As the holidays approach, the list of airlines that allow handheld gaming grows

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If you’re flying out for the holidays this season, chances are you’ll be able to play games the whole way.

The list of American airlines that support the use of some electronic devices–like a Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, tablet, and smartphone–from takeoff to landing is increasing after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relaxed its rules in October. Before, they were only available for use after takeoff and before landing. The supported devices must have their cellular service turned off or be in airplane mode. Larger devices like laptops are still prohibited.

The rules don’t apply everywhere, though. Each airline must go through an extensive process to get approval, including subsidiaries. For example: SkyWest operates some of Alaska Airlines planes, but they haven’t been approved yet, so you won’t be able to boot up your 3DS as quick as you might think. The crew will instruct you if this is the case on your flight.

The major list of airlines–excluding subsidiaries–that allow gate-to-gate use of electronics includes: Delta Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin America, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. Some of the company’s were part of the 28-member board that created the new rules, effectively getting a head start.

The radio waves emitted by electronic devices were said to have interfered with airplane communication and navigation systems, causing them to make incorrect adjustments. But in Sept. 2013, an investigatory panel within the FAA publicly recommended the loosening of the rules.

The FAA said it spoke with several representatives from airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry to determine that the devices no longer harmed planes.

So, when you’re deep into The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds this month, thank the FAA for letting you continue Link’s adventure.

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The Cave Creator Ron Gilbert Leaves Double Fine

ImageThe Secret of Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert will leave Double Fine Productions just two months following the release of adventure game The Cave, according to a post on his blog.

Gilbert, a game designer and writer best known for his work on Maniac Mansion and the DeathSpank series says he’s not done creating games. “So many games left to be designed,” he wrote.

With the help of his former Hothead Games colleague and DeathSpank Co-Creator Clayton Kauzlaric, Gilbert has been developing an “iOS side project,” titled, “The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG.”

Gilbert plans to post screenshots of his iOS project on the Grumpy Gamer blog “in the next few days,” and behind-the-scenes pictures from The Cave “over the next few weeks.”

“Good luck, Ron!” Double Fine President Tim Schafer wrote in a Tweet, “Thanks for The Cave!”

Gilbert will give the keynote speech at the Penny Arcade Expo Australia on June 19.

Gilbert joined Double Fine in Sept. 2010.

Source: Grumpy Gamer, Twitter

Where I’m at

I spent the morning reading through the stuff I left behind in the past few weeks. Funny, when you’re working hard to write, the reading falls behind. Every Sunday I try to go through the stories I missed over the week, and to spend some time reading about things that have nothing to do with games. It was difficult at first, I thought all I was interested in was games writing because that was what I needed to get better at, but I remember a tweet by Justin McElroy, a personality, both in writing and in person, I admire. He said, the best way to improve your writing is to stop reading games writing. Read about the things you don’t necessarily care about. It really does work. Of course I still read tons of games writing, but I mix it up with an assortment of other material.

One piece I didn’t get to when it hit my twitter feed, a study of PAX East, the people, and the culture of games, written by a GQ writer. Woah, I know, he doesn’t know games! But that’s okay, and it makes the article so much more fascinating. It’s a look at something that permeates my thoughts every day, by someone who fell off games during high school. It’s got a little of the Games Are Legitimate argument in there, it’s unavoidable, past that, it’s an appreciation of a culture people may not realize is gargantuan, and still growing. It helps to see your life through someone else’s eyes, please, I urge you to read it.

I said at the beginning of the year that I felt like very big things would happen. Those big things are starting. My current state is a mix of extreme excitement, and nervousness. It all hit me very quickly. It’s one of those thing where your heads down working, and at some point someone taps you on the shoulder and gives you a compliment. It’s flattering, and empowering. More fuel to fire an even heavier focus on getting better, and learning as much as possible. Nothing’s a guarantee, and sometimes I feel like it’ll go away, but I work hard to fight those thoughts, remember, I’m worth it. Nothing is going as I planned it in my head, and I’m having a blast adapting to it, however daunting it may be. Let me emphasize that I’m very excited.

I’m worried about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I’m worried about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Its uninspired attitude toward the RPG genre may be the death of it. You can only go so far with an exaggerated art style like that of Fable and World of Warcraft until the mechanical underlying must become the star of the show. Reckoning lacks the care and artistry that introducing a developed universe requires. It’s too confined, too predictable, and too rough. Immature and lukewarm, Reckoning could have used more attention, more time.

From what the demo could tell me, Reckoning is like the underdeveloped child lost in the grocery store searching the aisles for its mother. It’s constantly looking for a way to convincingly differentiate its lore from everything else. Unless some kind of monumental revelation occurs where the swords aren’t just swords and the magic isn’t just magic in the full game, Reckoning will crumble under its ambition.

Limiting the hero’s combat expression to a single button sounds almost crazy enough to be a brilliant simplicity over complexity approach. In practice, it’s too limiting. It’s the new definition for “button mashing”. The feel of control and tactical strategy disappears for brainless slashing and casting.

Loot, levels, and talent points drive Reckoning’s progression, and I couldn’t be more prematurely bored. I’m not playing an MMO, I’m playing a single-player action game. I want to be catered to, my experience shouldn’t be about watching bars fill.

Only rarely does Reckoning convey artistically interesting objects, everything else looks like a kitchen sink of Fable, World of Warcraft, and League of Legends.

Reckoning worries me because its ambition is aimed in the wrong direction. It feels unnecessary, a means to an end. If you’re trying to acquaint me with an MMO don’t lie to me with a half-baked action game, give me the final, finished product.

To the bottom

It was becoming a stale Saturday night, I needed something to do, something to exploit. My Xbox 360’s backlog wasn’t appetizing, the PS3’s wasn’t either. Steam hosted a long list of embarrassment and boredom except one spark of attention-grabbing hope down on the bottom. I’ve never played Terraria, and by “never played” I mean I installed it, spent 28 minutes with it and uninstalled it. It was on sale, did you expect me to actually play it? Breaking my usual tendencies, I re-installed it while I did a quick google search for “terraria mods”. I found a helpful list of them, but really I only needed one.

The character editor granted me a Molten Pickaxe. And so my journey to the bottom of my Terraria world begun.

A lot of distractions were calling me away from Terraria. Twitter was, as usual, abuzz with complaints, bragging, and whining. YouTube was whispering to me about its wealth of stupid cat videos while Reddit just disturbingly breathed into my ear. Not this time though, I was determined to dig myself into the fiery depths of Terraria.

It was really boring initally. Terraria’s art is not all that interesting on the upper half of its world. Thankfully I didn’t spend much time up there, my Molten Pickaxe kept things bright and chomped away at each set of two parallel blocks beneath me. Over and over again.

I heard enemies growl, scream, and scuddle along beside me. When they got close they were either immediately obliterated or set on fire shortly before death. I thought nothing of it, the two blocks below were my only focus.

Deeper and deeper I dug. Every now and then I would come across an underground pocket of water, these were the most annoying parts of my expedition. Drowning wasn’t really much of a problem considering the 1000 health points I gave myself back in the editor, but the water caused me to float around, and in the event I spent too long under, I could risk dying. To counter this I pointed my pickaxe left or right away from the liquid and continued my descent.

Then things got weird. Bats, skeletons and lava started appearing. Was I entering some kind of hell where the inhabitants of my world were forced to writhe around in agony? It was terrifying for a moment, then I kept digging.

It had been a while once I started hitting wilder formations of caves and lava. It got a little trickier, the flaming blobs of slime didn’t help. I almost died at one point trying to fight off a burning slime, but in the end my molten pickaxe disintegrated it.

The walls started to crack and reveal rigid lines of bright red lava. Then I struck free space and realized I was falling onto the top of a building. Other buildings were there too, all of them darkly lit with a sharp purple hue emanating from below. No pickaxe work was necessary to get all the way down. I passed an oddly placed furnace. Finally, I met back up with stone, although it was more of an annoying reunion of two people that hated each other in the past rather than old friends.

At this point it had been at least 20 minutes. As expected, I kept digging downward. A few levels deeper and then it hit me: the camera stopped moving. That could only mean one thing. The revelations hit me as the last stone block shattered. There I stood, on the bottom of Terraria.

All of the sudden, the furnace from just a moment before looked angry, it was sending down its minions to destroy me. I fought off fireballs and more slimes. I knew what I needed to do next, a giant pool of lava was on my right, I was going to end my mining career the fastest way I knew how. I dug as the furnace tried to restrain me, it was like it wanted me to stay, to give it a reason for being. As I was breaking the last block before the lava would pour in, I thought about what I had just done. I had ignored the game. I massacred multiple creatures blindly. I saw the Terraria’s limits. I was a monster. The block shattered, I jumped up in a desperate hope to revert my actions, but I was too late.

Quest complete.

Two thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’m conflicted.

 

I don’t have a very fair reason why Star Wars: The Old Republic ceases to entertain me. Really, it’s almost selfish, even pathetic. It’s new, interesting, smooth, but insufficient. To say it’s insufficient is unfair, the game is the closest representation of what I want. It’s so close though, that I can easily find where it’s so far. The small steps not taken, I perceive as the giant steps skipped out on. But it’s not a half-empty glass, it’s well put together; it’s just not for me.

It is required to compare The Old Republic to World of Warcraft. Other than their source material, they are in direct competition. Blizzard built the foundation for all other MMOs, The Old Republic is no exception. It’s not BioWare’s fault for their category placement, they were late to the party, I’ll give them that. BioWare didn’t utilize the free ideas, they didn’t capitalize completely on what makes World of Warcraft so sticky, so addicting. It’s not a single thing, it’s a lot of small things, some big things, but mostly the things that Blizzard’s audience has taken for granted. One of these things being the dungeon finder tool. BioWare screwed up on that one, big time. Typing into general chat isn’t fun, hitting a button and jumping straight into a scenario with a few other people is. Yeah, standing around for 15 minutes may not be all that bad, but again, it’s the small things that count.

The Old Republic suffers from it’s genre. To be an MMO a lot of requirements must be met if you want to be like World of Warcraft, in other words: successful. The Old Republic chose the wrong destination. BioWare has the talent to bring something all new to the MMO space, instead they went with the safest route possible, even with all that money flow. I can’t say I expected a drastic change to the formula while watching the loading screen for the first time. I had hope that maybe in the beginning, before the game was a file on a computer, that someone would bring it up. That person might exist, they might have been convinced otherwise. I’d thank him for trying if I could.

Not only is Star Wars not my favorite fiction to explore, MMO is not something I want to play again. Somebody needs to change it. Everything plays to the most powerful thing in the market. Try something different. I’m certain the room exists to develop something we haven’t seen before. In the mean time, I’ll sit back and watch, I’ll remain quiet and separate, waiting for that lure to drift by again.

 

2012

What will 2012 bring to me? Somewhat late, I’ve been pondering this for the past few hours preceding the transition to the future. When I’m not thinking about that, I’m thinking about what I want 2012 to bring me. 2011 did so much, is it greedy to want more?

Most importantly, I want self-improvement–who doesn’t, really? I want to get better at what I do and what I don’t do. I want to write more, because in turn, my confidence with words will go up. I want to read more, because that too will assist in what track I’ve set my life upon. I want to learn, not leisurely, but forcefully. I want to take chances, I want to climb the next rung on my ladder.

It’s funny, I never thought this hard about the upcoming year. I figured everything would be peachy, everything will play out like it should.  Maybe I was doing it wrong, or maybe I was doing it right, for now I’ll go with the former.

As for my career, or future career, however you want to slice it, I want to show off what I got. I think I have what it takes. As a result, expect to see a lot more of me.

2012 is going to be a good one, I can feel it.

Happy New Year!