Dispatches from the Age of Electracy: Tales from Kickstarter, part 2

This week’s Dispatch follows up on last week’s discussion of Kickstarter and board games.

Settlers of Catan Menaced (Tony J Case, cc-licensed)
Settlers of Catan Menaced (Tony J Case, cc-licensed)

In response to the three problems I pointed out last week, we’re starting to see a number of changes in KS habits for board game producers.

Stretch Goal Fever
The companies that do well fighting this problem have learned a couple things.  First, that free or cheap to produce stretch goals are key.  Adding a sheet of stickers?  Great!  Adding another miniature? Bad.  I like the companies that do small runs of KS extras that will be tossed in with the box — both Heroes Wanted and Epic Resort did this, adding little packets of extra stuff that regular buyers of the game wouldn’t be able to get.  On the other hand, sometimes we get extra trinkets that just feel like a waste of money (I’m looking at you, sheet of stickers).

Another response is to avoid stretch goals altogether, or only offer a couple at huge milestones.

Crushed by Success
Limiting specialized stretch goals is a key part of this process — individualized rewards mean tons of extra work in fulfillment, and thus lots of work outside of making the game.  Boo.  Ludicreations is the paramount of restraint here.  Not only do they do NO stretch goals at all, they actually limit the number of games they will issue as rewards so they can be sure to fulfill the game on time.  Here’s what they say:

NO BS KS

What You See Is What You Get – this is our doctrine, and we like to run simple, straightforward campaigns. We are aware that offering add-ons and/or introducing stretch goals would increase the funding total. However, we have already thrown everything into this game – a lot of time, effort, and money. We intend to print with the highest quality materials anyway and we will not cut any corners.

We also want to offer the game at the cheapest cost possible – and that is incompatible with stretch goals. We’d have to add “hidden” profit in the pledge levels, that we can then “spend” to give you stretch goals to get excited about. Therefore, raising money beyond our goal does not give us extra money on hand to create stretch goals.

Furthermore, because the games are made in Europe, and because we do small print runs, we do not benefit by economies of scale by producing more copies of the game.

If we do offer additional content, we will lock past pledge levels. That’s it – you do not need to pay more, or like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or be a fan on BGG – although all of those things are nice of you if you do them, we want you to do them if you want to, not because of a carrot we dangle in front of you.

We do not do add-ons (not even our other games), because we want to keep our operations simple, and deliver efficiently. We are in this for the long run, so it does not help us to squeeze a few more dollars from a few backers, if we disappoint *all* backers.

Will it be any good?
Ludicreations has also done a great job soliciting reviews of their games to combat the problem of games that look cool but aren’t fun to play.  As Steven Johnson predicted in Interface Culture, reviewers have become the filter for us, a way to find games that work.  By tapping into this fan culture, KS companies bypass the judgment of game production companies in favor of the wisdom of crowds.

The personal touch
My favorite company producing games through Kickstarter right now is Funto11 games (current KS: Epic PVP: Fantasy).  These folks have a long track record of producing great games and delivering on time.  They also do a great job of offering substantial and interesting stretch goals without going overboard.  I also love the personal touch at the heart of all their projects.  For instance, when they were doing the KS for Castle Dice, one of the stretch goals was bigger dice, but in the last week before the KS ended, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and the team saw backers withdrawing at about an even rate as new ones were signing up.  They wrote this:

Just when a campaign should be taking off toward the end, we’ve been noticing a very large number of cancellations which is offsetting any new backer momentum. This is totally unlike our previous 2 campaigns and the campaigns that our friends have run in the past. It’s pretty clear to us that this is due to folks hunkering down from the storm on the East Coast.

We love making games and we think even expensive games like Castle Dice are an affordable way for folks to have fun (especially when you compare it to things like going to the movies or having a nice meal out). That said, We don’t want anyone feeling any sort of pressure to open their wallet more than they feel comfortable with to help us reach a stretch goal at a time like this.

As such, we’re taking down the stretch goal and marking it “achieved.” We’ll cover any uncovered costs associated with the upgrade (we have some extra money from MSfG and Flame War – none of us have taken a dime from Fun to 11 to date). And while we’re happy with any support we get in these last 3 days, we’re not announcing any new stretch goals for this product. Instead we will be donating 10% of every dollar raised between now and the end of the campaign to hurricane relief. It just feels like the right thing to do now. We’ve always said that Fun to 11 isn’t in this for the money, so it’s time we put those words into practice.

Thanks for all of your support folks and to all of you on the wrecked coast, hang tough,

Luke, Jay, Kai, Dave, and Rob

How cool is that?

All of this, of course, points to both the pleasures and the dangers of electracy.  On the plus side, we get to know game developers in ways we couldn’t before.  On the down side, we don’t have the smarts of the marketplace protecting us from flashy amateurs who don’t actually have the experience to get the game to market.  And having to use our own judgment to filter those folks means that sometimes we’ll get screwed.

 

Dispatches from the Age of Electracy: Tales from Kickstarter

"Die Zehn" by David Eccles
“Die Zehn” by David Eccles (cc-licensed)

If you follow this blog much, you know I enjoy a good kickstarter campaign — particularly for board games, which are relatively cheap in terms of development (mostly costing the developers time and energy and potentially little else), but can be very expensive in terms of production.  Thus, Kickstarter can be an excellent way to fund the production of a game — it allows for the producer to get pre-orders before committing to produce anything, and to moderate the print run as a project becomes a success.

There are some companies that go a bit crazy with “stretch goal fever,” offering too much without having thought through the consequences.  Exemplar case study, the foundering-but-still-might-eventually-get-produced Teramyyd: Earthsphere, a game of steampunk blimp piracy.  They went absolutely bonkers with their stretch goals, and being a relatively new game company, they drastically under-estimated the cost involved in producing these things.

Others founder under the pressure of their own success.  Queen games has, for instance, run into fulfillment issues because their orders were far larger than they’d planned for, and their production and fulfillment facilities are small houses. [UPDATE 2/3 5PM: When I arrived home today, Escape from the Temple, which was supposed to ship last October, had arrived.] Thus, while the production of their games should have been pretty straightforward (since they used all pre-made assets), the delivery of those games has been, well, slow.  This was also the issue with Greg Rucka et al’s very successful run on their graphic novel, Lady Sabre and the really long title, which apparently took forever to mail out (I know Rucka was still posting mailing updates six months after I’d received my copy).

Last, one worry with kickstarter games is that they just won’t be that good.  So far, I’ve had a lot of luck.  All the kickstarter games I’ve gotten have been pretty fun — I haven’t had one yet where I was disappointed in it.  In fact, one of them (A Study in Emerald) is among my favorite games in my collection.  Dork Tower has done a great job talking about the finances of KS, the dangers of KS, and the need for a place where people have already played the games.

Next week, I’ll write a bit about the changes I’ve seen in the KS game community that respond to these challenges.

Gaming Myself

So, I’ve begun using two different game mechanics in my daily life.

First, I’ve been following Zach’s efforts with 750words for a while now, and noticed that John is having success at it as well.  So I’ve decided to try using it for my scholarly and creative writing (though not blogging).  I started on May 19th and have continued thus far.  A few thoughts:

  • I’m still not settled about whether I like the process of writing on 750 and then moving my text to Scrivener (where I’m assembling the book).  This may end up causing more extra work than it’s worth.  At the same time, format shifting prompts rereading and revising, things I need to spend more time on.
  • I’ve decided to try and use the off days for creative writing.  I’ve been recently aiming for 5-6 days a week of scholarly writing, with Sundays off.  But 750 words encourages you to take time every day to write, so perhaps I’ll use a little time on Sundays to work on creative projects.  I might end up just taking a miss every Sunday.
  • I’ve also decided NOT to use blogging as part of my 750 word count, because it would throw off the curve (given that I easily blog 500 words a day for five days a week), and because even though I see blogging as part of my scholarly endeavor, I don’t want it to be part of my professional activity for the day — it gets a back seat to more productive work, at least, ideally.

Second, I joined Fitocracy which I will be using to track my twice- or thrice-weekly workouts at the YMCA, along with my weight.  On one hand, it’s working as intended, as I’ve resumed doing a brief morning exercise routine that I’d stopped doing for a long time.  On the other hand, it hasn’t really driven me to do more than that.  I won’t be posting much about those stats (perhaps) but am willing to post a few thoughts as they occur to me.

  • Fitocracy really wants you to be social, something that isn’t really my style with regard to exercise.  To achieve more, I’d need to do that more.
  • The leveling up is fun, but I wish it were easier to find “challenges” within my purview that I could do at home instead of at the gym.

1000 pins

There’s a training mode in Wii sports that is perhaps the coolest thing on the game — it’s a bowling minigame that allows you to ramp up how many pins you’re hitting with each frame until on the last frame you hit 100 pins all at once.  Someone over at Nintendo must have realized this was a cool idea because one of the advanced levels of the Wii Sports Resort bowling game is the 100 pin game.  Man, is it fun.

100 Pin strike
100 Pin strike
  • There’s something immensely satisfying about knocking down that many pins.  The clatter noise alone makes me smile every time.
  • It turns out that the physics of the large-frame set results in really high scores for the first ball of every frame.  Even if you hit way off center, you knock down fifty pins or more easily.  It’s pretty fun.
  • Like regular Wii bowling, the connection between what you do and what the ball does is preposterous.  It’s hilarious to watch Avery, just beginning to learn the nuances of the system, wildly fling her arm up and, as often as not, get a pretty good roll.  She got one strike and two spares last night.
  • I rolled a clean game yesterday.  Last night I rolled a clean game save 1 pin standing on the last frame.  Arg.
  • All the Mii’s from throughout your game line up on the sides of the alley to watch the game.  It’s a cool kind of crowd-applauding moment.  Nice.

Man, it would be fun to play this somewhere.  I think only a place like Disneyworld or Six Flags could afford it, since you would have to have custom-made pinsetters and a lane that could accomodate 100 pins.  But I’d pay $20 to bowl a 100-pin game.

de Blob

de Blob
de Blob

So I discovered, on our family trip to the library yesterday, that our library has Wii games.  Woot.  I got “De Blob” for a two week trial.  Oddly enough, when I checked the online catalog, I found that it has 7 holds.  So why was one on the shelf?  Lucky me, I guess.

The premise of the game is that an evil dictatorship has taken over happyland (actually, some othe r name) and made everything black and white.  The colorful citizens wear just white body suits.  You are part of the color-resistance fighting to restore vibrant culture, or something like that.  A few observations from early gameplay:

  • This is the perfect kind of game to get from the library.  Two weeks will be enough, and I’ll be just fine never playing it again.
  • The game makes moderate use of the wii mote, asking you to shake it or swing it to make certain moves.  The smash and escape moves work well, but the jump move is annoying.  I would rather have a jump button.
  • The sound effects and enemies seem very similar to Raymond’s Rabid Rabbids. I suspect they’re made by the same folks.  ( This is a case of laziness, right?  Like when Woody Allen says “I’ve always wanted to know how to spell Massachusetts.”  It’s a look-up away.)
  • The effect of painting everything you bump into is pretty cool, and kind of addictive.  The game also makes great use of achievements.  It’s hard not to keep checking your progress on the various scales.  I was particularly taken with the “Percent painted” achievement, which I managed to get to 100% on one of the cities.

As I said, I have a feeling two weeks will be plenty of time to get what I want out of this game, at which point some other denizen of Forest Park can take a crack at it.

Some additional thoughts on Rock Band

In a short break from my work day, I played a bit of Rock Band 2 today. Some new thoughts.

  • The RB2 website is annoying because you can’t delete unused or lost bands. Since we had our data crash, the original bands we made are stuck there. Lame.
  • But there is a photo generator, which is cool and fun. My band, Return of the Wombats, is below.
  • The outfits and stuff are way more fun than they should be.
  • I tried an online battle today and clobbered the person I was playing against. I ended up #355 overall, though, so I must not be that good. One of the songs was one I don’t know and haven’t heard much, though, so as vocalist I think I did pretty well.
  • I really like the downloadable content we bought. “Gimme Three Steps” is a wicked fun song.
Return of the Wombats
Return of the Wombats

From left to right: Abe Thinkin,’ Thrilliam H. Taft, Alice the Menace, and McKinley O’Toole

The Mummies, now on tour

Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2

I picked up Rock Band 2 for the Wii last week, and it sure is fun.  A few comments:

  • We’ve created three bands.  The first is for all four adults in the house — Jenny, me, Jenny’s sister, and her husband.  We called ourselves “The Flux Capacitors” and have played a bit but not progressed too far.  Jenny and I also created our own band, “The Mummies,” with our avatars named for Amelia Peabody Emerson and Radcliffe Emerson.  Alas, there aren’t clothes to fit turn-of-the-century archaeologists, so we look like conventional rockers.  I’ve also created my own band, and progressed much farther than with either of the collaborative bands.  My Dave-Grohl-like solo artist is named “Bad Mojo,” and his band is “The March of the Wombats.”
  • I just shifted from medium to hard on most of the guitar tracks.  It’s a major jump up — way more than the jump from Easy to Medium.  Here’s how it breaks down: Easy uses four fret buttons, slow speed, mild complexity; Medium uses four fret buttons, medium speed, moderate complexity; Hard uses five fret buttons, fast speed, high complexity.  I don’t know about expert yet.  My beef is that the shift from medium to hard involves not only a much higher level of complexity, but it ALSO uses a fifth fret button.  Would that there were five difficulty levels rather than four.
  • The singing bit is tough to figure out.  Last night we played two songs with “difficult” lyrics: “White Wedding” and “Give it Away Now.”  Jenny scored poorly on the first and perfect on the second.  As far as we can tell, she was equally good at both.  What’s the deal with that?
  • Wii Console: $250; Wii accessories: $150+; Rock Band 2 Special Edition, $190.  Singing “Whooo-ooo! Living on a Prayer!” at the top of your lungs with three good friends? Priceless. (Alternately: Hearing your wife rap “How come everybody wanna keep it like the Kaiser? Priceless.)
  • The regular acquisition of new songs in the game is really addictive.  I have already found myself eyeing RB1 in the store and checking out the downloadable tunes in the Rock Band store.  My favorite songs so far: Dylan’s “Tangled up in Blue;” Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Where did you go?,” and Smashing Pumpkins, “Today.”  The one song I really want that isn’t available for download yet? Coulton’s “Still Alive.”
  • The introduction sequence, an animated rock video for the Cheap Trick song “Hello There,” is creepy and wild.  Check it out below.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6efRy5IM94Q]

House of the Dead 2 & 3

I blast some zombies

So I picked up House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return for the Wii, and am enjoying it immensely.  My favorite arcade games have long been light gun games, since the systems are designed to use the hardware and thus work smoothly.  They’re also not thought-provoking or challenging, intellectually, but just fun to play.

  • HotD is particularly hilarious this way, because its plot is so convoluted, and its pleasures are so many.  The dialog strains credulity, with grammar and pronunciation errors galore.  My favorite so far is the pronunciation of the word Genome as “Geh – nome” (using the G sound from get).   Your avatar also has a pretty cavalier attitude about his buddies.  At one point, a dying friend hands you the keys to his car.  Without waiting a beat, you say “thanks” and turn away, leaving him to die.
  • I’ve mentioned to Jenny that the Wii has the smoothest light-gun system I’ve seen thus far.  This is because, like the arcade games, the system is designed for you to point your cursor at the screen.  There’s no flashing or other annoying bits.  I can’t imagine playing without the reticule on screen though.
  • I purchased one “Wii Zapper,” which works well.  I will probably purchase another so we can have two-player fun, though I might go for one of the wii handgun thingies instead.  They’re lighter and might be more fun.  I haven’t tried playing with just the wiimote yet — I should give that a go.
  • The game has a number of amusing quirks, my favorite thus far being “original” mode, in which you can accrue bonuses to use in future rounds of the game.  Presumably this is how you will get enough credits to beat the viciously hard game.  Unlike many arcade-ports, this game doesn’t give you unlimited credits, but a mere 5.  One of the bonuses I’ve been enjoying is “alternate costume,” in which you play as an aproned, gray-haired matron with a delightful hair bun.
  • The game also gives you regular opportunities to save people by killing zombies quickly.  On one of the early opportunities, a woman you can save urges you to rescue her boyfriend.  If you save both, you get to go to an alternate route through the first level.  If you fail to save the woman, the man never has a chance. Hilariously, if you save the woman but then fail to save the man, you return to her and mutter, “There was nothing we could do.”  There’s a similar opportunity later with a little boy and his father.  I’m going to have to see what happens if you let the father die sometime.
  • Some of the bosses are ridiculously hard.  And I’m not even playing on “hard.”  I lose most of my credits to them.
  • I haven’t even tried House of the Dead 3 yet.

Anyhow, if you come to Chicago and want to try it out, just let me know. 😀

The other side of the coin

For every good experience on Google Image Labeler, there are at least two bad ones. Here’s my most recent:

I got an image that showed three principle members of the Start Trek crew. Here are the labels I typed in the 40 seconds before my teammate passed, then the five more I obstinantly typed to try and get the “idiot match” before I passed in disgust:

  • Star Trek
  • Star
  • Trek
  • Captain Kirk
  • Kirk
  • Spock
  • Mr Spock
  • Mister Spock
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • Nimoy
  • William Shatner
  • Shatner
  • Television
  • phasers
  • costumes

Your partner wants to pass

  • men
  • guys
  • group
  • space
  • alien

Then I passed, grumblingly. We didn’t get a match on the next picture either. Here’s the results page:

Results of my annoying partner

You see that! starwars, one word. ship. I don’t see a fscking ship. And I hate the color matches. Those are worse than men or group, because no one searches images by fscking color.

Though after a few months of image labeler running, Google may be able to add a color palette feature to its advanced search. Now you can search for Heath Ledger with a sexy hot lady wearing a blue dress.

Other terms Image Labeler regularly matches on but will never be useful to people searching the web:

  • sexy, hot, lady: images where woman is already off-limits, and the woman isn’t overly elderly or a child will almost always match on these words. Image labeler generates a self-correcting crowd, so that, as Rolfe says, you will just lose if you try to fight trends like these words. The same goes for…
  • boobs, tits: Keep in mind, that second word is one I never use, except during my regularly and lengthy pontifications about dairy farms. But it’s a guaranteed winner in Image Labeler, and when you’re going on 30 seconds on the same word, and the person in the image is a woman (especially if there is even a hint of her decolletage or a tight shirt), this will match. The irony is that as these words match more and more images that have little or no erotic value, they will have less and less value as search terms. So perhaps the folks who are inclined to make boobs a useless search term should embrace this method of diluting the word of its erotic qualities. (“After all, half the world has them.” “Or more. Meatloaf has quite a nice pair,” as Anna and William in Notting Hill say.)
  • I’d say this goes for 60-70% of the matches that I get in the image. They aren’t words that help describe the image, but rather than describe something in it. No one searching for grass wants to find a motorcycle with a small patch of lawn in the background, but this is what regularly happens when the usual words to describe motorcycles are off limits.

Okay, back to work.

Edit: And then, right after I finished and decided to play one more round to clear the air, I got an awesome partner.  We earned 1300 points and, better yet, check this out:

match on boba fett

A couple rounds before bed

I often play a couple rounds of Image Labeler before bed.  Today, I got paired up with a couple real crackerjacks who think the way I do and type quickly.  Check out this score:

1700 in Image Labeler

Wii Fit

Jenny and I have been looking for a Wii Fit for a couple weeks now, and my sister in law snagged one for us and mailed it here.  It’s pretty cool — I will probably use it to get me to do more physical stuff than I do now.  It’s sad but true.  The yoga stuff is cool, and the balance games are fun.  A few more thoughts, after 4 days.

  • The fact that the people from your Mii plaza show up as background characters in the game is immensely amusing.  Except in the “run,” where you’re encouraged to keep a slow pace and then keep getting passed by people.
  • The “step” game seems a lot like Dance Dance Revolution to me. In fact, it inclines me to bust out my DDR pads (my PS2 is still hooked up too).  If I do, I can always record that as activity on my “activity log.”  Why would I do that, you ask?  The Wii Fit keeps track of how many “credits” you’ve earned, and unlocks stuff based on them.  You get credit (I think) for adding activities.
  • The Wii Fit is a character.  It reminds me a little of the TiVO thingy, and its voice reminds me of GlaDOS.  It’s nice and encouraging: “You have great balance!” but also corrective “Your leg was a little shaky there, you should work on leg muscles.”
  • You get to pick a trainer — I picked the manly man — both for inspiration and for homosocial bonding.  I’ve named him Hans and am always amused when the camera pivots such that you can see his little pony tail.  It’s hilarious.
  • The yoga stuff is fun.  I wish there were a Tai Chi module.  I bet I could just go buy a video, but then I’m not playing video games while I work out.
  • The Wii also has a pretty narrow idea of a good body type.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a bit of a paunch going on, but the Fit wants you to be at a BMI of 22, and thinks anything over 25 is overweight.  It’s a pretty narrow view of human health.

Now we’re cookin’

Cooking MamaJenny and I had a little spree at Target the other day, compliments of our credit card rewards program (not as fiscally responsible as getting cash back, I guess, but those gift cards are fun), and among the other coveted but not absolutely necessary stuff we bought, I picked up Cooking Mama.  What a hoot.

The game involves chopping, pouring, stirring, shaking, and tons of other moves as you make your food.  A few thoughts, after a day or two of playing the game:

  • Mama makes me laugh, a lot.  During the game she doesn’t do much, but when you finish she comments on your work — the funniest is when she says “I’ll help you” after you totally pooch the meal.  While attempting to make custard, I over-stirred and sprayed custard all over my workspace.  When the screen flashes to mama, she’s covered in custard.  Ha ha!
  • The total is not more than the sum of its parts.  To make a meal, you go through a number of steps, each being a kind of mini game with points for speed and accuracy.  At the end, it totals up your points.  Unlike real cooking, though, a crucial failure will not ruin the whole meal.  Case in point, I made lasagna and did everything moderately well until I got to the oven stage (whose controls I’m still confused about).  At that point, I badly burned the food.  In real life, this would obviate the work I did previously, as a well-chopped burnt lasagna is still gross to eat.  In Cooking Mama, on the other hand, I still got a good rating.
  • Grinding meat in Cooking MamaLike tennis and other games, the repetitive motions are often tiring.  The chopping sequence can be pretty tiring, and the meat grinding really made my elbow hurt.
  • The game teaches you in a couple ways.  There’s a training sequence that works really well, and there are instructions before each step of each meal reminding you what you need to do.  Mama encourages you by saying things like “Good job!”  Her voice reminds me of the female voice-over person from Iron Chef.
  • The best part is that Jenny likes this game quite a bit, so we’re enjoying playing it together.  We tried the cook-off mode but it didn’t work so well.  I’m not sure why.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjAVf9WGhjk&feature=related]

A bit more about Portal

Check out those gams

I’m sure you’re tired of all this Portal talk, but too bad.  I’m a bit obsessed.  I find the moments when you see yourself through the portal as particularly cool.

I listened to the audio commentary and learned quite a bit about how the game was developed.  The commentary uses the little word balloons (as below) to narrate key ideas.  In this sequence, you need to 1) use the portal; 2) to redirect a missile; 3) to blow up the tube; so that 4) you can get a weighted storage cube to 5) stand on; so you can 6) get into that vent in the hallway (just above the word balloon in this picture).

I just used a chair

When I got to this level during my play-through with commentary, I was able to blow up the tube pretty easily.  The first time I played through, however, I couldn’t figure it out.  I knew how to blow up the tunnel, but couldn’t figure out where to put the portal to get it to work.  (BTW, the portal as pictured would NOT help things).

In the commentary, the developers mentioned that many of the early puzzles only have one solution, because they’re trying to teach essential strategies, and if you can get around those strategies, you won’t learn them.  In this part, the strategy to use is the redirecting of missiles.  On my first playthrough, when I couldn’t get it to work, but thought I had made adequate effort, I decided redirecting missiles must not be the solution.  So I went back a couple rooms to the office, picked up a chair, and put it below the vent.  I climbed up on the chair and shimmied right in.  Ha.

Portal

Portal Leap iconsRules. I picked up the Orange Box as part of my birthday spending spree, and just blazed through 18 levels (I don’t know how many there are) finished the game in short order (I composed the first draft of this post after one 2.5 hour session; 2 hours later I’m done). The humor is great and the gameplay amuses to no end. I love it. It’s a puzzle game that demands a bit of dexterity. In part, it reminds me a bit of lode runner, where you had to think about the possibilities of the tools in order to move from one puzzle to the next.

For those of you who haven’t played it, Portal is a game that puts you in a testing facility with a weapon that can create portals that you can jump through. You move from space to space in the game by placing portals in key spots and leaping through. The portals also preserve inertia, so if you’re moving quickly, you come out moving quickly. This means you can build up speed by putting a portal on the ground and the second on the wall, then dropping through in a loop.

You can see through the portals you project, so if you project a portal across from another portal, you get a cool mirror effect.

Cover Here

The game also has a good sense of humor and the robot voice guiding you through is cool. My favorite bits:

  • In giving you instructions of what to do and not do with the portal gun, it says “Most importantly… Crackle static crackle
  • “Any appearance of danger is merely a device to enhance your testing experience.” Sooooo not true.
  • And then there’s a whole bunch of stuff about cake.

As you start out, you get the sense that something isn’t quite right. The computer guiding you through the “tests” lies to you, tricks you, and seems generally malicious. On top of that, you find these little scribbled bits of graffiti left by previous “test subjects,” and blood splatters. I read an interesting article with provocative commentary on the controlling computer, but I wouldn’t suggest you read it unless you have played already or don’t plan to.

GLaDOS

Finally, the closing credits song is by Jonathan Coulton, and has lots of inside jokes and amuses greatly.

The downside of Portal is that it’s short. It took me about 4.5 hours to complete the whole game. Admittedly, I haven’t played the bonus levels yet, nor listened to the developer commentary, but that’s not too much. I expect I will be able to find lots of modded levels online.

Rayman’s Raving Rabbids 2

Jenny and I got this party game for the Wii last week and have been playing it.  It’s a pretty fun goof, with lots of mini games and silly Wii controller stuff.  The animations are silly and the Rock-Band-like game at the end of each level is amusing.

The game features a vast amount of unlockable content, mostly clothes for your rabbids, that I presume you get by playing the games over and over again.  I am both annoyed by the idea that they would want/need me to do this AND tempted to try for it.

My favorite game that we played this evening took place in a movie theatre.  The rabbids wanted to talk on their phones, so players held their Wii’s upright when the lights were off, and the rabbids chattered away, making the people around them angrier and angrier.  When the manager showed up and turned on the house lights, you had to swing the wiimote down to hide your phone, otherwise you got smacked with a big statue and you lost points.

In other news, having taken a two week hiatus from Wii Sports, when I played one round of bowling and one round of tennis, I did so poorly on each that my rating went down.