'm nearly incapable of maintaining consciousness on a flight longer than an hour, so I'm going to sleep (slept the whole first leg, too), but I'm hoping that I can time things to where I wake up halfway across the Pacific, which should be Monday morning in Tokyo. With any luck, I'll wind up being just a little tired when I exit the plane at 4 in the afternoon, and ready to sleep again by nighttime.

Preparations for the plan necessitated that I stay up all of last night. Waking at 7:30 so as to broadcast Saturday Morning Hangover, I spent my day running last minute errands. I bought a couple pairs of denim pants, got a haircut and picked up some toiletry items. Obviously, there was some packing involved. Then, Katrina and I stayed up and watched the third season of Archer.

Well, I stayed up. She was a real trooper, but she needs a solid 8 hours every night on a schedule, so she was out by shortly after 2 am. At 4, I left for Portland International and that leads us to where we are now. For the next 14 hours, or so, I'll be screaming across the Pacific in the massive jet I can see out the window, getting ready for culture shock.   read

4:53 AM on 07.04.2012

I think I need to make a game

I'm not saying that I'd like to create a game one day, that it would be fun to try and turn what I've learned over my years of playing and thinking about games into one of my own creation. This feels more serious. I'm struck often by inspiration at three in the morning, just as I'm starting to think about the prospect of a decent night's sleep and the idea won't go away. It sits there, nagging like an unhappy wife, until I listen and allow the concept to take enough form that I can dismiss it as being of little merit or I have something that I think I'd genuinely like to play.

There's been an itch inside me to create games for as long as I can remember. Being an only child teaches you to find ways to amuse yourself and playing games was always the thing I liked better than any activity. As there's little satisfaction to be found in simply going through the motions of a board game, playing for two or more in a feint of actual competition, I soon took to trying to adapt the games I liked best with rules which would allow me to challenge myself using the mechanics of the game as a guide. I still do this today, almost as a sort of mental exercise, whenever I'm introduced to a great new board game.

In elementary school, I made my first fully realized board game as a class project, based around Greek mythological trivia with spaces on the board referencing major tales with relevant effects. It was a crude prototype in a lot of ways; Contact paper applied to an old Monopoly board, lines drawn in permanent marker, cards printed from the noisy dot matrix job in the office and sturdied by some kind of plastic laminate.

It was an ugly thing, but pretty impressive if you knew of its construction over a frantic weekend, when I announced to my parents that this was a project I'd put off for weeks and was due on Monday. It was also entirely too difficult in play, and required either a level of knowledge on the subject most people could not be realistically expected to have in their memory or incredible luck to win at. This led to games which would drag on far longer than anybody would have had a good time on. Nonetheless, I was proud of the effort and, actually, it probably could have been a pretty decent thing with refinement.

Once I discovered role-playing games through Dungeons & Dragons (and then started having fun by finding other really good RPGs to play instead), I found in them a more direct outlet. Much like adapting the board games years earlier, they provided for me a framework and inspiration but granted the freedom to express my own ideas, to throw out the parts of their rules which made the game less enjoyable to play and introduce new mechanics. I would spend hours in my bedroom with graph paper, planning adventures and running them against myself in order to be prepared to share them with others.

A tabletop mech combat game based on a lesser-known, skirmish based miniatures ruleset, WarEngine, which allows for unit customization on a microscale without sacrificing speed of play. A satirical, "screw-your-neighbor" card game where players assume the roles of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, vying to reap the most of their allotment of souls before Jesus shows up. I have notebooks filled with tables, layout concepts and barely legible notes containing designs for these and probably a couple dozen more game ideas. They're not all good. Most of them are pretty awful and don't last the length of a page before I've reasoned out some fundamental flaw in my thinking, but I'm struck by how many there are and how urgent I seemed to have been when I wrote them.

I feel that sense of urgency more keenly now than I have in a very long time. Over the last several months, I've been bombarded. But I'm not immersed in board games at all the way I used to be. My social interactions more limited due to responsibilities and a lack of convenient, nearby players, I haven't even played a board game in over two years. Videogames are all I think about any longer. Day in and day out. And while I've always had that same sense that some of the ideas I have could be really fun, there's a significantly greater barrier to making a videogame than something which can be played with cards and dice.

But the feeling in me is growing, the nagging more persistent, and I can't sleep again tonight.   read

12:08 AM on 07.03.2012

I'm watching Buffy and Jim Sterling is a right bastard

Last week, I appeared on an episode of Podtoid. At some point in the proceedings, Jim Sterling made some comment regarding Buffy the Vampire Slayer and was shocked when I professed to have no particular interest in the series, as we are of course required to like all of the same things. And because I'm the sort of person who'll give a try to just about anything that isn't commonly distributed via injection or inhalation, I agreed that I would give it a shot.

Well, I'm seven episodes in and Jim's a jerk for provoking me into it now that I've realized what I'm in for. There's seven seasons of this? Am I obligated to watch the spin-off? Oh, the things I do to satisfy that luscious vessel of man-gravy.

So far, there have been a few genuinely entertaining moments, usually short bursts of clever dialogue, but it also feels like it's faltering a little bit in its balance between camp and cool and it's not quite working. Then again, I've been led to understand that the Joss Whedon requires a little time to get cooking. Seven seasons and millions of fans suggests that it finds a groove eventually and I expect I'll be rolling right along with the fun halfway through season two. In the meantime, it's not terribly exciting.

Any predictions on when in the series this transitions for me from feeling a little bit like a chore to feeling like an imperative?   read

3:07 AM on 06.21.2011

Custom covers for Borderlands

I enjoyed the absolute hell out of Borderlands right up until that last expansion released and I lost any and all desire to play the game. But that doesn't change how much love I have for the time when I had a lot of love for playing Borderlands and I could probably be coerced into firing up the game again if Katrina ever had the urge.

So, how to approach a custom cover for this one? One of the things which draws me to games such as this is the idea of claiming a character class as your own. It's especially true of Borderlands, where it just seems less fun when there's a second version of you running around and it doesn't really help the team all that much (unless it's Lillith). So I wanted to reflect that identity, which really left me with no choice other than to just make four covers:

The rear of each of the four covers features the vault symbol. If there is demand and time, I've considered the prospect of making a four-piece set which, when on a shelf together, would create the Borderlands title. I just can't see a reason to do it for myself.

Anyway, feel free to download the full-sized versions below. These are sized for standard DVD cases, as I intend to pool them all together in a uniform display. Again, enough demand and I can toss together ones more appropriate for blu-ray cases.

Borderlands "Hunter" cover
Borderlands "Siren" cover
Borderlands "Soldier" cover
Borderlands "Berserker" cover   read

11:49 AM on 06.02.2011

Deadly Premonition custom cover

Been some time since I got around to doing a custom game cover. When I first started making these, Deadly Premonition was always at the top of my list. I just couldn't settle on what I wanted to attempt.

My first idea was to depict the victim Anna on her tree. A few early efforts wound up fairly ugly and I started looking for other ideas. The design I almost wound up going with would have consisted of Agent Morgan's open case notes.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been playing through the game again and I resolved to get this cover done so I could stop thinking about it. And then it just came together. I stopped thinking about all of the ancillary aspects of Deadly Premonition, all of the plot elements both on and below the surface, and remembered that at the core it's a story about a young, dead girl on a tree.

And Coffee.

Download the full sized version   read

4:40 PM on 01.09.2011

Custom covers for Uncharted

I took a little bit of time this weekend to whip up more game covers. Since I recently finished Uncharted 2: Among Thieves on Backlog (my live streaming show where I play through the unfinished games in my collection; Weeknights, 10pm Pacific on Destructoid's channel), I thought it might be worth the effort. But, just with the Dead Space covers, I really didn't want to make a cover solely for a sequel so I would have to make a cover for Drake's Fortune as well.

The initial idea for the Among Thieves cover was to reference the three-bladed dagger that's at the center of the struggle for much of the game, and I figured I would probably put the image as though it were half buried in snow on the back panel of the page. Which is all well and good for that game, but its predecessor's iconic item is a worn journal. I toyed for a bit with trying to get the book to look visually interesting in a two-tone color scheme but it just wasn't working. I later tried to represent the statue from El Dorado in three colors and it was an ugly, muddled mess.

So, the treasure was out of the question for Drake's Fortune. Another idea considered was a dotted line and a big 'X' on a map backdrop. I liked this because the map would add texture to the design but I haven't figured out how to make the dotted line work in Photoshop and abandoned that idea pretty quickly as well.

Ultimately, I decided to set a theme of discovery with the two covers. Abandoning objects altogether so that I could have consistency, I focused on the people they were centered upon. So we have Francis Drake in the corner of Drake's Fortune and Ponce De Leon on the Among Thieves (except it's Marco Polo in Uncharted 2; whoops! Old images replaced with new hotness). This was way easier to accomplish than anything else since I could use woodcuts of the figures and they'd look great against the map backdrops.

And then there's this thing that I toyed with briefly before abandoning it. I wouldn't show it at all but I wanted to illustrate how out of fashion woodcuts must have become by the 1920's.

Now I make these covers to conform to a DVD case standard because I want them to be consistent on my shelves. Since people have asked and seeing as the Uncharted series is PS3-exclusive and all, I made versions of the first two Uncharted covers which should fit PS3 cases. Download the covers below:

Drake's Fortune: DVD / PS3
Among Thieves: DVD / PS3   read

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