Dan Dias

| Blog and Portfolio

To clear out my Steam backlog, I’m playing games I haven’t played on Steam before. Today is something a bit different. My wife bought me a couple gift cards so I took advantage of the Steam Sale and bought something since I had a balance to spend. Merry Christmas!

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

Time Played: 41 minutes

Done?: Nope. Definitely will play again.

Source: Steam

I have a weird thing for games that are punishingly difficult. I’ve watched this played on a few sites that I follow. Once I saw a mistake lead to being flung back down the mountain to the beginning, I was sold. The odd control scheme only sweetened the deal. Since I’ve played a couple of Bennett Foddy’s other games QWOP and GIRP, I knew I was in for something I’d enjoy.

Here we go

You control a shirtless man who is stuck inside a pot. You are left to move in a side view environment which is revealed to be a mountain. He only has a sledge hammer to help propel him up a mountain of obstacles. You move the mouse in a circular motion to swing the hammer around your body. Up and down moves the hammer’s closer and farther away to the center of the body. For the most part you are using leverage on the obstacles to propel yourself up and around.

Balance

You probably have to see it in motion to really understand, so here’s Austin Walker Editor-in-Chief of Waypoint playing the game.

I could keep playing this game for hours, but I have other games to play and real life to deal with. This is something I can see myself revisiting every once and awhile like I do with Super Hexagon. Goodbye man in pot, see you soon!

Pogo position

To clear out my Steam backlog, I’m playing games I haven’t played on Steam before.

Carmageddon Max Pack

Time Played: 57 minutes

Done?: Maybe

Source: Kickstarter - Carmageddon: Reincarnation

I remember getting the Carmageddon demo in an issue of PC Gamer magazine. I played that demo to death (pun partially intended). The Internet tells me that was the July 1997 issue. 20 years ago. Young, impressionable, 14 year old me had a field day with the macabre racing game where objectives were either complete the race, waste your opponents, or run over enough pedestrians. As you can imagine when there was a Kickstarter for a sequel, my nostalgia kicked into overdrive. It also helped that they threw in a copy of the original game, which I never purchased because of the hassle it would have taken to convince my parents.

Here we go!

Now I’m a responsible adult and can subject myself to whatever acts of violence I deem fit. It doesn’t hold much of an appeal to me anymore; it’s gross and senseless. Darn. After a few minutes of playing it, I was going to stop and never play it again. Then I started to focus on the actual race objectives.

Gaps in the road... come on.

The driving in this game is bad. I’m sure this was not the intended design and that part of the squirrelyness of the car is to encourage you to go outside of the track itself and engage with destroying cars or people. That’s where a lot of the wackiness comes in after all with odd power ups that make for zaniness.

Staying on the road is a chore. However, this became interesting. Almost like a physics puzzle to keep the car going the direction I wanted it to go. I steadily kept going even when coming to a loop in the track which seemed impossible to get over. I made sure I made it over the dividing wall and let myself flip/fall over to the other side and kept going.

Oof!

The driver cam in the upper left hand corner is rather novel and I really haven’t seen it used to good effect in any other game before or since. Watching “Die Anna” or “Max Damage” flail about when the car is in a spin or lurch forward when you hit head on is amusing and a good touch. Going over a big jump has them hollering/screaming with joy.

Wooohooo!

In my short time with it I wasn’t able to touch some of the depth to the game. There’s multiple cars you can get, car upgrades and a ranking system.

I’m surprised to say I might actually come back to this game. The first blood splattered pedestrian that flew at my camera made me think this game’s “90s XTREME” sensibilities had caused it to not age well. However, there’s something there that was truly worth playing.

Race Completed

To clear out my Steam backlog, I’m playing games I haven’t played on Steam before.

Breath of Death VII

Time Played: 36 minutes

Done?: NOPE! I’ll come back to this one.

Source: Steam Purchase - 10/19/2011 - Cthulhu Saves the World & Breath of Death VII Double Pack

Smashing through the 4th wall in the intro

Zeboyd Games is a company I became aware of after hearing about Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. I’m not really sure the order since the Penny Arcade game released a year after I bought these games, but somehow that led me to looking into their other games. Maybe I bought it not knowing what it was. As mentioned, I have a problem. Seeing how Zeboyd streamlined classic Japanese RPG gameplay and mixed it with an irreverent sense of humor intrigued me. I’ve been following their games ever since. I even participated in the Kickstarter for Cosmic Star Heroine.

An example of the irreverent humor

Breath of Death VII (there is no 1 through 6) takes place in a world where everyone in the world perished and everyone is in various states of undead. We follow DEM, our protagonist, as he goes on a quest to vanquish evil, collecting companions, skills and loot along the way.

Walking around the overworld

If you’ve played any JRPGs, you know how this goes. Wander the overworld and dungeon locations hitting random battles along the way. Except this one is a little different. One of the NPCs tells you that when you have fought a lot in one area, enemies start avoiding you. But you can initialize a fight at any time in the menu. This streamlines the process of grinding for experience while letting you move unfettered through areas you’ve already been. This alone is a great improvement.

Battle

After each battle you gain a bit of MP and allies revive and get full health. This kind of improvement lets me ignore my hording tendency to save that “super potion of whatever it does” for when I really need it. Really this ends up making MP your only finite resource and even that regenerates slowly. The random battles are simple and you can win by mashing the attack option. There’s a level of deepness to the mechanics as you fight larger groups and tougher enemies.

This game is something I’m planning on coming back to. Looking it up it seems like it takes about 5 hours on average to beat. I think I can spare that time.

The end?

To clear out my Steam backlog, I’m playing games I haven’t played on Steam before.

Braid

Time Played: 38 minutes

Done?: Yeah

Source: Humble Indie Bundle 3 (now expired)

The opening of Braid is so soothing.

Is there anything left to say about Braid that hasn’t already been said? I played the heck out of this game back in 2008 when it released. Its unique take on the puzzle platformer genre had people going crazy for it. It utilized a time buffer that would record your every movement so at any time you could rewind time and redo what you just did a different way, or exactly the same way with elements of the world operating outside of time.

Do you ever wish you could rewind time?

This game is great and the puzzle elements make you feel like the dumbest person in the world when you can’t grasp a solution; and the smartest person in the world once you overcome the mental block. That is the hallmark of a truly good puzzle based game. Even though most of the opening puzzles are less challenging and I started getting into the more difficult puzzles in the half an hour I spent with it, that feeling managed to creep into my brain and fire off 10 year old neurons.

Manipulate time to collide with objects outside of time

I did not manage to complete Braid. I’m not one that needs to get to the game’s official end of a game. While some games push me to get there, some I’m happy enough to have had my time with it and move on. Looks like that probably won’t change with me and Braid. Time to move on.

I'm sorry, but the princess is in another castle

To clear out my Steam backlog, I’m playing games I haven’t played on Steam before.

Assault Android Cactus

Time Played: 57 minutes

Done?: Maybe

Source: Humble Gems Bundle (now expired)

Assault Android Cactus is a dual joystick shooter. It can get a bit Bullet Hell-y at times. You take the role of one of many android characters. Effectively, they amount to different weapon patterns and mechanics. Each has a main weapon and a power weapon which has limited usage but recharges over time. Character Select

Each level has enemies dropping in from the sides or climbing up through holes of an arena. A timer in the form of the android’s battery capacity ticks down as you play. You collect battery power-ups dropped from some enemies to increase the timer. Other power ups include: speed, disable enemies, added fire power. Aside from that each enemy drops little crystals that charge up your main weapon throughout the level.
Power Ups

The game is well made and the controls feel responsive. While the character’s shooting mechanics are inventive, some of the core mechanics are at odds with the design. The more action based movement and focus on speed and number of enemies ends up making the more precise movement required at times feel a bit unfair. I ended up dying in some circumstances that I couldn’t actually avoid.
Boss Battle

If you like games like Geometry Wars, or any Bullet Hell games made by Treasure, you’ll probably find some value in Assault Android Cactus as well. I might come back to this game some day but there’s a backlog to tackle!
All Done

Dec 22 2017

Having two kids, a desire to create games, and random days where I just want to zone out after work, finding time to play games has really become an issue. You can also see it hasn’t given me a lot of time to write in this blog.

My wife and I took a vacation this past week and it gave me a bit extra free time. In practice that just means more time goes to children and Grandma gets a bit of a break. But I did manage to sneak in some hours here and there to play some games (and write about it)!

I finished Battle Chef Brigade on the Switch. The gameplay bits are rather engaging and surprisingly demanding. Trying to optimize the time you have in the battle by balancing cooking and hunting strategies kept me constantly on my toes. Not to mention the story is quite charming and left me with some good feelings.

I also managed to finish Full Throttle, for the first time in 20 years or so, albeit this time in the remastered form. I’m surprised how well it holds up and how well realized that world is. And flipping back and forth between the art, not much is changed with some of the big full screen scenes. The only bad I really have to say is the Old Mine Road is as tedious as ever.

I have a bit more time before vacation officially ends. And of course, it’s the Steam Winter Sale. Like most people with a Steam account, I have a problem. I have bought far too many games. I put a stop to that a couple years ago by instead adding everything I wanted to my wishlist. Now with 100+ items on there, I’ve successfully not bought a bunch of really neat games.

My library has been neatly categorized and I’ve created a “_Haven’t Played” category. This is my backlog, my pile of shame. Right now there’s 179 games in there from impulse buys, Humble Bundles and weird schemes GOG and Green Man Gaming had for ditching lesser known game keys.

Some games are games I’ve played but do not have any play time recorded on Steam; like Counter-Strike or Half-Life which I’ve sunk many hours into but before Steam started tracking time. Do I still consider this as “Haven’t Played”? I might call an audible on this and skip some of those but for now, yes I want to get a play time on every one of the games in my library. Even if it’s for a few minutes.

It’s a daunting task even knowing where to start. Some of these games are so long that even starting to engage with them feels like I’m signing my life away. The current strategy is to install all the games in that list that are under 1 GB and go down the list. If something grabs me, cool. If not, onward! Not promising anything but I might chronicle this stupid and probably misguided journey on this very site.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Final Hour Count: ~55h

It’s been some time since I’ve written about Breath of the Wild. I ended up putting about 55 hours into the game over the course of 4 months. I hit a moment while I was progressing that I decided I was going to see it through to the end and be done with it. I had a great time with it and below are some reasons why. I’ll try to stay spoiler free in case you have not yet finished and want to.

Highlights

Death Mountain

Death Mountain was a ton of fun. I did not expect that from the area considering I had to baby sit my fire resistant potions. Of course, you quickly gain a method to bypass that altogether. All I want to say about why I had fun is mine carts and cannons.

Divine Beasts

I enjoyed completing the Divine Beasts and ended up completing all 4. The rewards for these were pretty good and made it seem worth while. There were some puzzles that I ended up looking up and felt real dumb for not getting them.

Shrines

If I ever go back to Breath of the Wild it will be to do more shrines. They were fun little mini dungeons to find and complete. They lend themselves well to the “I’ve got 15-20 minutes to play” method. Get in, feel accomplished.

Combat

As I got deeper into the combat system, I had fun with it. I ended up utilizing different types of weapons. Never really found one style I stuck with. Spears, swords, boomerangs, all was great.

Physics/Systems

For me, Half-Life 2 was a turning point for physics in games. It gave me a baseline of what I expect from games where I embody a character in a well realized world. Breath of the Wild ticked that box in so many ways. I continued to be able to execute on my ponderings. Few games give you the sense of mobility and ability to affect the world and at the same time give you the feeling like there’s always more out there to explore.

Hyrule Castle

Hyrule castle was a lot of fun. I almost wish I didn’t decided to complete the game before visiting. I felt like there was a lot of it I missed out on because I had a singular focus of destroying Ganon.

State of the World

There’s much in the world I left unfinished. A lot of side stories. I never did find that poor girl who wanted to play hide and seek… oops. I highly doubt I’ll go back since I tend to abandon a game once I decide I’m done with it. I did enjoy my time there though.

Jun 10 2017

I remembered that Pocket C.H.I.P. existed. I remembered seeing it come through as a Kickstarter when I had decided I needed to stop backing projects on Kickstarter. Still yearning to own one, I plopped down ~$90 I had earmarked for computer replacement and waited for a shipping notification.

Alternate Timelines

About a week later it showed up in the mail. The simple box it came in had a real late 80s feel to the design. This made my dumb nostalgia brain giddy. Taking the actual product out of the box intensified that giddiness.

The best way to describe the design is raw. The keyboard is a circuit board material with bumps for buttons. The keyboard has a resistive touch LED attached to the top with a bezel that feels like it could fall off. Under normal circumstances, that’s a bad thing but the other thing about this is it’s designed to be hackable and disassembled without tools. The whole thing feels like it fell out of an alternate history where the video game market didn’t crash in 83 and the Nintendo Gameboy was instead made years earlier by a company like Commodore International.

Shellfish Designer

Two features drew me to this device. The first is the fact it’s a little Linux computer. Downloading a terminal emulator on your smartphone pales in comparison to having a device dedicated as a handheld terminal. There’s something distinctly cyberpunk about bringing up a terminal on a handheld device and I love the crap out of it even if I rarely use it.

Updating

The second is PICO-8, “a fantasy console for making, sharing and playing tiny games and other computer programs”. It’s a Lua based game engine/console designed for making 8-bit games. I originally picked up PICO-8 on a Humble Bundle pay-what-you-want deal and toyed with it for a bit. But I was messing around with a purposefully limited engine on my computer which was capable of messing around in Unity. It felt wrong. On this little device I don’t mind poking around at a smaller scope game when I’m unable to get onto my computer.

The language and tools bring me back to C64 era programming where design could be more functional oriented and less classy. It’s fun to go back to that mindset every once and awhile and see what you can do in that space. For simple editing, you can use the built in keyboard. I plug in a full sized keyboard when I get down to writing a lot of code.

Next Big Thing?

Is The Next Thing Co.’s CHIP the Next Big Thing? Probably not. Negative traits about the device: the keyboard isn’t reliable, battery life is somewhat short and the CPU isn’t powerful. All that aside, it’s still been keeping my interest for over a week now. I love this little thing.

KFC hot sauce is made with hot sauce

May 20 2017

I have switched projects again. I’m now working on a 2D space roguelike. Anyone who knows me knows this happens a lot for me. I don’t necessarily need to explain why I’m switching projects; I do this as a hobby so whatever is fun is what I want to do. However, I have noticed there’s more to it than that.

Urge to create

Since I do game development as a hobby, I have a predilection to want to spend my free time doing things people would consider work. I can’t help it. I have this urge to create something I want to see exist. However, my mind tends to want something at a high level. When I see another work that comes out with something that matches my high level idea, my urge to create it lessens.

Que Solar, Solar 2

After I graduated with my degree in Game and Simulation Programming in 2011, I got together with a couple talented people I had met in classes. We formed a group with friends who filled in gaps in our talents. We started pitching game ideas to each other. The pitch I worked on with a good friend of mine involved the concept of managing the life, growth and eventual demise of a plant and/or solar system. That same month, Solar 2 came out. Watching someone play it, alarm bells went off in my head. This was pretty much what I had pitched and what I wanted to exist. Now it did. Should I still bother making something like it? The game was probably better than we would be able to make. I bought it, played a ton and enjoyed it. I lost my desire to pursue making something like it.

Copycat’s Meow

This is always something that pops into my head as I see things similar to my ideas. Will someone see this and assume what I’m doing isn’t unique? Will my work be compared to this and be looked at as a knock off? These aren’t useful thoughts. Intellectually, I know that unless you completely copy a work intentionally, what comes out of you vs someone else is going to be different. That concept is my favorite part of most game jams; same prompt, different ideas and executions. This may stem from my brief experience as a Max Payne modder.

Dodge This Cease and Desist

As every adolescent in the early 2000s, I was pretty into the ideas and aesthetic of The Matrix. It seems Remedy Entertainment was as well, since the defining mechanic of the game Max Payne was the shoot dodge ability. At the end of high school, I fell in with a group of modders who were similarly interested in adding to the shoot dodge everything else that The Matrix had. We started the mod, Dodge This. We got a lot of people interested in what we were doing. We even had a small block of text and a screenshot in PC Gamer UK’s November 2001 issue, page 107.
Dodge This PC Gamer UK, November 2001, pg. 107
Among the people interested was the copyright holders. Our team leader got a Cease and Desist letter from their legal team. I don’t remember all the details, but it killed our progress and people left the team. We tried to pick up the pieces, I assumed leadership, changed the mod to a Matrix inspired mod. I soon found I was steering a burning ship into an iceberg.

Analysis Paralysis

Could that experience be what ruined me and made me afraid of doing anything closely resembling anything else? I did work on MineMatcher, but I had a lot of back and forth with Paul, one of the co creators, about including Minecraft assets. I deferred to his judgement in the end though.

What is my takeaway from this (hopefully not boring) exploration of a large reason I lose interest in making something that resembles something else that exists? Part of me is scared, the other part is satisfied by what already exists. There’s the old saying: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” So does it matter? I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I would love to hear someone else’s perspective on this subject of needing to create something that they feel is unique. Leave a comment below!

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