Backlog: Blue Angels edition
It's time, once again, for Seattle midsummer,with cold drinks, hot weather, and fresh music sets; but for those late sleepers these days are a bummer as they find themselves roused by a quartet of jets.
Indeed, the Blue Angels are once again peeling at high rates of speed over our humble town, and as the Sound echos with sounds of death-dealing, shrieking twin turbines cause more than one frown.
To wit, I find myself far, far more bitter toward weather that forces me to put on shorts, so please find enclosed a backlog three-hitter written by me and a pair of cohorts.
Nick is creating strange Mii alter-egos, I went to spectate a stage-show of games. Meanwhile, Doug's moving, to Tokyo he goes, And from this line forward, no mention of planes.
- Spencer Tordoff
I’ve got a crazy weekend coming up where I’ll be jamming on a secret game pretty much nonstop with the goal of shipping it in about a week. It’s a silly joke that’s been taken to its logical conclusion, and with any luck it’ll make some people laugh. Follow me on Twitter if you’re curious.
That probably means there won’t be much time for games this weekend. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple free evenings to check out some new games and poke around with a new pet project of sorts. See that picture up above? That’s a Super Nintendo game running in full 1080p with a pixel-perfect standard-def CRT filter applied to it. The curvature, the glow, the blurring and edge-warping effects all just work. For anyone who grew up with fond memories spent gaming in front of a whining, concave tube TV, this is an almost uncanny reproduction.
When I first heard about Tomodachi Life, Nintendo’s bizarre and nigh-indescribable life simulation, I dismissed it out of hand. From the outside, it looked like little more than an ant farm for Miis — a virtual community devoid of the depth of play and discovery that made Animal Crossing: New Leaf so wonderful. But things can change quickly, especially when a buy-one, get-one-free promotion is going on. Long story short, my girlfriend and I now each have a copy of Tomodachi Life. And wouldn’t you just know it: we can’t put it down.
I could see Tomodachi Life having a limited appeal, perhaps. It all comes down to what you find funny; if the humor doesn’t hit, there’s really nothing here to write home about. But the way the game generates plausible representations of people you know and throws them into absurd situations that are just teetering on the edge of realism is absolutely uncanny. I’ve written before about how much I value a game that can muster up some genuine, heartfelt laughter, and Tomodachi Life manages to surprise and delight consistently – at least, its first ten hours do.
I’m also creeping up on the final chapters of Wolfenstein: The New Order. “Pleasantly surprised” barely begins to describe this game for me. There’s a brilliant sheen throughout the game, from its vivid and believable visuals to the pacing of its missions and the bite of its writing. Unsurprisingly, the game was developed by veterans of one of my all-time favorite surprises, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. If you value shooters that try damn hard to break into some intellectually stimulating territory—games like Riddick or Spec Ops: The Line—you won’t want to miss Wolfenstein.
Last night, I broke from my plodding, constantly distracted production of Player Accounts episode 6 and headed to Capitol Hill's Raygun Lounge to play a little Magic: The Gathering with a few friends. We ran a couple rounds of the Commander format, which allowed me to dust off the decks I've built over the past few years. Their respective themes are:
In the end, the Zombies ate my opponents, while in another round, a friend ran rampant with the Face-Kicking Deck. It’ll was a good decompression -- quite necessary, as I plan to stay up late tonight finishing the aforementioned podcast.
Tuesday night, Nick and I dragged ourselves -- him from his ongoing game development work, me from my day job in Redmond -- to the mindbogglingly hip Fred Wildlife Refuge for the first-ever Invisible Arcade, a local independent games performance. I say “performance” because Invisible Arcade actually centers on the games being played, live, at the show.
As someone who’s never been to such an event, I think this kind of event is long overdue. Spectator gaming tends to be fixated on shows of skill -- and with the exception of speed runs, competitive games tend to take most of the spotlight. Indie game showcases, meanwhile, tend to be developer-focused, allowing game creators to talk shop, network, and otherwise strut their stuff.
Invisible Arcade flies in the face of both kinds of established events. It’s games as performance, but not skill or competition-focused. It’s an indie showcase, but one not geared toward the developers themselves. Games are played live and projected on a wall, so attendees can enjoy the art, the music, and the commentary of the person playing. Invisible Arcade is one of the more relaxed and social gaming events I’ve ever visited. Indeed, I can imagine it growing even more chill and laid back, not unlike the classic jazz club archetype mutated to fit 1990s cyberpunk -- where people come to have a drink, talk, and learn about some new games.
I'll be speaking to one of the organizers next week to get some insight into the project -- how it came about, what they hope to grow Invisible Arcade into, that kind of thing. In the meantime, the next one is scheduled for September 1st at 7:00PM. Mark your calendars.
Tonight, I don't sleep until episode 6 is ready for your ears. Should be up by the time you read this. Wish me luck.
It’s hot, it’s muggy, it’s crowded, and I’m a touch overwhelmed. I’ve had to say tearful goodbyes to Nagasaki, and a wary hello to the big city.
This is a major point of change for me. I’m now up in Tokyo, staying with a friend for a few days before fully moving into my own, new, tiny apartment. He lives near where I will, so he’s showing me around -- including to the local game store. He knows me so well.
The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity -- preparing to move, packing, administrative duties related to living in a foreign country -- but I’ve managed to sink my teeth into a new-old classic. Recently Persona 4 was made available as a PS2 Classic on the PlayStation Network for PS3, and I snapped it up greedily. I did start up Persona 3 FES a few months ago, but P4 has garnered far more attention -- the P4 Golden remake for Vita earned it an all-new audience, including amongst our own editors. I would love to have that as well, but $9 on PSN is much more affordable for me than a brand new handheld!
It’s appropriate I’m playing the game now, though, as I move from the countryside (as portrayed in Persona 4) to the city. Persona 4’s setting, the small town of Inaba, is on point to the life I’ve experienced the last few years in Nagasaki. Everything from the schools to the run-down mom-and-pop store districts to the social life rotating around the local shopping center, to even the TV shows parodied within the Midnight Channel, seems pitch-perfect compared to my small-town Japan experience. And I’m loving the combat system and improvements made from P3:FES — control over each of the characters, ramped-up leveling, and more. I know Persona 4 is beloved on Vita, and now I know why.