23Nov '14
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Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)

Loon spiritI have a fondness for winter and the North that I can’t quite describe. Falling snow is beautiful, cold temperatures are invigorating, the silence is serenity, the northern lights are downright breathtaking…the world somehow feels more real and alive when it’s below freezing.

I know I’m in the minority and that most people would rather have sunshine and balmy weather year round. Perhaps that’s why I have a certain fascination with the Inuit people. After all, they’ve lived with the snow and ice for a very long time.

You can then imagine my delight when I saw Never Alone on Steam. Here was an Inupiat (Alaskan Inuit) fable about a girl and an arctic fox told through a video game. I bought it in an instant and I’m glad I did.

I could tell you about how it’s a puzzle platformer that could be played as a single player or co-op. But really, that’s just semantics. What makes this game different is its story.

Half of the experience comes from the narrator telling the story in the Inupiat language (with subtitles). It’s not very hard to imagine sitting around a campfire and listening to this tale while blizzard winds howl outside. It’s the visuals and the gameplay that complete the other half of the experience, the one where you are inside the fable, guiding the pair through a treacherous quest to save a village. Read more →

21Nov '14
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The rough start of a legacy

One of the gaming blogs that I follow is MmoQuests.com, which is not just about MMOs but also a lot of different games. One of the games Stargrace talks a fair bit about is The Sims 3, in particular her legacy families. The Legacy Challenge has you begin with a single founder, a huge lot, and almost no money to furnish it. You then have to continue your founder’s family line through 10 generations and try to build up your house, your money, and your fame.

Now I hadn’t played any of The Sims series in a long time. I remember playing the first game in the series when it was all new and shiny, which was over 10 years ago now. I hadn’t really thought about it until I started reading Stargrace’s posts. The Sims 3 looked to be a lot more fun than The Sims 1 so several months later, I finally caved and bought the Starter Pack on Origin. I’ve only had it for about a month now and I’ve already bought 4 expansions and 2 stuff packs, downloaded god knows how many player-created items, and logged over 200 hours. So Stargrace, if you’re reading this, I’d just like to say that this is all your fault. ;) Read more →

08Nov '14

Play your games in borderless windows

Back when I played WoW, I used to run it in “fullscreen windowed” mode as opposed to regular fullscreen. This meant it was running as if it was in windowed mode, but lacked the taskbar and the normal title bar and borders of a window. It was fantastic for tabbing out a lot (like reading raiding guides or waiting for loading screens) and has been known to improve FPS in certain cases. I’ve even had problems before where alt-tabbing just once can make it harder to get back into the game (I’m looking at you, Skyrim). Which makes it unfortunate when games don’t have this option.

In this case, I came across this problem with The Sims 3 in fullscreen mode. I’d often switch to my browser to look up guides or information, or just to read something while there was a loading screen or my Sims were sleeping. The problem is that the game automatically pauses while you’re tabbed out, even if you’re on a loading screen. I tried windowed mode but the title bar and window borders would push part of the game off the screen. And running the game at a smaller resolution is just wrong.

It took some searching before I discovered what I was looking for was called “borderless windows”. There’s actually a couple of small programs that let you do this with just about any game or program:

I haven’t tested out ShiftWindow but I have tried the other two on The Sims 3. They do quite a good job, although there is still a slight border left (only a few pixels on each side). Borderless Gaming has a slightly easier to use interface, but it uses up more memory than Windowed Borderless Gaming (about 15 MB compared to 5MB). Chances are any gaming computer has a lot of RAM so memory usage probably isn’t a big deal for you. Windowed Borderless Gaming says that this makes it easier to stream gameplay so these programs might be of interest to those of you who use Twitch.tv regularly.

If you do decide to try borderless windows, let me know in the comments how it turns out! It would be interesting to see which games it works with and if it improves your experience.

31Oct '14
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Extra Life Results!

Last Saturday was Extra Life, where I played games for 24 hours to raise money for The Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. My goal in the days before was to raise $200 and I not only reached that goal, but greatly surpassed it by receiving $550 in donations! I did not expect my coworkers and family to be so generous so it was very heartwarming to see. I also knew that I definitely had to make it through the whole 24 hours now. I can remember only one other time in my life when I managed to stay up that long so I knew it would not be easy. Between my excitement and other thoughts going through my head, I ended up awake at 5:30am after about 6 hours of sleep, so I knew this was going to be extra rough.

I started with 2 hours of Wurm Online, because as much as I like that game, “exciting” is not a word I would use to describe it. And I knew that I would need something pretty enthralling in the last hours of the game-a-thon. Then I spent a good chunk of time in Planet Explorers, trying out the adventure mode for the first time. It was a lot of fun, even if there were still bugs like the map not rendering at all. I got as far as building myself a helicopter and the start of a colony before switching to Fallout 3. The last time I had tried it was over a year ago so I decided to start anew. Only it kept randomly freezing on me so I took a break from trying to troubleshoot it to go play Rockband with my brother. After my voice wore out (I can’t play any instruments, only sing), it was some more Fallout before it froze yet again. I tried to play Trove for a little while then but by this time, I was getting rather tired and it wasn’t enough to keep me awake. So on I moved to Banished. I was going for the Uneducated (300 pop. with no schools) and Isolationist (300 pop. with no traders) achievements, which was going splendidly until I made the mistake of running out of food, causing some of my citizens to die of starvation. It became this vicious cycle of people dying and leaving their houses empty, which other citizens would move into and have children…so there were even more mouths to feed and not enough food to go around. It wasn’t pretty, let’s just say that. So out of frustration, I moved onto The Sims Medieval. Big mistake. While a great game, it’s also not exactly riveting and the last few hours until 8am Sunday were very VERY hard. I kept gazing longingly at my comfy bed with its fuzzy blanket and thinking how wonderful it would be to lay down for just a few minutes…but I knew I would just fall asleep right there if I did. Read more →

31Oct '14
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A MST3K Halloween – The Final Sacrifice

Today is Halloween and the last day of this MST3K Halloween-a-thon. So it is my pleasure to present to you one of my all-time favorite episodes, the Canadian-made The Final Sacrifice.

How bad is it? 2.3/10 on IMDB

Why is it so bad? This movie teaches you how to make a Canadian cult: First, wear rubber boots and a black trench coat with the collar turned up, and speak in a demonic voice. Next, convince a bunch of guys to wear ski masks and sleeveless shirts. Then, get them to chase some random kid with a map because reasons. Even though the kid gets away on a bike, despite being chased by car. Also, there’s using a chainsaw to get through a door that you could just, you know, kick in. The name Zapp Rowsdower. Hockey hair and plenty of beer. An advanced, ancient civilization that disappeared when it sank into the ground (it happens all the time in Alberta). A hermit who sounds and looks like Red Green.

Compared to some of the other movies here, it’s not that bad (it’s no Manos after all). It was made as a student film on a $1500 budget so they do have some excuses. But the SOL crew does such a great job of riffing it that no matter how often I watch this episode, I still howl with laughter.

As always, the full epsiode is available on Youtube.

I hope everyone has a happy (and spooky) Halloween! And I’ll leave you with this:

rowsdower-meme

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