Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Merus

  1. Recently completed video games

    As someone who has played all the proper Ratchet & Clank game, I also enjoyed it. You can tell when the game has to rely on the movie script, and boy based on the cutscenes taken directly from the movie, that movie was a turkey. There's a massive difference in charm between the playable segments with Insomniac's writers and the wit-free cutscenes. Clank sections have always been tedious. I think the best they got was in A Crack in Time, but Insomniac don't really know how to design a good puzzle and the Clank sections are always about Insomniac's lousy puzzle design. The thing that's extraordinary about Ratchet & Clank is that they are clearly scraping in the corners of the design space but the games don't really suffer for it. The arsenal is varied and the game strongly encourages different weapon use, the level design is usually pretty solid, the writing is lively and entertaining and not particularly deep... it's a good time.
  2. Quitter's Club: Don't be ashamed to quit the game.

    I found Metroid Fusion and decided to give it a whirl. Metroid Fusion is incredibly frustrating because there's the germ of a good game in there with tons of interesting ideas that just don't quite come together. Everyone knows about how heavy-handed the AI guide is and how subverting his control is kinda fun but not as much as just being able to tool around a map and stumble into new areas, and the SAX escape sequences. But it's the little things that get me, like how much the game focuses on ecosystems. There's crawling worms that turn into cocoons part-way through, blocking some passages, that hatch into Kihunters later, and that's very clever but it would have been so much cooler if you weren't forced back into those areas when it was going on. Or how the X parasites have chains of infection targets, and in some rooms you want to pick them up quickly before they power up another enemy, and sometimes you want to leave them alone because they'll eventually infect a critter that drops a full heal - except it's all kind of opaque so it ends up feeling like a bunch of special case stuff rather than you being clever, and the game balance is such that it's not really that useful or important once you start getting some energy cells under your belt. I can imagine a Metroid game built to rely on ecosystems - they attempted it with Metroid II and it was pretty good, but imagine what they could do with modern game design.
  3. Quitter's Club: Don't be ashamed to quit the game.

    It's also a fairly different style of Zelda; Ages is much more late Zelda puzzle dungeon/fiddly overworld unlocking, while Seasons is closer to the early Zelda exploration overworld/actiony dungeon.
  4. Best Films of 2016

    So is it movies of the year time? Eh, probably. The only one I might want to add is La La Land which looks interesting but odds are that'll be it. I more consistently watched movies than TV shows this year; the only 2016 show I watched was Stranger Things, and I feel pretty good about making time for that. (Game of Thrones was good enough but at this point it better end competently or I'm going to feel like I should have checked out years ago.) In order of release: The Lady in the Van: I saw this with my mum and we had very different experiences. I watched a great little British film about a homeless woman who becomes reliant on a British playwright who's not nearly as charitable as he likes to think he is, and an exploration of the vast gulf between "doing good" and actually helping. My mother saw a horror film about a poor old lady who went mad and died and no-one did anything. Zootopia: probably my favourite animated film this year. The back half of Zootopia is way ballsier than I expected from a global animation company, and it has a mystery plot that basically works. You can see the seams where they went through multiple failed passes and kept the two or three ideas that work, and like Frozen it's a little too obvious when they're about to do an inevitable reveal but it's still pretty great. 10 Cloverfield Lane: a taut little thriller about a woman trapped in a bunker with a man who may or may not be worse than what they're hiding from. Slightly spoiled by the last scene, but it's a movie that rests on the masterful performances of the leads. The Nice Guys: a cracking Shane Black comedy about a world willingly getting worse and a few bad people trying to be better. Not as good as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but it's more ambitious thematically than that film was. Tickled: a truly incredible New Zealand documentary. A New Zealand journalist starts to investigate "competitive endurance tickling" to do a light news piece on it, and gets back a stream of homophobic insults, and then legal threats, from the production company. Peoples' lives have been ruined. The whole thing is vastly bigger and more organised than seems possible. And it's all to make videos of young men being tickled. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: another great New Zealand film, this time a comedy about a kid who goes bush rather than get sent back to another foster home, and his adoptive father who goes out to save him. It's a real charmer. Kubo and the Two Strings: a more traditionally structured film, sometimes to its detriment, but it's inventive and big-hearted in the right ways. Arrival: excellent sci-fi about trying to establish communication with aliens when you know nothing about them, even why they're here. It has some really clever solutions for the usual problems with this setup, and it marks the first appearance I recall of shock jocks/conspiracy nuts in the stock role of the bloodthirsty antagonist who nearly fucks everything up because war's easier for them to understand. The Founder: I'm real excited for Michael Keaton to have a career again, especially if he keeps turning in cracking performances like he does here, where he plays Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's. It sometimes feels like it's trying to hit the famous beats in the McDonald's story without properly justifying it, but like The Wolf of Wall Street I think it's ultimately a really great picture of capitalism in the 20th century - compelling while also being deeply fucked up. Rogue One: this is a Star War, and it's pretty good! It's easily my favourite Star Wars film, particularly thanks to its gritty tone and on-point action scenes and camera work. (I would like Star Wars a lot more if it hit the tone Rogue One hits more often.) There's stuff that doesn't work, particularly at the start, and it's weird how little of the teaser footage actually made it to the final film, but I still liked it a whole lot. I also liked Deadpool, The Jungle Book, Ghostbusters, Midnight Special, Star Trek Beyond and Doctor Strange but they weren't on my top 10 for the year.
  5. I listen to Idle Thumbs for insightful commentary on video games that devolves into the three of you trying to crack each other up, and in the past you've kept a good balance between interesting/magical/insightful and nonsense. These last four episodes have been so full of nonsense I've considered unsubscribing - I only found out now that this is an experiment on your part as I struggled through the last episode. Follow your bliss, I guess, it's a free podcast so it's not like I'm out anything, but I would unsubscribe. I'd suggest winding up Idle Thumbs as a podcast and starting a new podcast for pop culture riffs, though, especially with a big format change.
  6. Full Throttle Remastered

    I'm vaguely disappointed that the remaster is going to be faithful because I think Full Throttle could do with a little monkeying. The action sequences are a little clunky and frustrating, and I'm sure everyone would appreciate the wall-kick puzzle to give better feedback.
  7. I was so delighted to hear that Nick got to have a true Dark Souls experience on Ornstein and Smaugh. Less delighted to hear how little fun he was having. I'm someone who prefers to solo bosses in From Software games; for me, the fun is in learning the patterns of the bosses and pulling off the execution. Funnily enough, Bloodborne was the first game where I routinely summoned, but then it took me a solid week just to get through the first area of the game.
  8. Quitter's Club: Don't be ashamed to quit the game.

    The problem with SUPERHOT is that the game's plot keeps telling me to quit and play something else, and my fear of missing out keeps telling me I should quit and play something else. I've played enough of SUPERHOT to know how it plays, and it's fine, but when the game is being so insistent I'm very much inclined to let it have its way. It's trying to set up a forbidden fruit, I have to know what's in the box but as someone who falls for that every time, they're not even close. The game's told me everything that matters about superhot.exe; at most, all you will do is shoot ruby dudes or be menaced by a computer.
  9. The sonnet wasn't particularly good, but this is: Speech issue by Matt CrampWith its stupid interface won out How to be cute with their signage Been really useful to know about Think it'll survive a full reset Jerry Gurgich. Good work Internet. If you understand the mindset. Lodge so how can it be ideal To explain why page 3 means nudes
  10. I came to this conclusion somewhere between them deciding it was way more profitable to outsource making TF2 content to the community instead of owning their product, and them introducing cards whose sole purpose was to drive you to the built in Steam auction house to buy the ability to expand your friends list. It does not particularly surprise me that Valve would be providing the backend for a site that rips off children, although I am surprised how little hyperbole I needed in that description.
  11. Pokemon GO

    Pokemon Go is less interesting than I hoped - battling and training Pokemon is fairly rudimentary - but the big difference is that Pokemon Go went fuckin' huge. I went out to a birthday dinner, and when I get off at the bus stop near the park I see at least a dozen people wandering around the park visiting PokeStops and catching pokemon. Coming back literally half the people I see looking at their phones are playing PoGo. There was a bouncer showing his friend. I saw a joke on Twitter about how if this was a movie we'd be amused by the idea that there could possibly be a game so popular that its release made the news and there'd be a whole bunch of people in the street playing it. Someone organised an event to wander around Sydney catching pokemon and it got such a big response they had to get a police permit Someone headed for a lake to catch pokemon and found a body There's a pokemon gym at the White House and it's held by a Fearow named Merica What even is this game Niantic must be celebrating/shitting themselves.
  12. I have pretty crippling perfectionism, which makes game jams difficult. "Fun public learning experience" seems oxymoronic to me - why would publically failing be fun? Wouldn't it be more fun if I do it on my own over here where I can fix my mistakes? But I still wanted to participate somehow, even though I have passing familiarity in the popular game engines and art skills good enough that I can get pretty close to what I want to render without actually being good enough to make it look the way it should. That said 'retro demake' to me, and then I remembered I had old code that'd be perfect for making a project that can expand and shrink to fit what I can comfortably do: a wizard framework I wrote for an old job where we wanted a bunch of wizards. I'm making a wizard, bitches! My initial idea was to make a wizard for something that under no circumstances should be solved with a wizard; I settled on the legal process. This let me channel some of my anger over the legal system in the US and the appalling way we treat refugees in Australia, into something kind of whimsical and strange with occasional moments of nastiness. There were some ideas I liked from this - the idea of having the option to get a human defence in 6-24 months, and a progress bar that would actually take 6-24 months to fill up; Kafkaesque forms where you'd end up admitting your guilt because you didn't understand the question (also raising the spectre of questions like setting the correct IRQ port from the DOS days); the dystopic tone coupled with expecting people to have the .Net framework to play the game. The problem is that I never really managed to come up with ideas that were inspiring or interesting once I'd slept on them, and I eventually realised it was because the whole idea was a off-brand first year arts student kind of thing. It was the low-hanging fruit - Molleindustria would probably be able to pull it off, but in my hands it would almost certainly result in ten different wizard tropes being twisted to say that prisons are bad. Edgy and snide, but not clever; you can get away with snide if you've got cleverness and a little goof but I wasn't getting much goof and I was certainly nowhere near clever. I was thinking about a toy I have in a box somewhere the other night. It's a toy you can plug your iPod into and it's 'play' your music and 'learn' your tastes. It's basically rubbish, but someone designed that thing and hoped people would connect to it, and by and large they didn't. I realised that what I wanted from The Wizard was to talk about this artifact of 90s computing that fell by the wayside. What is it like to design something that was resented? What would it be like to know you were designed by people who made bad decisions when they made you, that you had planned obsolescence, that your purpose was a mistake? I like the resonance with the Idle Thumbs podcast's obsession with whether humans should be designing certain robots. Anyway, job one: clear out all the code I can't use. There's quite a bit of it; libraries I don't have access to or don't want to use; there's a help button which brings up Windows' help file viewer; and the usual cleaning up of code nearly a decade old. Thankfully, once that's done, building the pages should be fairly straightforward.
  13. Stephen's Sausage Roll reminds me a bit of DROD - you have puzzles that are scrupulously fair, with a held object that rotates around you and has a surprising amount of depth to it; the games don't look very good although they have a very deliberate art style; and that certain segments of the gaming community hold them in very high regard when most of the mainstream absolutely do not understand what people see in it. I've been playing Ratchet & Clank, and one of the things I've noticed about it is how much puzzle design comes down to anticipating what players are thinking. Insomniac are really bad at puzzle design - most of their puzzles in all the Ratchet and Clank games are either fairly straightforward once you've internalised the layout. There's usually one, and only one, puzzle in each game that's actually difficult, and usually it's more complex than being clever. I compare that to The Witness, or even better The Talos Principle - usually there's one, non-intuitive concept, you need to grasp, and it really doesn't matter what the mechanics are if the designer is anticipating what the player is thinking and is designing puzzles to confound their initial assumptions. (The Talos Principle is my favourite recent puzzle game - I really liked The Witness, but honestly I find 'work out lots of different ways to communicate the rules of the puzzle' way less ambitious than 'take the same rules and find fifty different ways to apply them'.) I think that's why Stephen's Sausage Roll is so impressive to some people: there's a real beauty in a set of simple, elegant rules that can be stretched astonishingly far. It's like a magic trick. I know Terry Cavanaugh is a fan of DROD, and would not be surprised to find out that Stephen Lavelle's also played it. (DROD's biggest problem, as a puzzle game, is that often a puzzle ends up involving having to clear enemies by swiping the sword back and forth. You can't really fix this, but it's kind of a blemish on the design.)
  14. WIZARD JAM 2016 // Welcome Thread

    I'm pretty sure I'm going to do "The Wizard". I have a cool idea for it and, more importantly, an engine, of sorts.
  15. I literally turned up to mention that game. Big difference is that in Super Hyper Cube, the shape grows after each wall. I doubt that's enough to make the concept fun for more than half an hour.
  16. I guess in trying not to be rude, I was rude in a different way? I can understand fatigue with the baroque "video games video games" joke after so long and wanting to do something different, but honestly I think having no opening music at all would be better. The podcast doesn't really have a strong opening these days - the conversation drifts into the formalities at some point in the first couple of minutes (sometimes even with a discussion about whether Jake is going to do the "it's" now), and these days it's not uncommon for podcasts to put some identity music underneath the introduction without actually cutting to a theme song. As it is, the theme song feels perfunctory, like the podcast has to have theme music so here's the minimum possible thing that qualifies. See, I feel uncomfortable even saying that, because it's a free podcast and it's really entitled to complain to the management instead of just not listening to it. I don't know, I think I'm just going to rub some people up the wrong way. I don't think it's gonna work out. It's not you, it's me.
  17. Is that the entirety of the new theme song? It's, uh.
  18. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    There's several puzzles in the game which can be solved multiple ways, so if you want to discover how a rule works, you can set up an experiment where you solve it in a way that only works with one of the potential rules.
  19. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    As far as I can tell, none of the 'endings' provide a satisfactory conclusion to the game in any traditional sense. Normally this'd really bother me, because I'm a big believer that an ending is your opportunity to say what your work is about and put a goddamned bow on it, but The Witness is carefully constructed so that there's always something more to discover and the real question is when you decide to leave well enough alone. The Witness is one of the few works where it doesn't bother me, because it's clear that its ending is when you put it down, satisfied.
  20. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    The game's structured so that you can basically decide for yourself when you're done. It only acknowledges a handful of actions as stopping points. (Also I don't know, there's this one 'ending' thing that feels like it might respond to increasingly esoteric actions, and it seems likely that there's lots of little things embedded in the world for the super-fans.)
  21. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    The possibility of brute-forcing some of these puzzles makes me break out into a cold sweat. How??? Why??? For the +1s:
  22. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    Dewar: It is worth suffering through the puzzles you feel are bullshit to get all 11 lasers: there's a nice chunk of additional game to uncover once you have. This does not apply if you consider the tetris pieces 'bullshit'. I've completed the Challenge and am going through and cleaning up. I think, unlike a lot of people, I don't feel like I rushed it - I've been playing at a leisurely pace, it's just that I get stuck for far less time than other people. It's funny how many people are gravitating towards the videos as Important Content. Still, probably a better problem to have than no-one understanding your nested metaphors and assuming you made a game about the atomic bomb.
  23. The Witness by Jonathan Blow

    I've managed to reach the part where the game explains what the game is actually about, which is very exciting because it is both much clearer than Braid and has a much clearer marriage between the mechanics and the story than Braid does. Anyway, I'm in the post-game area - I cheated on the jungle puzzles because I'm somewhat tonedeaf - and let me tell you it's a big ego boost to see people get stuck on puzzles that took me a little walk to get, including some notorious puzzles in the marsh. I used paper because it wasn't my idea of fun to memorise puzzle solutions, which turned out to be a great call even though I have a bunch of things written down that turned out not to be solutions at all. This is an early contender for my goaty, but of course I was in the tank for this game from the beginning and it has met my expectations.
  24. Not at all. Part of my motivation was that it really sounded like you didn't know what to make of this thing.
  25. Oh man, shilling for sponsors. I will talk a lot about Zombies Run because it is well worth knowing about. So there are a lot of apps that purport to motivate you by including zombies but Zombies Run by Six to Start is the nice one. The missions are all unique and fully voiced, written by an actual writer so they very quickly evolve from 'oh no there are zombies' to 'how exactly do we continue grinding on' and a little bit of 'how did this happen in the first place'. There's one mission early on in Season One where things go badly towards the end, and the next mission is just the radio operator holding a vigil, hoping that you can hear him. There's another mission deep in Season One that I won't spoil, but it is genuinely devastating. It has elegant gamification to it, as well - the thing that pulls you through is the fact that it's a radio drama instead of expecting you to get excited about the possibility of zombies. As you run, you gather supplies that you can use in a simple base-building thing. It's not trying to shower you with badges and dangling carrots or anything gross like that, which means your intrinsic motivation stays more or less intact. They have a 'train to 10k' mode, and a separate app that does a couch-to-5k program that includes stretches and sections that are flexible run/walk sections, rather than the stricter run 3 minutes/walk 5 minutes/ run 3 minutes stuff most popular C25K apps have. I first heard about them because most of the people involved are ARG people from way back - they all worked at Mindcandy, back when it ran the ARG Perplex City (before it pivoted and made all the money with Moshi Monsters).