Forget about compulsively collecting every useless bauble, or heck, even normal adventuring in Skyrim. That's not worth going back for. This is.
Check out this strange but hilarious mod by rsv_rsv. It gives you the ability to kiss everyone in Skyrim. Well, almost everyone. You can't kiss creatures, mannequins or corpses—which is bullshit, because I wanted to kiss all the mudcrabs. I guess kissing all the Jarls and being rewarded for it will have to do.
(I'm only half-joking. I think I would seriously embark on a quest to kiss everything in Skyrim. Better than, like, collecting all the cabbages if you ask me!)
If you're going to make a game about juggling cats in the air using your head and feet, you better have a damn good reason for the simulated animal cruelty. I'd say the threat of feline impact craters fits the bill.
This is Hackycat, a game by artist-illustrator Ken Wong, also known as the art director of Alice: Madness Returns. See, it all begins to make sense.
For his first solo project, Wong decided to create a game in which the player must tap collectible cartoon cats in order to keep them from hitting the ground. See, some cruel god created a special species of kitty that detonates on contact with terra firma — frankly I'm astounded they survived long enough to be gamified.
As with traditional juggling objects, keeping a single cat in the air is no problem. Keeping two is harder. Three is a real challenge. Four is crazy buckets. Five... well, you get the idea.
Thankfully Wong also included a means to dispose of the flying kitty—bombs. Collect enough cheeseburgers (yes, he went there) gives the player a superkick, which I'm assuming sends the cats involved into orbit, where they never need fear touching the ground again — or breathing, but that's beside the point.
It sounds awfully horrible, but it's a great deal of joy. Check out those Wes Anderson-inspired visuals.
Packed with collectible kittens, power-ups, cruel birds and the odd unlockable character (no seriously, he's really odd), Hackeycat contains hours upon hours of good time, just waiting for you to kick it. Meow.
I've written about this subject before, but every day it seems like there's a new screed, a new attention-grabbing editorial or essay. "Are JRPGs Obsolete?" "Do JRPGs No Longer Matter?" "Has The Age Of JRPGs Passed?" No. Shut up. "Will Xenoblade Revitalize The Japanese RPG?" "Will Ni no Kuni Revitalize The Japanese RPG?" "Will Persona Revitalize The Japanese RPG?" No. Nothing needs revitalizing. Shut up.
Allow me to prove my point. I've put together a list of ten JRPGs—all modern, all different, all excellent, all worth playing today. They represent every major console, Wii U aside, and they were all released within the past five years. All ten are worth your time.
Worth playing if only for the dreams—fantastic short stories that you'll see intermittently as you play—Lost Odyssey is a long, sprawling fantasy game designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy. Released back before Japan abandoned all hope on the Xbox 360, this is the best JRPG you can get on Microsoft's console.
Otherwise known as The RPG Jason Won't Shut Up About, Trails in the Sky is a long and sprawling PSP adventure that captures everything there is to love about JRPGs: it's charming, funny, and chock full of great music, even if it can sometimes feel a little slow.
Allow me to quote my recent review: "Whimsical, charming, beautiful, fascinating, smart, pleasant, challenging, slow-paced, grand, surreal, and aggressively colorful... it's a fantastic Japanese role-playing game, one that will stun your senses and break your heart in the best possible way."
Almost a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger, Radiant Historia captures the glory of a classic Super Nintendo RPG and throws in some modern conveniences: you can fast forward through dialogue, for example, and see random enemies before they get all up in your battle screen. Kidnapped princesses, time travel, giant suits of armor: this one's got all the fixings of an old-school RPG.
As Stephen Totilo has pointed out, this game is reason alone to get your hands on a 3DS. Sort of like a chess game on crack, Fire Emblem tasks you with strategizing and scheming across big battlefields, leveling up your characters, and trying to figure out which people will make the best babies.
Few games are as smart and quirky as Nintendo's Mario-helmed RPGs, and Bowser's Inside Story, released for the DS back in 2009, is proof of that. You spend most of the game inside Bowser's body. If that's not enough to convince you to play it, I don't know what is.
Proof that JRPG designers aren't afraid to experiment, Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical role-playing game set in a 1930s version of Europe, in which you move soldiers around a battlefield in what can be best described as a cross between real-time and turn-based battling, XCOM-style. This one is lovely, and not to be missed—even if Sega never will bring over the third one.
For a while I didn't think I would enjoy The World Ends With You, a Square Enix-helmed RPG that takes place in a twisted version of Tokyo, Japan. But there's something really appealing about the evolution of grumpy protagonist Neku from misanthrope to hero, and the battle system feels very good, especially on iOS.
One of the best JRPGs this generation, The Last Story is only held back by its inferior hardware. This is a game meant to be seen in high-definition, but it's chained to the Wii, a console that can't output HD. Still, The Last Story is a lovely little love story with a really cool battling system that almost feels like a fantasy version of Gears of War.
Every day's great at your Junes. It's hard to find someone who doesn't love Persona 4, the RPG-slash-high school simulator that has you taking tests in the morning and fighting demons in the afternoon. Playing it on the Vita means playing it wherever you want, so for anyone without the bandwidth to sit in front of a TV for 60+ hours, Golden is the version to go with.
Ten wildly different JRPGs, all great in wildly different ways. If you've played them all and you still think the JRPG is dead, or dying, or obsolete, or antiquated, or irrelevant, or afraid of change... well then you're just fooling yourself.
Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG. It runs every Friday at 3pm ET.
EA and Zynga have been tied up in mutual lawsuits over their Facebook games The Sims Social and The Ville since last year, but All Things Digital is reporting that today both cases were dismissed in California court. The companies issued the statement that "EA and Zynga have resolved their respective claims and have reached a settlement of their litigation in the Northern District of California." I would hazard a guess that some simoleons changed hands.
Back in August we reported that EA was suing the casual-game giant for copyright infringement over The Ville, which EA said was "directly lifted from The Sims Social." Not content to sit back passively, Zynga went at EA with claims that they had "an anti-competitive and unlawful scheme to stop Zynga from hiring" and were violating antitrust laws. That stuff don't fly in The Ville. While details of what happened behind the scenes are absent, both of those suits have been "dismissed with prejudice," so they'll be no appeals or second tries for either party. And all is well again in Facebook simulation land.
EA and Zynga Quietly Resolve Copyright Dispute Out of Court [All Things Digital]
Wait! Before you go reaching for your wallets, you should know that the 8-bit styled dinnerware pictured above doesn't actually exist. The images come from superstar graphic designer Olly Moss' Tumblr and are the result of some noodling around while he had time on his hands. Moss says that the dishes riff on the famous Willow china pattern and the designs on them reference classic Pokémon and Legend of Zelda games. If a China set with these patterns existed, they'd be in the wedding registry of every game-loving couple in the world. But, alas, they do not.
One of the patron saints of this stuff was supposed to be Jesse Schell, a game designer and teacher who described an ultra-gamified future in a popular talk he gave at the DICE summit a few years ago. He imagined a time when we'd get points for brushing our teeth, points for wearing brand-name tattoos, points for high-fiving friends... points for everything.
Some saw Schell's talk as a warning. Some saw it as satire. And some saw it as inspiration. People contact Schell all the time to gamify things, he told me as we chatted in Las Vegas at the 2013 DICE Summit last week.
"I think there is a lot of confusion about the whole notion of gamification," he told me before getting into an excellent anecdote about some people who thought they wanted to gamify their warehouse.
"Gamification is kind of a naive word and a naive idea," he continued, by way of setting things up. "People think: 'There are things I like about games; everything will get better if I make it more like games.' But when you kind of unpack all that, what people really mean is that 'There are certain things about games that I really like, and can I use some of those things in other experiences?' The problem they're trying to solve is 'I have these other things that I want to be more pleasurable and that's a shift in design that's happening more and more. It used to be that design was about effectiveness and efficiency. And now it's really about what is going to make this design the most pleasurable." Game designers, he said, know about making things more pleasurable.
Schell draws the distinction, by the way, between what's pleasurable and what's fun. Eating a ham sandwich, he suggests, is more the former than the latter. "When someone says, 'I want to gamify the income tax-filing experience,' do they really? And does it need to be fun? Or does it just need to be less painful and maybe you want to create a feeling of satisfaction that, 'I know I've finished everything completely and I get pleasure from that'?
"Very often people say they want to gamify, they don't actually want to make it fun, but they do want to make it more pleasurable."
So here's the bit about the warehouse. Schell was contacted by people who ran one. At this warehouse, employees wore headsets that allowed a computer to give them directions about where to go and what to put where.
"Turnover at the warehouse was really high, and the people running the operation hoped that gamifying the experience would improve things. People would feel more rewarded if their warehouse job was more like a game."
The warehouse people wanted to gamify. That was going to solve things. Schell wasn't sure they needed to.
"You could come up with points and blah blah blah, but I said, 'let's unpack this and let's back up. You say this is a new problem. Why didn't this used to be a problem?'
"'Well, I don't know, I think it has to do with the computer system we used to have.'
"I'm like, 'how did it used to work?'
"'It used to be kind of a team would meet up in the morning; there was a guy in charge of figuring everything out. He would come up with a plan for who should do what. He would tell them what to go and do. They'd do some of it on their own. They'd work it out together.'
"So basically they took the human element out of it. All the human socialization got taken out of it and all of the freedom, too... And now the computer decided everything. So I asked questions: 'Well, do you want to put that back in? ...You make them wear an earset all day. What kind of music do you put on that?'
"'Oh, we don't.'
"'I guess. We didn't think about that.'
"So you could build in social elements. You could build in a thing where music is a part of it and you get to pick your music. Those things are pleasurable, but I don't know if I'd call that fun or a game.... People make a mistake when they jump to the game goal structures."
Schell said the warehouse people could add a points system. They could try turning the whole thing into a game. But his point is that it doesn't need to be that way.
People outside of gaming want what gaming's got. They think what we gamers enjoy are points. Maybe. But Schell seems to be onto something. That we gamers enjoy what we're doing is the thing. And finding out why we are enjoying ourselves and borrowing some of that? That might make even the most tedious jobs better—even if those jobs don't suddenly get an Achievement system added on top of them.
Top pic: A scene from Shenmue via 1morecastle.com
Recently, OXM published excerpts of an upcoming interview with Epic Game's Chris Perna where they talked about Gears of War: Judgement and female characters in the Gears universe.
It got me thinking. When Gears of War 3 debuted playable female characters, I realized first-hand just how empowering they were to play. Truthfully, there's so much testosterone in Gears that it's a wonder that anything other than men can exist in that world.
But they do! And look no further than Claudia Black's signature sultry but fierce performance with Gears 3's Sam to see just how well women fit into the universe...outside of that unfortunate "women only exist to make babies" thing in the lore.
Still, the inclusion in Gears 3 was progress. Might we ever see a female protagonist, though? ...probably not, according to the aforementioned interview. To quote:
Is it possible a future Gears game could feature a lady in the starring role?
Alas, it seems the market might have issues with this. "That's certainly interesting but I don't know," Perna mused. "If you look at what sells, it's tough to justify something like that."
What to even say, though? Again we have an instance of decisions being dictated wholly by business—business that limits itself to one specific demographic. You've probably heard all of that before, and frankly, as much bullshit as it might be (hello! even Epic acknowledges the great female fanbase in Gears, nevermind the whole "women are half of the population" thing, and the insulting implication that guys cant relate to girls—on and on), as awful as it is for anyone outside of the 18-25 year-old male demographic to have to justify itself just to exist...putting those things aside for a minute?
It's heartbreaking to read this, because I think a female protagonist could work, and it would probably be amazing. Anecdotal, but online, you see most people playing as the female characters anyway: so there's not this complete aversion and unmarketability, I don't think. People would be down for it.
I reached out to Epic to ask about specific stats: how many people were playing as women online? They told me that they don't give out exact numbers on that information, but what they could tell me is that about 10% of the total userbase has gotten the "Battle Mistress" medal in Gears 3. That's the medal you get for playing at least 25 matches as a female character.
Oh well. I'm sure Judgement will be just grand, but I definitely look forward to the day—should it ever come—that I get to play as a female gear as the lead.
UPDATE: Epic Games contacted me to add the following statement to this story:
"We have lots of strong, intelligent female characters in the Gears universe and we would never rule out a female protagonist for any of our future games, Gears or otherwise."
We've reached the halfway point in Colby's Convection Oven event in ChefVille, and it's time to unlock more Valentine's Day dishes before it's too late. Colby has brought three new quests to the game in a "Last Ditch Convection" series, and we're here with a guide to helping you finish them off (thanks to Zynga) before Madeline can make her choice between Colby and Rock.
• Upgrade the Convection Oven to Intermediate
• Cook 2 Calzones
• Have 1 Cyber Love Connection for Video Game Hen
The Intermediate upgrade to the Convection Oven requires six Heart-Shaped Cookie Cutters and six Heart-Shaped Trivets to unlock. The Cookie Cutters are earned by posting a general news post on your wall, while the other items are earned by sending out individual requests to your neighbors. When you collect all 12 of these items, you'll unlock three more dishes, including the Video Game Hen. This dish is cooked using two Chicken and two Garlic over a period of two minutes. The first Cyber Love Connection "Ribbon" is earned after cooking the dish three times. When you complete this first quest, you'll receive a Beet, one Sugar, and 10 XP.
• Have 1 Cyber Love Connection for Beet Pi
• Craft 3 Onion Gravy
• Cook 5 Greek Alphabet Soup
The Beet Pi is prepared using four Beets, two Flour, and one Milk. It takes five minutes to prepare. As for the Onion Gravy, it's made inside the Onion Gravy Station with two Onions and one Salt. It takes just two minutes to create. Finally, the Greek Alphabet Soup is one of the "Basic" dishes in the Convection Oven, and it requires four Tomatoes and two Flour to prepare. When you've finished this second quest, you'll receive three more Onion Gravy, 10 XP, and 15 coins.
Smart Either Way
• Ask friends for 7 Amour Balloons
• Cook 2 Beet Pi
• Have 2 Cyber Love Connections for Casserole's Theorem
The Casserole's Theorem is the final dish in the Convection Oven's Intermediate level, and it takes 10 minutes to prepare using three Flour, two Onion Gravy, and two Mushrooms. Completing this final quest gives you three Rice, one Pepper, and 15 coins. By this point, we'll hopefully find out whether Madeline has chosen Rock or Colby as her Valentine, but either way, we wish you the best of luck in completing these quests before they expire in three days.
What do you think of these final three dishes and quests in ChefVille's massive Valentine's Day event? Sound off in the Games.com comments!
Republished with permission from:
Brandy Shaul is an editor at Games.com
Just as Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey got near its $850,000 funding goal at Kickstarter, developer Red Thread Games put up an early prototype gameplay video.
You can see the heroine Zoe running around a rich, fully explorable, shiny forest environment called Riverwood, as well as the new hybrid interface that combines freeroam movement and classic point and click gameplay.
The Kickstarter for the project was launched on the 8th February and, should the campaign succeed, it will make Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey the third installment of the adventure series.
A lot of mobile games don't make sense. Why are pigs and birds enemies? How many times do you need to keep running through that temple? What's a science lab doing with so many electrical zappers?
Jool, a new iOS game by a German developer named ROSTLAUB, makes the least sense of any mobile game I've played. But it's somehow still kind of awesome.
Let me do my best to describe this game to you. Jool is an endless runner/platformer in which you play as a two-sided bird that is part good, part evil. Kind of like CatDog except 100% avian.
You hop and dash between platforms, collecting totally random objects like diamonds and hearts and coffee cups. There are also some special objects that do strange things. Sometimes you summon monsters who pop up in the back of the screen and play around with proportions Sometimes you pick up Yoda icons that turn you into a magnet so you can collect more of these objects. I still haven't figured out what most of them do.
As you run, platforms will shift and disappear, screwing you around and eventually making you plummet to your doom. When you do take a fall, the game will ask you to flip your phone/tablet around, and suddenly the screen will flip. The other bird thing will take over. If you were good, you'll be evil. If you were evil, you'll be good. And suddenly you're running in the other direction.
If this all sounds confusing, that's because it is. I've spent about an hour playing this trippy platformer, and I still don't really know how it works or what everything does. It's not quite as sublimely smooth as, say, Jetpack Joyride, but Jool is a psychedelic bit of fun nonetheless.