Strange Little Hobby

I have this thing about seeing incredibly easy to do things that people are charging money for. I can’t stand it when people apply a blue filter to a photo, save it as an action, then sell that action for $10. Drives me right up a wall. I’m a DIY kind of guy, and so my other strange little hobby is actually recreating some of those fairly easy effects. Mostly Photoshop actions and layer styles, Lightroom presets, that sort of thing. When I saw these for $6, and someone on Reddit asking for similar, I knew I had to recreate them. So, 15 minutes later…

XBOX 360 sized version

PS3 sized version

Made with CS5, saved with editable layers. Edit, print and enjoy.

If you’re wondering what on earth these are, they’re case art replacements for Xbox and PS3 games, designed to look like old school Penguin Books book covers. Now you can display your game collection right in the living room and your non-geek friends will think you’ve got a huge collection of classic paperbacks.

PSA: Steam Summer Sale

A quick heads up to any of you that play video games, or at least, and more accurately, computer games. Steam just launched their annual “Summer Sale” today. This is an awesome annual/seasonal event (Summer Sale and Winter Sale) where Valve and the other publishers on Steam discount games to way below retail price, for a limited time. On top of that, there are daily deals at even lower prices and “Flash Sales” at even lower prices than that! Looking for an entire collection? Those are there too. Entire publishers catalogs for the price of a single game.

Need some examples?

The entire 2K Games Collection, which includes hits like Civilization, Mafia and Borderlands, retail price $220. This week, $49.

Portal 2, $4.99!

Deus Ex, one of last years “Games of the Year”, $7.49

I know most of you aren’t gamers, but it’s worth mentioning that casual games and cross-platform games are on sale too. I’m sure most of you have played a PopCap game like Bejeweled or Zuma. All 33 games that PopCap has ever made, one collection, $49. That’s about $1.50 a game.

Anyway, just wanted to share that the sale is now live. This is how I stocked up on games last year (that I’m still playing this year). It’s well worth it to pick up some “bargain bin” entertainment, even if you save it for later down the road. Friendly word of advice: Check out the sale on it’s final day, the 22nd, game bundles are the same price all week but in case you miss a “daily deal” everything is at it’s lowest price right at the end as well. Anyway, happy gaming!

Steam Summer Sale

E3 2012

Every year I take a look at the massive video gaming conference that is E3 and offer my completely unbiased and level-headed preview for the gaming year to come. Ok, that’s a lie. I watch the conference and bitch about how they’re consistently ruining a medium that I love. This year, my thoughts on E3’s offerings are fairly easy to distill into a single thought. “What the hell!?!” Strap in. This is going to be a good one…


Game Review: Dungeon Defenders

With the concept of “hack-and-slash” dungeon crawlers completely entrenched in gaming lore as a sub-genre to the all-encompassing “RPG” category, and with Diablo 3 and TorchLight 2 right around the corner, I thought I’d take a minute to highlight a little indie game that I’ve become completely addicted to.

Dungeon Defenders, by Trendy Entertainment, is a hybrid Action-RPG and Tower Defense game. Even most non-gamers have played a tower defense game. Desktop Tower Defense, Plants vs Zombies, FieldRunners, Flash Element, Immortal Defense, and GemCraft all fall into that category. It works a little bit like this:

You select one of 4 basic characters (Apprentice, Squire, Huntress and Monk – younger versions of the more familiar “Wizard”, “Knight”, etc) and start off with the ability to use your weapon and put down the most basic of blockade. The enemies enter the level at point A (usually a door) and make their way to point B, your base, or in this case, your “crystal”. The crystals are what you’re defending. With them the monsters can take over, rule the world, etc, the usually good vs. evil sorts of stuff.

So, between point A and point B, it’s your job to stop the monsters. You set up traps, blockades, weapons and all sorts of things in their path to try and kill the monsters before they reach (and destroy) your crystal. For example, my Squire can set up spike blockers, harpoons, and turrets. More in line with the characters persona, my Apprentice (Wizard) can set up fireballs, lightning traps and the like.

As you progress, your characters stats improve, you get new abilities, new traps and new weapons. You get stronger, your traps get stronger, and you can take (and receive) more damage. Also, the enemies frequently drop armor and weapons, which you can also use to improve your character.

What Trendy has done is build a deep RPG like level system, with loot and collecting, on-top of a really fun tower defense mechanic. I’ve always been a fan of the tower defense genre, and Dungeon Defenders scratches all those itches and more.

The graphics, powered by the latest Unreal engine and bright, colorful and very well polished while leaving enough scalability wise to be played on older and slower systems. I can play DD equally well on my new Mac Pro, Macbook, Gaming PC, older PC and there’s even a version for Android/iPhone as well. Thanks to Steam and SteamPlay (cross-platform support), I’m able to do all of the above from a single account, having only bought the game once. Not only that, but it’s incredibly cheap. The entire game is $5. You can also buy add-ons, where I would suspect their real money comes from, for a couple dollars each, consisting of everything from new characters, extra maps, even fun holiday themed stuff and the occasional poke at pop-culture (there’s a Romney vs. Obama addon). The default maps and characters will do you just fine though, as you get at least 30 levels, with 6 levels of difficulty, ensuring a ton of re-playability. If that wasn’t enough, each level also features “survival” mode, which never ends and the monsters just keep getting harder and harder.

For the hardcore players, there’s also TrendyNet, an online only section where players can play “ranked” matches with other players for glory, stats and loot. If online competition isn’t your thing, you can simply play against the computer on your own machine (as I do). Dungeon Defenders is great for killing 20 minutes here and there but can also turn into multi-hour gaming marathons if that’s more your style.

At the end of the day, it’s $5, it’s a ton of fun, it’s a good time waster, and Trendy really hit a homerun with it. The occasional Steam-Sync issues aside, it’s just about as close to a perfect game as you can get for under a Lincoln.

Dungeon Defenders: 94/100

Game Review: SSX

With my allocation of time and money being spent in other directions these days, I’m getting pretty picky about my video game selections. If it’s not a AAA title or a $2 indie game, I’m probably not buying. One series that always gets my attention is SSX. I’ve been dieing for a good snowboarding game, or sequel to the original Xbox masterpieces, on a current generation system, since Shaun White Snowboard failed so miserably to impress me. SSX was always about 2 thing: back country powder and insane tricks. The new SSX doesn’t disappoint, but it is one of the most aggravating pieces of fun I’ve played in a long time.


Battlefield Rage Quit

I honestly don’t know where to begin. I wanted to do a proper review of Battlefield 3, but I can’t see past the blind rage I’m feeling at the moment. It’s my own fault. I should have known better. I caught the “Crysis” bug and bought a game that, while visually appealing, was bound to have some problems. I thought by purchasing it for a console (PS3 in this case), I would be minimizing my headaches with hardware, drivers, Windows and the whole “it’s on Origin” bullshit. I was wrong. Fair warning, NSFW language ahead.