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Hamumu Revumu: Dead Island10:57 AM -- Wed January 20, 2016

Dead Island

TL;DR: Fun action surviving the zombie hordes and leveling up!

Gameplay Gist: Well, you run around a zombie-infested tropical resort, bashing in skulls (there are guns eventually, but even then, you mostly beat things with a stick), finding and crafting better weapons, and leveling up and increasing various skills. In a way, it's just a dungeon crawler with a coat of tropical zombie paint over it, but the nature of zombies and the modern technology changes things in various ways. It's definitely all about completing those quests.

Kombat Kuality: Thinking back, I'm not sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The fighting is actually pretty awkward. There's also an advanced control scheme available where you can directly aim your swings, but I tried that for about 30 seconds and turned it off. It's bad. Anyway, it's all quite simplistic without that - you just take your swings, aim for the head, and step back before you get bit. That's how it goes for the entire game, with just a few alternatives like dashing in and tackling a zombie, or triggering your Rage Mode to go nuts temporarily and punch their heads off. There are also special situations, like tossing a propane tank into a crowd and shooting it, or the various special types of zombies you have to handle in a different way. Somehow it just never got old even though I can't think of anything super interesting about the combat. You're always listening for that roar in the distance that tells you there's trouble.

Story Stupid? It's alright. The whole thing's a bit of a comic book as usual, but you're one of the very few people who are immune to the zombie virus, and you're trying to be a hero by helping people who are trapped in various places in the resort. Of course there are human villains and a government/military conspiracy, and a super-zombie (everybody loves those!). Pretty much everything you expect from a zombie story.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: I had been hesitant to get into this game from off-hand comments I had heard about it, but when I gave it a shot, I was very pleasantly surprised and totally hooked. Like I said above, I'm not entirely sure what the appeal is, but somehow it just works for me. Trying to collect items from all over, making forays into different areas, trying to combine quests so you don't have to make too many such forays, combining junk into super weapons, and clocking dead people in the head. It's just fun. There is enough variety in the situations and packs of zombies you encounter that you're constantly having to change up your strategy and pulling different tricks, and being surprised pretty regularly. Like walking around a corner face-first into an suicidal exploding zombie. The danger level is always just enough to keep you on edge and looking out for the energy drinks that are strangely scattered everywhere (and more strangely have a magical healing effect). I liked it all so much that I played all the way to the end, and then I started up Dead Island: Riptide almost immediately.

I did make the mistake of trying the new punching-focused character in Riptide, and I have to say I gave him a shot but I need to set him aside and try somebody else, or I think I might end up hating the game. Getting in close enough to punch a zombie is not fun. But other than that, my note on Riptide so far (a couple hours in) is that it's just about the same game, but improved in every way. Lots of really nice tweaks to spice it up.
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Growtopia 201607:40 AM -- Sat January 9, 2016

Where is Growtopia going in 2016?

You may have noticed the massive new update in Growtopia yesterday (or you haven't noticed it's massive, since many of the items are undiscovered...). In total, there are 29 new items added. Previously the goal for an update was around 10 items, but we did an update every 2 weeks. The new plan moving forward in 2016 is to do a single update each month, released as close to the 1st of the month as possible (this month was a problem because Apple shuts down for the holidays and we were transitioning from the every-other-week updates), so that each month has a 'theme' of its own, one major update which contains things you may not find right away, or may not even be obtainable right away (such as Carnival, Comet, or Locke items), so that as the month goes on, you piece it all together. There's also of course some items and changes to whatever holiday happens to occur during the month (Anniversary Week, in this case. Happy 3rd birthday, Growtopia!).

So what is the big idea here? We got more items this month than we would get in a typical month - on average there'd be 2 updates in a month, which would be an expected amount of 20 new items. But it was also easier for me to do. By doing a single big theme (Steampunk this month) instead of two smaller ones, it's much easier to make a variety of items. Previously I'd have to stop myself - "Oh, that's enough Adventure items for a pack, I have to move on to the next theme". And oh mama were there so many themes!! But now I can go crazy and put in all the things I'm thinking of. Or maybe not - there are actually a lot more potential items for the steam system, and I think I'll be adding them every so often, making it more and more functional. Maybe one day you'll be able to program your own games inside Growtopia, on a steam computer. Anyway, this new system of 1 big update per month allows each update to be fully fleshed out instead of just dipping your toe into a theme.

The other big benefit is that each update can be very meaningful. You're not going to see a month of "assorted random items". This month we introduce the powerful new steam technology, next month it's... well, you'll see. But it's an entirely new gameplay element again. I know what I'm adding in July and that's fun and different, and I have one other big idea definitely to come this year. I can't promise I have (or will come up with) 12 big game-changers like steam machines, but I do have a lot of big ideas, and if there isn't something game-changing in a month, at least there will be a big meaty update!

And the last benefit is just for me: even though it's more stuff for you, it's still less work for me! And it's more fun. I get to work on the crazy ideas I enjoy tinkering with instead of spending so much time cranking out basic items for biweekly updates that there's no time left to experiment. And my real secret hope in my heart is that this more focused work will give the time in between updates to actually set my brain free from Growtopia, and spend a minute thinking about anything else. Who knows, maybe enter a Ludum Dare again one day even? It would sure be nice.

So you can look forward to a single large update each month from Growtopia going forward. At least until we figure out why that's a terrible idea and switch to something else entirely!

Bonus: here's a screenshot from an upcoming update, you figure it out:
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