That Angry Dwarf

Grumbling about Games (and more)


Games that Shaped Me


Posted By on Apr 03, 2014 | 4 comments

Inspired by a post a couple weeks ago on The Ancient Gaming Noob, we decided to use this week’s podcast to talk about some of the most influential games in each our lives. Because of the format of the show only really allowed for 5 each, I had to narrow the selection criteria down quite a bit. I felt a bit like John Cusack in High Fidelity, having to put all sorts of caveats on my game selection. Plus, it was sad to have to leave out some particularly interesting/nostalgia-provoking games.

Well, no more! I will not be confined by the bourgeoisie’s shackles here on my blog! And so, I will present an expanded list! Please don’t take the list as any kind of order. I’m not nearly that organized.

For completeness’ sake, I will start with a quick rundown of the games that I already discussed on the podcast, just for completeness sake. If you want to hear more about them, please do listen to the episode. These were chosen because they were each important to me in different ways, and at different stages of my gaming life. Even if the timeframe was a bit heavy in the “college” era.

  1. Contra (NES) – I played the hell out of this with my brother, and it was one of the earliest games that I remember upping the difficulty on myself by imposing additional restrictions (no continues! no Konami code!).
  2. GemStone III/IV (AOL/PC) – This game. It’s a MUD-style game, but it is SO MUCH MORE than that. GemStone taught me how to roleplay, it taught me what it was like to spend days and weeks and months playing the same character. And it taught me what it was like to really want to optimize something – even something that I would never realistically complete. It’s also where I came up with ThatAngryDwarf, which has followed me ever since!
  3. CounterStrike (PC) – So very many hours were spent playing CS. I eventually started playing semi-competitively (in the bottom-rung CAL Open leagues), and helped build/run a team.
  4. Super Smash Bros (N64) – This is the game that really, truly solidified several long-lasting friendships in college. There were other things, of course, but the hours that we sat around on couches together have been the basis of several life-long friendships. The anguish when the first cartridge got stolen was incredible. But we still come back to this every chance we get.
  5. WoW (PC) – WoW is the foundation of my modern gaming life. It was not my first MMO (I’d argue that GS qualifies and SWG definitely does), but it is the one that really set the tone for the last decade. I’ve met a ton of great friends, and been able to get into podcasting and blogging – none of which would have happened without WoW. Hard to think of a bigger impact than that.

And now for some of the other games that I wasn’t able to talk about on the podcast!

  1. Apple IIe Games

    This is a conglomeration, since the things I remember learning from them all sort of blend together. The Apple IIe was the first computer in my house, sometime in the mid-80s. I’m honestly not even sure why we got one – I assume that it was because my parents wanted to use some software from their school while at home – but what I do know is that this is where I first learned to tinker with computers. I remember having to puzzle out how to even start a game, let alone play it. It’s where I first learned how to write BASIC programs (including my personal standard “Hello World” game which is “Guess what number I’m thinking of?”). Specific games that I remember playing (and for which the floppies may still be in my parents’ basement closet) include: Hard Hat Mack – basically Donkey Kong in the Construction universe; Swashbuckler – Pirate fencing!; and Death in the Carribbean – text adventure game, but with sweet, sweet graphics!
  2. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

    I expect that a lot of us spent hours upon hours learning tracking that notorious criminal through the world and unwittingly picking up lots of geography and world history knowledge. I can definitely remember flipping through my encyclopedias looking for the answers to a question, or calling down the stairs to my parents about some random answer that clearly only they would know. I also spent hours playing this series, and of course, watching the TV show. Plus, that theme song…
  3. Nibbles/Gorillas (DOS)

      

    These were a pair of games that shipped with Qbasic, which I found out about on my first Windows 3 machine in ~1994. Not only did I spend a bunch of time playing these games, but they were actually part of the first exercise in my first “real” programming class. The teacher essentially said “the source code is right there, start modifying it to see what happens”, and let us loose. I can’t remember if I’d done that previously or not, but it certainly made me love that class. And it shaped the way that I would approach coding going forward – being able to actually see your results immediately is a great way to gauge whether what you intended to happen actually did. Likewise, you could have some hilarious unintended consequences (also a useful lesson)!
  4. SimCity (SNES)

    I have to say, I don’t really play that many city-builders anymore. I have a lot of trouble getting into them for whatever reason. But SimCity on the SNES (and various other platforms of the time)? Hells yes! Even separate from the hours I spent on these games individually, the parts I remember the most were playing cities cooperatively with friends. But how did you do that before consoles had modems? Well, you’d start the game together (possibly at a sleep-over, because then you have SO MUCH TIME), and then you’d just pass the cartridge back and forth every couple days. It was always really fun to see what happened in your time away, and terrifying to think that somehow your save game might get erased… But, regardless, this game showed me what was possible in gaming when you dedicated yourself to a task. (The answer is that Bowser would show up and rampage across your city and ruin all your hard work. Asshole.)
  5. Doom (DOS)

    Doom! This was a good way to really get into FPSes – I probably played Wolfenstein before this, but Doom was my game on my PC and, by god, I needed a better sound card. So then I had to learn how to install one. And then I needed to learn about IRQ tables. And OH MY GOD I JUST WANT TO PLAY DOOM. I always loved this game as a game, but what I appreciate most of all, looking back, is that it was an entryway into the wonderful world of PC gaming and hardware tinkering. I’m glad I got to learn these things, and I still enjoy them now!
  6. Myst (Apple IIGS)

    Myst was a gorgeous game. It really made me understand that graphics could be a thing that I cared about. It was also a ton of fun to figure out all the puzzles! Or, when you got stuck, ask around at school for who had figured out which parts you were stuck on and trade information from memory. Or, in some cases, like when my friend and I first finished the game, draw out entire maps of mazes on large art paper, just so that you could navigate a maze efficiently!
  7. TI-81/82/83/85 Games

    All those graphing calculators that our parents bought us were really amazing. For school work, I mean. (Hi Mom!) Right? Okay, but also for gaming and related hobby activities. I think, for a lot of people, it was their first “real” introduction to handheld gaming, and it was oddly similar to the current mobile app situation we have today. This is another place where I played a lot of Nibbles, but also Tetris, Chess (via the direct-link cable!), and a relatively notorious version of Drugwars (there was also a spinoff where you were a male prostitute that went around my high school for a while…). But the capstone, for me, were the games I wrote and distributed myself. Most notably the super hero game where one stage had you driving the Batmobile through a crowded street of oncoming traffic, and another was a pretty terrible beat-em-up side scroller. I even had a friend that made (really good) pixel-art of Wolverine that I was able to add to the TI-85 version (my TI-82 could handle that much memory).
  8. Final Fantasy VII

    I’m not even sure if this is my favorite Final Fantasy game, but it was my first. It came along at the perfect time for me, and is a large part of the reason that I spent a good chunk of my summer job money on a Playstation that year. And, honestly, it was worth it. I think it was one of the first console games I’d played with a really engaging story, and that was awesome.
  9. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3

    While not the first Tony Hawk game that I played heavily, this was the first one that I participated in the launch-day rush for with my friends. There were about seven or eight of us, and we each took a character and passed the controller around taking turns running at a level/objective/whatever. This game really brought out the completionist/achiever in me, and I am fairly sure that the PS2 did not turn off from the moment that the game went in until the moment the game was 100% complete. We prided ourselves on the fact that we had figured everything out and completed the game well before the internet’s best Tony Hawk guide site of the time had their walkthrough up. It was also awesome to be one of the two people that could consistently get the Tokyo S-K-A-T-E line down, since that was what was holding some people up from moving on to character #2 or whatever. Plus, we played lots of multiplayer skate-offs.
  10. Heavy Rain

    I know that Heavy Rain sparked a lot of controversy in terms of its quicktime event nature, but I loved it. It really proved to me that the medium of “video game” can be cinematic, and that I am perfectly okay with interactive fiction. I’d definitely played other heavily story-driven games before, but this one just sort of pushes most of the “game” elements out of the way and uses what does exist to further draw you into the narrative. It’s also allowed me to really step back and look past gameplay flaws when evaluating how I feel about a game, which is cool. Sometimes, of course, gameplay is important. But other times, I’m happy to let it take a back seat to the core piece in front of me.

So that’s that. I’m sure there are plenty more that I’m missing (and I realize I’m fairly thin on certain time periods), but those are some of the more important video games that have helped influence my outlook on the genre. What about yours?

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Episode 48 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Arolaide, and I sat down to talk about the games that influenced us as gamers and as people.

From some of the first games that we ever played, to those that sucked us in and didn’t let go, and those that were mostly memorable because of who we played them with, it is a simple truth that none of us would be the same without the games that we’ve played. Each of us talk through five of the games from our personal lists (and try to sneak in a few extras while mean boss Liore wasn’t paying attention), and what they how they have shaped us.

We also talk about about what we have been playing lately, including The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, and the continuing adventures of Orangelady in SWTOR.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

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Review: Escape Goat 2


Posted By on Mar 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Here’s a bit of different-than-usual content! Thanks to Liore’s hard work at networking, I was able to play a review copy of the brand new puzzle-platformer Escape Goat 2 over the weekend.

In this game, you are a goat! And you have to escape! From a crumbly, trap-filled, haunted castle. With nothing but your amazing jumping ability, extra-thick skull, and trusty magical mouse companion. Yes, that’s right, a magical mouse. Who wears hats! And carries a hammer! And sometimes has a cape!

I’ve been playing a lot of platformers recently, and I really quite enjoyed this one. The platforming elements are important, but not ridiculously hard, and the puzzles take some work to actually get through. The controls are fine, although not quite as tight as some other games that I’ve played – specifically in terms of precision jumping/landing. But that’s not nearly as important as it is in, say, Electronic Super Joy, so it didn’t detract from the overall experience.

I never found a puzzle that frustrated me, even the ones that weren’t immediately apparent. I think part of that is the fact that your tools are chock-full of character. I mean, you’re a goat. And there are grim reapers. And a magical mouse companion. And enjoyable music!

I’d recommend checking this one out, and I even made a video to say so!

 

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This post is full of content!

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Episode 47 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

I was on vacation this week, spending my time on a warm beach, so special guest Mangle joined Liore and Arolaide to talk about everything that has been going on for the last couple of weeks. One major thing that has happened? WildStar is getting real! Pre-order details came out! A launch date has been announced! And, yes, the NDA was finally lifted, allowing for a more detailed discussion of adventures in Nexus.

The crew talks about the world, the classes, and whether or not all bunny girls have to be able to model underwear. Are we pre-ordering? Are you? What about that rocket house? Also, what is a rocket house?

On a separate but related note, Blizzard is considering abandoning flying mounts in Warlords of Draenor. What does this mean? Is it just a longer trip from point A to point B, or does it have some hidden effect on map and gameplay design? Make your predictions before the episode starts on who comes down where. I sure did… (Mangle: “Seems cool but I feel bad for people who have flying mounts.” Aro: “Back in my day we didn’t have any flying mounts!” Liore: “I do not have a strong opinion.”)

Also, apparently toddlers love SWTOR! And instant-90s are upon us. Plus, Mangle forces some talk about mobile games!

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

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Also, earlier this week, Totally Legit Movies Episode 3 was released! We talk about why you should love the 2011 version of The Thing, and the black comedy Brick, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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Episode 46 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Aro, and I sat down to talk about all of the information coming out of Blizzard recently. Specifically, regarding Warlords of Draenor. Topics include: instant level 90 characters with a purchase, mass trimming of class abilities, and Proving Grounds-gated heroic dungeons.

Liore tried to get straight to the meat of arguing over the price of a level 90 character, but was interrupted by a discussion of whether it was even something that was a good idea. Arolaide tries to figure out how we are going to define “good players” and separate ourselves if all of the skill-defining abilities are gone. And, finally, we try to figure out what, exactly, is a reasonable level of difficulty/expectation for players attempting the new Proving Grounds. There is heated discussion!

And, of course, what discussion of WoW would be complete without predictions relating to poop quests? Or bitching about Paladins? And reminiscing about that one random time we actually used Mind Vision.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

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February ended up being a really terrible month for actually getting blog posts written. In fact, this might be the first “real” piece of content I’ve done all month. For that, I apologize. Part of that is that real life got a bit in the way, and while it’s still a bit crazy, things will hopefully calm down a bit. Even with that, though, I did manage to make some progress on my actual gaming backlog.

Besides the ever-present WoW shenanigans (which have been surprisingly entertaining and will get their own post at some point), I managed to take on a few additional games that have been sitting around. So, see? I was still creating content! Here’s the quick rundown:

Bastion

The Kid

The month started out with me finishing up Bastion. What a great game. I said most of what I needed to last time around – the game is gorgeous, the mechanics are interesting and varied, and the voice-over hook is completely fantastic. I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to this before, and I’m definitely regretting it.

Going through on my first playthrough took about 8 hours, and while doing so I tried to pick off as many of the random achievements as I could. The in-game shrine where you get bonuses for doing things like “shoot through three enemies with one bow shot” was a really creative way of bringing those challenges into the game. I often enjoy picking off those kinds of mini-challenges, and having them presented in a way that does not require me to dig through the achievement menus just makes me that much more aware of them. In the end, I did not get all of them, but I can definitely see myself going back and completing that in the future.

The game has a New Game+ mode, where you apparently start with all of the weapons and upgrades from your normal game unlocked and everything is just harder. That seems like it would be a good thing to shoot for, eventually, too! Besides that, there is an interesting in-game self-scaling mechanism where you can turn on the idols of various gods, and they all give the monsters some sort of boost, but with a compensatory XP or crystal (currency) drop rate buff. This turns out to be a really nice way to fine-tune the game for your playstyle and difficulty desires.

Overall, this was an excellent game, and I highly recommend it!

Guacamelee!

Next up on the list was Guacamelee! This one is part of the current Humble Bundle 11, and is a side-scrolling Metroidvania beatemup game. That’s a lot of big, compound words to say that you go around the Mexico-inspired world smashing baddies with your fists and sweet wrestling moves. There are literal Metroid-style power-ups that you get from a goat-man to help you on your quest to save the captured princess or whatever.

Juan the Luchador

From a story perspective, it’s fairly throwaway damsel-in-distress story with a bunch of potentially problematic elements. While I guess you can use costumes to change this, you are the burly, hairy-chested Juan, and set off on an adventure set in a Mexican town with a lot of Dia de los Muertos references and art. The key to your superpowers is a sweet, sweet Luchador mask, and along the way you do a lot of vaguely racist things like help the town grandma make the world’s largest enchilada.

With that caveat in mind, the gameplay is really fun. There are plenty of combos and fight chains to put together, and the action is tight. One of the mechanics in the back half of the game is a switch-between-worlds button that has been showing up in platformers recently, and it makes for some really intricate gaming. Sometimes an enemy will only be in one or the other world, so you’ll have to switch in the middle of combat to deal with them. Other times, it just becomes another timing element in some fairly difficult jumping puzzles. While these can obviously get frustrating for some people, I tend to enjoy them as long as the penalty for failure isn’t too large. In most cases, here, you only have to go back to a relatively recent checkpoint (in a few hidden bits this is less true), and practice over and over until you get the execution perfect. It’s super rewarding when you finally triumph over it and/or don’t press the shift button and turn the wall in front of you into spikes, knocking you out the air and falling ages to have to start the whole stupid thing over!

The few boss fights weren’t overly challenging, but they all had pretty unique flavor, and learning the patterns is something that makes sense.

Overall, I enjoyed myself! There is a lot of referential humor and I found myself wanting to listen to the in-game music more than something outside it. As long as you can get behind the caveats above, I’d recommend it to fans of the fighting platformer/Metroidvania genre. Took me about 8 hours, and I again did a lot of the side quests and challenges, although there are a lot to go back to. And gold medals to get!

The Ship

This probably deserves its own entire post, but it’s essentially a multiplayer stealth murder-on-a-cruise simulator. If that sound really strange, well that’s because it totally is. One of the oddest games I’ve played in a long time, but also a ton of fun to play with our co-op group. It’s $20 on Steam, which seems pretty high, but copies of the game end up coming with pay-it-forward friend invites. I think, for our group of ~8 people, we ended up only having to buy two copies. Everyone else got a gift copy that came from a gift copy, etc.

The general idea is that you drop into the body of a classy person on a 1920′s-esque cruise ship. Each person gets a randomly-assigned name as a target, and you have to go around identifying which person is which, looking for your quarry. Meanwhile, other people are doing the same, and someone is trying to kill you with any number of random weapons found around the boat. There are, of course, police officers and a number of NPCs wandering around that will point you out if you just wander around with a frying pan or whatever. In which case, you’ll go to cruise-jail for some amount of time. If you get killed, you have to start over with the identification process.

Oh, and also there are food meters and toilet meters and shower meters and boredom meters that you have to stave off over time. Like I said, very odd.

Perhaps a video would help! Here is a clip from our session, as recorded by Corr for the Totally Legit YouTube page:

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Episode 45 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available!

This week, Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial decided to talk about the Elder Scrolls Online and Titanfall betas. In true Cat Context fashion, we immediately went off the rails and instead had a long and passionate discussion about the meaning of “player generated content” and how it fits into the context of MMOs going forward.

The future of Sony Online Entertainment-produced MMOs is apparently sandboxes because (some) players gobble up content too quickly and the studios don’t feel they can keep up. So they’re turning to the players and hoping that we generate our own content. But what, exactly, does that mean? Is it going to be a future full of EQ Next Landmark/RIFT dimension housing? Where does PvP fall?

Needless to say, we are not all in alignment on this one, and vigorous discussion occurs!

And yes, we do manage to get in a little discussion of TESO and Titanfall.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

 

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Totally Legit Movies, Ep. 2


Posted By on Feb 18, 2014 | 0 comments

I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel work-wise, so hopefully I will have a more “real” post coming soon!

In the meantime, please enjoy Episode 2 of Totally Legit Movies! Liore’s post has a bunch more thoughts on the mechanics of making a video cast, which are interesting if you are so inclined.

This week, Jess and Max talked about Lovely Molly – a demonic possession film that I would normally have no interest in. So far, they’ve succeeded in making me think, “Huh, that sounds pretty interesting! I’d even think about watch… OH WAIT NO.” Which, honestly, is pretty high praise! For the second half of the show, Jess and I discussed the surprisingly endearing zombie-based romantic comedy Warm Bodies. And, well, if “endearing zombie-based rom-com” doesn’t make you want to see it, I’m not sure what else will. Maybe the fact that it stars the kid from About a Boy? In either case, we liked it and hopefully so will you!

Please have a watch, and continue with the great feedback.

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