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    Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (DS)    by   jp       (Sep 12th, 2020 at 16:09:38)

    I've played this for a few hours (started world 3) and I've been having quite a bit of fun. The game has such a Mario structure it's pretty amazing tbh. Worlds with levels, each world ends in a boss stage/challenge, you collect trophies and Mario coins (there's on in each level) to unlock bonus levels and so on. So far each level is pretty short (though I sometimes have to try to solve them in a few tries in order to get the trophy and the coin) which is nice. I'm worried that the size will grow a lot which I'm not sure is a good idea. Each world seems to introduce a new element - again, very Mario-like - and I'm curious to see what new board elements pop in...

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    Clustertruck (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Sep 10th, 2020 at 23:54:31)

    This semester hit like a ton of bricks and I have had zero time to even think about playing a game for the past few weeks. But man, tonight I had a great time for 45 minutes just playing this stupid stream-friendly, meme-worthy, speedrunning game about leaping across the tops of semi trucks. I exhausted myself from working ungodly hours this week and not sleeping enough, passed out at 7pm, woke up at 10:00pm, and felt oddly rejuvenated. I decided not to grade essays, which my brain was trying to default toward. I watched some YouTube, talked to my girlfriend, and then, surprised at not being tired yet, thought it would be nice to play a chill game. Enter Clustertruck, an old one that I got from Twitch Prime years ago.

    The game isn't actually that chill. It's pretty frantic. But you can pick it up and put it down, which is what I realized I wanted, not necessarily chill. The premise, like I've said, is simple. There are semi trucks. They drive forward. You run along the tops of them and jump between them. They will crash and there are obstacles. Avoid all that mess. Jump higher, run faster, do some tricks and rack up points. Use your points to buy upgrades (double jump, mid-air dash, slow time, etc.) so you can go faster and correct mistakes before they kill you. That's it. That's the game.

    I found two ways to play. The first is how I think the devs intended. You play it like a crazy twitch game and try to chase high scores. The second is actually relaxing. You stand on top of the trucks and ride. Yes, they will crash and you'll need to jump occasionally. But, see if you can get on a truck that takes you all the way to the goal at the end of the level. You have a good vantage point to observe the mayhem happening around you. I wonder if the devs considered a photo mode, or if anyone has found out which trucks in each level will go all the way to the end without crashing. I'm not sure how scripted the trucks' paths are. Like, does truck #52 always collide with truck #36 going around the sharp turn on level 1.4? Does the boulder trigger after truck #11 crosses a line and always roll into trucks #23, 24, and 25? Not sure!

    Controls are sufficiently balanced between tight and floaty for this kind of game. It's not built for precision really, but more to make the player panicked all the time because you don't know exactly if your character (which you never see because of the first-person perspective) is going to land where you intend. I do wish you had more control over your lateral movement in midair. Speaking of your character, when you run and jump, there is a sort of metallic clanking sound effect sometimes. I think this is probably meant to be the sound of running on a truck trailer, but I like to imagine it is my feet and I am a robot.

    It was so nice to relax for an evening and not be prepping online classes or doing the schedule or teaching someone how to use technology or preparing assessment reports or writing another abstract or blah blah blah. Just. Dodging exploding trucks. And the world hasn't ended.

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    Hyperlight Drifter (PS4)    by   jp       (Sep 7th, 2020 at 12:29:05)

    I think I spent about two hours trying to defeat the first (a first?) boss. It's the bird-guy - on the top. And that's it.

    Maybe I should be playing on "easy" rather than normal - but, overall I haven't been that impressed with the game. I'm often confused by the art (and perspective) such that I either plunge to my death or miss an exit/path elsewhere.

    The world is intriguing and interesting, it's definitely an exploration and slow discovery kind of game - but it really is slow. The progression hints at a lot of things, but those first few hours were super, super slow. You need something like 12 upgrade "thingies" to get an actual upgrade. But, they're shown as being completed 4 at a time. Sigh. That was a disappointment and a waste of time (visiting all the shops because I wasn't sure if I had an upgrade - but was maybe at the wrong upgrade shop).

    There's underground dungeons and things that open and unlock - and it's the sort of game whose progression is neither linear nor completely open (zone-based? I get the sense you should be able to complete each large zone independently of the rest) But, it's super easy to second-guess yourself and then waste a ton of time trying to get something in another zone you don't need yet.

    Lots if sighing and a fair amount of frustration with that boss - I was getting to the point where he as at 25% health before I'd die... I kind of want to finish that and then quit, but - what's the point really? (there isn't even a trophy in it, the trophies all seemed super out of reach)

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    Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4)    by   jp       (Sep 7th, 2020 at 12:18:53)

    I was really annoyed that after having had to clear space on the PS4 HD, I had to then wait overnight for a mandatory update to download and install (I also had to make extra space for that as well!). When games force the update it's because you want to go online and I just wanted to play the campaign.

    I've since found out that, AFAIK, there is no campaign. This explains the forced update. I'm not usually one for PVP FPS games - especially for a game that's been out a while since I'll be far behind the curve. I was level 1 and the next lowest was someone who was level 33 or so. Wow. My guess is that levelling up results in more options and in-game advantages, so we'll see how long I stick around.

    I only played about 45 minutes - that's a few matches - and was mostly overwhelmed and confused. I didn't know how to use my special abilities, what they were, etc. etc. The experience was "ok" - I get that I need to learn the levels and what not, but I wish there was an empty map mode or something or a tutorial for the characters. There are a LOT of them! (16?)

    After poking around in the menus I think I found the "campaign". It seems like each character has a tutorial/story you can play - so I'll be doing that and see how much fun it is.

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    Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (PS4)    by   jp       (Sep 4th, 2020 at 17:43:32)

    I finished playing this last weekend, enjoyed it and have an appreciation for a lot of the little things they did. Here's a few...


    (a) There's a few moments where the game uses "press the button at the right time" to get you to move forward (there is even a fail state in the game! I died at one point which was a real surprise). They're not quite quicktime events - because you can - to an extent wait to coordinate your button press. They're of the bar with moving cursor, press button when cursor is in certain section of the bar. So, you do a few of these - it's ok. BUT, there is one moment when the event starts and as the player is about to press the button - the whole event is interrupted/cancelled because an NPC acts! It was a genuine surprise and a super cool moment. (an NPC jumped in and stabbed another NPC - I wasn't expecting it, obviously, and they used a dagger I had given them earlier!)

    (b)There's an interesting "palate cleanser" in terms of how the story choices happen. Like most games in the genre there's a lot of scenes with two characters and you make choices for your responses and so on. So, the usual walking around locations talking to people there and doing things. BUT, there are moments where (usually when travelling between locations on a map - so, from village to village) you have to read paragraphs and then (sometimes) make choices. So, there's a combination of "choose your own adventure" style choices - read a paragraph make a choice and conversations with characters. I really enjoyed how it gave some variety to the pacing and mode of interaction.

    (c) The game is split up into three books, each with 7 chapters. I don't know if this corresponds with the actual novel (3 novels?). But, it was nice to have a sense of roadmap - like how far this was going, what my progress was, how much time I had left, etc. To be fair though, chapters within the each book aren't equal in terms of length and while I felt that some chapters were "too long" I also appreciated those that were shorter. Overall I can't say how long the game is - but perhaps 2-3 hours per book sounds about right?

    (d) The game has trophies and I was surprised by how the were distributed across the game. The large majority of them are concentrated in the first book with the last book only having 2 trophies (one is "finish the book"). I was also surprised that the game had "do X" for this trophy and "do the opposite of x" for trophy. I guess I find those annoying (requiring two playthroughs). I guess I'm now curious about what the "game design wisdom" is when it comes to trophies in games - how are trophies distributed over the period of a game's duration? Are there standard patterns that different studios use? Is everyone just coming up with their own strategy? Is there any research/knowledge about trophy design to increase retention, encourage players to finish a game, play longer, etc.?

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    1 : dkirschner's Clustertruck (PC)
    2 : jp's Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (DS)
    3 : jp's Hyperlight Drifter (PS4)
    4 : jp's Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4)
    5 : jp's Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4)
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    Random

    Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)    by   kkotter

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 14 February, 2018
    I almost exclusively spent my time this play session (around 1.5 hours) doing all of the available missions to free slaves in the surrounding areas. In my past couple of play sessions, I had freed the slaves because I felt morally obligated to, but I didn't see how freeing them helped me at all besides earning a (relatively small) amount of experience. However, when I freed another camp of slaves at this beginning of this play session, I unlocked a wide series of slave-rescuing missions and discovered that rescuing slaves put me in their good graces, and by rescuing more I could unlock intel about leaders in Sauron's army. I was much happier to discover that doing something that the game presents as morally good was actually rewarding in a significant way (does that make me a bad person, that I only really want to do the things that the game's ethical framework say are good if I'm being compensated in a large enough way? Probably).

    Another interesting thing I discovered is that the orcs and uruks will have conversations with each other if you eavesdrop on them. The fascinating thing is that the conversations generally aren't boring and inconsequential; instead, they're about the power struggle in Sauron's army and how they feel about their direct superiors. Occasionally, after I'd fought with some of them, some of them would even discuss me and my prominence among the gossip circles. It was cool to feel like the game world was moving constantly, even if I wasn't doing anything. Having this living, breathing game world made it feel so much more real, and that just increased the impact of the story throughout the game (if the world feels real, then the slave within it are, in some sense, real). This whole system was especially enjoyable because the actual main campaign/storyline isn't particularly interesting or nuanced, but the Nemesis system and the way that the characters interact with it has more than made up for it, in my opinion.

    Speaking of, the Nemesis system is the meat and bones of this game, and it's clear to me now why the game won Game of the Year at GDC. Navigating the political nature of Sauron's army, figuring out who to kill and who to target next, gathering intel on your opponent's weaknesses and strengths and how best to defeat them... it's a fascinating, unique approach to gameplay that I didn't expect to find in a LotR game. I think it's interesting to think how similar systems could be used in other genres to great effect. I mean, come on, now I just want to play a House of Cards game with a Nemesis system in place.

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