The Blog of Ryan Foss

It's a start!

E3 Day 2

I don’t know if I’m biased or what, but I still think Microsoft did a bang up job with their press conference this year. It seemed that in response to Project Natal, Sony announced their own form of motion control, though it uses the Eye Toy and some wand controllers.

I do think some games could be great with this concept, but Natal shows so much more promise IMO.

Nintendo also announced something like a dozen new Mario games, so not big deal there. Their new Metroid game though shows promise, regardless of its awful name.


Google Reader is exploding on me. I’ve found a few cool blogs and my feeds just keep expanding and expanding. Today I found a link to a cool video but its really the music that caught my attention. See the funny?

Super Mario Questions

Have you ever had one of those ideas that you just couldn’t shake and the only solution was to just do it?

I do, I did:

If you don’t know, its a question block from the original Super Mario Brothers. Its 16×16 blocks, or pixels, just like the original art (or a best as I can determine). Interestingly, the top right and left “pixels” are missing. So what your seeing in the picture is 254 2x2x.5 (really ~1.5×1.5 inch) blocks. I spent about an hour sawing then with Aidan and Nathan helped paint them.

Reformat the Planet

Being an indie filmmaker, 30 something, a love of video games (classic and new), and a love of techno, you can’t blame me for finding the documentary BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET interesting.

Tonight I found myself on the internets like usual and landed on They had a link to a short video playing for one week only so I figured I’d check it out. Little did I know it was the entire movie for the documentary about a niche music culture known as chiptunes. Essentially, geeked out people who make music with old game consoles like the Nintendo Gameboy. Simply put, 1 bit to 8 bit type music. It was really quite impressive. I wish I had some musical skills.

I strongly recommend you check out the trailer.

BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET trailer from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.

This is Hard

Big John Games is the developer and Destineer is the distributor of a couple Nintendo DS games, both these companies are MN local. Big John Games seems like a group of people I’d like to support, so I bought Plushee’s for my 9 yr. old niece and Spitfire Heroes for myself.

My niece was very excited about Plushees. She played some and was very positive about it, picking out a couple animals as pets or whatever. I didn’t get much chance to see it in action, other than her getting to level nine of Whack-A-Troll. Point is she liked it.

As for Spitfire Heroes, that game is hard! I decided to try it on Veteran, the medium difficulty. I finally got to mission 4, and my ass got handed to me again and again so I started over on very easy and breezed through the first 3 missions. The fourth was trouble again, but I kicked serious ass and beat it. All that struggle taught me a thing or two about the game. I beat it on the very easy setting. The boat/destroyer mission was the toughest since there’s bullets coming in from everywhere. Luckily the plane you fly is a tank with wings!

IGDA Treat, Big John Games

Last night the Twin Cities chapter of the IGDA (Indiependent Game Developers Association) had local game developer Big John Games present their story, experience and insight regarding game development, in general and as it relates to the Nintendo DS and other consoles, and even local development. It was an incredible meeting. This is the sort of thing that really makes IGDA worth it.

Big John Games is a pretty cool company, one I’m really excited to see located in Minnesota. Perhaps that changes my impression of their games, so take that with a grain of salt.

Ken, the founder of the company (named after his dad, Big John) and his brother Don worked on the IP Spitfire Heroes, a World War II air combat arcade type flight sim game. Interestingly, Don is a published author of young fiction, aimed at boys 5-9 old. When I first heard that the DS game was based off a book (or related to a book in some way), I thought it would be stale. Knowing the DS’s limitations (via the experience I’ve had playing the games on it), I had a hard time imagining how you could capture a book into a DS game. What I realized after meeting Ken and Don is that the books aren’t historical, they’re fun. I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Dawson’s Down, which I’ve already started reading to my boys.

Big John Games also has another release, Plushees. Last time I checked I wasn’t a 9 year old girl, so it doesn’t appeal to my gaming tastes. But what does appeal to me about it is that its a local developer making games for kids. I’m going to pick it up for my niece as an alternative to Tigerz.

I learned that the Nintendo DS has three engines, one 3D and two 2D. In the 3D engine, you can have a max of about 2000 polygons, with very limited texture space. One of their artists said he had to convert his 8000 poly model down to 196 poly with a 128×128 texture. I call that a challenge, a fun challenge!

I got a chance to play Spitfire Heroes and my first thought was that the first level is too hard. Your first objective is to defeat 12 tanks and there are three enemy planes trying to stop you. I tried about 6 times and eventually completed the level, but really failed due to the grading system (took too long, inaccurate, etc.) I was slightly frustrated with it that way, but I agree with their designer when he said they didn’t want the game to be too easy either. He said he cringed when he saw someone playing and crashing into the tanks, which is exactly what I did about 10 times. In the end, I’m going to buy this game, regardless of the metacritic score. Both because I want to support them, and because I want to play it more.

What do you get when…

What do you get when you combine a 3 year old, tractors, Wii, and YouTube? A happy 3 year old.My son Nathan loves tractors and for the last year or so we’ve set him at the PC with YouTube and he surfs tractor videos, basically watching one and then clicking one of the next suggested. Now he’s able to do it with the big TV and the Wii remote. He was quite happy.

Soon after, my oldest Aidan and Nathan were grooving out to various They Might Be Giants toons. I was surprised that so many of the songs I dug as a kid were top billings in the searches.

DS how I heart thee! Atari, why do you ruin a great game?

Wife calls me at work Friday, EOD (end of day) and says the five year old is gung ho Battleship. My first thought is the Nintendo DS. She goes on about how we should get electronic Battleship, but it’s like $50 I say, so I say I’m getting another DS. It honestly was part of my plan all along, to get another DS with games like Battleship. I leave work, tool around towns, grab a Coral Blue DS and eventually find the Battleship/Connect Four/Sorry!/Trouble game pack. Get it home, charge up the new DS and low and behold, it doesn’t offer DS download play. WTF? Seriously, here’s a game I paid $25 for (too much, but Gamestop, the last place I went on my 1.5 hr search, had the game), a game that’s all about multi-person play but to do that I’ll need to buy another copy! Crap. Atari, I’m quite disappointed in your product. Hasbro, shame on you too. I could go spend $25 and get the tactile versions of all the games and play with any number of people no problem.

However, on another note, I finished the Legend of Zelda, Phantom Hourglass. That was an incredible game. Very fun, I’d recommend giving it a shot.

Wii Internet?

I’ve been on the internets before. I know the Google and I’ve played with a Yahoo, I know what I should be seeing and this isn’t it.

We spent the $5 on the Wii internet and I have to say I’m not impressd.

My Wii Story

I got a Wii!

I went to Target with my 4 year old Aidan for a few supplies before our New Year’s Party. We spent 10+ minutes looking for this special butter popping oil to the chagrin of my son and some more time getting other supplies. I’m wasting time inappropriately since there are things to do before guests arrive but I want to get certain things done. Anyway, we move on eventually to the video game isle, specifically the DS they have on display. I coerced Aidan to accompany me by promising he could play some video games. As we approach I do what I always do at Target, look at the Wii spot and see if any happen to be in stock. No dice.

So there we are, Aidan’s playing some candy matching DS game and I’m waiting for the video game playing to get over with. Then something happened, a Target employee with a white box and keys. He goes to the glass doors and opens and puts the box in the Wii location. I’m totally stunned. I don’t believe it. I manage to say: “Is that what I think it is?” To which he repplies something along the order of “Yes, we just got a big shipment in.” My jaw still open, I inquire more and determine there are 30 units in the store at that moment. He walks away to get more, door open. I whip out my phone and call wife, she responds in this gosh!-leave-me-alone-quit-bothering-me-about-how-much-you-want -a-wii-and-just-get-it-already-you-fool way that makes me leap to the open cabinet, grab box and throw it on cart. That’s when I realize the isle is slowly filling with people. At least two other men of similar age and likeness have gathered in the isle and are on their cells, presumably calling wife for purchase permission.

So my trip to Target yielded me a Wii in the most unexpected way. I also grabbed Mario Galaxy. Aidan refers to it as a WiiWii which was borderline inappropriate at the checkout. Wife taught him that to make fun of her brother’s recent purchase at Thanksgiving.

As for my impression of the Wii however, I’m not all that impressed. It’s not really my kind of gaming system since I like a little more violence, smashing, crashing and/or shooting with my video games. I primarily wanted a Wii for the family game system. Aidan is extremely excited about it and strangely better at the boxing than I am. Though I think a untrained monkey could do better than me at the boxing. For now though, I am much more happy playing baseball or whatever with the Wii than the games we have for the PS2. And I am little apprehensive of the 4 year old manhandling of my DS, so this is exciting.