Weekend Gaming


NieR is a weird game. That’s not a very hot take, I’m just being honest. I went into NieR:Automata knowing next to nothing about the NieR universe (other than I read you could fish in a previous iteration of the series and that the fishing was surprisingly fun). I’ve logged almost four hours in the game so far and, still being honest here, I have no idea what’s going on. I’m 2B, my friend(?)/partner(??) is 9S and I’m pretty sure we’re androids. There are these little floating drones that follow us around and shoot at things and occasionally serve as an assist when I make an ill-advised jump from somewhere high. I think the earth was overrun by machines at some point and almost all the humans live on the moon now (I think? I haven’t talked to many humans yet.)

I’ve been down to earth a couple times, fought a crane robot bad guy that would make the Constructicons proud and then a little while later this happened:

Japan, amiright?

Anyway, now I am working my way through an amusement park, populated by machines in clownsuits and robots that shoot balloons from their hands. I couldn’t be more confused and I think I really like it. If you want to read about reviews of other products visit top9rated.

So it’s a NieR weekend for me. I might squeeze in a Duelyst match or two and possibly some Dota, but I think NieR gets the lion’s share of my time.

What are you playing?

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)?

In My Hand (Literally)

razer_deathadder

Decided it was time to up my mouse game for the Gaming PC Workhorse (even though it’s been in service for over a year). For the longest time, I’ve been running a vanilla Logitech M510. While a perfectly serviceable mouse, it is wireless and I never could find an optimal place to plug in the little USB wireless nub. It might be totally psychosomatic, but I blamed any hiccup I noticed on the placement of the dongle. It’s been nagging me even more acutely lately when the mouse seems to lag slightly or outright not react to my movements. When you’re as bad as I am at games, every mis-click and mis-movement is amplified by my initial lack of skill.

So after some research at my favorite Recommendation Engine (The Wirecutter) and some PC Gaming reading, I decided on the Razer Deathadder. It’s not the “Chroma” version the Wirecutter recommends, but it’s just a minor stepdown from it. I had also considered the Cooler Master Mizar but my local PC Mecca (Microcenter) was out of stock, so Razer it is!

So far, so good. This mouse is definitely a +1 to movement smoothness and a 25% increase in point-and-click efficiency.

Buttonmashing Deal of the Day

For those of you who are PC Gamers:

The PC Gamer’s Manifesto

Having recently come into possession of something I can only classify as a “gaming PC”, I realize it would be silly to own this thing and not use it to actually play games. Certainly it is very capable of doing my usual Facebook and blogging updates, but it is capable of so much more. However, I also remember quite clearly that it was not a lack of hardware that has turned me into a near exclusive console gamer in the past few years. I’ve still played the occassional PC game, but only as a rare foray since the PC was the obvious or only platform of choice.

Powerful hardware or not, I will turn this machine back around and make it some of the most powerful hardware used to poke people on Facebook if the PC gaming industry doesn’t start to shape up. I’m willing to be enticed away from consoles again, but here is what it will take to get me back as a regular PC gamer.

1. Your game will install easily and work the first time
I am sick and tired of installing games that don’t work, that want me to update my drivers, or doesn’t actually run on hardware that the box claims it supported. I dealt with the old days of trying to switch between expanded and extended memory and constantly trying to keep from getting the two mixed up. Oh how I would love to go back to that problem compared the what the average install has become. In the past two years I have had more games with install problems than not. If anything it seems like this is getting worse. PC games are not a new phenomenon, this should not be hard! Your chief competitor only requires someone to pop in a disc and start playing. I’m not asking for that level of simplicity, but I think asking for an install process that works is not unreasonable. These are games, not enterprise level business applications.

2. You will design games for systems people actually own
I hate the claim “The PC is the largest platform base”. It’s not true because there is so much hardware and operating system variation that is lumped in under “PC”. Laptops typically have integrated graphic cards that are nowhere near the capabilities of what is inside a dedicated desktop gaming computer. Somewhere along the way you must make a business decision as to what kind of market you will support. I hate to point this out, but more and more people are going the laptop route, which means you desperately need to figure out how to support those “lousy” integrated graphic cards or lose a huge chunk of your market.

3. Your copy protection will not keep me from playing the game
I paid money for your product. I kept my end of the bargain. Your end of the bargain is to give me the product you advertised. When I can’t play your game because your stupid copy protection scheme has some issue with my system settings, chosen install location, or some random occurrence based on the position of the stars we have a problem. If I can’t get my money back, chances are good I will not buy a game from you again. Even if I can get my money back, the process of trying to return software is so egregious that I’m unlikely to risk putting money down on your products in the future.

4. Your copy protection scheme must have no impact on the game
I often hear claims about how cracked games have often run better because they’re not running the copy protection software in the background. I’m willing to let that go as hearsay evidence at best, but I also know enough about software to understand those claims are entirely plausible. If your copy protection is making the pirated version of your product the superior choice then you’ve created a self-defeating process. If I see system processes kicking off in conjunction with performance problems while running the game, it won’t take much for me to figure out if its some stupid scheme you’ve got running in the background. If this happens I will avoid your products in the future.

5. You will not treat your customers like criminals
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer physical media and I don’t mind a bit having the disc in the DVD-ROM while playing even if the game is entirely installed on the hard drive. That said, if I own authentic physical media then we should be done. I should not have to verify my identity, be forced to register, or do anything that involves some external process to prove that I paid for the game. This is a huge public relations problem. We already live in a world were many valuable products are locked away until some underpaid struggling college student comes to unlock it for us. We go through security scanners, have security tags removed, and receipts verified all too often for my comfort. When I get home I feel like my domain is sacred. Having your product then come up and ask for identification is a slap in the face.

6. I should not have to mod your game to make it playable
I do not pay for unfinished software. Every piece of software has bugs, every piece of software has issues. The more complex it is, the more problems it has. See, I get it. I’ve been in software development for over a decade. I know what you go through to get a product to market. I do. However, there is a reasonable level of expectation that says I am buying a finished product that will work as advertised. In my world that’s “works as documented”, but it’s the same thing. We don’t want bugs in software, they’re just nearly impossible to avoid. I hate it when I complain about a game and the first response is “You need to download mod [X]”. WRONG! I paid for the game, I installed it, I may have gone through who knows how many convolutions already just to get to this point. Now I have to go spend additional effort researching, downloading, and installing something else? Probably something being offered for free? Mods are not a crutch and should not be required. Having mod support is a nice feature, but the average Joe and Jane are not going to do anything further to your software. Instead they will just perceive an inferior product. As for me, the not-so-average Joe, what I see is a poor effort turned in with expectations of access to my wallet. I have every right to be offended.

7. Your game should not crash at random
Games crash. Software crashes. Even some console games have the occasional glitch. Like I said before, every piece of software has bugs. Even knowing that, you should have a graceful way of handling errors. You desperately need to address memory leaks and not just hope the game’s garbage collection handles it before it crashes, assuming you even bothered to do enough memory management to actually implement garbage collection. It’s one thing to have a workaround to a problem, it’s an entirely different matter to suddenly find yourself back at the desktop for no reason. That doesn’t feel good to the consumer, especially if they were in the midst of an epic battle.

In short, what I’m saying is that your product needs to be usable. I need to be able to judge a game based on how well it plays. Unfortunately, I’m having to surmount many obstacles just getting to the point of being able to even play the game. By that time I’ve already soured on your product. I used to enjoy PC gaming, but what turned me off wasn’t the increasing abilities of consoles but the passive-aggressive attitudes of PC game developers towards their customers, a constant refusal to adapt to the market, and increasing difficulty in actually getting games to work on hardware that was fairly standard.

If you want to call yourself a PC game developer then quit treating your customers like the enemy and give them the products they paid for. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Timeless List: Warning Forever

Warning ForeverThere are a few games that I keep on my “list”. These are games that no matter what, when I reinstall my OS or upgrade my computer they are the first things to be installed. There’s a criteria that these games have to meet: replayability over more than 18 months, easy to pick up but difficult to master, and cause me to stay up all night on more than two occasions. So far, only two titles make that list, but I’ve now added a third. Last Friday, it met the 18 month requirement.

I introduce you to Warning Forever.

I don’t know what it is about this game that keeps drawing me back to it. It’s perfect for killing some time on a break at work and it’s also great for getting lost in immersive, repetitive gameplay. What makes this shooter unique from most other games is that it’s a game of bosses. Yes, you read that right. There are no wave after wave of peons. Just bosses. More accurately, you could say that it’s a boss that learns.

The player has a certain amount of time to defeat the boss, you’re also penalized for dying. The boss certainly isn’t. Every time you face him, he evolves to best suit your playing style. Keep attacking him from the front and the next evolution you face will have more armor in the front. If he kills you with rockets during one phase, you can be sure that he will have stocked up on more rockets next time around. Basically, he adapts to your strengths and preys on your weaknesses.

This type of responsive AI really causes the player to have to think ahead strategically. Do you widen your attack radius and cause the boss to armor up all over, or do you narrow your attack to certain areas? Do you attack from the side, front, or behind? Maybe you decide to circle the boss? Whatever you do, you get a sense over time that you are playing a real entity. (Which might be a good indicator that you need to stop).

There are nine possible evolution paths with subpaths under each evolution for the boss. This mathimatically tranlastes to fifteen or sixteen levels you face before reaching the end. I’ve only gotten to twelve. Needless to say, it gets intense. It’s also different eact time you play.

The game can be customized is areas of time, lives, and other options such as sudden death. There’s a high score list as well as a neat feature of using your own MP3s for music. For a simplisticly styled game, the vector graphics hold up well, even in this day and age of Geometry Wars style gameplay. The control scheme may turn players off, actually, because it does take three to five playthroughs to get a feel for it. However, it’s a lot like riding a bike. It just simply clicks and you’ll see how intuitive the control really is.

Here’s the best part: it’s FREE. It was programmed by Japanese developer Hikoza T Ohkubo and is available on his website. It’s a small download that’s great for running of a USB stick. Don’t tell the devloper, but if he sold it, I would most definitely pick it up.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the image of which I slightly edited).

BONUS: Be sure to check out Ray Hound as well.