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Carmen Sandiago ND photo
Carmen Sandiago ND

Rare North Dakota-themed Carmen Sandiego game has surfaced


You're darn tootin'!
Feb 18
// Jason Faulkner
In the late '80s the Carmen Sandiego series was immensely popular and over 20 states were looking to get in on that red hot edutainment action. Details are sketchy on exactly what happened, but Where in North Dakota is Carme...

Mecha Trigger made me feel real dumb before it made me feel (kind of) smart

Feb 05 // Nic Rowen
Mecha Trigger delivers an insidious two-stage payload of knowledge. At first it may seem like another typing-trainer-by-way-of-game kind of a deal, a Typing of the Mech if you will. While the threat of being skewered by a railgun the size of a city bus is a pretty good motivator to learn how to type quickly and accurately, the real core of what Mecha Triggeris teaching is actually the rock-bottom basics of coding and scripting. There are no such things as joysticks or control pads in the world of Mecha Trigger. And while you use a keyboard to control your TypeFighter mech, the secrets of WASD have never been revealed to the engineers who made these giant robots. Instead, every single action your mech makes needs to be typed into a DOS style command line. Want to walk forward? You need to specifically type out (with proper spelling and format) the code to move your legs and the distance you want to travel. “legs move -d 10” for a few short lurching steps. An enemy to your right is pelting you with a mech-sized shotgun? Better type in “legs turn -a 90” to face right and look at him (you'd type in “legs turn -a -90” to look to the left), and so on. If this already seems like a huge pain in the ass, you have no idea how bad it really is. I only got to play with Steel Battalion’s infamous twin-stick, 40-plus button control surface once at a kiosk that was displaying it like some novelty act, and it was infinitely easier to grok. Even with that massive layout, there was the comforting familiarity of triggers and peddles, and when you pushed a button, while the mech might not have done what you wanted it to do, it did something. The command line prompt gives you nothing. Mistype a line, use the wrong format, whatever, and the mech remains stubbornly, perfectly, inert. Incredibly frustrating, especially when you're being picked apart by enemy fire. Even after reviewing the tutorial, I still managed to forget important commands -- like say the ones for controlling your guns and laser cannons -- in the heat of battle. The first time I actually managed to shoot something, my machine gun farted out a single impotent shot. Clearly there was room for improvement. [embed]287185:57169:0[/embed] Fortunately, you can create your own custom macros in the game that can activate a command with much fewer button presses, or even carry out multiple actions. This quickly reveals itself as the holy guts of the game. After a bit of fussing around I wrote scripts that would fire my laser beam for a nice controlled 2 second burn, or one that would empty my machine gun clip and automatically reload it. I destroyed an A.I mech or two, things start to click. For the first time in a long while, I go and grab a pen and jot down some notes. Any time a game makes me break out the ol' yellow legal pad, it's a sure sign of a burgeoning obsession, or at least a brief but intense infatuation. Soon I have a page full of abbreviate commands and reminders. I have my weapons figured out, I even come up with (what I think was) a fairly clever script to automatically switch to the cloaking device and activate it for emergencies. I'm no ballerina, but I've wrangled the controls enough to generally trundle my mech where I want to go. I can scan the enemy, get within optimal range, and unleash a holy rain of – oh wait, he activated his jump jets. How the fuck do I look up again? More notes, more macros. Over an evening of play, I slowly stumble my way towards something resembling competency. I create a slew of macros -- basic controls, weapon systems, responses to every typical situation I can think of. I try them out in the field, find holes in my battle-vocabulary and fill them. I streamline the commands that work by trimming down unnecessary keystrokes, shortening command lines to as few button presses as possible. I experiment and find out I can string more than two commands together in a single macro, instantly obsoleting more than half of the commands I've already written. I toss them out, rewrite them into tighter, more efficient, little bunches of code. My mech stops trudging about with a noticeable stutter-pause between every action, and soon I'm moving around about as smoothly as a multistory death-robot can. The process of writing macros and the logic of the game becomes so familiar that I start writing the occasional script in the middle of a fight whenever I notice something I'm missing or have an idea that would speed things up. I'm embarrassed to admit it, because I know writing macros is the most basic kind of scripting imaginable, but a thought occurs to me. “Is this how developers feel when they really understand the tools they work with? When instead of doing some menial task by hand they hack in a clever little line of code that does it for them?” I remember how Rock Band, with its simplified five button plastic guitar, gave you that little glimmer of understanding of what it's like to actually play an instrument when you got into the zone. Mecha Trigger is opening up the same conduits in my brain, but instead of a more nuanced appreciation of bass-lines and chord structure, its giving me a peek into the world of development. Just a tiny bit, a crack in the door with a weak beam of light spilling through. This is the most surface-level simple stuff, but for me, a guy who has never even considered writing a line of code in his life, it's like learning the first few words of a new language. It left me wanting more. What if I could write a script that could respond appropriately to different contexts? What if I instead of having to build my mechs around my scripts, my scripts could work with my mechs, allowing me to change up the equipment without having to write up an entirely new group of macros? These are questions the developers probably hoped people would have after playing. Sneaky bastards, teaching me things. Even if you don't feel Mecha Trigger will inspire some new-found interest in scripting for you, it's still worth checking out. It's free, offers a very different way to play than conventional shooters, and there are always worse ways to spend a lazy evening than turning giant robots into scrap.
Mecha Trigger photo
Okay, I'm just going to make the joke, 'Typingfall'
When people say “educational game” I instinctively clench up. I was raised in the heyday of Canadian educational software, with all the impenetrable geography-teaching trucking simulators and embarrassingly stilte...

Review: Pokémon Art Academy

Oct 23 // Brittany Vincent
Pokémon Art Academy (3DS)Developer:  Headstrong GamesPublisher: NintendoMSRP: $29.99Released: October 24, 2014  You enter the titular Pokémon Art Academy as a brand new student who's in training to become an illustrator of Pokémon trading cards. You're not alone, however, as you find yourself learning alongside another artist who's just getting started -- and somehow is far worse off than you, no matter your skill level. You're ushered along through various stages of illustrating Pokémon after being given your very first task: drawing Pikachu's face. In the beginning, your tools, techniques, and even your medium are severely limited. You're given free rein over markers and what look like oil pastels to create simple portraits while still learning the basics. In a matter of hours, you'll learn to sketch, flesh out, shade, and highlight intricate images of Pokémon from Eevee to Oshawott. The fact that most players will progress in such a manner is a testament to how fluid and responsive the 3DS is when it comes to sketching and painting. The touch screen works beautifully as an input tool, with spot-on responses to each brush stroke or pencil sketch. You truly feel as though you're using a miniaturized version of a professional tablet, and with the staggering amount of techniques at your disposal, the possibilities are nearly endless. [embed]282934:56064:0[/embed] You're given a one-button "undo" to erase mistakes, layers a la Photoshop that allow you to work comfortably with linework and adding colors that pop, and plenty of reasons to revisit old pieces of art to rework them. What's more, there's no hurry. You simply create each work of art in as much time as you need, lending a relaxing lilt to the game. This allows for an environment that promotes learning and patience rather than the gamification of picking up a new skill. Once you've risen through the ranks, you can check out Free Paint mode to improve upon that photo of Meowth that you wish the whiskers were longer on, or Quick Sketches, which offer plenty of opportunities to practice your speed drawing. The main "campaign" mode is basically a set of tutorials meant to help improve your artistic skills, so approaching the entire product as if it were a course you'd take in the real world is the best attitude to take. You won't "complete" it, because you can always improve your art. Unfortunately, that's one pitfall Pokémon Art Academy does fall into: There's a real lack of feedback when it comes to your artwork. The game doesn't grade you on how close you came to the example artwork, and instead simply praises you for doing your best, like you might treat a child. I understand the importance of positive reinforcement, but a grading scale or some sort of input on the game's part would have been appreciated. [embed]282934:56063:0[/embed] There's a very specific sort of audience that will gleefully devour Pokémon Art Academy, however, and I surmise that these players will only be interested in learning more about the craft, with elements that attract "regular" Pokémon fans acting as icing on the cake. Sharing your creations is a good time, and watching yourself improve just plain makes you feel good. And when a videogame can easily accomplish that, I think we can pronounce it a success. Now excuse me while I attempt to improve on this rough sketch of Pansear. 
Pokémon Art review photo
Draw them like your French girls
Educational games that impart knowledge while remaining entertaining are certified rarities. Too often you're left with staggering amounts of informative material and meager side portions of "game" that contribute to a rather...

Promoted Blog photo
Promoted Blog

Adventures of the Gamer-Teacher: 'trigger words' for gamer distraction


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Oct 05
// RedHeadPeak
[Dtoid community blogger RedHeadPeak shares another of his adventures of being a gamer-teacher. For more on this topic, be sure to check out his blog! Want to see your own writing appear on the front page? Go write something!...
Rocksmith 2014 photo
Rocksmith 2014

Rocksmith 2014 rated for PS4 and Xbox One


...but can it teach me how to play "3s & 7s" competently?
Aug 26
// Brittany Vincent
Rocksmith 2014 has been rated for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One by the ESRB and Korean Game Rating Board, and I'm still sitting here waiting for a new iteration of Guitar Hero. Although Ubisoft hasn't announced any new versi...
Deals photo
Deals

This Humble Flash Bundle has Putt-Putt and other Humongous titles


24-hour sale
Jul 28
// Jordan Devore
Night Dive Studios brought the likes of Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam, and Spy Fox to Steam earlier this year, and here they are again in this flash sale from Humble Bundle. If you want to go on a nostalgia trip and come...
Reading Rainbow OUYA photo
Reading Rainbow OUYA

Limited Edition Reading Rainbow OUYA up for grabs now


Hand-signed by LeVar Burton
Jun 27
// Darren Nakamura
Late last month we talked a bit about the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, which is in its last few days now. When it passed $4 million, producer of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (among other, less important things) Seth MacFarlane...
Pokémon Art Academy photo
Pokémon Art Academy

Up your Pokémon fan art game with Pokémon Art Academy


Girl, those Clefairy-drawing skills are mad dope.
Jun 10
// Brittany Vincent
We told you about it before, but Pokémon Art Academy now has an official trailer and plenty of lessons to teach you about drawing your favorite monsters. And as we mentioned before, Nintendo really wants to teach you how to draw.  Are you interested in boning up on your Pokémon art skills?
Art Academy photo
Art Academy

Be a better class of artist with Wii U's Art Academy


Learn to draw Nintendo characters in style
Jun 10
// Brittany Vincent
Nintendo really wants to teach you how to draw. They're sick of your stick figure Mario scribblings and they want to see improved fan art on the horizon. Thus, the Wii U version of Art Academy was born. Learn to draw your ow...
Reading Rainbow photo
Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow wants to fly to consoles like PlayStation and Xbox


Take a look, it's on a console
May 30
// Brett Makedonski
Confession time: Ever since the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter was announced earlier this week, we've been looking for a reason to write about it. It's a formative relic of our youths, how could we not want to discuss it? With ...
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Holy crap, Sesame Street Fighter is an actual game now


Well it's a typing fighting game but still
Feb 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Remember that wonderful Sesame Street x Street Fighter crossover art series from way back in 2010? Artist gavacho13 made a pretty funny spoof, and now after all this time it's been turned into an actual game. It's not quite a...
Kerbal Space Program photo
Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program is teaming up with NASA


This time your challenge is to land on an asteroid. And not explode
Jan 29
// Alasdair Duncan
The makers behind Kerbal Space Program are teaming up with NASA to create an educational version of their popular rocket-building sim. I say "rocket-building sim" when KSP is more of a "build a cool rocket and watch it crash ...
Typing of the Dead photo
Typing of the Dead

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill DLC goes Shakespeare


The Bard vs. Zombies
Nov 25
// Conrad Zimmerman
I was over the moon when The Typing of the Dead: Overkill was released, as I totally loved the original Typing of the Dead in concept and play. But maybe the text offerings were a little too vulgar for you and you'd appr...
IGF photo
IGF

Over a record 1000 entries to the 2014 IGF


That's a lot. No really, a lot.
Nov 12
// Alasdair Duncan
It feels like every year the Independent Games Festival gets bigger and bigger but that's definitely the case with the student prize. There have been over 1000 entrants to the 2014 IGF in total, split between the Main and St...
Mecanika photo
Mecanika

Mecanika wants to teach Newtonian mechanics with robots


Robots in motion tend to stay in motion; robots at rest tend to stay at rest
Sep 09
// Darren Nakamura
As somebody who has had ideas for using games as tools for education, things like Mecanika are particularly interesting to me. Though physics has become more prominent in games as time has passed, developer CREO wants to uti...
The Oregon Trail photo
The Oregon Trail

The original Oregon Trail was made in just two weeks


'We can do that'
Aug 01
// Jordan Devore
For as great of an impact as The Oregon Trail had on me as a kid, I know so very little about the circumstances surrounding its development. As it turns out, they're fairly remarkable. A Mental Floss profile of the game recou...
Alaska photo
Alaska

Alaskan tribal council forms videogame studio


Pretty cool
Jun 24
// Kyle MacGregor
Development costs are spiraling out of control. Studios are closing left and right. And yet the Cook Inlet Tribal Council of Alaska decided to invest its capital in a videogame company of all things. According to the nonprofi...
Oh my word photo
Oh my word

Elmo takes a trip to Silent Hill


The hell that lies underneath Elmo's Letter Adventure
May 10
// Allistair Pinsof
What was the last game that scared you? Would you believe me if I told you Elmo's Letter Adventure was mine? The above video, captured and narrated by the hilarious guys at Vinesauce, shows off some eerie glitches discovered...

Should games replace text books?

Apr 13 // Jonathan Holmes
Sup, Holmes? photo
This and more with developer Steve Swink!
On last Sunday's Sup, Holmes? (now on iTunes) Steve Swink made me look bad. I thought I knew a thing or two about the man, but our discussion revealed that there a lot of important stuff that I had missed, like his work on T...

Monster Hunter photo
Monster Hunter

Capcom is holding live Monster Hunter classes on April 20


Earn your degree at Monster Hunter Community College today!
Apr 10
// Tony Ponce
Digging into the finer features of the Monster Hunter series can often feel like academic research. I just want to kill giant dragon creatures, consarnit! It's not like I want to write a graduate thesis on the blasted thing! ...
Brain Age photo
Brain Age

Brain Age: Concentration Training makes you feel dumb


Your memory skills are pathetic
Apr 09
// Tony Ponce
The latest entry in Nintendo's line of brain training software, Brain Age: Concentration Training, released to practically no fanfare whatsoever back on February 10. I think it's safe to say that the "brain age" craze has lo...
 photo

Monday Mind Teasers: Word Dynamo


Learn up to ten new words in each round!
Feb 18
// Tom Fronczak
Are you ready to flex your brains and have some fun?! That's right, the weekly Monday Mind Teasers are back! It's been so long since I've visited the always-helpful online Dictionary site that I don't even know how long they'...
 photo

President Obama wants game design in high schools


The President looks at the positive effects of gaming in education
Feb 18
// Allistair Pinsof
Game design programs in high schools can encourage kids to learn math and programming, President Barack Obama said in an online interview with the public. In response to a question about adding programming requirement in publ...
 photo

Gamemaster Howard wants you to be a 'Know-It-All'


Sep 25
// Tony Ponce
Former Nintendo of America spokesman Howard Phillips has been sharing tons of goodies from his personal archives lately, and now he shares a game idea. As the original Nintendo "Gamemaster," he was tasked with knowing the in...
 photo

Game Career Guide will help you get good game jorbs


Jul 15
// Allistair Pinsof
One of the most asked questions I get as a game journalist is "How do you write crazy awesome game reviews and have non-stop sex with Russian models in the back of bazillion dollar sports cars all the time?" The second most a...
 photo

UK teachers protecting the young with ignorance


Apr 03
// Fraser Brown
Teachers here in Blighty are concerned. They aren't worried about how the curriculum doesn't prepare kids for the real world or how they've simply become training camps for university, no. It's videogames that appear to be ge...
 photo

Smithsonian's 'Art of Video Games' exhibit examined


Mar 23
// Changston
[Editor's note: Community member Jonathan Chang (Changston on the site!) visited the recent opening of the Smithsonian's new exhibit: The Art of Video Games. Here is his great write-up on the experience. -Chad] Games as art. ...
 photo

CES: Game Changer for iPad probably not a game changer


Jan 11
// Conrad Zimmerman
As many of you are aware, my passion for games extends far beyond the computerized entertainment we all hold so dear. I was raised as much on board games as I was on videogames and I usually love it when those two worlds inte...
 photo

Videogame workshop gets your grandparents game on


Oct 18
// Wesley Ruscher
My grandma is ace at bowling in Wii Sports -- and yes that is her throwing it down in the pic above (be nice and send some positive energy her way as she's currently in the hospital). But while she may have the natural bowlin...
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Slavery: The Game was a viral for a Dutch documentary


Sep 07
// Maurice Tan
Well, we didn't expect that did we? When you slap an Adults Only rating on a website for a supposed multiplatform game, you know you're being trolled. Funny thing is, most people expected it to be something related to Americ...

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