Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Dwarf Fortress dev: ‘It’s kind of funny, we never achieved our original goals’

“This random side project suddenly becomes our fantasy game,” Dwarf Fortress co-creator Tarn Adams told PC Gamer, reflecting on the game’s development. “And it’s been strange to adapt to that.” …


Gamasutra News

Dwarf Fortress dev: ‘It’s kind of funny, we never achieved our original goals’

“This random side project suddenly becomes our fantasy game,” Dwarf Fortress co-creator Tarn Adams told PC Gamer, reflecting on the game’s development. “And it’s been strange to adapt to that.” …


Gamasutra News

Funny To A Point – The Video Game Genres Of Real Life

If you're like me, video games have crept into every corner
of your life and psyche. That's normal, right?

Video games have always been a big part of my life, so much
so that I can't help seeing connections to them in the real world, kind of like
how the Beautiful Mind guy sees numbers everywhere
(though in reality, this is probably
more accurate). In one of my
first FTAP columns
, I wrote about some of the real-life game crossovers I "played"
during last year's E3, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I've spent the past couple days obsessing casually thinking about the commonalities that video game genres share with my day-to-day activities, and as it turns out, there's a lot of them! Below is a whole list of game genres and
their totally ordinary real-life counterparts that I'm sure everyone who is a normal
person like me can relate to. So let's get started!

Genre: Platformer
Real-life equivalent:
Springtime Walks In Minnesota
Winterfell ain't got sh– on Minnesota, but this year's mild
snowy offerings have already given way to an early spring. My wife and I have
tried to capitalize on Mother Nature's blessings,
but you can't walk two feet without running into a flooded sidewalk. The
solution? My wife walks in the street like a boring, dry-shoed person, but I
approach the challenge like any platforming pro would: shimmying along sidewalk
edges, balancing on curbs, and leaping between foot-soaking puddles.
Admittedly, my approach is less Nathan Drake and more old-school Prince of
Persia – i.e. inching right up to the edge, trying to leap from a standing position,
and biffing hard.

Genre: Adventure
Game
Real-life equivalent:
Looking For My Keys
Sure, I might not be exploring some alien world or saving
the day, but the all-too-frequent quest to find my keys is like an adventure
game in every other way – from desperately scouring every inch of my environment
for clues, to futilely testing absurd solutions in hopes of progressing ("Did I maybe drop them in this box of cereal
somehow?"
). If you're inclined to assign a sub-genre, I'd probably call it a Graphic
Adventure based on the language I mutter to myself during the
frustrating search.

Genre: Endless
Runner
Real-life equivalent:
Using A Treadmill
These two activities play out identically for me – I spend
the entire time wondering why the hell I'm putting myself through such a
pointless exercise, until I quit out of sheer boredom (which usually takes about five minutes). As a result, I don't even bother downloading endless runners
anymore, and my treadmill has a bunch of boxes stacked on top of it. My wife
keeps saying we need to clear it off, but that's an easy fix: Just turn it on
and stand clear!

Genre: Fighting
Game
Real-life equivalent:
Arguing With My Wife Over Spoilers
Look, I wrote a
whole column
on my weirdness with spoilers, and I don't want to get into it
again. Suffice it to say, there's no reason to read Netflix's "next episode"
synopsis when you're going to watch said episode five seconds later – and I'll fight anyone to
the death who says otherwise (naturally, by "fight to death" I mean cover their
eyes and whisper "spoilers!" into their ear). I can't count the number of times
my wife and I have clashed over this charming personality quirk* of mine, but
thankfully we only have a 15-second window to argue before the next episode starts,
so it never escalates beyond mild annoyance.

Genre: Survival
Horror
Real-life equivalent:
Using A Public Restroom
What else is there to say? Every time I slowly creak open a
restroom door Resident Evil-style, I shudder at the horrific sights I may
encounter – then breathe a sigh of relief on the way out for having survived
another perilous adventure. It's not just me…right?

Genre: Collectible
Card Game
Real-life equivalent:
The Crap I Stuff In My Wallet
Long before Hearthstone took the industry by storm, I was
playing my own collectible card game. The goal? See how much useless crap I can
cram into my wallet. Random business cards, countless faded receipts, an
expired U of M alumni card – I might as well print out some copies of Magma
Rager and stuff them in there for good measure. I still carry around an MTA
Metro Pass for the subway in New York, and I haven't lived there for 15 years! I've
actually tried to clean out my wallet in the past, but it's been overstuffed
for so many years that my credit cards slide right out if they're not wedged into
the card slots with useless filler. I guess in that sense it's actually useful
filler – but not any less pathetic.

Genre: Farming Sim
Real-life equivalent:
Yard Work
I've written about my obsession
with Stardew Valley
in the past, but I've been known to enjoy a little IRL
gardening as well; a row of out-of-control raspberry bushes keeps our freezer
stocked with fruit all year. Granted there is one drawback, in the form of a
berry-stealing squirrel that taunts me with its cold, beady eyes at it eats the
literal fruits of my labor. Above and beyond my rodent rival, however, I just
wish the rest of the yardwork also had some tangible benefit – or that it would
be over with a few button taps.

Genre: Idle Clicker
Real-life equivalent: Elevator Buttons
I don't care if it doesn't speed up the elevator, I'm furiously tapping that button until the doors open. And the fact that the "Close Door" button is a dirty lie won't stop me from jamming on it, either – especially when I see Shea walking up.

Genre: Arcade Racing
Real-life equivalent:
My Morning Commute
Alright, alright, my drive to work would actually be the
most mundane racing sim ever, requiring you to diligently drive the speed limit at all times and use your blinker even when no one is around, while an MPR report on tax policy plays at a comfortable audio level. However, anytime I miss a light or get
stuck behind some idiot waiting to turn against oncoming traffic, I fantasize of
hitting my nonexistent turbo button and ramming everyone off the road. So I'm
going to go ahead and count that as Arcade Racing – or maybe Car Combat?

Genre: Turn-Based
Strategy
Real-life equivalent:
Troubleshooting Parental Tech Problems Over The Phone
If I had a dollar for every time I've helped my parents
figure out why they can't "boot up the Internet," I'd be as rich as the savviest
Silicon Valley snob. But figuring out the problem and conveying the solution
over the phone requires all the planning and deep strategy of a Sid Meier game – and plays out just as slowly. Each simplified command is followed by 30 seconds
of dead silence, like the transmission delay from a moon mission for
dummies. "Is there a light blinking? Unplug
it then plug it back in. Did that do anything? 
Are you sure it's not blinking? Describe what you think the icon looks like. Okay, let's start from square one: Is the computer on fire? Houston, we have a problem.**" Picking
the right strategy is the only thing saving me from a 20-minute drive to manually reboot
their modem, and I'm not thrilled with my win-loss ratio.

Genre: 4X
Real-life equivalent:
My Evening Routine
Let's see, I can do this: eXercise, eXamine my Netflix
queue, eXpand my waistline (a.k.a. take my pants off), and eXplain whatever
idiotic thing I recently did to my wife. Piece of cake.

Genre: Match-Three
Games
Real-life equivalent:
Picking Out Socks In The Dark
Before you jump to any conclusions: No, I don't have three
legs. What I do have is two different types of socks: Some black Hanes socks
with red lettering, and some cheapo knock-off socks that nevertheless still successfully cover my feet. So why grab three? Like any normal person, I pick out my
clothes in the dark after stumbling out of bed five seconds earlier – grabbing three guarantees at least two of them will match. The third usually
gets balled up and thrown at my wife when she least expects it.

Genre: Stealth
Real-life equivalent: Sneaking To Bed At 5:00AM
For me (and I'm sure you, because we've established that all of this behavior is perfectly normal), every late-night video game bender ends with an obligatory stealth sequence – i.e. turning off all the lights in the house and tip-toeing into the bedroom so as to not wake up my snoozing wife. Oftentimes, she falls asleep on the couch instead, in which case it becomes a kind of stealth/escort hybrid mission: I have to guide her to the bedroom in a half-asleep state, without bumping her into any furniture or letting her see the bedroom clock. Even when she does figure out how ridiculously late it is, she doesn't complain much – turns out that on the spectrum of male behavior, there are far worse reasons for sneaking to bed at 5:00AM than quietly playing video games in the next room.

Genre: Party Game
Real-life equivalent:
Going To Parties (Duh)
The only difference here is that there's only one mini-game
in real life, and it's seeing how much cake I can eat before I want to throw
up.

Genre: Roguelike
Real-life equivalent:
Learning Japanese In College
Just like Roguelikes, my four years of studying Japanese in
college featured a high degree of randomness, and slow, statistical improvement – and when it was over I lost all of my progress. Sad! – or as the Japanese
would say, …I can't remember.

Genre: Sandbox
RPG
Real-life equivalent:
Cleaning My Nonexistent Cat's Litterbox
I don't actually own a cat, but if I did, I imagine that
attending to the litterbox would be just like exploring the wide-open landscape of your favorite sandbox RPG – only the main questline is finding turds. That also aptly
sums up why I don't own a cat.

Looking
for a few more laughs? Click the banner below to visit Funny To A Point's fancy-pants
hub!

*Those are my words for it, but you probably guessed that… (back to top)
**If this joke bothers you because technically I'm Houston
in this scenario, then congratulations: You're as neurotic as I am. (back to top)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Funny To A Point – The Video Game Genres Of Real Life

If you're like me, video games have crept into every corner
of your life and psyche. That's normal, right?

Video games have always been a big part of my life, so much
so that I can't help seeing connections to them in the real world, kind of like
how the Beautiful Mind guy sees numbers everywhere
(though in reality, this is probably
more accurate). In one of my
first FTAP columns
, I wrote about some of the real-life game crossovers I "played"
during last year's E3, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I've spent the past couple days obsessing casually thinking about the commonalities that video game genres share with my day-to-day activities, and as it turns out, there's a lot of them! Below is a whole list of game genres and
their totally ordinary real-life counterparts that I'm sure everyone who is a normal
person like me can relate to. So let's get started!

Genre: Platformer
Real-life equivalent:
Springtime Walks In Minnesota
Winterfell ain't got sh– on Minnesota, but this year's mild
snowy offerings have already given way to an early spring. My wife and I have
tried to capitalize on Mother Nature's blessings,
but you can't walk two feet without running into a flooded sidewalk. The
solution? My wife walks in the street like a boring, dry-shoed person, but I
approach the challenge like any platforming pro would: shimmying along sidewalk
edges, balancing on curbs, and leaping between foot-soaking puddles.
Admittedly, my approach is less Nathan Drake and more old-school Prince of
Persia – i.e. inching right up to the edge, trying to leap from a standing position,
and biffing hard.

Genre: Adventure
Game
Real-life equivalent:
Looking For My Keys
Sure, I might not be exploring some alien world or saving
the day, but the all-too-frequent quest to find my keys is like an adventure
game in every other way – from desperately scouring every inch of my environment
for clues, to futilely testing absurd solutions in hopes of progressing ("Did I maybe drop them in this box of cereal
somehow?"
). If you're inclined to assign a sub-genre, I'd probably call it a Graphic
Adventure based on the language I mutter to myself during the
frustrating search.

Genre: Endless
Runner
Real-life equivalent:
Using A Treadmill
These two activities play out identically for me – I spend
the entire time wondering why the hell I'm putting myself through such a
pointless exercise, until I quit out of sheer boredom (which usually takes about five minutes). As a result, I don't even bother downloading endless runners
anymore, and my treadmill has a bunch of boxes stacked on top of it. My wife
keeps saying we need to clear it off, but that's an easy fix: Just turn it on
and stand clear!

Genre: Fighting
Game
Real-life equivalent:
Arguing With My Wife Over Spoilers
Look, I wrote a
whole column
on my weirdness with spoilers, and I don't want to get into it
again. Suffice it to say, there's no reason to read Netflix's "next episode"
synopsis when you're going to watch said episode five seconds later – and I'll fight anyone to
the death who says otherwise (naturally, by "fight to death" I mean cover their
eyes and whisper "spoilers!" into their ear). I can't count the number of times
my wife and I have clashed over this charming personality quirk* of mine, but
thankfully we only have a 15-second window to argue before the next episode starts,
so it never escalates beyond mild annoyance.

Genre: Survival
Horror
Real-life equivalent:
Using A Public Restroom
What else is there to say? Every time I slowly creak open a
restroom door Resident Evil-style, I shudder at the horrific sights I may
encounter – then breathe a sigh of relief on the way out for having survived
another perilous adventure. It's not just me…right?

Genre: Collectible
Card Game
Real-life equivalent:
The Crap I Stuff In My Wallet
Long before Hearthstone took the industry by storm, I was
playing my own collectible card game. The goal? See how much useless crap I can
cram into my wallet. Random business cards, countless faded receipts, an
expired U of M alumni card – I might as well print out some copies of Magma
Rager and stuff them in there for good measure. I still carry around an MTA
Metro Pass for the subway in New York, and I haven't lived there for 15 years! I've
actually tried to clean out my wallet in the past, but it's been overstuffed
for so many years that my credit cards slide right out if they're not wedged into
the card slots with useless filler. I guess in that sense it's actually useful
filler – but not any less pathetic.

Genre: Farming Sim
Real-life equivalent:
Yard Work
I've written about my obsession
with Stardew Valley
in the past, but I've been known to enjoy a little IRL
gardening as well; a row of out-of-control raspberry bushes keeps our freezer
stocked with fruit all year. Granted there is one drawback, in the form of a
berry-stealing squirrel that taunts me with its cold, beady eyes at it eats the
literal fruits of my labor. Above and beyond my rodent rival, however, I just
wish the rest of the yardwork also had some tangible benefit – or that it would
be over with a few button taps.

Genre: Idle Clicker
Real-life equivalent: Elevator Buttons
I don't care if it doesn't speed up the elevator, I'm furiously tapping that button until the doors open. And the fact that the "Close Door" button is a dirty lie won't stop me from jamming on it, either – especially when I see Shea walking up.

Genre: Arcade Racing
Real-life equivalent:
My Morning Commute
Alright, alright, my drive to work would actually be the
most mundane racing sim ever, requiring you to diligently drive the speed limit at all times and use your blinker even when no one is around, while an MPR report on tax policy plays at a comfortable audio level. However, anytime I miss a light or get
stuck behind some idiot waiting to turn against oncoming traffic, I fantasize of
hitting my nonexistent turbo button and ramming everyone off the road. So I'm
going to go ahead and count that as Arcade Racing – or maybe Car Combat?

Genre: Turn-Based
Strategy
Real-life equivalent:
Troubleshooting Parental Tech Problems Over The Phone
If I had a dollar for every time I've helped my parents
figure out why they can't "boot up the Internet," I'd be as rich as the savviest
Silicon Valley snob. But figuring out the problem and conveying the solution
over the phone requires all the planning and deep strategy of a Sid Meier game – and plays out just as slowly. Each simplified command is followed by 30 seconds
of dead silence, like the transmission delay from a moon mission for
dummies. "Is there a light blinking? Unplug
it then plug it back in. Did that do anything? 
Are you sure it's not blinking? Describe what you think the icon looks like. Okay, let's start from square one: Is the computer on fire? Houston, we have a problem.**" Picking
the right strategy is the only thing saving me from a 20-minute drive to manually reboot
their modem, and I'm not thrilled with my win-loss ratio.

Genre: 4X
Real-life equivalent:
My Evening Routine
Let's see, I can do this: eXercise, eXamine my Netflix
queue, eXpand my waistline (a.k.a. take my pants off), and eXplain whatever
idiotic thing I recently did to my wife. Piece of cake.

Genre: Match-Three
Games
Real-life equivalent:
Picking Out Socks In The Dark
Before you jump to any conclusions: No, I don't have three
legs. What I do have is two different types of socks: Some black Hanes socks
with red lettering, and some cheapo knock-off socks that nevertheless still successfully cover my feet. So why grab three? Like any normal person, I pick out my
clothes in the dark after stumbling out of bed five seconds earlier – grabbing three guarantees at least two of them will match. The third usually
gets balled up and thrown at my wife when she least expects it.

Genre: Stealth
Real-life equivalent: Sneaking To Bed At 5:00AM
For me (and I'm sure you, because we've established that all of this behavior is perfectly normal), every late-night video game bender ends with an obligatory stealth sequence – i.e. turning off all the lights in the house and tip-toeing into the bedroom so as to not wake up my snoozing wife. Oftentimes, she falls asleep on the couch instead, in which case it becomes a kind of stealth/escort hybrid mission: I have to guide her to the bedroom in a half-asleep state, without bumping her into any furniture or letting her see the bedroom clock. Even when she does figure out how ridiculously late it is, she doesn't complain much – turns out that on the spectrum of male behavior, there are far worse reasons for sneaking to bed at 5:00AM than quietly playing video games in the next room.

Genre: Party Game
Real-life equivalent:
Going To Parties (Duh)
The only difference here is that there's only one mini-game
in real life, and it's seeing how much cake I can eat before I want to throw
up.

Genre: Roguelike
Real-life equivalent:
Learning Japanese In College
Just like Roguelikes, my four years of studying Japanese in
college featured a high degree of randomness, and slow, statistical improvement – and when it was over I lost all of my progress. Sad! – or as the Japanese
would say, …I can't remember.

Genre: Sandbox
RPG
Real-life equivalent:
Cleaning My Nonexistent Cat's Litterbox
I don't actually own a cat, but if I did, I imagine that
attending to the litterbox would be just like exploring the wide-open landscape of your favorite sandbox RPG – only the main questline is finding turds. That also aptly
sums up why I don't own a cat.

Looking
for a few more laughs? Click the banner below to visit Funny To A Point's fancy-pants
hub!

*Those are my words for it, but you probably guessed that… (back to top)
**If this joke bothers you because technically I'm Houston
in this scenario, then congratulations: You're as neurotic as I am. (back to top)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Funny To A Point – Horizon Zero Dawn? More Like Horizon Zero Daaaang!

Now that I've set a new low bar for FTAP headlines, let's
talk about how awesome Horizon is, shall we?

Like many gamers, I've been looking forward to Horizon Zero
Dawn ever since its reveal at E3 2015. The gender politics of the Nora tribe and
Aloy's role in the matriarchal society as an outcast had my mind brimming with possibilities.
PSYCHE – it was the robot dinosaurs, obviously! I honestly can't even remember if Aloy was in the announcement trailer; it
could've been Ronald McDonald fighting that giant Thunderjaw, and I wouldn't
have noticed unless it stepped on his dumb red shoe and made a squeaking noise.

Anyway, the point is I've been excited about Horizon Zero
Dawn for years*, so when Joe brought up the possibility of playing it two weeks
early, I was more than happy to jump on the review. Well, I was mostly happy to jump on the review. I
realize that this pity party is going to be a table for one, but a lot of work
and pressure goes into reviewing a video game. Not only must you finish playing the game
before embargo deadline, you have to formulate a concrete opinion about the experience (that half the gaming
community is going to hate no matter what it is), and then turn those ideas into
words that don't sound stupid when you type them on the stupid blank page that won't stop mocking you with how stupidly blank it is.

This is all doubly true when reviewing a big game that
everyone is looking forward to, and not some bargain
bin
horse
hockey
that would earn you the video game equivalent of a Purple Heart just
for playing it to completion. In that sense, playing a big game for review is
kind of like being handed a giant bowl of ice cream, then having your grandpa
point a gun at your head and tell you that you have to eat it all in one
sitting (I'm not sure why it has to be your grandpa, but you can't deny it adds
some emotional weight to the metaphor).


If you're thinking, "Can I go to those mountains?" You can! You probably also work in PR…

Naturally, a reviewer's job is to separate those kinds of
external pressures from their enjoyment (or lack thereof) of a game. That's a
whole lot easier when you have plenty of time to play through said game. It's also
easier when said game lets you live out the Robo Jurassic Park fantasies that
you didn't even know you had until Guerrilla planted the seed in your mind like
you're the crazy wife from Inception.

I had a week to play through Horizon, but I was still a
little nervous going in. Open-world games are the bane of my virtual existence. Whenever a
game lets me wander off the scripted path, I instantly transform from The Hero
The World Needs, to Nutjob You Don't Want To Share A Bus Seat With. "Wander
Aimlessly" becomes my sole quest line, until I eventually sputter out and move
onto a different game. My Witcher 3 progress ended shortly after Geralt banged his
first lady. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, it was meeting the elf version of Billy Corgan (I honestly
don't know how anyone played beyond that point, but whatever). I can't even
remember the last time I finished an Assassin's Creed, but it was well before
Desmond rolled out of the Animus in search of a shower. Bethesda games are my absolute
worst; for some reason, my distracted
misadventures
leave me surrounded by piles of underwear-clad
corpses
with alarming consistency.

Don't get me wrong: I love open-world games and the
free-form experiences I have within them. The adventures just rarely end with me
watching credits (or surfing the web on my phone while waiting for potential
post-credits stingers).


Despite what this dubiously timed screenshot suggests, you unfortunately can't milk robots in Horizon. 

Thankfully, my vampire DNA rendered any time concerns I had about
Horizon Zero Dawn unnecessary; a few late-night marathon sessions gave me a
huge head-start in the main story, and continued to fuel steady progress throughout
the week. Well, aside from the night I was continually falling asleep while
playing. My wife was busy watching tiny house videos on our tablet (we may or may not end up living in a home designed for Keebler elves when we retire), but kept dutifully nudging me back awake whenever she noticed the on-screen action had ground to a halt. I tried to throw her off the scent by surreptitiously pulling up the world map before nodding off, but she
didn't fall for it – even with my lousy sense of direction, no one has to stare
at a map that long.

With my time-crunch fears more or less allayed, I was able focus
on what's truly important: picking every plant and twig I came across in
Horizon's massive world. The NPCs were polite enough to not say anything, but
they had to be offended. "Sure I'll help you avenge your sister's death! I'm
just going to walk down next to this river and collect some flowers and rocks
on the way, okay? No need to get pissy, we're still moving in the right general
direct – an ancient relic site! Hold on a minute; if I bring a merchant a set
of old mugs, he'll give me a loot box!"

But it's not just me – the Pavlovian response gamers get to
completing simple random tasks is a key design principle in open-world games.
Collecting stuff? Fun! Uncovering areas on your map? Fun! Upgrading your
inventory space? Fun! So what if it looks like an icon monster barfed all over
your map – look at all the crap you can do!


Warning: Just looking
at Horizon's map may give you Attention Deficit Disorder.

The thing is, most of Horizon's familiar tropes are still fun (well, not following
around "detective vision" trails, which is the virtual equivalent of the the classic mom game, "Who Tracked Mud In The House?!"). Am I tired
of sneaking into bandit camps and meticulously implanting arrows into everyone's
heads from a distance that is most certainly impossible given the craftsmanship
of the bow I'm using? I sure ain't. Am I tired of backtracking through said
bandit camp trying to remember where all the enemies were so I can loot their
corpses like the most non-heroic hero ever? Actually, I am tired of that – but
not enough to stop doing it.

Thankfully Horizon's story missions pick up the slack – but
that doesn't mean the storytelling is flawless either. For a hardline tribe that will
exile members simply for talking to an outcast like Aloy, it seems like everyone and
their mother breaks the Nora's rules all the time. Every conversation starts with
"I shouldn't be doing this," or "I shouldn't be here," or "Don't tell anyone I
talked to you" – which implies the next person you meet is also going to break
the rules by talking to you. What's the point of even having dumb rules if no
one follows them?

Unfortunately, none of the Nora tribe's banishment laws cover
dress code. Jeff Cork and I had an impromptu competition for coming up with an
apt description of how lame everyone looks. Contenders included: post-historic
hipster; Stone-age stoner; Burning Man attendee, and Brendan Fraiser circa Airheads or Encino Man. I eventually went with "roadie for a post-apocalyptic
grunge band" in my review, but there are plenty of alternative
descriptions that wouldn't make it past our swear filter.


There's also "one-eyed Shia Labeouf," which sounds like a euphemism, but is quite literal.

And yet, none of the stupid-looking characters or story flaws
prevented me from becoming utterly engrossed in Horizon's lore. Most of the time, audio
logs and diary entries in games are like gas receipts; sure, I'll never not
grab one, but I'm just going to shove it in the little compartment between the
seats (you know, the gas-receipt compartment) and never look at it or think
about it ever again.** Thanks to Horizon's deeply rooted mysteries, I actually
looked forward to reading and listening to every message I came across. Horizon's
story is so interesting that my wife would periodically ask me for updates, and
unlike
most of the time
, I was actually able to convey the plot to her.

But none of this has to do with Horizon Zero Dawn's main
selling point: ROBOT DINOSAURS. As far as I'm concerned, Guerrilla missed a
major opportunity by not simply calling it Robot Dinosaurs – or Robot Dinosaurs:
The Game if they were afraid consumers would be confused. Horizon's
mechanical creatures absolutely steal the show: They make the combat feel new
and unique, they inject the world with danger and wonder, and they constantly
keep you on your toes. Simply put, they're awesome, and if you don't want to
take my word for it, I've pulled together a few gameplay clips from my playtime
to make my case.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit A: A Series
of Unfortunate Events
Let's break this encounter down, shall we? It starts with me
excitedly running toward the Tallneck, because boy oh boy do I want to climb
that thing! In fact, I'm so enamored by the prospect that I don't see the
Watcher at the top of the stairs as he homes in on me (in my defense the boar
running alongside me was also hella distracting). I realize my mistake a few
steps later (you can practically hear the "Oh crap!" when Aloy does an
abrupt U-turn), and promptly get blinded by the humble Watcher's orb attack. A
few seconds later, I pull off a wicked headshot on the boar standing behind the
Watcher (totally meant to do that),
then follow it up with a shot on my attacker – only to get plunged into a
hectic melee with three more alerted foes. Ultimately, I walked away from the encounter
with a few scratches, but other beasts are far less forgiving…

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit B: Just Roll
It
Like this Ravager, for instance. The catlike creature does a
great job of batting the crap out of me (but I was totally kicking its butt
right before the clip begins, believe you me). Like most fights, this caused me
to fall back on Aloy's most important ability: rolling like a complete maniac.
I don't know why the combat roll is such a staple in games, because I'm pretty
sure it would be totally useless in real life; even if you didn't break your
neck diving headfirst into the ground, you'd be as sturdy as a drunk toddler
when you got back up on your feet, which ain't great when you're trying to aim a bow. Still, it's a literal life saver in Horizon though,
so never stop rolling.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit C: Fools Rush
In
Here's another pro tip for ya: Don't run up and try to whack
a giant enemy with Aloy's spear. I know it's exciting to knock a towering foe
off its feet, but even if it is stunned, it won't be for long. This is
especially true for corrupted enemies like this fuel-spewing Bellowback, as the
corruption causes continual damage if you run into the glowing red areas and
stand there like an idiot. Heck of a finishing move though – you earned that
casual stomp-off, big guy!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit D:
THUNDERJAW!
What a battle this one was! I'm only including a small clip
from my first encounter with a Thunderjaw to show how powerful a single hit from the mighty beast
is, but the full confrontation was basically a 30-minute, Moby Dick-esque
battle of attrition. I picked off chunks of armor with pinpoint precision. I
hid in the tallgrass and tried not to flinch as he fired off blindly like…well,
me in every shooter. Eventually, I detached his powerful disc launcher and used
it against him – the awesome and totally unscripted showdown represented
Horizon at its finest. The kicker? After slowly whittling him down to a sliver
of health, some jackass Carja soldier wandered in and scored the killing blow,
robbing me of the kill. Not only that, he had the gall to walk up and quip how
easy it was***, adding insult to XP-less injury.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit E: When In
Doubt, Shoot Everything
Another small clip from a much larger battle, this
alligator-like Snapmaw was giving me a real hard time, even though I set out
more traps than a demented…layer of traps (not every simile can hit it out of
the park, you know). Sometimes though, you've just got to throw caution to the
wind, grab the nearest Ravager Cannon, and shoot at everything until one of you
dies. For once it wasn't me!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit F: Team
Rocket Is Blasting Off Again!
Actually, this is just a video of one of the only bugs I
encountered while playing Horizon – enemies don't usually explode and then soar
majestically over a mountain like this. Still pretty damn awesome though, amiright?

And that in a nutshell is why I love Horizon Zero Dawn so
much. Sure, many of the activities are rehashes from other games and the
constant need to scavenge crafting items gets old. But there's also no shortage
of fun and challenging combat scenarios awaiting you, which more than make up
for all the plant-picking. Guerrilla has crafted a compelling adventure that
also happens to be one of the best-looking games of this generation – enough to
actually justify having a photo mode (Aloy's vacant stare tends to ruin
portraits though, so you'll probably want to stick to zoomed-out pics of the landscape). After 50+ hours, I still haven't gotten tired of taking on giant mechanical creatures.

Sometimes first impressions are right: Horizon Zero Dawn – and
probably the end of humanity – all comes down to robot dinosaurs.

Need a few more laughs? Click the banner below to visit Funny To A Point's fancy-pants hub!

* It's technically only been a year and a half since the game
was announced, but it feels like
years. (back to top)
** Past exceptions include: using them to wipe dirt off my hands, clean off the oil dipstick before putting it back in the engine, and once as a woefully subpar Kleenex substitute – because that's what men do! (back to top)
*** I can't remember his exact phrasing even though I recited
it verbatim to my wife at the time, who didn't share my sense of disbelief and
outrage for some reason. (back to top)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Funny To A Point – Horizon Zero Dawn? More Like Horizon Zero Daaaang!

Now that I've set a new low bar for FTAP headlines, let's
talk about how awesome Horizon is, shall we?

Like many gamers, I've been looking forward to Horizon Zero
Dawn ever since its reveal at E3 2015. The gender politics of the Nora tribe and
Aloy's role in the matriarchal society as an outcast had my mind brimming with possibilities.
PSYCHE – it was the robot dinosaurs, obviously! I honestly can't even remember if Aloy was in the announcement trailer; it
could've been Ronald McDonald fighting that giant Thunderjaw, and I wouldn't
have noticed unless it stepped on his dumb red shoe and made a squeaking noise.

Anyway, the point is I've been excited about Horizon Zero
Dawn for years*, so when Joe brought up the possibility of playing it two weeks
early, I was more than happy to jump on the review. Well, I was mostly happy to jump on the review. I
realize that this pity party is going to be a table for one, but a lot of work
and pressure goes into reviewing a video game. Not only must you finish playing the game
before embargo deadline, you have to formulate a concrete opinion about the experience (that half the gaming
community is going to hate no matter what it is), and then turn those ideas into
words that don't sound stupid when you type them on the stupid blank page that won't stop mocking you with how stupidly blank it is.

This is all doubly true when reviewing a big game that
everyone is looking forward to, and not some bargain
bin
horse
hockey
that would earn you the video game equivalent of a Purple Heart just
for playing it to completion. In that sense, playing a big game for review is
kind of like being handed a giant bowl of ice cream, then having your grandpa
point a gun at your head and tell you that you have to eat it all in one
sitting (I'm not sure why it has to be your grandpa, but you can't deny it adds
some emotional weight to the metaphor).


If you're thinking, "Can I go to those mountains?" You can! You probably also work in PR…

Naturally, a reviewer's job is to separate those kinds of
external pressures from their enjoyment (or lack thereof) of a game. That's a
whole lot easier when you have plenty of time to play through said game. It's also
easier when said game lets you live out the Robo Jurassic Park fantasies that
you didn't even know you had until Guerrilla planted the seed in your mind like
you're the crazy wife from Inception.

I had a week to play through Horizon, but I was still a
little nervous going in. Open-world games are the bane of my virtual existence. Whenever a
game lets me wander off the scripted path, I instantly transform from The Hero
The World Needs, to Nutjob You Don't Want To Share A Bus Seat With. "Wander
Aimlessly" becomes my sole quest line, until I eventually sputter out and move
onto a different game. My Witcher 3 progress ended shortly after Geralt banged his
first lady. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, it was meeting the elf version of Billy Corgan (I honestly
don't know how anyone played beyond that point, but whatever). I can't even
remember the last time I finished an Assassin's Creed, but it was well before
Desmond rolled out of the Animus in search of a shower. Bethesda games are my absolute
worst; for some reason, my distracted
misadventures
leave me surrounded by piles of underwear-clad
corpses
with alarming consistency.

Don't get me wrong: I love open-world games and the
free-form experiences I have within them. The adventures just rarely end with me
watching credits (or surfing the web on my phone while waiting for potential
post-credits stingers).


Despite what this dubiously timed screenshot suggests, you unfortunately can't milk robots in Horizon. 

Thankfully, my vampire DNA rendered any time concerns I had about
Horizon Zero Dawn unnecessary; a few late-night marathon sessions gave me a
huge head-start in the main story, and continued to fuel steady progress throughout
the week. Well, aside from the night I was continually falling asleep while
playing. My wife was busy watching tiny house videos on our tablet (we may or may not end up living in a home designed for Keebler elves when we retire), but kept dutifully nudging me back awake whenever she noticed the on-screen action had ground to a halt. I tried to throw her off the scent by surreptitiously pulling up the world map before nodding off, but she
didn't fall for it – even with my lousy sense of direction, no one has to stare
at a map that long.

With my time-crunch fears more or less allayed, I was able focus
on what's truly important: picking every plant and twig I came across in
Horizon's massive world. The NPCs were polite enough to not say anything, but
they had to be offended. "Sure I'll help you avenge your sister's death! I'm
just going to walk down next to this river and collect some flowers and rocks
on the way, okay? No need to get pissy, we're still moving in the right general
direct – an ancient relic site! Hold on a minute; if I bring a merchant a set
of old mugs, he'll give me a loot box!"

But it's not just me – the Pavlovian response gamers get to
completing simple random tasks is a key design principle in open-world games.
Collecting stuff? Fun! Uncovering areas on your map? Fun! Upgrading your
inventory space? Fun! So what if it looks like an icon monster barfed all over
your map – look at all the crap you can do!


Warning: Just looking
at Horizon's map may give you Attention Deficit Disorder.

The thing is, most of Horizon's familiar tropes are still fun (well, not following
around "detective vision" trails, which is the virtual equivalent of the the classic mom game, "Who Tracked Mud In The House?!"). Am I tired
of sneaking into bandit camps and meticulously implanting arrows into everyone's
heads from a distance that is most certainly impossible given the craftsmanship
of the bow I'm using? I sure ain't. Am I tired of backtracking through said
bandit camp trying to remember where all the enemies were so I can loot their
corpses like the most non-heroic hero ever? Actually, I am tired of that – but
not enough to stop doing it.

Thankfully Horizon's story missions pick up the slack – but
that doesn't mean the storytelling is flawless either. For a hardline tribe that will
exile members simply for talking to an outcast like Aloy, it seems like everyone and
their mother breaks the Nora's rules all the time. Every conversation starts with
"I shouldn't be doing this," or "I shouldn't be here," or "Don't tell anyone I
talked to you" – which implies the next person you meet is also going to break
the rules by talking to you. What's the point of even having dumb rules if no
one follows them?

Unfortunately, none of the Nora tribe's banishment laws cover
dress code. Jeff Cork and I had an impromptu competition for coming up with an
apt description of how lame everyone looks. Contenders included: post-historic
hipster; Stone-age stoner; Burning Man attendee, and Brendan Fraiser circa Airheads or Encino Man. I eventually went with "roadie for a post-apocalyptic
grunge band" in my review, but there are plenty of alternative
descriptions that wouldn't make it past our swear filter.


There's also "one-eyed Shia Labeouf," which sounds like a euphemism, but is quite literal.

And yet, none of the stupid-looking characters or story flaws
prevented me from becoming utterly engrossed in Horizon's lore. Most of the time, audio
logs and diary entries in games are like gas receipts; sure, I'll never not
grab one, but I'm just going to shove it in the little compartment between the
seats (you know, the gas-receipt compartment) and never look at it or think
about it ever again.** Thanks to Horizon's deeply rooted mysteries, I actually
looked forward to reading and listening to every message I came across. Horizon's
story is so interesting that my wife would periodically ask me for updates, and
unlike
most of the time
, I was actually able to convey the plot to her.

But none of this has to do with Horizon Zero Dawn's main
selling point: ROBOT DINOSAURS. As far as I'm concerned, Guerrilla missed a
major opportunity by not simply calling it Robot Dinosaurs – or Robot Dinosaurs:
The Game if they were afraid consumers would be confused. Horizon's
mechanical creatures absolutely steal the show: They make the combat feel new
and unique, they inject the world with danger and wonder, and they constantly
keep you on your toes. Simply put, they're awesome, and if you don't want to
take my word for it, I've pulled together a few gameplay clips from my playtime
to make my case.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit A: A Series
of Unfortunate Events
Let's break this encounter down, shall we? It starts with me
excitedly running toward the Tallneck, because boy oh boy do I want to climb
that thing! In fact, I'm so enamored by the prospect that I don't see the
Watcher at the top of the stairs as he homes in on me (in my defense the boar
running alongside me was also hella distracting). I realize my mistake a few
steps later (you can practically hear the "Oh crap!" when Aloy does an
abrupt U-turn), and promptly get blinded by the humble Watcher's orb attack. A
few seconds later, I pull off a wicked headshot on the boar standing behind the
Watcher (totally meant to do that),
then follow it up with a shot on my attacker – only to get plunged into a
hectic melee with three more alerted foes. Ultimately, I walked away from the encounter
with a few scratches, but other beasts are far less forgiving…

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit B: Just Roll
It
Like this Ravager, for instance. The catlike creature does a
great job of batting the crap out of me (but I was totally kicking its butt
right before the clip begins, believe you me). Like most fights, this caused me
to fall back on Aloy's most important ability: rolling like a complete maniac.
I don't know why the combat roll is such a staple in games, because I'm pretty
sure it would be totally useless in real life; even if you didn't break your
neck diving headfirst into the ground, you'd be as sturdy as a drunk toddler
when you got back up on your feet, which ain't great when you're trying to aim a bow. Still, it's a literal life saver in Horizon though,
so never stop rolling.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit C: Fools Rush
In
Here's another pro tip for ya: Don't run up and try to whack
a giant enemy with Aloy's spear. I know it's exciting to knock a towering foe
off its feet, but even if it is stunned, it won't be for long. This is
especially true for corrupted enemies like this fuel-spewing Bellowback, as the
corruption causes continual damage if you run into the glowing red areas and
stand there like an idiot. Heck of a finishing move though – you earned that
casual stomp-off, big guy!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit D:
THUNDERJAW!
What a battle this one was! I'm only including a small clip
from my first encounter with a Thunderjaw to show how powerful a single hit from the mighty beast
is, but the full confrontation was basically a 30-minute, Moby Dick-esque
battle of attrition. I picked off chunks of armor with pinpoint precision. I
hid in the tallgrass and tried not to flinch as he fired off blindly like…well,
me in every shooter. Eventually, I detached his powerful disc launcher and used
it against him – the awesome and totally unscripted showdown represented
Horizon at its finest. The kicker? After slowly whittling him down to a sliver
of health, some jackass Carja soldier wandered in and scored the killing blow,
robbing me of the kill. Not only that, he had the gall to walk up and quip how
easy it was***, adding insult to XP-less injury.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit E: When In
Doubt, Shoot Everything
Another small clip from a much larger battle, this
alligator-like Snapmaw was giving me a real hard time, even though I set out
more traps than a demented…layer of traps (not every simile can hit it out of
the park, you know). Sometimes though, you've just got to throw caution to the
wind, grab the nearest Ravager Cannon, and shoot at everything until one of you
dies. For once it wasn't me!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Exhibit F: Team
Rocket Is Blasting Off Again!
Actually, this is just a video of one of the only bugs I
encountered while playing Horizon – enemies don't usually explode and then soar
majestically over a mountain like this. Still pretty damn awesome though, amiright?

And that in a nutshell is why I love Horizon Zero Dawn so
much. Sure, many of the activities are rehashes from other games and the
constant need to scavenge crafting items gets old. But there's also no shortage
of fun and challenging combat scenarios awaiting you, which more than make up
for all the plant-picking. Guerrilla has crafted a compelling adventure that
also happens to be one of the best-looking games of this generation – enough to
actually justify having a photo mode (Aloy's vacant stare tends to ruin
portraits though, so you'll probably want to stick to zoomed-out pics of the landscape). After 50+ hours, I still haven't gotten tired of taking on giant mechanical creatures.

Sometimes first impressions are right: Horizon Zero Dawn – and
probably the end of humanity – all comes down to robot dinosaurs.

Need a few more laughs? Click the banner below to visit Funny To A Point's fancy-pants hub!

* It's technically only been a year and a half since the game
was announced, but it feels like
years. (back to top)
** Past exceptions include: using them to wipe dirt off my hands, clean off the oil dipstick before putting it back in the engine, and once as a woefully subpar Kleenex substitute – because that's what men do! (back to top)
*** I can't remember his exact phrasing even though I recited
it verbatim to my wife at the time, who didn't share my sense of disbelief and
outrage for some reason. (back to top)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Funny To A Point – Living In The Age Of Spoilerphobia

Political strife. Worldwide chaos. Fictional plot twists. If
that last one scares you the most, then spoiler: You've got problems. Luckily, you're
not alone.

Few things get gamers more worked up than a potential
spoiler*, and I don't think you have to be a paranoid nutjob to understand why
(you may still be one, but you don't have
to be one). Like other entertainment mediums, modern video games go to great
lengths to tell intricate
and nuanced
stories, and most gamers want to experience those narratives firsthand, the way
their authors intended. Finding out a key piece of information early can ruin
the impact of a big reveal, or leave you guarded against characters and events
that you suspect might be affected by it. Instead of being immersed in the story
and characters, you become keenly aware of its structure – that unwanted bit of
omnipotence transforms you from a player in the thick of the action to a detached
observer. It's like knowing who the murderer is in a whodunit, while all the
other characters get to gleefully suspect and accuse one another as they unravel the
mystery (it's the butler, FYI. It's always the butler). It's like understanding
the secret to a magician's trick – the rabbit was up his sleeve the whole time!
It's not magic; it's just sleight of hand.

For everyone but the rankest of online trolls, ruining the
magic of a good plot twist is unforgivable, but it still inadvertently happens
sometimes – even in the G.I. offices. Joe wrote an entire(ly justified) blog
post chastising
Tim
for spoiling the ending of Red Dead Redemption for him. Heck, Hanson
still gets crap for outing a plot moment in Spec Ops: The Line during a Top 50
meeting four years ago – despite the
fact that no one has even feigned interest in going back and playing it since then. A slip
of the tongue like that can happen to anyone, but more often spoilers result
from misaligned expectations of what is and isn't considered a spoiler.

And that's the special thing about spoilers: Your own spoiler
sensitivity has no bearing on your judgment of the thresholds of others.
Everyone has a line for what they think constitutes a spoiler. Mosey right on
up to that line and you're just another upstanding gamer who "gets" how spoilers
work. Step your toe over it, however, and you're a hopeless deviant in need of a life or
a straightjacket.

As a person who suffers from an acute sensitivity to
spoilers myself, I still remember the first time I was confronted with someone
else's full-blown spoilerphobia while working at G.I. Back in 2010, I wrote a seemingly
innocent news story
on a new Left 4 Dead 2 DLC expansion that featured the
cast from the original L4D – one of whom would die during the mini-campaign. Shortly
after posting the news story, I was flooded with angry emails and tweets for "spoiling"
the big surprise. I didn't say which character was going to die, mind you, but
the mere mention that someone would
die was a spoiler to some readers – despite the fact that the DLC pack was
called "The Passing," and Valve's entire marketing campaign was predicated on
the mystery surrounding the deadly sacrifice. When you suffer from spoilerphobia, however, no
information is too obvious.**

But you don't need to dig up ancient history for examples of
dubious spoiler rage. Instead, look no further than our recent coverage of Nioh
(pronounced like so). Commenters
freaked out over us posting a video of Nioh's final boss battle, despite the
extreme lengths we went to avoid spoilers: We used stock images for both the article
and video thumbnail, we included a huge, bold spoiler warning, and we didn't include
any specific details in the article's description. That didn't stop anyone from
being shocked that we would, oh I don't
know, post an Informative Game video for people who want to see it. People do understand that "Watch Us Beat
Nioh's Final Boss" isn't a literal command that you're forced to obey, right?

Thankfully, the Nioh hullabaloo was quickly forgotten – in
favor of raking Kyle over the coals for his MASSIVE Zelda spoilers! In his
write-up of our Breath
of the Wild
cover story, Kyle made the fatal mistake including the title of
one the game's bosses, which I won't repeat here because that's the crazy world
we live in now. In hindsight it's always possible to see where they're coming from, but as with many spoiler discussions, it begs one simple question: If
you are so sensitive to spoilers that you consider the name of a random boss taboo,
why the hell are you reading a story that outlines what kind of information we'll
be sharing in our deep dive of the game?

I have no qualms about judging people who are more
spoiler-crazy than I am, but I also know what it's like being on the receiving
end. My wife is what you might call 100-percent spoiler-proof – not only would she not
bat an eye at a plot-ruining bit of info, she actively seeks it out. Just the
other day, I watched in bewilderment as she plucked a book from a bookshelf and
read the last two pages to gauge if she'd like it. Madness! To her, however, I'm
even crazier. What else would you call someone who physically covers their eyes
during movie previews like a child hiding from the bogeyman? (In my defense,
those Force Awakens trailers showed
a lot! I assume. I still haven't watched them.)

Even worse, I may or may not*** be guilty of frequently covering her eyes as well. My rational argument
for it is that if she knows a spoiler, we can no longer wonder and hypothesize
together about what's going to happen. However, there's a very real, very strong
irrational impulse as well, which is that I DON'T LIKE SPOILERS AND I DON'T
WANT ANYTHING SPOILED FOR HER EITHER WHETHER SHE CARES ABOUT SPOILERS OR NOT BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW WHY.  

Suffice it to say, this is something we're still working on.
But seeing the argument through her eyes (when I'm not covering them), has
raised an interesting question: Is being this obsessively paranoid over
spoilers really worth it? Sometimes I feel like I spend more time worrying about
spoilers than I do actually enjoying the underlying story, and I know that I've
missed out on great conversations by not being "caught up." Would we all be
happier if we could just greet spoilers with a shrug of the shoulders? There's
only one way to find out – by openly discussing and celebrating the biggest video
game spoilers that I can think of. Don't stop reading, this is going to be
therapeutic!

The Last of Us: Naughty
Dog's survival-horror hit was an incredible character study of two flawed and
believable humans trying to survive the apocalypse together. That's why I was stunned
when the ending revealed that Joel was
actually a robot
the entire time. Who could ever forget Ellie hypothetically asking what
would happen if Pinocchio said, "My nose is about to grow," only to watch Joel drone
"Does not compute," repeatedly while sparks shot out of his ears. It really
makes you think.

The Walking Dead:
Speaking of zombie apocalypses – we all know how dangerous the undead can be,
but never in a million years would I have guessed that Lee would die from a fart attack at the end. I still tear up when I think of his
final words: "Aww, Clem, I shouldn't have eaten those baked beans…"

Mass Effect 3: BioWare's
stellar sci-fi RPG got a lot of flak for its color-coded finale, but I still
can't believe more people don't talk about the fact that the developer
shoehorned in such a glaring product
placement for Skittles
at the very end. When Shepard jumps into the multi-colored
beam and yells "Taste the Rainbow! ®"
and then is crushed to death by a mountain of Skittles? My jaw hit the floor…

The Last Guardian: Everyone
assumed Trico was going to die in The Last Guardian, but the real ending was
even more surprising. I totally wasn't expecting the reveal that every other
living being is dead, and that it's up
to the boy and Trico to repopulate the planet
. I also wasn't expecting the 30-minute
gratuitous sex scene the game ended on. No wonder development took so long…

Tetris: This
might be an old one, but did anyone else find it weird that Tetris ends with all of Nintendo's
beloved mascots cheering on their new Russian overlords as they launch their nukes on the U.S.? Talk
about crazy!

Watch Dogs: People
have praised how Watch Dogs tackles the modern-day concerns of personal privacy
and government surveillance, but I'm still puzzled by the late-game revelation
that the entire ctOS surveillance network is
run by literal watch dogs
. Not to mention the fact that you defeat them by simply
throwing a bag of milk bones out the door and telling them to scram. What does
it all mean?

Minecraft: Along
the same lines, I'm still reeling from the Planet
of the Apes
-style twist at the end of Minecraft, when it's revealed that Steve has been on Earth the whole time,
and that Creepers are the lizard people who took over government and blew
it up (metaphorically but also LITERALLY) from the inside. That kind of insightful
political commentary is so relevant, and just doesn't get the appreciation it deserves.

Metroid: 30 years
later, and I still can't believe seeing Samus pop out of her Power Suit in a
bikini and realizing that she was a woman.
I don't even have a joke for this one; it was simply a mind-blowing moment.

And that, my dear readers, is how you cure spoilerphobia!

Need a few more laughs? Click on the banner below to
check out Funny To A Point's fancy-pants hub!

*The few exceptions
being: DRM, microtransactions, annualized franchises, season passes, Destiny's
launch content, triple-A publishers trying to make money, Prey being called
Prey (for some reason), criticisms of Nintendo, criticisms of JRPGs, enjoying Call
of Duty, anything even remotely political, and every top 10 list and review
score ever. (back to top)
**Well, I can think of
one universal exception. SPOILER: Dane Cook suuuuuuuuucks! (back to top)
***I am. (back to top

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Funny To A Point – The Highs And Lows Of Nintendo Being Nintendo

With just over a month until release, we finally have a good
idea of what Nintendo's new console/handheld hybrid is all about. It's exciting.
It's infuriating. It's Nintendo.

Note: If you view
Nintendo through the lens of divine infallibility usually reserved for popes,
you may want to skip this one.

I often get accused of hating on the house of Mario (I have no
idea
why),
but the truth is I was a diehard
Nintendo fan
growing up. The trauma of not being allowed to own an NES (harrowingly
recounted in a
previous FTAP
) only made my brother and I covet the industry-defining home
console even more. Many of my earliest gaming memories are the result of
weekend binges, fueled by NES rentals from Mr. Movies (if you know what Mr.
Movies is, congratulations: You're old*).

My parents caved in the 16-bit era, allowing my siblings and
me to get an SNES. A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Mario Kart, and Super
Mario World became the defining games of my childhood. I honestly feel sorry
for anyone who was introduced to gaming in a post-16-bit world, in the same way
that I pity anyone who thinks Digimon
Fusion
belongs in a Saturday-morning-cartoon lineup. (Millennials would be
a lot cooler if they had grown up with G.I.
Joe
and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
– and not the Michael Bay abominations).


Still beats the crap out of any 3D Zelda.

My enthusiasm for Nintendo carried over into the N64 generation.
Allowance in hand, I dragged my mom to the Mall of America on launch day in
search of the elusive system (Nintendo's hardware shortages are NOT a new
thing), only to have her inexplicably shut me down at the cash register. On the
car ride home, she confessed that she only agreed to take me because she didn't
think we'd actually find one. She gave in a few weeks later (I'm guessing guilt
played a large role in the reversal), and the N64 became the first console I
bought for myself. It was a great lesson in economics – nothing teaches kids
the value of money better than paying $ 80 for Shadows of the Empire.

I was also old enough to start noticing the N64's other
shortcomings; the weird three-pronged controller, the insistence to stick with
cartridges instead of CDs, and the absence of awesome third-party games like
Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil (granted we did get a
port of RE 2, which remains the only Resident Evil game I've played in its
entirety**). When the GameCube was announced with many of the same flaws, I jumped
ship for the new Xbox (which was flawed in its own ways), and have rarely
looked back.

A Link to the Past and Super Metroid are still among my
all-time favorite games, but my general Nintendo nostalgia has dimmed to a
faint shimmer over the years. Both series are still great – in fact, I honestly
don't think I've ever played a bad first-party Nintendo game, but I don't have
any desire to play new ones either. This logic has blown Ben Hanson's mind on
more than one occasion: "I'm sure the new Mario game is great. I'm sure I'd
enjoy it. Am I going to play it? No." They simply aren't must-play experiences
for me anymore, in part because I know exactly what I'm going to get.


Yeah, yeah, they have cat suits now, I get it…

While that's true of Nintendo's software, the hardware is
anyone's guess. Anytime the company ramps up for a new console reveal, I watch with
unbridled (and sometimes morbid) curiosity. The optimist in me asks, "Could
they finally do something to win me back?" The pessimist asks, "How are they
going to screw it up this time?" With
Sony and Microsoft, you know what you're getting: a more powerful system, a refined
controller, and more similarities than differences to its rival system.
Nintendo is a true wild card. Maybe it's got two screens. Maybe you wave it
around like you're trying to fend off a swarm of bees. Maybe the controller
will plug directly into your butt – who knows!

Which finally brings us to the Switch (the possibilities,
not the butt controller). Not only did the hybrid rumors prove true, but early
hands-on impressions
 are promising. Sure, it takes some cues from the
Wii's motion controls and the Wii U's ginormous-screen-in-the-middle-of-a-controller
design, but merging the console/handheld markets is a genuinely novel idea. Throw
in the prospect of supersized Pokémon games, full-fledged 3D Mario games on the
go, and the company's vast history of virtual offerings, and there's a lot to
get excited about…if this is your first Nintendo-sponsored rodeo. If it's not,
however, then you know to rein in your expectations while you wait for
Nintendo to do its Nintendo-ey thing. And in that regard, the Switch also
doesn't disappoint (or does massively, depending on how you look at it).

I expected some setbacks, like subpar horsepower and controllers
that aren't particularly comfortable unless you have tiny doll hands (when did
the need to buy a "pro" controller become a foregone conclusion for all
Nintendo systems?). I was even prepared for a weak launch line-up and paltry third-party
support, because it's practically tradition at this point. Turns out, however, Nintendo
was just getting started.

Take for instance the "optional" $ 30 charger. I was stunned
to find out that the Switch is actually forgoing a proprietary charging plug in
favor of USB, but Nintendo cancels out the smooth move by not including a controller
charger in the box. Sure, you can charge the controllers by attaching them to
the system, but if you want to actually continue playing a game on your
television while the controllers are charging (i.e., one-half of the system's
vaunted functionality), you'll need to shell out more cash. The decision is
even more perplexing given the fact that the system comes with a Joy-Con grip
(i.e., warped
puppy face
), which looks virtually identical to the charging grip, minus
the one thing that actually makes it useful. Why not upgrade the included grip
and make it simpler and cheaper for everybody? The answer to this, and all
other seemingly obvious questions, is "Nintendo."


Can you tell which of these accessories will actually charge your controller? Of course you can't!

But that's nothing compared to Nintendo's new online plans.
The company announced it will be charging for online multiplayer, a decision I
won't blame them for considering Microsoft and Sony have been doing it for
years. The problem is that Nintendo understands the Internet about as well as Ted Stevens. Gamers have shrugged off
Nintendo's subpar online services for years, because ultimately you get what
you pay for (i.e., nothing). So, how is Nintendo improving its infrastructure to
justify charging money for it? Apparently by running voice chat and matchmaking
through a phone app, which it says will be more convenient than lugging around
a headset. I guess maybe that's true, if you plan on doing your voice chat via
speaker phone, which I'm sure your fellow bus passengers will love. If you're
not a monster, however, you'll still need some kind of earphones, along with the
separate set of headphones you will still need for game audio anyway. Perhaps a
Bluetooth device can link your phone to the Switch and mix the two audio
streams, but that still doesn't sound more convenient. In fact, it sounds like
the opposite of more convenient – especially for anyone who doesn't have a
smartphone. Or parents who don't want their kids to have smartphones. Or anyone
who just doesn't want to juggle two separate electronic devices, because why
the heck would you?

But don't slam down your Internet
judging gavel
just yet (you do have one, right?) – Nintendo is throwing in
some free games to sweeten the deal! Sony did it to justify charging for their
online service, and it was so popular that Microsoft retroactively followed
suit. Instead of lining up a bunch of third-party games, however, Nintendo announced
it will use games from its own virtual console library. Perfect! The move should cost Nintendo practically nothing; its previous virtual consoles have just emulated
old ROM files anyway, and the games are small enough to fit on the microchip in
your dog, so they don't have to worry about bandwidth costs. More importantly,
Nintendo has no shortage of classic NES and SNES games to choose from – just
counting the titles it published directly for those two platforms, Nintendo could
give away one game per week for over two years! So, what's Nintendo's plan? One
game a month. And they'll take it back from you when it's over. In other words,
in addition to using your own phone for voice chat and matchmaking, you get a
free rental of a decades-old game. So far the only way this qualifies as a paid
service is if they're paying us.


I can't wait to pay for the pleasure of renting Wrecking Crew for a month…

All of these gripes are rather…well, peripheral, but the
Switch itself has one big Achilles' heel. Actually, it's bigger than that –
more like Achilles' whole hindquarters: The Switch comes with just 32 GB of internal
storage, which in some cases isn't enough to hold a single current-gen game.
Granted you probably won't have to install games to the hard drive, since the
Switch uses cartridges (boy oh boy, does that bring me back to 1996). However,
what about DLC? What about patches, which alone can be tens of gigabytes? What
if you want to download new games from the e-Shop instead of buying disks that
you have to carry around with you? Nintendo has
confirmed
that the system will support up to 2TB Micro SD cards, but even a
256 GB card will set you back at least $ 150, and is only half the size of the
already-too-puny stock PS4/Xbox One drives. Why not just beef up the internal
memory a bit so gamers and developers alike don't have to worry about it? Why
does Nintendo have to be so damn Nintendo?

Suffice it to say, I'm not ready to buy the Switch at launch
(and given the utterly predicable shortages, I probably wouldn't be able to
anyway). I will be keeping a close eye on it, however. Despite the
frustrations, I still love the idea of having a home console that's also a
handheld, and I don't mind if it ends up being a first-party machine; I don't
need or want a third incarnation of my PS4BOX, and unlike a lot of Nintendo
games from recent years, I don't know
exactly what I'm getting from games like Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. The
rest of the Switch's launch lineup isn't doing much for me (I don't want to eat
my controller or feel its balls in my hand), but it may only take a few more clever titles to
justify becoming a Nintendo consumer again – assuming they don't start spewing
out endless revisions like the Switch XL or Switch Micro or some other pointless rehash that
only one game uses.


I'll be damned if that isn't one fine looking piece of hardware though…

Nintendo may drive me crazy sometimes, but I'm happy the
company continues to do its own thing. Sure, their harebrained schemes gave us
gaming atrocities like the Virtual
Boy
and motion
controls
. But they also gave us the touchscreen. And rumble pack. And
analog stick. And handheld. They single-handedly saved the home game industry
in the '80s, and established the standard layout for virtually every game
controller since then. Nintendo being Nintendo has led to industry-wide
innovations time and time and time again. I don't know if the Switch will too, but I'm as excited as everyone else to find out, and the Nintendo
Kid inside me is still rooting for them.

*Actually, if you know what a video store is, you're old. Hint:
It's kind of like a store-sized Red Box with people inside. (back to top)
**That said, I somehow remembered everything that happened during
our Resident Evil Super Replay, despite having never played through it. I'm
thinking it's a Jekyll/Hyde situation, only I unwittingly play games during the
night instead of kill people. (back to top)

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Funny To A Point – God Help Me, I Can’t Stop Playing Stardew Valley

The end of the year always offers a huge opportunity for
G.I. editors – once we've finished arguing
over our Top 50 list and sent the issue off to the printers, we abandon the
office for Christmas and don't come back until our calendars are officially
obsolete. Like any well-adjusted person, I spend the majority of my holiday
break with my family video games, tackling the great big pile of shame
that I've built up over the year. Doom, Dark Souls III, and Overwatch* were
just a few of the unfinished games I was looking forward to playing while
waiting for 2016
to finally die
. Then Stardew Valley came along and blew those plans all to
hell.

Forgoing a stack of triple-A games for 10 straight days of
Stardew Valley might sound like the gaming equivalent of kids chucking their
new toys aside on Christmas morning to play with the empty cardboard boxes
instead. However, beneath Stardew Valley's simple
16-bit graphics
lies a devilishly addictive simulator. Like literally
addictive. Like, I can't stop playing it. Or thinking about it. I need help.

If you haven't heard of Stardew Valley, here's a quick
explainer: It's Harvest Moon.

What, you haven't heard of Harvest Moon either? Sheesh.
Fine, here's another explainer: It's a simulation game where you get up and do
chores on a farm all day.

I'm not sure what it is or how it operates, but video games
have a magical quality that can make even the most mundane tasks entertaining.
Take for instance the recent survival-game fad, an entire genre devoted to
emulating the struggles of early man, where players wander around harsh
environments in their underwear
, beating
each other with rocks
and pooping everywhere.
Sure, there's excitement to be had in being chased through a jungle by
dinosaurs, but I'm pretty sure our cavemen ancestors didn't find their
continual quest to not die from everything quite as fun as gamers do. The same
is undoubtedly true for anyone who has real-world farming experience, which
Stardew Valley presents as a cutesy, carefree affair.

I started Stardew Valley a few days before our holiday
break, and even though it's basically the embodiment of an old Simpsons gag, I was instantly and
inexplicably hooked by the farming grind. Like every Harvest Moon, you start
the game by inheriting a rundown farm in the titular valley (the one difference
being that you don't wake up with amnesia, as only Japanese games are contractually obligated to start that way). After meeting a few of
your kooky neighbors and learning about the villainous scourge that is
JojaMart, you're thrown right into yardwork, which at this point entails
clearing out a plot of land so you can get to the real work.


The farm you inherit
is a real craphole in the beginning. Thanks for nothing, grandpa!

There were few things I hated more as a kid than yardwork,
and Stardew Valley pretty much covers all the most detestable outdoor duties
from my childhood. Before you can plant anything, you'll need to dig up rocks,
break down and collect sticks, and cut the grass (granted you at least get to
use a scythe in Stardew Valley, which probably would have made cutting the
grass more appealing as kid – at least until I sliced one of my siblings in
half).

While adulthood has endowed me with a certain appreciation
for mowing the lawn (it gets me out of the house and is one less day I have to do
real exercise), Stardew Valley elevates these chores into a kind of zen-like
cleansing ritual; each tap of the button effortlessly erases one more square of
clutter from your life, at the cost of a small sliver from your stamina bar (a
way better gauge for physical exertion than the sweat stains emanating from my
armpits). Deciding how you want to lay everything out on your farm scratches a
similar itch as building a castle to your exact specifications in Minecraft –
only I don't give up and wander off after blocking out the first couple rows of
crops.


Setting up your
farm exactly the way you want it is part of the fun…if you have OCD.

Once you're happy with the small plot you've carved out, you
can plant the seeds you bought from Weiner Pierre's General Store and water
them, one seed at a time (you're gonna want to upgrade that watering can as
soon as possible). With the chores done for the day, you can get to the truly
exciting activities, like picking up seashells on the beach, engaging other
villagers in pleasant small talk, and renovating the community center. Just
make sure you're home and in bed by midnight, otherwise you'll be tired in the
morning!

If you're wondering what the hell is wrong with me, join the
club (my wife is the founding member and president, FYI). However, I will say
that part of Stardew Valley's appeal lies in its sheer volume of items and
activities. Once you've sold your first few parsnip crops, you can invest in a
barn and buy a cow, or get a coop for raising chickens (well, maybe not, based
on the price those lousy dirt vegetables get you…stinkin' parsnips). If you'd
rather eat a cow than milk one, you can make extra cash by spelunking in the
mines for precious ore or catching some fish in Stardew Valley's many rivers
and lakes. Your first house upgrade lets you experiment with the dozens of
cooking recipes you learn from watching T.V., providing stamina-replenishing
meals or just a higher selling price. You can even play some arcade games at
Stardew Valley's bar, which are about as fun as the kind of arcade games you'd
find in a real bar (i.e., not).


You can also get
crabs. *rimshot*

Stardew Valley features tons of other rabbit holes to lose
yourself in, but the real magic lies in the fact that there aren't enough hours
in the day to do everything. A strict day/night cycle leaves you scrambling to
make the most out of every day – it's just like real life, except I don't mind waking
up at 6:00 a.m. to go to work (also, I pass out in caves less often in real life. I'm
not saying never, but less often for sure…).

If you're like me (and for your sake I hope you're not), you
deal with Stardew Valley's time crunch by planning out what you'll do the
following day right before you go to bed; what activities you want to pursue,
what items you'll need to bring along, and what you can safely store for later.
You end each day by dumping whatever you want to sell in the magic drop-box
outside your house (good lord, how can I get one of these in real life?), then
hopping in bed to save your game.

Playing out "just one more day" is a hopelessly enticing
prospect, as you constantly jump between interests ("It's raining today! Time
to go fishing!"). Each day only takes 15 minutes or so, but they rack up
quickly – suddenly a festival is on the horizon, spurring you on for another
hour of late-night gaming. Then a new season comes along with the promise of
new seeds and surprises. Before you know it, you're trudging to bed at 6:00 a.m. (real-world time!) while still thinking about the half-grown crop of pumpkins you're sitting on,
and those shiny gold tool upgrades you're going to buy with the profits. All
the while you're collecting and crafting items to fill bundles at the community
center, which renovate the building (the closest thing you have to a story arc)
and ply you with rewards that only make you want to play even more.


Another exciting
feature? Checking the daily weather report!

Stardew Valley may not be the most realistic farming sim on the market, but it is
a realistic enough life sim to hold up an unflattering mirror to some of my
real-life problems and compulsions. First and foremost: hoarding. If I had a
gold coin for every item I jammed in a trunk instead of selling it, I'd be
richer than the greedy crapbag who owns JojaMart. In fact, my most-crafted item
in the game is storage chests – and that's not even a joke!

Even worse, all of my stashed items are meticulously
categorized according to my OCD needs. Refrigerator space is reserved for fish,
eggs, and dairy (so they won't spoil…even though there's no spoiling mechanic
in the game), plus prepared meals and frozen vegetables that you forage during
winter (they probably have to stay cold too, right?).

Chest number two contains all the silver- and gold-star
fruits and veggies I've grown and not sold for some inexplicable reason –
because hey, maybe my future love interest will demand three dozen potatoes
before she agrees to marry me!

Chest number three contains tree seeds (enough to grow my
own forest), gifted seeds (which I've deemed unimportant enough to not plant but
still important enough to hold onto forever), and flowers. I also shove my jams,
mayonnaise, honey, and other jarred items in here, because they have to go
somewhere.

Chest number four (seriously, there are a lot of chests, so
get comfortable) contains all my resources: wood, stone, coal, tree sap,
copper, silver, and gold (in both ore and bar form), bat wings (not sure why I
initially considered them a resource, but here we are), and about two dozen
other resource types that I have way too much of.


Not even Bruce
Wayne needs that many bat wings…

Chest five is devoted to obsolete tools, weapons, fishing
bobbers, and clothing. Funny side note: I actually tried to sell my duplicate
clothing items once, only to find out that your magic drop-box won't take them.
So looks like I will continue being the proud owner of six pairs of winter
boots that look like they were stolen off of an elf that froze to death.

Still going: Chest six is miscellaneous crap that doesn't
fit anywhere else, and chest seven contains my most expensive possessions
(including a full line-up of items to win the fall festival's grange competition
every year – suck on that, Pierre!). If you're thinking that the miscellaneous
chest should come after the expensive-item chest, you're absolutely right, and
it annoys me every time I have to open one of them up (one of these days I'll
get around to reorganizing everything – I might even clean up my real house
too!).

Another real-life character flaw Stardew Valley has made me
painfully aware of? I suck at socializing! A good villager in Stardew Valley
will make the rounds every day, talking to their fellow citizens and giving
them gifts to discover their likes and dislikes. A lazier villager will simply
look up said information on
the Stardew wiki
, and save the gift-giving for each NPC's birthday when it
nets you bonus friendship points. I'm a sizable step below even that: most of
the time when I remember it's someone's birthday, I'll just hand over whatever
random crap I'm carrying at the time. In hindsight, I can see how a raw fish
isn't a great birthday gift for a potential love interest, but in my defense,
Tiger Trouts are kind of rare(ish)! The truth is I care way less about my
relationship level with Stardew Valley's eligible bachelorettes than my
relationship level with my cow (the first day she squirted out a large milk I
knew she was the one).**


I swear this is a
picture of me milking my cow, not making love to it.

That said, it's nice playing a Harvest Moon-type game where
the characters aren't bogged down by dumb JRPG clichés. From the loveably lame
Mayor Lewis (whose idea of a wild night includes putting a coin in the tavern's
jukebox) to Penny's alcoholic trailer trash mom, Pam (who someone actually
hired to be the town's bus driver), every character has their own quirks and
surprises, and is worth getting to know. Well, except for Shane, the grumpy
loser who works as a stockboy at JojaMart and probably thinks Dane Cook is
hilarious.***

And that's the best thing about Stardew Valley: It never
stops surprising you, with one totally mundane milestone after another. I was thrilled
when I harvested my first big crop of blueberries, which propelled me from poor
dirt farmer to the Mister Monopoly guy overnight. Seriously, no one has been
that excited about blueberries before, unless they have some kind of sick Violet
Beauregarde
fetish.

Just when you think you've got a handle on your schedule, a new
tool or item unlocks: a preserves jar lets you make your own pickled vegetables
and jellies; a recycling machine lets you turn the trash you catch while
fishing into useful items (I knew I
didn't throw away that garbage for a reason!); a slime press lets you…press
slime, for some perverted reason. Sprinklers, scarecrows, bee houses, cheese
presses, looms – the list goes on and on. Hell, I'm one clump of wool and a duck
egg away from unlocking my own greenhouse, and the suspense is killing me!


You still want action? Fine, there are enemy-filled mines that seemingly go on forever. Happy?

I won't blame you if don't "get" Stardew Valley – my
hopeless addiction hasn't blinded me to how absurd the game sounds, especially
when described by a total fanatic like myself. I'm surprised myself by how
taken I am with the game, but I love that a simple indie sim can still dethrone
the biggest triple-A blockbusters for my gaming time once and a while. So if
this description hasn't sounded like
a complete waste of time, I highly recommend you check it out. I've already
spent countless hours**** building up my dumb little farm, and
I don't think I'll be stopping anytime soon. Even if I wanted to.

*By "finish" Overwatch, I mean play it until I don't want to
anymore. Which will never
happen
. (back to top)
**That said, if I had to pick a romantic interest at this
point, it would probably be Maru – but only to spite her jerk dad who told me
to leave her alone. (back to top)
***So much for that
resolution
. (back to top)
****The number of hours I've played Stardew Valley is
literally countless as I've fallen asleep numerous times while playing the game,
rendering my save file counter inaccurate. Thankfully, even in a
quasi-narcoleptic state I've still managed to open a menu to stop the in-game
days from progressing, so I haven't woken up on a desolated farm 10 years in
the future…yet. (back to top)

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Funny To A Point – New Year’s Resolutions For The Gaming Industry

2016 has come and gone,
which means setting aside old grudges and looking to the future. For many, that
means coming up with a New Year's resolution, a personal pledge to guide them
toward a healthier and happier life throughout the year (or until they come up
with a good excuse to blow it off after the first week of January).

I'm something of a master at coming up with New Year's
resolutions – so much so that I don't stop with myself! This year I decided to
lend my expertise to the gaming industry, by writing out resolutions
custom-tailored to the biggest developers and publishers. So happy holidays,
and you're welcome!

On an actually serious note, thanks to everyone who read, shared, and commented on this completely ridiculous column this year. See you in 2017!

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