Steam Sale Recommendation: One Finger Death Punch

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This game is nuts. A good kind of nuts. Crunchy. Flavorful. Nuts.

The stick figure graphics look absolutely cheesy, in a low budget mobile app kind of way, but hiding behind that is a gem on the level of Cook, Serve, Delicious or better.

You press two buttons. That’s it.

Left and right mouse buttons. Or if you’re a keyboard warrior, you get the options of left/right arrow, S/D or B/N.

Everything else is in the timing, plus the combos and skills that change up the timing.

This game distills that mechanic into its utmost purest form. (A one-button clicker would lack the confusion of one’s fingers trying to decide which button to press now.)

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I suppose you might call it a rhythm game meets a fighting game side brawler or something, but whatever you call it, it’s definitely worth a play.

It will teach things like anticipation, watching the enemy’s coming attacks, planning of your next few moves and improve one’s reaction time.

Skills that can be applied to any other action-combat game you’re playing, like say, *cough*, GW2. (I weep inside every time I see a player get knocked down by a champion wurm’s tossed rock. It’s one of the easiest things to practice dodging on. The player just has to make the mental connection that dodging it -is- actually possible.)

It will punish button mashing with tit-for-tat ruthlessness.

And still it will feel completely fair, because it will only attack you when you slip up and make that mistake. Press one button that failed to connect and missed, and an enemy will hit you in response. Fail to dispose of an enemy, and it again will hit you.

Get the timing and anticipation perfect, and you are rewarded with sequences of absolute martial arts combo perfection as you slip into a flow state and your corresponding stick figure glides like water and smashes the crap out of his enemy stick figures.

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Each level lasts a fairly short time, so it’s great for those quickie entertainment moments when one can’t afford to fire up a longer game (or say, when one is waiting for 15-30 minutes IN a longer game waiting for something to start.)

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And yet, there are a TON of levels with a bunch of variations to choose from (the above pic is like one small part of the whole continent map – the graphics look like shit, yes, but thankfully you don’t have to stay in this level select screen long) plus survival mode plus god-knows-what difficulty modes, so there’s plenty of game in this game.

Ultimately, you wanna pick up One Finger Death Punch for the fantastic demonstration of how merely pressing two buttons can add up into an entertaining game, and for the cartoon stick figure carnage amidst punchy sound effects that work really well.

GW2 Hype Meter Unmoved & Quickie Steam Game Impressions

The whole Early Access phenomenon, coupled with Steam sales, has produced some rather odd behavior in me.

I don’t know how to get hyped up over anything anymore (or more precisely, when.)

Guild Wars 2 announces some sweeping, massive changes to traits, gears and stats for all classes in a pending patch.

I think, “Wow. Ouch. Wow. Er, ok. Hrm. Eew. Hrmf. Wow. Hmmmm…” and end up curiously neutral, uncertain as to how it’s all going to pan out and resolving to wait and see before emotionally overreacting, positively or negatively.

(I don’t like the idea of making Ascended gear more important or effective over Exotic, because of that whole level playing field thing and the perennial tendency of players to exclude others and become toxic under the influence of beliefs that don’t even vaguely resemble true fact. I don’t like being forced into vertical progression, and I’m ready to drop a game at any point if they tell me I now have to do such-and-such activity in order to get such-and-such stat reward, or else become useless or below par.

However, some quick Excel calculations later, my hypothesized extrapolations suggested that while the patch note percentages -look- big, the actual effective stat change is kinda… not that big a deal. It’s like a 5-7% primary stat difference now between full exotics and ascended, and we might go to 7-9% primary stat difference with the change.

Then there’s comparing Ascended trinket+weapon+exotic gear versus full Ascended, which is the more usual state of affairs since it’s the Ascended armor that is prohibitively expensive. The difference in primary stat is now somewhere between 1-2% going to 2-3%, which sounds a bit more negligible.

Of course, since all the stats on both exotics and ascended rose, maybe both are objectively better than what we’re already operating with. Except except they’re doing something with the level scaling again, and there’s the condition damage change, and I have no idea what this would actually translate to in terms of actual damage done after all’s said and done with the new traits, new gear stats, new level scaling, new everything.

So, you know, fuck it. Record damage done and stats now. Wait for patch drop to compare, paper theorycrafting is kinda useless with so many moving parts changing…)

Guild Wars 2 announces some big things regarding guild halls at E3.

I think, “Kewl. Mental note: Watch Youtube or Twitch video at some point in the future to know what was said” and stay unhyped, having not actually seen the video yet.

Guild Wars 2 announces that pre-purchases for Heart of Thorns are now available!

I go, “Sweet!” and rush to the website…. then promptly deflate at the available options, having mentally calculated that I’d probably pick up the best Ultimate deal, but eesh, that’s a lot of money… and for what, uncertainty right now. We haven’t even see how the pending patch changes are going to play out. We haven’t even heard half of the elite specializations yet. We’ve seen -one- Heart of Thorns map (that is, if you qualified for the betas, and half of it seemed unpopulated anyway.)

Come on, we’ve all been here before. It sounds exactly like something out of Early Access. Please give us money now to support us as we’re developing the game you want to play!

I rarely ever buy into this Early Access thing, so it’s not a scheme that works for parting me from my wallet. Steam sales have trained me to wait for the magic 75% off mark if I don’t urgently -need- to play this game now. (And with so many games available on my plate, be it from the Steam guilt trip list, free-to-play MMOs or other games, it’s a rare game that I -need- to play right this moment.)

Furthermore, I find myself confused over the best time to hype (or feel hyped) about something now.

Early Access spreads out the excitement. Ok, some people are playing it now. Some other people are playing it now. Some are still waiting for launch. Some are waiting for sales. The hype has spread out into one long tail, there’s no more spikes of excitement. (For me, anyway.)

My reaction, more often than not these days, is to simply wait-and-see.

Some early adopters will grab it first, stream it, review it, tell me what they think. I can get a better picture of what it really contains, what it really offers, whether I might like it or not.

With that information, I feel better about my decision to purchase, rather than buying it sight unseen, on wisps of hope. Gimme evidence. Gimme facts.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll be over here, playing games that are actually already made and launched, and better yet, on sale.

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In Verbis Virtus

The concept sounded ridiculously cool and innovative. Cast spells using your own spoken words, picked up via microphone.

Immersion is one of the things I’m constantly looking to experience, in games that care to offer it to me, and actually having to learn and memorize arcane words of power is as immersively mage-like as they come.

Except… I’m not one for using mics. Ever. There’s the hassle of setting it up, of making sure you’re not blowing somebody’s ears off (including your own) with misconfigured volumes, there’s having to put on a headset instead of relaxing free and easy with 5.1 speaker surround sound, there’s the weirdness of hearing your own voice come back to you, not to mention the general weirdness of talking to a screen (in tongues!) while your family wonders what you’re doing, and oh, it’s late at night and all is quiet and folks (including neighbors, land area is scarce here, people are packed into buildings where sound might travel through walls, floor or ceilings – I can hear kids bouncing balls on the floor above me) are asleep, and HERE YOU ARE, ARTICULATING STRANGE NOISES TO YOURSELF, YOUR MICROPHONE AND YOUR COMPUTER GAME.

All of that can kinda wreck the immersion.

I’d resolved to save the money and watch a Let’s Play of it instead, enjoying someone with a more resonant voice than I have perform on my behalf.

Somewhere along Video 6, I found myself caving in to the temptation of the personal experience and ended up buying it.

The first caveat is that you have to not mind puzzle games. In Virbis Virtus is not a first-person shooter, in the sense that there’s not going to be a million and one enemies to kill. (Lichdom: Battlemage might cater to that more. Not sure. I bought it. On my to-try list.)

It’s about learning a bunch of weird spells, like light and telekinesis spells, so that you can solve door opening puzzles with them. Along the way, there might be some platforming and jumping, some speed reactions and rehearsed sequences at certain parts, block stacking and object manipulation, plus riddle-like clue reading and thoughtful thinking interspersed.

The second caveat is that you have to be a little bit more competent at setting up (or already having a microphone configured) than I am.

There was a great deal of preliminary cursing and swearing at the beamforming microphone that was -supposed- to be built into the Audio Control Module of my Soundblaster ZX, but turned out to have ridiculously wimpy pickup (had to turn boost and volume up all the way to even catch something, with awful garbled noises and feedback threatening each step of the way.) There was a debate with oneself on whether to use the secondary backup of a plug-into-USB and go headset, but that seemed like wimping out from the problem device. There was digging around and de-dusting of another microphone to plug into said ACM to test (obviously pickup is -much- better when the microphone is nearer my mouth. Duh,) unsoweiter.

That said, the game itself deals rather well with audio recognition, better than I expected, certainly (though it can fail about 5% of the time, often at critical moments when you’re panicking and trying to remember the proper enunciation in order to not die and promptly fail miserably. Lesson learned: I would make a very good -dead- mage if I lived in a fantasy world. It’s certainly ‘realistic’ and immersive in that sense.)

I had occasional bouts of broken immersion every time the microphone tried to poke me in the mouth, but that’s probably just me being an old-fashioned text user. All the newfangled voice-preferring users of TeamSpeak and Mumble and Ventrilo and Twitch should have very little issues on this front.

The best praise I can offer (being such a staunch anti-mic hermit) for In Verbis Virtus is that when it all goes well, it really does feel magical.

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It’s as close to virtual reality or a holodeck as anyone has come so far, until someone either figures out how to pair it with an Oculus Rift or writes a game that does both.

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Pixel Piracy

We now take a complete 180 into the land of the cutesy and comical.

I am still trying to figure out what is so utterly appealing about this game that I lost three hours to it and wouldn’t mind playing on.

It’s pretty simplistic, it’s no elaborate Terraria, it’s a game about leveling up your pirates so that you can earn more gold and more loot to buy new and better gear and items so that you can blow up bigger and badder ships owned by other pirates or slaughter savage natives on tropical islands so that you can take their gold and loot to rinse and repeat.

Yep, an incrementing numbers game, along with a “just one more turn” schtick, in the form of one more ship or island.

Combat is RTS-like, in the sense that you just tell your units where to go, and after that they’ll take over the fighting from there. (Better hope you prepared them well with good weapons and levels and training and such!)

I suppose part of the appeal for me is the sense of unknown discovery – like the first time one plays Minecraft or Don’t Starve and -doesn’t- refer to a third-party source to tell them what to do. Some things are not that well explained or documented in game, so there’s a bit of trial-and-error experimentation involved to figure out exactly how this little part of this system works and fits together.

Forum reports are not terribly positive regarding bugs and such as the game progresses though, so only pick up at a sale price where you won’t regret the expenditure if stuff breaks later on down the road.

julia

The shipboard AI wakes you from cryo-sleep.

The spaceship’s on fire, it’s venting poisonous gases and there’s runaway electrical shorts all over.

You’re a xenobiologist by occupation.

Oh, and incidentally, everyone else but you seems to be dead.

Fortunately, you don’t actually have to physically go out there and turn firefighter. There’s machinery that can solve your various problems for you, but curiously, the computer seems to need your brain and input to operate said machinery.

After dealing with the immediate crisis, you promptly turn detective as you piece together the last moments of the crew on the research station on the surface of the planet that your ship was orbiting around… a grand saga of paranoia and poisoning and murder.

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J.U.L.I.A. is essentially a point-and-click adventure game with an intriguing premise (and apparently, according to reviews, a decently good story.)

It does away with some of the tropes of the adventure game – there is no avatar you have to watch walk around the screen ever so slowly, instead you’re ostensibly giving commands to a remote bot that does the actual work. Both the bot and computer are capable of conversing with you, providing the necessary NPC dialogue chatter to keep you company while you poke around at clues and try to figure out what’s going on. Pixel hunting is kept to a minimum, as the bot can ‘scan’ for interesting objects which are highlighted for a short time.

I’ve not completed the whole game yet, but it definitely seems like a game worth trying, as long as you like a bit of mystery, exploration and puzzle-solving in a sci-fi story.

Drowning… But in a Good Way…

What do I do now? Let me count the ways…

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Draining half my resources appears to have successfully rekindled a fire in me to start making a list of things to do (which will also coincidentally earn some gold, plus some that might take the stockpile in the opposite direction.)

I need to get my new-ish asura warrior to a waypoint in every map that has a dungeon, as he is the one character that is 100% meta compliant (as opposed to 95%), and more importantly, isn’t overloaded with 101 “fun” fireworks, tonics, spare gear sets and assorted Silverwastes junk. That kinda gets in the way of the ideal “zoom from dungeon to dungeon without pause and earn tons of gold” routine.

I suddenly have the intense craving for a number of Scientific weapon skins from the Black Lion vendors (or TP), which means I either need a ton of gold, or convince myself to spend the equivalent of a month’s subscription on being sorely disappointed on Black Lion’s Chests (or trade in the equivalent sum for gold, which would guarantee at least one skin) and/or farm Black Lion Keys and trade time instead of hard currency. To even figure out where to begin, it seems like a good idea to watch a video of all the skins first and prioritize “must-haves” versus “nice-to-haves.”

It occurs to me that I have a number of basic collections and left over collect some coin or badge or other item from Dry Top/Silverwastes that I have yet to complete. Those should be far easier mini-milestones or goalposts for the feeling of mini-wins than building a legendary…

Speaking of which, I have now used up my two Gifts of Exploration from world map completion, which means another alt has to circumnavigate the globe at some point. Each map is another potential mini-goalpost.

Speaking of alts, not only do I have alts that should be brought to level 80 -some- day, I had the vague desire to take nifty screenshots of my characters and discuss my relationship to my in-game avatars in similar fashion to Rowan Blaze, who has also been inspired by Syp to wonder about how various players fit on the roleplaying versus puppeteering spectrum with regards to their characters/avatars.

And and, if I want gold, I should really get on Silverwastes chest farms or an easy world boss train cycle to replace all those ectos nommed up by Kraitin.

Steam Sale

I have been feeling a little more financially solvent recently, and this has manifested itself in an enthusiastic attempt to clear my Steam wishlist (which dates back to 2012 and earlier.)

I haven’t completely lost my mind or loosened my purse strings entirely, but I decide it was time to actively re-look at the wishlist and ask myself hard questions as to whether I really wanted to ever play the game and/or buy it when it reached 75% off. (Yeah, my wishlist is mostly to keep track of when games I’m interested in hit that threshold.)

It helps that I’ve now decided I can watch and enjoy Youtube videos via streaming to the TV, which then helped me throw out some titles whose setting and potential story intrigued me, but whose gameplay I was left very hesitant about after seeing other peoples’ reviews. (Solution: Find a Let’s Play of the game on Youtube, watch someone else play through it for me while I do other constructive chores around the house.)

Other games, I decided to toss entirely, like Dungeonbowl – where the vitriol about it being horrendously buggy and not having any singleplayer worth speaking of suggested that I’d never actually play it (may as well just cut out some paper miniatures and play my own solo game via tabletop rules if it’s that bad) and the Walking Dead Season 2 – its setting/theme/characters just doesn’t strike a note with me, for some reason.

(I valiantly struggled my way through the first Walking Dead, alternately bored with the mundanity of everyday America and uncontrollably metagaming every time an obvious “no-win” moral dilemma scene/scenario came up. I limped my way through two or three vignettes of 400 days, and then decided there was just no way I could stay interested in these characters, which were either fated to be killed horribly by some other mortal or mortal turned zombie. Nihilism / Anomie 1: Jeromai 0. Except I guess I also win by choosing not to buy or play any more goddamn seasons.

Perhaps I’ll keep an eye on Tales from the Borderlands once it finishes, that seems a little more lighthearted and up my alley, as opposed to something like *ugh* Game of Thrones, which doubtless contains more blood-grimdarkness-politics-nowinscenarios, I’m guessing.)

Despite those that didn’t make the cut, there were a LOT of suddenly-now-75%-off games on my wishlist that were mostly under $5 that didn’t have any obvious reasons for why they shouldn’t be bought and given a try…

Self-control 0, Steam 1 (or 19, rather:)

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(Plus a few more in the $10 range that were just too tempting, solid reviews though.)

So…uhhhh… yeah… I need to find the time to install and at least -try- the games for an hour or two. No plans to complete them entirely, but I really should play them and have fun with the lot.

It’s only Day 3 of the sale. I’m doomed.

Free-2-Play Games On the To-Try Someday List

I mentioned my new TV channel surfing habit of flipping through “recommended”  Youtube videos, right?

Some random dudes made a Top Ten list of Free 2 Play Steam games, that probably turned up on my suggested watching list because they mentioned Dota 2 and my TV channel surfing account has a bunch of Dota 2 related channels on subscription, and I suddenly accumulated a list of free-2-play games that I ought to try for fun. After all, they’re free and on Steam, right?

Warframe, Robocraft, and TERA are all stuff sitting in the back of my mind, poking me every now and then that I should make a go at them, if only for a night to get some initial impressions.

They mentioned Marvel Heroes, which is one of those games which are just so colorfully attractive in terms of IP, and yet equally intriguing to me is the “Is this all there is to it?” question that hits me every time I dive into it. Kill a metric ton of PvE mobs that put up no fight whatsoever, accumulate many numbers on many things, find increasing numbers and wear those things to kill even higher metric tons of PvE mobs that put up no fight whatsoever? Surely there’s -more- to Marvel Heroes than what initially hits the casual eye… (who knows, I’ve never made it beyond the second story mode difficulty because it got so damn boring and I end up diverted running cycles through Midtown Madness instead to increment higher and higher numbers.)

Then they talk about Path of Exile, and I’m like, YEAH, THAT GAME IS AWESOME. And I’m SO going to be back when the Awakening expansion is finally done and I get to play Act 4.

And they close with the utter king of Steam Free-To-Play games… Dota 2.

Dota 2

Uh… right. I was supposed to be playing a match every day.

Except I got busy, and then distracted doing a whole bunch of other stuff.

I still -do- intend to keep playing it, and learning more, of course.

And apparently they’ve JUST announced a rework of their client, calling it Dota 2 Reborn.

Which is kind of awesome, in more ways than one.

Being all newbie and stuff, I’m especially intrigued by the advertised new tutorial, as well as the feature that will allow one to “demo a hero” to try out their abilities and practice last hitting, which seems like a quick and convenient way to get a feel for various heroes and learn their abilities, as opposed to having to click a bunch of buttons to start an entire bot match just to do so.

Seems like next week, they’ll make some kind of announcement regarding custom games, likely building it in as part of the client’s UI and streamlining the process of downloading/trying out/joining custom games, which might make the subgenre more popular and possibly attract more folks to work on such stuff, potentially yielding all that player-generated content that saves the devs from needing to focus on such things.

(Hey, maybe we’ll eventually see a few maps/modes that support singleplayer gameplay, which would be amusing to try out. Casually skimming the existing list of custom games reveals a great deal of apparent junk, but also a few intriguing sounding maps, such as survival against various enemy waves or a new map that is almost RPG-esque in its looks but presumably plays like a normal MOBA. Presumably good stuff will rise to the top in time.)

Regardless, there’s plenty of extra shiny that seems to be coming Soon(TM).

Gratuitous Screenshots of a Real Life Kind

With this many games that I could be playing, what have I been doing instead these past weekends?

Playing tourist in my own country.

Beyond visiting various heritage enclaves (Chinatown, Geylang Serai, etc.) and sampling all the highly recommended food therein, the family finally got around to visiting one of the newer attractions the other day – Gardens By the Bay.

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The infamous boat atop the Marina Bay Sands, as seen via the Dragonfly Lake in the free public areas of the Gardens.

To my surprise, it was a lot better than I expected. Seems several years passing has given the plants a chance to settle in and look a little less sorry.

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The iconic, yet rather weird-looking, Supertree structures.

Ostensibly some sort of marriage between urban modernity and nature, the outer layer is covered by a vertical garden and apparently lights up like a Christmas tree at night (something I have yet to get around to seeing.)

We found ourselves more impressed by the “green” sustainability story around these structures. There are apparently photovoltaic cells atop them that store energy during the day and provide the power to light themselves up at night (and maybe a nearby fountain or two.) Some of them help to vent air out of the cooled conservatories (aka giant greenhouse domes,) yet another plant-like function.

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The lighting’s poor in this one, but hey, there’s actually plants managing to ascend and partially cover the horribly bare purple and green metal “fake branch” canopy on this particular Supertree.

I suppose they might actually look tree-like in another decade or so… assuming the vines don’t barbeque in our tropical sun and wilt, falling off the structure (seems someone may have been a tad idealistic in hoping the plants would cooperate regarding this design.)

The cooled conservatories, which are ticketed, were really quite nifty.

Ah, the irony of the tropics. In temperate countries, people build greenhouses to keep their plants warm and create humidity. Here, we air condition the greenhouse to make it cooler and more temperate.

The Cloud Forest aims to simulate a tropical or subtropical environment at higher elevations, atop mountains and so on. So only the temperature is cooled and the humidity is left to run hog wild.

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A seven-story concrete structure covered by plants to simulate a “mountain,” er… “a hill,” er… ok, ok, a “mound.”

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It really is pretty though. And the cool, damp environment is extremely pleasant to walk around in, as contrasted with the outside weather.

We managed to be in the right place at the right time to catch one of the scheduled mistings.

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Feeling a little like stepping back in time to the Jurassic.

Then I turned around and went, “OMG, GW2 god rays!” (sure sign one plays too much) and started snapping like a madman.

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*dreamy sigh* Right out of an Anet landscape… Heart of Thorns, eat your heart out.

bromeliad

This bromeliad was pretty cool. Looked to be one of those that form its own mini-pond community, aka a tank bromeliad that has a phytotelma. (Ah, the things one learns from Google and Wikipedia.)

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A rather sizeable pitcher plant.

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A metric f–kton more pitcher plants.

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Amusing myself with different shutter speeds.

I managed to burn through a new set of batteries (forgot spares) before we even hit the Flower Dome, which left me a touch sparse on good pictures.

The climate in there was glorious though. The air is run through some sort of dehumidifying system, along with being cooled, and it absolutely felt like walking around in a temperate country. Definitely going to revisit again. Cheaper than an air ticket.

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I’ll just leave this photo here which seems to encapsulate most of its contents. Brilliant succulent garden, a collection of baobabs/bottle trees, a lot of plants enthusiastically blooming.

Oh, ok, maybe one more. Because I love these little critters.

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And this is a gaming blog, right? So here’s your mini-game: how many stone plants are in this picture?

(Stay distracted. Kthxbai. Back later with actual game stuff. I hope.)