This Game You Should Play: Canabalt

You ran 8953m before hitting a wall and tumbling to your death.

Canabalt is what Mirror’s Edge should have been–freestyle running that’s fun. It’s comparing apples and oranges, but there’s one other thing about the two games that must be mentioned. Mirror’s Edge uses a myriad of control schemes utilizing bumpers, triggers, and even a little bit of motion control. Finger-fu that leads to finger-flu. Canabalt uses one key.

Yes, it’s that simple. In the game you control a runner who is escaping from…well, something. Judging by the backgrounds it’s an alien invasion. However, the word control doesn’t describe it properly. Basically you tell him when to jump. The main character automatically runs the map, and his jumps are a few careful button presses that propel him from building to building, through glass windows, and over other obstacles.

Jump to retry your daring escape.

Not all obstacles are bad. Hitting some of them will slow the runner down. This can be a good thing because he progressively runs faster. (His stamina is amazing!). Play the game at a frantic pace or time the jumps by using the environment to control his actions. It’s a brilliant play scheme–one that involves only thought.

However, the difficulty is ramped up because the play area is randomly generated. It’s a new experience every time. Easy to learn, but a lifetime to master.

Surprisingly, the simplistic graphics make the experience enjoyable. It’s gray, white, and shades of gray. The smooth animations of the runner and the birds make it a pleasure to watch. Seeing the runner’s arms flail in the air never gets old. There’s also some nice narrative touches going on in the background.

For maximum awesome, headphones recommended.

The sound may be the best thing the game has to offer. From a great soundtrack to the beats of the runner’s footsteps on different material, it offers an immersion that one might overlook. Even the flapping of the bird wings is detailed.

Canabalt is available for FREE online as a flash game and in the App Store for $3. The iPod Touch version doesn’t have any buttons. Just tap.

Developer Semi Secret Software created this gem in five days for the Experimental Gameplay Project. This is an experiment that succeeded.

The game measures your progress by the distance ran. Give us your free-running record in the comments and become a legend.

This Game You Should Play: Star Guard

Star Guard is one of those rare games that come along and wow you on simplicity alone.  The premise: guide the spaceman through the castle and defeat the wizard. You are green. The bad guys are red.  Along the way, you get little bits (ha!) of narrative in the form of text overlays.

The controls are simple: shoot with X and jump with Z. The left and right arrows are for movement. The author of the game suggests using a gamepad, and I would concur with the later stages of the game. There will be the need for some fast shootin’!

The game’s charm comes in its accessible gameplay and little nods to humor via the enemies and their placement in the levels. However, this platformer probably has the simplest aesthetic I’ve ever played in a game since Combat on the 2600. At most, six colors are used.

There are a few perks for the diehards such as a hard mode and a trial mode (the levels are timed) that can be played on the game’s nine levels. In hard mode you get one life whereas in normal they are infinite. There are checkpoints in the levels, and when you die you continue from them. There’s an interesting twist that the enemies and traps you’ve set are still gone from your first failed run through a level (if you got, say, half-way). In essence, you could go through a section and not have to do anything but reach the exit if you had earlier died at the end.

It’s available for Windows and Mac as a FREE download from developer Vacuum Flower’s website. See the key word? FREE. It was made in Flash but has it’s own executable. Perfect for a USB stick game on the go.

Lastly, it’s a 2010 Independent Games Festival Finalist in the Excellence in Design category. Based on the fun I’ve had with this title the last three days, it should be a contender.

Giving Back

Probably one of the greatest success stories to ever come from the gaming community–and probably the Internet–has been Penny Arcade. I think here is the reason why.

Eidos: There’s A Pirate In My Belfry

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a great game. Its an excellent game. You should be playing it. Its good enough to pay for. Apparently that wasnt the case for one gamer who made the following post on an Eidos forum:

"Hi!
I’ve got a problem when it’s time to use Batman’s glide in the game. When I hold , like it’s said to jump from one platform to another, Batman tries to open his wings again and again instead of gliding. So he fels down in a poisoning gas. If somebody could tel me, what should I do there."

There were two initial problems with this. One, it was for help on the PC version of the game. It had not been released yet. Two, its not a glitch. From an admin on the forum who replied to the original poster:

"The problem you have encountered is a hook in the copy protection, to catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free.

It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code."

Uh, snap?

Look forward to seeing a lot more of these wonderful conversations as more publishers adopt this style of copy protection.

Source: Afterdawn.

King of Kong – The Rematch

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary about video game records. It’s an amazing documentary. Period. Maybe one of the best I’ve seen.

In it, the challenger Steve Wiebe squares off against Billy Mitchell for the Donkey Kong world record. Actually, Steve does a lot of playing and Mitchell does a lot of – talking?

What’s the big deal now? Steve is going to try and break the record at E3 on June 2nd. A bigger deal? Twin Galaxies (how far can you throw them?) will be there to verify it as well as G4TV. I think G4 will be there to verify Twin Galaxies.

Anyway, if you’ve not seen the documentary, you should. I felt for Steve. Teared up with him as well.

Here’s hoping Steve and Billy get their dues. My guess is Billy won’t even be there, but he’ll make a statement.

A Demigod’s Transparency, the Sad Truth

Optimized.sad

Lost potential?

Ironically, and not entirely by design, weve chatted up a couple of items regarding lost potential in the recent months. It appears with all the online problems and piracy that Demigod might be turning out to be one of those titles.

Stardocks CEO, Brad Wardell, doesnt seem to think so. In a post on his blog (ImpulseDriven no less) he gives a state of the union address a month in to the games release. In talking about Gamestop breaking the street date:

This wouldnt normally have been that big of a deal except this happened to be over Easter weekend and the release servers for the game werent yet up. Moreover, it also caused the warez version (i.e. theres no copy protection on the game so the warez version meant someone bravely zipping it up and putting it up on a torrent) resulting in over 100,000 people using it at once before we were even back from Easter break. Suffice to say, it wasnt a pretty picture.

Online play for your online game? Nope. Pirates are causing the problem. It seems as if Brad is putting a little bit of blame on Gamestop and the pirates. They were not ready to handle the load. 100,000 people had the game illegally and 18,000 legitimate users were left out in the cold because the pirates (surprise!) were trying to play online games.

For the first few days, we struggled to migrate people to a different set of servers that only legitimate users had access to.

Ah, the sad truth. Now, whos fault is it really? If you have a backdoor DRM check (Irony for Stardock. They are Digitally Managing their Rights) wouldnt it have been wise to have a honeypot for all the retched hive of scum and villainy.

But our woes werent over yet. It became pretty clear that the NAT servers (the servers that negotiate the connection between player A and player B couldnt handle the # of users on the game resulting in a horrible online experience. 

Moving on.

Demigods connectivity problems have basically boiled down to 1 bad design decision and 1 architectural limitation.  The bad design decision was made in December of 2008 when it was decided to have the network library hand off sockets to Demigod proper.  In most games, the connection between players is handled purely by one source. For instance, in Supreme Commander, GPGNet handled the entire connection.

Ah, the sad truth. Stardock and Gas Powered Games decided to use a peer to peer type of technology instead of a technology what as Brad calls most games use.

It took us a solid week to realize that this was the problem because we assumed the issue was compatibility with routers or ISPs.

Ah, the sad truth. When in doubt, its the customers or the ISPs fault. All of them? Actually, it took them close to three weeks to fix it by contacting the developer of the network library and even pulling in the Impulse team on it. Essentially, theyve had to re-write the network code and/or the way all the connections happen on the fly. Updates to the game have been numerous.

A couple of other items are mentioned in the post.

Q: What is publisher Stardock planning to do for Demigod players?

A: The plan is to send out an email this week to users who purchased Demigod prior to today with a coupon for 50% off of Demigod that they can give to their friends.   In addition, next week we will begin sending coupons for other things on Impulse to active Demigod players to help ensure a vibrant multiplayer community. We plan to keep doing that periodically.

Awesome. I already know who I am giving mine to. Some people have stated that this is a sign that Stardock has not sold as many as they would have liked. The piracy has cut in to the sales.

Ah, the sad truth. Theyre wrong. According to NPD, even with the crazy launch Demigod came in third its week of release. Its still currently in the top ten a month later. The coupon will only increase their sales.

Q: What about a demo?

A: Wed probably already have a demo out if we hadnt been messing with this.  But yes, there will be a demo.  In all likelyhood, it will probably be a multiplayer only demo since we want to reassure people when the demo comes out that connectivity is totally nailed and bullet proof.  This is different than our original plan which would have been a single player only demo with 2 demigods and 1 map. So were still thinking about how to do this in a way that has the most benefit to us and potential customers.

Ah, the sad truth. It makes me really wonder why there wasnt one to begin with. I think they may have suspected something was up. However, pre-release demos are not usually Stardocks thing.

There are a couple more common questions that Brad answers including more demigod types, his response to sales and reviews (a little under pace to Sins of a Solar Empire, and its their fault initial review scores are low), and his outlook (it will surpass any game theyve done so far).

Even though weve focused on some sad truths, the transparency of this company has been nothing but stellar. Almost daily Brad has informed the gaming masses what they are doing and continue to do with this game. Could we imagine some other big name developers (and Stardock is not, really) doing the same thing?

I think not, and thats a sad truth.

Find a friend with a coupon and get this game. The single-player tournament is still fun, and multi-player games are getting better.

Dreamcasting Ikaruga

Ikaruga is perhaps my favorite shooter of all time. I own an original Japanese copy of the game for the Dreamcast.

It’s rare. Like hundreds of dollars on eBay rare.

Years ago, in a fit of madness I sold my used Dreamcast on eBay but kept Ikaruga. My original intention was to create an arcade cabinet, but I just didn’t have the room. I do now.

Well, today is a new day. I just bought a BRAND NEW Dreamcast from Thinkgeek for $100!

Coign of Vantage

Select the pic for a full image

I came across intriguing flash game while catching up on some blog reading. Coign of Vantage is simplistic in its presentation and professional in its style of play.

You basically rotate a set of pixels in a 3D space using your mouse until they line up to make the picture in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

The game plays like a sane version of a Warioware gamefast paced, but soothing. (Its a game that politely whispers that it should be a WiiWare or DSi title.)

The thing that impresses me the most is that it is only played with two clicks. Two puzzles are cleverly disguised as a calibration for the mouse range. Its a perfect example of using the game to train a person to play it while also adapting and configuring itself to the players system.

It hovers near the territory of Flower. It may not be as expansive, but it comes close to its design philosophy.

Source: Man Bytes Blog

Hulk vs. Wolverine

I’ve been following this movie whenever they show new clips. I thought I would share this one with everybody. It was going to be a rental for me but I might have to actually consider buying it. 😉 There is also a Hulk vs. Thor movie coming out that was more appealing to me but, after this clip I think I’m beginning to be swayed. Wolverine used to be favorite Marvel character until they over used him. I still like him though, don’t get me wrong.

I think my favorite part is when Wolverine learns to fly.

‘Tis The Season To Save

If you’ve managed to survive Christmas dinner and the Boxing Day sales, there’s one more goodie under the virtual tree this year from our good friends at Valve.

Steam is having a massive sale from now until Jan. 2, 2009. Everything is 10-75% off and there are some great deals to be had. I snagged World Of Goo for $15 (I couldn’t justify getting it for $20) as well as Ghost Master ($3) and Runaway: The Dream Of The Turtle ($7). Nothing like getting 3 games for $25, I say.

There are some really good deals on publisher bundles as well and it would be a shame for those of you interested in some unique indie games or even some big titles from the past year or two to miss out on these deals.