Theft, Murder, and Morals in Skyrim

Maven Black-BriarSkyrim made me want to murder.

I’m usually a kind video game player. I choose non-lethal options when available, act morally, and generally roleplay as a responsible (if sometimes abrupt) character when given the option. The character I played in Skyrim was an ambitious but magnanimous barbarian-mage, seeking the power to rule and protect. I didn’t seek to kill anyone unprovoked… until I met Maven Black-Briar.

Maven1 is the rich de-facto ruler of the city of Riften. She is rude, cruel, and entitled. In a world of racist Vikings and execution-happy Imperials, she stands out to me as the most loathsome humanoid character. Sure, there are strange avian hags that eat people and vampiric assassins, but she is just a brewery owner who’s happy to kill and torture and extort for personal wealth and power. She mirrors her city, a place that represents corruption and villainy, and in doing so says a lot about Skyrim‘s attitude toward morality.

She’s also immortal.

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  1. Despite sounding like a title, “Maven” is her first name.

Character Select: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

The character select screen for Marvel vs Capcom 3Sparky’s Den, in the Memorial Union at Arizona State University, is a bowling alley and arcade where I spent many of my summer late afternoons as a young teenager. I can’t find any photos of their arcade online, so I don’t know if they still have the old Dungeons and Dragons or Alien vs. Predator beat-em-ups, the Gauntlet Legends machine, the copy of Silent Scope.

The Marvel vs. Capcom machine.

I don’t have the same love of fighting games and arcades that a lot of video game folks seem to. I was never good at split-second reflexes, and my arcade time was limited to short spans after a summer program for gifted kids that was held at the university. Fighting games were weird curiosities: colorful characters equipped with secret moves in fanciful stages. The fighting games I remember are odd ones: Battle Beast, from a PC Gamer demo disk, or the inexplicable Golden Axe: The Duel. And I definitely remember Marvel vs. Capcom.

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The Evil of Farm Story 2

IMG_0948There is evil in this world. Some is systemic, titanic, nigh-insurmountable. And some is petty, banal, all the more troubling for its triviality. Farm Story 2 is the lesser evil. It’s the whispering, cloying, harrying serpent at the heel of gamers.

Farm Story 2 is evil in a way that inspires not rebellion, but pity.

This is a well-crafted game. There are barely any bugs and the art is attractive if generic. The bug-eyed chickens are charming, and it has a scamp of a kid who is adorable until the third or fourth time they implore you to install another of Storm8’s insipid games. I don’t have a quarrel with any of the (mercifully uncredited) people who worked on the game. My issue is with the environment who produced such a work. Let’s explore the darkness at its depths.

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Odin Sphere: Muggle Escabeche à la Erion

RabbitCafe
When Odin Sphere was released, it was a game from a parallel dimension where 3D technology never caught on. Now, though, it sits among Rayman Origins, Dust: an Elysian Tale, Ori And The Blind Forest, and many others in presenting gorgeous living, breathing, hand-crafted art and a strong visual aesthetic. Looking back, then, there’s one thing I remember about Odin Sphere.

Food.

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You Can’t Control Clash of Clans

My town in Clash of ClansGames are as much about what they don’t let you do as what they do. Figure and ground. The tools they withhold from you are often more important than the tools they provide. Constraint guides cleverness and creativity.

Supercell’s Clash of Clans is a fairly typical free-to-play mobile game on its surface. You build a town. It takes a while. You can pay money to make it take less of a while. You build troops, and they follow the same pattern. What’s a bit unusual is that you can rearrange your town, and the layout you choose matters. When a town is raided, the placement of its defenses means the difference between winning and losing. Especially because you can’t control your troops.

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The Feline Grace of Neko Atsume

Neko Atsume screenshot
Neko Atsume is a game with feline sensibilities. It doesn’t beg for your attention. It’s often inscrutable. Sometimes you’re not sure why you keep it around.

More games should be like this.

Neko Atsume is a gently brilliant deconstruction of mobile games and how we approach Pokemon-style collecting. Through its passive and cryptic approach, it encourages the player to approach it with intention as opposed to most games’ eager-to-please style. It might be the Dark Souls of pet simulators.

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Automating Minecraft

In my patron-sponsored post on Minecraft I talked about the philosophy of Minecraft mods and play in general, but I didn’t go much into the actual rules or design of the factory and automation play in those mods.

I’ve abandoned the “FTB Resurrection” modpack in favor of “FTB Infinity” (GregTech is just too vague and cruel). This has actually let me get into some limited automation, which has been interesting.

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“Hot Date:” Realistic Pug Conversation Simulator

Hot Date 2015-06-30 18-36-20-86I’m not fond of pugs. They seem like the kind of dog that PewDiePie would own. But then I’m a cat person rather than a dog person, which means I would rather have a creature vomit on my floor than drool on my face. But I understand the appeal of pugs, if only in an academic sense. If neoteny, or immature looks, plays a strong role in our love for pets, then pugs are Dr. Moreau’s attempts at dog-babies: all bulging eyes and lolling mouths.

Hot Date” lets you speed-date them.
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Minecraft Is About Transcending Minecraft

I first played Minecraft in 2009 back when it was an Infiniminer clone being developed on the Tigsource forums. It was immediately clear to a bunch of people that it was something special but no one could have guessed what the game would become in just a few years. It may be the most popular game of all time. It’s definitely the most popular game among kids right now. Odd, then, that most of the Minecraft experience is about not playing Minecraft.

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Ossuary Now on Steam

Ossuary is on Steam! It’s been a long road getting there, but a game I wrote and designed is finally on the largest online game store.

So far the game’s been selling well compared to its previous performance, but it’s not been anything lifechanging. I’m very thankful to all the fans and journalists who have helped us get to this point.

If you haven’t played the game, pick it up on Steam! If you have played the game, you should have a Steam key waiting wherever you bought it. Please leave a review on the Steam store page saying what you thought!

Ossuary occupies a complicated head space for me. It was developed during a very difficult couple of years in my personal life, and it’s releasing right when I’m struggling the most to support myself. I hope that in the years to come I can look back on this release fondly, but right now I’m not quite sure how I feel.

Discordianism is a major influence on Ossuary, and I’m reminded of its Parable of the Bitter Tea. The Parable of the Bitter Tea teaches us to accept the nature of things. You can work to improve the world and you can see the flaws in it, but it’s harmful to struggle to change that which is already set in stone. I’ll work to be mindful of how I am right now and move toward the future.