Archive for November, 2010
Editor’s Note: Clarified the language about the initial order we’ll be placing to indicate that all profits from that order will also be donated to Child’s Play.
Good news, everyone! Our book, Silicon Sasquatch: The First Year or So, is 99.99% complete! After a few small fixes are made, we’ll be uploading the final edition to Blurb, a self-publishing solution. That means that on Wednedsay, December 1st, the book will be available for purchase for $12.00.
What does that twelve dollars get you? Quite a bit, as it turns out:
- A book that shares the story of a few independent writers struggling to establish and develop their own unique publication
- A comfortable, convenient, and surprisingly satisfying 5″-by-8″ paperback book
- About 280 pages of content, including more than 50 of our best and most important articles, each with brand-new annotations by the post’s author
- Four brand-new essays with insights on the creative process, the challenges involved with independent writing, and a post-mortem on our ill-fated podcast
As it turns out, Blurb does an excellent job with even its least expensive book formats. We received a proof copy over a week ago and were surprised just how great everything looked. Print is sharp, alignment is spot-on, and the images we included all look great in print (and in black and white). The cover has a nice, glossy finish that shows off the awesome cover art done by our friend, Steven “Pocket” Uppinghouse.
And if that wasn’t enough reason to buy a copy, we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be continuing our tradition of not making a penny off of the Silicon Sasquatch enterprise. As a matter of fact, all profits from the book will be donated to Portland area children’s hospitals through Child’s Play Charity, a charity created and run by Penny Arcade that provides videogames to children’s hospitals. So think of it this way: For twelve bucks, you not only have a rare opportunity to get us to shut up about our stupid blog, but you can also help chip in a little money to help make life a little more fun for sick kids.
If you’re in the Portland area and you know us and you’d like a copy of the book right away, please send me an email (nick at siliconsasquatch dot com) and let me know. We’ll be placing a bulk order on Wednesday, and once the copies arrive on or around December 15th, we’ll be distributing them to our friends and family. If you let us know you want a copy as part of this first shipment, we’ll be able to provide one to you for a flat twelve bucks thanks to bulk shipping rates, and all the profits will still go to Child’s Play. If you order a copy later from Blurb.com, it’ll be around five or six dollars more for shipping, so let us know as soon as possible!
Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm on this project! I never thought I’d end up writing a book, let alone designing one and laying one out. For an underemployed idealist, it’s been a dream come true.
As children born in the 1980s, we were lucky enough to be the first generation who grew up with an almost universal appreciation for video games. That was never more apparent than during the holidays, when families would come together under the pretense of having a fun, relaxing time together. Although video games were often scorned by my extended family, they couldn’t deny how useful it was in keeping us little rascals occupied for days on end while the adults rekindled their old sibling rivalries over heated petty arguments, vitriolic political disputes and perhaps one too many a hot toddy.
The holiday spirit is a beautiful thing.
But who cares about all that? We’re just glad you’re here with us. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I think the fact that people read our blog means more to each of us than we’ve ever really been able to express. So today, we’re just thankful you’re along for the ride. Enjoy your food, family and friends, and if you’re feeling in the mood, why don’t you share some of your favorite gaming-related holiday memories in the comments?
Billed as a digital palate cleanser of sorts, The UnderGarden is designed to be the anti-Call of Duty. With its rich colors, methodical pacing and mellow music, it’s clear that developer Artech Studios was trying to deliver something more along the lines of Flow or Zen Bound, where patience and relaxation are at the crux of the experience.
But unfortunately for The UnderGarden, that experience just ends up feeling like a one-sided exchange with the player coming up short. For a game that’s supposed to be about mellowing out and enjoying the ride, there were just too many technical, communicative and design-related problems for me to derive any enjoyment from playing the game. Despite its good intentions and lovely aesthetics, The UnderGarden is unfortunately more trouble than it’s probably worth.
Our wondrous Backlog returns this week, and it’s massive; really, a two-for-one sort of deal.
For those out there who read these posts, I bet it’s easy to tell when pre-break introductions do a terrible job of framing our editors’ gaming experiences over the past seven or more days. In case you were wondering, this is one of those bad introductions. I’m not sure where I’m going with the Michael Scott joke and woefully overused phrase in the title, but I promise to make you just as confused as I am.
However, Nick kindly bombards us with — and I haven’t checked this to be certain — the largest block of text to ever appear in a Backlog entry. It sort of justifies my attempts at referencing size and such an immature joke. But his thing is just really huge.
That’s what she said.
Evoking emotion in games can be a tricky task. It’s bizarre to think that a relatively simple Flash game can provide one of the best gaming experiences I’ve yet seen in regards to emotion, but with “…But That Was Yesterday,” I believe it. The simple yet evocative platformer is part of the Casual Gameplay Design Competition; more details about the competition and the other games entered can be found here. Created by Michael Molinari, “…But That Was Yesterday” gives me hope for aspects of gaming — both regarding creativity coming from independent developers and the ability of games to be an emotionally touching medium.
Go play the game. Go ahead, take the 20 minutes or so needed to play it. We’ll talk when you get back.
As a child, there was nothing I dreaded more than my weekly piano lessons. My teacher, a doting, grandmotherly old lady who smelled like candy and cried whenever I said “thank you,” did her best to impress upon me the importance of mastering scales and the beauty of perfecting a large-note, simplified Chopin piece, but I would have none of it.
I dabbled in piano lessons again in my early teens, but the routine was only more tedious than before. When I came home from a day at high school, I wanted to put on a Linkin Park CD and feel sorry for myself, dammit, not familiarize myself with the sustain pedal while trudging through my teacher’s favorite new-age song of the week.
Generic teenage angst aside, there’s a very good reason why kids don’t want to practice their instruments: It’s just not very much fun.
Enter Rock Band 3. Combining the tried-and-true gameplay the series is renowned for with a set of real-world instruments, Rock Band 3 might be the first videogame that can actually teach a person how to play an instrument. But just how much of a commitment will that take from the average person? And just how much can you learn from a game?
Well, that’s where I come in. I put up the money to get Rock Band 3 on October 26th along with the keyboard peripheral, and I’ll be chronicling my progression through Rock Band 3′s Pro Keys mode.
Something has been happening to Call of Duty for quite some time. What used to be a series lauded for its strong, poignant experiences has changed into something else entirely.
The latest entry in the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops, encapsulates those changes perfectly in a single moment:
This is the last thing you see in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Your embattled hero, having survived countless high-adrenaline firefights and explosive narrow escapes, lands safely in the comforting embrace of the United States military. Battleships and men in fatigues line the horizon as the sun sets against a billowing American flag. Crunchy guitar riffs lend a tempo to the scene, which climaxes when three fighter jets swoop low in formation.
You can practically smell the testosterone.
We’re not normally in the business of talking about the daily ins and outs of the gaming industry, but sometimes we need to touch up on some topics. Two topics I’ve written on specifically recently require a little bit of updating: The Supreme Court hearings on the Schwarzenegger vs EMA violent video game law case, and my review of Formula 1 2010.
Schwarzenegger vs EMA
As we previewed last Monday, the landmark Supreme Court case had oral hearings last Tuesday. While the official verdict is not expected for a long time — perhaps months — many in both the video games and mainstream media have covered the case. Pertinent for gamers are GamePolitics, which has the full transcript of the hearing as well as some choice quotes, and also Joystiq’s complete coverage of the case.
The crux of the argument for California is that the sale of violent games can fall under the same “Miller test” as the sale of pornography — thus not requiring a First Amendment exception, which would be unprecedented action from the Supreme Court. However, the EMA and pro-video game forces are confident their argument was heard; that argument, as mentioned in the preview of the case hearings, is that violence in video games is protected free speech no different from violent content in movies, books, comics, movies, etc.
We will provide further commentary and coverage of this Supreme Court case once a decision has been rendered.
Formula 1 2010: Patched and playable
As mentioned right at the top of our early October review of Formula 1 2010, I would be addressing the review of the game and opinion of it once the game was patched. As of last week, the game is now patched — the update trickled first to PS3 gamers, then PC and finally the Xbox 360 version. Though the on-the-track racing was (and still is) quite good, there was a litany of frustrating bugs in each version of the game (PS3, Xbox 360 and PC). Along with the same bugs seen in the console versions, PC gamers also experienced performance issues.
Now that the patch is out — here’s an official list of what issues are addressed in each version of the game — the game is far less frustrating. While many minor graphical or gameplay issues are tweaked and made better with the patch, the bigger issues like a bug that would corrupt save data, one that would allow other cars past the player as they were held in their pit box during races, and other AI tweaks have been fixed, making the game much more playable. Previously, if you brought your car into the pit lane the same lap as the AI, your team would hold you in the pit box while everyone else would stream past — the bug has moved me from 5th out of 24 in a race to 20th. The other AI changes both make the opponents a better challenge in wheel-to-wheel racing, and also means drivers properly move over for a faster car during the practice or qualifying session, just as they would in real life. Of course, removing the fear of losing a save is also a weight off your shoulders.
In short, the game finally feels complete. There are still issues with game design or lack of features, but not major problems due to bugs or being unfinished. It’s taken more than a month, but the game is now complete. I’ve finished a year of the career mode and have been truly hooked on the experience, as evident in the recent Backlogs. It’s still a title that won’t suit everybody, but with the scaling of driver aids and AI difficulty, it’s one of the best racing titles of the year and probably the choice racing sim for 2010.
by Aaron Thayer
“Ghouls and Boys”
Ghouls don’t tend to make conversation with Bob. Most of the time they’d rather tear humans’ insides out like sheets of paper from a spiral notebook. But at the entrance to an abandoned REPCONN rocket factory, a distressed ghoul used an intercom to bark a series of orders at Bob. The courier thought that was a wacky turn of events.
Bob was startled by the detached voice, which told him he had to come upstairs right away and to watch out for danger. He listened to the ghoul’s raspy smoker’s voice; his survival instincts had already kicked in.
The REPCONN factory looked like any other abandoned building from the years before the nuclear holocaust. Bob thought those old Americans must have been really big on their accomplishments because REPCONN and other companies’ headquarters always had some sort of massive statue in their parking lots. Bob calculated in the time it took to walk around the long-defunct company’s space rocket monument that all the metal wasted on that thing could have built lots of armor suits. What a shame.
A dead civilization’s hubris notwithstanding, the halls of the dilapidated REPCONN building would teach Bob that appearances, and even voices, can be deceiving.
We’re all fast this week. Like Goose and Maverick, we’ve all got the need for speed — Nick’s taken a quick trip down to Los Angeles, Aaron’s gotten through Fable 3 so fast it made our heads spin, and Doug is still strapping on the helmet and racing cars.
We’re going too fast to post more of an introduction, so let’s get on to the Backlog.