Archive for the ‘Articles and Rants’ Category

How to Get Joystiq’s Full Text RSS Feed

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Joystiq recently switched their RSS feed to a truncated version, which means you only see the first couple sentences, and then you need to click to see the rest. This is super annoying and takes way longer if you just want to skim through the articles. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of an RSS feed, in fact. There are services you can use to get the full text version of any feed, but they either cost money, or they’re limited to 5-10 items at a time, which means you’ll miss a lot of posts. Plus, they don’t refresh right away.

I found a Yahoo Pipe someone created to fix Joystiq’s feed, but it was outdated. I’ve updated it for Dec 2013, which you can view here, and even modify if you need to:

This is the RSS link, or you can go to the above page for more links. So far it works perfectly, and updates at the same rate as the real Joystiq feed (I have them running side-by-side as a test).

Fez is amazing! But everyone has translated the alphabet sideways. SPOILERS!

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Fez is a really great game! I had no idea it had so many puzzles and riddles…I thought it was just a quirky platformer puzzle game. So you should totally buy it, not read anything else about it, and try to figure it out yourself. You can “beat” the game without solving too much, but it’s the rest of the game that has all the mysteries. It has a whole alphabet you need to decipher, and that’s the main reason for this post. So MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!


Iron Brigade “Settlement Savior” Achievement Tips (Survival mode)

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I just got the achievement for this (make it to wave 30 on Settlement); it was pretty tough! Thanks to rabies for the basic loadout/strategy.

You can do this solo, but I played with a friend of mine. The difficulty scales, but I figured with both of us being fairly good players this was the best bet. The beginning is the hardest — once you get some sniper turrets set up, you’ll be gaining tons of scrap and won’t have to run all over the place, so don’t worry if it feels like you’re getting slaughtered at the start. By wave 15 our green base had only a sliver of health left, but we made it!

Trench loadout:

At least one person should have:

Core: HoneyChurch IV with Sprint+ Legs
Weapon: Albert Sniper Rifle (Pierce+)
Emplacements: Dampening Generator, Repair Crane, Sniper Turret, Shredder Turret

My friend used a bigger Trench with heavy weapons. Use whatever you’re comfortable with. He had a collection pod. If you’re playing solo, you should probably swap the repair crane for the collection pod. I mostly stayed up near the green base, and my friend stayed down near orange. Because I had the sniper rifle, I was able to help him out from up there.


  • Start with all shredder turrets. They’re cheap, and at the beginning you need all the help you can get. More is better. Don’t waste scrap on other stuff yet (maybe a collection pod after a few waves).
  • Scrap disappears after a while, so grab it when you can, and eventually build collection pods.
  • Put emplacements on top of “trees.” I think you need to be on the lowest level for this to work (don’t be on a peninsula). Knobs shouldn’t be able to kill them this way, but watch for Burst Transmitters.
  • Build lots of sniper turrets once you start getting more scrap, and protect them from knobs with shredder turrets. Place some snipers at the end of the peninsulas, and up by the green decoy.
  • Focus all your fire on the Volt Dropper if you can! They do a lot of damage and ignore dampening generators, so you need to take them out as quickly as possible. Sniper turrets are what you need here, so I hope you’ve built a few by this point. When you fire at the Volt be sure to lead the target (aim a little in front of it when you fire).
  • Save the decoys for waves 25+ (as long as you can wait, basically).
  • Eventually build a repair crane somewhere in the middle, but not until you have plenty of scrap.
  • Turrets are dumb, so kill Jacobs first, as soon as you can.
  • If you’re using the Albert sniper rifle, try to line up multiple enemies when you can because of the pierce ability. If Jacobs are protecting an enemy, shoot through the enemy to hit the Jacobs; don’t wait for a clear shot.

We made it to wave 42 with this method, and would have gotten further if we had tried. After we got the achievement we relaxed and mostly let the turrets do the work, so eventually some enemies slipped by.

“Outland” is punishing, and not in the way you think.

Friday, November 11th, 2011

I beat Outland, and overall I really liked it (I’m a huge fan of Ikaruga). I almost gave up a few times, however, because some of the boss fights are frustrating. The main reason? No halfway checkpoints! Actually, that’s not even accurate, it’s that the checkpoints come before a long stretch of nothing for some inexplicable reason. It’s like putting a checkpoint before a cutscene. Let me show you.

There’s a spider boss, but when you start the section you have to run down a hallway, then complete a quick “hit two switches” section. It might be a little tricky the first time, but it’s no big deal.  After that the spider drops down, and you have to run through a bunch more stuff to get to the real fight. It takes a minute and a half to get there in this video, and he’s fast:

1:30 may not sound like a lot of time, but chances are it’s going to take you multiple tries to beat this boss.  You’re going to spend 1:30 just to get to the part where you die trying to figure out the patterns. It took me four or five tries, I don’t remember. It’s frustrating, more than it is actual wasted time, and it’s needless. Just add a checkpoint there!

Example two is the final boss in the game, so don’t watch the whole video if you don’t want to spoil it (watch the first 45 seconds).

Thirty seconds of climbing up a ladder, every time you restart! Then another 15 seconds for the fight to begin. Again, not a ton of actual time, but imagine climbing that ladder ten times. If they wanted that for dramatic effect, fine, show that the first time you load the game, but if you die or restart, have a temporary checkpoint at the top of the ladder!

I don’t mind if the game is hard. Hell, you can even make the game harder, just stop punishing me by making me replay these boring sections!

How to Fix

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

GameStop - would you like to pre-order?

In my last post I exposed GameStop’s wish list lies. Now it’s time to fix, so let me outline my proposal step-by-step — but first, I’ll fix those stupid mismatching icons:

There. That took me five damn minutes, GameStop. I would be happy to send you those graphics if you’d like. Okay, so now to fix the real problems.  The cornerstone of any relationship is honesty, and we can improve that in a few ways: (more…)

HOT NEWS ITEM! GameStop’s Wish List lies

Monday, September 26th, 2011

I use wish lists on various sites to track prices on games, and one of those sites is GameStop, everyone’s favorite store to hate™. While adding a few games, I noticed they had a warning next to them:

First of all, couldn’t they spend $20 to have someone match the background color on that icon? Anyway, scrolling through the list, I noticed that every item had that warning. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, Amazon even lists the actual number in stock when it’s low (e.g., “Only 3 left in stock–order soon (more on the way).“). But it was pretty clear that GameStop was lying to me, as I definitely have some games on my list that are not rare or in high demand. To be absolutely sure, I added a bunch of other games to see if they’d all have that warning: (more…)

Double Fine’s “Trenched”: Things I’d like to see in Trenched 2 (now Iron Brigade)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

I just finished Double Fine’s 3rd XBLA game, Trenched (update: now called Iron Brigade), and loved it. I got all the achievements, which means I got gold medals on every mission (“Volcano” was tough!), and I even leveled up every weapon just because I wanted to keep playing. I beat the game in about five hours, and spent another five on gold medals/leveling. I actually wish this had been a full retail game if it meant more missions and achievements. Still, there are a lot of things they could have done to extend the replay value of this game. Here’s what I’d like to see in an update/sequel:

Kodu Game Lab is out! Remember Kodu? Anyone?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


Kodu, you may remember, is the game programming tool shown at CES by “actual 12-year-old girl,” Sparrow. It was cartoony and cute and bright, and many people wrote it off instantly: “LBP rip-off!”, “Stupid rock-carrying game?!”, and so on. I really wanted to try it out, and now, apparently, it’s out. I say apparently because it’s gotten almost no press, and the only way I found out was by randomly browsing the Community Games channel and seeing it there. (Okay, Joystiq and other sites did post about it, but I had relatives over for the past two weeks so maybe I just missed it.) Still, after the CES demo I thought its release would be a much bigger event, and it would show up somewhere on the Xbox dashboard (Spotlight). It’s too bad it wasn’t released on XBLA rather than the CG channel, the place where no one dares tread.

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with it for the past few days, and it’s great! You really can create all sorts of games, from FPSs, to side-scrollers, to racing games. The interface is very well designed, for the most part, using nested pie menus for all of the actions/objects. There are lots of different lighting options and ground materials to help change the look of your games, so don’t think everything created has to be blue-skies-and-rainbows. The programming is easy, but surprisingly deep if you learn how everything works. Because it was initially designed for kids, it’s also very fast. You can go from editing your level to playing it in under a second.

I was programming a dual-stick shooter for a video I hope to put up, and my roommate started watching. “What happens when you run into the UFOs?” he asked.
“They blow up and damage your ship.”
“Is that what always happens?”
“Well no, that’s what I made them do. I can program it to do whatever. I can make them…turn into apples, if I wanted to.”
“Do it!” Literally twenty seconds later I had it working that way, just for fun. The Kode (yes, I just called it that):
WHEN bump puck DO vanish me
WHEN bump puck DO create apple

Crazy how simple it can be, isn’t it?

There are definitely limitations though. One of my biggest complaints is that not every object has every option available to it — you can create a tree that shoots missiles, but a soccer ball can’t follow a path the way lights and bots can. I was hoping each object would simply look different, and have sliders set differently (bounciness, speed, etc.), but could be programmed however you want. If you like how one vehicle controls, but wished you could use a different 3D model, you’re out of luck. But this is where extreme creativity shines. With these limitations, how far can you take it? Some game types seem impossible, but someone will figure out how to make it work. Kodu comes with a bunch of samples and prebuilt games, so you can learn how the more advanced games are programmed (they’re all editable). Be sure to check out “gawlf” to see how they brilliantly used the health bar to act as your swing power meter.

Did I mention it’s only five dollars, which is a steal? I easily would have paid $20, and with a more robust system it could have been a retail game. I should mention that Kodu does a pretty poor job at introducing you to the game. They desperately need a “play tutorials” button on the main menu, with a list of tutorials that get checked off as you go along, each one with a hint system (where’s Clippy when you need him?*). There are just three tutorials that come with Kodu, mixed in with the other games, and they don’t actually explain anything. I guess they thought it was so well designed it didn’t need any explanation. So I recommend watching some video tutorials (online — none are included) first to get an idea of it before you jump in (I hope to have some tutorials up in the near future).

You won’t be able to make the next Gears of War, and you won’t even be able to make exactly the arcade game you had in mind, but new ideas will appear, and you’ll have fun doing it. If you have kids, buy Kodu. Even if they can’t use it on their own, you can create things with them. If you’ve ever had a game idea of your own, buy Kodu. It’s designed to get you thinking like a programmer, and it succeeds.

Other Notes:
Right now game sharing sucks — you have to be friends with the person, and both be running Kodu at the same time. They are working on a patch though, which will add three dedicated servers! There’s also a bug where levels seem to get deleted — if it happens, restart Kodu and it might fix it (more info here). The patch will also fix this and other issues.
The patch is out! Delete Kodu and re-download if you don’t have it (there’s no “update” function).

Kodu fan forum
Audio interview with Matt MacLaurin — back when it was called Boku.
The Kodu Blog

* Please don’t include Clippy. In anything. Ever.

Dark Sector, and Poor Game Design

Monday, May 19th, 2008

darksector_1.jpgMy roommate just signed up for GameFly, and got Dark Sector. I was never really all that interested in the game, but I figured I might as well play it since he’s only renting it. I’m not going to write a full review since I haven’t finished it (and probably never will), but I want to talk about a few things. For the record, I got to chapter 7 (out of 10) before I stopped playing.

Quick Thoughts

Dark Sector isn’t a terrible game if you’re a fan of the genre, but there are a lot of weaknesses. Enemies respawn far too often, which amounts to you ducking behind a wall for ten minutes shooting the same enemies. It copies Gears of War too much, including things that don’t make sense: as GiantBomb pointed out, your running and sprinting speed is the same as GoW — which makes no sense here as Hayden (your character) is a skinny guy, not a giant man in armor.

The “glaive” is great, and is one of the only things that sets this game apart. It’s a blade that acts as a boomerang; throw it to slice enemies in half, and it’ll come back to you. You’ll gain an “aftertouch” ability which lets you slow down time and actually direct the glaive mid-flight, which is what I spent most of the game doing.

Aside from that it’s a pretty standard shooter.


A Musician’s View on the Rock Band Phenomenon (link)

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Rock BandEver wonder what real musicians think of Rock Band? I don't normally post links to other sites, but this is a great little essay. He started off as a hater, having never played it, but actually went out and bought it. He tells the story of playing Rock Band with his friends, and how he got hooked:

A Musician's View on the Rock Band Phenomenon

Kudos for being open minded and actually playing the game!