January 8, 2010

New site is:

Review: Hoshi Saga Ringo

January 7, 2010

Genre(s): Point and Click/Puzzle/Experimental
Link: Developer’s page
Difficulty: Low
Warnings: None.
Control Scheme: Mouse (point, click, and drag)
Shiny Happy Stars To Put A Smile On Your Face: 25
How magnificent stars are that they should capture our imaginations so. For the thousands of years we have walked this planet, those bright pinpricks of light in the night sky have held us rapt, acting as avatars for ancestors and deities in our folklore, guiding seafarers to home ports, and serving as the backdrop for daring adventures in galaxies far from our own. That these distant suns are in fact stranger and arguably more wondrous than our most fanciful myths is only part of the gravitational pull they hold on our dreams and fancies.
Hoshi Saga Ringo is the latest and most colorful edition to Ishii-san’s beautiful love poem to the stars. For those of you that have never played one of the Nekogames developer’s Hoshi Saga installments before, these games are collections of diverse and varyingly challenging mouse based puzzles. In each one, your goal is to uncover the five pointed star by any means necessary.
It is the goal of uncovering said star that stands as pretty much the only unifying aspect from one mini-puzzle to the next. Beyond that, each puzzle you meet is it’s own entity complete with different visual styles, rules, and of course solutions. While this might not be the best Hoshi Saga to date, it’s definitely a great place to start if you are just getting indoctrinated to the series.
With the advent of Ringo, the Hoshi Saga series now boasts 100 unique puzzles which is an amazing feat and speaks volumes about Ishi’s impressive creativity and ability to innovate. To create 100 individual puzzles is one thing, but to make each one as fun and engaging as the last is something else that really makes this series stand out in the world of alternative gaming.
Part of the success of the Hoshi Saga series is the sheer cleverness of the puzzles, how the mechanics and solution come together in a technical but organic way. In a way, it’s like the admiration you might feel for a well built machine in much the same way guitar players might covet a high end Les Paul or car enthusiasts will gaze in awe under the hood of a 1965 Shelby. It is, perhaps, the appeal that the Hoshi Saga has towards puzzle enthusiasts, therefore.
And then there’s the magic that Ishi is able to conjure in each puzzle, the way the solution builds in an instant with the chime and the revelation of the star to create that single moment. Once the puzzle is solved, there is a completely different level of appreciation that comes into play, one that is not unlike watching the finale of a fireworks display. Time and time again the Hoshi Saga games offer this special, nearly intangible magic.
In Ringo, the puzzles stand out in an all new way as well. In the past, the series has been rendered in black and white. This time Hoshi Saga explodes in in a starburst of color, adding to that sense of discover and wonderment that is a part of the Hoshi Saga experience.
Unfortunately, the puzzles offered in this outing are notably easier than they have been in the first three games. With only maybe one puzzle providing even a little bit of a challenge, those the levels here are clever, they are over far too quickly, meaning the game as a whole is cut unfortunately short leaving you wishing for more. On one hand, this isn’t all bad, and the game’s relative level of ease makes it more accessible to newcomers. Still, veterans may walk away from this episode feeling perhaps a little jilted, or unsatisfied.
Aside from the drop in difficulty, though, Ringo does a fine job in upholding the good name of the Hoshi Saga series. While not exactly challenging, the puzzles are still quite clever, and as always, the game remains itself a work of art that one would be sorry to miss.

Dire Grove, Dark Passenger Etc.

November 25, 2009

So I have been largely focused on building my Interactive Fiction entry for JiG’s CGDC 7 contest, and having oodles of fun learning how Inform 7 works. As I warned, this may put off preparations for the official ADITMO relaunch and I’m sticking with that. As of now the working title of the IF I’m working on is “Dark Passenger”. Dark passenger will probably be the final title but I’m leaving it a working title as I contemplate a potential small change, and a potentially larger change.

In either case, Dark Passenger will be a part of the title so there you go.

But while that has become my primary diversion as of late, something has even taken me off of the scent of my IF for the time being–Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove.

I’ll likely publish a full review despite ADITMO’s under construction status if for no other reason than because Dire Grove is such a big release, the break from the break might just be mandatory. Until the freal review drops, though, know that this is already shaping up to be the best MCF game yet, without a doubt.

Staring down a hard weekend

November 19, 2009

I’ll be working twelve hour shifts this weekend. I don’t know how that will affect my work here at ADITMO, or on the IF I intend to write. It’s a crap shoot. There’s the potential that I can get a lot of writing done, and then there’s teh potential I’ll be tied up and buffetted about the entire time.

Still, I’m hopeful. I’m most productive on my side projects while I’m at work, and i’m staring down a weekend that seems tailor made for such things.

On a different note. One of the things I’ve been considering is whether or not I’ll start hosting games through this site (ahem, once I’ve, you know, done all the behind the scenes work I want to do).

As it stands, because I spend so much of my day at a place where games are generally firewalled, I have taken to downloading my vaforite swf’s and taking them with me wherever I go. As a result, I’m sure it wouldn’t be all that difficult for me to just go ahead and post them once the site is ready to handle it.

Something to think about. anyway.

Could My First Game Ever Postpone My ADITMO dreams?

November 18, 2009

Started talking to a friend I haven’t really been in touch with for months. It’s interesting in that she and I have been dancing around the possibility of collaborating on a creative project for some time. Enter Jay is Games’ 7th Casual Game Design Competition, and at least the stage is set for a collab to come to fruition (I’ll post a link to the compo page when I get home tonight).

I don’t know that this will actually happen. The time constraints of the contest and the fact that I’ve never made any kind of game, IF included, means I need a partner, and if my partner can’t jump in on this one, then maybe not. But I’m telling you, I love this moment, when the inspirations and promises of a new project hit the creative nerves like a hurricane… truly wonderful.

If I do go all in, our deadline for this contest would be Jan 31. I wouldn’t, of course, halt all ADITMO preps between now and then, but I would say that ADITMO would take backseat to the compo, and I would naturally push the launch time for ADITMO to sometime in February.

Progress Report

November 18, 2009

Last night I sat and chatted with an old partner of mine, laying the initial groundwork for getting ADITMO up to 100% capacity. Also, I have been taking the opening steps towards establishing how this site will be organized. Part of this organization involves the writing of a ton of blurbs or short essays, and over the course of 2 days, I’ve got five of them done so far.

Still an AWFUL lot of work to go, and an awful lot of people I need to get back in touch with. Also, I’ll be asking for feedback in the coming months from anyone willing to give it, so please keep your eyes open and your opinions handy.

A Work In Progress

November 16, 2009

I think today is the day that I finally made the decision as to what I want to do with this site, and my online writing career (if, indeed, you could call it a “career”).

The truth is, I haven’t really written anything of import since September, though I felt half motivated to change that since then and now. It’s just trickier now than it used to be. I first started as a solo political blogger, not sure where I was going or what I wanted, but positive that in only a year or two I would be this wildly famous voice for… well… for something, that would be for damned sure. That’s not how things happened of course.

I’ll spare you the long and somewhat sordid history of where my journeys in online writing took me. I’ll only say that I’ve been some interesting places (metaphorically), spoke to some interesting people (corresponded is more accurate), and accomplished much I am proud of. Hell, I’ve even pulled in a paycheck for the words I’ve written, something that, two or three years ago, would have been little more than a pipe dream.

And so here I am, 32, and looking at re-kick-starting my writing career again for the umpteenth time. Not much is firm about what this next plunge in the world of words will bring, but I’ve two guidelines, compass needles that I hope steer me true as I make my way to what one hopes is an amenable final destination.

1) When I recommence writing, it will be to a purpose and it will be planned. I’m not foolish enough to think that once my path is selected I will not veer off that path for nothing, but I think I’ve finally learned that if I hope to have any measure of success a plan not be necessary, but at least the general flavor and shape of a plan would be beneficial. All this to say that I’m going to take my time getting ready to start things up again, and when I do, I’m going to do so with a certain amount of deliberation and even caution.

2) I’m going to stick with gamingj. On twitter today, Gamezebo highlighted this NYT article that at least partially informs why independent gaming remains such a cherished passion of mine.

Let’s face it, I’m a product of my generation; video games are the medium that grew up with us. We watched these creations evolve from Pong to Modern Warfare 2. Think about that for a moment. What other medium of creation had so humble of a beginning as pong? Cave drawings were more sophisticated in relation to the Mona Lisa than Pong is to, say, Metroid Prime 3. This was, as I grew from child to adult, the meter of a counter culture. Just as kids before me watched Rock and Roll evolve into Nu Metal and Alternative, or Superman evolve into Spawn and The Maxx, I watched mushroom stomping plumbers evolve into trained tactical espionage experts with reptilian names.

Now, at 32, with a wife and two kids, the Wii sits in my living room as a testament to the possibility, even the probability, that my days as a “hardcore gamer” are over. I’m now, for want of a better word, more casual than hardcore, and more indie than mainstream. Of course, there are still holdovers, tributes to my youth. In betwee Wii Sports Resort and Dance Dance Revolution sit Metroid Prime Trilogy and Dead Space Extraction. Resident Evil 4 and the Umbrella Chronicles stand there defiantly reminding me of when I used to care about frame rates and graphic intensity. About button mashing and feeling the sweat trickle down your forehead as the blood splashes across the screen.

But there’s the kicker. Even though I still have these mainstream titles, 90% of my gaming remains independent. I’ll tell myself that tonight, after the kids go to bed, I’m going to finally beat that tenticle boss at the end of level 6 in Dead Space, but instead I’ll find myself three hours later trying to figure out how to get past the first Epic Boss in Gemcraft Chapter 1. I’ll play my brother-in-law’s Playstation 3, and indeed, the graphics will be gorgeous, but the aesthetic beauty found in the PS3’s titles hardly match in my mind the more metaphysical beauty found in Roehrer’s pixelated offerings. I’ve yet to come across anything in the mainstream that is as deep as Gregory Weir’s Silent Conversations or Bars of Black and White, nothing as just outlandishly freaky as Cactus’s Mondo duet, nor any story at once as heartbreaking or as uplifting as Kyratzes’s House at Desert Bridge.

Within the world of independent gaming there is this lush jungle of textures for the spirit and soul. It’s not just a choice between which kind of badass hero with which kind of badass weapon goes after which kind of badass enemy. There’s depth and sincerity and more often than not an invested effort towards introspection. To this degree, I disagree a bit with the developers talked to in the article linked above. From Blow to Roehrer, they all speak as though there is still this uphill struggle to turn video games into an acceptable forum for the creation of art. In my mind, we’re already there. Okay, sure, you’re not going to see single games being sold in galleries for thousands of dollars, but each medium is different in the way that it defines success. All that matters is that the vehicle is being used to express, to package thoughts and emotions and ideas in powerful ways and subsequently given to the public to experience.

Across all mediums, the creation of art has still this thing in common–the artist creates, expresses herself, and the audience experiences. That’s really all that is necessary, Roger Ebert can go screw himself for all that. Almost two decades ago a virtual god in the world of video game development said the following in an interview:

I think great video games are like favorite playgrounds, places you become attached to and go back to again and again. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole drawer full of “playgrounds” right at your finger tips?

Mr. Miyamoto’s words have never left me from the moment that I first read them so many years ago. Now, I find that most of my fingertip playgrounds are not shrinkwrapped in plastic on store shelves for 50 bucks a pop; they’re downloadable for chump change, or more often, free online. The swingsets and slides I’ve grown most fond of more often than not can be played right in your browser. When you’ve played some of these titles and seen the blood, sweat, and tears that were poured in until they start to leak out and spill onto you, it’s not hard to see how I’ve grown so passionate about this world of independent gaming.

So yeah, this site will be dedicated to indie games, and casual games, but not yet. Like I said, if I’m going to do this, I intend to do this right, so I’m going to spend some time making sure everything is in place before I do. I have some folks I want to talk to, and some old friends I want to dig up. There’s some organizational stuff I need to handle, but I’m hoping to be in a position to do this thing here sometime early in January. Until then, the only updates I intend to post here are how things are going in working to that goal.

Until then, should you feel the need to catch more of my raves and rants, you can always follow PROTIPZ on the twitterz.

News: Is One of the Greats Going to Call it Quits?

July 21, 2009

If you’ve ever played a game by developer Cactus, you’ve had the opportunity to sample some of the best, and most bizarre independent games available. Cactus simply has that ability to take you to places few others can, and then he promptly leaves you there to fend for yourself.

Thus, it is with some sadness that the following shows up on his blog:

Also… I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I’ve been thinking more and more about not making games anymore. The last nine months have had quite a few highlights, but overall it’s been the worst time in my life. Maybe things will change, though. I don’t know.

Whatever is best for the prolific developer is of course what he should do, whether or not he continues to make games. But I know I’m far from alone in saying that his strange touch would be greatly missed throughout the indie gaming world.

Could ADITMO make a comeback?

July 19, 2009

Is it possible that ADITMO could comeback?

In short, yes. I’ve been contemplating bringing it back for a while now, but if I do it will look a little different than it has in the past. If I come back, it will be almost completely as a gaming blog. I’ve got a lot of different things going on right now, so there may be more of this in the future, but just know that I may be digging out the old bilateral defibrilators on this thing.

ADITMO Indefinitely Closed

June 2, 2009

Ahem.  It seems that this announcement is long over due, for which I apologize.

I will for the foreseeable future, not be updating here at ADITMO.  This is because my work at Jay is Games has become essentially a second job for me.  As my parents are coming to visit, I’ve been quiet there for a while, and will continue to be so until June 11th, but otherwise I’m a regular writer, a member of the helpsquad, one of the perveyors of JiG’s metaplace, etc., so on and so forth.  It’s very rewarding work that I’m quite passionate about.  I’m also working on trying to get an editorship there as well as working behind the scenes on a project that I hope comes to fruition.

So, I’m getting paid to write, I’m getting paid to play video games, and I love it, and for that I have no problems letting this place fall into decay.

Also, if you have a twitter account, look me up.  My username is PROTIPZ.  So follow me, where I talk about games, politics, and the usual grind of trying to convince my body to get up and do something non couch related before 1 in the afternoon.