2020 Wrap Up, and Future Plans For Gametrodon

As we approach the end of the year, it seems like a good time to look back at what Gametrodon has been so far, and give a few thoughts on its future.

I don’t think 2020 has turned out to be anything like what any of us were expecting. When I started this blog, it was after returning from my first planned convention visit of the year, PAX East, which would end up being my only convention of the year, and one of the very few conventions to not be canceled.

Both of my reasons for starting Gametrodon were related to PAX, and the current culture of how gaming news gets processed.

Reason 1 is pretty simple: I want a press pass. I’m tired of paying full price to attend a convention, wait in line, go to the expo floor, only to be told “Oh, press booth only” and then watch as not a single god damn soul walks by that area for twenty minutes. Like, for fucks sake. Let me use that computer. Let me see your game. As long as this culture of the “Content Creator” continues to favor anyone who can shit out a 10 minute video of themselves making faces at the camera interspersed with still frames, I intend to ride its coattails as far as I feasibly can. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Reason 2 is also pretty simple: Finding cool games to play has become far too difficult, and I want to help try to solve that. Where I once learned about new games from my friends, these days they seem to just be talking about games I already know.

While this runs the risk of me becoming the gaming equivalent of the friend who won’t drink white wine with fish, and thinks that “Electro swing was better before it got popular,” that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

So, if these were the two aims of Gametrodon, how did we do on them in 2020?

In terms of the whole “Cosplaying as a game journalist” thing, I think I did pretty well. I interviewed Max from Resonym on the costs of Kickstarter, and we talked to Jeremy Choo from Ammobox about how their publisher tried to steal their game. I played the shit out of the demos from PAX East, and found a few things worth keeping an eye on.

That part went great! Let’s talk about the other part: Serving as a source of finding neat, undiscovered stuff that might not show up in other channels.

This one I think I can do better on. Let me explain why.

Right now, Gametrodon is set up like a traditional blog. This is great for my rambling rants on various games, but not great for discovery. I’ve also noticed a few other things about how I write my articles that I want to try to change.

The main problem is that the blog doesn’t necessarily structure itself in a way that leads to discovery of the neat things I found. It’s also much harder and takes longer for me to write about games I like, rather than ones I dislike.

As an example, the Didn’t Make The Cut articles require me to play each game for about an hour. After an hour of any specific thing, I feel like I know if I want to play more. Longer form articles about game I actually enjoy lead to me either wanting to complete the game before evaluating it, or “win” based on the structure of the game.

My plan in the short term to try to deal with this is to switch over to writing three types of articles:

  1. Games I play and like. These get their own full article with nice glossy screenshots, and me ranting about their systems, links to their Steam pages, tweets, parades, public executions. The full nine yards. I think I may have switched events somewhere in that, but whatever.
    Ed Thought: Why is the phrase the full 9 yards, when it’s 10 yards for a first down?
    Ed Note: Okay, so after looking up the phrase, it looks like it has nothing to do with American Football. The more you know.
  2. Games I play and don’t like. No more full articles doing what Vonnegut once called “Putting on full armor to attack a fudge Sundae.” instead I’m gonna try to switch over to a maximum of one “Didn’t Make The Cut” per week, with everything I’ve played and dropped since the last week. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean its bad, but it also means I’d rather spend that time on things I like. I’m gonna try to put these up on Mondays.
  3. Weekly Wrap-ups/What we’re playing. These are gonna consist of the most traditional bloggy sorts of posts, in which I’ll write about whatever I please. This will most likely be whatever I’ve been playing, what my friends have been playing, and what we’re planning to play. These will go up on Fridays.

I don’t think that this will be enough on it’s own, so I’m still brainstorming some ways to make it easier to find the links to the games I do like, and do recommend, like a “Random Good Game” button or something, but that will be coming in the future.

So yeah. That’s the plan for 2020. To all of the friends who I roped into writing articles, thanks for contributing. And to all my reader, here’s to hoping that when I write this article next year, I can confidently write that as readers.

Who knows, by the end of 2021, I may even have as many as three people who read this garbage.

Poor One Out – 2020 Edition

I was browsing through my Steam library today trying to find a game to play with a parent, when something caught my eye. It was a notice that a game was closing down. So I’ve decided to collect a few games that didn’t make it through the year, and just note them here.

I also want to stress that to anyone reading this in the future, I don’t want you to think that I somehow believe the loss of these games is equivalent or comparable to the loss of human life involved in 2020. Frankly, I was debating even putting this post up. But anyway…

MisBits

After releasing earlier this year, and after I played it at PAX East, Misbits shut down on August 14th. The final dev posts note that it never hit the population needed to sustain it, and as such, it had to be removed. Still, it’s sad to see how quickly some projects close down.

Duelyst

It was fun, interesting, and different. And it survived a few years. Ironically, both Duelyst and Gigantic, games that Penny Arcade seemed to like a bunch both are dead at this point. I’d say it’s a shame. Duelyst was different.

I’m sure there are other things that ended this year, but I haven’t found any that I played or cared about a ton. In any case, it’s a bitter reminder that all live-service games will eventually shut down, and if game doesn’t support player-hosted servers, the game most likely with never be seen again.

Happy 2020.


Didn’t Make The Cut – 12.25.2020

I spent part of this weekend in what I have come to think of as a public service, pruning and hacking my way through through the massive glut of games that is itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. While some might devote this time of year to giving to the needy, feeding the hungry, and other such charitable pursuits, I stayed home and played video games.

Phrased like that, it seems slightly less heroic doesn’t it? Hmm. In any case, here are 3 of the things I played this weekend, and links to the incredibly high quality stream in which I played them. These are all games that didn’t grab me enough for me to really want to continue playing them past around an hour, and I also don’t have enough to say about them to write a full article. So here we gooooo.

Catlateral Damage

In Catlateral Damage, you are a cat, and you must destroy as much stuff as possible within the time limit. You can jump, and you can bat things left and right. And that’s it. That’s the entire game. It’s a cute concept, but it doesn’t feel super well executed. The controls are fairly floaty, and the things you whack around don’t feel like they have much weight to them. Personally, I also really dislike the art. I think these cats are incredibly ugly… and yeah. The game just didn’t feel great, or look good, so I did a single run playthrough and then called it a day for this one. It’s short and chaotic, but I didn’t find it particularly satisfying or fun to play.

From Orbit

If you told me that From Orbit was an early access game, I would believe you. In fact, after writing that sentence, I went and checked to see if it was on Steam, and it is, but it isn’t early access. Where Catlateral Damage has an interesting premise, From Orbit feels like it got to the next stage of making a good game, which was having interesting mechanics. But it kind of falls apart there because then they didn’t really make anymore game. For example, the idea of having your workers being able to shift form based on what you want to use them for is cool! But then it sorta falls apart.

My biggest gripe, though, has to be that you can only have 4 units (5 if you count the spaceship which you can’t actually control), which is strange for a game that bills itself as an RTS. By this standard, playing as Meepo is an RTS.

My other big gripe is that the resources you gather on a given planet are also the resources you use to buy upgrades to improve your dudes, ship, and unlock abilities. So yeah, you could build a auto-miner, if you’re willing to lose 60% of the haul from a planet, or you could just do the whole thing manually. Oh, and the enemies you face are dumb as bricks. (I do like the flashing red outline you get for your units letting you know they’ve pulled agro.)

Everything else I can gripe about with the game is pretty small. The game doesn’t follow standard RTS controls schemes, you can’t queue commands, you can’t make control groups, attempting to select a unit automatically centers the camera on it, even if what you wanted to do was move it where you were looking BEFORE you selected it.

The stream is here, and the itch.io page is here.

Quiet As A Stone

I have a link to the stream of playing Quiet As A Stone here. I say “Playing” but honestly, “interacting with” might be a more accurate summary. My notes for the game have the following:

  • Experimental Photography Simulator
  • Rather Pretty
  • More like playing with actual rocks thana game

Here are some screenshots of Cragthor the Mountain Titan, the only thing I really did in the game before getting bored and quitting it.

Behold his majesty.

I have a few more games I’d like to do writeups for before the end of the year, so keep an eye out for those. One of them might be Depth of Extinction, which is this neat procedural XCOM/FTL style thing.

I’ve linked the names of the games up above, so if one of these looks like your cup of tea, you should go take a look. At the time of writing, I think From Orbit is actually free.

News of the Week

Another week closer to the end of this hellish year, and it’s actually been a pretty interesting one. I’m not really sure where to start with this quick recap, but I suppose Cyberpunk, being one of the biggest releases of the year, is a good enough place.

So yeah, Cyberpunk is finally out, and apparently it’s pretty shit. The two or three people I know who have been playing it have called it “Fine,” which isn’t really what you want to be hearing. Playstation has just straight up pulled it from sale, which is a bit of a “Holy fucking shit” moment, but given that I’ve heard the framerate described as “Less than cinematic,” makes sense. Oh, and in the time I started writing this, Microsoft has now expanded their refund policy for the game. And Best Buy is just letting you return opened copies.

Just in case CD Projekt Red didn’t have enough bad publicity, a re-release of Devotion was going to open on GOG, only for them to bend over backwards to big daddy Xi Jinping. I really love how other articles are calling the game “Controversial” when the only controversy is making a joke about him looking like Winnie the Pooh.

Also in the incredible fight against dangerous things like thought, Twitch has banned the words simp, virgin, and incel. Incredible. It reminds me of when we won WW2 by banning the term Nazi from being printed in newspapers, and saved the free world. I think they’d be better off banning some of the shitfuckers on their site who constantly flout their policies, but whatever.

So what did I do aside from work?

I played a decent amount of Wrath: Aeon of Ruin, and I was planning to do a writeup on that, but it looks like another level might come out next week on the 22nd, so I’m gonna hold off for a bit. Late night existential stream of that is here.

I’ve been too worn out to play more Amazing Cultivation Simulator, but I’m planning to stream some more. Last weekend’s stream of that is here. And I tried Sea of Thieves, but after playing an hour, it really looks like you need multiple people to really play it, so I’m holding out for some more folks to get it.

Until next time.

Super Mario 35

Just go play Super Mario Bros or Super Mario Maker instead.

If you already own a Switch, and already paid for Nintendo Online, you can download Super Mario 35 and play it. Maybe you’ll like it. Personally, I’m not impressed. If you don’t already have both of those things, it isn’t worth getting them for.

When I first set out to write this article, the opening to it was “Super Mario 35 is Fun,” but I’m no longer sure that’s true. What’s true is that Super Mario Bros is fun, and it turns out that if you modify it, it still remains fun.

But this is like putting truck nuts on a Tesla. For some people knowing that they have a pair of balls on their car gives them the strength to forge onward. I’m not sure why? And for some us, it’s like… Sure. Okay. But I’m not convinced I need those there. Or really want them. I don’t need a pair of rubbery dangly nuts.

Super Mario 35 is a weird thing to review for many reasons, one of which is that the game is only going be around for another 3 months or so. You also can’t actually buy it, you can only get it if you have Nintendo’s online membership service. The best thing I can say about Switch Online is that I like being able to visit other peoples’ Animal Crossing islands and outside of that, it’s just about worthless.

So yeah. It’s a time-limited title that you get for “Free” if you spend $20 to subscribe to an online service that makes dial-up look like Google Fiber, and it’s actually mostly just a Battle Royale strapped to a 35 year old game.

Ed Note: I just realized that this is why it’s called Super Mario 35. That might actually be the cleverest thing about this game.

There really isn’t much else to say about the game honestly. It might be worth downloading if you already bought a Nintendo Online switch membership, but like… Super Mario Bros is 35 years old. It’s older than I am. It’s older than most of my friends. In that time, Nintendo made a bunch more Mario games. They’re still making them. Play those instead. Download a ROMhack, or even just get Super Mario Maker 2.

I can usually find something redeeming in pretty much any game I play, but anything redeeming or interesting about Super Mario 35 exists because of Super Mario Bros, not because of this weird… experiment. It’s “Ice Ice Baby“, something built on top of something else that was really good, but every time I hear it, I’d rather be listening to “Under Pressure“.

News of the Week

So, it’s approaching the end of the year. I didn’t really have a post to write last week, just didn’t have anything I felt able to talk about specifically. But, I still like having my streak going, so here’s something.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t found some neat stuff. Amazing Cultivation Simulator is probably one of my favorite games of the year so far, but I just haven’t played enough to really feel like I can do a writeup yet.

Also played some more Among Us, which might be everyone else game of the year, if only because everyone can play it. As someone who was a pretty hard devotee of Project Winter, it’s interesting to see what feels like a much “simpler” game win out in that space.

I did play a little more Unrailed with some folks, so maybe I’ll finally have something interesting to say about it? And I picked up a DCCG called Mythgard, and then put it back down less then an hour later. I don’t need more CCG’s. I already have MTG: Arena, in which I recently did a few drafts that went horrificly badly. Turns out I’m pretty awful at drafting Kaldesh.

In terms of physical games, not really much else to say obviously either. If you’re following the Pokemon CCG at all, you know that the joys of 2020 have made Vivid Voltage Boxes go for like $150 at the moment, so no chance of picking one of those up anytime soon. None of the Kickstarters I’ve backed this year have started shipping yet or anything, and there’s been no news on Sento Fighter.

(Mild Gripe: The fact that Vivid Voltage is over $150 a box is insane, and incredibly stupid. Personally, I blame Rainbow V-Max Pikachu for that, and by extension, Champions Path. The set isn’t worth $160 a box. Because of all the hype around Champions Path, people are thinking these rainbow rares are worth a lot more then they are. It’ll be interesting to see how things settle after a few more sets, given that I think a lot of this price is just speculation.)

So yeah, thats your news of the week. I guess Cyberpunk comes out soon. I hope the people who pre-ordered it liked it. If you want one of the new consoles, you have to sell a kidney, and I already own a PC, so… yeah. Not much to say on that. I’m not paying $1800 for a PS5.

Have a joyful non-denominational winter season in the middle of this unholy hell of a year, unless you’re scalping graphics cards, trading cards, and consoles, in which case, could you not?