Archive for July, 2014
Design Journals: Soul Sacrifice (omg this is awesome), BL2 redux, & Atelier Totori the mystery continues
**Soul Sacrifice** vita
You are not Conan, but this is the type of place Conan lives in.
You’re the type of peasant he knocks aside and as you emerge from that trough a wizard abducts you. Trapped in a grotesque prison you turn to your one nerdy pursuit reading. Soul Sacrifice uses the meta-narrative to further its gameplay, and much like Assassin’s Creed those novel skills carry over to the “real world” however unlike Assassin’s Creed the game with in a game really works. You see you’re reading the journal of the insane necrophile that trapped you in a cage of human bones. Desperation in the real world means the readings become surprisingly engaging especially as they involve a blood thirsty femme fatale who for reasons not yet revealed saves said future necrophiliac super crazy cannablistic wizard guy. The result is a monster hunter clone that is strangely anti-monster hunter. While the gory fantasy world is at odds with my taste, the set up works perfectly to make the gameplay more intriguing and the game has the balls to lets you decide which of 6 weapons you want to bring into battle. The result is blood spewing machine gun replicates (doesn’t work) to some beautiful and hefty ice swords to a pumpkin headed charge move. Loot is weapons in this game and weapons have about the shelf life as say a cauldron of healing potions or some twizzlers. Weapons wear out giving them a disposable feeling, but these little disposable tinker toys have surprising effects. The game lacks the Monster Hunter traps so far, but honestly this is quite different from monster hunter. Soul Sacrifice is an Inafune game to the core, weapon swaps are constant & the humor never ends. The game’s central mechanic revolves around the bleak surroundings and the sacrifice or save mechanic, which is nice I like choosing my exp and the moral decision to sacrifice or save is fun especially as this Conan like world values life about as highly as a Mars bar. The game encourages you to be a bad guy and Being a compulsive psychopath obsessed with collecting attack level ups is rewarding. Haven’t even gotten to the online play yet, but did i mention this is a romance novel too? Yes, that insane psychopath full of eyes and gore above was in love, how he ended up insane and if learning his old spells will really help you is for you to decide. Good work japan studio…. Just please the blood machine gun thing… No. Oh btw just played the demo am sold on full game pretty sure original and then maybe Delta. Also now super crazy hype for mighty no. 9
**Borderlands 2** ps3
Everyone I know has played this game to death, this week I finally played it to death. True vault hunter mode, co-op and I am tired. Just don’t see it anymore. Not as fun, even 86 gazillion guns gets old. But it still is the best co-op game of a generation of co-op games. Army of Two? Fuse? All,of these games think a co-operative mechanic makes a co-op game. What they didn’t get is that confining a player to working together makes the game less fun. They also failed to understand that progression is progression: you shouldn’t need a partner just to progress when last gen you could do it alone. What Borderlands understands is that each player makes the game expand. You go from being a shotgun wielding Berzerker to a support guy for a sniper who is all glass canon, the game opens up, cars fill with ready bodies waiting for the kill. The storyline is juvenile trash, funny at moments, but never rising above a teenager’s imagination. It did all of this by borrowing the elemental affinities from JRPGs and wrapping them in a fart joke of an FPS. Its all about retarded fun with friends, something overly serious co-op games just didn’t get. Glad to know Bungie was taking notes. Just around level 47 my Siren feels played, the game feels predictable, and the enemies start to come down with ease, still can’t remember the last time I replayed a game like this.
**Atelier Totori** Vita
The problem the game faces is that finding the right components for your crafting are the quests, but then the game wants you to go on its quests. You should just be able to click on a missing component for an item add it to a list and then go on finding missing components and there by producing quests and then maybe a time limit and reward for early completion with some points for extra daredevil battles. Throw in a midboss and final boss for the quest for components to craft silver ingots for a new armor plat for your tank. In other news I can now craft armor, but doing this will require numerous time consuming side trips that will not net me favor with the adventurer’s guild who prefer quests to be of the go there and get 3 of this variety. Time in Atelier is a factor, in fact you might want to fore go sleeping for a simple healing potion, but really the storyline is so meandering that I am not sure if I should waste time so as to advance the narrative or spend it all the more preciously because the game becomes a serious spreadsheet chomper towards the end I am told. Still the time based story events make the game feel fresh, as if the narrative is reacting to you which it is, the game features numerous endings, its just the ending to what that the story fails to remind you. Totori misses her teacher Rorona, but strangely fails to have the usual jrpg resolve to solve the mystery of her mother. For someone who vowed to become an adventurer to find a loved one, she is dizzy and inconsistent. But the game made me laugh and its like nothing else out there. So many ideas in this one, its just not quite made for me.
Viewing the high level challenges in this game just blows me away. Its just the imagination the game allows in combos is so vast. Then add to this some truly spectacular special moves and it all comes together. Today I learned A+B is a guard break and A+B+C means rapid cancel. Still haven’t used over drive properly. I loved figuring out how to do Kokonoe’s Astral finish. Haven’t quite got the triple Tager down and learning Amane’s combos requires some serious input. I am not so sure I like the tutorial heavy aspects of the game. I got good at Vampire Savor via passion not pre-set how tos, but I like that the game has systemized skill. A 180 hit combo will geeee…. How do I do that? Oh yeah Kokonoe was a pleasant surprise. She is surprisingly meek as a noob it takes knowledge of the when and where of gravity spheres to make her formidable and the lag in some of her moves is tremendous. Now I am just wondering if I can use the auto-cancel to cancel some of Amane’s more long winded attacks and when to use guard break much less how. Seeing Amane’s long range grabs and seeing what can done with them drives home how different she is from dhalism as much as Kokonoe’s gravity + fireball redefines many of my expectations of what a fireball should be. BlazBlue isn’t gimmicky, rather its creative in ways games should be. Its a shame to see it passed up as an anime fighter.
The game is epitome of 2000s game. Tight linear corridors that make you crawl through a storyline that’s so cliched action trope only a lover of the genre could enjoy it. Some Assassin’s Creed rambling about, that Metroid moment where you evacuate though is nice, but we’re finding the multiplayer the greater draw. The enemy variety isn’t stellar, but is nice and there is nothing like going invisible and then point blank shot gunning some poor slobs. Highlight of this week, spending my 11k fuse on a team perk only to end up double teaming a robot from front and behind with heavy weapon drops then with a record time kill collecting an additional 9k fuse and getting another team perk just minutes behind the first. Insomniac did a great job on the multiplayer, its just the game doesn’t understand the insanity required to be truly great, instead its a well polished review of the PS3’s greatest genres with some gears thrown in. No one really wants co-op to mean handicap, but rally points & necessitated co-op revives make the game feel weaker for being co-op even when the powers and abilities make the shooting more fun with friends.
**Call of Duty: Ghosts PS4**
We got a few minutes on a ps4 this week and given the choice between Fifa, Infamous, & CoD we tried CoD. The split-screen option is nice, but I was surprised by how easy it is to die. A few hits and bam you’re down. This is not Crysis, but the shooty game on display was passable even if not terribly compelling offline.
**Dual shock 4**
This surprised me. When I saw the touch pad
Years ago a friend made an indie game and it exploded, so I decided I could take my noob programming chOps to the indie basket. Years later my love of gaming is nearing exhaustion. As a friend told me 2 years ago you make it sound like a job, but in many ways my exploration of games has become a job. Design journals, blog posts on game design, I have learned a lot about the medium, but I deeply wish to be engrossed in art or literature again to make an installation for a gallery or write a story for fantasy mag. Yet, my to buy list just keeps going. Ratchet and Clank trilogy next week? Fuck yeah. Need 3D World (which might be the only game I am truly passionate about at the moment). Still haven’t caught up with Crimzon Clover and my knowledge of Atelier Totri grows, the later is a game I want to love, but just can’t. Gaming is not for me an intended full time past time. Its more of a passing side substance I imbue as novels, music, and movies pass me by. I remember playing Vampire Savoir on my Saturn constantly, working on new kills and then checking out new music or doing homework. I wish I could get enough distance for games to feel fresh again. I would love to treat Undernight in rebirth with the same attention as I did say Street Fighter Alpha, but with such huge knowledge of what’s available it becomes harder to focus on a single game. I want to chill on games, but then I need Final Fantasy X on my vita even when I am enthralled by IX and have 3-4 sitting unfinished on my ipad. Life hasn’t given me enough time to do what I want even that little game I poke away at sits by the way sides as strife, exhaustion, frustration, rear their ugly head.
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.
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.