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5:45 PM on 09.20.2012

Import Review: Hatsune Miku Project Diva F for Vita

A couple weeks ago, I received my copy of Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7 for the Playstation Vita. For the most part, I've been supremely happy with my Vita experience and likewise, I do enjoy me some rhythm gaming. I have to explain this because, with a hefty import price tag, the assumption I've heard has been that I am either attempting to validate my Vita purchase or I'm a crazy weirdo. I deny the first assumption and lack the proper perspective to deny the second. Regardless, these are my impressions on Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7.

Oh Japan, so polite in your loading screens...

With 7 in the title and my craze for rhythm games, you would think I have crossed paths with the franchise in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the early craze of Vocaloids were too synthetic and felt "off" to my sound lobes. So while the rest of the world was going apeshit over Miku, I remained detached. My curiousity was piqued only when I started seeing the videos online of this version so I took a plunge.

One of the first reactions to this game was "Geez, was this made in South Korea?" Keep in mind, this is a compliment. You see, while Konami made DDR, it had a small selection of seemingly random backgrounds and felt lazy. Andamira had Pump It Up which had fully animated backgrounds and a better feeling dance pad. Beatmania had a small vertical space of usually random animations and loops. DJ Max had fully engaging backgrounds that were often humorous or fun for other people to watch. That South Korean Polish to many rhythm games and other genres feels really good when you benefit from it and this game feels like it has that extra step of polish.

Sega reenforces Virtual Japanese Pop Diva Stereotypes.... the racist fucks...

The game features 36 songs (I've only unlocked 32) each with their own unique "music" videos and even alternative endings. While that roster may sound small by other rhythm game standards, keep in mind that this is content that's been made exclusively for this game (except for 2 old songs). That's 34 exclusive "music videos" and "extended cut" variations. That's a tremendous amount of content, if that was all.

I do good?

On top of this, you have custom stepchart creation and play. In other words, think you can choreograph the song better? Give it a try. You also get AR functionality, which is limited but still kinda cool. Miku also has a dollhouse in which you buy new outfits, furniture, toys, etc, and she wanders around doing various tasks. This mode, of all of them, feels slightly creepy if for no other reason than the game constantly switches between "she's a feel girl" to "she's a digital diva" moods throughout. If there is a complaint, it's that whatever they are wanting to do with the vocaloids clashes from one use to the next.

There is also, believe it or not, a fully interactive video director. You pick the Vocaloid, the song, the moves, the backgrounds, the camera angles and pans, and you seriously get to make your own custom video with the impressive array of tools. Whether or not you can make something as elaborate as the ones packed in... highly doubtful. But for those will to fumble around with the tools, having this feature in there is great.

The game itself is the usual assortment of tapping. Somewhere on the screen, a prompt appears with a timer as it's matching symbol flies towards it. Pressing the command in sync awards a "Cool" prompt with rankings below going from Fine, Safe, Sad, and finally, Worst. Learning to disconnect the flying symbols from the ultimate destination is a skill needed to survive later stages as Sega becomes quite the prick of "flying" these symbols through other destinations. There are also technical zones which, when completed, grant bonus points but grey out should you falter. Finally, there is the Style sections where the symbols are trailed by raindows. Fill a meter in these sections and you'll unlock the alternative/extended cut to a song. These extra ~30 seconds are often just the chance you need to boost your ranking on the song.

I do bad....

In layman's terms, Japan totally gets fucked on the pricing of media so if they could access our movie service, why would they ever buy from the Japanese PSN? This is why P4 Arena is the only region locked PS3 game and why Nintendo region locked DSi and 3DS. The price gulf to us spoiled Americans vs the world is MASSIVE as any Australian can tell you. Because of this, the online portions of Project Diva are locked unless you have a Japanese Account. In fact, you'll be prompted that Network Features are Disabled when you launch the game. The other bummer is just how much menu experimentation there is on this game if you're not a native Japanese reader. Unlike DJ Max, Project Diva is a tad Import Unfriendly with how many of their menus are in Japanese. After about an hour, you'll know how to get around the game but it's just that initial frustration of being lost.

Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7 is the kind of game you want domestically. It's fun, exceedingly well produced, a great conversation piece (Why the hell are two girls dancing on your video game?), and ultimately shows off the Vita where playing Final Fantasy VII on a portable just can't. Why Sega hasn't announced it for US release is beyond me but after about 10 Hatsune Miku games, why am I to believe they'll suddenly wisen up on this one? Whether or not it's worth the import price is up to others to decide but I can tell you it's made it's way as the chief obsession for me over the past couple weeks. Whether or not it can stand up to the upcoming DJ Max Touch Tune in a couple weeks will be a whole other story.   read

2:29 PM on 08.05.2012

Gaymer Con, Reactions, and Extremes

Over the past few months, I've sat back and just watched Destructoid. It's a sad state of affairs that I seem unwilling to participate in the culture of the site anymore but it has become an unsavory culture for me. This culminated, of course, in the reaction to Gaymer Con.

Before I make a reaction on the reaction to the announcement, a quick aside on the con itself. I can see why several people think it's a great idea and more power to them. I personally disagree with the sentiment. Obviously I have something against LGBT community or I'm a hate monger, right? Actually, wrong. One of the biggest problems facing this country right now is the fact that we gave up on the idea of a melting pot. When people are allowed to seperate themselves from the whole of society, whether for good or bad, it creates a little splinter group. This group splinters from that, which splinters from that, etc and so forth. The notion is brilliant, but this group all by itself no longer has any reason to try and assimilate with the culture and likewise, the culture no longer has a reason to accept this little faction.

As an idea, I find it counter intuitive for acceptance. But then again, I've always been a geek and ruined the better part of my childhood trying to either fit into a little group, or trying to adapt myself to the accepted norm. I understand the notion, I've just never seen self-segregation work.

Having gotten that out of the way, the reaction to the announcement didn't really surprise me in the slightest. Jim Sterling claims to have been surprised and annoyed by the reaction and it boggles me as to why. In fact, gamers are among one of the largest extreme reaction groups that I've seen and each each, it pushes me further and further away. Gamers only have two modes nowadays. This is awesome or This is the worst thing ever.

Examples? Why certainly! When GTHD was announced, it seemed, at least to people like me, like a great idea. So get this, you get a free track and a few free cars, right? Then, if, and only if, you want some additional cars or tracks, they're sold to you ala carte. So if you're like me and only really enjoy racing the Dodge Viper RT/10s, that'll be $1. And you get to use this immediately unlike Forza DLC where you buy the car pack, then you have to unlock them. In the average GT game, it takes between 6-12 hours to get to access the Dodge Vipers. That's not only expensive on the game, for me, but that's expensive on the time as well. Think about it. At least 6 hours invested before I can drive the cars I really want to drive. Once again, $1 solves my problem. But of course gamers reacted poorly, bitched up a huge firestorm, and made the entire project get canned. Why? Well, because GT4 had hundreds of cars including 15 types of Ford Taurus, 30+ Lancers, and 40+ Corvettes. And everyone knows, when driving the Nuerburing course, you TOTALLY want to do that shit in a Scion xA that maxes out at 85 MPH. Kotaku, king of the reactionary fuckwits, ran an article that "priced" GTHD according to GT4's content. This number was ridiculously high, of course, and it garnered even further support. Sony was beaten, project was cancelled, and all because something new was being introduced that broke the norm.

This is but one example where and extreme reaction essentially denied us the ability to progress. Now imagine you are EA, the evilist company in the entire world according to Jim Sterling, and you announce you'll allow Kickstarted indie games free storespace on Origins for 6 months after launch, you would think that this is good news. After all, it's selling the game at 100% profit. Nah, this too was corrosive, evil, and insidious. Let's say you want to read a review of Omodius Excellente to see if it's good. Well, the review on this site practically calls you a pedophile for even being interested. Or how Saints Row 3's review score was actually reduced on this website because of the concept of DLC being held back from the project. Once again, an extreme.

Even removing yourself from gaming and listening to the Podcast, holy fuck! I'm done. Because it IS an extreme reaction by itself. Like how Jim claims "the friend zone" is an expression of entitlement to a woman's vagina (I have NEVER heard this interpretation until Jim) or how, according to the entire cast last episode, men are nothing but brooding, violent rape machines waiting to descend on helpless victims.

This website, Destructoid, has been steadily increasing it's support and display of ridiculously extreme reactions to the point that I can't even look at story comments anymore. Rather than trying to curtail it or control it, it's been growing and growing. Finally, we now have the website we see nowadays and it's supposed to surprise us when, good or bad, something garners an extreme reaction. Well, I'm not surprised annd more importantly, I'm fucking done. You cannot constantly fly off the handle, yell like a self-entitled 8 year old confused by the concept of discussion or compromise, make constant paranoia induced claims, and do about as much research as the average GameFAQs Top 10 list and not expect your audience to do the same. When the voice of the site returns to what I used to love about destructoid, MAYBE you can have nice things again. But YOU trained your audience to do this so it's hardly a surprise to me when it occurs.   read

12:25 PM on 04.30.2012

Dungeon Game Challenge Complete!

Seven days ago, I stepped up to a challenge. The premise was simple, could I create a simple dungeon raiding card game in a scant 7 days? The idea behind the game was based around the room clearing concept of Gauntlet but, as time went by, started to incorporate elements of classic Zelda and even Prince of Persia 2. You may have seen 4 of the 7 days detailed last week here on the CBlogs and while I wrote tiny blogs for days 5-7, I will only post them here if, and only if, people are interested in them.

Keep in mind, this entire concept has two major handicaps against it. The first being that it has no official title and the other being it has not been playtested at all. The purpose of the rush wasn't for playtesting, simply getting something together. The game, in question, runs $23 currently to make a print from The Game Crafter so once I have it in my hands and ready to test, I'll be playing the hell out of it and hopefully it will be ready for sale sometime in mid June. So with that said, let's take a look at the game currently referred to as Mini Dungeon Raiders: Lich Slapped.

Before looking at anything else, let's look at the Scenario Cards. The game, in it's current form, sports 6 different Scenarios. At the beginning of the game, you randomly draw one of these scenarios and set the dungeon deck up accordingly. As you may notice, some require a set amount of standard dungeon tiles and there are 29 of these standard tiles which means, of course, you're not going to play every tile in every game. It also calls for special tiles and these are found on the lower right corner of the dungeon tile. So once you have these set up, you shuffle the tiles according to the scenario and place them somewhere within the reach of all the players.

Next, you set up the entrance tile. Each character must occupy one of the 4 spaces the Lich Summoning Circle is in.

Now let's talk about the turn Queue and how it begins. You may notice there are 5 cards, each having a number. This number is ONLY relevant in the beginning of the game. The Lich will never move but every other character can change places in the queue as needed. This can only be done once per cycle. So let's say the Thief has already gone but the Knight needs the Thief to activate a switch. The Knight can then exchange her place in the queue with the Thief, giving the Thief another action this cycle. After four character actions have been performed, the Lich will move. Then the cycle begins anew.

So now, let's talk about the characters, the Ranger, the Thief, the Knight, and the Wizard. Each have different stats and abilities. So let's look at the Knight in more detail. She has 8 HP but only 4 movement. On her turn, she can move up to four spaces. She attacks both Skeletons and Blood Slimes. Her death radius is an 8 way square. Most importantly, if an ally is going to take damage within her death radius, she can take the damage instead. So she's short range and slow, but can be used to mitigate damage to other, much weaker allies. All four characters have these kinds of stats. Who they can kill, how much damage they can take, how far they can move, their death radius, and any special talents. Now, it ANY monster they cannot defeat is in the same space they are, the monster is destroyed but they take 1 damage. If their damage reaches their health, they die and the game is over.

So we've looked at the characters, now let's look at the monsters. You see, after every character moves, a d6 is rolled and based on the result, a certain type of monster activates. So on the cards, you see who will activate based on the roll (you might have also noticed, previously, that the spawn points all look the same as die faces. In the full version, there will be a Custom Die, but for how, a standard d6 is all you need. Rolling a 1 will activate the Lich, so don't do that. But let's take a look at a different monsters behavior. In general, when a monster is rolled, you move all the monsters and then spawn new ones on the matching points according to player proximity.

So let's start with Blood Slimes, indicated on the board by red cubes. They only move 2 and they never respawn. However, if one or more characters are present in the room they are in, they do split into 2. Like all monsters, their top priority when moving are any characters (except their enemy... the Knight) within 2 spaces of them. Barring that, they seek the Wizard. Going from there, Goblins. Since only the Thief can kill Goblins, these can become quite a danger. Not only do they spawn twice as fast, multiple Goblins may occupy the same space. Be wary of this as a single stack could potentially one turn kill a character. Next are Skeletons. They move 3 and seek The Wizard. Perhaps most dangerous, they can travel through Spawn Points, making each Spawn Point a potential ambush for the poor Wizard. Wraiths not only move fast and seek the Thief, but they also move through walls and across pits. Good thing the Wizard has a big Death Radius. Finally, we have Flash Cats. Quick, and more importantly, they can teleport from room to room, seeking the Knight as their target. Naturally, someone could cheat and make these monsters move away from the part but what's the point of that? This is about challenge and winning would be glorious in these circumstances.

So when you explore (exit a room), you draw the top Dungeon Tile from the deck and put it next to the current room with the black arrow acting as the entrance to that room. Most rooms have some monsters and that's it but let's take a look at a Puzzle Room.

This is a standard puzzle room. In the lower right hand corner is a switch for the thief as well as several traps blocking the wizards path to the Tome which would activate the bridge and open the colored gates. This room spawns both Flash Cats and Skeletons. Skeletons will seek the Wizard and Flash Cats seek the Knight. So the trick here is the Thief must stand defenseless on the switch so that the other three characters can pass the traps without damage (Hope there are no nearby Wraiths). The Wizard needs the Knight as an escort and the Knight is vulnerable to Flash Cats so the Ranger must come along as well. Once the wizard reaches the Tome, the bridge is activated and the gates are ignored. To signify this, place a Black Cube on the Tome to signify this puzzle has been solved (in case you have to return to this room). Solving this room takes several cycles so be quick about it because The Lich is coming...

If the Lich ever occupies the same space as a player, they instantly die, ending the game. That, in a nutshell, is the game I made and ordered from The Game Crafter last night. I'm sure it's busted and broken as all hell, which is why I refuse to sell it until it's ready. Naturally, as the game is refined, portions of the artwork may change, new tiles added or removed, and more scenarios are possible. After all, there are only 44 Dungeon Cards in this set and more scenarios will add more chances to add thrills.   read

12:37 PM on 04.27.2012

Dungeon Game Challenge #4: The Dungeon With No Name

What the hell? Name change?!? Actually, the final name of the game wasn't going to be Dungeon Blitz despite that's what the project name was. I typically ramble off a name, design the game, refine it, and come up with an eventual final name. For example, Imps Vs Puppies sported both the titles of Violent Young Imps and That Deplorable Crate Game. So the title, Dungeon Blitz, signified the challenge of the project and the intent of the game. So why, then, did the name change earlier than usual?

Well, put it simply, I got the nicest darn "cease & desist" letter ever. In fact, it wasn't even that. It was a private message that basically said, "dude, game looks great but we may have a problem." Turns out there is a F2P MMO called Dungeon Blitz and thanks to Google (snitches get stitches, google), they were alerted to the name I was using. They, however, were damn decent about it and sent the "Hey, that's our name" email before the lawyers. So despite not knowing anything about the game, I suggest people check out their product since they seem like decent folk. It's certainly the opposite of what I've received in the past over these kinds of mistakes.

What's the new name? I'm very tempted to ape the idea behind Jame's Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game. But for now, I'm focusing on just getting it done. Let's see what I want to call it after I have it further completed. So for now, it's simply called the Dungeon Game.

*sigh* So, where am I? I'm actually at the point where progress has slowed nearly to a crawl. I'm coloring the monsters and that's all I'll be on for a while. But when working last night, it occured to me that I made an idiot mistake. You see, manipulating and moving cubes works much easier with a reference point and I created two monsters which could be considered green cubes. And so I present the left and right result as the Slime becomes a Blood Slime. YAY!

Next up is the Skeleton.... ooooo, he does NOT have the hips to pull off that look.

Which brings us to the Goblin....

Tomorrow, Flash Cat, Lich, character sketches, and who knows, I may even start coloring the characters.   read

12:28 PM on 04.26.2012

Dungeon Blitz Challenge Day 3: First Possible Kink

Like all print services, The Game Crafter cannot deliver 100% accurate cuts to the cards. This is the reason why, when you buy board games (if you buy board games), you notice the color of tokens and such go beyond the cut lines. So if a top tier manufacturing outlet that prints up thousands upon thousands of Fantasy Flight Games cannot deliver this, The Game Crafter cannot be expected to. This is why their templates are a boon in that it hints towards how the cutter may drift through production. The general rule is nothing important outside the dotted line but in general, Drift hits the back of the cards the hardest so I might be safe. Just remember this in the image below as the potential cut border could be between the dotted and solid white line. The other potential issue is the puzzle room gates don't contrast enough and it's not always clear what objective will open the room. To make certain the types of gates needed and that the gates are visibly present, maybe I just need to make the gates an energy barrier akin to the energy bridges. Their color portrays the necessary trigger at a glace and the gates don't do that. This will have to be taken into consideration as time allows.

Likewise, the original concept was 11 different objectives and this should be shaved down to 6. Currently, I have 4 figured out and will design 2 more scenarios as I get more time. Also, there are currently 17 rooms fully designed and the only thing missing is the Lich Entry Glyph. But the current roster of rooms are in the image below.

This of course left the question of what to do last night and that question was answered by working towards the monster illustrations. As I feared, this takes a bit more time than I had anticipated. Last night, I finished the Wraith illustration and started, but did not complete, the Slime. Both of which can be seen below.

So at this point, as I've been showing the progress to people, the questions keep coming up, "Just what the hell is this game and how do you play?"

Well, first things first is that this game requires all four characters to play. So the Knight, the Thief, the Ranger, and The Wizard need to be in the game. What ISN'T required is character assignments. So you could play this by commitee (all players agreeing on a turn) or each player controls a character type, or this game is 100% compatible with Solo gameplay. Next, you draw a Scenario and prepare the Dungeon Blitz deck.

Let's say the game is "Seek the Forbidden Texts." The first thing you would do is shuffle the standard tiles (of which there are 34) and set aside 14 tiles. Next, grab all the tiles specific to "Seek the forbidden texts" and shuffle them into the deck. The goal of the game is now to navigate the dungeon and find the three forbidden texts to win the game.

So let's go over the characters for a second. Each character will have certain stats like Health, Speed, Death Radius, who they can attack, and other skills. Consider each party member a walking turrent. So the Ranger can attack Flash Cats so this means if any Flash Cats get within a certain radius, they are instantly detroyed. But she cannot kill Wraiths so Wraiths that enter her space will cost her a health. No complicated combat rules, no combat die rolls, each character simply marches death upon their designated targets.

At the end of each characters action, a die is rolled. On a roll of 2-6, look up the matching monster (for example, a Slime is a 2) and begin their action. Each monsters acts differently. Slimes, for example, do not spawn so even though they start on a map, no more come from their spawn points once activated. BUT, if someone is in the room with a Slime when they activate, they all split in two after moving 2 spaces towards their target. Meaning anyone but the person who's good against Slimes can quickly get overwhelmed. Of course that leaves the question of "what happens on a 1?"

The exact same thing that happens after all four characters have moved, The Lich activates. Consider the lich the games doom clock. He cannot be bartered with, defended against, or defeated. The Lich marches on towards the party. Since he moves slow, there is no immediate danger for a fast moving party but spending too much time in puzzle rooms, or simply rolling too many 1s will lead the party to disaster. If he is within 3 spaces of a character, they will lose 1 Health. If he touches a character, the player instantly dies.

Which leads to the next point. Either you succeed within your dungeon blitz or if any one character dies, the entire party fails. That, in essence, is this card game. It combines the horde fighting of Gauntlet with the puzzle rooms of Zelda. It is designed to be, win or lose, played in 30-60 minutes, making it an ideal lunch break game.   read

12:12 PM on 04.25.2012

Dungeon Blitz Challenge: Day 2

The primary foundations complete, today is all about Tile creation and room designing. On grid paper, I hammered out 12 rooms that would be standard to the dungeon and 8 rooms designed around various scenarios. With my own super creative symbology, these rooms are easy to understand for the criminally insane. But on top of that, they have the added bonus of showing me exactly what types of tiles I need to fulfill the basic design.

At this point, the number of tiles have increased significantly, as shown in this collection. With the information shown, you can start to decipher how many of the rooms will work.

Which is good because the rooms translate directly to their final form in the following ways.

In other words, Day 2 is complete and I have a strong foundation to complete a quick and dirty prototype. I'm well ahead of the 7 day challenge, but coming up next are two distinct problems. First is the character artwork and the monster artwork needs to look good on a standard poker sized card. Next is how to represent the scenario on a card and include the setup instructions.

Tune in tomorrow to see what happens next!   read

12:10 PM on 04.24.2012

Dungeon Blitz Challenge Day 1: Concept to early beginnings

Note: This idea only appeals to board gamers or people who are interested in a hurried concept series.

One day, in a chat, someone mentioned an inability to make the classic game Gauntlet into a card game. Within a minute, I had a solution which they so cruelly cast aside. But my concept was sound, hopefully balanced(as this challenge has NOTHING to do with playtesting), and figured I would SOOOOO love to design a coop dungeon crawler that plays in 60 minutes or less. I wanted to do all this and more importantly, have it ready by Geekway to the West which, under the best case scenario, gives me about a week to go from concept to printable design.

The game, Dungeon Blitz, foregos most concepts of combat and assumes anything reached within a radius by a certain character is dead. But I also needed something to push those bastards through the dungeon and so I needed a Pyramid Head constantly stalking behind the players, forcing them through. Win or lose, the concept is to get the game over with in 30-60 minutes and more importantly, have a concept go from txt to printable in only a few days. How appropriate that I will document this progress as the Dungeon Blitz Challenge...

Day 1: The Game Crafter, Square Cards, and Monster Sketches.

Since I plan to use The Game Crafter as my printer, I start by downloading some templates for Mini Poker Cards and Square Cards. The Square Cards are 3.5" x 3.5" which, designing this game around placing squares (Zombies, House on Haunted Hill), I had to consider how many spaces I wanted on each card. Being the clever bastard that I am (not), I decided Legend of Zelda style rooms should be best for the concept.

The various monsters. The very bottom right is an instant death character that will force players through the dungeon. The others are Skeleton, Slime, Flash Cat, Wraith, and Goblin.

Each game should also be slightly different as well as have certain types of challenges only solvable by teamwork. Hell, let's even go with scenarios, and pop 10 of them bastards on. So with the workable space on the cards, I could have a 6x6 room with a little over 1/2" squares, or a 7x7 room with 7/16th inch square, or an 8x8 room with 3/8" squares. Keep in mind, these squares WILL feature reused asset with the intent to just hammer out a shitton of rooms.

One hour, several tiles...

With only a basic concept going, these tiles worked well in creating this very basic room.

That's all I got done in a limited amount of time. Tomorrow, I plan to map out simple rooms on Grid Sheets and yes, MAOR TILES.   read

12:53 PM on 03.12.2012

Gym Chased Me Away...

Those who know me know that I am, as Adam Corolla puts it, Hyper Vigilante. Tiny things annoy me, minor issues explode into universes of grievances, and it can take it's toll over a prolonged period of time. This is a story which many could consider off topic, I consider it the long journey to a Kinect.

You see, I am by no means a skinny person and though my face is slightly ill formed, when added with a paunch, it just seems tragic. And so, with a friend, I decided to join a Gym named Cardinal Fitness. This gym was cheap, down the street from my home, and was typically just busy enough to have people, but not too busy that you couldn't get on a machine.

Of course, the advantage was that I could read books while running in place, and boy did I. The time I spent on the ellipticals meant I could read board game rulebooks, D&D player guides, fiction and nonfiction, etc. I did, however, lack an MP3 player and so I heard everything.

Among the things I heard were conversations that did little to impress upon me the plights of the common man. As an example, hearing two ethnic women discussing the "good news" of a cop that died recently trying to stop a domestic disturbance was depressing. Of the other things I would hear, a sorority girl had troubles convincing her boyfriend that she wasn't into choking, Obama is apparently a communist trying to convert American lifestyles, Jesus loves you but hates gays, a couple top strategies to convince ones significant other into a three way, and how disgusting and out of place fat people like myself were at a gym. These were common conversations everyone seemed to think nobody else could hear.

The entire gym was also very aggressively against those trying to improve while providing an environment appealing solely to those who are improved. Were I a vain man in my physical appearance, this place was a palace of mirrors and a testiment to my awesome rather than a penance to be served for the guilt of being out of shape. Instead, I take vanity in my mental capacity and have mentally masterbated at the turn of a phrase. Mirrors don't help in that case, instead offering a reflection of a doughy man so woefully out of place in this Beautiful Peoples Club.

Time passed and most of these issues could at least be tolerated so long as my friend forced me to continue to go but eventually he moved and my ability to work out was limited to self-control and who REALLY wants to go to an environment they despise. But I continued, solely because I was paying for it.

Then something weird happened, Cardinal Fitness became Charter Fitness and with it came a new influx of members, lower prices for those members, and a general crowding that kicked my hyper vigilance in overdrive. If I felt out of place initially, this was where I REALLY felt like a leper at a dance off (protip: Lepers have real problems with taking the left foot out during Hokey Pokeys). You see, the situation went from "at least I can get on a machine quickly" to "damnit, I gotta wait around for 15-20 minutes for a machine."

I, by nature, am a wallflower. Though I am willing to take center stage, it's often on my terms and when I'm in a situation where attention can easily be paid to me, I try to be as unassuming as possible. In a room full of mirrors, standing behind a row of elliptical trainers and stair machines, and my standing behind this row waiting for a turn for a prolonged period of time, the perception of my character can and was misconstrued on multiple occassions. Though I wait my turn, any which way I turn my gaze has a line of well defined asses. Though my intention was just waiting for my turn, I am aware of how I look. Loose jeans, generic t-shirt, possibly one of the nerdiest pieces of literature ever to be dragged into the gym (most recently, the rulebook to the miniatures board game Dreadfleet), standing nearly motionless in a perceived lecherous intent. As time passed, my willingness to throw myself into this role evaporated completely.

But then I remembered a period where my love of gaming helped me lose weight. I was addicted to early music games and among them, Pump It Up. If you're not aware, let me put it this way. DDRs pad was up, down, left, right, essentially giving you six potentially centers of gravity you could shift to. PIU had 5 buttons in a cross shape, gaining access to 10 potential centers of gravity. Likewise, PIU had what was widely regarded as the best choreographed dance game stepcharts in the industry. As an obsessed idiot, I played the hell out of this game (remember, I can take center stage but only on my terms). More importantly, I lost hella weight. As arcades died, I lost access to these machines and as such, gained weight again.

Of course you COULD always go to the easy fitness games but I tried those before with problems. The biggest being that I have downstairs neighbors who would likely prefer I not frogstomp all over my living room. Next, keeping things fresh in these programs is a huge challenge. After all, how many times can you run in place before it bores you?

But wait, one of my favorite studios makes a dancing game, only I don't have a Kinect and if I buy it, discover I don't have the room for it, well, I'm out cash, right? Right. So I had a couple friends with Kinects and after pestering them for months, one finally lent me his Kinect. After clearing out some space, I discovered Dance Center is NOT running in place or hopping related exercise. With Target's sale this week, I acquired my Kinect and now plan to lose weight in an area where I don't feel weird or out of place, my own home.

Sometimes the world just has to realize how intimidating and hostile of an environment the membership gyms are... maybe THAT'S what is selling so many Kinects. I know that's what sold mine. See? Gaming related after all!

9:51 PM on 02.10.2012

Kickstomping the Little Guy is Double Fine

There is a significant amount of people clapping their hands at Double Fine's recent success on Kickstarter. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that the service is there to help people with truly unique ideas to get the money they need to make their dreams a reality. Here is the problem I have, though. Double Fine's ONLY truly unique idea going into this is that they found Kickstarter.

Not Ready For Kickerstarter

As a dude who's jumped in and funded games ranging from the mobile platforms to even board games I thought looked unique and interesting, there is one thing I typically notice. Who is ready for Kickstarter and who isn't. There are people who had their games in prototype phase for a good long time and after having had problems getting a publisher to help them out, they turn to the community. In the way of video games, these guys have a design doc, beginning art, a set schedule, and basically answer to you as if you are the publisher. In the realm of board games, these are people making all new contacts, worrying about production costs, printing games, making distribution partners, and these are people who essentially have a game ready after months, sometimes years, of rigorous design and testings.

Most of the time, these are people who have an idea, have a reason and a purpose for the money they want, and have their hands out in the fervent hope other people share their vision. I've backed projects that have succeeded and failed and the ones that failed are often people without a solid plan. The phrase "not ready for Kickstarter" is often uttered amongst the board gaming community as Kickstarter has become a great place where new and interesting projects have been coming from.

After years of running our business poorly, please fund us.

Now you have Double Fine who, despite all odds, is still around. They spent millions making a Sesame Street game, embargoed Brutal Legend reviews to make sure the truth of their game doesn't get released, and essentially had massive problems all around. They are the underdog that has made a bunch of bad decisions and to quote John Hammond, "I don't fault people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them." Double Fine has access to contacts within major publishers, they have contacts with distribution channels, they have access to industry know how that NO ONE ELSE IN THE HISTORY OF KICKSTARTER has access to.

Now, I don't mind them running a kickstarter if they had a plan, concept, even a solid direction, they have NONE of that. They have a history of business failings and their hands out for you to buy 100% purely on faith. Therein lies my problem. While other companies spent, literally, months preparing for their kickstarter presentation, Double Fine just showed up, talked their history, and said, "we promised we'll give you a game someday... super pinky swear." Don't believe me? Go to Kickstarter right now (keeping in mind, I didn't test this theory, that's how sure I am) and look at the other projects, especially in gaming. These are people with solid foundations, detailed plans, and something beyond "we're totally making a game, guys." These are people who actually have something to show long before they attempt to get you to fund it. Double Fine did none of that and this is a fundamental issue I have. They have no plan, no direction, all the contacts to get funding any other way, and now, they've set a dangerous precedent.

Big Dog Coming Through, Outta The Way, Pussies

Now Double Fine is on the main pages, they're the top response on Kickstarter, and they've, in turn, crowded out the little guys. The dude who wanted to make his platformer but couldn't afford the software license to Maya, fuck him. Double Fine is more important. This other guy? Doesn't have contacts within publishers, doesn't have industry veterans backing him, has nothing but his dreams. FUCK HIM, DOUBLE FINE IS MORE IMPORTANT.

I know there are SOME people who went to Kickstarter and funded something other than Double Fine, but the bulk of others came, paid, got the fuck out. Schaffer used his celebrity to choke out the real unknowns, the future Notch's, and now, with that dramatic of a number, it will cast a shadow over the service. I mean, how can the dude writing an RPG system based around space pirates possibly compete with Tim Fucking Schaffer. In a way, Tim Schaffer came in and totally Activisioned everyone else on Kickstarter. Because he was so successful doing this, who do you think will pick up where they left off? I heard Jaffe's forming a new company, maybe he needs some funding. Johnathon Blow fought long and hard self funding Braid and his current project, why fight at all? Clearly Mikami should get in on that shit. The greatest thing about it is the Double Fine success means you don't have to show ANYTHING. It could be a game about a child raping clown for fuck all you know, because they didn't have to show ANYTHING beyond showing up. How ironic that, in the day where we're fighting for truly independant gaming to succeed, we allowed Tim Schaffer to big time a channel for people who truly needed the funding.

Update: Combing The Kickstarters And Who NEEDS Your Money

After giving a bit of time lapse between writing and posting the blog, I sought out some projects I feel could use the funding. Sure, they're significantly under $400K goals but THESE are the kinds of people that need your Kickstarter help.

Project 1: Saturday Morning RPG- Episodic RPGs featuring 80's awesomeness and Skeleboar...
With an asking price of only $6000, these fellows are asking to help them finish up their project and queue some awesome iOS episodic badass into 2012. With the first episode being free, they've got a long road ahead and hope to have episodes ready to go before they start launching. The team is rapidly running out of money and presenting a truly unique concept to be brought to market, first for iOS, other platforms to follow. Check them out, watch the video, and for fucks sake, throw some support their way. After all, who else will put Rainbow Stripe Gum Zebras as a summoning spell in RPGs if these guys don't?

Project 2: Dueling Blades- Super Chibi Battling to Facebook, PS. Support these guys before Zynga just steals the game.
When you think Facebook game, admit you think Zynga and their MafiaVilleTowerHarvestFuckingRipoffCloneEmpire. Don't think that way because there are SEVERAL people trying to make legitimately fun, engaging, and interesting concepts for Facebook and HourBlast Games is among them. Designed as a simultaneous action style game, you have to predict your opponents movements and be right there to deal damage. Featuring 7 character classes, campaign, customization, and even character tech trees, there's enough to do in this game even without playing against other players live. They need $8000 and what do they need it for? Advertising, software licenses, and server costs. Sure, it might be hard to justify investing in a game you never truly own, but think of it this way, they have an extremely small window to make money before Zynga releases DuelVille. So throw a few bucks their way.

Project 3: Farmageddon- A Card Game of Farming... At All Cost
This dude and I have some personal history. You see, as I was working on Imps Vs Puppies to print through TheGameCrafter, Grant Rodiek was always in their chat, helping folks out because he was selling this game through their POD service. Helping people like myself out to getting our cards ready to print. No money was in it for him, he was just a swell guy. He also has a history working on The Sims. When Haiku (a game design of mine) was picked up by Cambridge Games Factory, he was among the first to congratulate me. Now the problem with POD (Print On Demand) is that it's expensive since it is literally printed one copy at a time. In a perfect world, you could buy Imps Vs Puppies for $12 (instead of the $15.99 it's currently available for here ) but because of the high cost, $15.99 is the cheapest I can go, making less than a dollar per copy. Farmageddon was in the same boat but despite this, it was doing good and one day, it disappeared, finding a publisher, 5th Street Games. Now 5th Street needs your help to print enough copies of this game to get them in everyones hands and you should really help them accomplish this goal. This was a dude who helped others at the drop of a hat and he needs your support.

There you go, three worthy Kickstarter projects that need your help. Give'em a boost, Dtoiders!   read

6:41 PM on 01.14.2012

Why is CheapyD is Saints Row 3?

Among the many douchebag comments in the CheapyD announcement, including mine, was a general bitching about CheapyD, how Scoville should be in (although, to be fair, I was bitching about the horrible Jim review of the game), how shitty of a person CheapyD is, how his site sucks, and how he obviously totally swindled his way into the game.

CUNTS! The whole lot of you, cunts. Offended? Annoyed? Angry because your favorite internet person isn't in? Well, tell you what. Let's turn back the clock.

In 2010, a volitionite (those referred to as Volition employees among the local gaming community) got caught in a fire and despite everyone's prayers, she fell due to infections. She worked there, saving money for college, to eventually graduate from tester to game creator. Tragedy fell and one of the local gaming community was lost. Voliition, being the damn decent people they are, held charity auctions to help the friends and family. Among the many items on the block was a voiced appearance in an upcoming game, rumored at the time to be Saints Row 3. CheapyD, being a fan of the franchise, won the auction for $1750. The money went to a great cause and Volition always said it would be free DLC.

So CheapyD did a damn decent thing bidding so much on the auction. Volition donated any money made from this DLC to the family of the victim. Finally, we reap the benefits of this generous action.

That's why Scoville, Sterling, or Holmes are not your SR3 DLC...   read

8:30 PM on 10.31.2011

Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs Evil Review

Deck-Building is the latest trend in board gaming and everyone is jumping on. EVERYONE. Including, of course, the Penny Arcade guys and Cryptozoic is counted among this mass and have presented us with the official Penny Arcade: Deck Building Game. After acquiring it, enjoying a few games, and receiving the Fruit Fucker Prime promo set, I'm chock full of opinions on this baby, so let's proceed.

2 of the 10 characters

One of the biggest problems hitting Deck-Building today is that the theme seems to be the biggest thing changing in the genre. Dominion created, Thunderstone furthered it, and Ascension presented the last new round of ideas in the genre. Other companies played at fresh ideas but right now the stagnation in concept is setting in and the truly unique Deck-Building game concepts are either coming from more niche corners (Blood Bowl, Rune Age) or Kickstarter (Eaten By Zombies and Miskatonic: School For Girls). So with a setup like that, I wonder where Penny Arcade comes in.

Well, the mechanics of their system is essentially Resident Evil, Ascension, and Dominion all rolled into one. The only unique concept presented here, game wise, is the "Boss Loot" piles. The part that worries me is the box names this engine which has two possible implications, either this system is going to support multiple licensed properties within the same game (ala, UFS and Vs) or this exact same game is going to be reskinned to hell and back with as many franchises as possible. Neither are good scenarios but hopefully Cryptozoic will shut Pandera's (intentional) Box before it's too late.

In Ascension, these cards are called Militia and Apprentice...

So how does this game work? Well first, you have a character with a special talent and a starting deck. So the Scoutmaster from the Winter King special gains a benefit any time any player defeats an evil Boss Loot card. AnnArchy gains a character specific card, the Bat'leth. This mechanic comes from Resident Evil's deck-building game. Next, you set up the gaming area with 7 Green (Gamers) and 7 Red (Evil) card stacks, ala Dominion. After setting this up, you add the Pax Pox cards (Curse/Disease from Dominion/Thunderstone) and finally set up the Boss Loot stacks. What's this? A new idea up in this bitch? It had to happen eventually and this is the ONLY unique thing this game brings to the table.

To play, you have cards which generate either Tokens or Power. With Tokens, you can buy a Green card, which pertains to Gamers, or Good abilities. With Power, you defeat Evil. Aside from Boss Loot cards, Evil cards, added to your deck upon beating them, are the only way to earn victory points, which are a number in a star, on the lower left hand corner of a card... JUST LIKE ASCENSION. Just like the Tokens buy cards, Power defeats them... like in Ascension. Catching onto the pattern yet? So with so much blatantly stolen from other games, let's go into the Boss Loot cards.

Only a couple of the cards you can buy/beat...

In each game, there will be a Green Boss and a Red Boss. The bosses have Lv 1, 2, and 3 variants which essentially means that the game progressing makes them harder. From this, there are also 8 reward cards for beating/buying them. You shuffle these 8 cards and place the Lv3 card down first, then four reward cards, then the Lv2 cards, four more cards, and finally the Lv1 cards. So when you beat a Lv1 boss, you take the top card from below the boss card. When four cards have been taken, the boss levels up. This repeats until Lv3, where the card is tougher, but defeating it ends the game. It should also be noted that acquiring these boss cards but you at an excessive advantage and they are worth a bunch of points to boot. In fact, Boss Loot cards are the ONLY Green cards worth points at the end of the game, meaning running the numbers pushes every player into a Red Strategy despite the claims in the manual. Unless, by some miracle, you can push enough Boss Loot cards into your deck and force the game to end early. The Green Boss Loot cards are also powered on a d20 roll though the included d20 feels cheap and imbalanced.

Also included in the game is a place for all the cards... unless you have the strange desire of not having the cards shift all over the box. $.05 foam inserts will keep you from having to resort the bulk of the included cards everytime you move the box and, frankly, should have been included considering the price. ($45)

A sample of the Boss Cards

But with all my bitching, you would think I find nothing redeeming about the game. On the contrary, this game is fun. Fact of the matter is, when stealing, it's important to steal things that work. The reason Thunderstone, Dominion, and Ascension are ruling the Deck-Building genre is simply, they work. Thus any game that directly apes them will also work. Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs Evil works. More importantly, it's genuinely funny. In general for all players and especially for video gamers, but seeing Mr. Period or Rex Ready work in the game along with all the Penny Arcade references pushes it to that next level. Loaded with crass humor, it may not be for everyone and admittedly, when someone implores other players to Touch Weiners, you'll get odd looks from surrounding gaming tables.

Of course, right now, there is the threat of the funny wearing off with play but considering how much empty space exists in the base box set, more cards are definitely coming. In fact, there is a promo right now to add the Fruit Fucker Prime to your copy.   read

12:25 PM on 08.15.2011

Playtesting: Bedlam, Jaffe, and Smashed Puppies

This past weekend, I headed out with a mission. In my possession, I had three card games of my own design so I wanted playtesters, opinions, and generally ways to fix my creations. Using generic excuses like "picking up my copy of Quarriors," I travelled as far as Bloomington with my games in tow, hoping to share the concepts and try to track down the issues that exist.

Of course, anytime I test out a new design, I'm nervous as all fuck. The first aspect is simply placing something you worked very hard on out for display. Whether people love it or hate it, all their opinions, whether good or bad, reflect on you. No game design is perfect and sadly you, as a designer, spill your crudely drawn heart and soul onto a table for many others to come and essentially bash the holy bejeezus out of it. Even though I know the game will turn out bad, there is the confirmation that stings.

The other issue is in the simple concept that you, as the designer, know how to play the game and thus, you've built in strategies and concepts beyond the simple scoring. The challenge you face is if other players can pick up on how the game is supposed to be played. After all, the design is only as strong as people can figure out.

This reminds me of one of the many times I point to in explaining why David Jaffe is a damn good dude. Turning back the time to Calling All Cars many, many playtests. David Jaffe was blogging everything he was feeling during this time and it's 100% true. He was humble, funny, frustrated when people didn't know how to work it, and ultimately showed a bit of the nervousness I face everytime I have people play my games. David Jaffe, having met him, a cool dude. Aside from all that, guess I should get around to talking about results.

The highly controversial smashed puppy card. Some want more, some want less gore...

Haiku: The Card Game
Currently being considered for pickup from a game publisher, this is the one I have least to worry about. As a quick party game, anytime I got this one broken out, people agree it's a good party game. Criticism typically centers around having the syllable count pointed out and, well, not silly enough. In general, the feedback here is positive and no real changes are needed.

Imps Vs Puppies
This is another success. The concept is a trick taking game like Euchre or Hearts. Players have a team of Imps with different strengths and Abilities. Placing them face up let's their ability trigger while face down, their identity is secret. After most of the abilities go off, strongest imp smashes the crate which may or may not be a bomb. When the game is over, whoever smashed the most puppies, killed the most imps, and defused the most bombs, becomes the winner.

If I wanted to slave over this one for the next 6 months, I'm sure I could make it even better. Right now, people love it in the current form and a couple people wanted to buy copies during the test. So I just need to finalize some stuff and this one will be ready to go.

Bedlam Heights
Of the three, this is the one which needs fixing the most. You remember the section where I mentioned a desire to get the game working? Yeah, that's Bedlam all over. First thing is the explosions are too big and the chaining is broken. But more importantly, only I really seemed to know how to play since, of the two playtests, only I ended up with a positive score. You see, the penalty for blowing up the wrong city blocks is steep, but it's designed as such. The explosions are also too big. I'm hoping to fix this issue in a couple days and giving this another shot.

You may see this game in your local game store in late 2012...   read

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