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Gabe / 9 minutes ago

I Went To A Party!

Today’s comic is once again a true story. I picked up the first book in the Dresden Files series for a little trip I took down to L.A. this week. I picked it up because Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Kurtz both recommended it at a dinner we had back in Boston. I had avoided the series because it sounded sort of silly but Goddamnit this is a fun book!

Anyway the reason I’m down here is because I was invited to a Microsoft Surface party. It was a party of maybe a hundred people or so comprising what MS called their biggest Surface fans. It was a really cool little get together and honestly seemed like an opportunity for them just to say thank you to a lot of the folks who have supported Surface over the years.

It was a really fun party but two things stood out to me as being especially cool. The first was meeting Jason Wishnov the designer of There Came An Echo. I don’t do well at parties and I can’t mingle for shit but Jason seemed to be in a similar situation. Jason and I talked about games and how awkward we both felt. Later in the evening after we had all had a few drinks I saw him doing what can only be described as “dirty dancing”. Needless to say, I was quite impressed.

The best thing about the night though was the musical guest. The Surface folks do an amazing job of reaching out and working with artists in all sorts of fields. One of them is a musician named Allen Stone who I had never heard of but holy shit this guy and his band were incredible. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to play an event like the one last night. You had a room full of executives, doctors, engineers, and just general purpose nerds. Allen busted right through all the awkwardness in the room and managed to get people singing and dancing together. I may not have been a fan before but I’m a fan now. If you have some time today check out his music, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I’d like to thank the Surface folks for inviting me. I was able to bring my wife Kara and both of us had a great time. I genuinely love my Surface, and I can honestly say it has changed the way I work. What I’ve been most impressed by over the years with the device though is the willingness of the Surface team to listen to feedback. I’ve spent hours at MS talking with the engineers about drawing on the device and how it feels. They want to hear what I like but more than anything they honestly want to hear what I don’t like. They have showed up at the Penny Arcade office with Surface machines running crazy experimental versions of drivers just to see what I thought of drawing performance. They have actually fixed issues I had with the device and continue to make it better. If last night was an opportunity for them to thank me for my passion, Then I’ll go ahead and take this opportunity to thank them for theirs.

-Gabe out

Gabe / 16 hours ago

You Died!

I think Bloodborne is one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’m on a little trip right now and away from my PS4 which means I’m not exploring Old Yarnahm. I’ve never played any of the previous Souls games that preceded Bloodborne, so I decided to remedy that today. I grabbed Dark Souls 2 on Steam, plugged in a controller and started dying over and over again.

So much of what I love about Bloodborne is present here as well. It’s also hard as fuck. I just played for about two hours and then lost all my souls when I fell off a tree in some fortress I’m sure I’ll never be able to find again. So that feels about right I’d say.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 2 days ago

Helldivers was such a cool surprise.  We didn’t really know about it before it came out a couple days before PAX East, on pretty much every type of Playstation there is.  On the earlier difficulties - the difficulty I crave, the difficulty that consistently reinforces my own godhood - there are periods where you’re just waiting for a timer to tick down, and you may be sort of checking your watch, like, okay.  I guess this is what I’m doing now.  But those spaces completely evaporate on harder levels, and you will long for those Good Times, times when you had nothing going on and were not being sliced into useful parts in the manner of a stolen Maserati.

Oh!  And just because you beat the level, that doesn’t mean you can stand anywhere you want.  You learn this one very quickly.

It’s from Arrowhead, which you may also know as the Magicka people or even as the Gauntlet people.  It’s basically Starship Troopers, the funny movie one, with a metagame that incorporates everyone’s play.  But it also makes some decisions that are oblique to the norm that really give the game its spine.  Twin Stick shooters in multiplayer can tend to feel a little mushy because there’s no friendly fire - they feel less real.  That doesn’t happen here: even automated friendly turrets will cut down your whole team if you don’t hit the deck.  So when somebody opens up the squad automatic weapon right over your prone body, cleansing a world with fire, it feels pretty fuckin’ real.

It does another thing I didn’t like at first: you can make requests of the carrier in orbit, defensive emplacements, drones, weapons, ammunition, that kind of stuff.  You do this by inputting a code similar to those of the Konami variety.  This twist didn’t feel especially necessary to me and felt like they were gilding the lily, or ungilding it, like maybe taking the gild off.  Whichever one is worse.  But that was because I learned to do it in an environment where managing this input was trivial.  It was like having a combination lock on your zipper.  I’m just trying to get in here, guys.  It felt very, very nominal.  It’s the sorta thing I gotta do all the time, in every game, and at first it felt like the most rote fucking don’t forget, you’re playing a videogame! type shit.

But when you are being one hundred percent encroached on by cyborgs, or the warrior caste of some kinda space insect, that “nominal” interaction you need to get more bullets because you are out of bullets is a very different story.  They extruded a very specific state of mind from people with that bit of design, the madness of a man in a trench screaming into a radio which may or may not work.


Monday Sketchdump!

I’m about to get on another plane in a few hours but I wanted to get my Sketchdump posted real quick before I leave. Here’s some stuff I was working on last week:

-Gabe out


I picked up Bloodborne expecting not to like it. I’ve never played any of the Souls games and from what I’d heard, Bloodborne was the same sort of game. As I understood it, these were brutally hard games that seemed to generate equal amounts of frustration and joy. I’m not an especially skilled gamer and I don’t tend to play very difficult games. I get frustrated easy and I’m usually the first to read a game F.A.Q. when I get stuck. I just sort of assumed Bloodborne was not for me. Boy was I ever wrong.

Today’s comic is 100% accurate. I “quit” Bloodborne a bunch of times but I always ended up coming back to it. Every time I died (and I died a lot) I had the feeling that I could go back and do it better. It’s true that I was ridiculously frustrated and there were times when I had to keep clearing the same area over and over again that I wondered why I was doing this. I remember early on thinking that it must be impossible to fight more than one guy at a time. I avoided the big bad guys entirely. The starting zone was incredibly hard but I kept going back to it over and over again. Eventually I got through it, and it wasn’t because my gear got better, it was because I got better. That’s an incredible feeling.

Playing Bloodborne is sort of like free-diving. I think of the lanterns as diving bells on the”surface”. Each time you venture out into the world you’re sort of holding your breath and diving into an incredibly deadly place. You go a little further each time as you start to familiarize yourself with the area and its dangers. When you are deep into an area, far away from your lantern and carrying a bunch of loot, you feel the weight of the world around you. The thing about Bloodborne is that any jackass can kill you. If you’re not paying attention the dude at the beginning of starting zone can cut you down. Sometimes just getting back to the lantern can feel like an incredible accomplishment. Like breaking through the surface of the water and finally getting a breath. That’s a great feeling but the real thrill is pushing yourself further. When you keep pushing and you go past where you stopped before and then find yourself up against a boss. When you decide to commit to that fight and you beat them and find a new lantern, it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in a game before.

Last night Tycho and I were in a voice chat while we each played Bloodborne. We were not playing together, just talking while we each played our own game. We were sharing tips and I was helping him find a secret area I had discovered. It was awesome and I can’t remember the last time something like that happened. My guess is that no one “sort of likes” Bloodborne. I think you either hate it, or (like me) become completely obsessed with it.

-Gabe out

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