DAN STINEHART: Comic/Graphic Artist

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2014 Game of the Year (Re-Visited)

Close to a month after my 2014 Game of the Year blog was posted, I realized I made a swift, un-reasonable decision when it came to said year’s top winner. Sure, I enjoy Smash Bros. 4. I love it even more than Melee in the same lines as Mario Kart 8 ala Double Dash. However, choosing that as I realized later on was more in terms of hype as opposed to how it stands out compared to the rest for me in terms of said year’s releases.

With those reasons in mind, I went out of my way to KO its then high-status and grant such an honor to a much deserved “hollow” contender.


2014 GAME OF THE YEAR (updated): Dark Souls II (PS3 version)

Like its predecessors 2009 and 2011 (respectively), Dark Souls II is my personal “new” Game of the Year, one I should’ve came to terms from the start while working on my GOTY nominees. (This also means my runner-up is replaced by Smash Bros. 4 for said category.)

The stand-alone non-canon successor (as I often describe it) has had a divide within the Souls community in terms of its design decisions along with the online environment, though most of the online complaints I’ve heard came from the dedicated PvP community which is understandable based on the numerous Twitch streams I’ve watched since its release.

Despite the continuous (and off-placed) expectations the community still has in terms of difficulty, that is not the soul reason I love the series to death. (See what I did there?) As I stated on my previous post, I agree with some of the things From Software lacked in on this entry (especially the lore), the online co-op is probably the biggest improvement in the series I’ve experience yet, saying as much as surpassing Demon’s and Dark Souls 1 integration-wise.

With the free Scholar of the First Sin patch that came roughly four days before this was published, I’m finding the improved online features more convenient in regards to matchmaking (though I’m only saying this from a co-op player’s perspective, to clarify). After watching some footage on the Gen 8 version of the same game along with its refined tweaks, it’s a no-brainer I’m excited to buy the game again. Well, I need to anyway due to my peak interest in PS4 along with (unsurprisingly) Bloodborne which Hidetaka Miyazaki’s upcoming title will be released on the same week as my birthday. *heh*

Until next time,

Dan

That Definitive-Delayed-Limited Edition 2014 Game of the Year Blog

Below are my nominations for games I played for 2014. Note that I merged games released this year and yesteryear to balance things out re: nominations. Without further ado…

BEST PLATFORMER: Super Mario 3D World
This (along with Bayonetta 2 & the upcoming titles) convinced me to buy a Wii U this past November given Nintendo’s struggling home console has finally hit its stride despite being in the market for over two years. For a 3D Mario that is a much-improved console equivalent to its 3DS predecessor, the level design, its SMB2 approach (Peach for the win!), and the [adorable] cat suit ability make for some fun times. I’d choose this over the New Super Mario Bros. series any day.

Runner-Up: Super Skull Smash GO!

Honorable Mentions: Castle of Illusion 2013, Archibald’s Adventures, Life of Pixel

BEST SOUNDTRACK: Anodyne
The so-called inspired NES Zelda/GBC Zelda hybrid has some subtle if not eerie chiptune tracks, which works to its advantage within the game’s equally subtle/eerie atmosphere. Tracks like ‘Fields’, ‘Hotel’, and ‘Go’ are good listens, but ‘Cliff’ is among one of my favorites.

Runner-Up: Dark Souls II

Honorable Mentions: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Bastion, Fez

GUILTIEST PLEASURE: Sleeping Dogs (Vehicular One-Night Stands)
During my playthrough, I played around with the possibility of bringing my motorcycles inside one of my apartments. After trial-and-error, I successfully did so and set them on my bed. Then I slept. The bike that following morning would “grind” off the bed as I woke up. I did this “exhaust” of an experience several times throughout my playthrough. It’s just too bad the [male] NPCs I attempted to bring in my apartment didn’t work. Those cock-blocking doors sometimes… >:3

Runner-Up: Dark Souls II (Bino-Boosting/Gravity Walk exploits *patched*) Image 1 | Image 2

Honorable Mention: Saint’s Row IV (Complete vigilante mayhem)

MOST UNDER-RATED: DmC: Devil May Cry
This was my first foray into the Devil May Cry series despite being aware it was a reboot which lead to a divide on said fanbase since its release. The substance is where it’s at, making it a solid action title that has convinced me to play the previous entries of the original series.

Runner-Up: Sleeping Dogs

Honorable Mentions: Thomas Was Alone, Anodyne

MOST OVER-RATED: BioShock Infinite
While I agree with both sides on the narrative context and themes debating the video game medium’s storyline potential (or whatever it’s technically called) on the matter, I found the story-driven experience not as impressive as I hoped. It’s not to imply I oppose story-driven based games, but it seemed it overshadowed the already-generic FPS level design regardless. Despite all that, I plan to play the first BioShock despite my overall thoughts on my experience over Infinite.

Runner-Up: Fez

Honorable Mentions: Tomb Raider 2013, Brothers

MOST UNDER-WHELMING: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Another story-driven game I played this year on this list? Unlike BioShock Infinite, Brothers’ environmental storytelling wasn’t well refined nor developed whereas the platforming level design overshadowed it (despite saying that too had its shortcomings). The game tries so (if not too) hard to make me care about all of the characters in the game given the little brother had more emphasis than the others (and that isn’t saying much, to be honest). Well, at least I got the game for free on PS+, which isn’t saying much either.

Runner-Up: LittleBigPlanet PS Vita

[Dis?-]Honorable Mentions: Analogue: A Hate Story, Kirby 64, Fez, Floating Point

MOST DISAPPOINTING: DLC Quest
After the post-Steam Summer Sale, DLC Quest was on sale for $.75 or something. With my then-Wallet at $.50 at the time, I can perfectly say it was the worst $.25 I ever spent on a game, given it’s a supposed satire focusing on the “evil corporations nickel-and-diming the consumer no matter what”. Except the delivery both in context and level design were poorly executed and my playthrough felt more of a chore than appreciating the concept doing so. I would’ve been more pissed if the satirical game forced micro-transactions in order to finish the playthrough. I want my $.75 cents back, thank you very much. *sigh*

Runner-Up: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Floating Point, Sonic 4 Episode I, Claymates

BEST PLAYSTATION: Dark Souls II
Why am I not surprised by this? Is it because I clocked in 300+ hours since its March 2014 release? Or could it be that the online Co-Op experience is the best in the Souls series in my opinion? Or could it be that I just plain-right enjoy the entry? Whether or all the reasons (among others) mentioned, Dark Souls II was (and still is) enjoyable, multiple playthroughs and builds since then. And while I agree about the small things that From Software should’ve improved on (NPCs, matchmaking, etc.), here’s hoping Scholar of the First Sin will embrace those improvements given I plan on buying the game again for PS4 (regardless if I get a PS4 before then).

Runner-Up: Sleeping Dogs

Honorable Mentions: Metal Gear Rising, Assassin’s Creed IV, Saints Row IV, DmC

BEST NINTENDO: Super Smash Bros. 4 (3DS and Wii U)
Smash Bros. 4 is without a doubt a vast improvement over the slow and floaty Brawl (which I’ve been using the Project M mod since then). While the 3DS edition felt more of an introduction to what one was to expect for the console equivalent, the Wii U edition is the real deal. Expect 100’s of hours of playtime on my end, just like the previous entries. *heh*

Runner-Up: Super Mario 3D World

Honorable Mentions: Bayonetta 2, Kirby Super Star, Pushmo World

BEST STEAM/GOG/OS: Bastion
Despite still not comfortable with isometric-ish layout (had to resort to my mouse and keyboard after failed controller troubleshooting), Bastion was an intriguing Action RPG. Wanting to play the game since its release, it wasn’t until it arrived on Mac (along with the recent Steam Summer Sale) that I gave it a go. Because of my playthrough, I’m eager to play Transistor along with playing Bastion again on the Vita (whenever that will be).

Runner-Up: Anodyne

GAME OF THE YEAR (NON-2014): Sleeping Dogs
As much as I enjoyed the bat-shit shenanigans that was Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs to me was a more-deserved choice for said award category. The protagonist, Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer was well written, especially when it came to his interaction with family, acquaintances, other officers, etc. And of course being re-acquainted with his Chinese roots after being home away from home for years. Of course it’s not just the story that worked to its advantage, the combat and driving sequences were spot-on as well; for a middle-of-the-road title surprisingly. Given it’s also available for 8th-generation systems, I would recommend Sleeping Dogs for those needing some form of GTA/city sandbox fix.

Runner-Up: Saints Row IV

Honorable Mentions: Metal Gear Rising, Bastion, Thomas Was Alone, DmC, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon

2014 GAME OF THE YEAR: Super Smash Bros. 4 (3DS and Wii U)*
Smash Bros. 4 is what Brawl should’ve been from the start: An entry that caters to both casual and core players instead of focusing more on casual instead of core. The latest entry shares all of the positives and strengths from its predecessors while maintaining its own unique likeness. Since their respected releases, I’ve played more on the Omega stages (aka the Final Destination counterparts) than the Normal stages; that and I’m learning the more advanced techniques within an already basic-yet-balanced moveset, among others. Overall, Smash 4 is the best game I played from the series since Melee, and that is somewhat saying a lot on my end.

Runner-Up: Dark Souls II

Other Honorable Mentions: The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, Kirby’s Dream Collection, Donkey Kong Country 3, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

Until next year!

Dan

*UPDATE: See my “re-visited” blog post for a change in the Game of the Year winner with further explanation on reasons/etc. https://danjstine.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/2014-game-of-the-year-re-visited/

NEW Tumblr page!

Late last year, I created a Tumblr (as mentioned on said blog post) to showcase my artworks and other concepts. Months later, I deactivated said previous account due to lack of activity and motivation.

HOWEVER…

I realized it’s not just about sharing one’s artworks, concepts, whatever. I was reminded by some of the people I follow on Twitter that it’s also about being acquainted with other artists who use the social network service for the same thing as well. Because of this, I created a new account (see below) to give it a second chance. If you want to follow me, feel free too.

JIIBAYDAN (Tumblr)

http://jiibaydan.tumblr.com/

Until next time,

Dan

Return to the Nexus (2014): My Thoughts

What is “Return to the Nexus”? It’s the second annual community event relating to Demon’s Souls (a game that motivated me to buy a PS3 in 2009) and quote-on-quote “spiritual re-release”. In short, on October 26, players play the game anew as if they were playing it for the first time; or newcomers who played it for the first time. That along with taking part in its online mode ala co-op, invasions, pvp, etc. Jointed formed by Peeve Peeverson, the Soulbrandt, and other members of community, I missed out on last year’s and was relieved the event would be annually henceforth; that and it’s ongoing. Having played my character from start to finish, I managed to beat the game within 15 hours with a Soul Level of 70. With that, here are some highlights from yours truly.

(Info on this is also available on the Demon’s Souls reddit page.)

                                   My character, appropriately titled “ReturnToTheNexus” :3

1-2 TOWER KNIGHT
I summoned a blue player just for the heck of it when facing this boss. Both of us went to opposite sides to kill the Boletarian soldiers, then worked our way down to the boss itself. I did the final blow by hitting his, “undergarments”. :3

2-1 ARMOR SPIDER
As soon as I killed the crystal lizard to claim the loot near Stonefang Tunnel’s first entrance, a player invaded me but managed to kill him/her/it/whatever within seconds. I then summoned two blues and we cleaned house before reaching the boss. It’s one of the few times I actually fought it melee and it made me realize that doing that bow/arrow exploit is a pointless on a game-breaking scale. (Which there is a lot of broken glitches and exploits which can easily be pulled off, which I refrained doing so in this event with one minor exception.)

3-2 LATRIA, MANEATER
First of all, Tower of Latria is my personal favorite world in Demon’s Souls. Despite that, traversing to the boss while be invaded was a bleak reminder it’s one of those invasion spots any human player dreads to encounter; that and how overpowered the Firestorm ability is which I stopped using against invaders afterward. Maneater, being my least favorite boss in the game, was and still is a duo I still am unable to understand pattern-wise which is why I used Firestorm on them just to get it over with.

4-1 ADJUDICATOR
Being my personal favorite highlight, I was one of the two blues summoned by Yukaslegion, a well-known player/PvPer within the Souls community. Having watched and switching between Twitch channels of the game that day, him going to Storms was at the right timing & I set my summon sign without hesitation. With the three of us taking the shortcut just for the heck of it, we reached the boss and finished it off in seconds. I tweeted said highlight shortly after.

VALLEY OF DEFILEMENT
Being my least favorite world in Demon’s Souls, it was the very first time I completed the world and its bosses without dying. That and I was in human form the majority of the time too despite lack of co-op summons and player invasions. Eh, whatever.

ENDGAME (w/ video)
I decided to record me fighting the final boss in regards to the community event. Lacking a tripod (I really need to invest in one these days, sigh), I spent roughly 20-30 minutes setting up my iPad to match with the TV without any gamma issues (unlike my Demon’s Souls 1-1 speedrun I posted several months ago). Of course I had to spent nearly an hour editing/fixing the upload afterward due to that stupid “motion angle” thing re: YouTube. Regardless, it was worth sharing.

Until next time!

Dan

7 hours 58 minutes 47 seconds

Unfortunately for me, my attempts to work on this year’s 24 Hour Comic was a bust. Around the seven hour-mark I’ve experienced intense hand cramps, the same painful feeling I had after my first 24 Hour Comic’s 23-hour completion (which took nearly a month for my drawing hand to fully recover). This time fortunately the pain went away a few days after my sudden halt at 7 that morning. That and I only finished the first 4 pages after spending the first 2 hours drafting up my script and thumbnails. It was my own damn fault for not taking these health concerns seriously as I promised myself from last year’s experience.

Technically, my 2nd foray into 24HCD is considered a Gaiman-variant, which was based off of Neil Gaiman’s failed attempt at finishing his 24 Hour Comic within 24 hours and stopped. The other variant, “Eastman-variant” is (coined after TMNT creator Kevin Eastman) is when one finishes their comic beyond 24 hours but isn’t qualified as a “true” 24 hour-completed comic. (More info on this can be read via Blitz Comics website.) I knew something wasn’t going right shortly after finishing my 2nd page and shortly after finishing my 3rd page, I felt the early stages of the pain but ignored it until near the end of page 4. I spent the rest of that Saturday not drawing and dwelling over the distraught on the matter. Because again, I should’ve prepared myself beforehand based on the lessons learned from last year.

I mentioned the numbness I’ve had back in May (if anyone interested in reading it) and ever since discontinuing a story I wanted to work on, I’ve become more concerned and frightened over the inevitable. Could I have Carpal Tunnel? Why is my right hand always cold? (Seriously, why is that all the time for some reason?) What causes me to put too much pressure when drawing even when it’s not needed? And then some.

Like 2013, my shortcomings were also a learning experience. For next year’s (and in general), I plan to do the following to help prepare myself to avoid the inevitable:

  • 1) Daily/Weekly/routine page and/or panel training
  • 2) Hand stress management (and anything related to such)
  • 3) A new method of scripting/speed-up process ala deadlines, etc.

While others partake in marathon events such as 24 Hour Comics Day, I highly recommend to learn everything you experienced and by all means improve on any and all of them if needed. Otherwise, avoiding those small things will have large consequences if not careful about them. Just saying.

Until next year. (Hopefully.)

Dan

In case I forget, here is my unfinished 24HCD 2014 comic. 4 pages of 24 of them.