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Posts tagged “titan quest

Review – Grim Dawn

“Joel,” you say to me in a thinly veiled premise, “why have you never reviewed Grim Dawn?”

I say nothing because there is a hot mug of set-up to my face.

“I mean,” you continue “You’ve spoken about it, ranted about it, shoe-horned it into a Top 10 wherever you could. It’s been a year since the Hack-and-Slash ARPG by Crate Entertainment was released and you’ve clocked seventy hours of game-play, and yet I still haven’t read a review from you.”

“Look over there!” I point. You politely indulge my poor deception and turn in your equally fictitious seat, “Never mind it’s dead now. Hey, look at this!” (more…)


Snow In Video Games

With a few noteworthy exceptions, most games tend to have a fairly homogeneous progression, usually going from lush green grasslands and becoming progressively more wild, desert, jungle, and usually ending with freezing cold, winter perhaps, snowy tundra, or soaring mountain range. Some examples:

Diablo 2 progresses from the temperate plains around the rogue encampment, straight into the desert of Lut Gholein, forests of Kurast, and finally hell itself. The expansion then takes the hero to the barbarous wastes of Harrogath, a land filled with massive, destructive beasts and hellspawn.

Borderlands is almost exclusively deserts and salt flats, being the more common terrain on Pandora. The finale however takes our Vault Hunter to a snow-capped mountain in the Eridium Highlands.

Bastions journey leads the Kid from the ruins of his old town through the drifting chunks of Jawson’s Bog, forests and jungles, ending in the ice blocks of Urzendra Gate, Zulten’s Hollow and the Tazal Terminals, dripping with icicles.

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Castle Crashers, Titan Quest, the masterpiece edition of Myst, Grim Fandango when you think about it, Skyrim’s fairly snowy all over but the difference from Helgen to the Throat is a marked difference, Pokemon Gold/Silver ends on Mt. Silver, and I’m sure if you think on it you’ve already conjured a few examples yourself. Why do so many game designers take their story along this path?

There’s a literary device known as Pathetic Fallacy, you may be familiar with it. The sun shines on happy days, it rains when everything’s sad, it’s tragic, but some people still do it, and if it’s done well enough you’d never even notice it was happening. The same thing can also apply to the seasons, they follow a fairly natural progression with all the metaphors to go with them, spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings; summer is filled with life, growth and joy; autumn is a period of decay, when everything is undone and falls into decline; finally winter is the season of darkness, and death.

The progression of a game follows a like-for-like path, and often the terrain and weather reflect it. A game usually begins with the birth of a hero, the call to action that takes the normal person into a story. The action builds, intrigue rises, suspense and activity grows, driving the hero to develop and achieve things he/she never thought themselves capable of. Finally the real conflict is ahead, seemingly insurmountable, friends fall behind, the world crumbles, the hero is faced with an impossible decision or heartbreaking revelation. They overcome at last to stand before the end, victory or defeat, life or death, pivoting on a single moment.

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A less heroic analogy, a decline in weather follows the decline of Prince Arthas in Warcraft 3, from the young hero of springtime, and the madness he pursues takes him into winters death, which then follows him everywhere he goes.

Keep your eyes peeled for this particular quirk of media, and how weather can influence emotions as part of narrative, and particularly look at how it can change your perspective on an area. It may not be the very last segments of the game, occasionally they are the very beginning (Metal Gear Solid, Borderlands 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider), but they’re frequently pivotal, memorable, tough, or some mixture of all three. If you’ve ever felt daunted at the sight of snow then you’ve already fallen victim to pathetic fallacy.


Top 10 – Goats

GeekOut Top 10s

I can’t believe by the hair of my chinny chin, chin that you’d actually bleating vote for this one. I don’t know if you, our readers, are just a little bit gruff, or if you think we might have bitten off more than we can chew, but I can assure you now that you’ve only motivated us to tackle this problem head on. A Top 10 wouldn’t be complete without absurd choices, so this week, you’ve given us a bit of a conundrum.

We understand the (ram)ifications, of if we don’t get this right. For one, a ram cannot count as that’s actually a sheep. We can’t include things such as Fauns for instance, for they’re not goats, even if people sometimes confuse them. So if you’re feeling a little bit woolly as to what this week’s vote is, it’s our Top 10 Goats. So it’s time to milk these puns for all they’re worth, because they’re so cheesy. Ah enough of this, let’s charge on!


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10) Escape Goat

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Escape Goat is a really sweet little puzzler where you get to go around as a goat, saving other goats from danger. It’s a simple little tale of a goat going on his goatly missions to go and save others from a massive tower. It’s nothing that’ll blow your mind in terms of story, neither is the gameplay all that impressive, but it is a nice little game.

It makes it into our Top 10 list just by the hairs of it’s chinny chin, chin (how many more times can we use that pun?). Escape Goat is one of those adorable things that happens from time to time: You see something that you can’t help but like, but when you finally get it, it’s nothing special. That’s not to say it’s not a decent game (which it thoroughly is), but don’t expect this game to be the one that gets your goat! Fun little puzzle game, worth checking it out.

9) Missy – How I Met Your Mother

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Here’s a daft little joke that was a full year in the making.

Grown up Ted tells the story of his 30th birthday, during which Lily introduces her kindergarten class to a goat, and resolves to rescue it when the farmer tells the children in no uncertain detail what will happen to said goat, hiding it in Ted’s place until she can find somewhere more appropriate. Ted’s battle of wills with the goat is epic, but pales in comparison to the fight… oh but wait, that doesn’t actually happen ‘til next year!

It’s a reminder that we’re listening to an anecdote that’s being told wrong, reveals a few details about the season that would follow, and raises some very interesting questions in the process. How does everyone know that they’re goat droppings? And what did Missy see in that washcloth? The story of Missy the goat is testament to the planning behind the show, and how clever it could get about being stupid.

And seriously, How I Met Your Mother is an oddly nerdy gem.

8) Satan – The Binding of Isaac

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Technically Satan isn’t really a goat, but he’s basically a goat as that’s the typical representation of Satan! Goat-like and with large wings in appearance, but also partially that of a man, Satan is a dangerous opponent in The Binding of Isaac. Able to take on the form of a massive demonic goat, Satan is there to try to squash you and claw at you. If you take the path to fight Satan, you generally get the “bad” endings, though in theory there’s no good ending in this game.

Satan’s power doesn’t just stop at being a big goat man who wants to squash you. He’s able to summon minions to do his bidding, as well as being a constant threat throughout the game. There are secret rooms dedicated to his likeness and there’s even an end-game secret fight with him where he’s called Mega Satan – and that’s not an easy fight for most people to handle!

Hey, unlike his Pokemon equivalent later in this Top 10, at least this goat can Mega Evolve!

7) Khazra – Diablo

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The Khazra are one of the most dangerous recurring enemies in the Diablo franchise. These huge demonic men are half man half goat, but not quite a Satyr. Instead, with their impressive size advantage over most of their enemies, the Khazra are a bunch of demons who are hellbent on swinging huge polearms and axes to take out the opponents of the Lord of Terror himself. Usually travelling in herds, you can be sure for a tough fight.

You will fight wave upon wave of these gits, who seemingly come out of nowhere. There are various clans of them, so you know just how hard the group you’re battling through will be. The clans names range from Blood, Death, Fire, Flesh and even Hell! What could be better than a hellish group of goatmen?!

6) #673: Gogoat – Pokemon

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Go-Go-Gogoat Rangers!

Don’t worry, that’s not really the theme song of Gogoat and no, that isn’t a typo. It’s name really is Gogoat and it really is a goat that just goes. Evolving from the adorable Skiddo, Gogoat is a rather big goat that likes to transport humans on its back. Especially made prominent in Pokemon X and Y where you are able to ride Gogoats around the place in specific parts of the game. It’s rather fun too!

It’s nice having a grass type that I genuinely cared about. It’s not that I don’t like grass types, but often I felt a little bit… Underwhelmed by them. Victreebell is cool… I mean so is Oddish, y’know..? But ultimately, the grass types needed something that makes you squeal out. Sorry Chikorita, you’re nothing but a light snack for Gogoat, the toughest goat Pokemon of all. Heck, it’s not like any other Pokemon have specific companies that require them… What’s that? A building company full of Machops, Machokes and Machamps? Hah, don’t be so absurd!

5) The Scene With The Goat – Jurassic Park

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T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed. He wants to hunt! Can’t just suppress 65 million years of gut instinct.

We don’t see the tyrannosaurus until it’s too late, and neither does the goat. The sight of that dangling chain is something quite haunting in the terrified silence of the tour-jeep along with the legendary rippling water. It wasn’t too long ago that goat was merrily munching some grass, and blissfully unaware that it was being offered up as gruesome sacrifice to a lizard-god resurrected from millennia of death. Our last glimpse of the morsel is when a leftover hits the roof of the jeep, because with tiny little arms, T-Rex doesn’t have much by way of table manners.

I suppose some kudos must go to Jurrasic World for reenacting the scene, and while I haven’t seen it personally I kind of doubt it’ll carry the same weight of tension and the shocking reveal of the first film. And I also doubt any film we beat the toilet scene that followed.

4) The Goat of Lochmarne – Broken Sword

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This one’s as stubborn as a… well you know.

Amongst the list of ridiculous puzzles that have the kind of solution that only leaves you more confused is the infamous goat of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. The ferocious beast is warden to an ancient dig-site in Lochmarne, Ireland, and headbutts you if you dare step too close to the trapdoor. The castle had been rumoured to be guarded by a malicious ghost, but the truth is far more terrifying.

Spoilers: the solution was to drag a piece of farm equipment into the goats path, but only immediately after it had rammed you, before it can walk back to its post, moving it before or after would accomplish nothing. Still at least it would come to spawn one of the series major running jokes, including the talking goat of Quaramonte.

3) Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr – Thor’s Chariot

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Everyone knows about the hammer, but did you also know that Thor has a chariot drawn by a pair of divinely imbued goats? At their charge it was said that the ground quaked and burned, and Thor regularly channeled Mjolnir’s power to resurrect them after he’d eaten them, until one incident when he shared them with a peasant family, and one of them split a leg bone to eat the marrow, and the goat was raised to life with the leg crippled.

Fun fact, Thor then accepted the peasant’s children as an apology and left Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr behind. They’re also the origin of the Yule goat, old depictions of Father Christmas show him riding on a goat, and the reindeer-led sleigh can trace its origins back to Thor’s goats. It’s one of the lesser known facets of Thor that has only occasionally popped up in his pop-culture interpretations. Marvel’s Ragnarok is coming soon though… super-goats maybe?

2) Kojirou – Nichijou: My Ordinary Life

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Caption: Eat, Sleep, Suplex A Goat, Repeat

Let’s get something straight here: Goats are destructive little beasts who know nothing but chaos, anger and carnage. They come charging at you whilst making ungodly noises which makes you think “good grief, that’s a goat!” So when I found Nichijou, a slice of life comedy anime, I screamed at the top of my lungs when I saw this goat… It was nothing like I described above. It was actually a rather tame little goat… Oh!

Okay, so I’m being a little bit melodramatic, but how can you hold that against me? This goat is adorable to the nth degree. From the simple and very goat-y design right down to its temperament, this goat is lovely. It takes its owner for a ride and seems to enjoy eating yaoi artwork… Just be aware, Mia doesn’t like it when goats eat her art.

1) The Goat – Goat Simulator

There really should have been no doubt on this one. The most bizarre parody of the oddly specific simulator genre puts players in control of a goat cast into a world of normality and boredom, with two very simple purposes: break everything, and lick things to claim them as your own, and in many ways that makes this the most accurate sim of all.

Your mission to do goat stuff unlocks new goatly powers, devil goat, angel goat, long goat, goat bird, technogoat, and dubstep (no really). Hitch a ride through the sky by lashing your tongue to a passing helicopter, play dead to go hurtling down a water flume, or trip on shrooms to blow your head up to ridiculous sizes and bob around like a mad thing. Play the poorly-built MMO, escape to the server and break the world! It’s the pinnacle of goatlihood!

And it’s kinda dumb.


Honourable Mentions

Ah, you didn’t think we could end our homage to goats there now, did you? Nevertheless, these gruff creatures are now going to make you bleat out in joy, as these are two more mentions of goats that you absolutely must know about.

Gordon the GeekOut Goat

Gordon the GeekOut Goat

If you have seen our Posters here on GeekOut, you would be aware that we seem to have a weird shape that we often use. The shape seems to have two large horns of sorts, as well as some weirdly hairy chin. What on Earth could this shape be and what significance does it have to GeekOut? Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m about to blow your minds a little bit: That’s our mascot – Gordon the GeekOut Goat.

When Joel and Timlah were up chatting one night, they decided they needed a mascot to put on merchandise. Timlah got designing and he was working for hours on end to try and make a little mascot… But it never quite took off. Cartoony, cutesy, it didn’t matter – It never quite worked. Until Timlah looked at that goat shape once more. Thus, Gordon was born. GeekOut has settled on the mighty Goat as its symbol, because they truly are the Greatest Of All Time.

Satyrs

Goat legs, goat horns, kinda goaty face, but they’re not all the way there, not even goatfolk completely, and also known as fauns in Roman myth (although they are more commonly dear-like), and ancient British folklore has Puck and glaistigs.

Add to the list of animal hybrids from mythology alongside centaurs, harpies and the like. Originally companions of the gods Dionysus and Pan, led by the semi-divine Silenus, satyrs are creatures of revelry – literal party animals, delighting in music, alcohol and faun-ication (get it?). Sometimes they were guides to lonely travellers,  They appear a lot in media in various forms, villains, allies, or assorted troublemakers, only very rarely are they anything to be taken seriously.


You can’t stop this kid, we’ve “baa”ed our way through this list. So if you’re feeling like we’ve been sufficiently challenged, then let us know how we did. Of course we leave these votes to you as we can’t always decide between the two of us what Top 10 should take place. You wanted it, you’ve got it: Hit that vote button below for what our list should be next week!

Did you think this week’s list was “Baa”d, or good? What do you think of our Top 10 picks for Goats and let us know if you know of any better goats that deserve at least an honourable mention. How did you like our description of our mascot Gordon the GeekOut Goat? As always, thanks so much for voting – Please remember to comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


Top 10 – Amazing Places In Games

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You’ve just completed an important chapter point in a game that’ll finally unlock a new region, the doorway opens wide, you step through the loading screen and then… wow!

The beauty of the virtual world is that it allows us to create such incredible vistas and panoramas that would be made utterly impossible by such constraints as geography, planning permission, and physics. Designers and artists have delved deep into what makes a world real, engaging, stunning, compelling, and have broken all the rules of login in order to create places that we will remember long after the distant memories of real places have faded into oblivion.

I have seen the gardens of Paris, the Blue Mountains of Australia, the great lakes of Cumbria but no places have struck me with such awe as those dreamt in the minds of game designers. Welcome to the Top 10 awesome places in games. (more…)


Palette Swapping

It’s a padding device as old as games themselves. Throw in a little variety in your creature catalogue by changing the colours, copying the code over and slapping a completely different name on it. Cheap trick it may be, but it’s not without it’s up-sides, and it’s not impossible to do it well.

Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde became very distinct personalities in Ms. Pacman, but in the original Pacman they were just multicoloured clones of one another. Aside from the obvious advantage of giving them cool names, what benefit is there to making them different colours? It would have been simpler to leave them all the same colour, or perhaps change the colours between levels, increasing the sense of progression, but for the player, having unique colours makes it much easier to keep track of each ghost’s movements. It’d be easy for four identical ghosts to fade into your peripheral vision, and thus make them impossible to spot until too late, but changing the colours keeps the player’s attention.

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Another early example of identical creature given a variety of colours, the aliens from Space Invaders: the block of sprites has a very singular strategy, one that never changes no matter how many you destroy, no matter their colour. Aside from breaking up the wall of enemies, the changes in alien design help the player track progression, although the colours have no effect on the game, the stripping away of layers is much easier to track mentally by colour than by number.

Now let’s talk about Diablo…. here’s a prime example of palette swapping gone wrong. Of all the hundreds of monstrosities Diablo 2 (for example) has to offer, they boil down to a grand total of 72 sprites for general mobs, maybe another 20 or so for unique bosses. The classic of course that we all know and love: The Fallen

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Identical tactics, identical sounds and art, but with different colours! Now I don’t expect miracles from a turn of the millennium game, but I think my real question is why go to such drastic lengths with the naming scheme? I feel like it’s some poor attempt to make us believe that they’re supposed to be different creatures, and I’m not buying it. Great game, but compared to its’ contemporaries like Titan Quest or Grim Dawn (two games I talk about far too much, this is why I promised at the start of the year I was going to try and get through my Steam list) where creatures like the Satyrs are palette swapped, they’re named as different breeds, rather than different creatures.

Done well, this kind of palette swap can build up a kind of ecology, and feel within a world, make it a little more real by keeping some small level of consistency. So it really needn’t be all pointless corner cutting.

In short, I’ve grown accustomed to palette swapping, but I’m old enough now to realize that M&Ms aren’t different flavours because they’re different colours. Recently though, I’ve started observing palette swaps appearing somewhere I didn’t expect.

More and more, Games Workshop are producing twin model kits, swap a few pieces here and there on the spru and the figure counts as a completely different unit on the table, initially I was fine with that, not a big deal when the difference was between one type of tank or another, an assault sphinx or a transport sphinx:

But I find myself drawing a line when one build is an entirely different faction to the other as they have begun to be recently, and the differences are not suitably significant to be drawing that kind of distinction. I suppose my biggest question here is why? Is it to give the builder more options with the kits they buy, rather than being bound to a single model? Or is it just to save some money in plastic and moulds, because apparently the price increases just aren’t helping any more.

Call it a sideways move on the topic, but this feels like a palette swap! A cheap rehashing of old material sold as something different, and they’re not the only ones. Fans of Ashens, the action figure/cheap tat reviewer of YouTube will know how full the industry is with repainted figures resold under a different title, even as a different intellectual property. One of my favourite tabletop games is packed to the brim with palette swaps:

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How many can you find?

Resources are limited everywhere, that’s a fact, be that resource plastic, money or time. Unfortunately this means corners will be cut here and there, but at times clever design can make this kind of cheat to great advantage. This is one major incident where we can look to the past for lessons to apply today. At one time the limited resource was colour, but it was used to greater effect than perhaps it’s used today.