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12:43 AM on 07.17.2014

A Clever Jaunt Through Time

Super Time Force had been showing at PAX for years, so I knew the premise long before it came out: if you die, you can rewind and "co-op" through the segment up till your death to help succeed the next time. While that statement is patently true, it does very little to capture the many nuances of the game. I find that I'm the only person in my circle of friends really talking about STF so I figured, why break that trend by not writing a blog about it?

I think my first impression was: "wow, this game is kinda hard." Well, I think I'm getting worse at video games over the years, but as I watched my guy barrel straight into the same bullet from the same enemy over and over again, I felt like I'd suddenly aged another ten years in gaming time.

In stark contrast to most games, Super Time Force has very little "flow". Even when playing at your best, you are constantly rewinding and re-playing sections--by design--which gives it sort of a discordant feeling. I understand how this could turn off some people, but I found once I stopped viewing it through the lens of other Contra-style shooters and really embraced its unique mechanics and design, it got its hooks in me.




Hey ref, let's get a Time-Out over here

Super Time Force does a thing that I love to see in games: it gives you just one central mechanic and lets you explore a bunch of ways to use it. This mechanic is, of course, the "Time-Out". A Time-Out occurs either when your character dies (which is friggen constantly, because touching any enemy or enemy bullet will kill you) or when you manually call for it by hitting a button. From this point you get to rewind as far as you'd like, even all the way back to the start of the level, select a new character to play with (including another copy of the same character), and start playing again, alongside whatever all your other clones were doing at that respective time.

So what can you do with a Time-Out? Why does this uniquely characterize this game? Let's take a look at all of the different things it does, so you'll see why they give you a minimum of thirty of them per level: they expect you to use them a lot!

To start with, Time-Outs give you extra lives. Whereas Mario falls off a cliff and has to start over, if you die in STF you take a Time-Out and choose when to start over.

And where do you start over if you die or decide to Time-Out? The last checkpoint? There are no checkpoints... no, wait, there are all the checkpoints. Because you get to choose how far back to go, any time in the past is a checkpoint if you want it to be.

Let's say you play through the first 20 seconds of a level really well--just nailed it (top-tier. ya did good), but miss some jumps in the next 10 seconds. Well, just rewind to 20 seconds in, and you've basically "saved" that early part of the run and don't have to replay it to perfection every time. Now you can focus on optimizing the next portion, and so on.

Now let's say you want to use Aimy McKillin, the incredibly useful sniper, for the first section of a level, since her charge attack hits through walls. But then there's a miniboss, and you need the real power of Melanie Gibson to take it down quickly. No problem! Time-Outs also give character selection, so you can swap characters back and forth as much as you'd like through the level.



The biggest component of the game is, of course, parallelization, that is, deliberately doing multiple playthroughs of a section for various benefits. Benefit #1 is stacking damage. If you want to kill a tough enemy quickly, the best way to do it is to play that section, from the point the enemy spawns until you've killed it, over and over again, just blasting it constantly. The characters' damage is additive, so with each Time-Out, the enemy will lose health more quickly.

Benefit #2 is to divide and conquer. When trying to achieve a good time, it's important to move through the area as quickly as possible. Who can focus on pure, raw speed when also dodging or heck, even shooting? An idea: you could use Time-Outs to spawn clones whose only job is to eliminate certain enemies or obstacles as quickly as possible, so they're gone by the time your "main" character reaches them. There is no better example than the last non-boss level, which is set up for incredibly satisfying dividing and conquering on each floor.

A third benefit is to do a little "tower defense", albeit with just characters rather than actual towers. Shieldy Blockerson is a fascinating, defensive-minded character. He can stand still and block basically everything, also dropping little shielded bubbles with his charge power. These bubbles are perfect for having other characters hide behind and take safe shots.



Sometimes, when fighting a boss that shoots bullets across a certain part of the screen, I will park Shieldy there to protect that area all the way through the fight, then Time-Out and play through again, this time shooting safely from behind the bubble. Sometimes I'll place multiple Shieldies around the room to protect all angles of attack from a boss if it's especially mobile. I don't know why I would try to call this "tower defense".


Who's that man Looking around?

The core part of the game was pretty easy, and getting all the cheevos was pretty easy, but doing all the "Looker" runs was friggen tough. In most of the levels (non-boss levels, in particular), there's this guy waiting for you somewhere in the level. He's called the Looker, apparently because he likes to look at stuff (I don't get it). If you touch him before he disappears, you get a big ol' thumbs up. Nice job! If you do this on all the levels, you unlock him as an underwhelming character, not befitting the difficulty to get him. But to touch him in time requires you to optimize the heck out of your run. I'm going to use this section to give some tips and observations gleaned through unlocking the Looker.

The first and easiest tip I can give is to unlock all the other characters first. Although I used only a few characters for most of the runs, inevitably other characters are perfectly suited to certain sections of certain levels, so you'll want them at your disposal. Moreover, everyone's playstyle is different, and I've seen others' successful Looker runs using completely different parties of characters than mine.

For me, Aimy McKillin, the handy sniper, was my go-to tool. Specifically, her charge attack lets me one-shot most enemies far away before my next clone can even arrive at it. I'll use Aimy to clear the way, then a second instance to just run through as fast as possible, coming in just behind her parallel wake of destruction.

My other main is Melanie Gibson, the shotgunner. I don't know if I'm imagining things, but her charge attack seems way more powerful than anything any other character can produce. 2-3 instances of Melanie are enough to blast through basically any miniboss in no time flat.

At some point I noticed that Jeff Leppard's bazooka charge attack does not have any recoil. This is really useful because, unlike Melanie's or Aimy's charge attacks, which push them backwards a step, Jeff can use it without losing any speed. The downside is the rocket is quite slow, so it's a bit situational.



Speaking of recoil (check out that sweet seg), there is at least one place in the game where you can use it heavily to your advantage. If you charge attack downwards while jumping, it can act like a rocket jump, giving your character a bit more height than usual. This allowed me to skip so much of a level that I got the Looker with almost nine seconds left, which is basically like a hundred years in Looker-time, and without even getting one of the pinkdots, which is impossible in every other level.

Pink dots... I think they're called glorbs? Or maybe those are the yellow dots. Anyway, the pink dots slow down time for your character... or do they give you hyper speed? Whatever, same thing. Getting the Looker, except for the one glitch I mention above, requires absolutely nailing the pink dots scattered through the level. It's imperative to capitalize on the hypermode by scurrying through as quickly as possible.

Just like proceeding through the regular level, you will probably want to layer multiple Time-Outs to clear the way, stack damage, and so on when in hypermode, but Super Time Force doesn't award you this easily. If you Time-Out when you're hyper, you have to get it again on the next run if you want it. This means developing special techniques for layering multiple hypermode runs.

What I found works best is to use Aimy and stand perfectly still, directly underneath the pink dot (if the location allows). I pause for a quarter of a econd or so, then shoot it with her regular attack. The pause is absolutley crucial, because this gives you time to insert a character just before the later character gets the pink dot. You see, if a character gets a pink dot, it's gone from that time onwards. However, if you go back and time and get the dot before the later character, both will get the benefit.

This mechanism of repeatedly spawning characters barely earlier than the previous one to repeatedly get the hypermode boost is basically necessary to clear the Looker challenges. It's a weird, neat trick, unique to this game, that it forces you to develop. It's interesting that I came up with this on my own, then found that others on the Internet had independently come to the same conclusion.

There are a lot of things to like about Super Time Force, even if it doesn't necessarily feel or play like you'd imagine from its appearance. I'd go so far as to call it a puzzle-shooter, on top of which it sports amusing dialogue and visual gags done in a pretty sweet looking art style. Who knew this would be the game to make me rise to writing a blog? Didn't see that one coming!   read


1:13 PM on 05.13.2013

Surprises Hidden in the Eternal Darkness



It was long ago, feels like a dream, when Occams Electric Toothbrush did me a service only a true father can: he lent me his very own physical copy of Eternal Darkness. This happened, oh, almost two years ago, when he came over for PAX, I think? Ugh, I suck at being a friend.

This singular act of giving is a big deal, as I would find out later, because this is unironically a really good game. I just finished my playthrough a couple days ago--streamed on Twitch and then uploaded to YouTube for posterity--and, hot on the heels of the heels of the announcement of a spiritual successor, I wanted to catalogue some of my thoughts before this shriveled mind of mine ejects them for on good reason.

There will probably be SPOILERS throughout the rest of this post. The game is like a million years old and has a sequelish thing announced, so I think the statute of limitations has run out on this one, guys.

I went into Eternal Darkness not quite knowing what to expect. My friends had hyped the heck out of it on the podcast, but they also made it somehow sound kind of campy. So I kind of started it expecting something like Deadly Premonition, but came away with much, much more.

Unlike Deadly Premonition, Eternal Darkness's tongue is lying flat in its mouth, certainly not in its cheek. It doesn't have any weird gags or bizzar moments during which you can hear the game snickering off to side. If you look past the game's age to see the fairly solid story they crafted, this is all totally okay.


By halycon450

In broad strokes, for thousands of years or something, a dude has been trying to summon a malevolent elder god into this world (the eponymous darkness). Not too sure why he'd want to do that, but whatever. And of course, there were always sane and rational people who got wind of this and tried to do something to stop it. In present day, things are coming to a head, and it's up to you to save everything by learning as much about these ill-fated pawns of old as you can.

The majority of the game consists of playing chapters as those pawns, pretty much all of whom meet with some untimely demise. Oops. However, your first chapter is actually as the antagonist himself--the guy who is trying to summon the darkness. In it, you're presented with a seemingly insignificant choice that actually ends up flavoring the rest of the game: you pick which elder god he summons.

Each elder god is aligned with a color and effect: red (health), green (sanity), and blue (magick), and each color "beats" the subsequent color in rock-paper-scissors fashion. I chose blue at the beginning because I like blue and it looked like a Metroid. Since the blue god Ulya'oth was being summoned, about 2/3 of the enemies from there on out were blue, many of which had mana drain abilities. In this way, you could have three slightly different New Game+ runs of the game with different spins on the enemy encounters.



By Sodano

Eternal Darkness really commits to the colors and alignments, injecting them into almost every facet of the game. You cast spells with a particular color alignment, allowing you to make such blunders as casting a red spell against a blue enemy. But no worry! you recharge mana from a couple different ways, so you only feel mana pressure in the middle of a tough battle.

I love runes, and I love collecting runes... which you totally do in this game. Moreover, you get to play Cooking Mama with them and discover new spells before you've officially "found" them. It's great that they opened up a bit and let you experiment without holding your hand.

It also incorporates magick into a few neat puzzles. In one section, I had to cast a spell with a long charge time while standing in a damage field. The solution? Cast shield on myself first, to keep from being knocked back for the cast duration. In another part, I buffed myself with the special purple version of "Reveal Invisible", which turned me invisible and let me escape from a crumbling ruin or something without getting inconvenienced by monsters.


By halycon450

Whereas the magick system was fun, melee and ranged combat was as plain as chicken broth. You can target various parts of enemies, but due to fixed camera angles and somewhat janky controls, it was always a little bit awkward, maybe like trying to solve a Rubik's cube covered in lard.

Might as well get all my complaining out right now, here in the half-time show, huh? The game is downright prolific with backtracking, seriously. There were a few levels where I had to go back and forth across the whole stupid thing two or three times for no particularly good reason. And did I complain about the fixed camera angles already? I'm glad that trapping of old games has become less popular. Sheesh.

Oh yeah, I also could have done with about half the amount of "trapper" enemies. They whisk you away like some punk into a mini level you have to escape out of, except it's insultingly simple and repetitious.

You play as about ten characters throughout the game, and, aside from their individual stories, they were also differentiated by the equipment they can get and their fixed stats. The hunky fireman in one of the later sections had massive health, but low mana. One of the monks had tons of mana but very little health. The frail, elderly grandpa couldn't run long enough to save his life. It made it so I couldn't quite power through every chapter with massive magick and lent a little more variety to the gameplay.

To finish up my praise about the cohesion in the story, I want to highlight two parts in the game that stood out. In one, you receive a note that your grandfather has left an item for you. When you go to it, it's protected by a spell, and you have to dispel the magick field to get it. In my blueish game, true to form, the item was protected by a green aligned magick barrier, which the grandfather surely would have chosen as a ward against blue in his time. It's the little things, yanno?

Well, it's also the big things. Spoiler alert, but when you get to the end of the game, you're just a wimpy dude against an elder friggen god. In space. An elder god in space. So what's the thing to do in that situation? If your answer isn't "die", it might be to summon your own elder god to fight as your champion. Woo! With elder god in in our pocket, now we can tip the balance in our favor!

WRONG. Turns out you can't fit god in your pocket. Once your god is done whooping the other one, he goes on to destroy the world, anyway. Oops. Nah, you end up saving the day, but the game at least acknowledges that any elder god is a problem you have to deal with. That could have very easily turned into a huge plot hole.


By halycon450

Not only did I like the story, I liked the way it was written. Eternal Darkness exudes a vivid style in its writing that I just have to quote with some excerpts; seldom have I seen such peculiar and interesting writing in a game.

A description of a weird fountain in a temple, and your act of filling it:
"A disturbing rendition of a monstrous devil! It is contorted into what appears to be a fountain. What sickly liquid is this draining into the pool, trickling from a scum-encrusted spout? Dunking the urn into the foul smelling fountain, it becomes filled to the brim with rank fluid. It is a lot heavier now, and rife with foetor."

From Forgeries of the Reliquaries, a book you find lying around:
"While it could be said that false hope is still hope, relics such as Cuthbert's Jawbone, the Hand of Jude, and the infamous Thighbone Flute of Connaught, while being forgeries, deceive the righteous unjustly. Their existence as "true" relics is the utmost heresy."

From Maximilian Roivas' journal:
"Days ago, I watched one of them stretch his neck. I could have sworn I saw it twist in a most peculiar direction, and a bulge of muscle tissue collect and grew in the most incorrect of manners, as if a bone was being displaced from its proper location and something else moving in its place. I stumbled away knowing that I was surrounded by unholy creatures that wore the skins of mortal men and women!"

Such descriptive and weird writing. I love it!

Insanity effects... ahh, what a wonderful way to close up. There's nothing quite like seeing your dude spontaneously get cut in half, grow extra large and stomp everything, get tiny (and stomped), walk on the ceiling, get suddenly mobbed by a ton of monsters, have an arm just fall off, randomly swing your weapon, watch the walls start bleeding, hear random screaming, or seeing your volume turn down from an unseen hand, or seeing your TV turn off, or panicking at a falsely corrupted save.

I don't know of another game that did these things so well. My only complaint is that these were all so unique and cool that there's very little incentive to play with a lot of sanity. That seems like heading in the wrong direction!

What a great time I had with this, and a real stellar demonstration that, despite a few missteps, these older games really can stand the test of time and be fun even in today's gaming landscape. Finally, I will close by saying that above all else, Eternal Darkness put the fear of bathtubs in me.

  read


8:16 PM on 12.01.2012

Aaand Now I Want To Be an Archaeologist

You know, 2012 was a good year for me in gaming, especially for puzzle gaming--which I love. We started off the year with English Country Tune in February, which carried me through many months. Just months later in April, I got Fez, which speaks directly to me in the way it had me piece together puzzles from all over.

When Destructoid reviewed the La-Mulana remake, it caught my eye right from the first line: "Wow. This is beyond a doubt the hardest game I've ever played." What they went on to describe kept reminding me of Fez, enough so that when I finally finished off The Last Express, this one had shuffled its way right to the top of the list, so I grabbed it from GOG.

What did I find? Simply put, a masterpiece.



The puzzles in this game are incredible. They are cryptic clues that you have to piece together between rooms that are at opposite corners of the map, which you encounter hours apart. Progress such as beating a boss triggers subtle changes in disparate areas. It demands extensive revisiting and huge amounts of comparison between clues, room names, mural descriptions, and seemingly inconsequential art details.

Having already read the Destructoid review, I was kind of ready for this, so I planned right from the start to take meticulous notes. Those notes saved my--well, Lemeza's--life, and, as ridiculous as may I look with my incessant copying and pasting, I regret nothing.

As a side note, the notes are kind of a big deal for me. By the end of my playthrough, I now have a notebook that easily rivals the La-Mulana wiki. Sure, the wiki has more pure facts about the game, but I have annotated a ton of the clues in mine with the meaning behind them. When you see a cryptic clue about "a lone snake standing among spikes," I've written down what that means and pointed out the related clues needed to solve that puzzle; the wiki often just says, "go here and stand on the doodleybob."

The best part about this notebook of mine is that, thanks to the powers of TECHNOLOGY, I can easily share it online. Help yourself: take a look at my book of La-Mulana.



As I'm wont to do these days, I streamed the majority of my playthrough. This was a very good move on my part, because I could not have beaten it myself. That thing about it being ridiculously hard? That's actually true. Whereas I absolutely demolished Fez in a few solid days of playing, some of the puzzles in this are so far flung that my weak sense of imagination and literal sensibilities wouldn't have been able to crack the metaphors.

As such, I was really, really lucky to have a small cadre of awesome viewers who also had a mind for these kinds of puzzles. Well, not only that, they had the angelic patience to sit as I took and edited all those screenshots, wrote down all those notes, and did other boring, non-gamey stuff.

When I finally beat the game last night, clocking in at 39 hours, 10 minutes, and 55 seconds, I hope all of them shared the same sense of accomplishment that I did. I may have been going through the motions, but by far I wasn't the only one getting those desirable "AHA!" moments.



Speaking of that eureka factor, I think the blind playthrough of the game is really valuable. I've been watching some YouTube videos of Let's Plays of the game, and the ones where the caster already knows the solutions to the puzzles are just... boring. They're just going through the motions. I mean, I guess there's some difficulty in the bosses: they're huge, deal a ton of damage, and your weapons are embarrassingly short, so that's kind of a pain. But for me, that's not the real draw. If it were, I would just play Castlevania, because that's basically what the gamplay is, and not even as polished.

What I'm looking for is how people actually crack the puzzles, and that never shows up on the video. It's always: "hmm, I don't know what to do here. Let me go figure this out off-stream." --cut-- "OK, I'm back! I figured it out: I have to stand on the shamblargo!" Yeah, but how did you figure it out? Or did you look it up? That temptation is always looming.

I've talked about the puzzles a lot, but what else is there? People seem to like the music. It's pretty good, but you hear it on loop for a long time, so, it can get old. The gameplay is competent, but it has those old school sensibilities about how you should be able to jump and how your character is hurled bodily to the side when you take damage. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't frustrating. The manual even acknowledges this kind of stuff with a smirk. Or maybe a sneer? Yeah...



But the story, art, and settings are beautiful and amazingly done. The premise of the story is that the La-Mulana ruins are supposed to be the birthplace of mankind, so you see representations of pretty much all ancient civilizations in the different dungeons: Greek, Indian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, and so on.

Developing on this, a lot of the murals and depictions of the gods and guardians are taken from real mythology. In the Mesopotamian section, you have to fight a number of ancient creatures. One of the viewers looked up their names, and their appearance in-game was accurate. That's an striking detail that I don't feel like I see in a lot of games.



I think this game falls into a genre where the art is actually very important to the gameplay, too. I watched some videos of the original version, and I have to say, the newer one should be considered the "definitive" one, due to its updated art. In the old game, the art was simplistic--dare I say crude--and striking. For a game that bases so many of its clues on subtlety, this is a detriment. A mural in the background in the old game would have a harsh, incredibly distinct depiction, but in the new game could have details not immediately obvious without close inspection.

The story, though scattered in the wind and available only in scraps for a long time, slowly comes together like a good mystery book. By the end, you'll know so much about the history of the ruins, their purpose, and the various parties involved. The story has an end, and one that I can walk away from without looking back. They absolutely nailed it.

The quality of the writing is really surprising to me. Nigoro and GR3 Project are Japanese developers. They're very Japanese. I read through the game's manual, and it reads like it was run through an online translator; it's atrocious! But somehow, the writing in the game is pitch-perfect, with almost no faults that I can detect. If you've gotten the sense for how much I've gone on about the puzzles, you'll understand why that is so crucial for this game. The subtlety of language factors into the clues strongly; without excellent translation, all hope is lost.



What else to say? This was an amazing journey for me and Lemeza. My buddies in the stream were so helpful that they deserve a mention: primarily Rekkenber, Overlordegg, Km_Shinkiro, Avalander, and Cabch. A+ WOULD ARCHAEOLOG AGAIN.   read


12:19 PM on 10.26.2012

The Best Old Timey Trains Game You'll Play



I don't know what exactly I want to write about The Last Express. Usually I try coming up with some idea or observation or angle that I want to explore, but this time I'm not sure I have that. Alls I know is I have to write something about it. It deserves it--it's that good.

It's basically an old-school point-and-click adventure game with some innovative twists. If you plan to play it, then I would bail out now, since there will be SPOILERS, though mostly in the videos.

The first thing the game does is have a colossal opener, and I don't mean in the way that a train gets derailed and flies through the air and makes a huge explosion and you're thrown from it and have to clamber your way up its side on a snowy mountaintop or whatever. I mean in the same way Indigo Prophecy did it: hurl you into a stressful, jarring situation and force you to pull yourself together and take control quickly.

Yup, in the opening scene of the game, you have no idea who you are, but you do know this: you just jumped onto the train from a motorcycle, found the cabin of the friend you were to rendezvous with, and GOD HE'S MURDERED ON THE GROUND. What are you gonna do now!?


Hello, janky combat.


Well, if you're like me the first time I played, you're going to spend 10 minutes examining every inch of the room for clues and stuff without disturbing the body... and then promptly get caught by the train conductor making routine checks into all the cabins. Oops. Try again: this time I'll dump the body out the window and swap my coat (which has just gotten his blood on it) with his, hanging on the wall, so that I can talk normally with the conductor as he comes by.

I did say it was a point-and-click adventure game with an innovative twist. That twist is that the entire game happens in (scaled up) realtime. It's a train, so it has to be on schedule; it's always progressing along its route from Paris to Constantinople. After 1 hour of playing time (or however long), the train's gonna get to Vienna, whether you like it or not. Are you prepared? Have you done everything you need to before that point?


Oh, DO go on.


Likewise, all the passengers on the train are also on a schedule. At some point, the dude in the car next to you is going to the dining car for food, and so will the pretty lady down the hall. They're going to sit down and chat. This will happen every time, unless you do something to prevent it. The German merchant you need to talk to is going to depart at Munich unless you can make headway on your deal. Better get cracking on that.

Maybe this is a good time to bring up the intrigue. You can't have a murder mystery ON A TRAIN without intrigue, and lots of it. Oh, and how The Last Express delivers on that. It's basically nonstop intrigue from start to finish.

First, you'll be intrigued by that murdered corpse of your friend, whom you go on to impersonate for the rest of the game. Then you'll be intrigued by the beautiful, acclaimed Austrian violinist who might be related to the Transformers due to the way she meets the eye. You'll be intrigued by a dude named freaking KRONOS. What's up with that? You'll be intrigued by mysterious artifacts, and downright confused--I mean intrigued--as you sort out out the basic malfunctions of all the political groups you're surrounded by (this is the volatile eve of WWI, after all).



The best part is that the game doesn't tell you what your "objective" is. You kind of have to puzzle it out as you go along. Anyway, it's pretty great.

You'd be correct in assuming that with all this crazy intrigue happening, you can get turned around and miss important events. The game gives you a time rewind mechanic to let you back up if you think you missed something. It's pretty much necessary; I definitely missed some key things at first. Luckily, I was streaming it, so I had a great, adaptive, on-demand, minimal hint system.

The game also does this thing where you can end in multiple ways as you go along. Unfortunately, these endings are all consecutive, so there's really only one "real" ending. Still, I kind of appreciate the effort compared to just saying "YOU DIED" in big red letters whenever you mess up.



Speaking of failures, there are are ever-present threats of antagonists. When these really materialize into actions taken against you, you have to use the power of foresight, rewinding, and your wits to foil their plans. The thing I really like, though, is some of these obstacles are multi-layered. If you thwart a guy's plan one way, he may have a plan B that he dutifully implements, so he still succeeds in screwing you over. This is another thing I don't see enough of in games, where normally if you overcome a puzzle or obstacle, you're good to go for now.

And then there's all this other stuff the game just gets right: controls are mouse-only and fine. The art style is unique and looks like playing a painting. The voice acting is actually top-notch--by no means a common accomplishment. The ending is excellent and poetic and depressing.



The one thing I didn't expect out of this game was humor. It's a pretty serious game overall. I mean, we're dealing with robbing trains and getting stabbed and global conflicts around the time of WWI, but there were several moments in the game where I straight up burst out laughing. You've already seen the video evidence of this. I'm fairly sure at least some of these occurrences weren't intentional, but at least one scene was deliberately funny, and that made me go, "what the heck is up with this game?" It was rad; I like a good mixup.

Destructoid already reviewed this thing just recently, but I think this is such a masterpiece that I just couldn't shut up about it. GO GOG IT. It's like 7 hours and friggen five dollars. I didn't regret it! (ringing endorsement).


So long, sucker!
  read


11:48 AM on 10.23.2012

The Wreck-it/Fix-it Report

Surely some or hopefully all of you have seen the trailers for the upcoming Wreck-it-Ralph (coming soon to a theater near you!). I guess I probably saw it as a trailer for Paranorman (which was pretty good).



But man, this looked pretty keen. One of these fancy new CG animated movies all about video games? Ooh, I recognize that guy! And that guy! And those guys! And at that point my brain probably melted. It looked good, but I didn't recognize the main characters from anywhere. That might be because their game doesn't, er, exist.

AT LEAST, NOT UNTIL NOW. As I was walking into work the other day, I saw a big promotional banner for the movie in the cafeteria. I thought that was kinda neat. Then, next to the two pinball machines, I saw an unfamiliar cabinet. Let's have a closer look, shall we?



So Disney and someone or another created an actual video game as promotion for the movie and put it in a real cabinet. I approve. We spent a few minutes playing it today. It was not super deep, but kinda fun. It really hits the nostalgia nail with the old school hammer. What does that even mean?



Gameplay-wise, it's pretty simplistic, and gives kind of a Donkey Kong vibe. At the beginning of each round, Ralph breaks a bunch of windows on a building. As Felix, you then hop between the windows and repair each one with a button press. All the while, Ralph is raining bricks from above, so watch out and don't get hit!!!

Here ya go, why not just watch this thing I recorded? It's actually 2-player, too, where you pass back and forth. Neat stuff. Sorry for the video quality; the lighting in that part of the cafe is awful.



The coolest part about the cabinet, though, is how they made it look old and authentic. I've tried to snap a few close up shots that let you see the damage it's undergone. There are what look like coffee stains on the part near the joystick (I didn't taste to confirm, sorry). The same panel's plastic is cracked. There are score marks on the side. The glass is not super clean (nor is it nasty). All in all, the machine just looks, well, used.



We thought that maybe they just bought an old cabinet, painted it, added the logos, and put it out there, so it carried the scars from its long and storied history, but some of the scuff marks and stuff look like they were done after the cabinet was decorated with labels. Heck, there's even a half scratched-off label that tells whom to call for repairs.



I really do think they took the time to make it look old and used. Somehow that is more interesting to me than the thing's existence, itself. This was a cool little piece of advertising to see. I wish this sort of thing happened more often, yanno? Moral of the story: video games are awesome.   read


2:44 PM on 09.17.2012

Conventions: PAX 2012 was a great, I say, a honkin' good time

This year was--I say--was a heck of a time, the best of times, even. I had a whole gaggle of fellas hanging around with me (good people, really good people, just a little kooky sometimes, if you get my meaning). Now listen up now, everybody. I say, boy, are you paying attention!? Look sharp here!

GOD, MAKE IT STOP.

Okay, we're done with that for now. I love The Fog to death, but I can't write a whole blog like that. It'll drive me insane. PAX was awesome, though, as I was saying. I had upwards of five guests staying at my place this year, and upwards of 15 piling in for the nightly parties. I'm going to give a whirlwind tour here of what I saw and did. I started out with the aim of going easy on the words, but they just kept flowing!

Tuesday

Tuesday?! That's right, in a surprise turn of events, Occams made it in late Tuesday night. I picked him up from the airport, promised to grill him some sausages when I got home, then abruptly fell asleep, leaving him to fend for himself. Luckily, he's a resourceful guy and ate some chicken nuggets.

I guess Tuesday was pretty short, huh guys?


Wednesday

Corduroy, COM, and Steezy also flew in this day to do some early sightseeing. They grabbed Occams from my place while I was toiling at work and whisked him around Seattle to see everything. They brought back some weird doughy thing that they put in my fridge and which later evolved into some kind of beating club.

My wife drove six hours to pick up our weird friend Colton Phillips from the faraway Port Angeles. Dag yo, we like having guests. WORTH IT.

In the evening we all went out to a rad local BBQ joint and got some delicious smoked meats for dinner. Across the street was this convenience store, where they tanked up on beer and Slim Jims.





I think the rest of the evening was spent basically playing Hidden in Plain Sight, right, guys?




Thursday

Monk, SQID, and bbain all showed up on Thursday. I picked them up from the airport. Dixon drove up from wherever the heck he lives. Beyamor condensed out of a passing cloudmass sometime in the evening. Things were shaping up pretty well.





We hit up a pho place for lunch. Oh hey, I guess Bloodspray came along with us... visibly drunk, at that. It's like noon, hahaha.


The elusive Bloodspray came to Pho too.




We all went out to Dim Sum Thursday night. As my first experience with it, I was annoyed at how long a wait there was, but it was totally worth it. Dude, that stuff is mad good. Pork buns, dude. That's what it's all about. Unfortunately it was while we were out that Beyamor showed up. Being a cloud, he had no problem floating into my house and making himself at home.











SQID actually got in pretty late on Thursday, and had some kind of crazy adventure at the airport where he managed to walk out on a level that shouldn't have been accessible to arrivals. Dude is less a squid and more a ninja, apparently. When we got back home, people were all playing Cards Against Humanity. Fame Designer and Wolf Girl were also able to join! This went on for quite a while, so I guess it's pretty fun? It was real late when they left, and PAX proper hadn't even begun yet!








Friday

Bright and early, I started rousing people to get up and shower and make sandwiches to pack for the day at PAX. I'm kind of a fan of sandwiches, so I was well prepared with a selection of lunchmeats, spreads, bread, vegetables, and cheeses to make yourself the perfect PAX lunch. I think all of us availed ourselves of the ingredients, and let me tell you: it was very convenient not to have to take a break to get food!




He's probably thinking about code.




It wasn't exactly legal the way we crammed everyone into my poor, belabored Honda to get to PAX, but it was a beautiful day outside, and we had a nice little walk over. All of us had something pretty early we wanted to see. For me, it was the Idle Thumbs panel, my favorite pocast. You can't actually tell, but the dude on the far right happens to be Doug, from the Walking Dead games (caution: spoilers for the game farther down the page).




The Monk himself.






The big highlight of Friday at PAX was, of course, the Destructoid panel. Actually, to be honest, I was expecting a lot more craziness. I guess Dtoid got in trouble last year for too much craziness, so they had to tone it down. To be perfectly frank, the panel itself was a little boring, but the announcement of the animated Podtoid shorts was super cool, since I was already a fan of his previous works.


Bey and Law get friendly.





Funk approves of Isay Isay.



Max can't be bothered with Isay Isay. Fantastic photobomb by Swishiee.


The community picture afterwards is always pretty neat. In the interest of space, I'll just link to another post that has it covered adequately.

I spent a lot of time in the indie game area of the exihibition hall. I would tell you all about it, but bbain's done a much better job, so I'll just point you to that! Of course, Antichamber was my most anticipated game, carrying over from last year. It was nice to talk to Alexander Bruce, the dev. He spotted my "knutaf" periodic table nametag and was like, "oh, you're that guy from Twitter." That was neat.


Conrad is seriously distracted by something over there.


But my newest most anticipated game was definitely Quadrilateral Cowboy. Any game that lets me drop down a laptop and literally telnet into various devices to hack them gets me drooling. It's like my dream come true.

At some point during Friday there was a Geometry Wars 2 tournament. I always enter, and always have a pretty good time. This year as I was walking into the tourney room I turned to Corduroy and said, "yo, what's with all the people? I wonder what game they're here for." Turns out there were over fifty people in the GW2 tournament. WAT. I made it into the top 8, then got eliminated by a guy who was really very good. It was still a close game, though, and he was a cool guy.


All these people are here to play Geometry Wars. Am I in heaven?


I also watched Corduroy in the Trials Evo tournament. Unfortunately, they were using boring, simple tracks, so no real skill was shown off, mostly luck. Oddly, I ran into Freddie Wong, creator of one of the coolest shows I've seen recently, Video Game High School. He was just as crazy in person as he acts in his part on the show. Jeez. Apparently he's some Trials Evo hotshot? I dunno.

The dinner parties are maybe my favorite part of PAX. This year I cooked my Indian chicken again for about 15 people who came back to my place on Friday night. We played Smash Brothers and ate good food and had a great time. Again, everyone left pretty late, leaving us more and more hollow for the coming day.






Saturday

Saturday is always the longest, fullest day of PAX, and this time was no exception. I saw a number of panels, none of which I can really remember, because it was such a blur. I remember spending most of the day with Bbain and Beyamor, though. We saw more indie games, wandered the expo hall, and sat in various panels.


Bey has a real knack for these kinds of shots.




I also took advantage of some free time to find out what Isay Isay was up to. Seems he was pretty busy!


Isay Isay gets a photo with Ezio or whoever.



I don't even know what this is from. I guess it looked kind of cool.



Mr. (Mrs.?) Destructoid showcases Isay Isay.





Monk totally fell asleep standing up. Come on, Monk. Wake up!


In the evening, we of course came back for another dinner party. This time, we made homemade burgers and did beer-soaked brats! God, those burgers were good. I just need to be careful about grease fires... oops. Heh heh. People played Smash Brothers and board games, then we of course moved into Rock Band later. There were some pretty stunning renditions of songs, let me tell you.








Coheed and Cambria - Welcome Home



Tenacious D



Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood


At some point we got the crazy idea to do a podcast. Well, we had like a bajillion people in the same place. Why not!? It was a short, sweet success, though we could have chosen the microphone a little better. Oh well.





Weary and dead on our feet, we slept like rocks. Some of us more than others.


Actually, Law passed out after one beer like 15 minutes into the party.



Sunday and Monday

Yet again we got up early and headed in. We seemed to always have something early in the morning. Beyamor and I went to the Spacechem tournament. I knew I was middling to bad at Spacechem, but I really didn't have that confirmed until I saw some of the incredibly elegant, beautiful solutions people came up with. Wow.


Isay Isay always wanted his very own mech.



Everyone, including Isay Isay, is pumped for Borderlands 2!


Speaking of beautiful, Bbain entered in the Beautiful Katamari tournament and made it all the way to the finals. He's good, you guys. Here's his semifinals win, followed by his unfortunate upset in the last match of the finals. His opponent really knew how to smash. His opponent was also very quick.


Bbain demolishes this guy at Beautiful Katamari



But not against this dude :(


I think we saw a few other panels on Sunday, too, but we were starting to get tired at this point. We were mostly split up during the day, and half the group headed home on a Sunday afternoon flight. That sucks! Dinner that night was a melancholy affair of leftovers. Too bad. Monk, Bbain, and I had a great time finishing off the last third of Rayman: Origins, though. It's pretty rare these days that I actually finish a game...


Isay Isay with one of the bikes from Lococyle




I honestly can't remember who left Sunday and who left Monday. Occams had to leave at the buttcrack of dawn, so that was fun. I think Monk was the last to leave, and Colton a bit before. Those last bits are always depressing. The kind of close-knit friendship in our group cannot be understated. I honestly feel like even though we live thousands of miles apart, the people in this group are every bit as good friends as many of my local ones.


I LOVE this picture.


I think every one of us suffers from some degree of post-PAX depression. Ah well, at least we have PAX 2013 to look forward to, right guys!? Oh yeah, and Borderlands 2, heh heh...   read


12:14 PM on 07.20.2012

Dark Souls and the "Style Over Substance" Mindset

It's no news to any of my friends that I'm severely addicted to Dark Souls at this point. I never could have predicted the way I became utterly gripped by it. Eventually, this largely became a matter of being integrated into a community of players, primarily on twitch.tv, once I started live-streaming. I have friends there now, so I see myself stuck in that world for a while.

This post isn't about that, though. It's about the player-vs-player (PvP) system in Dark Souls, and some of the contention around it. I started off watching various streams a long time ago while waiting for co-op, which began my exposure to PvP--one of the major end-game activities. I was young and impressionable, as it were, so when I saw someone who was just racking up kills with no sign of slowing down, I was kind of in awe. "MAN," I said to myself, "this guy must be amazing!"

It wasn't until much later, when I'd watched much more, started playing PvP myself, and was exposed to many play styles that I started to view kill count as far too simplistic a measure.

A measure of what, you ask? Your effectiveness at killing your opponent is not necessarily an indication of your skill.

When I see statements like these, I think of games like Mario Party, which has a large element of luck involved in winning. I don't think of more competitive games like shooters or fighting games. I certainly don't think of Dark Souls. Well, I didn't used to.



What it comes down to is the fact that, despite the huge breadth of play-style choices in Dark Souls there is a straight path to success--where "success" means how often you get the kill. You strap on heavy armor, pump up your vitality, wear the crit damage ring, and backstab your way to glory. It's a recipe for that kind of success, and huge numbers of players do it. It's absolutely a failing in the game, both in its net code and its balance, but it exists, so people exploit it.

Before I go on much more, I need to make a critical distinction. I'm not condemning people for doing these things. They're legitimate game mechanics, not glitches (that's a whole 'nother story), and so there's nothing wrong, per se, with using them. What I am saying, to reiterate an earlier statement, is that doing certain things lowers the skill needed to earn a kill.

Let me get specific and dump a list of things you can do that lessen the skills you need to win in PvP. I'm not saying any one of these things guarantees wins, but they sure help, sometimes to an absurd degree.


- Spawn camping with two of your buddies
- Heck, engaging in any kind of 2v1 and 3v1 situation, especially if you endlessly heal your friends
- Abusing the atrocious netcode to backstab people (a.k.a. "lagstabbing", or "backstab fishing")
- See above about backstabs, but especially coupled with the Hornet Ring
- Wearing a full set of Giant's Armor while still maintaining a fast movement speed
- Cranking crazy amounts of vitality and using Mask of the Mother to further boost it
- Stacking huge amounts of poise so you can tank the heaviest weapons without flinching
- Healing yourself with Divine Blessings (more on this later)
- Using glitches to create powerful, low level characters for the purpose of invading inexperienced players


Let me be clear: none of those things necessarily marks you as a bad player or means that you're "playing the game wrong"; these are displays of low skill. If you want to be a better player as opposed to just a successful one, challenge yourself and step outside these tactics.



Now I'll be prescriptive for a moment, and offer a shorter list of displays of high skill. For the record, I only attempt a few of these, usually unsuccessfully. That's because, heh, I'm not a very skillful player. But I can dream, right?


- Parrying, especially on the first swing
- Using low or no poise - makes you prey for stunlocks
- Using fast-roll without the Dark Wood Grain Ring
- Forgoing stunlock opportunities
- Using less common weapons - halberds, straight swords, regular hammers, whips, fist weapons, and plenty more choices
- Not healing during fights, even if the opponent does
- Succeeding in 2v1 and 3v1 fights
- Manually aiming hits without lock-on
- Manually aiming projectiles (including pyromancies) without lock-on


There are so many choices in this game. That's part of the breadth that I like to talk about. And that's why it pains me a bit to see people narrowly focus in on the few seriously overpowered paths. On the flip side, I love seeing stuff like Poise-Free PvP, which puts a list of agreed-upon restrictions for duels, with the goal of actually making you better at the game.

So what do I do about it? Do I complain? Eh, a little; call it "venting" instead. But more importantly, I play the game like I want to see it played. I watched a Youtube video recently where the uploader said something like, "as usual, PvP boils down to who can backstab whom more." My comment was: that's probably true right now, but if more people challenge that assumption, maybe we can elevate the state of the game overall.



So I play without backstabs, for the most part. I do a lot of dodging and rolling, attempt parries, and have characters with moderate vitality. I eschew the tryhard gear and pick armor that is both functional and appeals to my eye (though nobody else's, it would seem. sheesh). I do all these things because I know that if everyone did, we'd have much more interesting fights in general. I know this, because most of the duels I've had with the great people from that aforementioned community are a far cry more fun than those I have with lagstabbing randoms.

I'll even go as far as to avoid backstabs in 2v1 and 3v1 encounters, where the odds are staggering. This is because I feel winning is secondary to showing these players that it's possible to win without techniques like that. It's making a statement, albeit a painful one, since I'm rarely successful.

This is the "style over substance" camp: we play for reasons other than winning, sometimes at the cost of our quantifiable, measured success. But things are way more interesting in here.


Sidebar on Divine Blessings

I need to take a minute to state my view on Divine Blessings. This is an item that heals you fully and removes all status effects within a fraction of a second. In a normal playthrough, I think there is a maximum of about 10 you can get a hold of. You can't really farm them from anything (forest hunters can, but the drop rate is pretty rare).

The problem is that the advent of modding tools has given rise to the availability of basically infinite divine blessings. An item that was intended to be extremely rare is now commonplace. This is fine for PvE and PvP in "peacetime", but in the middle of a PvP fight I find it problematic, for these specific reasons:


- They take effect significantly faster than any other type of healing (heal spells, humanity, and Estus), allowing you to both use one and escape a retaliatory attack with ease.
- They are not subject to the preventative influence of Lloyd's Talisman.
- They can be used by invading red phantoms, who are denied the second fastest healing option, Estus.




And so I consider using Divine Blessings in PvP as outright cheating. If you want to heal, that's fine, but use one of the other mechanisms. Of course, none of this applies if you're using your legitimately earned DBs, but the sad truth is that the other player will assume you got yours through glitches or mods.   read


9:50 PM on 04.04.2012

10 Factoids about knutaf

Do I bother? I feel like lots of people already know some thing or another about me by now. I feel like I talk about myself too much sometimes as it is. I get self conscious about that kind of thing. Oh, was that #1? Ha ha! Bbain is quite a fellow and kicked off this recent revival. I will follow suit, just because.

#1 - When I was an infant, a cabbie burnt my hand with a cigarette. I obviously don't remember this firsthand, but as I've been told, we were riding in a taxi back in India, before we moved to the US. The cab driver somehow touched his cigarette to the back of my hand. I still have a very visible scar from it. As I understand it, my mom absolutely went to town on the guy. Go mom.

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The miracle that is Beyond Dark Castle


#2 - I was a Mac gamer for a lot of my childhood. Beyond Dark Castle. Crystal Quest. Stunt Copter. Spectre Supreme. The Manhole. Cosmic Osmo. Spelunx. Glider. Do you remember any of these? They were the fabric of my gaming childhood. I want to go back and revisit some of them in blogs eventually.

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#3 - I was kicked out of primary school. Yup, I was a rowdy kid. My teachers didn't know what to do with me, and my natural childhood boisterousness was misdiagnosed as ADD; they used that as grounds to have my parents withdraw me, or something. I have vague memories of wrecking a classmate's Lego creation, then trying to make them clean it up.

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#4 - I got in trouble on my very first day of first grade at a new school, for cussing. The conversation went like this; it is etched into my memory forever.

Person #1: I got to go to King's Dominion [local theme park] last week!
Person #2: Aww, lucky!
Person #3: Ducky!
Person #4: Fucky!

Person 1-30 + teacher: crickets

Guess who Person #4 was?

Also keep in mind those may have been the very first words I uttered in this school. I was kind of sheltered, and didn't even know the F-word yet! How inauspicious!

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Circa 2012/04/04, 8:26 AM


#5 - I am an Eagle Scout. Like my nearly-brother, Qalamari, my formative years were spent in the Boy Scouts. It was such an amazingly enriching and fun time that if I have a son, I'm going to urge him to join, too. I didn't encounter even one chimo!

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#6 - I work at Microsoft on the Xbox. Many of you already know this, and it's already in my sidebar (because my employer believes that we shouldn't try to hide the fact), but who reads sidebars, anyway? My job freaking rules. I work on the networking stack of the console itself, so if you wonder why I take an inordinate interest in your router problems, well, now you know. Maybe this also at least somewhat excuses my rabid 360 fanboyism.

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#7 - A long time ago, I was a drummer in a band. Granted, it was a crappy high school band with my friends, and I was never very good, but I still kind of self-taught myself some stuff and had my ambitions of being as good as the best drummer I've seen. Once I moved out and went to college, I didn't have a place for my kit. I haven't gotten a new one to rekindle my little musical joy. To this day I at least still retain an appreciation for all sorts of good drumming; it's the first thing I listen for in any song.


Circa 2001


You know what our band was named? Gratuitous Squank. I did say high school. We changed our name to the less childish and more pretentious The Dispossessed, after the novel. Hoo boy. We even recorded a godawful 4 track album over a weekend at a friend's basement studio. It was so bad, you guys.

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#8 - I have had a long time love for hackysacking. Or, as I still call it sometimes, footbag. I somehow developed it during my first year of college, where I played (no exaggeration) every single day for 2-3 hours, without fail. If it was raining, I found a covered place to play. I played in lecture halls, in libraries, in parking garages, parks, middle of the street, waiting for the bus, middle of the night, first thing in the morning, you name it.

I went to a competition in Virignia once, too, though I was never really good enough to compete. I achieved the level of skill where I could keep kicking it and keep it alive indefinitely, so I stopped counting. In fact, even now you could toss me a sack and ask me to do that at pretty much any time. I was getting to the point where I was trying to pull tricks with crazy names like Osis and Paradox Mirage.

My cardio and foot/leg endurance were maximum back then. Oh, how the mighty have fallen...

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#9 - I dabble in cooking, and kind of like it. Those of you who made it to PAX last year tasted my Indian Butter Chicken, passed down to me from my awesome mom. I also make a really mean hamburger bean dip that we eat as a proper meal. I've only made it a few times, and it may not be authentic in taste, but my jambalaya is freaking incredible. I grill frequently, though that is walking the line of proper cooking. And my meatloaf is pretty great.



That wasn't meant to sound nearly as self-congratulatory as it came off. Think about it instead as... incentive! to freaking get down here for PAX Prime.

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#a - I haven't yet really experienced death. Nobody close to me has passed away yet. I count myself lucky, but it also sits nervously on me at times. My grandfather passed away a few years back, but we hadn't really been close for a long time. My childhood dog did too, but again, I hadn't really lived with him for years. I dunno. I kind of worry that when it someday does happen, I'm not going to feel anything. Could I be a robot? Doesn't sound good to me.

#b - I am a programmer, through and through. Which is why I was counting in HEXADECIMAL instead! HA HA SUCKAS! Where, "10" is actually sixteen in normal numbers! Ahhhh, this joke is spent already. That's it for me, folks. Good to know yall.


It was windy that day. Give me a break!
  read


4:00 AM on 03.18.2012

Journey Is About So Much More Than Travel



If you haven't played through Journey yet, stop reading this now. Just stop. Go away, play it, and come back to this blog when you can. This game is too beautiful and well crafted for me to spoil even the smallest aspect of it, and I don't want that blood on my hands.

I picked it up on launch day and played it the next evening. It blew me away like I never imagined it would. I'd skimmed the Destructoid review, and I remembered only two things from it: there is sand, and you meet another traveler. While both of those things are true, I was totally unprepared for the range of emotions I felt as I played through.

Within my first 5 minutes, I was hooked. I walked through the sand and stared, hypnotized, by the way the grains shuffled around and away from my spindly legs. Climbing to the top of a dune, I stood there for a while, watching that obdurate wind pushing me back. As I stepped back onto this side of the dune, my person slid gracefully down: my first glimpse of exhiliration abundant in the rest of the game.



Stepping outside the game for just a second, I noticed how well it drew my attention to the next thing to go do: a lone feature on the top of a nearby dune. Subtle, not breaking immersion (except for overthinkers like me).

The whole game changes, of course, when you meet your companion. As I said, I'd heard this from the review, but I wondered how they would achieve it. Clearly, this game wouldn't have a matchmaking lobby or anything like that. It would be disguised, I knew.

I entered the area where you build several of those carpet bridges. It was basically at this time that I discovered I could tap the circle button to chirp quickly (as opposed to holding it down for that "shout"). I was merrily jamming on this button as I drifted down to the ground. Something caught the corner of my eye. Is that... is that another person? They were just milling around, now chirping back since they heard me.

Of course I ran right over and we started bonding. We walked around, visiting the various features in the area. Thinking about it, the design of this matchmaking is utterly brilliant. They give you a large area with several similar tasks, which necessarily take you many minutes to complete, due to travel time if nothing else. At any point in here, a second person can join and chip in to finish the tasks. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a complicated game implementation detail disguised so elegantly.

My companion and I, we stuck together the whole while, flitting to each carpet thing to activate it. At times, one of us would break away with a series of chirps and lead the other to one of those glowing scarf powerup things. With nearly no communication whatsoever, we just naturally fell into exactly what the game wanted us to do. In the absence of a pathological troll, I imagine this simple, team-building interaction to be the natural progression at this point. The way they steer you towards it is, once again, very smart.



For quite a long time, neither my companion nor I would jump or float, because the game had made us to understand that the limited scarf power is something of a precious commodity, to be hoarded in the way that gamers do. Eventually I experimented and found that being in close proximity to my companion mutually recharged both of us. I tried to convey this discovery to my partner by heedlessly jumping and recharging by him, but I don't think he got it until much later.

That's okay, though; interpersonal skills kick in, and I adjust my playing to account for his lack of understanding. How many games implicitly influence you think about these kinds of things? How many do it without having a button that makes your character holler, "MEDIC! HEAL ME!" This is probably a contentious point. In a game like Halo, I might understand a teammate's weakness and try to make up for it with my playing. I wish I could articulate why it just doesn't feel the same.



One of the reasons I think this game is so great is that it evoked so many different emotions that I didn't expect, let alone in a 2 hour game. I felt exhilirated every time the game took me through one of the "luge" sections. I felt trepidation in the caves, especially in that brief period when the eye of the dragon turns red, and you're not sure what will become of your partner. I felt awe at some of the landscapes and spectacles they put before you, like the illuminated lantern of a tower. And finally, I felt a pang of grief, at the loss of my companion.

No, I don't mean at the end of the game. Premature. We were close to the end, in the snowy heights, and had just battled our way up the slope, slowly, huddled together, darting from scrawny rock to rock to escape the wind. Finally, we came to the bridge across the top--crumbling, in disarray. We started to make our way across. Halfway there, my companion slipped. As he dropped over the edge, I must have--in real life--exclaimed something, possibly profane. I gave it no thought, and jumped after him. In my mind, there was no other choice: how else would he climb back up without my warmth? He would be doomed. He needs me.

As we both alighted on the ground, I imagined him straining to see far up to the bridge above. He tried to fly straight up, a note of desperation in his efforts, since he had lost part of his scarf earlier in the caverns. I tried to help him fly. I chirped "3, 2, 1, go!" and we both took off in perfect unison, but it seems you can't recharge each other in mid-air. We would have to take the long way back.

His character waited for what seemed like forever, just standing. I could practically see him exhale a sigh into that frigid air. Finally, he settled on the ground, resting, and I knew what was coming next. With the bite of cold, his body frosted over and disappeared. Only a sense of resignation lingered.



Later I thought back to this moment and realized, wryly, that he had rage quit from Journey. Wow.

When you think about it critically, the game gives you very little to do. You walk around and explore. You progress through the areas. The levels are all totally linear and barely disguised as such. Some are even mostly on-rails. About the only independent things the game gives you to do are finding those scarf upgrades and shrines.

But even as little as there is to do, I feel the game would have benefited from streamlining the scarf collecting. Usually the scarves are off in the distance, and you'll catch sight of them glowing brightly. What I hated is that every time I saw one, no matter where I was, I fixated on it. The immersed, experiential part of my brain got rudely shoved aside by my finely-tuned gamer brain, which understands what has to be done. It's an upgrade. I have to get it. Why? Because collecting... why else?

Worse still, I feel like it broke the fiction a little. From the beginning of the game, you see your ultimate destination: the glowing light-volcano in the distance. Your character seems single-minded in his drive to reach there, braving all odds. Why would I detour? People don't take a detour from a pilgrimage. That's how I ended up viewing Journey by its conclusion.



I loved Journey. It's probably the first thing I've ever played that made me just sink in and almost forget that I was even playing a game.   read


2:52 AM on 02.28.2012

Ezekiel 25:17 - a Dark Souls faith/dex PvP build

More Dark Souls! Since it is almost the only thing I've been playing for weeks, I guess it was only inevitable that I write another one of these, huh? If you've been watching my live stream at all, you'd have seen me crafting this build, which has ended up being somewhat effective so far. I also mentioned it on the most recent episode of the Secret Moon Base podcast. I'd like to tell you all about it. Warning: this post is serious Dark Souls nerdage. There shouldn't be any spoilers, except the names of equipment you might not have seen.

This is a flavor of dexterity/faith rapier build. I guess the basics of this build are pretty well known by experienced Dark Souls players at this point, but I've imposed certain restrictions upon myself to try to differentiate from the "optimal" one. Despite these restrictions, I made Darkmoon Blade +3 (80 PvP kills) in about 3 days with probably a > 70% K/D spread, so it's vastly exceeded my expectations.

For any not-Dark Souls fanatics, I'll briefly explain dex/faith builds. Thrusting swords like rapiers scale their damage well according to the dexterity stat, so I'm using them as my primary weapons. With high faith, you get access to certain temporary weapon enchantments that add huge amounts of damage. Put these together and you have a mean combination.


Biggest dredgling EVER.

Restrictions

- no backstabbing unless the opportunity is very carelessly presented to me. So far I have barely even backstabbed for healing during the fight.
- no Dark Wood Grain Ring, and I have to fast roll (that is, keep under 25% equip weight - only wear light armor).
- Wrath of the Gods only as a defensive measure. It is a fast-casting area attack with high damage and is considered cheap by some.


Stats

- Endurance - 40
- Dexterity - 40
- Faith - 40
- Vitality - 30 (yields 1100 HP)
- Attunement - 14 (yields 4 magic slots)
- Strength - 16 (able to equip halberds for fun)
- Resistance - 10
- Intelligence - 9


Armor

- Mask of the Father - yields 92.0 equip burden
- Armor of the Sun
- Channeler's Gauntlets or Knight Gauntlets
- Hollow Soldier Waistcloth - has the highest poise to weight ratio in the game!


Rings

- Cloranthy Ring, since I don't use either the Grass Crest Shield (not 100% physical damage block) or Mask of the Child
- Wolf Ring


Weapons
Estoc +15 or Ricard's Rapier +15
second slot: some elementally upgraded Shotel or Darkmoon Bow; or pyro glove (unupgraded - more on this shortly)

Offhand
weight-3 shields like Dragon Crest Shield or Crest Shield
second slot: Darkmoon Talisman

Magicks

- Darkmoon Blade, of course
- Sunlight Blade, also of course
- Power Within OR Replenishment (!)
- The aforementioned Wrath of Gods


The name of this build harkens back to that oh-so-lovely scene from Pulp Fiction: "...when I strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger..." The play style is a headlong rush, and the vengeance is, of course, Gwyndolin's. Not that I rush opponents in duels or anything like that.

The cornerstones of this build are the magic choices: DMB/SLB and Power Within. These are temporary boosts and represent throwing all your weight behind your first press. Power Within using an un-upgraded pyro glove drains 11 HP / sec, which gives you 100 seconds before you die! Heh, with a +15 pyro glove it's 20 HP / sec. OUCH. Depending on the area I'm in and my mood, I might switch out Power Within in favor of Replenishment, which heals slowly enough that it's probably not considered "cheap" healing, and offsets such things as swamps and lava.

The armor choices are very specific. With the armor shown, you get 26 poise. With the Wolf Ring that comes to 66 poise, which has worked pretty well so far. Poise matters.

The weapon choices are likewise pretty restricted. With the remaining equip burden after taking armor into account, only very light weapons will fit. Heh, in fact, I can wield a Ricard's Rapier with a Shotel in second slot, but if I swap in the Estoc instead, the Shotel is now too heavy by 0.5 pounds. Yikes!

The build favors quick kills and exploits the opponent's impatience and mistakes, but suffers when the opponent is cautious and the fight goes long. Most of my time is spent furiously rushing my opponent, attacking quite a lot. I haven't been parried much so far, maybe due to the speed of the rapiers, or maybe due to luck. A lot of the time is spent doing the sprinting R1 attack (that rad lunging double-poke).

Quick side note: that double poke is unique to rapiers' movesets, an example of how Dark Souls differentiates weapons by more than just damage.

That being said, most opponents who go 2-handed or drop their shield aren't expecting 1000+ damage from that sprinting lunge.


What does this abomination of a character look like? Well, in a word, UGLY. By the way, that's a SHE.

Weaknesses

Opponents with Eagle Shield who wait until the weapon enchants run out. You can switch to the shotel to try to deal with them, but I've had mixed success. This is probably my inexperience showing.

Opponents who rush. I don't call this cheap; it's their prerogative to exploit a weakness in my build. So it can be dicey getting the buff on my weapon in time, especially in the Kiln or forest.

Outnumbered fights. This build works best targeting a single opponent. Part of that is due to the narrow arc of the rapier. Arc? The arc is nonexistent! It's a poke directly in front of you! A Claymore this is not.

In 2v1 and 3v1 fights, your best bet is to look for openings in either player and try to eliminate him quickly, so you can go back to defending your back against the remaining ones. Wrath of the Gods sometimes helps here if they all get in too close. Still, I have lost far more of these than I've won. In these cases I will not put on Power Within, because the fight is bound to be too long.

Bleed damage. Turtling up like sometimes happens in these fights is no good against an opponent inflicting bleed damage. I need to dodge more in these cases, I suppose.

So yeah, that's my build. It took about 60 hours to get to get to the conventional PvP level of 120 and get all my equipment in order, but I wasn't going at a crazy pace.

People in the live stream chat sometimes comment on my self-imposed restrictions. I have this to say: backstabbing makes PvP in Dark Souls uninteresting. It's not fun to fight against; after a while it's not fun to watch; I imagine eventually it's not even fun to play. Likewise, huge numbers of people are using some of the same equipment, like the Dark Wood Grain Ring. I think doing something different is fun, even at the expense of winning.   read


11:43 PM on 01.08.2012

Weapons in Dark Souls Aren't a Numbers Game (img heavy)

Dark Souls is an RPG, right? I have trouble describing its genre to people. It's kind of an adventure game. It has some stats. Your character has some stats. You "level up", and so on. Yeah, I guess it's an action RPG... it just feels so different sometimes, yanno?

I'm cool with stats. I think about number crunching sometimes, despite my aversion to real math, so naturally when I got the pretty cool Dark Souls strategy guide (now somewhat obviated by the 1.05 patch), I groveled all of the weapon lists seeing what was there.

At some point I figured out the hidden truth in Dark Souls: that your level matters only inasmuch as it enables or complements your weapons and armor. Many weapons have stat requirements, so of course you need to have leveled the corresponding stats in order to even use them. Likewise, having higher Endurance lets you wear heavier armor while retaining mobility and lets you keep on swinging your massive sword. Other than those things? The abundance of level 1 playthroughs is evidence enough that your level doesn't really matter.

So I went through the weapon lists and would pick out cool weapons with high damage and say, "Yo knut, let's craft our character to be able to take advantage of this crazy pain-factory of a sword, 'cause it's got mad damage and we'll be unstoppable." After all, it's an RPG, right? Numbers, yeah! And I did this, and it worked to an extent, but the more I watched other people playing (I've watched an obscene amount of Dark Souls videos, live streams, etc.), the more I realized there's far more going on here than stats and numbers.

Let's start with an example to frame the discussion. We've got two katanas, the ironically named Iaito (because in real life, an iaito is an imitation katana) and the awesomely named Washing Pole. To start with let's just look at the stats. Hmm, they're pretty close: base damage of 88 and 90, 300 bleed. Stat requirements are a little different (20 STR for the Washing Pole). Damage scaling for the Iaito is better if you have a DEX build, so that's a consideration. But they're pretty similar.

Similar? Ha! Don't make me laugh (again)! How the heck are these similar?


Could make some bad joke here... Nah, Dixon will take care of it.

What the strategy guide doesn't tell you (but which the in-game description hints at) is that the Washing Pole is monstrously long. With reach like that, your combat capabilities change drastically, since you can hit many enemies without getting within a normal weapon's range. Weapon sizes: not a quantifiable thing, but an important consideration nonetheless.

Next, let's talk about speed. Actually, I don't think "speed" is precise enough. Let's split speed in half and talk about "spe" and "ed". HAR! Got ya there, didn't I!? Anyway. The two aspects of speed that I think matter are hits per second and recovery time.

Notice I said "hits per second" and not "damage per second." An upgraded greataxe does a boatload of damage in, say, 5 seconds, which comprises maybe 2 hits; our friend the Iaito may do significantly less base damage in that same five seconds, but maybe you get 5 hits in. Those 5 hits might be better than 2, for two reasons: firstly, you can't move during a hit, so 5 quick hits gives you more opportunities to stop what you're doing and roll out of the way.


Greataxe's one-handed "light" attack is slow


Iaito's one-handed light attack is pretty fast

Secondly, bleed and poison damage. Many weapons have bleed damage or poison damage along with them. These weapons raise the enemy's bleed or poison meter a fixed amount per hit, not per unit of damage, so to be effective, you need to land several hits rather than a lot of damage. Bleed is neat because it does an extra truckload of damage when it fills up the bleed gauge.

So that greataxe we were talking about? Maybe it does a lot of damage per second, but if you factor in the Iaito's bleed, if you get in several hits in quick succession, the katana may win out in a big way.

Even within a class of weapons, though, there can be significant differences. Did you know that each weapon has seven unique moves in its move-set? They are:


- Light attack (1 or 2 handed, running or standing) - R1/RB
- Heavy attack (standing only) - R2/RT
- Two-handed heavy attack - R2/RT after hitting Y/Triangle to switch to 2H mode
- Running light attack / backstep-counter - hit R1/RB while running or hit B/Circle followed by R1/RB
- Rolling light attack - roll in any direction and hit R1/RB while coming out of the roll
- Kick - direction + R1/RB
- Jumping heavy attack - direction + R2/RT


Within a class of weapons, usually the light attack is pretty similar, but the heavy attack can vary quite a bit. For example, both the very neat Black Knight Sword (BKS) and the Flamberge, both greatswords, have similar light attack moves, but the BKS has a straight thrust with a very long wind up time for its heavy attack, whereas the flamberge has some weird diagonal wavy dance. Dunno what's going on there. Anyway, they're very different. And the BKS 2H heavy attack is this crazy uppercut thing.


Black Knight Sword has a slow, but strong one-handed strong attack


Black Knight sword's two-handed strong attack is a crazy uppercut!


Flamberge's strong attack is this weird diagonal wavy dance thing. wut

And speaking of crazy, some of the 2H strong "attacks" are reserved for completely baffling special moves.

Which one of these is better? The beauty of it is that there's no right answer; it's all up to your play style! There are so many weapons, and many of them have slightly different moves and quirks.

One of the most interesting ones to me is my beloved Great Scythe, which has a pretty diverse move-set. In fact, the simple light attack is not very good, in my opinion: it has a slow wind-up time that I don't like. However, many of its other moves are much more interesting. The running light attack turns into a sprinting jump while swinging. The standing heavy attack does a quick charge and slash. I find them quite useful.

Some moves have great reach, some have a wide arc, some are only vertical, some are horizontal or diagonal, some are pure thrusts in front of you. Halberd-type weapons even tend to have a move that hits in a circle around you. Each has its time and place or fits well with someone's style. The Iaito has a quick slashing dash (hee hee), where the Washing Pole has a long range thrust. Who's to say which is objectively better?


Iaito's slash is horizontal, so has a wide-ish arc


Washing Pole's strong attack is a long range thrust. Look at the reach!

Finally, there is an unquantified weight characteristic that comes into play. Yeah, I know there's a weight measurement that shows up in the stats, but I think there's a second, hidden weight-like aspect that affects the way some weapons hit. The best example of this is probably the Zweihander. Weighing in at a paltry 10.0, this guy's overhead chop/smash flattens enemies to the ground. It's not the only weapon to do this, but it might be the lightest one.


Zweihander Smashing attack

Compare it with the lengthy, heavy Black Knight Halberd. It weighs significantly more, at 14.0, has a sort-of overhead vertical hit, yet... no flattening. Clearly there is some hidden attribute that affects some weapons.

Numbers... yeah, Dark Souls has 'em, but if you start looking closer, there's a lot more that's hidden and really has to be explored, experienced, and discovered on your own. The perfect weapon for your play style is out there. Maybe it doesn't have the supermodel measurements, but you'd rather grab onto it than anything else!   read


4:19 PM on 01.03.2012

Being a Jolly Good Fellow in Dark Souls Co-op

If you listen to me on Twitter it's no secret that I play a lot of Dark Souls. A lot of the time I spent in the game was in co-op play, or, as we Sunbros like to say, JOLLY CO-OPERATION. I've played over 60 games of co-op at this point, and I find it one of the best ways to get souls and humanity in the game. Plus, it's super fun! Everyone knows what the goal is (usually), and it leads to a really nice joint effort.

But there's more to co-op in this game than just putting down your sign or touching someone else's, then swinging away. There are definitely ways to be a good host or guest, and I think it behooves us all to try to be enlightened about these things. With that in mind, I'm writing this as a kind of guide on how to be a good co-op partner. I hope it will lead to much jollier sessions in the future.

I won't talk about the actual mechanics of summoning, because it's already covered in great depth elsewhere, but more about strategy and etiquette. I'm covering most, but not all bosses, omitting ones that aren't too interesting for co-op or which I don't have much experience with.

You know what? We're gonna do "DOs and DON'Ts", because writing everything out will be way too long. How do I know? I already tried it, then had to DELETE DELETE DELETE.


Basic stuff

DO keep an eye on your guests' health, since they can't use Estus to heal themselves. You can use Estus yourself to heal the entire party.

DON'T assume that guests can pick up items or talk with NPCs... 'cause they can't. They can interact with the environment by opening doors and such, though.

DON'T try to lead the host around. It's their world; be... like a faithful puppy! Likewise, DON'T run off without your guests. After all, you want their help as much as they want souls for helping you.

DO try to help the host if they seem lost or severely confused or they're gesturing wildly like they want you to tell them what to do, or they're hitting walls and spinning in circles.

DO donate any spare weapons, armor, shards, and so on that you don't need. This kind of random kindness really breeds goodwill. I was able to skip fighting Gwyndolin a second time because some kind soul randomly dropped me a Darkmoon Bow! I filled up on green titanite shards somehow, so I'd sprinkle them about for fun. People love it!

Now I will move on to specific things I can think of for each of the bosses.



Bell Gargoyles

Usual places for summon signs are right outside the promenade leading to the blacksmith and right outside the boss door, where Solaire's sign is.

DO distract the second gargoyle once it enters battle, if the host is busy with the first one.

DO try to cut off the first gargoyle's tail before dealing heavy damage to it. The host may want the item for an achievement.


Capra Demon

Usually I see summon signs right outside the boss door. This is a fun fight, and usually lasts only about 30 seconds.

DO take out the dogs immediately or distract the Capra Demon.

DON'T get all in the way and trap the host in a corner or something. That's not helpful!


Gaping Dragon

Summon signs are usually around the closest bonfire and in the area near the boss door where Solaire's is.

DO try (again) to cut off the dragon's tail before dealing it heavy damage.

DO lead a confused host up to the Channeler's area to kill it so that it doesn't spew junk on you during the boss fight. Also try to take him around to kill Kirk while you're at it.


Quelaag

Usually summon signs are either around the closest bonfire in Blighttown or right outside the boss door, where Mildred spawns.

DO help the host kill Mildred, even though she's not very hard. It shows you're paying attention and willing to be helpful.

DO kill mosquitos if they are pestering the host. You never know what the host might be doing! writing messages, changing their clothes, eating a hotdog...

DO charge ahead using the safe line to Quelaag's Domain once the party starts moving, and in particular DON'T alert the boulder barbarians.

DO cure your own poison once you're on the shore, unless you have a dumptruck full of vitality.



DO watch the guests' health during the fight, especially if Quelaag does her abdomen bomb move; that thing has a pretty big radius and does a nice chunk of damage.

By the way, if you haven't noticed the tell for that attack, the sexy woman portion of Quelaag lies down on her stomach like she is fainting from suddenly realizing that oh my god, my legs are actually a SPIDER. A few seconds later, the abdomen blows!


Iron Golem

Due to the weird structure of the zones, where the bonfire is in a different zone than right outside it, I've only noticed signs outside the boss door. Maybe just let the NPC Black Iron Tarkus do all the work for you. Dude is built like a TANK.


Smough and Ornstein

This is really the first interesting boss from a co-op perspective. Big One and Small One are significantly easier in co-op than solo due to the simple fact that one person can distract one while you kill the other.

There are three common places for summon signs: the bonfire room inside the castle, right outside the boss door, and on the ledge in the cathedral hall where Knight Solaire's sign is. Let's talk about when you get summoned in the bonfire room.

DO actively help with taking out the knights on the way to the boss. Also follow the host's lead: if they're fighting the Royal Sentinels, you should help too.

DON'T be caught unaware in case the host summons you into a mob of enemies right outside the boss room. Have your correct boss-fighting gear equipped!



DO tell your guests in an Xbox message your preference of which boss (Fat Boy or Slim) should die first, if you care. Likewise...

DO try to figure out which one the host wants killed first, if he hasn't told you. You can try to be smart about this. While distracting Freddie Mac, watch out of the corner of your eye to see if the host is attacking Fannie Mae with gusto, which tells you that he wants to kill his first. Or is the host keeping Jim Sterling in a holding pattern? Then he might be hoping you'll kill Max Scoville first. Use that human intuition and do the right thing. That's what an excellent co-op partner should do!

DO heal your guests if they get caught in that lightning butt stomp. That thing is devastating!


Crossbreed Priscilla

DO play this co-op only if you have not previously attacked Priscilla. There is a neat trick to this fight where the guest can attack Priscilla with impunity so long as the host hasn't.

DO (if you're the host) send a message to your guests telling them that you need the tail, otherwise the trick may fail.

DO (if you're the guest) attack only the tail, repeatedly many times.

DO (as the host) attack Priscilla only when you feel her tail has taken "enough" damage.

DON'T play this one co-op at all if Priscilla is already antagonistic towards you. It's not a hard fight and is made sort of personal in that the only reason you tend to fight her is to get her tail, which is not easy to coordinate in combat between two people.


Moonlight Butterfly

Summon signs are near the bonfire closest to it, right outside the boss door, or--unintuitively--near the Hydra, since it is considered in the same zone as the Butterfly. The host may want to kill the Hydra, then proceed to the Butterfly.

DO kill the golems and keep them off the host's back.

DON'T stay far so away from the Hydra that it goes into spitter mode.

DO use ranged magic on the Butterfly if you can. Even fireballs work.


Four Kings

Summon signs are either right outside the boss door or near the entrance of New Londo Ruins. Guests who join near at the beginning of the area should be prepared to sprint the entire way; follow the host's lead. Guests who join near the boss door may spawn into several enemies who were chasing the host.

DO quaff an Estus before falling into the Abyss, in case your partners were damaged in the sprint to the boss room.

This is a very difficult fight for multiple people, since it's likely that more than one King will be present at once and might start attacking players who aren't directly engaged with one. Still, I think the best tactic is for the host to stay a little disengaged and keep the guests healed. They do large amounts of damage very frequently and can easily kill a guest, who doesn't have control of his Estus.

By the way, it's actually very doable to wear light armor and dodge a lot. I didn't even consider it myself until I saw it done. Then I tried it myself and had good success!


Seath the Scaleless

Seath, oh Seath, what a boss you are. Due to a lot of high level play in this area, I played the heck out of this boss in co-op. I had probably a 90% success rate in cutting the tail for the host, too. There are a lot of things to keep in mind for this one.

There are three usual summon locations: the bonfire in the archives closest to him; just outside the door overlooking the golem field; and near the boss door, probably before the clams. Obviously, the first is the most involved.

DO help the host unlock the shortcut if it's not open yet, in particular killing archers and Channelers to keep him safe.

DO help the host kill the giant golden golem containing Sieglinde if it's there. Furthermore, DO follow up by killing all the golems.

DO follow the host on the invisible walkways in the caves, but do take the lead if the host seems uncertain or lost. If you manage to lead the host off of an edge somehow, give them 1 humanity next time they summon you. Oops!

DON'T bother killing unnecesssary golems or the butterflies in the caves. They are optional and hazardous, and the host can do them on their own time.

DO fight the clams so that your guests aren't struggling to run through them after you. It also gives the guests a chance to change into curse resist gear for the boss.

DON'T aggro more than one clam. They hit like a truck and can be dangerous in a group.

DO equip the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring while fighting the clams, which may help the host get some of the good loot drops. This is the kind of thoughtfulness that sets great co-op partners apart.



DO send a message to your guests if you need Seath's tail cut. If you already have the sword, you could take it out and waggle it around to indicate you don't need it.

DO (on the first boss attempt) gesture for your guests to move to the far end of the room right by the crystal before triggering the boss. This puts them in a safe place when the boss lands. Likewise...

DON'T follow close on the host's heels as he goes into the boss room for the first time. When Seath spawns he will be pretty much on top of you, will swing his tail wildly until you're dead, then probably smirk a little. This happens all the time. Instead, DO wait outside and go into the fog door several seconds after the fight starts.

DO then wait for Seath to cross the room and destroy the crystal, himself. This leaves plenty of room behind him to work on the tail.

DO take the lead on cutting the tail if possible, being careful to stay out of range of the tail lash attack. Be careful and conservative!

DON'T do lots of damage to Seath's body until the tail has been cut! Why do I even have to say this!? Since you may be on the opposite side of Seath when the tail is cut, look for him hollering in anguish mid-fight; that's the tell that the tail is gone.

DO wail on Seath with extreme prejudice once the tail has been cut. Staying on the front side of his body can help avoid the tail lash attack.


Gravelord Nito

Summon signs for Nito are usually at one of the two bonfires, so there is a treacherous walk to get to Nito.

DO help as much as you can with the skeleton beasts on the way. They can be very tough.

DO run ahead a bit and take out the skeleton archer when you get to that part, while the host fights the beasts.

DON'T forget the one giant skeleton just past the skeleton beast. If you forget him, he will jump on your head when you go lower, without fail.

DON'T aggro the 2-3 skeleton beasts grouped together. If you hug the right-side wall you can simply walk right by them without a fight.

DO help trigger and kill Paladin Leeroy on the way.

DO (in the same general area) kill the crystal lizard if you see it. The loot drop will be transported directly into the host's inventory, so no need to worry about him missing picking it up.

DON'T bother making the guests fight the Pinwheel enemies. Just run through instead.

DON'T stray from the spot where you drop into Nito's den, or else you will aggro the giant skeletons lurking farther back. Fight near the entrance.

DO equip a divine weapon to kill the skeleton flunkies for good, then switch to a high damage weapon and magic resist shield.



Centipede Demon

This is perhaps the only good boss for co-op in Demonic Ruins. It isn't a hard fight, so not much advice here. Summon signs are either up at the bonfire or down near the boss door.

DO make a very strong effort to cut off the tail, which snags the host the Orange Charred Ring.

DON'T stop now! Continue wailing on him!


Gwyn, Lord of Cinder

Summon signs are outside his door or at the entrance to the Kiln. Be mindful, though, that a lot of people summon partners for PvP, not co-op.

DO go for backstabs on the black knights if the opportunity presents.

DO try to distract Gwyn as much as possible, to let the host heal. Healing is at a premium in this fight, due to Gwyn's speed.

DO take pot-shots at Gwyn when he's not paying attention to you, but watch out, because the arc on his swings is pretty wide.

DON'T try any fancy tricks like parrying, since the lag is Gwyn's own co-op partner.

DO keep your distance and used ranged magic if you have it. It can make a huge difference.

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I hope these suggestions help you be a more excellent buddy in this dark, dark world that goes out of its way to make you feel isolated. Even in NG+ I was able to get at least 10 more rounds of co-op, so keep your eye out for that. It's very helpful and especially fun to play with a bunch of super high powered players. Sun praising time!   read





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