Beauty and the Best

Video Games

Orphan Black Game Review

We’re back at it with Ellana Bryan doing a review of Orphan Black: The Game. With the show going into it’s fifth and final season, they are releasing a cool new game for the iOS and Android platforms. Check out Ellana’s review of it below.

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Tabria Majors and Dana Patterson - Skillz Strike Bowling

Tabria Majors and Dana Patterson play the sexiest game of online bowling ever.


Tabria Majors, Eliza Love & Chelsea Miller Review Breville Blender

One of my favorite videos of late. This is a great blender. The Breville Boss Blender costs about $400, but it’s really worth it. Great product from Australia.


Editor's Note: Is Xbox done from the Xbox One?

As the resident games journalist here at All Good Things I was closely watching today's reveal of Microsoft's successor to the Xbox 360, now called the Xbox One. Normally, here (as is obvious from our name) we like to focus on the positives but I feel we need to raise awareness of an issue that's been building for quite some time within the games industry: publishers complaining that they are losing money on used game sales.

What exactly is it that makes the games industry feel entitled to complain about the
first sale doctrine, which has been an important part of copyright and the economy since the beginning of time. From cars to comic books, all industries have understood the rights of the purchaser to buy from them, sell what they buy, or choose to buy their product from a third party at their own discretion.

Not game makers though…at least not anymore. In this day where games can sell 3.4 million new copies in a month but still be considered a 
financial disappointment, they instead focus upon how much more money they're losing because they can't just force people to only give their money directly to them.

Enter the Xbox One.  Now I like my Xbox just fine. I'm not a fanboy for any console manufacturer right now; 
SEGA is my first and only love. However, Microsoft hopes to court publisher support by doing exactly what I mentioned above. The new Xbox One will require paying an added fee directly to Microsoft on every used or borrowed game. As a gamer, I cannot support that. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that I am building equity on my purchases, which can later be used to buy more games, new or used.

How many great games have been released this year alone? If you can afford to drop sixty dollars every few weeks then good for you but many of us cannot and don't feel we should have to pay an extra ten, fifteen, twenty dollars on top of what we can pay as we would for anything else or conversely lose $10-20 on games we would like to sell if the market for used games drops proportionately.

In the past five years we have forked over while publishers slash out content to sell piecemeal as
DLC; we've had to deal with online passes (which the Xbox One also integrates on a hardware level) and worse. Don't stand for this because the more you let them take from you, the more they will try to take. You have other options like the Wii U or the upcoming Playstation 4, neither of which currently have plans to do anything like this.

UPDATE: Apparently, XBOX is playing damage control disavowing that any of these used game fee strategies will be put into place and saying only that the new system has the ability to implement such a pricing strategy at a future date. Uh-huh.

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Exclusive Interview with Team Rubber Bandito

Recently The X from AllGoodThings.TV had a chance to catch up with LA-based indie game developer, Team Rubber Bandito (aka Cold Dish) for the week of the Game Developers Conference.  Individually having worked on such high profile Disney and Nickelodeon titles, these developers have banded together to produce an eclectic platforming experience unlike any other available now on iOS and Android systems.  Check out their interview here:

AllGoodThings.TV Interview with Team Rubber Bandito

AGT: Tell us a little about Cold Dish and what made you start working in mobile development after such games as SpongeBob and Pixar's Up on console?

RB: Most of us knew each other from working on the games you mentioned and more. As the games industry (along with everyone else) fell on tough times, there was a general surplus of talent at any given time. That, combined with so few barriers to publishing on mobile, made it plausible to self-fund a mobile game. We needed at least a few experienced developers willing to devote their free time towards an original product. A few turned out to be 20 in the end.

AGT:  How did you develop the concept for Rubber Bandito and how many people were involved in the process?

RB: Co-Director, Pat, had a concept very early on (even before the release of Angry Birds) of a platformer controlled by slingshotting the main character around. The aesthetics and story flowed from that foundation. A small art team jumped on to work with the directors to do concepts and really solidify what the game was. At the end of that process we had Steampunk inspired enemies and a badass hero with a bear’s claw strapped to his hand. We walk through some of that process on our development blog and visually in a book for Kickstarter backers, “The Art of Rubber Bandito”.

The whole team and their roles are listed on our website and we will have Facebook updates about team members this week. Many of them are doing some really cool work outside of this game.

AGT:  Tell us about the core game mechanic and what games if any inspired your development/design approach?

RB: We set out to do a condensed, focused, mobile experience that was still very classic like a lot of the Nintendo GBA games we used to play. Those games were great experiences that held up to console games but were also uniquely portable/mobile. There didn’t seem to be enough games like that on phones and tablets.

We then took the best parts of classic games like Super Mario Bros and Sonic and made them more casual by changing the structure of the levels and of the challenges. What we tried to keep were things like secrets, tough (but fair) challenge, main characters with tons of personality, and many different environments within one game.

With the player, we specifically wanted quick jumping, precision, freedom, and something that allowed great control once mastered. Those are the elements we felt were worth striving for.

AGT:  A lot of people are moving into developing mobile games now.  What do you see are the biggest differences between console and mobile development?

RB: One great thing about mobile is that you can find so many different and unique ideas on the market. It's currently easier on mobile for the creators to put out original ideas for people who are tired of the same type of game every year.

There are no barriers to getting on the stores, no limited shelf space, and no thick technical requirement checklists. Projects are generally smaller in scope and size and therefore budget. A higher frequency of new games allows for more design iteration.

The obvious technical differences are screen size, device specs and different device resolutions. As it turns out, those are actually not really so different because we have to deal with those differences in console development. Handhelds are small, every console has different specs, and current consoles support many different resolutions.

AGT:  Can you tell us a little about the tech behind Rubber Bandito? Is this your own engine or a third party engine?

RB: We use Unity for our engine/editor and it’s given us a lot of benefits. We’ve had builds on both platforms and a full-featured editor environment from the beginning. Design was up and running about as efficiently as in a large studio within a few of days. This helped speed up the critical prototyping phase. Another really nice feature is the asset store where you’ve got a lot of indie tools developers making some useful stuff. We used products from the asset store to do our fully animated main character and enemies, and to provide iCloud saving, but there’s so much more out there. The Amazon Appstore for Android also supports Unity nicely.
On the production side, we would be pretty lost without Google Drive, Google Sites for our internal wiki, Trac for our bug base, and the usual communication tools like video conferencing and chat. We also customize some of these production tools a fair amount to make sure they fit within our processes.

AGT:  You were able to garner funding via Kickstarter.  What did you see as some of the hardest parts of developing this game?

RB: Operating on a low budget has definitely been a challenge so our awesome backers really helped us out. This can be a rough transition from working on a game where you are used to having a huge budget.
Another challenge, which isn’t necessarily a development challenge, is publishing the game. Discovery in such an open marketplace and other marketing hurdles is challenging, especially in such a quick shifting environment. We recently heard a stat that some publishers are outspending us in marketing on the order of a quarter million dollars.

AGT:  What are the next steps for Cold Dish? Are you planning on doing any work for hire or are you planning to continue developing Rubber Bandito across other skus?

RB: It all depends on our success this coming Wednesday when we launch for free on the Appstore. We also launch on Amazon Appstore for Android that same day. Currently our best bet is to spread the word by getting on the charts. We hope there are enough outspoken supporters of this game to help get people to download it that day. Ask us again in a week! 

AGT:  Thanks for checking out this interview with Team Rubber Bandito.  Be sure to pick up your copy of Rubber Bandito FREE today!

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Halloween Special - Resident Evil Remake Review

Resident Evil was originally released by Capcom for the Sony Playstation in 1996 and follows members of a police special operations team called S.T.A.R.S. as they investigate another squad's disappearance in the forests surrounding Raccoon City. During their investigation they get chased into a spooky and mysterious mansion by wild dogs. As one of these members of S.T.A.R.S. you explore the mansion, fight off infected zombies and other creatures (bosses), solve puzzles, and uncover the terrible truth of just what happened there.

It was the game that really kicked off the survival horror genre and is still remembered as a classic. That's why in 2002 it was remade for the Nintendo GameCube then ported over the Nintendo Wii in 2009. This remake is the real classic in my mind however and one my favorite horror games to this day.

How the Remake Differs from the Original

Most obviously, the graphics have been updated along with new areas & enemies for this version and they still hold up remarkably well for a ten year old game.  The backgrounds are beautifully pre-rendered animations and that frees up a lot of processing power to allow character models & other effects to be incredibly detailed. “The mansion's confined hallways and dusty rooms offer a claustrophobic and helpless atmosphere that's been missing from previous episodes. And like the best horror films, RE Zero's environments are portrayed from camera viewpoints that leave you filled with dread at the prospect of what awaits you around the next corner.” (Wales on Sunday, Cardiff Wales, Sept. 22, 2002.)

The music and dialogue have thankfully also been updated. The original was pretty notorious for having terrible voice acting, "Jill, here's a lock pick. It might come in handy if you, the master of unlocking take it with you." Some may argue this was part of the campy, B movie charm that Resident Evil was going for, but I personally find these changes in the audio to be a lot less grating.  

And before you ask, yes it still uses what are known as "
tank controls.” Tank controls mean rather than pressing left to go left or right to go right, you pivot on the spot in the direction you press then use up or down to move forwards and backwards. It's definitely something to get used to but many people think it's just too hard. “Resident Evil Zero forces players to turn the character left and right with the analog stick and then push forward to move forward. This means no strafing or free movement of any kind. Some gamers will swear by this control scheme.” (IGG, Clementes, Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil Zero Review.)

RE’s Contribution to the Zombie Revival

Around the turn of the century, there was a zombie renaissance in the US. It started with films like “28 Days Later” and Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” but Shinji Mikami's phenomenally popular Resident Evil video game - the most prominent of more than 70 zombie game titles - definitely played its part in the zombie revival. The game alone has spawned at least four movies starring B-queen Milla Jovovich, all of which could be considered “zombie flicks.”

For me, however, it's not only the zombies that create tension; it's the consequences of potentially crossing one. It's something few current gen horror games have given me. They just make it too easy to avoid or defeat enemies, and even if I die, so what? I saved only a few minutes ago.

Not in Resident Evil. Ammunition is scarce so you have to choose between wasting what little you have, finding another route if you can or whether it's worth risking damage by trying to run past an enemy despite the controls. That's all part of the game and if you die, you could be set back hours because even when you cross a save point, you have a limited number of items that let you use it. It gives this game the scariest thing of all - pacing.

Deliberate Pacing

It's the moments between encounters that are scariest of all. I play by creeping around, letting the fear grow and grow about what could be around the next corner and whether or not I'll be able to even survive long enough to get that next item I need to heal or save or progress. It's stressful but it makes the pay off all the sweeter and in a sick way, it's kind of fun.

It's fun to be scared. It's fun even when I get killed or have to play a part over and believe me those things will happen. It's encouraged to go through multiple times however because there's even two different playable characters, each with their own scenarios. This “replayability” and level of immersion definitely makes the Resident Evil Remake a game worth owning for those darkened evenings alone.

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Tiny Wings – IOS Game

Tiny Wings in Play
Since the time of its inception in July of 2008, there have been hundreds of thousands of apps released through the iTunes App store, but I have to imagine that when the reviewers first laid eyes on Tiny Wings they had to be as overjoyed as I was.

I was working on a Kinect title when I first heard about this game from a friend of mine on the God of War III team. They raved about playing this everyday so I had to check it out if for nothing else but a break from bug triage sessions in prep for our pre cert submissions to Microsoft. (Game devs – you know what I mean.) Anyway, there’s an immediate analogue-ness to its colorful presentation that’s a breath of fresh air compared to all of the flat shaded, 2D games that have the appearance of being created entirely with Photoshop. For all I know, maybe Tiny Wings was created in Photoshop as well but the art has a great hand-drawn, organic feel to it. You play as a cute little bird whose wings are too small to allow you to take full flight so instead you have to glide down hillsides building up enough momentum to launch yourself up into the air until gravity brings you back down again. An intuitive tutorial shows you that all you have to do is tap the screen at the precise moment in order to land at the right angle to give you the greatest lift on the upswing. As you get into the groove you can really pick up speed racing against the setting sun to gain distance before the moon rises and you return to the world of slumber. Then you start the whole process again just to see how many islands you can get past before sundown.

This game is the brainchild of German born Andres Illiger, who coded, designed and created the art for the game in the truest spirit of indie game development. He’s admittedly an introvert but professes that in the midst of such negative and destructive games, he wanted to create something that makes gamers feel truly happy. I must say that I’ve spent more time playing Tiny Wings than any other game on my iPhone despite it’s simplicity and he definitely achieved that goal. It’s the perfect way to kill time before hopping on a plane, riding on a bus or train or waiting for an appointment. And I’ve always got a reason to come back because the achievements award you bird nests of varying designs that each act as score multipliers. Finally, there’s the music that blends seamlessly from the main character’s idle state at rest and then dynamically changes as soon as the player touches the screen to start the level. This music is super catchy and Illiger offers it for free download on his website which is pretty cool. The All Good Things Bottom Line: Tiny Wings is an incredible value that more than achieves its goal of bringing you a combination of fun, tranquility and challenge..

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The Orange Box - AGT Mini Review

Orange Box Cover
To this day, one of the absolute best values in gaming is Valve’s offering of The Orange Box on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac. This is a video game compilation including Half-Life 2 (the full game), Half-Life 2: Episodes One and Two, Team Fortress 2 and the first introduction of Portal. Any one of these games by themselves is probably worth more in pure entertainment value than most first person shooters on the market, even at of the time of this mini review’s posting.

Since the introduction of the Half-Life series in November of 1998, Valve took skeletal animation and enemy A.I. to a completely new level and drew gamers into the engrossing underground Black Mesa facility. Players took control of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist and MIT graduate, armed with a Hev suit and an array of incredibly cool weapons. What’s probably most endearing are the companion characters Gordon is always happy to either battle along side or convene with after a series of intense firefights. From the mysterious Vortigants to the enchanting and tough Alyx Vance, Valve has gone above and beyond to create one of the most memorable experiences in video game history.

Then there’s Portal. I had no idea what to expect when I started playing Portal because I’d been deep in production and hadn’t done my research to even know what it was. Hadn’t even seen a preview video. I was immediately addicted to the first person puzzle gameplay based on the use of the portal gun. By the way, Portal 2 (not part of The Orange Box) takes it to an entirely new level if you like this type of gameplay. One warning though – it’s not a shooter. It’s about using your brain - in the same way some of the original Tomb Raider games were about entering a room and figuring out what was needed to escape and avoid certain death. And if nothing else, Jonathan Coulton catchy song, Still Alive, will be nearly impossible to get out of your head. By the way, he’s not a one hit wonder. Coulton’s got lots of other great songs written in his signature sardonic tenor that are not related to Portal but equally is witty.


And last but not least – Team Fortress 2. For those of you who can’t get enough multiplayer action, this cartoon-styled shooter dishes out a healthy dose of capture the flag and base defense modes to appease even the most jaded gamers. As sequel to the original Quake mod, they just amp it up another level.

Unlike movies, games have the daunting task of trying to predict various potential interactions of their audience, which often leads to scripts splinter out into 500 plus pages. With Half-Life 2 especially, Valve manages to guide the player through a world that feels open while simultaneously building a narrative that’s more engaging than most feature films. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, horror, dimensional riffs and rebel skirmishes against fantastic alien and cybernetic organisms, the Half-Life series is for you. And Portal and Team Fortress stand well on their own as more than the icing on the cake.

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