Keyboard Geniuses

The Walking Dead Season 2

Matrix Or Treat!

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • November 1, 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.

Clicking Dead

Just in time for Halloween, Matt Gerardi brought us some vital Walking Dead-related news. The second season of Telltale’s video game adaptation will star Clementine, an adorable little girl left orphaned in a world of zombies, bad people, and unfair quicktime events. Roswulf was excited about the possible new directions this different, littler perspective could bring to the game:

Choosing Clem as the new player character could push the Telltale folks to explore narratives from a different perspective. Player avatars are so often given charisma and superpowers and treated as the natural leaders of their groups. That’s not going to work with 8-year-old Clementine, and I’ll be fascinated to see how The Walking Dead works when your companions aren’t as likely to be swayed to adopt the player’s plans. There’s a whole new level of powerlessness to be explored, and I’m hopeful Telltale can do some wonderfully inventive things with it.

Season Two could very well be a great control-a-small-child game, but Aurora Boreanaz reminded us of a bad one:

The Adventures Of Willy Beamish was a really shitty example of “play as an actual kid.” When your parents were around, if you didn’t respond to their commands fast enough, they would get mad at you and send you to military school. This resulted in me losing the game no less than three times before I even finished the intro.

Gameological Goes German (Kind Of)
Spiel Essen

In the comments on last week’s Keyboard Geniuses, Cnightwing told us they were at something called “Internationale Spieltage Essen Spiel,” which is apparently a giant German board game convention. It turns out Cnightwing was there to compete as an underprepared member of the Swiss national team in the board game tournament. Huzzah! ‘Wing brought us a full report on the tourney:

As our scores were being tallied after the first round of the Europe Masters tournament, it became quite clear that, much like Carnegie Hall, the only way to get to the top of this tournament was practice. As a brave (adopted) Swiss team member, the tournament was a great excuse to go to Essen Spiel for the first time, and it was well worth the trip. Competition aside, there’s something about a gathering of like-minded people to make you appreciate humanity again, at least until you try to take the Deutsche Bahn to get home before midnight.

The Europe Masters has been running for years, with the majority of teams and winners coming from Germany, but I had never heard of it. Switzerland had not sent a team for a few years, so it really was as simple as asking them if we could get a place, whereas those German teams had to go through what I can only assume were Glee-style regional qualifiers and then a national competition. It was no wonder that this year they triumphed again. A team from Hamburg took the top spot, and one of their members had the best individual score. The nicest thing about the contest from our perspective was that for the 75 euro entrance fee, we got sent practice copies of this year’s four games to add to our nascent games club’s collection, and we got to take away a second copy of each game for ourselves after the day itself. Now, if we’d only had more time to use those practice copies, it might have been a little less embarrassing.

How’s that for a cliffhanger! There’s lots more to the story, which you can read over at the original comment. Cnightwing also dropped by the comments of this week’s Decadent column to leave us with impressions of the non-tournament scene at the convention:

First of all, it’s important to understand just how busy Spiel Essen is. Hotels near the convention centre booked up about a month in advance. Thankfully, the city has pretty good transportation, so you can stay just about anywhere for a reasonable price. There are a lot of people that attend, and you will often move through the corridors between stands at a snail’s pace. In general though, the crowds are quite diverse—lots of families, a range of ages and nationalities, and everyone’s very friendly. Whatever hotel or restaurant you end up in in the evening, you’ll find people with games. I found it was a great way to check out things you didn’t have time to see, or to read through some rules if you were curious about the mechanics of a particular game.

The fair is split roughly into three sections. The largest hall contains mostly publishers, who will sell you everything they can at a relatively good discount—even for new games you’ll get about 10% off the planned retail price. The next largest has smaller publishers and a lot of sellers—not just of current games but quite a few with old stock or second-hand games. If you ever wanted the original Game Of Life or some once-printed expansion, you’ll find it. I did find it hard to get English copies of language-dependent games, though. Finally the third hall is in conjunction with a comics convention and contains a vast array of more typical geek fare such as LARP gear, costumery, a wonderful British ale and mead stand, role-playing games, miniatures and so on.

It was a totally awesome experience—but do set yourself a games budget and stick to it or it’ll add up quickly!

Sounds fun! Again, this is an excerpt from Cnightwing’s extensive report. You can read the full story by clicking this here link.

Virtual Reality Bites
Enter The Matrix

Drew Toal did The One’s work by writing about how Saints Row IV out-Matrixed Enter The Matrix 10 years after the fact in a Decadent essay. Both games pit you as a super-powered person smashing bad guys in a virtual reality prison, but Saints Row did it better, argues Drew. Pgoodso was quick to mention that Enter The Matrix wasn’t the first Matrix to get virtual reality wrong:

It’s touched on in the piece, but it is worth reiterating how absolutely uninspired Neo’s “mastery” of the Matrix is. He’s supposedly able to bend the rules of reality in the Matrix. Neo could easily be the Matrix’s Green Lantern or Scarlet Witch (literally if he liked the comics enough). But he limits himself to classical Superman powers. Hell, there’s been teleportation, invulnerability and walk-through-walls cheats in games since DOOM, and he chooses to fly—non-instantaneously—to save Trinity?

Then there’s the arsenal. The “real” world of Zion actually has energy weapons and EMPs that can disrupt AI circuits, so by the film’s narrative logic, energy weapons of that nature are perfectly physically possible. They also have those walking mech defense units. As such, why in the world are they using ’90s era weaponry in the Matrix? To blend in better while they dodge bullets and suspend themselves in midair? You can bring in an Uzi, but you can’t bring in, say, that energy weapon that gets used to kill Joe Pantoliano? Or at least an Apache helicopter? At the very least Neo should have turned on Big Head mode and turned himself into a velociraptor. Then he would have at least been as creative a messiah as the programmers of Turok.

Merry Batmas!
Batman: Arkham Origins

Anthony John Agnello must love cereal because he compared the new Batman: Arkman game to a bowl of Rice Krispies—bland, but enjoyable! Taking place around Christmas time, the game looks really pretty, like a perfect milky bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. See, I can do the cereal analogy thing too! Fluka is of similar mind and pitched a pleasantly non-violent Batman game that sounds lovely:

One thing that catches my eye: the whole Christmas and snow thing. Can I buy the game and just have Batman silently wander the rooftops, his footsteps muffled as he listens to the distant sound of carols, his heart heavy with melancholy? Without any of this silly punching and bataranging? He can keep using the grappling hook, but only to continue his snowy, solitary wanderings. Maybe, à la Proteus, he can chill out with an owl.

Well folks, that does it for my time behind the Keyboard Geniuses wheel. I’ve had a great time putting these together the past year. You geniuses deserved each and every one of those studs. Matt Gerardi will be taking over, so be sure to say hello and good luck adjusting to his tyranny. Thanks everybody for reading and commenting, and we will see you next week.

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78 Responses to “Matrix Or Treat!”

  1. mizerock says:

    I just found out about about MAGFest, even though it’s been going on for over 10 years, right in my area. Has anyone here attended? I’m not into chiptunes and I have below-average gaming skilss, but I am guessing it might be worth the price of admission just to be able to play on the consoles and arcarde machines.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Similarly I found out recently that Gencon is a pretty big event for tabletop gamers in the US. I’m like and hour and a half drive away, but never realized it was a big deal. I doubt I’d enjoy a convention though, which is kind of a shame. My city has an arcade expo in the summer that I keep forgetting to go to. like $15 for a huuuge amount of arcade and pinball machines set to free-play. That sounds like something I could handle.

      • boardgameguy says:

        GenCon is a big deal. I’ve considered going myself but I’m not sold that the experience is for me either.

    • beema says:

      I’ve been for 4 years running. Whachu want to know? I want to go again this year but I don’t have money right now :/

      • mizerock says:

        Just a confirmation that there is enough going on there for me to remain entertained there for a good chunk of time, even if I don’t have a massive gaming résumé and thus:

        1) I’m not very good at most games, even some of the ones I was hooked on for a long time. It would be pointless for me to jump in any any LAN games, I would be kicked out as a suspected griefer for sucking so bad.
        2) I wouldn’t recognize many songs from even major game releases, nevermind the obscure ones that will be presented to try and stump fans.
        I just want to try out games (video & board) that I’ve never played before, and also the great standup arcade games & pinball machines from the past. Will there be Rock Band? I’m “above average” at that one, thanks for many many years of practice.
        I imagine there would be good people watching too, and it’s quite possible that I would get into listening to at least some of the bands. Though I don’t recognize the names of any of them and could imagine myself getting a little sick of chiptunes after several hours.
        It’s a $35 entry for 4 days, for a group of 8+, surely I could find another 4 people by 12/22? I live just across the river from National Harbor, so it would be incredibly convenient for me to go, even if I only spend 4-5 hours there for each of 2-3 days.

        • beema says:

          I live just across the river too, in Old Town!

          Yes, there should be plenty of stuff there to keep you engaged. Magfest grows in scope and attendance steadily every year. Their first year at the Gaylord was 2011, and in 2012 they had already taken over even more of the hotel. There are tons of panels with people of varying degrees of gaming celebrity (a lot are people who do internet shows/podcasts, but there is also really cool stuff like voice actor panels, gaming “intellectual” panels with really neat thought provoking discussions, often hosted by James Portnow of Extra Credits fame).

          In addition to panels There is one giant expo room dedicated to arcade games, another dedicated to board games, another dedicated to every retro & current console you could think of, another dedicated to the LAN area and marketplace. The concerts are a big draw for a lot of people, but honestly I barely attend them, since I don’t really care much about video-game cover bands either.

          I spend most of my time going to various panels/ wandering around.

          It’s very well organized, and entirely attendee and donor funded, not really any corporate sponsors. Very much a fan community type feeling.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      Just want to add that this’ll be my third year going and it’s totally worth it. I’m more than down for a Gameological meetup (@disqus_sQHGuq3cMa:disqus).

  2. Newton Gimmick says:

    Oh sure, you guys are just going to swap one Matt for another and expect us to continue on as if nothing has changed.

    • Newton Gimmick says:

      Also, if Kodner was writing on behalf of Soupy, does that mean that Gerardi is writing on behalf of Nipsy?

  3. Fluka says:

    I’ve had a shitty week to end all shitty weeks here, so this is a very nice surprise to end with, yay! Man, I could really use that melancholy Batman game right about now. Or maybe I’ll just play Proteus instead. (There is always time for Proteus.)

    • boardgameguy says:

      Hope the weekend manages to improve your overall situation!

      • Fluka says:

        I think it should! Husband finally gets home tomorrow, and I can afford to spend large sections of the next 24 hours playing videogames, so outlook seems good! Thanks for the kind words!

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      *synthetic hugs offered* Sorry to hear that! I too hope the weekend is better for you.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      Hopefully, your weekend goes much better than your week. Sucky weeks indeed deserve their titles. Also, video games rock! Enjoy

      • Fluka says:

        Videogames are verily the world’s best way of avoiding thinking about unpleasant things. Thanks a bunch!

    • stakkalee says:

      Bummer on the shitty week, but it sounds like everything’s set to turn into an awesome weekend, so hopefully you’ll enjoy that!

    • duwease says:

      Would you like some leftover Halloween candy?

      • Fluka says:

        YES. TAKE IT DIRECTLY TO MY VEINS.

        • duwease says:

          *crushes up Sweettarts in spoon*
          *holds spoon over lighter*

          • Fluka says:

            Good, good.

          • DrFlimFlam says:

            You’re supposed to swear. GODDAMN, that’s good!

          • Jackbert says:

            Signing on for Gameological, this is Jackbert, bringing you the youth perspective.

            About five years ago, snorting powdered Smarties was a really big thing in kidland.

            The more you know.

          • TaumpyTearrs says:

            What happened to you crazy kids? 10-15 years ago when I was a lad we snorted Ritalin and huffed duster like respectable delinquents. I always assumed the smarties stories I heard a few years back were apocryphal panic-y news stories to pull in foolish parents. I can’t believe anyone you guys actually did that (not necessarily you obviously, but whoever you knew who was doing that). I guess we were doing the “choking game” thing that eventually made it to the news years after we had done it (and that was like a 2 day fad at most), so I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss reports of foolish youthful activities.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      If you tell me the name of the week that treated you this way, I’ll get a couple of my boys and we’ll go find it for a little ‘conversation’. A lead pipe will be a central talking point.

      • Fluka says:

        *Points vengefully at THIS WEEK and lets forth a high-pitched kreeeeeeeee!*

      • SamPlays says:

        *quietly replaces lead pipe with plastic pipe*

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          “We’ve secretly replaced Spacemonkey Mafia’s plastic pipe with Folger’s Crystals. Let’s see what happens…”

          *SM throws crystals in THIS WEEK’s face*

          THIS WEEK: “AAAAAGH, MY EYES!”

    • Merve says:

      Aw, I’m sorry to hear you had a bad week. But I’ve got just the solution for you: VIDEO GAMES AND CANDY. (Is there anything they can’t solve?)

      • Fluka says:

        Nothing. There is nothing they can’t solve. (Except maybe the health complications related to a sedentary lifestyle, but *shruuug!*)

  4. Matt Gerardi says:

    Hey y’all, I’m just here to drop off a Keyboard Genius-exclusive Anthony John Agnello selfie variant. Have a good weekend! http://d3j5vwomefv46c.cloudfront.net/photos/large/818982352.jpg?1383324586

    • Chum Joely says:

      Neat. Is that a hand-knitted Boba Fett mask? Kinda hard to see.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        It appears to be one of those hoodies you can zip up the front.

        • TaumpyTearrs says:

          Yup, seen’em at Hot Topic and I wanted that Boba Fett one so bad but it was like $55 so no dice. They’ve had some Marvel character ones more recently, I think I remember a Deadpool one I wanted but I never buy that stuff unless it makes it to the discount rack.

  5. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Wow, a mention for one of the worst games I’ve ever played! Willy Beamish was one of the very few games I ever played that was so frustratingly bad I had to return it to the store.

    • Girard says:

      Weirdly, it was the game that made me most insanely jealous of my friend’s bitchin’ 386 CD-ROM PC in the 90s when I was still using an ancient low-density IBM compatible.

      Then I got a good computer, he made me a copy of the game, and I discovered that actually trying to play through its classic Sierra-style adventure design was kind of miserable. But eventually I picked up LucasArts archives, and all was well with the world.

  6. stakkalee says:

    Another Halloween gone, and we didn’t even get any kids stopping by! Now how am I going to get rid of all this gross banana Laffy Taffy? Maybe John’s looking for something for the next Digest…

    Our most-commented article this week was the review of Batman: Arkham Origins with 192 comments, narrowly edging out the WAYPTW thread. Of course, I’m sure by the end of the day WAYPTW will have more, but that’s then and this is now. And on to our Top 5 Most-Liked (non-KG) comments:

    1) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 43 likes as the haunting notes of Unchained Melody start playing.

    2) With 40 likes @Tyrannorabbit:disqus knows the appropriate punishment for Mr. Agnello.

    3) With 38 likes @Nudeviking:disqus has been making an idiot out of himself!

    4) @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus gets 29 likes for sliding it right between the ribs.

    5) With 26 likes @Citric:disqus takes us back to junior high.

    Once again, no first-timers getting mentioned today so it’s all studs, no jackets. First up, @Roswulf:disqus and @Pgoodso:disqus are each getting their fourth stud! @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus gets his fifth stud! @CNightwing:disqus pulls off the rare double, netting him a fifth and sixth stud! And @Fluka:disqus unlocks the “Lucky Thirteen” achievement with her thirteenth stud! Good stuff everyone!

    And now for the linkdump. Musician Clay “>” Morrow just released a new album composed on 2 Game Boy Colors so if you like chiptunes check it out. If you’re looking for something more literary, why not check out EverJane, the Jane Austen MMO? And finally, artist Dwayne de Kock, aka Renegade21, mashed up Pixar movies with video game characters – this was the result. That’s all for another week – enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • duwease says:

      Between EverJane and Saint’s Row IV, Jane Austen has been taking the video game industry by storm this year!

      • Fluka says:

        I always forget to add that in my elevator pitch for SRIV: “There are aliens and you’re in the Matrix and you can be a female trans bright blue 50 year old overweight woman and you have superpowers too. Also you are the President of the United States of America. Also it contains at least 50% more Jane Austen than any other 2013 AAA title.”

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      We had enough kids come by that we had to bring up a second bowl’s worth of candy, which was a nice change from last year.

      As a father who makes sure his son says Trick or Treat and/or Happy Halloween and then Thank you, handing out candy to stone-faced kids who look like they’re at funerals and say nothing is really a buzzkill.

      The joy of children is one of the few things that warm my cold, mechanical heart, and holidays should be full of it. The elementary school parade was unbridled joy and was a joy to watch. Handing out candy to kids who looked like they’d rather not have FREE CANDY is annoying.

      • stakkalee says:

        Our house is on a block with only a few other houses so most Trick-or-Treaters don’t get a good ROI when visiting our house. My go-to strategy for Halloween candy is to buy a big mixed bag of stuff early and then pick out my favorites, so by the time October 31st rolls around any kids that stop by are likely to get peanut chews or the aforementioned banana Laffy Taffy. I figure if nothing else they can use the crap I give out to pad out any candy trades they set up with their friends later – ie. “I’ll give you this bag of Skittles and all my Laffy Taffy for that full-size Snickers!” (BTW, don’t make that trade. It’s just not worth it.)

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          There were Heath bars in the second bowl of candy. I scoffed and removed them from the bucket. “Kids don’t understand or appreciate toffee!”, I yelled. The toffee is mine.

        • ProfFarnsworth says:

          My wife and I usually use our leftover candy as currency for any sort of gambling debts we incur among ourselves.

      • Girard says:

        At the place I’m student teaching, there were a couple of 18-year-olds who said they planned on trick or treating. I asked them if they were going to at least wear a freaking costume. They said no. They are the worst Halloweeners ever.

      • Roswulf says:

        We only got a single family, but at least they were appropriately cute.

        Moving from suburbia to Manhattan, the loss of trick or treaters saddens me every year. On the other hand, the local tradition of kids going into stores rather than residences somehow makes the Halloween experience feel less mercenary, and makes wandering down Broadway in the late Halloween afternoon an utterly delightful experience.

    • Fluka says:

      That EverJane MMO better have a PVP whist minigame, or no sale.

    • Newton Gimmick says:

      Remember when a most-liked comment was often in the single digits? It’s been great seeing this crowd grow.

    • Sarapen says:

      Gawd do I miss Tenchu.

      • TaumpyTearrs says:

        Tenchu has to be one of the most heartbreaking series to me. The first one was practically a religious experience, I was a kid who loved anime and ninjas and I was willing to forgive all the game’s flaws for the beauty of when the game actually worked and I was a stealthy ninja bastard creeping across snowy rooftops and earning perfect scores, not to mention the music and other little touches (my friends and I played so much that one of them had recurring dreams and images of flying up the grappling hook in first person).

        Then somehow it completely lost the magic in the sequel, and I only vaguely remember playing one of the PS2 entries (I didn’t even realize there were more than 3 games til I just checked wiki). Bushido Blade 2 was a similar disappointment, but I clearly remember why, it lost the limb crippling mechanic that made the first one so unique and meant that there were none-fatal blows that didn’t have any effect, completely ruining the magic of the game.

  7. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Matt Kodner, thanks for your part in helping enable a cat judge our intellectual merit.

    Weekend Prompt!
    I am amazed by the tenacity of the sewer level. Thirty years of games and it has proven as solid a mainstay of game level design as anything. Structurally and story-wise, it’s easy to understand why. But that doesn’t make them any less dull. Not a lot of ways to aesthetically differentiate a fantasy land’s stink-water from a sci-fi futurist stink-water.
    What level design would you happily never encounter again?

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Easily lava world/volcano interior. So tired of “DON’T TOUCH THE LAVA” levels. I specifically think of Banjo-Tooie, I think it was, where it got brighter and darker, too, adding another level of stupid to it.

    • Carlton_Hungus says:

      I would have to go with rail shooter levels. It took me long enough but I finally got to the point where I could hold my own in FPS or 3PS on consoles, rather than mouse and keyboard. But for whatever reason, I’m terrible at levels that reduce you to simply moving a targeting reticle.

      I don’t play a ton of FPS games but nearly every one includes a rail shooter section, I would much rather drive the vehicle or just cutscene through that part then go through the multiple tries I know it will take me to get through the rail section.

    • Citric says:

      Sewers. All sewers. There are rare decent ones – Arkham Asylum had a good one as I recall – but mostly they’re the “oh shit, we forgot to design a level here, let’s just do some copy-paste” solution.

      • NakedSnake says:

        I kind of remember enjoying the sewers in Planescape: Torment. Then again, I think I enjoyed everything in that game. Except the parts where you hang out with religious orders. They were boring.

    • Newton Gimmick says:

      I don’t want to categorically close off any type of level design; I just want to see more creative uses of the standard level types. Deserts, for example, are often visually and functionally empty, but some games use them quite effectively (like Journey).

    • neodocT says:

      I hate games that have swamps, mud or sand that make you move really slowly when you walk on it. It just really tries my patience, and I can’t think of a game that successfully implemented it. Even in Dark Souls it was by far the worst part of the game.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Water levels, for sure. The controls are usually much more slow and awful than the rest of the game. Also underwater stuff is terrifying. I always get anxious in underwater levels, especially in 3D platformers, and ESPECIALLY if there are underwater badguys (FUCK SHARKS), and even more especially if you are way underwater or in a cave and it’s dark. Nope.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      Escort levels. I really, really hate having to escort someone who is completely inept and cannot help but walk into whatever I am doing. Every game I have played that uses this tactic/design has caused me to mentally sigh or scream at least once. I get the idea, but I hate the execution.

      • djsubversive says:

        Shadow of Chernobyl has a side-mission where you have to rescue a scientist, then escort him through hostile territory. You can give him an assault rifle that you likely just looted from the mercenaries who were threatening him, and he’ll clear the path pretty much by himself. Of course, you can fail the ‘rescue the scientist’ part of that quest by letting him die before you take out all the mercs, so it’s not great, but it’s a nice change of pace from “escort helpless jerk-face and do all the fighting.”

    • stakkalee says:

      This is more mission-design than level-design, but if I never see another timed mission it’ll be too soon. If the goal is to run the mission and get the best time you can that’s one thing; but if you’re required to finish the mission in two-and-a-half minutes or else you lose I know I’ll invariably fuck up when I’m over two-thirds done, meaning I’ll need to start the mission over again (and again, and again, and again.) Some of the flight training missions in GTA V were like that – I think with some of the helicopter missions if you take longer than 4 minutes you fail, but the game doesn’t tell you that, and it doesn’t automatically fail you at 4 minutes, so several times I’d make it to the airport and finally safely land the helicopter only to be told I failed the mission. Fuck you, game. Fuck you.

      • ProfFarnsworth says:

        This is another thing that really sucks as well. I hate timing in games. Why in all heaven do I need to be there in a set amount of time if everywhere else doesn’t change?

    • Merve says:

      Levels with crumbling platforms. It was cool the first 2876 times. Now it’s just a pain in the ass.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Anything with a gray and brown color palette. Boresville snoresville.

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

      I hate “protect this thing for a certain amount of time” parts in games. Like the end of Bioshock Infinite or this one shitty part in the 360 Wolfenstein that took me forever to beat. Since that’s not really a level design though I also don’t particularly care for ice levels where you slide completely out of control any time you move or run in place like a cartoon character when starting from a dead stop. Buy some boots with better traction stupid Link! You’ve got more rupees then you’ll ever need!

      • DL says:

        The “protect this thing for a certain amount of time” is why I hate tower defense games. Mostly because the “certain amount of time” is FOREVER. I already live the inevitable-death experience every day, why rub salt in the wound during my fun time?