A Matter of Time

Time is a funny thing. It never stops, it creates change in our surroundings and our perceptions, and it allows us to create memories (the past) and dreams (the future). When it comes to gaming, time is a finite resource, one that any gamer knows is hard to spread around.

In my early gaming days, I had more time on my hands. This was due in part to having either no school/work to attend to (very early years), or only having school and a few chores that didn’t eat up too much of it. As a result, I had many hours a day to devote to gaming. Unfortunately, not having an income hindered my ability to buy new games, so the small library on hand was it, at least until the next holiday or surprise gift.

I started off with platformers, arcade titles, beat-em-ups, shoot-em-ups, and that sort of thing. Those games either kept you playing because they had an insane difficulty that caused you to start over from the beginning repeatedly until you got good enough (memorized patterns) to finally complete them. Or, they didn’t really have an end, just a high-score chase. Later, I would move on to RPGs and games with more depth, where beating the game didn’t mean it was over, or it took a lot longer to complete. 60+ hours was a long time in my young mind. Even still, I remember when an RPG would come to an end and I would wish that it would keep going forever. I didn’t want it to be over, I wanted to stay wrapped up in its world. I also eventually got a job and had a little more disposable income to allow for the purchase of new games. This was still done at a brick and mortar though, and wasn’t done very often.

Enter the age of MMOs. Games designed to not only be a huge time sink, but also designed to theoretically go on forever. They also came at a time when spending $50-60 on a box was the only money you had to spend, but with those games having an end, meaning you had to continuously buy new games to stay entertained. This meant that playing an MMO would actually save you money, because $15/month is a lot less than even buying one new box per month. Many people (myself included) stopped buying new games, and simply paid the $15/month to have everlasting content. The single player and small multiplayer market took notice and started adding on parts to their games that would give you that endless feel, while still churning out new games designed to get that $50-60 from you more often.

Today we have a mixture of all three. There are single player and small multiplayer games that have a single cost, and have an ending. There are multiplayer lobby games like Call of Duty (and many other iterations) and MOBAs that don’t have an end, and are designed to be repetitive but still different because of variables (different characters/builds, every match is different regardless of if the rules are the same each time). Finally there are MMOs, who are still designed to be “forever” but do have an end dependent on your playstyle. Most of you understand this history and the market in general, so I’ll get back to my main point.

When I was young, I played simple games and then desired complexity. When I got the complexity, I desired continuity. When I got continuity, I ended up bored. Now I desire simple complexity. Does that make sense? I have come full circle. I more often than not enjoy games that can be played in small bursts, that don’t take up as much of my time, so that I can experience many different titles in a shorter amount of time. The depth that comes with and the commitment required for serious MMO play doesn’t vibe as well with me. I know that you can still make progress in those games with only an hour or two a day, but you alienate yourself from the crowd you used to be a part of, the hardcore who actually make it to end game and progress in a way that had become the norm. The norm seems to have shifted, and it’s not new generations that caused it, it’s my generation. The ones who were there at the start and have seen all of this come to pass. We’re the ones who no longer devote all that time to just one game. Who want smaller scale games that we can complete and enjoy and then move onto another. This is a generalization of course, but it’s how I see it.

When I had all the time in the world, I wanted something else. When I had less time, my values changed. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become a nomad, a sampler. I still complete single player games. I still play multiplayer MOBAs and Death-match style games. I still play MMOs. But I don’t commit to anything for long periods of time anymore. I still don’t understand how I played only one game (for the most part) for over two years. I remember being completely content with that choice too. Now I feel overwhelmed by the options, and the desire to try everything. I might not like it and move on, I might like it and not finish it for a long time. I guess the only part that matters is if I’m having fun, and I’m definitely having fun all of the time. I just don’t understand how it has come to this.

I talk about the future of MMOs and what I’d like to see. I get hyped for new games coming out. But when it comes down to it, will there ever be another MMO that I’ll play exclusively for a number of years? I somehow doubt it. I guess I’ve become a filthy casual. But I still have a hardcore mind.

#blaugust #perception #casualvshardcore

The Making of Couch Podtatoes

I’m taking a page out of Syp’s book today, where he discusses what actually goes into the making of the Battle Bards Podcast. I found it interesting because there are a number of things that we have in common in the process, but there are some bits that differ. You, dear reader, might be a fan of the show, and might wonder about how it came about, the programs I use, and how me and J3w3l fit it into our lives.

An immediate difference between Couch Podtatoes and Battle Bards is the fact that CP is weekly, and BB is bi-weekly. That changes around the planning and recording/editing right off the bat. But this isn’t meant to be a side-by-side comparison, I’m just drawing comparisons as I go through the process in my mind. Allow myself to introduce myself. Anyway.

The podcast’s origins started with the NBI where there was a focus on bringing more podcasters/livestreamers/vloggers into the fold. At one point I was a guest on the Contains Moderate Peril podcast, and that saw me immediately being interested in doing my own. I started talking to other people about helping me with the project, eventually deciding on J3w3l and Doone as my brainstorming partners. Doone admitted to not wanting to be involved besides for a monthly spot, and J3w3l agreed that she wanted to do a weekly show. With the involved parties decided, it was on to decide the other particulars. We had multiple brain-storming sessions, and eventually decided on the Couch Podtatoes title, and found some of our gimmicks. From there, I mostly modeled the show around the podcasts I was listening to at the time: CMP, Massive Failure, and Cat Context, among others.


Our initial schedule was a little different from what it is now, and we did do a couple of practice episodes before we had an official release. At this point, we usually start thinking about the next week’s episode on the weekend. Between Sunday and Tuesday we take what time we can to make up show notes. We were pretty strict on meeting up on Mondays, but that has changed as we’ve become more comfortable. Usually we draw upon what’s going on in the blogging community, in the news, and any other points that we might find interesting to talk about. We throw around ideas, and once we’re semi-decided on a topic or topics, we will start up a Google Document where we’ll detail what we want to bring up during the show. Once that is finished, we wait until Wednesday for the next step.


Wednesday afternoon (for Me/Doone, Pacific time, US) or Thursday morning if you’re an Aussie (like J3w3l), we meet up on Steam. From there we’ll open up the show notes, and fire up Skype. I’ll make the call, and then we’ll both open up Audacity and record our individual parts. I have used Call Graph which is a plug-in for Skype which records the call, but depending on who is involved, I’ve found that the quality can be pretty bad. Syp mentioned Call Burner, so perhaps I’ll try that one out. When I have a group of guests, recording Skype is more efficient than waiting for everyone to send me their individual bits (plus they might not be familiar with the software). When it’s just me and J3w3l or even with Doone, we’ll usually just record individually, then they send me their parts for editing. Sometimes I do both, just to have a backup, because sometimes things happen (like the one time I forgot to hit record and missed the whole show).


On top of using Audacity for recording, I also use it for editing. In the case of using a separate program like Call Graph, it still outputs an mp3 file so I can simply import that into Audacity for editing. There’s a little more to it in that case, but that’s not the norm. Once I get the individual parts from my co-host(s), I import them all into Audacity, and then import the intro music. I get everything placed and then listen to the show and edit as needed. Each week I pick a few songs from my music library and edit them down to 10-15 second burst to help break up subjects. A typical show starts with the introduction, we go into what we’ve been playing, music break, we have a discussion topic, music break, Idiots on the Internet, music, Community spotlight, music, outro. We have changed up the format a few times, where one topic is good for the whole show, or we have a bunch of mini stories to cover, but typically that’s how it goes. I have made sure to give credit to the music’s owners, but Syp’s post enlightened me to some of the free use policies that exist on the Internet, so that’s good to know. A typical hour show takes me about 3-4 hours to edit, but I enjoy the hell out of it.


Once the show has been edited, I usually listen to it in full to make sure that everything sounds good. I take notes for timing and layout the template for the post that will eventually end up on the blog. At that point I’m done for the night (I typically edit the same day I record, but sometimes it holds over to the next day). On Friday, I upload the new show to Libsyn (where we just moved) and post the notes on the Libsyn blog, my blog, and more recently Anook. Posting on my blog also posts to Twitter. I might also re-link on Twitter later during the weekend for folks that might have missed it. From there, it’s ready to listen to, and we start the whole process over again on the weekend.

Despite taking quite a bit of time it’s something that I’ve been passionate about. If you’d be interested in guesting or have questions, feel free to let me know in the comments. Want me (or us) on your show? I (we) do that too!

#couchpodtatoes #podcasting #blaugust

State of the Game: Shadowgate and More

This Blaugust thing is still trudging along, but judging by the amount of people that started it at the beginning of the month (somewhere around 50 people) it seems that the numbers are dropping. Many predicted they wouldn’t make it the whole time. I figured I wouldn’t have a problem with it, and though sometimes I really have to dig deep to come up with something to write, most of the time I haven’t had much of a problem. I guess I just always have something to say, whether  you want to listen or not 😉

So what have I been up to this week? Having a regular podcast where I have to talk about what I’ve been playing and/or what’s been going on in the gaming world, sometimes it feels like I’m becoming repetitive. I’ve gotten into the habit of trying to split up what I do early in the week and put that on the podcast, and leave the latter portion of the week for this weekly post. It seems many people in my circle of friends have picked up the weekly round-up habit, so I’m not alone in doing so, and it’s become something I enjoy writing (along with reading their posts).

Alright, so this week I bought/received a few new titles. I bought Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for my PS3 which I mentioned previously. I haven’t been back to it since, but that’s partly due to the other pick-ups. Steam had a sale, and the expansions for Civilization V were included. As a result, I picked up Gods & Kings and Brave New World. It’s amazing the amount of depth that those two expansions add to the game. Right after I picked them up, I told Doone about it, and he wanted to play. We had already started a multiplayer match a while ago, but that was just the base game, and he was full of complaints about the “shitty AI.” I didn’t know any better at that point, and now having played against the new and improved AI, he was absolutely right. The new puts the old to shame. So we started up a new game, and not really knowing the new Civs I had to choose from, I just picked the Celts, because heritage. He rolled with the Shoshone who actually have some great starting benefits. We progressed a bit and then he had to go. We’ll pick it back up soon.

I also started my own single player game last night and marathoned it for a number of hours. I liked what I saw from the Shoshone, so I picked them. I unfortunately didn’t think to take any screenshots, so I’ll just say that things are going good. With the starting options I picked a world with a huge lake in the center, and I spawned near the southern-most part of the map. I slowly expanded and now stretch from the edge to the bottom of the lake. Trade routes are set up, and I’m spreading my religion pretty swiftly. I’m not sure what sort of victory I’m going for at this point, but I will get there. I’m just loving all of the new options.


Another game I was gifted was a copy of the new Shadowgate remake (it’s on sale on Steam right now). I’ve been watching this one for a while, as I remember the game from my childhood. I know that when my Dad used to play it on his computer it scared the shit out of me, but I know I ended up getting over that enough to try it. It also was ported to the NES and a few other systems, so I saw it pop up a time or two over the years. This remake is supposed to add more stuff and also change around some of the puzzles throughout, although so far it seems much like what I remember, just graphically superior.


The game is rather unforgiving. Most puzzles involve clicking on various items to find keys and spells and use the items you find elsewhere. There are bits where you need particular items equipped, like a shield to block an incoming arrow from a creature waiting to ambush you. In the above picture, I thought a shield might protect me from the drake’s flames, but I was wrong. Death finds you at every turn. I’ve died more times than I’d like to count, and some of the puzzles are rather difficult to figure out. Being the age of the Internet, I know that guides will pop up eventually, but at this point they don’t exist. Not remembering enough from the original has proven to be my downfall, cause I have basically become stuck.


There’s the map that I’ve explored. There are several places where I know progression is possible, I just haven’t figured out what I’m supposed to do. I found a spell that enabled me to open a sealed grate, which contained a lever puzzle. After messing with that, I was told I could hear a rush of water elsewhere. Returning to a previously flooded room saw the water level lowered, but that didn’t seem to do much else. It’s rather frustrating after a while, so I’ve left it at that for now. More on this later when I get it figured out.


Hearthstone saw the last wing of the Naxxramas expansion release this week as well. I think it was last weekend that I went back and cleared up what I hadn’t finished to that point, and then I finished the last wing the other day. Kel’Thuzad, the final boss was a cheating bastard! There’s a point where he straight steals your turn from you, no matter how much time you actually had left. Overall, the bosses ramped up their difficulty as time went on, but normal mode was fairly easy to finish. Having all of the cards also meant that there was some deck tweaking to do. Kel’Thuzad the Legendary card was a nice addition to my Zoo deck, as his ability brings all of your minions that died that turn back to life. I’m sure people will find ways to counter that, but it worked wonders the couple times I got to use it. But now it’s back to the normal play, and I’ll probably slow down now, because outside of finishing the original card set, I don’t have a lot to do. It has already been said that the next expansion will be pack based, so there will be plenty of grinding in the future.

Last on my list was the ArcheAge CB4 event that’s still going right now. I picked up where I left off and kept on the traditional quest grind. At one point I came across an Elite quest, which seems to be meant for a group, and is a timed event. At 2 am and 2 pm this group of mobs spawns, along with a boss of sorts at this fortress. One problem with the sheer volume of people playing is that when you have these types of quests where you have to kill a particular named mob you often have to stand where it spawns and hope you’re the first person that hits it. You always manage to get the quest done eventually, but it’s kind of annoying. This quest was no different. However, a huge group of people started forming waiting for this quest’s target to spawn, and we formed a raid. Raids in ArcheAge are huge, and before you knew it we were full up at 50.


While we were waiting people were talking about the game and endlessly answering “what are you guys waiting for?” I inadvertently started a dance party. ArcheAge has a number of different dance moves you can use, and I was toying around with those, and before you knew it people started joining in.


I thought it was pretty funny. We also get a good look at a sampling of the different mounts in this picture. Later I found myself doing a quest to get my very own glider, and though they don’t look as cool as gliding in Firefall does, it is still a neat mode of transportation.


I still haven’t made it to 30 yet, and I’m not sure how many more of these closed beta things there’s going to be. Given enough of them, I’ll get to 30 and finally see what the other bits of the game are like. If not, open beta should be the time where I get there. Then I can decide if I’ll actually put the time in to do it all over again when the game goes live.

That’s about all for this week. Catch ya later.

#blaugust #stateofthegame #archeage #hearthstone #shadowgate

Follow up: Attack of the Clones

On the podcast this week we spent a good portion of the show talking about the mobile games market, and specifically, the cloning of popular games. I am not a fan of mobile games, equating most of them to Facebook apps, which I detest. Yeah, I block apps and friends from sending more invites. I don’t want to have anything to do with that garbage.

I will acknowledge that cloning is a problem though. The developers of mobile games might eventually graduate to more traditional formats, so they might eventually make something I would prefer to play. But that won’t happen if their initial forays into the gaming market get buried under piles of clones, and the clones themselves are getting more recognition/money out of the deal. In the interest of the future of those devs, it’s time for a change.

On the show, I proposed a governing body that would be hired to filter out the clones from the real games. We discussed this at length, so I won’t go into particulars here. If you haven’t listened to the latest show, you might want to get to it! Come back here when you’re done. I’ll wait.

Oh good,  you’re back. So as I was saying, we discussed potential solutions to the problem. One of the suggestions was that more employees be hired by the respective companies (hey, we’re creating jobs here!) so that the good content can be filtered from the bad. A further suggestion was for the companies that have mobile stores (Apple, Google, Microsoft) to implement a system where developers can make a claim against the clones to have them removed. This seems to make more sense, because with the flood of apps these stores get per day, it would be rather tedious to filter them effectively. This would at least bring the issue to the parent company’s attention, and further action could take place.

It appears that the problem is widespread enough to cover all three markets. Threes! was our major example, but just a few days ago, a new game by the creator of Flappy Bird, called “Swing Copters” was released, and within 24 hours a large number of clones appeared as well. The cloners are becoming more efficient it seems.

This has not gone unnoticed. Surprisingly, neither of the options we considered were the one that was used. It seems that Google at least (always a leader) has taken matters into their own hands, removing a bunch of the clones. This is obviously not a perfect fix, and just the beginning of the work needed to clear the filth from these marketplaces. But at least someone is taking notice. A small victory for the little guys.

I still think a plan like we suggested is in order to prevent this from getting to be an even bigger problem, but it’s admirable that Google has taken some measure in curbing it.

#blaugust #clones #mobile

Couch Podtatoes Episode 10: Attack of the Clones


It’s Episode number 10 already! This week Doone is back. I have to note that we had some technical difficulties, there is some clipping in spots, and I had to do a patch job at the end due to losing some audio in transition. Apologies! Otherwise I still think it was a great show. Doone always finds something to talk about that I wouldn’t necessarily think of myself, so I hope you enjoy it.

I’d also like to a moment to mention the new feature over at the Gaming Blog Nexus, a gaming podcast list! There’s a lot of cool shows there; some of the hosts you’ll find there have been on this show, or me/us on theirs. Chances are if you enjoy Couch Podtatoes, you’ll enjoy these other shows. You can check that out here.


Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 10: Attack of the Clones (runtime: 1:10:35)

Breaking the Ice: what are we playing? (starts at 1:10)
Doone’s Digital Frontier: (starts at 21:28)
Idiots on the Internet: Jackie Chan’s Son (starts at 55:52)
Community Talk: Aggro-Range (starts at 1:03:33)

Host Contact information:

Blog: Me vs. Myself and I

Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Blog: XP Chronicles
Twitter: @trredskies

Discussion Articles:
Authors response to clones
Gabriel Cuirulli response (original clone)
Gamedev.net “Why games don’t have to be good anymore”
Threes! on iTunes
2048 web game

Idiots on the Internet article:

Community Spotlight:
the article

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“Cracks” by Flux Pavilion (from the album “Plux Favilion”)
“Traitors” by Misery Index (from the album Traitors)
“The All Night Lights” by 36 Crazyfists (from the album The Tide and its Takers)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. You can visit our official podcast page at http://couchpodtatoes.libsyn.com/. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

#couchpodtatoes #podcast #gamesdiscussion #gaming