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One of the great perks to having any kind of website is being privy to the search terms people use to find you. They can give you a good idea of what posts are read often (Goon and Skyrim both being two popular terms here at The Pletteau) and what posts never are. They are also chock full of lawlz. For your benefit I have compiled the best here so that we may lawl together:

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Video Game Roundup

As I’m currently awaiting knee surgery, I have a lot of time to play video games. Here’s a sampling of the ones I’ve been playing over the last little bit, complete with a brief review.

Minecraft

Latest project.

I have put hundreds of hours into this game over the last year or so. The first time I played it was at the insistence of a friend; we had been drinking and I bought and downloaded it after we split at like 3:00AM. I could not for the life of me figure it out so I gave up and went to bed.

The next day I tried again. I punched down a tree. I built a house. And then it spiraled out of control. Right now I’m working on a super-fortress and adjoining city. Not only do I have lots of free time, but Minecraft has evidently made me insane.

If, somehow, you have not heard of Minecraft, check out the website. I don’t know if one can even review a game like Minecraft, but suffice it to say it is amazing. Basically, you mine things — like trees, or dirt, or rocks, or iron, or whatever. Some of these things you can turn into other things — you could make an iron pickaxe out of your iron, for example, and mine faster. Other blocks you can just straight up place — you can mine cobblestone and place it to make a tower, for example. There are incredibly few limits to what you can do — using things like redstone and pistons, you could even make simple machines (people having even created in-game calculators and the like). Notch recently endorsed pirating the game if you can’t afford it, so if money is an issue, do that.

Dungeons of Dredmor: Realm of the Diggle Gods

Werediggles of London!

Dungeons of Dredmor is probably my game of the year for 2011. It is incredible. Gaslamp Games, this tiny company, managed to create an amazing game that, while simplistic, manages to remain endearing.  I wrote a bit more of a comprehensive review awhile back and stand by what I said there. It is an excellent game, but it is ruthless. Honestly, the deepest I’ve made it without dying is level 4. The expansion pack adds fifteen levels and, to be honest, I don’t know how many levels there are in the core game. All I know is that even though I keep on dying, I need to keep on re-rolling and keep on playing.

Realm of the Diggle Gods, the expansion pack, adds several floors and some great skills, including the hilarious Emomancy, the awesome Big Game Hunter, and the seemingly overpowered Werediggle. The first grants you magic abilities or whatever and stuff, the second makes you a lethal killing machine (particularly against the “Animal” subclass), and the last lets you turn into a diggle, which is hilarious and fairly powerful. The guys seem to have redone a lot of the monsters and taunts, added features like portals that teleport you to alternate dimensions and levers that port you around the dungeon, added a ton of extra skills to the core-game skill trees, added a ton of new weapons, fixed a bunch of bugs, and made the game a lot, lot more fun — and that’s a feat, because, it is still one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever played. If you haven’t bought it yet, you can pick it and the expansion pack up at Steam for the low low price of $7.49 USD. It’s definitely worth it.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

...someday you'll feed on a tree frog...

I cleared through MGS2 a few times and have turned my full attention to MGS3. I beat MGS3:SE several times on PS2, beat MGS3: Subsistence a few more times, and am working on it again, especially now that trophies are up for grabs. If for some reason you haven’t bought the HD collection and have never played either MGS2, MGS3, or MGS: Peace Walker, you should probably stop wasting your time and pick it up.

The HD edition of MGS3 looks quite a bit better than the SD version, and runs better, too. The addition of trophies is something I like: something that bugged me about MGS2 and 3 was that there were “challenges” that the game never really issued but that online communities were partaking in. And unless you belonged to these groups, you may have not known about them. You’d have to read strategy guides and message boards to even figure it out. Trophies/achievements are great because they do help give you a focus, something to strive for, and a way to prove you achieved what you did. As it stands, I’m working on the Peace Walker trophy (no-kills), the Markhor trophy (capturing every food item), and the Kerotan trophy, which requires a certain level of OCD that I am quickly approaching.

Final Fantasy VIII

I can't trust anybody, people will just abandon me, blah blah blah wah wah wah

There’s something about the Final Fantasy games VI-IX that makes them stand out. They each have their flaws, I think, but they’re all very entertaining. I’m working on playing through VIII — while I can’t stand the Squall/Rinoa romance because I’m not 16, it is nonetheless an excellent game. That’s all I’ll say, there.

Serious Sam

Why yes, I am firing several guns at once.

Transylvanilla alerted me to Indie Royale’s Serious Sam package yesterday. It’s still on. For several dollars ($4,46 USD as I write) you get Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Serious Sam: Double D, Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack, and Serious Sam: The First and Second Encounter. Serious Sam is an old staple of the shooter world, almost, but not quite, as legendary as Duke Nukem. SS features the same over-the-top, self-aware, corniness. They’re games meant to be fun more than anything else. There isn’t a real story at stake, and there is no characters trying for emotional attachment or growth or anything like that. They’re games about killing baddies — old school kinda stuff, in the vein of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, which itself was a spoof of action video games… but Serious Sam does it much better (though Matt Hazard has one of the best trailers ever). It’s self-referential and self-aware, and well, just a cool video game — all of them. I’d recommend picking up the Indie Royal deal while it’s still up.

And rewatching the Matt Hazard trailers, I’d recommend getting that too. It’s fun.

Metal Gear Solid 4

This image says 1,027 words. More if you count contractions as two words. And count the bottom caption.

This is embarrassing. I only got a PS3 last September so maybe I deserve a bye on this, but I’ve only just beat MGS4. I hit a bit of a wall where I didn’t really want to play and took months off, but got back on and beat it. It starts off slow but right after the wall I hit, it absolutely picks up and becomes one of the greatest games ever and includes at least two of my favourite boss fights of all time.

Well played, Hideo. Well played.


Things I’m Doing Instead of Working

Having had two weeks off due to a work injury, I’ve had plenty of time to work on my various grad school applications. Of course, I squandered that time horribly. Here’s a list of things I’ve done and am doing.

Watched Dawn of the Dead

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW YEAH!!!!!!!

I hadn’t seen Dawn of the Dead until a little while ago. Now I have. Solid film. There ya go.

Watching Sherlock

Sherlock is a recent BBC take on the classic with it taking place in modern-day London. Holmes is a semi-professional police consultant who has an eye for detail and an obsession with text messaging and Watson is a vet of Afghanistan with a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder. As a whole, it’s a great show. While I’ve yet to see subsequent episodes in the first series, the first episode was great.

There is one thing I found very interesting, and that is the use of text messaging itself. Sherlock is SMS obsessed, it seems, so texts are flying around all over the place. Typically when that happens in a show, either the character reads the message out loud or the camera zooms to the phone so we can read the message. Instead, in Sherlock, the messages appear on screen, as below:

Holmes does seem the type to sign his text messages.

I think it is a cool way to address the problem of texts on a screen (in that if you have a button-mashing protagonist there is going to be a ton of texts being sent, and you can only pan to someone’s iPhone so many times before it gets old). It is a little distracting, but there is something cool and, I dunno, video-gamey about having messages pop up like that. At the very least, it’s creative.

Watching The Walking Dead

Part of being a good zombie-wasteland wanderer is being able to make hard decisions.

I’m just going to say it: The Walking Dead is a pretty mediocre T.V. show. There isn’t a single character to care about, the acting is awful, the pacing is pretty bad, and the series plot is incomprehensible and/or stupid. The zombies look good, which is great if you just like zombies, but here’s something else: zombies suck. Of all the paranormal undead creatures that walk the earth, zombies have to be the absolute lamest. They aren’t scary, can’t think, and all they do is eat. If I wanted to watch people that were dead inside gorge themselves, I’d head to a buffet, thanks. With it on a break, I am currently evaluating whether or not I want to keep on watching.

Watching Community

TROY AND ABED IN THE MORNINGS!

It’s still on the air for a little while before its much ballyhooed hiatus, and it’s still, well, good. The thing with Community though is that it is so hit-or-miss. Some episodes are hilarious, others are just stupid. Granted, they seem to be more hit than miss, which is great. In the show’s defense, it has to have one of the most likable casts in awhile and is certainly one of the most unique television shows to hit airwaves in awhile.

Not watching Whitney

The kind of wacky shit that goes on in NBC's hit sitcom, Whitney.

I have never seen an episode of Whitney. I only know that it is staying on the air during the mid-season and Community is being dropped. A lot of people have been lambasting Whitney and blaming it on Community not continuing to air because of NBC dropped Whitney, which is allegedly awful, Community could air. However, Community is being swapped out for 30 Rock, which has not been funny in years, so maybe the blame should be redirected?

Playing Skyrim

It may be cold, put pants and sleeves would just slow you down anyway.

Enough said, right? Skyrim is awesome and has occupied so much of my time. Again, I’ve done next to nothing and left the main questline relatively untouched, and I’m alright with that.

I think my problem is this: I hate short videogames. I like tons of playtime and replay time. While I’ll probably replay through Skyrim (though probably not as in-depth as this time), part of me is always worried I won’t, or that I’ll miss something by not doing every single side-quest. Which is why whenever I play a RPG I end up doing just about all of the side-quests before touching the main quest. There ya go.

Playing Dungeons of Dredmor

The "Congratulations!" makes me feel less shitty about it every time.

“The dungeon is dark and musty. Somewhere, far off in the distance, the distinct sound of a Sickly Diggler scraping his drill hand against the wall can be heard; in the opposite direction, a Blobby is blobbing back and forth, it’s blobby underside making grotesque slapping noises as it bounces along. Descending from the stairs, torch in one hand, sword in the other, is Thuglor XXVI, the  great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Thuglor I, the first adventurer to venture to these depths.”

I’ve been playing this game a ton and between my reckless playstyle and just bad-lcuk, I’ve made it to my 26th guy. It’s brutal but the game itself is amazing. I will keep on playing, as should you.

Not working on grad school applications

The few, the proud: grad students.

I’ve got a list, I’ve got references, I’ve got money saved up for applications, but I have yet to actually work on them. As the days pass I doubt I’ll be applying to any grad schools with a December deadline (most seem to have a Dec. 15 deadline if they have a December deadline at all) and instead to ones in January. I don’t have a good excuse with all this time off to have not gotten them done, which is a shame.

Working on a blog

At least I'm keeping busy.


Dungeons of Dredmor

If you recall from my Skyrim post, I enjoy difficult games. Merciless ones that make you cry and toss the controller aside not because of a fault in the design of the game, but due to your own (possibly vast) incompetence.

An example of the kinds of shenanigans to expect from Dungeons of Dredmor.

Enter Dungeons of Dredmor, the ridiculously fun, simplistic, and difficult game by Gaslamp Games. Currently a bonus prize if you buy the Humble Indie Bundle at above the average donation rate (currently $4.09), Dungeons of Dredmor is worth every penny (and probably more than 409 pennies).

Dungeons of Dredmor is a “roguelike” videogame. Roguelike videogames are characterised by randomization (think Diablo, Diablo II) which results in replayability, permanent death (think Baldur’s Gate, or hardcore mode in Diablo II), and, in some instances, turn-based movement. Due to their deadly nature, roguelike games are difficult but (designed to be) fun. Whereas in some RPGs where you can spend an hour just making your character, your DoD guy is ready to go in just a few short minutes. Coupled with the short character creation time is a short lifespan: don’t expect to last too long.

You basically dungeon crawl, and it is a ton of fun. It isn’t a cakewalk, though. It wasn’t until I had my seventh guy that I was able to last longer than twenty minutes (I’m reckless, whatever — it took twenty minutes to get through seven guys, anyway), a guy appropriately named Thuglor VII. The character creation process is simple enough: you pick seven skills and that guides your character progression. Kill dudes and smash things heroically to get experience points. Level up, get tougher, fight tougher guys. If you overreach or open a room filled with monsters because the game hates you and wants you to die, expect to make another character (unless you’re some wuss who turned off permadeath). The game is tile and turn based, which means that walking “one square”, opening a chest, drinking a potion, or swinging a sword all take up one turn. In that time your enemies get a turn, too, which they may spend chasing you or running away or attacking you.

My Dungeons of Dredmor high score list

Either I'm not qualified as a dungeon delver or Thuglor is a cursed name.

A nice touch is the pure hilarity of the game; almost every item or monster has a joke concealed in it (including a spot of fungus on a wall that had me laugh on the mouseover when it revealed that the pungent stench of mildew emanates from the wet dungeon walls). It’s hard not to laugh when a Sickly Diggler is clawing you apart, you hit the ground dead and are met with the message “Congratulations! You have died.”

Skill selection screen of Dungeons of Dredmor

If it didn't work last time, why will it work this time?

What I love the most though is the pure simplicity of the game which is itself pure brilliance. You pick seven skills and that’s it — those define your character. There are no restrictions on the abilities you can pick, so even shifting one skill here or there can drastically affect your character. It’s not a class based system but a skill based system, which is awesome. You can play this game with just a mouse, if you really wanted to (though I feel weird playing computer games and not using WASD). Shift-click lets you pick up things right to your inventory (very handy), while rightclicking an ability or item (like a crossbow bolt, hint) allows you to use it. Clicking, as you might expect, makes you attack. My only gripe with the game has to do with its simplicity, however: the graphics. While I think the graphics do a good enough job of depicting what’s going on, your character image remains static and most abilities and spells look just austere at best. On the other hand, though, the game is insanely fun so you can easily look past the graphics.

Dungeons of Dredmore is a tough, but very rewarding game. You need to think on your feet and act carefully if you want to make it through (or you can dumb down the difficulty or even just turn off permadeath). To be perfectly honest, I’ve only scratched the surface of the game (making a rogue-like character…) and haven’t even bothered with the dozens of other options. I’m going to do that now, instead of playing Skyrim.

I read LW’s review over at Transylvanilla after I picked up the Humble Indie Bundle. It’s very good and worth a read as well.