Free Points: Introducing Avant-Garden, an Itch.io Collection of Surreal & Unique Games!

One of the best resources for good, free games is definitely Itch.io, the Steam for indies. Today I’m introducing my Avant-Garden collection on Itch.io, a collection of surreal, engrossing, and sometimes just lovably weird games that I love. And most of them are point-blank free!

Free Points is a series of weekly(ish) free game recommendations. The games may range from the most surreal of Alt Games to the most traditional of platformers; the only requirements for a Free Points game is that they’re free (real free, not free to play!) and very much worth your time.

What Is Avant-Garden?

Avant-Garden started out as “Cool Weird Games”, a collection I’d add every…cool, weird game I found into! I frequently use Itch.io to find interesting experiences for my YouTube, and after removing games from my “to review” queue, I liked to add them to another “worth playing” collection for others to see.

Sacramento, a game in Avant-Garden
Like Sacremento here, many of these games are brief, but leave a lasting impression.

After a while I grew a bit tired of the old name, and I’ve noticed some of my favorite game developers don’t appreciate the simplicity of calling their games “weird” in general discourse—though I certainly don’t mean it as a negative myself! It is a bit frustrating to see fantastic, unique games reduced to “look at this weird crap I found!” on various big YouTubers’ channels, after all.

Looking for a better word, I came upon a fun pun and Avant-Garden was born. I find it encapsulates the feeling of a quick, meditative romp that many of these games offer, and matches the experience I have of cultivating and adding to the collection. I adore finding new games to add to my garden.

Avant-Garden as it appears on itch.io
A sample from the gallery, which shows metadata, thumbnails, and descriptive blurbs. The icons show which platforms a game can be run on; itch.io can have Android APKs too, not just PC games!

Not absolutely everything in Avant-Garden is free; many are Pay What You Want, some are premium, but most can be played free of charge. Itch.io collections helpfully list the price if any.

Why Play Avant-Garden?

Continue reading “Free Points: Introducing Avant-Garden, an Itch.io Collection of Surreal & Unique Games!”

YouTube’s Copyright Match Tool: What It Is & How To Use It

Today it looks like YouTube is rolling out the long-awaited Copyright Match tool, which will let normal Creators deal with video-stealers. In the past it’s mostly just been larger companies that have been privy to Content ID and other more exclusive tools.

youtube's description of the copyright match process. Create videos, copies of content will be automatically found, and youtube will allow you to act on them.
A basic rundown of the tool, via YouTube

The tool was announced a while ago but (at least for me) just released and was added to the YouTube Studio Beta, where it can be found in the new Copyright section.

How Copyright Match Works

You’ll get an email when you have access to Copyright Match in the new Studio Beta dashboard. It’s not presently in the old Creator Studio.

You’ll be shown something like below, assuming you have any matches. It lists the videos, some metadata on them, and includes links to the video to see it. You should check the video manually to see the exact context it’s used in, though as you can see in the below images, my matches were all 100% direct rips with not so much as a commentary track or video edit of any kind.

Copyright Matches on YouTube
Some good old fashioned content thieves, using videos from my channel

All in all it was pretty simple for me; just 3 videos, all 100% start-to-finish rips of my own videos uploaded as their own, and on channels loaded exclusively with stolen videos. I selected all three, then you’re given a little form to fill out affirming that you’re the content owner:

Of note, the physical address of your channel/self is not given to the other party unless they attempt to sue you. This is a step up from the current process which would require a hard address. Granted, some people simply spoof information in the existing system.

After this form, a real, meat human reviews the case at YouTube, and only after this review is the video actually struck and removed. Theoretically this will reduce abuse, though it’s YouTube we’re talking about here so that remains to be seen.

Removal Options

There’s three main options when you get a match: Archive, Request Removal, and Contact.

Archive simply archives the match (use this when no action is needed), Contact lets you request removal manually or otherwise work things out by talking to the uploading channel without (yet) sending a strike.

Request Removal has two sub options; you can give a 7 day notice, or request immediate removal. With the 7 day notice, the other party has 7 days to remove the video before a strike. This is best used for cases where  you truly do want the video down but for whatever reason don’t believe they channel deserves an instant hit, such as ignorant but not malicious misuse. The instant removal you can use for all your humdrum “yeah I’ll just copy paste this video and claim it as my own” stuff.

Generally speaking total mismatches/fair use/etc should be Archived, rude but not infringing videos should be Contacted (for example, a “react” style video that you’re okay with, except they didn’t even bother to link your channel in the description), and outright copied videos with malicious intent should be Removed.

Why The Copyright Match Tool Is Good

Copyright tools on YouTube have long exclusively been for large companies, like the ever-suing Viacom or “Blocked In Germany” GEMA. Copyright Match is the first time that regular creators will have any form of say in how their videos are used with a meaningfully effective process.

Notably, unlike Content ID not all matched videos are treated the same, since the creator (an actual human) has to review and select an action on each video.

This addresses the issue of Content ID where many people just wanted to claim videos of improper use, but end up netting everyone because Content ID is purely automated and has no concept of fair use. On top of that, many people won’t bother appealing either, as YouTube deliberately makes the process quite intimidating.

Hopefully this tool leads to the removal of a lot of these old scummy channels that have never been hit simply because normal people haven’t previously had a say in YouTube copyright issues. The three channels that stole my content for example were almost immediately identifiable as infringement, being filled with Let’s Play videos of multiple different people, podcasts, and even full episodes of TV shows.

What About Abuse?

Of course any new YouTube copyright tool carries the potential of abuse. I’m quite familiar with YouTube copyright abuses at an unfortunately personal level. But it’s pretty much all good  news in this case due to a rather simple qualifier; you have to have been the first to upload the video to claim it.

This means that you can’t just upload someone else’s video after the fact and claim you’re the real owner; Copyright Match will only ever match newer videos matching an extremely high portion of your video.

Is it impossible to abuse? Well nothing’s impossible. A worst-case scenario I can easily think of would be a movie or game trailer being distributed to press outlets, then someone at the movie/game company deciding to strike all channels that uploaded the trailer they offered for distribution…but that’s not exactly good business sense.

A more realistic fear I have is the potential of recording a short clip of the intro or cutscenes of a video game and very quickly uploading them and potentially matching parts of Let’s Play and other gaming videos that include that segment.

You would have to be the first to do this and manage to trigger the match, then a real human at YouTube would have to approve your claim for it to actually go through. I’m not sure how practical this theoretical attack is, it’s just a potential example. As you can see there’s quite a few stops along the way.

All in all I would say this is at the very least, the most abuse-proof copyright/trademark related tool that YouTube has in their toolbox, considering abuse of their other tools.

In the past their copyright mechanisms have let anyone claim any video and appealing was incredibly difficult. This tool only lets you claim content you have actually uploaded before later uploaders, and lets you be human in your decision to remove it, contact the uploader, or just let it slide.

The Axiom Verge Randomizer (And How To Play It)

First, there was the Link to the Past Randomizer. Then, the Super Metroid randomizer. And now comes Pozzum’s Axiom Verge randomizer! Since SirTapTap.com basically started out with an Axiom Verge Guide, I definitely had to check it out. (Thanks to the dev for stopping by our Discord too!)

What Is The Axiom Verge Randomizer?

If you’ve never played a Randomizer before, the basic concept is to randomize some major gameplay aspects of a classic video game to enhance replayability and provide a new challenge for players who have already beaten, 100%, or even speedrun the base game.

Randomizers make particularly exciting things to speedrun, livestream, or race due to the unpredictability. I’ve streamed the Link to the Past Randomizer in the past and I’ll be streaming the Axiom randomizer tuesday!

In the case of Pozzum’s randomizer, it’s the item locations that are currently randomized. As a Metroidvania with multiple movement-based upgrades, that means how you get about the existing map can change drastically based on which items you get early (or late!).  You can also randomize the enemies, if you enjoy death.

According to Pozzum, the project is briefly on hold while they build a new PC, but it’s still being worked on. Check the Releases page on Github to see the latest changes, and report issues so Pozzum can address them.

What It Does

Basic features of the current version (0.6.1.1):

  • Creates a separate randomAV.exe file to play without breaking the base game
  • Randomizes all item locations
  • Items, especially early on, are placed somewhat to keep the game possible
    • About 25% of seeds currently are impossible to complete however
  • Option to remove temporary one-way segments in Zi and Ukkin Na from the base game
    •  This reduces the potential of impossible-to-escape situations
      • (Base game fun fact: the 1 way Zi fall isn’t actually one0way; if you savewarp you can return, a common speedrun strategy)
  • Option to randomize enemies too
    • This could get painful fast
  • Option to generate a list of spoilers for hints/etc
  • Optional Practice mode which gives all weapons/upgrades in early rooms to allow you to try out odd combinations to get used to gear you wouldn’t normally use early game

How To Get The Axiom Verge Randomizer

You only need two things: a current Steam copy of Axiom Verge, and the randomizer itself, which is free on Github. Epic Games Store’s version of the game will be supported soon, but doesn’t work currently.

Note the program generates an alternate  executable file for AV rather than altering your “clean” copy directly. Your “clean” game and randomizer share save files though, so be careful with them. You can copy and paste your save folder if you need more save slots or want to protect your pre-randomization saves.

If you don’t have Axiom Verge on PC, it’s actually free on Epic Games Store from now until Feb  21st 2019, so grab it quick! As said above, it won’t work yet, but you should be able to get it soon. Use that time to practice the base game.

Step by Step Install
  1. Install Axiom Verge from Steam
  2. Download the randomizer
  3. Extract the randomizer somewhere you can find it (desktop etc)
  4. Run AxiomRandomizer.exe
  5. Let it move it’s files to Appdata when it asks (avoids permissions issues)
  6. The app will ask for your Axiom Verge installation file, you can find it by right clicking Axiom Verge’s entry in Steam, going to properties >  Local Files > Browse Local Files… then selecting Axiomverge.exe
  7. Now you’ll get the Randomizer’s main UI and can make a seed!
  8. The first time you run it, you’ll have to manually run “randomAV.exe” within the Axiom Verge folder (find it via step 6) to get it to run, the run button in the randomizer won’t work the first time because of security stuff.
  9. Start a new save file and you’re playing AV Randomized!

What To Know

Continue reading “The Axiom Verge Randomizer (And How To Play It)”

Fan Art: SirTapTap the Seahorse Captain by Big Tuna

What is this, Seahorse Captain? What is this, Seahorse-Seashell party? Who didn’t invite me? Why didn’t I get invited?

Some adorable fan art by Big Tuna! Thank you so much. The “sketchy” line style lets it fit perfectly with Yoshi’s Island itself!

This one requires a little explanation, it’s from one of my Megaqarium livestreams where we decided Lumpsucker sounds more like an insult than a fish (it’s both now). I also, as I always do when I see seahorses, referenced Drinking Out Of Cups, which if you haven’t seen it, well you just have to see to understand.

See all fan art & sources in the Fan Art Gallery.

Continue reading “Fan Art: SirTapTap the Seahorse Captain by Big Tuna”

Announcing Spooktober on SirTapTap’s Youtube Channel!

It’s that Spooky time of the year again, so I hope you’ll join me on YouTube for a series of surreal RPG Maker Horror games this month! It’s what I call Spooktober!

Edit: 2018-10-15: Final half of Spooktober is finalized below!

The streams will feature more atmospheric, psychological horror and less of the jumpscare nonsense, so if you’re usually squeamish, it should still be pretty accessible!

Included are permalinks to each stream, press the Play button to see an option to get a reminder of when the stream goes live on YouTube!

Week 1 (October 6&7th)

Yume Nikki

Yume Nikki is a surreal classic of RPG Maker fame, more of a Walking Sim/Horror game than RPG. I played it before, along with it’s remake/sequel/something, Yume Nikki Dream Diary, but it’s fantastic and will be framing the rest of the games for the month!

Continue reading “Announcing Spooktober on SirTapTap’s Youtube Channel!”

Fan Art Update: Art from CremexButter, Scott Ramsoomair, Yasmin Rawlings, and Amnesia Moons

It’s been too long since a fanart post, so here’s a five for one!

Here’s a beautiful avatar commission, drawn by Scott Ramsoomair (Yep, the VGCats one)!

Next is a simple but super-adorable one of me and Parker by @CremexButter! You might know Creme from instagram or this cute earlier fan art!

And another doodle from Creamxbutter, from our Patron Board Game Night stream:

Cremexbutter's Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival fan art of SirTapTap's patreon stream
It’s a long story and I promise we’re not brazen criminals

Continue reading “Fan Art Update: Art from CremexButter, Scott Ramsoomair, Yasmin Rawlings, and Amnesia Moons”

Please Stop Spamming Reviewers’ Inboxes With GDPR Notices, They Mean Nothing

So tomorrow the GDPR privacy protections go into effect in the EU. In reality, this means you need to change your data retention policies and ask for consent, notify people of data breaches and some other stuff. But in most people’s minds, this seems to mean “spam everyone with emails and hope it all works out”.

Now, I’m not in the EU nor a policy maker, so don’t trust me: Go trust The Guardian and their policy experts:

The vast majority of emails flooding inboxes across Europe from companies asking for consent to keep recipients on their mailing list are unnecessary and some may be illegal, privacy experts have said…

(Also almost no one is limiting their spam to Europeans, despite the Guardian’s wording here.)

As a reviewer on dozens of PR listings, I’ve gotten over 100 emails about new privacy policies, “please sign up again”, blah blah blah. I just cleaned out a dozen from my inbox before writing this article.

Odds are, at most 1 in 10 of these emails are even meaningful and less than that were actually necessary. If I opted into your review list, you do not have to email me. If you’re just going to be following the policies you’re…required to follow anyway, you don’t have to email me. Save the emails for PR. That is why I consented to be on your list, not spam about whether I consented to be on your list (goodness the irony).

If you already gathered my consent, there’s almost certainly no need to spam my inbox. Even if you didn’t, there’s various clauses in the policy that allow collection without consent provided it follows the GDPR’s retention/etc policies.

In short, stop emailing me and make sure your actual data policies met GDPR, because that is the only part that ever mattered. This was not supposed to be another EU Cookie Law where no one changes anything but all burdens are passed on to the consumer with a bunch of annoying crap no one reads.

In fact, reading a bit of it, it seems this consumer-side burden was specifically intended to be avoided in the GDPR. What initially appeared to be another Dumb EU Overreaching Law seems to largely be a case of poorly informed people doing basically random things hoping they’ll accidentally comply with it.

What’s New On Sir TapTap.com? (March Updates)

Been a lot of changes on SirTapTap.com lately, but mostly stuff you might not have noticed without looking. So let’s list ’em all up in a big ol’ post!

New Content

I’ve had several “series” in mind for this site for a long time and hadn’t really gotten started on them until recently. As of today, three of them have gotten started and I’m proud of them. They’ve all been added into the header menu for ease of navigation.

Free Points

Free Points is a new series of weekly (actually) free game recommendations, ranging from flash games to games on Steam, from traditional platformers to surreal Alt Games. I’m slightly behind on them as I write this, but they’ll be back soon!

Finer Points

I’m allowed to use the same spikeball-related pun once more than once, right? Ahem. Anyway, Finer Points is a series of UX-focused articles on game design and design in general, particularly the little touches that have a big effect (positive or negative) on the whole experience.

Tap Into YouTube

I’m a YouTuber as well as a writer and developer, so Tap Into YouTube is my series for discussing gaming-related YouTube stuff. It’s both for YouTubers to learn the ins-and-outs of YouTube’s workings (both technical and social), and also for game developers/PR people to learn about how to get the most out of their interactions with YouTubers.

I noticed a lot of devs make some common mistakes in reaching out, so I hope Tap Into YouTube will help make it at least a bit easier.

Patron Benefits (Beta)

A major feature that was added was the Patreon Login Page where my patrons can log in with their Patreon accounts to get the following benefits based on their monthly pledge:

  • $1 – Current Month’s Parker Pictures
  • $2 – No ads on SirTapTap.com
  • $5 – Early Access videos & full archive of past Parker pictures

The feature is only in “Beta” because of an odd conflict with my Progressive Web App caching; the caching makes the site crazy-fast, but it unfortunately sometimes caches the “logged out” copy of a page, so logged in users may occasionally see ads or be initially refused from Patron-only pages; these issues are cleared on a page refresh.

It’s not the biggest issue in the world but I’d really like to stamp out that last bug before rolling it out of Beta.

AbyssRium

Disclaimer: To get this out of the way, I’m not affiliated with the AbyssRium devs in any way…they don’t even reply to my support requests! And nope, “Sir Tap Tap” has nothing to do with “Tap Tap Fish”—it’s been my name for 9 years, and it’s based on enemies called Tap-Taps in Yoshi’s Island for SNES!

So AbyssRium’s been a bit of a contentious issue lately; the developers have made some major changes to the game and players aren’t very happy. I talked of leaving the whole thing and no longer updating my guide (though I would always leave it up for players to use as I do with all my guides).

The more recent update shows some signs of improvements, though not quite a full return to quality. For now I’ll still be making guides, but I’m very unhappy with the game’s direction and if players continue to abandon the game due to its hostility to players I may leave. But not yet.

New Features

Lots of new little features were added as well!

Better Progressive Web App Functionality

I kinda broke offline caching for a bit in my Progressive Web App, and in the process of fixing it I made it better than ever!

If you don’t know what a PWA is, going to “add to Homescreen” from most Mobile Browsers will add a shortcut to your mobile device’s Homescreen. On supported browsers and devices, these pages will actually act similar to full-blown “native” apps with (opt-in) push notifications, offline caching, special UI, and if you use Chrome on modern Android versions the app can even be put in your App drawer. 

The SirTapTap.com PWA has the following features:

  • An adorable TapTap (spikeball) icon for your homescreen
  • Instant access to the Guide Index, one tap away from any major part of my site
  • Offline caching for fast page speed and offline access of previously visited pages
    • Also a more pleasant “offline” page that still features full UI!
  • Ad-free guides supported for logged-in Patreon supporters
  • A minimal  browser UI will now be shown, so “Find On Page” functionality is available
  • Interest-based Push Notifications (optional)
  • Firefox & Mobile Safari now support PWAs, including SirTapTap.com!

Better Search

Continue reading “What’s New On Sir TapTap.com? (March Updates)”

Tap Into YouTube: Launch Day Is Too Late For PR

As a reviewer if there’s one mistake I see in my inbox more often than any other, it’s developers reaching out to press on their game’s launch day. Sometimes, even up to a week after release.

I’m not entirely sure the general reason for this; whether it’s seen as not necessary to reach out first, or perhaps it’s some attempt at avoiding “embargo breakers”, but it’s probably the most easily corrected major mistake you can make in your game marketing.

Don’t break your game’s sales just because you didn’t want to send out some emails before launch.

Tap Into YouTube is a series on YouTube and Games PR, written from the perspective of a YouTube Content creator. That’s me!

It’s meant to help both devs and YouTubers serve their audience the best and work with each other productively.

What’s the big deal? Well…

Reviews Take Time

The biggest factor here is that if it takes me a week to write a review (not uncommon, especially for smaller shops or larger games), and you send me your game the day of release, you’re logically going to get reviews a week after release. And that’s at the earliest; you’re probably not at the top of my queue. Especially since you emailed me the day you launched your game!

“The amount of time it takes to review your game is significantly higher than the time it takes to play your game”

Gaming reviewers are infamously crunched for time and often forced to rush out reviews for games they haven’t finished, spend crazy hours to finish a game in time, or take other unfortunate steps that pretty universally result in both worse working conditions for the reviewer and a lower quality review.

To write a thorough review ideally the player will have to complete the game, or in some cases like Multiplayer or Roguelike titles, at least play far enough to feel a sense of reasonably complete understanding of the game. 

In addition to the game itself, budget in the time for writing, editing, replaying to verify certain details, checking out additional modes, and other features. After all that, the time it takes to review your game is significantly higher than the time it takes to play your game. Always keep this in mind.

If there’s one person you don’t want to rush, it’s your reviewer. When you’re rushed, every flaw is that much more grating. Every complexity is that much more unwelcome. Every high is that much more fleeting. By rushing reviewers it’s quite possible you’re harming your own review scores, let alone the number and timing of those reviews.

Scheduling Issues

Sort of a sub-point of point number one, but even if I can respond to your game in a snap as, say, a Livestreamer who plays through games blind for first-impressions streams, I still may be unable to play your game until a few days after launch. I might have previously announced plans, things I’ve been waiting months to do, I might be on vacation, heck, you might just happen to release on the day I’m not at work!

Your game is probably the only thing on your mind. It is not the only thing on the mind of everyone you’re emailing about your game. That’s one of the biggest things to realize when handling your PR and working with press; you know your game, we do not (yet). But meanwhile, we’re also juggling up to dozens of games, upcoming releases, sheduled content. The less time you give us, the less possibility there is for us to fit your game in with the rest. 

By giving reviewers a reasonable length of time they’ll not only be able to write a better review, but they’ll be able to work things into their schedule more easily. For example, I work a day job so if your game releases on Tuesday even if I have nothing to play but your game (this is never the case), the earliest you’re likely to see a video from me is the following weekend.

But Isn’t YouTube Different?

Continue reading “Tap Into YouTube: Launch Day Is Too Late For PR”

Free Points: Drop Alive – Short Classic-Style Platformer

So far Free Points has largely focused on surreal, more conceptual and less gameplay-focused games. They’re a favorite of mine, but not all we’ll be covering here. So without further adieu, here is Drop Alive, a retro-style platformer (with a non-retro aesthetic)!

Free Points is a series of weekly free game recommendations. The games may range from the most surreal of Alt Games to the most traditional of platformers; the only requirements for a Free Points game is that they’re free (real free, not free to play!) and very much worth your time.

What Is Drop Alive?

Title: Drop Alive
Release Date: 2016-12-06
Price: Free!
Developer: Invi Games
Languages: English
Length: ~1 Hour
Platform: PC  (Steam)
Genre: Platformer
Themes: Hand-drawn, Cute, Challenging
Supplemental: You can watch me play about half the game on YouTube

Drop Alive is an adorable platformer featuring a water droplet that must escape seemingly mundane environments that become quite intimidating when you’re the size of a water droplet!

The majestic cookie sea.

With a lot of charm it’s easy to underestimate Drop Alive’s difficulty; the game won’t go easy on you, but it’s not an incredibly demanding game either, especially due to it’s length.

Why Play Drop Alive?

Drop Alive is a good ol’ platformer with a fair amount of challenge. It’s short length keeps it from being frustrating or getting old, since you’ll probably be done with it within an hour.

The water droplet isn’t purely for style either; properties of water are used for gameplay purposes as you change state and avoid being absorbed into other materials.

As a water drop you can change into a liquid, gaseous, or solid state with ease.

Drop Alive reminds me of many Flash platformers from the glory days of Newgrounds.com (who is still very much still around, by the by). It’s just long enough to be worth playing but not long enough that it wears out it’s welcome. The short-form game format is a favorite of mine, and it’s great to see games still get made.

There is a paid option for Drop Alive, but as it only contains cosmetic items and does not affect gameplay, I don’t consider it a disqualifier for Free Points. And, of course, if you think the game was worth the “asking” price of the DLC, make sure to support the developer! I’m a big fan of games that offer that sort of option.

Need More To Play?

Check out the Free Points archives or this YouTube Playlist also by SirTapTap for more worthwhile free games!