What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Jhonen Vasquez

Jhonen Vasquez, cartoonist

The creator of Invader Zim talks about the difficulty of making moments matter in games and how to make a cartoon and love it.

By Anthony John Agnello • December 7, 2012

In What Are You Playing This Weekend?, we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.

Jhonen Vasquez made a name in the early 2000s as a purveyor of dark comedy thanks to comics like Johnny The Homicidal Maniac and his anarchistic cartoon about the universe’s most incompetent conqueror, Invader Zim. The Gameological Society got Vasquez on the phone to talk about games, the post-smartphone world, and the joys of designing characters.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Jhonen Vasquez: This weekend, my friend and I are getting through some of the [downloadable expansions] for Borderlands 2. I just finished Dishonored. I still do the Black Ops 2 multiplayer stuff. What else am I playing? I just got that Uncharted for the Vita. I get a weird feeling playing on a lot of the handhelds. It used to be such a cool feeling, and now it’s more, “I want to play this on my TV.” My phone has replaced a lot of what Game Boy-style systems used to fulfill, the quick “sit and play then put it away” kind of game. I played Gravity Rush on the Vita, and I was like, “This is really fucking cool! But I want to see this big. I want to hear it big.” I don’t want to play games like that on a handheld.

Gameological: Even though people make these really wonderful games to play on your phone, it still seems like there’s a stigma surrounding a game you play on your phone as opposed to a game you play even on a handheld. There are like five people in existence that own a Vita. But for some reason a Vita game is taken more seriously than an iPhone game. Why?

Vasquez: I think it’s the culture of games. It’s that this comes from a certain somebody, or this comes in a box. It’s melting away. And I love when things start to die. It’s exciting. I have an entire library of awesome little games on my phone. It’s upsetting especially if you’re Nintendo or something, and this is your livelihood. I don’t like playing games that emulate physical controls. I love games that are made for the console that you are playing it on. Like on an iPhone or an Android or anything that is just touch based. There’s some incredibly clever games, and I love the whole culture of indie gaming that’s popping up around phones. It reminds me of the old PC game days, a lot of the shareware stuff. This has popped up since what? Since 2005?

Gameological: Not even. That first iPhone was 2007. So it’s been five years, and there’s this entirely new culture.

Vasquez: I love it. I always get depressed hearing people go, “Oh, things were cooler when…” blah blah. Things are cooler when I see them changing.

Gameological: And people come to that point where they have no concept of a world where they can’t play a million different things on your phone.

Vasquez: Or the concept of a screen that you can’t poke. I love seeing that pop up in me where I’ll go to a stinking ATM and I’m like, “Where is the touch screen? Why is it cracking?”

Gameological: And you’re punching it repeatedly.

Vasquez: Yeah. It’s become so ingrained that this is how things work now.

Gameological: It’s brought so many new people in, too, but you still see the “gamer” culture persist, this culture of being into something sort of niche, exclusive. For the life of me I can’t figure out why there’s still this idea that gamer culture is unique and outsiders must be kept out and yet everybody plays games on their phone.

Vasquez: You find that in every scene. There’re the people that see themselves at the core of it. I imagine them watching someone on a bus or something just playing on their phone and just hating them. Just actively like, “Ugh. Look at the guy having fun. Uuuuuuuuugggggghhhhhh.”

Gameological: My wife made fun of me when we were on a train recently because I saw somebody playing Angry Birds and I was like, “Goddamn Angry Birds!” And she was like, “You can’t stand it when people like things that are popular.” And I was like, “Damn it, she’s right! I’m awful!”

Vasquez: I’ve been at the other end of that. I mentioned playing Fieldrunners on Twitter and someone said, “Fieldrunners? You just lost so many points with me.” And I’m like, “Oh, no. I’m destroyed by how little I care.” But at the same time I do care, because why does that make you feel anything?

Gameological: What’s a game that’s broken your heart? You can go two ways with this, either a game that’s broken your heart because it disappointed you or a game that legitimately broke your heart. With sadness.

Vasquez: When I killed my horse in Shadow Of The Colossus, that was horrible.

Gameological: Spoiler alert, guys. God.

Vasquez: I was thinking about these moments in games or movies or even books—like the Iron Giant moment. Speaking of spoilers. It’s towards the end, and he’s, you know, sacrificing himself. I definitely had a moment of, like, “I feel something.” I didn’t feel this for the entire movie and I don’t love the movie but this moment works. Just this moment works and I well up inside. Not where I’m embarrassed, manly crying. But I feel something and I love it.

I love those moments. I was thinking about moments in gaming that do that to me because it’s even more rare. It’s harder to elicit that kind of response with a game. That moment with the horse was one where I was taken aback. It’s always a moment of surprise and appreciation on every level. It’s not just, “Oh, no, the horse died.” It’s an appreciation of the work that went into that moment, creatively and imaginatively, that all these things come together and work and how incredibly difficult that is to do. To make a moment work. It’s like I’m jealous of what it took to make that moment happen, you know what I mean?

Gameological: Do you think that Invader Zim would be more of a success on television today than it was 10 years ago?

Vasquez: I don’t know. I think that it needed the history to gain its popularity, does that make sense?

Gameological: What do you mean?

Vasquez: It’d be like if someone were to invent a teddy bear that walks around on its own, but it accidentally maimed a kid, then over the years people would be like, “That’s that teddy bear that maimed that kid! Ha!” Then they buy it as a joke, and they keep buying it and suddenly it’s very popular. I think Zim needed to maim people, and be punished for it, and gain the kind of infamy it has over the last couple of years. I don’t know the science behind it but it sounds right.

Gameological: So what are you working on today?

Vasquez: I can’t really say. I’m literally looking at a contract right now.

Gameological: Can you give me a medium?

Vasquez: It could be cartoons, coincidentally.

Gameological: All right, all right. Okay, cartoons maybe. We’ll put a big question mark there.

Vasquez: It’s a bunch of weird ambiguous things that sound weird. I might be involved in reviving an old toy line, weirdly enough. Some kinds of weird things that are really fun. I designed the characters for a Disney show a while back.

Gameological: Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, right?

Vasquez: Yeah. I didn’t have a whole lot to do with the show. I had just been asked to design the five main characters and then a shit ton of monsters. And I got to define the terms of that work for as long as I was working on it and it was fun. It was a pleasant experience. I worked with really nice people. I worked with my friends at Titmouse.

Right now as we’re having this conversation, I’m sitting here and I’m just drawing a monster on this piece of paper because that’s what I do regardless. Because it’s fun. And so when they asked me to do Randy Cunningham it was, “Well I would really like to just draw monsters and robots. That would be great.” And they said, “All right.” Then I get to see the stuff running around in some weird form down the road but it’s still cool to see.

Gameological: So what’s your dream game? If someone comes to you and says, “Mr. Vasquez, here’s a huge pile of money. Make a video game.” What do you make?

Vasquez: I had an idea for a game during the age of my huge platform obsession. I was huge into Jak And Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. Just loved them. I still do, but you don’t see them as much.

Gameological: Very rarely.

Vasquez: I was working with a team from Shiny back when there was still a Shiny. They were working on Enter The Matrix at the time. So they were like, “Help us! We’re working on Enter The Matrix! Everything is grey and green.” They didn’t come to me officially. They said, “We want to present an idea for a new game after we do Enter The Matrix.” I wanted to make a kind of MDK-style Jak And Daxter-y platformer game. The idea was to bring Shiny back to what made Shiny, you know? Like MDK and Earthworm Jim. Like, those are still some of my favorite games ever.

They were making a game for them. And hopefully people would like it. I love seeing anything that’s like that. That’s how I do what I do. It’s not that I don’t like making people happy, it’s that I love when what makes people happy is what I happen to have done. It’s more interesting to me. It’s either a more interesting failure or a more enjoyable success instead of a thing like, “I hope people like this.” And then people don’t, and there’s just no fun in that.

And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.

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  • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

    If all goes well tomorrow afternoon, the Adventure Time game will be delivered to my door, and I’ll never have to see the sun again.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      I think there’s one in the game.

      • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

        I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Total Eclipse Gameplay

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=642001800 Enrique Rivas

          I liked the Adventure Time Game. It was cute and very funny. But, the game mechanics and the shortness of it make me sad. It was clearly a game for children. I really want a more RPGish, bigger take on the Adventure Time franchise. Finger cross that it happens sometime in the futre. 

    • Chryso42

      *Spoilery*
      Disappointment should begin to settle over you in a depressive fog in about another, ooooh, ninety minutes.
      I got beefs.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Nice.  I’m happy to hear what Vasquez is up to these days.  He was very important for a brief but pivotal point in my post-adolescence.
       And Invader Zim remains awesome.
       As one of the five people who owns a Vita, games made for a dedicated handheld have a heft and depth that seem lacking in many smart phone games.  This is not a referendum of quality for either.  Both platforms are saturated with dross.  But I think it’s fair to say there’s a different expectation for the experience provided by a handheld game and from a smart phone game.
       I have an iPad I game on as well, but much less frequently.  I love it for rpg’s, but the screen dimensions kind of handicap any other form of touch control.
       But for which system is taken more seriously, I think brandishing a Vita on the bus would be more akin to propping up your DM screen and whipping out the d20 for some quick npc creation, whereas Alec “honeyed leather voiced” Baldwin went to Twitter in defense of Words With Friends on a flight.
       But for myself, I play handhelds at home.  I enjoy the format for being unobtrusive and not taking up the whole living room.  I’m not a line-waiting, dump-having, 10-minutes-between-commitments style of portable gamer.
       But that’s just me.  I have no idea why those other four assholes have Vitas. 

    • http://twitter.com/TheBryanJZX90 TheBryanJZX90

      I don’t own a Vita but I would love to have a reason to own one. The biggest reason to me is that the Vita has the ability to play pretty much any kind of video game you can possibly imagine, aside from Wii/Kinect waggling stuff. Unfortunately general consensus seems to be with Mr. Vasquez, where the “proper” types of games to be played on any specific device have already been decided. Time wasting games go on the phone, big games go on the console, and… not much is left for the Vita. It’s getting squeezed from both ends. It’s unfortunate because I actually love playing bigger games on a handheld at home, similar to what you describe. Maybe the Wii U’s tablet will increase the viability of that kind of playstyle?

      And as far as the other end of the spectrum with phone games, if Sony offered a Vita phone that ran Android and took calls, then they would have a $600 sale from me not a $250. (Hopefully AT&T would be paying a big part of that $600.) I look at the Vita and my iPhone, and conceptually they are so similar. They should be one device.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Invader Zim does remain awesome. I think, much like Ren & Stimpy, having to make something “for the kids” tethered the most gross indulgences of a self-consciously “edgy” creator, requiring a more inventive, subtle articulation of his twisted sensibility. Zim debuted during my senior year of high schol, and I loved it. I didn’t encounter anyone else who knew what it was until college, and that friend lent my the older Jhonen comics, which I read and felt kind of like I had already outgrown – despite still enjoying the kids’ cartoon Zim.

      The comics have their moments, but their brand of angst is largely adolescent, and their disturbing nature all to often relies on cliched edgy material like ultra-violence. Zim has neither, and is more profoundly weird as a result.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        As per our discussion last week;  Johnny is definitely one of those cultural relics that suffers in hindsight due to it’s own success in defining a highly influential style.  It’s been so copied and diluted it’s hard to go back to the source and see it as fresh (I’m thinking specifically of Roman Dirge’s execrable “Lenore”).  Granted, even without that, it is so intensely adolescent in both theme and aesthetics, it wouldn’t age so great.
           And again, to repeat myself, Squee holds up much better.  I think there’s much more of Zim’s DNA in that comic than Johnny.

        • Asinus

          Squee is good. I saw Zim before I read Squee and it was kind of interesting to see some of the same aliens crossed over (Spoilery: and to see Johnny show up– so are we supposed to think he killed Squee or what?).

    • jessec829

      @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus , I’ve been considering getting a Vita for the Persona 4 game that just came out (though I’m pissed that I’d heard you could play as a female protagonist, but apparently you can’t . . . Still, it’s Persona 4). I do not currently feel a dearth of handheld gaming in my life, though, so I hesitate to buy it just because I want to play this one game. I have the money; I just don’t know if that’s how I want to spend it. Would you say it’s worth it?

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Boy.  That’s hard to say.  It is a really lovely system that’s a pleasure to play.  But at this point, I’m honestly concerned over the lifespan of the system.  Sony’s done such a spectacular fuck-up with marketing this thing, I don’t know what kind of lifespan it will have.
           That and the proprietary memory cards sting, they’re so needlessly expensive.
           I don’t know what type of games you enjoy.  Vita doesn’t have many in-depth JRPG’s like Persona, but if you never had a PSP, there were many great rpg’s you can catch up on.
           As for Vita games, Gravity Rush is beautiful and a unique game, I can qualify that one unconditionally.
           It kills me to say this, because I really enjoy the Vita, but unless you are awash in surplus cash, I’d recommend waiting a year.
           If the Vita is still kicking, definitely get one.

        • jessec829

          That’s really good advice, thank you!  

    • Asinus

      I just got my hands on a PSP on extended loan (my brother lost the charger and hadn’t touched it in probably 3 years) and I’m surprised at how much I like it. I installed custom firmware and have loaded a couple old PS1 games onto it– the only downside is that there is no way to play it on a TV (not the 1000 series, anyway). I don’t find the head-down, starting-at-my-hands play style to be my thing. However, as far as a platform for some pretty good, in-depth games, I’m really liking it. Once I got the UMDs I wanted to play copied over to the memory stick, it also became a better game-of-the-whim system, too. I imagine the Vita is similarly coo (but with more power albeit with incredibly expensive storage). I always thought that if I got a handheld it would be a 3DS, but here I am, tooling around with a PSP and having fun. I have a feeling, though, that upgrading it and getting all of the little hacks to work right was really my motivation all along, but we’ll see. 

      At least it’s given me a reason to play Wild Arms and FFIX again (though I don’t think I’ve ever finished Wild Arms). Also, a game like Vagrant Story looks much better on a tiny screen. IT might even look better than it does in emulation at high res. That game was just too unwilling to compromise the look it wanted with the limits of the hardware of the time. 

  • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

    Awesome! I love Invader Zim, and he seems like a really cool dude from this interview. Funny that he mentioned liking PS2 era platformers. Those were some of my favorite games on the system, and his style seems to mesh with those pretty well, like say, I dunno, Psychonauts. I’d love to see him collaborate on a game with Double Fine, or any number of indie devs popping up lately. Cactus (of Hotline Miami fame) seems to be able to have a darker style about him that could go well with some of Vasquez’s old comic book sensibilities.

    I’m pleasantly surprised that he came off so well in this interview. I for some reason assumed he might be really pretentious or off putting or something for some reason. His attitudes seem remarkably similar to mine. Another celebrity I’d like to chill with.Also, goddamn I really need to get a copy of Shadow of the Colossus.

    This weekend I’ll be playing the usual(Dota 2). They still haven’t patched Hotline Miami yet, so i’m trying to hold off on that, but I’ve been playing Legend of Grimrock, which I’m enjoying a lot more than I thought I would. And maybe Torchlight 2 if my buddies are playing it.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of his missives he had in the front and back of his comics, but it would definitely be a source as to why you might think he’d be a little off-putting.
         But that was years ago, in the midst of one of creating one of the most misanthropic comic series of the time.
         I hope he’s found some peace since then.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        I read his comics a looong time ago, and I don’t remember much about them. That could be it though. I guess the content of his work shows a pretty broad disdain for just about everything.

      • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

        Maybe he purged Happy Noodle Boy and Wobbly Headed Bob from his system.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      He’d be pretty much a perfect fit with Edmund McMillen. They both have a similar “adolescent-edgy” sensibility and sense of grotesque humor.

  • Jackbert322

    Invader Zim! Cool show, my favorites were GIR and President Man.

    SPEAKING of phone games, I am continuing my break from actively playing through anything, and one of the games I’m doinking around with is Rayman Jungle Run on my iPod Touch. Fun game! Picked it up for $1, love the graphics, they look almost as good as Rayman Origins, and the level design is absolutely superb. They’re very short and very hard. I’m not allowing myself to go ahead until I perfect every level including the bonus ones at the end of each world, and am currently on world 3 level 6.

    As for suggestions given to me last week, thanks again to Destroy Him My Robots for the Puzzle Agent key, finished it up today, great fun. Girard, I checked out some of those text adventures, and was inspired to plunk about in C++ and work on my own. It’s really silly, but I’m enjoying it. Current favorite part: there’s a room with a banana, a grenade, and some other objects. If you pick up the banana, you eat it, and get a boost to a currently meaningless stat. If you pick up the grenade afterwards, your hands are slippery, you drop the grenade, and you die. Well, I think it’s funny, okay?!

    Merve, I’m thinking my best bet for Pychonauts is to download it off the PlayStation Store as a PS2 classic. I looked a bit into emulation, both for that and older games, but…I’m a bit iffy about it. If I actually owned copies of SNES games or whatever, I’d be okay with it, but I don’t.

    Oh, and Poet, I didn’t get PixelJunk Monsters yet, but I’ve got a mental note related to it.

    Still open to more suggestions!

    • BarbleBapkins

      I don’t know what the price is for a PS2 classic, but GoG sells Psychonauts for 10 dollars, often on sale for less, DRM free if you are interested in getting it for PC. And indeed, it is a very unique game, in the best way.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Yeah, your best bet is probably to go with the PS2 classic version of Psychonauts. I can’t speak to how the game controls with a controller, but you’ll avoid the bugs that have plagued the Mac version.

    • PaganPoet

      Alas, I don’t think I’ll be getting much gaming done this weekend, as I’ve got real life plans with real people *GASP* 

      • Jackbert322

        BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL LINKS??? You’ll be unprepared for the full moon!

        • PaganPoet

          In Persona 4, it’s not the full moon you have to worry about, it’s foggy weather…which we almost never have here in Denver. =]

          And I AM working on my social links! I’m attending a choir recital (Sun Arcana), having dinner with an old high school friend (Empress Arcana), and working part-time to raise my Diligence and Expression!

          I’ll be laughed out of the Velvet Room if I don’t start getting some high level S.Links

        • Cheese

           Don’t forget to spend time with the dour old lady on Sunday!

        • PaganPoet

          @TheOnceAndFutureCheese:disqus I work part-time for a choir in a Methodist church, and this Sunday is our Christmas cantata. I’ll be knee deep in dour old ladies on Sunday!

          …!?

          The Old Church Ladies Social Link has reached its maximum level! You have mastered the Old Church Ladies Social Link! Your power to create Personas of the Mayonnaise Based Side Dish Arcana has reached its full potential!

    • Enkidum

      If you can finish the 4th Death level on Rayman Jungle Run you are officially my hero. I’ve got perfect on it other than that, except I guess a 5th world came out yesterday so need to get on that.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      I’m glad you found those games inspiring! Especially that they spurred you to create stuff. Your game is sadistic in true “classic interactive fiction” fashion!

      I haven’t used it since I was in high school, but if you want a little more streamlined interactive fiction making experience (e.g. you don’t want to code the parser from scratch), you could try Inform, which is a programming language designed specifically for creating IF games that outputs in conventional IF formats that can be read by IF interpreters.
      I’ve read that the new version, Inform 7, was radically redesigned to be more user-friendly, but that a lot of the decisions were controversial among the community. If you want something easier than directly coding in C++, but without the edges sanded off, an older version of Inform might fit the bill.

      • Jackbert322

        Holy fucking shit, Inform 7 is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING SHIT. COMPLETE AND UTTER FUCKING SHIT. I was doing fine in C++; now I just spent an hour yelling at a computer. No way, I’m sticking to C++. The “oh, hey, let’s make it like a real language so it’s accessible to luddites” approach has made it inaccessible to luddites and non-luddites alike; coding in Inform 7 is the equivalent of having a conversation with a mostly deaf toddler with a language development disorder. It pretty much understands nothing, and only understands the few things it does understand in very specific situations. Meaning the only way the reader can actually participate in it is by being told every single thing the reader has to say, and that kind of sucks out any fun from it. As for Inform 6, the manual and examples included with it don’t actually tell you any of the code used to make something happen, they only tell you the output. And any examples of ACTUAL FUCKING CODE NOT THE FUCKING OUTPUT have been wiped from the internet. Girard, I’m about to have a coronary and I’m in my teens. C++ may be slower, but I’m sticking to that.
         

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Have you found any libraries or anything for making a decent/robust parser? I think that building that would be the trickiest bit. There are more options here, which might be of use:

          http://www.firthworks.com/roger/cloak/index.html

          That site has the same simple game written in several different languages (including Inform 6), so you can compare the sample code between them.

          I’ve never used TADs but played a number of games written in it – it’s pretty widely supported, and might suck less.

        • Jackbert322

          Oh thank god, something in Inform 6. I thought Inform 6 seemed okay, it’s based on C so I barely knew my way around it, but I couldn’t find anything that was just an example code, rather than a tutorial of the different tools available to you. And an example code is far more conducive to my learning. Took some deep breaths after my Inform 7 rant, but jeez, it was not fun, and I definitely see why it was controversial. As for a parser, that’s for when your code gets long and unwieldy, right? What I wrote in C++ was just two rooms with quite a few items to pick up, so it was pretty short It did take a while to write, but at least I could make it work. I’m not even sure if this is something I’m interested in fleshing out, but I’ll check out some of those other languages.

  • http://twitter.com/plashmaster Bryan Seitz

    Really interesting interview. Thinking increasingly about how game developers are lacking in imagination, so its encouraging to see that there’s still some forward thinkers. Just read this article the other day about Nintendo’s weird lack of progress. Great read: http://ahorizontalmyth.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/the-game-remains-the-same-marios-2d-comfort-zone/

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      You think that’s bad, look at Namco Bandai. All they do is copy old retro titles crappily. Galaga Legions, Pac-Man CE etc. They just cancelled their 2-year long development cycle of Aero-Cross…ahem…AERO-CROSS. The One Where You Play A Future Space Guy Running Down A Three Way Hallway While Jumping Over Gigantic Soda Cans. WTF?

    • sirslud

      You’re putting Vasquez in a forward thinking bracket despite that he’s playing BlackOps II, Dishonored, and Borderlands 2? They’re all great games that I also love to play, but that doesn’t exactly suggest he’s being transcendent about games.

      Good article you linked to tho, though, to which I can only reply: Phil is a great guy who managed to get that great game out there, despite it being clear it wouldn’t be a massive seller. I worked with him for a few years. On the other hand you have Nintendo, and I love Nintendo to. It’s hard to fault them for not taking chances when not taking chances over and over and over again makes them shittons of money. Nintendo knows their market, and they know how to manage their market.

      • http://twitter.com/roundthewheel RTW

        Nintendo also doesn’t take chances because when they try to, people put them through the wringer for it (e.g. see above @HighlyFunctioningTimTebow:disqus re: Zelda II).

        • alguien_comenta

          I guess is the curse of having done things so well that when they try something else and it’s good but not great people complain and Nintendo backtracks.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          What about the Wii, DS and, to a lesser extent, the Wiiu?

        • jessec829

          Damnit, I was just having this argument with someone. What the hell’s wrong with Zelda II (I assume we’re talking about Adventures of Link here)? I love that game! It’s no Link to the Past, but I’d honestly put it slightly above Zelda I.

    • sirslud

      You’re putting Vasquez in a forward thinking bracket despite that he’s playing BlackOps II, Dishonored, and Borderlands 2? They’re all great games that I also love to play, but that doesn’t exactly suggest he’s being transcendent about games.

      Good article you linked to tho, though, to which I can only reply: Phil is a great guy who managed to get that great game out there, despite it being clear it wouldn’t be a massive seller. I worked with him for a few years. On the other hand you have Nintendo, and I love Nintendo to. It’s hard to fault them for not taking chances when not taking chances over and over and over again makes them shittons of money. Nintendo knows their market, and they know how to manage their market.

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      Aw, come on guys. Kid Icarus: Uprising! I couldn’t point to another update to an old franchise as fun and adventurous as that from this year.
      And it had some of the best writing and online multiplayer this year
      too, which I certainly wasn’t expecting from Nintendo of all places, but
      here we are. That should be good for another year or so of goodwill.

  • Drew Toal

    Just Dragonborning around.

    • Fluka

      Hmph!  *Pouts and installs more stupid mods on the PC.*

      • Effigy_Power

        The amalgamation of which makes Skyrim far more titanic and epic than any DLC could, but also far unstabler than even Bethesda can factory-install.

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          So basically, if what I gather from the Internet is correct, you Obsidian’d it?

  • djsubversive

    whoo, Jhonen Vasquez! I went through a phase in high school and let’s leave it at that. But this made me smile.

    On to the reason I usually post here: games. I just started playing Planetside 2 and it’s pretty fun. A gigantic never-ending Battlefield 2142 upgrade with 3 factions. My first character was the blue guys, Neo Conglomerate. They have guns that do the most damage comparatively, but have the most recoil. I discovered the joy of Engineering, though – I can toss out ammo boxes and repair tanks and MAX units (mech suits, from what I gather), AND I can deploy a turret to provide some extra firepower.

    Then I tried the Vanu Something-Or-Other. They have laser guns with like no recoil, but not a lot of damage. It works out better for me, though – I got a lot more kills in one battle as a Vanu Engineer than I did in almost my entire (4 hours, tops) NC career.

    All in all, good times, but it could be a lot better with a bigger group (I’ve been running around in a squad with just a couple of friends, supporting other groups). If you want to join me, I’m djsubversive (Neo Conglomerate) on the SolTech server and VisasMaar (Vanu) on the Mattherson (I think) server.

    I also picked up Saints Row The Third in the Steam sale and it’s over-the-top and fun. The Boss is a gleeful psychopath, no matter which of the six (seven with the zombie grunts) voices he/she has. The missions just keep stepping things up, and you start getting fun toys almost immediately (UAV drones, 4 types of grenades, rocket launchers, and with the DLC, a gun that covers people in chum and summons a sewer shark to eat them – this is one of the greatest video game weapons ever). 

    There are a few annoying glitches – enemies not appearing during missions (our own Chum Joely had this happen earlier, but restarting the mission let him blow things up and shoot guys as intended), characters not spawning in vehicles during activities (mostly noticeable during co-op), random damage and ragdoll-ing, and homies NOT GETTING IN THE DAMN CAR WHEN WE’RE UNDER ATTACK, PIERCE. Speaking of co-op, it makes an already fun game even more so. Some activities (Tank Mayhem, Heli Assault) give each player their own vehicle, while others give one player duties normally delegated to NPCs (driving, placating a tiger, being an ‘escort’ in the backseat of a car… note: normally there is nobody to placate the tiger).

    I’ve also been playing a bit of co-op Dead Island with some friends, and multiplayer is a blast, but the second act in the city really showcases a lot of flaws and has become more tedious and annoying than the bright sunny resort that was the first act.

    We haven’t played Dead Island in a couple weeks, though, since we’re having a lot more fun with Saints Row. I’ve done the mission where you get your first major crib at least 4 times in the past week, so I started getting fancy – MINOR SPOILERS FOR EARLY IN SAINTS ROW THE THIRD: land on the roof, shoot through the skylight, and drop into the penthouse with a shotgun while my co-op partner lands in front, by the pool. END SPOILERS.

    Other fun Saints Row The Third things: 
    - leap off the penthouse helipad and either try to open your chute at the last possible second, open it early and try to hit a Base Jumping target (minigame that it prompts you to start when you’ve got a parachute), or just be a badass and faceplant into the street, stand up, and jack the nearest car (note: the “No Fall Damage” upgrade isn’t REQUIRED for this, but it’s highly recommended). Modify a street sweeper (Scrubber, I think it’s called). 
    - Sprint + Melee button will awesome-melee people (wrestling moves, body-surfing them into the pavement, punching them in the face; default on PC is Shift + F).
    - Awesome-jacking cars is similar – Sprint button + Enter Vehicle button (default E).
    - Double-tapping E to exit a vehicle keeps the engine (and more importantly, the radio) on while you hop out and buy some ammo. Or new pants. Or the store that sells them.
    - Try to do assassinations and car thefts soon after they become available (after you get the penthouse and/or do the “here’s how to do activities” missions for Kinzie, Zimos, and Angel is a good time). Trying not to spoil things, but later in the story, it becomes a lot more difficult to move as freely (and some of the assassinations require you to stir up trouble with the gangs, which is difficult if you’ve wiped them out, or gotten close to it – I THINK the game might automatically spawn the target if the gang is indeed completely wiped out, but if they’ve got one territory left, they’ll never spawn there when you want them to, of course, and I’m not completely sure if that’s how it works).
    - this: http://cloud.steampowered.com/ugc/882967147723307254/A0D7DADC1CB1D1CEFE536E4DEB64F791813534FE/ – it requires a small car and possibly a co-op partner to open the elevator in the penthouse when you get there (the car is too large to actually fit, so it’s angled in the elevator, and the button to exit the vehicle is the same button as “take the elevator back downstairs” so a partner is necessary to open the door from the other side).

    “Hey, you’re still in the penthouse, right?”
    “Yeah, why?”"Come open the elevator door for me, please. You’ll see when you get here. I’m sort of stuck.”
    *partner opens elevator and bursts out laughing*

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      Yeah, the assassin contracts bug is a known issue. If you wipe out a gang and take over their territory, you’re SOL when in a mission where they’re the target and you’re the bait. Happened with me after I wiped out Killbane’s Luchadores.

      FUN FACT: One of the male Boss voices sounds kinda like Jason Statham, who provided voice-work for a character in Volition’s Red Faction II from 2002. Just my way of making Crank one degree closer to Saints Row The Third

      • djsubversive

        wait, it’s not basically Crank: the Video Game already? 

        The voices are all pretty great, and they all seem to put their own spin on the same lines (and the unique lines each voice gets are gems, too). Also, the Pierce-Boss Sublime duet is great and I always have to stop the car a block or so away so I can finish listening to it.

        A lot of the little things in this game seemed to be a bit more fleshed out in Saints Row 2, but on the other hand – Awesome Jacking cars and suplexing Luchadores. 

        • dreadguacamole

            SR3 is to good-natured to merit comparisons to Crank, I think…

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      I love all the weapons and cool stuff you get in Saints Row but as I progress I find that I mostly use my pistol because its the easiest to line up those one-shot head-shots on.

      I murder with it during the Professor Genki time trials which could be a game in and of themselves!

      • djsubversive

         I love Super Ethical Reality Climax. Murder Time Fun Time!

        Do you have the Genkibowl DLC? It adds in “Apocalypse Genki” activities (S.E.R.C. with a jungle theme and sharks in the water), and an Escort mission where you have to drive Genki around and run people over until he unlocks the flamethrowers on the car, then you run them over AND set them on fire. And another activity, but I haven’t done it yet.

        • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

          I picked up Saints Row 3 in the THQ bundle so no DLC, but since it’s only $7 I’ll probably pick Genkibowl up along with either Gangstas in Space or Trouble with Clones.

          I mean, I paid $5 for some of their top properties, I think I can spare some scratch for the DLC.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/7434UGH3EEMU2AUKTGMU3NLDZA JoshJ

           I was sold after the intro misson on the jet liner. After ALL THAT, swinging from the parachute… yeah… jump BACK INTO THE PLANE!? Totally sold.

  • TaumpyTearrs

    I’ve been missing you Jhonen!
    Squee and JTHM helped me cling to sanity as an angry, hatey teen all full of teen hate for everything. Invader Zim was amazing. I Feel Sick felt like a real evolution in your comics, but since then I haven’t seen anything since then. I’d even settle for more Filler Bunny! Hope we see a new cartoon from you soon.

    This weekend I will be playing Lollipop Chainsaw, which I started a day or two ago. Its funny as hell, and the soundtrack is amazing (including some music from Jimmy Urine of MSI, who Jhonen once illustrated an album cover for). The presentation is nuts, even the menu and load screens have cool art or animation. Its obviously gonna be short, but I know I will play through it atleast 2 or 3 times because after I beat it I can unlock some other outfits ( I’m excited to unlock the outift for the bad-ass purple haired chick from the High School of the Dead anime). I was amazed that even reading through the descriptions of the zombies that you collect had some laughs.

  • BarbleBapkins

    If the last of the parts I’ve ordered ends up coming in by tomorrow, I am going to be spending the weekend upgrading my PC with the help of a friend who actually knows what he is doing (and will probably end up doing most of it, considering my technical incompetence). Hopefully I’ll be starting one of the many games I’ve bought in Steam sales that my current PC can’t run. Although, considering my usual gaming habits, I’ll just end up playing one of the games I always play anyway, but with prettier visuals.

    Either way, I recently started playing Windwaker again since I was on a Mario Sunshine induced GameCube-nostalgia-kick. And damn if it isn’t STILL the best looking 3D Zelda game. The cel-shading of course looks great, but I had never appreciated how good the animations are, especially the amazingly expressive facial animations.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    This weekend is all about the first Mass Effect which came out on the PISS-3 this week. Finally I can enjoy the baffling inventory system, wonky combat and the Mako with my gaming console of choice. I was expecting the port to look as bad as Dragon Age with the whole fake beard effect, but it looks pretty good so far — it’s as if Benezia’s cleavage is really bursting out of the TV at me! I had forgotten that when I originally played Mass Effect on PC in many of the cutscenes featuring Benezia I missed whole chunks of the story due to pondering about the existence of Asari nipples and whether they were in fact Thessia’s equivalent of mammals.

    Also, managed to finish Hitman: Absolution on Hard this week. This is a great game (even if it’s probably not a great Hitman game, whatever that means). Stealth and avoiding collateral damage was my go to option on Hard but sometimes it was very difficult and I often found that funnelling witless enemies into a death zone was far more humorous — Behold! My subpar photography skills! But the platinum trophy is kind of like the gaming equivalent of repulsion after orgasm, so traded my copy in with a bunch of other conquests to help pay for the Mass Effect box set.

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      Have a good go with ME1, it’s more like Babylon 5 to ME3′s Star Trek. Don’t forget the awesome in-game encyclopedia; I poured over it my first ME1 playthru. I wish the ‘pedia’s narrator was a scotch wisky flavored alky, that way he might sound like the smoky voiced narrator from Lynch’s Dune. But alas, no.

    • fieldafar

      Your subpar photo reminded me of the time played the Missing Link DLC for DX:HR. I was hiding from some guards when one of them chucks a grenade. Not only was the grenade nowhere near me, but it managed to kill all 4 guards themselves.
      Here’s a screenshot of the aftermath: http://cloud.steampowered.com/ugc/594709036672712899/D5BE29E00A5C8DA2E456A584EDB80D5C5801E655/

      • Fluka

        That’s some nice work there, AI guards!

        Wait, is this the thread where we get the post some of our mountains of screenshots of dead/unconscious guard bodies?  No?  Whatever.  I’m posting my finest moment in body-hiding.

      • Jackbert322

        Ooh, my turn! Also in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, my picture was taken when SPOILERS Zhao calls all the guards on you END SPOILERS so yeah, there were lots of guards…this’ll be kinda spoileryish, but nothing major…anyway, I couldn’t get past them, but I noticed they were all coming out of the same elevator. So I’ve got a gas grenade (I never had enough gas grenades!) and a mine template, hey, I’ll make a gas mine! So I spent about five tries figuring out the absolute perfect place for it to knock out EVERYBODY, of which there was about a dozen. Here’s the result, even worse quality because I took it on an iPod Touch: http://imgur.com/YLiOM

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      I’m very much a part of the “Screw the Haters, the Mako rules!” crowd.  Seriously, you can just drive that thing up a 90 degree incline and it don’t give a hoot.

      Also.. Wrex.

      • Enkidum

        Don’t be silly, they put realistic physics in the game: it can’t possibly drive up anything steeper than an 85 degree incline.

      • alguien_comenta

        I loved the Mako as well, I just kept riding it up mountains just to see if I could reach the top.
        Even if most worlds were the exact same layout with different colors just the fact that you could travel to them and descend made the world feel big. Not to mention how the Citadel never seemed as big as in the first one.

        Oh, um… Shepard

    • Fluka

      Hah, oh man, I saw that DLC earlier.  I kind of agree with an assessment I saw on a different site, though.  Between the perma-scowl and the bald head, Agent 47 looks less like Adam Jensen there, and more like Gunther from the first Deus Ex.

  • feisto

    *Shadow of the Colossus spoilers*

    Okay, so this is the second time this week that someone mentioned “killing Agro,” even if the post-credits ending reveals that this isn’t really the case (and god, did I feel emotionally cheated by that ending). Is the international version different than the Japanese version? Can someone back me up on this?

    As for my weekend gaming, I got my hands on a couple of older RPGs (7th Dragon and 4 Heroes of Light), but the latter just feels like repackaged Square-isms (nice, colorful packaging, though), so I’ll probably be playing more of the former–which does a great job of conveying a world on the brink of destruction through game play (you have to get past the prologue to really get a feel for it, though).

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      *more spoilers*

      No Agro has a limp in the end when she meets up with the girl but she’s okay.  Honestly, I don’t care if it was a cop out. I don’t want to live in a world without Agro.

      Little known fact about gaming’s greatest Horse, if you have an Ico save file on your memory card when you start Shadow of the Colossus, it will change Agro’s spot on her head into the Ico ‘I’.

      • feisto

        I hear you about Agro…but you know, sometimes I want to see a game developer take a game to places that most developers are too afraid to tread, and I thought they’d done a fantastic job with it–like, “Wow, they actually saw the story’s tragic arc through!”–until they attached that final ending. I kind of felt like Angelica Huston in The Royal Tenenbaums after Gene Hackman tells her he’s dying, and then when he sees how badly she’s taking it, he tells her he’s not dying.

    • alguien_comenta

      Well yes, but in the moment you felt it. Is the same with the Iron Giant, is the “Superman” bit less good just because of the end of the movie?

      • feisto

        I haven’t seen Iron Giant yet (which, really, I need to get on that already), but the problem I had with the final ending was it felt like a redemption arc was tagged onto a story that didn’t call for one. Tonally, the entire game seemed to be heading towards a tragic ending, but even then Agro’s “death” caught me by surprise–this guy really loses everything. And after what seemed like a well done tragic ending, they let the princess wake up and let Agro come limping back–and it all felt dishonest to me. Like the developers were too afraid that gamers couldn’t handle a genuinely well done sad ending.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Great interview! I especially liked how Mr. Vasquez (indirectly) talked about the idea of what a “real” gamer is, i.e. that there’s no such thing. Gaming is so mainstream now that defining one’s credibility by that activity is next to meaningless, and I’m happy for it.

    This past week, I finished two games, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, which is a mediocre game that I can’t in good conscience recommend, and Dishonored, which is a fantastic game that you should all play when you get the chance. I’ve got a boatload of screenshots documenting my playthrough here. I often found myself pausing to take screenshots, like a virtual tourist, turning off UI elements so that I could get an unobstructed view. Dishonored does a fantastic job of demonstrating that art direction is at least as important as – if not more important than – fidelity when it comes to graphics. Sure, the game’s objects have a low poly count and the textures are nothing to write home about, but its painterly aesthetic turns those technical limitations into assets. I was especially struck by how well the game depicted urban ruin; there’s an odd sort of beauty to be found in it.

    Okay, enough rambling about Dishonored. What am I playing this weekend? I legitimately have 6 games on the go at the moment. (There are other games that I technically have “on the go,” but I haven’t picked them up for months.) So, this weekend, I’ll be playing some combination of Assassin’s Creed II, BioShock, Costume Quest, Max Payne, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, and Saints Row: The Third.

    Magically, when I picked up BioShock the other day, it clicked for me and I started legitimately enjoying it. Aiming a gun is still like playing a game of Pin The Tail On The Big Daddy, but I played through a section that had remarkably good pacing and didn’t feature any massive waves of enemies, so that might explain my enjoyment.

    Max Payne is really tough. I’ve gotten so used to cover mechanics in third-person shooters that not having one is forcing me to use first-person shooter tactics (i.e. shoot while running behind a wall).

    I like to think that somebody at Ubisoft took a good hard look at Warrior Within and said, “Alright, let’s do the opposite of that.” Two Thrones feels like what the sequel to Sands of Time should have been. Gone is the dark, gloomy aesthetic, replaced with vibrant colours. But instead of Sands of Time’s gilded colour palette, Two Thrones puts an emphasis on bright white, which makes the marble interiors of the palatial setting pop. The game is also far more linear in its level design than Warrior Within, so it can safely be played without having to consult a walkthrough every five minutes to figure out where the hell one is supposed to go.

    Saints Row: The Third isn’t really clicking for me, which is a shame, because I quite enjoyed SR2. I don’t mind SR3′s over-the-top insanity, and the on-foot controls have been improved. But for some weird reason, driving is awkward. Steering is really floaty, and the FOV while in a vehicle feels all wrong. I think it might be too narrow, and I can’t find a way to adjust it. As a result, driving feels uncomfortable.

    • djsubversive

      Not sure about the steering (it IS a bit ‘floaty’ but upgrading the performance at a garage helps, especially with some of the sports cars like the Raycaster and Torch), but this might help with the FOV: http://www.saintsrowmods.com/forum/index.php?threads/increased-fov.401/ I might grab it myself, since the close-up view (especially when riding as a passenger) has been bugging me.

      Also, co-op makes everything better. Let me know if you want a partner for some havoc in Steelport. It’s not like we don’t hang out in chat for hours or anything. :D

      • djsubversive

        I did a quick test this morning, and the FOV increase is noticeable but not outrageous. I grabbed my pimped-out Gatmobile (another fun thing to find, usually near Planet Saints stores, but occasionally just driving around) and started setting people on fire and drawing police heat. When one of them finally dragged me out (while I was busy setting his car on fire), I resorted to drop-kicks and groin-punches – the FOV was a bit wider for drop-kicks and suplexes (awesome-melee stuff) as well as when aiming with guns. 

        Definitely give it a try. It’s easy to get rid of if you don’t like it. I’ll have to see what it does when I’m riding as a passenger in co-op, since that was where the FOV was most noticeable for me, but I can see the difference everywhere now that I’ve applied the tweak and I like it.

    • Captain Internet

      I had exactly the same response to Dishon(u)ored- I was so taken with the art that I didn’t notice the low poly count until someone pointed it out. I’m playing through again, this time being as violent as possible in order to get the high chaos ending. When games give me the option of being nice to people, I usually take it. I suppose it’s good that I feel uncomfortable about murdering everyone in sight. 

      So this weekend I’ll be doing that, but also writing some boilerplate code for next week’s Ludum Dare so I can focus on the game itself rather than building a menu system. I got something working last time, but this time I want something good.

    • duwease

      I’ve been thinking about art direction vs. technical achievement a lot lately while trying to 100% Okami HD.  The game is absolutely BEAUTIFUL in HD, possibly moreso than any other game I’ve played recently, but it’s obviously still the same PS2 game spruced up.  But it just looks so fantastic.. there’s so much fun to be had just running around the colorful, artistic environment and soaking in.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      The trick to driving in SR3 is to just jam the emergency break (space bar) on every turn no matter what.  It gives you points for drifting and it makes it much more manageable.

      I kind of prefer it’s floaty style to the “realistic”, heavy cars of GTA IV.

      • djsubversive

        There’s a non-power-slide brake? Next you’ll be telling me that people actually use the doors to get into cars and that there are ways to leave the penthouse that don’t involve leaping off the building!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      PoP: WW is the second of the original trilogy, right? Yeah, it’s the weakest of the series, although I liked the “idea” of it – SPOILERS – seeing images of “yourself” from the future as you backtrack through certain areas. It was a cool concept they couldn’t QUITE nail down. Also, it’s the first game EVER where I went turned off the music. Glad they removed that HARD ROCK score from the third game.

    • Fluka

      Aaaah, all of this end-of-year Dishonored talk is making me super-ansty.  I bought the game, and it’s installed on the computer and winking at me salaciously every time I boot Steam.  ”Yeah girl, you know you want this sweet art direction, mhhmm.”  But between Christmas travel and work, I have nooo tiiiime, and I’ve marked it the “first game I’ll play in 2013.”

      But it’s calling to every fiber of my being, you guys!

  • EmperorNortonI

    I’m not playing a whole lot recently.  A bit of Borderlands 2 when I can get the group together, and that’s about it.  I switched over to Soldier, so our team is now Soldier/Siren/Assassin.  It’s fun.

    I got Karateka as soon as I heard of it.  I had the original on the Apple II.  It was one of the few games I was able to beat in my youth, so I remember it fondly.  Seeing the new version, and hearing that it was decent, was enough to prompt the purchase.

    I’ve been following the Advent Calender over at RPS.  Their writeup of Waking Mars piqued my interest, and I may check it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000796894969 Paul Linthicum

    Finished Hotline Miami recently and I’m looking forward to Far Cry 3, because I’m curious to see how they explain the scenario of your guy running around wrestling wild animals and hand gliding while his friends are busy being held for ransom by pirates… sounds like a conflict in interest,

    • lokimotive

      I just purchased Far Cry 3 last night in an ill advised bout of full priced buying (ill advised because I’m poor, not because the game doesn’t look good). I had some hardware issues starting it up, mainly due to my constantly confusing graphic/audio set up and my wireless mouse tweaking out for some inexplicable reason.

      The game is gorgeous and seems like it will be fun, though the plot appears to be just atrocious. I’ve heard some people interpreting it as an action movie fantasy thanks to the constant visual motif of hallucinations and psychedelics. I’m not sure if I buy into that, at least so far, mostly because the precedent this series has set doesn’t really jive with anything like that. Especially since Far Cry 2, there’s this weird postcolonial apologetic/worship of the other that puts the series in a very strange space. I honestly don’t know what they’re going for anymore, but it’s still fun to shoot people.

      • http://wpham.com/ wpham

        I wouldn’t go so far as to call the story atrocious because the game at least tries to engage with the problematic nature of its conflict, but I definitely don’t feel like the writers had a concrete grasp of how to communicate their intended point to the player.

        • lokimotive

          Yeah, that’s probably a better interpretation of it; “atrocious” was too strong of a word. I think this and Far Cry 2 both show a willingness to engage in some problematic postcolonial concerns in terms of Westerners’ exploitation of people and lands, but its more Conrad than Spivak (which may or may not be a good thing). And the execution is kind of fumbling. I mean good on them for engaging in it, and it’s good that it brings up some concerns, but ultimately it’s just kind of weird.

          Nice avatar by the way.

    • http://wpham.com/ wpham

      I just grabbed Hotline Miami off Steam as a weekend deal and I’m still working on 100%ing Far Cry 3.  I almost always abstain from collectible hunts in games, but I really enjoy exploring in Far Cry 3.  Jumping in the water without Hunter’s Instinct to grab some relic is a terrifying experience with how many crocodiles and sharks there are.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    That horse death in SotC is my one sore spot with that game, as some fundamental design issues totally undermined the emotional resonance of that point for me.

    Design issue #1: Neither the game nor the manual explain that you can save your game at shrines. During my whole first playthrough, I had assumed the game only saved your progress between colossi and that was it – kind of reflecting its minimalist gameplay ethos. Only on subsequent playthroughs where I check out FAQs for secrets did I discover the saving function.

    Design issue #2: That bridge scene is probably the most tightly-scripted interactive scene in the game, where the program has very specific expectations for what you will do (ride the horse straight across the bridge to trigger the cutscene), but never communicates what it wants you to do.

    Design issue #3: It’s, like, a 20-minute ride to that bridge from the central starting point.

    Consequently, my experience of that “emotional crux” moment was: Walk across the bridge on foot, it starts to fall, try running, bridge collapses and I die. 20 minute horsey ride back to bridge. Try riding across on the horse, jumping at the last minute to clear the gap; bridge, horse, and I all fall and die.  20 minute horsey ride back to bridge. Figuring I timed the jump wrong, I try a few more times, with a few more 20 minute horsey rides in between. Finally, frustrated, in a fit of nihilistic pique, I just bear forward on the control stick, assuming not-jumping will result in my character face-planting into the cliff wall, which is at least more interesting than the hour-plus of impotently falling into the void. Doing so triggers the scripted sequence WHERE ARGO JUMPS LIKE I HAD BEEN TRYING TO FOR AGES, and bucks you off, dying. I was too dumbfounded and irritated to be moved by what happened.

    Still an amazing game, but good heavens was that sequence annoying.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       I had a very similar experience at that point in the game.  But Argo and I never got along the entire game, so I didn’t have the same emotional connection to it that other people did.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Haha, yeah, at that point I was pretty annoyed by Argo’s habit of being really hard to get on quickly. I believe my exact words at that point were “goddammit you stupid horse.”

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    This weekend I will be playing “OhMyGodIt’sFinalsTimeI’veGottaGetThisShitDoneandAlsoMyFriendJustAnnouncedShe’sGettingMarriedonthe15thandIBetterMakeHerSomethingNiceRightDamnQuick.” Luckily for me, my graphics card returned from RMA even more broken than it left, which means I’ll be less tempted to waste my oh-so-limited time playing more conventional games…

    Look at me, with all these first world problems over here!

    • Captain Internet

      Good luck! I get the feeling you’ll be fine. 

      I still get nightmares about finals.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      A Friend announced today that she’s getting married in a week?  You and your damn hippie friends.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         They were engaged a few months ago, and were planning on this summer, then just abruptly pushed it up to this winter when her brother’s summer wedding plans, through poor/inconsiderate planning wound up kind of steamrolling hers. So they’ve pushed it up and are just doing a small family-only civil ceremony and a reception/party this winter.

        Yeah, it’s short notice, but she’s one of my closest friends so I want to make out there – even if they’re intentionally making it a low-key affair to reduce such feelings of obligation. I also feel obliged to make or paint something for them, as is my wont when friends get hitched, which will either be a fun antidote to all the holiday/finals craziness I have to cram in this week+, or even more craziness on top of everything.

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

    The first Mass Effect just came out on PSN for $15. That’s where I’ll be.

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    Invader Zim really was an awesome show that got killed far too soon

    I remember how mad I was when Nick canceled it, I vowed never to watch that channel again and I’ve kept that vow

    keep in mind, when I was a little kid Nickelodeon was my world, but when they canceled Invader Zim I knew the Nick that I had loved was dead and I never looked back

    • http://hoyvinglavin64.livejournal.com/ rubi-kun

       Sorry you missed out on Avatar (made by ZIM animators).

  • dreadguacamole

     Far Cry 3 and Hotline Miami, with a side order of Lego Lord of the Rings.

     I rented Ninja Gaiden 3, but after a few underwhelming, QTE-filled minutes it presented me with a guy begging convincingly for his life… and the only way to advance the game was to kill him. I think the game may hold the record for the least time I’ve played something before I’ve returned it…

     Oh – and I’ve managed to get completely hooked on Academagia. What a wonderful, weird game.

    • EmperorNortonI

      Academagia really is a fun little timesuck of a game.  I played it a bunch when it just came out, and I know it’s a LOT LOT LOT more polished and complete now . . . I kinda wish I’d discovered it more recently. 

      But what I really wish is that it had been plotted out for more than the first year, all at once.  The quests and accomplishments seem way to grand and epic for a single year, and you get way too skillful too quickly.  Further, finishing just the single year takes bloody forever – imagine another six!

  • Fluka

    Burnt out on doing new things, and am cooking for a holiday dinner party this weekend, so I’ll be just messing about and finishing up the last remaining threads in two separate Mass Effect games.  Finished ME3: Omega, and mostly agree with the opinions here here last week, but I still enjoyed it.  There were some fun bits, and Nyreen was badass (spoilers: noooooooo).  There’s still that nagging feeling that it could have done so much more, though.  I took it as a chance to finally take some decent ME3 screenshots (and, uh, some really stupid screenshots too? Shepard, for god’s sake, it’s rude to stare!), as well as dressing up all cyberpunk like one of the cool kids.

    Meanwhile, in the waning hours of ME2, jerk-Shepard unlocked the Sparkle Snowflake Shield Boost bonus power.

    Maybe I’ll finally play Thirty Flights of Loving

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      I finally got a decent deal for Mass Effect 3 on PC! That’s made me very happy. Then I immediately looked at the DLC and got sad. I really liked the ME2 DLC I bought and thought it was worth the money, but of course EA decided to pull this: Smaller DLC, which used to be 560 Bioware Points, is now 800, and the bigger stuff, which used to be 800, is now 1200. On top of that, I can no longer pay 8USD for 800 Bioware Points, but have to pay 8EUR instead. Which would sum up to a 66% price hike when comparing Kasumi/Overlord/Shadow Broker to Leviathan/From Ashes/Omega.

      I made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be…

      I’m sorry, what was I talking about again?

      • Fluka

        Oh yeah.  That’s another thing.  I still have no idea whatsoever why this DLC was $15.  Maybe if one of the squadmates stayed on afterwards (which apparently is a technical impossibility now…).  It guess it’s longer, time-wise?  Eeeh…*throws more money away!*

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I love how Shepard is totally checking out Aria’s butt. “I know I’ve got a galaxy to save, but damn, that Asari is fiiiine.”

      • Fluka

        Subtle and mature thought bubble, to go over Shepard’s head: “BUTT.”

  • Guybrush Threepwood

    I think I’m finally going to start Amnesia, which I’ve had for about a year. Time to turn off the lights, put on the headphones and set aside a few extra pairs of pants.

  • stakkalee

    Awesome, Jhonen Vasquez; I absolutely loved JTHM – I found it at exactly the right age, and it was sublime.

    As for what I’m playing this weekend: When last we left the neverending Civ4/FfH game my eastern and western fronts had merged, splitting my buddy’s paladin civ in two.  Well, things are changing fast now, and I believe the end may be in sight.  After last weekend the southern territories are a smoking ruin.  Most of his cities lie conquered and in revolt; a lone coastal holdout survives simply because it was too far for me to reach quickly, but it’s defenders are gone, dead or fleeing north.  Meanwhile, my water-walking mages have firmly established a hold on the paladins’ northern port island and are proceeding to bombard the capitol.  The paladins had massed in the center of the northern peninsula, ready to charge once I broke through the city at the head of the peninsula, but I had a surprise waiting.  A volley of fireballs cleared out the center of the battlefield, and then I sent a lone archdruid into the center of the army.  Acting quickly, as his death was imminent, he cast an Entangle spell rooting the surrounding army to the spot, before succumbing to an assassin’s blade.  But the damage was done – the paladins’ charge broken before it could begin, my mages began picking warriors off one by one with their magic, and soon the battlefield was a charnel house.  All that remains tomorrow is to finish off the remaining 5 cities on the peninsula and my victory is assured.  At this point, the only mystery left is how quickly the end will come.

    Oh, and I’ll probably finish off Deus Ex: Human Revolution on Sunday.  I like it, it’s a fun game, but there’s an awful lot of walking, and I wish I could interact with the world more, but I’m enjoying the story and our gravel-voiced hero Adam Jensen.

  • Cheese

     I’ll be using one of the aforementioned five Vitas to wrap up Persona 4 Golden. I just unlocked Marie’s dungeon, so I’m pretty close. After that I’ll either immediately start a second play through or try to play some Persona 4 Arena. I think I’ll like it a lot more now.

    • PaganPoet

      I just started a New Game+, but that was after getting the neutral ending (Where you-know-who doesn’t die, but she doesn’t get released from the hospital either) and the game skips ahead to March. I decided to just start a new game because on my first go, I wasn’t as efficient with my time as I should have been. I have a few ground rules now:

      1) Always have a matching Persona everytime you hang out with a Social Link for the bonus points
      2) Only explore the TV on rainy days since most Social Links are unavailable on those days anyway

      Not to mention, now I don’t have to worry about studying/making envelopes/etc. since those stats carry over. I can spend my nights with Nanako/Dojima/the nurse/that bratty kid, or making lunch, or w/e

  • duwease

    Gonna g back and collect the rest of the beads in Okami HD.  This game is tailor made for my OCD.  I love games, like Soul Blazer or Terranigma, where you restore a world.. something is just so satisfying about turning ruins into a vibrant place and wandering around it admiring your handiwork.

    • PaganPoet

      I’m a completionist as well with games like Okami, but one thing I never was able to do was find and feed all the animals 100%.

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s telling that one of the best games of the last generation (and one of its swan songs) is also the antithesis of what big games have become. Let’s discard the realistic look we already prototyped and be the Yoshi’s Island to everyone’s Donkey Kong Country! Let’s be about rebuilding and bringing peace instead of destroying and bringing war!

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

    Did he do the whole interview dressed like a BeetleBorg?

    • Moonside_Malcontent

       I mean, it was a phone interview, so… potentially?

  • uselessyss

    So I played through Leliana’s Song and the Darkspawn thing for Dragon Age: Origins. The former was pretty interesting – I didn’t expect a completely self-contained story, but it was a nice change of pace from the main game. The latter was pretty disappointing. I guess I’ll do Witch Hunt next, and then Awakenings – so far, the DLC seems pretty short (I assume Awakenings is longer).

    I also started playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow on a whim – I really liked the first game and bought the second, but never really played it until now. There are things about that game that are great – the things that made me love the first game – but man, is it frustrating sometimes.

    Right now I’m stuck on a level in Jerusalem where you’re in some underground passageway and you pretty much have no choice but to gun people down. For whatever reason, I cannot get past it, and I’ve been trying for hours. It’s unfortunate because up to that point I was really enjoying it – it seemed just challenging enough to be fun.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      Awakenings is long enough; maybe about 1/3 as long as Origins. It’s a direct sequel, not just a side quest.

    • djsubversive

      Pandora Tomorrow is a good game, but I don’t think you’ll be missing much if you skip ahead to Chaos Theory (you should absolutely play Chaos Theory, but after that, well, it’s still CALLED Splinter Cell, but it isn’t really). Chaos Theory is excellent, one of my favorite games.

      It’s been a while, so I don’t remember much about the game, but I’m pretty sure there’s almost always a sneaky option – vent shafts, pipes overhead, whatnot. It’s possible that they force you to shoot your way through, though, in which case… do you have your rifle and sticky cams? or Shockers (and convenient puddles of water)? Maybe you just need a bit of a break and when you get back to it, you’ll get through on the first try, no sweat. Good luck, anyway!

    • alguien_comenta

      The Darkspawn DLC is so-so, but seeing the dog named Barkspawn is worth the price of admission

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    Civ V, Saints Row 3 and Halo 4.

    Halo 4 hasn’t been able to cement itself into my play time the same way that Reach weaseled into my brain and wouldn’t come out for months.  It’s a very good game but the addition of customizable loadouts and ordinance drops veers the green man’s gaming series a little to close to Call of Duty territory, which is a shame.

    What always made Halo great was the “All men are created equal” ethos of everybody having the same weapons and racing to the same power weapons. Now I can rack up some kills with my DMR that kids under level 10(?) can’t have and then order a weapon pack from the sky that could have a rocket launcher, a shotgun or any other super weapon just waiting for me.  It’s still lots of fun, but I’m a little bit burned by some of the new mechanics.

    Also somehow they’ve managed to mess up Big Team Battle, my go to mode with my brothers! And they haven’t got file-sharing online so I can’t download all the awesome gametype variants that are out there (but if you play with someone who already has them, then you get them so luckily I’m still able to play Super Smash Bros Halo).

    Yeah, Super Smash Bros Halo probably makes up for all the faults though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

    BLAST FROM THE FREAKING PAST GUYS.

    While cleaning out my office, I stumbled upon my old discs of a game that was huge back in the day but COMPLETELY went off the radar 3 years later – “No One Lives Forever”. Remember this? It’s basically Austin Powers: The FPS.

    I couldn’t run the discs, but I went area and “acquired” a crack of what looks to be a trilogy of the games. I started playing the first one, and… it’s really not that bad!

    I’ll be writing about the details later, but the first thing I noticed is how far we’ve come as far as “stealth” goes in games. NOLF defines stealth as “kill badguys before they see you”. There’s really nothing in terms of avoiding badguys or sneaking by them. You get bonuses depending on how well you do this, although 1) it’s unclear how they define the parameters of acquiring said bonuses and 2) it’s unclear how these bonuses help you in the long run. But the core of the game is solid, if dated. But not too much so.

    It also gets points for having a female lead, years before Chell and Jade and Alex. It kinda loses them because the whole game is “blah-blah-blah you’re a woman and obviously suck at spying” as the theme, but gains them again because, well, it’s the 1960s, and attitudes were like that, but then loses them again because when things DO go wrong, all the characters jump on the “you’re a woman” bandwagon instead of acknowledging the badguys did some crazy shit that no one could possibly handle, like HIJACK A PLANE IN MIDAIR. The whole thing plays as a joke, but it’s not loose enough, so I don’t think the intentions come off like Lilitech wanted (man, what happened to that studio?)

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I can’t not comment on this. NOLF is my favourite FPS of all time! (NOLF2 is okay, but from what I’ve heard, Contract Jack, the other game in the “trilogy” is awful.)

      To a large extent, the game is about sexism. I don’t think that other characters’ pinning the bad guys’ crazy plans on Cate’s supposed ineptness is indicative of the game’s attitude towards women. If anything, it’s supposed to show how out of the touch the “old crowd” is…well, play to the end of the game and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Citric

    Continuing on with what I’ve got going, so:

    Romancing SaGa: The voice acting in this game is wonderfully terrible. I particularly enjoy when someone has a completely incongruous accent – the leader of the thief’s guild has the voice of a sitcom mother, I keep expecting she’ll ask why I never call.

    Final Fantasy VI: Just got the airship. So many memories, but I think this will be the last time I play this, even five years since my last playthrough I still know all the beats.

    Assassin’s Creed: The first one. I’ve assassinimalated three people now. It’s kind of repetitive, and the whole “I’m kidnapping and conducting human experiments to help people” line on the baddies is pretty stupid. I enjoy it though, maybe I just like running on rooftops.

  • Link The Ecologist

    Well I just made my first Steam purchase in the form of the on sale Alan Wake bundle. I heard it compared to the X-Files and could not resist.

    Depending on how that goes and how I feel about booting up the gamecube this weekend, i might also look into Just Cause 2 which I read about somewhere on this site and sounded rather interesting

    • Jackbert322

      Just Cause 2 would probably make your GameCube explode with the size of the map :)

      I definitely recommend it though BUT only if you’re the kind of person who likes to explore, find collectibles, make up your own games to do within the game, just do random stuff in the open world. If you’re the type of person who hates open worlds and wants a strong guided story, with fun side missions, you will not get that. I’m the former though, so I had to quit after spending five hours trying to drive a sports car of a skyscraper.

      • djsubversive

        Just Cause 2 is one of the best sandbox games ever. Panau is HUGE and there’s a ton of stuff to find (and blow up). After the tutorial and doing one mission for each gang, I spent probably the next 20 hours or so just getting the hang of grapple-chuting around and exploring the island (I still haven’t been to most of the places in the southern part of Panau). Also denying the people of Panau their water and power. 

        “Take that, you pipeline jerks!”

    • hastapura

      I’m glad I’m not the only one still rolling with a GameCube.

  • dmikester

    This is going to be a busy weekend for me, so I’ll just be playing Assassin’s Creed 3 multiplayer and trying out the demo for Ni no Kuni: The White Witch, which I’m super excited about because of both Level-5 AND Studio Ghibli being involved.  

    So I finished AC3 100% this week after some marathon game sessions, and I have never felt so mixed about different aspects of a game.  I loved some of it and hated other things about it.  Also, I’ve said it before, but I’m a die-hard, gotten 100% in every Assassin’s Creed game fan, so that’s definitely coloring my reaction.

    The biggest issue with the game by far is that a significant portion of it, including of all things the programming, feels incredibly rushed, which is nuts considering they had a three-year development cycle.  There are glitches galore, and while I can deal with graphical glitches (even though there are many), it’s the gameplay glitches that astonish me, things like walking up to someone to accept a mission and the game not registering that you’ve accepted the mission.  There are also some terrible design choices that again feel rushed, like having viewpoints not reveal everything on a map, leading you to run around aimlessly to try to find missions and, in the case of one collectible requirement, “de-fog” the entire map, or having to collect Benjamin Franklin’s almanac pages, which are both highly annoying and have no connection to the main game (Franklin is just randomly thrown in during Haytham’s segment and only shows up once more in a cutscene, so why Connor would be collecting them is beyond me).  This sense of the game being rushed even affects the story, especially at the very end; Connor’s ending works fine, but the ending of the 2012 stuff felt so rushed and sloppily put together that I didn’t even realize the game was over once the credits started rolling.  Also, the less we say about the horribleness of Sequence 8 (the prison break sequence), the better.  

    However, with all that said, there was a lot that I liked.  I actually liked the story a lot (although the writing definitely felt clunkier than it usually does in AC games), and Connor’s character grew on me.  The end of the game rang hollow at first, but the more I thought about it and the way it develops some of the themes of the previous games the more I like it (I’m trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers).  I think the biggest issue with the story is the presentation; the graphics engine may be amazing with some things (the draw distances in the Frontier are breathtaking at times) but it can’t handle facial expressions, which makes Connor feel very one-note and moments like the very end of the game feel flat rather than emotional.  

    I also LOVED both the naval missions and the Homestead missions.  The whole naval campaign, including Captain Kidd’s treasure hunt, was expertly done, with a great balance of fun and challenge, smart gameplay design, and some great environments, like the haunted mansion.  The whole homestead part of the game unexpectedly blew me away; there’s something about the simplicity and earnestness of the story and the development of a real community over time that just really involved me.  Kudos to whomever created both of those aspects of the game.

    Finally, I disagree with the complaints on this site about the collectibles, especially the club challenges, being a huge dramatic issue.  They’ve existed before in AC games, have always been completely optional, and are really there to extend the longevity of the game and to appeal to crazy people like me who enjoy getting 100% in games, even when doing so often feels arbitrary.  To directly respond to John’s review of the game, they don’t strike me as examples of gamification because they’re set, finite, obtainable goals.  If this was a truly gamified experience, they would never stop; once you completed one set, a new set with a new arbitrary goal would pop up ad infinitum like in freemium games such as Farmville.  To be fair, a number of the collectibles, like the courier missions, feel very shoehorned in to add yet one more thing to do, but they don’t feel much worse than, say, the first Assassin’s Creed game’s flag collecting, or finding “hidden packages” in modern Grand Theft Auto games.

    Overall, I’d give AC3 a B- with some serious demerits for the glitchiness and rushed feel of some of the elements of the game.  My experience went from enjoying it in the beginning to hating it in the middle when the glitches started seriously impacting gameplay to actually liking the whole experience by the end.

  • boardgameguy

    getting together with buddies for heavy games weekend.  this will include all manner of dense, table-top euro games including BRASS, DUNGEON LORDS, THROUGH THE AGES, TRAJAN, and more.  as a break, we usually run a couple games of SPACE ALERT to keep things full of levity.

  • Electric Dragon

    Currently early in The Witcher 2, but having difficulty with the Cthulhu monster due to my own lack of dexterity and reflexes. If I get too frustrated with it, I may make a start on Black Mesa.

  • alguien_comenta

    I’ll probably play some AC:Brotherhood. I’m getting kinda bored about it, but let’s see if I can plow through it (I need to finish it to lend it to my brother on Christmas). I’ve also been playing some FIFA, yeah I know, I know, but the real world challenges are fun (last night I did the Toluca comeback against Tijuana)
    Besides this, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do the Game+ achievement on Bastion (is the last one I’m missing). I have a huge backlog anyway (I have FFXIII-2 and Dragon Age 2 still wrapped. I need to finish Dead Space, DA:O, stuff on the DS…)

  • Effigy_Power

    My weekend is filled with the dreadful emergence of the first of many somewhat-Xmas-themed parties and of course my work on a super-secret thing that I am dying to tell you about, but am also immensely enjoying knowing about whereas all of you don’t, with the exception of the few initiated Steam-chatters.
    Smugness suits me just fine, especially since I am essentially wearing a pantsuit today and I am wearing my rimless glasses. BOOYAH!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Is this secret thing an art thing?
         With drawings and such?

      • Effigy_Power

        My lips are sealed. I am taking this to the grave. You won’t get anything out of me. Yes, it is. I won’t talk.

        Damnit!

  • AmaltheaElanor

    I just finished Dragon Age for the 1,234,237th time, thus ensuring that I have now poured more time into playing that game than any other.  I’ll probably transfer my character over to another play through of Awakenings.

    I beat Flower a couple weeks ago on my PS3, but keep going back to it in an attempt to find all the hidden stuff in each level (and try to get all the trophies).  I’m also about five hours into Last Story on my Wii.  I’m starting to wish I hadn’t read so many glowing reviews, as the game has yet to really grab me.  I still want to like it, though.

    I also want to do my first New Game+ of Mass Effect 3, and am trying to decide which character to use (probably my Infiltrator).  I’m also planning to break down and buy some DLC – probably From Ashes (since Leviathan and Omega don’t seem as worth it to me).

    • Fluka

      From Ashes is 100% worth it.  Javik is a *fantastic* addition to the squad, that loveable grump.

      • Effigy_Power

        Especially since he’s not actually a DLC, but an integral part of the storyline Bioware just happened to market as a DLC. That’s more despicable and cheap than any ending could be.

        • Fluka

          Heeeeh, yeah, I was going to say “After you play, you’ll never be able to imagine the game without him!” but that seemed a little on-the-nose…

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Well, now I don’t know what to do. Maybe retreat just one step more? Fall back just a little? Draw the line over THERE?

        • AmaltheaElanor

          I wish I didn’t agree with this, but after reading up on Leviathan, it’s hard not to.  (I think that one has info which should’ve been in the main game.)

      • AmaltheaElanor

         Glad to hear it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347481845 Amber Heath

    I completely agree with the handheld thing, it’s so similar to playing on a TV now, but image and sound quality are compromised because of the size, and the controls are never as comfortable. Handhelds used to have these tiny screens and games that were part of their own tiny little world, with minimal controls, music and graphics, but no shortage of creative charm. I have an odd fascination with tiny versions of things, and I think that coupled with the nostalgic retro feel of the old handheld games made them more than just a portable version of the stuff I played on the TV. I think I’ll bring the gameboy out of retirement this week and feel like a giant from the future

    • Effigy_Power

      “I have an odd fascination with tiny versions of things”
      - Amber Heath

      You heard it here first.

      PS: That is basically a loving “Welcome to Gameological”, Amber. ^_^

  • ferrarimanf355

    Planning on some Forza Horizon. Or NFS Most Wanted. Depends on my mood. Horizon would be so awesome if it had cop chases.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.felts Eric Felts

    It would have been an AWESOME game….