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The Humble Mozilla Bundle is not, as you might initially expect, a pay-what-you-want collection of really useful open-source software. It is in fact a bundle of games, many of which you will recognize, and all of which can be played, with no fuss, no muss, and no installation, in your browser.
Some of these games—most of them, possibly even all of them—have appeared in various Humble Bundles in the past. The hook this time around is that the techno-magic of asm.js makes them all playable in your browser, with no horsing around with installers, third-party game managers or operating system restrictions. None of that stuff is brain surgery, but who doesn't like convenience?
The HMB offers Super Hexagon, Aaaaa! for the Awesome, Osmos, Zen Bound 2 and Dustforce DX at any price you want to pay. Beating the average, currently a little north of four bucks, will also get you Voxatron, FTL: Advanced Editon, and a third game to be revealed later, while paying $8 or more tacks on Democracy 3. The browser-based versions of the games will run in Firefox version 22 or higher or Chrome version 28 or higher; other Java-enabled browsers may work but aren't guaranteed.
It's a good collection, and it's also open for sampling: Just pop over to humblebundle.com and click the "play" button under each title to launch preview versions of any of the games, including the ones in the higher tiers. All the games are also available as DRM-free downloads, and all but Voxatron may also be had on Steam; soundtracks for FTL, Dustforce, Zen Bound 2, Aaaaa! and Osmos are part of the package as well.
Charity is still in the mix too, with the Mozilla Foundation—no surprise there—the Maker Education Initiative, and CodeNow the beneficiaries this time around. The Humble Mozilla Bundle is live now and will remain so until October 28.
My Apple iPad 2. Crisp display with a density of 132 ppi. Reacts to multi-touch gestures. Contains accelerometer, gyroscope. Reacts to involuntary shakes in hands. Enough battery life to last majority of a cross country flight. Reacts poorly to excessive, clammy sweating. Does not register uncontrolled clenching of fists/jaw. Eight-megapixel front-facing camera accurately captures wild desperation in eyes, ghostly pallor, but leaves out racing thoughts, mounting dread, cavalcade of head voices.
Plays games. Games help. Flying sucks. But it sucks more without approved electronic devices.
I am definitely not alone in my fear of flying. This common fear affects up to one-third of Americans, and I think the fact that it's so widespread has led to a kind of dismissive attitude towards it. Either it's treated as a joke, or as something that only pills can fix. Practical ways of dealing with fear of flying get short shrift. In the scheme of things there are much worse problems, but that doesn't make it insignificant. Flying today is unavoidable, and can be a huge source of stress.
It's certainly not a panacea, but recently I've come to find that playing games on my iPad can alleviate my fear of flying more than watching movies, certainly more than reading a book, and somehow even more than my beloved comic books. I know that trying to be prescriptive about phobias is difficult, and what's often most helpful for me is just hearing about someone else's experience. So in that spirit, I'd like to talk about how games help.
Several years ago on a flight from Idaho into California the plane I was on encountered an unexpected coastal storm. We were preparing to land, and at relatively low altitude. In the small plane the turbulence was very violent. Passengers were pretty distressed, myself included, and only more so when alarms started sounding from the cockpit, including a pleasant female robo-voice repeating "wind shear, wind shear."
Wind shear, I later learned, is abrupt and dramatic shift in wind speed and direction. Imagine a strong wind blowing at your face only to suddenly be pushing you forward. Weirdly enough, it's not good for flying. I totally lost my cool and started furtively texting friends and family that I loved them—yes, my phone was on. Thankfully, after bouncing around and then plummeting towards the ground for a little while, the plane was able to recover enough to divert to another airport. Believe it or not, we encountered the same problem at the second landing site which led to another round of panicked out-loud cabin prayers and a final diversion to LAX.
And that's it. No injuries, no in-cabin fire or water landing. Millions of people have gone through the same thing, but for some reason I couldn't shrug it off. Hell, when we were finally landing at LAX I could see at least a dozen planes flying parallel to us, refugees from other airstrips. We landed, the pilot was kind enough to announce that he had been flying since Vietnam and it was the worst landing he'd ever done, and we got off the plane. I had to fly back across the country four days later. It wasn't easy anymore.
You don't want to see me when I fly. Shaking, sweating, crying: it's not pretty. The fear is slowly improving, but I still get intense anxiety while flying, and up to a week or more before and afterwards. I dream about it. Frequently. When I see planes flying above me, I get scared. Even watching people fly in movies or TV puts me on edge.
This is all, of course, before I get on the plane. Once there not only do I scare myself—half to death, my heart tells me—but also the poor people who have to sit beside me. I've tried a lot of things to help it, chemicals included. But it's that precious, wonderful time when you're sealed for hours in a tube miles above ground/ocean/comfort that help is desperately needed and surprisingly spare.
I had tried playing my 3DS while flying in the past, but it didn't work for several reasons. 3D was totally out of the question, and concentrating on the small screen made me prohibitively self-conscious about what I was doing. But mostly it was the DS's heavy reliance on stylus: one errant altitude drop and I'd end up stress-jabbing that bad boy right into my thigh. I don't own a Vita so I'll reserve judgement there. It wasn't until I inherited a friend's old iPad that I found a way to game in midair.
The first therapeutic experience I had with a game while flying was Capcom's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. I turned to the game on a cross-country jaunt instead of A) watching Ted, B) dragging my fingernails across my pant legs repeatedly, C) hyperventilating in the bathroom, or D) chugging tiny bottles of hooch.
TIPS FOR FLIERS - What gamers can do when they're feeling afraid.
- DO: Play a game that will engage you on multiple fronts, and remember to crank up your headphones.
- DO: Play a game that puts a little fun in death—no The Walking Dead.
- DO: Play a game you're already good at. Feel like a winner again!
- DO: Play a game with a strong but lighthearted story. Nothing says distraction like compelling narrative.
- DON'T: Play anything really frustrating. If you're peeved on the ground, you'll be apoplectic up there.
In Ghost Trick you control Sissel, a mysterious man with wonderful hair, who's recently been relieved of his life and is trying to solve his own murder using things called "Ghost Tricks." Sissel's spirit can go back in time and possess objects, manipulating them to change his future. Playing, I felt the surety of my own demise slide a little further away. "What are these beautiful magicks?!" I thought to myself.
In a game good for flying, death is reversible, avoidable, and altogether Not That Bad. Of course, most games feature a "back from the dead" mechanic, but it helps if your character doesn't just reappear a lá Mario. After all, who's that new Mario? Is he the same? Did he retain the sentience of the previous one? If Mario was on a plane and it crashed, would he just pop out of a warp pipe back at the departure gate? Existentially, it's a nightmare. Ghost Trick, on the other hand, has death and life a mere button click away, your character's consciousness sliding seamlessly between the two. Even better, the world of the dead is packed with colorful characters like a talking lamp and a cuddly dog named Missile who—hey we're already past Des Moines? All right!
Best of all, playing it allowed me to feel like I was in charge. A major contributor to my fear of flying is feeling that I have no control, especially concerning death. Not that I have it otherwise, but no one said this was rational. After an hour of Ghost Trick, every time the plane made a noise and sent me into a frenzy, I would imagine how, like Sissel, I could "trick" my way over to the offending part and repair it in a jiffy. This fantasy was made all the easier because over the past two years I've taken an unhealthy amount of time familiarizing myself with aircraft construction, aerodynamics, and the most frequent contributors to... incidents. So I knew (or at least could fudge) exactly what bolt, flap, or gauge needed tricking. Ridiculous, yes, but an amount of levity that can be hard to come by in time of panic. Speaking of levity...
Replace your flying fears with fashion in Square Enix's The World Ends With You! The JRPG was originally released in 2008 on the DS, but I prefer the newer touch version. The touch version's deep-but-swift combat is just hard enough to be distracting, but intuitive and malleable enough to not be frustrating. As in Ghost Trick, the protagonist Neku is trapped in an afterlife. This one is a funky high-fashion Shibuya. He's participating in the "Reaper's Game," a sort of seven-day alternate reality game, to win his life back.
On a flight I noticed not only did it have the aforementioned agency angle, but it also made my initial fear look like a dynamic world of fun and friends. The world of the game is so cool that one of the main characters even volunteers himself for it. I am not religious, at all. I do not believe in an afterlife. But I don't dismiss the adage that everyone finds god in a foxhole. Any lie, any fantasy you can sell to yourself is a boon.
So for the duration of a flight, my harried brain had no trouble adopting the belief that engine failure would leave me somewhere exciting (as a diehard LOST fan, I've indulged similar fantasies in the past). Fully functional, tres exciting, and full of Important Lessons, the afterlife of TWEWY is the place to be. It's chock full of secret ramens, haute couture, math puns (so many math puns...), and crazy as hell music. Music so crazy and incessant you might just get hypnotized. Distracted, even.
One thing about fear is you have to pay attention to it. Rarely is it a feeling simmering in the background, instead preferring to vice grip your brain. Trains of thought are quickly interrupted by the base, brute, repetitive "you are not safe. You will not leave this plane. You will perish in this outfit. No one here knows who you are. Why in the world did you board this thing. You poor, dead idiot." Rolls off the tongue.
Playing games on my iPad, especially with the headphones turned up, works to pry a few of those five fingers from around my grey matter, sense by sense. The best example I can think of here is Osmos, the powerfully soothing PC game which made its way onto touch platforms some years ago. In Osmos, you control a sphere through tranquil environments, consuming smaller spheres and dodging currents, obstacles, and more. It's like a bare bones Katamari on ludes. I appreciated Osmos before, but I never really loved it until I played it whilst flying.
The almost synesthetic mix of sound, visuals, and touch was able to elbow out some of my fear for sheer lack of real estate. Cloud front: I didn't see you. Whistling noise: I didn't hear you. Turbulence: what turbulence? It was a proactive approach, attacking the problem on multiple fronts. Quite literally, I couldn't yank out my own hair if I was too busy beautifully absorbing smaller motes and drifting away to flowing ambient music. Osmos: you won't have a heart attack!
An aspect of my fear of flying that I never would have predicted is the embarrassment involved. When I'm flying alone, I often spend several hours before a flight walking around the airport, dragging my bag behind me because I'm too nervous to sit. True or not, I think by the end some of the restaurant hosts begin to recognize me. Onboard is no better. When I look around the plane, everyone looks so placid that quite frankly I feel like a loser. All I have to do is sit down: how can I be so bad at it? All of these games and more can hand you back some of your dignity through small victories. The fear doesn't totally neuter you, you can still put up a high score damnit!
A little digital pat on the back can be just the thing when the girl next to you is whispering to her boyfriend in the aisle seat that you're acting weird. When that guy might be judging your jelly legs as you walk down the aisle. When your seat mate is aggravated at you for taking up the window space because staring straight through it helps just that much. I don't mean to be strange or annoying. Regaining my self-esteem makes me feel less small, and more in charge of my own emotions. You get to win. It feels nice.
You'll notice I've left out mobile gaming's bread and butter, bite sized puzzlers. I've played as much Where's My Water? as the next guy who plays a lot of Where's My Water? (and may own a Swampy plush hey who said that). At home or on the subway, I'll gladly spend a long time trying to direct that stream of water into a subterranean crocodile's bathtub, collecting all the rubber ducks along the way. But when that "fasten seatbelt" sign flashes on, the victory of 3 stars seems mighty pyrrhic.
What at sea level would be frustration expands at high altitude into self-loathing and acknowledgement of the pointlessness of the earth. Because of course that bird would stop rolling one pixel away from the final pig. What else would happen? Now let's look out the window until a pitot tube malfunctions and inexorably alters the aircraft's angle of attack, leading to aerodynamic stall. Zero stars. Best to stick to story-driven games, or at least a puzzler that puts tranquility above difficulty. Otherwise you just might end up freaking out. Even more.
I don't want to be afraid on planes, and I certainly don't like it. But I also can't pretend it's something that's just going to go away on its own. I spent enough time doing that. Discovering a way to at least partially fight a phobia can feel like a light at the end of the tunnel, however dim.
The long-running Humble Indie Bundle initiative has finally made the leap to smartphones.
The latest pack includes Android-compatible indie gems Osmos, Edge and Anomaly: Warzone Earth. What's more, you'll also get versions for Mac OSX, Windows or GNU/Linux.
As is traditional, you decide how much you pay, and what proportion of your donation goes to the developers, to charity (choose Child's Play Charity or the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and to the Humble Indie Bundle organisers.
If your payment is above the current average ($5.29 at the time of writing), you'll also get World of Goo thrown in.
The pack has got off to a solid start, with over 24,000 sales so far and revenue of $131,000.
That it took so long for PC, MAC, and iOS masterpiece Osmos to reach Android devices is a tiny bit of suck which absorbs smaller sucks until it's the biggest suck of them all. The Ubersuck, if you will, master of all that sucks.
Thank goodness Hemisphere Games got it out on Android this month, or that metaphor would have gone on forever. Which would have sucked.
If you've played games on the Mac, PC, iPhone, or iPad in the past couple of years then you've probably heard of Osmos. It's a Darwinian puzzle game in which the player propels a single-celled organism called a Mote about space, absorbing smaller Motes gain mass while ejecting mass to propel itself. Motivation takes a lot out of the Mote, so it's up to the player to navigate treacherous fields of colorful galactic dust, always staying one step bigger than the objects it collides with.
Sometimes enemies will try to absorb you. Sometime forces will repel and attract your Mote, making simple movement much more treacherous. And sometimes your main opponent is yourself, balancing momentum with mass in order to make it through a level as quickly as possible.
Call it a simplified Katamari Damacy. Call it 21st century Pac-Man as Stephen Totilo did back when he reviewed the iOS version of the game. Call it one of the 12 best games for the iPad, like we did earlier this year. I've a feeling we're going to need to update that Android list pretty soon.
With 27 guided levels which can be replayed in arcade mode on several difficulty levels, procedurally generated randomization, and a wide variety of playfields to navigate, $4.99 is a ridiculously small price to pay for one of the best games you can play on a mobile device. Osmos is guaranteed to draw you in.
Yeah, I can't believe I wrote that last line either. Sucks, doesn't it?
Osmos HD [Android Market]
It was impressive when Robert Bowling, creative strategist for Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward, paid $500 for a batch of indie games that only cost $85. Then Notch, maker of Minecraft stepped up, with $2000.
These guys and a few others are paying lots of money for the Humble Indie Bundle 2, which went on sale yesterday. The bundle is the second offering of indie games being offered to gamers for any price they want to pay. People can name their price and direct their payment in different proportions to the games' developers and various charities.
The games in the second bundle are: Braid, Machinarium, Osmos, Cortex Command and Revenge of the Titans (pictured up top).
Bowling and Notch paid a whole lot more than the ordinary gamer, who are spending a little over $7 on average for the bundle, as of the writing of this post.
Humble Indie Bundle sales stats [Thanks to everyone who sent this in.]