Tag Archives: facebook

Outernauts and the nature of the human being to face challenges

It seems like, once a year now, I try another Facebook game. I gave The Sims Social a go for a decent bit back in late 2011, eventually moving away when my house full of trees and bushes took forever to load, as well as the fact that I was running out of complete-able quests. Before that, in 2010, I enjoyed my short time–and I do mean short–as a chocobo rancher. I don’t really desire gaming on Facebook other than the occasional round of Words With Friends, and I’m totally aware of its constant trappings and never-yielding plot to annoy my online friends, fill my wall up with ridiculous claims, and attempt to have me spend real cash-money on things like Sim coins and star gems and poodle bucks.

And so, here we are in 2012, and I’m just getting into Outernauts. It’s got some good and some bad, and, for the time being, I’m willing to overlook the bad to embrace the good. But I can’t see this experience lasting for very long though.

Right. So, Outernauts. Basically, it’s Pokemon in space. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At all. In fact, it’s a stellar idea, and I’m somewhat surprised we haven’t seen it yet; if a game like this already exists, I missed it or it didn’t shout its premise loud enough for the world to hear. I mean, there are plenty of Pokemon clones out there–Digimon and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, for instance–but neither of those focus on space critters and traversing different galaxies. Outernauts does, and it makes much more sense when you realize that Insomniac Games is behind it. Yes, more from the creative minds behind all the zany weapons, monsters, and planets in the Ratchet and Clank series. That’s actually what grabbed my interest first before the whole “gotta catch ’em all” aspect.

For a free-to-play Facebook game, surprisingly, there’s a story. I can’t remember the specifics or names, so I’ll just use this generic text from Insomniac’s website for Outernauts:

As a member of United Earth’s elite Outernaut force, you’ll encounter both friends and foes as you uncover the riddle behind the mysterious “ancients” while battling pirates and evil corporations seeking to control the galaxy.

All in all, you’re looking for a thing, and so is an evil corporation, and to stop them from getting the thing, you need to battle and beat them with a team of exotic beasts. You level these beasts up by battling them and tweaking their abilities.

Right now, my cosmic team of battling beasties consists of these:

Note that those are the nicknames I gave my beasts, not their actual names. I think my leading one is a…Pumasear? Scorl is a Scorling. Can’t tell you what the other two are. I don’t remember. I have too many ‘mon names in my brain to differentiate this from that and that from this. Anyways, Purrburn is my strongest beast, mostly because I used all my Star Gems on it, not knowing that those are the “FarmVille bucks” of the game, limited and then only acquirable thereafter with real money. Oh well.

The music and artwork and design of everything is great, classic Insomniac charm. Colorful and inventive, with the gusto of space opera and pomp of Buzz Lightyear. Everything is easily explained and clear, and there’s lots of carrots on sticks to chase after. However, as with all Facebook games, the most disappointing and distrusting element is…energy. To battle, use 3 energy. To clear a path, use energy. To gather fuel, use energy. Need more energy? Pay up or wait awhile. The point is, you run out of energy real fast, and so playing Outernauts quickly becomes a game of management over experiencing, and that’s not too much fun. But I’d rather do as much as I can at once rather than blow my time on a wasted fight, which ends with my beasts being knocked out and unable to battle any more.

I’ll keep logging in for now to give Outernauts ten or fifteen minutes of my attention each day, but eventually I’ll walk away. Too many strange limitations in how many beasts I can have in my party and what I can actually do in a certain span of time, and I can just easily go back to my copies of Pokemon HeartGold, Pokemon White, or Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker to fill in the gaps.

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Building a bland city and not blowing up

Yesterday, someone called in a bomb threat to the building I work at. Not for my company, mind you, but one of the ones we share working space with, and so a little before lunchtime hit we all had to evacuate the building. This was signaled by a blaring fire alarm, and not knowing what I know now, I just grabbed my cell phone and headed outside. I left my lunch in the fridge, as well as my Nintendo 3DS and car keys on my desk. At most, I figured we’d be back inside within fifteen minutes or so. I learned my lesson.

But then fifteen-plus cop cars showed up, and numerous officers of the law asked everyone to move away from the building. Like, not in the parking lot, but maybe in the parking lot across the street. The roadways coming in and leaving the area were closed down, and cars in the parking lot were restricted to remain there. Some people managed to drive out to freedom and a place to eat foodstuff, but others were left standing across the street, huddled like cows, chewing grass and pondering life. Myself included, except I did what I always do, going solo and finding a tree to sit under by myself while I waited this whole “fire alarm” out in general curiosity.

After a while, as we are all wont to do, I began playing around on my phone to help pass time. Or at least distract me from my grumbling stomach. An hour had passed, and no one was still allowed near the building. Flashes of my lunch in the company kitchen tortured me constantly. Now, if you didn’t know, I don’t have an amazing phone–it’s the Verizon Reality–and I’m fine with that. My phone is a device I use in emergencies to call people, as well as text my wife that I made it to work in one piece. I have two full games downloaded on it: Final Fantasy and The Sims 3. So, I played a little more Final Fantasy, grinding my team of four up a whole level, but that eventually became stale. I began looking around the shop for something new, but nothing seemed interesting or worth the price.

Until I saw a game labeled FREE. It’s called Little Big City, and it’s basically the mobile version of CityVille, a game I played diligently for a month or so, but faded away from like all Facebook games. Like FarmVille, you click on things and wait for them to finish doing what they are doing. Every action is accounted for, and when you run out of energy actions, you have to wait until the bar grows again to do more. This doesn’t take terribly long, so one is constantly tapping and seeing results. It’s not the most amazing little game, but it definitely helped distract me from the cop cars zooming back and forth by or trying to listen in on their cryptic radio chatter. I planted a lot of blueberries, built some homes, played a “match two” mini-game after raising a park, and also created some city staples, such as a flower shop and bakery. Gone are the annoying parts of having to bother real-life friends for things like construction beams or lightning bolts, as Little Big City just gives you a handful of AI neighbors to help and poke when the time calls for it.

I do, however, have a major complaint, and yes, I am going to complain about a free game, so if you’re not into that thing, well…see ya. In Little Big City, you always have something to do. A list of missions is clickable on the side, and these exist to give you guidance, as well as reward you for doing big things, like constructing a City Hall. However, if you built a City Hall before you received the mission to build a City Hall…you’re boned. You either have to build a second one–which, as a city planner, makes no sense–or bulldoze the one you already built for a measly amount of cash and rebuild to complete the mission and earn the EXP and monetary reward tied to it. It’s madness, and it happened a lot. Like, I already made six plots for farming and then immediately after was tasked with making six plots. It’s like they knew. But whatever. Not everything can be retroactive, I guess.

That said, Little Big City did the job though and kept me going until we were finally allowed back into the building–somewhen around the 2:30 pm mark–and then I had to monster my lunch in a matter of minutes and get right back to work. Next time someone threatens to blow up the building I’m working in, I’m definitely grabbing my lunch, Nintendo 3DS, and car keys before getting the bleep out of Dodge.

An update from beyond the Wall

I am still here, you just can’t see me. Walls, they work wonders.

My absence on Grinding Down as of late has been both a choice and a consequence. My day job–which, if you’ve paid attention, is something I rarely discuss here on my videogaming blog–has turned the level of busy up to eleven, and I am trying my best to not go insane from it. The days are long and stuffed, and there is only so much quiet time, during which I’ve chosen to not spend writing silly words about the silly games I’ve been playing, such as Minecraft and Metroid Fusion and Rage and so on. Also, I have a secret art project in the works–and it’s a doozy. A lot of work on my part, but I think it’s going to pay off and just be fun through and through. “Like” my page on Facebook to find out more, as I’ll be revealing it very, very soon.

But I’m making an effort. See, this is efforting. I’m putting down my numerous thoughts to e-paper and publishing it for all of you to skim past. You’re welcome.

Yesterday, after work ended, I popped over to the local GameStop to see if they had that game that everyone was clamoring for on May 15, 2012. No, not Diablo III. No, not Max Payne 3. No, not even Akai Katana Shin. I’m talking about…Game of Thrones. Yeah, that’s right. It came out in all its quietness. The store had copies, just not on the shelves; they were behind the counter, which I found odd as I went to the shelves first and was surprised to not see them right underneath the NEW RELEASES sign.

Anyways, as it turned out, like nobody pre-ordered a copy–myself included–and so the store had a bunch of extra art books from Atlus to give away. That’s both awesome and sad, but whatever–I got my book, which is neat, if filled with some inaccuracies, like a picture of Jeor Mormont with the name Jorah beneath it. At least it’ll help me come up with some better clothing ideas for my drawings at All of Westeros.

The game itself…well, I will reserve a lot of judgment until I’m much farther in, but so far it’s been highs and lows. Game of Thrones is sick with a terrible case of tiny text syndrome, as well as a knack for using white font on light-colored backgrounds, making said font unreadable. The combat is surprisingly bland, like watching broken robots hacking and slashing until their commands run dry despite the promising look it presents. I do like a lot of the story bits, especially the Night’s Watch stuff, and the lore and tone seems to be right. I just wish I could read a lot more of the menus, but whatever. My fault for not having an expensive HDTV, right?

Some Achievements then after an hour or two of play:


Winter is coming (10G): Finish chapter 1


Family is hope… (10G): Finish chapter 2


Merciless (20G): Mete out 5 deathblows

The majority of Achievements are labeled as “secret” and hidden away behind locked text. I kind of appreciate that as it definitely helps to not spoil story beats. As someone who always peruses the lists of unlockables before playing, it’s nice to not know everything or even the hint of something to come.

All right. Time to go back behind stone and brick. Maybe I’ll resurface soon again. If not, knock the secret knock, and we’ll work something out.

The Sims Social and simulating social spamming

As I’m wont to do, I’ve drifted away from many of the silly Facebook games I was into months ago, such as CityVille and Pet Society and even–gasp!Chocobo’s Crystal Tower. In my mind, you can only click on things for so long, and I’ve never been into the social elements of social gaming, always feeling like I’m pestering my friends or spamming their newsfeeds. Which is odd then because I played a little bit of The Sims Social last night…and actually liked it. Guess others like it too since there’s over 10,000,000 monthly active players at the moment; Leigh Alexander probably not included in that count.

I’ve always enjoyed the gameplay of The Sims, taking the mundane tasks of daily life and turning them into something a wee bit more rewarding. Having a job, peeing, calling friends over for some TV and pizza…it’s all fun, and generally one wouldn’t think so. I mean, the social elements in games like Grand Theft Auto IV drove me absolutely batty, but that’s because the developers were trying to juggle too much at once. Here, it works…up until you accidentally set your Sim on fire or lose on your money in a bad spout of furniture purchasing. Which happens a lot for me. That’s been the biggest stresser and deterrent for me for The Sims franchise, the fact that you can work so hard making your house rock, your job awesome, and your circle of friends top-notch, and then can lose it all in a small kitchen fire.

Well, with The Sims Social, that fear is gone…seemingly. From what I can tell, your Sim can’t die. It can get unhappy and down and low on key meters like social, fun, and hygiene, but that’s okay. Just click around and visit some neighbors, and you’re back to sparkling goodness. And all the other elements of the The Sims is there, such as multiple tasks, traits, house construction, customization, and whatnot. Granted, everything is limited by a select amount of energy points used for actions, but it’s not too big of a hassle all in all. So far, spamming has been slight, and I’ve added my wife as a neighbor, but nobody else in my Facebook universe seems to be playing. No big deal. Like I said before, I’m not here for the social part of the browser-based game’s title. I’m here to click around and wear digital version of clothes I am wearing now and try to reconstruct my house into places I’ve actually lived in before, and I probably will for a little bit and then lose interest. Don’t be sad, Facebook. That’s just the way these things go. Here, have 1,000 simoleons!

Angry Birds should really be called Murdered Pigs

Yesterday, I played Angry Birds for the very first time. It was bound to happen. You can only avoid these things for so long; it’s kind of like how everyone eventually joins a social media site, no matter how vocal they are about hating those sorts of things; granted, every website these days integrates some kind of social media element in it, and then you’re there, stuck, updating your status, liking posts, and adding “friends” you’d never consider friends if you bumped into them while out shopping for books or something. Um…yeah. What was I saying? Oh, right: ill-tempered fowl.

While it’s been pretty easy to ignore almost all games on Facebook thanks to some settings tinkering and the fact that I really don’t hang out there as much as before, a host of new clickfest titles debuted this week at Google+, a website that I originally called “like Facebook, but without the games.” Guess I can’t say that anymore. What is nice though is that the games section is totally separate from the main feed of the site, so I don’t have to see how many points Joe Hoeblow got on level 9-154 of Murdered Pigs as I’m trying to see what people are really up to. That said, don’t you want to be my friend on Google+?

For those that don’t know, Angry Birds is a physics-based game of tossing birds via slingshots at rather innocent-looking pigs, trying to kill them all. I think there’s a storyline here. Something about the pigs stealing these birds’ eggs, which doesn’t really make sense when you consider that pigs don’t often climb trees. You toss the birds and gain points for how effectively you murder these pigs, as well as how few birds it takes to do so. I played up to 1-15 of Poached Eggs, the first episode, without a hitch, just sort of floating along. At 1-15, a new type of bird is introduced: a tiny blue bird which, when clicked again while in mid-air, splits into three birds. Very cool. Sadly, the game itself neglected to tell me this. I guess it did try with an unclear image while waiting for the level to load, but nothing ever specifically stated that these birds had a secret power, one vital to solving the upcoming level. I only learned this key strategy skill by accident after trying to beat 1-15 for the nineteenth time.

At no point did I ever get the sense that these birds are angry. If anything, they seem cracked out of their tiny  bird brains, shrilling in glee as they are hurled at stone walls and piles of wood, tossed to their death so systematically. All for the murdering of pigs, purported to have stolen eggs. A pig steals, a pig dies. What? I mean, things weren’t even this harsh in 16th century medieval times. Severe cases of theft back then could be punishable by flogging or the cutting off of one or both ears or a hand. And yeah, death by hanging. But surely that’s better than death by bird to the face.

It’s an okay little game. I just don’t get the logic of it all, but that’s the writer in me. Pigs and birds have no famous (or infamous) connection in nature. Might as well toss pineapples at polar bears. I’ll probably continue to play here and there as I find a moment of gaming emptiness, but I can’t really imagine myself going the distance here and seeing all 250+ levels to the end. That kind of grind is for the birds…

BONUS UNUSED BLOG POST PHOTO:

Greeting somewhat warmly The Sims 3 on my Verizon cell phone

I can’t go into the specifics, but over the weekend I was fretting and waiting and worrying and trying very hard to pass the time in a mildly distracting way, but all I had was my cell phone and football on in the background. Ew, ball-foots. So, yeah, sports wasn’t helping, nor was watching the crazies around me. There was a very weak WiFi connection available, limiting the time I could fiddle around on Twitter and Facebook to a minimal. Yet probably enough time to download a mobile game…

…which I’ve never done before in my life.

I have a Verzion Reality cell phone, and that’s exactly what it is–a cell phone. I use it to make calls, text my wife that I made it safely to work, update Twitter rarely, and sometimes take pictures. Other than that, I don’t use it much as a piece of entertainment or gaming device. In fact, the Verizon Reality doesn’t even come with any free games. There’s three trial games for Tetris, Pac-Man, and Oregon Trail, as well as Dice…which just has you shaking the phone and rolling dice around. Exciting. But yeah, I perused the list curiously to see what was available and found myself surprised at some of the titles–Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, and Guitar Hero to name a few. How bizarre that tiny iterations of these big blockbusters exist on such an underpowered piece of equipment.

I ended up putting all my chips on The Sims 3, figuring it was the genre best suited to filling voids of time and performing mindless actions. It was $9.99. The only Sims game I ever played was the very first one, way back when, and I had a good time with it during college. My neighbors were my roommates, and I had a family, as well as a bad habit of setting myself on fire in the kitchen. I know that since The Sims released there’s been about 9,723 more editions, but that’s okay…they all play about the same, right? Sort of.

The Sims 3 mobile version plays vertically, with a mouse arrow stuck in the middle of the screen. You then slide the screen left, right, up, and down until the arrow is on whatever you desire (stove, shower, bed, your neighbor’s uncouth wife) and then tap on it to bring up a list of options (quick snack, shower, nap, seduce her and steal all her jewelry when she’s asleep, respectively). Honestly, it takes a bit of getting used to, and I do worry about not being able to get Sim Pauly over to the bathroom quick enough when he’s got to read a novel.

You start out as a jobless Sim in a modest home with a tad bit of money. It’s up to you to then form your Sim’s life. I gave mine such traits as shy and calm, and I plan to be that way as long as possible. As you play, Wishes pop up randomly–these are kind of like in-game Achievements in that they are specific tasks (example: sleep in another Sim’s bed). There are 75 in all to do…which definitely adds to the time-wasting quality here.

At this point, I spent all my money on a coffee pot and better kitchen table. Now my fridge is broken, and I don’t have the cash money to buy a repair kit. So I did some fishing (caught two catfish!), and applied for a job at the local quickmarket. Haven’t shown up yet to work. My neighbors think I’m a bit creepy. And , just like me, Sim Pauly seems to never not be hungry. Greaaaaaat…

Oh, and here’s what the game looks like if you were as curious as I was:

But yeah, I don’t foresee myself playing this a lot in my free time. I have the Nintendo DS for handheld gaming, but if I’m ever stuck somewhere and need to desperately get my mind off one thing and onto another, this should do the trick just fine. Also, I’m gonna try my bestest to set Sim Pauly on fire in the kitchen, in honor of nostalgia, as well as an excuse to blog about it on Grinding Down.

New friend request from Chocobo’s Crystal Tower

Many Facebook games pass me by day in, day out. I prefer it that way. I think the website did something recently to hide the thousand and one status updates pertaining to Farmville cows and one’s desperate plea for wood (::snerk::), which I’m eternally grateful for because you can only see so many of those before you begin to worry, not only about your sanity, but that of your friend’s. And when I did play a few Facebook games, such as Farmville and Pet Society, rarely did I ever choose to tell my friends about my latest in-game accomplishments. It’s not my style. I mean, I don’t do it with Fallout: New Vegas, rushing over to my laptop to alert everyone online that I completed the High Times quest and they should “like” this. No one cares.

And so it takes something special to get me into a Facebook game these days. Most are often click-spammers, lacking depth and forcing social interaction left and right. Thus, I was shocked to learn that Square Enix released two games for Facebook this week, both related to their Final Fantasy series: Knights of the Crystals and Chocobo’s Crystal Tower. I did not glance too long at the former title as it is very much a Mafia Wars sort of game, but the latter hooked me with its chocobo raising and RPGness.

I mean, the most fun I actually had in Final Fantasy VII was raising, breeding, and racing chocobos to obtain that ultimate summon spell hidden on a tiny island that only a special chocobo could get to. Took many long hours, as well as a strategy guide, but I did finally get it. And I ended up growing pretty attached to my giant magical birds, too.

So, in Chocobo’s Crystal Tower, which is currently in beta status, you raise chocobos on a ranch. You feed them, brush them, adorn them with adorable outfits, and, when they are old enough, send them off to a local tower to battle enemies, collect treasure, and gain experience. You can also breed your chocobo with other players’ birds. Everything takes time, which is fine, and you can spend your earned gil on decorations for your ranch, food, or special outfit items. The game also supports Achievements. It’s simple fun, with a cutesy art style and classic soundtrack; it’s biggest selling point is, naturally, hearing that instantly recognizable kweh! from your chocobo. Warms my heart every single time.

The game does a decent job of explaining most of its important parts to the player during the tutorial, but it’s a bit slow going, especially since none of my friends are playing it with me, and there’s some horrible load times as you switch between menus. I even got locked up on a loading screen and had to refresh out. Also, my current chocobo star Tiktok recently came back from a dungeon missing all of his gear (French hat, shirt, rubber boats), and I have no idea what happened or how to find out. Love throwing gil down the drain. We’ll see how long this one keeps me hooked…

Here’s the link to the game’s main page if you’re interested in giving it a shot.

BONUS QUESTION: How do you pronounce chocobo? Is it cho-co-bow or choc-oboe? Tara and I say it differently.