Nintendo Switch Review – DEBUG MODE

Nintendo Switch? Didn’t that come out like two months ago? Aren’t you a little late to the reviewing game?

Yes, yes, and probably. Honestly I intended to get this review done a month ago but a number of things prevented that. On the other hand, I think anybody who did a “review” after only a couple days or even a couple weeks is being kind of disingenuous. That’s not long enough to seriously evaluate a games console especially when the launch lineup is so limited. The games that have come out since launch have provided a clearer idea of how the Switch might fare in the coming months and years in a practical sense.

I wasn’t even going to call this a “review” but that’s the search term I have to use if I want anybody to watch this thing. But two months is at least a somewhat feasible amount of time to evaluate a console. I feel like I have a much better handle on it than if I had tried to rush a review out early.

This video was a little different for me. I actually got to/had to use my camera equipment for once which was fun, but stressful at the same time. I haven’t done product videography before and it shows, but I did the best I could shooting almost everything by myself. I’m fairly happy with the results and I learned a lot.

E3 is less than a month away now. Nintendo will almost certainly have a lot of big announcements regarding games, services, and software updates. At least they’d better. Switches are still sold out a lot of places, but to keep strong sales they’re gonna have to bring the noise. Fingers crossed for a new Metroid. A real one.

A Shameless Minecraft Post

Minecraft post header

Five years ago I did a post about Minecraft. It’s by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this site not because it was particularly good (it actually kinda sucks), but because something like 35% of the internet is dedicated to Minecraft.

Incidentally, the second most popular post I’ve written was about Disney buying Star Wars, so, y’know. Popular things are popular. That’s SEO, kids!

In my old post I made this foolish declaration:

No, I haven’t started playing Minecraft nor will I. The game, if you can call it that, seems like a gigantic time suck. It’s the sort of thing I could get into if I had unlimited time on this earth and didn’t feel guilty about such things.

About a month later I bought the game.

A lot has happened in five years – even just to Minecraft. Notch did not make the game open-source. He sold it to Microsoft for buckets of money. The game has continued to receive updates and is now available on pretty much every electronic device with a color screen. Minecraft merchandise is in nearly every retail space that sells stuff to kids or nerds or nerdy kids. And apparently there’s a movie in the works possibly with Steve Carell.

I hope he’s playing Steve.

I don’t really care about any of that. Minecraft has become essentially one thing for me: a replacement for Lego, K’nex, and all the other building toys I grew up with.

You know what? I was right. Minecraft is a huge time sink. In five years, I’ve gone from not playing at all to building all of this.

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My world from the “air”
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A skyline view of the same – or most of it

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Spoilercast: Horizon Zero Dawn

Audio-only version:

My buddy Joshua and I recorded a spoiler-filled discussion about Horizon Zero Dawn which would probably be the hottest new video game at the moment except then Zelda happened (and it’s really good too).

The short non-spoiler version is that Horizon Zero Dawn is very, very good and you should play it if you have a PS4 and like action games, open world games, sci-fi, giant robots, good fiction, and/or pretty landscapes. It’s gorgeous. The story is great. Fighting giant dinosaur machines is awesome. The initial reveal trailer from E3 a couple years ago showed a lot of promise and this game delivers on all of it.

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Debug Mode: Top 10 Games of 2016

It’s been a while since I made a Debug Mode video. In fact, I got all the way through 2016 without producing one even though I intended to do so.

I still have a bunch of ideas kicking around for topics. I want to move away from “reviews” like I’ve done in the past and talk more about concepts or specific aspects of games I find interesting.

2016 had so many great games. I wanted to comment on my favorites. So this is still more review-ish than I will probably do in the future, but I’m fairly happy with the way it turned out.

And it’s a list, of course. People like lists. I like lists. Lists are fun. Psychology, eh?

Debug Mode: Cities Skylines review

Well it took much longer to get this out than I wanted. It would have been released sooner if not for a few personal and professional matters that delayed things. And also that fight with the printer. Yeah, that story was about me trying to print the script for this video.

I have a lot of ideas for future Debug Mode videos: games I want to talk about and topical videos too. I’m even contemplating covering some movies or TV shows. I’ve got a lot of partially written scripts. A lot of footage captured.

I was working on a completely different subject but then Cities: Skylines came along and I knew I had to cover it. As a longtime SimCity fan, I was super disappointed by the 2013 entry in that series and Cities: Skylines is this amazing game because it fixes nearly everything that the other game got wrong.

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Favorite Games of 2013

A new year is upon us and that means it’s time to hand out meaningless accolades to various media properties because making lists is fun!

I am quite intentionally calling these “favorite” lists rather than “best of” lists because there’s a lot of games, movies, and music I didn’t experience in 2013 which no doubt deserve attention and praise, but I can’t consume everything in a year. With that in mind, I am limiting my lists to a Top 3 with possible honorable and dishonorable mentions.

3. The Stanley Parable

SP1

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Telltale Games

Telltale Games logoIn the last year, Telltale Games has become one of my favorite game developers. They have, in my mind, supplanted BioWare as the foremost developer of mainstream, story-driven games.

For the uninitiated: Telltale makes episodic adventure games based on existing franchises. They’re shorter chunks of content that come out over a period of time rather than all at once. Usually a single episode about 2 hours long with 5 episodes in a season. They’re heavy on story, dialog, and simple puzzles. They aren’t “difficult” per se. It’s more about experiencing the story and characters rather than developing gameplay skills. It’s kind of like an interactive TV show or a choose-your-own adventure book, but less dumb than that sounds.

The company had limited success until recently. They made a lot of licensed games that were either based on obscure properties (like Homestar Runner or Sam & Max) or more well-known franchises like Back to the Future or Jurassic Park. The obscure ones didn’t sell as well because of their obscurity and the big name franchise games weren’t well received.

The first Telltale Game I played was Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People which, as a big Homestar Runner fan, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dangeresque 3
I will always love Telltale for finally giving us Dangeresque 3

Last year, Telltale had their breakthrough success: a series based on The Walking Dead. Many, including myself, consider it their 2012 Game of the Year.

WD1

Walking Dead changed things up a little bit. Over the course of the five episodes, puzzles were pretty much abandoned altogether. The main game mechanic became making choices. Who do you save? Who do you share your limited supply of food with? Who’s side do you take in an ugly dispute within your group of survivors? It might sound strange, but this works surprisingly well. It’s far more engaging than yet another zombie shooter would have been (…and was). In fact, it ranks as one of my favorite games ever.

I played the entire saga at once. I was completely enthralled the whole way through. The Walking Dead is perhaps the most gut-wrenching piece of media I’ve ever experienced, but the story blew me away and left me in tears. I love it.

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Believe it or not some of the best moments of the game look like this

But I’m a little worried about Telltale now. Was Walking Dead just an anomaly or have they really figured out the magical mix of gameplay and game writing technique? We shall see. Season 2 premieres next week. I’m desperately curious how they’re going to pull off what they’re attempting.

Recently, Telltale announced it will be doing two new series in the coming year: a series based on Borderlands and one based on Game of Thrones. With season 2 of the Walking Dead and the currently-running series The Wolf Among Us, it’s entirely possible that Telltale will have four concurrent game series come 2014. For a company that made only one game last year that’s quite a big leap in output.

This is what really has me concerned. Is Telltale biting off more than it can chew? They’ve hired a lot of new employees in the last couple of years. Rapid expansion is risky in any business but in a creative industry it can be especially problematic. They’re not building a bunch of new coffee shops or burger joints. They’re building story-driven franchise. They’re hiring people to make creative decisions and make things no one has ever made before.

Good creative products always require talent – not just money and manpower. That isn’t something you can just buy. You can hire people you believe to be talented, but it’s always a bit of a gamble. Quick growth means you have a lot of new blood that might not understand the culture and ethos of the your company and the products you’re trying to build.

Point is: I like the Telltale that gave us Season 1 of The Walking Dead and I hope their success and growth as a company doesn’t translate into a reduction in quality. I have no reason to think that yet. The Wolf Among Us is supposed to be great. I’ll be giving it shot soon.

As for the new games announced, Game of Thrones makes all the sense in the world. I don’t have any first-hand experience with the franchise myself. Never read it; never watched it, but from all I’ve heard it sounds like a great candidate for a Telltale-style adventure game. Making difficult choices and dealing with fascinating characters in life-and-death situations worked well in the Walking Dead’s universe. I’m sure it’ll work great in Westeros.

Game of Thrones

I am curious what story they’ll tell. By necessity it almost has to be some kind of side story. Obviously you can’t retread the events of the books because that will limit player choice and spoil the mystery of what’s going to happen.

With Walking Dead, there are as many stories as you care to tell: just make up a group of survivors. Maybe it’s the same way in Game of Thrones? I guess it could be similar. Sounds like more characters get killed off than in Walking Dead.

Tales from the Borderlands was the announcement that really surprised me. I guess in one way it makes a lot of sense: it really fits Telltale’s established art style. But when I think of Borderlands story is waaaaay down on the list of reasons to play it. It might not even make the list.

Borderlands 2 executed its story about 1000 times better than the first game, but that was kind of irrelevant. As long as the game had a billion guns and some wacky dialog we would have played it.

Tales from the Borderlands

I just wouldn’t have thought of this as a franchise ripe for storytelling. I’m sure it’s possible to make something enjoyable out of it. The tricky part will be getting players to care about the world and the characters. They’ve all been pretty disposable up to now. Amusing distractions in between shooting stuff, but that’s it. My guess is they’ll go for comedy over drama. That’s probably good route to take because all of their other licenses are likely to play out as tragedies. Not everything has to be as emotionally gripping and meaningful as season 1 of The Walking Dead. According to the trailer, a lot of people are still going to die in this one, but at least Handsome Jack’s laughing it off.