Category Archives: Video games

Road to nowhere: Lap confirms ‘Realm of the Mad God’ theory about zones of difficulty

For as long as I’ve played “Realm of the Mad God,” I’ve had a theory about the game’s roads: I’ve thought they marked sections of increasing difficulty. And because when a player first enters a realm they start on the edges of the island, next to water, I’ve suspected that the roads take laps around each realm.

I decided to walk it out and test that theory (I probably could have easily confirmed it by looking up a map or talking to someone, but what fun is that?) by hiking a lap. I started out as a wizard and packed a Slayer Staff, Flame Burst Spell, Robe of the Conjurer and Ring of Superior Vitality. All these were collected from previous lives (this game is a very Hindu game, after all — what we do in this life prepares us for the next), obviously, because the pickins were never very good, outside of health and magic potions.
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‘Robot Unicorn Attack’ meets designer’s criteria for addictive game — not that I’d know

There’s this game I rediscovered lately, mainly since it has been re-released for the iPad and is a lot less chunky. It’s an incredible game that both my stepkid and I love. However, the name of the game and certain points of gameplay are kind of embarrassing and will get certain people to poke fun at me, so I’m not gonna talk about it.

"I don't always design video games. But when I do, I make sure they are addictive. Stay twitchy, my friends."

See, I like hardcore, ultraviolent games with explosions, armies, weapons, tactics and gory gore. That’s how I roll.

Instead, I found an interesting report on about the five things every video game needs to be truly addictive. In “Designing the Five-Second Game,” designer RJ Mical (at right) spoke at a Game Developers Conference and broke down what makes a game great:

  • Simple interface: The less complicated, the better. Take, for instance, Robot Unicorn Attack, available on and for the iPad. There’s a jump button and a dash button. The robot unicorn stays fixed on the left side of the screen, so all you have to worry about is making jumps and smashing stars.
  • Simple strategy: You should be able to learn the rules and the goal of the game in 5 minutes, Mical said. Again, Robot Unicorn Attack provides a great demonstration of this: Make jumps, smash stars. The genius is figuring out HOW to make jumps and smash stars, with hair trigger timing.
  • Short levels: Besides being convenient for players if the levels are short, knowing that the game’s levels are broken up into easily absorbable chunks of gameplay might convince players to game more, Mical said. Even though Robot Unicorn Attack has only one “level,” it gets progressively faster and faster. When you reach high speeds, the score gets bigger, more and more happy dolphins dance and jump at the bottom of the screen and the action gets intense.
  • Models the physical world, at least somewhat: Though Robot Unicorn Attack is in 2-D, the physics of jumping make sense (except for being able to double-jump from mid-air, but that’s cool, not lame).
  • Great sound effects: Robot Unicorn Attack has some great sound FX, from subtle twinkles and harps on the double jump to loud explosions when charging through metal stars. The sound actually becomes an important part of the game. And throughout the game, Erasure’s “Always” is playing.

Wait, you don’t think that great game I rediscovered is Robot Unicorn Attack, do you? P’shaw! That’s not how I roll. I’m totally playing Robot Unicorn Attack Heavy Metal. It has skulls, pentagrams, Blind Guardian singing about medieval warriors and a robot unicorn with a mane made of FiRE, not a dumb rainbow. METAL. Yeah.

Still, the rainbows are kinda cool…

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Hooky day planned: ‘Bioshock Infinite’ release date announced

I know what I’m doing on Oct. 16: I’m going airborne. “Bioshock: Infinite” will release on that day.

Y’all know how I feel about the “Bioshock” franchise, and I’m already on record as saying that “Infinite” will be epic. And that was before I read about 1999 mode.

And I alluded to this in the column I wrote for Enjoy back in December, but let me be more specific: The “Bioshock” franchise is marked by an Ayn Randian world, development of abilities, making moral choices and paying the price for them — not shooting things underwater, Rapture, Big Daddies or Little Sisters. When the announcement of this first game got made back in 2010, I saw all kinds of worrywarts comment that the sky-city would ruin the spirit of the game. However, people who paid attention understood that “Infinite” is definitely a Bioshock game. And I can’t help noticing that all the worrywarts were silenced by the gameplay videos.

I just hope I can finish “Skyrim” in time. I can finish that game by October, right? Maybe with a few more hooky days…

If you haven’t seen the gameplay trailer from E3, getcha popcorn:

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Yes, I’m having girl problems — feel bad for me, brother Nord

I’m having a girl problem. Her name is Lydia. She was given to me by the Jarl of Whiterun. At first, things were OK, except she was always in my way, standing in doors and arches when I’m trying to loot chests and fix salmon steaks. But now she’s gone. She didn’t say anything about it, or let me know where she was going. She just disappeared.

What the hell?

Is she mad at me? Did I kill one too many rabbits in front of her? Did I give her too much of my stuff to carry around? I gave her some good stuff, too! She was using a steel sword of cold, and kicking a lot of ass with it.

Or maybe it’s how I let her fight everyone, then I’d sneak up behind whomever she was fighting and finish them off. I thought that’s how she liked to fight, because she’d always rush up to anyone or anything and start slashy-slashin’. Apparently I was wrong. I haven’t seen her since we went to Gallows Rock with Delphine and slaughtered a freshly summoned dragon.

I’ve looked all over for her. She’s not dead — her corpse isn’t in the Hall of the Dead. She wasn’t waiting at home for me, either. I looked in Dragonsreach, Gallows Rock, Riverwood, Ivarstead, High Hrothgar, EVERYWHERE we’ve been together. She’s gone. No forwarding address, and she’s not responding to my text messages.

I have someone else now. Her name is Jenassa, or Janessa, or… you know what, I don’t care what her name is. Picked her up at the Drunken Huntsman in Whiterun for 500 gold. She’s terrible. She doesn’t rush in. All she does is fire weak-ass arrows from a distance. My knees are getting riddled with arrows. My ass has been handed to me in 100 different ways. I’m trying to rescue someone at Mistwatch, but I can’t get past three bandits. I could with Lydia. Not with this weak bitch.

Lydia, I miss you. Come back to me.

My relationship with Lara Croft was so much easier.

p.s. If you think this post was slightly disturbing, it’s NOTHING compared to all the Lydia-based Skyrim porn I found while trying to find a picture of Lydia.

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Skyrim: Sandbox to end all sandbox games

I really need to talk to more people. I’m up to Level 7, but no one in Skyrim has told me about how they took an arrow to the knee. However, I know all about Lydia, and how she NEVER GETS OUT OF THE WAY.

Maybe she can take an arrow in the knee.

Why am I blogging, when I could be playing more Skyrim? More about this in my column in this week’s Enjoy. Until then, enjoy my current favorite meme.

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‘Little Big Planet 2’ trailer released

I can’t wait to show this to my 10-year-old stepkid. It’s about 2 a.m. and I’m really tempted to wake him up to see this.

Sony promises that the game, developed by Media Molecule, will have the same type of development that made the first version so addictive. And not only can we make platform levels, but we’ll be able to make all new games. Holy freaking wow.

“Little Big Planet” is currently available at most stores for about $30. LBP2 should be out later this year. Yeah, I’m gonna wake the kid up. I’ll be right back…

Oh, if you like the music, here’s the full song and video. It’s “Sleepyhead,” by Passion Pit.


Video game violence taken up by SCOTUS

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to wade in interesting waters concerning video games and free speech. The court will review whether a California court correctly threw out a law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

I’m no Supreme Court judge, but my ruling is that the California court was right.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in the uber-violent movies Commando, Total Recall, Terminator and Conan the Barbarian, signed the ban into law, but it never went into effect. Rightly so: There is no evidence that violent video games trigger abnormal behavior in children, and there is already a pretty good rating system parents can use.

I would rather see a system similar to movie theaters across the country. If a kid somehow bought a ticket to see one of the Governator’s bloodbaths, the theater wouldn’t be breaking a law, but would be justified kicking the kid out or refusing the sale. There’s no reason video game renters or retailers should face federal penalties for not doing a parent’s job.

Ebert demonstrates ‘irrelevance’ in critique

Film critic Roger Ebert, who delivered one of the greatest comeback lines to a critique in history, has become a sort of Vincent Gallo himself. Sure, he’s not sputtering in a drunken and schizophrenic manner, like Gallo did after “The Brown Bunny.” But if Ebert is going to say there’s no way video games can be considered an art, then he might as well be.

Ebert reaffirmed why he thinks video games aren’t art in a recent editorial. He reacted to a speech given by game developer Kellee Santiago, who gave a TED talk about what’s next in video game development. Her speech started out with the statement that video games are already art.

I could dissect Ebert’s illogical, doddering column, but I don’t have to. Santiago already did, and pointed out Ebert’s relevance to popular culture in this brilliant “hadouken”:

“It doesn’t seem that Ebert has played many, if any video games. And if that’s the case, then his opinion on the subject isn’t relevant anyways … It’s time to move on from any need to be validated by old media enthusiasts. It’s good for dinner-party discussion and entertaining as an intellectual exercise, but it’s just not a serious debate anymore.”

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Magazine dishes Portal 2 details

It’s going to be a full, standalone game, and it’s due out by the end of this year.


If you haven’t played Portal yet, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just get to the store and pick up “The Orange Box” from Valve. The main games in the Orange Box are Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress; Portal was just a bonus game made with the same elements. And it’s one of the best games you’ll ever play. The trailer captures Portal’s unique, atmospheric gameplay.

The only knock against it was that it was a relatively short game. Portal 2 is fixing that, according to a huge spread in Game Informer magazine. I’ve been diving into all the bonus Internet features, looking at the better graphics, updated Chell and improved GLaDOS insanity.

Co-op play? With robots that hold hands? Chell has a partner? GLaDOS is back? The party associate took Chell to the party? Can’t wait. I don’t care if there is no cake at all. The

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Quick review: Bioshock 2 shows promise

It’s hard to improve a great game. Though my verdict of whether Bioshock 2 will do that is still under development, the game shows a lot of promise.

The Bioshock games are first-person shooters for people who like seeing sights as much as shooting enemies. The first game, released in 2007, was filled with rewards for people who take the scenic route, such as additional powerups and an expansion of the game’s central storylines. In fact, there was so much in that first game that a new player was quickly put on information overload, forced to deal and play through the game without really understanding all the systems.

Bioshock 2 scales back that introduction very discreetly, and starts you off with much more story. Instead of a blank slate, your role as a Big Daddy is introduced with a story of how, 10 years ago, the Little Sister he was sworn to protect was taken.

All the publications I’ve read about Bioshock 2 describe the underwater city of Rapture as a dystopia. Because that, according to Merriam-Webster, is basically the opposite of a utopia, it’s a fair description. The game’s depictions of paradise lost and beauty decayed are lushly designed and artistically dizzying. The game play is basically the same as its predecessor: Smooth, intuitive and difficult as hell.

As for what’s bugging me: The levels I’ve encountered so far are much more linear. I feel like I have to thoroughly search every area before going on, because I won’t be returning. And the underwater scenes, which I had hoped would involve some battle, appear to be nothing more than field trips meant to show off the scenery.

Those are small gripes for a game that shows a lot of promise. I can’t wait to finish the story, then dive into the multiplayer experience.

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