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868-hack

I’d been impressed by (and am still impressed by) Hoplite, and one of the things I like about it is that it’s a roguelike where you have a relatively large amount of control over your build. And I’d been hearing about 868-HACK for a while, so I figured I’d give that game a try as […]

ascension: darkness unleashed

Ascension: Darkness Unleashed has the same energy mechanic as the prior iteration; on that, it layers a second kind of energy (“dark energy shards”) that let you banish cards in your discard pile (and occasionally trigger other card-specific effects), and a transformation mechanic whereby many cards permanently become more powerful if you’ve acquired a specified […]

tomb raider

I’d never played a Tomb Raider game before the 2013 iteration of the series; that playthrough was also the first time I’d played a newish AAA game in something like two years, so I’d gotten a bit unused to that sort of polished spectacle. And, I will say: it was a very well-done polished spectacle, […]

morality play

Single-player narrative games frequently put you on the side of somebody actively fighting for justice: I’m in the middle of Dragon Age: Inquisition right now, for example, and that game has the all-too-familiar RPG plot of a chosen one saving the world. This means means that, of Jane Jacobs’ two moral syndromes from Systems of […]

hearthstone

So: Hearthstone. Gameplay-wise, it seems like a stripped-down Magic; and while it’s probably unfair for me to compare the games to Netrunner, it looks like Hearthstone has a lot fewer options for how to approach the game. And it’s designed to make you spend money to get better cards; the first time I was playing […]

antichamber

Our November VGHVI Symposium game was Antichamber. It’s a game that had been on my radar for years (I saw an early version of it under the name Hazard: The Journey of Life at GDC in 2010); I avoided it for platform reasons when it got released, but I was happy that Dan gave me […]

freecell and addictive games

FreeCell is, in its own way, one of the best games ever designed. I am not aware of any other puzzle game which does such a good job of balancing three factors: The game should be based on random seeds. Almost all random seeds should be solvable. The search for that solution should be rewardingly […]

is it time to upgrade consoles?

When the new consoles came out, I had zero interest in getting one: I hadn’t been playing AAA games much, and nothing on the new consoles caught my eye at all. And that continued for quite a long time: until I started playing Tomb Raider a few weeks ago, I hadn’t played a newish console […]

desert golfing

I really don’t know what to make of Desert Golfing. I spent a while playing it, it has the sort of “one more level” feel that games based on micro levels lend themselves to. But the levels veered around so much: most are straightforward, a few require frustrating repetition, and there’s just not that much […]

phoenix wright 5

Before playing Phoenix Wright 5, I replayed the first four games in the series. And it’s an excellent series, one that I’m glad I replayed! The fifth game in the series is a good game, too. It’s changed mechanically, though: they dramatically reduced the number of situations where it was possible to be stumped about […]

my first netrunner tournament

About a month ago, I found that my current Netrunner decks were not only doing well when playing against friends, but doing well in a way where I felt surprisingly in control, like I had good options to guide the game in different situations. Still, I was always playing the same people (the same person, […]

the walking dead, season two

(I don’t normally do spoiler alerts here, but given how recently this game came out, I’ll say: spoiler alert.) When playing the second season of The Walking Dead, conversations felt very different to me than in the first season. When playing the early episodes of the first season, I treated conversations with a straightforwardly egotistical […]

bachsmith

This week’s Rocksmith DLC was a collection of classical music arranged for guitars / bass / drums; I wasn’t sure what I’d think about it in advance, but I gave it a try yesterday and it was a lot of fun! I was worried that it would be over the top, trying to turn classical […]

ascension: rise of vigil

Some of the Ascension sequels I’ve enjoyed as much as the original; sadly, Rise of Vigil was not one of them. The new mechanic this time is a third currency, called “energy”: unlike the other two currencies, though, this one doesn’t go away until the end of the turn. Instead, many cards gain special effects […]

monument valley

Earlier this summer, I stopped my playthrough of BioShock because, frankly, I was getting angry at the game. I didn’t want to spend my time going through grandiose facilely unreflective morality plays: I wanted to play games that were more closely crafted. I’d seen screenshots of Monument Valley and heard good things about it: I […]

on “on scorched earth”

Brendan’s recent post “on Scorched Earth” lamented that the Netrunner card Scorched Earth was “inelegant”. I can see where he’s coming from—I’m certainly not going to claim that Scorched Earth is a paragon of elegance—but I think he undersells the card. In particular, while I think his alternate proposals would all make for interesting cards, […]

brenda romero: jiro dreams of game design

It’s months since GDC, and I’m still trying to unpack my feelings about Brenda Romero’s Jiro Dreams of Game Design talk. Or maybe not so much my feelings about it—it’s an excellent talk, no question—but my emotional reactions to it. Her talk confronts concepts that I care about (greatness, team structure, creation) in contexts that […]

returning to bioshock

After my unpleasant experience with System Shock 2, I moved on to BioShock. I wasn’t worried that I might have the same problems with BioShock that I had with System Shock 2: I remembered from my prior experience that BioShock took the Easy difficulty setting seriously (enough so that I was thinking of trying Normal […]

medium: setting things up

As I said recently, I’m experimenting with writing a Netrunner implementation in JavaScript. I’m calling it Medium; here’s the first in a series of posts about issues I’ve encountered along the way. Before I go too far, I want to thank two sources of information. The first is Bill Lazar; he’s one of my coworkers, […]

netrunner implementation experiments

GDC got me in the mood to do some game-related programming; and, when that mood didn’t go away after a couple of weeks, I started to spend some time thinking about what exactly that would mean. I’d thought initially that maybe I’d learn how to use Unity, trying to implement one or two game-related tech […]