The Animal Farm

September 22nd, 2010

Some Spam Statistics

Google sent me an imposing e-mail threatening to shut down my hugely lucrative Google Ads account ($30 after over 2 years) if I didn’t remove the profane material from my site, to which I went, “Huh?”

There’s a small spattering of profanity that I cleaned up (legacy stuff mostly focused in one of Zach’s more colorful posts dating over 6 years old). I left behind snarky remarks in my passive aggressive way.

Mostly, though, I think they were more interested in the comments. Did you know this site gets comments? I sure didn’t until I had a look at some of the stuff that was silently passing through the spam filter before the days when I closely monitored everything that goes on in this guarded little world.

Here are some random notes:
Pages of comments before cleanup: 56
Pages after: 17
Comments per page: 20
Approximate number of spam comments: 780
Approximate number of real comments: 340
Spam comments filtered out: Well over 100,000

Hot topics:
Some sites involving some very explicit sexual videos
People “adding me to their RSS feed”
A language I couldn’t read or recognize
“Thanks!”

Spam isn’t a very interesting topic to discuss - it’s saturated the internet to the point where it’s just accepted as a fact of the medium. It’s still curious how much attention gets paid to a site that gets about 20 hits/day, but I guess software is unlike teenagers in that it doesn’t care how popular you are. Oh, if only I knew a spambot in junior high, we could’ve gone to the Summer formal together. But that analogy is getting away from me.

We would dance and laugh and talk all night.

September 22nd, 2010

XBLIG Review: Hypership Out of Control

I playtested Hypership Out of Control near the end of its development cycle, catching it somewhere in the late Beta stage. I didn’t (and still don’t) know the developer especially well, but he was asking for help over Twitter, and I had some time to kill one night.

And then I found that I had some time to kill the next night. And the next. If you’re not catching what I’m saying here, allow me to phrase it another way: I didn’t really have time to kill. I was staying up past 2 AM every night, having a bitter high score feud with another developer - not much of a feud since he is much better than I, but still. I tried.

Let that set the tone for this review: I enjoyed the game enough to sacrifice sleep for it.

screenshot01

For the uninitiated, the premise of Hypership is thus: your ship is out of control, constantly accelerating, headed toward an inevitable and untimely crash. All you can hope to do is dodge and shoot to prolong your life, which becomes increasingly tricky as stages start introducing moving obstacles and tight paths. There is no winning; you play until you die and hope to collect as many points as you can on your way down.

This is a retro game at its core: its graphics, its music, and its simple move & shoot mechanics place it right at home with old arcade games. It has a definite mood to hit and it executes on that flawlessly.

Being a retro game, however, earns very few points with me. The internet is full of NES and MAME emulators. XBLIG and Android and iPhone and Flash portals are lousy with retro games. It’s all good and fine to be retro, but I don’t really think anyone can claim it as a major selling point anymore.

screenshot02

Luckily that’s not really what Hypership has going for it. Hypership’s primary claim to “good” is with its level design. The creators clearly put a lot of thought into the stages, letting each one unfold gradually over multiple playthroughs. The first level is easy, but you can clearly see that you’re not getting the whole picture as you zoom past points and powerups. Not soon after you’ll start crashing and cursing and wondering how stage 7 is even possible. Then you’ll get deeper and discover a way through all the stages. And then you’ll break down optimal paths, gradually learning how to get through all ten waves without losing a life. And then you’ll find ways to optimize for points. And then… well, hopefully you get my point. The game has replay value all over it.

This is all augmented by a solid hosting of achievements and a high score system. The high score system isn’t flawless - when I was logged on, there was no one to share points with**, so I couldn’t get a feel for how I was doing.

Tack on a few extra game modes, four player multiplayer, and a “Fun” mode (which I found mostly throw-away) and you’ve got a fair bit of variety here. Overall, that’s where Hypership shines (and shines brightly) - it encourages lots of replay and lots of competition and lots of Twitter smack talk.

screenshot03

It’s not a perfect game. The music could stand to do with some variety. The major track isn’t terribly annoying, it really falls into the background, but that’s not a compliment.

My harshest criticism of Hypership, though, is its lack of depth - once you’ve witnessed stage 10 on any mode, you’ve seen all the game has to offer. If replaying and finding the best route through levels and earning high scores isn’t something you’re interested in, this isn’t your game. Even then, I can’t say the game held on to me for more than a week.

A couple things would’ve been nice additions: a random level generator (perhaps similar to the Helicopter Game’s) could add a bit more replayability, and multiple difficulties would’ve been nice for those of us that had essentially solved stages 1-7.

screenshot04

In summary, the game is super fun while it lasts, but it won’t last forever. It’s a worthy purchase***, and it’s seen more playtime from me than Brutal Legend.

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(Footnotes follow)
** High scores are one of the places where I cut indie games some slack. XBLIG games aren’t allowed to use the Xbox leader boards, so they’re forced to use a somewhat unideal alternative - high scores are shared between players as they sign on and silently connect with each other. If there are no other players, no high scores. Unfortunate, but that’s the best they can do.

*** I’m purposefully not giving the game a rating or mentioning its price. A rating in this instance is meaningless - I can tack on some arbitrary number, but the actual words in the review will give a much better indicator of whether you’ll like the game than a number.

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