Man’s Best Friend or Most Stressful Companion: Why the Dog CANNOT Die

dogmeat fallout 4

Dogs — they need no introduction since we’re all obsessed with them to some degree.

Rudyard Kipling, author of “The Jungle Book”, summed up our history with dogs best when he wrote: “When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.’” There’s something about dogs that makes them so lovable and loyal that we just can’t seem to live without them.

The adoration doesn’t stop with real dogs, either — the dog doesn’t have to be physically present or even real for us to fawn all over them. The ultra-important website DoestheDogDie.com informs movie-goers as to the fate of the dog in any given film (you’re welcome). “Nintendogs was the 2nd best selling DS game, slightly trailing behind “New Super Mario Bros”. And we have more dog-related memes then we could ever hope to fully sift through.

doge

Video game dogs of today are no different — although they’ve admittedly come a long way since that asshole in “Duck Hunt”, dogs in the video games we’re playing now are really beginning to look and feel like their real-life counterparts. You’d think this would be welcome news, but it’s actually quite the opposite; after the initial excitement of having an in-game canine companion wears off, the realization slowly hits like a sack of Purina: the dog is mortal and has the potential to die, so it therefore must be saved at all costs.

Take, for example, the case of Meeko from “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”. One Dragonborn came across Meeko while out (procrastinating) slaying dragons and spent more time keeping him alive than actually progressing in the game. He tweeted his experience and the tweets went viral — not only because they were funny but because we could all relate. I know I made sure to have my children adopt Meeko as quickly as possible because the alternative was letting him die and…well, that wasn’t an option.

Why do we do this?

Simply put, we’re attached to each other in the most scientific sense possible. It’s a fact. Studies show that dogs are attached to us as if they were our actual children and we are attached to them as if we were their actual parents. The only difference human babies have with dogs is the lack of fur as far as our brains are concerned. But those are real dogs — video game dogs are a different story, right?

According to our brains, there’s not much of a difference between real and virtual dogs. As it would turn out, our brains continuously vacillate between what is real and what is not, often confusing our ability to understand and separate fantasy from reality when presented with something like an image, cartoon, or a video game. Since we can’t unconsciously (no, I don’t mean subconsciously, you non-Psychology majors) determine if the video game dog is real or not, we have this innate compulsion to save it from certain death because it’s our essentially our virtual fur baby. Strictly speaking, saving Dogmeat from wanton mutant destruction is basically like saving an actual dog (and therefore baby) from an actual burning building. We literally can’t tell the difference on an unconscious level, and this is what causes us to stress out so much over their potential demise.

Seymour Futurama
Yet another reason why this scene is the saddest in TV history. | via YouTube / Do naid

This seems funny at first, but when you realize the structure of our brain is essentially bits of smaller brains mushed together, one basic, one more complicated, and one constantly evolving, it makes sense that part of our brain can’t figure out something that has only been in existence for the last few decades even though our frontal lobe, the part largely responsible for complex thought, can. Basically, even though we can rationalize that Meeko, Dogmeat, and the rest aren’t real thanks to our frontal lobe, other parts of the brain are reacting as if they are physically right in front of us. This results in our brain going back and forth between thinking they’re live dogs and accepting them for the pixels they truly are.

They say all dogs go to heaven, but gamers far and wide largely don’t take any chances when it comes to video game dogs. The struggle is real to save these pixelated pups, and we have our brains to blame for this. Perhaps one day we’ll evolve to the point where we can unconsciously tell the difference between virtual dogs and real dogs, but until then, we’re going to restart every time our pooch pals dies.

duck hunt dog

Except that one asshole. Seriously.

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Featured image via YouTube / Admiral Bahroo

Neopia’s Market Crash: What Neopets Can Teach Us About Economics

neopets

There are only two things in this world that never die — love and your Neopets (go check. I’ll wait).

Neopets was an extremely popular web-based game that allowed players to choose virtual pets, collect items, and explore the unique and interesting world of Neopia. The Neopets universe was so incredibly vast and diverse with games, shops, museums, and live events that excited a lot of investors — for a time, it was Wall Street’s darling, proving time and time again that it was the site to advertise on in order to reach young children and teenagers. The website was launched by Adam Powell and Donna Williams in late 1999 and in June 2005, Viacom bought Neopets Inc. for $160 million USD. Not bad for a free-to-play game from the ‘90s!

neopets
via Twitter / SamMaggs

The point of the game was to play mini-games in order to win Neopoints, the site’s currency. Neopoints could also be earned in other ways, such as betting on events, random encounters, and through selling things in the user’s shop. These Neopoints could then be used to buy virtual goods, such as food or accessories for the Neopets to use, or they could be tucked away in the bank to save for a rainy day.

Some shop-savvy users would use these Neopoints to peruse the many shops, both officially generated by the developers and gamers alike, in order to buy items on the cheap and mark them up in their own shops to make a quick buck. There was even a feature called the “Shop Wizard” that allowed users to see the prices of the item in question so they may set it for a competitively attractive price.

neopets shop
via YouTube / JD Gaming

On certain set dates, the Neopian shops would cut their prices in half, making these days prime shopping times. Stellar sellers would flock to the shops and grab up items that they could later resell for a profit. The items were desired, and the Neopoints were rolling in. For a while, life seemed to be pretty good in Neopia.

For example, paintbrushes (items that would paint your Neopet a different skin), which could range from 5,000 to 75,000 Neopoints, would be cut drastically in price on these special sales days. Ideally, it was meant to allow less fortunate users to enjoy some of the same perks that the more affluent Neopians enjoyed; in reality, what ended up happening is that the good deals went to a speedy few that would refresh their pages quickly and repeatedly in order to load the items before anyone else.

neopets
via Twitter / dilfosaur

Eventually, a small subset of users had amassed a large amount of wealth and completely distanced themselves from the middle-class masses. These gamers would keep selling the rare items for a pretty profit, and since the site was largely unmoderated, they were allowed to continue doing this without any consequences.

What ended up happening was runaway inflation that put newer users at a disadvantage — the users that had been around awhile already had the items and pet skins that they desired, but the newer users could, in no easy way, accumulate the same level of wealth that the established users had.

Soon, earning Neopoints became less and less fun; users were no longer playing the games (unless they had a high payout) and instead were focusing on auctions, stocks, and selling items. This continued to drive inflation higher and higher until it eventually became so out of control that the game was nearly unplayable.

neopets
via Twitter / dilfosaur

One popular Neopets blog commented on the matter, stating that the site became “a horrifying and disturbing look into the faults of late capitalism and the unfettered exploitation inevitable in unregulated economic systems,” that “poverty in Neopia nowadays translates to earning something around 33,000 Neopoints,” and that “wealth disparity is huge with no regulatory system helping out the lowest tier.”

“If you earn 16k a day (about average if you’re casual), it would take you 59 years to save up for a dark faerie wand,” the post also reads (the item was never designed to cost this much).

Eventually, the Neopets team came in and cleaned house in an attempt to salvage their broken economy, but the damage had been done — many users left the site, a shell of the formerly delightful time-waster it had once been.

So what can we learn from this?

Regulations that have been put in place to safeguard against inflation are definitely there for a reason — and they are appreciated by the everyman. Without these safeguards, inflation would be even messier and we would certainly have a broken economy…well, more broken than it currently is. The middle class wouldn’t exist, and anyone not in the upper class would struggle for basic necessities. So, even though the state of the US economy is an absolute tornado at the moment, it’s better than Neopia ever was.

neopets
via Twitter / ohitsmaura

For many millenials, Neopets was their first stint into economics. This site ended up being more than just a place to gather and play video games — it became a learning experience that, only later in life, would these non-adults realize they learned. And they said video games were a waste of time!

Now, go feed your Neopets.

They’ve been waiting.

Forever.

Also be sure to check out our hit game, “TerraGenesis“! Available now for iOS and Android!

Featured Image via YouTube / Duckarooni

(un)Finshed: How Broken Mechanics Made Good Games Great

Civ Gandhi

In the age of digital downloads and DLC, developers now have the option to fix broken games after their release. Glitches are stitched, levels are added, and portions of the game that give unfair advantages are removed. These fixes are sometimes minor, such as nerfing a character, but are other times absolutely critical, like addressing an issue that could be game-breaking.

So why would anyone think a broken mechanic could enhance gameplay when they’re often patched ASAP?

Well, sometimes it actually does add value and has even ensured the longevity of those lucky few properties. Here are some of the more notable ones:

“Silent Hill” – Fogging

Oh boy, did “Silent Hill” stretch the absolute graphic limitations of the PSX or what? Released in 1999, this Konami classic gave everyone the heebie jeebies something fierce. Murderous creatures, nurses who don’t know they’re dead, and your stupid-ass kid running away into the eerie fog really set the scene for this title.

Silent Hill
“Okay fine, run away. I can always make another kid.” / via Fanpop

Interestingly, it’s the iconic fog that’s the broken mechanic. Called “fogging”, the technique was cleverly introduced because processing power on the earlier consoles wasn’t quite strong enough to render items too far in the distance. Instead of rendering items that weren’t immediately within sight and overloading the system, the developers ingeniously utilized clipped polygons and fog to set the town in haze that only lifted with the character as he walked. It’s been employed in a number of games, including “Goldeneye 007 and “Spider-Man, but none of them truly incorporated the technique into a meaningful way. Since the game was meant to be frightening, removing a player’s ability to see into the distance where potential enemies could be lurking literally added that layer of fear and gave the city of “Silent Hill” a believable curse.

In contrast, take a look at “Superman 64” – the developers did the same thing here, but told gamers that the green fog was a “Kryptonite haze”.

Superman 64
“Kryptonite haze” is a really odd way to spell “not gonna finish rendering this game lmao.” | via YouTube / Cinemassacre

Unlike “Silent Hill”, which made the fog not only part of the storyline but actual fun (if you like ’90s jumpscares), “Superman 64” just…sucked. The fog added no value whatsoever and was one of the many reasons why this game was undeniably terrible.

The “Silent Hill” fog was considered such an integral part of the game’s universe that, even though later additions on more advanced consoles could handle distance rendering, the developers still added fog for that anxiety-inducing tactic we’ve all come to know and love.

Silent Hill Heather
“San Francisco sure is nice this time of year!” | via YouTube / TrashTV2012

“Grand Theft Auto” – “I Think It Was A Bug”

If you’ve been around video games for the past couple of decades, you’ve heard about stealy wheely automobiley, AKA “Grand Theft Auto”. The beloved franchise that is the criminal underground of America as envisioned by the British company named DMA Design started off with pretty much the most polar opposite game possible called “Race’n’Chase”. There’s some robbery aspect to it, but it was mostly cops pulling you over for…something???

race n chase
No, stop. The excitement is too much to handle. I’m so entertained rn. | via Flickr / mikedaily

According to Gary Penn, who worked on the game, “Race’n’Chase” was somewhat problematic in that it was terrible. They soon found something that made the title fun, however:

“…One day, I think it was a bug, the police suddenly became mental and aggressive. It was because they were trying to drive through you. Their route finding was screwed I think and that was an awesome moment because suddenly the real drama where, ‘Oh my God, the police are psycho — they’re trying to ram me off the road.’

That was awesome, so that stayed in. It was tweaked a little bit, but that stayed in because that was great fun. Suddenly the game got more dramatic and it’s no longer boring — the police trying to pull you over. They’re after you, they’re trying to ram you off the fucking road. Everybody suddenly went, ‘Hey this is actually pretty cool. There’s something in this, this is working.’ It was less about the mission stuff, which we always thought was another mess, and more about just general play — just being able to piss around.”

GTA V Police
“Tail light out? Not on my watch.” | via YouTube / Typical Gamer

The game was completely overhauled with the glitch becoming an integral part of the storyline and gameplay. The result? “Grand Theft Auto, released in 1997. It was still kind of terrible, but it lead to terribly fun games like “GTA: San Andreas and “GTA V so we’ll let it slide.

“Sid Meier’s Civilization” – Simple Coding Oversight

I’m really going back far for this one, but I do so out of immense love because this was one of the first video games I ever played. I was only two or three and could barely read, but I loved the opening scene, animation, and building my palace. Also, I got a rush whenever I invented something. Ahh, memories!

But I digress…

“Sid Meier’s Civilization” didn’t actually have much wrong with it; on the contrary, it was considered revolutionary and has even topped a few “best game ever” lists. The notion that you could build up a civilization and play as a new nation each time, conquering your neighbors and literally re-writing history with each gameplay was certainly an entertaining one. What could have possibly been in error here?

Well, despite their best efforts, they made Mahatma Gandhi go apeshit from time to time.

Mahatma Gandhi
“I’m gonna fucking nuke your shitstain of a country and atomize everyone you love.” – Mahatma Gandhi, probably. | via Pixabay

In case you were unaware, Gandhi was a devout pacifist who only wished to spread peace and love throughout the world. He was unfortunately assassinated in 1948, and “Sid Meier’s Civilization” developers wanted to honor his memory by incorporating him into their game as the leader of the Indians. They set his aggression level to the absolute lowest setting, “1”, and let Good Gandhi loose into the PC world.

One problem – when a player adopted democracy, the code was told to roll back all the leaders’ aggression levels by two points. Instead of Gandhi’s aggression level dropping from “1” to “-1”, it went to the other end of the code and nearly maxed out at “255”, making him the most aggressive, trigger-happy, nuke-flinging pacifist on Earth.

Civilization Gandhi
Well, that escalated quickly… | via YouTube / The Salt Factory

Confused? Think of it this way: the aggression levels can be likened to numbers on a clock. The numbers loop from 1 – 12 and then, when 12’s hour is up, it goes back to 1 again, right? But when your clock says “1” and you want to set it back an hour for the ridiculous holiday that is daylight savings, what happens? The time doesn’t go to “0”; instead, it’s now “12”. The same thing applies here – instead of going to “-1” and becoming the ultra pacifist, Gandhi’s aggression looped to almost the highest setting possible and set his aggression to the extreme.

Later games would have the capacity to rectify this issue, but the developers left it in as a humorous, memorable tribute to their oversight, which is pretty sweet considering it’s probably the only consistent thing in the entire franchise. One game may place Rome and Japan as neighbors and another game will find you building the pyramids in 1997, but Gandhi will always explode your ass if you decide to adopt democracy. Classic.

Civilization 1
“Ah yes, the Dutch-Babylonian Space Race of 1941. Scintillating.” | via YouTube / The Salt Factory

Do you know of any other broken mechanics that have made their way into gaming standard practices? Let us know!

Also be sure to check out our hit game, “TerraGenesis“! Available now for iOS and Android!

Feature Image via Twitter / VRominov

Did ‘No Man’s Sky’ Redeem Itself?

No Man's Sky

When I first got wind of “No Man’s Sky” just weeks before its release in 2016, I jumped onto the caboose of that hype train and rode those glorious tracks into 18 quintillion procedurally generated sunsets.

No Man's Sky Rings
via Twitter / TerraGenesis

On release day, my coworkers picked up the highly anticipated title and decided to stream it for 24 hours straight — that’s how excited we all were for it — but by hour 2 we’d already lost interest; by hour 4 were so sick of the game we couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.

We weren’t alone — that hype train crashed and burned horrendously, but unlike a beautiful trainwreck, no one wanted to stick around and watch it. Steam had to issue countless refunds, and the game now holds the distinction of having one of the most disastrous launches in history.

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / Linalyx_

What happened?

We could place blame on the unfulfilled promises that lead to the overwhelming hype, such as lack of multiplayer, but a game doesn’t need such a feature to succeed if it’s good on its own. And while “No Man’s Sky”, on paper, had everything it needed to appeal to just about anybody — unique mechanic, beautiful graphics, and, of course, zooming through space discovering things — it was just missing… something.

No Man's Sky NEXT
via Twitter / Berduu

But what?

As I watched the title struggle for two years, I promised myself that I’d give it another go when it released a multiplayer option — out of principle, of course. So when “No Man’s Sky” NEXT came out, I finally caved and bought a copy of my own, jumping back on the hype train’s newfound tracks once again. Surely, adding multiplayer and the other promised features will fix this game, right? All rights have been wronged, and we can all play in peace now, right? Right?

no man's sky
via Twitter / PlayStation

Hmm.

Booting the game up two years later, I was still met with some same critiques along with a few new ones. I’m still a random explorer with a damaged ship and space amnesia, but now I have mini-objectives that, if not fulfilled, will result in death. Each mini-objective is barely explained, and understanding the controls seems to be a privilege, not a right. Nevertheless, I persisted, and managed to get off the first planet…

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / Berduu

…only to immediately land on a nearby moon and start another tutorial.

In a game that boasts endless exploration in the vastness of space, it’s frustrating to focus on something comparatively insignificant as my character not dying. Additionally, while discovering flora and fauna has to be my absolute favorite aspect of the game, there doesn’t seem to be much of a purpose to it besides gaining some credits. Am I furthering in-game knowledge of a certain species, or is this just for shits and giggles? And what’s up with the mining, AKA 300% of the game (with the remainder being not dying of course)?

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / RonanWills

Giving up on Story Mode, I boot up a new game on Creative instead. As I take a few snapshots of the nature that surrounds me and feed a few organisms, I’m reminded why I lost interest so quickly. I wanted to explore this procedurally generated universe, but with more purpose. I wanted to chart the stars with other players and look back on all our accomplishments on a shared map as we populated it with new worlds. I wanted to be a passive observer on some planets but actively settle others. I wanted to find flourishing alien civilizations mixed in with the lesser-evolved life forms.

No Man's Sky
via FaceBook / Heather E. Johnson Yu

Maybe that was too much to ask, but when a game promises something like infinite worlds, it’s easy to believe that the sky’s the limit when it comes to adding features.

Perhaps it’s this selling point that ends becomes one of its weaknesses. 18 quintillion planets sounds cool, but is it necessary? I keep hoping to run into another player’s base or some bustling city just by happenstance, but the universe is too impossibly big for that to be statistically plausible.

No Man's Sky Base
via Twitter / Linalyx_

Then again, there is a beauty to the overwhelming sense of loneliness this provides. Through all the ferrite dust mined, the sentinels avoided, the flora discovered, the fauna named, the bases built and the worlds visited, I’m obstinate in my goal to not only find a connection, but find meaning. What is the purpose of building a glorious home base, only to constantly travel many light years away from it? Why am I naming all of these animals if no one else is around to take value from my discoveries? Why bother pioneering through each planet if I can’t even map them? And why is my motivation to continue to eke out an existence in this infinite universe with no clear direction?

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / Linalyx_

Wait.

Why is this game exactly like life? Why are we here, what is our purpose, and what keeps us going as we climb over the next hill or jet off to the next world?

As I feed carbon to a strange creature and it starts to follow me, purring, I sit down and survey my base. I take a snapshot as the now friendly alien dances around me, seemingly without a care.

No Man's Sky
via FaceBook / Heather E. Johnson Yu

Playing with the lighting controls, I settle on a welcome stillness in the air, and as the sun rises over the horizon, I’m met with the beauty that can only come from a calm morning, a planet yet to awaken after a restful night. I take a photo to immortalize this feeling of “being in the now” and post it to social media, although I know no one will feel the joy I suddenly feel from this moment.

It seems silly, but in that one fragment of time, when everything was still and I could pause to take the beauty in, I was reminded of what I felt was initially missing.

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / RPGSite

Soul.

“No Man’s Sky” spoke to me in a way that only a fresh dawn can, and it healed me, if even for a little while. It reminded me to take in the beauty that is all around us and appreciate the small things that the universe throws our way. We may be lost in the desolate vastness of space, searching for meaning, but we’re always given casual prompts to stop and reflect on the beauty that is all around us.

No Man's Sky
via Twitter / lizaledwards

So, to Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games, a congratulations is in order — thank you for making such a beautiful game (but let’s work on that shared in-game map, eh?).

Feature Image via Instagram / nomansjungle