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:

WindowsMacAndroid

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.

Plugins Not Working in Chrome? What Happened and What You Can Do

Chrome Pac-Man IconUsing Chrome only to discover that your favorite game or video site isn’t working anymore? No error, no icon, no warning, no nothing? Congrats, you just discovered that Google killed off a whole subset of online software without so much as a fallback warning! Affected plug-in include Sliverlight, Shockwave, Flash, Unity Web Player, Java, older versions of Facebook Video, Google Earth, and Google Talk, as well as a great number of enterprise level custom software solutions.

So, what happened? Google announced in 2013 their roadmap to remove NPAPI (Netscape Plug-in API) support from the Chrome web browser. Why remove a framework that has enable to web browser capabilities to be extended far beyond anyone’s expectations for the past 20-ish years? Google justifies their viewpoint stating that:

“Today’s browsers are speedier, safer, and more capable than their ancestors. Meanwhile, NPAPI’s 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity. Because of this, Chrome will be phasing out NPAPI support”.

While the statement is an amusing mix of fact and hyperbole (with a dash of hypocrisy if you consider how many major malware incidents can be traced back to Google’s own DoubleClick ad network), the intent is clear: NPAPI’s days are numbered in the eyes of The Big G. Considering the update-crazed online society of today where newer is always believed to be better, they’ll probably get their way.

As of April 2015, Chrome still technically supports NPAPI plug-ins. However, it has been disabled by default in v42 of the browser. NPAPI support is projected to be removed altogether in September of 2015.

For the short term, you can re-enable NPAPI support in Chrome by using the following URL: chrome://flags/#enable-npapi . Once there, click the Enable link under “Enable NPAPI”.

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Finally, click the “Restart Now” button at the bottom of the browser page (Closing/Reopening Chrome is NOT sufficient to enable this option).

Of course you could always switch to another web browser such as Mozilla’s Firefox. As a bonus, you’ll be supporting a company that believes in protecting Internet user’s privacy, a philosophy diametrically opposed to Google.

However, even switching web browsers may prove to be a mere Band-Aid for the issue. Most other web browser creators have announced similar plans to remove NPAPI support as well. While none have thus far actually made any moves to remove the plug-in support (or even set a timeline), NPAPI support and the web apps that require them, may very well be going the way of the dinosaurs.

Can Google’s war on plug-ins change the face of the Internet as much as Apple’s war on Flash? It all depends on how much users are willing accept.

Bored Breaker–The Little Game I Made on Accident

Much to my surprise, I seem to have a new game to tell y’all about. Here’s the pitch:

An instant to learn - A lifetime to master! Break from boredom and break boards with Bored Breaker - a quick reaction game designed to challenge your reflexes complete with HD graphics and realistic physics to delight your eyes. Refine your skills with the predictable Zen mode in preparation for a real test of skill in Ninja mode.

In unprepared, marketing-free talk, it’s a tap-tastic quick-reaction game. 2x4s are being chucked at your space ninja’s head and you need to tap the screen to karate-chop them in half before being clonked into unconsciousness. (The spellchecker is okay with “clonked”? Huh, go figure).

Anyway, this one is available for free from Google Play or Amazon AppStore for Android devices. I’ll try to get a web player build up here later this week. I don’t feel that playing with a mouse does it justice, but I know you folks don’t all have ‘Droids. Also, PC FTW Winking smile Anyway, watch this space for more versions “soon”. Update: Browser based version available here.

So, anyway… Yeah, made on accident. I was taking a break to learn some new skills (ie. avoiding working on some of the larger game projects I’ve got lying around here) and decided to play with IK animation in the new 5.0 release of Unity. Games are great fun to make; Content for ‘em… eh, not so much.

Microsoft is Kitten Around With You to Support The Humane Society

cuteCloudYou’ll doubtless be bumbling into all manner of Internet foolery today, but Microsoft’s Bing search service is shooting straight to the heart for a good cause. Welcome to the Cute Cloud.

Yessir, Bing is decked out with all manner of frolicking furballs to celebrate the beginning of April. While web sites redecorating for April 1 is nothing new, doing it for charity is something of a rarity. What’s no joke is The Cute Cloud’s message asking folks to donate to The Humane Society.

Every day The Humane Society scrapes by on donations and an army of volunteers to prevent animal cruelty, care for unwanted pets, and offer aid to underprivileged pet owners. Even GUO’s own anime-loving Mrs. &  offspring spend several hours a week making sure our homeless, furry friends get the snuggly attention they crave.

Oh, and if you were thinking about getting the kids their very own, real-life Easter Bunny, check ‘em out. They’ve got bunnies! Cheap!

Whether you’re looking for looking to stuff your eyeball full of kittens in cups or out to change the world, that other search engine has your ticket!

Break Out Your Dead v2–Updated 3/23/2015

One year ago, I set out on a crazy experiment to make a video game from scratch with naught but two clues to rub together. The result was a lengthy series of articles about the joys and despair of making your own game. After three months of hard work, the experiment bore playable fruit in the form of a quirky little 3rd-person brick-breaking shooter I dubbed Break Out Your Dead.

While I’ve released a couple other titles here (and have a few more ready to pop out any day now), BOYD remained my pride and joy. The release of the new, fifth version of the Unity engine was a perfect excuse to revisit the first of my little digital toys and sprinkle a bit of newfound knowledge and Unity 5 magic upon my first-born.

So, what’s new? Tons! Here are some of the highlights:

  • New graphical effects including soft shadows and bloom effects.
  • Tweaked lighting, colors, particle systems, and materials for both performance and pretty.
  • Rim lighting added to tombstones for increased visibility while creeps have more natural lighting to better match the scene.
  • Holy Ball now has a new targeter effect to for better aiming of this expensive nuke.
  • A new implementation of the ‘Poly UI’ system that renders without perspective warping and features better effects.
  • More dynamic pathfinding for creeps.
  • Scaling UI so our friends with big resolutions and bad eyesight won’t need to strain so much.
  • The player now moves faster while time is slowed. (Note: This does not affect casting time)
  • Tons of performance optimizations and bug fixes.

I’ll be happy to build out a Linux version if requested. I’ve also tried to keep BOYD running on all the systems it did before. I haven’t done much benchmarking with the new post-process effects, so if I’ve blown you video card out of the water, let me know.

Update: v0.21 is now available at the links below. This update includes fixes for wizard pose in Mystery Boxes level, a new program icon, and cosmetic tweaks on the main menu.

Download Break Out Your Dead v2

Windows: Installer or Zip

Mac: Zip

I hope you enjoy this ‘remastered’ version of my humble pet project (Because diving back into your first attempt at any endeavor is a mess!). We love you! Thanks for playing.

Bricked Dead Again

Break Out Your Dead alphaV0.2 coming soon with shiny new graphics, scaling UI, bug fixes, and faster maths.

BrickDeadV2

And, yes, Against the Horde is still totally beatable with l33t skillz!

Star Trek Online Players Honor the Memory of Leonard Nimoy

News recently broke that legendary actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Star Trek’s “green-blooded, inhuman” science officer has passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 83.

STO memorial for Leonard Nimoy

Players of Star Trek Online, the free-to-play role-playing game based on the television show staring Nimoy from 1966, have gathered in the hundreds around the central fountain on Spock’s home planet of Vulcan to honor the memory of the actor. Many are wearing classic Star Trek uniforms resembling Nimoy’s character Spock and bringing rocky Horta pets from one of the show’s most memorable episodes. Game caretakers Cryptic Studios have added a system-wide alert to the virtual world informing players of Nimoy’s death.

Aside from being one of the original actors in the television show and movies, Leonard Nimoy has contributed voice acting to Star Trek Online including the game’s introduction video, universal background, and a congratulatory message each time a Federation character levels up.

Member of the cast and crew here at GUO, as well as the members of out own STO fleet, The Night Watch, humbly salute the passing of this influential man who helped fire our imaginations for so many decades.

Update: Star Trek Online Executive Producer Steve Ricossa has announced that a memorial to the actor will be added to the game March 5th:

“I want to once again express my heartfelt condolences to the friends, family, and fans of Leonard Nimoy. Everyone at Cryptic Studios was saddened to hear of his passing and we want to make sure we never forget the cultural impact of the man or the character he played. To that end, the Star Trek Online team will implement a standing in-game memorial to Spock and Leonard Nimoy this Thursday March 5th with our regular weekly maintenance.

In this way, we hope to keep his memory as alive in our game as he is in all of our hearts.”

I didn’t know it did THAT! Kingwin 120mm PC Case Fan

K450-2545_vmain01x_er_mn_8139571The Green Machine’s been making a lot of racket lately. After pulling a few plugs inside my PC’s case, I narrowed it down to the 120mm exhaust fan. While I had gotten in the habit of thumping it in just the right spot on the back every 30 minutes to shut it up, the chore was getting a bit old. It was time to replace that sucker.

A quick trip out to my local TigerDirect store left me in a bit of a conundrum. They didn’t have any green LED fans. I sure as heck wasn’t putting in a red one and blue LEDs are SO blah. Then I saw it: The Kingwin 120mm Multi-Color LED Case Fan. I was suddenly struck by the most rational thought any PC pimper could have: “Why would I have just one color when I could have ALL THE COLORS!!!”. While the packaging showed the fan lit up with one color in each corner, nothing could have prepared me for the psychedelic lightshow this thing would put out upon being fed some power!

Ravetastic! Ya know, I think the 80mm fan on the top of my case is starting to make a little noise too Winking smile

Chasing GOTY: The Almost Games of the Year for 2014

While 2014 will almost certainly be remembered as the year when the video games market began finally normalizing again after the boom ushered in with Nintendo's Wii, there was one group of gamers who had plenty of new stuff to play all year ‘round: Computer RPG fans. I gotta tell ya, in a year slim on releases it’s a great irony that choosing GUO’s 2014 GOTY was the most difficult on record. It was only the rock-solid presentation and lack of technical issues that led to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor being chosen over one other, equally Earth-shattering title: Divinity: Original Sin.

It was perhaps a little suspect when established developer Larian Studios took to Kickstarter in order to fund their fourth Divinity game. Their justification? They knew they could make one of the greatest RPGs off all time. They’ve been trying, and coming close, for over 10 years. Larian stated that in order to finally succeed and create the game they always dreamed of they would have to go it alone, free from the influence of bean-counting marketing executives. The results speak to the wisdom of Larian’s vision.

At first blush, Divinity: Original Sin is a step back into the second golden age of CRPGs heralded by Baldur’s Gate. One glance at the screenshots is enough to make old farts pine for the times when store shelves were lined with isometric, party based adventures like Icewind Dale, Arcanum, and Torment. I know my first few moments with Divinity were spent with a goofy smile on my face and the phrase “They sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” on my lips.

I hadn’t even finished the tutorial dungeon by the time this thought was proven incorrect.

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

It’s been quite a while since Monolith shook the world and, frankly, it didn’t seem like they had the chops to ever do it again. The studio that once excelled at creating new worlds (Blood, Shogo, No One Lives Forever, F.E.A.R, and Condemned) has languished of late with back-to-back licensed yawns in 2012 (Gotham City Imposters & Guardians of Middle-earth). Who woulda thunk that their second foray into the well-worn world of Tolkien would meet with any more success than the first one? Especially when the game bears such obvious signs of ‘inspiration’ (to put it kindly) from two other well-worn franchises: The Batman-Arkham and Assassin’s Creed games.

Shadow of Mordor (SoM) reportedly began life as another Batman game and it shows. The combat favors rhythmic, well timed buttons presses with random button-mashing frequently resulting in failure. One wrinkle SoM introduces to the combat is that you are very much behind enemy lines. Uruks are wandering around everywhere and a protracted battle can lead to more attention than you originally bargained for, both from the enemy minions as well as some particularly monstrous wildlife. This is a title where discretion will get you a good deal farther than valor. Fortunately, the stealth system works admirably and the toys in your arsenal cater equally well to both stealthy and aggressive approaches.

The environments are large and chunky with an obsessive amount of detail lavished on character models. Much like Arkham City, the game world feels a bit small at first blush, but turns out to be quite adequate for providing plenty of room for your open-world hijinks. Lacking Batman’s grappling hook, our hero has instead been blessed with an Assassin’s mobility. It requires all the same skill (That is to say, hold one button to clamber up darn near anything), but continues to look and feel awesome. A bevy of special skills and gadgets ranging from a ghostly bow, to rideable monsters, to a teleporting sneak attack provides players with a good range of tactical options for both locomotion and combat prowess.

Still, for everything SoM borrows from games that have come before, it also concocts some welcome twists to alleviate the more tedious or aggravating problems associated with these types of games. A fall/stumble move that actually speeds you up? Why, thank you! A short QTE to avoid the final killing blow of an enemy? Beats a load screen! How ‘bout a crouched stealth run? Where have you been all my life!

Bolt on an utterly forgettable plot (The main character’s name is… Talion, I think. He’s possessed by some long dead elf because… Reasons.) complete with several horribly forced Gollum cameos, sprinkle in some unremarkable collect-a-thon items, and you’ve got a title that would have been a polished, fun, if unremarkable, game. So how does it end up as our pick for Game of the Year?