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Tales From Baldur’s Gate II

Today is the release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for the PC (iOS and Android versions coming soon) so I thought I’d mark the occasion with one of my absolute favorite gaming moments, from one of my all time favorite games, Baldur’s Gate II. I know, I know, Baldur’s Gate II is its own game, and shouldn’t be lumped in with Baldur’s Gate, but the truth is, while I enjoyed Baldur’s Gate, BG II became a way of life for me. I absolutely adored that game, to the point where I’m not sure if I would play a re-release or not, for fear that my memories would get sullied by harsh reality.

This particular moment comes from the Throne of Bhaal expansion pack, a set of quests that has the player character on a mission to defeat The Five, a collection of five Bhaalspawn who have gotten together to do terrible, rotten Bhaalspawn things. One such member of The Five was Abazigal, a nasty, half-dragon bugger guarded by all manner of foul beasts, including his son Draconis, another nasty, half-dragon bugger. This story is about how my player character, Tipsy McSwagger, the Drunken Thief, singlehandedly defeated Draconis using nothing but guile, trickery and a ton of gear my party had been toting around for like sixty hours.

Come with me, to Tethyr!

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The New Science Rolls Out, Tomorrow Rolls In

I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas at Board Game Geek Con. It was my first trip to this con and also my first trip to Dallas — not that I saw any of the city. I did go to dinner at a place called Love & War in Texas. A lot of large hats. People in Texas really do seem to love them some Texas. I’m from Ohio. We just like the Buckeyes and various forms of awful chili.

Anyway, the convention was a great time (and an extremely well organized show) and the first chance many of the unclean masses got to sit down and play The New Science. I have grown accustomed to demoing our games to people but this was a continuous stream of patrons. I demoed the game so much that I could recite my 5 minute demo in my sleep. By the end of the show I could literally say it word for word every single time.  My voice was gone.

It’s easy when people show a genuine interest in what you are selling/demoing, though. I ended up playing several full games of TNS at the show and didn’t get a chance to play much else. Such is life of a developer. But I was really in the zone demoing the game with a crowd of people around.

Those who know me seem shocked that I’d enjoy being the center if attention. (Straw time.)

Based on the reaction of gamers both at BGG Con and Buckeye Game Fest I am confident that the reaction to The New Science will be positive. I have no way of knowing how well it well sell, but I’ll be shocked if people who play it dismiss it. It’s a tight game and I’m proud of the work we did on it from the graphic design to the mechanics.

But while I am genuinely excited about The New Science, our next game, a game I am in the middle of developing as we speak, is something I can’t wait to share with everyone.

Our next game is called Tomorrow.

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/26

There’s not much out this week, and that, combined with the lethargy of five days spent doing not much of anything means that I’m not looking to spend a lot of time looking up what is coming out this week. Professionalism, thy name is Brandon.

Two games of note, are releasing, though. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is looking mighty tempting for either the PC or the iPad. Course, that would mean that I’d have to stop playing my various Skylander games, which probably ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Luckily, Todd is on the case for the PC version, he being a font of Baldurain knowledge. The new Ratchet and Clank game, Full Frontal Assault hits PSN this week and while I”m usually all over R&C games, I care not for tower defense so I’ll pass.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops II in Review

After all of the chic whining about the Call of Duty franchise- whether it’s from retro-obsessed indie hipsters that ironically bemoan its glacial pace of innovation or from so-called “fans” that take to the ramparts over any perceived infraction of entitlement that results in a game lesser than the original Modern Warfare- it all doesn’t make a lick of difference.  The game won, pal.  It’s a cultural phenomenon, the blockbusting-est blockbuster in its medium, and it’s been a consistently successful brand not only from a marketing perspective, but also a design one.  I’m not a Call of Duty apologist, even though I’ve been subjected to the “why don’t you just go back to playing Call of Duty” responses from forumistas chagrined by my not-so-glowing reviews of games like Portal 2 and Fez. I don’t have to apologize for it, it’s a good mainstream game. Every year.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #152

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark #152 brings you our very special and heart-warming Thanksgiving Day extravaganza, in which we reference The Day the Turkey Died about sixty seconds from the end. We’re all heart at JTS. This week, while Bill was off traipsing around the floors of BGG Con, hawking his wares to the masses, Brandon and I got together to discuss our thoughts on the opening hours of Dishonored (which we’ve both begun playing), I conclude that my time with Fallen Enchantress is best put off for another day, and Brandon laments the fall of Cortana in Halo 4 (along with the rest of the game). I’ve also got some thoughts on Cloud Atlas thrown in there for good measure and you don’t want to miss that.

The show is taking the holiday week off this year so that we can enjoy time with family and friends, eating of the fowl and the potato, drinking of the wine, etc. etc. but we’ll be back with a new show to be posted on December 2nd. From our No High Scores family to yours, we wish you a fun and safe Thanksgiving! (You non-USA people can go about your business as usual.)

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Edit Type: Skype
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A Very Grinchy Wii U Impression Post

I was in the shower yesterday, just a couple of hours before heading out to the Gamestop to pick up my Wii U preorder, when I thought to myself “why the hell am I buying that stupid thing?” Thus began a tumultuous, flippity-floppity bout of a priori buyer’s remorse as I reminded myself of how I really didn’t want to play yet another Mario game (but in HD!) or a host of ports with pseudo-tablet support bolted on. ZombiU, my other pick out of the launch lineup, was getting a critical drubbing- most notably from IGN, who just a couple of weeks ago posted a radioactively glowing preview calling the game the Wii U’s “killer app”. I guess the IGN editors’ idea of a “killer app” is one that rates a 6.3 or “Okay”. What’s more, I found myself thinking that if I were going to buy it, I wanted the deluxe set after all. Not the 8 gig poor man’s version that I opted for to save $50. Damn Borderlands 2 for coming out the day I went to preorder. (more…)

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Calendar Man – Week of 11/19

Here we are, the official end to Holiday Gaming Season 2012. The Wii U has launched, Agent 47 finally gets to skulk around and kill people and the various publishers trot out their wares to get on store shelves before American consumers trample each other for televisions on Black Friday.

I won’t be repeating my Black Friday shopping posts from last year, as that’s a hell of a lot of work and I wouldn’t be able to replicate the already excellent efforts of everyone at Cheap Ass Gamer. If you want to get the skinny on all of the gaming deals for Black Friday, Brown Thursday, Cyber Monday, Mauve Wednesday and For Pete’s Sake, Enough With the Colors Tuesday, check out the thread at  CheapyD’s place of business.

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Skylanders Giants in Review

Given my penchant for toys, it shouldn’t be any surprise that I wanted to take Skylanders Giants for a spin. I successfully ignored the game/toy combination the first time around, knowing full well that heading down that path would lead to a Trigger Happy sized hole in my wallet. Alas, the pull of plastic figures that were now giant sized and also lit up was too much to resist and the game was mine.

Amazingly enough, not only is this a well done action game, but it’s also surprisingly easy to ignore the fundamental purpose of the game, namely to fill your home with oodles and oodles of toys.

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Android: Netrunner review

Once upon a time, I played inordinate amounts of Magic: the Gathering. I played it so much that information about anything other than Magic: the Gathering could do little more than skitter across the surface of my overheated, addicted brain. Nevertheless I was dimly aware that there were other collectible card games available for those poor, benighted souls who couldn’t cope with the munificence of Magic: the Gathering. It was all very sad, but they had to have something to play, I supposed.

This is why, when Fantasy Flight Games released Android: Netrunner, I had absolutely no idea that it was in fact a Living Card Game version of one of those limp, feeble Magic: the Gathering wannabees. But now I have purged all traces of that overwhelming monstrosity from my mind, body and game collection, and am shriven and ready to look again at the Collectible Card Game format with fresh eyes. And good job too. Because it turns out Andriod: Netrunner is neither limp, nor feeble, but really rather good.

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mage wars

Cracked LCD- Mage Wars in Review

When I first opened the Mage Wars box, I thought I was in for it. The signs were bad. It’s a game from a first time publisher and a first time designer.  Worrisomely generic, Magic card-style artwork and terrible fonts didn’t endear me to the product at all. The rulebook was filled to bursting with esoteric keywords, extensive descriptions of multiple turn phases, complicated examples of play, and callout boxes galore explaining exceptions, situations, and subsystem mechanics. It looked like a hot mess, a kitchen sink kind of game. It felt like the kind of game that in the past I’ve found myself regretting that I requested a review copy.

The first session- well, at least the first half- was a slow motion disaster of hesitant cardplay and shot-in-the-dark tactical board play. But before all of that, I had to sort out the 322 spell cards and make two decks for two of the game’s dueling mages, putting all of the cards into these adorable binders that represent the players’ spellbooks. With the prep work done- and a head full of rules and a quarter-remembered glossary of status effects and special abilities- we stumbled. Lots of “can I do this?” and “I don’t think that’s right”. Rulebook consultations precluded by “hang on, let me check”. All of those speedbumps weren’t nearly the chokepoint that flipping through the spellbooks during play was. This is a card game where you get to look at your entire deck- no hoping for a topdeck draw. Hope you remembered what every card does!

But when it all starts to come together and the opacity of words like quickcasting and magebinding fades away, Mage Wars eventually reveals itself as one of the top games of 2012. (more…)

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