Tag Archives: video games

link: bad video game writing

I’ve talked a bit here about my disappointment with the writing in Starcraft 2.  A writer over on OverthinkingIt feels similarly.  I don’t entirely agree with the article, and it holds a couple paragraphs which could have used some copy-editing.  But whenever the banner of better writing in video games is flown, it deserves some linkage.

Three Philadelphia Indie Video Games

Apparently I’m on a linking binge here.  I hope to get back to some original content in the near future, but my creativity is being taken up by a little play I’m working on (more on that later).

In the meantime, I want to introduce my ravenous and innumerable readership to a couple (three, specifically) indie computer games created by Philadelphia-based game studios.  All are available for purchase, but two you can demo in your browser.  These are small, pick-up-and-play puzzle-ish games, and they’re all really fun.

Game 1: Return All Robots

Green hair, goatee, thick black glasses? Must be a Philly intern.

This is the first game from Philadelphia game designers Space Whale Studios.  I did a tiny amount of QA work for this game, and my name is in the credits!  Seriously.  Woot.  It’s a classic bomberman-like puzzle game, with kitschy art and 80’s music.  Quite fun, with a good sense of humor.  I played it on the PC, but it’s available in the XBox Indie Games marketplace, which I suspect is the natural platform for it.  Only downside: can’t play this at work.

Game 2: Auditorium

really freakin' pretty and imaginative game

You can play this game’s demo in-browser, and maybe the whole game too (not sure).  You can also buy it for your iPhone, if you’re like a music mogul and have one of those.

I’m really impressed with this game.  It’s elegant and beautiful.  If you try this game, make sure you have sound.  Why?  Because to play you create orchestral compositions via a physics puzzle game.  It’s not a “video game” in the ways many people think when they consider such things.  Be warned: if you try this at work, you may end up playing it for an hour. These are the kinds of games that, I suspect, make you smarter for playing them.

Game 3: Fractal

Points + math + score multipliers = dangerous

This game, along with Auditorium, is from Cipher Prime, another Philadelphia-based game development company.  If Auditorium is an elegant concerto, Fractal is the New Pornographers.  You create patterns of hexagons to get points and beat the level.  There are score multipliers, arcade modes, puzzle modes, etc.  You can also play this in-browser at the link above, and like Auditorium, you will be less productive should you try this game.

So anyhow, three games from Philadelphia-based game studios.  All worth checking out if you’re in to these sorts of things.

I feel we tend to think of some forms of artistic entertainment, like live theater and music, as “local” and thus worth supporting on that level.  Other forms of artistic entertainment, such as video games or movies, don’t incur this kind of thinking.*  There’s no good reason for this, and so I want to draw attention to these three games I have encountered, because they’re good and local.  If you’re looking for the next Flash game to play at work or on your iPhone, or you have some XBox points to redeem, consider buying local and indie.

*I am not, however, suggesting that everyone should go see tons of Mark Wahlberg movies, just because they were made in Philly.

A treatise on crappy genre writing wherein we posit the existence of millions of dollars to be made off of these people, if only we knew how to lower our standards

This is a very long and rambling post about fantasy/sci fi literature and how most of it is terrible.  I’m hiding it after a jump so as not to make the front page of my blog really long, and to hide all the cool points I’m losing for posting this.  Still, if you have thoughts on the matter, I’d love to have a discussion about it.  I’m out of college, I can’t take comp lit classes anymore, so to the Internet I turn.

On to the musings

Snowball Fight RPG

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The Philadelphia area is expecting between 12 and 2 million inches of snow over the next 48 hours.  I asked my fellow blogger Zack if he had any snow gloves I could borrow, and before long we were discussing the RPG ‘builds’ involved in a snowball fight.

Tank: the kid who wears a really thick, heavy coat and thick pants.  He can’t move quickly, or throw very well because of the limited range of arm motion allowed by his coat.  But he is virtually impervious to snowballs.

Engineer: builds snow forts.  Equipment may include a shovel for rapid snow transport, and hard gloves for packing.


Berserker: kid with a limited tolerance for snowball fights.  Participates somewhat willingly, but complains if attacked excessively.  Once his/her ‘rage meter’ reaches full, however, berserker flies into a furious and energetic assault on any and all hostiles in the area.  The arrival of a healer is a reliable way to end a berserker attack.

Healer: Mom who brings hot chocolate.

Sniper: very accurate and powerful arm, can launch effective snowballs from a long ways off.  Achieves this accuracy by not wearing gloves, which results in very cold hands and consequently a lower rate of fire.

Melee only

Brute: (pictured) large, aggressive kid with only melee attack.  Favors football tackling targets into the snow.  Once target is down, Brute is very good at rubbing faces into snow, or visa versa.

Mage: weak versus the Brute, but powerful against massed enemies.  Good at throwing snowballs into trees to cause area-of-effect damage.

Bard: peppy kid who sings songs to raise the morale of other snowball fighters.  Bards have a +chance to end snowball fights and enslave all participants in neighborhood caroling.


NPC: frequently younger kids who spend their time making snowmen and engaged in other nonviolent snow activities.  Attacking NPGs is frowned upon and can cause a sudden increase in aggro from all other participants within the same Zone.

Mount/vehicle: sled or other device for rapid transport across snow.

Rogue: fast and small, frequently wears white to blend into surroundings.  The rogue is known for picking up a huge piece of ice, sneaking up behind someone, and slamming it down on their head, instantly stunning that person.  Putting snow down people’s shirts is their secondary attack.

Armorer: the strong kid with good gloves who makes really well-sculpted snowballs and gives them to friends to throw.

Critter: somebody’s dog.  Runs around the environment, uncontrollable by any player, and occasionally causes damage to forts or reveals hiding spots.  Multiple stomach rubs in quick succession can cause excessive leg kicking, or an explosion.

The Third Team: the kid who refuses to be on anybody’s team.  Declares that he will throw snowballs at whomever he likes.  Usually ends up getting ganged up on and demolished.

Result of no alliances

Human turret: kid who can make and throw a lot of snowballs really fast.  Consequence of this tactic is that the snowballs are not that accurate, and do not go that far.  Good for close-quarters, bunched hostiles, and defending chokepoints.

image of a turret attack

Scout: fast and quick kid with good eyesight.  More interested in scouting enemy territory than engaging in combat.  Excellent team mate for capture the flag and territory-holding games. 

Team killing

TKer/Team Killer: kid who professes team allegiance, but is likely to hit a team mate with a snowball at some point.  Team Killers are particularly disruptive during fort-based snowball fights.

Quest Giver: the father who gives his son a snowball and says, “Here you go.  Go throw this at your brother.”

Final Boss: the group of older kids hanging out at the park.  They are the ultimate test of snowball fight skill and it will take a coordinated raid of many of the above-mentioned classes to take them down.  But the reward is much glory.