Roll For Pathfinding: How Andromeda Finally Achieves BioWare’s D&D Dream

While it’s mostly known for powerhouse Western RPG franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, it’s easy to forget that Canadian developer BioWare started making games based on the popular tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons. A favorite of VB’s Jeff, Baldur’s Gate and its sequel are still considered the gold standard for D&D-based games, and the acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic pulled its infrastructure from Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars d20 (literally just D&D but with lightsabers).

The appeal of making a video game based on tabletop is clear to anyone who enjoys both hobbies. There’s nothing quite as interesting, exciting, and memorable as a good game of your favorite pen and paper system, but the time, resources, and schedule coordination necessary to make an ongoing campaign happen means that it’s rare you’ll be able to play more than one good, meaty adventure every few years. In this regard, BioWare’s attempts at emulating the expansive glory of a good campaign is admirable. However, I feel like they have never quite hit the nail on the head of a strong D&D game, always being just a little too serious or a little too game-y to make it work. Until now.

Continue reading Roll For Pathfinding: How Andromeda Finally Achieves BioWare’s D&D Dream

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Live Episode: Communities in Gaming

Live at Emerald City Comic Con, Volcano Bakemeat radio discussed communities in gaming, how those communities are shaped, and one very distinct mouse pad.

Thanks again to Emerald City Comic Con for inviting us to their podcasting stage. We had a great time.

Continue reading Live Episode: Communities in Gaming

My Journey and Reactions to Steam Greenlight: A Bold but Flawed Experiment

Steam Greenlight has been around for quite a while now, and in that time it’s been hailed both as a great resource for indie game developers and deeply flawed experiment — more notoriously, the latter. As a big proponent of indie games and the developers behind them, I’ve always been very fond of the idea of Steam Greenlight, and how it gives lesser known and resources limited developers a fair chance at getting their game ideas out there to the market.

Continue reading My Journey and Reactions to Steam Greenlight: A Bold but Flawed Experiment

Nostalgia Goggles

 

SONY DSCNostalgia Goggles are a real thing. There are games that I play now, as a young adult, that as a child seemed so complex, long, and difficult – but now seem simplistic. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time took me a month to finish when I was a kid, and I could play it over and over in pure awe. As an adult? I can blow through it in a day and mostly forget about it until I feel like dipping back into childhood. And then there are the games that remain exactly as you remember them. These, for me, are mostly Nintendo titles.

I’ve mentioned on the show before that I came into mainstream gaming later than most. My experiences playing Nintendo games up until I was in college consisted mainly of whatever my friends had and were willing to share (mainly Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and the occasional level of Legend of Zelda, in which my save file was inevitably deleted before my next visit). This always gave them extra weight when entering my nostalgia catalogue.

The first Nintendo system I can clearly remember playing was the SNES. I was eight years old and in Seattle’s Children’s Hospital recovering from surgery. For a kid, this is an absolutely trippy experience, because you know being in the hospital isn’t a good sign, but everyone around you puts forth such an effort to make everything OK and fun, that it actually kind of is (ignoring the literal crippling pain, of course). The SNES was hooked up to a TV in the room I shared with another child, but due to the nature of what he was recovering from, he didn’t play much. I always got the impression he enjoyed watching me play though (based on the bobbing head as the chiptune music played). At this point in my life, I can’t remember all the games that were available to me, but I know I specifically played Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country.

There is a bizarre experience that happens to me whenever I boot these up again, now on an emulator. I try to look at the games objectively, for what they are to me now – the way I look at most other classic Nintendo games that I don’t have Nostalgia Goggles for. They’re both great games, although they have their buggy or absurdly broken levels (Donkey Kong Country’s minecart level comes to mind). But more than that, whenever I start playing, I get transported back to that hospital room, with its bright colors, friendly staff, and sterilized smell. I hear my parents laughing, asking me how I feel, or even reading a passage out of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (something else I discovered during this visit). I see my kid sister trying out a level and getting frustrated. I feel the soft fur of the beanie-baby frog my best friend brought me, sitting in my lap. Those simultaneous feelings of fear, but love and safety, and unexpected fun, always return to me – and all it takes is remembering the over-world music for Mario.

Dissociating these feelings is impossible. And there are other games that can have just as intense an effect on me. For example,  I also know that, no matter how out-of-date the BASIC programming language is, Learn to Program BASIC will always be the greatest educational game out there, because my dad made it, and brought it to my elementary school to teach me and my classmates how to program our own games.

I legitimately couldn’t tell you if any of the most meaningful games for me are actually any good in a critical sense – but they are a part of me. And I think that, in playing the games that others recommend to us because they somehow impacted their lives, we can learn a little more about the people we care about. The beauty of games is the beauty of any art or storytelling. They get tied into what we’re experiencing, and ultimately into who we are.

Limited Thinking

In this episode, Volcano Bakemeat Radio look at the games that used their limited resources to think outside the box, (and the games that maybe should have have had a few more limits). We also try to imagine how you could make a character-focused RPG with one voice actor and decry a major missed opportunity in Duke Nukem Forever.

Continue reading Limited Thinking

Four Short Days in the Emerald City

As we’ve mentioned a couple times on the podcast and the website, we’ll be hosting a live episode of our podcast at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle (the link has our panel’s date and time. No pressure.) What did we do to get that illustrious Thursday evening slot on the podcasting stage? Here’s the story that been a year (kinda) in the making.

A Year Ago

Last April, Volcano Bakmeat’s hosts all went to Emerald City together. The podcast was still relatively new (we had two episodes and a few articles), but we were excited. Connor stayed up the night before making business cards that we could give out if the podcast came up. Two of us were cosplaying video game characters (Grant as FFVI’s Locke and Connor as Hotline Miami’s Jacket) and one of us was cleverly dressed as a podcast host (alternatively, you could say Jeff decided not to cosplay).

Podcasts weren’t as big at the con last year (the podcasting stage is new this year), but we were still impressed by 95% of the panels we went to and managed to hand out a few cards. After some discussions about a friend who had gotten a press badge for E3, we began to wonder how difficult it would be to get to do something and Emerald City was one of the names that came up. Jump to:

September(ish?)

Sometime (I can’t find the email) in the fall of 2016, exhibitor entries opened for people interested in Emerald City. We worked together to try to figure out an episode idea. Mass Effect was an early contender since we knew that Andromeda would be released sometime in the spring, but we realized it might not be the best episode to do on a tight hour deadline. Instead, we decided that community in the video game world would be a good topic for an event where people who loved games would be coming together. After drafting up a quick episode submission, we sent it in and waited.

January 5

I (Paige) got an email from ECCC panel with the subject line: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR ECCC PANEL. READ EMAIL IN ENTIRETY.” Which should have been a tipoff that maybe we got a panel, but I still had to skim and reskim a little before I saw the part of the email that included the phrase “we are happy to inform you” which was good enough for me. After a little back and forth with the con organizers to figure out some contingencies and figure out how live recording actually works, our panel was figured out.

Like most of our episodes, we posted a doc on Google Drive to brainstorm questions.

Late January

Emerald Comic Con Panels go up. Paige gets irrationally happy about seeing our names on the site.

We also met up to talk about what we wanted to talk about in the episode. We took the doc and tried to figure out how to fit our episode structure into an hour without any of the editing we normally get.

February 15

The day after Valentine’s Day, we reconvened to try a dry run of the episode. After a weirdly long decision making process about who should moderate (d4’s were rolled), we got through introductions all four questions in a little under an hour (with time to spare for the game we want to play at the end).

We also bought stickers with our logo. Much more professional than business cards.

Feb 16-March 1

We’re getting ready for the con in other ways. Cosplays need to be made and hair needs to be dyed. Panels looked through and priorities made. We need to figure out how to actually record our audio to get it to you guys (the con told us the how, but I’ll need to make sure we have the right equipment).

But for the most part, we’re ready. And excited. We’ve got a great episode planned and  it’ll be good to see some of your smiling faces come March 2nd.

Side note: Keep an eye out for us every day of the Con. Current plans are Connor and Jessica will be dressing up as Edd and Marie from Ed, Edd n Eddy. Paige and Grant will be Dipper and Wendy from Gravity Falls Saturday (and Paige might pull out Kimmy Schmidt for Friday). Jeff will be affable every day. If you see any of us, say hi for a super special limited edition Volcano Bakemeat sticker. (Okay, so it’s just a sticker with our logo on it, but I’m pretty sure they’re the only ones in existance).

Bonus: Sequels and Limits

This was some cool audio that related but didn’t quite fit in our main episode. But it made us realize we definitely need to do an episode about sequels and it was too good not to share with you guys.

I guess this also counts as preview on our episode on limits which should come out late Feb/Early March as we switch to a monthly schedule

Bargin Bin: Refunct

Welcome to the Bargain Bin where I buy a game from Steam or GoG with a list price (not a sale price) of under five dollars, and then tell you about it!
I’ll give you:

  • A brief synopsis so you know what the game is,
  • If it works (from a mechanical standpoint),
  • If I was able to put a full hour into it,
  • If I’m happy I own it once I’ve played it,
  • Any closing thoughts or impressions.

If you have a suggestion for other bargain bin games I should look at, feel free to tweet us @sosimplyverygud or email us at sosimplyverygood@gmail.com and I’ll take a look!

Price: $2.99

What is it?

Refunct is a simple parkour/platformer with no storyline, just a leisurely, almost zen point A to point B object cycle.

Continue reading Bargin Bin: Refunct

Have We Met Before? Exploring Replayability in Video Games

In this episode, we discuss replayability in video games. We go into what makes a game replayable, why replayability is important to gamers, the various ways a game can structure its replayability factor, and more!

*Image credit: Game Informer

Continue reading Have We Met Before? Exploring Replayability in Video Games

Fandom Fast Food: What even IS Kingdom Hearts?

This week sees the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue, a game that is somehow not the most ridiculously-titled entry in the popular JRPG franchise. It includes an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, a new movie that examines the events of Kingdom Hearts Unchained X from the perspective of the Foretellers, and Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage – , which is a direct sequel to Birth by Sleep following Aqua’s adventures in the world of Darkness.

....

…okay, sorry, let’s backtrack.

With all the hype surrounding Kingdom Hearts III’s development, a lot of new or lapsed fans are flocking to the franchise, wanting to see what all the fuss was about back when the girl they liked in 9th grade was talking about it. Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts is a franchise that tries as hard as it can to be completely inscrutable, so even people who have played all the games can get lost in its complicated plot.

So you want to get to know Kingdom Hearts? Let me help you out with this handy guide. Just skip to the questions that apply to you!

Continue reading Fandom Fast Food: What even IS Kingdom Hearts?

VB Appetizer: Voice Acting in Video Games

In this Appetizer mini-episode, Connor, Grant, and Paige are joined by Neil Phelps — an independent filmmaker and actor — to discuss the ins and outs of voice acting in video games. What makes for good voice acting, what voice acting has done for the industry, how voice acting can change a game, and examples of some games that got voice acting right/wrong all come into the conversation during this mini-episode.

*Photo credit: Nerd Reactor

Continue reading VB Appetizer: Voice Acting in Video Games

Getting in Character: How NPC Interactions Can Inspire VR Games

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Virtual Reality (VR) games. Specifically how they’re going to develop in the always innovating game industry. With the release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR, we’ve seen a fairly robust catalog of VR games start to come together. Many of them are simple — like playing with objects and physics or watching yourself get attacked by sharks — they’re still quite compelling to most people who play them. So, while they’re carving out their niche in the market, VR games will have to evolve to stay interesting.

There is one key area for VR games to expand upon: non-player character interactions.

Continue reading Getting in Character: How NPC Interactions Can Inspire VR Games

Ready to Switch? Everything We Know About Nintendo’s New Console

January 12, 2017 – Nintendo officially announces their new console, the Nintendo Switch, with full release date, retail price, and a handful of games to expect alongside the system.

    The presentation was classically Nintendo: bizarre. Each presenter had some kind of gimmick –  such as the Lead “Squid Research” Scientist who told us about Splatoon 2 (coming this summer) – and nearly every presenter exited by saying they were going to “switch”, complete with a snap, over to the next person. What I found especially charming was how, despite the unenthused monotone of the English translators, the presenters all seemed genuinely excited to share this new toy with everyone.

    So, what do we officially know about the Switch? Well, honestly, not much more than we got from their teaser video back in October, but now we know, rather than suspect, that we can play Skyrim anywhere. Here’s a breakdown of some other facts:

Continue reading Ready to Switch? Everything We Know About Nintendo’s New Console

Dear Pokemon Sun And Moon

Grant and I finally hopped on the Pokemon Sun and Moon train on Christmas morning. After playing through six of the new Pokemon challenges, I feel like I’m ready to pronounce at least some judgement on what the game does right and wrong. (NOTE: These views do not necessarily reflect VB’s views as a whole. That being said, anyone who disagrees can meet me in the schoolyard, behind the gym at 3pm. Fight. Fight. Fight.)\

Continue reading Dear Pokemon Sun And Moon

Fantasy’s Legacy: How FFXV Is Equal Parts Evolution and Homage

Last night, I finished Final Fantasy XV. There’s been a lot of concern, even on this blog, that the game might not be able to live up to the series’ reputation. I’m happy to say that Final Fantasy XV is simultaneously an evolution and a tribute to the series, evoking the spirit of Final Fantasy through story, gameplay, and aesthetics.
SPOILER WARNING: From here out, I will be discussing FFXV in its entirety, including major plot points, character development, and the ending. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading Fantasy’s Legacy: How FFXV Is Equal Parts Evolution and Homage

What Should I Play If I Loved: Harry Potter

We’ve all been there. You loved a show (or a movie, or a book), and then you run out of it. It’s over, on indefinite hiatus, between sequels, or there just aren’t any more seasons on Netflix. All you want is something new to fill it’s place in your heart. And that’s where Volcano Bakemeat can help. Although most video game adaptations don’t always live up to their source material, that won’t stop us. Instead, we’ll attempt to try to find games that capture the spirit of what made the original so special (minor spoilers follow).

Harry Potter (Book 1997-2007)

Continue reading What Should I Play If I Loved: Harry Potter

Stick To Your Roots: How Final Fantasy XV Should Mimic Its Past

It’s no secret that the Final Fantasy brand has been reinventing itself, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. After spending most of the decade in development, in less than two weeks the story of Noctis and company will finally be unleashed on the world for their judgment. I’ve written before about the pressure riding on this game, how it seems to be the make-or-break title for Final Fantasy’s legacy, at the very least in this new generation of consoles.

However, one of the (many) easy ways to piss off a group of gamers is to change something they liked. Jumping onto any news about FFXV will undoubtedly yield at least one comment assuming the entire game is going to be a trash heap simply because it is trying something new. While I disagree with these sentiments, it is true that FFXV (or any new FF game moving forward) could learn a thing or two by looking at its predecessors.

Continue reading Stick To Your Roots: How Final Fantasy XV Should Mimic Its Past

Skateboarding: A Game Genre in Need of an Indie Revival

I miss skateboarding games — specifically, I miss the (good) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Although in general, the skateboarding game genre seems to have stagnated. You know what that means? It’s the perfect time for an indie revolution.

Continue reading Skateboarding: A Game Genre in Need of an Indie Revival

Shooting Zombies to Destress: The Healing Power of Games

We explore the benefits games can have in day to day life, what actual literal therapeutic benefits they might have, and why Left 4 Dead can be an essential part of working retail.

NOTE: We swear pretty freely on the podcast, but in this episode, Jessica uses a word for genitalia that some people see as more offensive. Be aware that that’s in there.
Continue reading Shooting Zombies to Destress: The Healing Power of Games

Nintendo Switch: Reactions and Thoughts from the Bakemeat Team

Nintendo’s recent news about their new console, the Switch, has been met with a large variety of positive and negative reactions. Nintendo recently showcased the key features and intended usage of its new console in a first look video released online earlier this month, and shared other information like developer/publisher support — to a somewhat mixed reaction from the gaming community. Some like it, some don’t, and some don’t know what to think. Nintendo also has chosen to withhold a lot of information, or at least they have left a lot of blanks for fans to fill about their new console. Here at Volcano Bakemeat, we’ve got our own reactions and thoughts about the Switch, and decided to share them with you in this article.

So please check out our thoughts below!

Continue reading Nintendo Switch: Reactions and Thoughts from the Bakemeat Team

Madness Watches Over Me: A Solo Scrub Tries to Get Good

I started playing Overwatch this week. This probably isn’t exciting news to anyone else, it’s one of the most popular games on the market so it’s kind of hard to escape.

For me, though, it’s something weird: It’s an FPS.

I haven’t played a first person shooter for years. Probably not since a sad short bout of Halo with my older cousins where I ran around like a 9-year-old spaz, before making some excuse about how my mom didn’t want me playing M-rated games and going home. And yes, that would have been the first Halo. The closest I’ve even gotten has been the 3rd person shooting of Mass Effect. (Before you unsubscribe from our podcast, please know that our other hosts are much more experienced FPS players and big fans of Master Chief).

I don’t know if it was mechanically and visually diverse characters, cool skins, or realizing I had no understanding of what my friends were talking about that made me decide to try to take on Overwatch, but this weekend, I took the leap.

I tried three modes of Overwatch: Quick play against random humans, AI matches and “Junkenstein’s Revenge” — the Halloween horde mode.

Each one was, um, interesting in its own way.

Continue reading Madness Watches Over Me: A Solo Scrub Tries to Get Good

Bargin Bin! Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online

Welcome to the Bargain Bin where I buy a game from Steam or GoG with a list price (not a sale price) of under five dollars, and then tell you about it!
I’ll give you:

  • A brief synopsis so you know what the game is,
  • If it works (from a mechanical standpoint),
  • If I was able to put a full hour into it,
  • If I’m happy I own it once I’ve played it,
  • Any closing thoughts or impressions.

If you have a suggestion for other bargain bin games I should look at, feel free to tweet us @sosimplyverygud or email us at sosimplyverygood@gmail.com and I’ll take a look!

Price: Free to Play

What is it?

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online (henceforth referred to as First Assault, because who has time to type all that out) is an online FPS similar to counterstrike if it were given a leveling/weapon progression system similar to PlanetSide or Call of Duty.

Continue reading Bargin Bin! Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex First Assault Online

VB Appetizer: Fast Casual Gaming

In our first appetizer mini-episode, Volcano Bakemeat’s crew discuss casual gaming. Grant and Jessica talk about the time a frat’s constant soundtrack contributed to their Robot Unicorn Attack war, Paige admits a shameful love for a terrible gaming genre, and we all try to unpack the stigma associated with casual gaming.

Continue reading VB Appetizer: Fast Casual Gaming

Doing Your Research: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of In-Game Lore

Over the last generation or two, there has been a notable shift in the way video games are written. It’s not just enough for a game to have strong mechanics and pretty graphics. Gamers now demand that their games deliver an engaging story – in particular, one that transports them to a well fleshed out world. The escapist nature of video games has been covered extensively by Volcano Bakemeat, and the easiest way to establish that element of wonder is by making sure your world has interesting, in-depth lore.

We have all experienced strong lore: a universe that you want to jump into and never leave. We all know what house we’d be sorted into at Hogwarts or which side of the Force we would favor. Many of the same elements that make for strong lore in other media also works for video games, yet many games get it wrong.

The way I see it there are five rules of thumb to making lore that pulls gamers in instead of putting them to sleep:

Continue reading Doing Your Research: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of In-Game Lore

How Gordon Ramsay Could be Gaming’s Savior

My friends, these are truly troubling times in the video game community. Gamers are sick and tired of receiving games that are unfinished, or failing to deliver on expectations, especially after being in development for extended periods of time.

There is only one man who can save us. And no, it’s not Batman, Donald Trump, or Gabe Newell (praise be unto him).

The name of our savior? Gordon Ramsay.

Continue reading How Gordon Ramsay Could be Gaming’s Savior

Bargin Bin: The Orphan Dreams

Welcome to the Bargain Bin where I buy a game from Steam or GoG with a list price (not a sale price) of under five dollars, and then tell you about it!
I’ll give you:

  • A brief synopsis so you know what the game is,
  • If it works (from a mechanical standpoint),
  • If I was able to put a full hour into it,
  • If I’m happy I own it once I’ve played it,
  • Any closing thoughts or impressions.

If you have a suggestion for other bargain bin games I should look at, feel free to tweet us @sosimplyverygud or email us at sosimplyverygood@gmail.com and I’ll take a look!

Price: $4.99

What is it?

The Orphan Dreams is a rather macabre, at times extremely gory point and click adventure/puzzle game. You play as an orphan troubled by horrific nightmares that seem to spill into reality. It features a nonlinear story and permadeath is a featured mechanic, meaning no saves and you keep going, no matter what happens.

Continue reading Bargin Bin: The Orphan Dreams

Are You Sure We Played The Same Game?

The topic of choice in video games is absolutely huge, so in this episode we (attempt) to limit our discussion to one aspect: Even having a choice in the first place. We debate the pros and cons of letting a player choose anything and then talk about the pretentious existential question if you can actually choose anything in the first place (…in video games).

Continue reading Are You Sure We Played The Same Game?

The Illusion of Choice

One of the fundamental components of a game is that it offers choice. The ability to choose is what allows us to interact with the game at all – you have to choose to have Mario run to the right and jump up to the next platform. The consequences of your choices progress the game forward, or end it prematurely – if you choose not to jump to the platform, Mario falls into the perilous pit and loses a life (repeat action to get to GAME OVER). But the games that intrigue me the most are those games that offer the illusion of choice as a means of storytelling.

One game that continues to haunt me is The Stanley Parable.

Continue reading The Illusion of Choice

What Should I Play if If I Loved: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We’ve all been there. You loved a show (or a movie, or a book), and then you run out of it. It’s over, on indefinite hiatus, between sequels, or there just aren’t any more seasons on Netflix. All you want is something new to fill it’s place in your heart. And that’s where Volcano Bakemeat can help.
Although most video game adaptations don’t live up to their source material, that won’t stop us. Instead, we’ll attempt to try to find games that capture the spirit of what made the original so special (minor spoilers follow).

The thing you love: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV 1997-2003)

Continue reading What Should I Play if If I Loved: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

What Zelda Does Right (As Proven By The Wind Waker)

There’s been a lot of Zelda in our house recently. I got the nostalgic itch to play Minish Cap in July, then Nintendo Selects released a $20 version of The Wind Waker’s HD remaster which we’d been meaning to pick up since we got the Wii U in November, and then Grant got jealous and picked up Oracle of Seasons for the 3DS, and he’s planning to pick up Ages when he’s done. This–along with the Breath of the Wild hype that’s been going around since E3–reminded me how much I love Zelda.

Since Jessica rightly pointed out that sometimes there’s too much salt in modern gaming culture, I wanted to take a moment to remember all the cool stuff that makes the Legend of Zelda series what it is, and really, Wind Waker gives me more than enough reasons.

Continue reading What Zelda Does Right (As Proven By The Wind Waker)

Just Give it Arkham Combat: Making a Great Adaptation

In our episode about adaptations, the Volcano Bakemeat crew talk about how to make a good adaptation, why people assume game adaptations will be bad and why Jessica gets to say butthole at work.

Continue reading Just Give it Arkham Combat: Making a Great Adaptation

5 Metal Gear Sequels That Would Be more Interesting Than “Survive”

Everyone knows the story of Konami and the Metal Gear franchise. After removing his name from the title of the MGSV and refusing to let him accept the award at the VGAs, Konami fired MGS auteur Hideo Kojima for reasons that will likely forever remain unknown (although let’s be real, he’s probably a huge pain to work with). This year, they announced their first Post-Kojima Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Survive, in which a group of MSF soldiers get pulled through a wormhole into an alternate universe where they fight zombies made out of crystals.

Continue reading 5 Metal Gear Sequels That Would Be more Interesting Than “Survive”

Stop Over-Seasoning: Your Salt is Ruining My Game

What is salt? A chemical compound that makes popcorn taste great – yes. But it’s also a colloquial descriptor for how someone may feel after being made fun of, attacked, or generally being embarrassed. Gamers in particular get referred to as being “salty” for things like losing without grace – or just shitting on a game they don’t like. And it’s ruining the experience.

Continue reading Stop Over-Seasoning: Your Salt is Ruining My Game

5 Video Games that Would Make Excellent Netflix Originals

Back when they first announced their plans to produce their own content, dubbed “Netflix Originals” or “Netflix Original Series,”people were both skeptical and hopeful of Netflix’s ability to deliver. Thankfully, Netflix has proven many times over that they are quite capable of delivering quality programming, with hits like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Daredevil, just to name a few. Continue reading 5 Video Games that Would Make Excellent Netflix Originals

Silly Rabbit, Games Are For Kids

In this episode, Volcano Bakemeat Radio discusses games that were made for kids, but we still love playing. We talk about what parts of those games keep us coming back, how to create games that don’t talk down to their audience and how to be a respectful adult player in a kid’s space. Also which kid’s game is still haunting Paige’s nightmares.

Continue reading Silly Rabbit, Games Are For Kids

Don’t Play Hungry: 6 Game Foods You’ll Wish Weren’t Made Out of Pixels

Game graphics have come a long way since Pac-Man first gobbled up a few cherries while running from ghosts. While Grant was playing through Odinsphere, I was amazed by its beautiful aesthetic, but even more shocked by how hungry I got while watching it. Which got me thinking: Why is videogame so delicious looking? And, more importantly, why won’t anyone let me eat it?

Because I care about all of our readers, I wanted you to share in my pain. So, here are 6 games that make me drool.

Continue reading Don’t Play Hungry: 6 Game Foods You’ll Wish Weren’t Made Out of Pixels

Critically Unaccclaimed

The Volcano Bakemeat crew discuss their favorite underrated or unappreciated games. We look why some games were ignored by audiences or critics and why that makes us sad. We also look the different kinds of cults. Then, Paige and Connor get incredibly excited about a GameCube era Sega release that neither of them have beaten.

Continue reading Critically Unaccclaimed

7 Ways Pokémon Is Still Behind The Times

My relationship with Pokémon has always been one of equal parts joy and frustration. As a child of the 90s, obviously a lot of my early gaming memories revolve around Nintendo’s virtual cockfighting simulator, and in the last few years it has drawn me back in. I enjoyed my playthroughs of the Gen VI titles, and plan on getting Sun and Moon, especially since they’re making cool changes like a more transparent battle interface, regional variants of Pokémon, and finally ditching the “Collect Eight Badges and Become Pokémon Master” main quest.

pokemon-sun-moon-sandshrew-sandslash-alola-form-640x360
Okay, fine, I’ll preorder…

 

That said, replaying the classic formula through the eyes of a modern JRPG fan has brought a ridiculous amount of frustration. Pokémon (and Nintendo in general) is notoriously set in its ways, but the following are things that are inexcusable after 20 years of urging us to catch ‘em all. In honor of the upcoming Generation VII, here are 7 ways that Pokémon still needs to get with the times.

Continue reading 7 Ways Pokémon Is Still Behind The Times

Pokemon Go: More Than Just a Mobile Game

I realize I’m a bit late to the party, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about Pokemon Go (aka “POGO”).

I don’t want to talk about how fun it is, or how great it is for my childhood nostalgia. I want to talk about how it’s accomplished so much more than a normal video game typically would — especially a mobile game.

Continue reading Pokemon Go: More Than Just a Mobile Game

4 Reasons You Should Watch EVO (Even If You Aren’t Into Fighting Games)

In case it hasn’t been made obvious by two of my previous articles, I am fighting game enthusiast. I’m not going to enter tournaments and win prizes, and I’m not going to spend hours upon hours in training mode practicing new options and setups, but I also try my best to learn a character enough that I can get by without having to just mash buttons until the match is over. I find fighting games, and the technical skill required to truly master them, fascinating, and enjoy the competitive aspect in a more friendly setting that can only come from playing Smash Bros. on the couch with your friend.

My slightly-more-than-passing interest in the genre has led me to tune in to the Evolution Fighting Game Championship (or EVO) for the past several years. EVO takes place in Vegas, but it streamed on several different Twitch channels all weekend. Players from all over the world compete in several different fighting games, with each game crowning a champion by the end of the weekend, earning a large prize pot and bragging rights until next year.

EVO has become a much-anticipated event in our house now, with Paige and I anxiously counting the days and planning our schedule around what games are going to be on stream and when. I think anyone who loves video games can appreciate the phenomenon that is EVO (at least the Top 8s on Sunday), and here’s why:

Continue reading 4 Reasons You Should Watch EVO (Even If You Aren’t Into Fighting Games)

If I Ran the Power Rangers: The Wide World of Chromasquad

I’ll begin this article with an admission: I never watched Power Rangers as a child. I was a WB kid, so Pokemon, Animaniacs and The Jackie Chan Adventures were already rounding out my TV line up.

It was only when I was in college and my incredibly stressed out boyfriend chose arrested development as a coping mechanism that I was introduced to the sentai genre. Grant had a lot of teaching work, and when he was done all he had the brain for was sitting in his dorm room in his pajamas and a juice box and watching Power Rangers. I figured I’d give it a shot.

I shotgunned the entirety of Mighty Morphin.

So, when I heard there was a tile-based strategy game that paid homage to the Sentai genre (the Japanese costumed crime-fighting genre Power Rangers popularized in the US) I knew I’d need to play Chromasquad. Eventually. When it was on the Steam Summer Sale. Because I’m not made of money.

After playing the first two seasons of the game, I can honestly say I wish I’d bought it sooner. It’s a fun, interesting simulator/tile based strategy mix with innovative but intuitive graphics that would be a blast even if you’re weren’t devoted to cheap Japanese kids shows, but is even better if you are. Here’s why:

Continue reading If I Ran the Power Rangers: The Wide World of Chromasquad

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir- A PS2 Gem Somehow Made Shinier

Odin Sphere was one of the best and most underappreciated games on the PS2. If this month’s PS4 re-release Leifthrasir had simply been a remaster of the original game, with higher resolutions and framerates, you would still be reading a wholeheartedly positive review. It is a visual delight, a unique tactical experience, and the perfect example of how expert presentation can make a by-the-numbers story a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

To those of you who are already familiar with the original game and wondering if the PS4 version is worth your money, let me just say two things: Mercedes doesn’t suck, and picking up a book you’ve already completed puts you at the start of the Epilogue, not at Chapter 1. There. Go. Stop reading this and buy the game.

For the rest of you… Continue reading Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir- A PS2 Gem Somehow Made Shinier

The Cult of Playability: What Makes Cult Games So Great

The term “Cult Classic” is well-known within the realm of film, as well as other forms of art and entertainment. Video games, of course, also have their fair share of cult classics. Games like Earthbound and Mirror’s Edge have relatively small but incredibly passionate fan bases. These are fans who will fill their lives with the culture found in games like these: fan art, merch, music, writing… and more. For them, it really is like being in a cult.

And I think that’s a fantastic thing.

Continue reading The Cult of Playability: What Makes Cult Games So Great

Female Woman Ladies Part Two

In this two parter, Volcano Bakemeat Radio looks at playable female characters. We talk about why Portal is a little like Mean Girls, what it’s like when a game chooses your gender (and race) randomly, and which characters we’d like to see gender swapped.

Continue reading Female Woman Ladies Part Two

Female Woman Ladies Part One

In this two parter, Volcano Bakemeat Radio looks at playable female characters. We talk about why Fable 2 made Jessica cry, why a X-Com operative code-named Mama Bear might be Jeff’s favorite woman in video games, and why Paige still feels vaguely uncomfortable playing Skull Girls

Continue reading Female Woman Ladies Part One

What do voice actors owe us?

I was reading a thread on Reddit’s /r/masseffect recently. A fan had met Lance Henriksen at a horror con. They waved and said “Admiral Hackett.” Henriksen smiled and came over to shake his hand. As he was leaving, he said “Hackett out.” It made the fan’s day.

That lead to a discussion of how cool the series’ voice actors were in general. One commenter, though, mentioned an exception: Yvonne Strahovski (who plays the game’s resident ice queen, Miranda).

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This lady.

Her crime? Not caring about the games.

Continue reading What do voice actors owe us?

Escapism: A Love Story

Video games have always been there. Sure, I’ve had the occasional affair with a book, and I’m never going to deny that I, too, have done the late-night call to Netflix or Hulu. But if something is going on in my life where I need to step away and absorb myself in another world, a book is just too easy to let my mind wander, and a show is just a mind numbing experience to get through a few hours without meaning anything. But video games have always, always been there.

Continue reading Escapism: A Love Story

Why Crystal’s Pony Tale is an Absurdist Masterpiece

When I was very young, maybe five or six, I played Crystal’s Pony Tale on the Sega Genesis. It was at a friend’s house and, if I remember right, they had rented the game from Blockbuster. It was 1998 and Lisa Frank had a firm hold on the elementary girl market, and someone at Sega picked up on that. The game shouldn’t have stood out. I don’t even remember if I played it or someone else did, but it was only in my life for an hour or so. It wasn’t anything too special, just a side scrolling platformer where you played as a bright pink pony.

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According to Wikipedia, Game Developer critiqued this game for having too much pink in its graphics. I don’t know what they could be talking about.

Tonight, I replayed Crystal Pony’s Tale on an in-browser rom and I realized why I still remembered it. It was because it was a masterpiece. Not a masterpiece of game play, story lines, dialogue or character (all of which are fairly non existent), but as an absurdist statement on naivete and the frivolity of youth. I think.

Continue reading Why Crystal’s Pony Tale is an Absurdist Masterpiece

Podcast Simulator 2016

60% of Volcano Bakemeat Radio have been way too into Stardew Valley recently and with the building of Grant’s PC we’re about to bump that up to 80%, so simulators have been on our minds recently.

This week, we devote an hour to everything from Forza to Goat Simulator 2015. We talk about what draws us to simulators, what makes a simulator good, if they’re doomed to be casual (and really is that so bad?), and the deceptively simple question: what is a simulator anyway?

Continue reading Podcast Simulator 2016

Final Destination, No Items: Why I Love Super Smash Bros. Too Much To Like It

I love Super Smash Brothers.

The lightweight combat system, position-based strategy, agile and easy to learn controls, and host of memorable characters make Nintendo’s fighting game franchise a core part of my identity as a gamer. I have fond memories of endless hours spent playing Melee with my friends, I love learning and strategizing with new characters, and I will never miss Smash on the main stage at EVO.

Super Smash Brothers is a bad franchise.

Continue reading Final Destination, No Items: Why I Love Super Smash Bros. Too Much To Like It

Bargain Bin!: Mountain

Welcome to the Bargain Bin! Once a month, I buy a game from Steam or GoG with a list price (not a sale price) of under five dollars, and then tell you about it!
I’ll give you:

  • A brief synopsis so you know what the game is,
  • If it works (from a mechanical standpoint),
  • If I was able to put a full hour into it,
  • If I’m happy I own it once I’ve played it,
  • Any closing thoughts or impressions.

If you have a suggestion for other bargain bin games I should look at, feel free to tweet us @sosimplyverygud or email us at sosimplyverygood@gmail.com and I’ll take a look!

Price: $0.99

What is it?

Mountain, a game by David OReilly, is…. I am actually not sure how to answer this question. At first glance Mountain is a simulator; it simulates a mountain with weather effects and occasional random events. However, it’s only a simulator in the same way a closed terrarium is a simulator. You set it going, it does its thing, and you look at it. It keeps going in the background, and every once in a while you look over at it and say to yourself “Hey, that’s really frickin’ neato.” Continue reading Bargain Bin!: Mountain

Whatever Happened to Couch Co-op?

In this episode, the Volcano Bakemeat gang wax nostalgic about the glory days of being able to sit down and play games with a buddy.

We speculate about why local multiplayer has become the exception, rather than the norm, call out some fun and interesting modern examples and then talk about Nintendo a lot.

Continue reading Whatever Happened to Couch Co-op?

The Gaming Future is Now? Why I’m Skeptical of VR:

The video game industry is young and growing fast. Every couple of years, it jumps forward by leaps and bounds to give us something more realistic-looking, bigger, more complex, engaging, etc. Every time a new console or accessory launches, the marketplace is sudden buzzing with talk of “the future of gaming”, with the idea that this product will become the new norm of gaming. I suspect Virtual Reality (VR) may be heading down the same path.

Continue reading The Gaming Future is Now? Why I’m Skeptical of VR:

How to make a great casual game by not screwing it up

I’ll admit it: I’ve played a lot of casual games–specifically flash games. I’ve played my 2048, I’ve played my Burrito Bison AND my Burrito Bison: Revenge. I’ve played multiple versions of Fashion Solitaire despite the limit of my fashion knowledge being “clashing patterns is bad,” and I’ve spent more time playing a game called Wedding Salon than I did planning my actual wedding. And I enjoyed all of them.

There were way more, though, that were absolute garbage. We’ve devoted an article to knowing your full-length game is garbage, but flash games can have their own slew of sins. Since the internet is knee deep in dumb flash games (and their successor, dumb mobile games), I thought I’d go for the opposite tact: I’m a player whose brain is exhausted from thinking all day. I’m probably watching Family Feud while I play. How do you make a game for me?

Continue reading How to make a great casual game by not screwing it up

Quantum Break-Down: Manipulating Time and Storytelling in the Latest Xbox Exclusive

Quantum Break is the latest of the few-and-far-between Xbox One exclusive titles, developed by Remedy Entertainment and directly published by Microsoft. The basic premise is that a group known as Monarch has been experimenting with time manipulation, after a recent discovery of “chronon-particles”. You play primarily as Jack Joyce, who witnesses a terrible accident that literally fractures time, causing it to “stutter” and bend in on itself. Your goal is simple: stop the inevitable End of Time from happening by manipulating time further. It’s all very edgy and ever-so-slightly convoluted.

Continue reading Quantum Break-Down: Manipulating Time and Storytelling in the Latest Xbox Exclusive

Reclaiming the Throne: How Square Plans to Save Final Fantasy

The “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV” event in Los Angeles ended with a grandiose trailer showing off the story, environments, characters, and combat of Final Fantasy XV. The tagline for this trailer urged the player to “Reclaim Your Throne”, clearly referring to the game’s central premise of Prince Noctis taking his kingdom back from the invading army that has occupied it while he was out on a road trip with his bros. However, this game is about much more than that; it’s the culmination of a ten-year journey that Square hopes will end in a much more important throne being reclaimed.

Continue reading Reclaiming the Throne: How Square Plans to Save Final Fantasy

Edgy or Out of Touch? Marketing Mistakes in the Videogames Industry

As a marketer and a lifelong gamer, it fascinates me to see so many marketing mistakes happening in the video games industry.

Perhaps I’m just naive and inexperienced, but it seems to me that the industry can’t go one year without some company seriously screwing up in the marketing arena. Huge PR controversies and anticlimactic marketing campaigns have become all too common. In fact, many gamers seem to expect it nowadays. We’re surprised when publishers like EA or Ubisoft manage to promote and launch a new game successfully — which is to say, without offending a large portion of their customer base along the way. Continue reading Edgy or Out of Touch? Marketing Mistakes in the Videogames Industry

Bargain Bin!: There’s Poop in My Soup

Welcome to the Bargain Bin! Once a month, I buy a game from Steam or GoG with a list price (not a sale price) of under five dollars, and then tell you about it!
I’ll give you:

  • A brief synopsis so you know what the game is,
  • If it works (from a mechanical standpoint),
  • If I was able to put a full hour into it,
  • If I’m happy I own it once I’ve played it,
  • Any closing thoughts or impressions.

If you have a suggestion for other bargain bin games I should look at, feel free to tweet us @sosimplyverygud or email us at sosimplyverygood@gmail.com and I’ll take a look!

Price: $0.99

What is it?

There’s Poop in my Soup is a very simple game. You play as an anthropomorphized butt running around the outside of a building above a busy street, and you launch poop at people from above. The goal is to land as many deuces in a row as you can; on heads, in baby carriages, bouncing them off boxes, on taxi cabs, getting them under folk’s umbrellas can be particularly tricky, and yes, in a bowl of soup. Continue reading Bargain Bin!: There’s Poop in My Soup

Surprise, Delight and Betrayal: Storytelling in Games

This week, Volcano Bakemeat discuss the whys and hows of telling stories with video games. We talk about the core elements of storytelling in gaming, the advantages (and disadvantages) of telling a story with video games as the medium, how storytelling and game play can complement each other and more.

Please note that in this episode we briefly discuss suicide and children with terminal diseases.

Please also note that in this episode, we may spoil aspects of multiple games including: An early Easter Egg in Psychonauts, an early scene in Baulder’s Gate, a path in The Stanley Parable, a midpoint event in Dragon Age: Inquisition, the ends of the first Bioshock and Kingdom Hearts games, major events in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare I & II, a mission in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and some missions from Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain. If you notice any other spoilers, please let us know and we will update the list.

Continue reading Surprise, Delight and Betrayal: Storytelling in Games

So Simply, very good?

In the podcast’s inaugural episode, the Volcano Bakemeat Radio Crew talk about the games that that turned them into gamers and what makes a game “so simply, very good.”

Continue reading So Simply, very good?

One Man’s Trash: Knowing When a Game Really Is Garbage

We’ve all experienced it; someone, somewhere, starts tearing apart a game you love and calling it “crap”. Nothing is more heartbreaking and infuriating – and yet, just as sure as I am that we’ve all gone through it, I know we’ve also all done the same thing to someone else’s beloved title. This is, of course, just the subjective nature of any art, but it brings up a simple question: When is a game just bad? Continue reading One Man’s Trash: Knowing When a Game Really Is Garbage

Bowser and the Banshees: What makes a final encounter matter?

Due to the nature of this article, spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 3, the first God of War, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and Mass Effect 3 follow.

So that’s it. You just finished the final boss. You’re sitting on the couch, fingers still a little tense. You put the controller down to watch the last cut scene, when you realize something is deeply wrong. You don’t care. Why? The battle was tough. You were challenged, but at the end of the day, it was just a battle that was slightly bigger and harder than the other ones before it. And that’s probably the problem.

Continue reading Bowser and the Banshees: What makes a final encounter matter?

5 Fighting Game Characters (Other Than Scorpion) Who Need Solo Games

Fighting game characters breaking out into their own solo games is not a new concept. Mortal Kombat has done this several times (namely MK Mythologies: Sub Zero, Special Forces, and Shaolin Monks), the Ninja Gaiden games could technically be considered Dead or Alive solos, and even Tekken’s Nina Williams had the game Death by Degrees, which overcame the incredible obstacle of nobody giving a shit about Tekken.

The common thread between all of these games is that they weren’t very good (bunny Fatalities from Shaolin Monks aside). That’s a real shame, because the tendency for longevity in fighting game franchises means that some of the most interesting characters in video games come from franchises who have the storytelling structure of the WWE.

Continue reading 5 Fighting Game Characters (Other Than Scorpion) Who Need Solo Games