Too Long; Didn't Play: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 April 2015, 6:16 am

Sponsored By: Humble's Squeenix Bundle Sequel

Time Played: 53 minutes

Lara's Pants review

Dual-stick shooting mix with platforming and puzzle-solving in this cooperative genre mash-up featuring everyone's favorite grave robber, Lara Croft.

Lara's Hair review

I want to make a confession: I've never played a Tomb Raider game.

Well, okay, maybe that's not completely accurate. I played five minutes of the original PS1 game at a Toys "R" Us demo kiosk. Beyond that, my experience with Lara Croft comes mainly from watching the movies.

My impressions of things featuring the character are, needless to say, not the best.

My thoughts on the game were that those controls were better suited to the 2600 game Combat rather than a game about an agile explorer. Given my love for Indiana Jones movies and my respect for Angelina Jolie as an actress (Girl Interrupted was one of the best movies I never want to see again), the movies should have been like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

They were not.

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Blind Eyes
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 April 2015, 6:57 am

For the longest time I thought open-world style games weren't for me. I never really enjoyed frolicking about such a large and directionless environment until Assassin's Creed. One might consider it odd to call that game "open world." Despite the motto, "Nothing is true, everything is permitted," echoed throughout the series, the games also limit the player in a lot of ways. Ride too fast on a horse, and guards will begin chasing you down. Hop around on rooftops long enough, and a sentry will surely spot you. Spend your days on the streets, and prepare to get harassed by beggars and lepers. Assassin's Creed may have an open world, but it certainly isn't a "sandbox" environment for most players.

While the term "sandbox" is more likely to describe a game like Minecraft today, it was once used for titles such as Grand Theft Auto III. You could even argue that Grand Theft Auto III's mainstream success is why open-world and/or sandbox style games have become so common.

The idea behind the sandbox game is that the player inhabits a world where they can follow their impulses and do whatever they wish. To me, however, if Grand Theft Auto III were a sandbox, then it was a sandbox built of rotting wood with rusted nails jutting free of its cracked surface. A strange and reddish family of insects would crawl around the grains of sand, their bites itching feverishly for days. Over in the corner some child (oh dear God I hope it was a child) had chosen to defecate without even the cat-like decency to bury their own poop. Yes, it was a sandbox, and there's plenty you could do in such a sandbox, but it always just looked like a rather uncomfortable place to play in.

When I first played inFamous, I thought I had found my perfect open-world game. It wasn't a "sandbox", per se. It wasn't even a LEGO set. It felt like I had finally gotten one of those awesome, expensive playsets they showcase on television, such as the Technodrome from Ninja Turtles. It couldn't do everything, but it excelled at everything it sought. "Finally," I said to myself, "a developer that understands a well-polished experience". Whenever I read complaints leveled against the game, I was confused and couldn't understand why they weren't having as much fun as I was.

Or perhaps I always could understand, but chose not to. I finally got myself a Playstation 4 recently, and the first game I went and purchased was inFamous: Second Son, prologued by inFamous: First Light. I hungrily devoured the content of both titles, completing them in what felt like record time for me. It's easy to conclude that I greatly enjoyed the experience of both games.

But I couldn't ignore their faults this time. The Technodrome wasn't the perfect toy after all. I could feel myself thinking the many complaints I once dismissed. inFamous: Second Son and all of its predecessors could have been better if they had only made a few adjustments here and there.

How many other games had I turned my blind eye towards, I wonder?

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You'll Never Make It Out Alive
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 April 2015, 10:45 pm

Back when the world was young and Nutting Associates was still trying to figure out how to get people to give them quarters, a game was usually something competitive. Chess, football, Barrel Of Monkeys: These were things called "games" that pitted two sides against each other, which mathematically and empirically designated one side as the winner by the end of the game.

That's because games used to be a metaphor for war. Let's not forget that the first marathon race was a single messenger running twenty six miles with an invading army at his heels. Let's also remember that the winner of that particular race died because of it, which is why I spend Patriot's Day indoors. It's no accident that the Olympic Games largely favor martial skills – the javelin throw, the 100 meter dash, and rhythmic gymnastics all have rich military traditions and clearly defined martial allegories. They all represent how well you can attack, run from or befuddle your enemies on the battlefield.

One can imagine the conversations during a siege at Thebes:

"I say, Sergeant, why is that chap flapping a ribbon at us? And why is he in his underwear?"

"Couldn't say, sir. He seems to be having a jolly good time, though."

"Yes, but ..."

"Javelins incoming! Run!"

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April 13 – April 19
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 April 2015, 10:41 pm

Cesarano is out this week. Let's say he's "on assignment." I mean, maybe not anything I assigned to him, but one feels there must be some compelling reason for him to cross into New Jersey.

I'll just go ahead and assume he would have picked the longest title for this week, because that fits his trend. Looks like that title is The Reject Demon: Toko Chapter 0 — Prelude.

I'd like to take this moment to note that we at GWJ dropped down to spaced en dashes, rather than our previous spaced em dashes, which I was starting to feel were far too extravagant, despite the technically unlimited space that digital publishing allows.

Anyway, Toko is a visual novel. I don't know if Chris is into that genre, but it's adjacent to some genres he does like, so I'm calling my longest-title choice appropriate.

But there's plenty of other interesting stuff out this week. Let’s have a look!

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No Such Agency
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 April 2015, 7:11 am

I've come a long way to be here. I've crawled through vents. I've punched through a few very specific walls. I've attempted to silently incapacitate sentries and, when that failed, murdered the crap out of waves of security guards.

I've even managed to get a man with a machine gun for an arm hung up on some level geometry, allowing me to then repeatedly shoot him in the face with a shotgun until he fell down.

This is it now. This is the payoff. Every choice I've made, every path I've taken, every NPC I talked to, it's all led to this moment.

Now I see the message. "Push the button on the right for an ending that's marginally different from the ending you get by pushing the button on the left."


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Asking Legacy of the Void Out to the Prom
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 April 2015, 3:49 pm

Recently I was a presenter at a professional conference, which has become – in a way I don’t fully understand – an increasingly fundamental part of my day-to-day job.

The fear of public speaking is called glossophobia. If Wikipedia is to be remotely believed, it is a condition suffered to varying degrees of severity by as much as 75% of the population. As I sit alone, getting ready to spend the next 45 minutes on my own in front of a room full of suits and lanyards, telling them why they probably thought they were pretty good at creating and marketing content and also why they were almost definitely wrong, it occurs to me that the vast majority of people in my situation would probably be ready to vomit out of their crushing anxiety. I, instead, just feel kind of hungry – looking forward to leaving the microphone and heading to lunch.

As the conference moderator introduces me, I take a calm sip of water from my glass, stand, and step behind the podium. As I pick up the clicker to advance through my slides, which are now projected up on a screen three times larger than me, it again strikes me that my hand is steady and smooth in its motion to pick up the tiny object. "There should be tremors," I think. There aren’t.

I settle into position as a few dozen people – every single one with postgraduate degrees – wind down their polite applause and look up expectantly. I take a breath and plunge headlong into my presentation. Almost instantly, I am in cruising gear. The next hour sails past as I connect dot after logical dot in my talk and draw what feels like just the right conclusions at just the right times. I field some interesting questions, get a few laughs, and conclude. It couldn’t have gone a whole lot better.

Coming out of the conference, I'm feeling pretty damn cool about myself and my level of confidence in challenging situations. So why the hell is it that just a few weeks later, my hand trembles as I first click the “find match” button to play some anonymous opponent in the StarCraft 2: Legacy Of The Void beta?

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Too Hard; Didn't Play: Bloodborne
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 April 2015, 6:27 am

Sponsored By: My own flesh and blood

Time Played: Probably 2 hours. Three if you count load screens.

White Cell Review

I understand now.

When I played Dark Souls, I thought I understood, but it was as a child who thinks he understands the world. I was cocky. The first hour of combat in Dark Souls provided little real challenge beyond figuring out how the Xbox 360 controller worked with the game. Provided I didn't try to counter, which seemed to me a mechanic broken by the PC port, Dark Souls was a matter of hiding behind a shield and waiting for an opening.

"Oh yeah?" Bloodborne said. Try it without the shield.

I am undone. This game is the Peace Corps; the toughest game I'll ever love.

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April 6 - April 12
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 April 2015, 7:21 am

Did someone get the license of that truck? It was filled with all the big budget, highly marketed releases of the season. It was coming in so fast and so loud, striking like a demon free from Hell for the first time in millennia, that now the road is empty and quiet save for this rusted over Ford Ranger hobbling along, with lower-budget indie games that I'd otherwise never hear of sliding around in the truck bed. Is that a dead raccoon in the back?

… Are we sure it's dead?

The only game I can claim to be worthy of my attention this week is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a rerelease on a handheld that I don't even have yet of a game that I'm still playing on the Wii. What can I say? It was actually my favorite execution of a call to adventure in JRPG's recently, it looks gorgeous even without the HD treatment, and it's a lot of fun. So my pick goes to ol' reliable.

What do the rest of the staffers think?

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Uriel's Chasm
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 April 2015, 6:11 am

Time Played: 33 minutes

Sponsored By: Lake23

Genesis Review

A game that is pretending to be a bad port of a Bible game for the Sega Genesis isn't nearly as bad as it thinks it is. I don't know if that counts as more fail or less.

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RevieWii-Uing the Situation
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 March 2015, 9:58 am

I haven't bought a new console since 2007.

Back in 2007, I could see an ad announcing a $100 price drop for a PS3, blithely assume that it would be backwards compatible, run out and impulse-buy the dern thing that day – even in a non-pay week. Then I could gnash my teeth and wait for games to come out. Oh, "everybody knows" the consoles time their big releases for November? Over here, "Black Friday" is the anniversary of some things burning down. I remember the Games Drought of 2007 and how it led to the Succession of Poor Gaming Purchases of 2008, and the Surprisingly Low Trade-In Prices of 2009.

Good times. I won't even talk about the Second PS3 Purchase of 2012, because I regard that as replacing some failing parts in my old PS3 and putting it in a slimmer box.

So, early adoption didn't work so good for me last time, and I didn't upgrade in 2013. I swore to hold off until prices dropped and there were enough good games out. Besides, I still had so many PS3 games to play.

I've noticed recently that prices are dropping into the realm of "Hazza's Stag Party" (regrettable but affordable, as long as it's a one-off), there's a few games to choose from, and I'm running out of PS3 games. Like the fan whose toe was squashed by Prince's original support band's tour bus, I can feel the time pressing near.

As a PS3 owner, I just assumed that when the time came to upgrade, I would get a PS4. But my impulse-purchasing days are over. I've got a wife and two credit cards kids to support. Now I have to think before I buy. This ... "thinking" has provided room to question my assumption. Into this room, doubts and even perhaps a modicum of product research have crept.

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March 30 - April 5
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 March 2015, 6:32 am

Spring is in the air, and so is another inch of snow for those of us on the east coast of the United States. We don’t sweat it, though. It’s just that whole lion/lamb thing you read about.

If this week’s release list had happened a mere month ago, you’d be reading about Project: CARS right now, followed by typing in a comment to the effect of how Axiom Verge was robbed, but this is the New Week Crew you’re dealing with! We live to bounce your expectations around a bit, but we’re not heartless: You’ll still get to say Axiom Verge was robbed.

First, though, let’s play a little Truth Or Dare. I choose truth, because any dare I take that’s videogame-related is bound to disappoint.

My dirtiest nerd-secret is that I don't like Star Wars. I find the storytelling to be incoherent after the original 1977 release and the technology appears to be following some kind of backwards Moore's law where everything gets crappier every year. Also, the existence of midichlorians means the rebels are just fighting to replace a divine-blood monarchy with a divine-blood oligarchy, and at that point it just becomes about what color the people blowing up planet-sized objects full of people are wearing.

My second dirtiest secret is that I like Star Wars games, because who wouldn't love to be a space-wizard?

Son of Nor, then, gets my Game of the Week nod. It offers all of the fun of being a Jedi without any of the messy philosophical questions like "Ok, Yoda. Up, your mind make. Is fear a bad thing or a good thing?"

What else we got, crew?

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Insecticide
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 March 2015, 6:17 am

Sponsored By: Mantid (I GET IT!)

Time Played: 89 Minutes

Fruit Fly review

Like L.A. Noire, but fun.

Cockroach review

One of the awesome things about this community is that I get to be surprised by games again. I have a stack of games in my Steam library that were generous gifts from you lot, many of which weren't a blip on my radar until they showed up in a little green envelope. I get to be surprised by the gift and then I get to be surprised by the game. It's a two-fer!

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Bait Expectations
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 March 2015, 6:18 am

I've written a lot about how, as consumers, it's important to manage our expectations in order to avoid disappointment: You buy a game expecting it to have flaws, and you will yourself to have a good time with it. You'd be surprised how often that works.

What about the other side of the coin, though? Expectations aren't formed in a vacuum. Expectations, rather, are a combination of two things: preconceptions and communications. Each party has control over only one of those factors.

As customers, we have experiences which color how we view the world. Everything we've seen, everything we've heard, everything we've done affects who we are in this moment. Also this moment.

Yep. This one too.

Yes, I'm very clever. Yes, it's working out quite well for me.

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GWJ Conference Call Episode 441
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 March 2015, 12:08 am

Episode 441 - March 25th, 2015
Captain Forever Remix, Battlefield Hardline, Cities: Skylines Mods, Majora's Mask 3DS, Dean Tate on Indie Developin', Your Emails and More!

Right Click Here and 'Save As' to Download!
(A Fantastic 46 MBs, 1:20:24)

This week Julian, Cory, Allen and Sean Sands are joined by Captain Forever Remix dev Dean Tate!

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Onto World Two
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 March 2015, 8:17 am

When I was a child, at an age still in the single digits, I had a tendency to restart games from the beginning. I'd play the first world of Super Mario Bros. and then shut the game off. After defeating Bebop and Rocksteady in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, I would power down the Nintendo and go searching for something else to do. I'd go no further than reaching Elfland in Final Fantasy, and I'd leave the rest of the solar system to the monsters from Planet X after completing the Earth level in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters. Each of these scenarios could have happened in a single day, bouncing from game to game only to stop myself when I reached a point that I assumed would be too difficult. The only time I would play further in a game – when I'd try to see it to completion – was when I was playing with my older brother.

I just assumed that I wasn't good enough to play through the entire game. I was just a kid, after all, and some of those early jumps gave me trouble. That first Labyrinth in The Legend of Zelda? Yeah, I could do that one fine. Maybe even the second! Anything after that, however, was best left to older and more experienced players.

Two months ago, I started my first real job. It's not a temporary contract, and it doesn't just have me copy-pasting into text fields and XML documents. It's a salaried job, and one where I'll be expected to put my knowledge of web development to some use. This is it: the real deal. A real job with real pay and real expectations.

All I could think during my first week on the job was how ill prepared I was. I wanted to hit reset and just jump right back to World One.

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March 23 - March 29
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 March 2015, 9:20 pm

A solid-gold pedigree is hard to come by these days. With development teams numbering in the hundreds, it’s become nearly impossible to pin a game on one person (or even one studio) when it comes to the AAA set. After Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, Bloodborne’s Hidetaka Miyazaki has become a person that gamers trust to deliver, despite only having two major games under his belt. I stand with the optimists, Bloodborne is obviously game of the week.

Speaking of trust, how are we feeling about Obsidian these days? Pillars Of Eternity is their first Kickstarter game and it’s set to launch this Thursday. For years Obsidian has been under a great deal of scrutiny for releasing buggy, unfinished titles with a lot of potential, leaving it to numerous fan patches to try and unearth missed opportunities. Publishers' tight schedules were normally pointed to as the lead culprit. Now we have Obsidian’s first Kickstarted game hitting the digital landscape, backed by Paradox Interactive, who are playing a hot hand as publisher after a rousing Cities: Skylines release.

Lots to choose from this week, let’s see where we land.

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Draw a Stickman: EPIC!
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 March 2015, 6:04 am

Time Played: 70 minutes

Sponsored by: Mantid

Basic Box of 16 review

Doodle your way to rescue your best friend in this quirky point-and-click-and-draw adventure. Just be careful where you doodle, because it's really easy to find yourself erased.

Epic box of 96 with the sharpener in the back review

I was quite a good drawer in my youth. My grade-school notebooks were full of concept art for comic-book heroes, or new characters for existing television shows, or logos for contemporary automobile brands. Then, one day, my skills just stopped improving. No matter how much I sketched, doodled or drew, everything came out looking exactly like a high-school student drew it.

I decided to start writing instead. I still write like I wrote in high school, but that was apparently enough to ace the placement exam and exempt me from having taking any English courses in college. The question is whether that's because I'm actually halfway decent at this or because the administrators didn't want to inflict my high PQ (punning quotient) on professors. I leave the answer as an exercise for the reader – be sure to stretch first.

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1000 Hours of Europa Universalis IV
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 March 2015, 2:20 pm

In case you hadn't heard, I like the game Europa Universalis IV. I liked it for the first hour, and I liked it for hour 999.

There are probably other games I've spent this long with, but until Steam came along I've never been able to easily track my length of time with those games like an odometer on a car. And, like getting in the car for that family ride that kicks over 100,000 miles, this video is my victory lap across the 1,000 hour mark.

For this particular campaign I am replaying the first country I ever tried to play in my first game of EUIV: Burgundy. I failed pretty solidly at that first effort, lasting only a couple of hundred years until I switched over to a much more successful England campaign. I've tinkered with revisiting Burgundy a few times, but honestly there's a reason that if you look at a modern map you won't see a country named Burgundy on there anywhere. For being as large and as powerful as it appears to be, it's actually deceptively tricky, and there are plenty of way to irk France, Austria, Castille, England and various collections of organized Germanic countries into just removing you and your lands from the face of the world.

This video begins well after the campaign is started and my position is much more stabilized. And, I saved doing one of my favorite things in EUIV for this broadcast. So, join me, as I invade France.

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Staying Tight. Gaming On.
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2015, 6:33 am

In my imaginary world, the one where I'm as famous as Sean Sands or Julian Murdoch, people come up to me and ask me questions.

"Greg," they don't ask, "How do you do it?"

"I'm sorry," I don't reply. "I wasn't aware it was yours."

"No, not that. I can get a new sandwich. What I mean is how can you keep playing so many games and still enjoy gaming?"

After I thank them for not calling them "awful games," I think about it. I've heard that there is this thing called "gamer burnout," but I've never actually experienced it.

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March 16 - March 22
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 March 2015, 9:10 pm

Yes, yes, "the inmates are running the asylum," etc. Get your jokes out now. But let me say a couple things:

  1. If anyone of our writers here is currently committed to a mental hospital, then I will vouch for them as not dangerously ill so much as wildly eccentric. Dangerous to the status quo, perhaps, but not seriously to themselves or those around them.
  2. In fact, I'd wager that these folks' scatterbrained views and the format they are participating in, could be a very good thing.
  3. I'll also have you know that this team of Week Aheaders has a very particular set of skills. Skills they have acquired over very long lives as gamers. Skills that make me a nightmare for people who crapshoot release lists like this one.

That being said, here's what's coming out this week. Let's see what value our gang can find in there.

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TWA: Changing of the Guard
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 March 2015, 10:44 am

The very first The Week Ahead was published on January 13, 2003. It was the fourth post ever put on GWJ. Shawn wrote it -- this was before there was a Game of the Week -- and there was only one comment. It was from me, probably because this was a full day before we actually had even launched the site. That's how long this series of posts has been going on.

And, it will continue to do so. Just a little different.

I took over TWA from Shawn in early 2006, which means I've been doing this Monday post every week ... most weeks ... a healthy percentage of the weeks for just over nine years. In that time there've been some minor tweaks here and there. We used to list out weekly DVD/Blu-Ray releases. We added the Game of the Week. We changed where we got our information multiple times. But for the most part, it's been myself or Shawn just chiming in on whatever tripped our fancy that week.

Last week's post which included multiple voices and perspectives was a test run for a different style and format from a broader sampling of our writers. Frankly, I liked the results. And so, I'm happily handing over the keys of The Week Ahead to a broader group of our writers to tackle and ostensibly "rob" some number of releases every week.

After nine years there's a part of me that's pretty happy to take a respite. More importantly, I think this format has a broader view of the games coming to market every week, and will provide a more valuable opportunity to get a range of perspectives and ignite conversation. I may chime in from time to time, but I'd really like the new group to put their own stamp on the thing.

So, I for one welcome our new The Week Ahead overlords. And, if they say anything I don't like, I can just use that as inspiration for my regular Thursday column.

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Too Long; Didn't Play: Sid Meier's PIRATES!
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 March 2015, 6:17 am

Sponsored By: OldMud

Time Played: 51 minutes

Arr! Review

A re-released classic gets re-re-released on Steam, and surprise-surprise, it's worth-worth your time-time.

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Cities: Skylines
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 March 2015, 9:48 pm

The real tragedy of this story is how long I waited to save up for the Hydro-Electric Dam.

It wasn’t cheap. We’re talking like 250,000 moneys – or whatever the currency for Cities: Skylines actually is – to stretch this dam across a busily flowing river, but it felt like a sound investment in what looked like my best new renewable energy resource. In one single push, I could replace a couple dozen basic and advanced wind turbines. I stretched the massive structure across the deep and swiftly flowing river, and plopped it into place.

I’m a veteran of countless city-builders, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that a dam is just some fancy building you stretch across the tiles pretending to be water. There’s no consequence to that action, of course. It’s more like being a politician than an engineer or effective city planner: You just point at some scenic stretch of water and call a massive dam into existence through sheer force of will. How it actually works is something for the boys down in the labs to figure out.

At first the water spilled over the road on top of my dam, as the powerful flow surged into the sudden and unexpected impediment – a cool, but I assume purely cosmetic touch. Besides, this part of my city sat along a bluff overlooking the now dammed river; I had no concerns. I went back to busying myself with the task of creating angry snarls of traffic and oddly meandering stretches of train tracks. It’s at this point that I should point out that, among the many things that makes Cities: Skylines different and better than any other city builder, is that it actively simulates the water physics of its rivers, lakes and seas.

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GWJ Conference Call Episode 439
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2015, 1:10 am

Episode 439 - March 11th, 2015
Live From PAX East 2015! Dreadnought, Overwatch, Enter The Gungeon, Games & Stress, Live Questions From the Audience and More!

Right Click Here and 'Save As' to Download!
(A Heroic 42.8 MBs, 1:14:42)

This week's show is live from PAX East! We had some audio snafus and had to resort to a backup recording that isn't awesome, but still gets it across. Sorry about that!

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High Fidelity
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 March 2015, 2:17 pm

It's funny where people draw lines. A person watching a film about giant alien spiders might get hung up on inaccurate portrayals of the ballistic properties of various firearms. A person who is perfectly at home with the notion of Egyptian mummies walking the earth might grind his teeth about how scarab beetles aren't carnivorous (they are, in fact, scavengers, eating carrion or decaying plants). Another person watching a movie about dinosaurs resurrected from extinction might spend hours ranting about how Unix isn't a magic word that makes the lights turn back on.

Those people all might or might not be the same person, and they might or might not be the author of what you're reading right now.

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