Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Nanoblogging Is Your Microblogging - Episode 3

No single blog post could chronicle the myriad of things going on in my head right now, so here's a cheatingly fast way to get them all out.

9. It's Not a Ripoff of Blocks With Letters On, Though I Admit It Feels Like It
Do you like words? Do you like puzzles? Do you like word puzzles that may or may not have anything to do with words? Golly, you've got some screwy tastes. But I've got just the thing for you! I've started writing Letters In Boxes, a word puzzle contesty thing over at Jay is Games. Each week we give away a few prizes for the fastest solvers and a handful of other random correct entries, so there's always a chance you could win something. For me, this now-regular Thursday column has been both a blessing and a curse, as it's given me the ability to flex my freelance puzzle-writing skills. Not that companies are looking for in-house crossword puzzle producers, but it's at least getting my name out there with another talent attached. On the other hand, it's my name attached to these puzzles. Every week, I've got to come up with about four of them, and triple-check everything, or else it's egg on my face (like one particular week that was so marred by typos that completely slipped by my radar, despite me double-checking everything right before it went live). I've got beta testers now, but it's still a lot of stress just coming up with puzzles that people would want to solve, and keeping them fresh every week. Still, it's fun, and I hope to keep this up for a while.

10. Or Perhaps I'm Bothered By the Fact It's Only One Letter Away from Trine
As part of one of Steam's Daily Deals, I had an impulse-buying moment with Trino. In Trino, you play a wriggling bean-like creature (well, let's face it, it looks like a sperm) that lays down the corners of triangles to trap enemies inside the boundaries. These enemies vary from very Portal turret-looking creatures that float up the screen to crab-like creatures that destroy your corners and spider-like creatures that scamper away from your triangles. It's an interesting concept, but I can't help but feel like this particular port (of what I'm assuming was originally an XBLA game) is broken. At the very least, it's more frustrating than fun, and that's a damper on what could/should be a pretty good game. Between the questionable hit detection that seems to favor the enemies, the abilities those enemies have that way overpower a lot of things you can do, and some occasional random controller non-responsiveness, the sensation of being challenged just falls before the desire to play something else.

11. Someone's Got to Make the Victory Speech
How about some current video game news? Today (well, yesterday, by the time I get this thing posted), the Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of video games basically getting the same First Amendment rights as other forms of media. Actually, that's a bit too broad of a generalization, but they voted that a California law prohibiting the sales of violent games to minors is unconstitutional. Justice Scalia's argument included the fact that children are exposed to violent material in other accepted forms, from the Grimms' fairy tales to Lord of the Flies. I agree with this decision, and I agree with the argument that the responsibility of keeping violent or offensive games out of kids' hands comes down to the parents, not the government. I'll be the first to admit that this decision won't immediately effect me, since not only am I not a minor, but I tend not to be drawn to the violent, sexual games this case was about. It is very good news for the entire industry though, in the sense that developers still have the right to explore the possibilities of video games, rather than being boxed in by regulations.

It's a bit weird hearing the reaction from both sides though. The Video Game Voters Network, who I mentioned back in a post comparing 3-D game vision concerns and the current SCOTUS decision celebrated the victory with a post with highlights from Scalia's argument, while Common Sense Media, who I think I had heard (don't quote me on this) were the ones to initialize the case, expressed their sorrows about the decision, then used it as a platform for advocating more parental controls. CSM CEO James Steyer even took credit for numerous changes in how the industry markets its games, which I'd be willing to call out as bollocks (I'm pretty certain self-imposed regulations were in effect long before he came along), but to each his own.

12. Assassino! Assassino!
I finally managed to snag Assassin's Creed 2 on Steam on sale a few weeks ago. I've been playing through it a good amount since then, and while I'm (hopefully) nowhere near the end yet, I've come to feel it's made a ton of improvements over Assassin's Creed Original Recipe. To start, the storyline is much more intriguing, and generally presented better than its predecessor. The missions feel more varied, and there are a ton of side quests to keep you busy as you play. As usual, my video game wanderlust take full advantage of this and I spend a ton of time outside of the game's real objectives just to fool around. 'Tis great fun. The combat is still sorta sucky; I can still get by just about everytime with my standard "mash these two buttons until they're dead" strategy, but at least it's more possible to avoid combat in this game. I still have issues with the camera and controls, but the latter may be due (at least in part) to the fact that I'm starting to realize that the controller I have only registers 8 directions of movement, rather than the whole circle of freedom the joystick seems to imply. I don't know whether or not a full blog post will come once I finish, but know for now that I'm definitely enjoying it.

13. So... It's Wii... Without the Wii?
One more bit of video game news that caught my attention was Razer's new Hydra Motion Controller, which going by the videos given, seems to work just like your standard Wiimote and Nunchuk. However, it comes bundled with a copy of Portal 2, plus a handful of bonus levels that take full advantage of the controller's capabilities, including the ability to rotate objects with absolute precision, place and move portals with absolute precision, and stretch boxes for an extra puzzle element. With absolute precision. I can't say I'm excited for the last bit, but I think it'd be interesting to play with a spatial game like Portal 2 with a spatial controller. That won't happen anytime soon though, as I tend to get scared away by anything with a three-digit price tag.