Portal in Flash

Most every gamer knows about the Valve game, Portal, but not many have seen the flash version of the game. While a very simplified version of its PC muse, Portal: The Flash Version actually attempts the same physics in a side-scroller. It was created by some valve fans around the same time Portal was launched. The game was nominated for a 2008 Zeeby casual game award, but failed to bring in the award.

The physics and portal technology achieved in the game should be applauded for the difficulty in execution in a flash game, but the gameplay leaves something to be desired. Continue reading

New World of Warcraft Armory Achievements are Stalkeriffic

The Armory, the public page of World of Warcraft characters, recently updated to include the new achievements that went live with the expansion.

While there’s no personal information on the page, the new achievement let you track what someone’s online activity with a pretty reasonable precision. For example, let’s take a look at the updated page of Supernovan, aka Kevin Werbach, co-leader of the FCC review team, since he’s the only public figure whose WoW character I happen to know.

Werbach logged in on 11/23 to pick up that baby bear that Blizzard was giving away. That’s the first day the bear was available, so he’s clearly still keeping abreast of WoW news.

He doesn’t seem to be doing much these days with his character, probably since he’s busy with his new responsibilities. He did log on for a run at the Headless Horseman during the Halloween event, but since he’s missing the easier seasonal achievements like getting a paper mask, he probably was just on and off real quick.

If you look at his “Feats of Strength” awards, though, you can see he has the Senior Sergeant rank from the now-obsolete PVP system from before 2007. That’s no small feat, since even earning your way up the lower ranks of the old system made you grind out hours of play over a minimum of several weeks. Dude was a fiend!

Also, he’s got Mr. Pinchy! At a 1 in 500 chance to fish up from an already uncommon school of fish, he’s either really lucky or he’s got an astounding resistance to tedium.

That’s just an example. So, should you be worried about someone following your Armory page? Or in local-news-ese, ARE YOUR CHILDREN IN DANGER FROM CYBERSTALKERS IN VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES?

Probably not. This stuff is pretty tame, even if it’s a little weird to know that strangers can tell when you’re logging on and how you’re spending your time.

Plus, if MySpace and Facebook prove anything, it’s that people will already share reams of embarrassing information about themselves to Internet strangers with no incentive other than the possibility that someone might pay attention to them. Someone looking at your virtual pet count is probably not as important as your boss looking up photos of that bender you were at over the weekend.

You might want to take those down, by the way.

Kwanzoo Blog Carnival: Turns Out It’s Man

Taking the top spot this month, Paul writes a lengthy essay on why TV networks keep shooting themselves in the foot by prematurely cancelling good shows.

Ozone submits a Q and A session with the winner of the World Series of Poker 2008, Peter Eastgate. This one is a little outside of our usual subjects, but it’s an interesting look at the game, and hey, it’s televised, so…

Tony Huynh writes a solid list of the top games in each genre. He even sacks up and gives the first Halo its due, which a lot of the more snobbish people who make these lists are not always willing to do.

Eclipse writes in with “The Problems with MMORPGS: Part II,” holds up Xenogears as a good game. Jeremy Parish feels a vague sense of unease, but soon returns to what he was doing.

Mac submits a celebrity roundup. Skunk Anansie is reforming, apparently.

Vaprak submits the top 10 Star Wars quotes. I’m going to have to take extreme issue with the fact that four of these are from the prequels.

Naomi writes from England with Danial Craig meeting Princes William and Harry for the Bond premiere. Presumably the multiplicative effect had girls swooning a block away.

The site Quest For The One submits a short but unfavorable review of Zack & Miri Make a Porno.

Satellite TV Guru writes a brief rundown on the drama surrounding the final season of Scrubs.

Strange Game Design Decisions Throughout History: The Vita-Chamber

If you’ve played Bioshock, you’re probably familiar with the vita-chamber. The first time you keel over dead in the underwater dystopia of Rapture, you’re instantly resurrected in said chamber with all your inventory and half a bar of health.

It’s a little bit different from a continue in other games. Instead of starting over from a checkpoint, you burst forth on whatever enemy just killed you, probably still hurting from the fight. If this surprised adversary manages to put you down again, you’ll just come back again as many times as it takes.

We’re well past the 8-bit days of getting X number of lives in a game before you have to start over from the beginning, but this is pretty drastic. In fact, many players took the unusual step of purposefully making the game more difficult for themselves by manually reloading from the last checkpoint whenever they were resurrected.

Why distaste for the vita-chambers? There’s a theory of gaming out there that the experience of “fun” comes from failure, allowing the player to learn in a safe environment without having to face real-world consequences. I’m not sure that’s the whole story, but it would explain why the vita-chambers feel so cheap.

The vita-chamber removes the failure, allowing you to overwhelm obstacles by simply piling them under your various dead bodies. It robs you of a sense of accomplishment when you do overcome whatever obstacle it is that killed you the first time. There’s no telling if you actually learned anything the second or third time around, because you started at a drastic advantage when you got a free half-bar of health and your opponent got nothing.

I get the sense there was some kind of additional penalty for using the chambers at some point; perhaps some kind of limited number of uses before you had to go back to a reload. Little Big Planet uses this sort of recharging pool of lives. The chambers are actually a plot point, so they were clearly part of the core design. They might have been unlimited use from the initial conception on, but I kind of doubt it.

I’m hoping to get Ken Levine in here some day for an interview, and if I do, I want to ask him what the thought process behind the vita-chambers was. In the meantime, 2K Boston saw fit to patch a hard mode into the game that turns off the infinite clone tanks if you so choose.

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Video Game Voice Actor Shot in Mumbai, Is Recovering

I’m going to assume by now you’ve read all about what happened in Mumbai this week. If not, you should probably get to reading before you go browsing entertainment blogs like this one.

Anyway, Canadian voice actor Michael Rudder, who lent his talents to games such Ubisoft games as Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, was among the hundreds wounded in the attacks, having taken three bullets, according to the CBC.

Rudder’s agent sent this along to canada.com:

“We just got news from a consular person who had gone to the hospital and the report is that Michael is doing well. We’re so grateful. He was shot in three places, the intestine, the arm and the leg. He’s currently sleeping. He was, however, up and talking. And his blood pressure is stabilizing.”

Rudder was reportedly in India on a trip with a U.S.-based yoga meditation group. A meditation enthusiast, he apparently yogas against cancer.

Rudder played the Dark Prince in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and did voicework for Splinter Cell, though IMDB doesn’t list his part. As the gaming blogs have pointed out, it’s a grim coincidence that someone who worked on a game about terrorism was subsequently shot by terrorists.