Tactics, not Twitch
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 April 2012, 7:00 am

On a recent weekend away with my family I had the chance to use my dad's ipad for awhile and I downloaded Hero Academy.  It's an amazing turn based tactic game for iphone and ipad that I was instantly addicted to.  I played for hours against other people online.  If Hero Academy was compatible with my ipod touch I would be playing it every day.

After latching onto the game so fast, I realized that I'm starved for a good turn based tactical game.  I don't have as much time to game as I used to, and time is what's required to get good at a twitch game.  So, while I love Tribes Ascend, League of Legends, and Starcraft 2 I always feel like I'm at a slight disadvantage.  I don't have the 8 hours of free time each night like I did in high school.

Instead, I'd like the emphasis to be on my mind and not my reflexes.  Unfortunately, there really aren't that many on the market right now that are turn based.  I could dive back into my catalog of GBA and DS games, but newer games are hard to find.  So now I'm on the hunt for some solid turn based games.

It's probably no surprise then that I became a backer on Kickstarter for The Banner Saga, Wasteland 2, and Shadowrun Returns.  All three games have turn based combat, lots of potential, and an awesome development team to back them up.  That means that in about a year I'll be all set for my turn based tactical needs.

What that doesn't help me with is what to play right now.  I'm still craving some delicious turn based action in my games.  Do you have any recommendations?  Please help me out readers!

Mass Effect Finale
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 April 2012, 4:39 pm

I'm finally done with Mass Effect 3.  I've been reading all sorts of reactions about it since the day it came out, but I wanted to finish it myself before passing judgement.  First let me say the ending wasn't absolutely horrible.

The game itself was great.  I loved how 3 games worth of content slowly came together in interesting ways.  The combat, dialogue, and general flow of the game were all improved.  I had a great time through the first 60 hours of gameplay.  Only the last 10 minutes let me down.  If you've played Mass Effect 1 and 2 then you should definitely play Mass Effect 3.

I also dabbled in multiplayer but wasn't too impressed.  I play Mass Effect for the single player campaign.  The 3rd person shooting is satisfactory, but if I wanted to play a multiplayer shooter I have about 10 other games that are better suited to the task.  Single player is where the strength of this series lies.  I was also really sad to see the "galactic readiness" tied into how much multiplayer I played.  I completed 100% of the missions and side objectives in the single player game, but because I didn't play much multiplayer my galaxy still wasn't very "ready."  Sigh.  I wish they wouldn't have done that.

Anyway, onto the ending.  Minor Spoilers ahead.  I won't expound too much on what has already been written by others.  I just wanted to say that the last 10 minutes of the game were ok, but they had the potential to be so much more.  All of my choices across 150+ hours of play could have been used to create a custom set of end cutscenes just for me.  But that didn't happen.  Instead Bioware chose to go the route of giving me 3 choices totally disconnected from the rest of the series.  This is even more disheartening when you consider that Chrono Trigger, a game made in 1995, has 13 distinct endings with many sub-ending variations.

For some in depth analysis of the ME3 ending read this well written article by Doyce.  Overall the game was good but I was disappointed with the wasted potential at the end.  The final scene could have been so much more... sadly, it wasn't.

Kickstarting Stuff
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 March 2012, 11:56 pm

I've been on a huge Kickstarter... kick... recently and I'm finding it extremely fun.  I've had a chance to support indie games and movies, which is fun in itself, but rewards come with support as well.  I usually pledge enough money so that I'll get a copy of the final product (game or movie) and maybe some beta access.  So far this policy has served me well.

I'm getting semi-addicted to checking for new projects, but for now I just wanted to share some of the projects I've backed.

FTL is a sweet rogue-like crisis management game in space.  You command your ship's crew and have to manage crisis after crisis while fleeing from an enemy armada.  I've heard nothing but good impressions from people who've tried the game and I could really go for a tactical space game right now, so backing it was a no-brainer.  FTL just surpassed 1000% (not a typo) funding and still has about 15 days of pledge time left.  Apparently, other people are impressed by it too.

The very first project I backed was Indie Game the Movie.  I've written about it before, but it's gaining more attention now and it's making the rounds at the festivals.  It won an award for editing at Sundance and had showings at SXSW.  I can't wait to get my copy!

A spiritual successor to Jedi Knight 2 by the name of Blade Symphony caught my eye a while ago.  The creators are making a multiplayer sword fighting game in the source engine and it looks sweet.  This one has been fun to track as game development continues.

Last, but definitely not least, is Legacy: Gears of Time.  Legacy is a time traveling strategy board game.  That concept alone almost won me over.  Once I saw how far along the game was and the level of care and polish that had already been put into it I was sold.  As a kicker, I later found out that the creator lives in the Twin Cities, so I was supporting a local artist without even realizing it!  I always like supporting art in my city.

Readers, do you know of any other Kickstarter projects I should look into?  Is there anything out there that made you put your money where your mouth is?

Top 5 Most Fun FPS Weapons of All Time
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 February 2012, 9:00 am

Over the course of FPS history, developers have created many, many weapons. They come in all shapes and sizes; ranging from the realistic, e.g. Counter-Strike and Modern Warfare, to the fantastical, e.g. Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress 2. As time has passed, some of these weapons have stood above the rest.

Whatever it is about these few special weapons, they're just more interesting, more intriguing, and more fun to play with. I'm sure everyone has their own set of favorite FPS weapons from the games they've played, but here's my top 5 picks for most fun FPS weapons.

#5. Energy Sword (Halo)

The Halo Energy Sword, from the original Halo to Halo: Reach, has always been fun to both fight and wield. The Energy Sword is one of the few weapons in which I never feel cheated when I die to it. More over, it's the only super weapon in an FPS, that I've seen, that's also a melee weapon.

In Halo: Combat Evolved, this weapon wasn't usable by the player, but the occasional elite tried to chop you in half with it. This provided both a challenge, and broke up the usual pace and feel of combat.

From Halo 2 on, the Energy Sword has become a staple of the Halo franchise. Its super weapon qualities in the damage department means it kills people in one hit. However, its trade off for this power, is that it's a melee weapon, therefore forcing you to engage your enemy at close range. If you do end up in a ranged battle, its rather simple for your opponent to take you out before you close the range. This restrictive nature of the Energy Sword forces players to pick their fights.

In Energy Sword fights, with the melee restriction and the high damage, players with and without energy swords start to jockey for position. This positional battle, which forces players to not only know where to shoot, but also where to run, adds an interesting depth to sword combat that isn't present anywhere else in Halo.

#4. Shock Rifle (Unreal Tournament)

The Shock Rifle is arguably the most versatile weapon in Unreal Tournament. It's a good weapon at any range, and if used by a good player, can do horrendous damage.

Its primary fire is an instant hit energy beam. This beam does decent damage but can be difficult to hit with when the opponent is moving. Its range is virtually infinite, however a lack of a scope on the Shock Rifle limits its sniping ability.

The secondary fire on the shock rifle is a slow moving plasma ball. This slow moving projective does a lot of damage if you can hit someone with it. It also does a small amount of splash damage upon impact with an object. By itself, this fire mode is okay at close range, though hard to hit with thanks to its slow speed. It is mainly used for its small splash damage by firing at a players feet.

A combo attack is also possible with the Shock Rifle. If you fire the plasma ball and then hit it with a energy beam shot, it will cause a big explosion that does quite a lot of damage. This combo can be very deadly.

#3. Gravity Gun (Half-Life 2)

The Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2 was monumental when the game first came out. It was ground breaking, being the first to use physics as a tool and weapon.

Objects in the world, that aren't too heavy, can be picked up by the Gravity Gun. These objects can then be moved around and launched at enemies. If the object is too heavy, it can instead be push around with a force punch ability.

Being able to use objects as weapons means the whole environment becomes your weapon. You no longer have to wait for your enemy to go to the explosive barrel, the explosive barrel can instead come to them.

If explosive barrels aren't your cup of tea, how about saw blades. Are pesky zombies trying to kill you? Just chop them in half with a saw blade force punched into their stomach. The game world is your deadly object ridden oyster.

#2. Flak Cannon (Unreal Tournament)

The Flak Cannon is the second weapon on this list that comes from Unreal Tournament and is my favorite and most used weapon from that game. It's a close to medium range weapon that is easy to use, and in the hands of a good player, can do incredible damage.

Its primary fire is a shotgun spread of molten metal. This first firing mode lends itself well to medium to close quarter strafe battles, and it's relatively easy to hit with at least some of the molten shot. These molten pieces don't do much damage individually, but at closer range, if you can hit someone with the full spread of this shotgun-like blast, it will severely wound or kill them.

The secondary fire of the Flak Cannon fires its explosive shell intact instead of in a shotgun spread. This shell explodes on impact, doing massive damage to players it directly hits and decent damage to those in the immediate vicinity of the explosion. This fire mode is great for lobbing at players around corners or for those times you're having trouble hitting with the primary fire.

Combining these two firing mode makes for a very fun and versatile weapon. Use the primary at close range to do major damage. At longer ranges, you can do more damage with a hit from the secondary fire if you can lob it correctly. This weapon is a balancing act between distance, movement, and aim.

#1. Disc Launcher/Spinfusor (Tribes)

The Spinfusor or, as I remember it, the Disc Launcher is the cornerstone of weapons in Tribes. For a game that's all about jetpacks and movement, it's the perfect fit.

The Spinfusor fires a high speed explosive disc which creates a pretty blue fireball upon impact with an object. This explosion is fairly large and does high damage at its center which quickly falls to little damage near the edges. If you can hit a player, it will do even more damage.

In Tribes, players spend most of their time jetpacking around in the air. While in the air, players become near impossible to hit. However, player inevitable run out of jetpack energy and have to at least tap the ground, by landing for a second or two, while their energy recharges. In Tribes, being on the ground is the most vulnerable you can be.

This ground tapping creates an opening for the Spinfusor. By judging when and where the enemy player will tap the ground, you can time a disc from the Spinfuser to hit that spot at the correct time. Since the explosion is large, you don't have to be perfectly accurate. However, the closer the player is when the disc explodes, the more damage it will do to them.

You can try to hit the enemy while they are in the air, but you will miss with most of your shots. This creates a fun dynamic where players have to wait for their opponent to tap the ground for a second in order to do damage, and even when the opponent taps the ground, you still have to get the timing correct in order to take advantage of their momentary vulnerability.

This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons on Monday, March 21, 2011. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

The MMO I Want
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 February 2012, 10:06 pm
I'm tired of MMOs all feeling the same.  Guild Wars 2 looks to be doing some things different and moving in a positive direction, but it's still a hotbar MMO with classes in a fantasy setting.  I want a departure from the norm.  I want to be a dragon.

Now here me out.  Every MMO I've played has made me play as a humanoid.  I don't know if there are MMOs that let you play as anything else at all, unless you count playing as a ship in EVE Online or STO.  But I want to be something more.

Let me be the dangerous predator in the night.  Let me soar above humans, breathing fire and striking fear into their hearts.  Let me swoop down and snap a humanoid in two with my jaws.  Let them form raids in a pathetic attempt to destroy me.  Let them try to unseat me from my hard earned pile of treasure.  Let me be the terror at the end of the dungeon.

The idea of switching around the roles of Player Characters and NPCs is simply fascinating to me.  There's a lot of untapped potential in different roles yet to be explored.  I hope someone decides to explore it.

Dota 2 and a Look at Past Dota Games
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 February 2012, 9:00 am

In a recent article, which can be read here, Game Informer announced that Valve is creating Dota 2. Creating a Dota 2 is a very interesting move by Valve. For years now, Valve has been a FPS developer. That's what they were, that's what they are, and that's their forte. Meaning, Dota is a very interesting choice for a project, and a huge retooling of their source engine will have to take place, or has already has taken place, to turn the FPS engine into an RTS engine.

Not only is it a huge technical project, it's a dangerous one. They're essentially taking something that's free right now, and trying to turn it around into a retail product. This means, that to some extent, they're going to have to improve the product to make it worth paying for, all while not screwing over the well established gameplay. Those are some big shoes to fill.


Dota-Allstars, a mod/map for Warcraft 3, is essentially the first Dota (action-RTS) ever developed, and to this day it has been updated and balanced with consistent updates. Its gameplay consists of two, five man teams battling it out in an arena with three main combat lanes. Each person controls one unit or hero, with an ultimate goal of destroying the other team's headquarters. To accomplish this, players must use skill, teamwork, hero abilities, and items to kill off the defenses in each lane that hinders their progress, all while defending their own towers. With 101 heroes, each packing different stats and ability, and 119 items, of which each hero can hold only six at a time, the number and variety of matches is tremendous.

The actual minute to minute gameplay is intense and action packed. Single fights can happen in seconds, with spells whipping back and worth between teams, or minutes, with players attempting to snipe their opposition without getting sniped in turn. Sneak attacks and ganks are frequent. Positioning is everything, especially later in the game where getting caught alone can mean instant death.

This is in contrast to the overall gameplay, with games lasting 45 minute or longer. Throughout each game, teams slowly try to out climb each other in item power and levels. Killing NPC creeps will slowly earn players gold and experience. Getting kills on enemy heroes will net players a big boost in experience and gold, helping them get that much closer to victory. This means that staying alive, thus denying the enemy the big boost, is just as important as getting kills, if not more so.

The hardcore community is a major factor to the success of Dota-Allstars. Many community sites, and forums help to contribute to the game. Many small tournaments take place all the time, and major tournament in esports leagues have even gained a minor foothold. With continued support and balance updates, Dota can only get more prominent in the esports scene.

Unfortunately, Dota-Allstars has its problems. The most glaring of which, is the anti-noob smog that seems to hang over every Dota-Allstars player. It takes no work what-so-ever to look in the Warcraft 3 custom games list and find a Dota-Allstars game labeled "no noobs". In game lobbies, a single whiff of noobness means instantly getting kicked from the lobby. It's even worse if a player doesn't know that the Dota-Allstars map can be downloaded outside of Warcraft 3. In 90% of game lobbies, if a player starts an in game map download, that player earns an instant kick from the lobby, making it almost impossible to get the map without visiting the website. Basically, Dota-Allstars players are elitist snobs.

The game itself is hampered by the Warcraft 3 engine. It's nearly impossible to use the in game item interface without first memorizing the items themselves. More powerful items can be created by combining other items, but this information is only presented in tooltips with no indication as to where to buy the necessary components in the multitude of shop menus. This can leave newer player floundering around needlessly, just trying to buy the items they want.

Heroes must be selected to be ordered around, even though there's no reason to ever select anything else. The ability hotkeys are spread all over the keyboard and each hero has a different set of them, forcing players to relearn hotkeys if they play a new hero. Item hotkeys are awkwardly placed on the number pad, making players move their hand needlessly across the keyboard, while simultaneously screwing over laptop users who lack number pads. Yet, none of these problems can be fixed, thanks to restrictions inherited from Warcraft 3.

League of Legends

It could be argued that League of Legends is the true sequel to Dota-Allstars, since the original designer of Dota-Allstars, Steve "Guinsoo" Feek, is also the designer of League of Legends. Like its predecessor before it, LoL is free to play, and despite having a hilarious abbreviation, it improves the experience and gameplay that Dota pioneered, while keeping the core of the game untouched.

Items in League of Legends have been simplified into one shop menu that cleanly displays what needs to be combined to create an item. Hotkeys have been simplified to make them the same for every hero, and can even be remapped to a player's liking.

The arena in LoL is smaller than the one in Dota, helping to speed up games. Players no longer have to select their hero to issue orders, effectively always having their hero selected. An overall summoner level has also been added which carries over from game to game, giving players small bonuses to their hero's stats.

As for the community, an auto-matchmaking system has helped alleviate the anti-noob smog that Dota-Allstars has. The matchmaking system also helps to keep newer players from getting smashed by the veterans, thanks to a skill ranking and matching system that's in place.

Being a newer game, the variety, and number of choices in LoL isn't nearly as great as Dota-Allstars. Currently it only has 60 heroes and 109 items, with many of those being additions after release, and more are being added regularly.

On the not so free front, LoL has an in game shop. Only 6 of the 60 heroes are playable off the bat. Players can pay to unlock more heroes, or earn points by playing games to unlock more heroes for free with some work. Alternate hero skins are also available in the shop, along with experience boosts for a player's summoner level, to help them progress faster.

Overall, League of Leagues is a huge improvement on Dota-Allstars on many fronts, while successfully monetizing the game.

Dota 2

With Valve's anouncement of Dota 2, they have set themselves a lofty goal. There's already a solid, free, but engine challenged original in Dota-Allstars, and a polished, free, League of Legends to compete against. Valve has a mountain to climb, especially if they plan on charging for the experience.

One thing Valve has up their sleeve is IceFrog, who took over maintaining Dota-Allstars after Steve "Guinsoo" Feek left, and who has maintained it since. Valve wisely hired IceFrog to help in the development of Dota 2. This means Valve is able to use IceFrog's expertise and also are able to bring over all the Dota-Allstar heroes exactly as they are.

In fact, according to Game Informer, Dota 2 is essentially an exact copy of Dota-Allstars. All the items and hero skills have remained the same. Even the map is functionally the same as the one in Dota-Allstars.

What is improved, however, is the graphics. Valve is using their in-house engine, Source, for Dota 2, and is even throwing in some improvements, such as new global lighting, and cloth physics. Think Dota-Allstars with a fresh coat of paint.

AI is making its way into Dota 2, which will take over if anyone leaves a match, a la Left 4 Dead. They may also be played against in training matches, which should help out players who are just starting to learn the game.

Along with the Source engine, comes in game voice chat. In team oriented games such as Dota, voice chat is a necessity. Neither Dota-Allstars, nor League of Legends currently have voice chat, forcing people to resort to outside voice clients such as Ventrilo and Team Speak.

Outside of gameplay, Valve is attempting to service the community of Dota 2 even more than their previous games. They're even going as far as to upgrading Steamworks, their game community platform, specifically for Dota 2. While no specifics are available yet, Valve hopes to promote and reward constructive community interaction inside and outside the game with these community features.

Valve is also implementing the ability for the community to make in game guides for Dota 2. They are hopeful that this will help create a favorable environment for newer players. Alongside community made in game guides, they are including a coaching feature. Valve is giving players the ability to have someone coach them through a game, therefore helping them learn how to play correctly, which can be tough without some guidance.

What isn't clear as of this time is how much improvement has gone into the interface. Have they removed some of Dota-Allstars' quarks caused by the Warcraft 3 engine or just cloned it exactly. What also isn't clear just yet is the price point. It could be a tough sale if they try to sell what seems to be Dota with a new coat of paint at a retail game price.

Thankfully, Valve is a highly successful developer, and know what they're doing. If someone can do it, that someone is Valve.

Dota 2 information from Game Informer

This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons on Thursday, October 14, 2010. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

Bored Gaming and Board Gaming
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 February 2012, 12:06 am
I haven't been posting much lately because I haven't been playing new games.  I'm still killing some time with Starcraft 2, League of Legends, and Tribes: Ascension but my play sessions have been few and far between.  There's nothing that I'm excited to play every night once my 18 month old is sleeping, and that's weird for me.  I love video games, but nothing new looks interesting or exciting.  Mass Effect 3 is a few weeks away but it's just about the only thing on my radar.

Indie games still have a huge appeal.  I've been investigating them as much as possible.  Between downloading trials, reading development blogs, and contributing to a few Kickstarter projects I've gotten more and more appreciation and anticipation for indie games on the market.

Instead of video games I've actually been devoting a lot of time to board games. Since my co-workers started showing me the world of modern board games I can't get enough of them.  We've played about 8 different games as a group since we started playing board games last month.  They all have their own style, mechanics, and feel.  The best part is that these co-workers of mine have a big backlog of games they want to play, so they keep bringing in new games all the time.

I haven't just been playing other people's games either, I went out and bought Citadels, which is the best board game out of the bunch we've played.  It's actually a card game with some lightweight tokens to represent a few "board game" elements, but there's no actual board.  Since buying it, I've already converted about 6 other people to the game.  It always goes over fantastically.  I'll probably write a post about it soon.

Besides that, we've dabbled in deck building games like Ascension, Rune Age, and Dominion.  We've played what are called Living Card Games(LCGs), which is like a self contained Collectible Card Game(CCG).  In CCGs, like Magic: The Gathering, you constantly have to buy booster packs and invest hundreds of dollars to make decks.  In these LCGs you buy one boxed set which has everything you and your opponents need to play a game.  LCGs like Lord of the Rings the Card Game and A Game of Thrones have been fun.  Dice games aren't usually my favorite, but I had a blast with To Court The King and I went out and bought Zombie Dice which my wife and I are having fun with nightly.

The most important thing I've learned is that modern board games are NOTHING like those old "classics".  Monopoly pales in comparison to the games out on the market right now.

I can't get enough board games at the moment.  A couple of my favorite sites for browsing are Boxed Up Fun, Fantasy Flight Games, and Shut Up and Sit Down.  Side note: Sorry this post has been so link heavy, but I really want to share all these awesome games with you readers.

Here's the most important paragraph of this post.  Readers, do you have any board game recommendations for me to try?  Please tell me you do.  Tell me what they are.  I want to know!  There's a comments section.  You know what to do.

The Battle Rifle: One of the Worst Weapons Ever Added to a Game
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 February 2012, 9:00 am

Halo is one of the best selling and most played franchises in all of gaming. I've been on board the franchise since the original, and have beaten all the campaigns on at least heroic and a fair chunk on legendary. I never got that hardcore with the multiplayer, but I have played countless hours as a casual player. Like everyone else I have given it well deserved praise. However, one red mark stands out starkly in my mind. The battle rifle.

Back To Basics

By now everyone is used to the battle rifle being a part of the Halo universe, but it wasn't always that way. Life without the battle rifle is called Halo: Combat Evolved. The original Halo did something very well. That something was called The Golden Triangle of Halo. The Golden Triangle is weapons, grenades, and melee.

The Golden Triangle of Halo

This golden triangle is why I love Halo, and if everything is going perfect, you should use every corner of this triangle in most combat situations. In Halo: Combat Evolved you did. Whenever you got into combat in the original Halo it was most likely up close and personal. This close combat caused players to use melee almost every fight, and if corners and terrain are involved grenades came into the action. The only times you didn't fight at short range was when a select few weapons came into play.

Long range was dominated by the sniper rifle. It was deadly and effective because there were no other weapons that could match it's range. However, the sniper rifle could not completely dominated the battlefield because of the sparse ammo available.

There was also only one medium range weapon, the pistol. The pistol was highly effective at medium range, but was impossible to hit with at longer distances. In close quarters it was hard to aim unless you were very good with it, making it necessary to switch weapons as the fighting moved closer.

Halo: Combat Evolved Weapons
(Weapons listed multiple time if they fit in multiple categories.)

Short-Medium Range
  • Shotgun
  • Assault Rifle
  • Plasma Rifle
  • Needler
  • Plasma Pistol
  • Rocket Launcher
Medium-Long Range
  • Pistol
  • Sniper Rifle
Long Range
  • Sniper Rifle

As you can see the original Halo was heavy on close combat.

F@©king It Up

With Halo 2 came some problems. The first was dual-wielding. Dual-wielding was just too good. It was so good, in fact, that it was better to just keep shooting instead of beating someone in the face with a melee attack. It also stopped you from using grenades, because you have to drop a gun to throw one. Essentially, it destroys that nice golden triangle we talked about.

Bungie knew dual-wielding was a problem, and a big problem at that. So, for Halo 3 they severely nerfed the damage dual-wielding did, and gave people their assault rifle back. This fix apparently worked, because you almost never see dual wielding in Halo 3. But this post isn't about dual-wielding.

Which brings me to the second problem Halo 2 introduced, the battle rifle. Let's quickly look at the Halo 2 weapon lineup.

Halo 2 Weapons
(Weapons listed multiple time if they fit in multiple categories.)

Short-Medium Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Energy Sword
  • Pistol
  • SMG
  • Shotgun
  • Plasma Rifle
  • Needler
  • Plasma Pistol
  • Rocket Launcher
  • Fuel Rod Gun
  • Carbine
Medium-Long Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Carbine
  • Particle Beam Rifle
  • Sniper Rifle
Long Range
  • Battle Rifle
  • Particle Beam Rifle
  • Sniper Rifle

What's this? The battle Rifle is in every category?

Yes, yes it is.

When it came to weapon advantages, the battle rifle had it all. Its rate of fire, even in three round bursts, was relatively fast. It's damage was high, quickly ripping through shields, and able to kill in one headshot if the enemy was caught shieldless. Finally, it's range was that of a wet dream, being comparable to the snipe rifle. Lastly, and arguably the most important, ammo was plentiful.

Compounding the problem was that a huge number of game types had the battle rifle as your starting weapon and there was little reason to ever drop it. With the battle rifle now in everyone's hands, the golden triangle didn't so much fall apart, as it just never came into play. All combat was medium or long range and teams seemed to rarely ever get into close combat. The game devolved into a headshot fest.

Crawling Away From the Battle Rifle

With the release of Halo 3, Bungie made some much needed changes to the battle rifle. Firstly, they changed how the battle rifle fired by remove hitscan, which is a fancy term for insta-hit. The battle rifle in Halo 2 didn't have any bullet travel time, and to quote Bungie, "if the reticule is red when you pull the trigger (in good networking conditions) the bullet packet will hit the target." Halo 3 works differently. It adds travel time to the bullets, meaning at a distance you have to lead your target.

The second change to the battle rifle was the introduction of bullet spread. Each of the three bullets have a different possible bullet spread(or inaccuracy). The first bullet has the least spread, therefore being the most accurate. The third bullet has the most spread, making it the least accurate. Finally, the second bullet's spread is somewhere in between the first and third. What this means is that it becomes harder to do full damage at range because you start missing with some of your three shot burst.

With these two changes combined, the battle rifle range is decreased, bringing it back into the medium range. It also means that the battle rifle remains viable at short range.

Unfortunately, one problem that wasn't address was that the majority of game types in Halo 3 have you starting with the battle rifle. This means that once again, most fights happen at medium range. The changes help some, making it more likely that fights enter close combat, but it still doesn't happen enough.

The Future

Halo: Reach shows promise. Bungie has replaced the battle rifle with the Designated Marksman Rifle, and from what I played of the beta, it seems to be a good replacement. Whatever they did seems to have let the weapon find it's own place, without making it the be all, end all weapon. Hopefully, Halo: Reach will bring back the golden triangle and stop the headshot fetish the franchise has been on since Halo 2.


This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons on Friday, September 3, 2010. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

Project Gorgon
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 February 2012, 4:53 pm
Eric over at Elder Game has sent out the call for testers for his indie MMO.  All of his posts about designing his MMO from the ground up have been interesting to read.  It's awesome to watch ideas get planted and then grow over time into a full product.

If any of you are interested in helping out an indie developer by testing his MMO answer the call over on his blog.  I'm sure he would appreciate it.

Graphic Fatigue
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 February 2012, 2:00 am

I'm playing through FFII on my ipod touch and I'm getting sick of looking at the same 2D sprites all the time.

They aren't bad, poorly designed, or ugly to look at.  The problem is simply fatigue.  I've been looking at the same character sprites, spell graphics, attack animations, and re-skinned enemies for over 15 total hours of play.  The problem is most likely compounded by the fact that I immediately went from playing FFI to FFII, both of which have been redesigned in the same style.

For some reason the 2D sprite art style really brought this phenomenon to my attention, but it's definitely not limited to 2D games.  How many games have you stopped playing, not because of the gameplay, but because you were sick of seeing the same graphics over and over?  I know it's happened to me a bunch.

Gameplay is definitely the centerpiece of a game, but don't underestimate the impact of the art style and graphics.  Look at games like Limbo and Bastion to see the truth in that.  They're games with decent, but not wonderful, gameplay but they're unique selling point is their art style.

I really appreciate it when developers take the time to introduce variety and creativity in their art style.  It can keep me playing a game just to see what's around the next corner.  And that sense of wonder and excitement goes a long way.

Air Units in Starcraft 2
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 January 2012, 9:00 am

Recently evizaer wrote a post over at That's A Terrible Idea titled "Air Units in land-based RTSes". In it he wrote about how air units in RTS games are "awkward". Saying they're either to powerful and become the only option, or they're just "ground units that ignore terrain". He goes on to wrap up his post by saying, "making all air units off-map call-ins tremendously increases the seeming realism and fun of air units while doing nothing to damage the metagame."

This finishing statement, in my opinion, is completely and utterly wrong, and what better way to prove my point, than with Starcraft 2.

Starcraft 2's air units fall into evizaer's category of "ground units that ignore terrain". On a surface level, this is true. However, there is much more to air units in Starcraft 2 than what that statement lets on.

There are two states in Starcraft 2, when refering to air units, that a unit can be in. These states are, of course, air and ground. All units have to be either one or the other, or, rarely, both. Ground units act as all well behaved ground units should and obey the laws of the terrain. Air units, as already mentioned, ignore the terrain.

While air units aren't that much faster than ground unit, this ignoring of the terrain make it so they can easily attack the back of a base when the enemy isn't expecting it. When defending against air units, it forces the player to rethink their defenses so that they encompass their whole base and not just a choke point.

But these states hold more significance than just terrain rules. They also determine what can attack what. In Starcraft 2, weapons can attack either ground, air, or both. This can create a weird kind of, for a lack of a better term, rock paper scissors effect. It allows for situations where air units wreak havoc when an opponent only has units that attack ground, or ground units that steamroll because an enemies army can only attack air. It makes powerful defense units, like the Siege Tank, have a weakness because they can't attack air. It adds a whole new layer of thinking when selecting which units to produce.

Lastly, I want to cover a concern evizaer brought up.

"When given the viable option at the beginning of a match, a player should almost always choose air units before they begin to use ground units to cement map control. An air unit that is equally as effective as a ground unit at ground attack is significantly more valuable in that it can ignore terrain to harass the opponent from any angle. Since games have a sharp divide between units that can shoot air units and units that cannot, the early game units generally are putrid at air defense. If they were good at air defense, then air would never be a viable strategy because building basic units would hard-counter it."

About air units being the only viable option in Starcraft 2, this is false. There are two things that stop people from massing air unit and getting away with it. One, air units are expensive, and when I say expensive, I mean very expensive. Two, if your opponent catches on that your massing air units, it is very easy to produce a counter force that will annihilate all the air you've been producing.

As for air units being equally effective as ground, this is also false. Air units in Starcraft 2 fit into niche roles. Banshees do massive damage to single ground units and are great at harrass, but can't attack other air units. Void Rays destroy heavy, high health units, but suck dish water against a group of low health units. Mutalisks tear through groups of light, small units, but fall quickly and easily to AoE damage. No unit is 100% foolproof in Starcraft 2, air units included.

Finally, about basic units not working against air, Starcraft 2 does something amazing that not many RTS games accomplish. Depending on what your opponent builds, every unit is worth getting throughout the whole game. As for air units, the example that stands out in my mind is the Void Ray. Void Rays will fall very quickly to a handful of marines, which are the first attack unit Terrans can build.

To wrap it up, everything that I've mentioned here adds layers and layers of strategy that changing air units into off-map call-in abilities would not. As for the off-map call-in abilities, that air strike could be an artillery barrage, the air drop could just be teleporting supplies in, and that recon plane could just be a satellite scan. And when you put it that way, you're back to having no air units in your game at all.

This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons Wednesday, August 4, 2010. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

The MMO Leveling Conundrum
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 January 2012, 9:58 am
I’ve been playing MMOs off and on since the original Ever Quest came out. Out of all the MMOs out there, I’ve played EverQuest, EverQuest 2, Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft, and Eve Online; all for various lengths of time. All of these MMOs, with the exception of Eve Online, use a leveling system for character progression. In fact, this is the de facto standard right now in the MMO industry which very few have the courage or ingenuity to break.

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing per se. On the contrary, levels present a clear goal, get to the level cap. All other gameplay and content is then designed around this idea (except end game, but I’ll get to that later). Furthermore, levels give you a concrete indication of power and progress. They help you estimate fight outcomes (That guys lvl 26, there’s no way I can kill him at lvl 10). They also help reward you (DING! Lvl 35, now I can go get my Awesome Nuclear Explosion spell) and show accomplishment (She’s lvl 80 already? She must have played for 4 days nonstop). I’ve always loved RPGs and their level systems, but it they have flaws just like anything in the world.

The Level Gap Problem

The one major problem I have with MMO leveling systems is this; when your friends out level you, you can no longer play with them. Thus begins, what I like to call, the catch up game. You start to play like mad. It’s no longer about having fun and enjoying the experience, it’s all about the fastest way to grind to your friend’s level. Not only do you play yourself to death, but your friend might slow down too. They wait for you to catch up, doing side activities or leveling an alt, neither of which is what they want to do. All they’d like is to continue leveling, but they’re your good friend and they want to be able to play with their buddy. All this brings me to my point, YOU STOP HAVING FUN! It become almost like a job.

Most people play MMOs to get away from the world and have fun doing it. When people don’t have fun they start to get bored or, even worse, start to dread playing the game. Eventually, players quit and the developer loses money off of them. It’s bad for everyone. So, how do you fix this problem? Well, here’s a list of some solutions already out there right now.

The Mentor System

Early in Everquest 2’s life, Sony added the Mentoring System. This system lets a higher level player temporarily nerf his level to that of the person being mentored, allowing them to play together. The mentor and mentoree can share quests and fight in a group with no penalty. The mentoree even gains an experience boost, allowing a way to sudo-power level someone. This is great for friends at different points in their character path who want to experience some content together, but it has problems, mainly in a lack of incentives for the mentor.

As a mentor you’re basically doing charity work. You gets little to no experience toward your next level. Any item drops from mobs are nowhere near your higher level gear quality and the quest rewards are mediocre at best. Your only reward is in the satisfaction of helping your friends. For many this is the best reward out there, for others it not why they hang out online.

This system works well for friends who want to help each other level. It fixes the main problem, not being able to play with friends that are a higher level, but it does it by using a side system. It’s like taking decongestant; it treats the symptoms not the cause.

Monetary Advancement

For those of you who have played Eve Online, you know that levels have little to do with advancement and power. In Eve Online, money can literally buy (or steal) the world. There aren’t character levels or experience in Eve Online and there are no complex set of equations that calculate health and damage from character attributes. Instead they take the capitalist approach, if you need more fire power, buy it.

This presents a problem though. If money is everything then all you need is a friend with deep pockets and you can start at the top with no work involved. This can seriously water down the game for new players and is extremely frustrating for those without rich friends who have to work their way up from nothing while everyone else magically jumps ahead. That’s where Eve’s other advancement path comes in…

Leveling Skills

In Eve Online you advance your skills by training them over time. While playing Eve Online you always have a skill training. This skill gains skill points over time no matter if you’re currently playing or not. Essentially this serves as a time gate to new and better things.

This system has the same flaws as having a character level but on a more granular scale. Say you’re going ice mining and your friend wants to come along but can’t because he doesn’t have the Ice harvesting skill trained. Once again you can’t play with your friend but this has the benefit of only locking you out of one activity. Maybe your combat skills are equivalent and you can go rat hunting instead.

The Eve Online skill tree is also very wide but not nearly as deep. Meaning, a new character with no skill points can go from a starter ship that dies if a speck of dust touches it, to a combat ship that can stand on its own against the majority of people in a month with little to no work on your part. All you need is some time and the money.


Anyone who has played World of Warcraft knows what the rest system is. While you are offline your character gains more rest the longer you’re logged out. Those who play less will be offline more and therefore have more rest. When you log back on you are rested until you progress past the rested section of your experience bar. While rested you gain bonus experience on top of your normal experience. This accelerates the time it takes you to gain your level, allowing players who play less to close the gap much more quickly with those who play all the time. While this doesn’t stop your friend from out leveling you, it will at least make the catch up process less painful.

Developers have to be careful that rest isn’t too good though. If rest gives you too much of a bonus you might create a situation where those who play every other day out level those who play every day because of the rest bonus. At this point you’re penalizing players for playing your game to much and rewarding others for sitting on their hands.

World of Warcraft combats this problem in two ways, bonuses from rest only apply to experience gained from monsters and you can only have so much rest at any one time. First, because you get a huge chunk of your experience from turning in quests, applying the bonus to only what you gain from monsters slows the rate you gain the bonus while keeping the total amount you eventually receive from rest the same. Second, the rest cap prevents you from accumulating rest bonus indefinitely if you don’t play for a long time, ensuring that everyone will run out of rest in a reasonable time.

The End Game or Gaining Item Levels

Once you reach top level in an MMO, you then start what people call the end game. Some like to call this the “true game”, while other (like me) think of it as an extension of content. In the end game you raid and work toward improving your gear. Basically, you’re leveling your gear. This has the same problem as character leveling, where you can out level each other, but with an odd one way relationship.

Let’s take for example two max level characters. One character has close to the best gear in the game while the other just reached max level and only has sub-par gear. The player with sub-par gear wants to do the hardest raid in the game, but can’t with his current equipment and first needs to get higher level gear. This barrier is only in place when going from a lower to a higher item level, though. The top gear character can play with the low gear character in weaker raids with no penalty for level difference, unlike the experience nerf when there’s a standard character level gap. Even better the high item level character can gain something worthwhile from the lower level raid, be it money, something for another character, or even an item for a second set of gear they’re working on. In the end, it works out for everyone.

Nothings Perfect

None of these solutions are perfect and I seriously doubt there’s any way to completely fix the level gap issue. The solutions that seem to get the closest are those that throw out character levels all together and start from scratch. Sadly many companies are afraid to do this because they want to stick to what they know works and what they know will bring in the dough at the end of the day. This is a hard and dangerous game of trial and error and I’d love to know the answer myself.

Did I miss a solution that’s out there or do you have an idea? Please leave a comment.

This post originally appeared on Lost in Neurons on Monday, February 1, 2010. As part of a clean out of Lost in Neurons to make it more focused, it has been moved here, where its author feels it better fit.

Boxed Up Fun
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 January 2012, 10:56 pm

I can't believe how wrong I've been about board games!  I usually thought of them as bored games and had mental images of never-ending Monopoly games running through my head.  My only exceptions have been chess and some card games played with a standard 52 card deck.

Fortunately for me, I have friends who were determined to show me the error of my ways.  They brought in a selection of games to work and asked me to play during lunch.  Usually we play SC2 or Call of Duty on our lunch breaks and gaming with them is a blast, but they wanted to change it up and try something new.  I think that secretly they're trying to indoctrinate me into their world of board games.

I've been extremely surprised to find that I'm having fun!  Four of us have regularly been sitting down at a table and playing games face-to-face.  We're in the midst of week 2 of board games and so far they've gotten me hooked on Citadels and Ascension.  I think they're both gateway games, because they aren't really played on a board, they're mostly played with cards.  But I have a feeling the true board games are just around the corner.

Citadels is a straight up card game and Ascension is a deck building game played on a mat.  They've also been talking about a game called Small World and now I'm intrigued by the prospect of playing that too.

Something about physically touching the game pieces and interacting with real world objects adds an extra level of satisfaction to the game.  It's a different feeling than what I get from playing video games and I think I like it.

Luckily for me, these friends have a board game site that rocks.  They launched Boxed up Fun a few months ago and have been working the kinks out.  I think most of the bugs are squashed and it's shaping up to be an awesome platform for sharing, reviewing, and discovering board games.  You should support them by visiting Boxed Up Fun.  If you're a board game fan, feel free to friend me on the site and send some board game suggestions my way.  Or leave a comment below.

Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 January 2012, 11:44 pm

I got an awesome combo NES/SNES system for Christmas!  It was totally unexpected, but I've been having a great time playing games on it.  I guess they could be considered old school, but really they're just the games I grew up with.

I was born in 86', so the NES and SNES were the most popular systems in my early gaming days.  My brother and I owned both of them but we sold them we the shiny new N64 came out.  It was one of the biggest mistakes of our childhood.  He and I have talked about it over the years and this year he decided to do something about it.

Not only did my awesome brother give me a duel retro system, he also picked up the original Legend of Zelda, Pilot Wings, Star Fox, and my favorite Mario game ever made, Super Mario World!  It was the best Christmas present that I've gotten since we got our original SNES years ago.

The amazing thing I'm finding out is how well these games hold up today.  Graphics aside, the gameplay truly stands the test of time.  I'm having just as much fun with them as I used to.  There's no online connectivity, no achievements, no wireless controllers, and no HD signal... but it doesn't matter.  The games are fun.  And honestly, once you acquire a taste for 8-bit and 16-bit graphics they can truly be a thing of glory.

My favorite game of the bunch is Super Mario World.  It's a wonderfully crafted platformer and after all these years it may be the closest game to my heart.  The graphical rendition of the 1-Up from Super Mario World is my all time favorite gaming icon. Don't believe me?  Just look at the header of this blog.

This has gotten me thinking.  Are there any other NES/SNES games that I should buy if I get the chance?  I didn't have an extensive library when I was younger, but I may start to build one up now.  If you have any recommendations drop them in the comments below.

2011 Has Come and Gone or Indie Games Are Awesome
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 December 2011, 3:21 am
The year is (almost) at an end.  I know a lot of bloggers are doing top ten lists and predictions for the next year.  I've done that before, but today I feel like reflecting on 2011 in general instead of telling you about games you've already played.

The thing is, I realized that AAA $60 games were a huge disappointment for me this year.  I bought a handful, played them, and enjoyed them but looking back on the year I realize that they didn't truly do anything new.  My favorite 3 AAA titles this year were Arkham City, Assassin's Creed Revelations, and Skyrim.  They were all sequels with incremental improvements but none of them were truly groundbreaking.

For me the best part of 2011 were all the indie games.  Oh my god, the indie games.  I've seen them grow by leaps and bounds in the last few years.  With the rise of Steam, XBLA, PSN, and downloadable games in general indie games are gaining the attention of the wider gaming community.  The indie developers were the true innovators this year.

My favorite game released in 2011 was Bastion from the small team at Super Giant Games.  It gave storytelling an interesting twist with voice over in a world barely holding together.  That combined with an interesting art style to make the most memorable game of the year for me.  Super Giant Games tried new things and succeeded.

Bastion was awesome, but all the other games that surprised me with their innovation this year also came from indie developers.  Minecraft, Frozen Synapse, Atom Zombie Smasher, Tiny Wings, VVVVVV, SPAZ, and countless others I haven't tried.  Not to mention all the Humble Indie Bundle goodness that keeps coming our way.  These games are not only innovative, they are also much cheaper than the traditional $60 asking price.  Most of the games I just listed are in the $5 to $15 range.

My hopes for the future of the gaming industry no longer lie with the big name developers.  They're going to do what makes them the most money and stick to the tried and true.  Instead, I'm looking to the little guys, the start-ups, the independent developers who want to push the envelope and try something new.  That's what I learned this year.

Ready Player One
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 December 2011, 4:26 pm
Happy Holidays everyone.  I hope the holiday season has given you some free time to be with family and (of course) get some gaming in.  I want to talk about an awesome gift I got from my brother, but I'll save that for another post because first I need to tell you about Ready Player One.

Last week it was slow at work and I had free time every night.  I fully intended to catch up on my Starcraft II and some of my Steam games but on Monday I happened to pick up a new book.  A friend recommended Ready Player One and said it was a great book for gamers.  That was a huge understatement.

Ready Player One is set in the near future and finds the world slowly falling into decay.  The world population now spends all their free time in the virtual world of OASIS.  OASIS is the evolution of modern day MMOs into a virtual universe where anything can exist.  The creator of OASIS was a child in the 1980s and pulled his love of 80s pop culture into OASIS.  Classic video games and movies have worlds and star systems devoted to them.

I couldn't put this book down last week.  Anyone who was alive in the 80s or appreciates classic video games will enjoy this sci-fi romp through a virtual world.  I have a feeling most of my readers would like this book.

The End is in Sight. Or is it?
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 December 2011, 11:18 pm
I'm still playing through Final Fantasy II and enjoying the experience.  While playing, something caught my attention in this old JRPG.  I was grinding.  I was grinding for experience, gear, money, and other loot.  I was grinding the way I grind in MMOs.  But instead of that listless MMO feeling I was having fun.  What's the deal?

I think part of the reason is that I'm playing a game with a definitive ending.  I may be grinding, but there's an end in sight.  In MMOs it's way too easy to get stuck on the gear treadmill at "endgame" and keep grinding for better gear so that you can clear the next tier of raid so that you can get better gear etc, etc, etc.  That's how they keep you playing.  But without an ending, without that feeling of conclusion and satisfaction, a videogame loses something.

The end is always time for reflection

MMOs aren't the only culprit.  I've invested around 60 hours in Skyrim and have "completed" 2 of the main questlines that might as well have been entire games unto themselves (8+ hours for each).  The world and gameplay continue on despite finishing them.  Now, this is the nature of an Elder Scrolls game, they design it with open exploration in mind.  Nevertheless, Skyrim still loses something by having no true end.  There's no final payoff and sense of accomplishment.  That moment of sitting back on the couch and just reflecting on everything you've done while the credits roll doesn't exist.

I don't know if this is a problem or not.  What I do know is that games that end have a much bigger emotional impact on me than games without end.  The narratives and feelings from the game stay with me longer and I think about them more often.  So, maybe developers should think twice before deciding to create an open-ended game.  They might not be doing themselves a favor.

Revealing Thoughts on Revelations
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 December 2011, 11:42 pm

I picked up Assassin's Creed Revelations for $25 on Black Friday thanks to Amazon lightning deals.  I always keep an eye out for when they do video game lightning deals and in this case it paid off.  The game had only been out for about 2 weeks and I saved $35.  I love Amazon.

Anyway, AC Revelations is ok.  I know that's not a rousing endorsement, but it's the truth.  In terms of gameplay there is so little added on top of the last installment that it's hard to be excited.

There are a few minor changes.  Desmond gets some intriguing puzzle gameplay while stuck in the Animus, Ezio gets to customize bombs, and Ezio has access to a  badass hookblade that allows the use of ziplines and faster climbing.  None of these is bad, but they don't go far enough.  The puzzle gameplay with Desmond tells an interesting story but the puzzles themselves don't offer much fun.  The bomb customization is worthless outside of specific bomb missions, you're better off using smoke bombs all the time.  And while ziplines and new kill animations are cool the hookblade doesn't dramatically shift the game.

So why did I even pay $25 for this game?  Well, I like the Assassin's Creed series.  I'm invested in the characters and want to know the outcome of the story.  I want to support the developers so that hopefully some day they make a true Assassins Creed 3 that radically revamps the entire gameplay into a new and amazing stealth/action/exploration epic.

At this point, with yearly releases, the Assassin's Creed series is losing steam with me.  Revelations was probably worth the $25 I paid just because I'm a fan of the series but it definitely is not worth the $60 it costs regularly.  If you're new to the series you would be much better served by buying Assassin's Creed II.  It's a great starting point to get into the series and it's now a platinum hit so it'll only cost you $19.99.  Or if you want a new release in the same vein that's worth the price of entry check out Batman Arkham City.

Keep in mind all of this is based off the single player game.  If I find something worthwhile in the multiplayer I'll write it up in another post.  But again, it looks extremely similar to what was offered in AC Brotherhood so don't be surprised if that post doesn't get written.

Achieve Arkham City
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 November 2011, 3:04 pm

Batman: Arkham City is an achiever's delight.  It's a great action/exploration game filled to the brim with hidden Riddler trophies and mysteries to solve.  The whole game appealed to the explorer and achiever in me.  I even went on to do a 100% complete run of the game.  That meant completing over 400 Riddler challenges and I loved every minute.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Arkham City is the follow up to Arkham Asylum, a game I also loved.  It takes everything from Arkham Asylum and builds on it.  The combat has more diverse options and the controls feel tighter. The exploration is faster and far ranging thanks to the grappling hook, cape glide, and a full city to explore.  The cast of villains has been expanded to the point where some of the lesser known evil doers get their time to shine. Overall, it's a bigger badass Batman game.

All together I only had a couple of gripes.  By expanding the cast of villains the game actually ends up making each one seem weaker.  Since Batman defeats a villain and moves on to the next one so quickly I don't know if I even remember them all.  For such an iconic cast of characters that's a sad statement to make.  On the other hand the Joker and the Riddler are very well developed characters who I felt were actually Batman's equal.  They tormented me the entire game and made the payoff at the end that much sweeter.  Every other villain was a speed bump in comparison.

My other complaint is the stealth gameplay.  In Arkham Asylum I felt that stealth was always the answer.  Intelligently approaching a room to stealthily eliminate every opponent without being detected was the name of the game.  Hand to hand combat was always a last resort that felt less effective.  It's similar to the feeling I get at the start of an Assassin's Creed game.  Stay stealthy, stay smart.

This is no longer the case in Arkham City.  Batman is so powerful in hand to hand combat that I barely used stealth throughout my entire play-through.  A common battle tactic of mine was to throw a freeze grenade into a group of enemies, freezing 3-4 of them, then dive bomb at full speed into whoever was left resulting in an instant takedown and scattering anyone still standing.  I would follow that up with a batarang to a distant enemies, a batclaw to disarm a foe, a remote electric charge to any other armed foe (making them swing wildly at those around them), and then an explosive spray on the ground while I flipped away and detonated it.  From there cleanup was a breeze.  Yes, it's badass, but with abilities like that why would I ever take the time to be stealthy?

Keep in mind that when my two complaints are that there are too many iconic villians and that Batman is too badass the overall game must be good.  And it is.  I invested more time then I would like to admit in Arkham City.  From me, that's a rousing endorsement.  I played through Arkham City to the end and then I went back for more.

StarCraft 2 for $30
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 November 2011, 1:45 pm

I don't normally endorse game sales, but StarCraft 2 is half price from now until Monday.  This is my absolute favorite game from the past 2 years and I recommend it to everyone, even at full price.  I love it so much I've written a whole Newbie Guide about it.  If you are an RTS fan and you don't own SC2 you don't know what you're missing.  If you've ever been intrigued by Starcraft 2 now is the time to pick it up.

Snap Judgements
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 June 2011, 7:00 am

With my Gamefly subscription in full swing I've decided to start a series of Snap Judgement posts.  I'm going to be trying out games and treating them almost like a demo, but I'll give them a little extra time and effort.

My only rule is that I'll give a game a minimum of 15 minutes.  If a game can't hold my attention in the first 15 minutes then I'm done with it.  With every game I drop, I will let you know how long I played that game before setting it aside.  But, if I like a game, I may very well end up playing it to completion.

Expect to see a handful of these posts over the summer.

Snap Judgement: Final Fantasy Four Heroes of Light
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 June 2011, 3:00 am

Platform: Nintendo DS
Total Play Time: 40 minutes

My first thought on booting up the game, "These graphics are ick."  I would rather have beautiful high-res 2D graphics than these blurry/muddy 3D graphics.  What a bad first impression.

After that initial letdown I realized the stylus was bugging me.  It created a feeling of disconnection from the game.  I'm so used to touching a screen with my finger on my ipod touch that the DS stylus feels awkward,  especially after just completing FFI entirely on the ipod touch.

There is absolutely no tutorial in Four Heroes of Light and I immediately felt lost.  I got to the first cave, at which point they told me I had to go back to town to buy a torch, but I got back to town and had no money so I wasn't able to buy a torch.  I figured it out eventually but it still would have been nice for some straight up explanation of what was going on.

The playthrough wasn't going well and then I decided to save.  I quickly discovered the only way to save was at a save point.  Save points are an unnecessary hassle in this day and age.  On handheld devices a save anywhere system should be the norm.  It's frustrating to trek back to town to save and I know it would piss me off if I continued to play this game.

There were a couple interesting things going on with inventory management, ability points, and camera angles. Sadly, these weren't enough to overcome my negative thoughts.

After 40 minutes I threw in the towel and moved on with life.  I don't think I'll every come back to play this one again.

The Legendary Legend of Zelda
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 June 2011, 7:00 am

A remastered 3D Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was released yesterday and there's been a lot of press coverage since it's widely considered the best Zelda game.  Now I have Zelda on the brain.  By the way, if you're interested in doing a community playthrough of Ocarina of Time, along with forum posts and discussions, you should definitely check out The Brainy Gamer as he's organizing one this very moment.

After reading a round-table discussion about the creation of OoT (seriously, go read this now if you're a Zelda fan) I have an itch to play a Zelda game.  Since I don't own a 3DS and don't feel like buying one just yet that means I'll have to play something besides the new release.

Ocarina of Time is considered the definitive Zelda and most people say A Link to the Past is a close second.  Personally, I found Wind Waker, with it's cel-shaded graphics, to be one of my favorite's and I'm extremely tempted to go back and replay it.

The one thing stopping me is the fact that I never beat Twilight Princess, the latest Zelda offering for the Nintendo Wii.  I remember the motion controls kind of bugged me, but I think the main reason I stopped my playthrough was because I got stuck and there were no guides out yet.  If I remember right, Twilight Princess had solid gameplay and a lot of potential... along with an annoying creature from another dimension.

And that's the thing.  If I can't remember that much, maybe I should give it another chance.  It is the only Zelda I haven't beaten...

Snap Judgement: Marvel vs Capcom 3
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 June 2011, 5:52 pm


Sunday Reading: Deep Thoughts Edition
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 June 2011, 7:00 am
I haven't done a link dump post in a while and this week I read a bunch of really interesting posts.  Here they are for your perusal.

Kill Ten Rats: Time outweighs the price of entertainment.
Elder Game: Fun loops and gameplay loops.
Systemic Babble: Complex vs elaborate games.
Killed in a Smiling Accident: MMO combat is based too much around the UI.
Killed in a Smiling Accident: Concern for the MMO blogging scene.

Support the Indie Game documentary by checking out their Kickstarter page and donating!

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