Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer App Giveaway!


Incinerator Studios, the folks behind the new IOS version of the tabletop deckbuilding game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, sent me an email the other day. They had read my review of the game we posted last year at Gameshark.com and they wanted to send me a review code so that I could take a look at the new app. I had already plunked down five bucks for what has become one of my favorite IOS games of the year. So I said “let me give this code you’ve kindly offered to the people”. And they have agreed. I’m pleased to be able to offer one lucky NoHS member my review code thanks to the good folks at Incinerator.

Although the interface is cramped on an iPhone or iPod screen, the whole Ascension game is present and it plays extremely well- and fast, too. It’s a great fit for the small-bite gaming that IOS favors and with AI and multiplayer options it’s imminently accessible. I’ve been ripping through games in ten minutes or less and the AI (which currently has two levels with a third on the way in an update) puts up a pretty good fight. The rules are simple and the gameplay is easy to grasp with some neat deckbuilding strategies that come out of drafting from a constantly in-flux “river” of cards rather than from set stacks like you’d find in Dominion. The art is reminiscent of the work that Bob Pepper did in the early 1980s for the classic Dark Tower, and although the theme isn’t exactly meaningful there’s a lot of potential in the expansions for cool factions and greater synergy between cards. Look for it to show up as IAP sometime in the near future. I think the app is also a good way to check out a good example of the current trend in deckbuilding games that’s still raging across tabletops.

Oh, so you want it? Well, I’m not cheap n’ easy like Bill Abner. Posting here and telling us how great we are doesn’t cut it. I know we’re great already. And I don’t give things to people I don’t know very well. So if you want this code, you’ve got to answer a little pop quiz in your response in the comments section to prove your knowledge of your NoHS hosts. Top scorers will qualify, and we’ll pick a winner from the qualifiers this Sunday in the time waster. #2 pencils ready?

Mark A, B, or C for each question. Extra credit is available at my discretion.

1. Bill Abner is best known for asking what rhetorical question on the Jumping the Shark podcast?

A) Who the f$#k is Vladimir?
B) How the f$#k did I get into a hot air balloon?
C) What the f$#k is a seven year old doing with a compass whistle?

2. Recently, Brandon Cackowski-Schnell lost his hand in an animal feeding incident while on vacation. Which animal was responsible?

A) Gabe Newell
B) A hog
C) “Mister Binky”

3. Todd Brakke is deathly afraid of what common RPG enemy?

A) Bioware
B) Console gamers
C) Spiders

4. Danielle Riendeau has, like, a real job and stuff. She also teaches. Which game does she use to teach proper game design?

A) Little Big Planet 2
B) Earth Defense Force 2017
C) Deadly Premonition

5. Which of these games would Michael Barnes most likely save from a fire?

A) Portal 2
B) Red Dead Redemption
C) Metro 2033

NHL '12 Dev Blog Updates: Sim Engine and Be a GM Mode


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The NHL ’12 developer blog had a couple of updates over the weekend. The first is from Games Modes Software Engineer Brian Krause about the rewriting of NHL’s sim engine. The second, authored by Games Modes Producer Gurn Sumal, is about improvements made to the game’s Be a GM mode. Sim engines are such a pivotal component to the long term viability of any sports game (if you play season or franchise modes) that it’s good to see NHL’s getting some love this time around. I’m not remotely qualified to judge what goes into a good sim engine, but I’m impressed with the details Krause provides…

Every statistic and result that the Sim Engine creates is based entirely on the ratings and playing styles of the 12 (or less, in the case of penalties) players on the ice at that time. Who takes a shot (or who gets Hit, or takes a penalty, etc) is based entirely on their attributes, which makes the results very dynamic, but also true to life. I’ll walk you through a simple scenario from a Face Off to a shot on net, and highlight the decision making that goes on ‘under the hood’ to ensure that the game flows in a logical manner.

The example that follows this bit is well worth clicking over to read as it’s a ridiculous level of detail; suffice it to say it’s so important for player ratings to matter in simulation results. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve simmed out a season in an NHL game to see just ridiculous results with regards to which teams made or missed the playoffs. The numbers, if you just looked at league leaders, were always in the ballpark, but the team results didn’t make sense. I remember a couple of years ago seeing a sim (this was right after the Wings/Penguins 7-game NHL Finals series) in which the Wings, Pens, and multiple other perennial playoff contenders missed the cut, while traditionally poor teams like the Islanders went deep into the playoffs. This is tricky. You want a sports game where anything can happen. Who saw the Rams going to and winning the Super Bowl back in 2000? Nobody. But bad rosters need to make for bad teams more often than not. Hopefully this new engine facilitates that.

The Be a GM Mode improvements aren’t as immediately enticing -retired jerseys, new sim interface, etc.- but then I simply can’t get into the GM parts of sports games when playing on a console. The UI, as I say so often, just isn’t capable of letting you run a team without wanting to bash your head into something heavy. It’d be lovely to see them come up with some browser integration stuff like the NCAA team is doing that would let you handle some of the Be a GM duties from the confines of your warm and fuzzy web browser, but if it happens it won’t be this year. Regardless, here’s a bit on how the new sim engine noted above lets you get a better sense of what’s going on with your team when you’re simulating games:

With the new sim engine, we allow you to simulate the game at different speeds and let you pause the sim if want to check out stats at anytime. There is search functionality so that you can focus on particular player’s actions for that game. We even added a net chart to track where shots and goals are occurring on your goalie so you can potentially user player training to improve upon his weaknesses. This lets you guys play Be a GM like a real NHL GM (watching the game) without leaving you in the dark of what’s happening in a game like last year’s Sim Intervention did. If Your Team starts to get into trouble, you can now sim intervene at any point in time of a game (no more period chunks). This lets you be in control of the situation that is at hand whether you’re down by a goal or by 3. There’ll be more on the Action Tracker in the upcoming weeks.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #78


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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week on Jumping the Shark the whole gang is back in action as we wax patriotic about American game design versus that of the rest of the world. In the what we’re playing part of the show Danielle talks Ocarina of Time 3DS and Trenched, Brandon picks over Hunted and talks about his experiences with the iPad version of the indy RPG Avadon: The Black Fortress, and I talk about Ticket to Ride for the iPad and a little more Dungeon Siege III. Enjoy and we hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July!

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(The embedded feed is included after the break.)

Lord of the Rings: War in the North Quiver Edition


I enjoy taking the time to tell you how much I dislike these deals every time I see them and here’s another chance to do just that. Before getting into the specific store pre-order deals, the deluxe big daddy edition of the game comes delivered inside a quiver and will run you a smooth $130. From what I can tell even if you buy the $130 edition with the leather quiver case you still don’t get all of the store pre-order items…

Amazon.com

Exclusive to Amazon.com, pre-order the game and get early access to part two of the War in the North Digital Comic written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Simon Coleby and produced by DC Entertainment. The comic book reveals the back story leading up to The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Players will also receive the Orc Champion sword for in-game use.

Best Buy

Embark on an Elven adventure with the Elf Theme Pack, equipped with a mystical Elven sword, armor and helmet, and get access to the Lothlórien Challenge map.

GameStop

Visit the Citadel of the Stars and the Tower of Stone with the Human Theme Pack equipped with an exclusive human sword, armor and battle attire of the Human Ranger, and get access to the Osgiliath Challenge map.

Target

Immerse yourself in the sounds of Middle-earth with three exclusive tracks from the War in the North soundtrack.

Toys ‘R’ Us

Receive a limited edition, signed War in the North poster by Jim Lee, and access to download parts one and two of the War in the North Digital Comic at launch.

Wal-Mart

A Dwarven quest lies ahead for everyone who chooses to pre-order at Wal-Mart; the Dwarf Theme Pack includes an exclusive dwarf sword, armor and helmet.

Slow News Day


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It’s July 5th so for us Yanks it means “The day we go back to work after a long holiday weekend spent eating carcinogenic food, watching fireworks and trying not to blow our face off as we celebrate the day two great founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, ironically died. And the day we flipped England the bird.”

It’s also a somewhat slow news day so when I saw this on the feed I just had to share. All I will say is this: if you spend $280 to buy these glasses simply keep it to yourself, for we can no longer be friends.

The Steam Top 10


A few of things about this list, which details the top selling games on Steam last week. First off, boy the lack of DRM is just killing sales for Witcher 2. Way to go CDProjekt.

That THQ Hit Collection deal is CRAZY. CRAZY.

$50 sale for a ton of great THQ games from Dawn of War II to Metro 2033, Saints Row 2, Darksiders and more.

Finally, the game Terraria is the above video. Anyone played that?

1. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Digital Premium Edition
2. Portal 2
3. Valve Complete Pack
4. Borderlands: Game of the Year
5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition Deluxe
6. Terraria
7. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Pack
8. Might & Magic Heroes VI
9. THQ Hit Collection
10. Fable III

UFO Online: Turn Based Online X-Com?


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Apparently I have been asleep at the switch because I had no idea this game was even in development. UFO Online is one of gamigo’s (small g) free to play online games that is currently still in development. It’s a turn based strategy game played in your browser where you can battle against the AI or other players. That’s all I know. You can know what I know (and pre-register for the game) by going here: http://ufo-online.gamigo.com/

I found out about this today when this PR arrived:

Anyone who has ever wanted to see their words immortalized in a game’s loading screen should jump on this opportunity. The developers behind UFO Online – Fight for Earth, gamigo’s turn-based online strategy game, are looking for the best anti-alien slogans to entertain players during short loading periods.

The rules are simple:
- Anyone who wants to participate can send their sayings to ufo@gamigo-gm.de
- A week later, the best sayings will be posted on the UFO Online Facebook page to be voted on.
- Only sayings that make sense will be considered. (I thought this was an awesome thing to add)

As a special thank you to those who submit the winning phrases, not only will their sayings be used for the loading screens, their names will also be added to the game’s credits.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – 2027 World Trailer


I missed this on Friday but it’s one of those brief behind the scenes trailers with developer commentary. As is the case with a lot of you — I’m really looking forward to this one.

Rockstar and Team Bondi No Longer BFF's

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Reports are all over the internet this morning that Rockstar and Team Bondi did not play nice over the development of LA Noire and Rockstar will most likely be turning down further opportunities to publish games from the Australian development house. An article at gamesindustry.biz details how Rockstar wasn’t happy with the creative direction, or lack thereof, on display at Team Bondi and Team Bondi wasn’t too happy at Rockstar coming in and taking creative control away. The article paints a picture of a game and studio that would have gone under before the game’s release had Rockstar not poured money and resources into it. In a relationship like that, it’s understandable that both parties would be less than thrilled with the other. You can definitely see Rockstar’s influence all over LA Noire, and the game certainly benefited by having the Rockstar name on it, both in the marketing department and the reviews department, so it’s hard to see what Team Bondi is pissed about. Interesting enough, there’s no mention of any tension caused by Team Bondi’s penchant for taking the corpses of worked to death programmers and boiling them down into a nutrient rich sludge to feed the next batch of programmers. Given that Rockstar did pretty much the same thing in their San Diego studio during the production of Red Dead Redemption, I can see them looking the other way.

Gameindustry.biz also has a nice selection of emails from Team Bondi insiders that lay out that yeah, working for Team Bondi pretty much sucked and studio head Brendan McNamara is a giant, talentless bully. At this point, shitty people management and project management skills aside, I’m not sure what publishers are going to be lining up to work with a studio that takes seven years to put out a game, especially when it’s so clear how much of a Rockstar bump the finished property got in terms of critical response.

Calendar Man – Week of 7/4

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Today is the 4th of July here in the States and as such, is a day off, so I’m going to keep this one brief. Well, that and there’s only one game of note being released this week and the deals aren’t anything to write home about. That game is the bug-busting, budget extravaganza that is Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, available for both the 360 and the PS3. The official street date is the 5th in North America, however some GameStops have been selling the game, so if there are any open in your area and you can drag yourself away from the revelry, maybe pick up a copy.

As for deals, they pretty much suck except for Best Buy which has a ton of games on sale. For example you can get Fallout: New Vegas for ten bucks. The list of deals varies by store, which makes this a clearance event more than a sale, but check your local store and see what games you can get. Steam has a ton of stuff on sale for the 4th, and Impulse appears to have gone puzzle and adventure game crazy with their sale, so between the two outlets, I’m sure you’ll find something.

Me, I plan on doing some yard work and then kicking back with a beer, some macaroni salad and a grilled meat that has yet to be determined. Not a bad way to spend the 4th. Here’s hoping your day is safe and happy as well.