Going for a Platinum Trophy or All the Trophies

Your uncle Geekly trophy hunts from time to time, but most of my PS4 trophies must meet certain criteria for me to pursue it. For those of you who don’t know, a PS4 platinum trophy is usually handed out when the player earns every other trophy (or accomplishment if you’re an X-Box player) the game has to offer. Not all games offer a platinum trophy—I’m looking at you, Apex Legends—and for those games I’ll collect all the trophies I can. Also, there are plenty of games that hand out a platinum after an hour or two or in the case of My Name is Mayo thirty minutes, but countless PS4 platinum trophies require work. Lots and lots of hours of grinding.

Like I said, I do trophy hunt at times, so you may see the My Name is Mayo platinum buried in my profile. I’m not proud of it. I sold out to gain a few Playstation levels and make my stats look good. But most of platinum trophies are legit. I promise.

If you’re wondering what My Name is Mayo is, it’s a game where one clicks on a jar of mayonnaise wearing provocative clothing. The jar even dons a leopard print bikini. Again, this isn’t the high point of my gaming trophies, but other game trophies are better. Honest. The following is a list for the more difficult games in which I choose to earn a platinum.

Persona5

I Have to Like the Game

Okay, this is a duh moment, but if I’m going to invest over a hundred hours to get every trophy a video game needs for a platinum trophy or get all the trophies the game has in its catalogue, I’d better like it. Heck. I better love the game. Skyrim? Sure. Persona 5? Of course. Final Fantasy XV? Yes—I liked it enough to earn the platinum, but it could’ve been better. Fallout 4? Why did I get that one? Nubla? It’s a very good puzzle game with an easy to get platinum, so this may have been another trophy hunter moment—but I don’t care. Where was I? Yes. I must like the game to even think about earning the game’s platinum. Earning a platinum trophy shows your love of the game to the world.

GoldeneyeN64

No Online Multiplayer Trophies Needed

I like playing online video games every once and while, but I’m not any good at them and I won’t be able to unlock any online trophies—or at least most of them. As soon as I see that a game that can be played solo has an online component to its platinum trophy, I know I’m not getting the ultimate prize.

I liked the Magic: The Gathering video games from the PS3 but knew I would never get every trophy because I saw that I had to win X number of online matches and place in the top ten during an event. That’s not for me. I unlocked every other ridiculous trophy for those games except for the online ones, and the old Magic games aren’t even the most difficult of the bunch. Anything ultra-competitive like Fortnite, Overwatch, or Apex Legends will yield gold for me at best.

Speaking of gold, I stunk at the N64’s Goldeneye. I like the game. It deserves all the accolades it receives, but you know I’m no good at multiplayer games if I can’t win Goldeneye multiplayer while playing as Oddjob. Sure, Kyle, you can cheat by picking Oddjob. He starts with armor and a weapon (his hat) when no one else begins the game with either and must scrounge the map for both. I still lost consistently.

Uncharted4

No Hard Mode Required

There are people in the world who like to be challenged with video games. It’s great if you’re one of them. I’m not—most of the time. I may play a hard mode if a game offers one, but it’s a turnoff for me earning a platinum trophy if I must beat the game on the game’s most difficult setting to unlock it. Did I play PS4’s Spider-Man? Yes. I even played it on the unlockable ultimate difficulty setting, but I don’t like being told to play a certain way in order to earn a platinum trophy.

The Uncharted series is one of my favorites, but as soon as I see that I must finish the game on the most difficult setting, I know I’m not getting the game’s best trophy. Life is hard enough. Why must I play Nightmare Mode or Are You Kidding Me Mode or Ludicrous Mode or Geekly Must Die Mode? I’ll try the more difficult modes, but don’t expect me to do anything.

FinalFantasy7

No Speed Playthroughs

If you’re one of those people who can finish Super Mario Brothers in 2 minutes flat, good for you. You’re awesome and your reflexes are second to none. I’m not one of these people. But my lack of speed playthroughs goes beyond this. I don’t believe Final Fantasy VII has a speed playthrough trophy, but I’ve seen games of its ilk (other JRPGs and western RPGs) offering one for beating the game in under 20-25 hours. If I beat Final Fantasy VII or any game of that type that fast, I feel cheated.

I like to take my time. Give me a world and characters I can lose myself in and I’ll do just that.

A Maximum of 3 Playthroughs

If I can’t get all the trophies in three playthroughs, I’m out. Usually, I don’t like playing a game a third time. Persona 5 took me almost three playthroughs because I missed a minor something during my second play and I considered abandoning the game’s platinum since it would take me a third. After several grunts and groans, I fired up the game for another play and cursed at myself during the next twenty or so hours. I like earning the platinum in a single play whenever possible.

TellTaleGamesTheWalkingDead

2 Shiny Platinum Trophies for Every Embarrassment

Yes. I own some embarrassing platinums in my PS4 case, but your uncle Geekly strives for 2 platinums I don’t mind displaying for each one I hide behind the rest. I mentioned My Name is Mayo earlier, but I include Telltale Games platinum trophies in this group as well. All one must do to get most Telltale Game platinums is finish the game. That’s too easy. I’ll do it, but your trophy goes in the back row. I want trophies I don’t mind polishing in the front.

After taking a moment of silence for Telltale Games closing their doors late last year—I liked their games despite how easy it was to get their platinum trophies—let us know what criteria you look for when going for a game’s platinum in the comments. Do you even care if you ever earn a platinum? Which platinum trophies do you own?

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Gloomhaven and Assault on Doomrock

There are so many things I could pick as my favorite mechanisms for Gloomhaven and Assault on Doomrock, but I’ll try to stay on task with the one I chose for this article: artificial intelligence.

Cooperative games pit the players against the game itself so almost any cooperative game has some version of artificial intelligence. Gloomhaven and Assault on Doomrock just happen to be two of my favorites in terms of AI.

Gloomhaven01.jpg

Gloomhaven has a leveled system for its creatures, so players can adjust the difficulty to match their tastes, and each creature type has its own action deck. The action cards within these decks dictate how quickly each creature moves, how or if they attack that turn, and who they target when they do. It’s a simple but elegant way of making each creature unique. Players won’t know what the creature will do from turn to turn, but if they’ve faced a similar creature, they may know its habits and that does a lot for characterization.

I also like Gloomhaven’s card-based combat. Usually I don’t like it when a player gets knocked out when they run out of cards in their deck, but this game is so balanced that it works. Okay. I promise that’s the only time I’ll get off topic—with Gloomhaven.

AssaultOnDoomrock

Assault on Doomrock has a similar system for its creatures, but it adds a threat level for each player’s character (or hero). Typically, the hero with the highest threat level will draw more monsters and that allows for a mechanism in the game that functions a lot like a tank in MMORPGs—a tank is a player with a lot of health that serves as a punching bag for monsters to attack, while their teammates wail on the distracted monsters.

There are more things that may affect a creature’s aggression in Assault on Doomrock, but the inclusion of a threat system gives the game more depth. I also like Assault on Doomrock’s addition of time as commodity. T.I.M.E. Stories has a time system too, but Assault on Doomrock’s use of time made me more concerned about wasting the time I had and that increased tension. Alright. I won’t discuss Assault on Doomrock—that much.

SentinelsOfTheMultiverse

I’d be remiss to not give a quick mention to Sentinels of the Multiverse. The villain decks behave differently, giving each character personality. Pandemic almost made this list for artificial intelligence and how the viruses behave, especially how the epidemic cards function with location cards that had been played (currently in the discard pile) go back on top of the draw deck, so diseases can get worse in cities already affected.

Like I said, most cooperative games have some form of artificial intelligence, and there are many other great examples. I could go on for another five or six games at least, but good old Uncle Geekly would like to hear from you.

What do you like most about Gloomhaven and Assault on Doomrock? Is there another game that uses AI in a great way? Error Code 220: Service ready for new user. Let us know in comments.

Shazam! Starter Stories

Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury: Shazam!. Billy Batson, or rather his alter ego Captain Marvel, donned the famous—or not so famous—red, gold and white costume. Shazam! wasn’t always a DC Comics property and the history of his rites and identity is a strange one. Uncle Geekly will take a hot minute to recap it for those of you who care to know.

Captain Marvel got his start with Fawcett Comics in the late 1930s and ironically, Fawcett had to stop publishing Captain Marvel and his Marvel family of comics (there were other superheroes in the Marvel line like Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel) due to a 1953 lawsuit won by DC Comics that claimed he was too similar to Superman. Hmm.

So, Captain Marvel faded into obscurity for a couple of decades until DC licensed the characters from Fawcett (in 1972)—Why bother with just licensing the characters from a defunct publishing house?—and eventually bought them outright in 1991—I guess it takes two more decades for a buyout. DC Comics wanted to reboot the character as Captain Marvel, but by that time another Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell, Marvel Comics rendition of Captain Marvel) already existed and Captain Marvel had to change his name to Shazam. You know, the acronym of the six “immortal elders” who grant Billy his powers.

Wow. I could go on with more domino copyright infringement cases that led to other famous comic book characters changing their name (as a result of the Captain Marvel ruling for Marvel Comics) like Marvelman to Miracleman, but this starter story writeup is for the 14-year-old boy with the body of a jacked Zachary Levi. That’s another odd phrase I never thought I’d say: a jacked Zachary Levi. Shazam! indeed.

ThePowerOfShazamVol1

The Power of Shazam! Vol. 1 (written by Jerry Ordway/art by Jerry Ordway; 1994)

I’ll skip the Fawcett years because DC Comics retconned (changed the origin and details) of the character so many times after Shazam became a DC Comics property and I’ll hop over some of those other abandoned versions of the character(s) to get to a version of Shazam that had a little more staying power, so I’m landing on The Power of Shazam!. While you could pick up the second volume of this series (which was an ongoing title that introduced the rest of the Marvel Family members), the first volume includes an updated retelling of Shazam’s origin with a minor tweak that gives Black Adam and Billy Batson a personal tie. Honestly, it makes them more natural enemies.

Ordway’s story is the closest to the original Fawcett origin story; it also happens to be easy to understand, straightforward and if I was to bet on a story that the upcoming Shazam! movie will pull the most inspiration from, it’d be The Power of Shazam!. All the major players are here.

ShazamTheMonsterSocietyOfEvil

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil (written by Jeff Smith/art by Jeff Smith; 2007)

I’m not sticking with one Shazam origin story, you can’t make me. Jeff Smith (of Bone fame) retold the story again about a decade later. In this telling, Smith used far less space to show Batson’s origin and focused more on the character dealing with the repercussions of magic on the unsuspecting people of Fawcett City (DC tipping their hat to the original creators). There’re also aspects of government untrustworthiness; it’s subtle, but Dr. Sivana (mad scientist and archnemesis of Shazam) is the Attorney General of the United States. Of course Sivana is secretly behind the horrors of Fawcett City, but it’s a nice twist for the character and Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil does more to develop Billy’s sister Mary (as in Mary Marvel) as a character.

ShazamPowerOfHope

Shazam! Power of Hope (written by Paul Dini and Alex Ross/art by Alex Ross; 2005)

I included Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth in my “Wonder Woman Starter Stories” write-up a few weeks ago and here’s another selection from the DC oversized graphic novel series that featured Alex Ross’s artwork. Like most of the other stories in this line, Dini and Ross focus more on real world and human issues.

In Shazam! Power of Hope, Billy visits children in a hospital. He gets the impression that one kid in a wheelchair is being beaten by his father and being a kid and knowing how children can feel powerless around adults, Billy attempts to the threaten the kid’s father. By the end, Billy realizes that he’s part of the cycle and learns that he can help just by visiting these children and giving them hope.

Yes. It’s sappy, but Shazam! Power of Hope has some nice character moments. It also reminds readers that Billy is still a kid, even if he looks like Superman. It also shows the character as the inspiring superhero he is.

SupermanShazamFirstThunder.jpg

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder (written by Judd Winick/art by Joshua Middleton; 2006)

There’s only one thing to take away from Superman/Shazam: First Thunder and it’s an important one: how Superman and Shazam interact. DC Comics likes to show how these two iconic and most powerful men in their universe differ and this retelling of Superman and Shazam’s first encounter shows what makes these two characters unique and why DC would pay to have two characters with similar—and yet dissimilar—superpowers.

ShazamTheNew52

Shazam! The New 52 (written by Geoff Johns/art by Gary Frank; 2012-2014)

Okay. This is yet another telling of Shazam’s origin story; this character changes origins more frequently than I change underwear. But of course, he’d have another origin story, Uncle Geekly, what would you expect from the alternate Earth of the New 52?

In this tale, Billy Batson is more obnoxious and angsty than his previous incarnations as this is a more reality-based take on a 15-year-old orphan who was stuck in the foster care system for many years and lacks the trust of the adults in his life that the other versions of Billy share. This is also a more modern version of Billy. Don’t expect any “aw shucks” moments.

Shazam! The New 52 delivers on an epic showdown between Shazam and his archnemesis Black Adam (who will be played by The Rock in upcoming DCEU films), and if the DCEU continues its line of edgier superhero films, this may be the film version of Billy Batson.

I thought I’d add a few more stories to this list, but there are too many interpretations of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel/Shazam!/The Other Superman that it could muddy the waters further than I believe is necessary.

Judd Winick’s The Trials of Shazam! is another excellent story, but it casts Billy as the wizard who gave him his powers and Captain Marvel Jr. must assume the role as the new Shazam. There are the original stories and those other DC versions of the character throughout the 70s and 80s and there were some good stories there too, but I think the above stories do the most to ground readers in who this character is.

I’m sure I may have missed a story or two. Let me know of any ones you’d add to this list in the comments.

3 Lists of 3 Cosmic Horror

Uncle Geekly’s trying something a little different with this week’s 3 List of 3. Let’s break down what makes a certain subgenre what it is and then list a few forms of media that do a good to great job of representing the subgenre.

We’ll start with cosmic horror, or Lovecraftian horror, or Cthulhu horror. I prefer the term cosmic horror because it’s not specific to the writer H. P. Lovecraft (who popularized the mode in the early 20th century) or his creation Cthulhu and focuses more on the concept of something larger or greater than mankind. Something that reaches beyond the stars and shows us how small man is and that mankind’s role in the universe is minor one.

There have been many waves of cosmic horror, several that predate Lovecraft, so we’ll cover what makes the horror cosmic.

What is Cosmic Horror?

TheUnnamable

An Unnamable Horror

 I know that I just said that I prefer the term cosmic horror to Lovecraftian horror, but he did write in the mode a lot, and his work has laid the groundwork for future writers and other storytellers, so I’m starting with a quote from one of his short stories.

 From H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Unnamable”

“No—it wasn’t that way at all. It was everywhere—a gelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes—and a blemish. It was the pit—the maelstrom—the ultimate abomination. Carter, it was the unnamable.”

This description goes in several directions. It starts with some explainable forms “a gelatin, a slime, eyes, and a blemish,” but even these bounce from one aspect to another, never settling on anything for long. Then it shifts to something less tangible. “A thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. It was the pit—the maelstrom—the ultimate abomination.” And finally, it becomes a concept: the unnamable.

Readers aren’t supposed to know what the being is or what it looks like because the speaker can’t comprehend the being. The unnamable may as well be “the unknowable.” It’s far above humans and could crush them by stepping on them—that is if it had feet—and this feeds into man’s fear of the unknown.

It also feeds into the literary idea of the sublime, or the awe inspiring, and that’s probably why one could place the birth of cosmic horror in the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is when humanity reordered its place in the cosmos (with its thinking, for example Immanuel Kant); it gave birth to Romantic poetry and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The sublime often ventures into the grotesque and in Frankenstein “The Creature’s” horrific outward appearance gets dwarfed only by how grotesque people treat the outsider. Man is trapped, unable to perceive something other or greater than himself, but at the same time, Dr. Frankenstein plays with things he’s not supposed to, and that’s another tenet of good cosmic horror: explore what man isn’t supposed to know.

Phew. Enough of that. Let’s get back to post 18th century.

IT

Horror, not Fantasy

Horror versus fantasy rests at the center of why I don’t like using the term Lovecraftian horror. Most people use the term Lovecraftian fiction and that ignores a different subgenre branch: cosmic fantasy.

Sure. Cosmic fantasy dabbles with horror elements—the unknowable and powerful is innately scary—but while cosmic fantasy beings like the Endless from Neil Gailman’s Sandman could and may kill you if they wanted, the evil entity that sometimes appears as Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s IT will kill you with a smile on its face.

It’s an issue of malevolence versus benevolence or at least malevolence versus ambiguous or ambivalent. Come to think of it, I may have to do a writeup of cosmic fantasy too. Hmm.

Why Visual Mediums Struggle with Cosmic Horror

Okay. I cheated and included a why instead of a what, but it’s an important why. Movies, comics, and other visual mediums struggle at times depicting cosmic horror because the power of these beings come from the fact that they’re unknowable or unnamable.

As soon as a movie shows what the monster or creature looks like, they lose some—or all—of their power. There are a few modern examples of visual mediums getting it right and I’ll showcase some of them in the coming lists.

Movies

Birdbox

Birdbox

The Netflix original movie Birdbox sidesteps revealing its otherworldly beings by showing what they make people do. When people gaze upon the creatures in this film, they want to commit suicide in the fastest, most brutal way possible. If someone had mental issues before the creatures arrived, they’ll want to show people their true beauty, the awe inspiring, the sublime.

The most viewers see of the creatures in Birdbox comes from drawings by some of the people who want to show others their beauty. Not only does this eschew large production costs, it allows these creatures to retain their power. It’s effective, but not the only way to make this point.

TheThing

The Thing

John Carpenter’s The Thing shows movie goers its monster throughout most of its run time, but this being retains its power because it can assume any form: animals, humans, even inanimate objects. If something can have any form, it has no form. This adds to the film’s tension. Is a character talking to their friend, or The Thing?

The practical special effects may bring The Thing to life in gory detail, but the uncertainty it brings gives it its power.

EventHorizon

Event Horizon

Event Horizon may look out of place with the rest of the entries here because its characters don’t face an unknown as much as being thrust into hell. But is the black hole in this movie a scientific anomaly or a gateway to pure evil?

Regardless, the characters can’t understand what’s happening to them or comprehend their fate and they fear the unknown, which again, is at the heart of any good cosmic horror. They suffer their greatest pain and fear and that causes the evil in Event Horizon to take many shapes and forms.

Print Media

TheShining

The Shining

I could go with the aforementioned IT, but I prefer Stephen King’s The Shining. Yes. This story could also be classified as psychological horror, a ghost story, or a Gothic novel, but it also makes a compelling cosmic horror tale. The spirits and what drive them go beyond the mortal plane, even if Jack’s alcoholism and anger feed into his homicidal tendencies. The Shining doesn’t attempt to answer why the Overlook wants to relive past trauma.

King is perhaps the best-known writer of this group and several of his novels and short stories could be classified as cosmic horror.

Uzumaki

Uzumaki

I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest Junji Ito fan, but Uzumaki—as does most of his other work—meets all the criteria of a cosmic horror story. An unforeseen force (similar to a curse) infects the people of Kurōzu-cho (or Black Vortex Town). They become obsessed with spirals or paranoid of them. One citizen even kills himself by bending his body into a spiral. Uzumaki has a knack for the grotesque and many people focus on Ito’s sublime and haunting images, but the pattern that makes it a cosmic horror story is the one where the people of Kurōzu-cho are doomed to repeat a cycle of the town collapsing under the spiral curse, only to be reborn.

It’s fascinating when one thinks of how important and positive many of the images and symbols that Uzumaki (Japanese for spiral) subverts. Spirals appear in comedies and represent warmth in manga. The same cannot be said of Uzumaki.

SongsOfADeadDreamerAndGrimscribe

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

Oh. It’s time to go further down the weird spiral. Some literary critics classify Thomas Ligotti’s work as weird fiction, but his 1986 short story collection Songs of a Dead Dreamer and 1991’s Grimscribe: His Lives and Works are some of the closest we’ll get to true, modern cosmic horror. Penguin books republished these stories as one tome Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe and that’s what I’ve included in this list. They’re must reads for people interested in this subgenre.

The force that contaminates a town in “The Shadow at the Bottom of the World” would make Cthulhu smile—if he could smile—and Ligotti references Lovecraft by name in “The Sect of the Idiot.” Unlike many other creative forces on this list, there’s a sense of authority to Ligotti’s work. While others play in a cosmic horror sandbox, he lives it and shares what he finds.

Like so many others of these lists I could keep going. One of our commenters Levi mentioned Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy (which is the basis for the movie Annihilation) and that in part, triggered this 3 List of 3. I have yet to read The Southern Reach Trilogy or watch Annihilation, but a lot of VanderMeer’s other work could qualify as weird fiction (like Ligotti’s work) or cosmic horror. I’m in the middle of reading VanderMeer’s Wonderbook (a writer’s guide); it looks like I may have some more reading in my future and that’s not a bad thing.

What are some of your favorite cosmic horror writers, directors, or artists? I’m okay with you mentioning them in comments but try not to invoke their name more than twice. I don’t want a portal to open on my computer; my ethernet cable isn’t fully insulated.

Video Game Players Only Want Multiplayer Games

I’m not sure if this has come up or not in the past several years Uncle Geekly’s been doing this blog, but your uncle dislikes absolutes, so I’m being facetious with this writeup’s title. Okay. Maybe video games and what players want isn’t serious enough of a topic to warrant me calling it facetious, but it’s an important topic for geeks.

Anyway. Any absolute like this title is inherently flawed. One can’t make a blanket statement about a large group of people or things, because there are many exceptions to the norm. The title derives from video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) insisting that video game fans only want multiplayer experiences, but they’re doing so by saying that players don’t want games with a linear story, and if one looks at their recent track record, EA seldom publishes single-player games with linear stories.

Electronic Arts has been making games for decades. They’ve seen the video game climate change over the course of those years, and the comment EA makes every time they cancel a Star Wars game with a linear story or character driven game in the past decade or so is that players don’t want a single-player experience.

EA’s Patrick Soderlund illustrates the company’s attitude by stating in his blog “Our Visceral Studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come. We needed to pivot the design.”

VisceralGames

Let’s look beyond the fact that some Visceral Studio employees lost their jobs—Soderlund also stated that EA would shift as many Visceral Studio employees over to other projects as they could, which means that they didn’t do that for all their employees—and get to what Soderlund, speaking for EA, is saying. On the surface, it may sound to players as if EA wants to make games that resonate with players and grant players years of replay value but consider the source. Soderlund is a video game executive. He’s talking about monetization and making games that run like a service.

Do you think that I’m making a little bit of a leap there? Maybe, but EA has a long history of making great single-player, linear story games (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Deep Space). They even have a long history of producing great linear story Star Wars games that are single-player like Knights of the Old Republic and the Jedi Knight series, so EA has plenty of research to suggest the contrary to what Soderlund said. Players do want linear story, character-driven games, especially ones set in the Star Wars universe.

AWayOutVideoGame.jpg

EA’s 2018 release A Way Out reinforces that players want single-player, linear story, character-driven games. A Way Out sold as many copies (200,000 for about $1 million) in one week as EA thought it would sell in the entire fiscal year. The truth is that EA wants players to only want multiplayer games. A single-player linear story game needs to have a finite ending to be satisfying. If that’s the case, players won’t purchase skins or weapons for a character when they’ve already beaten the game, unless they plan to play the game a second time.

I get it on some level. AAA games cost a lot of money to make, so publishers want to watch their bottom line and produce games that can bring in consistent money over a long period of time, games like the ones Soderlund mentioned in his blog “experiences that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come.” But let’s cut EA a break—sort of—and say that they don’t understand that there is more than one video game audience.

ApexLegends

If EA knew there was more than one video game audience, they may not have released Apex Legends at the beginning of February 2019 when Anthem was scheduled for release later the same month. They’re both solely online games that will attract a similar audience. Video game companies can’t predict what another studio will do, but they can space out similar releases from their own stable of games. That’s why video game companies need single-player games as much as they do multiplayer games.

Some players like multiplayer games, almost exclusively; others prefer single-player games. I dig both game types, but I lean toward single-player experiences. Variety is paramount. EA can, and should, offer great multiplayer and single-player games. I’d hate to see the publisher behind classics like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic never make another single-player, linear story, character-driven game. It’s single-player games like the ones EA has produced in the past that lead some to accept video games as art, or at the very least, examples of incredible storytelling.

Do you agree or disagree that gamers still want single-player experiences with linear stories? Do you think EA and other companies like it are off-base with their assessment of the video game market? Let us know in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanisms: Dinosaur Island

Yes. Uncle Geekly picked up Dinosaur Island this past Christmas, and I’ve had some time to get in several plays. For the uninitiated or the ones who don’t remember what I said about Dinosaur Island in the past, it’s a tabletop game where players compete for visitors by building their own Jurassic Park. The premise is solid gold.

Each individual game mechanism has been seen in other games, but Dinosaur Island does a fantastic job of combining mechanisms that mimic what they’re supposed to mimic. The research and development section functions like the players exploring which dinosaurs they can recreate. Players can take a risk—increasing the dinosaur threat level—by taking a die that yields larger research results or they could take a safer route and set a foundation for gaining research points over time. It’s slower, but more reliable. The building of dinosaur pins and dinosaur husbandry—is that a thing?—functions the way one would think they would. Does one build the pins and reproduce dinos to get more visitors in one’s park before building adequate security? Players can, but is it wise?

DinosaurIsland_DinosaurFigures.jpg

The dinosaur figures don’t hurt the fun factor, but the resource management of where to place workers to get the best effect and where to place visitors so they yield the highest reward are other moments where Dinosaur Island shines. There’s just enough luck introduced so there’s a chance for players to catch a runaway winner, but Dinosaur Island is first and foremost a strategy game. A player who deploys a better strategy tends to win more often than those who don’t.

Each game mechanism—worker placement, tile placement, set collection, and an action point allowance system—behaves like its own mini game. Dinosaur Island could even be viewed as a series of mini games. But Dinosaur Island’s whole is far greater than any single part. That makes describing the game difficult or zeroing in on any specific part as a favorite tough. I like how Jonathan Gilmour and Brian Lewis combine these elements, so they make a tasty blend.

DinosaurIsland_Dice

There are plenty of other games that throw in a lot of mechanisms (First Martians comes to mind), but the individual pieces feel like a board game version of doing your taxes. Dinosaur Island doesn’t feel that way. The elements make sense for what the players are doing and the strategy, while difficult to master, is easy to see. Players will know why they won or lost and how they may be able to improve. Plenty of games offer hodgepodges of gaming mechanisms, but few of those games deliver a great experience like Dinosaur Island.

What are your favorite elements of Dinosaur Island? Have you ever played a game without humming the Jurassic Park theme? Uncle Geekly hasn’t, even when I play a solo game. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Wonder Woman Starter Stories

The first lady of comic books Wonder Woman has had an odd history, both in terms of how she came to be and with the path, or more exactly, the paths she’s taken. Hi. Uncle Geekly here and while I could address Wonder Woman’s creation story, we’ll spend today covering some of the greatest Wonder Woman stories for readers new to comic books.

Believe me. There are so many origin stories for Wonder Woman that Greg Rucka in his latest Wonder Woman run addressed them in DC Rebirth (2016-2017). That story just missed the cut, but it’d be a great honorable mention for this list, and I recommend reading that one too if you have the time. Let’s get to the ones that did make the list.

WonderWomanChroniclesVol1

Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol 1. (written by Dr. William Martson/art by Harry G. Peter; 1941-1942)

The writing is dated but Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 1 collects the original appearances of Wonder Woman in chronological order, so Steve Trevor makes an appearance–perhaps too much of one. Despite a shaky beginning, this volume shows how Wonder Woman promoted female empowerment long before it became commonplace. Heck. Wonder Woman was the first female superhero and while her origins may be humble (Diana takes on the name Wonder Woman because her mother gives it to her and she does a lot of what she does for Steve, a man she just met), these stories laid the ground work for an icon.

WonderWoman77

Wonder Woman ‘77 (written by various/art by various; 2015-2016)

Following the success of the Batman ’66 series that chronicled the continuing story of the 1966-68 television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, DC Comics did the same for the 1975-79 Wonder Woman television series that starred Lynda Carter with Wonder Woman ’77.

Initial writer Marc Andreyko wanted to use “under-appreciated” Wonder Woman rogues and include them in the series, since the television series’ limited budget didn’t allow from them. As a result, classic Wonder Woman villains like Cheetah, Silver Swan, and Doctor Psycho received the Wonder Woman TV treatment they never had and Andreyko does such a great job including them that folks won’t remember that they were never in the original series—or maybe they will.

Anyway, Wonder Woman ’77 is a great series for fans of the Lynda Carter TV show or for people who may have missed the original show and don’t want to sit through the dated special effects and again, dated writing. This series does a great job of cleaning up some of the television show’s shortcomings.

WonderWomanGodsAndMortals

Gods and Mortals (written by George Perez and Len Wien/art by George Perez; 1987)

Gods and Mortals is a quintessential Wonder Woman story. After Marston’s Golden Age run and Crisis on Infinite Earths, the quality of Wonder Woman was—how to do I put this kindly—a mixed bag. George Perez relaunched the Wonder Woman title and he abandoned Diana as a marginalized member of the JLA’s boy’s club. He took Diana back to her feminist roots and made Steve Trevor and Etta Candy (one of Wonder Woman’s closest friends) rich and layered characters. Perez deployed a sense of fatalistic realism as the Amazons put themselves in a self-imposed exile after Queen Hippolyta (Diana’s mother) was put into bondage and raped by Hercules.

As you can see, Gods and Mortals took risks that many in the comics world would’ve taken at the time, but the end result was Diana standing on her own, apart from the Justice Society and Justice League. She didn’t need the male pantheon for support, and it was Gods and Mortals that made Greek gods regular characters in Wonder Woman stories.

WonderWomanSpiritOfTruth

Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth (written by Paul Dini/art by Alex Ross; 2001)

Paul Dini of Batman: The Animated Series fame crafts an understated moment between Diana and Clark Kent having coffee and swapping tales. Artist Alex Ross does a great job rendering these moments of Clark and Diana enjoying each other’s company one instant and the Amazonian Warrior lifting tanks, taking on armies, and fighting for women’s rights the next. Spirit of Truth may only come in at 64 pages, but it captures what makes Wonder Woman an endearing character.

WonderWomanTheHiketeia

Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia (written by Greg Rucka/art by Drew Johnson, Eric Shanower, and Brian Stelfreeze; 2003)

The Hiketeia takes an intriguing look at the ancient idea of justice in the modern world. When Diana meets Danielle Wellys, Danielle evokes the ancient rite of Hiketeia and bonds herself to Diana as Diana’s supplicant. In return, Diana must ensure Danielle’s protection, but little does Diana know that Danielle has been on a murder spree to avenge her slain sister. Danielle’s actions attract the attention of the Furies of Greek myth, seeking vengeance for the victims, and Batman.

Batman and Wonder Woman’s views on justice differ as Diana marries fairness with justice. The Hiketeia does a great job showing how two thirds of DC’s trinity interact as they have a respectful but adversarial relationship.

WonderWomanDownToEarth

Wonder Woman: Down to Earth (written by Greg Rucka/art by Drew Johnson, Eric Shanower, and Brian Stelfreeze; 2004)

Down to Earth is an unconventional superhero story as Wonder Woman doesn’t stop villains or save the world; she shares her ideals in a book of essays and others try to tear down her philosophies. A lot of this backlash originates with the mysterious Veronica Cale—who functions like a female Lex Luthor—and she pulls all kinds of strings that make Diana’s life difficult. The book even creates tension in Mount Olympus with the gods, which doesn’t end well for Wonder Woman in the long run.

Down to Earth is another great story by Greg Rucka, and it does a lot to set up many of the events in his excellent four year run of Wonder Woman.

WonderWomanTheNew52

Wonder Woman: The New 52 (written by Brian Azzarello/art by Cliff Chiang; 2012-2015)

Brian Azzarello’s run on Wonder Woman: The New 52 was amazing. It embraces Diana’s Greek mythological roots and bends these same classic Greek myths, turning them into something new and exciting. Every step of the way you’ll stop and think that’s so Hades or that’s so Poseidon and Diana the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus fits right in. The ending doesn’t disappoint. I won’t ruin it here, but Azzarello does a great job of pacing and taking what makes these characters who they are—both Greek myth and comic book characters—and blends them together seamlessly.

That’s my list for readers who are new to Wonder Woman comics. There are so many to choose from—decades after decades in fact—and I’m sure I missed more than one, two, or five hundred. Be sure to list some in comments. I’m sure Jim will prefer your picks to mine.