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.

Calendar Man – Week of 11/18

xbox one

Here we go again. A week after all the hullabaloo that was the PS4 launch, we’re ready to do it all over again with the Xbox One. Me, I’m pretty happy with my PS4 because Remote Play is the best thing ever. That being said, I do wish there were better games for the system but this is the price you pay for buying a console at launch. If you have an Xbox One on preorder or plan on waiting in line for one, best of luck and be safe. Enjoy your new console when you get home and above all us, keep calm and have fun.

In non-Xbox One news, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds comes out on Friday and by all accounts it’s a pretty rad Zelda game. I’m still knee deep in Pokemon and now have the ability to play every PS4 game I own on my Vita so I can’t see spending money on yet another handheld game, even if it is supposed to be amazing. Luckily, Christmas is right around the corner. Also coming out this week is Mario Party: Island Tour, a game that will have to wait for the Christmas at the heat death of the universe to get played at my house. Hey, do you like farming? If so then Farming Simulator may be for you. If not, well, maybe picking a game called Farming Simulator isn’t the wisest choice. Hey look, another Adventure Time game with a weird name. I’m sure the kids love it.  A handheld game I will make time for this week is Tearaway if only to see the game’s cool art style. Hopefully the game itself will also be good. In other news, AC IV comes out on the PC, Need for Speed Rivals comes out on a bunch of non-PS4 platforms, AquaPazza hits the PS3 and the Walking Dead gets a collector’s edition on the 360 and PS3.

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Get British!

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As the token Brit on NHS, it’s obviously my remit to drink copious quantities of tea, discuss the vagaries of the weather and get typecast in Hollywood movies as the villain. However I also take it upon myself to bring you occasional snippets of news from the UK games industry.

Here’s the latest: a kickstarter for a new British game, made in Britain starring British people and full of typical self-deprecating British humour. It’s a point and click adventure entitled Her Majesty’s SPIFFING and you can back it at the usual place. Take a look, have a think about it. We’ve fallen a long way since the 8-bit glory days, and frankly, we could do with the business.

Welcome to the Next Generation!

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I went to go pick up a Playstation 4 this morning at the local Gamestop where over the course of the past nine months I shrewdly traded my way into the $399 Next Generation entry fee. There was no fanfare. Jack Tretton did not show up to shake my hand. Two or three hopefuls walked a foot in the store, asked if there were any, and turned right around probably to go try Best Buy. The store manager, who knows me by name and understands that I have an impossible to beat saving throw against suggestive selling half-heartedly asked me if I wanted any games. I kind of grimaced and said “I really don’t care about any of them.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I got FIFA for free in that Target sale last week, along with Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101. He went into the back and brought out a black opaque bag that looked suspiciously like a body bag for a midget. I suppose it was to help protect me from getting mugged on the way out of the mall. “Have fun with it!” he said. Continue Reading…

Trains and Stations Review

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I’ve always loved interaction in games. I’d bet that most gamers do, really, it’s just that those who’ve chosen to embrace the bloodless, over-balanced mechanical model that runs screaming as far from zero-sum games as it possibly can think that logic is more important than interaction. But there is, thankfully, an alternative. Instead of having players taking chunks out of each other, you can instead encourage them to co-operate for mutual gain.

My suspicion is that this what Trains and Stations sets out to do for the light family gaming crowd. Clearly influenced by age-old classic Poker Dice, the game sees you roll a handful of beautifully marbled custom dice, picking what they want to keep and rolling the others again. Except that, in a nod to modern sensibilities of choice and strategy you can actually keep certain dice from turn to turn if you find you didn’t roll the combination you were looking for and you have to pay for each re-roll.

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Cracked LCD- A Conversation with Brett Murrell (DOAII Designer), Part 2

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Here it is, part 2 of my conversation with Duel of Ages II designer Brett Murrell. If you missed the first part…well, what’s wrong with you?  Get to gettin and catch up’, or carry on with the following.

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Brakketology Confronts the Dragon… Despairs

Excalibur Merlin

Look upon the eyes of the dragon and despair. Merlin was, of course, talking to Morgana when he said that, but he could easily have been speaking of game designer and “monetization design consultant” Ethan Levy, who wrote a piece on F2P success at Games Industry Biz. It is insightful, based on sound data, and wholly abhorrent to anyone who actually cares about games. A snippet, cherry-picked to set you against him:

When I compare Arkham Origins to Gods Among Us [ed: the F2P releases, not the "real" games], my sense as a player and a game designer is that NetherRealms has made an undoubtedly better game, but a worse free-to-play product. They have made fundamental changes that will earn them brownie points with gamers wary of free-to-play, but have a negative impact on P&L. Even more damaging is the effect of diverting resources from a top grossing, live game to build a new product. I know from firsthand experience how difficult hiring talented team members can be in a competitive space like mobile game development. But by shifting resources instead of growing the overall mobile team to support multiple games (which I assume is the case solely based on the credits) Warner Bros. has not only delivered a lower performing product, they have missed months’ worth of opportunity to add new features to Injustice that would grow player base and profitability.

I bang my anti-F2P drum on, very nearly, a weekly basis. This kind of stuff is why. These games aren’t games. Games are creative expressions and therefor are art forms. They may often be very low art, but they are creative endeavors and while there is money to be made (nor can they be made without it), you are not making great games if your primary design axiom is built on how you get players to stop in the middle of what they’re doing and fork over more money, and then do so again a session or two later (and again, and again). And that, of course, is F2P’s problem. When games are designed and built to get you coming back to the feeder bar as much as possible without getting too pissed off to abandon the title outright then they are no longer games of any substance or worth. If you eat, sleep, and breathe that business, then you’re not Satan exactly, but you are the guy who goes into the corner store to buy Satan a pack of cigarettes. (Points for you if you know where I’ve stolen that line from.)

Make us a good game, rather than a nickel and dime delivery system, and we’ll pay you for it. Speaking of real games…

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/11

ps4

This is it folks, week one of our two week entrance into the next generation of console gaming. With both consoles needing day one patches for various levels of functionality, it’s going to be a rough go of things. I think we can take that as a given. That being said, keep calm, keep in mind that all consoles have launch problems and threadbare lineups and for God’s sake, if someone wants to buy a new console at launch (like me) and they’re not taking your games and/or money to do so then by all means, let them have their fun.

The first console out of the gate is Sony’s PS4, which also happens to be the one I’m starting out with. I’ll get an Xbox One eventually, just not at lunch. The PS4 is launching with a bunch of games, too many to list out individually but follow that link and you can stuff yourself with super hi-def goodies. Me, I’m going with Skylanders, AC IV and Killzone. Yeah, two of them are already available on other systems but if I can push more pixels, why not do it? The third is because Killzone is gloriously stupid and sometimes you have to sit back and marvel at Teh Stoopid.

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Hornet Leader & Cthulhu Conflict Review

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When my children were small and I didn’t get out much I played a lot of solitaire board games, and I decided that I didn’t like solitaire board games all that much. It’s hard to see what they give you that a strategy video game doesn’t, except lots of annoying overhead. There was, however, one exception: Vietnam air-war game Phantom Leader.

It’s part of a whole series of related air combat games from Dan Verssen Games. Hornet Leader is one of the more recent and critically lauded entries, and after my experiences with Phantom Leader I was pretty excited to try it out.

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Cracked LCD- A Conversation with Brett Murrell, Duel of Ages II Designer (Part 1)

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I made it abundantly clear, I hope, that I absolutely love Duel of Ages II in my recent review. I think DOAII is a brilliant game that manages to get at some very elemental concepts of play that reach all the way back to schoolyard games like cops and robbers while also creating a vast, “anything can happen” framework for players to create narrative. The designer, Brett Murrell, has been working on Duel of Ages for over a decade at this point, first releasing the game and a series of expansions back in 2003. The new edition arrives at a very different time in the boardgaming hobby, and at a time when I think it may just be the game that we need to cut through the crap and get back to old fashioned fun.

Mr. Murrell was kind enough to offer his thoughts up about DOAII and design in an interview, so over the course of the next two Cracked LCDs I’ll be presenting the results of this conversation that we held over email . I think Mr. Murrell has some interesting things to say and I hope you’ll enjoy his insights. Continue Reading…

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