Terry Cavanagh’s Constellation

Terry Cavanaugh makes some wacky games, or art pieces in this case. This website, and this itch page, are for his new project called Constellation. You type things in and they might appear onscreen. It’s free through the website, or for a name-your-own-price download on itch.

Nick Heer on the iPhone X

There are plenty of reviews out there now, but few had much time with the iPhone X  before it was released because Apple chose to not give reviewers an opportunity to spend much time with it.

Nick Heer:

The iPhone X is a product that feels like it shouldn’t really exist — at least, not in consumers’ hands. I know that there are millions of them in existence now, but mine feels like an incredibly well-made, one-off prototype, as I’m sure all of them do individually. It’s not just that the display feels futuristic — I’ll get to that in a bit — nor is it the speed of using it, or Face ID, or anything else that you might expect. It is all of those things, combined with how nice this product is.

Don’t Let Children Watch “YouTube Kids”

James Bridle has a terrifying and important article, it’s pretty long but the most important point is that people and businesses are systematically generating new videos for YouTube that appear to be tame pirated copies of shows like Peppa Pig but after a few minutes they change to be really awful and the YouTube app and site for kids don’t filter these out:

A step beyond the simply pirated Peppa Pig videos mentioned previously are the knock-offs. These too seem to teem with violence. In the official Peppa Pig videos, Peppa does indeed go to the dentist, and the episode in which she does so seems to be popular?—?although, confusingly, what appears to be the real episode is only available on an unofficial channel. In the official timeline, Peppa is appropriately reassured by a kindly dentist. In the version above, she is basically tortured, before turning into a series of Iron Man robots and performing the Learn Colours dance. A search for “peppa pig dentist” returns the above video on the front page, and it only gets worse from here

The reason why this crap skates by is because YouTube (and Google, and other companies) refuse to take responsibility for moderating what they host. Instead of hiring more people to moderate these things, the moderation is offloaded to algorithms and viewers.

Even if you only start a video on an official channel, auto play and the recommendations next to and after the video may take a viewer to another one.

tl;dr: Don’t let your kids watch YouTube. If you don’t have kids, please let your friends who do know about this problem.

 

Brigador is Fun as Heck

The isometric mechsmasher by the Stellar Jockeys, Brigador, just got another update. This time they’ve gone and added different car horns to each pilotable vehicle so you can honk while you smash and shoot and trample and destroy every mcmansion you encounter. It’s good, I just streamed a bit of it on Twitch.

Brigador is available through the developer’s Humble widget for $18 (that’s the deluxe version with soundtrack) and or through Steam (Windows, macOS, Linux) for $14 while it’s on sale.

Danger Zone Review (Xbox One)

Three Fields Entertainment’s Danger Zone is so close to what we want from a successor to Burnout’s crash mode.

You can skip this next paragraph if you’ve read the last thing, but just for anyone who doesn’t know the context around Three Fields Entertainment’s Danger Zone, here it is:

Burnout was a fantastic game series that I loved, it had arcade-style racing that rewarded you for driving into oncoming traffic (and other absurd stunts) in its races or crashing into as many vehicles as possible in the crash mode. Sadly, that game series is dead and the last big game in the series, Burnout Paradise, had a crappy version of crash mode that isn’t worth talking about.

Danger Zone is all of the good crash mode. You drive a car into an intersection, or series of intersections. Once your car hits a certain number of other cars you get a bonus that lets your car explode and then you can roll your car into more vehicles and more power ups, some of which let your car explode again. There is some thought you have to put into it when you figure out a path to hit everything just so. Do it right and you’ll get a great score by causing the most destruction. It’s a little puzzle of planning out pain.

That stuff, it’s almost all there in Danger Zone, the crashing, the rolling your car through the air to hit other intersections. What they’ve changed from Burnout is the virtual environment Danger Zone takes place in instead of the ostensibly real world that Burnout inhabited. Danger Zone trades cities and their highways for roads that appear to materialize before you after the level loads. All the cars you drive are emblemized to indicate that they’re similar to crash test cars. It’s a mix of the holodeck from Star Trek and the IIHS crash test videos.

The simulation of roads and vehicles lets the level designers get creative and make layouts that could never happen in real life. There are some truly ridiculous levels as you keep playing through the game. Intersections full of the smashbreaker rewards that let you keep rolling on to other roundabouts that float in the air.

Here’s an example of how ridiculous these Danger Zone levels get. In the last tier of levels you’ll find one that has taxi cabs hovering in the sky. They rain down and explode as you drive under them to add a challenge to getting just the right path for the highest score. It looks cool to see them hanging out above the ground with the stars above them, but it isn’t fun to avoid them. Your car’s handling is so close to good, but it ended up being incredibly frustrating to try and dodge these cabs.

The other levels in the final tier get even crazier with drives through the center of spinning roundabouts while you do hockey-checks and push cars into disaster.

As ridiculous as the environments can get, Danger Zone only really has two or three different styles for them, with a few different lighting conditions. There’s a virtual holodeck world in a huge metal box, there’s one with an outdoor open air skybox with a scuffed white paint job on the walls above the laser grid, and one final mode with the same holodeck as the first but with a starry night skybox instead of a boring warehouse ceiling.

It really makes me miss the urban disasters of Burnout and wish for something in-between. Without the simulated test facility vibe, it’d be incredible to play a similar game that featured these crashes in a semi-realistic environment of Burnout that gradually changed into a completely bent world with the same layouts that you have in Danger Zone.

Those ridiculous levels at the end of Danger Zone would be so much better if there were city blocks teeming with life spinning around the path you’re driving through. Or farmer’s fields with cows, or whatever. It could be an amazing trip, but the virtual environment ultimately detracts from the fun that is hidden in Danger Zone. Almost roadway in the game has minimal or no barriers to falling off of it, and landing onto a grid that slowly eats your car and forces you to restart the level.

Just got a grand slam (all of the medals on the level in order) but your car is teetering on the edge of a road? Too bad, it’s going to fall off into the grid.

That grid, and the long load times to restart each medal attempt, really ruin the fun of trying to achieve the best score on each level. This game needs a more dynamic core that is capable of fast restarts when the game ends.

The camera controls are also incredibly frustrating, that the game doesn’t even let you tune the sensitivity for the right thumbstick is ridiculous. It can be incredibly difficult to pan around and figure out where you need to roll your burning wreckage next before the car just starts going without your input.

While I could spend some time trying to get better medals on each level I don’t think I’m going to try. It’s a fun game if you are looking for the most bare-bones experience and are incredibly desperate for some more crash mode without resorting to emulation or hooking up an old console. I hope that Three Fields keeps improving this formula, it’s so close to a fantastic crash mode game and already much better than their last attempt at it with Dangerous Golf.

3/5 burning limousines for Danger Zone

Danger Zone is $15 and available now on the Xbox OnePlayStation 4and Steam for Windows.

HQ Trivia

There is a trivia game show on the iPhone called HQ. It’s a live video program broadcasted every weekday at 9AM and 3PM HST. They’ve got different hosts, but usually there are decent comedians doing the work of dolling out trivia questions and keeping people playing along. When I first tried the game out, it was up to a few thousand players, today it’s in the tens of thousands.

What makes this different from other trivia games is that live host, but also that players win real money. $250 or $500 is pretty small once it’s split enough times, I won $2.14 today. You cash out through PayPal (ugh) once you hit $20.

Even with the small payouts it is still thrilling to play a game show live along with thousands of other people.

HQ is a free download on iOS, it requires a working phone number to register but you can use any service that generates a number.

Danger Zone on Xbox One Almost-Review

Three Fields Entertainment is still working their asses off on their Burnout crash-mode-styled-smash-em-up, Danger Zone. It’s been available for the Xbox One and was just updated for the Xbox One X in preparation of it’s launch on November 7.

Crash mode was the original Burnout series’ slightly puzzling destructo mode where you attempted to drive through various intersections and airports and other places to cause as much monetary damage as possible  while collecting dollar multipliers and crashbreakers that gave you an extra explosion and ridiculous air control of your vehicle to plow into more cars and trucks and buses for more collateral damage. This wasn’t a beautiful story-driven narrative, but it was glorious at easing a long day at my old day job of unracking, repairing, and shipping, servers for Akamai.

This mode was disappointingly lacking in the final Burnout, Paradise on the 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows.

The ex-Criterion Games’ers at Three Fields originally attempted to recapture this magic with Dangerous Golf and didn’t quite hit the mark, but did keep working on the game after it was released.

I’ve spent a little time with Danger Zone and it’s so close to what we had back on the old Burnout games. There’s smashbreakers, score multipliers, and more of what you would expect in crash mode. But what is a bit disappointing is that it’s 2017 and the game still has long load times before retrying levels. Which is something you end up doing often since Danger Zone added new ways to prematurely lose a level.

Let me explain why.

In Burnout every crash mode level took place in a realistic (or at least as realistic as the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox could render) modern environment. A city, an airport as I mentioned earlier, a mountain pass. Wherever they picked, it was a realistic-enough vista to make the game that much more ridiculous when you decided to race and crash through those environments. It made you enjoy breaking the rules after you sat in traffic for half the day.

Danger Zone has a very different aesthetic. Here you’re in a simulation with a few different environments that feel like a holodeck with a quarter of the power of the one on Star Trek. The original video I saw was an entirely bland series of roads on a grid. Fortunately this version of the game has an outdoor environment. It’s still a pie-in-the-sky virtual test track that the game reinforced whenever you start a level by drawing in the roads and vehicles as if they were being created before your eyes. But it’s a little bit more of what you want from Burnout.

I don’t know why Three Fields decided to go for this virtual environment. It could be because it’s something they could stick to with the resources they have at their smaller indie development studio instead of back when they were working on Burnout and had a larger team and budget.

Maybe they wanted something less realistic for another reason, but it doesn’t really matter, this is the unavoidable comparison you’re left with if you’ve played the old crash mode and miss it.

The virtual environment is just missing the barest hint of realism to make Danger Zone as fun as Burnout. Instead of just failing a level by missing out on a target gold/silver/bronze score, you’re going to fail many times by going off of the edge of a highway and having your simulated car eaten by a Tron-style laser grid. Even in the outdoor environment. It’s a bizarre addition to the game. Why add more failure modes? It made the game more of an unforgiving puzzle and less fun for me.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the game could instantly restart, but that kind of experience seems to be limited to simpler 2D platformers like Super Meat Boy.

That doesn’t mean that Danger Zone isn’t fun, it is, it is just the most pared-down and basic crash mode experience. I still enjoy going through the levels, crashing through cars, trucks, and buses. If I didn’t have responsibilities tomorrow I’d still be up playing it to get a better feel for where the game goes in its later levels.

It could also be that the racing in Burnout was the perfect counterpoint to the crashing, and without racing the crashing will just never feel like enough. I can’t say for sure.

If there’s anything significantly different going on here from what I’ve noted in this write-up, I’ll post a full review of Danger Zone once I’ve spent more time with the game.

My hope is that Three Fields takes this bare-bones simulated 15-dollar crash mode and makes something more ambitious later on. Arcade racers aren’t a big deal right now. This year’s Forza is the boring serious racing iteration and not Horizon. The new Gran Turismo is still Gran Turismo. They’re both pretty racing games but not the glorious ridiculousness of Burnout. The only other arcade smasher I can think of, Bugbear’s Wreckfest, hasn’t been in Steam’s Early Access program (since 2014) as long as the standalone Day-Z (2013) but it is close.

As it is, Three Fields has committed to bringing more levels and other stuff to Danger Zone later on this year. This new Xbox One version also has some extremely temporary exclusive levels and vehicles that will end up back on the PlayStation 4 and Steam for Windows versions in December.

 

PUBG 1.0 in Late December; Xbox One on December 12th

Despite being super popular on Steam for months already, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is still in Steam’s Early Access program for incomplete games that are still gathering feedback from players. The CEO of PUBG Corp, Chang Han Kim, has a post up on the Xbox news service announcing that Battlegrounds will exit Early Access in late December. Battlegrounds will also enter the Xbox Game Preview program (aka Early Access) on the 12th of December.

Kim:

Both versions are being developed at the same time, but they both have their own separate roadmaps. Various Xbox One features and functionality will change and come online over time just like they have on PC, with our goal being to have both versions align to each other as soon as possible. Feedback as you know has been critical to the game’s success, so beginning December 12 we want to hear from Xbox fans on what they think about PUBG and how we can make the best version of the game possible.

This is big news for Microsoft who are desperate for games to show off their Xbox One X.