Archive for January, 2013

Episode 64 – Violence in Context

 

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There is a conversation in America about violence in videogames. While the cool-headed and rational among us don’t believe this medium signals the end times, the debate—or blame—rages on. And the points of either side rarely change. Yet the treatment of violence in games can be a constructive thing. It can emulate the sense of chaos and horror and confusion the average person would experience in a real life firefight, as Kane & Lynch 2 does.

The particulars or gravity of the situation may shift, but violence is also an inevitable part of any survival scenario. How far would you go to stay alive in, say, Fallout 3’s post-apocalyptic wasteland? Would you let your moral compass guide you? Or murder a stranger just because you want his cool hat?

Perhaps, as is so often the case, you’re the archetypal hero. One minute you’re riddling enemies with bullets— one cannon fodder target after the next in endless ways—then the story turns in on itself, forcing you, the player, to question who exactly you really are and what the consequences of your actions might be. Games  like Spec Ops: The Line, Shadow of the Colossus, Far Cry 2 and The Walking Dead make it impossible to separate violence from narrative, either forcing you along an unsure path or to shaping your experience, however unwillingly, into a personal psychological profile.

Let’s talk about violence. All of it.

Featuring tracks by Blitz Lunar

Epiosde 63 – Whatcha Playin’ 01.21.13

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This week’s Whatcha Playin’ features a newly rebooted IP, an intense iOS game and some retro multiplayer madness:

Rich dives into VVVVVV creator Terry Cavanagh‘s Super Hexagon with all its fast-paced intensity—Cavanagh has clearly not lost his touch for smart game design, nor his joy for ramped up difficulty.

Matt continues his call for gamers to dust off their old consoles for multiplayer fun with friends, highlighting the NES classics Dodgeball and Marble Madness. Many retro games have shown their age through incredibly frustrating or cheap difficulty (ahem, Ninja Gaiden), but these aforementioned two prove, as AJBS recently did with friends 2 Player Productions, that game nights can be a great way to rediscover that old school charm.

Finally, AJBS bids a sad farewell to Steve’s backwards-compatible 80gb PS3; four years and three average gaming lifetimes after the old friends met, it finally succumbed to the yellow light of hardware failure, replacing the green light that shepherded hundreds of hours of great (and some not-so-great) gaming memories. At least the denouement involved DmC, the smart and aesthetically dynamic reintroduction to Dante and his effortlessly cool demon-hunting lifestyle.

Featuring tracks by Chipzel from the Super Hexagon EP

Episode 62 – Hiding in Shadows


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Stealth design is more prevalent than it used to be—even more typical action titles seem to have at least a level devoted to hiding in the shadows. Where then does that leave a core stealth experience? How can it stand out from the crowd?

Klei’s Mark of the Ninja tweaks that paradigm by throwing it into only two dimensions. Speaking with creative lead Nels Anderson, AJBS discusses how the design of this indie hit works in 2D through visualizations of sound, precision movement et al, as well as Nels’ own influences and the philosophy of sneaking in general.

Switching gears, there is also some conversation over the difference between a game that’s “fun” versus one that’s “engaging”—naturally the conversation steers towards Dark Souls, and, interestingly, Megaman X. Enjoy!

Featuring tracks by Danimal Cannon from the album Roots

Episode 61 – Whatcha Playin’ 01.07.12

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Our first Whatcha Playin’ of the new year brings a few games back from our past, for better or worse.

Matt sings the praises—and laments the maddening qualities—of the old-school Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Ultima 8: Pagan, discussing his experiences with each series’ respectively addictive and arcane qualities (via Good Old Games).

Steve talks about two games from one of his favorite designers, Yasumi Matsuno. First is the wonderfully Shakespearean Vagrant Story: arguably Square’s other classic dark fantasy tale for the PS One (astride Final Fantasy Tactics) for its unique battle system alone. It’s also aged well. There’s also some mention Crimson Shroud, Matsuno’s latest for the 3DS, notable for being essentially an interactive D&D game, complete with character figurines that wobble on-screen.

Rich also introduces a hilariously fun iOS game, Spaceteam. It’s a game of teamwork; players have to work together on a multiscreen control panel that ends in spouting nonsense phrases at each other. There’s a short recording of it being played during this episode’s post roll. It’s…interesting.

Featuring tracks by Zabutom from the album Zeta Force

Episode 60 – 2012: A Year in Review

AJBS, A Jumps B Shoots, Sine Mora, Lollipop Chainsaw, Hotline Miami, Dishonored, Walking Dead, Fez, FTL
2012 is at an end, and with it, AJBS reflects back on the year in gaming: surprises, disappointments and (obviously) favorites of the year. How do yours measure up?

Featuring tracks from Ubiktune‘s Wintertunes Compilation

Biggest Surprises:
Sine Mora
Hotline Miami
FTL

Biggest Disappointments
Lollipop Chainsaw
Where’s The Last Guardian?
Dishonored

Game of the Year
Mark of the Ninja
The Walking Dead
Fez