On video game development, or the lack thereof

I’ve obviously not posted any further entries on that “learn to make video games” project that we all knew I would flake on before long. And, I mean, its status is “on hiatus” for now, mostly because of school significantly limiting my time for fun things. I also didn’t work on it at all for a while there because a power outage killed my computer and it was nearly two weeks before I was told how to fix it and then actually implemented that fix. I could provide more excuses if you really need me to.

So, the end of the story is that I fully intend to go back to it once my class is over. Mid-June.

But we’ll see.

They Came From Outer Time!

I was browsing though the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart last weekend, as I do, and learned a horrible truth that day: They brought back Oreo O’s.

Now, you may be thinking “brought back? What do you mean? It says NEW right on the box!” But I assure you, these are not new. They are a relic from the late nineties, and like grunge music and boy bands, they should have stayed there.

Oreo O’s are, or to be fair, were not good. While I never reviewed them specifically, I did give them a shout-out in the good ol’ Cap’n Crunch Choco Donuts article, where I compared their flavour to that of cardboard. I didn’t buy the revived version of the cereal because I didn’t like them the first time around, and I don’t want to buy them to see if they’ve changed. Though now that I’ve written about it, I kinda feel like I’ve put myself on the hook.

What have I done!? They’re gonna be so grooooooosssss (T~T)

*sigh* I guess I’ll add them to the shopping list…

Tales from my dumb brain

Last weekend I had a bit of a zany episode: I forgot the PIN for my debit card.

I blame the “tap” technology, for making it so easy to just pay for all things with a wave of the card instead of popping it into the terminal and then punching in my code. But I buy groceries at Wal-Mart every week, and they don’t support the tap, so I absolutely have been using that PIN at least once a week. There’s no reasonable explanation for how I randomly lost that knowledge.

See, what happened is that I was purchasing fuel through the terminal at the pump, where they also don’t have a tap-compatible thingy. I popped in the PIN and then it beeped at me and told me it was wrong. I was a little flustered, since I always put in the PIN by muscle memory more than anything. Stopping to actually think about it, I realized that I didn’t actually “know” my PIN, and now that my fingers had failed me, I was at a loss.

Fortunately, the gas situation was resolved by using the tap terminal in the actual store at the gas station. What didn’t go so well was when I went to Wal-Mart the next day for my weekly grocery run. Not only did I not “recover” the “knowledge” of my PIN, but the third failed attempt locked the card completely, and since I had no alternative or cash on had, I was forced to abandon my bags of groceries and walk away in shame.

The one upside of this whole dilemma is that I learned that we have a terminal to reset debit cards and change PINs right at work! I thought that I’d either have to wait the whole week to get to a branch on Saturday or make a mad dash to the nearest branch on my lunch break. So now every time I screw this up in the future, I can just saunter downstairs and get it cleared up. Neat!

The Count Douchebag

I did a lot of things on the weekend, like baking muffins, getting my hair cut for the first time in at least seven months, and watching roughly seven thousand episodes of Steven Universe. However, since this is me we’re talking about, I’m going to write about a video game I played instead of any of those other things.

The game in question this week is The Count Lucanor. A spoopy, retro-styled adventure game that is available on several platforms, I of course chose to play it on Switch. Not that it made much of a difference, because I finished the game in a single three-hour sitting. Thimbleweed Park, this ain’t.

The game opens on the tenth birthday of our main character, Hans. He’s a spoiled little brat who leaves home to be a treasure hunter because his mom could’t afford ingredients for a birthday cake. Right off the bat, Hans is a dick. Sure, he’s a kid, and kids typically are dicks, but you’re supposed to be endearing me to my main character, not making me want to let bad things happen to him.

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Last Month in Movies – March 2018

Arrival – A science fiction movie about aliens but also not about aliens. It’s really about the main character, who just happens to stumble into a situation that involves aliens.

We open up to linguistics expert Louise, who has apparently recently lost a child to cancer or something, and then she is scooped up by the feds when alien ships start appearing around the world. Her job is to find a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrials, who look kinda like massive squids. Over the course of the film, she is teamed up with Jeremy Renner as they race against the clock to discover what the aliens want before other countries decide to declare war on the alleged “invaders.”

I want to say that this movie blew my mind -and it sort of did- but I couldn’t help feel that I’d seen this story before. And then I realized that it’s more or less the same story as… you know what, I can’t tell you what novel it rips off without giving everything away. Obviously it has plenty of unique plot elements, but there is an undeniably strong similarity to a very well-known novel. Regardless of this, I really enjoyed Arrival. It poses a number of interesting moral questions, and Amy Adams is just excellent. It made me think and feel, and that’s really enough to get a passing score from me.

Lovesick – My family nearly always gets together on Saturday nights to have dinner and play board games together. One week, my brothers abandoned ship, and my parents and I were left to find something to do. My mom decided we would watch a movie together, and this happened.

Lovesick is a story about how Matt LeBlanc ruins any meaningful relationship he has by getting super jealous and creating wild fantasies about how his girlfriends must be cheating on him. Otherwise, he is a perfectly well-adjusted adult and a highly respected member of the community. So his jealously is written off as him literally being insane. I don’t know if this jealousy psychosis is a real thing or a terrible plot device, but it made for a very by-the-numbers rom-com. The most unexpected thing that happened is that they cast Chevy Chase as the perverted old neighbour. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not so unexpected after all. Anyway, this movie is terrible. Obviously. Don’t watch it.

Justice League – I honestly had no idea what to think about this one going in. I mean, I’m going to watch all the superhero movies with my dad, for better or for worse. But the pedigree is so mixed. Batman v. Superman was pretty bad, but Wonder Woman was fantastic, so.

It seems like in this case, at least, it turned out pretty well. Justice League isn’t exactly on par with Wonder Woman, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction. And that direction, I’d like to point out, is levity. While DC has mostly put all their money on grimdark serious superhero movies up to this point, Justice League is pretty funny. Ezra Miller as the Flash was hilarious, and Gal Gadot is as charming as ever. The constant pokes at how useless Batman is against bigger threats than your average super-criminal were a nice touch, too. Not because I dislike Batman, but because I can’t wait for them to retire crappy ol’ Ben Affleck.

One thing that drove me nuts is that I’m pretty sure the whole movie was in CG except for the actors, like 300 or Sky Captain. But in a way that everything had to be wildly exaggerated, rather than just doing it for the sake of artistry. It was like, at some points I wasn’t even sure if some of the characters’ costumes were real or CG’d on in post. At the very least, it was a resplendent film for the most part, filled with so much colour and vibrance that I really couldn’t be that put off that it was all fake. Regardless, after watching Justice League, I’m more interested in the DC cinematic universe’s future than I have ever been.

Tomb Raider – My experience with Tomb Raider to this point is minimal. I’ve played the first few hours of the original game and Tomb Raider: Legacy. Never seen the previous movies. In fact, I don’t even know how many there are. Two? Seven?

This new movie, I didn’t even know existed until several days before it released. I don’t know if it’s just me who is totally out of touch (likely), or if there was a severe lack of marketing for it (also likely). It’s based on the 2013 reboot of the game series, which I’ve never played, despite having owned the game for like four years now. So I knew very little about it. And guess what, I think that made me like the movie more than I would have otherwise! That’s not to say that I thought it was especially great, but it’s absolutely on the short list of Good Video Game Movies.

I was a little confused when they spent the first 40 minutes or whatever in London, establishing that Lara Croft is a poor bike courier. Except that she is actually rich, she just doesn’t want to accept her inheritance because it means she’s accepting her father’s death. But then she sailed off to a mystical island and met a bunch of bad guys and then they all raided a tomb. Like you do. The one thing I strongly disliked about this film is that it builds up a potential for magic all along and then completely deflates it. And that makes me sad because if magic doesn’t exist in this world, then the potential for tyrannosaurs is significantly lowered.

Listen to me whine -or- An essay on video game rentals

I miss Blockbuster and/or Rogers Video.

Why? Isn’t it obvious? I could go there with $6 in hand, and get access to virtually any video game (provided it was in stock) I want, and play it all weekend. Big games, little games, role-playing games, puzzle games. Whatever I wanted. Probably the biggest downside to renting games was that Blockbuster never had anything for handhelds, and Rogers only kept a very limited selection for the Nintendo DS.

But you know what really stings about not being able to rent games? It’s that excitement of getting to try something new every weekend.

There was a nice little period in between the demise of rental stores and the rise of indie developers where you could get top-tier indie games and Virtual Console titles for between five and ten bucks. Those days are gone, however, between indie devs assigning their games higher values and the crappy Canadian dollar driving prices way the frig up (the average AAA game is $60 USD and $90 Canadian).

Now, it’s a matter of forking over at least $20 for those same kinds of indie games. Sure, I get to keep them forever (and a lot of them are worth the extra money, TBH), but a lot of these games I don’t need more than three days with anyhow. And since I really don’t have that much disposable income, I can’t very well buy a $20 game every week. I mean, I could, but then I’d have no money for the bigger games. Maybe I could have survived without Kirby: Star Allies, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world where I don’t have Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Plus, like 90% of video games don’t even get physical releases anymore, so it’s not like I’d even get access to most of the games I’d actually like to try out. Golf Story, for example, seems like a game I’d get a ton of value from over a weekend, then forget about it forever. But it costs a whopping $28.

One could say that demos are a good place to meet halfway, but really, there are shockingly few demos out there. I think most developers/publishers don’t see that extra work as worth it. It seems like there was a demo for nearly every game back in the 360 days, but the Switch and PS4 really don’t have all that many relative to the size of their game libraries.

So in conclusion, it’s an impossible situation that can only be rectified by going back in time. Suck it up and get with the times, Old Man Ryan.

(Please note that this isn’t a rant about how video games are too expensive. AAA games especially are actually a steal when you consider how much they cost to make these days and that inflation hasn’t really affected game prices over the years. I strongly believe that all game developers have every right to charge what they feel is a fair price for their hard work. This is just a rant about how I miss being able to rent games.)

Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – March 2018

No foolin’! I played games in March!

~ Game Over ~

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) – Done and dusted. Always a great time, and even that danged Ice Palace wasn’t nearly as bad as I remember it.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64) – I can’t think of anything meaningful to say about this game in two lines. How about you go read this much bigger thing I wrote about it?

Kirby: Star Allies (Switch) – I might not have played this if not for a change to the My Nintendo program right before release that allowed a nice big discount on the purchase.

Knack (PS4) – I tried to be positive about it for a long time, but by Chapter Nine I was fully willing to admit that I hate it. Yet I powered through to the end anyway. What is wrong with me?

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Hypnosis: Negative

Last weekend, I was watching the new episodes of Game Theory and Film Theory, because apparently I’m that kind of person now. This week’s Film Theory was on the neuralyzers from Men in Black, and whether or not they are plausible devices. What interested me more than the actual video, though, was when MatPat briefly mentioned the website Unspoil Me.

Unspoil Me, as I am now aware, is a weird marketing tactic for Samsung’s OLED TVs. It’s a site that claims to host a video that can hypnotize you into forgetting any TV series you choose so that you can watch it again as if it’s the first time. I thought it was highly dubious, but MatPat claimed that it actually worked for one of their behind-the-scenes guys, so I figured there wouldn’t be any harm in just checking it out. Good for a story, if nothing else.

Of course, me being me, I decided to go a bit of a different way with it. I’ve always wished that I could just flush my knowledge of certain video games away so that I could play them again with fresh eyes. So I opted to try to seal away my memories of Kirby’s Adventure for NES. I’ve played it roughly a billion times, and it’s not like it’s an especially complex game, but there are a few wild moments that I’d like to see again for the first time, and I’d love to not know where all the secrets are.

First problem: The Unspoil Me website is completely in English, but the video is all… Swedish. It’s not very helpful for someone who doesn’t know a word of the language (outside of key phrases like “poot da chicky een da poot” and “bork bork bork”). So after wrestling with it for a while across multiple devices and having no luck, it finally occurred to me what I should have done from the very beginning: look it up on YouTube (I’m not especially intelligent).

So I queued up the video, plugged my headphones into the Dualshock 4, and laid down real comfy on the couch. I started it up, and took it in. It was kind of a wild ride, just laying there, eyes closed, while a soothing voice alternates between talking nonsense about trees and asking you to think about and visualize different things. The video is 23 minutes long, but it flew by in what felt like no time. Regardless of whether the memory-blocking part of the hypnosis worked or not, it was  thoroughly relaxing. I might look into other things like this just to de-stress every once in a while.

The voice in the video made it clear that this wouldn’t have immediate effects, and that I would need to get an overnight sleep before it would really take hold in my brain. So I went the rest of the day not thinking about hypnosis or Kirby’s Adventure and went to bed at night as normal. The next morning I woke up and immediately recalled every boss fight in the game. Put the music to every stage. Recalled that the stupidly hard cannon to get into in that one Rainbow Resort stage only leads to a few 1-ups. I could probably tell you every stage which holds a secret switch.

So the experiment was a grand failure. I didn’t even need to boot up the game to know that I hadn’t forgotten a darn thing about it. But it’s not as if I actually expected the hypnosis to work. But then, maybe it was something on my end. Maybe I should’ve stuck to a TV series. Maybe it didn’t take because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Maybe I nodded off a little during the video. Or maybe it really is just some silly hippy-dippy garbage. There’s no way to know for sure.

UNLESS I TRY AGAIN.

Which… I may do at some point. I do want to go in with a TV series in mind just to see if it would actually work, but I have no idea which TV series to choose. Gilmore Girls seems like the lock, but it’s seven seasons of 45-minute episodes. That’s a huge commitment. Undergrads would be a nice, short re-watch, but it’s so deeply ingrained in my mind that I don’t think it could be hypnotized out of there. Like, I quote Undergrads all the time; I wonder if the hypnosis would stop that, or if I just wouldn’t know I’m quoting something? Actually, now I really want to find out!

I mean… not that I believe this hypnosis this is going to work. I just… it’s an interesting thought that I wish I could test somehow.

Anyway, I guess I’ll write another thing if I ever do actually try to hypnotize a TV show out of my mind. I have this feeling that it’s not going to happen because I won’t care enough to make time for it again. Like most things.

 

Revisiting Hyrule

As a sort of celebration of the Switch’s first birthday, I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild again. As a preface, I would like to note that despite the probably 100+ hours that I sank into the game last year, I came nowhere close to finishing it. Sure, I defeated Ganon and saw the ending, but I didn’t find all the shrines or complete all the side quests. I didn’t even reclaim all four Divine Beasts. I never got around to exploring any of the DLC, either.

This time around, I’ve invoked the DLC Master Mode, which is this game’s version of Hero Mode, which is Zelda’s version of Hard Mode. Hero Mode, in most cases, makes Link take double damage and removes heart drops, so you have to heal with potions. I don’t know if the double damage thing is true here because I didn’t bother to do any testing, but Master Mode does make a few more noticeable changes. For one, it levels up every monster that works on a scale. So red bokoblins/mobilns and green lizalfos are gone forever. This alone makes the Great Plateau the most dangeous place in the game. Tree branches are basically useless against blue bokoblins, and Hylia help you if you accidentally run into a black one. It’s basically one-hit kills all the way, so the best strat until you get off the Plateau is to stay far, far away from all monsters. Apparently there is also a new “gold” enemy class, but I haven’t seen any yet. And considering that the silver ones are already extremely difficult to defeat, I expect the gold ones to be impossible.

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March 2018 Nindies Showcase: Live reactions!

The last Nintendo Direct is still fresh on all of our minds, having left the world dreaming about the next Super Smash Bros and waiting impatiently for the Wario Ware Gold. And already, this morning, we get another presentation: this time a Nindies Showcase. While it is an unusually short gap between Nintendo commercials, I guess it does make sense because the Direct only showed games from major franchises or by the biggest publishers.

Anyway, while I took a day to let my thoughts on the last Nintendo Direct marinate, today I’m going to be typing them out au naturel, in time with the show. It technically still won’t be “live” blogging, because, you know, it would be annoying for me to hit the Update button after every sentence I type and then wait for the page to reload. But they will still be raw, knee-jerk impressions of games I either won’t care about at all of ignore because I can’t afford them.

Well, the show’s starting now, so let’s a go!

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