Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

About Omen Machine

Let's talk for a minute about Omen Machine in the Mayael deck.

Omen Machine

"But Jasper," I hear you cry, "Omen Machine is a terrible card! It's a symmetrical effect and your opponents get to go first and Guthix only knows if you'll get a decent card from it at all!"

Well, you're wrong. Omen Machine is what we in the business call "tech."

See, the Mayael deck's main gameplan revolves around building up some mana and then eventually dropping large creatures onto the board one at a time. There's not a lot of card draw and no real rush to play multiple spells in one turn. Every individual spell in the deck tends to have a high impact on the board, so while it's possible to run out of gas, the deck gets a lot of miles per gallon, so to speak.

If the opponent trades one-for-one with Mayael's fatties, that's okay, because there's another one waiting in the wings to replace it. However, if the opponent is also drawing extra cards and getting 2-for-1s, it's easy to fall behind.

Omen Machine stops that strategy cold by forcing everyone to play on the same terms as Mayael: It brings all of the action out of the hand and onto the battlefield. Mayael is already only drawing one card a turn, so for us it's a strict positive effect: instead of having to wait and tap out to cast the fatty we just drew, we get to play it for free and still have mana up to activate Mayael! Kablam! But for the rest of the table, it's not so optimal. Removal? Use it or lose it, because you won't be able to save it for a better target. Counterspells? Ha! Good luck with that. Card draw? Nice blanks you got there.

When everyone is playing Mayael's game, Mayael is going to win. You don't invade Russia in the winter, you don't start a land war in Asia, and you don't fight a topdeck war against a deck where half the spells are enormous fatties.

Now, it's possible to really abuse it, if something like Sensei's Divining Top or Scroll Rack is in the picture. Really, though, rawdogging it is just fine—and if you're not visibly "abusing" the effect, it's less likely that the other players at the table will rush to destroy it.

So there's my little love song to this little-known piece of tech. It's an awesome card that's great for punishing control and combo decks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I finished Sonic Generations. Honestly, it didn't impress me much. I was hoping it would be, like, nostalgic, but the new versions of the levels from old games weren't very close to the originals at all, and even in the "classic" stages the gameplay felt more like Sonic Rush than Sonic 2. The physics were just a little off for the 2D sections, and the 3D sections were dominated by essentially long racetracks. Meh.


It also bothers me that they only took one level per game. Chemical Plant Zone is awesome and I'm glad it made the cut, but what about Oil Ocean? Casino Night? Mystic Cave? Aquatic Ruin? It's somewhat disappointing that classics like the first three games get knocked down to the same level as whatever the heck game Crisis City and Planet Wisp are from. At least they didn't feel the need to represent Sonic and the Secret Rings, I suppose.

I'm still working on Shining Force II. I just got the caravan (which apparently allows me to cross dry riverbeds) and most of my characters are a level or two above their promotions. My biggest complaint so far is that so many of the enemies are below my characters' levels, making it hard to get experience. I can't remember if the first game was also like that, but it's annoying. Not that I'm not enjoying it, of course. It's more of that Shining Force gameplay that I loved the first time around. And the second time around. And the third time around. You get the idea.

I just started BioShock. I picked it up on the cheap in a trade. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I think I can say now that the word is immersion. The game does a superb job of putting me inside the character's shoes—that is, it makes the player feel the emotions the character feels. Oh, and the other word is atmosphere. Seriously. The audio is great, the environments are...wow...and ...wow, just...well, it certainly made me wish I were playing it on an enormous widescreen TV with a massive sound system. It's eerie. Eerie as hell. Safe to say I am suitably impressed.

I'm also still involved in RuneScape. Jagex has promised that the release of the new massive, game-changing, world-shaking quest is imminent, so I'm piqued on that front. I finished off my 450 boss kills in the Dominion Tower to unlock Dreadnips, which are a fine assist when fighting difficult monsters, but mostly I only did it for the achievement—I finished off the hard task set in the desert, and now I get double charges on my Pharaoh's Sceptre and double spines from cactus plants. My goals right now are to get 90 thieving and 90 slayer to help with my port, but I'm not pursuing them very actively. Most of my time is spent managing voyages and durdling with daily challenges and D&Ds.

I tried the new "Old School" 2007 servers, but starting a new character from scratch isn't especially appealing to me, and having to walk everywhere is the dealbreaker. As far as I'm concerned, it's a worse version of the live game; I'm not interested. The main upside is that some old faces have showed up in my chat from back when I first joined my clan. It's nice to see the old crew back together. I hope they stick around.

And that's what my video game time has looked like this week.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Not really having a good day today.

Amazon says the warranty ran out and they can't fix it, but they offered me a discount on a refurbished replacement.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Steam wishlist overview

I've been negotiating some Steam trades lately, so I've had this wishlist on my mind. Why don't I talk about these games that I'm interested in?

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

I heard a lot of good things about this game, both from critics and from word of mouth. I read up on it and it has lots of elements that call to mind other games I've enjoyed in the past. There's no way in hell I'm paying the sticker price of $50, but someday the price will drop and it will go on sale, and I'm in no rush. For now, it sits at the top of my list.

Dark Souls

Much like X-COM, this is a critically acclaimed game that's similar to other games I enjoyed. Also like X-COM, I'm not going to pay full price for it. Really, you could cut-and-paste my description of X-COM here.

Sega Genesis Classics Collection

This one is a big ol' bundle of Genesis games ported onto Steam. (Shining Force II is from this pack.) Since it's a bundle, it's not actually on the list, but it's there in spirit. I know I could get an emulator and download roms for free, but it's not the same as owning the games. I'd like to own them. If this bundle were on sale for $10 or less, I would buy it and be as happy as if I'd bought an actual Sega Genesis and a bunch of games at a yard sale for the same price. Well, not really--I'd rather have the actual hardware. I think it's a fair rule of thumb for the price point, though.

I'm sad that Rocket Knight Adventures isn't included. I guess they couldn't get the rights to it.

Far Cry 3

This is a good example of how a strong trailer can sell a game. The trailer for Far Cry 3 shows off all the important gameplay elements while providing glimpses into what looks like a fascinating storyline and compelling cast of characters. Contrast this with the trailer for Skyrim (a similar game), which zooms onto a stone tablet, pans over some scenery, shows a cinematic of a guy fighting a dragon, and does not interest me in the slightest.

The reviews are good too.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

You've gotta have a racing game, right? Hey, I don't know, but I do get a craving for that kind of gameplay every now and then. This one looks as good as any. I do get a kick out of all the Sega characters, even if their cast isn't quite as cool as Nintendo's (sorry, Sonic).

I noticed it mostly because it was prominently advertised on the Steam store homepage and it caught my eye with its tie-in to a franchise I'm already a fan of. Like the games above, I'm not likely to buy it, but I'd be pleased if I found an opportunity to trade for it, and if it were on sale for cheap enough, I might drop a few bucks on it.

 Mark of the Ninja

I heard this game was good, and it got good reviews, and it's by the same guys who did Shank, which I thought was good. So I figure it's probably good. I'm not in any rush to play it, but there's plenty of keys for it floating around and I'm hoping to snag it in a trade. It's also possible for it to show up in a Humble Bundle, in which case I'd jump on it faster than you can say "2D stealth ninja gameplay."

Hotline Miami

I heard it was good and it got good reviews and the trailer looked interesting. These seem like common themes, don't they? Like Mark of the Ninja, I like my chances of finding a trade here.

Sonic Generations

Actually, I get to take this one off the list because I just traded for it earlier today!

It was on my wishlist because as much as I ragged on it for being worse than the original games it copies, I do still have nostalgia for those old games, and I am curious how they play in their new incarnations.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1

I expect it's only going to disappoint me, but I feel like it deserves a chance. Especially since it really is an attempt to go back to Sonic's roots.

Ticket to Ride

It's like an online version of the board game? But the board game is pretty cool, so...I dunno. Why do I want this, again? Eh, whatever.

NiGHTS into Dreams

Supposedly this is a cult classic game centered around flying. It's been recommended to me a couple times. If I got the opportunity to trade for it, I'd give it a shot.

BIT.TRIP CORE and BIT.TRIP VOID

These two are on my list because I liked BIT.TRIP BEAT and semi-liked BIT.TRIP RUNNER. The series has earned some goodwill from me. Both of the last two showed up in Humble Bundles, so I'm holding out hope that these ones will, too.

Rocket Knight

Yeah, they made a new Rocket Knight game. I know, right? The first one was awesome! The sequels were cool too. I did play the demo, and I can already tell it's not as good as the original, or else it would be much higher on my list. Still, I am a fan of Sparkster.

BioShock

I heard this game is really good, and it got really good reviews, and...yeah, that old story, etc. I'm not entirely sure it's the kind of game I'd, personally, enjoy. But I noticed a lot of people offering it for trade, so I put it on my wishlist because I'd be interested in trading for it and finding out what it's really like.

Zombie Shooter 2

What can I say? I liked Alien Shooter and I'd play a game that's more of the same. It's pretty low on my list because I already have two or three other games that are more of the same, and you only need so many of these.

Defense Grid: Containment DLC

Defense Grid is a pretty cool game. I liked it, anyway. I wouldn't mind the DLC for it.

Orcs Must Die! and Orcs Must Die! 2

At some point I think we got to the part of the list that I'm only vaguely interested in. These are two such games. They seem...vaguely interesting. Much like a Dungeon Defenders optimized for a single player rather than a group. I noticed that they seem to be reasonably popular. They look cute, anyway. Maybe they're good. They'll probably show up in a Humble Bundle anyway, since they're big-name indie games.

Torchlight II

Miles asked me to buy this game so we could play co-op. I refused because I'm not spending $20 on a sequel when I didn't even like the original. I promised I'd keep an eye out for trades, though, so that's what I'm doing, albeit without a terrible amount of enthusiasm.

LEGO Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, et al.

Because I liked LEGO Star Wars. I'm not sure if it would be as much fun without a co-op partner. Probably not, which is why it's so low.

DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue

I put these on my list because I ended up liking The Baconing. In retrospect, I didn't like it that much. It was cute, but it spent a lot of time trying to be funny and falling a little flat. I assume the other two in the trilogy are similar. But this is why they're at the bottom.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shining Force II

I remember playing Shining in the Darkness for the Sega Genesis when I was younger. I never got very far, but I did get to know a lot of the twists and turns in that labyrinth. I remember playing Shining Force too, but we never had the actual Genesis game cartridge—it was a PC port on a CD-Rom bundled with a couple other Sega games. I don't think I ever got farther than the abbey, but I loved it. The tactical combat offered a different style of battle than the turn-based Menu Wars of games like Pokémon and Shining in the Darkness.

Later, I bought the Gameboy Advance remake, and this time I played it all the way through. In fact, I played it through multiple times—the difficulty increases after each win, and I racked up quite a few.

The point I'm trying to make is that Shining Force is one of my favorite games, and I look back on it very fondly. I also think it still holds up well today as a fine RPG. But it was recently brought to my attention that there is a sequel that I hadn't ever played. And not only does Shining Force II exist, it's available on Steam as part of their Sega Genesis Classics Collection.

Naturally, I picked it up in a trade and turned it on.


I regret not doing so sooner. It's just like the first game, and I can happily give it my seal of approval.

Of course, after all those runs through the extra games in Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, I found out pretty quickly that the difficulty level I was playing on ("Hard") was far too easy, so I had to bounce back into a new saved game and crank it up to the maximum difficulty ("Ouch!").

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Haiku

Were there no winter
The snow would fall in autumn.
My mind floats adrift.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rain

He had forgotten his umbrella.

Hunched over and shivering, he trudged through the rain


His cap was most exposed
It was first to soak through 
His jeans were next
The sky drew dark blotches on the thighs

Each step, his sneakers kicked droplets of rain into the air
Each footfall left a splash
The water wriggled through the shoes
Until he could feel in every stride
That gentle squish-squash of wet socks

It was a long mile.

He arrived at his doorstep
He unlocked the door and stepped inside
He hung up his wet hat and his wet coat
He kicked off his wet shoes
He tugged off his wet socks
He pulled off  his wet t-shirt
He stripped to his underwear
He toweled the sogginess away

In fresh, dry clothes, he curled up in a blanket
And dreamed of sunshine.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hard Reset

I got my hands on Hard Reset about a year ago in the Indie Royale "St. Patrick's Day Bundle" and didn't think much of it. At some point, I tried to play it and found my computer's graphics card not up to the job. So I gave up.

But when I got my new computer, I remembered it. And I remembered the trailer, which looked Actually Pretty Awesome.



Anyway, I went ahead and tried it out. It's good. I think I like it.

Hard Reset is an action game. There are robots. You have guns. You shoot the robots. Kaboom. I'm not the biggest fan of first-person shooters, personally, but if I'm going to play a FPS, this is the kind I'm looking for: fast-paced and action-packed with lots of bad guys running at you all at once. (The Serious Sam series does something similar, and I enjoyed those as well.)

There's elements of exploration and character progression. Secrets are scattered around every level to reward you with health, ammo, and currency if you can find them. Currency—or maybe it's xp, but they're basically the same thing in this game—can be spent on upgrades to unlock new weapons/abilities or buff the weapons you already have. For example, you can get a radar that points you towards secrets or a hormone injection that increases your combat abilities when you're at low health. Or maybe you want to increase the fire rate on your rifle, or unlock a charged shot for your plasma gun. No matter what you choose, the character gets better as you advance through missions, but you have a good amount of say in which direction to go.

There are ten different weapons, and it's definitely relevant to switch between them, since different enemies require different tactics to defeat effectively. It's also important to make use of the environmental hazards—there's lots of them, and they can do lots of damage to lots of enemies very quickly if you can set it up correctly. They're very easy to identify because they're labeled with brightly-colored warnings.


Speaking of which, the visuals are kinda neat. It's a classic cyberpunk style; it works nicely. The settings have a dark, dingy feel to them, but it's never difficult to see because all the important elements—the enemies, the item pickups, environmental hazards, control panels, etc.—have glowy lights or bright colors.

All in all, I've given it a good hour and a half, and I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. If you're into this sort of game, then you could do worse.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The MTGO beta kind of sucks for commander.

Okay, problem #1. The new client has this great new feature for finding games. It lets you pick your options and then hit "Next game." Then it drops you right into the first available game that matches your specifications, or if there isn't one, it creates one. Except you can't do this with commander because it doesn't work. There's no checkbox for multiplayer. You can't stop it assigning you into 1v1 games.

So that sucks.

Then you get in-game and it looks like this:


Let's count some of the things that are wrong here:
  • Being able to collapse other players' play areas after they leave the game is great, but why on earth would they start collapsed? So that you know it's possible to collapse them? It's not worth the extra clicks if you could just auto-collapse them when they lose.
  • Why are our commanders on the battlefield? What happened? Do I not have to cast them now? Do I just start with them in play? Should I be building an Ulamog deck? Oh, no, that's just where the command zone is now. Floating on the battlefield. For some reason. I guess because we're not supposed to be able to tell whether or not they're in play? It's dumb.
  • When I expand the other players, they each get a teeny tiny little rectangle, and only if I minimize their graveyard areas. So it only takes a little over half a dozen permanents before all their stuff is shrunk to unreadably tiny blobs. I, on the other hand, have the entire bottom half of the screen. This is not a terribly efficient use of space.
 It's messed up, basically. Far worse than the current client.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

For sale
One soul
Slightly used
Still in working condition
Price negotiable

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Landscape with sheep


Darksiders

Did I talk about Darksiders yet?


The word is spectacle. Spectacle, spectacle, spectacle. I think the main point of the game is just to look really cool.


There's this beefy dude with ridiculous armor, and he bashes demons with his enormously oversized sword. It's moderately hack-and-slashy, but the combat's not particularly great. It's just flashy and over-the-top.

Here's the story. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are supposed to come riding down when it's time for the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, War gets duped into riding down too early. Gasp! Now there's all these angels and demons having this big ol' apocalyptic war and all the humans are dead, and everyone is mad at War because they think it's totally his fault. War's superpowers get confiscated and he has to trudge around Earth until he can find the real culprit and clear his name. There's ten gazillion plotholes in this premise, but it's mostly just an excuse for the hacking and slashing and the spectacle.


I heard good things about this game before I started playing it, so I had high hopes. I'm disappointed to say that it didn't meet my expectations. It's not that it's a bad game, per se; it's certainly passable, and it definitely provides lots of spectacle. Being pretty to look at is fine, but Darksiders fails to impress me on gameplay, and it comes down to the combat. The combat just kind of...sucks.

There's a combo meter, for example, but it's not actually clear how it works—from what I can tell, it drops the combo count for no reason. I'm still attacking, I'm still hitting enemies, I'm not taking damage. What more does it want? Am I timing my attacks wrong? Am I pressing a wrong button? I don't know, because there isn't any sort of feedback system to tell me. Does the combo count even mean anything? I have no idea.

War also has very limited ability to dodge or block attacks, so in most fights, there's not much tactics beyond mashing the attack button. Coming to Darksiders from games like Bastion and Batman: Arkham City, it's a woefully inferior combat system—a flaw that's difficult to forgive for a game that consists almost entirely of combat. Maybe this changes later on, but I'm two hours into the game already; it wouldn't be much of an excuse if it did.


From what I've seen so far, I'm unimpressed with Darksiders. My rating: Meh/10.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Look, I don't know. I just drew the first thing I saw, and it was the icon bar in MS Paint, okay?

Pumpkin Pi


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The MS Paint icon

More doodles. Just the first thing that caught my eye.

Friday, January 18, 2013

By request

Didn't come out quite right...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sigma Team sale

Hey, remember a while back I wrote a blog entry about Alien Hallway and said it was a cute distraction that's worth maybe a dollar or so? And how I also wrote about Alien Shooter, and Zombie Shooter, and said they were fun?

Well, for a few days, you can go to Indie Game Stand and get all three of those (on Steam) plus a fourth game called Theseus: Return of the Hero (which is a sort-of sequel to Alien Shooter) at an attractive price point of, like, a buck or two. Or just Alien Hallway (not on Steam) for twenty-five cents. I think either deal is good value, and I endorse the mini-bundle.

There are a surprising amount of these games, by the way. Alien Shooter, Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded, Alien Shooter 2: Conscription, Zombie Shooter, Zombie Shooter 2, and now this Theseus thing. It's a pretty solid concept, so I suppose I shouldn't be shocked.

But yeah. Check out the bundle, blow up some aliens and/or zombies, and all that good stuff.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pi-kachu


Oh man, I forgot that I had class at 9 am. This schedule is sooo awkward. All the classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, except for one MW class that keeps me from sleeping in because it's at 10 in the morning. And to a one, they are lit classes. I am going to have a lot of reading on my plate. I don't know how I'll get through it all.

If I had gotten into all the classes I wanted, it would have been much tidier. Blech. Not as if I can drop a class to make my schedule easier, either—it would put me under the minimum units. And I couldn't have waitlisted a class as backup because I would have gone over the maximum units.

I've got this awful runny cold, too. Mucus everywhere. You know the kind.

Anyway, this is just me griping to the internet before I shuffle into bed.