Can gaming help those in need? The answer is a resounding YES! Each year the Extra Life organization puts on a game-a-thon where gamers, like you and me, play games for 24 hours to raise money for their local children’s hospital. All of the proceeds from the event go directly to the designated hospital.
The funds are used to provide medical care for kids whose families otherwise could not afford the help.
Listen to this episode to learn more about this great cause, discover some cool new games, and maybe you will be empowered to participate next year!
In the Simpsons Reverend Lovejoy’s wife Helen is known for saying “What about the children?! Won’t somebody please think of the children!?” This is exactly what Ben Gerber, Scott Lazzari, and I did on October 20, 2012. We participated in the Extra Life 24 Hour Game-a-thon to raise money for children who need medical help.
This podcast episode doesn’t have a Top 5 list, it doesn’t debate whether Captain Mal Reynolds is cooler than Captain Han Solo, and it doesn’t mention Star Wars. What it does is share the story of how Ben, Scott, and I helped a bunch of kids by gaming.
All the family and friends who donated, encouraged, supported, spread the word, or otherwise helped to make this a fun event
A HUGE thank you to my wife for always supporting my interests and my gaming
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This past week I downloaded Red Dead Redemption for my Xbox 360. Each hour spent tapping X, Y, A, and B taught lessons, which great wargames should emulate.
In my brief time with riding through the wild west gathering flowers, killing outlaws, and playing poker I glimpsed behind the game design curtain. Some of the valuable tenets, which make Read Dead Redemption a success translate to the table top.
Any good game should have a great story that seduces the gamer to pick the game over anything else. The background to the game needs to draw you to it like that proverbial moth to the flame. You need to crave it like a box of Swiss chocolate, a cup of Earl Grey tea, and a plate of homemade lasagna. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with fictional characters too much. But, you get the picture. The game’s world has to sustain your interest through the many weeks of assembling, researching, and painting the multitude of models necessary to war game.
Look, I have video game chops. I’m not some n00b that just started playing video games. I cut my teeth on an Atari 2600, and I’ve personally experienced why “Nintendo hard” is a phrase that means something. I’ve gotten more headshots than I care to remember, and I’ve died probably millions of times in video games. I’ve owned at one point or another almost every America-released console out there and I’ve logged over 160 hours on Oblivion without hardly even touching the main quest in the game. I’m good at video games. Really good.
You kids today have it easy, with your save points and your checkpoints and your respawning without much in the way of consequences and your one-hit-and-you-win end-game bosses (ahem, Fable III). I now throw down the gauntlet if you own a PS3 and I challenge you. The challenge? Play Demon’s Souls.
I know, I know, I’m a bit late to the party with the game. But it’s hard. It’s not quite Nintendo Hard, but it’s difficult. I just picked it up last Sunday. Just yesterday, I got through the first boss fight in the first section of the game, not because I’m not good at the game but because it’s that danged hard.
But it’s supposed to be. That’s one of the selling points of the game.
I’ve probably played through the first section of that darned castle 150 times. As you play the game and defeat demons, you collect souls, which are the only in-game currency. You use those souls to power up your weapons, repair your equipment and buy new stuff. If you die, you keep all of your equipment but you lose all the souls you’ve accumulated and not spent to that point.
Then you respawn at the beginning of the level..but so do all the foes. If you can get to where you died, you can regain the souls that you had previously collected but if you die again before getting there, those are gone forever. Of course, stuff doesn’t come cheap, so you have to try to collect as many souls as you can and not die.
And that’s the hard part, the not dying. Even if, like me, you’ve memorized where all the monsters are in a section because you’ve gone over it again and again and again and even if you think you know the patterns of the creatures you’re fighting, you’re still going to die, then it’s back to the beginning of the level so you can do it all over again.
I’ve learned that, as soon as I get the souls and ores I need to buy whatever hunk o’ gear I want, I head back to the nearest merchant and spend those souls. Often this means returning to Nexus, the game’s central hub, to talk to the blacksmith there to upgrade my gear and then return back to the level. At the start of the level. With all the monsters back and in all the familiar places.
Is the game harsh? Yes. Is it unforgiving? Yes. Is it just plain hard? Yes. However, unlike many modern games, when you accomplish something, you actually feel like you’ve really accomplished it. It wasn’t handed to you. You don’t one-shot-kill the boss, it’s a nasty and brutal battle. The risk-reward setup of the game makes you want to push on, makes you want to succeed if for nothing else than the ability to say “I did it.”
The online component of the game is very, very neat. Essentially the game is a single-player affair, however, you can see and hear other players online as translucent spirits running around that fade in and out of existence depending on how close they are to you. Supposedly, and I haven’t figured out how to do this yet, you can summon another person into your world. Also, you can apparently enter another character’s world as a “black phantom” and hunt them down. There’s no way to pick whose world you pop into, though.
Also, there’s a player-driven hint system. You can leave messages for other players and read messages they left. If you like a person’s message, you can recommend it. If you recommend a person’s message, they gain a little health..a reward for helping you out. Likewise, if someone recommends your message, you gain a little health. You can also touch the bloodstains that are littered throughout the game (and there are lots and lots of them). When a character dies, they leave a bloodstain and, when you touch it you get to see the last few seconds of that character’s life. This can actually be quite helpful, and can give you clues to hidden threats. I know it’s saved my bacon a couple of times.
While Demon’s Souls is only for the Playstation 3, fellow Xbox 360 gamers don’t feel too bad. The spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, is coming out in October and is going to be on both platforms. Dark Souls is supposed to be even harder than Demon’s Souls so I look forward to the challenge.
As most of you are probably aware, Tuesday saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale for the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade and the PC. In case you are unfamiliar, Daggerdale is a video game that is based on the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rules which you can either play alone or with up to three friends via Xbox Live. Once it was released I purchased and downloaded it for the 360 as soon as I could and jumped into playing it. I’ve played both solo and multiplayer.
So, how does it stack up? Sadly, not as well as I’d have liked but one has to remember that this is a $15 game not a $60 full-fledged release. That said, there are things that are severely irksome about the game. The bottom line is that while, yes it is definitely a flawed game, it’s still a fun game in a basic way.
As a side note, for the purposes of this review I’m going to attempt to avoid the fact that it is extremely loosely based on the D&D 4e rules. Very, very, very loosely. You’ll recognize a lot of the terminology, but that’s about as far as it goes. For example, to reach level 2 you need 10,000 XP. Characters cap out at 10th level.
Graphically, the game looks good for a $15 game, some display glitches aside. There are no fully animated and voiced cut scenes that I’ve encountered, only words spoken over still shots.
Gameplay-wise, it’s similar to other action-based hack-and-slash games out there; you point your character in the general direction of the enemy that you want to hit and button mash away. You have ranged and melee basic attacks as well as a selection of powers and equipment you can map to buttons. Each power has three levels, and once you use one there is a cool down period before you can use it again. It’s a workable system, but nothing too innovative. Sometimes the game can get rather difficult, especially if you’re playing solo. Sadly, the AI is not very impressive; creatures will spam you with ranged or melee attacks as appropriate and leader types will occasionally heal or raise from the dead one of their allies. There’s not much difference between fighting burning Skeletons, Goblins, or mad Dwarves aside from how many hits it takes to bring one down. Point and button mash. The game tries to spice it up by giving different creatures weaknesses and resistances but in the end it comes down to just hitting them often enough with your attacks. There’s no cover and very little in the way of tactical maneuvering save maybe for flanking.
Creatures have roles familiar to those who play the tabletop game, such as “Elite Brutes”, and this gives you a good indication of what the creature’s going to do. Brutes and Skirmishers will get up in your grill and hack at you, artillery will stand back and pop caps at you and so on. However, again, other than visually and some slight modifications in damage dealt for various elemental type attacks, it still feels like you’re fighting the same creature of the same type. Oh, and minions often take 2 hits to take down; just sayin’.
Options for “creating” your character boils down to “pick a Human Fighter, Dwarven Cleric, Elven Rogue or Halfling Wizard then apply some points to powers and feats.” At each level you can add more points to your powers, pick feats and upgrade ability scores. As I mentioned before, there’s only a handful of powers, each of which has three levels and each level of a single power is slightly better than the previous. Feats, obviously, are limited to ones that provide mechanical combat-related benefit.
Roleplaying-wise, the game doesn’t have any. Talk to an NPC with an exclamation point over their head and get a quest. There are a handful of optional quests that you can actually choose to follow or not, and you are given the illusion of choice for the mainline quests. Talk to NPCs with a bag of gold over their head and you can buy and sell equipment. Talk to a handful of other NPCs and you’ll get some half-hearted comment or (in the case of the dwarven cleric just hanging out early in the game) some healing. However, do talk to the Dwarven Cooper as he has something funny to say.
Oh, and you’ll be smashing a ton of barrels.
The NPCs that give you quests are not voiced and that’s a problem, not because I was expecting full voice overs in a $15 downloadable title but because they decided that rather than make the NPCs silent when you talk to them they make a noise. It’s very annoying as it ends up making every NPC you converse with sound mentally deficient with their grunts and occasional groans. I almost dread talking to NPCs.
But, you’re asking, what about the story? Well, it’s decent enough I suppose. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory too much but it’s full of cheesy cliches such as a mysterious stranger mysteriously calling you all together and then claiming that she can’t help you for mysterious reasons. It’s all quite mysterious. The story deals with a bad guy that has built a tower inside of a Dwarven mine in secret but that everyone knows about … lolwhut? And you get your standard array of fetch-quests, assassin-quests and even the dreaded escort-quest. Of course, you can’t advance through certain points in the game until you finish certain quests because, somehow, visiting a merchant allows the Dwarves to bust through a wall they’ve been drilling through.
The game is more fun in multiplayer, just because there’s something a little more interesting going on with the game’s dynamics than “bad guy runs up and tries to stab you in the face.” Instead, the bad guys are forced to pick who they’re going to run up to and stab in the face.
I know this sounds like an overall negative review and, I suppose it is. But do I enjoy playing it? Yes, if I want to turn my mind off and just beat on some goblins without worrying overly much about tactics and story or if I want to do so with a group of friends.
Overall, I give it a 2 out of 5. I wanted to give it a higher score, but in the words of any of the NPCs in the game, “Urgh. Aaahr. Ooooh.” There is no question that this game had a tremendous opportunity to be something great. Unfortunately, there is no question that this is an opportunity missed. I’ve played much better $15 games in a similar vein such as Dungeon Hunters Alliance for the PS3, Torchlight for the 360 and PC, and even Deathspank.
PAX East has come and gone. Throughout the entire convention we only managed to get out one extremely small podcast. Why? Because we were having too damned much fun, that’s why! Here’s our first in a series of PAX East related posts. Today I’m going to highlight my experiences at PAX East, touch on the games we played, the people we met and what you can expect in the near future.
Our first day at PAX East and it was raining cats and dogs! We arrived at the BCEC bright eyed and bushy tailed. Then came our first line. Actually, we had to stand in two lines as we arrived. We asked the first Enforcer we bumped in to where we needed to pick up our media passes and were promptly directed to the wrong line. After a few minutes, we realized that things didn’t look right. Searching out another Enforcer, we confirmed that the media line was not what we were in, and changed lines.
There was a bit of confusion on the first day as to where to go. Lots of 3 day pass holders were in the media line and lots of media folks were in the standard line. About 15 minutes later, a bunch of Enforcers came by and started clearing things up. About 45 minutes later, we had our media badges and set off to take it all in.
The very first thing we did was head up to the press room to say hello to Tracy, who’s been working with me on this site for quite some time now, but who I’ve never met. I’m quite sure Tracy will have a ton to say about PAX East as well, not to mention the folks he met, the items he has for review and lots more.
Next we spent the first two hours simply wandering around, looking at vendor booths in both the video game and tabletop game areas. There was a lot to see and a ton of people seeing it.
Lunch was in order at this point. We went to the secondary food court area and were greeted with carnival trucks and fried dough. More than anything else at PAX, that took a moment to adjust too. After we came to terms with carnival food crammed into an indoor food court (which was HUGE by the way) we found the other side, where such fare as cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches could be found.
After eating, we wandered back in to the tabletop area, found an open table and sat down. Being conference attendees and gamers, we broke open our swag bags and found the free, 30 card pre-made decks of Magic: The Gathering inside. We broke these open and began to play a few hands. At that precise moment, I rediscovered my enjoyment of a game I haven’t played in 16 years. That is a story for another article though.
Heading back in to the tabletop area, I then participated in the largest game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in. Sadly for me, it was also the only game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in.
Again enjoying the utter disregard for the other players in the party feel of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. More magic was also played, with Scott and I expending a few bucks to increase our meager collection and constructing some of our own decks.
Then it was dinner time, and because we’re on the cusp of becoming old fart gamers and we wanted to make an early appearance the next day, we headed out to eat, collect our thoughts and get some sleep.
Back just after 10am, this was our day of interviews, demos and podcasting!
Heading back in to the exhibitor hall. The first booth we headed to was the Smirk And Dagger booth. There before us, Curt of Smirk and Dagger fame had laid out a demo game of Cutthroat Caverns, and no one was playing! Down we sat and play we did!
Cutthroat Caverns is a cooperative backstabbing game. The more of this type of game I play, the more I like general backstabbiness in games! This game is built to simulate that strangling fear you first feel as a role player when you realize that your party may be more dangerous to you than the monsters you’re fighting. I didn’t win, but I did assist in getting the creator of this game killed of in our second encounter, which left me with a warm glow and a gentle love of Cutthroat Caverns. So much so that you’ll be able to read a full review of the base game here on this site in the near future.
In short, it’s a game of balance – you’re attempting to be the party member who scores the killing blow against an interesting host of monsters, but you also have to ensure that your party survives, because without them, you aren’t going to survive to exit the dungeon with your new fame and treasure.
Later that day I had the chance to sit down with Curt and record 15 minutes for an Old School podcast which will air a bit later. We discussed his other games, including his line of parody games which I found to be hilarious.
Having children of my own young enough that I still log an hour or three a week on Candyland, I found these games refreshing – something I’d look forward to playing. Shootin’ Ladders Frag Fest particularly appealed to me. Billed as Halo meets Candyland, I’ll be reviewing this game for TC as well.
Wizards of the Coast had a huge presence in the tabletop area, with Steve Jackson Games, Fantasy Flight Games and Z-Man games also adding to the floor. Speaking of Steve Jackson, did I mention Axe Cop Munchkin? Can’t wait for that one!
Later, we wandered over to the Duke Nukem Forever booth and watched the playable demo for a while.
It looked like some fun, but struck me as a day late and a dollar short. Or perhaps, 10 years late and $60 too much.
We looked over the shoulder of people to see the Nintendo 3DS. It looks interesting but it’s not on my must have list of electronics. Then, we found our way to our next interview.
We stopped by the Don Gusano Games booth and were able to snag Chris for a quick podcast about their new game, Quack in the Box. This is a cool card game, written by an honest to gosh MD, which has the players as quacks, looking to make a quick buck and then flee to Switzerland with their ill gotten gains.
The aim of the game is to earn as much money from your patients by ‘treating’ them for their maladies, without killing them off. Or at least, without killing too many of them off. Kill to many and your reputation proceeds you, ending the game. Don’t issue enough ‘treatments’ and you won’t make much money – cash is what you need to win.
We’ll have an in-depth review of Quack in the Box in the near future.
The rest of our day was spent gaming in the Tabletop area. We met up with Wayne from Sages of RPG and a fellow gamer to play a quick round of Survive, played some more magic and generally soaked in the atmosphere.
Sunday was our free day. We arrived a bit early, and waited by the media entrance with six or so other media types. It was odd that they wouldn’t let us in at the same time as the general public. There were seven of us, I don’t think we would have overwhelmed the general public. Be that as it may, we got in about 10 minutes after everyone else, and headed right to the Z-man Games booth.
We got to chat with the guys from Z-man for a few minutes about PAX East and the general state of gaming, and talk quickly about Trollhalla, Alf Seegert’s newest concoction! Again, you’ll be reading more on Trollhallah here in a bit.
After that, we hit up the Omegathon for a bit, to watch folks get suited up for the Operation tournament. Yes, Operation. And yes, they were made to wear masks, wash their hands and wear rubber gloves. It was unspeakably awesome. Seriously, don’t read this out loud.
Sunday was a day of wandering through the exhibit hall, seeing the sites and checking out everything we had missed previously. We took it easy, played a few tabletop games, grabbed some lunch from the carnival truck crew and due to family engagements, had to leave just after lunch.
First and foremost, the people at PAX East. Everyone was just very cool. There was some of the typical con behavior – people sitting in the middle of a walking area, some BO or just general uncaring about others. Honestly though, this was kept to a real minimum given the number of attendees – far smaller than other cons I’ve been to. Just about everyone we met, vendors, booth personal and gamers were polite, inquisitive and out to have a great time.
I got to game for the majority of an entire long weekend, an experience I haven’t had in years. It was wonderful!
PAX East has a lending library of tabletop games. Use it! It’s awesome!
The BCEC was a huge win for PAX East. It may even have been a bit too big! But I expect next year that won’t be the case as further word gets out and more people attend. There were places were you could sit down in relative quiet for a few moments and gather your thoughts (or Magic cards) without interruption.
The Enforcers were, almost without exception very helpful, fun and enjoyable to work with. Great job!
The lines. Yes, the lines. It’s part of the PAX experience I believe. While we elected not to wait in any of them, those who did, did so cheerfully! Games were played, naps were taken, conversations struck up and most everyone seemed to actually enjoy their time spent in line for panels. The official PAX Twitter feeds did a great job of informing everyone just how full the events were ahead of time as well.
PAX East is a great con to attend if you’re a video gamer, a tabletop gamer or some conglomerate of both!
The media treatment. This was a bit strange. Media pass holders had longer lines and strange restrictions on entering the floor causing at least a few media folks we met to miss interviews. We all understand that Media pass holders did not get special treatment with concerns to panels and lines, which is perfectly fine. But restricting 7 media badge holders from entering the floor while thousands of non-media pass holders stream by just seems kind of silly.
Tabletop gaming needs a bigger space! Not a major fumble by any means but Friday and Saturday saw the free play tables overflowing, with lots of lost souls wandering around in a daze looking for a place to sit down and game.
What I’ll do differently next time
Next time I’ll take more pictures of the cosplayers. There were some great costumes there! Also add to this list booth folks, both men and women.
I’ll be a bit more willing to sit in a line for a while to see a panel. Perhaps.
I’ll bring less netbooks and more games with me.
A gallery of PAX East
Here are a bunch of photos we took at PAX East. Check them out, if you were there, you may be in them!
[tags]pax east, pax, cons, conventions, rpg, role playing games, video games, console, 3ds, duke nukem[/tags]
Now, I don’t normally buy extras for PS Home but when I saw Loco Island I was just a little bit tempted. It was £3.99 and I had some spare funds in my wallet plus there was the bonus of being able to interact with your Locos and play games. Oh, and the idea of owning a desert island all of my own was just awesome.
NB. I have only been playing this for a few days so haven’t progressed very far yet.
You first arrive on a small grassy knoll linked to the main island by a short sandbank; a MuiMui is sitting on the wooden deck nearby. Why not be friendly with your Locos and go say ‘Hi’?
Use your controller to stand in front of any Locos and greet them with a wave then do a little casual dance just because you can. By interacting with the Locos in this way you can gain pickories which you will need later when you meet King MuiMui. Not every interaction will result in a gift of pickories but it doesn’t hurt to be friendly does it?
Walk across the sandbank and you will find an information board. Not much there at the moment but it does tell you how many Locos are living on your island with you (and the maximum that are allowed – no overcrowding in this paradise please). You may also meet one or more of the cute and loveable Loco Rocos who bounce and roll around giggling together. If you dance for them they will follow you around like adoring yellow squishy balls. Collect all five together, the number you start off with, and they may even reward you with a special song and more pickories.
To your left and right there are more sandbanks connecting you to the main island, go left initially and wander towards the social hub for Locos – the bar. There’s an access point here for the Playstation Store but only to download demos or buy full versions of the Loco Roco games family. You will also see two adorable MuiMui on the beach, one is constantly being buried by the other but I think they are only playing (well I hope so). Go up the other steps and enter the fun bar area, don’t forget to greet the MuiMui and dance with them, they do love it.
On the stage area there’s a permanent video screen showing the Loco Roco games and King MuiMui holds court in front of it. Approach him and he will talk a little at first, on subsequent visits he is only interested in your pickories. King MuiMui loves pickories and has items to sell in exchange for them. If you haven’t got enough pickories then be on your way til you have collected more.
King MuiMui will grandly inform you that you can live in the tree next door (although you kinda have to share with the little MuiMui). So, off you go then, cross the bridge and explore your new domain.
The house is unfurnished but you can use the free furniture from your Harbour Studio or buy Loco furniture from one of the stores in the new shopping area. However, Loco furniture is limited – each piece is worth so many and you have an allowance no amount of bartering will let you exceed. Sometimes a flying pickorie is buzzing around your home; to catch it just stand as close in front of it as you can and dance.
The stairs hug the outside of your tree house so wander on up and admire the view. Then walk back down and approach the Chuppa. Press the ‘x’ button to play and he will suck you tight to his mouth and then shoot you up into the tree onto a platform. Climb up higher (notice the MuiMui on the branch above and don’t forget to be friendly) then go even higher til you find the slide.
The slide takes you down through your treehouse and throws you out at the bottom. Catch your breath and carry on exploring. Walk on round the beach a little further and you will find a MuiMui sat all on his own with some nuts bobbing about in a net on the water behind him. Did you notice the occasional nut lying about on the beach while you were exploring? Well if you pick them up this amenable MuiMui will exchange them for more pickories.
And there you are, you know how to get pickories and you know where to sell them – so what can you buy from King MuiMui?
Well, he sells all sorts of extras** for your island domain; things like a fishing rod or bouncy ball for the MuiMui to play with, a jukebox for the bar and more songs to add to it, a game of LocoReverse which is totally infuriating and (my personal favourite so far) a sun lounger for the beach near the information board. That’s where I am sat while I write this post.
So far I feel I have definitely got a good deal for my money – I can see myself getting a little bored of waving and dancing for pickories (hmm, what kind of profession does that lol) but it’s cutsie and a little fun and I can dream of having my own personal island one day while I lie on my sun lounger and play with my Locos.
**btw, if you look at the image you can get hints at other stuff you can buy.
My all time favorite game for the DS is just about to get a new installment. Scribblenauts was one of the few games that ate up more than three or four hours on my DS and actually caused a bit of ire between my wife and I as we made desperate run/jumps for it after the kids went to bed.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announces plans to create the next Scribblenauts for Nintendo DS, a follow-up to the revolutionary hit videogame where players use their imagination to write any word, bring that object to life and use it to solve puzzles. Available in fall 2010, the follow-up game expands the innovative elements from the acclaimed first title with many inventive new features, including an adjectives system that allows players to push the limits of their imagination to create their own experience.
In this new game created and developed by 5TH Cell, players use the stylus and touch screen to help Maxwell, the game’s hero, acquire the “Starite,” the prize earned from solving the puzzle in even more robust challenges and redesigned levels. Players now have the ability to write any object that comes to mind and modify it in any way they desire using adjectives to reach the goal in each level. Adjectives can change the colour, size, elements, behaviours and many other aspects of the object they are describing. Multiple adjectives can be combined together to produce incredibly creative objects, allowing the player’s imagination to run wild for a truly unique and individualistic experience.
“The Scribblenauts sequel gives all players an enhanced game experience they will love and new challenges where they can use their imaginations even more,” said Samantha Ryan, Senior Vice President, Development and Production, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “5TH Cell is a very talented and creative developer and we are excited to add to the Scribblenauts franchise with this new game.”
“The next Scribblenauts broadens the players’ experience from the first Scribblenauts through more creativity, innovation and in-depth gameplay,” said Jeremiah Slaczka, Creative Director and Co-Founder of 5TH Cell. “All of these enhancements give players even greater control over how they want to play the game.”
The new Scribblenauts game will offer more words, more creativity and limitless possibilities for gamers of all ages.
[tags]scribblenauts, video games, nintendo, ds[/tags]