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Jumping the Shark Podcast #199

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s episode #199 and Brandon and I are here to do two things and two things only: One, have an impromptu discussion about Skyrim and why Brandon should not, under any circumstances, venture back into that world. And, two, break down the first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 2. The spoiler lamp is most definitely lit in this one. It’s a giant fiery ball, that reaches to every crack and crevice in the game and exposes its deepest darkest secrets, including which of us has more sympathy for cute four-legged critters. Ye been warned.

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Housekeeping

 

Housekeeping

It’s been quite some time since any of us paid attention to upkeep on the WordPress back-end of No High Scores. To that end, I’ve finally enabled a series of updates to WordPress and the few plug-ins we do use. My relief that nothing exploded during this process was… notable. In doing all this, I also replaced an abandoned site notification email address with my own. That’s when the flood of registration emails started. Easily 50 of them in less than 24 hours. All spam as far as I can tell. This aggression, quite obviously, will not stand, man.

Since Captcha isn’t getting the job done, first and of very little relevance to you, I’ve enabled a new plug-in that should make fake registrations at least a smidge harder. This includes requiring new registrations to put in at least a first name as well as reply to a verification email. In the 24 hours or so since I enabled this, fake registration attempts dropped precipitously and none of them have jumped through the verification hoop to actually become registered. This is a huge improvement that, as noted, in no way affects you.

The next step, however, may affect you. For this and for ruminations on the past year, the year ahead, and what it all means for No High Scores, you’ll have to venture beyond the break. Come, walk this way…

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Brakketology Goes Ball’n, Gets Soaked

NBA 2k14 - VC

If you’re a JtS listener (and you should be, because we’re still awesome), you know I finally unpacked my, uh, kids’ Xbox One over the holidays. For scientific purposes, I also picked up NBA 2k14. The things I do for science.

Can I just say, right out, that for all the flack we give to EA (wholly deserved) for how ostentatiously they over-monetize their middling products, and treat their customers like drones who should just shut up an pay already, there’s not nearly enough disgust thrown 2k’s way? They’re awful. And consistently so. It’s not just an NBA 2k thing, although 2k14 is by far the most blatant, irritating, and just plain icky swindle so far. But even quality games like Civilization 5 ($5 civilizations and map packs anyone?) and XCOM ($5 to choose armor color?) are not immune.

As a gamer, I’ve lived with it because who really caress about an extra civ here and there? And $30 may suck for an expansion, but the expansions for both Civ and XCOM were extremely good. NBA 2k14, though? Yeah, Brave New World, not so much.

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Jumping the Shark Podcasts #197 and #198

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Believe it or not, we’ve been recording podcasts. Not that you’d of read about them here, of course. That’s on me. I checked-out over the holidays. It was rather nice, true, but it’d also be cool if you folks who don’t use services like iTunes knew it when we’ve actually, you know, done stuff. So here’s the official JTS catch-up post, covering our two year-ending shows.

Episode #197 (not embedded; just follow the link instead)

It’s our last episode of the year, so Brandon and Todd do it right with Ye Olde Traditional Game of the Year Shenanigans. Hear all about our picks for best and most disappointing titles for the year in gaming that was 2013. On the list in one capacity or another, Gone Home, Fuse, NFS: Most Wanted, God of War: Ascension, Papers Please, Mark of the Ninja, Tomb Raider, Bioshock, Beyond Two Souls, FTL, Fire Emblem: Awakening, GTA V, and XCOM: Enemy Within. You’ll have to tune in, though, to find out what we slotted where.

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Episode #198 (embedded below)

Brandon and Todd are here (even if Brandon’s voice isn’t) to talk about their most anticipated games of 2014 as well as Todd’s problems with the Xbox One and NBA2K14 and Brandon’s problems with The Walking Dead Season 2. Yay! Hope and complaints!

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Brakketology Sees Betas and Alphas; Exclaims, “Oh My!”

Pillars of Eternity

It’s holiday time here in at NHS, which makes the site pretty much indistinguishable from any other time of year, except that behind the scenes I’m spending money on other people. I do not enjoy this. I like my money. I’d like to have more of it. And then spend it on myself. Alas, that Xbox One my dad is getting the kiddos won’t play itself and that means some games for the kids and a second controller and maybe something for myself along the way. It all works out in the end.

Anyway.

This week’s round-up is decidedly half-assed. Below the fold you’ll find links and videos for Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, and Elite: Dangerous; three games that all look incredibly good. I don’t remember the last time I was well and truly excited for the next year of games. It’s been a long time, but I am wildly excited for 2014. Steam boxes. Dragon Age: Inquisition. Banner Saga. FTL for iPad. About a half-dozen other projects I’m forgetting about. Oooh. Witcher 3, too! I’m definitely into getting my Witcher on. I like this feeling.

In the meantime, I would imagine the site is going to go very quiet for a couple of weeks. I don’t know what, if anything, Matt and Michael have planned, but I’m taking at least the next week off and possibly the next two. Brandon was out for the year a couple weeks ago, claiming nothing new was coming. I call him a shirker. We will have a podcast up next Monday. In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy holiday season and hope you all get a little new gaming goodness under the Christmas tree!

Hugs!

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Brakketology Plays Waterdeep, Muses About Theme

Lords of Waterdeep Cover

I’ve bee playing a bit of Playdek’s Lords of Waterdeep on iOS ($7). This wholly competent boardgame adaptation should be right up my alley. It’s D&D-themed, which I like. It’s a worker-placement game, which tends to be the sort of thing I appreciate and excel at. And yet it’s ultimately rather hollow. Not bad, mind you, the core game mechanics are very good and faithfully translated. Playdek, from whom I received a free code to download this game (full-disclosure and all), could not have done a better job of translating this for iOS. The problem is that the D&D aspects of it don’t add anything to the game. At all. And yet, as an iOS port of a game that doesn’t have many Apps Store counterparts, I can’t help but recommend it for fans of worker-placement games. It’s good enough to be worth your time.

More on Waterdeep, as well as thoughts on the PAR closure and some new Elder Scrolls Online trailers, after the break…

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Jumping the Shark Podcast Episode #196

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alright, so we may have missed a couple of weeks this time. That’s no reason not to be excited about a fresh 15 minutes of Brandon and I debating the merits of the movie Pitch Perfect and its inherently awesome, in no way pandering, use of Don’t Your Forget About Me. Also, don’t forget about us either, because we, like, also spend an hour talking about games and stuff too.

First up, I tie a bow around my XCOM: Enemy Within experience. This just in: It’s Good. Then it’s off the city of Waterdeep so I can talk to the lords therein about why, despite a very polished iOS port, the D&D theme means almost nothing to actual game experience and how Firefly: The Board Game does theme and licensing so much better. Then it’s a short metro train ride down to PS4-ville where Brandon spends some time amongst the falling shadows of Killzone, the build it up and break it apart world of Knack, and the pretty colors of Contrast, all while taking along his trusty Resogun. (If puns were ever a good thing –they’re really not– that would’ve been the most fantabulous sentence anyone has ever written. Ever. But it’s not, so instead you are all entitled to say mean things about me on Twitter. It’s okay. I deserve it.)

Enjoy!

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Brakketology Plays The Walking Dead and Enemy Within

XCOM The Final Team

I had a plan. It included skipping Brakketology last week. It’s a holiday and there wasn’t much happening that I was interested in writing about. I mean sure, I did land an Xbox One on launch day, but that’s all considerably less exciting when it’s a gift for the kids that will go unopened until December 25th. (I am trusting you with this secret. Mum is the word.) I’m rather proud of myself, actually, for not so much as opening the box, which I was sorely tempted to do. Not part of the plan was our esteemed Mr. Abner landing the flu Sunday night, forcing us to cancel the podcast. We’re definitely sorry not to have an episode go up yesterday, but Brandon and I will get something recorded this week and up for next Monday.

And so it goes.

In the meantime things are happening…

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Brakketology Faces the Inquisition

DragonAgeInquisition

Here there be dragons. We’re jumping right in this week. There’s a 30-minute gameplay video of Dragon Age: Inquisition that has, so far, managed to survive YouTube scrutiny. It’s from Bioware presentation given to attendees at Digiexpo (whatever that is) and, for fans of the series, it’s worth taking the time to watch. Some highlights:

  • Right from the get go, they’re quick to point out that the area they’re traveling in is bigger than all of Dragon Age 2. Me thinks Bioware still feels a wee bit stung by criticism of DA2 being too small. The thing is, size and scale were never Dragon Age 2′s problem.
  • Combat does look like a meld of both of the DA games. At about 18 minutes in they show off the tactical camera, which is available in the console versions this time around. That said, it still looks a bit arcadey, though it’s impossible to say when you’re watching someone else control the action. There is also a section that shows off group tactics that feels very DA2. I’m hopeful, but this is the kind of thing you have to be hands-on to get a feel for.
  • Combat difficulty does not scale based on your character level. This is a good thing, so long as the world is designed properly.
  • Lots of emphasis on decision-making in this video. In this case, do you defend a town from vile beasties or do you stock up the nearby keep to prevent it from being lost. This element overarches the entire 30 minute demo and is very promising as your choice does appear to affect both the world at large and the members of your party. Yes, yes, appearances can be deceiving and they often are. If you skip ahead, however, to the 24-minute mark, you get a good (narrated) summary of how this particular decision can effect the world at large.
  • Speaking of the world, the 14-minute mark has a world map view that is cool for series fans as it actually shows elements of the DA-verse that we’ve only heard of so far, but not seen. I don’t think I’ve seen a map that showed more than Ferelden (and Kirkwall) and getting to see where some of the nations are in relation to each other was worth geeking out over.

I’ve embedded the video after the break, along with your usual dish of Brakketology-style musings…

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Jumping the Shark Episode #195

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week’s Jumping the Shark brings you a smorgasbord of topical goodness as Brandon cracks the seals on his new Playstation 4 and uses it to play more with his Vita. Bill joins us to talk basketball foibles and a little TV. And I drop more XCOM: Enemy Within truth bombs than you can shake a stick at. Along the way Brandon and I also get into the excellent new movie, About Time, and talk about what makes Thor: The Dark World a worthy entry into the Marvel movie canon.

Enjoy!

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Musical interlude, “Gentle Autumn Breeze,” by Garret Dwyer.

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