There are quite a few hacking minigames in Pony Island, so many that I’m not sure if this is best described as a hacking/puzzle game or a platformer/parody game or something in-between or encompassing all of those things. But for the purposes of this post, all I care about is the hacking gameplay. Thanks to some surprisingly clever uses of art, Pony Island makes the same puzzle mechanics feel like actual software coding and also like a children’s educational game.
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I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and thinking about the legend of Zelda—the central narrative of good and evil and light and dark that these games keep retelling. Wind Waker opens with a cutscene that summarizes the series’ recurring myth. Once, the land of Hyrule contained great power in the form of the Triforce. An evil man named Ganondorf stole that power for himself but was defeated by a young boy clothed in green. The young boy went away. The evil man came back. During the course of the game, it’s revealed that Hyrule was submerged beneath a flood in an attempt to seal away evil forever.
It didn’t work, of course. If evil was completely banished, there would be no game to play and no story to retell. Wind Waker’s intro cutscene presents Hyrule’s history as a sort of folktale, as if the story had been passed down from generation to generation. But you, the player, know the story. You’ve lived the story. If you played through Ocarina of Time, you got to travel across Hyrule and defeat Ganondorf yourself.
Following a year of availability in early access, Darkest Dungeon was released on Steam in January 2016. Set in a Lovecraftian universe, the game is about twisted family lineages, unspeakable and otherworldly horrors, and the cruel psychological and physical consequences of attempting a campaign against unwinnable opposition.
This week we discuss our own sadistic and masochistic experiences in the Darkest Dungeon and how penalties and pain became a source of twisted pleasure in games like this one.
Action in an action movie moves fast. Games have always tried to emulate such action by moving just as fast while demanding that the player learn to keep up. Fighting games, like Mortal Kombat X or Street Fighter V, demand that players learn an intricate series of button combinations and also be dexterous enough to input them on a moment’s notice. A character-action game like God of War or Devil May Cry demand of us the exact same thing, but against AI opponents instead of other players. Action demands speed, usually.
Recently, another chapter of man vs. machine played out. Google’s Deep Mind project team tried out their state of the art algorithm on the game of Go. The Korean pro, Lee Sedol, a world champion several times over and arguably the best player of the game right now, was its opponent. To put it simply, this was the equivalent of Deep Blue v. Gary Kasparov, and as with the IBM Chess playing machine before it, AlphaGo took home the prize, four wins to one loss.
Go has been thought to be the one game that computers could not beat a human at because a computer could not brute force the move trees. Chess may have an astronomically large set of possible moves, but it is nothing compared to Go. Chess has 12 options for the first move, while Go has 361. However, the feat accomplished by AlphaGo and the Deep Mind team is even more amazing than these raw numbers would suggest.