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CGD: Awesome Video Game Data 2017
2017.10.25

CGD: Awesome Video Game Data 2017

I follow the GDC (Game Develeoper Conference) channel on Youtube and, just right now, I totally recommend you to do the same. Great amount of excellent talks (of course there are some exceptions, like the lame at-the-time-GDC-board-member Peter Molyneux making plain simple propaganda).

There is one that I just watched and is very eye opening: it the annual talk from the guys of EEDAR (a data consolidation company) presenting numbers of the whole industry. The talks about prices, sales, regions, mobile/pc/consoles. Everything!

It is a must-see.

Sing
2017.10.23

Sing

I was wandering in the giant wasteland of TV shows, changing channels every 15 seconds, when I noticed that animation Sing was about to start. I decided to give it a try, but I had no expectations about it. For me it would be another cashin animation movie.

When it ended I felt super surprised about how good it is. I was crying like a baby, but it something I do often. πŸ˜›

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The movie is about a theater owner that dreamed about having a great and successful show but got failure after failure. Deeply in debt, he decided to create a singing competition. It attracted hundreds of contestants, which one with a unique style. The narrative is very predictable, but nevertheless very emotional one. The main themes is believe in your dreams. But there is a bit of father-son relationship for some characters. They don’t run away from the typical stereotypes. And there a very few surprises along the way.

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Visually stunning, the song selection is very nice (could be great, however) and the characters are very well realized. My personal favorite is the chameleon assistant. πŸ˜› The cast is very good here, with solid performances. Some of them I did not noticed who as who. I dont know if the actors actually sang for the movie, but I doubt it.

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Very good pop corn time movie to watch with the family.

My Rating: 8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 73
Rotten Tomatoes: 72
Queen of Katwe
2017.10.20

Queen of Katwe

Just after watching a fun and light comedy with Sing, another channel started to show Queen of Katwe. I heard good comments when it was in theaters, so I decided to keep up the marathon.

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It tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a real life girl from the village of Katwe, in Uganda, that end up being a very good chess player. It is a very typical against-all-odds and follow-your-dream kinda story. The poor girl have to face all the prejudice for being women and poor (but not about being black, because the whole movie is basically on Uganda, which such thing is non sense) to get a place under the sun.

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Her unexpected success transformed the lives of her family and of the many people of her village. She became a celebrity at very young age, which influenced her personality. Year after year, she start to behave as a spoiled kid, believing that she was invincible. With the family support, she realizes the most valuable things in life in the end.

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The acting of the protagonist, from Madina Nalwanga, is excellent. The whole media focused the attention to the beautiful Lupita Nyong’o that plays Phiona’s mother, but the real star here is Madina. Phiona is portrayed as a timid, introspective girl, but Madina played in a way that it still makes the character very very likable. You cheer for her. Even being in a chess match!

The other kids are also really good. It is always a challenge to work with children.

My main complain with the story is the sub plot of her older sister. I dont know if the book that was based on uses this character to a greater purpose, but in this motion picture this subplot, while gives hints about the whole situation of Phiona and her mother, does not go anywhere relevant.

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The visuals are great. The poverty is displayed in a way that brings emotions but is not there to provoke shock. The African colors and styles gives it a very distinctive and beautiful look.

My Rating: 7β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 73
Rotten Tomatoes: 94
Orwell
2017.09.12

Orwell

Following yet another recommendation from Rock Paper Shotgun, I decided to give this small little indie game a try.

The game address the theme of governmental surveillance. The Big Brother. It’s definitively a reference to the US’ Edward Snowden case from 2013.

But unlike what traditional dystopian stories generally do, Orwell puts you in the shoes of the oppressing regime. To be more fair, you control a simple security agent, which makes you more a pawn than a King. It’s a similar position that you take from the excellent Papers Please. Following the rules and d questionable things is part of your job. You need to put food on the table after all. After the first negative (or at least not constable) impressions, you will get used to the job, and things get easier to digest.

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Your official job is to track terrorist threats, listening to phone call, see video camera feeds, and read social media from targets. But these tools are available to spy on virtually all citizens, potential criminals or ordinary folk alike.

At very beginning of the game, the country suffers a major terrorist attack and the country is in a political crisis. It’s your job to find the responsible ones. You even have a lead. He might be innocent, but your investigation opens connections. Connecting one person to another, like teacher-student, neighbors, father-son, brings you new potential suspects.

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A really good thing that I noticed while playing is that, without direct intervention of the game, reading the news, I created some conspiracy theories. I was trying to link dots, trying to see the “big picture”, trying to make sense of the chaos of facts and information. The game throws at you several misleading information, and like real life, you will have to filter what is relevant and what is not. It fascinated me.

The mechanics of the game are quite unique. Not revolutionary, but unique. If the theme is close to Papers Please, the gameplay reminded me of Her Story. Using try-and-error and some deduction, you try to to reveal the missing gaps. If you didn’t like Her Story, don’ worry, here the story is more traditional. Everything is scripted like and adventure game. You will not make an relevant change in the course of the story during game.

As a short game, I liked very much. I heard that they are doing a sequel, which is good news. I will be glad to try it also.

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PS: yes, the game Orwell is a direct reference to Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell) and his book 1984.

My Rating: 7β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 77
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
2017.07.26

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Like Batman Arkham Knight, this game of the Assassin’s Creed franchise was launched in a very rough state. There are thousands of videos in the YouTube showing crazy situations, mostly because the AI, but also due poor collision detection and graphical glitches.

And as Batman, I played the game long after the launch, after the developers patch the patch the patch of the patch of the game.

And as Batman, I played a buggy game.

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At the time I played the second game in the series, Assassin’s Creed 2, I did not commented in the blog. I don’t even recall if I had a blog at the time (in fact I did have, because I played it in 2010 and it was mentioned in the 2010 year review). Anyway, it was one of my favorite games of all time at that point. I really enjoyed every bit of it. And I appreciate it even more when I finally when to Italy and could see in real life the places that I have been before in the virtual life.

Back to Unity, it felt flat to me.

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The visuals are great, I cannot deny it. Seeing the Eiffel tower at the horizon (even for a brief moment because the main game is before its construction) was full of emotions. The crowd ragging against the monarchy is super cool (the crowd on the streets are not, because the pop and change visuals in front of you), the buildings are also very detailed. The character models are good, but the uncanny valley occurred to me: all seemed creepy.

The gameplay is the typical Assassin’s Creed fashion. The main difference here is that it does not work right. I believe that the developers wanted to put so many climbing and parkour points across your path that very often the character does something different that the player intended. It starts to climb in a weird point or get over a ordinary table. I had several moments that I died because I was not in full control of the character. The combat is ok but the armors and weapons all fell the same. There is no special strategy here.

The story is laughably bad. The MAIN character is boring. The main one. That Arno starts begin a anti-hero that is converted to a blindly good hero in a snap and is moved mostly by boring motives. I could not care less. The girl follows the same path. The secondary characters, in most part, are not good and when you think they are going to grow in the story, you have to kill them. That in fact a kinda problem in the AC universe, because they are built to assassinate people, their opponents, so most story lines end on killing them before some good conflict emerges

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[story plot here]

The recurring structure of the story is:

  1. there is a enemy
  2. you are sent to kill him,
  3. by doing so, you discover that there is, in fact, a bigger boss

And the cycle repeats. Is is not an accident that I cannot remember a single villain.

The side quests and collectibles, all boring. When finding a chest containing… nothing… is fun? The only collectibles that I compelled to do is open the map climbing strategic towers and evolving my own bar to a certain level that it generates loads of money. Getting flags or chests or entering the catacombs were too dull to for me.

The present storyline, against Abstergo, was only briefly mentioned. There is none in this game that reveals anything.

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The overall felling is that I had to finish the game for the sake of my compulsive behavior. No reason to recommend to anyone, except if you are French (I suppose it would be awesome to have your own city mapped like this).

My Rating: 4β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 70
My Neighbor Totoro
2017.07.22

My Neighbor Totoro

This 30 years old cartoon is still a charm.

This Japanese animation showed me the importance of being open to alternative views. The theme and pace of the movie is completely different from the western animations.

The story is about 2 girls (and their dad) moving to a new house. Nearby there are some fantastical creatures that co-exist in this world.

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The pace is super slow. But not dragging-type of slow. It is contemplative kinda slow. They present the characters step by step, thru small events. The two kids will slowly conquest your heart. They are so adorable. It was a great pleasure to care about someone, on the contrary of many of the western movies and games, that I could not care a thing about them. I lovedΒ  Mei and Satsuki.

The visuals are great. Like watercolor paintings and classic anime style of drawings. The Totoro character is particularly funny! The other creatures are cool, but they are not throughly explored, so I cannot say they are great. The music is a bit sparse, with long moments of silence.

My mainly, maybe only, complain is the abrupt ending. With much spoilers, at a certain point of the story there is a big problem that the characters try to solve. But at any point it as said that is was the major final problem. I was personally expecting to, after solving it, to get to the final major problem. It ends in moment that I was not expecting to happen. It left the story with too many open questions, too many mysteries. When the credits started to roll I was shocked.

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It is a short excellent movie. It ends suddenly but the whole ride is a enjoyable one. Totoro (the character) is now among my favorite anime characters ever.

Totally recommend you to watch it.

My Rating: 8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 86
Rotten Tomatoes: 94
Long Games that I Have Never Finished
2017.07.19

Long Games that I Have Never Finished

[Edit: I pressed publish by accident. Some games added]

Length is a important variable for a video game. It is a bit curious, because for the similar prices, even the shortest game will be much longer than a movie. But among it’s peers, games do have a scale.

Many companies advertise the amount of hours to finish a it’s game. There is even a great website called, you guessed it, GameLenghts that tracks how long users take to finish the game. Their is a second site, and my favorite in the market, called How Long to Beat, that I fell more complete.

Bigger is not Better.

Several games suffer from a syndrome that most players never reaches the end of it. Sometime not even half of it. Many games do have achievements triggered when the player crosses the line. I currently have being playing some short games that I felt much more fulfilling. Some let me wanting more. But honestly I fell that wanting more is a better felling “this game never ends!”.

I believe the story driven games should have a more concise length. It could be delivered in chunks, for those that want more. Open world games, like GTA and Skyrim/Fallout, are understandably really long, allowing the players explore several things.

Here is a list of some games that I personally never finished.

  • Divinity Original Sin: this one I will finish soon. But it entered the list because I’ve played several games in the between.
  • Skyrim: yes yes… I know. After not liking the previous installment, I came to this game knowing that I would struggle. After meeting The Witcher 3, it now seems likely to be played again
  • Borderlands 2: I played mechanically. Despite knowing that it is a nice game, I struggle to do it so brainlessly
  • (1)Bioshock Infinite: I started, I felt a bit fake and the story never hooked me
  • LA Noire: I am in a very late mission, but I think the saving I got is lost, so I might never finish it
  • (1)[Dishonored]]9: I started but soon uninstalled to open space to play the The Witcher 3 expansions.
  • Transistor: I installed in my Linux notebook but I rarely used to play games
  • Alan Wake: it’s a bit stressful to play. Also, I was not having time to play at night to fully appreciate it
  • (1)Half-Life 2: I always stop in a certain point than something happens that I move on
  • (1)Spec Ops: The Line: I played a bit and did not think it was amazing, but I feel it will surprise me
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent: I loved the whole concept, but by the end of a session I fell exhausted because of the level of fear and stress.
  • Hitman Absolution: I stopped in a given level than I moved on.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning: I liked the like story and the game play. But the game seems endless. I might play it more
  • Alien Isolation: the same as Amnesia. I always fell that I like horror games, but I fell very stressed out after while
  • Invisible Inc.: the same as Transistor.
  • FEZ: I liked the puzzles, but there are several of them tooo obscure for the to find fun on solving.
  • (1)Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: I like and I fell it is good. I is installed waiting to be played.
  • Psychonauts: I played a lot before Steam having a cloud save and my PC crashing
  • (1)Metro 2033: felt another FPS at the time.

And the list goes on…

In a list of more the 200 games I own and played, it is comparatively short list. Most of them are long games.

In bold, some that I try to play it again in the future, mostly because there are some that I liked so far and I fell shame in not getting it to the final. I wanted to say that the others will be played in the future, but knowing that I will buy newer games, it is not honest with myself πŸ˜›

(1) Edited on 2021-09-20: Finished!

Linux on Notebook, Take 2, Mini-Buntu
2017.07.13

Linux on Notebook, Take 2, Mini-Buntu

My notebook it not new. I bought the Yoga 2 Pro almost 4 years ago. Two years back, I got annoyed with Windows so I decided to install Linux in it. I was scared because on the contrary of most my PCs that I assembled myself, the Lenovo had a warranty and possibly custom hardware.

As I told, the attempt failed. It was giving me too much headaches. Also I generally use my notebook to also program and develop games. And because the Unity Editor was not available (not at least in a reasonable version), I was kinda forced to migrate back to Windows10.

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About 3 months ago, I decided to give it a second shot. In case I was not clear, I use Linux in the desktop, in a dual boot, for about 15 years. I saw Ubuntu entering the market. But since I start to systematically be involved on making games, the necessity of Windows started too. Back to the experiment. It was a requirement for me that the general performance had to be great. Not good, great. I would prefer to keep on the Debian-like distro because I’m familiar to. Ubuntu family if possible. So I selected both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for a ride.

Kubuntu was the one that I tested before. I like KDE since version 2 but again failed in deliver a blazing fast experience. In the notebook, the boot time was several minutes. Even Windows 10 was couple of seconds. I decided then to format and install Lubuntu.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu derivative using the LXDE desktop environment. Super light. Man! Boot was fast and when ready it consumed a fraction of RAM of both Windows and Kubuntu. However, during my 4 weeks test I was giving too much little problems. So I decided to make another switch.

Xubuntu, in a similx1800 ), which is fine in a 13 inches monitor. Then came to the software selection. Lubuntu was super short on preinstalled stuff, which i like because I generally don’t use them anyway, but Xubuntu came with some. The good news is that the selection does not consume much of the the drive space and are light enough in case I really want to use them.

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I had to install Steam and it works nice. Unfortunately, GOG’s Galaxy does not have currently a Linux version, so the games have to be installed manually one by one. Also your play time will be not computed nor you will be alerted about updates. A second negative point is that most GOG’s games do not use the new cloud save feature, so playing a bit in the notebook and a bit in the desktop is only for games that progress do not matter. Fingers crossed for the future.

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Finally I was looking for a game engine that works on Linux. Unreal, as I found, works, but you have to compile it yourself. GREAT πŸ™ I did it. It took hours and the result was too many crashes and too big suite to work in a notebook. I was once again looking for a lightweight engine. I tested Godot and liked. But it is still lacking.

Then I found out that Unity is in fact releasing in a alternative channel (thru forums) the update engine for Linux. I installed it too. crashes a log but it works. I`ve being playing the game developer in the note book ever since. With the excellent Visual Studio Code editor, it makes my days fun.


After 2 months and half working most of the time on this notebook, I can be happier man but in general I am already one. It is fast, close environment that I face when I deal with cloud Internet stuff and free. I plan to migrate to a newer machine in the next year, mostly to get a better amount of RAM memory and battery life. Currently, it lasts 3 hours, which is by any means a shame for a mobile device.

This is currenly my desktop
This is currenly my desktop

Hacksaw Ridge
2017.07.03

Hacksaw Ridge

I wanted to watch the latest Mel Gibson movie as a director because… it was Mel Gibson. I understand that Gibson plays a nuts role in most peoples minds, but as Β a director, he is a quite talented one. I did not know much about the movie, except it was about a war (probably second great war, based on the trailer) and Gibson was the project leader. It was enough to make me curious.

After 30 minutes into the movie, I had to admit that I was hooked. Cool characters, cool story, very nice production.

Now, after seeing it entirely, I have to say: WOW. What a great movie it is! I was not expecting this quality.

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Gore

If you have heart problem, have kids with you watching or do not support violence and gore, keep away form this picture. It has it all. Like some super-realistic WWII movies (like the superb Saving Private Ryan), Hacksaw Ridge shows the battles in a visceral way. Gibson is very familiar with this, because Braveheart and Passion of the Christ are also displaying violence in its crudeness.

But for all of these movies, the crude violence is informative. It sets the tone of despair and importance of simple acts. You can see the real courageous and the cowards. The cost of the victory and the burden of the defeat.

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Religion

One of the major themes is about religion prejudice. It dedicates half of its time talking about how the military (and society in general) are very prejudicial against religious people, specially those fanatics. It tries to convince that, despite the fanaticism, all people should be respected. Quite bold and powerful message in times that Muslim fanatics are doing so many terrorist acts.

But the political argument was not about muslins, but about Gibson himself. It is well knowing that Mel is a very religious person. In the last past movies, he always touched the subject. Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto address some religions views and practices. I felt that Hacksaw Ridge, sometimes, seems to be made only for the purpose of justification of his own behavior and believes.

But despite the original intention an violent aesthetics, it is a must-see.

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My Rating: 9β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 71
Rotten Tomatoes: 84
The Swapper
2017.06.28

The Swapper

I bought The Swapper yesterday because I heard good things about it. And man, I loved the game.

It is a platformer puzzle game, like the classic Braid, but the major feature is the ability to create a clone of yourself and migrate the controls to it. It might be considered a form of teleportation, but your old ones will still be there. It opens opportunities for several interesting challenges. It also uses, [minor spoiler alert] at mid game, a similarly feature as VVVVV that is changing the direction of gravity. The puzzles have a nice and steady evolution in difficulty, combining the new features each time they are added to your repertoire.

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The only thing that I was a bit confused it the collectible orbs. For a completionist like me, and a pleasing game like The Swapper, I felt compelled to collect of of them. But the counter that shows in the UI does not have a one-to-one relationship to the amount of orbs you collect. At the beginning of the game, it is one-to-one, but in later stages, each orb you get adds you dozens into the orb counter. It is confusing to track the general progress you are making. I guess the developers wanted to make the reward the player more the more complex the puzzle is, but I did not fell this way. This orbs are not just optional. In order to progress, you have to collect a certain number of them to open locked areas. But in most cases, you have to collect almost all orbs possible to reach the required number, so it turns out to be even more useless the multiple orb value per orb collected intended feature. Minor complain thou.

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The game have a very great visuals. Dark and a bit spooky, but not in the way of horror games. It is designed to be just uncomfortable, just like Limbo and (presumably Inside, but I didn’t play it yet). But unlike Limbo, it rarely inputs pressure. You are always in a lonely and calm journey. It imprints the sense of loneliness, desolation, mystery and insanity.

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The overall theme is a science fiction. During the game you face several dialogues and recordings of a technological discovery. It present the theme in a more philosophical approach, similar to Talos Principle. However, due the super short texts and obtuse ways to tell it, it does not feel very mind melting like Talos. It was a bit unsatisfying. A professional scientist would never write a log in such enigmatic way. It would be much clearer and direct to the point. This obtuse style of storytelling is typical on horror and mystery games, novels and movies. They rely on telling the audience so little that you do not understand the meaning way to the end. Despite it, I like the approach.

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The game is short, which I would say that is a plus, because it gives the sense of completion and that it is not dragging you for hours for the sake of appearing more substantial.

I totally recommend this game. One of the best indies and best games overall I played this year so far.

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My Rating: 8β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Metacritic: 87
BRUNO MASSA