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Why this?

I've been thinking about it a for a while and it's time to talk about my favorite music of 2014. I know this is a gaming site, but you've played those and I've had less time this year than ever before to play them. I did listen to a lot of music, however. Nothing high-brow and certainly nothing that will impress anybody. But I don't listen to music to impress people. Who does?


"Trouble in Paradise" by La Roux

I really liked the first album by La Roux ("La Roux"). It was catchy and infectious. Really got in your ear and bounced around. You could like the songs immediately. This second album is somewhat different. At first, it's not as infectious. The addictive qualities are not quite so immediate. But on repeated listens, it gets stronger and stronger. Even early on, you can tell that this is a more focused album than the first one. There's a theme this time that unifies things more. That theme is basically, "Relationship problems and heartbreak in a tropical paradise".  It all sounds so happy, and yet it's pretty sad if you pay attention to it.

La Roux, if you're not familiar, is an English singer/producer duo. The singer is Elly Jackson and the producer is Ben Langmaid. Or was. He left since the first album, though he still contibuted to this one. The first album was synth pop and heavily influenced by Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams). It has strong synthy bleeps and bloops, but singing that cuts through it. Very catchy stuff.

This album is something in the same genre, but very different. There's fewer electronic noises, in favor of some instrumentation. And while "La Roux" was urban and futuristic, "Trouble in Paradise" is tropical, slower and more casual. Nothing will get you immediately pumped, except for "Silence", an amazingly dancable banger that reminds me of the first album. But that no problem. In fact, these songs are more memorable and appealing on repeated listens. It's soft and tropical and upbeat-sounding, and it's got some infectious hooks. I generally associate tropical music with boredom, repetition and well, sleepiness. Not here. This is a tropical dance album by somebody who's last album was a cold, urbane, slickly-produced set of club-bangers.  It's got some momentum and weight to it.  It still speaks to me, a guy who generally runs from anything labeled "authentic" or "classic" and wants to be bludgeoned by his music.

A good example of everything this album does is "Sexotheque".  It has a bouncing, swinging rhythm with a marimba tune.  You could totally get down to it.  The singing sounds great too and compliments the tune well.  The lyrics, though, describe a relationship going wrong.

"She wants to know why he's not home I'll bet money-money-money I'll beeeet, he's at the sexotheque. He never answers the phone, I'll bet money-money-money I'll beeeeet, he's at the sexotheque."

What really makes this album so much better than the last, and a good album generally, is that it feels unified by it's theme. It's not so tighly cohesive that it doesn't go a little urban towards the end, but even then, it maintains the slower, more patient pace. It's not in such a hurry, but you'll still want to dance to it.

This is not an album I binged on as much as others.  It's not designed to grab you by the blood-stream.  But when I listen to it, I remeber why I like buying whole albums.  Sometimes it pays off and you don't want to skip a bunch of tracks.  It usually happens when the musicians actually wanted to make an album.  It also helps when the songs themselves can stand up on their own.


So, what did you think?  I don't do many of these blogs, both because I just started doing them at all and because I have a nasty habit of abandoning things part-way, when I write anything for the internet.  By all means, speak yourselves in the comments.

Here's something I thought of today.  It requires either a 10-sided die or change the odds to suit a pair of six-sided dice.  The odds and scoring are variable and so is everything else.  I may update this if I want to change anything.

Pickup Lines: The Game

The game is based on each player pitching a pickup line to another.  Preferrably, there's at least four people involved, one being the gamemaster, or Bartender.

Starting out

The game starts with the Bartender creating a scenario, a scenario involving people.  At least as many as the players in the game.  Hopefully, it's not just a bar, but something more interesting.  Nothing specific is determined about the characters yet.  The players then each create their own character, going clockwise from the Bartender.  If clockwise doesn't make sense for some reason, it doesn't matter anyway, I just picked a direction.  The character can be whatever you want, including yourself, but you'll want to fit your character into the scenario, including how the character got there and why.

Pickup Lines

In the order you created characters, each player decides to pitch a pickup line to any other player's character (not the Bartender, who is not strictly a player).  Once the choice is made, but before the line is delivered, the Bartender offers two separate and distinct concepts to possibly incorporate into the pickup line.  These are preferably very general, like "the circus" or "sea life".  This allows for some flexibility.  Using the concepts is optional, but each concept used increases the chances of a successful roll on that pitch.

Rolls and Concepts

The standard roll on a pitch is 3/10.  On a successful roll, the pitcher scores a point and the recipient gets a strike.  To increase the roll odds, the pitcher can incorporate one or both of the concepts proposed by the Bartender.  Incorporating one concept increases the roll odds to 5/10.  Using both increases it to 7/10.  

New Concept Challenge

If the recipient want to trade-in one of the concepts, they can ask for a new concept from the recipient.  This one will likely be harder, since the recipient has an incentive to make it harder.  This new concept replaces one the original two, recipient's choice.  But this time, using both concepts increases the roll to 9/10.  Using one concept still only makes the roll 5/10.  If you choose the challenge, one concept must be used or the roll drops to 1/10.

Laughs and Critical Success

If the pitcher's pickup line gets the recipient to laugh, it's instantly successful.  This must be an audible, obvious laugh, not a smile or grin.  The dice-roll will then be for a critical success.  The odds for critical success are 5/10.  What a critical success means is variable.  By defaut, it means 3 additional points.

Pickup Line Rules

The pickup line doesn't have to be good.  It probably won't be.  But it has to be both coherent and recognizable as a pickup line.  It also has to be friendly and not horrible, which goes along with being identifiable as a pickup line.  The Bartender determines whether a pickup line is acceptable or whether it successfully incorporates one or both offered concepts.  If desired, the Bartender can put a decision to a vote or choose to categorically make decisions democratic.  The Bartender can even call a vote on in-fiction decisions that have nothing significant to do with the game.

The Bartender, being the gamemaster, is the game's referee in whatever way is needed.  They are, basically, the adult supervision.  If the Bartender is an immature troll, well, you're screwed.  Either stop playing, or endure their world of madness.


Throughout the game, the Bartender's job is to narrate the game and provide context to the game's actions.  While the players may be responsible to establishing their characters, the Bartender can determine their actions or even take over their internal monologue if desired.  The players can also set up some story beats preceeding their own pickup lines and recipients can continue for a bit after the play is made.  Make an effort to keep rolling with the fiction you've chosen.  It's largely the whole point.

Strip Rules

Now that basic play is established, scoring and victory conditions are pretty flexible.  One idea is Strip Rules.  In Strip Rules, if a player has five strikes, they take off a piece of clothing (a Take-off).  Alternately, if a player has seven points, they can order a Take-off on another player.  A Take-off can also happen on a critical success.  

Drink Rules

Replace the words "take off clothing" with "drink booze".

Elimination Rules

You can also create a shorter game, by incorporating eliminations instead of Take-offs.

If you're reading this, I assume you've either played some of P.T. or have an idea of what the fuss is about.  It's a "Playable Teaser".  But it's more like a demo, or arguably a small game in it's own right.

If you're like me, you got part-way through before finding out, on the internet, during one of our breaks for sweet, sweet air, that it was a teaser for the next Silent Hill.  But more than that, a Silent Hill by Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima! Exciting stuff!  But...somehow disappointing, too.  And not just because the world took a masterpiece of atmospheric horror adventure gaming and speed-ran it on YouTube.  Actually, that's incredibly depressing.

But yeah, I was disappointed.  I used to love Silent Hill, especially the second one.  But how many of these games have there been?  How many do there need to be?  Can't they let it die?  You know how to play Silent Hill and I know how to play Silent Hill.  P.T. is not that game.  It's something new.  It's a game of perceptiveness, where looking is your form of interaction and being good at it your key to progression.  This was more than the playable trailer it was billed as being.  It was better and likely scarier than another Silent Hill game is probably going to be.

I would sooner pay to play a follow-up to P.T. than even a well-done Silent Hill game.  Why?  Because I've played Silent Hill games already.  They had their time.  Not everything needs to be re-microwaved forever.  To give you some background on me, the first Dead Space was one of my favorite games in years.  I loved it.  It wasn't just a good horror story, it was a good sci-fi universe in general.  And then I didn't play Dead Space 2 or 3.  Dead Space was over.  It had an awesome ending.  Everything didn't get solved and wrapped up, and no you don't get to figure out everything.  Fine.   I could write a blog about the reasons I didn't play Dead Space 2 for being Dead Space 2, but I digress.

I know the intention of P.T. was to convince me that Silent Hill is getting a shot in the arm, and I suppose it is. But I seriously doubt Konami will change the formula enough to make it preferable to what I really want.  The problem is, an experience like P.T. can't be sustained for a full-length game, nor should it be.  It doesn't fit into that $60-model.  But there could be a follow-up in the $15-$20 market.

I'd like to see something like that happen.  It won't be the same, of course, or look as good, but that's okay.  But it might just create an almost adversarial dynamic between the people crafting these puzzles and the community racing to break it.  Perhaps the next puzzle will punish you for trying to look at everything, but without some singular, identifiable trap-object.  There are ways games can respond to identified common tactics.

The game doesn't even have to be scary, it could be funny.  I'm talking about a first-person adventure game done with serious flair, with an endless loop or inescapable status quo conceit.

Imagine a first-person shooter.  You run along, fighting alien space warlocks with recharging energy weapons.  Eventually, you fight the alien overlord, "Ultagore the Undying" and kill it.  Then you get a radio call to head back to the start to board a dropship.  The aliens are getting back up and you fight them on the way back.  When you get there, the drop ship retreats because the LZ is too hot.  They also tell you that Ultagor is alive again.  So you fight back through.  Along the way, you get a message that another soldier has killed an overlord permanently, but doesn't know how.  Luckily, if you die after the first Ultagore kill, you'll also get back up.  So you have to figure out how to end everyone's mutual immortality, because the dropship will never land.  You can use a single map for this game.

Do I want a trend of endless loop puzzles to go on forever?  Do I want a P.T. 4?  Hell no, but a few years of playful loop puzzles, given some inventive ideas, could be pretty cool.

Playing Halo Reach online, if there was a point of contention about armor abilities is was Armor Lock.  I've heard it called "cheating", "for noobs" and strings of curses.  But why was that?  Well apparently "fair" in Halo meant the ability to kill people with the same number of bullets from the same guns in the same ways as in previous games.  So Armor Lock's terrible sin, it seemed, was disrupting this harmony and daring to force people to alter their rote-ass pattern.  It demanded that you, shocking I know, stop shooting for a damn second.  If you just waited, of course, Armor Lock was not only wasted, but a handicap. 

Then there was the charge that it required no skill.  Technically, pressing a button generally doesn't.  If you wanted to Armor Lock too early, and wait around for certain death, or try too late and die before it activated, then that didn't need any skill at all.  Failing at Armor Lock was easy as hell.  But Locking just before you get melee'd and coming back out to kill them instead, required timing.  Blocking a missile or wrecking a vehicle with Armor Lock required timing...or luck.  And that describes a whole lot of things in Halo, like shooting, or throwing grenades, which people also think is cheating.  Anything that disrupts a "combo" just plumb ain't fair it seems.  If that's your definition of unfair, bring on the cheating, say I.

Yeah, I know this is late.

1. Time constraints have me drifting away from some games and towards others

Every so often, I read a forum post from someone leaving games behind.  Whether they've gotten married or are having a kid, they explain how time constraints and more important things in life have gotten between them and videogames.  Whenever I see that, it makes me sad, but I understand it.  It's almost happening to me.  But it's not.  I'm spending more time reading blogs and forums than playing games.  I'm also playing much less of a greater variety of games.  I'm becoming a casual gamer almost against my will.  I can't finish an RPG anymore, but I'll still get them.  But I'll also play things I never used to consider, like hidden-object games, free-to-play MMOs and MMO betas, even the 3DS, the first portable system I've had since the original Gameboy.  I'm less invested in any particular game or kind of game.  I'm also more forgiving of games and their flaws.

2. I will type out lengthy and even well-argued comments and forum posts, and then ditch them

Sometimes, I do a whole spiel about something and then realize that while I might care about the topic, I'm wasting my time.  Actually, I mostly stop myself if I realize I'm getting emotional about something written on the internet.  If you get emotional about something on the internet, I believe you need to check yourself.  What you write in response is either going to come-off wrong or require a disproportionate amount of work for the difference it will actually make.  I have to remember sometimes that I am not a big deal and just let my three-paragraph baby die.

3. I'm drifting towards comics and spend more time with digital comics than games

This one surprises me.  I've been dipping my toe into comics for a while, and the prospect of getting fully into them has always seemed unappetizing.  Considering the relative value propositions of how much time you're getting from each one, video games seem to be the better deal.  For a long time, I just kept probing a little and getting trades of things I really liked.  I never wanted to get single issues on a regular basis.  It always seemed like I was avoiding a trap for fools.  Now I'm all-in and have a pull-list.  I am a damn fool.  Worse, I'm still getting into new comics.  Anything I stop reading gets replaced by something else.  I'm in deep.  But honestly, it's pretty awesome.  I wouldn't do it if it wasn't worth it to me.  Comics are amazing at utilizing the nature of the medium to tell stories.  Video games are not at that level yet, but they're close.

4. I'm from Northern Virginia, in the D.C. Metro Area, and I like it here. 

People come to the D.C. area for work and because the D.C. metro area is known for being a great place to be young and hip, and it is.  They'll pour into this area from everywhere in the country and the world.  Understandably, people talk a lot about how nice it is where they come from, and that's neat, but I'm from here, and it's pretty sweet here.  I'll go on vacation, come back, and really love that I'm back.  The D.C. area is awesome. 

5. I want to be a cyborg.

I've always loved science fiction.  And I've always been drawn to technologically enhanced heroes and I know that's pretty common.  But for personal reasons, I have a thing about bodily degeneration and dying of natural causes.  It freaks me the hell out disproportionately.  I wonder how normal that is.  I seriously look forward to the day we can enhance ourselves.

6. I start games over about half-way through and play again differently.

This is technically cheating, since I'm neutralizing some surprises, but it's fun to do.  I'll identify the advantages and disadvantages of different play-styles at different parts of the game and remember them.  Then I'll go back through and tear it up with another build.  I've even do this in a shooter, using different weapons.  It's really fun.

7. I love stealth games, so I can subvert them and blow everyone away.

I have a friend who loves stealth games.  He sneaks through on hardest difficulty, never being seen.  If he slips up or does something wrong, he reloads.  Watching him do this is both comical and torture for me.  He has to be perfect.  They never even know he's there.

I'll blast my shotgun in the air and gun down all the guards, as they try to squeeze through a doorway.  I take the grenades they give you and apply them liberally.  You see, the guards in these games are too civilized.  They lack a certain killer instinct.  They have to have their senses triggered and go through states of awareness.  They're very prim and proper that way.  It makes stacking them up more fun.

8. I drive around some nights are never end up going anywhere.

I like to drive.  Sometimes, I feel like I need to.  I don't like to go a day without driving.  When I first learned how to drive, I hated it.  I was constantly scared.  But my parents told me to do it on a regular basis, then every day.  It worked.  I got good.  I'm still a better driver than basically anyone I know.  I don't drive fast or recklessly, but make good time.  I can make you feel safe and still get places early.  So some nights I'll head out, vaguely meaning to go somewhere, and change my mind about where a few times.  Sometimes, I'd rather be driving than actually get to where I'm going.

9. I haven't had a significant other since high school...and it's awesome.  I highly recommend it.

I'll admit, I spent years in total anguish about this.  Painful times.  But part of growing up is being okay with yourself and the situation you're in.  You learn to be okay.  And then you can learn to be awesome.  I'm still okay with idea of having another girlfriend, but I stopped looking years ago.  I threw away my neediness, my expectations, the shackles of what I'm expected to want in life.  That was a fantastic decision.  For a long time, I knew I was ill-suited to being in a relationship.  But now that I'm probably ready, I don't really want one.  I get to be a better friend to more people.  It's fun.

10. I'm pretty into Metal and now find it hard to understand not liking it. 

I listen to a lot of Metal.  And like most Metal fans, a lot of kinds of Metal.  It's a surprisingly diverse little world of music.  I love the drama, the fun and the fact that you don't feel like you're compromising.  What I don't love is the reaction I get from people when I tell them I listen to Metal.  And I'm talking about kids my age and younger.  It's depressing.  I keep hearing, "That's so angry!".  For some reason, people immediately conjure in their minds whatever kind of Metal they don't want to hear.  The connotation is always negative.  It's like nobody remembers that Metal used to be mainstream.

Just once, I want to say "Metal" and have somebody say, "I love Guns and Roses!" or "I used to listen to Metallica".  I know damn well you have enjoyed some kind of Metal.  I'll even take "Final Countdown".  I don't listen to Metal because it's loud or angry.  But because it holds nothing back from what it wants, even if it's something cheesy or nasty or brutal.  I just want the hipster mutants of my generation to get off their high horse and share with me their secret indungence.  Hell, I still want to meet a Ska or Punk fan.