GamesRadar - Wii Features, 23 Jan 2015 16:59:24 -0800RadioRadar podcast 123: Behind The Minecraft, 23 Jan 2015 16:59:24 -0800 game did you love that everyone hated? <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>We all have that <i>one game</i>, that misunderstood gem in the back of our collection that's still close to our heart. The same one that, when mentioned to friends (or judgemental coworkers) gets us nothing but eye-rolls and cries of "Wait, you actually LIKE that game?" Yes, we do like it, dammit, and we're proud about it too! It's not our fault the rest of you don't see the genius - or just goofy fun - found in these games. </p><p> Nonetheless, we'll give it a shot. Each editor has selected a game he or she feels has been universally panned but still has plenty of entertainment to offer. Dive into this list with an open mind, and you might just find a new favorite for your collection. Just be cautious about who you talk to about this new purchase.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>At first blush, Mystical Ninja starring Goemon is a Super Mario 64 clone on a system with far too many Super Mario 64 clones. And if you looked at it as such (like many reviewers at the time did), that's all you saw. The jumping was imprecise, the camera even worse, and the entire game was plagued by an encroaching layer of fog - you know, just like every other Nintendo 64 game out there. But if (like me), that system was all you had, you were likely starving for something, anything (seriously, <i>anything</i>) to play. So, armed with my trusty Nintendo Power, I rented it from Blockbuster and plowed through it. And oh, boy, am I glad I did. </p><p> See, Mystical Ninja starring Goemon isn't just a Super Mario 64 clone, it's one of the most surreal, bat-shit bonkers games you're likely to find on the N64. In it, Goemon is trying to stop the Peach Mountain Shoguns from turning feudal Japan into a Westernized theater with a giant laser beam. A laugh track plays over every single bad joke in the game. Many boss fights culminate in a showdown between two screen-sized mechs - oh, but first you're treated to an <a href="" target="_blank">entire theme song</a> every single time. Yeah, Mystical Ninja starring Goemon may not be a 'good' game in the traditional sense, but I guarantee that it's unlike everything you've ever played.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Which game do I love that everyone hates? Lollipop Chainsaw. Apparently it's dumb, clunky, poorly-written and all the rest. But I really do like the partnership between Nick and Juliet. There are some fantastic lines in there. The one about being racist towards cows, the one where Nick does a really sarcastic cheerleading chant, and - of course - the timeless classic: "What the dick?" </p><p> It sounds awful on paper and it probably is. And it certainly isn't what you would describe as 'classy'. But I really enjoyed playing it. And the 'sparkle hunting' rainbow-spewing multiple beheading chainsaw moments are beautiful. And yes, dammit, now I want to play it again. Yeah, tut all you want. OK, ready for the in-joke about three people will get? "Oh wait, I fucked up. It's Sonic 4: Episode 1." Ithankyaw.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You know when you pick up a delicious cake, stuff it merrily into your mouth, and thoroughly enjoy it, knowing full-well that it’s not exactly a nourishing piece of sustenance but who cares, because it’s cake and that’s sort of entirely the point? Yeah? Thought so. And you know when someone comes along later, sees the crumbs, and says “Oh, cake? You were eating <i>cake?</i> What were you thinking, you idiot, no-one likes cake. It’s well-known by all to be disgusting." No, of course you don’t. Because that would be madness. But that’s exactly what happens every time I mention enjoying Quake 4. </p><p> Does it have the bona fide, groundbreaking classic status of Quakes 1, 2 and 3? No. Is it fun? Is it a decent, grimly satisfying, sci-fi horror FPS, with great weapons and some rather cool ideas? Yes it is. Yes it is that <i>all the way</i>. Hell, the nightmare Stroggification sequence is worth the price of admission alone. It was a groundbreaking use of first-person storytelling at the time, and the way the game uses it to overhaul the gameplay - after holding back on Quake’s more kinetic excesses for the first part of the game - is pretty damn smart indeed. My Quake cake. I shall have it, and I shall eat it, and I shall thumb my nose at you, Revisionist Popular Internet Hivemind.</p> </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>It may seem odd to claim love for a multi-million dollar franchise starter that 'everyone else hated', but this one's all about the timing. While the first Assassin's Creed game was incredibly popular when it first came out, I didn't get into the franchise until after the release of AC2, and by then people were singing a different tune. After Ezio hit the scene, it was agreed among the fanbase that newcomers should skip Altair's tale and save themselves the torture of an endless fetch quest stream and repeating the same mission over and over again. Luckily, I went charging into the first Assassin's Creed before anyone could convince me not to, and it's still one of my favorite in the series. </p><p> I won't deny that the gameplay is relatively simple and repetitive, but that's part of what I loved about it: missions were very similar with <i>just</i> enough differences that using what you knew in a new set of circumstances became a fun challenge. Without ten million sidequests to complete, the mission was your primary objective, and every target I took down felt like a big step toward my goal. AC1 also gave me my favorite AC protagonist, Altair, who I've always adored far and above the wildly-loved Ezio. Sure Ezio has swagger, but Altair's very human flaws and his ability to overcome them made him cheer him on through every bit of sarcasm. Plus, this game introduced him to his soon-to-be wife. How can you hate their adorable, snarky love?</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Analytically, scientifically, I know that the Mario Party games are random, messy affairs that take far too long to play and can be quite frustrating. I know the pain of losing a hard earned star to an impossible twist of fate, and how very unfair its unbalanced gameplay can feel. I know <i>all this</i>, but if you asked me to play a round of Mario Party with you right now, I'd instantly say yes. </p><p> What's wrong with me? Well, I'm a big fan of real life board games, with the friendly (and down right vindictive) spirit of competition taking hold, and the Mario Party series is a fitting venue. I also tend to enjoy the goofy minigames included, and some are way more inventive than they’re given credit for. Hate on it all you like, but I’m more than ready to give the amiibo-centric sequel a try. I’d play it long before another round of Monopoly.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I'm a firm believer that as long as you're playing with friends, any game can go from being god-awful to a grand old time. Take Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a misguided attempt to adapt Capcom's survival horror franchise into a multiplayer co-op romp in the same infected vein as Left 4 Dead. But instead of exploring tense environments as iconic zombie killers like Jill Valentine or Leon Kennedy, you trudge from one bit of ho-hum cover-shooting to the next with a squad of random Umbrella agents. </p><p> And yet, I had the time of my life playing it with a certain <a href="" target="new">Greg H</a>. Every glitch, failed firefight, or instance of idiotic AI incited a laugh riot, and the original characters' banter and bizarre designs (like the <a href="" target="new">comically giant goggles on Vladimir</a>) actually became quite endearing over time. Rather than eliminate the undead with maximum efficiency, we were more focused on who could snag collectible data packets first (Greg always won). If you're looking for dumb RE fun with up to four players in online co-op, then I highly recommend what Greg and I lovingly refer to as "Operation Raccoon Shizzy".</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>No, I'm not talking about the awesome TMNT arcade game that everyone loves; I'm talking about the red-headbands-on-the-cover, glitchy TMNT side-scroller with the God-forsaken dam level. Yeah, <i>that</i> TMNT game. I love that game. Everything about it is awesome. I mean, in what other TMNT game can you play as any of the Turtles at any time, fight iconic characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, <i>and</i> actually drive around a Turtle Van that shoots cannonballs? Not many, my friends. </p><p> Look, if you hate it, that's fine. I'm not going to claim that it's a perfect game. But, if you gave up and never beat the dam level, you're just not a true TMNT fan. You're just not trying very hard. There are way harder levels in other games. The dam is actually pretty easy if you give it more than one shot. Give me the unwieldy controls, instant pit deaths, and randomly respawning enemies. I'll play this game any day.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There was one thing - one crucial thing - developer GRIN had to nail when developing the 2009 reboot of Bionic Commando: the swinging. And they <b>crushed it</b>. I'm talking home run grand slam power bomb boom shaka laka hit this one out of the park (and into low orbit). Zipping between high beams and tree branches in this game is a blast, from the rush of speed you feel as Spencer dips into the arc of his swing, to the way he floats in midair <i>just long enough</i> for you to line up your next shot. You can almost feel the wind whipping through Spencer's oily dreadlocks. </p><p> And that's where the problems lie. The dreadlocks. The all-too-serious tone. The <b>wife arm</b> (don't ask). Bionic Commando was not without some controversial design decisions, but they're only skin deep. After three completed playthroughs (and counting), I can assure you the game's swing-and-shoot action soars above its plot, and creates firefights that are far more interesting to navigate than the typical, cover-based action of other third-person shooters. The game is a wild ride, the swinging feels easy and exciting, and for crying out loud it's dirt cheap on Amazon. Spend some time with it this weekend.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The games found in this list aren't for everyone, and that's a good thing. Often times, whether you're talking about games or movies or books or any other creative work, your favorites - that ones that really stick with you - aren't going to be the most popular. They're not going to have that mass-market, something-for-everyone appeal. Instead, they're going to focus on something that connects with you specifically, and that's what makes them special. What personal treasures are in your collection? Let us know in the comments below. </p><p> <b><i>And if you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out <a href="">Backlog backed up? Here's how to conquer it in 2015</a> and <a href="">Your A to Z guide to the '90s raddest gaming mascots</a>.</b></i></p></caption> </div> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:00:01 -0800 Which Zelda character are you?, 23 Jan 2015 11:10:24 -0800 best (and worst) features we’ll miss from Club Nintendo <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You know how you’ll buy ten sandwiches at that corner shop to eventually earn a free meatball sub? Well, some years ago, Nintendo decided to take that approach with its games, rewarding its fans with free stuff for buying the publisher’s products. And now, after Club Nintendo’s ups and downs (if you believe the internet, mostly downs), Nintendo is pulling the plug on the global service. <p>As someone who registered literally hundreds of items with Club Nintendo, I was as sad about the program’s demise as anyone. But I’m not here to bury Caesar, I’m here to praise him! There are so many great things Club Nintendo gave to company diehards over the years, whether it was something physical, digital, or just a modest sense of community. And now, as Nintendo preps a new approach to rewarding consumers, let’s look back on the many great (and even not-so-great) aspects of disappearing service.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Easily Club Nintendo’s most obvious highlights were all the physical items you could earn. After registering games and accruing hundreds of coins or stars (depending on region), you could get all kinds of Nintendo memorabilia that couldn’t be found in stores. There were posters, playing cards, pins, folders, and much, much more - though the prices didn’t always make sense. You had to register six games to get a tiny Mario badge? It was a bit much. <p>Out of the many things I got gratis from Club Nintendo (even the shipping was free!), my favorites were the practical items. I’m not 15 anymore, so a set of posters doesn’t do much for me, but Mario hand towels? A desk rack for storing DS carts? A Pikmin tote bag? Historically accurate recreations of old hanafuda cards and Game & Watch machines? Now <i>those</i> are things I can (and do) use in everyday life.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Nintendo didn’t restrict Club Nintendo to physical releases either, as games were also claimable. However, as nice as it may be to receive a free port of Super Mario Land for a few hundred coins/stars, Club Nintendo also hosted a number of free titles you couldn’t get anywhere else. In the US, the practice began with an early version of North America’s Club Nintendo giving away the indispensable The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition for registering a couple games. And the exclusives only grew from there. <p>Grill-Off with Ultra Hand! is an early reward that gave many Club Nintendo alums a set of Wii minigames based on Nintendo’s grabby toy of the 1960s. The team behind the Punch-Out!! reboot pit trainer vs. trainee in Doc Louis’ Punch-Out!!, an extremely rare Wii download that only North American Club Nintendo folks could get in 2009. And then there were the Game & Watch Collections for DS, exclusive (and very simple) recreations of some of Nintendo’s earliest games. All of these could only be claimed by Nintendo devotees ready to register every game under the sun - or those ready to pay big bucks on eBay.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Just about every publisher has gotten into the business of fancy freebies and extras for preordering the next big sequel. Yet, Club Nintendo was where the N took a different approach from its competitors. Instead of giving you some exclusive costume or gun, registering a particular game with the service could net you soundtracks, posters, new characters, or even a hefty amount of store credit. <p>Registering Ocarina of Time 3D got you a CD version of the soundtrack, and you were similarly rewarded for registering both versions of Super Smash Bros. in 2014. Add Kid Icarus: Uprising to your account and you’d get a set of AR Cards not offered in US stores. If you bought the combo of Fire Emblem: Awakening and Shin Megami Tensei 4 (games that any real RPG fan was going to buy anyway), you got $30 in eShop credit. And then there’s the exclusive DLC attached to games like Hyrule Warriors and Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U. In retrospect, Nintendo could’ve done this type of stuff with way more games, but whenever we <i>did</i> get a special offer, it always felt worthwhile.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you were a particular level of Nintendo obsessive, you registered enough games to qualify for either ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’ tiered rewards once a year. Being a crazy consumer, I ranked Platinum every year and for a time collected some really cool stuff offered on the North America store. I got a pretty detailed Mario figurine, a Mario hat I wear on special occasions, and the aforementioned Doc Louis’ Punch-Out!! It was fun for a time… but then the rewards started to go downhill. <p>Exclusive games and figurines are impressive, and look even better compared to the tiny desk calendar, and shoddy set of pins that came down the line. As the years wore on, it seemed like Nintendo’s heart just wasn’t into the Platinum rewards anymore. I get that sending out stuff all across the country is pricey, but if you’re only going to offer a small set of playing cards instead of an exclusive figure or hat, why even bother? Those rewards felt like a last minute gift your uncle bought you on the way to your birthday party.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Speaking of not being happy with what you’ve got, any Club Nintendo member outside of Japan would be routinely filled with rage when they saw the cool stuff that never left the island nation. See, Club Nintendo had been running much longer in Japan than in every other part of the world, so that branch had a lot of momentum behind its freebies. So, if you want to preserve your sanity, you may want to head to the next slide before seeing what items stayed in Japan. <p>When it came to games, Club Nintendo Japan released an impressively odd remake of Balloon Fight that cast lovable weirdo Tingle as the lead. There’s also the fanservice-laden card game Nintendoji, and an exclusive digital rerelease of the underrated Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. But my eyes get extra green when I see the non-game rewards, like an anniversary soundtrack for Luigi, or CDs for the stellar Super Mario Galaxy orchestral scores, or a couple of fashionable Mario and Luigi handbags, or a Wii Classic controller that looked like a Famicom joypad. But the exclusive, ridiculously rare Chotto Mario-themed 3DS is the easiest to covet of Japan's freebies. Just try finding one of those online for less than a grand.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Reaching the end of Club Nintendo has gotten me all nostalgic, so I headed to my account and looked back on everything I registered. It’s a loooooong list, with over 350 items registered over the last 11 years. Though that includes demos and game updates, so I’m not <i>as crazy</i> as that number seems. Aside from reminding me that I’ve played a LOT of games since 2003, that registration list is also an unexpected journal for my fandom. <p>Thanks to Club Nintendo, I know it was September 26, 2013 when I decided to try Hakuouki: Memories of the Shinsengumi, and that I first played Elite Beat Agents two days after Christmas in 2006. Where were you on June 14, 2005? Because I know I had just opened up a Nintendo DS. As a gamer, it’s easy to lose track of the when and where of it all, but if you’ve been devoted to Club Nintendo through its entire run, your history with the company is chronicled for more than a decade.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>It’s easy to remember Club Nintendo for all the free crap it delivered, but that ignores all the hard work involved in actually acquiring the lovely junk. To score those coins/stars, you had to register a game and then spend valuable minutes filling out lengthy questionnaires for your purchase. Having a pile of surveys to complete could feel like a real chore, but after doing dozens of them, you realized out how to fly right through them - mainly by not giving a fuuuuuuuuu... <p>That part that asks for a number? Put in 99 or 22 or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Nintendo wants you to explain what you liked about the game in 150 words? Type in “gdfsgsdgonsdnsgokn.” The system can’t tell the difference - and I don’t write reviews for free. The last seven years of my surveys couldn’t have been all that useful to Nintendo, but all I know is that I got my hands on that free stuff much, much faster.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I want to take one last moment to spotlight the extra effort Nintendo put into the freebies, including some stuff that many didn’t notice. When it came time to design a set of hanafuda cards, the cover to a CD soundtrack, or a tote bag, the company could’ve slapped any old art on the giveaways. Instead, Nintendo put the work to get their top class artists to create brand new portraiture for Club Nintendo. <p>Look at those highly stylized cards above! Stare at that calendar cover! And marvel at the energy and excitement crammed into the Super Mario 3D World soundtrack case! Not everyone noticed, but if you were paying attention, Club Nintendo was like a secret gallery showcasing the company’s talented art team.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Club Nintendo will soon be no more, but what could take its place? Nintendo says it plans to roll out a new customer loyalty system, but will I be able to get a new tote bag when it debuts? Will my catalogue of previously registered games simply vanish? So many questions without answers. In the meantime, please head to the comments section below to share your own Club Nintendo memories as the service rides off into the sunset. <p><b><i>Need to console yourself with more Nintendo features? Check out this dense list of <a href="" target="_blank">Nintendo trivia</a>, and <a href="">40 obscure facts and random trivia about Super Mario</a>.</i></b></caption> </div> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:00:03 -0800 backed up? Here&#39;s how to conquer it in 2015 <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When you're a kid, there's no such thing as a video game backlog. You get a few new games a year as birthday or holiday gifts, and you have all the time in the world to play them courtesy of summer vacation. But you and I are adults now, and backlogs are a very real, ever-present part of our continuously growing game libraries. Disposable income and awesome year-round sales give us the means to buy tons of worthwhile games, but real-world responsibilities have robbed us of the time we need to actually play them all. <p>But I'm vowing to put a dent in my overwhelmingly giant backlog (which you're about to see some selections from) over the next 12 months - and judging by the responses to <a href="" target="new">GR+'s 2015 gaming resolutions</a>, it seems like a lot of you are in the same boat. Of course, saying you're going to conquer <a href="" target="new">your Steam library</a> or the stack of unopened games on your shelf is quite different from actually <i>accomplishing</i> it. If you're determined to finally beat your backlog this year, I've got some sensible tips to help make it happen for the both of us (fingers crossed).</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>I started doing this in 2013, and it's amazing how much it's helped me to chip away at my backlog. Make the list wherever you like - Google Docs, various game-tracking websites like <a href="" target="new">The Backloggery</a>, a piece of scratch paper, whatever. But being able to look at just how many games you've plowed through, all catalogued in one place, is strangely empowering. Suddenly, it becomes that much more exciting to finally complete a game, so you can add it to the list and move right along to next one. Whittling away titles from your backlog feels so much more meaningful when you've made a record of their completion, rather than letting the experience fade into the aether of your gaming memories. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>There's always that game that you'll totally start playing... tomorrow. Time and again, you notice it, smile at the thought of diving into it one day, then return to the game you were actually looking forward to playing. It's time to stop kidding yourself. I've been meaning to play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion since the Game of the Year Edition in 2007, but you know what? I'm never going to make the time to do so, and I need to be at peace with that. It's not the end of the world to have bought a game but never play it. Instead of thinking of it as wasted money, treat it like a constant reminder to be more deliberate with future purchases. In other words...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>It's so tempting to snatch up the new hotness, isn't it? There's always the fear that if you don't, you risk missing out on the latest zeitgeist or having secrets spoiled for you by random dopes on the Internet. But too often, we buy games at full price and only find the time to play them when they're being sold at a ludicrous discount. I've talked at length about <a href="" target="new">the many advantages of being late to the party</a>, but I'll trumpet it again: good things come to those who wait. In the long run, staving off the impulse to pre-order or buy AAA releases on day one without the express intent of playing them <i>immediately</i> will keep games out of your backlog and money in your wallet.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>If you think you're going to happily crank through every Final Fantasy or Grand Theft Auto game in order, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Playing multiple RPGs or open-world games back-to-back can be exhausting no matter how enjoyable they are, because the breadth of content will start to feel like a neverending grind. Instead, alternate between the bigger games on your backlog and shorter, bitesized experiences. I recommend using the excellent site <a href="" target="new">HowLongToBeat</a> to figure out which of your backlog games will take the most time, making sure that you don't stack all the biggies and burn yourself out in the process.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Speaking of calculating the time it takes to beat a game, it's best that you set some guidelines for yourself when taking on your backlog. My recommendation? Stick to the main campaign and forget about 100 percent completion or DLC missions, even if you already own them. It's totally fine to make an exception for the games you're really loving - but if you're determined to attain every hidden collectible, perfect mission score, and challenge mode to get the most bang for your buck, you're going to end up hating yourself. Forget those fleeting leaderboard positions and ultimately pointless achievements - this is about beating your backlog.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Remember how I talked about making a list of the games you beat? Well, why not do what I seem to do subconsciously in all aspects of life: turn it into a competition! There's a good chance that you and your buddies skipped many of the same games, so why not egg each other on to see who can strike them from the backlog list first? Once you get going, you'll be breezing through your stockpile just to one-up your friends. Yes, you might get accused of padding your list with short indie games (like yours truly) - but you know what? Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet wasn't going to beat itself.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Of course you can't play through all your backlog games at once - <i>that's absurd</i>. But if you think you can just bounce back and forth between them, you're just going to distract yourself to the point of inaction. Instead of trying to inch your way through a bunch of games simultaneously, pick one or two to commit to, and don't allow yourself to play the rest until they're complete. It takes discipline, but when you refuse to let yourself get sidetracked, you'll end up reaching your goal that much quicker.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>There are some games that people feel like they need to play for reference, be it a timeless classic like Earthbound, a continuously popular release like Skyrim, or a touchstone of gaming culture like BioShock. But if you boot up the game and just aren't feeling it after a handful of hours, my recommendation is that you just move on. Yes, some games only 'get good' after a dozen hours of investment - but that's time you could spend playing through backlog games that you enjoy every second of. Unless you think you're going to regret your decision on your deathbed, don't force yourself to play through something just to say you did. And hey, that game will always be there if you change your mind. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Before you jump back into a backlog game that you started but never finished, really think about what that might mean. Will you remember the mechanics and controls that got you to your most recent save point, or be able to pick them back up fairly quickly? Did you retain the crucial plot beats up to that point, enough to feel the impact of any twists or revelations that might lie ahead? Do you remember what made you stop playing in the first place, and are you ready to overcome it this time around? If you're unsure about these three questions, then there's a hard choice you have to make: either start the game over from scratch, or just nix it from your backlog completely. Sometimes, it's probably best to stick with the latter. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Looking at a hard drive full of unplayed games can paralyze even the bravest would-be backlog conqueror. When you have so many games just staring you in the face, all of them waiting to be played, it can induce the same anxiety as a stack of unopened bills or those 200 pages of <i>War and Peace</i> you need to read by this Friday. Instead of downloading your digital library in bulk and trying to trudge your way through it, only install the games you plan on playing <i>right now</i>. Unless the Steam/Xbox Live/PSN servers all explode overnight, you'll be able to download your other games at any time - and it's so much easier to complete a task when you divide it up into manageable chunks instead of one monstrous burden.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>I'm not saying you should stop playing Destiny, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, or whatever happens to be your online drug of choice. But you have to realize that every moment you spend grinding for gear or climbing the online ladder is time that could go towards your backlog - something that actually has a tangible end point. If you're serious about clearing that stack of pressed-on-disc shame, maybe you <i>don't</i> need to run that raid for the seventh time in the hopes of a lucky drop. If you're hopelessly hooked, then by all means, enjoy it - just manage your expectations about the amount of backlog you can burn through. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>This one may be frowned upon by some, but I'm not ashamed to say that I've done it, and will continue to do so. If you're playing a game to experience the story, or explore its rich world, there's nothing wrong with dropping the difficulty down to Easy. Sure, you might not experience the same memorable roadblocks as other players - but when you think about it, is it really so terrible to miss out on an unpleasant shared experience? Easy ensures that you'll cruise through the story at a brisk, constantly engaging pace, without any slogs through grueling sections to discourage you from reaching your goal.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>So, think the aforementioned tips won't help? That means it's time to go nuclear. For instance, what if you could add 10 or so hours to your day? All you have to do is buy two of those IV drip chambers they use in hospitals, then fill one with saline solution and the other with Mountain Dew. Once you're all stocked up on adult diapers, you can lock yourself in a room with your backlog and refuse to come back to the known world until you've conquered your entire game library. Be sure to adjust your eyes to natural light slowly, lest you go blind in an instant.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>With all that money you saved picking up games on sale, you've got some chump change to throw around. So why not hire a surrogate who can just play through your backlog for you? You can take naps, spend time with friends, or be there for your kids, all while someone else goes through the trouble of playing your games to completion for minimum wage. Once they're finished, ask them to compile the CliffsNotes version of each game, so you can get the same experience in a fraction of the time.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption>Gather your backlog of games, cases and all, into a sturdy knapsack, then begin the harrowing trek up the tallest mountain you can find. Once you've reached its rocky summit, breathe deeply to fill your lungs with cool, calming air. Raise the sack of games above your head, then with all your might, literally hurl your backlog off a cliff and watch as it tumbles into the unseen wilderness. Who knows - perhaps a game-savvy camper will stumble upon it someday, and your backlog can become theirs. As for all those digital games you own, just commit multiple counts of credit card fraud and your account's as good as suspended! <i>[Editor's note: Do not actually do this.]</i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I can't guarantee that these tips will eradicate your backlog in one fell swoop - but let's you and I give it our all this year! Do you have any other insightful tips for keeping an ever-expanding backlog at bay? Which games will you be prioritizing on your to-do list? Tell me all about it in the comments section below. Oh, and just FYI, the games you've just seen from my backlog are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Saints Row The Third, Final Fantasy 7, GTA 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (donezo!), The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Earthbound, Etrian Odyssey 4, The Witcher 2, Knights of the Old Republic, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, Fallout: New Vegas, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, and Uncharted 3 - a mere fraction of what I have to get through before I die. And truth be told, I've already beaten Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, pictured above - I tossed it in here for Lorenzo's sake, and because it looks so cool. <p><b><i>And if you're looking for more, check out <a href="" target="new">7 normal, everyday things that are impossible to explain to non-gamers</a> and <a href="" target="new">13 hardcore challenges invented by players</a>.</p></b></i></caption> </div> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:00 -0800 custom characters that will haunt your dreams <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>More and more games give you the option to customize your character's appearance, but you're usually better off sticking with the pre-made suggestions. Sure, you could drop a few hours into tweaking sliders and prodding at palettes until you've made a perfect recreation of your (theoretical) lovechild with Chris Evans… but once you get her in the game, you'll probably realize the lighting was off and she actually has jaundiced skin and a severe overbite. <p>Thankfully for all of us, there's a better way: stop fighting the creepiness. Let the 'randomize' button do its work and then throw a few sliders to the maximum just for good measure. You'll come up with <i>instantly memorable results</i> in a tenth of the time and I'll have plenty of fodder for another article just like this one. Until then, let's bask in the glory of some of the strangest creatures to emerge from character generation.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>This guy looks like the failed result of a cloning experiment that used frog DNA to reconstruct incomplete parts of Hugo Weaving's genome. Life found a way (it always does), but in this case that way also led to asymetrical bug eyes, a nose that's threatening to soar off its face and into the stratosphere, and curiously well-oiled hair. But, really, I could have taken a screenshot of anybody in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and used it here. It's damn near impossible to make a Hero of Kvatch who doesn't look like they have a rotten cabbage atop their neck. <p><i>Frog Hero by <a href="" target="_blank">rhcpliker</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>"Ugh, I know Miranda did her best on the Lazarus Project, but Shepard isn't the same since he came back from the dead. No, no, it's not just the scars. It's… everything. The mouth, the nose, the eyes... God, the eyes! Whenever he looks at me it feels like he's trying to figure out which parts to eat first and which to save for breakf - what are you looking at… Oh. Oh. H-h-hello, Commander." <p><i>Creepy Shepard by <a href="" target="_blank">BoominBlox</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>OK, so the last one was obvious. Everybody's seen some off-kilter Shepards. Clearly BioWare wouldn't let it happen again in Dragon Age: Inquisition, right? Well. Hm. First we have to determine whether this guy is an elf, or if his ears just do that. And, to be fair, he'd still look like some kind of deep-sea terror even without them. Actually, you know what this Inquisitor is? He's what would happen if <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Nagel</a> drew a clown instead of Joan Collins. <p><i>Clownquisitor by <a href="" target="_blank">altairre</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Who's that walking next to Shaundi? No, not the elbow, that's Pierce. I had to cut him out of the image so I could give you a better look at whoever that is next to Shaundi. Is that a grown-up Chucky from <i>Child's Play</i>? No, no, Chucky's a doll, he couldn't grow up. Is it Carrot Top after an unsuccessful start to his boxing career? Ah, no, I know who that must be. That's Frida Kahlo's second cousin once removed, Frodo Kahlo. Shaundi always did appreciate the arts. <p><i>Frodo Kahlo by <a href="" target="_blank">rasugaming</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Oh, no, sorry. There's Chucky. Seems like he's taken up golf and dyed his hair brown, but that's probably just in accordance with PGA regulations. Hey, if hitting the links keeps him from killing babysitters, it sounds fine to me. Looking good out there, Chuck! <p><i>Source unknown, probably a bog somewhere</i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>Me gusta.</b> <p><i>Source unknown, but wherever it is, I like it</i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Dark Souls is another one of those games where it's a challenge to make something that doesn't look like a Stretch Armstrong figure post-microwave - it's probably a bigger feat to make a decent-looking dude than to finish the game with him. But this guy is unique, in that I think he might actually look better with the wrinkly, rotten skin of a Hollow. At least you could tell where his cheeks ended and his eye sockets began. Until then, all I can imagine is something that got cut out of Evangelion because they thought it would it would confuse people too much. <p><i>Human Instrumentality Man by <a href="" target="_blank">hehu42</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I really shouldn't make fun of this guy. He finally makes it as a pro football player only to get stung by 30 bees swarming his face. To add insult to grievous injury, Bugs Bunny then tricks him into sucking up a bunch of liquid alum with a straw so his mouth gets frozen in a permanent pucker. Then he notices his girlfriend making out with his best friend on the sidelines and is rightfully angry and hurt. It was just not a good day to appear in a video game. <p><i>Bad day pro by <a href="" target="_blank">IMACOMPUTA</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Have you ever seen one of those Korean horror movies where the protagonist's obsession with her own beauty eventually causes her undoing? And there's usually some horrible, deformed creature that symbolizes the path she's heading down if she keeps focusing on her looks to the exclusion of her friends and family (or maybe it's actually the spirit of a classmate she accidentally killed in high school)? That's pretty much this Sim's entire life. Great hair, though. <p><i>K-Horror Sim by <a href="" target="_blank">eiahmon</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>There's a good reason why everybody started off looking so damned ugly in GTA Online: the character creator didn't actually give you direct control of what anything would look like. The end result was a bunch of human compromises marauding around Los Santos, the creations of players who just couldn't be bothered to beat their heads against the system any more. But even now that Rockstar gives you more direct control, your character will still collect hideous scars and bruises throughout a busy play session - as was the case for this sorry-looking specimen, who wasn't even that handsome <i>before</i> he got that shiner. <p><i>Mr. Bruises by <a href="" target="_blank">Steve Hogarty</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Toad! Oh, no! This is why you were never supposed to follow Mario back through the warp pipe, Toad! You're an abomination! How could any just, loving, and GOOD GAWD ALMIGHTY allow such a creature to exist, even in WWE 2K14?! You make Goldust look like Margaret Thatcher! <p><i>Wrasslin' Toad by <a href="" target="_blank">TOH for VGCW</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>One of the many heartbreaking things about APB is that, no matter how incredibly intricate its character creator is, you'll simply <i>never look nearly as good in-game</i>. Your avatar will show up in the world with fuzzy textures and choppy hair, and you'll feel like you wasted hours perfecting a face only you would ever see in its true form. Unless you get wise like this player and make your character a scarred, misshapen wretch - in which case she'll actually look better with a thick coat of rendering vaseline slathered on. <p><i>Green, mean, poorly healing machine by <a href="" target="_blank">CptObvious</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>World of Warcraft only lets you pick a pre-made face from a dozen or so options for each race and gender combination. So you'd think they'd all be winners, right? Maybe winners in the 'everybody gets a medal' sense. But I have one serious question for anybody who picked the face in the upper right. Did you want your character to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger pretending to understand a joke? You can see Blizzard thankfully toned down the cluelessness in the modernized model below, so now he looks like he may get the joke after a few hours of careful consideration. <p><i>Facial collage by <a href="" target="_blank">MMO Champion</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>It's not the big potato head or the huge, bushy eyebrows. Plenty of Dragon Ball Z characters have those and I don't feel bad for them. It's not the Dumbo-level flappy ears or even the gaunt cheeks. No, the reason my heart aches when I look at this strange man is his sad, empty eyes. That's the look of a man who has gone through so much pain, who knows that he has so much more ahead. And miles to go before he sleeps, and miles to go before he sleeps. He really <i>does</i> look like a baked potato, though. <p><i>The Spud of Doubt by <a href="" target="_blank">Klimowicz</a></i></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Those are some of my favorite player-made aberrations, but I know that so many more are out there, waiting to spring to life on the character creators of tomorrow. Until then, why don't you share some of your beloved creeps in the comments below? <p><b><i>Want more creepy game people? You're a strange one. Well, might as well check out the <a href="" target="_blank">mutant pig-people who live in Forza Horizon 2</a> and these <a href="" target="_blank">bizarre, tragic Miiverse posts</a>.</i></b></caption> </div> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0800 strangest creator cameos gaming has ever seen <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you spent years of your life working on a single thing, wouldn’t you want to put your face all over it? That’s why, from time to time, some plain-looking folks appear in media as in-jokes by the producers, as they slip in a cameo for one of the behind-the-scenes people in stuff like <i>Pulp Fiction</i> or <i>Seinfeld</i>. Games engage in the 'creator cameos' trope just as much as anyone, though often only the weirdest moments are memorable. <p>If you don’t know the names of the people making your favorite games, creator cameos can be jarring, especially so when they’re as unexpected as these. Why just have your picture in the background when you can star in an escort mission? Or have game breaking powers? Or simply yell ‘Toasty!’ at the player? These are the times when game makers took full advantage of their limited screentime.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Series mastermind Hideo Kojima stuck his face in the background of several previous games, and even supplied the voice of a deity in a later game, but he took his cameos to a new level in 2014. Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes main mission is a little on the short side, so the game attempts to stretch things out with a handful of side missions, including one that <a href="" target="_blank">makes Kojima a central figure</a>. <p>Kojima made numerous cameos in previous Metal Gear games, but his most recent might also be the oddest, mainly for how much in your face Kojima is this time around. The mission has Snake flying in via helicopter and blasting his way through the base until he finds Hideo. Once he frees the boss and gets him to the chopper, the two fly off to safety, though Kojima’s consciousness isn’t fully restored until he puts back on his famous glasses. He then says, “What took you so long?” Is this a reference to the fans still patiently waiting for the next installment?</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Peter Moore has a long history in gaming, probably more storied than most realize. Years before he was showing off his Halo and GTA tattoos at E3, he ran Sega of America during the Dreamcast years. After gaining fame with Xbox, he moved on to Electronic Arts I’where he made his oddest appearance to date: as a virtual boxer in FaceBreaker. <p>Made as a throwback to arcadey punch-fests of old, FaceBreaker has over-the-top moves and finishers, along with a cartoonish collection of characters. A hyper-exaggerated version of Moore is among them, with the COO mainly included for promotional purposes at events like E3. And the devs included some truly famous folks in the virtual boxing ring via the character creator. So, if you’re wondering why you’ll find a video called '<a href="" target="_blank">Peter Moore vs. Kim Kardashian</a>,' FaceBreaker is why.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Speaking of Peter Moore, his E3 appearances at Microsoft led to another reference that many gamers either didn’t notice or didn’t get. In the underrated XBLA hit The Dishwasher, there’s an Achievement titled The Peter Moore, and the official description says "Pay homage to one of our generation's greatest rock performances ever." Considering it pops up while the protagonist plays a guitar, what could this possibly refer to? An E3 moment Moore likely wishes never happened. <p>Back at E3 2007, Peter Moore took part in an early live demo of the then-new Rock Band, and he didn’t yet have mastery of his instrument. As tens of thousands watched worldwide, Moore twice hit the Xbox guide button while playing, sending the rocking demo to a laughable halt. Dishwasher has some rhythm-based minigames where the character picks up an axe and wails away, and if you hit the guide button during the segment, you’ll net the Achievement. Hopefully, in the time between E3 and the game’s release, Moore looked back on the gaffe with humor instead of embarrassment.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Keiji Inafune made a name for himself as an outspoken game maker at Capcom, and then later as an independent developer. Also known as the man behind Mega Man, Inafune built his team at Comcept to create a number of new series - but he also found time to take part in the <i>very</i> niche crossover Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. <p>Neptunia is a weird JRPG series that doubles as meta-commentary about the games industry, with anime girl deities that work as thinly veiled counterparts to PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii consoles. Mk2’s industry commentary goes even deeper with cameos from characters like Disgaea’s Prinnies, and Keiji’s <a href="" target="_blank">giant, disembodied head</a>. Dubbed the Creator Sword, Inafune’s head is called down from on high, he shoots a massive energy beam out of his mouth, then his smiling visage returns to the heavens. For those unfamiliar with the history of Japanese gaming, that moment has to feel pretty damn random.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say <i>The Simpsons</i> is the most important piece of satire in the last century, and that it transformed society (OK, maybe that last bit is a little overboard). But I’ve been a super-fan of Springfield since I first saw it over 25 years ago, and its tongue-in-cheek humor was a huge draw. The series even had some scathing, self-referential attacks on the series creators, including Matt Groening. That same irreverence stretched to 2007’s The Simpsons Game, which had a joke where Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa <a href="" target="_blank">battled Groening in his mansion</a>. <p>Groening’s yellow-skinned creations have no doubt made him a rich man, but the game comically represents Groening as wealthier than Scrooge McDuck. The Simpsons battle their way through their creator’s mansion among piles of cash and gold, ultimately finding Groening in his cavernous office. Matt calls in some Futurama character cameos for assistance, but is still defeated by Springfield’s Finest. As he flees the battlefield, Groening writes his name on the screen as a final, egotistical move that’s fitting for his in-game persona.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>David Cage is either famous or infamous to most that know his name. He’s the outspoken developer behind Quantic Dream, a studio that attempts to blur the lines between gaming and film storytelling (they don’t always succeed). After games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, we know what to expect, but the multiple-choice gameplay needed some explanation in Quantic’s first game: Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit. Good thing David Cage is there to have it all make sense. <p>Before Indigo’s intriguing mystery can unfold, <a href="" target="_blank">David Cage appears onscreen to describe the gameplay to you</a>. And he’s giving this explanation on a sort of film set for the game you’re about to play. This tutorial may have been necessary for some, but with Cage’s heavily accented English, he <i>might</i> not be the best guide. Plus, having the creator speak directly to the audience before the game begins is a bit jarring - though I doubt anyone would ever accuse Cage of being subtle.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Stan Lee has been a fixture of pop culture for over five decades, and thanks to numerous cameos in Marvel films, the comic writer may be more famous than ever. Like your lovable, nerdy grandpa, Stan Lee has even made a few appearances in Marvel games, fitting for the co-creator of most of the company’s most iconic heroes, Spider-Man included. However, the game tie-in for 2012’s <i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i> did far more than give Lee a brief walk-on - the game makes him the hero. <p><a href="" target="_blank">The Stan Lee DLC</a> reskins Spidey as the besuited comic mogul, giving Stan The Man all the same moves and abilities as the wallcrawler. It’s a cute set of missions, with Lee’s uniquely nasal voice throwing out one liners all over Manhattan as he catches crooks just like flies. It’s also a groundbreaking move at diversifying games - how many other titles star a 92-year-old man?</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Gamers of the ‘90s have this creator cameo burned into their brains, even if they never really knew who the man in the corner of their screen is. First seen in Mortal Kombat 2, when you pull off an uppercut at just the right time, a seemingly random dude will pop out of the corner of the screen and say 'Toasty!' in a high-pitched voice. That’s MK sound designer Dan Forden, and this little in-joke became an unforgettable part of the series. <p>The phrase and Folden returned in Mortal Kombat 3, this time with a new purple shirt and extra catchphrases like 'Frosty' and 'Crispy,' and no one really questioned it. MK players just got used to seeing some unnamed dude interrupt their bloody fight with a strange falsetto. For a time, Holden vanished from the series, but made an HD return in the Mortal Kombat reboot, this time wearing a shirt with toast on it. Just how much sillier can Dan’s look get in Mortal Kombat X?</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Those are all the oddball cameos for now, but if you have other celebrity sighting you want to discuss, have at it in the comments. <b><i><p>Looking for more things that hide in plain sight? Check out our collections of <a href="">the 100 best gaming Easter eggs</a> and <a href="">the strangest Nintendo cameos</a>.</i></b></p></caption> </div> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:00:27 -0800 7… Minecraft facts that&#39;ll blow your mind if you think about them <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You've maybe heard of Minecraft, the building/exploration game that's hijacked our livestreams, hypnotized our children, and generally dominated the world over the last five years. It's hard to believe that what started out as the creation of a lone Swedish developer has gone on to such stratospheric heights of success - or at least it would be, if it wasn't the secret dream of anybody who's ever installed a copy of GameMaker or cracked their knuckles over a Java compiler. <p> But even once you get past the fact that Minecraft has inspired a seemingly endless supply of ports, merchandise, and even an <a href="" target="_blank">upcoming adventure series from Telltale Games</a>, there's still so much more to be astonished by. That's where this week's Top 7 comes in. If you need a new appreciation for pixelated cubes, look no further. Ok, a little further. You still have to click to the next slide.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you pay much attention to the internet (well you're here, aren't you?) you've probably gotten a bit jaded by the idea of stuff being recreated in Minecraft. The USS Enterprise? <i>Yawn. The saucer section probably doesn't even detach</i>. Game of Thrones' King's Landing? <i>Wake me up when you do a perfectly scaled recreation of all Westeros</i>. Granted, the latter would require some interpretation, since not even George R.R. Martin knows exactly what exists at every single point of his fictional realm. But Denmark? Denmark is defined. People know what's going on with Denmark. <p> That's why the Danish Geodata Agency was able to do a complete a 1:1 scale recreation of <i>the entire country</i>. Four-thousand billion bricks compose the country's roughly 40,000 square kilometers of Nordic tracts, complete with buildings erected across major metropolitan areas. Note that the map takes up 1 terabyte of data, and Denmark proper is the 133rd largest country in the world by surface area. Just imagine how big of a hard drive you'd need for Greenland.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Do a quick search on Xbox Live Indie Games (or the App Store, or Steam Greenlight) for the word 'craft' and let me know when you get to the end. It's damn near infinite, right? Even if we're generous and say half those games are using it in the 'WarCraft' sense, that's still <i>half of infinity</i> Minecraft clones. To be fair, the game is the perfect storm for copycats: lo-fi visuals and randomly generated content make Minecraft derivatives much easier to pull off than, say, a Call of Duty clone. <p> But Minecraft itself probably wouldn't exist without Infiniminer, a multiplayer PC game about digging up materials and building cool stuff with them. Creator Markus 'Notch' Persson has always been upfront about Infiniminer planting the seed for Minecraft in his behatted noggin. Of course, he, and eventually the team at Mojang, took the concept quite a bit further in just about every direction (literally, since Infiniminer's maps are tiny compared to Minecraft's potentially infinite worlds).</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You know those weird little messages that start throbbing on the title screen as soon as you load up Minecraft? They're called splash text, and they range from pop culture gags to near-inscrutable gaming references. Seems pretty innocuous, but like any good inside joke, it quickly got out of hand: the game included more than 100 of these bobbing yellow messages at launch and it has more than 350 today. Whichever one shows up is completely random, so you know you've been playing too much Minecraft once you stop seeing new ones. <p> Here are a few of my personal favorites:<br /> "Any computer is a laptop if you're brave enough!", which may be legally prosecutable.<br /> "Treatment for your rash!", which I am so thankful for.<br /> "Totally forgot about Dre!", which, I'm ashamed to admit, I did as well.<br /> "Stop being reasonable, this is the Internet!", which is an unreasonable response.<br /> "Run, coward! I hunger!", which is a rather sinister thing to say.<br /> "Follow the train, CJ!", which is why I was not too upset about how things ended up with Big Smoke.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When you think of super popular Xbox Live games, you probably think of Halo and Call of Duty and stuff like that, right? Fair enough - shooters are definitely a big part of the online experience. But they're not the top dogs. Normally I'd drag the question of what actually is the top dog on for a bit longer, but it's either Minecraft or I've accidentally put this slide in the wrong article. <p> Yep, Minecraft for Xbox 360 is the most-played game on Xbox Live, with users collectively pouring 2 billion hours of their lives into the game over its two years on the platform - or nearly 230,000 years altogether. Fun fact: if you were to go 230,000 years into the past you could meet the Neanderthals of the <a href="" target="_blank">Bontnewydd Palaeolithic site in Wales</a>, and they would probably think you were weird when the first thing you did after introducing yourself was start punching a tree.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Sorry, sorry, sales figures are boring. But let's just rap for a minute, here: <i>so many frickin' people have bought Minecraft</i>. You want to know how many? I'll tell you in a second. First I'll tell you that 30 million people have bought the Pocket Edition alone. Thirty million! That's enough to give six in every seven Canadians a copy of the game (the seventh one probably prefers Terraria), or <a href="" target="_blank">a million for every agreeing Helen</a>. Meanwhile, the OG PC version is going strong with 18.2 million copies sold. <p> But if Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition is so popular on Xbox Live it has to have sold pretty well, too, right? Yup - more than 17 million, according to Microsoft. That all adds up to more than 60 million copies, which if you divide by five for no particular reason, is still a <i>frickin' lot of sales</i>, and we haven't even begun to account for the PlayStation versions. To be frank, I wouldn't expect the PlayStation versions to be trumpeted too hard in the future, considering this next fact...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You might already know this one, but I swear the refresher will be worth it when you click on to the next slide. Hey, wait! You still have to read this one first. OK. Microsoft bought Minecraft (and the studio that's responsible for its development, Mojang) for $2.5 billion. After that, Notch and studio co-founders Jakob Porser and Carl Manneh left Mojang because working is pointless when you <i>already have all the money</i>. Also, Notch said he'd never really wanted to be in charge of a worldwide phenomenon in the first place. <p> Poor guy. I could make a bunch of ridiculous comparisons to illustrate the wealth he reaped from selling this project he started in his free time, not to mention the cash he'd already acquired for heading up one of the biggest entertainment properties of the 2010s, but instead I'll draw your attention to one perfect example...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>... in which Notch - the quiet, portly, very pale Swede who helped make a niche fantasy MMO called Wurm Online - <a href="" target="_blank">outbid Beyonce and Jay-Z</a> - who are the closest thing the United States has to a royal family at the moment - on a palatial Hollywood manor. The final sum? Oh, just $70 million dollars. It's apparently the most anyone's ever spent on a Hollywood home, but it's still peanuts when you're rolling in Microsoft bucks. See, aren't you glad you read that last slide now? <p> In fact, the mini-castle may be a sound investment. When you have that much cash it's not wise to just leave it sitting around in a bank account. Granted, it will take some upkeep to keep the massive pool clean and the multiple bars well stocked and the <i>candy room candy</i> from getting all stuck together, but barring another housing market collapse he could do alright for himself. Meanwhile, I'll be over here trying to mine up enough Nether quartz to make a half-decent facsimile of its exterior.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Also, did you know that each of the eight bathrooms in Notch's house has a $5,600 toilet? I bought Minecraft near the end of alpha, so in a way I'm financially responsible for about 1/373rd of one of Notch's commodes. How much of a Notch toilet do you account for? Let me know in the comments! <p> <b><i>Want some more revelatory factoids? Check out <a href="" target="_blank">7 normal, everyday things that are impossible to explain to non-gamers</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">13 hardcore challenges invented by players</a>.</i></b></caption> </div> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0800 podcast 122: Not-So-New 3DS, 16 Jan 2015 19:36:45 -0800 hardcore challenges invented by players <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you're looking for a challenge, tons of games will readily provide one. Between extreme difficulty settings, permadeath modes, and special end-of-game ranks, developers love giving masochistic gamers the tools they need to take on thumb-blisteringly arduous playthroughs. But sometimes, even the built-in options don't offer enough of an obstacle to overcome. And when that happens, it's time for patient, dedicated, maybe-a-little-insane players to invent their own kind of Herculean feats. <p>Through a combination of playfulness, ingenuity, and a dash of self-hatred, passionate gamers have come up with some truly inspired ways of testing their reflexes and cognitive thinking in their favorite titles. What follows are some of the custom rules and restrictions players put on themselves in order to up the ante to incredible heights. And while these challenges might seem completely impossible to us mere mortals, they've all been achieved by at least one incredibly determined human being. If you're brave and/or crazy enough, perhaps you can follow in the footsteps of these gaming demigods, or devise something even more intense yourself.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>During the Awesome Games Done Quick marathon that kicked off 2015, expert player Runnerguy2489 dazzled a room full of people that are renowned for their skill at playing video games. He did this by playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time without looking at the screen, making his way through the three 'Child Dungeons' encountered at the start of the game <a href="" target="new">all while wearing a blindfold</a>. <p>Now, this isn't the first time a runner has amazed onlookers with a live performance of blindfolded gaming - <a href="" target="new">Sinister1's blind Punch-Out!! run</a> is a must-see (unless you're wearing a blindfold). But that run involved a stationary character and limited plane of movement, while Ocarina of Time drops you into a massive three-dimensional world. Watching Runnerguy2489 work his way past countless obstacles with only subtle sound effects, environmental cues, and his memory to guide him, <i>all while he's verbally explaining what's happening</i>, is absolutely stunning. He's essentially the Luke Skywalker of Zelda speedrunners. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The Souls series has a reputation for being cruel, but that's unfounded - it simply requires caution, pattern recognition, and sharp reflexes to succeed. So if you can beat those games with a regular 360 pad, why not a plastic rhythm game peripheral? <a href="" target="new">Beating Ornstein and Smough one-handed</a> wasn't enough for Benjamin 'Bearzly' Gwin, so he decided to map the game inputs to some Rock Band instruments - first a <a href="" target="new">guitar</a>, then a <a href="" target="new">drum kit</a>. <p>Even with a greatly limited moveset, Bearzly's insanely impressive runs show just how far you can get with camera controls, an attack button, a roll button, and a generous amount of skill. And by 'far', I mean the end credits of both Dark Souls games. Just get ready for some seriously sore forearms in the morning.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Final Fantasy games are all about teamwork, where a ragtag group of adventurers band together to overcome evil. Or, if you're particularly sure of your skills, you can venture off on your lonesome and hog all the glory for yourself. The FF series lends itself nicely to those that want to deprive themselves of additional skills or party members, but the best starting point is the original. Simply pick your preferred class, let your other three party members hit the dirt, and get ready to grind to max level just to have a chance of survival! <p>Each class offers varying degrees of outrageous difficulty, from the Fighter's more forgiving balance of defense and offense, to the White Mage's delicate combo of physical frailty and evasion spells. But the ultimate challenge is piloting a lone Thief through the entire game - the weakest class, whose only specialty is running away from fights. Good luck.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you've ever played it, then you know that Spelunky is by no means an easy game. Careless or mistimed jumps will often get you insta-killed, and everything in its cavernous depths is out to get you. The only thing more frail than your spelunker's life is the Eggplant, a seemingly useless item that's impossibly tricky to find and instantly splats if anything touches it. But wouldn't you know it - the Eggplant actually has the power to transform the final boss King Yama in the hidden Hell stage. <p>Simply getting that far is an impressive feat, and doing so with an Eggplant intact was only thought to be possible in co-op play. But through an astonishing display of patience, reflex, and some heart-stopping near misses, runner Bananasaurus Rex managed to <a href="" target="new">finish the game solo with an Eggplant</a> on King Yama's noggin. This <a href="" target="new">extensive breakdown</a> of Rex's run shows just how miraculous it is that challenge can actually be completed. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Here's a popular player-made challenge that's a bit more forgiving than most, thanks to its straightforward ruleset and emphasis on those fancy 'emergent narratives' rather than raw skill. Here are the basics of <a href="" target="new">the Nuzlocke Challenge</a>: any Pokemon that faint are considered dead and must be released, and the only Pokemon you can even <i>attempt</i> to capture are the first ones you encounter in any given area. <p>That's it! But what you'll soon find is that fate is about to deal you a misfit hand of Pokemon, and it's your battle to make the best of it. Nicknaming each of your Pokemon is highly recommend, so that you may cheer for them when they're victorious and weep for them should they fall in battle. You might not fill your Pokedex while attempting the Nuzlocke Challenge, but you're sure to see the Pokemon that you'd typically ignore in an entirely new, deeply personal light. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Like many Diablo 2 players, a forum user by the name of MongoJerry liked to imagine unique backstories for his characters - all of whom had rather atypical builds - and chronicle their adventures online. And by my estimation, his crowning achievement in both storytelling and spectacle is Irene the Infirm, a Hardcore Sorceress with no armor, no weapons, no stat points assigned, and no abilities learned. <p>With nothing but her two fists and some help from her equally unarmed mercenary, Irene slew every monster in Act 1, including the big boss Andariel. When you're as frail as wet tissue paper and your damage caps out at two hitpoints, downing any enemy is a feat, let alone a half-naked, poison-spewing demon. I highly suggest that you read <a href="" target="new">the story of Irene the Infirm</a> if you want to experience the glory of D2's best role-playing builds.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Azeroth and its denizens are defined by conflict, with constant tension between Horde and Alliance players. But not everyone's born to fight - and some commendably dedicated players would rather abstain from all the 'war' business in Warcraft and experience the world their own way. The race of Pandaren start their journey as a neutral third party, but are forced to swear allegiance to a faction when leaving the starting zone. So what did player <a href="" target="new">Doubleagent</a> do when he wanted to hit max level as a conscientious objector? <p>He simply stayed put on in the Wandering Isles zone, slowly but surely <a href="" target="new">grinding his way to the previous level cap of 90 through professions alone</a>. This amounted to 173 days of in-game time spent collecting herbs and mining nodes for paltry scraps of XP. <i>That's</i> dedication. There's also the similar tale of <a href="" target="new">Irenic</a>, a Tauren who hit 90 without ever killing a single creature.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Reading about this nutty accomplishment in the pages of EGM was my first exposure to the idea of using niche peripherals to play the 'wrong' game. Clearly no longer content with the humdrum action of Sega Bass Fishing, an intrepid Japanese gamer took it upon himself to <a href="" target="new">beat the original Soulcalibur (on Ultra Hard, no less) with a Dreamcast Fishing Controller</a>. <p>Watching him deftly control Cervantes' sword swipes with flicks of the fake half-fishing rod feels like the precursor to Wiimote waggling, only five times more comical. And those moments when he reels in with the rage of a thousand suns while charging up for an attack are just too good. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Most people ignore their scores when playing a Super Mario game, simply content to reach that axe behind Bowser and send him plummeting into a pit of lava. And while chasing high scores is all well and good, why not try beating the game with the lowest number of points possible? Runner NotEntirelySure found the answer to one of life's greatest mysteries: <a href="" target="new">500 points is the absolute minimum score possible</a> while still finishing the game (without continues, naturally). <p>The catch is that this can only be accomplished by never collecting a coin or killing an enemy, then jumping at the bottom of the stage-ending flagpole when the timer reaches '000'. Never before have you seen Mario so afraid to snag a golden coin or bop a Goomba, but he gets the princess-rescuing job done all the same. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>The idea of a 'Ghost' run applies to plenty of stealth games, where the player can reach the end without ever alerting or killing those pesky guards. The original Thief is where a lot of stealth fans cut their teeth on this concept - but the recent 2014 reboot offers even more ways to put restrictions on your shadow-skulking. Virtual thieves who think themselves up to a greater Ghost challenge should take after runner <a href="" target="new">prenatual's Iron Ghost run</a>. <p>It's a playthrough where no one gets hurt, no ones is ever alerted to your presence, you never buy tools needed to access more effective paths, and you've got the full suite of challenge-upping debuffs (like slowed movement and no objective-highlighting focus ability). Then again, maybe you shouldn't give it a go - prenatual admits it's not very exciting for the player, since it all comes down to studying guards' movement patterns. Still, that doesn't make the Iron Ghost run any less impressive. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I don't remember how I stumbled onto the videos of Mega Man runner <a href="" target="new">Nico Thulin</a>, but I do recall how I was immediately entertained. Nico is part of a group of Mega Man aficionados looking to exterminate Wily's army of Robot Masters with flawless execution. In layman's terms, that means getting through an entire level and killing the boss using only the Mega Buster arm cannon, without ever being hit, and <i>without ever missing a shot</i>. <p>When you think of how sporadic enemy behavior can be in Mega Man, it becomes clear that this challenge has the power to break one's sanity. Which is why Nico's <a href="" target="new">Case: Mega Man</a> videos are so awesome - he includes all the outtakes of his failed attempts, where his commentary usually devolves into exasperated squealing and expletives like "Asscheeks!" yelled in a Finnish accent that is nothing short of delightful.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you locked me in a room and told me that I couldn't eat until I successfully completed all the Trial combos in Street Fighter 4, I would die of starvation. But combo wizard <a href="" target="new">Desk</a> could do those hit strings with one hand while yawning into the other. Desk's fighting game combo videos are widely known for making links - sequences of normal attacks that require down-to-the-frame timing - look drop-dead easy. <p>As if <a href="" target="new">276-hit combos with Chun-Li</a> weren't impressive enough, Desk decided to do an entire video of <a href="" target="new">combos using nothing more than ol' righty</a> on a fightstick (with a single swap to lefty mid-combo for a bit of flair). Watching someone ace with one hand what you struggle to do with two is humbling, to say the least. That's also Desk's band playing the amazing music, by the way. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When you think of nigh-impossible video game challenges, this is probably your first thought. Beating any Ninja Gaiden game is an accomplishment worthy of a parade, let alone on the highest difficulty. Completing the Master Ninja difficulty without taking any damage is practically unthinkable - and yet, here's a guy with proof that he actually did it. <p>A Chinese player has beaten both the PS3 <i>and</i> Xbox 360 versions of Ninja Gaiden 2 on two separate occasions, <a href="" target="new">completing the highest difficulty setting without ever getting hit</a>. Compared to this, performing brain surgery at the top of Mount Everest while simultaneously patting your head and rubbing your stomach is child's play. It's entirely possible that this man will be the only person in history to ever achieve this almighty gaming challenge... <i>twice</i>.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Pretty awesome/crazy, right? Hopefully these undertakings will inspire you to take on your own self-imposed challenges - or at the very least, spend upwards of 10 hours watching amazing runs on YouTube. Maybe you're the kind of player who strives for harder difficulties beyond the realm of the game, like those people who do actual choreographed dance routines while playing DDR (as seen above)! If so, I'd love to hear about your most hardcore (or just most entertaining) DIY difficulty settings in the comments below. <p><b><i>And if you're looking for more, check out <a href="" target="new">10 gaming resources that change how you play for the better</a> and <a href="" target="new">7 games where you can kill your allies, you jerk</a>.</p></b></i></caption> </div> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0800