My first day with F.U.S.E.

F.U.S.E.
The other day I had to teach a class of 12 year old Vietnamese children the present perfect tense using a smart board. Not content to simply dawdle about I found flash games and movie clips and the. A blogpost suggested the U2 song Still haven’t found what I am looking for. Now I liked U2 back in the day. They did something in that post-alternative emo space that seemed epic in juxtaposition to many other bands, but the problem is things have moved on. The epic sad melodies on the 90s have moved on if you want impoverished problems today you head straight to M.I.A.. I also had problems with other classes with songs before Bob Dylan = No in the classroom Flo-rida = yes. So i was apprehensive, but squished for time so I penciled U2 in & hoped I could avoid it. Low and behold my grammar game blew up and a bored class demanded youtube so I quickly scrawled have and then a box for verbs on the board and let the Edge & Bono teach them conjugation. To my extreme delight the class burst into laughter. Every signifier, every over the top Bono moment, his exaggerated facial expressions, the needlessly repetitive minimalism they all thought it was hilarious. Melancholy had moved on to such heights that this 90s drenched alternative rock may as well have been parody. The kids loved it and we made ironic Bono faces & conjugated our tenses. Then I went home and the ps3 place down the street pulled me over told me they had gotten Fuse in today.

You see me and my landlord’s son have been playing Borderlands together for almost 2 months now. We’re now on true vault hunter mode & almost at the warrior. So I began to ask about other co-op games and decided to give FUSE a shot. FUSE may as well be called generic last-gen shooter. Its limited linear mechanics, its cover based shooting, its cliched storyline, even the way the guys curse seems like everything I experienced in every 2000s shooter except somehow less exceptional. It doesn’t have the wow factor Gears of War did or the awesome setting. Yet, unlike other relics which we have moved swiftly over, Fuse is not subtly hilarious, but instead a tad tedious. The absence of Borderlands style rogue like weapons sucks, the level designs are ripped straight from a single player adventure, sometimes you progress from cover to cover to get to some baddies and then have to turn around and “hack” a door about 100 meters back. It requires players to “rally” around certain points when sometimes you just want to explore. The sex interest is Asian / Chinese to characters are frequently interrupted by storyline and just when the shooting starts to get fun: a cinema scene intervenes. When we’re playing Borderlands sometimes I just stop and find ammo boxes or do objectives while my co-op mate runs around gunning for exp. sometimes he doesn’t even want to do missions and we just kill things and trade weapons by dropping them. In F.U.S.E. Everything is tightly scripted so as to bring you to another cinematic scene. It has some high points, my warp rifle? Is that it? Shoots black holes which cleverly explode flushing baddies out of cover and there is something satisfying about cloaking, running into a tighter corridor and shotgunning a group of bad guys down, but honestly its not that much so far. The game lacks the replayability of Borderlands even today. Even the downed mechanic fails to realize what made the shoot and live mode of BL2 great. On the other hand the characters do compliment each other well and the ability to switch into any other class at a moment’s notice is great. The boss fights were interesting and actually required decoys ala MMOs which was nice. But there’s this one point where you have to melee a box open and then crawl vents that wasn’t introduced very well and the climbing mechanics seem ultimately unnecessary. Its like someone had a good idea for a co-op shooter in terms of abilities & weapons, but a bad idea in terms of level design. My co-op mate often gets lost in corridors chocked full of the minor get in the vent things these games usually require. Fuse at times lets it hand down and we realize a hacking mechanic in reality is just a way of loading another room or even worse that the game doesn’t care how creative or stupid you and your friends want to be: it just needs X put in Y. Part of what makes co-op great is playing with your friends and Fuse is to stepped in the patterns of single player to quite get it right. Its a good try, but I think Sunset Overdrive looks more promising.

P.s. i know how the devs feel when I bounce from intense businessman english class to kindergarten its just such different skills required.

July 21, 2014 at 8:23 am Leave a comment

Presence, Identification, & selling shit in tons Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite / Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon (beat it)

I completely missed Monster Hunter on ps2 or any other device, i knew it existed on 3ds but that was about it. Like Luigi’s Mansion the game’s creative impetus is one of identification. Do you want to hunt monsters? Answer: yes. Who wants to be a ghost buster? Me! Me! They reveal something unique about video games: when we usually play a game the mechanics draw us in. We don’t keep playing monopoly because we like pretending to be millionaires, the basic hallucination video games provide is often enough to draw us into the environment. Just looking cool if enough to make your game successful. Ok fine the later isn’t entirely true, but many people will put up with terri-bad design choices if the world and characters are cool. Monster Hunter lacks the robust movement skills in other games, it doesn’t have a.i. Thats horribly tricky, but it does a good job of making up for this by making it apparent long range and close range are games in themselves. In other words having an a.i. That simply flees the scene or jumps back forth is often enough to make the gameplay interesting especially when your hunter might be picking off long range peeps and your colossal swordsmen is dealing snorlax size doses of tranquilizer at close range. The game tries to spice things up with traps and conditions both of which are great additions and then it throws a nice long recovery from each slice in order to hide the mmo style recovers in the combat. However show almost anyone monster hunter and they’ll think its the most bad ass thing they’ve seen in their life. You can fucking hunt Wyverns in a land with Stegosauruses and sand worms.

Today Gearbox software revealed its latest game. An fps moba hybrid. The reveal trailer showed no gameplay. It was focused entirely on identification. The game will do what mobas do best: provide for numerous identifications. We had a “dude bro” (sorry dude) style cigar chomping chain gun toting bad ass, a whimsical elf, a princess who throws knives (me! Me!), a robotic gentleman, similar chains of identification run through the entirety of the moba world. Are mobas however dependent on identification and presence the way Monster Hunter is? No, they are complex and fun to play. Monster Hunter though reveals a lot about what makes Japanese games work: its the situation more than the character. Presence is the biggest part of their gameplay. Does Luigi’s Mansion ever offer truly flawless gameplay? No. Does Monster Hunter account for clipping issues with boss, problematic camera angles? Repetitive farming of quests? No. Its really if you stripped away the graphical identity, its not a terribly good game, but it would still be pretty awesome. However it has that magic sauce that makes games so appealing: interacting with others. But let me get back to the point Gearbox is making: the initial trailer didn’t tell us anything about the game, it only told who we could be. That the later is the more important message than the actual game is really quite amazing, but Monster Hunter provides a similar trick, it just happens to have a compelling world ripped straight from a previously unknown assemblage of American Indian iconography and caveman style prehistoric hunting missions.

What should this teach us about game design? Well the bigger lesson is in business. If you want to succeed do what the Japanese do: find a world everyone wants to live in, a situation more appealing than most games, and finally build some good gameplay mechanics around it. Presence counts for a lot, and if we can throw ourselves into a world all the better. Capcom and Nintendo know full well how to make a game right. Just take a boyhood fantasy and extend it outward, but Monster Hunter is a little more than its parts. It begins to emerge as a whole, one with strategy, cheap as mofos that rip you off, highly usable cats, and a good sense of humor. It has all of the components of a good game and I might just do cross-play with my 3ds and wii u whenever I buy one. I just don’t like the MMo grinding and I have no idea where to get monster bones for my bow.

July 9, 2014 at 2:13 am Leave a comment

Why I deleted Rayman Legends Design Journal

Ok so I did it. I deleted Rayman Legends. This marks the second vita game I have ditched due to extraordinarily high requirements for a platinum. The last one being Luftrausers. Rayman and Muramasa were the latest two games I was trying to Platinum, and Rayman got the axe because of its surprisingly mobile like features. Log in daily to get your lums! I managed to finish all of back to origins, but the problem becomes when you realize it will require like half a year of daily lums and stage runs to reach the last tier of characters, the game becomes needlessly grind-able. Its kinda like when you meet a you f psychopath in a bar. He or She beams with every pour of their being their very nefarious desires to take advantage of you. Rayman sadly felt exactly this way. I needed 100,000 more lums for the next character unlock, my daily lum rush (which gives more lums than most levels do) only produced a few thousand. The result is Legends abuses its players. A platinum shows how much a player likes a game or their skill. Rayman asks how long they can milk them. Muramasa, my other platinum attempt, just asks the impossible of a player.

Time limited aspects of games can be utilized in creative ways: Animal Crossing for instance, but to often mobile games are monetizing time in the wrong way. My time, especially as I grow older as a smoker, grows more sparse. I have to much to do and collecting some Lums to try to perfect a level isn’t a good use. Not to mention the game requires you play a level in order to save your progress. I am now on my way home to what might be a 3-4 player Borderlands 2 game. When we’re finished, even if we’re in the middle of a mission, we can save and come back with minimal detriments.

Broken Age Ios
Tim Schaeffer, celebrity game maker, attained his high watermark while making point and click games. The point and click game is a genre that went out of style, but Broken Age shows so much of what was right about those games. The storyline is endlessly creative with puzzles that seem less arbitrary and more about subjective reasoning. Mr. Schaeffer is good at producing characters whose dilemmas require us to do some lateral thinking to solve. The result is a game that’s mightily creative, but also requires the player to be creative too. The design and voice acting are also amazing. The game’s only flaw so far is the simple minded goal. Mog Chothra is not fleshed out as a villain. Buy these games require premises more creative than our average game because ya know they’re video games. Broken Age’s puzzles are designed less by items and more by dialog. Pay attention to what they say. The game doesn’t need a to do list like many FPS games do, rather the world itself is condensed to a simple series of encounters the player reasons through with a limited vocabulary. Over all an awesome game. Have not even started the boy’s quest.

Atelier Totori ps vita
Totori loves self sufficiency. Farm the items for bomb parts and then in turn finish a quest to kill x number of bad guys. What impresses me most about the game is the way the storyline weaves around your actions. Something as simple as gathering weeds might set off a slew of cinema scenes, its not a game thats rushed, but it is one that rewards often. I am not sure I will finish this, its a little annoying, but the trip has been unique. Few games ask the player to gather and construct their solutions the way this game has.

Gero Blaster Ios
Whatever Studio Pixel was smoking when he made Cave Story has run out of narrative gas. Gero Blaster is memorable, but not so much for its characterization. Rather the game is just fun to play. I am playing it on ios and the 3 stick shifter for the gun could be better, but over all the game rocks. Its just not as mind blowing at parts as Cave Story was. The weapon changes are significant, but nothing really new. The Megaman style acquirements are necessary, but its the way these weapon uses are so subtle that mark it. Studio Pixel understands that all you need to do is make an enemy slightly easer to deal with a weapon in order to produce an environment necessary for switching.

Borderlands 2 ps3
Ok so about to play a three player game if borderlands. What it understands is that when we’re playing with others it should be a party. Destiny takes itself serious, but not overtly seriously. Borderlands 2 is just bonkers. The game is most indebted to run and gun games like Metal Slug. Its all about ridiculous enemy types. The result is a really satisfying co-op shooter with enough enemy variety that its requires the extra players. On the other hand the storyline is intended for teens.

June 15, 2014 at 6:37 am Leave a comment

Dream May 30th

There is or isn’t yet a Youkai film of some sort.
We get to see secret footage that shows Bruce Campbell (not sure on name the guy from evil dead / Bristol county) speaking Japanese and having some cameo in the plot. Is this evil dead related the interviewer asks? Did we see something we weren’t supposed to? A porn centipede crosses the road.

May 29, 2014 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

Dream May 27th

Last night I was going to be a movie star by swimming under a bridge in Vietnam but instead I ended up in a cab with my hand on a woman’s thigh.

May 28, 2014 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

Muramasa Rebirth – Story of Monohime

What Muramasa primarily does is prove wandering through art works is heavenly. Like that Kurosawa film Dreams where the characters walk into Van Gogh paintings

Muramasa is all about Detail and situations. It is full of visual logics culled from antiquity that captivate. George Katimana’s illustrations have always shown a love of Japanese classical painting, but Muramasa, which was inspired by the famicom game legend of Kage

Allows a realization of locomotion through a medium we usually experience in stillness.

But I would argue that part of what makes Japanese painting remarkable is the sense of movement it in stills. Every leaf jumped over, every tree climbed,and every Legend of Kage style floaty jump is a sensory experience in how sight can overwhelm sensation. Muramasa, like most of Vanillaware’s games, is an exercise in the peculiar interaction between avatar, world, and desire. It is a great lesson in how and why graphics are important. Even the color of the Ninjas uniforms (which really do make them nigh invisible at night) fits into the context of the game.

The combat in Muramasa is based around a triple dash, a double jump, and a charged moved. All three abilities along with a special attack your sword can utilize and the fact that your weapon takes damage before you do makes for absorbing game play. The bosses & enemies require some thought and strategy to over come. Samurai for instance require a charged hit to break their swords, Ninja need to be dealt with swiftly, and spirits require reflecting your fireballs back at them. The result is a combat system that feels like flow, but actually requires some of the strategy and skills usually utilized in jrpgs. The sword upgrading techniques provide little to the game beyond increased stars and a seldom used special attack I don’t really use, but then again they are swords. Gotta collect ‘m all.

Muramasa has been criticized for it’s story, but I found it actually to be rather good. It didn’t impress me the way Odin Sphere did and a few minor continuity gaps result in a trip to hell, but over all it builds a peculiar romance between a Japanese femme fatale with a lot of wit and a demonically possessed spirit with immortality as his aim. I am only now playing the second character’s story, but the game’s set up and plot twists I actually felt were rather good even if the protagonist and heroine fail to develop overt romantic intentions in their dialogues. One of the things I also loved about my ending was the way the game rationalizes it’s brutality: demonic spirit possession and then deals with it in the end. The result was a game in which the player slaughters hundreds and then see their deeds punished from a different angle. Making both Jinkuro and Monohime playable in different segments was brilliant as it builds a relation between player and character.

I have committed myself to a platinum of the game I am enjoying it that much. It’s on ps vita and Wii. Strangely I never got into the Wii version. The game hides somewhat imprecise controls and a little bit of hectic platforming in layers of luscious art. It’s storyline compels and the combat system (beat it on chaos) is open ended even if the second time you run into Samurai you know exactly what to do.

May 9, 2014 at 4:54 am Leave a comment

Journals: Etrian Odyssey IV, Atelier Totori, Muramasa Rebirth, Rayman Legends

This week marked a new experience in my life: a psn sale! When I originally bought a ps3 for the last guardian and Ni no Kuni I remember being somewhat not impressed with the offerings on psn. In the age of the vita though (and perhaps due to my insatiable curiosity) the psn store seems a bit more well stocked. The Golden Week sale sold me on 3 things: Atelier Totori (never played an Atelier game before), Muramasa Rebirth (actually the second time I have bought this Vanillaware game), and vagrant story. There is an additional flash sale going on right now which could net me Guacamole!, but I am trying to restrain myself. Psn is starting to understand the nature of steam sales, and news of psn sales also get reported in surprisingly frequency. Making the deals even harder to resist especially when if you don’t buy it now, well it will still be there in the future and the number of titles on the system is limited. Anyways., let’s begin.

Atelier Totori Plus – ps vita
Once upon a time I taught two young girls, and I think this might be the game for them. The Atelier series has been in existence for over a decade now, starting off as a series of sprite based psx games (there might even be a famicom release in there I am not sure). However the ps3 Atelier games (and there will be in total 6 of them) went 3D and the series might be the better for it. Atelier games are essentially bare bones jrpgs with a fluffy girly side to the storytelling and character design. We get introduced to the boyfriend fast. The game however are quite clever in their use of time, Totori had to manage numerous quests which require actions that take up time. Want to “craft” 4 healing salves? That will be one day please. Need to harvest some rock salt? 3 days to the nearest location. A goal is then posted on this clock and the game becomes managing your time so as to effectively meet your deadline. In other words it’s nothing like other jrpgs. The combat system is standard, but here is the catch: you are the weakest party member. You are the support after all. This means when an enemy attacks you you can choose which party member will jump in front of the attack and keep you from taking damage. The result is more time has to be accorded to supporting your party members well. The Atelier games really are perfecting a curious blend of crafting, time management, and buffs and debuffs. Over all I am enjoying the game especially because it doesn’t waste my time.

Rayman Legends – ps vita
The sequel to origins is a great game, but it’s also part of that increasingly evil scene of mobile games with infinite replay ability. People still play Yoshi’s Island on snes because the game is so good and speed runners love to perfect their runs. Legends is quite smart to pick up on this offering leaderboards for each world. However the game is also bogged down in almost excessive little things to do. There is the 1 million lum challenge, the daily challenges (which aren’t that bad), but my point is this: I have finished the game. I have beaten every level in rayman legends. Yet the game has such an excess of things to do outside of the game that I am nowhere near finished. Do I have all the creatures in my daily room? No. All the lums? No. Am I anywhere near finishing every level with a golden cup? No. And this excess reveals how much perfecting and “platinuming” a game had become. As if major studios want their game to be a major time sink so you can’t work on others. Rayman legends platinum requirements are heroic because they require playing the game for reasons beyond simply playing. As does playing it daily to raid your creature room for lums. In that it creates an interesting moral dilemma, and in the grand scheme of things I think I would rather speed run SMB2 than keep collecting Lums over and over again. The game is still great as a platformer, but I am not so sure I want to make this game an everyday occurrence.

Muramasa Rebirth – ps vita
I owned this on Wii and remember playing it once or twice and never again. Then I played Odin Sphere on recommendation from kotaku and loved it. Muramasa is in some way’s Vanillaware’s most engaging title. The combat sequences are based around variety: some enemies need their weapons broken with powerful charge shots, others need fireballs reflected, and other just need to be dodges. The mechanics in the game make 2d brawler combat all the more engaging and the decision to take a page from jrpgs and make each combat section unique means the fights are fun and interesting. What impressed me most was the storyline so far. Much like Odin Sphere I am entranced. I have played this game the least of everything I am posting today, but as an occasional combat treat it is so enjoyable and I really love it. It’s better than Dragon’s Crown IMHO.

Etrian Odyessy IV – 3DS
Playing Atelier Totori reminded me I had never finished Etrian Odyessy IV. So I looked up an FAQ and set out to find the next section of the game. Much to my surprise it turned out the mistake I was making was a simple one. But unfortunately I discovered a slight flaw in the game’s design. Etrian Odyessy requires excessive grinding for minor trinkets required to move on. I have upgraded my tanks armor, but not my magic casters armor. The game is still really cool. Each area is full of mechanics worth thinking about and puzzles that aren’t boggling, but involving. However I have become more sensitive to time wasting over the years and Etrian’s necessary grinding to purchase better loot makes me wary of playing.

May 3, 2014 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

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