Weekend Gaming – Offworld Trading Company, DOOM

Mars is the Roman god of war. He is a representation of aggression and conflict. The Romans celebrated Mars for what he represents because war was a way of securing peace, even though peace was usually achieved by submission from the bloodied pulp of the empire’s foes. Meh. No matter, a means to an end. Roma Victrix, n00bs!

Mars is also a planet – Our neighbor, in fact. Howdy-ho neighborino! The planet earned its namesake because of its reddish hue as seen from Earth’s surface. Blood, being red, is also seen splattered all over Earth’s surface during the throes of war. Therefore, the Romans figured, let us name that red dot in the sky after our god of blood splatters and glory.

mars-orbital-photo-edit

Mars, it just so happens, is also the setting for two of the games I plan on playing this weekend – both of which share pretty much the same types of cutthroat, purposeful aggression as our Roman friends enacted while under the gaze of their reddish god.

Offworld Trading Company (Mohawk Games)

I was all over this game last week, hell-bent to git gud, or, at least, to understand. And I do understand. I really do. It’s a bloody good game, deserving of every shred of critical praise it receives. I haven’t even touched the campaign, focusing instead on skirmishes and working up the cajones to dabble in free-for-all multiplayer mode — perhaps this weekend.

In order to improve my gameplay I started off at a measured pace, pausing prodigiously during skirmishes and learning from my mistakes. I made a habit after every game to learn from one single error that I made. But my desire to improve quickly exceeded my ability and I hit a wall. I started repeating the same fatal mistakes such as overlooking my fuel consumption, not reacting to the market, trying too hard to influence the market, not building enough power generators, building too many power generators, etc. etc. etc. Matches would stretch on and on only to see my company ultimately bought up. And so, I tilted.

At the onset of this week I decided to side-step from OTC – to regroup, as it were. Still, watch some Zultar commentaries, and think about my own mistakes. But overall, to turn my attention to another completely different game that takes place, at least initially, upon the same martian surface as this cut-throat economic strategy game.

DOOM (id Software)

I cannot recall the last time I gamed from the couch. I didn’t even know that I missed it. I also didn’t even know how badly I needed DOOM in my life right now. The planets are aligned.

DOOM is just straight up fun. It is agreeable in so many ways. Everything the game does seems to flush you into another rumble with a swarm of demons. And the more you move, the better time you’ll have. It is so propuslive. The fighting is fluid. In fact, I would say the fighting almost has a tactical quality to it with how easy it is to toggle weapons and cater upgrades. And the glory kills! What a wonderful design decision to force close encounters as a primary source of replenishment. And the fact that you can target a specific glory kill animation is so completely pointless yet so necessary…

Indeed. The fighting is fun, yes. But I am also so impressed with how the entire experience is composed. I am reminded of Metalocalypse with its propensity towards ironic/hyperbolic use of violence and gore and heavy mothereffin metal… but it is still so completely, genuinely badass. DOOM walks that fine line. So much so that glory killing a demon by ripping out his heart and shoving it down his throat is equal parts hilarious and practical. Bravo.

So, yeah… I’ll be hanging out on Mars this weekend. I’ll be sure to send a postcard splattered with blood and minerals.

What are you playing this weekend?

I hope your weekend goes better than his. <3

I hope your weekend goes better than his.

Weekend Gaming – Offworld Trading Company

Offworld Trading Company is weird.

No. I take that back. Offworld Trading Company is in fact quite elegant. A description worthy of even more celebration when you consider what the game does: It completely redraws what a RTS can be. An approach this new, working so well the way that it does, takes a little bit of time to get onboarded – for me, at least.

No. OTC is not the weird one. I’m the weird one.

I’m still learning the ropes. I’m taking the task of learning this game in measured paces, and this process has generated an unusual matrix of emotions. Indeed. Never before has a game made me feel so self-powered and competent yet so dadgum blockheaded. Although, I trust that practice will help chisel my blockhead into something less grotesque and stupid looking…

Offworld Trading Company Screen Shot

Yes. The skill ceiling in the game seems to be so very high. N00b mistakes are common but so very valuable. Every game I learn something new, one golden nugget of truth that I can carry with me into the next skirmish. These nuggets can be little things like figuring out how to toggle auto-sell – all the way up to big things like overbuilding with complete and utter oversight to energy costs.

Little things. Big things. And everything inbetween. Learning how to play Offworld Trading Company has never been frustrating; it’s always been fun, enlightening, and with a healthy dose of DERP! mixed in. It is rarely about how to do something, but when…When, when, when! Freaking, WHEN!? This is a testament to how well-designed OTC is. I dig it.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – The International 6, Grand Finals

The International 2016 has certainly captured our attention this past week. Dota2’s annual championship continues to be so captivating, so exciting, so distracting that the prospect of any other types of personal gaming or Twitch streaming on our part is simply a non-factor.

And with the finals coming up today, well… let’s just say that I am still sitting on this newly acquired mound of AGEOD games courtesy of BundleStars. I’ve got bigger business to attend to…

TI6 logo

As do Wings Gaming! Now nested comfortably in the final position, their progression through the upper bracket looks like it was an easy coast, easily crushing several old dogs of the professional Dota scene.

All that remains is for Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses to face off. The winner of this series moves on to oppose Wings in the final. DC’s performance has been especially impressive when you consider the work they’ve done to get to where they are now. EG has likewise had quite the slog. The group stage was less than favorable, but their time in the upper bracket showed some redeeming qualities. This series does promise to be bombastic as both teams are still very strong and have scary midlaners.

Whichever of these two teams moves on, the Grand Final of TI6 will still be awesome, heightened by the fact that it is also a bitter rematch as both teams at one point were booted down to the lower bracket by Wings. Good stuff!

Personally, I don’t really give a rat’s patoot who wins between DC and EG. They both are directly responsible for eliminating EHOME. And since I root for EHOME, I therefore can only hope that Wings will shut down either one of these ‘Murican teams in the Grand Final.

But let us set aside petty squabbles and incessant pouting about my favorite team totally hitting a wall and playing like a bunch of scrubs after what was easily one of the greatest matches in the history Dota. Let us instead focus on some of the highlights of a competition that clearly year-after-year only improves in performances and production.

EHOME vs. EG

Collectively amongst the ButtonMashing group, we are all STILL coming down from game 1 of EHOME vs. EG. That was three days ago. This is an example of ‘real’ Dota. See, when casuals que up for a pub match, the tendency is to play selfishly, to break down the whole team aspect of the game. But, as illustrated by EG, when a team can keep their heads on straight, get creative with itemization, react accordingly, and coordinate, then some awesome Dota tends to blossom from that.

Fnatic’s climb through the brackets

Taking us all by surprise, Fnatic fought and scrapped their way through the muck. They went down swinging. Plus, midone’s persistent Juggernaut pick and eventual dominance takes Sir Tony ButtonMasher to his happy place.

Elder Titan and Shadow Demon and Sand King

I am absolutely tickled — TICKLED — by how often Elder Titan was drafted. The same goes for Shadow Demon. Sand King’s caustic finale was the bane of so many melee cores through the tournament. These heroes, when played competently, will do so much for the team. And often are the unsung heroes. Such is the life of an offlaner and support.

New Dota2 Heroes, Monkey King and Underlord

After the DC victory last night, all fans were treated with a striking live performance including Taiko drumming and cavorting sword-wielders. Indeed. Monkey King, wielding his very own MKB, made his presence known to an unsuspecting crowd. An excitement still riding high on the revealing of yet another hero, Underlord, only the day before. Dota is unstoppable.

The Production of TI6

Lastly, for what it is worth, I just want to give a quick commend to all the cast and crew responsible for broadcasting this year’s The International. I am not an esports advocate in any sense of the word, but the professionalism shown in the casting and production this year has been phenomenal – aside from the muppets segment on day one (wtf was that?), and, perhaps, @SirActionSlacks even allowed to be on the premises let alone hold a microphone and squawk into a camera. Purge’s play post-game analysis was always informative. ReDeYe, the true veteran he is, maintained a great pace at the panel. And commentators like Draskyl and OD, gave an extra dimension of excitement and immersion. This is far from a comprehensive list, all the more illustrating that The International is becoming quite the force of nature.

Good stuff, all around. And what’s better, the winner of the Grand Final walks away with a handsome $9 million. Well done, Dota community. Well done.

Weekend Gaming, circa 2008

Did you hear that the video game weblog, buttonmashing.com, is now on Twitter? So, in honor of finally getting involved in some Serious Social Media (follow us, why don’t ya!), this weekend’s gaming is a throwback.

While the Twitter account represents the site as a whole, our Managing Editor Nick has been running the Twitter account to great effect. Earlier this week, he tweeted about a minor issue I had with my PC — the power supply went kaput:

So I made the pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca, Micro Center. I picked up a new power supply (an EVGA 650 GQ) and started tinkering under the hood. Prior to the power supply failure, I had been dealing with issues with a hard drive I installed when I first built the PC. Might as well try to solve that problem while working on the power supply.

I think some cabling was loose, so after the power supply was installed and I got everything buttoned up, I booted the machine up and lo and behold the issues with the hard drive were gone. My precious gigs, which I thought were lost to the ages, were suddenly there. (They were empty gigs, but I have plans for them!). To test out the hard drive and make sure everything was copacetic, I picked a title out of my steam library that I knew wouldn’t need the speed and horsepower of the SSD that I could install to the old-school hard drive. I settled on reinstalling Recettear: An Item Shop Tale

recettear

I won’t bore you with the details of Recettear, only to say it’s a mashup of a simple hack-and-slash RPG and a Shopkeeper simulator. It’s very Japanese Cutesy and that’s all I’m going to say about that. I’m addicted and I’m not ashamed to say so. I think a good portion of this weekend’s gaming will be going towards making my Item Shop the Best Item Shop.

With all systems GO!, I decided to reinstall Spelunky on the newly fixed hard drive as well, inspired by one of Nick’s recent streams. I don’t quite rage like Nick can, but Spelunky is still a never ending stream of rage-inducing moments.

So welcome to 2008 this weekend! I’ll be your host, introducing you to such wonders as Indie Darlings Spelunky and Recettear, and give you an introduction to this new fangled social media site, Twitter dot com. Why won’t you join us on this trip down recent memory lane!

What will you be playing this weekend (2008 or not)?

Weekend Gaming – Atlas Reactor, System Crash

There’s been low-level chatter amongst the ButtonMashing crew about investigating Atlas Reactor. The game is currently F2P, and will be so for the next six days. So, since Dota and Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League have been on the backburner for quite some time, we figured it is time to try a new team-based PvP game where we get snippy, huffy puffy at each other.

4v4 PvP

Personally, I think Atlas Reactor looks very promising. It is one of those examples of genre merging that yields something fresh and exciting. I like that it is a primarily tactical game and coordination with teammates is essential. Plus, the psychological element, the game theory, the need to get into the heads of your opponents’ will also give an advantage – So cool. And then, when all tactical decisions have been made, the orders are all carried out simultaneously, the potential spectacle value of just this is enough to warrant checking the game out.

On other fronts, we’ve been given a review code for System Crash. It is a cyberpunk CCG with a singleplayer campaign steeped in heady subterfuge and electronica music. I’ve only been able to dip my toes in but I can confidently report: So far, so good! The presentation and setting is convincing. An initial impression is that the AI is a conniving little devil, it doesn’t mess around. And I already despise haste cards – unless, of course, I am the one playing it, in which case: I love haste cards! Expect a full review of System Crash sometime early next week.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – The Confusion (not a video game)

A thought keeps recurring. This thought goes something like: Take a break from video games for a little bit. If anything, for as long as it takes to finally – FINALLY – finish reading The Confusion. You’ve only got 150 more pages to go. Neal Stephenson is your literary comfort food. Instead of poking around, aimlessly playing stuff from your steam library, return to Mr. Stephenson’s world and dwell happily therein.

Not a Video Game

Not a Video Game

But then I read about new updates made to Thea: The Awakening which perks my curiosity. Or, I get pulled back into the undertow of the twin-stick madness of Waves, of which I crushed my previous high-score of 93mil with a staggering 1.2bil. And then fellow ButtonMashers put a little bug in my ear about Hex: Shards of Fate, and I tinker with that for a little bit. And then I just randomly booted up the Risk-like domination game Lux Delux. And then I wanted to give Prison Architect another shot. And then I found it Bastion is 5 years old today, so I wanted to revisit that…

And then… And then…
And then…

I normally don’t like just skipping along the surface like this. I like to be able to dig into a game. And while every single one of the game mentioned above are totally legit, I haven’t allowed myself to gain any traction with them. This can lead to underwhelming and unsatisfying gametime.

Maybe it is time to heed this recurring thought. This need to tip the scales in favor of the printed word over video games always seems to happen mid-late summer for me. All things considered, perhaps this is the weekend where I make a clean break from the desktop and burrow into the reading chair to finally finish the last fraction of The Confusion.

Play doubly hard for me this weekend, dear reader. I’m sitting this one out.

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads - Neal Stephenson

Writer of Words, Shaver of Heads – Neal Stephenson

Weekend Gaming – Vietnam ’65

Two weeks ago I posted an idea about how to buy games during the Steam summer sale ‘16. Last week I explained how I almost strayed from this idea but mustered the resolve to continue forward and to spend and play wisely during Steam’s bi-annual extravaganza.

I am here now to report that between last week and now my plan has gone completely and utterly fubar. The third portion of my meticulously mapped idea fell apart. None of the games I planned on buying were purchased. And instead of piecemealing my acquisitions, I went ahead and hoarded like a buffoon – the complete opposite of what I had so steely resolved against doing!

My plan was disrupted by the discovery of a curated list over at wargamer.com. Here, Alex Connelly posted a game recommendation once a day for nine days – And I tell you what, they are fantastic recommendations! Each post gave a succinct run-down of what the game is, what makes it unique, why it succeeds, and how much its Steam discount is. As someone who is just now dabbling in the war game subgenre, I found this intel very useful and exciting, and I acted on it…

This weekend I shall be diving deeper into the intricacies of Connelly’s day #2 recommendation, Vietnam ‘65. It is a wonderfully designed game that places you in a very narrow time and place during a specific and rather unpopular war. vietname65 Because the view is so focused the game only gives you a handful of units to be familiar with. But these sparse number of units each have tremendous utility in trying to
pacify charlie along the Ho Chi Minh trail, all the while trying to garner political support for the war back home – Very cool ideas in this game. This is also my first exposure to a counterinsurgency game, and I am loving it, though it is easy to fumble around with the UI sometimes, enacting very costly, disastrous misclicks.

You’ve done your job, Connelly! By intention or not, you’ve captured the interest of a fellow gamer. Wargames are a subgenre that I plan on reading about, if not trepidatiously. Wargamers, at least from what I have seen thus far, are very particular about certain aspect of war games – sometimes trumping even the game itself. This is a broad generalization, I know, but still, this is a whole gaming ecosystem that has a history and audience that demands attention. Am I smart enough, is my attention strong enough, to make headway? We’ll have to see.

What are you paying this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Renowned Explorers: International Society

Last week I posted the idea of a more moderate and thoughtful approach to the Steam summer sale. Instead of scooping up mounds of discounted games I proposed that you piecemeal your purchases based on the type of game it is rather than the discounted price. Doing so would thus encourage wise spending and keep Steam backlogs from bloating even more.

And then, in that same post, after breaking down the idea, I outlined three games that I would personally buy while adhering to this idea: Nuclear Throne, Renowned Explorers: International Society, Offworld Trading Company.

REIS

Well, as it turns out, things have not gone exactly as planned. I haven’t totally flown off the rails, but I have had to make a couple course corrections. It all went awry from the very beginning because Nuclear Throne is not on sale. The game is still a mere $10 but to buy it without an accompanying green discount tag sort of defeats the purpose of participating in the Steam sale at all. So, right at the onset, we had a wrinkle. This unforeseen detail threatened to derail my entire plan as I then aimlessly continued to browse the storefront and be seduced by all those pretty discounts.

NAY! I declared. Begone, ye vile temptress! Stick to the plan!

With great resolve (I’m so brave) I skipped over Nuclear Throne and went straight to Renowned Explorers, having already anticipated that the bulk of the sale would be spent playing this. And I have, and will continue to do so into this holiday weekend. It is a great game with a light-hearted style and a surprisingly deep strategic layer. It takes a little bit of playing to develop your sea-legs but once you get the feel for the game, once you can sort out all the fiddly bits, it is full steam ahead!

Admittedly, there have been several brief occasions during the last two or three hours of gametime that I thought I’d had enough, that I didn’t want to explore the same places albeit with a different crew. But then I spun a lucky roll on the game’s ‘adventure wheel’ or had a close call in an encounter or recognized a small detail in character animation, and the game dispels any whiff of gamer’s fatigue.

The attention to detail in Renowned Explorers is a joy – From character animations to the soundtrack, right down to the soundbites of tokens being collected. It is all so satisfying. The tactical encounters truly are a unique kind of dance with the enemy, with actions whose effects can ripple into subsequent turns. Characters are not merely separate entities with their own specific stats; they have their own tendencies and narrative that can thread itself throughout the campaign, sometimes, for example, relating to a specific location of an expedition, boons of which benefit the entire team.

Yes. The components of Renowned Explorers web themselves together, and it has snagged me. The game is equal parts exploration, risk-taking, greed, tactical slow-dance. And I am in it to win it.

What are you playing this weekend?

Weekend Gaming – Grim Fandango

I need a break of Paradox games. It feels like these past three months have been exclusive to either Victoria 2 or Hearts of Iron IV. I am a weary of clicking through menus and moving sprites around from province to province.

… and don’t even get me started on diplomacy. I have always bristled at diplomacy in strategy games, just in a general sort of way. Sometimes this bristling is more severe than others. In my most recent HoI4 campaign as Germany, I became full-on aggro porcupine.

In what I called the West vs. East campaign, I had the idea of starting as fascist Germany then going democratic, joining the allies and facing off against the Soviet bear. I needed some diplomatic savvy to accomplish this, and Germany, out of any other country on the map, has the political power to do so. But, instead of diplomacy being another avenue of strategy, In HoI4 it often feels like hurdles, obstacles that we need to work around. My plan to reform Germany and join the good guys was stopped cold by every ally nation having an unpurgeable ‘Base Reluctance’ towards me, healthy positive opinion towards me be damned – do you not see that I have dethroned Hitler and given power to the people, UK? Do you not see my firm stance against the wall of communism just east of my borders, USA? Do you not hear me barking these rhetorical questions at you, game? C’maaaawnnn!

This very specific and contextual situation was enough to prompt me to take a gigantic step back and, seeing how much Paradox-ing I’ve been doing, realize that I need to shift my focus to something entirely different… and praise be to an industry with the options and flavor and history to accommodate such a decision!

The last time I played Grim Fandango I had to put the compact disc into a plastic casing and then insert that into the CD-ROM. So, that was, what, a million years ago?

GF
So much time has passed since then that I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what makes Double Fine’s remaster a remaster – certainly not the cut scenes! Despite this, the game has aged well due mostly to its unique (mesoamerican meets film-noir) setting and the strong story and voice acting. Grim Fandango has a singular charm that makes it both fun and engaging. The key to this game, from what I can remember, is to talk to everyone about everything, to parse those dialog branches down to their very barebones – to get to the point where initiating a conversation with another character immediately and automatically leads to leave-taking.

Luckily, like I said, the story is fantastic and the voice acting is superb. So the process of developing a conception of its afterlife world is never dull and is critical to cluing you in to what exactly you’re supposed to do with all those items your skeletal protagonist has stashed in his suit jacket. Grim Fandango is one of the very, very rare games where I kind of, sort of, care about the story and setting in equal parts to mechanics and gameplay. And I kind of have a thing for art deco. Neato.

What are you playing this weekend, Menso?

Weekend Gaming – Hearts of Iron IV

Hearts of Iron IV is the first Paradox game that I plan on following from the get-go. Historically, with most other PDX releases, I show up late to the party and then decide which group to mingle with. I delay my arrival just enough so that the party can establish itself, reach a sort of self-sufficiency, and attract other interesting elements. That way, when I get there, the awkward part has long since faded, the munchies are out and the beverages are frosty.

DasPanzerJA

In other words, I waited to buy, for example, Crusader Kings 2 until 1) It was on sale, and 2) there were a few expansions and patches to smooth things out and add variety. I’ve done the same thing for EU4, Victoria 2, and EU3.

… but not with Hearts of Iron IV. Something about this game pricks me more than any other PDX game – and I am pretty smitten with Vicky2. It is the only matter in recent memory that I allowed myself to get hyped about (My cynicism can become rather crippling sometimes). Months before release I made the conscious decision to be apart of this game, to go along for the ride, and so far the price of admission has been well worth it. Following the message boards has been an absolute ride. I anticipate fantastic improvements and additions, aka, a little more depth in certain areas of the game, aka, stronger and more real numbers. Plus, any reason to not immediately rush fascism would be pretty not stupid as well.

For this weekend I plan on building my East Vs. West campaign, to see how many nations I can get away with annexing as fascist Germany before turning coat, going democratic, joining the allies and bulldozing the Soviets and Chinese into the Pacific. At this point I’m unsure about what to do with Italy. If they remain Axis, perhaps just let the UK sink the entire peninsula. We could turn them into Allies as well but I don’t think we would have the timeframe for that. Or maybe we’d just let them be an additional front that the commies would have to deal with. Decisions. Decisions.

What are you plaything this weekend? Decisions. Decisions.