03
May
11

Announcing The Impending Destruction of City 16

It was inevitable eventually.

After nearly three years – probably a personal record for concurrent blogging – I’m retiring Citizen 16 and City 16. Which isn’t to say I’m going to quit writing stuff on the Internet altogether just that I’m no longer planning distributing that writing across two sites.

But why?

1. Visibility

I’ve got a couple of plans that I’m not entirely comfortable talking about yet. However it’s becoming clear that it’d be helpful to have one single site that I can redirect people to as a sample of the sort of shit that comes out of my fingers.

Yeah, this one’s a bit vague.

2. Content

Both sites are now at the point where padding has crept in to keep a pretence of activity. While the traffic numbers for both sites are by no means spectacular, they are substantial enough to keep me worried when I go long periods without posting. This leads to ‘any old shit’ being published. (I should note that when I refer to ‘any old shit’ I generally mean this and not this, which I’m fine with. Think of that what you will.) Going back to one site covering everything should lead to a steady stream of posts without having to resort to publishing for the sake of it.

3. Name

So why close both sites and start again instead of just closing one and carrying on? Because I fucking hate the name Citizen 16. I really don’t know what I was thinking there except ‘shit, I need a URL and here’s one I’ve thought of that’s available.’ It’s based on a reference to a reference to a reference, which is about two steps more tenuous than I could even be bothered to explain to people let alone to mean anything.

What will the new site be called? I don’t know yet, but while I pull my usual trick of browsing song titles for inspiration I’ll be sure to leave it at least 24 hours before I actually register the bloody thing.

That’s about it really. I’ll probably archive both these sites over at WordPress, just so I’ve got them to hand. For those sole visitors of Citizen 16 annoyed that the next blog will also include game based stuff: suck it up. For those visitors of City 16 who don’t care for the rest of the crap I tend to write about: … well actually I’ve got a plan for that. I might dual post all game content on a separate Tumblr blog as well, just to focus it out. I’ll almost definitely set up a Tumblr dedicated solely to An Hour With… posts, as that was the only feature I actually enjoyed writing and plan to start doing it again. Audiogames is definitely continuing because I’m a fan of both music, games and telling people what they should like, so that place is perfect for me.

Also I’ve always quite fancied the idea of doing a collaborative games blog with 2 or 3 other people as it would solve the problems of content padding, time required and singular viewpoint. Let me know if you’re interested in that and we’ll work something out.

More soon, when I’ve got a URL and sorted out hosting options. Until then I’ll probably save all the posts I was working on for new site’s launch so it will continue to be quiet around here.

20
Apr
11

Portal 2 Giveaway!

UPDATE: Congratulations to ‘Rougier’ for nabbing himself a free copy of Portal 2.

For those not aware of Valve’s frankly insane marketing campaign for Portal 2… well, it’d be far to complicated to actually go into. The upshot however is that this insignificant gaming blog has a free copy of the PC version of Portal 2 to give away to someone. That someone could be you!

Instead of hosting a lazy ‘just post something in the comments’ style competition here I’ve gone one step further and am hosting a lazy ‘just post something in the comments’ style competition in our Steam Group District 16.

Here’s how you win:

1. Join this group.
2. Leave a comment here requesting Portal 2 (or, if you own Portal 2, any other Valve game – I’ve got giftable copies of pretty much all of them except TF2… and Ricochet.)
3. ??????
4. Portal 2!

Step 3 in that above process is a random draw… I should probably have been clearer on that. Keep in mind that the last time I tried to give a game away only one person entered, so you really do have a pretty good chance of winning here.

As mentioned above, I’ve got giftable copies of pretty much all the Valve games, including Left 4 Deads 1 & 2, all the Half-Life series and both Portals. I’ll pick a random person and gift them the game they want – and then maybe do this again if it’s not Portal 2, I dunno I’ve not thought this through.

I’ll have more thoughts on Portal 2 soon, but in the meantime here’s a completely spoiler free review of the game:

Is Portal 2 worth buying?

Yes.

04
Apr
11

Audiogames

So Tumblr seems to be the in-thing these days with people looking for shortform multimedia based blogging options that don’t require the intricacies of WordPress or – you know – basic fucking commenting options. Always one to try new social fads a good 6-12 months after everyone else (hey, at least I managed to resist Formspring) I’ve started this one:

Audio Games

3 years of copyright infringement for music posts over on Citizen 16 has, touch plastic, failed to bring about a cease and desist letter so I’m pushing my luck further by dedicating an entire blog to posting the best of game soundtracks. Here’s a sample:

Quick! Name your favourite FPS soundtrack…

Okay, that didn’t work for a number of reasons; we’re not actually having a conversation, I haven’t published this yet… well, you get the logistical problems. What I can say with confidence is were it not for the Half-Life 2 series I’d be completely unable to even think of an FPS soundtrack, let alone a good one.

Followed by an attempt to get to some sort of a point.

Hopefully by the time I’m done with it there will be an impressive collection of excellent game music (and I’m taking suggestions either by email at octaeder@citizen16.com or in the comments here.) Either that or I’ll have been sued relentlessly.

29
Mar
11

I've Made A LBP2 Level

There’s only so long you can play Little Big Planet 2 (LittleBigPlanet 2? LittleBigPlanet2? Can’t gaming even standardise spacing?) before you decide to have a go at building your own level, perhaps using the Top Gear rationale “how hard can it be?”

Surprisingly hard it turns out. I did it anyway. Nearly a month ago.

Since then exactly 7 people have played it. Apparently the old “if you build it, they will come” Field of Dreams misquote doesn’t apply to gaming. Shock, no? Some research uncovered a mercenary tactic used by publishers called ‘marketing’ the purpose of which appears to be persuading people to buy their game by:

  1. Letting people know said game actually exists.
  2. Exaggerating or outright misrepresenting certain aspects of that game so it will appeal to a pre-determined target audience.

Point 2 is difficult because my target audience is literally chuffing anyone, which isn’t an easy group to pigeonhole into a neat set of desired features. (Side Note: I decided I probably shouldn’t resort to my default tactic of swearing profusely in a post about LBP2 but have already had to urge to do so three times. See if you can spot where!) Point 1 is a little easier: Guys, I’ve made a level in Little Big Planet 2!

It’s called LaunchPad McQuack, and you can queue it up to play in-game here.

This is actually a significant milestone for me, as attempts in the last game to create anything never got very far. My tendency to fixate on making one particular aspect work perfectly always left me with a couple of neat prototypes but nothing actually fun to play. The same thing threatened to stop me this time as well, after I decided to play around with the ‘Sackbot’ logic tools despite nothing in the level actually needing any. (Although one of the seemingly incidental Sackbots in the level has a surprisingly complex set of behaviour patterns for a super-mysterious reason.)

The finished level is a pretty short race-to-the-top Bounce Pad obstacle course. I emphasise the ‘short’ because most of my time was spent on making the level rotate 90 degrees once you reach the midway point. My preference is to figuring things out as I go along, meaning some of the more complicated mechanical stuff took much longer than originally intended.

Amusingly I had a tester on hand, in the form of my brother, whose biggest contribution was to call me a dick until I made it easier. Further feedback indicates that I didn’t actually make it easier, he just tested it so much that he got used to it.

Anyway, the new plan is to create LaunchPad McQuack PRIME next, which will be longer, have a more forgiving difficulty curve and not feature as much of the stupid crap that took up all my time (instead having new and even more challenging stupid crap.)

Oh, and currently my brother is top of the leaderboard because he found the super-secret hidden room. This is cheating, because he saw me make the super-secret hidden room. As such, although I’m not telling you where it is, I’m letting you know: yes, there’s a super-secret hidden toom.

12
Mar
11

Match 3: Arcade Racing

The suggestion to start rounding up my favourite suspects of each particular genre was made nearly two years ago and since then I’ve been playing at it. A look at Interactive Fiction was basically a proof-of-concept and then, over a year later, came the rhythm games, more a test for things to come than a storming-out-the-gate feature declaration. Well it’s time to stop pussyfooting around and make some TOUGH DECISIONS.

Of course the problem with such a feature is that not only have I not played every game in existence, but I’m limiting myself to three main entries (plus a selection of interesting notable mentions.) There will be games that don’t make it because I’ve not played them, don’t remember them, don’t know them or simply don’t like them. But lists are meant to start a discussion and so by all means jump in and start arguing wildly.

Let me explain what I mean by arcade racers, because I’m being quite specific in my definition. I’m using it to mean racing games that are less about racing as they are about fucking your opponents up. Prime comparison in the form of two of EA’s franchises: Burnout would make it, Need For Speed wouldn’t as, however forgiving its handling may be, most iterations actually want you to overtake your rival not obliterate them. This list, then, is for those obliterators.

Rollcage: Stage 2

Rollcage was always the forgotten futuristic arcade racing series, seemingly similar enough to Wipeout to be dismissed as just another clone. That’s both fair enough and a complete fucking travesty. Wipeout 2097 was instrumental (although not alone) in transforming the image of consoles. For that reason it’s one of the most important games out there. That doesn’t mean Rollcage and its sequel weren’t better. Because they were. Significantly.

While the series may have featured boost pads and power-ups the core concept centred on vehicles with wheels bigger than the cars themselves going so fast they could drive up walls and ceilings. As a result it did away with thin circuits requiring careful airbraking; Rollcage eased the emphasis on technical navigation – for instance, if you flipped your car you just carried on regardless – in favour of scrapping with opponents. In essence it was as much Twisted Metal as Wipeout, complete with destructible scenery, interesting weapons and an array of two player arena modes (Rubble Soccer being a pretty stunning example of understanding how to do arcade racing competitive multiplayer that doesn’t fall apart if there’s a big skill gap between players.)

It was those multiplayer modes that propelled Stage 2 into the list over it’s prequel. Despite the original having arguably more interesting tracks, the lack of multiplayer and other extra modes meant it spent far less time in my console.

To this day it’s my stock answer for the game I’d most like to see get an HD remake. Not so much for the updated graphics, but the chance to fly round vertical surfaces and burst triumphantly from tunnel ceilings with the sense of raw speed modern hardware allows, darting through debris as buildings explode around is a dream worth salivating over. Sadly it’s also an unlikely one.

Does it feature a bastard ‘blue shell’ equivalent? Yes. Yes it fucking does.

Mashed

The PS2 was the last console that was actually about having friends.

Which is a handy attention-grabbing controversial sentence to open on. Of course the console had its share of solo pursuits, usually accompanied by hour-long goddamn cutscenes but, with no online infrastructure, developers who wanted to give their game a good multiplayer component had to assume actual human beings would collect together from time to time. It’s that kind of assumption that leads to games like Mashed existing.*

*Despite Mashed being a multiplatform game… Still, you get the point.

Mashed’s single-player mode may as well have not existed – essentially being a dull training session for the multiplayer section – and while the game would technically work online, somehow it would lose something in not having the option of turning to your mate and screaming “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCK!” before nudging his car off a skyscraper.

The game followed the Micro Machines style of up to 4 players on a single camera – fall behind the scope of the camera and you’d crash out, losing points in the process. It’s such a perfect system for party gaming, without any of the squint-or-you’ll-miss-it problems of 4-player splitscreen, that it’s amazing so few games use it.

But Mashed had more to it than simply being an excellent Micro Machines-esque romp. The game contains, in its Polar Wharf level, genuinely the greatest piece of track design of any racing game – arcade or not. It’s nothing more than two long straights bookended by brutally tight hairpins and covered in ice and yet it’s also the absolute high point of local competitive multiplayer. With 4 people attempting to race in such a confined and slippery environment – just one bump or nudge away from being knocked off into watery oblivion – there is no game that better demonstrates the mix of anger, scheming, betrayal, shame, gloating, sulking and exquisite joy that gaming can provide.

Does it feature a bastard ‘blue shell’ equivalent? No, but eliminated players can call in airstrikes on those still battling it out. Whatever you do, turn this option off if you actually like your friends and want them to continue talking to yourself and each other.

Burnout: Revenge

No games quite capture the pant-wetting terror of pure speed like Burnout. Driving along a road weaving through cities and highways, always driving into traffic to keep your boost topped up is exhilarating until – oh fuck – a lorry reduces your speed to zero mph in a millisecond. It’s all the more effective by being set on tarmac with familiar (yet oddly named) cars instead of hovering ships from the distant future.

Speed aside though, the Burnout series didn’t truly hit its stride until Burnout: Takedown – the third game of the franchise – introduced the eponymous takedown mechanic. At last gamers were being rewarded for the natural impulse to shunt AI drivers off the road that so many games felt the need to penalise. Not only did it give the series the focus it was previously lacking but it proved how to do arcade racing without the use of power-ups. It reminded us all that cars can be there own weapon and using one to slam a particularly annoying opponent into a bus is far more satisfying than sending some homing missile off into the distance and desperately hoping its target doesn’t have a shield.

And then there’s the crash mode. Half puzzle, half explosive toybox – like the Angry Birds of multiple car highway pile-ups… only fun. I can’t think of anything else that offers such a perfect blend of arcade high-score chasing and wanton joyous destruction.

So why pick Revenge, arguably the series most token “more-stuff-than-the-last” update? Two words: Traffic. Checking. Being able to ram any same-way traffic and actually increase your boost – and therefore speed – took the ridiculosity (shut up, it should be a word) to new and joyous levels, and in an arcade racing title that’s exactly how things should be. Burnout: Paradise, the latest of the series, offered many changes and innovations but while it did a lot very well, it’s also simply less pure than it’s PS2 ancestors. Revenge remains the series’ dumb-fun high-point – exactly why it’s in this list.

Does it feature a bastard ‘blue shell’ equivalent? No. It’s not a dick.

Next post: The arcade racer ‘notable mentions’ post.

25
Feb
11

Good News/Bad News: Minecraft Edition

Good News! I’m no longer going to get lost attempting to find my home after an extended cave expedition.

Bad News! My home is somewhat ‘underneath’ all that inconvenient lava. Turns out it’s not as easy to control as you might think.

Predictable Update: Rather than build a new house in the inverse shadow of my lava fountain I attempted, with typical pigheadedness, to stem the flow. At which point – with painful inevitability – I fell in and died, losing hours of neat stuff. The evidence suggesting I might, in fact, be a complete fucking moron keeps piling up.

23
Feb
11

SpaceChem

I’ve not even remotely spent enough time with this to offer any meaningful impressions but, for now, let me just say that I’m loving the chance to build beautifully intricate machines of logic.

That’s only a level from World 3. There are many more worlds. I’m struggling to imagine how convoluted some of the end-game challenges will be.

Anyway, if that looks & sounds right up your alleyway, there’s more info on the game’s website.




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