Categotry Archives: Video Games

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There’s no UI in the word “team”

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Never Fail
Never!

It’s been almost a year since we discussed the digital card game Solforge on the podcast, and I haven’t ragequit once. If anything, I’ve stepped up my playtime, including a couple of ongoing async games with friends and a fair number of real-time tournaments or random matches. It’s fun!

But we need to talk about UI. Solforge recently released its shiny new client, and while there are a few things to love about it, they made some elementary interface mistakes that are shocking to see in a pro-quality game in 2016. Wasted space, confusing layout, and poorly displayed information caused one game designer pal to call it a “sobering UI nightmare.” This Reddit post lays out the problems in detail–it’s not just the standard resistance to change that we all know and hate.

But it’s not all bad! I like the new card design, and some of the other new elements are pretty sweet as well–but they’re drowning in a sea of bad choices (which is also the title of my forthcoming memoir). They’re working on it, but it’s hard to see how they can fix some of the issues without a major overhaul.

Game designers, I’m talking to you now: Take your interface seriously from day one. Your revolutionary mechanics, eye-popping art, and delightful storytelling will all die lonely deaths if your players run into any obstacles at all. It’s hard work, and it may carve out more of your time and cash on hand than you’d like, but it should be an uncuttable corner. Solforge will survive and may even improve as a result, but it has a sizable player base and additional support to keep it going through this rough patch. New games don’t have that luxury.

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Episode 64 – Fallout 4 DLC

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Building advanced robots, but still wearing the Vault Suit.
Building advanced robots, but still wearing the Vault Suit.

The first round of DLC is out for Fallout 4, and we’re as happy as ever to gab about our favorite game (well, our collective favorite, anyway). Players have tons of new settlement options plus a mid-length story that brings robots front and center and a longer story set in a new, spoooooky location. The very latest DLC (Contraptions Workshop) just came out a few days ago, and we’ll likely report on that later in the summer after the rest of the content drops.

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Robots Ate My Lunch

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Automatron
Automatron

This week’s podcast (coming soon!) is all about our return to the world of Fallout 4 now that the DLC is live and available on consoles. But first, a tale of hubris that took place after we recorded:

I was feeling pretty smug, as I often do. This time it was because I had breezed through the end game with a ton of Luck perks and a tricked-out Gauss rifle, one-shotting fools on all sides and loving the hell out of VATS. I would have bumped the difficulty up a notch or two from Normal, but I wanted to get to the end a little faster.

And I did! And there’s neat stuff when you get there, at least in the Railroad-aligned finish. But then I started to check out the Automatron DLC, and, well, my lunch got eaten. By robots.

I stumbled into a one-sided firefight between a bunch of junky-looking robots and some wasteland folk and thought I’d save the day as usual, ho hum, shut up Preston. After murdering hundreds of Institute synths, these rusty jokers would make easy kills. I popped one with a quick VATS sneak attack and then took some time to check out the rest of the opposition. While scanning, I was quickly surrounded by my kill’s grieving friends, and before I even thought to look at my health bar, I’d been pounded into a slo-mo death animation.

Invigorating! I managed to take them out the second time with the help of some chems and a deeper investment in self-preservation, and I’ve found every battle since then to be challenging and life-affirming. I even had to drag a power armor out of storage for one battle, breaking my looooong chain of Silver Shroud cosplay.

And so I recalibrate my expectations and ponder cranking up the difficulty in search of punchier adrenaline squirts. Maybe a quick, smooth ride to the end isn’t what it’s all about. Maybe I need to wander through my settlements and build them up from the sleeping-bag-infested work camps I threw together in my rush to read the last page. Maybe death really does make us appreciate life more.

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J.J. Abrams Rekindles Hopes for Portal and Half-Life Films

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Portal: No Escape short film

In a recent interview with IGN about 10 Cloverfield Lane J.J. Abrams addressed the progress of the Portal and Half-Life films that he and Gabe Newell—head of Valve, the studio that made both games—announced back in 2013. Abrams told IGN, “Not yet, but they’re in development… And we’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.”

It’s interesting to imagine what a Portal movie would be… especially considering that Abram’s collaborator on 10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan Trachtenberg, created a live-action short film called Portal: No Escape back in 2011. In case you missed Trachtenberg’s short, it’s a great proof-of-concept:

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Episode 53 – Soma, Legends of Tomorrow, Kingdom Rush

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Legends of Soma Rush!
Legends of Soma Rush!

It’s another delicious Nerdhole Sandwich! Mary delves deep into the underwater horror game Soma, Rob explains his tentative endorsement of Legends of Tomorrow, and Paul shares his delight for the tower defense game Kingdom Rush. So filling.

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Episode 51 – Puzzle Quest

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So many puzzles, so many quests...
So many puzzles, so many quests…

It’s a quest…for puzzles. Rob shares his passion for certain Puzzle Quest games and his disdain for others while Mary explores what doesn’t quite work about Adventure Time‘s foray into the genre.

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Episode 47 – Fallout 4

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2 out of 3 Minutemen are women.
2 out of 3 Minutemen are women.

It’s been out for a few weeks, and we’ve finally managed to pull ourselves away from our platforms of choice (Rob’s on a PC, while Mary and Paul are burning it up XBox-style) to chatter excitedly about the unstoppable coolness of Fallout 4. They’ve improved elements that needed work and left plenty of good stuff as-is. By the time you listen, we’ll have easily clocked over 200 hours between us. Please send food!

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Episode 44 – Framed and Banner Saga

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Who killed Bambi?
Who killed Bambi?

This week, we take a look back at the unique puzzle game Framed and the dark, rich, Norse-flavored world of Banner Saga. Rob’s ragequit problem pops up, as ever, but he’s a solid convert now.

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