Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Trap of Magic 2015

This guy looks so angry. It's probably the terrible UI.
Magic 2015 is not a bad game, but playing it is.

This week on PopMatters, I spend some time pondering why a game that should be so satisfying, and sometimes really is, can also be an absolute frustrating train wreck. The answer, I believe, is that Stainless Games has built an experience almost entirely directed towards a tablet-playing audience comfortable with micro-transactions.

Make no mistake, that audience is there. Hell, if I had a tablet, I would probably be loving this game. Unfortunately there is also a large PC and console player base that feel overlooked or even maliciously neglected. Magic 2015 is the best example of how mobile gaming norms can fundamental change the shape of a product. With significant trimmings and UI changes between this year's and last year's installment of the Duels of the Planeswalkers franchise, the latest game feels like the end game for a company eager to grab hold of a new market of players.

Unfortunately the step towards the mobile player base, those potentially new to Magic the Gathering entirely, is also a step away from an aging group of players who want to casually, but with ease and freedom. I honestly don't know if the developers can please everyone, and to some extent fools like me might just buy these games anyway. But I have a suspicion that the move is an act of desperation that may ultimately alienate the most influential group of Magic followers Wizards of the Coast still has around.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

EXP Podcast #287: The Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 4 Debrief

Image from Tell Tale
Join us “Amid the Ruins” for a discussion on episode 4 of The Walking Dead's second season.  As the title suggests, this episode deals with the consequences of some very dramatic events.  Characters come and go and we talk about our interpretations of Clementine’s development and her potential fate.  We also posit some pretty innovative dairy farming theories.

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes
- Find the show on Stitcher
- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Runtime: 46 mins 45 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What is This: Snapshot

Snapshot raises so many questions: Why does this robot have a magic camera? Would you hang out with a robot version of yourself? Are you a robot version of yourself?

 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Dance with 'Destiny'

Taking a break.  Image from PopMatters
This week on PopMatters I have a full dance card and Destiny’s name is penciled in on every line.

I’ve was fortunate to get into the recent Destiny beta and it’s been an interesting experience. I came off a bit cold on the game for reasons Jorge and I discussed on this week’s podcast. I think I’m still uncomfortable with wide tonal swings I experience while playing it.

It’s kind of like if the serious Halo storyline existed alongside the Red vs. Blue universe. One moment you’re hearing about how the golden age of humanity was enveloped by a creeping darkness and the next moment you’re seeing someone named “XxX420SmokezMadBluntzXxX” dance on top of a shop keeper’s table. There’s no hiding the MMO inspiration in Destiny and its coexistence with Bungie’s love of weird sci-fi mysticism is an odd pairing.

It makes me wonder if modern style dancing, whether thematically consistent or not, has just become a requisite feature in quest-based online games. I would hope that there’s something more to it later, but I have my doubts.

Really, the dancing is just a metaphor for the larger balance game Bungie is playing. Rather than separate the multiplayer and fan-driven quirks from the more stoic plot, they’re trying to integrate a sci-fi opera with a player-driven improv show. It’s a bold goal and I hope they’re successful. Unfortunately the beta left me feeling like I had two left feet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EXP Podcast #286: Destiny Beta Debrief

Destiny is still more than a month away from release, but already there is so much to talk about! This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I delve into our early thoughts about the game. Is it living up to the anticipation? Does the look and feel adhere to the high standards we've set for Bungie? Where is that wizard from again? The Moon? As always, we welcome your thoughts! Shoot us an email or drop us a line in the comments below.

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes
- Find the show on Stitcher
- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Runtime: 43 mins 39 secs
- Music by Brad Sucks

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spelunky: The Olmec Surprise

Join us this week as we hop once again into the caverns of Spelunky and chat about EVO, Dota 2, old internet sites, and so much more!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Victimhood and The Wolf Among Us

Bloody Mary's true form
Tell Tale remains at the top of the game, proving themselves once through consistent themes capped off in the excellent conclusion to The Wolf Among Us.

In this article I mostly talk about the victims of the series, which for the most part encompasses everyone. Of course it's the women who largely drive the story forward and its the victimization of women in particular the game most critiques with its fable-bending twists and turns. One character that doesn't quite fit into my analysis however is Bloody Mary.

The creepy mirror-walking horror is one the Crooked Man's most trusted lackey. Her appearance in the game is the first in the franchise entirely and unlike most of the others, she originates from a more contemporary mythology than the other fables. While Nerissa (The Little Mermaid), Snow White, and Beauty all come from stories with troubling gender issues, Blood Mary is not portrayed as the product of suffering in the way many of the other characters are. Even her Book of Fables entry says her history is "completely unknown".

If we are to find one true "femme fatale" in the The Wolf Among Us, maybe it's Bloody Mary, though she displays none of the sexual or manipulative features of the traditional film trope. Instead, she is the game's purist form of villainy. With that in mind, maybe she serves more as a condemnation of the Crooked Man's true motives. She is the physical extension of his will, which is appropriate as he appears to suffer from physical maladies himself.

Regardless of what Bloody Mary may or may not stand for, she is one of a collection of interesting and well realized characters, all of whom support the twisted noir fairytale throughout the series.