Gamifying Exercise – An Exercise in Patience

Like a lot of middle class white collar workers, I should exercise far more than I do. It’s a  challenge that my spouse and I have been trying – and failing – to conquer for years now.

I’m not going to go into detail about why it’s challenging. Anyone with a modicum of empathy, with a modicum of experience with the stressors of modern life, and who isn’t an Instagram fitness influencer will understand that finding consistent time, motivation, etc. with which to regularly exercise is easier said than done for a whole lot of people (and if you have established a successful routine, it was probably really challenging to do so, regardless of what Survivorship Bias might tell you).

(For better or for worse, I’m also not one of those white collar workers who is obsessed with endurance sports because it’s the only way they can feel alive in their otherwise soul sucking existence. →  You fool. Don’t you understand? No one wishes to read on…

What to Do with my Apple II

I have an old Apple II. I got it years ago at an antique store, for much less than the seller could have asked. The only problem is that it was just the Apple II, without any disk drives, and no software. That means I could do absolutely nothing with it.

Eventually, some family members got me a (single) disk drive and a copy of Apple DOS for Christmas. I eagerly plugged it all up, only to have it go up in smoke. Turns out that when the power supply gets old enough, it can’t really handle the extra power draw from the floppy drive(s). I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of blue smoke (or the smell of it) coming from inside the box.

So now I have a broken Apple II. →  Ratchet & Read

My XCloud XPerience

As part of my recent foray in Game Pass Ultimate, I was able to test out Microsoft’s XCloud streaming tech.

To be honest, I didn’t even know it was available on PC. I don’t think MS did a great job with messaging about XCloud. Based on my (admittedly limited) perspective, I think it was originally only available on a handful of mobile devices, and then went into limited beta testing for PCs. I’m honestly not sure when it became generally available, but whatever. It’s here now, so let’s check it out.

But First, Stadia

I have some previous experience with Google’s streaming service, Stadia. I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey as part of their initial beta test, and I also played Destiny 2 for a few nights back when they had a free trial period in the height of COVID. →  Post of Tsushima

Thoughts on GamePass Games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood and More

Microsoft must really want people to buy Game Pass subscriptions. Not only do they keep putting it on sale (sign up for 30 days for only $1, even if you already previously subbed!), but they keep allowing for all sorts of hacks that allow you to extend a Game Pass sub for less than face value.

In fact, they’re not just allowing it, but enabling it. If you buy three months of Xbox Live Gold, you can convert it into 50 days of Game Pass Ultimate. So when I found a place selling 3-month codes for Gold for only five bucks, I managed to land myself a little more than half a year’s worth of Game Pass Ultimate for less than the cost of a single month.

Sounds like a dream come true, except it’s not. →  Illiterates hate her! Click to read this one weird trick.

Resident Evil 3 Remake Review

The 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve encountered in years. It is the very definition of a cash grab, and now that it’s out, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get a version of this game that reaches its full potential.

But before we get into the game proper, we should start with a little history lesson.

A History of Stalkers

The original Resident Evil 2 not only featured two playable characters, but also two different story scenarios. In one of the scenarios, the player character is stalked by a Tyrant popularly known as “Mr. X.” He’ll show up to attack you in certain rooms, and is both stronger and faster than regular zombies. However, just like any other enemy, he can’t follow you through doors. →  Snap! Crackle! Read!

The Last of Us Rereleases and Remasters

I’ve seen some … complaints about the fact that Sony is planning yet another re-release of The Last of Us.

To be clear, I get it. On the surface, it does seem nuts that a single game would get three different releases, across three different consoles, in less than a decade. And these are distinct products – with their own unique changes, features, and additions – rather than straight ports of the original code to new hardware.

At a certain level, it feels bad. Maybe you consider it a cynical cash grab for Sony to do this. Maybe you think it points to a general lack of creativity and new ideas. Maybe it seems bizarre because the original, PS4-based remaster works on PS5.

However you feel, I get it. But – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I also get where Sony is coming from, at least in regards to this new, upcoming release. →  Finger lickin’ read.

Aesthetic Gachaism

Here’s a pretty cool post from indie game developer Keith Burgun. It’s about a concept he labels as “aesthetic gacha-ism”, which he describes as follows:

The core of my conception of aesthetic gacha-ism is the commodification of games: both in how they are produced, the rules, the experience, the way it’s talked about. At nearly every level, the experience of games gets put more and more onto an assembly line, alienated from human experience, connection and meaning.

He then goes on to list some of the core tenets of Aesthetic Gacha-ism:

  • Extrinsic-reward driven (AKA “the metagame is more important than the base game design”)
  • Elements feel copy-pasted a lot, and/or “subdivided” to increase length
  • Compulsion-driven design
  • The (dreaded) crafting system
  • Commodified quests
  • More and more things “level up” in some way

(The author elaborates on all of these bullet points within the actual piece, so I encourage you to read through it.) →  Start your journey now, my Lord.

Review of Samus Returns for the 3DS

Samus Returns is a game that wants to be something, but can’t. After all, it is a remake of an existing game, Metroid 2: Return of Samus. On top of that, not only is the original game a beloved classic, but it’s also very old, and runs on a piece of hardware that was outdated even when it was brand new.

All of these factors work to dictate what a game like Samus Returns can and cannot do. By the rules of Modern Videogame Design, the following elements of 1991’s Return of Samus are unacceptable:

  • Its stark, mostly-black backgrounds.
  • It’s creepy chiptune music, despite the fact that it helps to create a certain mood that is absolutely perfect for the game’s setting.
  • The fact that the planet is mysteriously drained of deadly acid as you kill Metroids.
 →  I'll get a job later, for now I'm going to read this

Out Run, I Mean Outrun Culture

A few months ago I found myself buying (and playing) the Sega Ages version of Out Run on Switch. It’s a great port with some interesting new features, and it made me appreciate the game all over again. Eventually I found myself doing some historical research on the game to learn more about its development and legacy.

Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. My search results were dominated not by Out Run, but by …. Outrun.

As far as I can tell, “Outrun” is the name of both a subgenre of synth music, and a surrounding subculture. According to the Outrun subreddit’s description, Outrun is:

Dedicated to the synthwave music scene, a revisionist 80s music style of synthesizers and pulsing beats, and the retrofuturist 80s aesthetic of fast cars, neon lights and chrome. →  Sid Meier’s Alpha Centarticle

Review – Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

So I just beat Ys IX. It was… better than I was expecting, but not as good as it could be. It takes nearly every feature and system from Ys VIII – features and systems, mind you, that were new and specifically built to work in that game’s very particular setting – and brings them whole hog into this new game, with a very different setting. Suffice to say that it doesn’t really work.

For example, in Ys VIII it made sense to earn rewards for mapping out the island, since it was literally uncharted. But it seems insane to be rewarded for mapping out a centuries old city (under the guise of “finding the places that tourists would be most interested in”).

Similarly, it made sense to have a crafting system on an island with no shops, and a bartering system that allows you to refine low grade crafting materials by essentially trading for them. →  [do not click]

Deep Thoughts on the Hotline Miami Series

I played both Hotline Miami games sometime within the last year and a half (my memory’s a bit fuzzy on the specific date, and honestly, it doesn’t matter).

Before I begin, I want to make one thing clear. These games are even more violent and depraved than I ever imagined, even after reading lots of reviews and seeing lots of screenshots. Much like with the show Squid Game, there’s a general sense among Extremely Online People that you simply must partake in these experiences that go out of their way to traumatize their audience.

I think that’s a load of crap. If you look at a game like this and think “that’s not for me,” I think it is absolutely valid, understandable, acceptable, and in no way worthy of judgment. Indeed, I wouldn’t be mad if you, dear reader, feel that reading this post isn’t your cup of tea. →  Lose belly fat now!

Some Favorite, Disappointing, and Interesting Games from 2017-2021

Resident Evil VII

There is so much to love about this game. I love that it is an unashamed homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and to a lesser extent The Blair Witch Project and other “found footage” films. I love the RE Engine, which looks gorgeous while running well on all modernish hardware.

I love how it feels both new and old at once. The first person perspective and overall tone are different, yet it repurposes classic Resident Evil gimmicks (ie. the villain who stalks you throughout the game), and it is still plenty goofy when it needs to be.

RE VII was a sharp way to revive the series, pushing it in a slightly different direction that doesn’t abandon the series’ roots.

Fallout 76

This is probably my favorite game from 2017-2021. →  Virtua Poster 4: Evolution

Timely Thoughts on Mega Man 8

This is one of two mainline Mega Man games that got away from me (the other being MM10). This is the first time I’ve ever played Mega Man 8 in any capacity. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that good.

This game is very much a product of its time. The 32-bit console era was a period of great transition, as the industry not-so-gradually pushed into 3d gaming. When it came to old, existing franchises from the 2d era, this led to a bit of a crisis. As in animation, gaming had to deal with the fact that a lot of its audience quickly came to the conclusion that 3d graphics were better than 2d as a matter of course.

You could make a gorgeous 2d game on the Playstation (or Saturn) hardware with huge levels and interesting mechanics, and there would be a significant contingent of players who would simply refuse to play it. →  I regret learning to read.

Final Thoughts on Final Fantasy VIII

In Part 3 of this 3 Part series about Final Fantasy VIII (that I never intended to be a 3 Part series about Final Fantasy VIII – Part 1 here and Part 2 here), I want to go into a bit more detail about my personal history with this game. I fully admit that this is more for me than anyone else, a sort of final bit of therapy to help me put it in the past and move on.

Final Fantasy VIII is a game I first played at launch back in 1999. I didn’t get very far.

I tried playing it again a few years later. This time I was serious about beating it. But I didn’t.

I tried again a few years after that. And again a few years after that. →  Silent Post 2

Gran Turismo 7 is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I don’t play Gran Turismo, but if you spend even a little time reading video game news, you’ve probably seen something about the game’s many post-launch issues. Things like the in-game economy making it difficult to purchase vehicles without ponying up real world cash, the online requirement even for single player, and the fact that in-game car prices are partially linked to and based on real world prices, at a time where all car prices are insane (meaning prices for cars that are old, rare, and fast are even worse).

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about these developments. The game is clearly trying to position itself as a Live Service (even if Sony doesn’t want to admit it), and they clearly want even the Single Player audience to pony up for some good old “Recurrent User Spending.” →  2 h4rdc0r3 4 U.

Many More Thoughts on Final Fantasy VIII

I felt compelled to write a little bit more about Final Fantasy VIII. This is a collection of additional observations about its design, and some remarks on things I did like about it. I don’t have much of an overarching point for this piece, other than to perhaps reinforce my previous points.

How to get Magic

Let’s talk a little more about how to obtain stocks of your magic spells. As previously stated, there are four main ways to do it:

  • Drawing from enemies
  • Refining crappy magic into better magic
  • Modding Triple Triad cards (or items) into spells
  • Using Draw Points

Drawing from enemies is the most obvious way, but it’s a pain. The number of spells you’ll draw on any given turn is partly random, and partly based on how high your Magic stat is. →  It’s not you, it’s me.

Final Fantasy VIII is a Weird Game

There are countless examples of games that were trashed at release, only to have their reputations rehabilitated years later upon being (re)discovered by retro game enthusiasts. Usually this is because the game in question was misunderstood or otherwise ahead of its time, both revelations which are only revealed with the hindsight and context provided by the future.

On the flip side, there are games that were beloved at release, only to be trashed years later as retro gamers discover that it didn’t age well, or that launch-day opinions were misinformed, or whatever the case may be.

But there’s a third option as well, one in which the initial impression of Game X was accurate, and remains accurate once it hits retro status. In my (admittedly limited) experience, this is the rarest take of all. →  Oops, I did it again.

Games As Work

One thing that’s not so much changed in the last ten years but has certainly been amplified is the popularity of games that, for lack of a better phrase, “feel like work.” Games that focus on things like:

  • Getting loot
  • Playing through the same content to get said loot
  • Being at the mercy of some random number generator
  • Aren’t really about skill, strategy, creative thinking, teamwork, etc. and but rather repetition and memorization
  • Require the player to spend lots of time (on the order of hours or days) doing these repetitive tasks in order to get a reward of questionable utility (due to the RNG)

There used to be a time where this kind of style was almost exclusively the realm of Blizzard games like World of Warcraft. But with the rise of Live Service games, this approach to design is everywhere. →  SaGa Frontier Readmastered

Are Old Games Killing New Games – Parallels Between Gaming and Music

I recently came across this piece from musician/writer/historian Ted Gioia. The last time I read something by Gioia was his 2017 essay Music Criticism has Degenerated into Lifestyle Reporting, which I found to be both entertaining and painfully accurate (and which set off an entertaining firestorm of backlash from all the poptimist critics whom the piece targeted).

But this new post is a lot less inflammatory, and is arguably much more useful. The title says it all – “Old Music is Killing New Music.” The author makes several key points about the music industry, and what I find interesting is how every single one of them can also be applied to gaming.

Here’s the TL:DR for those who don’t want to read the original piece:

  • Metrics suggest that people are listening to old music more than new music (at least among the metrics that “matter”).
 →  How many games must a gamer play before you call him a gamer?

Competitive Mentalities in Gaming

It’s been about ten years since I last wrote something for this site. A lot has changed in that time.

For instance, it seems to me that the entire gaming landscape has become a lot more competitive.

Gamer Unsupervised: Ideas and Lessons Your Gamer May be Learning While  Nobody's Watching | PT 1: Rage — Ukatsu

I’m not just talking about eSports. In fact, the rise of professional competitive gaming is one thing that doesn’t surprise me. It was already a thing back in 2012, albeit much smaller, and even then I had a feeling it would grow.

I’m also not talking about the popularity of traditional, non-professional competitive gaming. That’s been consistently popular for about as long as gaming has existed. I’m more interested in the other, subtle-but-not-always-subtle ways in which a competitive mindset has permeated the hobby.

Take speedrunning for example. It’s not new, but it has become explosively popular over the last decade. →  Contains 10% more consonants than comparable articles.