Saturday Night Gaming: Gigantic

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There’s a particular masochism when it comes to playing hero brawlers (or MOBAs, or Dota-style games, if you prefer). They’re a time sink and a colossal addiction for anyone who enjoys multiplayer games. Nothing as sweet as dominating the enemy alongside your friends, that’s for certain.

Gigantic is a magnificent game with some interesting background–the developers ran out of money at one point and the team was supposed to stop working; but the day after they got the memo, they all showed up and kept on the good work.

The result?

Gigantic spent some time on the Microsoft store–i.e. in Purgatory–where it didn’t get too much traction…since next to no one uses that platform for games, so badly is it optimized. Some streamers began picking it up, though, directly from the site. As is prone to happen with good games, people will eventually notice.

Streamers did, and so did their audiences…and more recently, it came to Steam. Since then, it’s only grown exponentially. The fact that you can buy all characters that have come out, that will ever come out, for only $30, certainly makes a sweet offer.

Now that backstory is out of the way, let’s go into the specifics of this colorful action game.

The way Gigantic looks speaks of cohesive vision–fluid, beautiful art direction is reflected both in map and character design, as well as in the way attacks and abilities are animated.

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Not too many characters are available to choose from, right now; about two dozen but they’re all distinctly different. They come with unique skill kits and fall into the roles of tanks, melee and ranged damage dealers and utility characters–mostly healers. I have only played five characters, and four of them were ranged; when you play with a ranged character, Gigantic feels like a cross-breed between FPS games such as Overwatch and skillshots like the ones you might be familiar with if you ever played Smite.

There are no mobs you kill for gold and experience, nor are there items to customize your chosen character; what there is, instead, is a comprehensive talent tree to choose from, when upgrading your abilities. Two levels of upgrades per each ability which makes for a nice amount of combinations and variety in what your character does.

It’s fast-paced and skill-based, this colorful little game; and I don’t mean the skills your characters have, but the ones you have. I’ve only played for several hours, buy experience in the genres which Gigantic successfully brings into one has proven to be of great use–I’ve murdered more two-legged cows with badly textured nipples than I can count with Mozu, a strange humanoid mouse-like wand-thief. Have a picture of her below:

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A real beauty, and a wicked shot, too!

The game mode is unique; you basically kill other players and the enemy’s creatures on the map in order to power up your guardian until he overpowers the enemy’s, and then you pound upon that enemy until you wound him. Wound him three times, and he dies. You win. Great job!

You get 10 points when you kill an enemy or a miniature creature on the map, twenty when you kill its upgraded variation, and twenty for energy orbs, which are orbs that help you gather Focus. Focus helps you upgrade buildings and use your ultimate ability; depending on the character, those can be pretty damn impressive.

This system doesn’t dilute personal accountability; rather, it enhances it. When you die, you allow your enemy to progress towards victory. Another tenth of the bar that allows them the opportunity to wound your guardian. The more cautious, the more attentive you are–the harder it will be for the enemy team to catch you unawares and tear you a new one. And trust me when I say this, paying attention to your surroundings and your hp and stamina bars is of the utmost import. The better you are, the greater your team’s odds of winning.

Truly, Gigantic is a wonderful experience that feels both familiar and new; much more than just a new coat of paint over reiterated design features that’ve been done over and over again. I’m absolutely charmed with this self-titled “Strategic Hero Shooter”, and can’t wait to see how it develops further.

P.S.A minor gripe– the game is locked at 60 fps, which is…unfortunate. Not for me, but for people with 120hz monitors and preference for hundreds of frames per second, it’s certain to leave a bad taste  It also requires a minimum of 6 Gigabytes of RAM; if you’ve got less, I’m sorry to say–you’re very much out of luck.

At any rate, thank you for reading! It’s been fun, writing this up! See you again next time.

Friday Round-Up: Lovecraftian Horrors on Mars, James Damore AMA,

Moons of Madness looks like fun, doesn’t it? Granted, fun is a relative concept; for me, fun can easily be described as a “Lovecraftian horror game set on Mars,” which also attempts to explore mental health issues in a mature way…while being a hard sci-fi space simulator. Is developer RockPocket Games biting off more than they can chew? I sure hope not!
I don’t actually like horror games, note. It’s been a horribly long time since I’ve even played one!

Moving onto a  somewhat politically charged topic…Remember James Damore, that Google Engineer who got fired for writing a critical document about diversity Google’s ideological echo chamber? He gave an AMA, and it was interesting. I haven’t personally had the time to read the document in its entirety, although I did check out its beginning, and it didn’t sound sexist; rather, it seemed to be going for a calm, rational discussion. I can’t speak for the entirety of its contents, obviously, but the entire debacle around Damore makes for an important case study: Should someone be fired for his differing political and social views, if these make some of his coworkers feel like they’re working in a…violent working environment, was it?
My personal views–this kind of speech shouldn’t be punished. It’s not hateful, or bigoted; it doesn’t call for hurting a portion of the populace. That’s part of the reason why I was so surprised to see the amount of backlash online and on Google.
The AMA is worth a read, at any rate.

Back to gaming, and other news!

Dead in Vinland is coming next year, and I find its graphic style and turn-based survival to be curious enough to keep an eye out in the coming months before its release. You can never have enough hand-drawn games to play, can you?
Apparently it’s based on the core gameplay loop of a game called Dead in Bermuda, with which I have no experience what-so-ever. Perhaps I ought to check it out and write a little something about it.

Book Depository is great, if you-like me- are in a country where shipping costs LOADS OF MONEY! Free shipping is great, and the waiting time (12 days, or 8 business days, in my case, with another two days of preparing the package) is entirely manageable.
I’m very happy to finally have a place from which to buy novels and graphic novels and art books that are insanely difficult to procure in Eastern Europe.

I like Total War: Warhammer, don’t you? It’s a great strategy with a fair amount of flaws but a whole lot of awesomeness going for it. At any rate, its sequel is coming soon, and the last core race of the game was announced a few days ago.
It’s rats, people. Rats.
If you don’t know anything about the Skaven, you might like to read this. I did, and came away from this particular feature more interested in playing with ratpeople than I was before!
The Total War: Warhammer II features I’m most excited about are the additions to the early game– exploration plays a much wider part of the game than it did before, and I imagine it’ll add a whole new dimension to our list of reasons for murdering enemy armies!

I’ve been enjoying James Latimer’s blog. His Hidden Gems are like my Thursday Book Recommendations…only better. You should check his latest post; it’s about Villains by Necessity, which I’m pretty damn excited to read thanks to Latimer’s very post.

StarCraft: Remastered is out, and I don’t have time to play it, and I blame my university for it. Who the hell needs Economic Policy, anyway?

The Hugo Awards were…awarded, as often happens with awards, and I have read none of the winners! I’ll go ahead and remedy that, if you don’t mind. Meanwhile, click here to see the authors and pieces of writing that took an award home this year.

 

Those’re some of the bits and pieces that grabbed my attention this last week, I hope you’ll find them interesting! At any rate, hope to see you around next time!

 

Book Recommendation: Neuromancer

William Gibson created the “archetypal cyberpunk work,” even if he eventually grew to hate the term which now connotes an entire subgenre of sci-fi. It’s a wonderful, fascinating book, Neuromancer, and I will attempt to persuade you to read it!

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

What a fantastic way to open a book, don’t you think? First lines are important, and this one sets a very particular tone which runs throughout the entirety of Neuromancer. Gibson’s world is a dark place, ran by corporations and their interests, a world of increasingly less relevant national governments, where technological cowboys (hackers, basically) ride through cyberspace, breaking walls of virtual ice to get whatever their corporate overlords want.

What is cyberspace, you ask?

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”

Quite the description, isn’t it? Reminiscent of something, perhaps?

Note that Neuromancer was published in 1984; Gibson, some will claim, predicted the internet, as well as virtual reality, before either was a thing. Perhaps he saw the blood in the sky, the writings on the wall; and he decided to share his vision.

Or perhaps Neuromancer was influential enough. Could it be that this struck a chord with the right people, the dreamers, those who could translate a vision into reality, and so brought it along?

The Matrix Gibson speaks of has enough differences to our Internet for now. But those continue to melt away. Perhaps they’ll dissipate entirely before too long. The concept fascinates me, and it scares me a little.

Such is the effect of the world of Neuromancer. It’s easy–so easy–to get lost in it.

I have to balance the scales, however. You might not enjoy this particular title if you dislike being thrown into a sea of unfamiliar vocabulary. Some words and concepts are downright alien, at times. For me, that created a greater sense of immersion, but–especially at the beginning–I got confused a few times too many.

It ends a bit too abruptly, perhaps…but it’s never the ending that matters to me; not that much. It’s the journey.

During that journey, you will traverse a different world, neither better nor worse than this one, and described with a watchmaker’s precision, with skill one could envy, if it didn’t summon a degree of awe instead.

Grab it. It’s worth your time.

 

Thank you for reading! See you again next time.

 

 

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Volume 11: Woodland Animus

Continued from here.

Diary Entry #0180

Four days it took me. Four days, to learn of mine wife’s mysterious ways; or need I say her body’s? ‘Tis a treacherous thing, this vessel; and much more besides.

Now at least, I have learnt a most incongruous skill to transform mine body into that of a worm’s. If never have you seen a worm carry unto its mouth a book and magical quill…may you never come upon such grotesque imagery.

The jaw aches alone!

I also feel a peculiar sensation that threatens to engulf my whole being. Hunger, I think. No wonder it kills the poor, defenseless peasants.

Something moved! There, beyond the rivulet! Surely it must be food; I intend to find out, one way or another!

Diary Entry #0181

Tamara’s body is much different from mine. Softer, for one; when I caught up to the rabbit, its heart did not burst with fear. Instead, it addressed me. A speaking, squeaking long-eared critter.

I couldn’t make this nonsense up if I tried!

We spoke at some length, then, and with no persuasion at all, the creature fell into mine thrall. Now, it has sworn a blood oath, to serve me for as long as it, and any of its kin remain alive. In return, it has only asked me to enslave and burn all the hunters of this land.

I call it Squiggins.

Diary Entry #0182

I may have eaten Squiggins with the aid of several hunters.

The hunters have now sworn their eternal allegiance to me, and their only request is for me to rid this land of the deadly wererabbits. The infestation within this portion of the Kingdom of Throzia is quite something,  I hear.

These peasants’ lustful gazes annoy me greatly, however.

Diary Entry #0185

It appears that with the tasting of some wererabbit meat, I have learned to transform mine new form unto that of…well, a deadly critter with venom leaking from its teeth, obviously. For three days I couldn’t quite control mine feral urges, as I grew accommodated to this form. Several farms, a few villages and two towns have turned into dust.

The hunters reacted somewhat prematurely to my new form, and are now taking a nap. I am certain that the arcane symbols that I marked upon these men’s bodies will change their minds. Or turn them unto my brainless thralls. Whichever happens first.

Psst. It shall be the latter, not the former.

Mine great magical energies may be displaced, but I still possess the knowledge and the intuition. And Tamara’s body, as alien as it has proven to be, shall aid me in reacquiring all that is mine.

Oh, dear. I do believe a piece of hunter is stuck in my teeth.

Writing Advice: Essays

One thing I set out to do with this blog–that I have yet to do–is write a series of long-form essays about topics that intrigue me. Perhaps I’ve done a bit of that with my ‘Saturday Night Gaming’ series, but I’ve decided that now would be a good time to take a long look at what you–and I–should do before we venture onto writing a good and proper essay.

Just today, I read a wonderful essay at the back of Neuromancer, written by a fellow writer and a friend of the book’s author, William Gibson.  What struck me was the excitement, the pure joy that these words radiated; so well were they crafted that I found myself nearly seduced to scroll back to the beginning of the book, and take an unforgettable journey into cyberspace all over again.

Excitement, then, is the most important building block, the one to use as foundation for your essays. When you’re excited about a given topic, it shows; ideas come more easily, they seamlessly flow on the page (or on the text processor), and most importantly, excitement translates through language with ridiculous ease!

Writing essays is about your views; so make sure to crystalize those. Before writing a review, essay, or blog post, I take a pen and paper and scribble the clearest points in my mind. Then, while I’m writing, I will often glance towards that piece of paper, and make sure that I’m presenting my core arguments in a clear, understandable way. Clarity is of such enormous importance to any piece of writing and essays are no different.

And how about the importance of research? Might be a bore when you’re writing a book, but if you’re looking for factual information to help strengthen your essay, it really shouldn’t be a problem. I take a long time to read up on studios, developers and development processes of the different games I write/make videos about, and it’s always far more entertaining than frustrating. Finding information about the things you love is downright inspirational, in fact–and no surprise there!

Having cold, hard facts on your side will also help with your confidence; all you have to do, then, is present them well and proper!

Yet another good idea is to use pictures or any other kind of visual media to help accentuate–or showcase–whatever it is you’re writing an essay about. I could do well in this particular aspect, myself; admittedly, many of the posts on my blog lack any kind of visual aspect at all.

In my defense, I am way too distracted by my writing to have the time for pictures!

A last piece of advice–and this is for writing in general, but I feel compelled to repeat it–proofread before you go live! No one enjoys silly, quick-to-remove mistakes or sloppy grammar, punctuation and so on, and so forth.

I’m not claiming mastery when it comes to writing essays–on writing anything, for that matter–but these are a few guiding points which will be helpful for anyone who, like me, is interested in exploring this particular medium further.

I’ll get back to this topic someday, when I have greater experience with essay-writing. For now, thank you for reading, and I’m looking forward to next time!

 

Ten Things I would do if I were a Scarred, Self-Proclaimed King

This is a continuation of the Dazzlingly Hot Prince in a Fantasy Realm! post. After the good fortunes that came to shine upon our Dazzlingly Hot new King, his successful spree came to a screeching halt, when a Dark Lord entered the lands. A short skirmish ensured, during which Lerik–the new King– thought the battle his; that is, until the Dark Lord entered the fray.

Now, Lerik is scarred, and, as word of the crime that he committed to take the throne spreads, he faces civil war.

Rebellion!

Merely a week past, I sent envoys to my father’s–mine, now–vassals, in search of mages skilled in restorative magic. The disgusting scar that monstrosity left me with has turned me unrecognizable. When next he crosses my path, I will be prepared for him. My blade will not fail me again, not if I have a squad of mages to neutralize that magic of his.

Where was I? The envoys, yes. This is a foolish waste of time; my head councilor, Kiril, demands that I record my thoughts. “One must record one’s history for those that are yet to come, majesty,” he keeps telling me. I should skin him. How dare he demand anything of me?!

The scribe reminds me, the envoys. They returned with news of the nobles -my nobles!- refusing to send me healers, or assistance, or even bend the knee! Worse yet, they are preparing to move against me. Rabid, they call me. So tells me Kiril, and he would know; the envoys are his, after all. They have seen armies forming up. I must strike now.
I will not stand for open rebellion. I will not have what is mine be taken away!

*****

The battle for Daar Keep was but the first of many. I have already commissioned several artists to portray me as I was, my armor glistening and pure, the blade a lightning in my hand, as I struck the traitors down. Their fear exhilarated me, imbued me with such strength as I have never felt! Kiril tells me that it is the mark of great leadership, to awaken such fear in men.

I have struggled with the idea of this rebellion, but Kiril has helped me move past the pain of betrayal. I am grateful in truth, for all this allows me to become stronger. A finer warrior, by far. I used to despise the idea of battle after battle, with no end in sight. Now, I savor it, this taste…the smell of blood in the air.

*****

It has been weeks since I last had time enough to dictate to my scribe. The little man is positively shaken by the thought of blood, can you imagine?
I have done away with all those who would betray me near the capital. Braze is safe, and will remain so. My loyal subjects will not suffer at the hands of oath-traitors.

Time to turn my attentions to the South. I have dispatched Kiril to the North, where he will subjugate all those that have thoughts of betraying me; he will then strengthen the borders against the Dark Lord’s minions.

I will admit, the scar has begun to grow on me. My ladies-in-waiting tell me that it doesn’t turn them away, but merely accents the beauty I posses, and makes me more kingly. I still intend to remove it, once the opportunity arises; but not now. There is much to be done, yet.

*****

The campaign in the South has gone…well. My armies are being bled, however, and the need for fresh blood grows daily. The call for mercenaries has been sounded; what rats will answer, I wonder. Only time will tell; but there is promise. A number of warlords, still south to the southernmost point in my kingdom, have been known to killfor coin; and they are very efficient.
The news is that some of those are in motion. If they dismantle the Southern lords and their forces, I will make sure that they be paid accordingly…

 

Sunday ComiX – The Uncanny X-Villains: Difficult to Kill Edition

Sundays are for…taking the reins of the Dwarven faction in Warhammer: Total War, and breaking Orkish skulls with…well, warhammers. Obviously.

Sundays are also for discussing the sinister, the apocalyptic, the downright vile villains of the X-Men comic books!

Now that I’ve used my three-pun limit for the day, we can dispense with the pleasantries and get down to it!

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En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse: One of the world’s first mutants, and the only one who takes the whole ‘Survival of the fittest’ theory way too serious, Apocalypse is as nasty as he looks — and he looks like…gosh, I don’t even know; at any rate, no one is quite certain of what it is that Apocalypse does; other than survive, that is; the guy’s been mulched, squished, disintegrated, thrown off buildings, shot with a variety of futuristic guns and optic blasts, as well as a virtually endless list of superpowers…and yet he’s still ruler of a ridiculous number of future timelines!

Neat!

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Nathaniel Essex, aka Mr. Sinister: The single greatest threat to X-Men continuity…if we discount about a dozen other characters, Nathaniel Essex is a brilliant Victorian scientist, sworn to help mutants in their hour of grea–just kidding! Mr. Sinister is a twisted psychopath, who’s unlocked the secret to immortality and can basically control and rearrange his body in whatever ways he desires– oh, and he uses clones on a basis that makes even Doctor Doom and his Doombots groan; how unfortunate for the X-Men that he’s got a hobby of prodding them like cattle, and then experimenting on them without any moral quandary!

He’s also got a thing for Scott Summers, having manipulated him for most of Cyclops’ life.

Sweet!

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Sebastian Gilberti, aka Bastion: The love-baby of mutant-hunting robot “Master Mold” and advanced killer robot “Nimrod,” Bastion is all about killing mutants; surprise, surprise, that didn’t win him any popularity with the X-Men, and he was eventually disintegrated by Hope Summers, a very special mutant that’s fallen out of focus after being the center of half a dozen events; but, surprise-surprise again, he didn’t actually die–he teleported into the future, severely damaged!

Who needs Deus Ex Machina when you’ve got a time Machina, eh?!

Y’know what? I think that I’ll be preparing a special robot-centered issue of Sunday ComiX, to familiarize you all with the numerous murder-robots that occasionally duke it out with the loveable X-People!

 

Saturday Night Gaming: The Shrouded Isle

Have you ever dreamt of being the head cultist and spiritual leader of a small post-apocalyptic village, working to awaken your great patron-god, Chernobog? Was your dream colored in Lovecraftian greens?

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Did it look something like that?

No? You’ve no clue what I’m talking about? Well, I can’t say I blame you.

This is the Shrouded Isle, a game with this exact premise. It’s a bit more complex than picking a villager and ending their life; each one has minor or major virtues and vices, which affect you in positive and negative ways, respectfully. Each run of the game is broken up in 12 seasons–it takes place during 3 years– during which you have to sacrifice 12 of your fellow villagers.

The villagers, there’s thirty of them, and none come from the most distinct genetic material; each is a member of one of five families, whose primarchs control some different suppression apparatus — the Iosefka family is in charge of the fervor in the village by building monuments and spreading the holy word of Chernobog’s imminent return, the Kegnni make sure that your villagers remain proper and ignorant, and so on and so forth.

It’s a game about information, and acting upon it. During each season, you’ve got three months to vote on the activities your cultists make. While you’ve got five councilors — one from each esteemed family on your shrouded isle — you can pick to work on one to three of your councilors’ activities each month; the more the activities worked on, the lesser are the returns for you. It’s a perfectly logical system that allows you to discover more about your villagers’ vices and virtues at only a small cost.

Vices and virtues are also found out by inquiries, of which you will get some, as long as you’re in good standing with the different houses; it’s always difficult to decide whom to use your first couple of inquiries, on account of knowing virtually nothing other than some cursory flavor text, give n to you by the house leaders whenever you scroll over the members of the family.

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Villagers and the five attributes of the entire village–Ignorance, Fervor, Discipline, Penitence and Obedience–are not the only ones you have to be on the lookout for; each house also has an approval rating that raises when you continually vote for their advisers, and falls whenever you ignore them. Approval also plummets whenever you decide to sacrifice someone; particularly if you have no proof, or even an idea, of an advisor’s transgressions.

‘This might all seem like a lot to follow, and I did have some difficulty making sense of it all during my first game; which is why one of the families quickly rose in revolt, and did me in, thus ending playthrough #01. That said, once I began all over again, it made sense and, in less than two hours, I stood above the precipice, awakening good old ‘bog and watching him as he stretched those holy wings of his.

The Shrouded Isle is all about revealing information one month at a time, and using that information to the fullest. There’s no overarching storyline, when one really could’ve worked quite well.The art-style is good but minimalist, and there are about…eight screens in the game overall, with an additional three-four cutscenes.

It’s entertaining for what it is…but I’m not certain that it’s worth the price tag of 10 euro. That has to be its biggest weakness; the Isle simply doesn’t have enough content. After my two and a half hours, I have absolutely no desire to go back and replay it in its current form; if the developers introduce a content-focused patch, perhaps I will.

The Shrouded Isle is an interesting experiment that’s built around a cool concept, strong aesthetics and ambiance, but hobbled by lack of variety and lacking a cohesive story.

Should you play it? Only you could say that, and I hope to have provided all the tools necessary to help with your decision. Happy Gaming!

PS: I know there are different endings–but I didn’t feel curious enough to spend another few hours unlocking them.

 

 

Friday Round-Up, 11/08/2017: Pyre, Shadow of War, Dark Legacy

Welcome to the Friday Round-Up, where I post links to the most interesting articles and videos I’ve discovered over the past week. You just might find something that catches your eye!

This series is inspired by the Sunday Papers on gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun which will probably feature often enough in the Round-Up, on account of RPS being my favorite site for news, reviews and impressions…and having a generally awesome staff of writers.

Let’s hit it off!

  • the Fantasy Subreddit had a great appreciation thread of author Barbara Hamby; her works were unknown to me but anyone who writes “a score of subgenres, from dark epic fantasy to espionage vampire fantasy” is very much my cup of tea and — if you’re following this blog or love fantasy– might be of interest to you, as well. The thread takes an in-depth look at some of her best-known works, and you should absolutely check it out.
  • Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the oncoming sequel to the excellent Shadow of Mordor, announced and detailed microtransactions in its single-player content–the only content that matters, really–and the Internet went mad. Some people like the idea of having the option to hasten progression in single-player games…I don’t. I recall when cheat codes and all those goodies were free. The world was a better, warmer place.
    Apparently, it’s for people who want to skip the sandbox bits of the game…which are the most attractive bits, to be sure.

    Shadow of War players will have the option to purchase Loot Chests containing random items, War Chests with random followers, and XP boosts, developers Monolith Productions explained in Friday’s announcement. These will be sold for ‘Mirian’, the regular imaginary in-game currency earned by playing, as well as for ‘Gold’, a microtransaction currency which is awarded “in small amounts” at certain milestones through the game but can also be bought with real cash money.

    You’d think that publishers would have learned the lessons from Dead Space 3, but it appears not! As Alice O’Connor of RPS so aptly put it:”Ugh, who would want to do any of that? I’m only in this to meet the sexy spider.”

  • I discovered a month-old Star Wars fan-film, called Dark Legacy, and it is very good. I’m not sure about the lightsaber effects some of the time, but the use of light, voiceover and just about everything else is steeped into the unique atmosphere of a galaxy far, far away. It’s ten minutes long, and bound to entertain any fan.
  •  I finally got around to reading a Rolling Stone article about Greg Kasavin, the creative director and writer for Supergiant Games–the studio behind Bastion, Transistor and, most recently, Pyre.
    Pyre is excellent and unlike its predecessors, but far from the only topic covered in Rolling Stone’s article.

    “We don’t believe you can create a game on a whiteboard,” says Gavin Simon. Instead, Supergiant uses conversation, playtesting, and iteration in place of rigid planning sessions. One person may lead the implementation of a game’s art or music, but the studio relies on one another to ensure the project as a whole is moving in the right direction. The process works. As unique as the studio’s games may be, they’re also remarkably cohesive.

    “I don’t know what exactly produces our creativity chemistry,” Rao says. “[At] times I don’t even want to know because I just like what we do and I like how it feels to make games together.” He calls the longstanding relationships between team members “the bedrock of Supergiant.”

    I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like the dream working atmosphere. Kasavin’s personal story, furthermore, is an absolute inspiration to me, and for good reason.

  • Belzebubs is a thing, and I love it to death.
  • The Internet went mad over Artifact, Valve’s first new game since Dota 2 came out in 2013. It’s a Trading Card Game. Valve’s really listening to its base, aren’t they?
    It’s funny, though — Valve’s not really a gaming company anymore, not the way it used to be. With Steam being King of the Hill when it comes to gaming platforms, their interests are focused where the stacks of money come from.
    If Artifact offers real-money markets for cards — well, that’d be interesting, from an economic point of view. Other than that, only time will tell if the game’s worth anything at all.

And that’s where I’ll cut this list short! Hope you found some of these bits and pieces interesting — I certainly did!

Fragile Things

Whenever I read Neil Gaiman’s short-form fiction — his poetry and short stories — I feel as if I’m inhaling some alchemical substance, an aroma whose very essence is imagination, refined by years of study and hard work.

Fragile Things is one of several short story collections which might very well be my favorite (althought that’s arguable).  Some of the best stories you’ll discover in it include:

  • A Study in Emerald, a short story that mixes the Cthulhu mythos with Sherlock Holmes…with a major twist. The title is an obvious riff on A Study in Scarlet, where Holmes and Watson first appeared.
  • The Problem of Susan, a short story that acts as something of a study/critique of Susan Pevensie, one of the protagonists of the Narnia series. It’s a haunting story, and you can read it here, if you’ve nowhere to pick the anthology from, or if you need a taste before you commit to a purchase.
  •  Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot is a weird, disconnected tale; a few tales, revolving around the names of tarot cards.
  • The Monarch of the Glen, a novella-sized sequel to American Gods. If you haven’t read American Gods, I’d advise you to do so before touching this.
  • Instructions, a poem that gives instructions (what else) for surviving in a fairy tale land — since that can still happen, occasionally. How else could you explain Neil Gaiman’s hair?
  • Sunbird, which is also in the anthology of short stories prepared by Gaiman–Unnatural Creatures– is all about a club of bored rich people, who seek the most amazing gourmet food; when all else is tasted, they decide to feed on the exotic Sunbird.
  • How to talk to Girls at Parties, which is getting the movie treatment, was nominated for a Hugo, and is an overall fascinating piece of fiction, is about a shy boy going to a party with his best friend, and things getting pretty weird.
    As things are bound to, at parties…which you’d know, if you ever went to parties with me.

There’s more, of course, but these are the ones that left the biggest impact on me. The collection is very much worth your time!