Too Much Talking Episode 14: The “Flawed Masterpiece” Episode


Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, April, Eric, Ben


Too Much Talking #14 “Flawed Masterpiece” Episode 01/29/11

A lot less coughing this week! Anyways, don’t you hate it when games are almost super good but not quite? Anyways we talk a little about that, about Monster Hunter Portable G 3 and a bunch of other stuff and user questions. Going for a shorter format here too. I think we’ll be aiming for an hour in the future, but don’t worry, if the conversation is interesting, we won’t stop. Anyways, please don’t be afraid to answer questions. Trynant and Johnsonic keep us going each week, but having a bigger mix of questions would be wonderful!

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Too Much Talking Episode 13: The “Sick, Sad and Short Metroidvania Episode”


Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, April, Jessica (and Kemru)


Too Much Talking #13 “Sick, Sad and Short Metroidvania Episode” 01/21/11

Oh man, so we were all so sick and miserable this week. We also just went out for a big dinner for Patito’s birthday. So we are sick, stuffed and pathetic. The unlucky 13th episode is a world of pain brought on upon god, and I pity those of you who listen to it. April and I could hardly laugh without convulsing into coughs.

So yeah, sorry.

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Too Much Talking Episode 12: The “Creepy Kids” Episode


Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, Eric, Niko, Jessica


Too Much Talking #12 “Creepy Kids” 01/15/11

We finally get to some questions! We also talk about a lot of stuff about creepy kids! Little Fears (a PnP RPG) and Rule of Rose come up. We also hear Patito talk a good deal about Mass Effect with Paul! Nerdy collections are discussed and a topic is set for next week: Metroidvanias!

Please leave all questions on the comment section of my blog — I’ve lost a few on Livejournal, which I do not check. Alternatively, you can tweet at @kayinnasaki and I’ll try and check that before the next show!

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Nidhogg Initial Impressions

I managed to get my hand on Nidhogg (no, you can’t have it), and have sat down with it a few times with a number of friends. As I’ve said many times on this blog, I am a rather competitive gamer. Not the most competitive, or the most skilled, but familiar enough with the process of breaking games down to know where to start. With that in mind, I set out to push the limits of the game and see if it would break. So far, it has not (which I am glad) but many things have been discovered. I’m not sure how much of Messhof’s design was intentional and how much of it is sheerly emergent, but the game is somewhat interesting despite its simple systems.

The Basics

Nidhogg is currently an unreleased 1v1 combat game styled after Prince of Persia and Karateka and with a mix of atari and psychedelic graphics. That should all be apparent from the trailer. The goal of the game is to push along a mirrored castle to get to the ‘win screen’. The win screen being a crowd who cheers for you as you are eaten by the dragon, Nidhogg. The castle contains 3 unique rooms (with the mirroring, that equals 5 screens), each with its own features. For the most part, the maps are flat, containing mirror instances of a hump, 3 holes and a few low ceilings which impede jumping. I’d be interested in a few slopes, but for the most part, the whole arena feels fine. I think I would enjoy a few more arena choices, but for an unreleased game, this is enough. The last player to make a kill has moving priority (the defender can’t change screens) and after a set period of time, the defender respawns after dying.

The game it’s self uses two buttons, Attack and Jump. Jump behaves as you’d expect. The state its self is pretty vulnerable, but you do at least have perfect air control when you’re up there. The only action you have access to in the air is a sword throw, which I will speak about shortly. Attack causes you to do a lunging strike, that extends your sword out and moves you forward a few pixels. Swords are always capable of killing, but the lunge allows you to actually reach your opponent without getting yourself killed. Any non-sword part of the player is a valid space for collision (There is no square ‘hit box’ or anything as you’d see in a fighter). There are 3 stances, which all function identically in theory. In fact, they are less ‘stances’ and more sword positions — high, medium and low – which are used to get your sword out of the way of your opponent’s sword so you can actually stab them. If you attack when both swords are on the same position, they merely bounce back. Due to the collision method, the low position has more ‘range’ than the top position. As far as I can tell, all attacks are the same, but the enemy’s sprite and animation alway has a leg farther out than any other position. Broadly speaking, the lower your stance, the more range. Stances are controlled by up and down. If you shift your sword into the way of an oncoming attack, you can disarm your opponent. If you don’t come down upon enough of his sword, you’ll only bounce. If you’re close enough, parry often results in an automatic kill (though most parries result in a kill anyways). Moving is done with left and right. Tapping gives little fencer-ish steps forward and back, while holding it results in a run. Pressing down in a run results in a slide that can go under the opponent, assuming his stance isn’t set to low. If you press attack while running (or jumping!) you do a sword throw. A sword throw is exactly what it sounds like and will often catch a player doing something other than defending for a kill. Mid stance blocks all throw attempts on equal height, but sometimes others are more reliable depending on elevation. Throws are risky, as being unarmed sucks and an attentive player can almost always block a sword throw from a distance. Unarmed combat is goofy and almost impossible to pull off effectively unless you’re both unarmed. As far as I can tell, unarmed combat is mostly mashing. Theres probably tricks, but since death is almst assured in sword vs unarmed combat, I haven’t been able to find out. Anyways…

The Fun Stuff

So that’s the basics, most of which could be inferred from the trailer. Of course, we found some fun stuff as we played.

Stance ‘tiers’

Low is pretty much the best stance, outside the fact that mid stance is better at switching to the appropriate guard faster. High stance is the worst. Now, the difference isn’t an ocean wide or anything, but it’s enough to build tendencies. Favoring low stance leaves you open to a stab to the face from a high attack. Vs low, you can defend and look for parries from mid and when you feel brave, press up and attack. He won’t be able to reflect (unless he’s lucky)and you can get a kill in. This is important because of…

Fuzzy Guard

I’m taking this term from the Fighting Game community. Fuzzy guard is switching rapidly between high and low block. This is used often during mixup in an attempt to ‘even out’ your odds of blocking. In Nidhogg, switching between two stances rapidly basically protects you from two points of attack. Most of the time you’d be fuzzy guarding against mid and low, for obvious reasons, but not always. It’s initially hard to deal with, but a timed poke to the eye usually fixes it. As such, it has become a good little technique to use in short bursts to try and get the opponent into a higher stance or catch a random disarm. A little of this combined with good reactions is a defensive cornerstone currently. It is still often more beneficial to be carefully choose when to switch though, especially against an opponent who has habits you understand.

Jump Canceling

Another fighting game loan word I’m using. Jump canceling is canceling an attack into a jump. Fighting games use this for combos, in Nidhogg this oversight (or so I predict it is)can be used to make attacks safer. Counter attacking is quite strong in the game, so whiffed lunges can be deadly. But if you jump backward after you fully extend, you can dodge any counter attacks and due to full air control, can often turn back around in mid air, land, and kill him. It can also be used for fakeouts, jumping before the attack even comes out. I’ve experimented with throwing my sword while coming down, but no luck yet.

You can be disarmed still while using this technique, but it gives you another chance to retrieve a weapon. There are a lot of possibilities with this ‘feature’ that I’ll be trying to look into.

Throw and Pit ‘Spawn Camping’

After killing your opponent, a well timed throw along with controlled forward momentum can cause the opponent to spawn with the thrown sword inside him for an instant kill. So far no one can do it consistently, but I’m pretty sure it CAN be done consistently. Currently people only try when they have a spare sword near by, but in theory, you wouldn’t even need that. You could throw, collect your old sword and fight the next enemy (and if you had that extra sword, you could instead do this TWICE). A similar oversight allows you to stop with the edge of the screen over a pit, so the spawning player falls to his death. These oversights sound powerful, but there are a few conceits.

First, the nature of the game makes it favor the player who is triying to push an opponent back to the neutral screen. On offense, enemies tend to spawn in more reliable, safer spots, but when running it back, more chances arise to exploit these behaviors. Also your gain is limited to a single screen. You are insured a safe spawn at the beginning of any screen.

Suicide Reset

Similar to the above, if you’re trying to get back to the neutral screen and you kill your opponent, suiciding into a pit will take you there. When both players die, combat resumes in the center of the map. With a prominent pit at the last screen, the defending player has a big comeback chance before losing.

Slide Kill

Most of the time people use the slide to get past the opponent so they can run to the next screen, or to get a weapon while unarmed. But if you press attack while crossing your opponent, you perform the sword throw, instantly killing you. Due to the fact low block kills slides, this is of limited use, but it is still a useful little trick to throw out occasionally. A lot of people probably have done this on accident at the various events where people have gotten to play Nidhogg, but this is how it actually works, for the record.

Jump related nonsense

I’ll just bundle the last few bits here. A Low to the ground sword throw (has to be while falling as far as I can tell) seem to need to be blocked high to be blocked 100% of the time. You can also jump off your opponents head, though you have to be incredibly precise.It’s also possible to jump INSIDE the opponent without getting killed. This is most useful if your unarmed, as its one of the two ways I’ve seen to hit the opponent (the other is hit them while they’re jumping). Your hits will disarm him and you’ll have a chance to survive. Chances are you’re dead though, so whatever.

As a final little fun bit, throw your swords away and start jumping on each others heads. If you jump at the right times, you’ll get stuck together and go flying off the top of the screen. Great times!

Closing

So far the game has been a blast. Cracks are beginning to show, but I don’t think anything mentioned above is enough to break the game. As I play more with my friend,s I’ll give more impressions and tricks and perhaps go into more subtler things, like specific terrain tricks and the psychology of the game). Messhoff made a cool little piece of work here and I have to wonder how much of it just happened and what he is and isn’t aware of. I have no opinions one way or another, but I am curious.

Too Much Talking Episode 11: The “Vaginamancy” Episode


Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, Eric, Aintaer


Too Much Talking #11 Vaginamancy” 01/08/11

No questions this week, so we just rambled on about a bunch of stuff! Night of the Dead (Starcraft 2 UMS Map), Persona protagonists being dicks, PS3’s epic security fail and my thoughts on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Also we ramble a good bit too as is typical!

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Facebook IWBTG Q&A

The IWBTG Facebook fan group posted a bunch of questioned they wanted answered. They’re nothing crazy, your typical friendly fan questions, but I figured I’d throw this up in public. Names are edited out. It’s not like they aren’t in some way public already, but I figure most people would rather not have their real names thrown around. Anyways.

How did the cherries get so large?

The real question is how the kids got so small!

Why does the game hate me so much?

The game would like to assure you that it’s nothing personal. The game hates all people equally.

how and where did you get your first idea of this game?

I got the idea from two places. First, the Kid sprite was made to show my friend Eric how easily you could make a character and walk animation. From there, Owata inspired me to think of a more involved game with the same concept. At the time, Owats wasn’t fully developed and ended up feeling tiny and uninteresting. I set out to make a more complex labyrinth of challenges but ended up creating multiple paths instead.

What encouraged you to make the most addicting and TOTALLY frustrating game of all time? :D

What convinced you to make this super practically impossible game?

What or who persuaded you into making this game?

My friend Eric. After that, the support of my friends to continue and add more. It just snowballed into something much bigger than I expected.

Are you a Wizard?

Obviously. Next question.

Are you considering making an IWBTG 2, featuring games you didn’t before, such as Super Mario Bros.?

what about a sequel?

could your team imagine to create a real sequel to IWBTG?

To all of you who are asking the same question, absolutely! Also remember, I had Shy Guys, Bowser, Wart, Birdo, Cheep-cheeps and Bullet Bills! My Mario references were comparatively subtle compared to some other games, but they were there!

Are you really working on a chapter for Teh Internets in Super Meat Boy?

It is untrue. The truth is I’m supposed to be working on a chapter but am not. :D But yes, there will be an IWBTG chapter with levels designed by me.

Are you able to finish the game at hard?

Yes. The game is designed for Hard. Personally I never did V.Hard though. Those save points were balanced by community members who were very good at the game.

Are you ever going to finish making I want to save the kids?

Sadly no. The idea didn’t have “legs”. The concept may be revisited at some point, but nothing is planned right now.

Hey you know how to fix oil burners?

Well, like, obviously! I’m supposed to be manly and stuff!

Can you provide background information on the history of The Guy?

Hahah, there isn’t some big mythology behind the guy. Obviously he’s the Kid’s Father. He killed his own Father, Grandfather the Guy. I would venture to say Grandfather The Guy was a kind and just The Guy, whom was overthrown by his Son out of a hunger for Power. The Kid’s justifications are more pure of heart, while his Father’s were driven by evil. Also he had a 2 pack a day habit until he quit, by, you know…. dying.

when do you thing start IWBTG THE MOVIE!?

I started it 25 years in the Future where Uwe Boll has paid me 5 million dollars for film rights. It sounds like a lot, but inflation is an issue.

How has your day been?

Pretty good, but after like four hours on skype, my ears hurt! D:

Can you make IWBTG crash less when I’m fighting a boos when he’s halfway dead?

Sadly Multimedia Fusion 2 is (or was) a piece of shit. Updating it also broke aspects of the game, though it probably would have been more stable. I’m sincerely sorry about that!

Review: Super Meat Boy

If it wasn’t for Bayonetta at the beginning of the year, Super Meat Boy would be my “Game of the Year”. Perhaps I can just slide Bayonetta back into GOTY for 2009. Whatever, such distinctions are silly anyways. Super Meat Boy is a wonderful 16-bit style platformer made by Team Meat, featuring the beautifully bearded Edmund McMillen and the wonderfully bald Tommy Refenes. Together they produced what has to be 2010s best independent game (or in my case, best game of the year, period). Sure you got Minecraft, but it’s barely a ‘game’ (Best …computer…thing? of 2010 would be the appropriate award?) and Limbo is cute and artsy but just doesn’t have a ton of real gameplay like Meatboy does.

The Gameplay (And why it’s so good)

The game follows the Story of Meat Boy. A boy. Who is made of meat. His girlfriend, Bandage Girl is kidnapped by a fetus who lives in a glass tank that wears a monocle and a suit. Dr. Fetus kidnaps Bandage girl because he hates you, hates Meat Boy, and if the developer’s twitter is to be believed, is a heavily closeted homosexual (Not being open with your self can lead to a lot of emotional and behavioral issues! D: ). The premise of each stage is simple. Use Meat Boy to get to Bandage Girl (Whom is then swooped away by Dr. Fetus) to advance to the next level. Levels tend to be short, almost always being less than a minute to complete on a successful run. The game is separated into 5 primary worlds, each containing 20 of these levels (each with an alternative hard mode), 4 warp zones (Each with 3 8-bit style levels and one unlocking a secret character) and a boss fight. There is also an end chapter with 5 super long stage and a Boss level, an alternative Chapter with Bandage Girl (only lacking warpzones and a boss fight). I believe the total for all of the content stands at 316 levels.

Meat Boy himself is an extrapolation of the “Mario Ideal”. Mario is slippery, he is fast and he’s somewhat hard to control. He never feels to ‘cheat’ you with his controls. He feels like a nuanced tool you come to understand the nuances of.

Meat Boy is faster. Meat Boy is more slippery. Meat boy can wall slide and wall jump. Meat boy can jump absurd distances. Meat boy is difficult to master, but is always reliable.

The game has two buttons. Run and jump. When running, Meat Boy makes Sonic look like a sissy. He hauls ass at a speed that starts off as intimidating. He can easily clear half a screen length with a running jump. Meat Boy is also an expert wall jumper. When slammed up against a wall, he falls at a reduced speed and can rocket off the wall at a speed that exceeds his normal run speed and jump distance. He can also do short wall hops up only one wall. Meat Boy is fast and mobile and has to be. Super Meat Boy’s stages are often consumed with dangers. The minute-or-less levels get you a lot of mileage, as mastery of them can sometimes take hours for weaker players. The level design, while not entirely immaculate, still strikes with stunning consistency. It also plays to Meat Boy’s inherent difficulty to control. Stages do not have to be cramped with danger, like stages in I Wanna Be The Guy, where the Kid moves with precise and exact pixel precision. This allows for more nuanced challenges, relying on intuition on how Meat Boy moves. The levels are made to Meat Boy. When playing, I always strove to see what the developer saw when making it. An optimal path of play in which the stage intends for you to find and sometimes even surpass. Timings and tricks in the stage seem to fall in place as the elements and sizes of things seem exactly chosen to create fluid gameplay. There are no goofy jumps or weird distances or timing. In fact, a lot of times you can trust things to work out when trying to play at the highest possible speed. This makes competition for time extremely fun. You can compete on the leader board, or just try and score a low enough time to score a “A+” on a stage.

The Dark World versions of levels take stages you thought were hard already and makes them even harder. Yet somehow it does it in a way that doesn’t feel unfair. They tend to be visually more intimidating, but only require a little more precision and a few more jumps. They say “If you could do this before, there is no reason you can’t do this now. You just have to push your self further.” Many stages also have ‘Bandages’ on them, a single item that you can collect that is often cleverly hidden. They’re only really used for unlocking characters, but they are rewarding to find. Sadly the game doesn’t tell you what levels they’re on, but you can rely on the internet for that if it bothers you (it bothered me).

Super Meat Boy’s Bag of Tricks

Super Meat Boy’s primary hazard is the ‘immobile thing that kills you”. Generally circular saw blades, but other time lava, medical waste, blood and….. salt (Fridge horror!). Saw blades can also move up and down or spin with around a center axis. These movements are consistent. Nothing you do ever causes saws to start or stop moving. There are also saw blade launchers, which periodically shoot sawblades (about one character size) in a straight line. Most things seem to be timed together. Generally if a stage has moving saw blades and shooting saw blades, the shot will fire when the moving saw blade is in the same position. No temporal desynchronization of hazards. When it does happen, it is minor and generally not a big deal and is done for some particular reason. This makes it a breeze to learn how to deal with each jump and hazard on a stage. The scenario won’t be glaringly different just because you got there a minute later.

Areas of interaction include buttons and keys. Buttons cause a chain reaction of blocks to disappear. A target block disappears and then all adjacent blocks next to it that are disppearing blocks also disappear, causing a chain reaction. After a set time, the blocks restore themselves. This can be used to open passageways, or used to create collapsing bridges or other obstacles. Sometimes these switches are automated, creating Mega Man style disappearing platform segments. Keys do he same, only they destroy the blocks in question forever. There are also your classic style ‘crumbling block’.

There are some enemies too, of varying quality. Blobs that bounce around at 45 degree angles (and thankfully tend to behave very consistently, timing wise). There are also wall crawlers and homing enemies (Both flying and on the ground). The homing enemies are one of the few things that bug me. These, and the homing rocket launchers (one of which shoots monster things that explode with 8 way bullets) are elements that seem a bit too ‘random’ for fair play. You can come up with techniques to product consistent results against them, but it is unintuitive. The homing of the rockets is also too strong. Sometimes when a rocket misses you, if the angle is perfect, it can loop back around and 180 at you. This seem massively unfair and arbitrary when it happens. Still, with good technique you can remove the minor ‘luck’ element. It’s not a big deal, but it seems out of place in a game that seems to be about performance and consistency.

There are a ton of other minor elements. There are fans and ‘gravity orbs’ that are annoying in the same way homing rockets are. There’s conveyor belts, which when laid vertically can launch you to obscene heights. Theres bouncing balls and portals that teleport you while maintaining your momentum. Oh also lasers that cycle on and off. You GOTTA have those.There is enough stuff to keep engaged and give each stage it’s own feel.

Artistry and Music

McMillien made some lovely tile sets for this game. They come off as very 16-bit, but contain enough depth, color and detail to maintain the feel of a modern game. Stages are often tinted with various colors to set certain moods and create unique visual effects without going overboard. The background elements neatly break up the rigorously square design the game ascribes to for consistency sake. The tilesets tend to have the feel of urban decay, but also include stuff like forests and hell. The last Chapter, “The End” contains art work and style that, when combined with the soundtrack leads to something legitimately epic. McMillien understands basic things such as the use of color and composition to make very visually effective and stylish stages. Danny Baranowsky soundtrack pops with a retro charm without relying on retro effects and sounds. The game also has some flash made cutscenes, many being throw backs to old video games. They tend to be brief and funny. Each stage as an intro cut scene, a boss cut scene and an ending cut scene, as well as a cutscene for each World’s unlockable character. Again, none are too long and almost all of them are funny in some way, just enough to frame an exceedingly simple but cute narrative with no dialog.

Loose bits and Final Thoughts

The characters in the game are fun, each coming with unique abilities. Some examples: Captain Video can hover but is way slower than Meat Boy Runman is super fast(he walks slightly slower than Meat Boy Runs, and his run button is a temporary boost button), but can’t walk slowly or jump as high as meatboy. Jill can mash jump to glide and The Kid can of course Double Jump. Some characters seem designed to make levels easier to complete (Like Captain Video or Jill), while others can be used to get bandages or exploit shortcuts (all the multijumpers like The Kid, Osmo and Flywrench) and some can be used just to optimize play time (Mostly either Run Man or The Kid). Captain Viridian can even flip gravity. But the all have a handicap (outside of usually being slower or have worse jump height/distance than Meat Boy) — the levels were not designed for them. So often even absurd abilities like changing gravity are not as fast as just playing levels straight with Meat Boy. It’s good stuff. Meat Boy is always one of the best characters for a level (in fact, time wise, he’s probably the best character 80% of the time at least). Warpzones are cool and bring in the concept of lives. Each of the 3 stages of a warp zone gives you 3 lives to complete it (unless it’s a character warpzone, in which case you have infinite). This is fine through most of the game, but near the end it just leads to tedium. It’s also annoying to have to go through the warpzone intro every time you lose all 3 lives on the first level. It’s a minor point, but as I was trying to complete the Skyscraper warpzone to unlock the Golden God achievement (Yes, for once I cared about an achievement: Total Completion), it would have been so nice to be able to skip that shit. Outside of that and the homing elements, there was thankfully few painful stages (Though they do exist!). I guess the boss fights could have been better? But who cares, they were mostly cinematic stages so it all worked out. Also the replay feature at the end of a stage where you see all your attempts at once is neat, but people seem to care too much about this adorable feature. The GAME is the best part, not the knickknacks.

I ran this game into the ground. For awhile I was around top 50 on Steam for Overall time (now people have pushed me up to 100 and something, but whatever). I played everything this game had and loved it. Despite it’s few rough spots, it’s easily my favorite game since Bayonetta come out. It’s a great example of how control can be used in a game to make platforming more interesting. I highly recommend it to anyone who is even slightly interested in 2d platforming still.


Too Much Talking Episode 10: The “New Years” Episode


Featuring: Kayin, Paul, Patito, Crouton, AJ, April, Ben


Too Much Talking #10 New Years” 01/01/11

Let’s get to brass tacks: it’s new years and a few of us have had a bit too much to drink and most of us are just too nerdy and distracted to care. An hour of rambling awaits ye who dare to download. What a great way to mark episode 10!

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