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by Nick Dinicola

9 Sep 2011


In the last level of From Dust you get more powers than you’d ever thought possible given the strict limitations the rest of the game places on your godhood. You can create land, water, volcanoes, plants, tsunamis, and take them all away. It feels like you’ve finally come into your own. But then some disaster strikes, everything begins to sink, and you have to rush your villagers to the magical exit. Once through to safety, you find yourself back at the beginning, literally. You’re back at the first level with all your new powers stripped away.

It’s an interesting moment, if only because it’s so oddly rare in games: finding yourself back at the start. Many games are meant to be replayed, dangling the carrot of a “new game+” to entice us, but few acknowledge this repetition in their stories, even when it would make perfect sense.

by Nick Dinicola

2 Sep 2011


Branching stories are popular in games, but they sometimes don’t make a lot of sense when the game is taken as a whole. Different endings and different outcomes of a choice reflect different themes, but even if each plot thread is meant to stand on its own, they don’t. By virtue of being in the same game, one plot thread affects our perception and interpretation of the other, and sometimes this can make for inconsistent characters and themes.

by Nick Dinicola

26 Aug 2011


Fellow Moving Pixels writer G. Christopher Williams already has a solid claim to the title of “Flash Game Guru.” I can’t compete, but perhaps I can try to stake my claim to a similar title, mine involving Xbox indie games. I’ve written before about some of my favorite indie games on the LIVE Marketplace, so in an attempt to claim my own title, here are three more games from my ever-growing collection of Xbox indie games that I can’t get enough of.

by Nick Dinicola

19 Aug 2011


Pixel hunting is considered the bane of adventure gaming. An object you need is only a few pixels in size and it’s hidden within the scenery, so you’re forced to point the mouse cursor at every object onscreen in order to see what you can interact with and what’s just part of the background. It’s the epitome of frustrating, unintuitive, trial-and-error gameplay, a cheap and artificial way of stretching out a game’s length. It’s a system so universally hated that even updates of old adventure titles find ways around pixel hunting: The downloadable special edition of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge includes a button that highlights all interactive objects on the screen, so players can quickly see what’s interactive and what’s not. There’s no need to hunt anything.

But is pixel hunting really that bad? Or is just poorly implemented in most cases? L.A. Noire argues for the latter point by including its own form of pixel hunting, one that fits so naturally within its world that the hunt becomes an integral part of the game and one of its major selling points.

by Nick Dinicola

12 Aug 2011


From Dust easily fits into the category of “god game,” though ironically you don’t play as a godly being. You’re a supernatural being, certainly. More speifically, you’re The Breath that can control the elements in small quantities—but you’re far from godly, initially.

I make this claim based on how much of the challenge in From Dust stems from dealing with unintended consequences. You must constantly be aware of how your actions can set off a chain of events within the environment: You create a dirt bridge so some villagers can cross a ravine, then the vegetation grows across that bridge, then a volcano erupts, then the lava sets the vegetation on fire, and the fire burns all the way back to the village, and all the while, you’re watching those initial men and women run across the map on their way to create a new village.

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Fave Five: Alpine

// Sound Affects

"Australian sextet Alpine's newest album is a fantastic expansion of their joyous pop sound, but two members give us five records apiece that helped define their unique musical identities.

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