04.24.17

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Posted in games at 12:20 am by wingerz

It seems fitting that the last blog post here was about Bloodborne, my previous video game obsession. It’s been replaced by Breath of the Wild as my new favorite game. It seems that every Spring some game is released that is all-consuming (last year it was Dark Souls III). But instead of doing one hour a night, it ended up being over an hour and a half a night (80 hours in 51 days).

That extra half hour a night represents the thing that makes Zelda special – I had the intention of going to sleep every night after playing an hour, but there was always one more thing to check out, which would lead to another thing to check out, etc. The sweeping landscapes are full of visual landmarks and gorgeous scenery, and this is the first game I’ve played where it’s fun to get lost looking through the map; the points of interest all have such alluring names.

The most powerful form of this came last night. I finished the main story elements leading up to the last area of the game. I intended to play for an hour and go to sleep at 10pm. I went to collect something, and happened to be on the doorstep of the final area, so I wandered in. I kept meaning to turn around but there was always one more thing to look at – an interesting set of ruins or a tunnel or a wall to be blown apart or an enemy to fight or flee from or something else. At midnight, after I had consumed nearly all of my food, the end credits were rolling.

I still have a very long to-do list for the game and intend to finish most of them. I’ve only found about half of the shrines (mini-dungeons) and about 5% of the Korok seeds. The scale of the game is staggering.

I’ve loved every moment of exploring the landscape, as well as the wonderful feeling of walking through uncharted territory for the first time (there’s actually still a lot of it). I’ve really enjoyed discussing the game with friends and colleagues – we’ve all run into unique situations, and talking about them has been like the elementary school days of bringing up “did you know you could do this?” In addition, many of the rare shared experiences are so distinct that people know exactly what you’re talking about (various islands and puzzles and enemies).

I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t want a game to end; with life being so busy I usually want to crank through something as quickly as possible and move onto the next game. It’s amazing that this game has been able to capture me this way, in perhaps the best 6 months of gaming I’ve ever experienced (PSVR, Resident Evil 7, Switch release, Mario Kart 8 coming out this Friday, I’ve ignored Nioh, Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier Automata, Rise of the Tomb Raider).

[I still regularly write a fair amount but it usually gets posted to our private family blog or sent out to my colleagues.]

05.15.15

Nightmare Slain

Posted in games at 1:31 am by wingerz

I’ve finished Bloodborne. Clocked in at 50 hours and 10 minutes over the course of 51 days. Since I have a full-time job and two young children, this basically meant getting one less hour of sleep a night for the past two months (further constraints on my schedule were placed by our 10 year wedding anniversary and Mother’s Day). It was all worth it. I’m happy to reclaim that hour of sleep but sad that it’s over – I’m already plotting a New Game+ run and maybe going through the game with another character.

This was my first Souls game. It was completely engrossing and beautifully designed. I played through it at night, in the dark. A few times I was startled by my wife or daughter coming into the room. The game makes you fight for every inch of progress; you learn the movements of every enemy and how all the different areas of the game world are connected. The pacing is nearly perfect – once you’ve made some progress you start getting very nervous about whether you should go on or run back to the last save point to cash in some Blood Echoes to level up (if you die, you lose them and get one chance to reclaim them in the spot that you died). Of course, just around the corner could be a door to unlock or elevator to activate that will be a shortcut back to the save point. I made my own maps, mostly due to paranoia of missing out on one of these shortcuts.

There is a whole other level of design that I was mostly oblivious too. The architecture and artwork in the game, the sound design (the music is pretty subtle; I didn’t even notice the lullaby that plays at the beginning of one of the last bosses), the item descriptions – I unfortunately have to say that I am not very perceptive on this front. It didn’t actually matter because the core mechanics and the world were so immersive. In addition to recommending the game to me, JR gave me some spoiler-free hints at where to go at certain points in the game; I probably would have bumbled my way through and missed out on some fun areas without his coaching.

Overall a remarkable game.

03.30.15

Starting Bloodborne

Posted in games at 12:28 am by wingerz

I’ve been playing Bloodborne this week. Initially it felt like an extremely ill-advised purchase; the only Souls game that I played previously was Demon’s Souls, which I never fully got into (I think I got to the first boss after a few hours). Generally I’m not one to shy away from challenging games (Cave Story, Donkey Kong Country Returns), but I was worried that I wouldn’t have the patience for Bloodborne since I can only piece together a few hours of gaming a week.

I’m still only a few hours in, but it’s really started to click in the past two nights. The initial mob encounter killed me over and over. I finally got through but died in the next section when the ogre got bored of banging the gates and came looking for me. Nearly every new enemy killed me at least once. One of the turning points was when I started becoming more aggressive with my use of bullets and blood vials (they’re pretty much everywhere so they don’t really need to be conserved). Getting to the first boss was a revelation – despite the fact that I got destroyed, I was finally able to level up myself and my weapons (didn’t realize I had to repair my blade until I realized it was taking much longer to take down enemies). Last night I beat the first boss, played through a new area of the game without dying, got some fancy new attire, and can now kill ogres with relative ease. Of course I still get killed by easy guys once in a while if I don’t pay attention.

The atmosphere is incredibly creepy; the enemies are strong but some of them are really dumb. It’s really satisfying to feel myself getting better at the game. In general I’m not very good with directions/maps in games, but I’ve gone through some of the areas so many times that I can picture them in my head. Looking forward to playing more, hopefully I’ll continue to make progress.

In other gaming news, I beat The Last of Us Remastered earlier this year. I missed it on the PS3, really enjoyed playing through it. I don’t feel like I ever got very good at it, but it’s got one of the best video game stories I’ve seen. Meanwhile on the Wii U, still making my way through Captain Toad, which is a far cry from zombies and plagues.

12.27.13

Gaming in 2013

Posted in games at 11:04 am by wingerz

It’s been tough to find time to play video games this year, but I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours here and there.

Most recently I finished Guacamelee and The Wonderful 101. Both are highly creative but playing them together really highlighted how amazing Guacamelee is.

The Wonderful 101 was fun overall but kind of a grind at times, and occasionally confusing and buggy. The controls worked pretty well (there were some complaints in reviews about drawing shapes for special moves). The characters weren’t that interesting. The continue system would let you restart midway through a battle which took away some of the satisfaction of beating something. Definitely not as polished or enjoyable as previous Platinum games like Viewtiful Joe but I’m still glad I played through it.

Guacamelee is a pleasure to play. It’s a Metroidvania-style game with simple (but gorgeous) graphics, tight controls, fun combat, and hilarious content (there’s a move called the ‘Dashing Derpderp’ and a funny little goat man). The platforming is devious at times and the bosses are satisfying to beat. Also a lot of reviews call out the game as being beatable in under 6 hours as a negative, but that’s actually a huge bonus in my book.

Also I should call out Super Mario 3D World as my favorite game of the year. In an uncharacteristic multiplayer gaming binge, I was able to finish the game with a couple of friends over the course of a weekend. Multiplayer Mario works much, much better in 3D. This game is an absolute pleasure to play.

Other random gaming thoughts:
* It took a few months but I finally didn’t regret owning a Wii U. Played through Pikmin 3 (perhaps the most beautiful Nintendo game ever). Working my way through Rayman Legends, which of course is gorgeous, fun, and polished (after a half year delay). One sad thing is that we finally have a HD Nintendo system and one of the big selling points of the system is that you can play it on a little non-HD tablet (which also runs out of batteries incredibly quickly – they are finally making bigger battery packs available).
* Tomb Raider was really good. Kind of creepy at times, but gorgeous. Uncharted 3 was not bad, but all the Uncharted games are kind of blending together. I enjoyed Uncharted: Golden Abyss more than I thought I would.
* Finally beat Chrono Trigger. I have a letter from my buddy phil dated 7/13/95 asking me to buy the game and beat it. No problem, Phil, it’s done! Overall a fun year on the 3DS. Played through 999 in the hospital when Max was born. Against my better judgment I got Animal Crossing and Pokemon Y but didn’t play either one as much as some of my work buddies (how do you log 100 hours of Pokemon in under 3 weeks?). Now I’m playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

06.03.13

Finishing things

Posted in books, games, personal at 1:23 am by wingerz

Somehow I unintentionally ended up wrapping up a lot of in-flight consumption last weekend. Kind of a strange cross-media collection of things.

Principles of Product Development Flow. Goes deep into the theory side of things, but a lot of great ideas in here, especially around looking at work queues and economics. Not the first agile development book I’d recommend reading (that would be Kanban), but maybe the second.

End This Depression Now. Trying to be less clueless about things in general.

Giants of Enterprise. Fascinating read about 7 American businessmen (Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, George Eastman, Charles Revson, Thomas J Watson Sr., Sam Walton, Robert Noyce) about their personalities and business acumen. I’m surprised that IBM training doesn’t have more material on Watson Sr. The last chapter, about Robert Noyce and the emergence of the Silicon Valley, is definitely worth a read for software engineer.

Chrono Trigger. Crossed off the biggest item on my SNES to-play list. I’d started it several times in the last 10 years but always lost momentum. Really enjoyed the combat and story. Felt bad that I GameFAQ’ed my way through the final bosses, but would have felt worse if I never beat the game. Still like FFVI (or rather, my memories of FFVI) better.

Archer Season 4. Meh on the season finale.

Arrested Development, seasons 1-3. Have been chipping away at this for months and wrapped it up right before Season 4 started (we’re about 2/3 of the way through).

03.03.13

Nintendo Thumb (from Cave Story)

Posted in games at 12:15 pm by wingerz

Finally beat Cave Story after battling the final set of four bosses for over three hours. They don’t make games like they used to; this was only one of three games over the past few years that actually required some sort of skill (the others being Donkey Kong Country Returns and Rayman Origins (of course with Rayman it was because of a stupid bug that I replayed this level repeatedly).

In any case, I was on the verge of giving up. My tolerance for unforgiving games has definitely gone down over the years, but I’m happy to have beaten this. The game is pretty unforgiving to first time players who do minimal GameFAQing: I didn’t get the best weapons in the game and also forgot to exchange my Mimiga mask back for my booster, which I think would have made the core a lot easier. Had 60 Health and 30 Missiles heading into the last bosses.

Just some notes for my future self if I ever try to pick this up again to get the best ending (very unlikely): Misery: use the machine gun, keep moving. Don’t worry too much about bats or spinning barriers, since they only do -2 damage. First doctor: stay as close as possible so you can jump over the red wavy shots, machine gun works fine. Second doctor: use missiles, watch out for him jumping and dashing. Core: beat Sue/fill up on missiles, beat Misery, use the cloud platforms to get close enough to deal damage with the swords, then switch to missiles when the Core starts shooting those huge laser balls towards the end. Also don’t forget about the life potion. I had completely forgotten that I had it.

It’s still cool to see how a game like this forces you to get better. I went from losing nearly all of my health on the first Misery to losing 2 on the last couple of playthroughs.

02.10.13

Video games for busy people

Posted in games at 12:20 pm by wingerz

Unfortunately it’s hard to find time for gaming (or anything else) with a full-time job and a kid. But I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours here and there.

The Unfinished Swan: The first 10 minutes are as creative as any game I’ve played, and I really enjoyed this game. It plays out as a children’s storybook. I don’t want to give anything away here, but this is definitely worth a play-through; I liked it better than Journey, which I’m guessing puts me in the minority.

Mighty Switch Force: Played this over the Christmas holiday and really enjoyed the challenge. It’s a puzzle-platformer with a lot of cool twists. In theory you can finish a level in a minute or two, but good luck with that.

Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack: Fun, cute, short. Katamari-style eat everything with some cool game mechanics, and a ton of personality.

The Cave: Old-school LucasArts-adventure-style game set in a talking cave. The puzzles are cute. Unfortunately you have to play through the game multiple times to see all of the endings (there are 7 characters and you take 3 each time). I’m on my second play-through, and I’m already getting annoyed at having to re-do the common puzzles (each character has their own ‘level’ in the game, but there are a few common areas). If you’re pressed for time, skip the Monk. I found his level really boring.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Ok, this isn’t a short one. My last save file clocks in at 39:59, and it took me about 14 months to complete. But at the end, I was really sad that it was over. The story and cutscenes are stronger than in any previous Zelda game, and this is one of the few games that makes use of the Wii’s motion controls in an effective way. The dungeons are gorgeous. Wish that the targeting could have been better and that they cut the weird running mechanic, but overall this may be my 2nd favorite Zelda game (after LTTP).

01.03.11

Holiday gaming

Posted in games at 2:59 am by wingerz

Camille’s sleep schedule has been a bit erratic over the holidays, so we still need to be vigilant about going to sleep at a reasonable hour – at least on most nights. Over the past month or so I’ve been kept up past our bedtime to play a couple of games – Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) and Heavy Rain (PS3). Both were totally engrossing in their own way, and I’ve gotten enough of a gaming fix to last me for a while.

Donkey Kong Once you die 8 times in a level a pig shows up and asks you whether you want to skip the level. He mocks you by waving a little white flag. I’m happy to report that I beat the levels myself but saw the stupid pig a handful of times. I hate that they didn’t include a non-motion-controlled option because that would have saved me a lot of frustration. Other than that, this game is fantastic and unforgiving, even if you don’t try to collect all the hidden stuff.

Heavy Rain This is more like an interactive movie (with lots of different endings) than a traditional game. If you don’t replay chapters, you basically have one shot at completing each scene – if something ‘bad’ happens you just continue and the events get woven into the storyline. The story is pretty good, the atmosphere is haunting, and the action sequences are intense. There are a lot of mundane activities, like feeding and changing a baby – what happened to video games being an escape? Definitely worth a play-through though.

09.13.09

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Posted in games at 3:43 am by wingerz

batman
from ign

I haven’t played a game as engrossing as Batman: Arkham Asylum in a very long time. I stayed up until 3am Friday night playing it and finished it up starting at 830am this morning. It’s a phenomenal game, kind of Metroid-vania-ish in nature.

The game is really immersive. The graphics are phenomenal and the controls make it really easy to pull off lots of different maneuvers. You never panic when facing hoards of enemies because everything feels really natural. All of the locales are distinct and rich. The gadgets are really fun (and useful). The story is good enough to stand on its own. For once I actually feel motivated to collect bonuses because some of them are really interesting (like interviews with some of the villains).

Minor complaints: boss battles can be a bit easy/simplistic, and the game is a bit too helpful at times when giving hints. The sewer level is annoying (though most games have many more annoying parts than this one does). It’s also a bit on the easy side, but I didn’t mind since I was too busy exploring and being a badass superhero. Also I want to drive the Batmobile.

Before playing this, I was worried that I was outgrowing video games. I was also worried that I’d never really be impressed by the PS3. Batman changed all that.

10.03.08

Mega-awesome

Posted in games at 12:04 am by wingerz

megaman9.jpg

A few days ago we bought Mega Man 9 from tne online Nintendo store. It’s a brand new Mega Man game done NES-style, and, though difficult, it’s amazing. I’ve forgotten how satisfying it is to replay a level over and over until you’ve perfected it. Cy and I have probably logged 4-5 hours and have beaten five of the bosses, and we savor each sweet victory (especially the ones that come with one remaining sliver of life).

I do think it’s kind of cheap that you can buy as many energy tanks as you want. I clearly remember there being four in all of Mega Man 2, and that I hoarded them until the very, very end. I’m willing to overlook this because the second I picked up the controller I was instantly transported back to my 10-year-old self.

Available for XBox360 and PS3 too. What are you waiting for?

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