Tagged: of 2013

A look at GameLuv in 2013

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In 2012 WordPress sent out some stats on GameLuv and it inspired me to dig into how the site fared that year. Maybe I shouldn’t have made it an annual tradition because, like myself, 2013 was one of the worst years for the site.

We had a pitiful total of 9,920 views for the whole year (down from 23,000 in 2012) and the lowest since all the way back in 2008. We averaged 27 views a day, most of which came to the home page. For that I’m grateful, it means there are readers out there who check in with GameLuv on a regular basis.

Our top posts haven’t changed much though. Katy’s open plea to Harmonix to make a Kpop version of Dance Central was second most viewed. My pre-release look at Skylanders still draws hits even though I didn’t have many details to go by. Dana’s retrospective on Sega’s arcade shooter, The Ocean Hunter remains a top post once again.

I am happy to see that our Number One post is from 2013. My write up about K-Pop Dance Festival for the Wii had 667 views last year. Also in the top ten is the tidbit I dug out of Sony’s PlayStation 4 FAQ revealing that you can stream PS4 audio wirelessly through the controller into a headset. That is still some bitchin’ news!

I don’t know if it drove people away or not but my automated YouTube posts filled up much of GameLuv in 2013. I’m going to disable the plugin and maybe do a weekly round up with links (and fewer embedded video blocks) this year. As video grows to be the dominant medium on the internet it’s likely that GameLuv’s numbers will continue to drop but I’ll do my best to keep the site alive.

Thank you to everyone who found GameLuv in 2013 and everyone reading this somber post. I really hope to turn things around professionally and personally in 2014!

My Top Five of 2013

It was a crap year in my own reality but in gameland I was able to solve some much bigger problems. Herniated disc? Try scavenging enough supplies from zombie hordes to keep a group of survivors together. Diverticulitis? At least you’re not battling yourself to save the daughter you kidnapped from yourself. These are my five favorite games from 2013 that helped me escape, empowered me, confused and delighted me.

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5. Bioshock Infinite (PC)
Thinking back on it now I’m really not all that fond of Bioshock Infinite. It’s gameplay is simplistic, the world is narrow and the majority of its interactions play out like a carnival ride. But in the first few weeks of its release it couldn’t have been more magical. Why are these sky people in the 1900’s singing The Beach Boys? What are these “tears” that open gateways to mid-80’s France? What’s up with Elizabeth’s finger and Booker’s tattoo? I only got more invested as the story unwound and I explored the wondrous setting of Columbia.

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4. The Stanley Parable (PC)
I came to The Stanley Parable pretty late in the year after more and more hype had been piled on it. I knew what was going to happen and went in not expecting much of a reaction but the thing still floored me. It’s genuinely funny, charming and twisted. Jumping through its hoops and defying the unreliable narrator led to some of the most hilarious and inventive conclusions I’ve seen in a game… and about games.

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3. DmC Devil May Cry (PC)
I was never much of a fan of the original Devil May Cry games so I had no investment in this reboot. I appreciated Ninja Theory’s new direction but it wasn’t until I got to playtest the game in July of 2012 that it hooked me. I came out of the focus group grinning and dying to play more. The final product sees Ninja Theory’s most accomplished gameplay yet with intricate and interchangeable combat systems that are used for more than just fighting.

It’s light on the story compared to Enslaved but its style more than makes up for it. Seeing Dante’s reality bastardized as he’s pulled into Limbo never ceases to amaze me and most of the boss stages are unforgettable. Yup, even now I’m reliving them in my mind and — oh gross, that is one ridiculous Succubus!

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2. State of Decay (Xbox 360)
State of Decay isn’t your typical, warmed over zombie slay-athon. Sure, there’s loads of them to kill and lots of ways to do it but what sets this game apart is its emphasis on survival. Like an Animal Crossing from Hell, the game progresses even when you turn it off. You may come back to find your resources dangerously low, survivors infected, a construction project on hold or someone gone missing.

I could only play for a few hours before I’d get overwhelmed by managing everything only to turn it off and stress out wondering what I’d come back to. It was a terrifyingly intense experience and a unique angle on zombie games that I won’t soon forget.

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1. Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360)
Nowhere else in 2013 did I spend so much time, put in so much work or have so much fun as in GTAV. It was nearly 100 hours before I’d finished playing out Michael, Franklin and Trevor’s stories and exploring their world. Then Katy and I went online and found a crew of international friends to screw around with for another 250 hours. Figuring out Rockstar’s strange rules, maximizing our efficiency in missions and Survival maps, and then blowing our earnings on car parts and clothes was infectious fun.

My Bottom Five of 2013

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Yes, everyone’s beloved The Last of Us is on my least favorite list. I didn’t like it, a lot. Like, a whole lot. By the end it was the setting alone that kept me going; the art and environments. Not story, not characters, not the deft tugging of heartstrings. Naughty Dog realized a splendid, post-humanity, “reclaimed” world (albeit a narrow one) but they filled it with all the worst parts of Uncharted and found room to cram in even more garbage.

I wanted to play the game how I imagined Joel would behave but that resulted in countless restarts and endless fits. The tactic that got me through the game, on hard no less, was to simply run as fast as possible from checkpoint to checkpoint. And once I realized Ellie was invisible to the game’s A.I. it really deflated the tension that the cutscenes establish so well.

It was a slog to play through and the payoff was the absolute worst ending I could’ve imagined. I don’t know what I was expecting after the sloppy Uncharted 3 but I won’t be blindly putting my faith in Naughty Dog any more.

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A friend gifted me a copy of Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine over the summer, otherwise I’d have never touched it. The game looked fabulous as it developed over the preceding years but after its final visual redesign I lost interest. Playing the final product turned out to be uninteresting and dull.

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Ridge Racer Driftopia is free to play and, boy, does it show. It’s a retooled version of 2012’s Unbounded and “augmented” with things like daily energy limits, temporary booster packs, and upgrades that cost real money. It’s mildly entertaining when you’re racing but it’s a Ridge Racer in name alone and not worth a single penny.

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I don’t really like touchscreen games but when people were piling on the praise for Ridiculous Fishing I figured I’d see what it was all about when I caught it on sale. Wow, they crammed two types of “endless moving” games in one! In the first you jiggle back and forth to not catch fish on purpose, then jiggle back and forth to catch fish on purpose. In the second you tap on the screen like a spastic baby… thrilling.

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Most despicable of all though; the real tack-on-my-seat surprise was Plants vs Zombies Adventures. The in-app purchase bonanza of Plants vs Zombies 2 got more attention in 2013 but Adventures is 100% a Facebook game. A game that immediately asks you to buy in-game currency and start bugging all your friends to click things for you. I loved the new look and was smitten by the great new soundtrack but I could only grind so far for free before reeling away disgusted. Also, all the characters sound like Crazy Dave and that is NOT ok! Only Crazy Dave talks like that!

 

Of 2013: Favorite Soundtracks of the Year

NOTE: This post best viewed at GameLuv.com as it’s full of embedded music

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I know it sounds weird but… I had a hard time with music last year. Hell, even I don’t know what I mean by that and I’m the one writing it. One thing’s for sure, I am officially over listening to orchestral scores outside of the medium they accompany. Where I once enjoyed listening to scores from the likes of Star Wars and Medal of Honor I have no need for them anymore aside from periodic nostalgia.

I really came to love the challenging and dense remix/mashups from Truxton but none of those were released in 2013. They also aren’t technically from a game even though they incorporate dozens of game tunes that I know and love. Also not from 2013 is Dungeons of Dredmor’s soundtrack by Zath which was basically the soundtrack of my summer.

One legit 2013 soundtrack that brought me back to the game repeatedly was Plants vs Zombies Adventures’. In fact, the music was the only reason to spend more than a cursory fifteen minutes with that atrocious Facebook game. It plays close to the original game’s style but goes in a wonderful jazz-lounge-creep direction of its own. Being a Facebook game it’s impossible to give proper credit but at least there’s this great 9 minute YouTube compilation so you can listen without having to play the game.

This one is a tad disingenuous as it was out in 2012 but hit a few platforms in 2013. Regardless, classic PC composer Chris Huelsbeck returns alongside another classic, the Giana Sisters. The game lets you swap between a cute and dark version of the same level as you use the sisters’ different mechanics to proceed. Likewise, the music seamlessly fades between two versions of the same theme, both of which — all of which — are filled with vintage Huelsbeck guitars and melodies.

I was excited for Star Command from the moment I saw its pixelated Star Trek bridge crew years ago. Making the move from iOS to Android I finally had a chance to play it and found its soundtrack was just as much fun. Marius Masalar’s playful orchestrations that punctuate the frantic battles turned out to be even more fun to listen to.

We Were Set Up – Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No & DJ Shadow

While the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto V wore out their welcome within a week (at which point I turned them off entirely), the collaborative original works by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No, and DJ Shadow have become favorites. Subdued but punchy, playful but dark, it fit the highs and lows of the main game’s trio and their mad world perfectly.

What got the most playtime of all, as you can see in the ridiculous Last.fm chart above, is Eirik Suhrke’s soundtrack to Spelunky. Not only did I play a ton of the game throughout the year, I’d turn on the music seemingly at a moment’s notice. It’s fun, playful and flirts with the sound of the 16-bit era without explicitly sounding chiptuned. It’s atmospheric and catchy and, most importantly of all, holds up after endless repeat plays.

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A couple of honorable mentions go to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s vast soundtrack of remixed and rearranged hits from Sega’s entire catalog. Hearing that Shinobi medley was a treat and seeing Burning Rangers brought back to life was a thrill even if the game itself is a boring kart racer. Also of note are the tracks ‘Hope Prevails’ from State of Decay and ‘Capital Territory – Gran Soren’ from Dragon’s Dogma that would defuse the tension after surviving another night, be it against a town of zombies or a battle with a dragon.

Of 2013: The Games I Played the Most

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  • Grand Theft Auto V/Online (354)
  • Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (98)
  • Dungeons of Dredmor (36)
  • State of Decay (34)
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown (33)

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Wow… so, uhh… I can explain. After the 97 hours I put into Grand Theft Auto V’s single-player game I figured I’d at least check out what GTA Online was all about. It was mostly a mess for the first week as servers imploded, but as things stabilized Katy and I discovered a whole new kind of GTA that we could play together and alone, away from the unwashed masses on public servers.

The game has layers of unexplained options, features and mechanics and discovering them with Katy and our growing cadre of international cohorts drew us back night after night. Around 250 hours later I was finally starting to tire of things when Rockstar rolled out a weekend’s worth of beach themed content and shortly after that, the content creator tools. It was another week of obsession where I couldn’t stop playing, only this time it was brainstorming and plotting out races and stupid deathmatch arenas. It’s been about a decade since an online-only game latched onto my heart and it reminded me of why people love playing Call of Duty or MMO’s.

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Before the GTApocalypse dominated my life I spent nearly 100 hours creeping around Capcom’s peculiar stab at expanding its Western audience in Dragon’s Dogma. The Dark Arisen re-release included all of the game’s questionably priced DLC from 2012 in one cheap package so I had no issues with sleazy marketing. The game lays out tons of odd systems and doesn’t explain much of how they work but isn’t as punishing or plodding as Dark Souls. It’s Dark Souls-lite and I had a blast puzzling out how the world works and exploring its nooks and crannies without the overpowering fear of perma-death.

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My big at-the-office hook was 2011’s Dungeons of Dredmor; a roguelike overflowing with nerd fan service. The constant fear of being perma-killed at any second balanced with the increasing armory of weapons and skills had me wrapt for close to 40 hours. It’s perfect for work as everything is turn-based with simple 2D artwork that promptly minimizes to the desktop. After one epic run that lasted for two weeks I was finally destroyed by Dredmor himself and, well, let’s just assume I beat the game and moved on.

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Similarly roguelike-ish was State of Decay, a zombie survival game where you’re number of “lives” depended on how many people you could keep alive, happy, and well fed. If that weren’t stressful enough, your stock of food, medicine and ammo depletes even while the game is turned off! I would eventually get too stressed to keep playing, shut it down and immediately start panicing about all the things that I wanted to escape. It was immensely effective and it made for a few great, tense weeks with the game.

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I would never have bought XCOM: Enemy Unknown on its own but after I got it as a bonus for pre-ordering Bioshock Infinite I figured I might as well give it a try. Wow, how foolish I’d been to ignore this game. I didn’t realize it before but it fits perfectly with the roguelikes I’d been playing with tense, critical battles that could wipe out my progress with a single misstep. I was hooked and determined to see it through to the end while juggling research, squads, income and global threat levels.