Memories Under Glass: Super Mario Kart

This is going to be short, but it’s Father’s Day and one memory sticks out more than anything else.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have many games for the SNES that were actually bought and owned by us.  We were much more of a rental family, due in equal parts to a limited budget for gaming and the fact my three siblings and I could rarely agree on a game to get.  Countless memories of mine consist of us spending several minutes pouring over the selection of games at the local video store looking for a good game to rent that at least most of us could agree on.  Sometimes we’d switch off who would pick the games, even, allowing my sisters to choose a game one time and me and my brother would pick the next one.  It kept the peace, for the most part.

The games we did own ended up being games that had more general appeal, or at least were enjoyed by three of us.  A game we owned could generally be counted on to be a good game all around, or at least I like to think so.  One of those games is Super Mario Kart.

Super Mario Kart was probably one of our most played games.  It’s no surprise to me that the kart racing games took off.  My siblings and I would play this all the time.  It seemed to have a huge amount of replay and variety.  Each racer had their own strengths, whether that be fast acceleration, tight turning, or high max speed.  There were also a ton of tracks, separated into multiple cups, as well as multiple difficulties.

The game was just fun, really.  I’d team up with my siblings, trying to work out stuff like the boost start and how to properly skid around corners.  We’d laugh, cheer…all the things that are encouraged by a good game.  However, despite that, the real reason this game holds such a strong memory for me is this: it was one of the few games my dad would also play.

My dad didn’t play many games, at least not for very long.  For some reason he really liked Super Mario Kart.  He’d always pick Donkey Kong every time and play along with us, joking along the way.  Since it was two player, it really connected with me when I was on the other controller.  Having your dad take an interest in what you’re doing, and join in on it, has to be one of the greatest memories of any child, I swear.  Even the fact that he played Donkey Kong warms my heart.

You see…when I was a kid, we would go to theme parks and spend the day there playing around and doing all sorts of fun things, as you do.  Being a small kid, though, I always had trouble on things like rope net bridges, since my coordination on moving objects wasn’t the best at the time, and it was very easy for me to slip.  My dad would notice I’m having a lot of trouble and put me on his back.  Now, normally you might think he’d just go across as normal while carrying me, but nope:  He’d imitate being a gorilla, crawling along and jumping around the rope bridge while I rode on his back cheering and laughing.  He did stuff like this often, or at least I have a ton of memories of him doing it.  My dad must have seemed kinda crazy like that to others but he couldn’t have been more awesome to me.

So naturally, the fact he most often chose Donkey Kong meant something to me.  He’d joke that he liked how Donkey Kong looked like he was hunched over the steering wheel (even if he wasn’t really), and then imitate being Donkey Kong while playing.  Try playing Super Mario Kart when you’re falling over laughing, it’s extremely difficult.  It’s..really almost impossible to put into words just how strong of an impact all of this made on me. I loved him for it, and still do.  I only hope I can create as many memories for my kids in similar ways as he did with me.

Last year, Super Mario Kart celebrated it’s 20th anniversary.  Since then it’s gone through multiple iterations and versions on new consoles and continues to be a fun kart racer.  Super Mario Kart itself can be bought through the Virtual Console, even, and a new one is coming out for the Wii U.  It’s a great game, and great games make great memories.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go call my dad.


Staying Ahead of the Curve

Over the past several months I’ve had computer issues, job issues, etc, and these almost always end up hitting just before a major content update.  This has gotten me thinking about a problem that has always plagued me: staying ahead of the content curve.  Specifically I’m referring to being able to complete all the available content I want to do before new content is added, and it’s an eternal pain in my side that has haunted me as long as I’ve played MMOs.

See, MMOs are essentially a living thing if done right.  Except for dying games, or some games pretty much on life support like Vanguard: SOH was until recently, the developers tend to release new content or updates for players to do.  Whether it be a new dungeon, new zones, or more quests, the point is to give more things to the players so they don’t get too bored and leave (a real problem for most subscription games).

Probably the biggest challenge here is that different types of players churn through content at different rates.  Some players can go through the tasks extremely quickly whereas others take years, and this reflects a wide range of variables such as time available, skill level, or just how much time they spend “smelling the roses” (ahem).  This means developers must strike a balance point on the amount of content to give enough to do, stereotypically between “casual” and “hardcore” players.  I refer to myself as more “time limited”, but that usually puts me in the “casual” camp.

I’ve always been behind the content curve, always playing catch-up.  It’s hard not to feel left out, which is a problem in what is supposed to be a social game.  Continue reading

On the topic of breaks…

One of my biggest concerns when I started this was that I might one day get bored of it and just stop without any closure…regardless of whether any was needed.  I was going to adhere to one update every week or two in order to pace myself and not burn out early, and if I got ahead then I’d have a good backlog of articles to use when I got busy or something came up.

Ironically, boredom never became the factor…everything else did.  Back in October my computer became unusable.  I still had access to a computer and could write some, but it wasn’t as easy and I was dealing with customer support and trying to get the computer fixed alongside being extremely busy at work.  I did start an article, though, about being behind in playing content for MMOs despite efforts to the contrary, which seemed very apropos.  It was nearly done, just some image work left.

Then in November I was laid off.

So basically writing articles has had a much lower priority than other things, not even mentioning the holidays.  It’s very interesting that my biggest concern about this was not the reason for my first large gap, but there you go.  My computer is now fixed and back to normal, but my focus is now on finding a job than writing down my various thoughts on games.

I’m not going to sit here and promise that once these issues are gone there’s going to be a resurgence…there probably will, but I’m not going to promise that.  I do have about 4-5 articles that I began writing, and ideas have been percolating in my head, so the problem here is the fact that right now this is a much lower priority than finding a job so I can support my family.  It looks like that may be sometime soon, I’ve got some good signs incoming, but who really knows?

As far as taking breaks, well…I just did, now I want to get back to work.

The Lost Shores awaits…

One thing that may be apparent is that it’s been a while since I posted anything here.  It hasn’t been forgotten, I just have been involved in various things.

The main thing that’s been occupying my time (other than work and life as usual, obviously) is the Guild Wars 2 Wiki.  This is an official wiki that was set up and hosted by ArenaNet, but the content is updated and maintained by players.  It is far more informative than many other MMOs I’ve seen.  For my part, I’ve been involved mainly with the game release content pages, most recently the upcoming Lost Shores release.

Ain’t so lost anymore…

The Lost Shores is the November content release for Guild Wars 2, following on the heels of October’s Shadow of the Mad King release (seriously, the prelude for it began the day the Halloween content was removed).  Touted as almost a mini-expansion, there’s such a huge amount of content incoming for this release that I can only think part of it had been started months ago.  A new map, a new enemy, a new “infinite” scaling dungeon, a new PvP map, and a full weekend-long event to kick the whole thing off.  I’ve been very involved in documenting as much as possible on the wiki, so go take a look for all your Lost Shores info.

There’s a couple things I want to bring up, though. (Only text below, bring your reading glasses, though I promise it’s not bad) Continue reading

The last day dawns…

(Yes, I went ahead with the obvious article name for GW1 fans…it’s just fitting)

Five years is a long time to wait for a game.  I can remember walking into a bookstore in Austin and seeing the cover for the PC Gamer magazine showing off Guild Wars 2’s announcement, along with the announcement that no more campaigns for GW1 would be made.  I think I read the whole article right there in the store…twice.

What happens in 5 years?  How long is 5 years, really?  For starters, I got married, had a child, and moved into a house.  It’s not an insignificant amount of time, and certainly isn’t for the developers.  Making a MMO game takes a long time, and you really have to love what you’re doing and you really have to love games.  Ree Soesbee (Lore Master) once compared it to chocolate cake.  You can like chocolate cake, but having it every day can get really tiresome and boring quickly…unless you really love chocolate cake. Continue reading

Norrath to Tyria: Races – Walking a Mile (or a Hundred) in Someone Else’s Shoes

As with their classes, EverQuest 2 has a massive number of race choices available.  More than most MMOs, in fact.  There are the variations of human-looking races (Elves, Humans, Erudites, Barbarians, Fae, Gnomes, Halflings, etc), but there are also more fantastic races available (Ogres, Trolls, Lizards, Rats, Cats, Frogs, etc).  There’s a ton available.

Multiple races in MMOs give players a chance to step into the shoes of a person with a completely different experience, and therefore lends itself to a lot of fun roleplaying different beliefs and attitudes.  Even if that’s not for you, just looking different than normal can be enough to make your playtime refreshing.

For this post I’ll only be going over the playable races in GW2 and similarities with EQ2 races.  Guild Wars 2 brings a distinct feel to every race in the game.  Even the non-playable races have their own unique feel, although that’s not really the point of this article.  Let’s see what we have available in Guild Wars 2. Continue reading