Lovely Planet

The enemies are symbolic to the point of parody. Their simple signifiers are so red for bad blue for good are subverted by the expressions they give: only the red ones are truly alive. The stages are small. No pretense like invisible walls or infinite skyboxes, rather the game is more like a movie set. It artfully admits to being a game. The mechanics are sparse, kill the baddies get out. Red is your enemy. The music reminds of j-pop in the best sense, the random splatters of text rarely make sense. The protagonist’s ludicrous cartoon hands bring forth images of being a demented possibly perverted cupid roaming a strange post-logical sky land.

All of this is a reason to play Lovely Planet. Let me tell you about the gameplay: its simple. You move in ways accustomed to fps players, you jump mildly like jumping flash, you shoot square arrows, the blockiness of which revels in its own laziness. Even the less refined aspects of the game are churned into irony, the game is powered by a logic only a Japan fan could know, but its fun and the game quickly breaks into flow.

The flow in turn reinforces the repetitive nature of the game. You try, you succeed, but the leaderboard tells you: you could do better. You will do better.

October 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

The PC Race

Its my lunch my lunch break so I take out the hospital appointment card and proceed to jettison to a far away land via motorcycle taxi. For the last few months or year I have been having consistent prickly pains in my feet and hands. I was told I needed to see a foot Doctor, but a perplexed vascular specialist. The department however says pain and the Doctor gets out a small reflex thingie bangs a few nerves and takes my blood pressure before she declares me insane and prescribes me to an anti-psychotic for schizophrenia, but I am getting ahead of myself let me tell you about my new PC.

On Saturday after class I walk into a PC shop and buy a new PC. My brain is tired of running over the various possibilities of PS4, Wii U, or PC. The PC is the right price so I buy. I have to wait. I go outside to smoke and suddenly I am worried they are cheating me. Is the PC going to be switched? Is it going to be an I7? I try to calm myself down and go upstairs. A quick look over and a tech shows me the windows specs. I am cool.

I park my electric bicycle and take a motorcycle taxi home clutching my pc. At first returning to steam is all disappointment. All the games i didn’t finish, the strangely imprecise user interface of windows. Its a let down. Plus the pc runs in 720p instead of 1080, but then I get going in steam and skullgirls shows up and lovely planet takes my time, steam becomes luxurious again. Tony comes up and i have a joystick now, plugging the joystick in I forget about my Destiny and super mario 3d world desires and just begin to game, but that’s the thing: gaming laptops are just big gameboys. The joystick is really all I need, the keyboard is an unnecessary addition, i switch to big picture mode.

There is something about someone telling you are crazy or not telling you and with confidence prescribing you to a medicine for psychotic episodes that gets you down. The confidence with which the Doctor prescribed me, her aloof air, it was the almost fascist sense of decision that annoyed me.

The PC has all these features I don’t need. They dig into me like little sickles further aggravating me. This is just a game machine, an 800 usd game machine. I am thinking of switching to Steam OS. But just a few good games is all a system needs. Its just what good games, steam is full of medieval themed fantasy adventures, sci-fi a tad more realistic than imaginative, but then Lovely Planet pulls me in. I game a for a bit forgetting about the world.

The psychologist tells me I need to reduce my stress. Apparently Japanese themed quirky fps games provide this for me. The PC contains bounties of distractions, exactly what a psychotic needs.

October 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

On the concept of gender weakness

In the binary our society maintains (at least until “sex” is questioned enough to reveal new orientations) there is a weaker and a stronger sex, but this weakness is not the result of fortitude, rather it results from pleasure and the ability to give it. In other words the ability to be pleased in turn a sign of coercion, a weakness in a gender. If weakness comes first and hence allows pleasure is another question, but what can be ascertained from porno is quite simple: the giver of pleasure is often stronger than the receiver in terms of gender, yet when we consider the binaries strong and weak I do not see them as connected causally, rather the two are connected by correlation. Strength alone can not give pleasure, rather sadism, infatuation, obsession, neurosis, and other factors like say the texture of one’s hands or the stiffness of sexual organs comes into play. Strength is only necessary to carry through with pleasing and it can be the case the pleaser in actually is quite weak and is only able to satisfy by means of a contrivance. Weakness then is never adjacent to strength, it forms no yin yang with in gender, rather it propagates and is buoyed on a series currents that only confer the illusion of strength, as much as say a prostitute might pretend to be pleased to further a customer’s services, pleasure in fact does not need strength and can quite easily inflate itself on chimeras of weaknesses. In other words the strong might pride themselves on the pleasure given when in fact they have grown weaker, and the receiver has just merely increased their “weakness” so as to feel more. The later I think is central to sexuality, its not that “male” is strong, rather it is that “female” is weaker. And that weakness has very little to do with the strength we hear about in male fiction, rather it is something wholly other and makes the origins of the social orientation “strong” weaker.

September 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Killzone Mercenary

I was trying to avoid writing about this one because I would much rather investigate game design than possibly recommend a game, but I spent a couple days with Killzone Mercenary and a few things impressed me:

1. The levels are nice and compact, the interface is intuitive, and the mechanics work surprisingly well.

2. Regarding those mechanics:
A. Interrogations are optional stealth based side missions that work like this: you have to sneak up on a commander and then input some touch screen slashes to threaten and eventually coerce information out an enemy. The touch screen game is good, but whats more impressive is that it comes in the middle of combat hence if you’re spotted while interrogating well its probably lights out for you. This means each commander (I believe 6 a level) constitutes an optional stealth puzzle that will take a good amount of observation and a little luck to solve. There is a dart gun that can be purchased to make it easier.
B. The hacking mini-game is actually robust and interesting. It works a lot better than the one found in Deus Ex. It works like combinations of triangles appear in hexagons, you have a set of keys on the sides used to solve them. Hence it becomes a bit of a mirage, do you use do triangles opposite of each other or two clumped together to decipher the locks in such a way that you can continue picking at them. It took me a few tries to get some of these puzzles and they were particularly good in design. They feel like a good ios puzzle game in the midst of an FPS.
C. Stealth is definitely the harder route in this game. Making it through the game undetected would take a phenomenal amount of observation and work or a good dart gun or silenced weapon. The game makes you invest your money in weapons along that route that then in turn augment your skills. Hence play styles are complimented by your arsenal.
D. The money. Killzone Mercenary is about just that: money. Every kill, every piece of ammo collected, increases your cash reserves and dying takes away 50 credits for “life insurance”. However, the number of weapons and options available means I found myself consistently trying to increase my score. Violent take down reward double what a silent does, but often then alert guards meaning the rest of your potential kill combo has been reduced to 70-90 credits of value. The system works and fits rather well with the game.

3. Killzone feels like a good designer (Piers Jackson of Little Big Planet fame) combining some minimal elements that add up to an enjoyable time. Its the way the mechanics never break the magic circle, but rather enrich it that makes it worth while that said I do have a few complaints:

4. Ok sure the game has deep weapons to assist sneakers, snipers, and smg / shotgun wielding psychopaths like myself, buy at moments in the game it appears to offer you a choice, those choices would have made the game deeper as the player taking a moral side in the conflict would have been refreshing. I should have been given the chance of defecting to Helghan, executing children, etc. instead these moments come pre-planned and scripted. When the third twist occurs I was expecting some player made decisions in terms of the narrative instead I was just given a pre-planned storyline, yet I feel the game originally intended to make choice part of the story and not to so deterministically declare the “bad guys”.

5. The story line is ok. Nothing overtly memorable, choice would have made it more interesting, but again it didn’t shock me the way other games have.

6. Sometimes I thought there was a mechanic to a boss when there wasn’t a mechanic. For instance with the last boss it made sense to get into a hatch and hide inside the vechile in order to satisfy a condition to beat him, instead it turns out my damage output just wasn’t enough.

What I learned: games don’t have to be terribly original provided everything works and Killzone Mercenary is a game that primarily works. The gunplay is passable (I played on the hardest difficultly), the hacking game is great, the optional stealth interrogations are great and make you think, it is a game with in a game. And in that it shows how digital environments can and should contain a plethora of play options and not just one base assumption about what players should do. It really shows how much strength there is in finding the right fit for certain mechanics to make a game enjoyable. As an English Teacher I design new games weekly. New experiences that will allow my students to use language in a proper environment. Most of them fail. Killzone is remarkable for consistently hitting the mark with good mechanics and finally finding a hacking game worth playing, that said purchase with caution. It is intended for teen audiences looking for gunplay and action sequences. Regardless good job Guerilla Games Cambridge.

September 5, 2014 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

Precedes Popculture

There is a dust bowl, and some brown suited Americans hollering on guitars. There are fields and a lane of swimming pools and chrome encrusted cars. There are long hairs and a pop culture so violent, each smile leaves blood trails in your bong’s wake. There is a low period where we dance and Africans rise, there is a depression, but there are computers, there is a game all black and white dots, there is a phone as serene as the fields. There is a moment in which meaning lifts up off the violent demonstrations, the abolitionist!s bombs, and lands in a screen and becomes commodified. Banderas.gif

September 1, 2014 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

Design Journals BB:CP, Spin copters, Ridge Racer, etc.

**BlazBlue: Chronophantasma**
Once right after lunch, but just before class I stuck a small Amane combo video up on a projector screen. The results were so ludicrously gravity defying, the dexterity involved seemingly inhuman, that is was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters do trick shots or a particularly good skate trick video. In my own play throughs of BlazBlue my Amane rarely achieved a combo greater than 8 hits. I was assured it was due to the way I was thinking, that a skilled strategizer could take the game apart and design combos in mere seconds. As my Amane nears the 3 week mark and new internet provides easy access at home I am thinking about my moves and discovering that j.c can pop into 6C and then 2c and then into a 2,3,6 C for a power dive. I am out combo’n players in ranked, beating Noel Vermillions with cloth and dance. It is terribly rewarding to be told you can’t do something and then to find that in fact you can. The only problem though is that once you become wired to cancels, you begin to notice how each character punishes and the combo becomes little more than a move. In fact the draw to large combos is so vast you will find yourself blocking opponents so they don’t get an opening and routines become so hardwired that on occasion lag will cause a whiff and you or your opponent will keep kicking even when the input ended a second ago. This is not to say BlazBlue is to formulaic, in fact the options out there are vast, but rather that by dealing with combos as a system, they become codified and therefore predictable even if they’re more impressive than SF IV. The later is something Xrd is working on. But two points here that are minor complaints, I managed to convince myself that BB:CP was a game only conquerable by though, in fact just like LoL or Dota 2 high level play is more like a sport, practice takes presence over critic, its just that quantifying the game into strategable segments help increase practice. The routes cancel write out qualify as the game’s real special moves, but really combos should be more open ended. Regardless, I am a level ELF now.

**Spin Copters** ios
The spiritual sequel to Flappy Bird is possibly better than the original. You see, Mario’s jump is like cocaine, you just want to do more. A similar mechanism governs Spin Copters out of control whirly birds. The game requires microsecond judgement taps as you effectively steer a physics beast so entangled in calculations its output can compound into velocities denser than clouds. Its not a terribly frustrating game, unless you’re really invested in it, but its also not a fun game, its real pleasure comes from mastery of a physics model no one can ignore. Unfortunately enjoying Spin Copters physics takes work, determination, and a pay off of only a high score. Recommended.

**Ridge Racer slipstream iOS**
I saw the ridge racer ps vita game via /r/vita and immediately needed to own it ethical questions be damned. Unfortunately the ultimate edition with all the dlc doesn’t seem to be on US Psn and I’ll be damned if I spend 30 usd for what like 3 tracks and 5 cars? Remember R4? It came with a freaking joystick that was awesome. So I searched the app store to see if I could get something to tide me over, sadly slipstream lasted about 45 seconds on my ipad, it didn’t feel like Ridge Racer, it didn’t have the physics, the feedback, the unbelievable turns. It was just a racing game.

**Deep under the sky**
This is a game from the same developer as Incredipede, but unfortunately its more of an angry birds rip off in its infancy. Haven’t played enough to see how game the differentiates itself, but art style = points given.

**FF IX**
I am on disc 3 and still enthralled. Way to go linear narrative.

August 28, 2014 at 3:37 pm Leave a comment

Luxuria Superbia

Luxuria Superbia – ios
The other day I watched a 5 minute clip on youporn of a Japanese porn actress being pleased by a somewhat well cut man. I found myself walking around most of the day with a new perversion: a desire to please someone with my hands. Luxuria Superbia is described as sensual, but in reality it is quite sexual. I found myself clawing with 4 fingers to please a flower’s needs. It brings up so much of what makes simulation in video games unique. I have never myself actually jerked a vagina off in any meaningful way, yet this idea of pleasure which honestly I had never thought of is present in this game or is the simple pairing of the two the cause of my interpretation? Regardless, the game dares to dip into places of sensation most games do not. It doesn’t mind being sexual, sensual, or even a little grotesque. What’s great is that it turns this pseudo-sexual desire into a game. If you get to avaricious you will not score that high, if you hold back or aren’t feeling it the flower will close. Are we ate the beginnings of a cyber-sexuality? I haven’t seen this much action in years. It was also made by a husband wife team. The later part of that duo I think might have been instrumental in this game.

August 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

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