Sunday, September 30, 2012

Return to Ravnica prerelease report

So. RTR Prerelease weekend.

The first flight went well. 3-1 with Selesnya.

My Selesnya deck didn't have much that was particularly exciting. Wins came on the back of a solid creature curve bolstered by combat tricks. Two-drop into three-drop into four-drop can get there. Call of the Conclave, Centaur Healer, and Deadbridge Goliath (the latter of which was essentially just a vanilla 5/5 for 2GG, since I never used the ability) were all-stars, as were Selesnya Charm (most-used mode: +2/+2 and trample) and Swift Justice.

Regarding Populate, it was...not bad. Druid's Deliverance ended up being an instant-speed 3/3 or 2/2 vigilance for two mana most of the time, and Eyes in the Skies as an instant-speed Hill Giant that comes with a 1/1 flyer is quite good. That's pretty good. But on the downside, without at least a Centaur token in play, they're super-underwhelming. I'm pretty sure Naturalize and Fog are not maindeckable cards in this format. So, hit-or-miss: high highs, low lows.

I splashed blue for New Prahv Guildmage (and Righteous Authority) because New Prahv Guildmage seemed absurdly powerful. In hindsight, I believe this was definitely incorrect--I should have splashed red for Mizzium Mortars (AKA Flame Slash) and Explosive Impact. New Prahv Guildmage was definitely very good, but in my deck, the burn spells would have fit much better with the gameplan. For the record, New Prahv Guildmage was very good for pushing through damage and dealing with opposing threats, but as a splash (I couldn't use the Guildmage's abilities more than once a turn), Explosive Impact would have done the same job more efficiently.

I had a Korozda Guildmage I could have splashed, but that seems clearly worse.

My one loss came in the third round against Azorius. He had Dramatic Rescue for my tokens, which is the other big drawback of Populate: getting destroyed by bounce spells. Got an 8/8 token? Nope! I nearly had him in the final game--he had Azor's Elocutors on four, but I had a lethal alpha strike. Cue Blustersquall. Fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu...

Anyway, I won four packs, went home, and passed out as soon as I got in bed because by this time it was six in the morning and I'd been up all night.

So then I had a second flight in the afternoon. This time: Izzet.

Dressed for blue-red success
Well, my Izzet pool was certainly more...interesting.

It was difficult to build because I had a lot of noncreature spells. Splashing black was an easy decision, as I had Stab Wound, Ultimate Price, and Dreadbore, all of which are amazing removal spells, plus Rakdos Keyrune as my only (nongreen) fixing.

I ended up cutting Traitorous Instinct, Dynacharge, Electrickery, both copies of Paralyzing Grasp, and all but one copy of Inspiration. At the last second, I got wishy-washy on Mizzium Skin and added it to the deck.

This time, I had two awesome bomby rare creatures: Hypersonic Dragon, obviously (even though I wasn't playing any relevant sorceries), and Mercurial Chemister, the rare from my guild booster. Wow, is that guy sweet! I got him out several times, and without exception, he dominated the game. It was about as powerful as you'd imagine.

Teleportal was the big all-star this time. It's the real deal. You remember Overrun? And how casting it is always a total blowout that wins you the game on the spot? Yeah, it's like that. Except they can't block at all. I had a great game in the first round where I went Stab Wound, bleed, bleed, bleed, Teleportal to attack for 13, bleed and you're dead. Now that's some whammies right there.

And again, I got a healthy share of wins just by playing efficient beaters. Bloodfray Giant was another all-star, as were fellow Unleashers Gore-House Chainwalker and Dead Reveler. So was Cobblebrute: a vanilla 5/2 might not look like anything special, but it pulled a lot of weight because I could use effects like Soulsworn Spirit to take out their blockers or just straight-up make it unblockable with Rogue's Passage or--of course--those game-winning Teleportals. I definitely won a few games off of unblockable Cobblebrutes.

I managed to draw a fair share of cards off of Izzet Keyrune and Stealer of Secrets as well, which was lots of fun. And I got to bring in Sewer Shambler out of the sideboard against Rakdos and Golgari, just for value.

With my sweet Izzet-splash-black deck, I swept the competition, going 4-0 in matches and 8-1 in games (losing in the finals against a fellow Izzet) to win eight packs!

The spoils of war.

And on top of that, I got hold of all the cards I wanted for Mayael. I traded one of the derpy bulk rares out of my binder for a Guild Feud--also a derpy bulk rare, but one I'm excited to play with. I picked up Angel of Serenity in exchange for Ajani Goldmane and a handful of other casual-quality rares. And finally, the guy with Worldspine Wurm didn't find a card he wanted from me, but he was happy to trade it for one of my prize packs.

All in all, today was a good day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just a picture of my new Selesnya hat.

I went to the midnight prerelease instead of the 10am one because it turned out I was awake at midnight, so hey, why not. I was up all night battling with Selesnya (splash New Prahv Guildmage).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ask me anything

Because answering questions is fun. That's why.

The thing with doing the AMA schtick is that the questions almost always provoke thought. I guess some people might just answer monosyllabically, but I think that's not the point. It's not just a random question someone wants the answer to--it's a prompt. The answer might be simple, but there's always room to expand with interesting anecdotes, pre-emptive answers to possible follow-up questions, elaboration of the reasons behind my answer, and so on.

I could write as if I'm answering a question like "Why do you want people to ask you questions?" and just pretend for my own sake. But that's a lot less fun. For one thing, I have to come up with the pretend question myself, which sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? If I already have a topic I want to write about, I don't need to contrive a fake question to answer. And for another thing...actually, that first thing pretty much covers it. It's just better as a two-person game.

I did an AMA on reddit a while back and enjoyed it very much. People asked good questions, and I felt like I had interesting answers to give to them.

I'm a little jealous of Mark Rosewater's neverending supply of inquisitive fans. My inbox is always empty.

But my inbox is also always open, so please, drop something in over at

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My schedule this quarter

I keep getting asked about this, so I'll just lay it all out there.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have to get up at 10:00 in the morning for English 106 (AKA Linguistics 106, thanks to cross-listing): English Grammar.

I get out of ENL106 at 11, and on Mondays and Wednesdays I have an hour of downtime until my next class at noon: English 5P: Writing (Poetry). It's a block away in Olson. Not too far. I dunno what I'm doing in that hour. Probably get something to eat. Either that or durdle around doing nothing.

That's MW. On Friday, I don't have English 5P, but I do have a discussion section for English 106, which runs from 1-2 PM. Either way, my MWF schedule ends at 2:00.

For Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don't start class until noon, when I have UWP 101: Advanced Composition. A writing class. That one lasts until 1:30.

Immediately afterwards, I have English 10B: Literature in English II, a continuation of Literature in English I (which I took in the spring). I get out of there at 3:00, probably starving since it's a continuous three-hour block of classes that runs right through lunchtime.

Then from 4-5, I have rehearsals for the University Chorus, where I'll be singing Bass 1.

And that's Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I don't have any classes on Saturday or Sunday. Of course, this week, I do have the Return to Ravnica prerelease Saturday morning, where I'll be playing Selesnya and, for the afternoon event, Izzet. I might ask about maybe judging one of the other ones too, haven't decided.

Did you get all that? No? Well here's a handy diagram.

I hope that pre-empts any more questions about what classes I'm taking right now. Probably won't, but it can't hurt to try.


The Humble Bundle has expanded, as it is wont to do.

Yes, it's added four new games: Jamestown, Gratuitous Space Battles, BIT.TRIP RUNNER, and Wizorb. Which is not so exciting for me, since I own all but one of those games from previous bundles!

The one game is, of course, Wizorb. Now, Wizorb is a Breakout clone. You have a paddle at the bottom of the screen, and there are various bricks scattered around, which you need to break by bouncing a ball off the paddle. (They call it an "orb" and a "wand", but let's be real, it's a ball and a paddle.)

You may be thinking, "But that's basically the same as Breakout, which was a thing way back in the 80s!" Well, obviously, technology has come a long way since then, and instead of white boxes, Wizorb is presented with glorious sprite graphics. It's well-done, too; the animations are smooth and polished and it looks very nice.

Oh, and of course, there are some extra game mechanics. The big one is that there's a "Magic" bar, which fills up when you collect potions. You can spend magic at any time to use special abilities: shoot a fireball, push the ball with a gust of wind, turn the ball into an orb of molten lava that melts through blocks, take manual control over its trajectory and move it around with your mouse, or teleport it to anywhere in the level.

This is a great feature because, as anyone who's played a game like this knows, it can be extremely frustrating to have just a couple bricks left and lots of empty space. The ball bounces around and you can't get it to hit that last brick and finish the level. Ugh! But not in this game, because you can save up your magic and, when the time comes, BANG, shoot a couple fireballs and save yourself the headache. It's further facilitated by a mercy-feature that automatically restores a bit of your magic if you go for too long without hitting any bricks.

There's more. It's sort of an RPG. As you play the levels, you earn coins, which can be spent to restore areas of Tarot Town, a village destroyed in an attack by, uh, whoever the bad guys are.

Doing so rewards you with various things, like keys or shops or whatnot.

There are 12 stages in each area, with a boss fight at the end.

There's nothing revolutionary in Wizorb, but it's well-polished with a strong visual aesthetic, good physics, and a nice powerup system. On top of that, the RPG elements add an extra level of goals and rewards. The result is an exemplary execution of a well-known formula.

I haven't played Arkanoid variants in a long time (unless you count BIT.TRIP BEAT, and I don't), but trying out Wizorb, it's nice to see they can still be as addictive as ever. If you've played something similar, you'll know what to expect and you'll probably already have a good idea of whether you'll enjoy this game. If somehow you haven't, you owe it to yourself, so go find a free Flash or Java variant; Wizorb will be just like that, only better.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's All About SolForge

I just can't wait for the SolForge beta to start!

And by that I mean I literally did not wait and have already started playing asynchronous games on the forum.

So I can tell you, this game is fun. I've completed two games and I have two more running. I'm enjoying it very much. The mechanics are simple enough. Every turn you play two cards and attack, and every four turns you gain access to leveled-up versions of the cards you've played. Boom. But every turn, those two cards you play also represent meaningful and difficult strategic decisions.

Chrogias is overwhelmingly powerful in his final form, but before I can get there, I have to spend my turns playing teeny tiny sporelings. Is it worth sacrificing early momentum for lategame power?

Do I play the Mimicwisp that's strong against the current board? Would I rather invest in a Chrogian Sporeling that's weak now, in hopes of leveling it up into a giant avatar later? Should I play a structure for a persistent bonus that could be useful in the long-term, but puts me behind in creature count this round? Do I use my pump spell to make my creature trample over yours, or do I use my kill spell to clear the way completely? If I've seen him trying to level up a guys who'll be 9/10 later, is it a waste of effort to try and level up my guy who'll only be an 8/4? If I have a card that's strong at rank 1, should I play it early and try to press the advantage, or should I save it for later since it doesn't need to level up to have an impact on the lategame?

If my opponent's been leveling lots of scary creatures to rank 2, I'll want my kill spells to be leveled up to kill them. But what if their only target now is a dinky 2/2 or 0/6 that I don't need to kill? Do I drop a random creature to eat it and advance my board at the same time, or do I plan ahead to make sure I have the proper answer for a larger threat later?
These aren't hypotheticals, by the way. I just pulled them out of my most recent match. And I'm still not sure what the answers are.

Also, I drew an Absol Forge.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Selesnya first impressions, cont.

Rootborn Defenses

Okay, so, wrapping my mind around's like a combat trick, but it also makes a creature. But you have to already have a token in play. Hmm. Okay. Well, uh, I guess it depends how many tokens are in my pool. If I have a good amount of centaur or knight tokens or whatnot, I'd expect it to be very nice, and if not, it's gotta be bad, right? I'm really not sure. I guess I'd have to see it in action first. Reserving judgement.

Selesnya Sentry

And here we see a solid three-drop obviously intended for Limited. I can't imagine it being bad. It's a fine three-power body with relevant lategame upside. Just a random dude for the curve, basically--nothing exciting, but fills a role.

Trostani’s Judgment

So here we have a card that I would first-pick even if it didn't populate. I'm certainly playing this, and when I do I'll want lots of token-makers around, and beyond that I don't quite know what to say.

Druid’s Deliverance

See, these "Populate as an extra rider" cards are giving me trouble trying to evaluate them. This is not an unreasonable trick on its own, and the potential upside of getting an extra creature should be good. And I do expect to play these cards, but I also feel like I don't really understand them. I don't get the flavor. Why can I only make more tokens of tokens I already have? That's so...weird. I mean a token is just a creature. It's an ordinary knight or centaur or wurm just like any other. Shouldn't I be able to populate my ordinary nontoken creatures too? What is special about being a token? I am so confused.

Horncaller’s Chant

Okay, not so confused about this one. It makes two rhinos for eight mana. That I can understand. Uh...mostly. I mean, it's sort of roundabout, isn't it? How often will you be populating something else? Double Rhinos are nice, but it seems hard to get any more value out of it.

Armada Wurm

Oh hey, how about instead of two 4/4s for 8, we get two 5/5s for 6? That is a lot of power for six mana. Very impressive. Let's see the other guilds top that. And take that, Broodmate Dragon!

Call of the Conclave

Well, it's an efficient creature that works with populate. I dunno, I still feel weird about this new Selesnya theme. It used to be all about making lots of little tokens. Now it's all about making really big tokens. But I liked making lots of little tokens!

Centaur Healer

I guess I also like beating down with efficient creatures. Trained Armodon with upside is a good one. If you can't beat down with twelve 1/1s, try beating down with four 3/3s?

Common Bond

This should be a good combat trick, but I don't think I have much to say about it. It's pretty mundane as far as these things go. I like it as a throwback to Seeds of Strength, and I like the art. Those sharp angles and the sense of motion are classic Raymond Swanland. Very nice.

Coursers’ Accord

The "Make two creatures with one spell" thing is clearly a recurring theme here. Two 3/3s is definitely reasonable at six, and the populate has more potential upside than it does with the double rhinos. I think I like this better than Horncaller's Chant.

Risen Sanctuary

Ah, aha, I see what you did there, Wizards. Yes, very clever.

Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage

See, this is what I'm talking about! Repeatable token generation. The new guildmage here is probably my favorite Selesnya card revealed so far. It does just what I want to be doing: it sits back and makes an indomitable army, one centaur at a time. Yes, I approve. That's the Selesnya I know and love!

Sundering Growth

One thing we love at the Conclave: destroying artifacts and enchantments. First it was Sundering Vitae and Seed Spark, and now the tradition of combining Naturalizes with tokens continues! I'd be comfortable maindecking this in Sealed with all those keyrunes and such running around. The fact that it also populates makes me feel better about it.

Selesnya Keyrune

Hey, speaking of keyrunes, it's a 3/3 mana rock! I like it! In fact, I like this whole cycle. I am a fan of manlands in general, so by extension, I am a fan of man-rocks too. All five of them seem sweet, and I hope the cycle continues in Gatecrash.

 Selesnya Guildgate

And finally, the Guildgate. What a lovely piece of architecture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Checking in with more indie bundles

Ooh goodie, my internet's back up and running! That means I can jot down my first impressions about these new indie bundles that are out.

Actually, there are a lot of bundles running right now. We've got:
  • Indie Royale Back to School Bundle
  • Bundle-in-a-Box Deep Space Bundle
  • Groupees Build-a-Bundle 3
  • Humble Indie Bundle 6
  • Indie Gala 9
  • Indie Face Kick
That's quite the selection.

Now, apologies to the folks behind the Indie Royale, but the price point is too high for me. I can't keep dropping $5-6 every time. I might if I knew the games were good, but I'm getting less and less comfortable with it as my Steam library has bloated up with more and more unplayed games. There's nothing in it this time that catches my eye and makes me want to drop the cash on it, so I'm just skipping it.

Indie Gala is really small this time. Two of the games, Battle Group and Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Land are Android-only, so they shouldn't really count, and the other two Steam-only games are Worms--the original, which is super-old now--and Alien Breed 2: Assault, which I already own. Now, the price point is more attractive at $1, but the content just isn't there. I wouldn't pay $1 for Worms if that were its normal sale price, so I don't see why I should pay $1 for it in a bundle where it's effectively the only game.

Yes, I know they have a second tier, but that's the same problem as the Indie Royale. It's not worth my $6 for a pack of unknown games. (And one of them, Worms Blast, I even own already.) Especially since Indie Gala has a pretty poor track record quality-wise--they'll give away any damn game no matter how crappy it is. I don't have a lot of faith in them.

The Indie Face Kick is just a pack of FPS games. Not my thing. I'll pass.

I already talked about Build-a-Bundle 3. Uh, still haven't gotten around to playing the games from it, but don't worry, they're on my short list.

I snap-bought the Humble Bundle. The Humble Bundle folks have earned that much from me. Everything they've put out so far has been amazing, and they are by far the best indie bundle out there. Accept no substitutions. But I can talk about the games a little.

Rochard is some sort of gravity-manipulating platformer. Gravity manipulation seems to be trendy with indie platformers. We've got VVVVVV, BEEP, And Yet It Moves, and now Rochard, just from Humble Bundles. From the gameplay footage, this game looks okay. Probably worth a fair shot.

Torchlight is like a Diablo clone. Which I am told is a thing. I have never played Diablo, so I don't know what that means. I've played Greed: Black Border, and it is kind of like that, including the control scheme that I don't like. But I am told it is a bestseller that was popular and well-reviewed, so that's encouraging. I assume it's in a bundle now as publicity for the newly-released sequel?

Shatter is possibly the weirdest Breakout variant I've ever seen. I'm not sure what to say. It's like Breakout if it had a physics engine and a bunch of odd twists to it? Hmm. Seems okay.

Vessel is a puzzle platformer where it looks like the developers had a lot of fun playing around with their physics engine. It's all about manipulating liquids. Sounds like a fine premise. I have a lot of puzzle platformers on my list, but I might be able to find time for another.

And then lastly there's the Bundle-in-a-Box. I'm still undecided. I might talk about it some other time because I've gone on long enough tonight. I'll try and think of something interesting to say.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Raspberries. Raspberries are great. If I had to pick a favorite berry, I would go with raspberries. They're basically awesome in every way. Drawback? The price. Raspberries are expensive. You don't get good value for your dollar. So they're nice, but they're a luxury.

Blackberries. The problem with blackberries is they have a very narrow sweet spot of ripeness. Either they're overripe and too gross and mushy, or they're underripe and too tart. It's hard to find any that are actually ripe. They work okay if you mix them with something else, like in a pie or as an ice cream topping, but they aren't great for eating on their own.

Strawberries. They have that annoying stem on top. You have to do extra work with strawberries. Either you cut the stem off or you eat around it. Either way, you can't just pop em like you can with other berries.

Blueberries. There's your happy medium. Cheaper than raspberries, less work than strawberries, and more reliable than blackberries. Unfortunately, they are not as delicious as raspberries.

So blackberries are nice for pies, raspberries are a treat, strawberries are a project, and blueberries are a general-purpose berry-of-all-trades.

Grapes are nice too. They're like reverse blackberries: great to eat by themselves as a snack, but you can't really combine them with other things.
Something I have been considering buying is a flash cart for my Nintendo DS so that I can store multiple games in one thingy. Not that I really need the entire DS library all at once, but it would let me switch easily between a small handful of games.

The other upside would be the ability to play modded versions of the games. Like, there's these "Storm Silver version" type things that are fan-altered Pokemon games with improved mechanics. Or, of course, the Rando-Emerald that I talked about at some point already.

I heard that there's a Gameboy Advance emulator for Andoid too, which makes me want to get an Android device of some kind. Seems like that should be even better, since it would also play all those various Android games I've been accumulating in indie bundles. And SolForge. That seems real sweet.

Maybe I should get a new phone. The one I have now is pretty unremarkable. All it does is phone calls and text messages. All the cool kids these days have phones that can, like, do your laundry and make you breakfast in bed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

If I had known I were going to successfully destroy the Rebel Flagship, I would have given my ship a better name!

[here is where I would post a picture of the victory screen if I were on my computer instead of my Kindle]

But default name or no, the good ship Shivan and her crew managed to pull off a harrowingly-tight victory against the juggernaut of a final boss that is the Rebel Flagship. The first form was easy--teleporting my guys directly into their weapon systems left them completely impotent. The second form was tougher: I had enough dodge and cloak to deal with the drone spam, but the boarding drones and their hull breaches took out one of my crew before I pulled it out. The final form was the hardest. Its uber-shield made it impossible to effectively damage. I had to send my boarding crew to sabotage the missiles, since they ignore my shields, but that left them unable to attack anything else. I timed my cloaking to dodge the surges but I couldn't dodge everything forever. They scored a hit to set my engine on fire and things started to spiral, but luckily by then my saboteurs had gotten to the shields and my lasers could tart tearing them up. Slowly. Slooowly Slooooooowly. While they were puking lasers and missiles at me.

But we did it! With our ship burning and our hull critically damaged, Shivan's crew fired the shot that destroyed the Flagship and made them the heroes of the Federation. I can only assume there was a medal ceremony with an epic soundtrack afterwards.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Still blacked out of wifi.

The ol Kindle is really pulling its weight. This would be a lot harder if I did not have a second device to use.

I did have a bit of a scare. Last night I tried to visit the My UC Davis website and it made the browser crash. Whole thing froze. I tried a hard reset and it didn't boot up again.

Anyway this morning I went out walking. First I went to the park. It was green, I guess. Mostly I went through the park because the library is on the other side. So I went to the library and I used their computers to figure out how to fix my Kindle. Google pulled through. Turns out I needed to hold the power switch for 30 seconds.

After I was done with that I went over to the shopping center. They have a grocery store and a laundromat and a hardware store and some restaurants. I bought groceries at the grocery store, breakfast at the fast food place, and nothing at the hardware store because I already got that stuff on sunday.

Then I basically playd FTL for the rest of the day. Hey, don't go making that face, that game is ADDICTIVE. You might get lost in it for five hours too.

Looks like while I was off we got a crapload of new RTR spoilers too. Seems like an awesome set. Truth be told--and don't tell anyone from Selesnya I said this--I am pretty pumped about all the guilds. They all look like loads of fun to play with. If fate is kind then I will be able to try them all out via the Magic Online Beta testing.

Plus we got a new Humble Bundle with Torchlight which makes me feel kinda dumb for letting Miles gift it to me, lol. Really should have see this coming. It was bound to show up in a bundle at some point. Ah well. I don't know the other games but Humble Bundle has earned so much goodwill from me that I snap bought it without even needing to watch the trailer first.
Tuesday now and I still lack a working internet connection. I hope my RuneScape clan is doing okay without me poking the clan citadel. Meanwhile I used my Kindle to check on the new Weekly Dredmor Challenge on reddit. Then I spent all day playing said challenge, ultimately scoring more than 1.1m points before dying to a succession of heavy-damage unresistable spells from the boss man himself.

I am not cut off completely. I can still write my blog albeit text only. I can check my email. The most important stuff is still available if much slower. However, I am more or less unable to edit TV Tropes, so my watchlist will probably get pretty backed up. And I have given up on keeping up with Twitter like this. That is too much to ask.

Tomorrow I plan to go out and run a few errands while I have nothing better to do. I need to grab a few groceries and just generally familiarize myself with the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bad news. My wireless is dead. Computer can't connect to any wireless networks. I have no idea why. It just got borked somehow. This could be a problem.

Now, my ethernet can connect me to the internet no problem. unfortunately my new apartment lacks DSL service so yeah. >_<

For the moment I am conneting with my Kindle and its marvelous unlimited 3G service. So I am not completely screwed I have backup. But this is obviously severely limited--it limits my surfing to more or less strictly text based websites. Even writing my blog is a struggle thanks to the limited thumb keyboard with no apostrophes and commas and whatnot.

In the meantime I have been playing video games since meh I can do that just as well offline. Not sure whether the solution is to get DSL service or to try to get my laptop fixed. Maybe just both I guess.

On another unfortunate note, I brought my second monitor but somehow failed to bring its power cord. Well that is lovely is it not.

Another doodle

Saturday, September 15, 2012

FTL: Faster Than Light

I heard about this game on reddit the night before it was released. It was one of the earliest games to get funded through Kickstarter, or so I'm told. FTL is a space game. Basically, it's a roguelike-esque game where you play as Star Trek. I watched the gameplay video and I decided right there and then that I was gonna buy this game. So the next morning I mashed F5 on the developer's website until I could buy it. Then I bought it. Then I installed it and played it for about eleven hours. Yay!

I even did a video stream of the gameplay that nobody watched.

So anyway, I'm happy with this purchase. Uh...hmm...yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it's pretty sweet. I might be slightly in a sleep-deprived space-exploration trance right now.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Build-a-Bundle 3

Well well well, what have we here? Another Groupees bundle? Another "Pick the games you want" gimmick? Well, well, well. Let's inspect the goods.

So. Secret of the Magic Crystals.

Okay, it's, um, a horse-breeding sim. on, I feel an infographic coming on...

Also, double take, is that a Nightmare? I am pretty sure that's a Nightmare. Yeah, that's definitely a Nightmare.


So. Uh. This game. What is it? Is it like...uh...the closest comparison point I am coming up with is the Chao Garden from Sonic Adventure and sequel. That...actually, that might not be too bad. Hmm.

Moving on, we have Detour.

This is some sort of real-time strategy game intended for multiplayer. So okay, two things right off the bat. First, I don't play RTS games. Second, who exactly am I going to be playing with, R.O.B. the Robot? I don't have any friends who own this game, do I? At least I don't think I do. And is it worth getting into?

In its defense, it's a nice concept. You don't see a lot of RTS games that have no combat. It's all about building roads and disrupting the other guy's roads, and the goal is to clear a path for your trucks to make deliveries. I've seen worse premises.

Moving on again: Omegalodon.

The kaiju thing is nice and all, but I'm sorry, this is clearly a game that's heavily focused on multiplayer, and I just don't think the servers will have, like, people, y'know? Look at that gameplay and tell me with a straight face that you can enjoy it with one or two players. I just don't see it. Again, it's the problem of "I have no friends playing it" and "Even if I did, why would we play this instead of something else?" And it's not on Steam, either, so minus points for that.

Next is War in a Box: Paper Tanks.

Or as I like to call it, Generic Tower Defense #92: Rehash Edition. I'm really sorry, guys, I'm sure you worked hard on this game and it's got really cute graphics and everything, but...I already own it. I already own two dozen damn versions of it. And I can play another five dozen for free. This market is more oversaturated than six spoonfuls of sugar in a shot of iced tea. I am not going to buy another clone like this one.

Moving right along, Apox.

This is some sort of real-time strategy game intended for multiplayer. So okay, two things right off the bat. First, I don't play RTS games. Second, who exactly am I going to be playing with, R.O.B. the Robot? I don't have any--wait, hang on, deja vu.

Okay, so from the look of it, this is standard RTS fare, with the main gimmick being the introduction of tactical first-person-shooter elements such as hiding in cover.

Why would I want that? Somebody must have woken up one day and thought, "You know what this RTS game needs? More finicky micromanaging of individual units!" Now, to be fair, I haven't played it, so for all I know it's actually well-executed and handles beautifully. But, uh, given its Metacritic score of 48, I'm not terribly inclined to give it a chance.

Can I be the first to say that CreaVures has beautiful visuals? No, I can't? Somebody already said it? Oh, okay then. Well, it does look very nice.

Aside from that, I don't think I have much to say. It's a platformer. I have lots of platformers. Is it any good? Well, I looked at some reviews and the consensus seems to be that it's short and not very challenging. So, meh.

This Chrome, or SpecForce, or Chrome SpecForce, whatever it's called...I dunno, it's like a stealthy-type FPS, right? It's just that first-person shooters in general are, like, dead to me. I mean, I have two Half-Life and three Serious Sam games in my Steam library all untouched. And those are supposed to be the really good ones. If I were playing a shooter, why would I play this shooter?

A lot of people like this sort of game. I dunno, I guess I'm just not one of them. Must be one of those "No accounting for taste" things.

And then there's Kaptain Brawe, which is a point-and-click adventure. Yeah...again...this, uh, this whole genre. Doesn't...doesn't really do it for me. And it doesn't look like this one is doing anything particularly different or interesting. So...meh? I don't really see myself playing this.

And the lastly, we have 99 Levels to Hell.

Out of all the games in this bundle, this one interests me the most. It's got dungeon-crawling, exploration, character development, platforming, and unforgiving death mechanics. Maybe I'm just on a roguelike kick after spending a combined 325-ish hours on Dungeons of Dredmor and The Binding of Isaac, but this 99 Levels to Hell thing seems kind of cool. It's--wait, hang on, it's not on Steam? And it''s still in Alpha? Really? >_<

It does look like fun, though.

So where does this leave us?

I'd say in order of most to least interested: 99 Levels to Hell, Secret of the Magic Crystals, CreaVures, Chrome + SpecForce, Detour, War in a Box: Paper Tanks, Apox, Omegalodon, Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World.

But hey, this is a Build-a-Bundle! I get to pick only the ones I actually want. So I'll just snag the top two and forget the rest. Sound good? Sounds good to me. Yoink!

That's all for this time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tobe's Vertical Adventure

Tobe escapes!

Tobe's Vertical Adventure!

How do you say that, anyway? "Tobe"? I feel like they misspelled "Toby" at some point and just never got around to fixing it. Or maybe it's, like, a foreign name, and it's actually totally normal?

Anyway, it's a platformer. You play as some kid named Tobe. (Tobe? Really? Ugh!) Tobe can run and jump and roll and wall-jump and all that good stuff, and there's these levels with treasure to collect and cute little animals to rescue. And of course at the end of the level, it self-destructs arbitrarily and you need to backtrack to the beginning.

Tobe has some special moves, like floating with balloons:

Tobe floats!

Or tossing climbable ropes up to the ceiling:

Tobe climbs!

Hehe, yeah, I had some fun with animated .gifs for this one.

So what bundle did I get this from, anyway? I don't even remember. It's not bad. I mean, it's not amazing, but it's not bad.

There's also a co-op mode so you can play with a friend. This lets you do stuff like bounce off one another's heads to jump higher or grab onto one another's feet to climb onto ledges. But since I am a poor lonely soul with no co-op buddies (foreveralone.jpg), it looks like that's not on the books.

So. Tobe's Vertical Adventure. Could be worse.

Are weird games better?

Here's my topic for today (via Dueling Analogs).

Now, and I've only just watched this video a couple minutes ago so I haven't had much time to mull it over. But I'm going to jot down a few thoughts anyway; this is an interesting topic.

I like weird games too. I'm not sure I agree with some of these reasons.

For one thing, rarity doesn't seem to be an issue. Most "weird" games today are developed by indie studios and distributed digitally. If you want them, you just have to go to the website and poof--a couple clicks later, it's downloading onto your computer.

"Keeping games longer" doesn't seem like a thing either. Again, I'm not renting or returning these games because it's all digital downloads now. And I'm not really worried about what non-gamers think of my games.

Originality is definitely a thing, though. Some games do things that I've never seen before, or present an old concept in a new way. I certainly don't think this is inherently a good thing--I've played games that were new and fascinating and totally unappealing to me. Trying new things can lead to disappointment. But trying new things is also how you discover new things to love.

When I was younger, I mostly played Pokémon, Zelda, and Sonic. Imagine what I'd be stuck with if those were the only franchises I still played today. Zelda is in decline and fraying at the edges--what have we got now, Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword? Definitely on the weak side. The series is showing its age. As for Pokémon, well, I can't say it's gotten worse because frankly, it hasn't gotten anywhere. It seems like every new Pokémon game I play is the exact same experience as the last one. It may not be in a downward spiral, but it's certainly stagnant. If they re-released Gold and Silver as new games, I bet nobody would even blink. Huh, wait, hang on...uh...well, anyway, I guess I probably don't even need to talk about Sonic the Hedgehog.

So trying new things is obviously good, Captain Obvious.

But it's pretty rare for a big mainstream title to do something new. Most games re-tread the well-trodden soil because blazing new trails is risky and risk is scary. It's the "weird" games that explore the unexplored corners of gaming, those great swaths of virgin design space waiting to be mined.

...On the other hand, there's also the problem that a lot of the big titles today aren't good. When the choice is between a game that's well-polished and fun, but derivative, vs. a game that's not quite perfect, but does something original, you've got a debate on your hands. But if the derivative one isn't well-polished and fun, uh, that's kind of awkward. Especially when you're paying ten times as much for it.

Of course, I may be conflating "unoriginal" with "big-budget AAA". There's lots of totally unoriginal games from tiny indie developers. It's hard to generalize in that space. Some, like Defense Grid, take their well-worn concept and execute it superbly well. Others, like Ballistic or whatever it's called, end up being mediocre and forgettable.

Now I've boarded the ramble train and I'm losing my topic. So, weird games are cool. Sometimes they're not cool. You don't know until you try. Whereas non-weird games are mostly predictable. There's ups and downs on both sides. The formula is only a formula because it works; on the other hand, if you always know what the game's going to be like before you even turn it on, there's no chance of discovering a hidden gem. My point is that it's good to try a variety of games and, like, stuff.

Scattered thoughts tonight, but interesting topic, though, right?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time for some Selesnya limericks!

Collective Blessing

A Glorious Anthem times three:
Just what token decks want to see.
It's like Overrun,
But prob'ly more fun
If you're casting it preemptively.

More Populate! Hmm, I approve
Of Selesnya's signature move.
Some creatures may die,
But there's more standing by
And enchantments are hard to remove.

Loxodon Smiter

What's this? I don't see tokens here!
This beatstick's vanilla, I fear.
On the other hand, that's
Quite a nice set of stats
Like a Watchwolf with really big ears.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice

Gain life and overextend?
I can guess how that's going to end.
I'm not blown away
This card is okay
Gives new meaning to "Make a new friend."

About ice cream

I used to have a favorite flavor of ice cream. It was strawberry.

Nowadays I'm not so sure anymore. Strawberry is great, but there are a lot of other great flavors, too. I like lots of different kinds of ice cream. I'm not sure I have a favorite.

Chocolate is definitely overrated. Of the "big" flavors, it's probably the one I'd rank the lowest. I like chocolate, but chocolate ice cream has never won me over. Neapolitan is fine--the vanilla and strawberry balance it out nicely. And fudge is great. It's hard to go wrong with a fudge ripple or a hot-fudge topping. As far as chocolate, it works better in cookies than in ice cream. The problem with chocolate chips is that they mess up the whole texture of the ice cream with their little crunchy bits. Nuts have the same problem, unless they're like a topping, and they're all bunched up together, in which case it acts like more of a crust, y'know?

Now, mint chocolate chip, that's a strong contender. Mint ice cream on its own is fairly bland, but the chocolate chips complement it superbly. Of course, you still have the problem of the chocolate chips messing up the texture, which is why the best mint chocolate chip ice cream has the teeny tiny chocolate chips. More like chocolate crumbs, really.

And there's sort of a whole genre of ice cream with what I think of as the "fruity" flavors. Strawberry, orange, peach, cherry, etc. They taste like fruit. Which is...good, I guess. I mean, I like fruit?

I've lost my train of thought.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

About theme songs

Have you ever done the thing where you like the theme song for a TV show, so you download it and put it on your iPod or whatever?

I've done that before.

There are some legitimately great theme songs out there. Epic, memorable melodies that you never fast-forward past, even when you're binging on ten episodes in a row. "Oh man," you think, "I could listen to this theme song all day! Da na, da na na na, da na na na, da na na na..."

But the theme song isn't just a piece of music that stands on its own. It's part of a ritual. It happens every time you watch your favorite show. The theme song means that the show is starting.

This is why taking a theme song out of context can be dangerous. It dilutes the anticipatory power. The Community theme isn't just a great bit of music, it's a great bit of music that is always followed by an episode of Community.

That's why I take theme songs in moderation. The Game of Thrones theme is epic, but would it have the same punch if it were the theme song to every show? Would it have the same impact for My Little Pony? Well, maybe, but that's beside the point. Divorcing a theme song from its source is a dangerous business; you might as well just take any ol' song and use it as the theme song and hang on holy shit that's not seriously a thing is it? Oh geez I was joking.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

World of Goo

What do you get when you combine physics-based puzzle simulators I guess you get World of Goo, which is, apparently, a game based around building things with balls of goo.

It's a puzzle game. The goal is to build a structure out of goo-balls that will allow them to reach the suction pipe. Once they make it to the goal, the pipe sucks up all the unused goo-balls. You need to rescue as many of the cute little blobs as you can.

You start out making simple towers, and as the game progresses, you move on to more complex architectural challenges and meet new types of goo-balls, such as the helium ones, seen here helping to build a bridge over a pit of spikes:

If you manage to collect more blobs than the minimum, the extra ones will be scooped up and deposited into the sandbox mode, where you can mess around trying to build the tallest tower possible. There's even an online leaderboard, where other people's buildings from all over the world appear in your sandbox as little clouds with names on them.

My tower is not very tall.

So is this a good game? I'd say so. It does a lot of things right.

For one thing, I adore the cute, cartoony aesthetic. Look at those widdle blobs! Bouncing around with their giant eyeballs! Awwww! The animations are smooth and the interfaces are intuitive and responsive, so any sort of interaction with the game feels pleasing.

As far as the puzzles go, in fairness, I've only played through a fraction of the campaign. But so far, there have been a variety of different puzzles with new mechanics introduced regularly, creating a well-paced gameplay experience that doesn't become stale quickly.

The Goo Factory sandbox is an interesting toy that works as an incentive to perform better on the puzzles. I think it's clever, although it seems like there's not much you can do besides try and build something really tall. Maybe I'm just not creative enough.

It's a light, casual sort of gaming experience that feels like it would be right at home on a mobile device. I don't think I'd recommend it for the PC unless you know you really like puzzle games or physics games.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two years ago I made a purchase out of necessity. When I no longer needed it, I cast it aside. But now, it has risen from the realms of the forgotten to serve me once more. I speak, of course, of this big blue ethernet cable thingy that's sticking out of my computer now.

When I lived in Tercero, I needed an ethernet cable in order to use the school's DSL line. There's no wi-fi in the dorms, you see. I suppose I could have set up a wireless router of my own, but it was much easier to run a cord into the outlet and enjoy the internet service they provided for me. After I moved out, I went back to using wireless internet, and the ethernet cable sat coiled in the bottom of a box for a year.

This week, however, I pulled it out of retirement. Starting Tuesday, our router went on the fritz. The wi-fi would be working fine, then suddenly cut out. It would blink back on a minute later, then blink back off again after five minutes. After a little while, it stopped blinking back on. Crap.

But wait! I had a recourse! Out came the old blue cable, tangled and dusty from neglect. And lo, I was browsing TV Tropes and Reddit as if nothing had happened! Success! Or so I thought.

We called up AT&T to investigate the issue. Today, they sent in some guy named Jerry to fix whatever was wrong. He diagnosed it as a hardware error, and gave us a new router-box-thingy, successfully restoring our wi-fi access. Except for one problem...everyone was getting the signal except for me. We rebooted my machine, we rebooted the modem, we checked that my drivers were up to date, we fiddled with the settings--all in vain. For whatever unknown reason, my laptop couldn't pick up the wi-fi signal. Crap!

I'm sorry to say that I have no idea what the problem is. Something's gone funky in my laptop, and now its wireless card is as impotent as a Shedinja with a Life Orb. What caused it? No idea. How can I fix it? No idea. How am I accessing the internet in the meantime? My blue ethernet cable is, apparently, a life-saver.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Return to Ravnica previews, Part 1

As you know, I have officially Chosen My Guild, and I am firmly aligned with the Selesnya Conclave. Why? Because deep down, I am a gentle soul with a song in my heart, and in the Conclave there's always someone to sing the harmonies. (Also, I like tokens.)

So far, we've seen six Selesnya-watermarked cards spoiled, plus the two known dual lands and Rootborn Defenses (which isn't in the official spoiler yet).

Eyes in the Skies

Eyes in the Skies seems nice. It's your basic Populate card. From the look of it, it's at that sweet spot for Limited where it's playable on its own as a slightly overcosted Midnight Haunting, but highly desirable in a Selesnya deck that can make use of the Populate ability. The basic Midnight Haunting mode is fine on its own, but if you have a better token, such as a 2/2 Knight from Selesnya Charm or, heaven forbid, an 8/8 from Grove of the Guardian, you can get extra value. And if you don't have any other tokens, it also turns on your other Populate spells. I expect it to be a solid role-player for limited.

Heroes’ Reunion

This is a reprint, of course. It's still unplayable. I wonder how much life it would have to gain to not be unplayable. Probably ten? Eleven? It would still be pretty weak.

Selesnya Charm

 Awesome! Look at the baseline on this thing. Bare minimum, it's a 2/2 vigilance flash for two mana who is also a token. That's borderline playable already. But it can also be removal, or...well, you can read the card as well as I can, right? All these effects are playable and powerful (well, powerful in limited, playable in constructed), and mashing them together in one card is quite nice and makes me proud to be a Selesnyan.

Wayfaring Temple

Scion of the Wild was pretty fun in the original Ravnica's Selesnya deck. And lo and behold, not only does the Beast of Burden return, but it gets a nice triggered ability to boot! I don't actually expect to connect with Wayfaring Temple very often. If it's small, they'll block and trade off. If it's big, they'll chump block. But hey, Selesnya Charm gives trample, so who knows? And even as a vanilla Scion of the Wild, it could be a lot worse. Man, Fists of Ironwood on this dude would be nice.

Dryad Militant

What, no tokens? Okay, in fairness, a hybrid Savannah Lions is pretty nice, and the extra hosing ability is gravy. It's very Spike-y, though, and not the sort of card that excites me. Mana efficiency and marginal advantage? Meh. I'd rather have tokens.

Grove of the Guardian

Now that's a land. And a prerelease card. So this is the big populate target? I like it. I expect to be slamming this in multiple Commander decks soon enough. It mostly speaks for itself, I guess, but I am a big fan of cards like this that make mana and also have another good effect. One of the worst feelings in Commander--or at least in all of my Commander decks--is missing land drops. Seven-land openers are snap-keeps. Missed the ninth land? Sad face. This type of card lets you increase your land count for those sweet, sweet land drops, but without the worry of getting flooded. What's better than hitting all your land drops? Hitting all your land drops and a giant 8/8 Elemental!

There's still lots of tokeny goodness that hasn't been spoiled yet, so I guess this is Part 1? I could talk about cards from other guilds...nah. I've backed my dromad. To be continued.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012