You Should Probably Play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

As I’m slowly falling down to Earth, I look back on the plane as it meanders away from the island. It was a simpler time back when I was aboard, even if it was just as confusing sitting in a cargo hold filled with 100 people. But looking around at the other black dots of parachutes littering the sky, my hands begin to sweat—my muscles tighten. There are two jumpers less than a hundred yards away.

I knew it was on.

This immense and permanent sense of dread is otherwise known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The premise is simple: you and 99 other players are shoved onto an island and told to kill each other. It’s a bit Battle Royale in that way. You start off with nothing and immediately begin scavenging for supplies, armor, weapons—whatever you can find, basically.

There’s a bit of The Hunger Games in there, too. As you play, the Safe Zone will shrink and shift, and you do really want to be in the Safe Zone. Outside of that, bombings will sprinkle across the landscape and pretty much fuck up your Christmas. I mean, you’re just as likely to die in the Safe Zone, but you can’t really stab back at an explosion, you know?

Upfront, this game doesn’t play the best. It’s a bit…stiff in its controls (if that makes sense) in the way most MMOs are. Jumping is just a cycle of unwavering displacement, shifting between animations or stances is more like a snap than a transition, and there’s plenty of wavering connection reliability between everything and everyone that’s happening. Even the nice little touches like the third-person firearm collision aiming aren’t enough to make the mechanics sing.

But that’s not even close to the point of the game. The point of the game is dread. Creeping, powerful, overwhelming dread. Waiting in the plane’s hold, you can see as people shoot out of the back. But you wait. And wait. And wait. And you’re running out of island to land on, but there’s still a dozen players left. Last chance to jump. Oh fuck this is going to be a rough start.

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And that’s before you even start playing. Once you land, paranoia quickly becomes a close, intimate friend as death notices start popping up in the corner. You slap your mouse around, shuttling your view across the entire breadth of the map with little desire to look with depth. Right now you’re looking for movement. Let your caveman brain take over. Cover good. Shit, something just went behind that tree.

Even if you make it into a building, it’s a dire situation. You’re crouched and roving between rooms, poking at scattered bits of survival items. You see a shotgun lying next to a pile of ammo through an open doorway, but you hesitate. Was that door already open? Why would a door be open? This has to be a trap. But without that weapon, you’re as good as dead. One step at a time, holding your breath, you walk forward.

The warnings start blaring. The Safe Zone is active. Shotgun pointed at the window, back to the wall, you inch your finger towards the map button. Without a pause, looking at anything but the horizon could lead to an easy kill for an opponent. But you have to. Like I said, you can fight back against an explosion.

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Three minutes left. Three minutes to get halfway across the map and you still haven’t moved a muscle. The Safe Zone has shrunk down to the size of a dime, just as the player count has dropped down to a meager handful. Survival means moving, but survival also means not heading towards the scattershot gunfire you hear outside. It sounds more like a threat than a skirmish. Someone has been watching The Warriors.

Three minutes have passed, and you haven’t moved. At all. Shotgun still aimed at the window, back to the wall. Caveman smart. You’re breathing has shallowed but your heart is beating faster—harder. It’s so loud, you swear it’s going to give you away. You have to go. You have to. You stand up and you see it: a rifle, a rifle in the hands of the player that looks like the winner.

There’s something here with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It doesn’t handle great and it’s fairly buggy (it just recently entered Early Access on PC), but there’s a reason why people are playing it. There’s a reason why you can hop on at a whim and join a full game. You’ll find out why even though you know you’re going to die, you still jump out of that plane.

You Should Probably Play 80 Days

On the route from literature to video games, few seem as poised for the transformation as Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. It’s a classic tale from a classic writer, and all of it points to a classic setup for an interactive interpretation. With a wager setting a hard time limit and an impetus to experience new locations in that timeframe, what better than this for inkle studios to take and turn into 80 Days.

Of course, that bit of inciting action wherein Phileas Fogg takes up a wager to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days with nothing more than his servant Jean Passepartout and a presumably stout mustache in tow isn’t nearly as important as the execution. And 80 Days executes on the premise wonderfully. By putting you in the shoes of Passepartout and removing the inessential or irrelevant parts of the objective, the game opens itself up to a much more interesting system of storytelling mechanics.

For instance, the original challenge was brought about by the trans-Indian railroad, a technological innovation that allowed travel from Bombay to Calcutta in three days. (There’s also the bit about an Indian princess and Thuggee cultists.) Impressive, but it locks the pair into a much more insular experience. Inkle saw fit, instead, to throw in a massively spidering web of possibilities to get from place to place and focuses on a decidedly different and steampunky world seen through Passepartout’s eyes.

At its core, 80 Days is about resource management. With time, money, and health all working against you as you singlehandedly attempt to arrange this worldly trip (like, get off your ass, Fogg, and help me), you have to spin several plates at once while the game actively tries to topple them. And you never know when something you do is going to make your life better or worse.

That is the crux of what makes 80 Days so interesting. At the very opening of the game, you are faced with a decision to either lie or come clean. And that’s where you are shown the fourth resource: your relationship with Fogg. Your decisions on this trip will either enhance or degrade his opinion of you, showing you as an unreliable mess or an uninteresting fool or a wholly self-sufficient and wise companion.

It rouses a similar feeling to Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, but with the temporal pressure spread out over an entire journey rather than moment-to-moment, which strangely enough makes every branch that much more anxiety-ridden. With zombies and the always immediate goal of survival, choices often felt like less like a choice and more like a necessity. But with Passepartout, picking how to respond to Fogg and the strangers you meet on your travels feels infinitely more consequential.

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Instead of knowing your choice will result in someone living or dying, it’s more akin to real life. When you go about the daily world, you never know what decision will come back and bite you in the ass or simply pass off as another flowing, uninterrupted part of your contiguous life. The same goes with this game where the things you choose to say and do may or may not result in anything of note. You decision to hop a turnstile could just get you to your train on time or it may halt you for several days and land you on Fogg’s bad side.

This setup of obfuscated dominos could have easily been ominous or tedious, but 80 Days is rarely either, at least not in a bad way. If anything, the lazy dread that follows your solitary and potentially monumental decisions are exciting. Every situation could land you in a dozen other new places that you hadn’t planned on or could have even foreseen, but it’s never an inescapable fate. It only serves to broaden your adventure across the globe.

Part of it is that the responsibility is placed entirely in your hands. While some notes come up in your inventory and on timetables of where you can be to get somewhere today or how much a candle is worth in Africa, so much of the earned context of your journey is only retained in your head. With the people you encounter, you realize that taking note of names has the potential to payoff later. Or getting your hands on gear in Russia can help with your trek across the Pacific.

80 Days

The laissez-faire approach to information retention in 80 Days makes each journey feel that much more personal, especially as with each replay, you find or are forced into new routes and unknown territories. Or at least that’s one possibility. A huge part of what makes the game work is the writing. It’s consistently impressive and fits entirely well within the milieu of what the art and the characters establish, but it also allows you to dictate Passepartout’s character.

Choices allow you to make him as well-traveled as you’d like, opening up the potential of him to skip intel gathering in the market and instead pursue more meaningful threads like airship procurement and automata security. As your choices actively meld right back into the written words of the story, it feels as much like you writing the story as it does you reading one that already exists. Simultaneous creation and discovery.

Without a doubt, 80 Days is a game you should definitely play. For all the aliens you’ve shot as a space marine or the cities you’ve saved jumping a car off the top of a skyscraper, this tale of two men finagling their way across the world feels more like an adventure than most of those other grandiose stories combined. Genuine fear, anxiety, excitement, eagerness, and desire, and that’s before you even board the train.

Reblogged 3 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

AD-31 Optimus Prime is the figure we should have started with

At this point Transformers fans have come to learn one constant when it comes movie figures: never by the launch releases. I mean, we buy them anyway, we can’t help ourselves, but we do so knowing that at some point an even better version of that same figure is going to come along. We’re up to movie four now and we’ve seen that happen with every single movie toy line. Age of Extinction is no different, all but a few of its Generations figures have seen an improved or upgraded version released later. That’s true be it from Hasbro or Takara Tomy, but it’s Japan that’ll soon be getting the best Optimus Prime yet. 

One of the major problems that toy companies have when making movie figures is that they often have to base their sculpts on concept art and early renders. This leads to figures that are way off model from how they appear in the movie. Optimus Prime was no different, having had much of his body redesigned late in the movie production causing the Leader class figure to lack screen accurate details. Takara Tomy fixed just about all of the figure’s shortcoming by extensively remolding much of it. Biggest change is the new chest which now has a proper movie sculpt and a new head that can swap between masked and unmasked faces. And just look at that paint! They replaced the garish use of chrome with metallic paint to even out the overall look. They also expanded the pallet and increased the applications to give the figure more detail beyond the sculpt. Last but not least they got around to giving the sword and shield a proper matching paint job. 

Takara Tomy announced this figure a few months ago and pre-orders, along side these first colored images, only just begun this week. What’s surprising is that stores are saying it’ll be released as early as the end of October or early November. It’s pricey at ¥8,000, but it’s the price you’ll have to pay for the best transforming version of Prime’s final form from the movie. 

Read more…

Reblogged 3 years ago from www.tomopop.com

Kidrobot Does Snopp Dogg (or should that "Snoop Lion"?)


Instagrammed by @Kidrobot is their upcoming toy-release of western musician/rapper Snoop Dogg, seen totting a joint. Revealed at the recent New York Toy Fair, Plastic Kitty shares a snap of the upcoming 8-inch tall figure on display (seen below). Am unsure if this will be a start of representations of Snoop’s discography, eventually leading to his “Snoop Lion” persona … heh.


Not too sure how this’ll display in Singapore though – apparently there was a “subtle reminder” (nobody said “crackdown”, okay?) years back, when toys with cigarettes sticking out of their mouths were “not encouraged” to be on visible display (hence Smorkin’ Labbits sort of are not seen as often, nor any Frank Kozik collectibles with cancer-sticks out of their mouths) … but then again, I haven’t been out much these days … and this sure as heck is NOT a “cigarette” looooor … heh.

Reblogged 3 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

You Should Probably Play Killer Instinct

Admittedly, the original 1994 Killer Instinct wasn’t a great game. It wasn’t terrible, but that may just be because I refuse to properly analyze my formative years for fear of degrading their substance. Either way, basically no one was asking for a reboot of the franchise, and yet here we are with a free-to-play Killer Instinct for the Xbox One’s launch. And it was a good move.

Yes, it’s free to play, hence this not being a review. All you have to do is find it in the Xbox One’s Games store front (not terribly hard considering your choices can be counted on one hand) and download it. Right now, the free character is Jago, the surrogate Ryu or Liu Kang of the game, though others will get rotated into the fold later. If you want more characters now, though, you have to pay five dollars each for them, which would lead you to believe online matches would be nothing but Jago-on-Jago mirror matches, but it turns out a lot of people have been sinking money into this thing.

And time, as it would seem. People have gotten quite good at the game’s core conceit: combos. How you inflict the most damage in a single go is by getting your opponent into a combo, which always begins with an opener and then is mixed with linkers and autos (and shadow moves and manuals) before being capped off with an ender.

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This is not a terribly demanding game in terms of technical proficiency; after all, autos are multi-hit additions to your combo that are trigger by a single button press. It’s all about understanding the systems. The overall goal is to get from an opener to a closer to cause damage and then prevent it from recovering, which will happen if you don’t perform an ender. Most of it is tied up in basic moves like dragon punches and fireballs, but the simplicity opens it up to neat twists.

Combo Breakers, as you are familiar with by simply being on the Internet, are vital to being a good fighter and finding pleasure in the game. If you can guess the strength of attack used for normal auto or manual attacks, then you break out of being combo’d and get back to trying to start your own. It’s a great mind game of trying to mix up your own play and trying to second guess your opponent. It’s like high level rock-paper-scissors but with more blood.

It really changes up the usual upfront framework of fighting games where you simply block and then execute. It starts to feel like trying to run multiple mental models of several different games at once and can become quite the brainy workout. This is especially true when you start to game your meters. If you fill the combo meter, it’s basically a wash, but if you trigger special moves, you can reset the meter and keep the combo going. There are several fantastic layers to the fighting here.

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The problem arises when you are the one being combo’d. If you’re not good at reading attack animations or simply unlucky, you’ll find yourself stuck being a ragdoll for four to five seconds at a time. That’s four to five seconds where you are helpless and at the mercy of either an AI or a person. This is when the game really fails to keep me interested, as in just those few seconds, my desire to play something else grows ever stronger.

But at least you’ll generally always know what you’re doing. In most other fighting games, I always felt like I was simply trying to understand how it worked let alone figuring out high-level tactics, but Killer Instinct has an amazing dojo mode that covers truly everything. You can start out learning how to walk and then advance to learning how to cap off combos. It’s thorough enough that you feel competent going into your first online match but hands-off enough to let you learn on your own.

And the game’s general presentation is rather good. The graphics are exceptionally sharp (those fireballs!) and the music is predictably catchy, but the coolest stuff happens at the end of fights, where rain will really start to come down if you pull of an Ultra Combo, or the music will sync up with your brutal hits and create a violent, staccato rhythm of mayhem and particle effects. It is unbelievably satisfying ruining someone in such a delicious, over-the-top fashion.

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As a free game amongst mediocre sequels and half-assed ports, grabbing the free Killer instinct is an obvious choice. As a quality fighting game with an absolutely intriguing and fun foundation, Killer Instinct is something you should definitely check out. Just don’t kill your childhood by playing the original Killer Instinct included in the download.

Reblogged 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com