I found a build of Vagante from months ago on my hard drive; I think I bounced off of it originally, or never played it, but it’s a cute pixel platforming roguelike. They put particular work into optimizing inventory flow with the gamepad, and I think it works pretty well. The art is also really nice, and the platforming feels good. a stinginess with health restoration is among the things it borrows from Spelunky, which kind of discourages the sort of super-aggressive, jump-in-and-fight play that I prefer.
I’m still of two minds on stats and gear, and how they interact with action gaming. Maybe more like three minds.
But anyway, I was all “this is neat, is there a more recent build?” and in looking found out their Kickstarter had just failed a few weeks prior. Which is a bummer, though it’s not like my twenty bucks would have made a difference one way or the other. But it sounds like they’re persevering.
Tumblr keeps showing me this; it knows what I like. (though check out the pixelated fin shadow on the body, that’s some 21st-century tech there.)
Shovel Knight reminds me: Suze got me a couple of books for my birthday a while back, about the Atari and the Amiga and how their hardware (and, where applicable) software design influenced what people could do with them. It’s interesting stuff, at least if you were an enthusiastic gamer but technically ignorant during the period in question? Ymmv.
They’re trying to be technical for a non-technical and slightly academic audience, and so they’re a little on the boring side, but it’s a solid trip through what the machines are capable; I definitely learned things.
In particular, it had always been bothering me how the Atari was able to do anything at all given the tiny amount of memory and processing time it had. They had to have found some efficiency; trying to do even the simplest game on modern hardware would bloat past the Atari’s tiny constraints. And I got the answer: hardware collision detection! If the video chip tries to draw two things at once (sprite and sprite, or sprite and background) then it sets a bit and the code can react appropriately.
I think the Atari and the Amiga are about all the systems I’d want to read about in such detail; I’d say the NES also, but I think I’ve gleaned enough about how it works over the years that most of what anyone could say would be redundant. Things like how it only had one background plane, so they’d turn off the background during boss battles and scroll around a picture of the boss against blackness, maybe with some sprites as detail.
By comparison, anything the PC does is pretty boring. Just draw pixels, and then once you get a 3d card, just draw triangles. Doom is interesting, but it’s not really a platform.
The New Games are scary. They go in a dozen directions all at once. They are deeply connected to the idea that games are culture and that movements in culture matter. They are largely unconcerned with the idea that games require scores or merit, or objective assessments. Meritocrats thought they understood the universe, but the universe changed - and with it the sense of what games are.
The old games are over. Long live The New Games.
It’s a neat summary of gaming history, but I think it oversteps at the end here, buying into the same fallacy that the gamergoats do. The universe of games is getting bigger, but everything that was in it before will still be there later, and people who cared about the old things will still be able to care about them for the same reasons. Nothing is being destroyed!
Just like small indie movies coexist with giant comic book movies and literary fiction coexists with young adult trilogies, though you can see (substantially less toxic) culture-war chafing around those too.
I don’t know. Sometimes you say things like “diversity means more and better stuff for everyone!” and it’s the kind of transparent lie you tell to try and make everyone feel better about how your political victory actually will make some people’s lives worse, but that’s not the case here. I might be wrong? But I’m sincere.
(an aside: Warren Ellis’s grumbling about nurse novels was a long time ago!)
Shovel Knight is kind of a cool project—make a complete game in the style of the NES classics, sticking (mostly?) scrupulously to the limitations of the system. Which lends it a nice aesthetic consistency.
I like the art, and the level designs are great; each one is full of setups and mechanics that I’ve never seen before, but I totally could have. It works—it really could have been a missing Ducktales/Megaman hybrid, lost for twenty years.
Unfortunately, the game feel isn’t quite there: the combat and jumping is a little off, and the extra-lives mechanic (you drop recoverable gold that’s lost on the next death) makes your frequent cheap deaths frustrating instead of forgivable. I did beat it, and I had more fun than not, but still. Can’t completely recommend.
Umihara Kawase! This is some dude showing off in a TAS. I played a little bit of the sequel (Umihara Kawase Shun) on the Playstation—back when it was one of those import games that never made it over here—and bounced right off; the controls are totally unintuitive.
But it’s neat to see different takes on the grappling hook, particularly now that retro platformers have made them fashionable again.
The seminal book on software project management was written before I was even born. Most of its wisdom is right there in the title! And yet.
The tendency for managers to repeat such errors in project development led Brooks to quip that his book is called “The Bible of Software Engineering”, because “everybody quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it.” )
Kind of a retrospective ugh; by the time I’ve got around to posting this I’m done making other people’s late project later and am back to working on our own stuff. It is a great relief! But Brooks has a warning for us there too.
I bought Super Time Force basically entirely on the strength of Derek Yu’s blurb: “Can’t believe it works. Weirdly, it reminds me more of Gain Ground than Contra!” and I was enjoying it, but I was like, eh, I kind of see it? You’ve got different guys, and you use them sequentially, but… it doesn’t really matter. It didn’t feel Gain Groundish.
(Our local arcade had a Gain Ground cabinet which they never managed to get rid of; every so often for years and years I’d pop in a quarter and try to get grenade man, spear man, and rifle man through the first three or four levels. There were some neat ideas in there, for sure.)
Then I beat the game and unlocked Super Hardcore Mode, and it totally changed. Your guys start to matter! As they die you have to reach further and further down the roster to try to rescue them, and when you finally manage it and roll everyone back up, it feels pretty great.
Also: I never thought I’d say this about any game, but the defense missions are the best part! An enemy slips through, and instead of stressing out, I’m just “eh, I’ll have taken care of that later.” Time travel used for excess instead of Braidish precision.
Proverb, right. Goes like this: them as know don’t say, and them what say, don’t know. Which, I mean, forgive the veneer of vernacular, I get folksy sometimes when I drop some science, but the point is this: you’re gonna talk to a lot of people, up and down this shelf, this hall, whatever, all these urban fantasists, or contemporary fantasists, modern fantasists, indigenous, to use Attebery’s term, except maybe we don’t because it’s not without its problems, the magical realists, except let’s leave them off to one side, maybe, these people, you’re gonna talk to them and they’re gonna come off as, you know, likable, personable, a little sarcastic maybe, bit of a smartass, but that’s the quintessential modern, contemporary, urban narrator, right? Eight million stories in the naked city, hoo, boy, let me tell you, been there, done that, world-weary, jaded, and they stole this voice from reams upon reams of private eye mysteries because, you know, urban, contemporary, and who’s gonna argue with success like that? But, and we’re zeroing in on what I’m getting at, to be that jaded, to be that weary of the world, you have to know something of it, or make like you do, and whether it’s the secret magic hidden in the everyday you know or the open weirdness of a world just slightly askew they’re gonna tell you all about it just to show that yeah, they’ve been there, they’ve done that, and every werewolf likes this, you know, and they never met a vampire that didn’t do that, and there’s this one thing you can do will trip up a ghost and as for magic, well, magic, and here what you have to imagine is me holding up my hands, a shrug, a shake of my head, something that isn’t a smile pinching off the corners of my mouth because words fail, you know? Words fail.
He’s not wrong! (I think his style might be more palatable in larger doses.) But yeah, hard boiled style and urban fantasy feel like they should be an easy fit, and they’re not. So many pitfalls for the unwary.
I can’t say whether Manley walks the mysterious walk as well as he talks the mysterious talk; the last time I ran across his book/web serial, I think I mistook it for a wiki or something else nonlinear and just couldn’t be bothered. Maybe I should give it another chance.