Want a Free Copy of Barnacle Bay?

EDIT: Contest is now over.

As part of the Grand Launch for Bits ‘n’ Bytes (the new gaming site), we are running this swell contest that you should all enter.

Go to BnBgaming.com, look for the following tweet:

Want free stuff? Like The Sims? RT for a chance to win a #Sims3 Barnacle Bay download from The Sims Online Store & BnBgaming.com

and the just Re-Tweet it! That’s it. Alternatively, you can just check out bnbgaming at twitter, and just re-tweet the above tweet.

Barnacle Bay lets you explore a pirate themed town with new outfits and goods for your Sims. For a full review, check out Blaster World (shameless plug for personal blog.)

The contest will run through… I don’t know, let’s say the weekend Pacific standard time.

Good luck everyone!

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New Gamer Site Bits ‘n’ Bytes Launches

Get Some Gaming Goodness

After many weeks of work, planning, discussions, more emails then I can count (not very good with numbers,) the new Video Game site Bits ‘n’ Bytes launched today! Some of the best up and coming bloggers out there have collaborated on putting this all together, and the site will cover the full gamut of gaming. No longer obscure PC indie titles alone as per my blog.

Check out Bits ‘n’ Bytes, and starting tomorrow, check in for your chance to enter the drawing for 3 free copies of the latest Sims 3 Store content: Barnacle Bay. That’s a $16.50 value for all you Sims fans out their to pirate up your games!

I will continue to update Blaster World in the meantime, but will try to contribute a few posts each month to Bits ‘n’ Bytes as well.

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Recettear Sales a Success!

Carpe Fulgur Can Continue Localizing Japanese Games

Someone got paid!!

Good news from Carpe Fulgur’s site last week. Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale has sold 28,000 copies and going strong! For a game localized by three guys, this is a complete success!

As the site mentions, the profits made from this one game are equivalent to what they would have earned in a whole year working in the industry (instead of indie.) What does this mean for you and I? More awesome Japanese localizations in the future! In a surprising comment, Carpe Fulgur even thanks pirates:

I even want to thank the pirates, really – I know some of you have been “demoing” the game and then purchasing it, and I thank you for that. From our data via Steam and whatnot, our official demo-to-full conversion rate is somewhere between 25 and 30%… a number that I suspect is inflated in part by former pirates deciding to support us.

It’s this sort of positive, friendly attitude that attracts me to the indie model of game development. Instead of punishing everyone with crippling DRM (lookin’ at you Ubisoft,) they acknowledge the reality of the situation, realizing that many pirates will actually buy a game if it’s worth the money.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Recettear, check out my review here: Recettear Review.

And check out Carpe Fulgur’s page for more info on what they’re up to: Carpe Fulgur.

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A Strange Morning

Sunny Southern California They Say…

My main goal this morning was to take care of loads of bureaucratic nonsense at my local community college. I didn’t have my extra-large cup of Turkish coffee, figuring I could pick up a coffee at school.The neighbors had been yelling and making all sorts of noise, their little girl screaming her lungs out over some sort of injury or another, and I just needed some peace.

I arrived on campus feeling cranky. It was hot and humid, with large clouds heavier then blue whales floating above. Made my way to the office where I needed to have all my things taken care of, waited in a nearly hour long line, and then was curtly told that I’d have to come back on Tuesday for someone to help me, and no I couldn’t make an appointment, and yes I did have to wait in line again.

Frustrated and disheartened, I thought, “I know what’ll cheer me up! A kids meal from Taco Bell!”

Let me explain. A few weeks ago I’d noticed a post on Kotaku promising copies of EA’s My Sims game in their kids meals. As far as I know, it’s like The Sims, but aimed at a kiddie demographic. I figured I could pick up a copy and write a short review just-for-fun.

I drove to the neighborhood Taco Bell (first time I’ve been to one since I was a teen,) went up to the window and asked about the promotion. The employee had no idea what I was talking about. She asked her co-workers and they too hadn’t heard of any such thing. Finally, she opened a kid’s meal bag, and pulled out a blue, square package with the My Sims logo on it. Looked like what I wanted so I ordered my meal, fended off beggars on the street while waiting for it, and was finally handed my bag (they forgot my soda.)

Well, opening the bag in the car revealed that what I’d actually received wasn’t a copy of the game, but a cheap plastic CD case in which to put a copy of the game should I ever get it. It also came with some stickers.

Oh boy! Stickers! ...wait, I don't care about that.

I ate my crappy burrito and sugar covered puffs (or whatever they were) on my ride home. I parked the car in the lot behind my apartment, got out and took a few steps when I saw what looked like electricity forming rapidly in the air a few yards from me. It was lightning. Followed by the loudest damned thunder I ever did here! I made haste to my apartment before giant raindrops began to fall with regular bursts of thunder all around.

My dad told me he was hit by lighting when he was younger. Claimed it made him very nauseous, but left him otherwise unscathed. He’s one of those quiet, old world types who has strange stories and experiences that I can never understand or hope to experience. I just live in such a different world then the one he grew up in. But I think I was almost hit by lighting today, so perhaps we can now relate on that front!

As for My Sims, I looked into it when I got home, and it seems they have three different items in the kids meal. The game, the CD case in which to put the game with stickers for decoration, and a poster.

At least I’m enjoying my coffee now.

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Delve Deeper: Review

Just One More Turn…

During the first World War, teams of men would dig extensive networks of tunnels under battle fields to attack the enemy lines from below. Sometimes, groups of tunnelers from opposing sides would run into each other as their tunnels would meet, and fighting would ensue. I can’t imagine what a war deep underground would feel like, dealing with dark, cramped, and dangerous environments, with little room to move. Spending weeks or months without seeing the sun. Fighting enemies with whatever is at hand or constantly worrying about your tunnel being blown-up.

I mention this because at its best, Delve Deeper brings such images to mind, only with a more lighthearted, often comical approach. And it delivers many such moments. Delve Deeper, the first release by new indie development group Lunar Giant, runs on a pretty simple premise. The king of the dwarfs loves loot, and wants his loyal dwarf minions… err citizens to dig deep into the earth and find as much swag as they can carry for their monarch. The catch is that in order to help motivate the diggers, he’s setup each dig as a competition between different teams to see who can get the most loot.

The fighting happens automatically. Sit back and enjoy.

You control a team of 5 dwarfs and must tunnel through various maps, fighting monsters and opposing teams alike, as you try to gather treasure and mine expensive ores and gems. You team will be made up of a combination of miners, fighters, and scouts. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses which must be balanced against the type of trouble you expect to find on a dig.

Tunneling works by placing a single hexagonal tile featuring a predefined path on the map, making sure to line it up with existing tunnels around it on the hex grid. There are three different layers of earth to dig through: dirt, stone, and deep. Each layer set has its own tunnel tiles, varying in numbers and options. For instance, the stone layer has the largest selection of tile types with up to four diverging paths on some of the tiles. In contrast the deep layer has fewer choices, and no more then three divergent paths per tile. Deeper layers have better loot and tougher monsters. It all sounds a lot more complicated then it really is. It’s similar to many modern board games that use tile pieces to build the game board as you play, and Lunar Giant happily admits to their board game roots and inspiration.

A proud haul. Now who's gonna' carry it all to the surface?

When you run into other teams is when those images of World War I tunnel battles come to mind. Though the battles operate on classic RPG fighting mechanics, they run automatically which means both sides immediately take turns attacking each other until there is a definite victor. If your dwarfs loose, they are knocked unconscious for a turn, and drop all their loot for the enemy to sweep up. When they recover, they will only have 1 HP. As you get deep into the mines, it can become increasingly difficult to get to one of the few healing points. But even with a single point of health, the strategic player can impede an entire team of dwarfs or an army of monsters at a good choke point.

Run away!

Speaking of armies of monsters, you will soon find the baddies numbers growing exponentially. Monsters spawn in unlit parts of the tunnels every turn. The only way to light a tunnel is to end your turn with a dwarf in that part of the mine, at which point they will place a lamp there. The longer the game goes however, the larger the number of monster spawns. In games with fifty or more turns, you will soon be outmaneuvering scores of goblins and slimes. Often the best approach is to avoid large groups of monsters and hope they go for the other teams instead.

The game has equal parts strategy, puzzler, and board game all worked into a fresh and original package. Strategy is knowing when to fight and when to run. It’s building your enemies’ mines for them so that they dead-end or lead to a hoard of monsters. Puzzles come in the form of building your mines to maximum efficiency, planning many turns in advance how you will lay out your tunnels for better movement and defense, and being able to react to an unexpected tunnel piece placed in front of you by your enemies.

He's so boned.

Great loads of fun aside, the game does have some rough spots. Certain aspects of the UI can be messy, forcing extra mouse clicks to get through layers of menus when a single button would have sufficed. Some of the rules and controls are poorly explained in the tutorial as well. I didn’t realize that pressing F12 for instance allows you to play in full screen mode until I read about it in an online forum. It’s just not documented anywhere in the game.

The game comes per-packaged with a level editor, which though serviceable and much appreciated, is unnecessarily difficult to use. Simple drop down menus and a copy paste option could go a long way in increasing its usefulness.

Zoomed out map view. Check out the pic at the bottom for a large, full map.

The game also begs for extra content. More monsters, new classes, different races, new tunnel types, consumable items, the ability to collapse tunnels, and online multi-player (currently only supports hot-seat) are just a short list of things that you will find yourself wanting. Don’t misunderstand me though, as Delve Deeper is a complete package. At $5, you’ll feel like you robbed the developers. It is however a great price point with which to introduce people to the game. That said, I would gladly pay $20 for the sequel if they just added some extra content and gameplay options. Lunar Giant has promised continued support and patches for the game, so I expect some of the rougher edges will be ironed out soon.

If you like strategy and that just-one-more-turn quality in your games, Delve Deeper is a great choice. If you are a fan of intelligent board games, you will love this. If you just like clever and different games with great comical writing, beautiful pixel art, and an unbeatable price of five freakin’ dollars, then get this game. Support Lunar Giant so we can get similarly brilliant titles in the future.

There are dwarfs in this picture. Well, they were there a second ago.

The game is currently available for the PC through various digital download services, plus Lunar Giant’s site. An XBox version is expected in June.

Click to see a fully developed mine. BIG picture!

Demo download

Lunar Giant

Note: When I talk about the extra’s this game “needs,” I realize the developers are just a few people with day jobs. What they’ve pulled off is very impressive as is, but has the potential for so much more. I’m already a fan, and I want to see it succeed and grow!

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The Sims 3: Barnacle Bay Review

Laid Back Simin’

Barnacle Bay is the first “world” offered on the Sims 3 online store since Riverview, which mean your Sims now have a whole new town in which to settle, explore, and get into trouble. Barnacle Bay is a pirate/nautical themed beach town with a laid back feel. You can just imagine a cool breeze blowing through the air as your Sims wander around the lovely countryside or relax in one of the many scenic parks on the island.

The Sims 3 store claims you get eighteen new items with the world purchase, but I’ve already noticed at least one more (an extra pair of boots for female Sims) and have to wonder if others are hidden around the island. Some of the new goods include 3 different pirate outfits, a few building goods like a door and window, and a large pirate ship themed restaurant. I particularly like a new outdoor bench that uses twin anchors for a frame.

Why is he running away?

The island also has new underground dungeons to explore similar to what we saw in the World Adventure expansion. I found one near the graveyard that had a collection of Urns presumably filled with the remains of old pirates… or their victims.

As for the most important question: Is Barnacle Bay worth the buy? At a whopping $16.50 this is one of the pricier items in the store. As with many such downloads, it all comes down to how into The Sims 3 you are, and how much you want to see them as pirates (not that most of the other store items have anything to do with pirates.) The biggest bonus is the island itself, which can be a big incentive if your tired of the limited official towns. It could also be a great compliment to other store items such as the Buccaneer’s Bounty pack.

If your a casual fan of the game or just don’t have any strong urges to get you Sims swashbuckling, it may be worth waiting for this one to hit the Daily Deal list at the Sims 3 Store. In the meantime, plenty of other packs and items abound. Check out the Sims 3 site to see some of the wide range of choices, like the cool punk rock pack they released recently called Loud, Fast, Clash!

The Sims 3 Store

Barnacle
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