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      Game Culture

      Piepacker: Nostalgia Freshly Served

      Piepacker: Nostalgia Freshly Served

      Piepacker: Nostalgia Freshly Served
      Taking retro gaming to cloudy heights

       

      There have been various attempts at reviving interest in video games released during the retro era, and while many of the successful ones usually came from major publishers like Nintendo’s Virtual Console or Sony’s Playstation Classic, other beloved games from lesser known publishers have languished in the past for sometime now.

      If you’re someone who has been hankering to play some of these other games though, you’re in luck, because Piepacker has been in the works for some time now. Aiming to bring retro gaming online in a very convenient manner by way of browser-based remote play with integrated video chat and boasting an impressive library of games all stored within the site’s cloud, the project has since been successfully funded via Kickstarter.

       

       

      The campaign is almost nearing its end, however, and if you need more convincing to join in on this successfully funded project, there’s no better way than to hype you up with a list of some of Piepacker’s most notable games. So grab that plate, and choose your slice from among these retro-filled pieces of pie.

       


       

      Worms: World Party

       

      A beloved entry to the Worms franchise and first released in 2001 for various consoles of its time such as the Playstation, Dreamcast, Gameboy Advance, and even the N-Gage, Team17 managed to outdo their previous forays into the realm of strategy. And with Piepacker, you can experience outwitting your opponents in a single platform without worrying about crossplay.

      Each player will control a group of worms whose sole goal is to rob the other teams’ a chance at fulfilling their dreams by destroying their puny little bodies. You do this by choosing between a multitude of weapons, ranging from simple bows and pistols to the more glorious explosions of fireballs and nuclear bombs. However, all of the mayhem is viewed from a side-scroller’s perspective, and most of the levels feature destructible terrain, so you should approach each shot with caution lest you accidentally make your comrades fall to their own doom. Thankfully, there is also a huge array of equipment such as jetpacks and ninja ropes for your squishy units that they can use to better approach enemies from multiple angles.

       


       

      Earthworm Jim and Earthworm Jim 2

       

      If you’d want your worms to be more of a single player experience that you can simply load up from your browser, Piepacker also provides you with one of the best platformers to have ever existed during the ‘90s. First developed for the Sega Genesis and Super NES in 1994 by Shiny Entertainment and later receiving multiple ports, Earthworm Jim was beloved for its surreal elements and unique humor that continues to endure through this day.

      You play as Jim, an earthworm who accidentally receives a special suit that he can somehow control, giving him the mobility of a human. Of course, this comes at a price, because various other parties also want the suit for themselves, and it’s up to Jim to prevent these evildoers from getting the suit back. He also aims to save Princess What’s-Her-Name from the clutches of these villains, and it’s up to you to guide Jim through various side-scrolling levels full of running and gunning.

       


       

       Micro Mages

       

      Don’t like worms at all? Then how about some magic instead? Micro Mages is a platformer developed for the NES during 2019. Yes, you read it right, this is a modern game intended for an 8-bit system, and Piepacker is bringing it right to your current age browsers.

      You play as a mage who is trying to ascend a tower, defeating enemies along the way. And if you’re worried that this might be a lonely climb, fret not, because you can play this with up to four players, either cooperating with each other to help ease the climb, or trying to be the best climber by competing for points. And with Piepacker, you don’t have to worry about huddling around a console with multiple wired controllers. Browser-based multiplayer at its finest.

       


       

       Sensible Soccer

       

      Finally, we have something for all the retro sports fans out there with Sensible Soccer, widely regarded as one of the best sports titles of its time. Originally released in 1992 by Sensible Software for the Amiga and later ported into the SNES, it was one of the faster paced sports titles of its time, boasting smooth and responsive controls that would turn even the sports haters into believers.

      There have been multiple versions of the original game, and thankfully, Piepacker includes both the first game, Sensible Soccer: European Champions, and the improved version, titled Sensible Soccer 92/93. And with sports games inherently being a competitive affair, Piepacker definitely helps sate your desire to curbstomp your friends in a soccer match.

       


       

      Pack that Pie

      These aren’t the only titles that Piepacker has in store, though. There will be more than 60 retro games available for the platform upon release, with a whole range of genres to choose from. From twin stick shooters, 2D fighters, and even pinball tables, you would have no shortage of games to load up and play with your friends.

      If none of the games available tickle your fancy, you’d be pleased to know that you can also play your own games with the platform by using the PieReader, which is able to read your NES, SNES, and Genesis cartridges. And if you’re wondering where to get the PieReader, it’s actually bundled with the Kickstarter as the main reward.

      If indulging on the retro gaming goodness isn’t enough, you’d be pleased to know that there are plans in the future to incorporate support for modern indie games such as Celeste, The Binding of Isaac, and Towerfall, so if you’re still on the fence about supporting the campaign, you can find out more about the PieReader and the list of available games here on Piepacker’s Kickstarter page. See you in the Piepack!

      Top 5 Best Pixel Games

      Top 5 Best Pixel Games
      There has been a rise in the usage of pixel art in video games in recent years, and much of it is owed to the nostalgia cycle coming full circle. Back then, us gamers who grew up on retro consoles had no other choice but to play with games that utilize pixel art, and even if 3D graphics are shinier, we always come back to the style that we grew to love. And since this includes gamers who grew up into game developers as well, the amount of games that harken back to the olden days only keep increasing.

      Read more

      The Happy Vegan Article

      The Happy Vegan Article

      Mega Cat Studios x The Happy Vegan

       

      Speedrunning and Quick Dinner Planning

       

      Veganism and Speedruns.

      “I don’t have time for this!” is often what we say when we get frustrated with something less important than what we are focusing on. From preparing food to doing chores, people often get overwhelmed and realize that it’ll take a lot of time to sort things out. While this may establish a tangential discussion about laziness and time management, it is good to remember that if one were to put their mind into careful consideration and planning it is possible to get things done quickly without sacrificing their well-being. You can have your cake and eat it, too! Whoever came up with that expression has probably never eaten a cake before. Because really, how do you eat cake if you don’t have it?

      Sharon Gregory of The Happy Vegan shares in her article Tips for Quick Dinner Planning the things that can be done to establish a healthy eating routine without sacrificing too much time. There, she mentions several tips you can do to prepare for a lifestyle change, especially in the context if you’re experiencing health problems and illnesses.

      In a way, this article also relates a similar concept in game culture - speedrunning. This is a game style in which players challenge themselves to finish a game as quickly as they can. While traditional methods of playing a game could lead to several hours, speedrunning leads to the discovery of many different ways in which players can exploit game design glitches and flaws to finishing them in a matter of minutes!

      What if you could speedrun cooking? Won’t that be neat?

      Save time and have good food, you really need both more than you think.

       

       

      A Paradigm and Perspective Shift

      Sharon Gregory says that a lifestyle change doesn’t have to be very difficult. For the time it takes you to cook a chicken, you can also spend it preparing a healthy meal. Simply, if you are spending the amount of time doing things differently, you would be guaranteed a different result.

      This is why you should consider a perspective shift if you’re planning to do some changes in what you have been doing for a while.

      In the context of speedrunning, gamers are challenged to see games differently and shift their perspective to playing the games features other than what game developers have designed them for. This leads to countless creative ways to complete a title aside from basically fast forwarding things to completion. This culture has established a growing community of gamers that find themselves challenged by this new mechanic as games of the past are journeyed once again to know every nook and cranny that can be accessed. 

      It’s basically a lifetime change for gamers.

       

       

      Speedrunning Tips as Inspired by Sharon Gregory

      Yes, we know, The Happy Vegan is a company that focuses on lifestyle changes to eating healthy food. However, in her article about quick meal planning, we can get a glimpse of some connections that upcoming (and maybe seasoned) speedrunners may be able to use during their gaming journey.

       

      Tip 1: Prepare Snacks in Advance

      In case Sharon doesn’t have the time for dinner, she always tries to have some fruits and veggies prepared in advance for a “quick snack”. While she mentions that sometimes a glass of water before dinner is enough to be satisfied to curb the hunger, it’s best to be prepared all the same.

      Similarly, planning is the key when doing speedruns. Usually speedruns are made after the player has already finished the game at least once. They already know the ins and outs of the game and they plan on using it to their advantage. Much like in food, you already know which food you like and don’t. You prepare the ones you like so that you can have a happy and healthy meal; in speedruns, you know which shortcuts to take, what features to use to your advantage, and these make it faster the next time around.

       

      Tip 2: Make a Double Batch for the Weekend

      Sharon prepares a double batch of brown rice on a weekend. While this task is not difficult, it takes time. Time that you could be saving every single day of the week. Imagine cooking a double batch today so you won’t have to do it tomorrow, right? Plus you don’t have to rummage inside your fridge to think of what to eat today. Follow tip 1, plan, then prepare for the days ahead.

      In speedrunning, finishing the game once already gives you familiarity and instinct. You already took note of multiple birds that could be hit with one stone. Since you already know what your path would be--much like the fact that you’ll be eating brown rice for the week--you can double up on what you need to survive and succeed. 

       

      Tip 3: Cut the Veggies as Soon as Possible

      Aside from her advice of shifting a significant portion of your plate to veggies, Sharon recommends that you try to cut up your vegetables as soon as you bring them home and put them in your freezer. Veggies thaw quickly and this saves you some time when you’re preparing your food. And if you’re pressed for time, you can buy pre-cut vegetables at the store, too.

      In a way, this tip could be translated to the whole process of which speedrun type you’re getting your head into. Essentially, whether you’re doing the Any% or Low% run, it’s best to know which one you are going to do so that you can set your mind in the right place and do the things you need to do while doing your speedrun. 

      It could also mean that you should cut your time as much as you can. Imagine again, having to cut your veggies for the next coming days, cleaning up, and throwing out parts you won’t eat? And then imagine having to do that only once a week, and you can just grab some and shoot them in a pan or blender when you need them? See the difference? In speedrunning, you can cut time for speedruns if you already explore everything the first time you play it. Don’t look for new stuff during your speedrun, it’ll only slow you down!


      Tip 4: Prepare a Backup Meal

      Her final tip is a little bit unusual compared to other timesaver guides to vegan cooking, Sharon shares that she prepares a backup meal in advance for later consumption by making an extra set of meals to freeze. This is good for those times that take you by surprise and you're less prepared than usual. Life is full of unforeseen circumstances and the one that you have prepared in advance could certainly save you some time scrambling to prepare for a meal that no one knows you weren't prepped for.

      Same with speedrunners, they should be prepared for any events that can happen on speedruns. If you were to search on YouTube for a compilation video of the greatest speedrun fails caught on camera, you would see a lot of epic fails. If you are trying to dive into the speedrunning culture, you need to understand that you would not be playing a game once or twice, but rather way too many times than you would like to.

      It is an endurance game that is filled with unforeseen challenges that bring you a step back or two, and that's the exciting part! If you try speedrunning once, you should definitely challenge yourself again. Try and try again until you achieve the top of the leaderboards or beat your personal best!

       

       

      A Quick Observation

      Establishing a healthy lifestyle and doing a successful speedrun requires the same type of state of mind and similar processes. As a person concerned with their health, you need to be able to make the right choices of what you put on your plate, an efficient way to prepare them, and prepare in advance for the next healthy meal. As a speedrunner in the kitchen, you need to familiarize yourself with the type of game that you’re playing, the type of completion goal you’re trying to run, and the kind of planning you need to make to explore every avenue that you can in finishing the game.

      With this, we have successfully tied these two concepts together and discover that it’s not a matter of how they are different from each other but rather how they are alike. Food and games have been tied to each other in many ways, and this is just one of them.

      So, if you have been intrigued by Sharon Gregory’s wise words about making the change to healthy and efficient meal changes, you can visit The Happy Vegan and read all about her vegan recipes and menu tips! Perhaps, you would be inspired by her journey from being a cancer survivor and how this shifted her perspectives to a healthier lifestyle.

      If you're looking for some virtual gastronomic adventures, Bite the Bullet is your best bet!

      Eat well and run fast!

      The Jenny Lee Swirl Bread Article

      The Jenny Lee Swirl Bread Article

      Mega Cat Studios x The Jenny Lee Swirl Bread

       

      What’s in a name?

       

      The Cats and the Bakers

      Jenny Lee Swirl Bread and Mega Cat studios are bringing sweet pastry lovers and foodie gamers the magic of Bite the Bullet--a food-centric game that reminds everyone that you are, indeed, what you eat.

      The 5 Generation Bakers come from a line that began with a German immigrant who changed his name from Becker to Baker. Interestingly, he became a baker by profession as well! Compared to Mega Cat Studios that is made up of humans with feline instincts, you can probably say that both companies are defined by their names.

      What do we mean?

      Jenny Lee Swirl Bread is from a line of Bakers, 5 generations specifically. That’s where their identity comes from--their profession, their surname. They’re a unique bunch--because really, how often do you see a baker named Baker? Is it the universe telling them that this is the choice it has made for them? Or are they just really gifted at what they do? How much more if five lifetimes of Bakers are all bakers? That’s mind blowing--just like their breads!

      And Mega Cat Studios, the Cats there are always ready to stretch their paws and claws to make awesome games. They’re fierce designers and developers who come up with strategies that get players hooked. Heh, they can even see very clearly in the dark--like in times when you don’t know what to do in life, a Mega Cat game will pick you up and give you back a sense of who you are. Video games make us sound individuals, and Mega Cat makes sure that sound is meow!

       

       

      Five and Nine Lives

      Being committed to values, ideas, and goals are the main reason why Mega Cat and 5 Generation Bakers are still in the running in their respective fields. Community engagement, perseverance and keeping the heart in the brands are the core qualities that spur success--not to mention having fun in their crafts and offering quality products are always what drives a company forward.

      The growth of a bakery or a game studio is not an instant thing. One has to put in the work and hours to establish your audience, the brand, and the team that can take you all the way. But always remember that to never lose sight of the path you took to where you are now. The Bakers always looked back to their family of bakers for the wisdom and insight on how to move forward. Same with upcoming studios and indie game companies - look to success stories, be sincere with your work, and design on.

      As both companies grow, we envision products that live for generations--lifetimes of 5, 9, or even more. Our products are made with love, and that love lives through countless years to come.

       

       

      The Brand That Stays True: The Story of the 5 Generation Bakers

      The Baker Family of the 5 Generation Bakers has a long and colorful history about their baking journey and the brand that made them as they are now. Tracing its lineage in the mid-1800s, the family was founded by Michael A. Baker, a teen that immigrated from Germany. As if the universe was preparing him for this moment, this young man would become a baker and would establish the first bakery of the family, the Michael A. Baker Bakery in 1875. The bakery soon evolved into a “door-to-door” delivery type of service and, spurred by the aspirations of his sons, would, later on, make the business as the largest bakery wholesaler in the state of Pennsylvania.

      In 1938, Paul Baker and his cousin Bernard McDonald, despite the success of The Seven Baker Brothers Bakery, founded Jenny Lee Bakery in the heart of Pittsburgh Diamond Market. At first, Paul would sell his brothers’ products out of his retail store but he would soon develop his line of quality products. Then, he acquired the second location of his second store and main baking location in McKees Rocks in 1941.

      Despite the challenges and problems that the company would encounter in the following years, the company would continue to grow and expand. However, the biggest challenge that the company faced came in 2006 when a devastating fire nearly wiped out the second-floor offices and candy production area of the McKees branch. This forced the bakery to close for 4 months and missed several holidays, a loss of great proportions. And although the company would open once again in April 2007, the loss of its shoppers and the challenges brought by the economy pushed the company to close forever on August 16, 2008.

      However, all hope was not lost because of the determination and hope that Scott Baker brought. Out of the desire to continue on the Baker Family baking traditions, the 5 Generation Bakers was founded in June 2009. He built the company from the ground up by starting as a commercial manufacturer of frozen wholesome products and consisted of only two products: gourmet cinnamon swirl and cinnamon raisin bread. The 5GB would soon grow this lineup to chunky bread, savory bread, and sticky buns!

      The journey that the 5 Generation Bakers traveled from the simple aspirations of a German immigrant had come a long way. And while a devastating blow nearly ended the dreams of this line of naturally gifted bakers, it was through perseveration, hope, and sincerity with their brand that they were able to rise from the ashes and be stronger than ever before.

      Onesto Foods Article

      Onesto Foods Article

       

      The Memories That Drive Creation

      Ever get that feeling when you walk into the kitchen on a Sunday morning and smell something good cooking… and that just brings you back to the bliss of your childhood? Studies show that smells trigger emotional memories, so it’s no wonder that when you smell a fresh batch of cookies exactly like how your mom used to make them when you were younger, the scent takes you back. But what do we do with these nostalgic emotions?

      For Mega Cat Studios and Onesto Foods, nostalgia became the driving force and inspiration to create new things. Our new ideas are influenced by retroactive games, and Onesto’s come from home cooking that no restaurant could ever beat. In games, Mega Cat takes the heart of the game and keeps what you love while developing more ideas for what can be changed; kinda like food. You can’t have roasted chicken without the chicken, but you can change the spices and seasonings for different flavors!

      Jane Ciccone of Onesto Foods published an article entitled Fond Fall Memories: Pumpkin Mousse and Cinnamon Cookies, she recounts how the sense of smell that people had with various ingredients evokes the strongest memories. Sun Dried tomatoes and basil transport her to Florence, Italy where she fell in love with its local markets and delicious food. Fresh-cut grass and cinnamon takes her back to the kitchen with her mom back when she was a child.

      Just like Jane, our game designers and developers have memories in mind when creating the games you love. Bite the Bullet was inspired by Metal Slug, a game we played in a simpler time when we could kick back on a weekend and forget everything to focus on the game. In designing this game, Mega Cat wanted players to get that feeling back while having all the features of modern gameplay flashed with bright lights and good food!

      Mega Cat Studios has always honored the influence of food in the game development landscape, while Jane Ciccone plays with recipes passed down through generations so she can have her own flavors. Gaming and cooking aren’t as far from each other as one might think.

       

       

      An Honest Beginning

      Onesto Foods, which traces its company name from the Italian word “onesto” (lit. honest), marked its humble beginnings at the core of the Italian tradition: family. Jane and Jesse Ciccone always gathered their family around 5 o’clock to share antipasti before dinner, a tradition that the two grew up with. However, this activity also rocked the couple’s core as they realized that their young daughter at the time was allergic to gluten.

      Not wanting to give up the core values she learned from her Italian upbringing, Jane began her journey to finding gluten-free crackers that her daughter would be able to eat. Discouraged by the discovery that the market is filled with overly-processed and preservative-filled options, she would adjust her recipes and promised to never use less than honest ingredients.

      This was when “the seeds of Onesto were planted”. Jane believed that bringing the best possible ingredients not only tasted better but also made the body feel better.

       

       

      Blast from the Past: Food and Game Development

      What does Onesto Foods and Mega Cat Studios have to do with each other?

      We’re all about honesty, family, and community… and of course, food.

      Mega Cat Studios and Onesto Foods both consider their community of patrons as family, and we all want our families to be given food that not only has great flavors, but are also filling and healthy.

      Thus, when Bite the Bullet was born, Mega Cat and Onesto partnered up to bring it to their respective communities. The Cats are campaigning to raise awareness about healthy eating habits and sharing the love that different people have from food. So many gamers out there are foodies, and we have to prioritize our health if we want to continue gaming until we reach level 100 in life!

      We use food as sustenance to keep both ourselves and our game counterparts alive and healthy. There’s no coincidence that HP means Health Points--it’s a reminder that in keeping yourself healthy, you’ll be able to live long enough to defeat enemies and face life’s challenges. Running low on health? Grab an apple, or a potion--it’s basically an energy drink. It’s intuitive and familiar. When we see a consumable in a game, we usually already know what it’s for even before we use it for the first time. Games tap into your subconscious so that everything feels simple enough that players can relate and connect the dots easily--and we use food as basic sustenance, because it is.

      Like the cookies and mousses that Jane Ciccone created based on the information drawn from her childhood memories as triggered by their scents, the parallels of game design development to food creation has a degree of influence to developers and players to make everything more whole. Creators draw their inspirations from what they know because nostalgia plays a big role in the overall experience, whether it’s through scents or by iconic pixel art games. Our senses remind us of feelings, and we love getting those feelings back.

      Bite the Bullet is a game that reminds us that we are what we eat, and in real life, we really should eat nothing less than honest ingredients.

       

       

      Everybody Loves Food: The Foodie Highlights of Onesto

      Jane believes that healthy food made from simple, quality ingredients can taste good--even better than those that don’t! Onesto Foods’ pride is in its gluten-free products such as its soft-baked cookies, which are made from the simplest ingredients. They also offer chocolate chip cookies filled with vega chips. With this line, they have several variations such as the Cinnamon + Sugar cookies and their Double Chocolate Chip cookies for those chocolate lovers.

      Their signature crackers are gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO, which makes them a hit with foodies. They’re great on cheese boards or as a healthy snack! They also have the Everything crackers, which are full of poppy and sesame seeds, onion, garlic, and sea salt. Their Rosemary crackers are a recommended partner for an antipasto platter. And they have Sea Salt crackers for those wanting the nutty and salty finish.

      Aside from these products, the Onesto Foods website also features several articles about foods and recipes that could be given a gluten-free flair to them from Jane Ciccone’s recipes!