Keyboard Geniuses

Sound Shapes

Comment Cat’s Favorite Things

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • July 26, 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.

Beefy Beats

Good news, everybody! Anthony John Agnello brought us the lowdown on how Sound Shapes successfully bridged the gap between platformer and music games in a For Our Consideration op-ed, which prompted ProfFarnsworth to make a connection between the game and weird physicists:

Incidentally, in physics, one of the best first approximations for almost any problem is called a spherical cow approach. Many of the most renowned and intelligent scientists would use this approach to get an initial idea of how much or what kind of forces were involved in any particular scenario. This game reminds me of this method. It seems to do really well at showing people a great “first approximation” of the music it shows. Of course, such media as music have more depth than just one layer; so more study (i.e., playthroughs/games) is required.

Death By Plank
The Last Of Us

For the first episode of The Digest, our monthly chat-n-chew talk show, John Teti was joined by Drew Toal to discuss one of the year’s biggest games, The Last Of Us. John and Drew both made note of the game’s fittingly slow beginning, which ChicaneryTheYounger also defended:

I loved the slow start, not retroactively, actively. This was mostly due to cohesion, which a lot of developers over look. Everything was placed in the world on purpose, things weren’t randomly strewn to make a “level.” Everything flows, and it’s all because of careful placement of textures and models. It wasn’t “Here is the Industrial Zone,” “Here is the Aztec zone”; it was a slow progression. You can see grass breaking through concrete and entropy in general. It seems completely natural, and that’s what makes it so delightful.

It’s a rarity in video games, a game world that feels naturally constructed and that I’m more than happy to work through slowly rather than rush through. Even in New Vegas (which I love) and Skyrim (which I don’t), the world feels actively separated by developers. It rarely feels like a real world but often feels like a series of set pieces and areas that you must go to. For example: I have trouble reconciling [the Skyrim city] Falkreath with Markarth, as they’re only a few miles apart yet look completely different. It’s because there’s little transition. It’s a spring forest until it’s suddenly a snowy stone citadel.

DoYouRealize appreciated The Last Of Us’ superior rootin’-tootin, zombie shootin’ mechanics, but also enjoyed its more nuanced features:

Often I hear people talk about it [The Last Of Us] as “just another zombie apocalypse shooter,” albeit one that does the zombie shooting just right. What it does right, though, is something that you really can’t say about other games. When you learn how to do something, you’re actually going to need to rely on that thing fairly often. Stealth isn’t there just to start off a fight until you get caught. You could get caught, start shooting, and then find some new place to hide. Mêlée is effective in real situations where mêlée might be effective. There are places to use every single one of your gadgets and different types of guns. Ammo is actually scarce. Plenty of games tell you ammo is scarce, but I can’t think of any others that actually mean it.

The Digest has an edible theme each month, and this week they indulged in nostalgic goodies. Candy cigarettes were king this episode, and while John and Drew begrudgingly chomped through their shares, Jackbert swung by with an expert’s guide to the “treats”:

There are three kinds of candy cigarettes: Chocolate, sugar, and bubble gum. The chocolate ones are the worst. You have to unwrap the inedible paper to get to the chocolate, but if you put it in your mouth, the chocolate melts and sticks to the paper. The sugar ones are terrible as well, because the sugar tastes like ground chalk, as does the edible paper. The bubble gum ones are okay though. They taste slightly better than the sugar, plus when you blow, bubble gum powder actually puffs out the other end. Sadly, bubble gum ones are the hardest to find.

Smurf Till Ya Drop

Smurfs Dance Party

Drew Toal rounded up the new releases in Out This Week. It’s never a good sign when one of the top games coming out is a licensed Smurfs game, but luckily, Boonehams linked us to the nightmare that is the first entry in the Smurfs video game canon:

The video game based the first Smurfs movie was a Just Dance-style game, and boy howdy, you haven’t lived until you’ve pumped your arms like an idiot to “Who Let The Smurfs Out?”

True story: I rented this game as a joke for my girlfriend, and to this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her as mad as when I postponed our movie-watching time to show her this lark. She usually never swears, but the stream of consciousness-like cussing that came out of her mouth while watching me dance to this game astounded me.

Elsewhere, Chalkdust noted an Escapist that covered a scary new aspect of an online fighting game:

In other news, the free-to-play martial arts MMO Age Of Wushu is introducing forced castration as a gameplay mechanic.

Yikes!

Speak And Spelunky
Spelunky

Matt Gerardi delivered wonderful news to Spelunky fans internetwide. The brutal adventure has a new edition coming to the PC, and there will be daily challenges that let you broadcast how bad you are at Spelunky. While I never got the hang of the game, Kyle O’Reilly certainly did, and came with the highest of praises for it:

This is just my humble opinion, guys, so take it as you will, but Spelunky is a god-tier game that brings unparalleled amounts of joy and happiness to all who master it. Its mechanics are aged and beautiful like an oak-barreled Zinfandel. Its art style brings tears to the eyes of even the blind. And its soundtrack is a cacophony of beauty and time that parts the sea of cynicism drowning so many of today’s youth. It renders all other games mere software blips in an ocean of guns, lens flare and rubber.

Half-Year Thunderdome

Blood Dragon: Lady Liberty

With July coming to a close, and 2013 halfway done, we asked the Gameological writers and readers alike to single out their favorite game of the year in progress. Ocelotfox resisted the temptations of the big blockbusters and went with a solid indie platformer, Guacamelee:

I’ve had the chance to play a surprising number of high-profile titles this year. Yet, in spite of a year with Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, DmC: Devil May Cry, and The Last of Us, it’s a small title that stands out the most. Guacamelee just struck a wonderful chord with me. A great combination of visual flair, clever winks, and nods to movies, internet memes, and video games—and a surprisingly robust combat system. It stood out more than any of the other titles thus far.

Caspiancomic put his chips on the too-cute-not-to-love Studio Ghibli role-playing game, Ni No Kuni:

I’m normally late to the party with video games, waiting a couple of months for prices to go down and hype to die out before I finally deign to actually play something. There are, though, games that I absolutely can’t resist, and which I must play instantly. One of those is my game of the year so far: Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch. I have a lot of complicated feelings tied up in this game, (some of which I’m spinning out into my next major Game Theory article due out next month or so) but my most overwhelming reaction to 90 percent of its duration was one of pure childish glee. It created an unusual sensation in me that was like nostalgia, but for something I hadn’t yet experienced.

On the one hand, in many ways, it was like playing one of the Japanese role-playing games of my youth, come unstuck in time and accidentally washing ashore in 2013. On the other, it was like getting a chance to participate in a 60-hour Studio Ghibli movie, and having an opportunity to hang out in and explore the kind of world that studio is rightly famous for. But those two sensations combined created an experience greater than the sum of its already substantial parts.

I got totally and wholly swallowed up in the world of Ni No Kuni, in a way that I hadn’t experienced for probably 10 or more years. Also, one of the main characters is a grouchy Welsh fairy.

And Effigy_Power looked back at many of year’s smaller, quality releases in an effort to find The Ultimate Game Of Halfway Through 2013:

Considering how much I’ve played this year, certainly more than most years, I can’t really put my finger on a single game for this list. I enjoyed parts of BioShock Infinite, but not enough to proclaim it my favorite game so far. Some parts of the plot are too hacky, some of the alternate dimension stuff too much of a MacGuffin and just generally it devolves too much into shooty action at times when I would have loved to take more of a Dishonored approach, but well.

Kerbal Space Program isn’t really out yet—after all, the game is still basically in beta—but it already has the makings of a big hit. Still, I also can’t really call this a contender for the title. It’s too frustrating, too experimental, too sandbox-y to really be a game per se. It requires you to do all the work and while that can lead to moments of extreme elation, it feels more like a craft than a game.

ArmA3 seems like it could be onto something, but again, it just started beta testing, and to be honest, the single-player aspect has never been fun to me. I doubt I’ve ever completed a single goal in that game, considering that I either broke my leg stepping on some pointy rocks or an artificial-intelligence player shot me in the face from a mile away.

Reus looked like the clear candidate for a while, but once you reach that certain point three or four successful runs in, the difficulty of achieving something new plateaus out, and since then I haven’t really gotten anything done, so nix that.

I guess I don’t have a favorite of 2013 yet. Too many 2012 games are still in much higher regard for me. Maybe in the second half. Saints Row 4 could fill that hole in my heart, but I think in the end it will be Europa Universalis 4 that will take the prize.

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

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68 Responses to “Comment Cat’s Favorite Things”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Might I be the first to suggest a Gameological Shadowrun Returns Campaign Creation Group?  Since you guys seem to be having fun with the game creation stuff, and people like me aren’t so good with programming but love the Shadowrun universe…

  2. caspiancomic says:

    Whoa, hold on, you’re not supposed to eat the paper from those chocolate cigarettes? Back in eighth grade I must have been eating a letter-sized sheet’s worth of chocolate cigarette wrapping a week! Maybe that’s why I’m always so sick… Good thing I never took up real smoking…

    Also, oh snap! A stud and a link to my little internet website project! An ego stroke and free advertising. Hail Soupy!

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Nice writeup.  It was ages ago when I played FFVII, so I ‘d forgotten about the little alternate-control sequences scattered through it.  Reminds me of the Scarecrow’s manipulations in Arkham Asylum – messing with the player as well as the character.

    • Jackbert says:

      Well, I don’t know how it is in Canada, but here in Little Canada, no, you shouldn’t eat the paper.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Another week gone – summer is slowly dying before our eyes.  But what do I care?  I haven’t had a summer off for 20 years!  God I feel like such a sucker.  Anyway, our most-commented article this week was the WAYPTW thread with 241 comments and climbing.  And here are our Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) With 28 likes, @cloks:disqus admits to scamming a magazine that later went bankrupt!  Coincidence?
    2) With 19 likes @caspiancomic:disqus is a total jonny-boy.
    3) @George_Liquor:disqus get 18 likes for admitting to his deep understanding of Wario’s innermost needs.
    4) With 13 likes @DwigtKSchrute:disqus acts all level-headed.
    5) @httplovecraft:disqus gets 12 likes for this glaring misspelling.
    Excellent work there from everyone.  And now for the plaid jackets!  We have 3 new members today: @ChicaneryTheYounger:disqus, @Boonehams:disqus and @ocelotfox:disqus, come on down!  And as for our returning members, @ProfesorFarnsworth:disqus gets his first stud for his second mention!  And we have 4 members each getting their fourth studs – @doyourealize:disqus, @Jackbert:disqus, @Chalkdust:disqus and @KyleOReilly:disqus!  @CaspianComic:disqus is still in fourth place overall at 23 studs, 1 behind @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus.  And the sweet flower of Gameological, @Effigy_Power:disqus, moves deliciously close to first place, one stud behind @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus with her 26th stud!  Nail-biting excitement! (Or at least what passes for it.)
    And for the linkdump, nothing special, but please to enjoy the mockery of an overly litigious douchebag who’s threatening a fictitious elf.  OK, it’s a little more complicated than that, but there’s some solid snark at the link.  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • Chum Joely says:

      @stakkalee:disqus , you might want to go take a good long look in the mirror and try to remember what your face looked like before Effigy_Power sees that “sweet flower” description. There may not be much of it left after that.

    • caspiancomic says:

       A stud and a most-liked comment. All my Christmases have come at once!

      • stakkalee says:

        You’re still the all-time leader in assists, too!  You’ve helped 25 other comments get chosen by Soupy.

    • Fluka says:

      Re the Ju-C Air article: you know, on the one hand, I think humanity’s had a good run.  But on the other hand, we’re also long overdue for a good mass extinction.  *Flips a few switches in her lab.*  Hey Merve, you might get to see that black hole generator after all!

      • ProfFarnsworth says:

        Hey!  I was using that!

      • stakkalee says:

        Every new innovation in the field of videogame sexytimes leaves me bemused and appalled.  I also love that the Ju-C Air has buttons and an analog stick on the outside – it’s quite a mental image, some schmuck in his underwear and socks and Oculus Rift headset, tongue stuck out in concentration, persistently thrusting away while it records his every stroke.  It’ll certainly add a new wrinkle to online leaderboards and player achievements.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I simply must add: MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR!  MALSHANDIR! 

    • Boonehams says:

      I’m not proud that my first induction to the gallery of Keyboard Geniuses was recalling my playtime with The Smurfs game for the Wii, but I’ll take it.

    • Cloks says:

      I’m still working on getting the letter from my friend (his uncle works at nintendo) but the letter was to Nintendo of America not Nintendo Power.

      Edit: Also, two of the top comments for the week are variants of “woah there hitler”? Awesome.

    • Girard says:

      Whenever @Effigy_Power:disqus  gets this close, I always feel like X in MegaMan X4 when he squeals “Time to get serious!”

      • Effigy_Power says:

        You better watch your back. Next week I will have a Digest comic as soupy bait. Muahahaha.

        • Girard says:

          So, in MegaMan X4 terms, your sprite is now tinted red and you’re unveiling your second tier of powerful moves! TIME TO GET SERIOUS.

    • Jackbert says:

      I was shocked by my Genius status this week. My comment didn’t even get any likes! Guess Matt Kodner really likes candy cigarettes.

    • Chum Joely says:

      “Ju-C Air”, huh.  That article links to something from a site called Slashdong (!) which explains it in more detail. The last sentence is priceless:

      “Translation of this whole article: You can spend at least a grand in cash for the setup, plus many 10’s of minutes setting everything up, in order to get a queasy boner when both your view AND thrusting are slightly lagged. FUTURE!”

    • ChicaneryTheYounger says:

      I won! I won!

  4. Chum Joely says:

    Holy shit, I worked on the localization for that Smurfs game! It was so, so bad. Just to give you an idea, “Who Let The Smurfs Out” was not the worst song on there. Not by a long shot.

    I got a free copy (as is standard for all games a person works on at Ubisoft) and immediately gave it away to the poor. Sorry, poor!

    So I guess what I’m saying is, Thanks, Boonehams, for reminding me of the bad times as well as the good, on this last day of my Ubisoft employment. It’s good to be moving on.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      Congratulations!  I hope the good memories stay and the bad one just seem to disappear like…hey!  Where did I leave my intergalactic spaceship?

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

         It sounds like something from a Victorian England primer on morals.
         “Though you may believe you are doing a kindness, do not gift your AAA or A titles to the Workhouses, orphanages or the poor.  For they already live with so little, the polished game play, sophisticated graphics and explosive set pieces would only agitate and unbalance them.  For the likes of they, Smurfs shall be sufficient entertainment.”

    • Boonehams says:

      Your contributions to game-dom have given me a memory that I won’t soon forget: watching my girlfriend have an apoplectic fit over a video game designed for children.  Honestly, the thanks are all on this end, Chum.

      Thanks, Chum.  Thum.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

       Hey, Eff, where the hell’s my Digest comic?  C’mon, make with the funny, already!

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Next week. Things were afoot and I had several viscounts and duchesses to reprimand.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      Where is the weekend prompt?

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I took the day off of work today, so I was drinking wine with lunch and napping instead of coming up with trenchant, soul-searching video game questions.

  6. Chalkdust says:

    Hey, I’m glad somebody else noticed/appreciated the castration news!  It is definitely something I’ve never seen before in a game, for better or for worse.

    • Girard says:

      It would be interesting for a CRPG to involve a Bushido Blade-style “loss of limb” mechanic, but where instead of being handicapped for the remainder of a combat round, you are handicapped for the remainder of the quest. I imagine only hardcore role-players would keep themselves from just loading an old save in the event of being ‘crippled’ in some way, but it could be mechanically interesting for those who stick with it (and maybe there could be some questlines only available to people with certain kinds of ‘crippling’ injuries – you can only access the pirate class if you have a hook and pegleg, or whatever).

      Castration could add interesting wrinkles to any romance subplots/games, and could lead to stat changes down the line (don’t eunuchs tend to gain weight? Or is that just a side effect of eunuchs being employed in cushy places like the queen’s chambers or whatever?).

      There could also be different classes of healing spells – rather than just changing the amount of HP recovered, maybe Cure1 only heals wounds while Cure4 can regrow limbs…

      • Chum Joely says:

        Aren’t you involved in the GS “Fine, let’s make a game” thread on Steam? Get this in there, man!

  7. ProfFarnsworth says:

    Due to a total lack of Weekend Prompt…a question has come to my mind:

    As the summer heat wave continues to oppress me, what game mechanics do you wish would cool you down in real life?

    For me, I really wish I had that frost spell in Skyrim to help cool down my drinks.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Fast Travel. Nuff said?

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      Any variant of the “jump and glide” mechanic would be totally awesome.

      I’ve got to cross the street? Jump 10 meters, glide across.

      I’m on an upper floor and don’t feel like taking the stairs, due to my prematurely arthritic knees? No problem, just jump out the window and glide down.

      So many things would be so much more awesome! At least, so long as I didn’t have to wear a full Tanooki suit to do it, because that would get really hot really quickly.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Game / movie / TV show mechanic: Trek transporters to beam me to and from work to avoid the heat completely, especially that of the 105 degree car in the afternoon pre-AC cooldown.

    • Chalkdust says:

      I dunno about gameplay mechanic, but the water in Super Mario Sunshine was the best-looking water in any game up to that point, and it still looks great.  Not necessarily as a realistic depiction of water, but as an inviting, cool, clear, refreshing-looking thing I really really would like to jump into and splash around.  Water-powered jetpack optional but appreciated.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

         Nintendo generally does a wonderful job at approximating the feel of something without being photorealistic. I know we all know this, but I just wanted to say it because I love it. The wateryness of water is just fantastic. Super Mario Sunshine is not my favorite Mario game by a longshot, but I LOVED running around on the Isle Delfino because it so accurately portrayed the idea of a sun-drenched island with that cool, clear water everywhere.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       I would be happy enough with a grass-eating goat.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Samus’ ice beam. Provides both cooling relief and the ability to create impromptu platforms for me to access the frisbee the kid threw on the roof.

    • Merve says:

      I’d go with the ice shard fighting style from Jade Empire. I would use it on myself to escape the heat by encasing my body in ice.
      Come to think of it, that’s actually a terrible idea…

      • Fluka says:

        Same here, but with Cone of Cold from either of the two Dragon Ages.  That thing is effective.  Possibly deadly, too.  Sitting in a little half-circle of ice sounds pretty nice, though, as long as I don’t accidentally hit my cats.

        • Merve says:

          I really need to get around to playing the Dragon Age games, don’t I? They’re sitting patiently on my hard drive, waiting to be booted up.

          Speaking of BioWare games that you should play, go play Jade Empire…nooooowwwwwww.

        • Fluka says:

          @Merve2:disqus When I’m done KOTOR!  I cannae play two classic BioWare games at once!  (Or can I?)

        • Fluka says:

          @Merve2:disqus And for heaven’s sake play Dragon Age!