Keyboard Geniuses

Breakout

15 Minutes Of Game

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • May 17, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

The Jobs Of Jobs
Google Breakout

It seems like just yesterday that Gameological introduced short-form posts in which we sort through some odds and sods of the gaming world. This week, Matt Gerardi introduced us to a clever, meta-tastic game of Breakout hidden within Google’s image search. Mr. Glitch passed along an intriguing aside about Steve Jobs’ little-known history with the game:

Fun fact: Steve Jobs was briefly in the employ of Atari in the mid ‘70s. He was offered $700 by Atari to develop the coin-op version of Breakout if he could get it done in four days. Jobs, who couldn’t engineer a sandwich, brought Steve Wozniak in under the table to do the actual circuit design, offering to split the pay 50-50. What he didn’t tell Wozniak was that Atari was offering a sizable bonus if he could knock the design down below 50 microchips. Woz busted his ass to finish the design in under four days, using just 46 chips. For his part, Jobs took the credit and pocketed the bonus money; about $5,000 in total.

Book O’ Puzzles
The Cop Jazz Hour

John Teti recommended that readers check out The Cop Jazz Hour, a snappy logic-puzzle game created by stalwart commenter duwease. While my Pop Tart-sized brain couldn’t make heads or tails of it, or really any logic puzzle ever, Electric Dragon grew up loving them:

Proust had his madeleines. These puzzles have a similar effect on me. It’s the mid-’80s again, and I’m a preteen sat indoors in a gîte in Brittany watching the rain fall.

As I said in another comment here, I am a sucker for the classic Logic Problem puzzles. I used to have books full of them, back when I was a youngster. It was exactly the kind of thing that could keep a math-interested only child occupied during the long summer school break, especially on long journeys or holidays in France. This was of course in the olden days, when state of the art portable gaming meant Nintendo Game And Watch or dodgy Eastern European knock-offs of same. And (especially as I got a bit older) “sat nav” meant “me, sat in the passenger seat, navigating with a Michelin Road Atlas.”

There was a thrill of finishing a puzzle off and turning the page to a puzzle you’d never seen before. Especially if it was differently structured—six sets of answers instead of five, even five categories instead of four! Some might have a little map to illustrate a layout so there could be clues like, “Mrs Johnson lives opposite the house with the green door.” The really hard ones at the back wouldn’t even have the grid for the ticks and crosses. Along with the logic stuff, what I learned was a sort of patience in problem-solving that has been valuable in later life. There’s always a moment of panic on first looking at the puzzle, but if you work on it a piece at a time, do the easy bits first, keep re-analyzing and re-reading the clues as you fill the grid in, you can usually solve it.

The Caring Dead
The Walking Dead

Pushing back against anti-video game sentiments made by Katie Couric and a diamondless Joe Biden alike, Ryan Smith looked to Telltale’s The Walking Dead as an example of empathy-inspiring games in a For Our Consideration op-ed. Caspian Comic felt the game’s unique system worked because it went beyond black-and-white morality:

The Walking Dead’s choices succeed over a lot of other games’ partially because “morality” doesn’t really enter into it. Most of the major decisions you’re offered amount to choosing between two equally unpleasant but arguably necessary options, making it less a matter of choosing between “good and evil,” and more about making decisions that will add character depth to your own version of Lee. In [Ryan’s] example, where you have to divide four food items among 10 people, choosing any one person over another isn’t really a “moral” decision, but who you choose and why will be very informative about what sort of a man Lee is, and in a much more probing way than just “is Lee a sweetheart or an asshole.”

Another thing that sets it apart is that you’re almost always choosing your interpretation of the lesser of two evils. Particularly when characters are fighting among themselves (Kenny and Lilly’s power struggles especially), Lee is forced to either pick a side and risk pissing off the other character, or remain neutral and piss everybody off. Again, neither decision is morally superior to the other; it’s all rooted in the character you’re developing for Lee. And trying to make everyone happy just makes nobody happy.

Dr. Flim Flam gave us a second opinion on another empathetic game:

One game I’m terribly fond of is Animal Crossing (I’ve played them all and, as previously mentioned, have a pre-order down for the 3DS XL that comes with it), where you cultivate shallow but long-term relationships with townsfolk. People move into town, you greet them, ask them how it’s going, and play games with them. And sometimes they move out, and you cry, because Tangy was your favorite, she was always in such a good mood, and you play “Ain’t No Sunshine” over and over again until it’s just a dull ache in your chest. You can go around and hit neighbors with a butterfly net until they get upset, or you can go talk to the bear with the dark clouds over his head and see what’s going on. You send gifts in the mail and create new catchphrases that don’t HAVE to be swear words. It’s an entire game franchise built around the idea of community—even more so as connected consoles allow us to visit the towns of others. In a world where even the most benign action games involve stomping on foes and hurling fireballs at others, a game that’s about the simple non-violent pleasures in life is unique and worth celebrating.

Buckler And Buzzer
Dungeons & Dragons

Anthony John Agnello took us through two unfaithful (but perfectly fun) adaptations of Dungeons & Dragons for an Adapt And Die column. CNightwing told tales of a similarly shaky (but perfectly fun) adaptation:

I don’t think it used the Dungeons & Dragons license explicitly, but Capcom also made the excellent Quiz And Dragons. It’s aged like most quiz games, in that you’ll be asked about 1980s television or music, but it’s still perfectly playable.

It basically played as a typical D&D campaign of the time. You journeyed through different geographically-themed regions and fought monsters, sometimes finding an inn or a friendly elf, and then defeating the dragon at the end. Eventually, you fought the evil Gordian, something something knot pun! Every monster, no matter how strong or deadly, would insist on challenging you to a game of questions, with an implicit agreement that if you were wrong it got to smack you in the face. The game did away with any pretence that the game had a story though, with each event being a random encounter on a linear-ish board (something that would make certain D&D games I’ve played more tolerable, to be honest).

Your character class had an effect on the game. I remember the Ninja sometimes did double damage, and the Amazon and Wizard could sometimes choose the topic or only have three answers to choose from, but I forget which way around. The Warrior sometimes healed, I think? It’s been a while since I played it on a friend’s arcade machine. With infinite credits, an afternoon finding the Seed Of Wisdom was well spent indeed!

J-Ball
Unrealistic Sports Games

Drew Toal guided us through the relatively short history of awesomely unrealistic sports games. While basketball and football got their fair share of play from the feature, Jackbert directed our attention to a mildly insane Japanese baseball game:

MLB Power Pros series: A popular Japanese title brought to the States by 2K Sports in 2007 and 2008, this baseball game played a more realistic game of the sport than 2K’s American series. Everything else was completely crazy, though. Players lacked noses, arms, and legs. Their other body parts looked like those of Lego figures. In the career mode, each of the 6 minor league teams had a crazy flaw that you had to overcome to lead them to the championship. Maybe the manager had a literal phobia of the rival team, or the star pitcher couldn’t stop thinking about his girlfriend on the mound. Beside playing games, you controlled every aspect of your player’s life. This meant eating, training, sleeping, dating women, talking to your agent, and weird side quests straight out of a Japanese role-playing game. The 2008 release added the My Life mode, which was all this but with actual MLB players. That meant you could use David Wright to save the town from an evil witch.

Crook’s Quest
The Secret Of Monkey Island

For this week’s Inventory, we brought you nine amusing/diabolical measures developers took to keep freeloading pirates from loading up their games. Fluka remembered an in-game anti-piracy measure that was a hassle even if you hadn’t stolen the game:

I have (not so) fond memories of scrambling to find my manual when King’s Quest VI wanted to check its copyright protection. Instead of just a quick screen at the beginning of the game or install, however, Sierra actually built the DRM into the game itself as a puzzle. At some point, Prince Alexander has to climb the “Cliffs Of Logic,” summoning steps in a rocky cliff by solving word and ideogram puzzles. The sometimes clear, sometimes cryptic clues for these puzzles are all located inside the game manual. Oh, and be careful to answer correctly, or you’ll plummet to your untimely death. Later, you need to navigate a floor puzzle in a labyrinth, again using a riddle located in the damn manual. Oh, and be careful to step on the right tiles, or your body will be immediately be shot through with a hundred arrows.

Sierra adventure puzzles + ’90s physical DRM = my nine-year-old self finally said, “Oh fudge this,” and bought a walkthrough guide.

Well folks, that’s it! Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

48 Responses to “15 Minutes Of Game”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    It is good and important that everyone knows about my new 3DS XL. I’ll shut up about it now. Promise. Except the part where I talk about my town of talking animals and my need of different kinds of fruit trees.

    • Kyle O'Reilly says:

       there’s a new Animal Crossing on 3DS.  Do tell…

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        My only gripe with the series is that there are no more virtual arcade games to accumulate.

        What I’ve read about New Leaf is mostly minor changes. There’s a wishlist of stuff I WANT (access to my VC games from WITHIN Animal Crossing for some reason! Tangy as a permanent resident! etc.), but mostly it seems designed to get you out of debt faster and to also enhance the “shopping” experience, which was previously added to noticeably in the Wii version of the game.

        Also, you’re MAYOR OF TOWN. I assume that means Tortimer has shuffled off this mortal shell, which is sad, but my main concern is if this limits how many other people can play in the same town on the same cart, because the Mrs. FlimFlam is a force of organized social good in these games.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        The most important thing: it’s so good since Nintendo tried this time that it’s sold more than 1,000,000 copies more than the latest handheld Super Mario in Japan.

  2. duwease says:

    Another plug?  You guys are the best…  imagine I’m making that thing where you put your hands together to make a heart.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      We need college football-style gloves that, when one’s hands are crossed over each other, makes a stylized arcade button.

      It would totally not be lame.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Agh, that reminds me, I gotta get back to that game! When I was in grades 6 through 8, I was filed away in a gifted program once a week. We used to do those sorts of dot matrix puzzles all the time, and they got absurdly complex towards the end.

      At first the program was terrific, but after some pretty severe budgetary cutbacks specialized programs like ours were the first to go, and we lost most of our resources and our specially trained teachers. Instead, they pulled some old bird out of retirement to essentially babysit us one day a week, which was the complete opposite of what the course was supposed to be. Instead of a specialized workload designed to challenge us, we were given a load of busywork and basically ignored. It was probably the worst environment we could have been in- the type A kids who needed structure and challenge in their days went insane with boredom, and the creative-but-lazy types like me and my friends spent the days sticking pencils into the ceiling, disassembling the class furniture, and making pillow forts.

      Well, that got a little soul searchy. The point I was trying to make is I like dot matrix logic puzzles.

      • duwease says:

        That sounds so achingly familiar, only I don’t think our program got the cutbacks until middle school or so.  I don’t recall if that was my *first* experience with logic puzzles, but I do remember whiling away far too many classroom hours with dogeared old copies of GAMES magazine, doing various similar printed puzzles.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        I had a similar program in sixth grade, but only a couple hours a week, and I moved before the end of the year, so no idea if it continued without me.

        That was where I learned the classic “One of us always lies, one always tells the truth” puzzle.

        • Matt Kodner says:

          I learned that one from Samurai Jack! Still don’t get it! I’m telling you, it’s this Pop Tart brain of mine.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          @MattKodner:disqus  – You basically just have to run through the possibilities in your head to figure it out.

          “What would the other guy say if I asked him which door to take?”

          “He would say to take door two.”

          If the guy is the liar, he would be lying about what the other guy would say.  The guy who tells the truth would tell me to take door one.

          If the guy is the truthful one, he’d be telling me the truth about what the liar would say, which would be to take door two.  So I want to take door one.

          Both options lead to the same answer, so there you go!

      • Girard says:

        We had an activities-style gifted class in 4th grade (and probably earlier, but I wasn’t there then), and in 5th grade and 6th grade the gifted classes did this thing called “Future Problem Solvers” (which used the acronym ‘FPS’ years before it meant something else dorky 6th-grade boys would waste their time with).

        It was actually kind of cool. We’d spend a semester researching a major social problem, like racism or gang violence or the ozone hole, do cool projects about it, come up with solutions and write cool sci-fi stories about it, and at the end of the semester we did a “competition” where, in small teams, we’d be closed off in a room, given a scenario related to the topic, and have to brainstorm as many ingenious solutions as possible, which were written in a packet and sent off to some judge.

        Because I’m a pencil-dick poindexter, I kind of preferred the logic puzzles from 4th grade. But in retrospect, the FPS thing was definitely a much better idea for giving bored brainy kids something to do with themselves.

        • Jackbert says:

          Good lord, where did you go to school?! I’d like to send my kids there.

        • Girard says:

          @Jackbert:disqus My hometown had really good public schools, as a result of being a fairly affluent suburb with high property taxes that fed the school system. The plus side was that I got to go to a good school. The downside was that there were a lot of rich assholes there.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus That’s insane.  I’m envious, though I think I’d have needed a critical mass of kids to make that interesting for me.  I’d like to see   
          @johnteti:disqus do an article on, like, http://www.chicagoquest.org http://q2l.org to see the video games version of that.

        • Jackbert says:

          @Girard:disqus : Ohhh, the suburbs. I always forget those are a thing. Never mind, not sending my kids there.

        • Girard says:

          @Jackbert:disqus : I don’t blame you. I’ll likely be looking at teaching jobs in a year or so, and while suburban placements are cushier, I have pretty much zero interest of ever living in that kind of place again. (In high school I made bitter, cliched editorial cartoons for our school paper about my distaste for rarefied suburban bubble culture.)

          But I can’t pretend I didn’t benefit from the place, or blame my (single) mom for busting her hump living in a town that was beyond our means so that her kids could go to school there. 

          It’s possible if I were a parent I would feel compelled to move back to that kind of environment, too, (which is one of many reasons I have no interest in becoming a parent…).

        • Jackbert says:

          @Girard:disqus : Yeah, I’m a inner-city kid and the burbs have always skeeved me out quite a bit, despite only setting foot in them about every three months.

          Currently, my mom drives my younger brother out quite a distance to go to a school in a first-ring suburb. It takes about three hours out of her day and costs quite a bit in gas money. He hates it. Next year, she’ll try to get him a scholarship to a fancy private school. If I was a parent, I’d probably try to do that as well. Anything to avoid the suburbs and inner-city public schools.

        • Girard says:

          @Jackbert:disqus : That’s interesting – is your brother’s school a charter school or a magnet school of some kind, that he can go to it, even though it’s public and he doesn’t live in the district?
          There are some schools like that around where I am right now (an urban setting). I did some student teaching in an ‘open high school’ which was public, but students had to apply to get in, so it drew kids from all around the city. It was a really cool place, with an open campus where kids could go grab lunch in the neighborhood, and where teachers go by their first names, and stuff. And academically, the classes seem smaller and the students do more engaging project-based stuff.

        • Jackbert says:

          @Girard:disqus : Actually, in Minnesota (or at least in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs area), schools are open-enrollment. Basically, if you’re willing to haul out, you can go anywhere. This is pretty great because you can go to a good school even if you don’t live in a good school neighborhood.

        • Girard says:

          @Jackbert:disqus That’s pretty fantastic of Minnesota. And is a stark contrast with places that send parents to prison for “stealing” their child’s education from a district they don’t live in…

        • Jackbert says:

          @Girard:disqus : Minnesota is very progressive educationally. We also passed the first charter school law in the United States, back in 1991.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      CHEAT ALERT:

      Pretty sure this is unintentional, but I figured out a way to get unlimited error checks.  I only used them on the delinquent kids puzzle so far, because I swore I had everything right but somehow mixed something up.

      • duwease says:

        A friend of mine actually found that in testing, and we decided to leave it in.. considering that it’s already a steep learning curve, I’d rather have people who want the help to have it :)  Feel free to share!

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Yay!

          If you keep getting stumped, save your progress then reload, and you have two more error checks by your friendly operator gal.

  3. Effigy_Power says:

    What? @duwease:disqus’s game gets a mention, but my half-assed musings on the human condition do not? What kind of a God would allow this?

    Seriously, that game is pretty awesome.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I feel like once you’ve been out of the Keyboard Geniuses rotation for a while, it’s harder to get back in.

      Edit: either that, or my posting at 1:00AM and then going to work the next day means my comments are incoherent garbage.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I think they’re telling us to write more paragraphs next time.  I’m on it.

    • Fluka says:

      Meanwhile, I’m back in the game, baby!  Woohoo!  And I didn’t even have to mention feminism, cats, or Mass Effect!

      Also, I think @stakkalee:disqus ‘s Gameological jackets need to include a special pin for actual art/game/music/other creative products featured or mentioned by the staff.

    • duwease says:

      I believe Comment Cat might prefer half-assed musings on the feline condition.

      Laser pointers, what’s up with that?

    • Electric Dragon says:

      @Effigy_Power:disqus does not have more studs than @Girard:disqus .
      Comment Cat has not commented on Keyboard Geniuses.
      The commenter with the cat avatar is not stakkalee.

    • Girard says:

      You need to make a game, Eff. Your particular brand of sadism could make you the next Roberta Williams!

  4. CNightwing says:

    I can’t help but gush over something that combines two of my passions so well: D&D and quizzing. I could write an epic essay on the current direction of either..

  5. stakkalee says:

    Happy Saturday everybody! Our most commented article this week was, as always, the WAYPTW thread with 157 comments.  The Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) Comments are:
    1) With 37 likes @Fluka:disqus trolls the thread.
    2) With 29 likes @neodocT:disqus brings it in manually.
    3) @Citric:disqus gets 23 likes praising the machine.
    3) And tied for third, Unexpected Dave (@twitter-493417375:disqus) explains that the Force is simply microtransactions.
    5) And tied for fifth we have @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus and @DrFlimFlam:disqus getting 20 likes each on a pair of comments that would make Dirty Harry proud.
    It’s a short week for notifications – there are no new members of the Plaid Jacket Society.  @CNightwing:disqus gets some bling for his plaid jacket, netting his first stud!  @DrFlimFlam:disqus gets a second stud, @Jackbert:disqus gets a third, @Mr_Glitch:disqus gets his fourth stud, Electric Dragon (@google-6108c5611fbc5b86af5df565c4b4b048:disqus) gets a fifth and @Fluka:disqus gets the “Lucky Seven” achievement with her seventh stud!  And @caspiancomic:disqus keeps close at the heels of @Effigy_Power:disqus unlocking the “You’re Legal!” achievement with his 21st stud!
    And for the linkdump we have the works of Liz Fonseca, an artist who created “Detrimental Beauty” and the Virtuality Series which juxtapose classic Nintendo characters and images with photographs.  That’s it for this week!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      @stakkalee:disqus, if you don’t mind me asking, how do you compile the most-liked comments?

      Is there some Disqus API you use? Some web scraping program? Have you hacked the system? Or do you simply look up everything manually?

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

        He sits in front of thousands of monitors, each one focusing on a different comment, and counts the likes in real time.

        • Electric Dragon says:

           He doesn’t even see the likes any more. All he sees is blonde, brunette, redhead.

      • stakkalee says:

        I just do it by hand, ctrl-f style. I’ve been threatening myself with learning PHP for a while and the Disqus API seems pretty straightforward so I’m sure I’ll get around to it eventually.

    • Electric Dragon says:

       Oh hey, Disqus fixed the cartouches for Google users (as well as the avatars)!

  6. NakedSnake says:

    So I may be throwing my voice into a bottomless void here, but I keep thinking it’s awfully quiet here on weekends (no new articles plays a role there, of course). Has anyone thought of trying to have commenter-led features on Saturday and Sunday?