Chasing GOTY 2015: Soma, Dying Light

Man, in a year like 2015 even picking the runners-up to Game of the Year is tough! Still, a blog's gotta do what a blog's gotta do. After pouring over the release list and replaying a whole bunch of stuff from throughout the year, I've chosen two of the best of the rest. One's a spectacular title that probably flew under everyone's radar, and one from aaaaaall the way back in January you might have forgotten to check out.

First and foremost, we absolutely need to discuss Soma. Well, we're actually gonna talk around Soma. The less you know going in, the better the experience. This game tops our Chasing GOTY feature almost exclusively due to its story. Soma begins with a quote from famed cyberpunk author Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (ie. Blade Runner), We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (ie. Total Recall), A Scanner Darkly, The Minority Report, etc). That should speak volumes about the developer's intent right there. And, while I admit the whole 'What does it mean to be human' cyberpunk theme is my favorite fictional foil of all time, Soma's author has constructed what I feel to be one of the greatest stories ever told in the science fiction genre. In any medium, not just video games. From the setting, to the characters, to the very pacing of the narrative, Soma's story nails nearly everything it tries to accomplish (and, man, does it try to accomplish a lot!). Although a linear experience, there are a few choices to be made. While none of these alter the game's outcome, they will drastically favor your own personal experience The Mrs. & I argued about what's 'right' in this game for weeks!

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2015: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Naming Game of the Year in a year filled with no less than six top-notch releases, each of which is an easy GOTY nod in any normal time frame, is no easy task. Sure, we can go down the list and check off a bunch for boxes such as Best Graphics, Best Art Style, Best Writing, Best Voice Acting, Best Digital Actor (The Bloody Baron is the closest thing we've had to a Charles Foster Kane in Gaming!), and Best Music and still have ended up at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but your title needs to do more than just check off boxes to be awarded the Golden, Giant, Fire-Breathing, Robot Baby for a year. The Witcher 3 certainly goes above and beyond on a number of fronts.

Most obviously, Witcher 3 redefines the level of quality possible in a video game, let alone an open-world RPG. Every corner of this 200+ hour monster's three world maps is crammed full of interesting characters, creatures, and situations painted with lavishly choreographed sequences on a quality level you only expect to find in linear titles that run a fraction of the length. Even many of the more mundane "Go kill this monster in my cellar" side-quests are showered with scads wonderfully composed conversations, investigative opportunities, and, quite often. an unexpected plot twist. Couple this with strong writing and moral dilemmas, some of which my have consequences a dozen gameplay hours down the road, and recent offerings from powerhouses like Bioware and Bethesda appear positively 1998 by comparison. At one point I found myself listening to a double-crossing scumbag's stereotypical 'bad guy' speech and thought to myself, "Ya know... This guy is totally right!" I then walked away and left two of my companions be executed. It wasn't until the post-game wrap-up that I felt justified in my decision. It wasn't that things turned out right or wrong, but they did turn out for what I felt was the better. It almost made up for that Ancient Evil that duped me and went on to each a bunch of villages.

Witcher 3 also does its best to make defacto RPG chores a little less cumbersome. Crafting components are sorted separately in the inventory and do not add to your carry weight, potions are automatically refilled using standard alcohol after being mixed for the first time, and subsequent patches have added a number of helper functions to trying to minimize the menu management tedium inherent in this genre. It doesn't entirely succeed, but it sure as heck tried hard.

Then there's the game's outstanding encyclopedia of the world's friends and fiends, delightfully written by your character's bard buddy. And, boy, are you going to need that encyclopedia! Firstly, combat in The Witcher rewards research and preparation just as much as well timed button presses. Discovering a wyvern is susceptible to applying a draconid poison to your sword and can be knocked out of the air with a well timed 'force push' is going to get you a just as far a being skilled with Geralt's ballet-like combat maneuvers. It's also a great source for keeping up with the dozens of main characters as this game positively wallows in its source material. Witcher 3 doesn't just return to characters and events of the two previous games, but is even so bold as to tackle questionable events from the very first Witcher short story penned by Andrzej Sapkowski. While the game can be enjoyed on its own merits, lore hounds will find an endless well from which to drink. Witcher 3 brings more dramatic baggage to the table than all of your exes put together. And, unlike a gathering of how your former loves would end, it all pays off spectacularly!


Merry Christmas from GUO

From the cast and crew

all the way to you:

Merry Christmas!

Fallout 4: It’s Really Boring After the World Ends (Update: Or Is It?)

Fallout 4 is dull. Really dull. Almost boringly so. Twenty+ hours after a stellar start, this game has just dive-bombed into eventless mush. It runs great, looks fine, and plays better than any previous outing from Bethesda Game Studios. Even the level design is a notch above what we’ve come to expect from Elder Scrolls-ish titles. It’s just a shame that the writers seem to have been given too much vacation time.

How dull is Fallout 4? Well, I recently came across a Vault. I got pretty excited as the Vaults were some of the most interesting (and scary) locations in Fallout 3. Guess how the residents of Vault 81 fared at the hands of the nefarious Vault-Tec?

They’re fine. They’re working hard on keeping the ol’ girl together, but they never asked me to help out. Someone’s cat got out, but I wasn’t tasked with finding it. I did get to tell a story about The Wasteland to a school class regarding the exciting events in the game’s first couple hours. They were amused. I left out the part about spending an hour picking through empty ruins looking for wood to build a wall around my village for nameless NPC who don’t even care if they have walls. Or the fact I repeated that hour for copper, ceramics, and circuits.

It’s still a fun game in terms of having random dudes to shoot and basic building to construct. It’s probably in the best shape, technically, than any other Bethesda game at launch. There’s plenty to do, especially if you want to customize a whole village of homes for drone AIs who never do anything interesting. A couple areas still shine like the previous entries in this series and the new gear modding system is fantastic. Just don’t expect it all to have much of a point.

Excitement in Fallout 4

Update: Well, after 35 hours and nearly half the map cleared, there does indeed appear to be a Fallout RPG in here after all. Even boring ol’ Vault 81 finally pays out some narrative. Sadly, the game is still lacking in interesting moral choices and, with the exception of the main plotline, quests that go beyond “Travel here and kill all the dudes,” are painfully rare. Still, the off-beat characters that epitomize the Fallout universe do actually exist beyond the fields of Settler, Settler, and Provisioner.

Here’s a tip for anyone looking to get stuck into Fallout4’s RPG rather than it’s watered-down Minecraft game: Follow the path to Diamond City, not the Minutemen.

It’s ironic to look at the new, pared down and quests in Fallout 4 following the next generation of open-world RPGs. GTA V and Witcher 3 have redefined how side content in an RPG can be handled. Both of these titles sprinkle every corner of their gameplay with interesting folks and curious happenings. It’s hard to return to the days of “Kill all the rats in my basement” quest givers after these titles. Even looking past these recent examples, I’d argue that Bethesda’s last outing, Skyrim, managed to deliver more compelling side content than this new Fallout title.

Bethesda took some real chances here. The sandbox ‘city’ building and repeatable activities are certainly worthy of notice and I look forward to seeing if this is something that will be expanded upon or written off as an amusing experiment in the future. I just hope that, if this flavor of gameplay is repeated, that it’ll be put a little further down the line so that player will have more of a chance to become invested in the world before being tasked with chores in it.

No Tricks, Just Treats: Arcade Home Defense Game ‘I Hate Halloween’ is Now Free for Android and Kindle

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They’re back! Those pesky Trick-or-Treaters are once again stomping across your lawn demanding candy. Dig into the candy dish and fling the correct treat at the ToT before they grow impatient enough to egg your house.

I actually wanted to do a nice, big update to Hate Halloween this year, but… Well, ya know, stuff happens (In my case this year, lotsa stuff happened), so I’ve done the next best thing: Setting it free.

I’m happy to announce that my family friendly arcade score chaser from last year is now available absolutely free for PC, Android, Kindle Fire, and non-Chrome computer web browsers. No ads, no in-app purchases, no tricks; Just a treat from me to you!

Download Installer for WindowsDownload for WIndows (ZIP)Run Web Browser Edition

Check it out now on Google Play for Android phones and tablets running version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or later.

Here it is on Amazon's AppStore for all Kindle Fire Phones and Tablets except the original, 1st generation Fire.

With this action, all the games I have released are now freely available for everyone to play. I hope they bring you joy and happiness. Check out the complete collection of GrandPop Games here.

Project DFD: Definitely not Dead

Last September I teased what was originally going to be my second game, Project DFD. It’s been a while, but it’s definitely not dead. Here’s what DFD was a year ago:

DFDthen

And here’s a pic from a recent build:

DFDnow

More pics are posted here.

Needless to say, balancing my debut foray into strategy games (perhaps my favorite genre) has taken a great deal more time than originally predicted. Additionally, DFD has become quite the pet project to widen my skill set. All of the game’s models, art, music, and sound have been produced right here on the GUO homestead.

So what the heck is Project DFD? Well, it is my attempt to reinvent the single-player real-time strategy game. ‘Dying for Dollars:The Pyramid Conspiracy’ casts the player as the newest financial officer for the shadowy Pyramid organization. As such, you’ll be in charge of manipulating armed conflicts into bloody quagmires in order to sell supplies to both sides.

While not in control of either army, the player’s task is to sponsor construction of military production facilities and leverage deceptive tricks via the WiSuR (Wide-area Surveillance and Recon) system to achieve this goal. Of course, such brazen manipulation is not without its risks. The player must be careful to not only manage their limited resources in a dynamic warzone, but also weigh the consequences of their action to prevent their schemes from being discovered by either side. What results is a familiar looking yet altogether different take on the RTS genre, just as you’d expect from the GrandPop Games series.

While the core game of DFD is nearly balanced and feature complete, there is still a good deal of menu and tutorial fluff to be finished. I’d also like to get a couple more maps built. While it is unlikely that DFD will be completed this year, I thought you might enjoy this little peak at what’s been on my digital workbench.

PSA: It’s Hot: Clean Your Computer (and other electronics)

dirty-laptop-heatsink

It is, once again, that time of the year to nag you to bust out the toothbrushes and compressed air to give your favorite lil’ electricity guzzling buddies a good grooming. It’s dust bunny hunting season!

Need some guidance? Lifehacker has a guide to cleaning your peripherals and desktops (spoiler alert! Unplug and stick a vacuum hose on open spots). Laptop owners not afraid of opening the case up can check out this Instructable’s gude. Pro tip: Keep a coffee mug handy for all those little screws!

And while were sprucing up our stuff, don’t forget about that scrungy, smudgy smartphone and tablet! While I’m of the ‘Just whack it with a Lysol/Clorox wipe’ opinion (Been doing it for years. Works great unless you use a screen protector), here’s a more by-the-book guide.

You know what else generates tons of heat and has air vents you probably haven’t checked for ages? Your kitchen appliances! Microwaves and refrigerators both have rather crucial air intake vents on the back we seldom think about. Still, there they are, busily scooping up wayward hair from that vicious, man-eating excuse for a pet your spouse brought home. Your fridge doesn’t exactly cool your food well when it can’t bring in enough air to keep itself at a reasonable temperature.

Well, it looks like you’ve got work to do, so I’ll let you go. Congrats on extending the life of your devices!

Come play with My Magnificent Balls!

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Bad Things come from Holes. Master the ancient art of Swinging and break Bad with the might of Magnificent Balls!

My Magnificent Balls! is a high-speed, high-skill, physics-based, top-down, arcade, smash-‘em-up modeled after the classic quarter-gobblers of yore, but with that ‘special twist’ GUO & Grandpop Games have become known for.

Additionally, it includes a long list of descriptive terms in the description, complete with many commas and hyphens, AT NO CHARGE! We’ll even throw in these screenshots!

Now is the time! This is the place! Grab My Magnificent Balls! prototype/alpha/demo/proof-of-concept edition here:

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Features include:

  • Ten levels with a gentle learning curve to showcase the core gameplay
  • Real physics determines not just where you Swing, but how Hard
  • Eight unique power-ups ranging from Incredibly Useful to Outright Stupid
  • Toe-tappingly terrific music from CDK
  • Musically driven effects that enhance the visuals without blinding the player
  • A ‘combo decay’ system designed to allow everyone to achieve high scores while still rewarding experts
  • Mouse, Touch, and Gamepad support
  • Unlimited continues so everyone can enjoy the entire game (At the cost of their score)
  • And, as always, a fabulously overproduced title screen

This project is currently ‘on hiatus’ with further development to being considered in 2016. If you would like to help shape the future of MM Balls! (or, more appropriately, decide if it has a future at all), send comments, criticism, and feedback in the comments, email anywhere@GrowingUpOtaku.com, Tweet @ryte2byte, or Facebook the GUO page

We love you! Thanks for playing..

You can finally get you hands on My Balls this Sunday

So it turns out that I might have had a game lying around since March that I didn’t let anyone play. Well, the start of a game anyway. I mean, it’s complete, just not very long. I reached a… What’s the game designer equivalent of ‘writer’s block”? Anyhoo, My Balls has been hanging out waiting for someone to play with it. It’s time to rectify that! Well, it’s not actually time. Yet! But soon it will be! Oh, yes. Very soon it will be the time! For the future is coming.

And the future shall reveal My Magnificent Balls!

“As Hard as Atari’s E.T.” Bored Breaker Now Available in Your Browser via WebGL

Man, I’m sooo gonna put that review quote on the back of the box! If I had a box. Remember when software came in boxes? Good times! I remember busting open the shrink wrap and taking a deep breath of New Game Smell. Oh, the intoxicating aroma of fresh cardboard mixed with the air of far off packing plants! Er… What was I talking about? Sorry, me memory’s a little shot from decades of breathing toxic paper plant fumes.

Oh, right! Bored Breaker has busted beyond its touchscreen confines and is ready to break boredom (and boards!) in web windows worldwide! It took a little longer than expected due to the whole Chrome plug-in issue, but it’s ready and we’ve got some exiting new tech to talk about to go along with it.

Play Bored Breaker in Your Browser (Firefox performs best)

So… The plug-in issue. As you might imagine, Google’s roadmap to remove NPAPI from Chrome has caused quite a kerfuffle in the game hobbyist community. Many developers actually relied on the Unity Web Player plug-in to post their work to the world, especially following popular game jams such as the famous Ludum Dare. Fortunately, Unity engineers have not been resting on their laurels. While it is still considered a “preview” Unity 5 can build out programs in an entirely new format: WebGL.