Writer's Overdue Distractions - Animal Crossing's The Villager in Skyrim

The charming and loveable characters from the immensely popular game Animal Crossing would never harm a fly, right? Er...

My apologies for the nightmares. 

Writer's Distractions - Stonehearth

I have a serious weakness for game kickstarter projects, especially sandbox style games. My latest discovery is Stonehearth, a project nearing the end of its funding round and which has already made its goal several times over. It looks like a sort of combination of Starcraft, Towns and Minecraft, and looks really fun.

It's currently in pre-alpha mode, meaning it's not actually a playable game yet. There are some pretty cool looking videos of what game play there is though that give me high hope for the final product.

Check out their site at http://www.stonehearth.net or their Kickstarter page at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1590639245/stonehearthhttp://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1590639245/stonehearth

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Writer's Distractions - Atari Breakout

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the keyboard...

If you need a little bit of a break, stop reading this right now and go do something else.

If you need to lose the rest of your day, keep reading.

  1. Search for "Atari Breakout" in Google Image Search
  2. Try to remember to eat some time in the next 24 hours.

Catching Up on Gaming: Dead Island

Yeah, I know, it's buggy, but there  is  fun to be had.

Yeah, I know, it's buggy, but there is fun to be had.

Dead Island is a game I'd been curious about for a while, but I'd been put off by the fact that it is highly melee-centric. There ARE firearms in the game, but they're supposed to be extremely difficult to locate, and getting ammunition for them is even tougher. Normally when I play a game, especially any sort of survival and/or horror game, I like to keep my distance and fight from range. I'd avoided Dead Island as a result.

I picked it up on sale at Origin, and so far I'm finding it to be a fairly mixed experience. My initial impression was soured by terrible control glitches. I have a multi-monitor setup, and I found when trying to play with the mouse and keyboard that it wasn't locking the mouse input correctly; I would end up with two mouse cursors, one of which would often stray onto my other monitor with other programs running, and when I tried to click things in-game, I'd end up taking focus away from the game. Frustrating, to say the least.

I haven't resolved that issue yet, unfortunately. I can play it, but to do so I have to use an Xbox 360 controller. Not ideal, but it does work pretty well. It seems to be a good one to jump into when I just feel like a little gaming, maybe a quick 10-15 minute session.

I'm too early in to have a handle on the actual plot of the game, but here's what I know so far. You have a choice of characters to play, each with a different speciality; blunt weapons, sharp weapons, firearms, etc. I went with the distressed-looking lady pictured above, Xian Mei, the sharp weapon specialist/assassin. Each character has a bit of a backstory that brings them to the island, when everything starts going terribly wrong and everyone starts eating each other.

Naturally there'll be a lot more to this story, including what happened, and why, but right now I'm immersed in the whole "What the hell is going on here!?" phase, worrying more about finding a secure, defensible location than in investigating the deeper questions. That'll come in time.

The combat is mostly pretty fun, though it quickly becomes obvious that being mobbed by more than two zombies at once is really, really, really dangerous. The zombies are pretty easy to kill, but it takes enough time that you'll be overwhelmed. I think I've survived one encounter with three zombies; every other time it's been three or more, I've died horribly.

I really love how they handle weaponry. Weapons are easy to find, though they won't necessarily be the weapons most appropriate for your particular character. Blunt weapons are the most common, though I've started finding a few more bladed weapons recently, which is good for Xian. Weapons have a durability rating, and degrade pretty quickly, especially this early in the game; later on, I think you start finding weapons that are a lot more durable.

You'll also find work tables around the island that will let you repair damaged weapons, upgrade them, or create entirely new ones. Keeping your weapons in good shape is vitally important. You can fight zombies unarmed, and it is advisable to do so whenever it's safe, but weapons will take them down a LOT faster. Taking them down quickly is the key to staying alive if you've got several of them after you at once.

There's some good character development stuff straight out of the roleplaying game genres with skill trees and stuff, but I'm not far enough in the game to have played with all of that yet. It looks like there's a lot more to this game than just wandering around killing zombies though, so that's a pleasant surprise. I'm glad I've got it, and I'll be looking forward to Dead Island: Riptide, the upcoming add-on for the game.

It's possible to play it co-op, and apparently there are particularly dangerous parts of the island where that's highly advisable. I might have to see if I know anyone who plays who'd be interested in getting in on a game with me at some point.

It can be difficult to get a real idea of what a game is like from a written description, so if you want a better idea of how it plays, I highly recommend this "Let's Play" YouTube series by Sips and Sjin of the Yogscast. (Viewers be warned about NSFW language, however.)

The Walking Dead Game Revisited

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I'm sacrificing some NaNoWriMo time because this just absolutely must be written about. Back when I started playing The Walking Dead Game from Telltale Games, I was pretty impressed. It was only episode one back then, of a planned five episodes. Since then, the remaining four episodes have come out.

The first time I played the game, I played it on the PC. It was a pretty good experience, as I detailed in my previous writeup. I held off on the subsequent episodes though, so that I could go through the whole thing.

At some point between then and now, I got it for the iPad. I've thought for a while that these games were ideally suited for the touch interface, and boy was I proven right. The iPad controls are far easier than the PC, and the game is a joy to play that way.

But really what has to be said is that The Walking Dead Game is a true mastercraft of writing.

The guys at Telltale are absolute geniuses at pacing, at character development, at making you care about Lee, the protagonist of the story, and Clementine, the little girl you've charged yourself with looking after. At different points through all five episodes, I found myself shocked, awed, scared, devastated, angry--and at the end of the game, when all was said and done, they wrapped it up with such perfection that I really, seriously lost it. It was devastating, utterly shattering in how heartbreaking it was. And then they still weren't done with you. After all, there is The Walking Dead Game Season 2 coming up.

Well played, Telltale Games, and Gary Whitta in particular. The Walking Dead Game is the only choice for Game of the Year 2012 in my book.