Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hope You’re Not Sick of SGDQ 2015 Posts!

SGDQ 2015 officially ends Saturday, but the bonus stream will likely continue for a few days. As of right now the donation tracker is past 700K, which is amazing. I always watch these events for the fun, but it’s nice to know the effort does help a good cause (Doctors Without Borders). I don’t buy into all the “faith in humanity restored” hyperbole that people say when they are overreacting to things, but the Games Done Quick Marathons are altruistic and virtuous. Everyone needs to do their part to help, and the speedrunning community does it at least twice a year in huge marathons, and many more times a year in small ones. Tomorrow is going to be full of popular heavy-hitters, I highly recommend you tune in, and #killtheanimals.

Here are some excellent runs you may have missed in the past few days, though by all means I haven’t seen everything.

The Wheel of Time – I haven’t read the books, and I didn’t know they had a video game, but this run is fantastic. It has fun tricks and is very well explained by the runner, Shaddex. It’s a fairly calm and enjoyable run; one that I didn’t see coming.

Shovel Knight Low% Shovel Only – A run that shows off lots of tight tricks and a high amount of skill. They get at least one developer on Skype, which is always insightful and allows for good conversation on design choices, though processes, and what was intended. Runs where the devs weigh in are always my favorite choice for high quality commentary.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 – PJ is a veteran of GDQ marathons; he maintains an entertaining and witty commentary while also showing off lesser-known games. In this case, the run had a lot of fun tricks and jokes to go along with it. There’s a lot of screaming, too.

I Wanna Be the Boshy – Witwix is another master of entertaining the audience with this strange game. Boshy is a precision platformer in the vein of I Wanna Be the Guy, but even more difficult and unfair. I personally quit Boshy in the second world, but I’ve beaten I Wanna Be the Guy, and that’s good enough for me. Watch this, or Witwix’s 100% run from AGDQ 2015.

Races – Mario Sunshine and Luigi’s Mansion are both fun races in games that demand a strong knowledge of game mechanics. As I’ve said before, races are some of my personal favorites, and are usually done to spice up runs of games that are common fixtures at GCD events. Be sure to catch the Super Metroid race Saturday, because if any game can be said to embody the speedrunning community, it would have to be Super Metroid.

Save/Kill the animals are two common donation incentives that raise a lot of money at GDQ events, and these phrases refer to the end of Super Metroid, where one can go out of the way to rescue animals from the exploding planet and allow them onto your ship. Obviously, this wastes time and speedrunners don’t do that, which is why I always donate to kill them, heartless monster that I am.

Next week I’ll be back to my regular setup of talking about specific games, but hopefully you’ve been enjoying SGDQ 2015 as much as I have! Thanks for reading.

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SGDQ 2015 Continues!

As I mentioned on Monday, Summer Games Done Quick 2015 is happening this week. There’s always at least a few runs every marathon that are a cut above the rest, and since the marathon is now half over, there’s a few that I thought were especially good. In no particular order:

  • Yoshi’s Island – Trihex has been running the game for years and has it down to a fine art. He’s always putting on an interesting show, and the game itself is an incredible speed game with tight controls. There’s a reason the marathon opened with this game.
  • Sonic Boom – If you’ve never heard of Sonic Boom, it’s a really lazy and disappointing 3D Sonic game. The interesting thing about this run though, is how glitched and funny it is to watch. Knuckles can fly, you guys!
  • Resident Evil 4 – The run is done on Professional mode, the commentary is spirited and fun, and the experience is pretty impressive. I am bias though; I love RE4 no matter how cheesy it is.
  • Octodad Co-op run – Always entertaining to watch people play this game (it’s the QWOP of 3-d games), and with 2 people speedrunning it’s very impressive.
  • The entire Tetris block – Tetris Grandmaster is insane, and I believe only seven people have achieved that rank on Tetris Grandmaster Edition 3 (the subtitle of this game is TERROR INSTINCT, because Tetris is serious business). The runs feature the only Western GM vs. KAN, the best player in the world. If you watch anything, watch this.
  • Any race should be interesting, but the Mega Man X races are always cool. Lots of people run these games, so they can easily get 4 runners to race at once.
  • Earthbound – If you like Earthbound, watch this to see it get glitched and beaten in about 90 minutes. I personally love everything about the game and was sort of sad we didn’t get to see more of it, but it’s a really long game.

I’m sure I’ve missed some and will have more favorites later in the week, but for now, these are what I liked. I haven’t seen even half of the runs due to daily life and sleep.

Overall the marathon seems to be going great. Donations are high and so is the general energy of the audience and the runners. The couch commentary has been good, and the only run I’ve seen so far that I didn’t like was the run of Crash Bandicoot 2, due to the runner acting weird and saying off-putting things. As always, Twitch chat is spammy and awful, so I can’t recommend ever entering it.

When I think back to the fairly small, close-knit atmosphere of the first Classic Games Done Quick a few years ago, it’s amazing how far the marathons have come. The runners and organizers really work so hard to put on a good show, and it gets better every year. Tune in and see it, if you haven’t! Thanks for reading.

Summer Games Done Quick 2015!

Summer Games Done Quick 2015 started yesterday, so I won’t be productive at all this week. If you don’t know what that means, SGDQ and its winter counterpart, Awesome Games Done Quick, are annual video game speedrunning charity marathons. Speedrunners come from all over the country to participate in these week-long events, sometimes even running more than just one game. The audience can donate and comment on the events at any time, and there’s a lot of fun donation incentives (like donating for a 100% run of a game, donating to name the main character, donating to join a raffle for a PS4, etc.) and all the proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders. If you like watching people show off their skill and knowledge to beat video games very quickly, this is the stream to watch.

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Bloodborne – First Impressions

Even an innovative game like this still has the default box art design of “one badass standing in the middle”.

Bloodborne is a third-person adventure/horror(?) game made by From Software and exclusively on the PS4. It is the fourth game in what is known as the Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne). Bloodborne has been out for a few months now, so hopefully most of the people who want to try it have gotten a chance by now. I’ve certainly gotten plenty of time with it this past week, and I’m not completely the worst player anymore. I have a lot of opinions about it because that’s what I’m good at.

The Setting

Bloodborne seems to be taking place in a sort of Victorian-Era London-y town named Yharnam. The architecture on display is mind-blowing, and the city would be beautiful, if not for the rampant werewolves, bonfires, and blood-red sky. The inhabitants apparently solve all their problems with magical blood, and now that I’ve arrived in town and been given a transfusion, so do I. The downside is that this blood usage seems to be people turning into monstrous beasts, but even so, blood is still basically the religion of the whole town, used to treat all illnesses, and is even a substitute for alcohol. So far I haven’t learned a whole lot about the situation other than I should hunt beasts, because I’m a hunter and that’s what hunters do.

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Little Big Planet 3

Sackboy is a great character because he's just a doll for you to play dress-up with. I have mine looking like a pirate right now.

Sackboy is a great character because he’s just a doll for you to play dress-up with. I have mine looking like a pirate right now.

I mentioned on Monday that I recently started having access to a PlayStation 4. Along with sucking at Bloodborne, I’ve been able to use it to play Little Big Planet 3 with my roommate. The game actually came out at the end of last year, but I never really heard much about it, or indeed, even knew they made a third one until this week. I love the previous two games’ take on puzzle platforming, so I was super excited to jump into it. Everything I have done in the game has been co-op with my roommate, so keep that in mind if you have had a different experience in solo play.

The Concept

I think the design concept for LPB as a series is brilliant. They always hit the same high notes of beautiful artwork, great music, and extremely detailed environments. Frankly, the level of detail is almost terrifying, were I to put myself in shoes of the designers. There’s thousands of different objects, costumes, and stickers, all spread out over the course of the game and used to give different levels cohesive themes, and it never starts to feel cluttered. It sort of reminds me of Katamari Damacy in this regard, except you platform over all the stuff instead of rolling it up.

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A Bunch of Topics!

I have a lot of things to say about the games I experienced over the weekend, but most of them either don’t warrant a full post or fall into a special category, which is “Things About Which I Would Like to Make a Video”. I want to make a video discussing the TALOS Principle, but I don’t know when that will come out, because I have never before made a video. Just call it Coming Soon™; I’ll keep writing in the meantime. It’s a scary proposition to try to learn basic video editing and structure, but I feel like the powers of visuals and voice are necessary for the topic. So now, here’s a grab-bag of topics.

Magic the Gathering

MTG recently had a new core set release named Magic Origins. It has some interesting lore that revolves around 5 well-known planeswalkers, chronicling their exploits from before and after they actually became planeswalkers. My friends and I bought a box (36 packs) together and did our own Sealed event. For the uninitiated, this means we each opened 6 packs and made a 40-card deck out of the cards, and then we played them against each other. Read the rest of this entry

Nuclear Throne

Today I want to tell you about Nuclear Throne!

These are all playable characters, not monsters.

These are all playable characters, not monsters.

Nuclear Throne is a fast-paced top-down pixel shooter made by Vlambeer. It’s available on Steam, which is where I randomly stumbled across it. I bought it because it looked fun and creative and (most importantly) had roguelike qualities to it, and boy, does it ever. All the levels, enemies, and drops are randomly generated, and every time you level up you’re presented with randomized upgrades from which to choose. A round of Nuclear Throne generally doesn’t take much longer than 15 minutes, especially if you’re new to it, because it is extremely difficult and death is cheap.

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Skyforge – Open Beta

Skyforge is an MMORPG that went into open beta today. You play as a god that has recently undergone apotheosis and is working to protect the planet. I’ve been playing the closed beta since last week, so I think now is the appropriate time to let people know what they are getting into if they decide to try it. I’m going to try to cover what it does well and what it does poorly in a concise manner.

First of all, Skyforge is really, really pretty. The character models are very well done, the different classes use weapons that are visually distinct, and most of the spell effects are cool. The adventuring zones are huge, and so far mostly feature gorgeous rolling landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you remember all the things I said about the graphical quality of Guild Wars 2, those go double for Skyforge.

I’m on a cliff overlooking a port town. Well, actually I’m falling off the cliff, but this game doesn’t have fall damage so I just took the picture like I planned.

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Grimrock 2 – Final Thoughts

This is my last post about Grimrock until a third one comes out. I want to explore the subtleties in the story and talk about the overarching mysteries that aren’t required to beat the game. Grimrock has 2 endings, and one of them asks the player to combine game mechanics with lore to figure out what’s really going on. There’s spoilers here, but realistically, if you’re taking the time to read this then you probably already know them. I’m going to discuss all the important lore and plot of Grimrock 2 here, so it’s a bit longer than usual.

First, I want to cover a little bit of this game’s backstory. We can infer some of the history of the mysterious isle of Nex from the frescoes on the walls inside the Pyramid. As best I can tell, a long time ago, an Egyptian-like group of people lived on the island. They built the Pyramid and all the other buildings and ruins, which means they had quite the diverse taste in architectural style. At some point, all of these people were enslaved by an Island Master, and apparently the mantle of Island Mater is passed down through the centuries. Their reasons for wanting to rule the island are clear, Nex is a nexus of magic in the world, and all the world’s knowledge is stored there.

Other lore on the island tells the tale of a captain Kilhagan, a pirate captain who wound up trapped on Nex after a shipwreck. His crew was killed by the traps and monsters, and he spent years of his life hoping to get revenge for their deaths, though he was never able to find it. Eventually, though, we learn that Kilhagan abandoned his rage and “sought enlightenment”.

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Grimrock 2 – Insane Ironman Challenge

This is a post is related to Legend of Grimrock 2, and I think my Monday post will be too. If you’re sick of Grimrock talk, feel free to check out now, but also please feel free to come back once I’m done talking about Grimrock! Enough preamble, the topic is the “Insane Ironman” achievement.

0.6% of players were dumb enough to do this. Also notable: the vast majority of players correctly judged farmers to be garbage, and didn’t bring any.

I generally don’t go for achievements, in part because games these days often have hundreds of them, and in part because they are meaningless unless you assign your own value to them. I wanted to play Grimrock 2 again, but I wanted it to be challenging. In fact, I wanted to have the most challenge possible. To this end, I turned on all the difficulty settings and made a party setup that I felt would grow into their abilities well.

Difficulty in Grimrock doesn’t affect items or puzzles in any way, it only makes the enemies faster, stronger, and sturdier in the form of a lot more hit points. Because I had already fully played the game, this meant that I knew all the secrets and puzzle solutions. In fact, really all I did was make combat harder and more fiddly, remove my map feature, and make it so the heal/revive crystals only worked once each and were also the only times I could save. Normally you can save before you do something reckless or stupid, like most PC games, but now I was forced to ration my saves, like one of the older Resident Evil games.

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