Archive for the ‘Kane’ Category

Kickstarter : BLAST!

Posted: December 10, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Interwebs, Kane
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Hey gang! Have a Kickstarter that is almost up that deserves your attention. Go check out Viking Horde! It is already funded and I would hate for you to miss out.

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skylanders box

Since it seems to be getting a BIG holiday push this year, its hard to avoid Skylanders. I have to admit I’ve been curious. I’m a miniature and toy nerd. I like video games. Whats not to like about this? A video game where your toys are on the screen? I recently found a copy of last years model, Skylanders Giants, on clearance at Target (now that the new SwapForce is out) for an insanely low price and decided to give it a go!

In the basic sense, my impression was correct. You put a toy on the Portal (included in the Starter Pack) and your character pops up in the game after a quick loading screen involving their catch phrase. You maneuver through well designed levels with your colorful characters fighting bad-guys with the unique abilities each character has. What I did NOT expect was the amount of depth that very slowly opens up as you make your way through the game.

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First off, your characters gain levels and you can buy them new skills as they level with coins earned in game. Not a new thing, but what makes it so amazing is that these upgrades are saved to the MINIATURE, not just your save game. This means that you can potentially bring YOUR copy of a character with you to a different console entirely. You can also switch characters out on the fly so you are never stuck with the character you started with and can even switch characters if the one you are using is low on health.

Second, the level layout. Their are all sorts of hidden areas and easter-eggs to come across. Many are locked behind gates requiring a character with a specific element to unlock. Others require careful exploration. Now, this does mean that you will NOT have access to every area of the game with just the models that are included with it, but all of these other areas ARE optional. The way things are laid out is simple enough for most kids (rated 10+, but probably safe a little younger) but with enough to keep an adult engaged for a good amount of time as well. I’m still trying to reach goals in the first level that I’m having trouble finding.

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One other thing I thought I would touch on is the quality of the models. I have seen pre-painted miniatures for tabletop gaming with less detailed paint jobs. These are seriously some of the better examples I have seen. They feel a step beyond toy quality for certain. I’ve honestly been debating finding a way to use them for tabletop gaming because they just looks REALLY cool!

I’m not far enough in for a full review by any means, but I thought having an adult perspective may be helpful for those of you thinking about gifting it to your kids or the kid-at-heart on your shopping list. Definitely recommend it to the toy/miniature enthusiasts and for those that appreciate exploration video games and even those that just enjoy interesting uses of technology.

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Lastly, let me just say its a very unique synergy that others have started to cash in on that may be the next step for video games. Free-to-play games that unlock content with a physical product are popping up a lot lately. Skylanders may not be free-to-play, but sometimes you get what you pay for. By no means do I feel that it was a wasted purchase and I would consider it a good buy even at full price.

LEGO : The Video Game Series

Posted: December 5, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Kane, Legos
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LEGO LOGO

LEGO entered the video game world years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that the name has come to be a reliable brand for quality licensed titles. The turning point was LEGO Star Wars by Traveler’s Tales. This game, released in 2005, was not only the best LEGO video game at the time, but arguably one of the best Star Wars video games as well.

LEGO Star Wars

The game supported two players and minimal penalty for “dying”. Your character would lose some Studs (the games currency used to by extra characters and other add-ons) and you would re-spawn. This made it great for not only younger players, but for people who didn’t necessarily play video games very often. The comedic approach also made the whole thing more approachable and accessible in comparison to most “hardcore” gaming titles then or now. The familiar Star Wars trappings did nothing but favors to the whole proceeding. Kids and adults could enjoy interacting with some of their favorite characters in familiar locales told in a comedic fashion with no voice-work, just pantomiming and general grunts. Win all around!

LEGO Star Wars 2

Of course, success, especially in the video game world, always breeds sequels. The followup, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy followed the story of the original movies and refined the formula subtly. No large changes were made, but the formula was still fresh and it still worked. Good thing because it didn’t change through Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Batman and Indiana Jones.

LEGO Batman

One thing that remained consistently entertaining through all of these early titles is the sense of humor. For example, Batman feels like Adam West trying to be Micheal Keaton. The silliness was enough that we had to stop to laugh at the game several times in the first level. You are given special suits for environmental puzzles. Batman makes himself a glide suit. For Robin…magnetic shoes. That look like trash can lids. Yeah. This kind of silly humor is all over the series and makes it very much worth playing through the back catalog.
The first innovation in the series after this point didn’t come until LEGO Indiana Jones 2, the 6th game in the Traveler’s Tales LEGO series. This was the first title to support split screen play. Early games relied on fixed camera and players were forced to stay within a fairly close proximity. The split screen shifts and adapts to the characters position relative to each other on the map and lets the players explore individually while still being able to figure out where they need to go to get back together. This allowed for larger levels and more exploration leading into the Harry Potter games and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Each of these follow ups added a more extensive and interactive hub area where the players could unlock items and select what levels to play next. Harry Potter focused more on exploration, the levels all branching out from a central hub in the middle of Hogwarts school. Pirates of the Caribbean had a dock area with two extensions where there were further puzzles to play with and being a hub for all of the unlock-able characters to play in. Some unlocked characters were even required for some of the hub puzzles!
The next innovation was added in Star Wars III: Clone Wars. It was the first LEGO title to include voice acting in addition to the pantomimic comedy of the early titles. Batman 2 followed and is considered the first fully voiced LEGO title.

LEGO LOTR

Following on that was Lord of the Rings. This one stretches across the whole trilogy and includes voice samples from the movie in addition to the usual pantomiming. You would think that something so very dark in subject would be difficult to make funny, but you would be very, very wrong. The other thing that Lord of the Rings added was a fully realized over-world. You travel all over Middle Earth and interact with towns that have their own puzzles and unique interactions. That is broken up by the more action oriented scenes from the movies in their own scene that then leads you back to the next part of the over-world. This is (according to Wikipedia) the first “open world” game in the series and I would not disagree. This open world has lead into the latest game in the series; Marvel Super Heroes which (I am told) also features a narrator in many parts in addition to the voice-work.

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Once these games get their hooks into you, they stay there! You want desperately to unlock every hidden gem. They become engaging on a level that most “kid oriented” games do not. Noccie and I just recently beat the story mode of Pirates of the Caribbean (review coming soon!) and are still going back to finish of those missing bits we missed. It simply has not gotten old yet. We are also working our way through the first Batman title and first Harry Potter. Highly recommend all of them to anyone who has kids or is in touch with their inner kid. Thoroughly enjoyable and a TON of fun!

Pacific Rim : the video game?

Posted: December 1, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Kane, Video Games
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I am unabashedly a fan of Pacific Rim. Yes, it is basically a live action anime. Yes, its over the top action. The characters, however, fit in that setting and reveled in it without becoming just caricatures with zero humanity. Their was no romantic sub-plot shoehorned into the action. It was it is. Giant robots vs giant monsters with some fun character moments in between the action.

To say I’m surprised I heard nothing of the video game is putting it mildly. I was browsing the PS3 demo section and saw that and thought I read wrong. Pacific Rim. Video game. Downloadable only. Fighting game…? OK. That makes sense. So far so good. Lets download and install the demo. No harm in that right?

The first thing I notice is the launch screen. Yukes. That is a good start! They have made some decent WWE video games. Intro is all still screens with text. No voices to be heard anywhere. VERY low budget, obviously. No access to the campaign. Local multiplayer only for the demo. Par for the course.

Alright, lets fight! Oh, they include a tutorial? How nice. OK…not too difficult. Left attack, right attack, power attack. Hold any of those for a stronger version. Block, alternate attack…all the usual suspects. 2D fighter it would seem, but on a lateral plane. You can move any direction on the ground. No jumping, but that is accurate to the movie.

I played two matches. One as Gipsy Danger (vs. Knifehead) and one as Knifehead (vs. Gipsy Danger). The movement is slow and lumbering, but I expected that. These are MASSIVE beasties and they do have some weight to them. Combat is fairly simplistic, but also tactical due to the deliberate speed. I’ve DEFINITELY played worse fighting games.

For $10, its actually not bad if you are a fan of the movie. Problem is, I’m not sure how much content their is in the base pack. Their appears to have been several characters added on for about $3 each, but its not entirely clear which ones. Then their is the fact that you can buy weapon add-ons and power-ups. Doesn’t look like they can be used in local multiplayer…but what about online? Is it pay to win? That isn’t entirely clear anywhere I look which makes me think that it is. Still, if you are just looking for a simple, fun game and are a BIG fan of the movie, I’d say its worth the $10 for the base game. Even if you ignore the singe player campaign (which I’m seeing in most reviews is pretty boring), the multiplayer is fun enough for a few laughs. Could be a great party game.

That said, it looks like to unlock EVERYTHING, you are looking at nearly $50 and that I can NOT get behind. Caveat emptor.

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I was a pretty big fan of the first Hunger Games movie. I had a few minor issues with it. I wanted more background on the setting. Why did everyone just accept that this was their fate? Why was their no fighting back? Why was this even happening? What we were told in the first movie is that their was a rebellion and after it was quashed, they started having what amounted to child sacrifice to the Capital government. At the time, I wanted more depth for the setting because it WAS well done. The characters were well done and carried the action well.

So, where does this one fit into the formula? First, the games are not just children this time, making things far FAR less horrific. The politics are delved into MUCH more deeply. The characters still carry the action well, but it is less of a focus this time around. This time, it is all about team building.

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Everyone around Katniss begins to realize that she is becoming more and more of a symbol of freedom and defiance. Each in turn starts to find a place at her side supporting the coming uprising. Some characters, such as Effie, who are not necessarily likeable the first time start to realize just how rotten things have become and slowly shift their allegiances.

The plot takes some pretty swift turns. Things never lag and the whole movie flows at a great pace that is never too slow or too fast. Surprises come often enough to keep you intrigued without feeling out of place or just there for shock value.

All in all, highly recommend the movie. Even if you were not necessarily a fan of the first, I would recommend this one as a great near-future sci-fi film. The horrors of the first movie are much less prominent this time around. The aftermath of what happened in the first is still highly emotional, but they don’t dwell on the awful things that happened. This is about the people coming together and realizing that things don’t have to be like this. I can’t wait for the next of the series, which I understand is broken into two parts. Should be a heck of a ride!

Krosmaster : Arena Review

Posted: November 25, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Board games, Kane
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Krosmaster: Arena is a tabletop board/miniature game based in the Dofus/Wakfu universe. It supports 2 to 4 players (3 is doable but might be odd).  The game comes with 8 miniatures and a board as well as piles of counters and chits for damage counting, money counting as well as special items and spell effects.

Any combination of 4 of the characters in the boxed game composes a team. Expansion packs of 4 extra miniatures can also be combined into the mix, though they have different point values (called levels). The only rule of team composition is that you must have 12 levels of characters and no more.

Krosmaster Characters

Once each player/team of two has chosen their fill of 12 levels, the miniatures are deployed onto the spaces marked on the board as the starting zone. The player/team with the highest total Initiative (marked on each character card) moves their models and makes attacks in Initiative order from highest to lowest. Play then goes to the next highest Initiative team. However, before they active their models, they roll (called a Tension roll) two of the special dice included in the game and if two matching symbols are shown, both players lose a “Gallon of Glory” (I think its a miss-translation of Galleon, but we’ll go with it). More on Gallons shortly. If the dice do not match, they may assign the dice to their miniatures, giving them the special ability that the symbol corresponds to. Alternately, they may trade one or both dice in for money (Kama). These Kama may be used to buy Gallons from your opponent OR to buy special items on certain spaces of the board. These can be single use or ongoing buffs depending on how much is spent.

Krosmaster Dice

 

Image from BoardGameGeek.com

The core mechanics are also quite easy. Each attack has symbols and numbers showing range, where they may target, how much damage they do, etc. A basic attack is rolled on a single die and defended by a single die. Any Explosions rolled add damage. Any Shields that are rolled are subtracted. This makes things very swift as most characters have only 10 life or less. Special abilities may change the number of dice rolled. If you are in close combat and want to escape, once again, both players roll a die. Magnet holds, Foot runs. Special abilities add or subtract dice. The rest is up to the player.

Back to the Gallons of Glory, both players start with 6 of these and whoever loses all of theirs first loses. You both lose one when you roll doubles on a Tension roll. If a model is killed, the player responsible takes the targets level in Gallons from the target player. This can lead to a back and forth seesaw match…or a blowout if your key character is taken out early. It all comes down to team building and tactics.

All in all, I find it to be a deceptively deep tactical game. Well worth it even for a more experienced tactical/strategy gamer. Even if you just want some amazingly well produced chibi style miniatures, you will have a hard time finding nicer pre-painted models! Absolutely worth all the attention it has been getting lately.

If you want to take the plunge, they also have a Kickstarter going for the first English expansion that has tiers going all the way up to including the original game. Has some great tutorial videos as well, so if you are curious, check it out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/370924922/krosmaster-arena-anime-miniatures-game-frigost-exp

Krosmaster Frigost

Game Writing

Posted: November 4, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Board games, Kane, Life in a Box, Minatures, Role Playing Games
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I am a bit of an amateur game-writer. I have a series of unfinished tabletop games ranging from board games, skirmishes, wargames to RPGs. I say amateur because none of them have ever been fully finished or published yet. I am hoping to change this soon, but let me just tell you about my process.

First, inspiration hits me from somewhere. This can be a song, movie, video game or another tabletop game. I usually make some mental notes of mechanics I would like to emulate from that source. When I feel like I have a complete idea, I will start writing down the core mechanics. After this point things start to fall apart.

My next step is trying to get friends and family to test it. This generally involves weeks of pestering to get a single play session done. Take notes and hope for feedback here and don’t get discouraged when their isn’t any. Update the rules as needed. After so many attempts and no further feedback, the game usually stagnates here.

How I have gotten around the stagnation recently is by seeking out another game writer locally who can help focus test the game. This is not always an option and only one that has happened with me recently. The other option is to test by yourself in between those few and far between sessions with your friends and family. Always ask questions of anyone who is playing or even ask yourself.

So then, is everything working as intended? If not, how do I fix that? Then fix it and test again. If something else breaks, tweak it and push it until something else breaks. Once everything is either working as intended and/or breaking where intended, it is ready! That is easier said than done, but game design is a series of iterations (or irritations) rather than one big inspirational leap. Sometimes that does happen, but not to me or anyone I know! I am at the last part on my current board game project, Gate Siege. If you would like more information, find me at Crushed Earth Productions on Facebook. I’d be more than happy to have more play testers since we are in the final stages of design of the core game and have begun discussing what to save for the expansion.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Posted: October 27, 2013 by Noccie in Kane, Life in a Box
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Today is Kane’s birthday! Congratulations, you’ve leveled up!

His accomplishments include:

-Marrying Noccie

-Being a drummer in TWO BANDS AT ONE TIME! (Post Rapture Party and Born Without Blood)

-Knowing an astonishing amount about wrestling, video games and Legos.

– Having an EPIC BEARD!

In celebration we are taking him to the Lego Store. It’s like he won the lottery!

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Asian Taste Test

Posted: October 14, 2013 by Noccie in Food, Kane, Noccie
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We went back to Uwajimaya. Honestly, we don’t live very far away. Now don’t be a creeper and try to stalk us or anything.

Here is our soda taste test.

Ginseng

Noccie: Grass… it takes like grass and smoke. There was definitely a smokey flavor. They may have added some mesquite to get the “ginsing” flavor. My tongue went a little numb. This one I hate.

Kane: It didn’t have much ginseng flavor. It tasted like, weak bitter cream soda.

Chili Oil

Noccie: Smells like red bell peppers. Tastes like drinking a red pepper with sugar. We actually finished it. It was weird. Yummy… weird. I can’t say I didn’t like it but I wasn’t sure of what I thought.  It wasn’t really spicy. We have jalapeno peppers in our fridge spicier.

Kane: The chili oil drink had more ginseng flavor than the ginseng soda. It tasted more like a red pepper coated in sugar. It was slightly spicy but not as much as you would expect.

sodas

We went to a bakery called A Piece of Cake. I was on the hunt for a durien cake. I didn’t find any cake by I found a durien pastry.

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In the past we’ve tried durien pudding and wafers. They weren’t that good. In fact they were down right gross with a flavor rancid onions or gasoline. The pastry was actually really delicious. The paste inside was sweet and savory at the same time. The flavor was still extremely strong, but it didn’t have any of the bitter nasty after taste that we’ve experienced with other durien flavored foods. I think that might be the difference is this used real durien, not durien flavoring. I still have to get a piece of durien cake. Durien, by the way, is a spikey fruit from south east Asia. It looks a lot like jack fruit, but they aren’t related at all. In the photo below you will actually see cut up jack fruit next to whole durien. The sign next to it is from a Singapore Airport.

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In the candy isle we found a real weird Pretz flavor, BBQ eel. They are the giant size Pretz too. That means they are about a foot long and a quarter of an inch thick. The Pocky have tropical flavor right now, we didn’t buy either. I don’t care for eel and don’t really want tropical flavored pocky.

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On our way home we stopped to buy a bubble tea. They are called bubble tea because most people get tapioca balls in their drinks. I think they are yummy and chewy but I don’t like them most of the time. I bought a Taro snow with egg pudding. Taro tastes sweet and like a popcorn flavored jelly bean. My other favorite odd flavors are avocado, milk and honey and chocolate with barley. (“Can you add extra oats please?” – Twilight Sparkle).

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Baku : Cultural Curiosity

Posted: October 10, 2013 by Kane Blaireau in Kane, Minatures, Television, Video Games

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As per usual, I’m following several Kickstarters at once. Current one that really has me excited is Chibi Asian Adventurers by Impact! Miniatures. Check that out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/674003445/chibi-asian-adventurers-miniatures-w-ninjas-and-mo

So, I was digging through each and every mini checking out the 3D renders and full details and finally got down to the last Stretch Goal: Baku. It looked familiar. Something about it sounded familiar so I started doing some reasearch. What I found was interesting to say the least.

First, I looked it up and plopped down to the Wikipedia listing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baku_(spirit). Still looks familiar. Definitely have seen it in traditional art. This has a mention of Bakumon from Digimon which is inspired by the mythical Baku. Which is translated as Tapirmon in the English games. Wait, WHAT?!

Continuing the Wikipedia article, apparently, the Baku was no longer portrayed as a supernatural beast after sometime in 1980 when 2 and 2 became two too many and its a Tapir. Seriously, A TAPIR. From the outside, it looks like an entire culture said “ooooooh, THAT’S what that was” and retconned the whole damn thing. Its still a Baku, but it looks just like a Tapir. Of course, the supernatural aspects are still there, its just no longer presented in the traditional manner.

Funny enough, the Baku also inspired the Pokémon Drowzee and Munna/Musharna. The Tapir resemblance is VERY evident even there.

Funny how culture can shift with our understanding of the natural world!