Gale was nice enough to make a transcript again for us this year, for those of you who aren’t down with the whole podcast thing. Here is part one. Note that I have added links and images, so even if you listened to the podcast you might want to scroll through here and look at the stuff.
S: Hey everybody, I’m Shamus.
J: And I’m Josh. We are here talking about PAX East 2012, which is a convention which none of you have heard of, and we didn’t go to.
S: It’s obscure.
S: Let’s dive in, we saw stuff this year, we really focused on the show floor in a way that I didn’t last year, so we’ve got a whole bunch of games we want to talk about. We’re just gonna go plough through this list, and talk about all the stuff that we saw.
J: Yeah, these won’t really be in order, ‘cuz we had the most haphazard schedule that you could possibly have while doing this, and I don’t actually remember when we saw any given game.
S: I know, I lost the chronology here so bad, I have no idea.
J: Yeah, it’s all run together in my head by now. All I remember is, we spent two 14-hour days at the convention centre, and I never want to do that again. [Chuckles]
S: Well, mostly that was because the panels I was on were at the very end of the day, so you couldn’t just leave…
S: I know, just when everybody is like, “OK, I’ve had enough PAX, I need to go home and pass out.” No, that’s when the best stuff is.
J: Really, the worst part is that everything was great up until about 6:30, and then the convention floor is closed. So you can’t go back down and check out booths, and there’s no panels you want to go to for the next three hours, so you’re just kind of standing around in this half-empty convention centre. All the smart people have already left.
S: I mean, if you’re really brave, maybe you’ll drive around Boston until you get lost, and maybe you’ll eventually…
J: Nobody is brave enough for that, Shamus.
S: I know. Alright, so, let’s dig into these games. The first one we’re going to talk about is The Showdown Effect. We talked to. . . . What is this, Paradox?
J: Yeah, this is the Paradox booth. I love Paradox, I think they’re a great â€" they’re not really an indie publisher, ‘cuz they’re pretty big. They’re a European semi-big name, they tend to pick up a lot of indie products and publish them, and they’re really cool about that.
S: They do have a lot.
J: Yeah, they’re the likes of Magicka, Mount&Blade, Europa Universalis. All those beloved, cult-classic games.
S: So The Showdown Effect, the pitch that they gave us. . . . OK, this is a PVP-focused, side-scrolling, platforming shooter, that’s like deathmatch, based on 80’s action heroes. All the characters you play are 80’s archetypes. You’ve got your Rambo, your Lethal Weapon. Those were the only two they were showing off, but they talked about having others.
J: They said they also had a knight. Like that was part of the pitch. “We got a knight in there, for some reason, I guess”.
S: Chuckles If it’s 80’s action heroes, they probably should’ve had a Conan.
J: It looks absolutely hilarious. I mean, we didn’t get a chance to play it, the booth was really busy, but it looked really solid. Just so much tongue-in-cheek humour about it. It was just so clear that the developers set out from the get-go, to do a complete send-up of 80’s and 90’s action movies.
S: It looked very fluid. Like you said, just really solid, the action was really flowy. There weren’t a lot of times when people were stuck, or wandering around. I think the levels funnelled you towards your foes, so it kept the action going. I didn’t see anybody meandering around, it didn’t feel stiff. Even though these people had never touched the game before, I didn’t see them struggling with platforming, getting caught on crap. The whole thing flowed, and was very fast paced.
J: That’s an achievement on the PC, which is notoriously bad at platforming control. I generally hate playing platformers, on the PC.
S: So it looked hilarious, very clever. I mean, we didn’t play it, I don’t know about how it plays, but I really have a positive impression of it.
J: The other hilarious thing I came away with, was that whenever you jump, no matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re moving forward, you just dive, guns akimbo, firing away. Which was pretty funny looking, especially when there’s just a two-foot gap.
S: Yeah, you can’t just hop over things, you have to do the dive-headfirst-through-plate-glass-window move, all the time. That’s your only way of jumping.
J: In that same booth, they also had a game called War of the Roses. Which looked suspiciously similar to another Paradox Interactive game, Mount&Blade. To the point where the first thing I asked about it, was “Hey, does this happen to have anything to do with Mount&Blade 2, ‘cuz that game really needs to come out”. What it is, is a medieval warfare simulator, like Mount&Blade, it has pretty much exactly the same directional swings, directional parries type combat, and the developer said â€" well, not the developer, the spokesman there â€" said that one of the developers, the creative director, the producer or something from TaleWorlds, or whatever the developer is that actually developed Mount&Blade, he left, formed his own company, and is now developing War of the Roses, presumably based on his experience with Mount&Blade, and now Paradox is publishing it. You might be worried, with a story like that, that there might be bad blood or something there, “Oh no, the developer stole code and ran off”. But if they’re being picked up by Paradox, I doubt that’s the case. It looked pretty interesting. The thing is, it was multiplayer-focused, as opposed to Mount&Blade, which has pretty terrible multiplayer, really. So that sounded really interesting. They mentioned that there was going to be a lot of customisation, which you should kind of expect, but even more so than any Mount&Blade game will allow. The example they gave was that you’d be able to choose the type of steel you used in your sword, or the type of wood used for the shaft of your spear, or whatever. There was a potential, like, “Oh, you’re swinging at someone that has a sword made with a better steel, you might end up breaking your weapon”. So that sounded really interesting. Likewise, we didn’t get to play it, because that booth was really busy.
S: It suffers from, and this goes into the next game we have to talk about, Chivalry, which was. . . . I couldn’t even tell, what does Chivalry have that War of the Roses doesn’t have, or vice versa? They’re both medieval, multiplayer, PVP-focused, first-person sword bashing games.
J: Yeah, so Chivalry: Medieval Warfare looks very similar. It was actually at a booth that was only, y’know, fifteen metres down the floor, so it was interesting to see two games like that, practically right next to each other. Again, it was a multiplayer-focused medieval warfare simulator. Chivalry is actually based off of a SourceMod game. I think it was free, you can get it on Steam. The developers, I guess, took that and decided to make a full game out of it, and brought it to PAX. I know all this because Randy won’t shut up about it whenever I talk to him, he really liked the Source mod. Most of the reason I was there looking at Chivalry was because of you, Randy.
S: Both games suffer from this kinda weird thing, where you rush in, you donk someone with your sword, and then you backpedal away, and try and circle-strafe a bit. Neither of them looks anything like a swordfight, and it looks ridiculous. If you were off to one side, watching two people fight in this game, it would look ridiculous. It works, because it’s a first-person game, but I don’t want people to walk away thinking that this is going to be swordsmanship, that you’re going to be fencing with people, or anything. Or that it’s going to look like any kind of a proper hand-to-hand battle. It’s this weird hit-and-run thing.
J: Yeah, and parry. Obviously, getting a properly simulated hand-to-hand, or sword-to-sword combat system is an incredibly difficult gameplay challenge, especially for a first-person game.
S: Yes, especially for first-person.
J: And these games seem to do it better than most games I’ve seen, so…
S: It’s an emerging genre, I think. It’s something that people are experimenting with.
J: It’s kind of like gunplay in first-person shooters, where shooting an actual gun generally isn’t really like shooting a gun in a first-person shooter. But if you did it in a more realistic fashion, it might just detract from the experience.
S: Next up is TERA. The thing I want to say most about TERA is it had probably the coolest constructed booth there. That’s what I want to say most about it.
J: Yes! It was made out of real wood. It wasn’t fibreboard, or whatever, this was like a great big circular wooden booth, with inlays and everything. It looked really nice.
S: Hewn from a 3000-year-old tree.
J: [Laughs] “We murdered a 3000-year-old tree for this convention. I hope you’re happy. Here’s our videogame.”
S: “We’re gonna burn it, when this is over. We don’t wanna lug it home, so we hope you appreciate this.” It was a magnificent piece of . . . carpentry? It was really impressive. It wasn’t just this scaffolding, there were all these curved surfaces made of real wood. Really impressive, and I kept going over there just to. . . . Well, I went over there for two reasons. One, because it looked so amazing, and two, because it was surrounded by carpet. And my feet hurt.
J: Yes! The convention centre is basically just concrete. Everything is concrete there. Which is terrible to walk around on.
S: The hardest possible concrete. I think the floor is actually made of depleted uranium. It is just so dense. You take ten steps on that floor and it’ll destroy your spine. I would navigate over the corner of somebody’s booth, just so I could take five steps on carpeting.
J: And TERA had the best carpet of the entire convention. You heard it here, TERA wins the carpeting award of PAX East 2012.
S: As a nice bonus, as we were enjoying this nice carpeted booth, they actually had a cool game there to play.
J: TERA’s been a game I’ve been. . . . I don’t wanna say “paying attention to”, to the same degree that I’ve been paying attention to Guild Wars 2, but it’s something I’ve been looking forward to playing for a while, now. I really like the combat idea. I talk a lot â€" well, maybe not a lot â€" but I’ve talked in the past about how a lot of MMOs seem to be designed as World of Warcraft clone plus gimmick. Star Wars: The Old Republic was basically just World of Warcraft plus voice acting. Rift was World of Warcraft plus. . . .
S: World of Warcraft plus angel wings. That’s Aion.
J: And I don’t honestly think that’s a game model that works. Well, OK, financially, it’s not a game model that works, it’s not a business model that works, because most of these World of Warcraft clones are failing utterly. But, when it comes to gimmicks you could pick, World of Warcraft plus better combat is probably a pretty good gimmick to try. That’s basically what TERA is doing. I don’t see anything with TERA that screams “This MMO is so far out of the box!” But the combat is very unique for an MMO. As someone who’s played both TERA and Guild Wars 2 at various PAX booths, TERA’s combat feels more action-like. You’ve still got some of the MMO conventions, you’re still looking down at your toolbar to babysit cooldowns, to an extent. But TERA’s is very, very, very motion oriented.
S: It encourages moving around, as opposed to World of Warcraft that discourages moving around. You’re incentivised to just stand there like a turret.
J: World of Warcraft is start casting, stop moving. In TERA, like I’ve mentioned before, every attack is aimed. You have to aim with the cursor to hit with attacks. I think there is a lock-on feature, they added. I think there was a controversy about that, sometime late last year, when it came out that they added some kind of soft lock-on, I’m not sure. I think I saw it being used at the booth, I don’t care. The fact is that you can play it in a mode that is purely aiming all of your shots, and that works really well for some classes. I think I played a warrior, or a slayer.
S: Any time you’re going to be rooting people, it’s good to be able to nail certain people down on the fly, without having to tab through them.
J: The role of the class that I played at the demo was melee-range AoE. I started out, and I guess the person who played before me ended up manoeuvring the character into an area that was full of mobs that were six levels higher than her.
S: I saw this. It’s gonna sound like Josh is bragging, but I saw him do this. He got into this area where everything was six levels above him. He couldn’t take more than a couple of hits from the enemies, but it took like ten hits for him to bring one of them down. And he managed to blunder into a group, or maybe he did it on purpose, because he wanted to show off, but he got into a group of about ten dudes, and using various dodges, and hit-and-run, and jumping, he managed to train the entire group around in a circle until he had picked them all off. It was actually really impressive to watch. And it was interesting, there were a lot of different things, he would move in, hit them with a group attack, then dodge away, then pick at them with his single-person attack, until another cooldown is ready. . . . The whole thing kept moving, it was not just cycling between two attacks, you can use things like cover. It was really neat to watch.
J: What Shamus isn’t telling you, is that the first time I tried this, I ran in there and died horribly in about five seconds. Then I respawned and tried it again. But yeah, it seems very interesting. It may not be as innovative as everyone expects, say, Guild Wars 2 to be. But I don’t think it has to be. I certainly have room for more than one MMO, as long as the MMO is good. Which was really the problem I had with The Old Republic. It’s not that I didn’t like the game, or I didn’t agree with the design direction, it’s that the underlying MMO parts of it were just boring.
S: Alright, moving on, Organ Trail. We don’t need to talk a lot about this one, it’s just a remake of Oregon Trail.
J: Yeah, that’s organ. As in, your internal organs. Not Oregon.
S: Right. It’s sort of a funny remake of the 1971 (the year I was born) classic, Oregon Trail, where you just have to cross the country. You start out with five people, and you’ve got to get them there alive, you’ve got to keep enough food, ammunition, supplies. In the original, you’re in a covered wagon, and this was part of the great western expansion. In this one, you’re just trying to get from Washington DC to Oregon. In the zombie apocalypse.
J: I really hope nobody actually needs the explanation of what the original Oregon Trail was. I hope that everyone listening to this played that game.
S: If you’re in your twenties, odds are you haven’t even seen a machine capable of running it. I mean, this is an old game.
J: Everyone played Oregon Trail. I played Oregon Trail 2, though, it wasn’t Oregon Trail the original.
S: OK, I didn’t know that there was a sequel. I last saw the game in the 80’s. I haven’t seen it since I was in junior high school, so it’s been a while for this game. But this remake is really fun, and really funny, and they went to great lengths to recreate the horrible interface of the Apple 2. Which, OK, points for recreating that, I don’t know that it really helped the game that much, but y’know, if you really want to remake the original in this way, I suppose that’s what you gotta do. It’s available on Facebook, and then they’re coming out with a more robust PC version later in the year, probably May or June. The version I played on Facebook was pretty funny.
J: It’s being developed by The Men Who Wear Many Hats, which I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of before. Their pay model is apparently going to be pay what you want, and they had a pre-order thing there. “Five bucks and you get a poster!” I didn’t really care about a poster, but I was kinda like “Yeah, I’ll lay down five bucks for this, I will totally play this game when it comes out”. That’s a bit weird for me, because I’m fucking bored of zombies in everything. I don’t know about you, but. . . . We’ve hit the zombie apex, here. Critical mass of zombies. Now it’s time for them to all die, and we can get back to living our normal lives.
S: Zombies, now, are what World War 2 shooters were at the beginning of the last decade. It’s like, “OK, that’s enough”. Really, it’s a shame this game didn’t come out two years ago, during the height of the zombie craze. Instead of now, when everybody’s kind of sick of them. But it’s still good, it’s still clever, and it’s still funny.
J: Yeah, despite all that, Oregon Trail with zombies still sounds awesome, to me.
S: I’m playing through a game right now, where I’ve got the names of all the Spoiler Warning cast. And pretty much right out of the gate, you got a broken arm.
J: [Sighs] Yeah. So that’s the other question I didn’t get to ask at the booth, which was “Are zombies the new dysentery?”
S: Nono, you actually deal with zombies. Zombies are like the new “You have to cross this river”. Broken arms don’t make a lot of sense, you’ll just be driving along and suddenly someone will have a broken arm. But you’re driving a station wagon. I don’t know how badly you can screw up sitting in the back seat of a station wagon, but apparently you are so bad at it, you broke your arm doing it. OK. Borderlands 2. This was the big, big game of the show. This was the runaway hit, the belle of the ball, the darling game, the one everybody was talking about. It was not my favourite game of the show. Both of us have the same favourite game, and we’re saving it for the end.
J: Borderlands 2 is kinda one of those, like, “Yeah, OK, that’s exactly what I was expecting”. There wasn’t anything to get excited about, aside from the fact that it’s Borderlands again. And we had a lot of fun with Borderlands, maybe not necessarily playing it the way other people played it.
S: There was a lot to like about Borderlands. I admire it. Gamespy sucks, I hope they fix that. But Borderlands 2 was more of the same, neither of us felt the need to stand there in line for two hours to play it, so let’s just move on. Sword and Sworcery EP.
J: This was one of my favourite games on the show floor. Not necessarily because of any gameplay features, ‘cuz I don’t actually know how to play it. There were so many games here that we saw, but didn’t get a chance to play ourselves. Especially in the indie booths. Most of the time when we were going through the indie booths, we were killing time until we needed to go to another panel, so we usually only had thirty or forty-five minutes at most to hang around the indie booths. Which was not often a lot of time to get a chance to play a game, especially if you want to see more than one indie game while you’re there. And it was not helped by the fact that there were indie booths just spread all over the place on the floor, they weren’t all centred in one space.
S: I really wish they’d been on a single drag, or something. I guess they wanted to give them all a chance, so that everybody wouldn’t just pack into the AAA stuff and ignore the indies. And that’s a good reason. I just wish there could’ve been some method to take us by all the indies methodically, ‘cuz it really was hard to hit them all.
J: It’s also possible that they just sold floor space on a first-come-first-served basis. Of course, all the AAA guys got the good space.
S: Sword and Sworcery reminded me of Another World, in some ways. It’s point-and-click, I think the iPad was its native platform, so you could tap.
J: It’s actually out on the Apple appstore. Apparently it’s been out for a while, but I’ve never heard of it, ‘cuz I don’t have an iPhone. I guess it’s sort of a point-and-click style adventure game.
S: Right, but it doesn’t look like one. And it’s isn’t one of those adventure games where you’re carrying around a bunch of random junk, and trying to get Ye Flask, and use it on the tree, to make the tree give you an acorn, so you can open the wheelbarrow, kind of idiot Sierra games. This is more exploration-based, finding things in the environment and using them. Very simple, very streamlined.
J: But what really stuck out to me, about this game, was the art style. A lot of indie games have some pretty slick art styles, but it’s gotten to the point where I think it’s almost become lazy to have a semi-cartoonish art style for your game, because everybody does that for indie games and mobile games, and that kind of thing. This game is pixel art. Late 80’s, early 90’s, hand-drawn pixel art background, which really hits home for me, because I spent most of my childhood playing old LucasArts games. Well, really more X-Wing and Tie Fighter than the adventure games, but X-Wing and Tie Fighter had tons of hand-drawn pixel art in them. It feels so nostalgic to see a game like that, running with that kind of art style.
S: Right, but on top of that very pixelated style, it’s got bloom lighting, reflections, particles. It’s like this anachronism, it’s so weird. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. You really have to see the game in motion to get these really fluid animations. Back in the day, they were all three-frame walking animations, really stiff. This one has incredibly fluid walking animations, even though it’s basically animating limbs as just lines of pixels. It doesn’t look like anything that ever existed before. It looks old in screenshots, but when you’re playing it, it’s really fluid and smooth, and there’s a lot of smooth scrolling parallaxing going on. You really have to see this game to get that sense of “Wow, this is really something different”.
J: And it has a soundtrack by Jim Guthrey. I don’t know who that is, but his name is on the card and featured prominently on all the promotional materials. They were actually selling vinyl records of the game soundtrack, which I thought was awesome. Also, according to this card, apparently it comes out on Steam next Monday, April 16th.
S: It’s not even listed as coming soon, but that card that you’re holding, Josh, has a code on it that gives you 25% off the game, so I typed the code in, and it’s a coupon that doesn’t work on anything yet. It’s the weirdest thing.
J: [Laughs] So yeah. We don’t really know anything about the story of the game. He mentioned that it was tied to moon phases, and that it potentially gets really crazy. It’s basically been developed by one dude.
S: Yes, it was the guy we talked to. The team is called Superbrothers, and Superbrothers is one guy. Alright, let’s move on to the next game, and I’m gonna let you read that name, because I don’t want to butcher it.
J: [Sighs] Oh thanks, Shamus. Uh. . . . Novus Aeterno? A-terno? I don’t know.
S: Novus Ee-terno? Ay-terno?
J: I don’t even know if that’s proper Latin. It might just be Latin-esque gibberish.
S: Hogwarts-level Latin?
J: The pitch was basically, it’s a real-time strategy MMO, which. . . . We do not have a good track record, with MMORTS’.
S: It’s been tried, but I don’t know if anybody’s. . . .
J: I don’t think I’ve ever played one that worked. But it looked sort of almost like Sins of a Solar Empire crossed with Master of Orion. It had a ship builder, which was just straight out of MoO.
S: I would say Sins, meets Eve, meets Master of Orion. That’s the vibe I got from it. It looks like Eve, of course, it’s a space game, all space games look like Eve. What is it, it’s stars and spaceships.
J: It was extremely complex looking. We talked to, I think it was an engineer on the project.
S: He was not from Marketing. It was really great to talk to this guy, because he knew what he was talking about, and he wasn’t afraid to answer questions with things like, “We haven’t figured that out yet”.
J: Which was actually the answer he gave to my question. Backing up for a second here, everyone basically starts with their own solar system. That’s kind of like the RTS element of it, I guess you can go out and attack other solar systems. I don’t know if it’s going to be PVP-focused or not, I should’ve asked about that. But my question was “How are you going to handle the population, how are you going to handle the fact that your galaxy is just going to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and prevent people from just getting lost in this sea of accounts that may or may not be active?” Basically, his answer was pretty honest, which was “We don’t actually know.” And I think that’s a question that they’ll have to answer, at some point before the game is released, because otherwise it will just turn into a massive cascade failure of just one guild becoming a massive blob and taking over the entire galaxy, is what I foresee happening. But it looked really interesting, very oriented towards people who like really complex 4X games. He said they weren’t calling it a 4X game, but then he said that the dice modelled diplomacy, or intelligence, or. . . . I don’t know, it was basically 4X, but with a different name.
S: Alright, Max Payne 3. Line was too long, I didn’t feel like waiting for it, I felt like I already knew what this game was going to be about.
J: I knew about Max Payne 3, I’d heard about it, but I didn’t really know anything about the game, aside from that it was coming out, and that Shamus was unhappy with the fact that it was not going to be film noir like the first two games were. I’m saying this as someone who’s never played any Max Payne games.
S: It drops a lot of those. . . . Here, I’ll back up on that a second. It drops New York, and it was always talking about New York. New York was almost a character in the story. Very focused on New York, a lot of noir elements. Max himself was kind of the gumshoe-style detective. But it had that vibe. It had that vibe that you were not a thug.
J: And then he discovered that he was in a computer game.
S: But then the third one comes out, and Max comes off more as just a heavy-hitter, he comes off more as a Bruce Willis.
J: He kinda comes off as a â€" I don’t want to use the word stock, but a typical Rockstar character, kind of a guy with a troubled past, refuses the call initially, that kind of thing. Has to make tough choices, which may or may not involve playing the same mission over and over again and failing at the end.
S: And that’s not really invalid. I mean, they don’t have to keep it the same. But those were the elements that a lot of people loved, and they’re sort of disappointed. I mean, you dropped a lot of those elements, people loved those elements, and people are going to miss that. So I was very disappointed to see that, and I was very worried that the game was just going to be Kane and Lynch. I did not want them to turn Max Payne into Kane and Lynch.
J: It did not help, that at one point Max Payne shaves his head and grows a big bushy beard.
S: Yes, that did not help at all. Made it look even more like Kane and Lynch. It was very, very frustrating, and Max Payne looks like this ugly thug. There was all that, and I was very afraid that they were going to lose a lot of what the series is about. But whether they do or not, whether Max Payne still feels like the old Max, it looks like they’re making a good game. It looks like they’re making a really interesting game, with varied gunplay. Nothing I saw looked like Kane and Lynch pop-up, murder, boring, belabouring the point, cover-based shooter. It did not look like that. It was not boring, it kept things moving, and was visually diverse.
J: Which is going back to what I was saying initially, which is that the more I see of the game, the more interested I am, to the point where I’m like, “Yeah! I’m gonna pre-order this!” It actually came up on Steam, I think two days ago, available for pre-order. So I don’t know. I actually didn’t see this at PAX, but I saw this on the trailer that Shamus linked a week ago, for those of you listening to this podcast when it comes out, but only yesterday for us recording. I liked the fact that it’s still keeping the run-and-gun combat that was in the first two Max Payne games, and cover is there, but it’s being emphasised that you only really use this to have a respite from the running and around and shooting people and using bullet time. It’s not a pop-up shooter, as Shamus is fond of calling them, as you can see from the pre-release stuff.
S: Right, it’s not whack-a-mole with guns.
J: There was actually a booklet I got, at the booth, which I handed to Shamus to carry around because it was too big for me to fit in my pocket. He never gave it back.
S: [Maniacal laugh]
J: You might have that sitting around on a pile of stuff somewhere, Shamus. But they have some interesting multiplayer ideas, which is good, because with shooters like this, multiplayer seems to have become just copies of Call of Duty, or copies of Gears of War. Bullet time is going to be something you can use in Multiplayer, and it’ll throw you into bullet time, and anyone in your field of view will also be thrown into bullet time, which I thought was pretty creative. But you will be able to move faster than other people that didn’t activate bullet time, and they had some cool ideas for a King of the Hill mode, where the first person to make a kill becomes Max Payne, and the person they kill become Max Payne’s ally, and they have to fight off everybody. So that definitely sounds interesting. I know Shamus doesn’t care about multiplayer, because he’s an old boring man.
S: Damn kids. Get off my lawn.
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