Posts filed under ‘my life through software’

Some stuff I posted to reddit

Just savings these here so I have a more concrete design diary.

**luftrausers** vita
I am around 30 something hours trying to finish the blimp with missiles mission (making good progress) blimps seem to spawn after 2 battleships for about 13k score. I tried puttering around in the sky avoiding enemies and it just delays the spawning if battleships, hence yes score seems to speed up the difficulty. Few games have I investigated this throughly, but the challenge in these accomplishments is so severe I fear they are there more as a means of keeping players there which means Vlambeer vastly misjudged their audience. I am really annoyed by this mission nonsense. I just want to work on my leaderboard score.

**rayman legends** vita
This just amazes me. The game’s levels have really grown from the somewhat basic concepts of the origins games to fully fleshed out trails of wit snd cunning. Also it just looks great on the vita. When I grow tired of luftrausers brutalist approach to difficulty I often find myself clocking in a few levels here and there. The challenge is nice, but not overly difficult.

**Crimzon Clover** PC
I can totally like with Cave’s blockage of new shmups as long as doujin games are like this. Crimzon Clover has all of the traps and vestiges of a cave shmup with an indie spirit that is hard to deny. I didn’t get to play it much, but this really impressed me. It has the right amount of enemies you have to focus in on while also containing the right bullet hell. In other words like a cave game it understands how to turn the some what free for. Aimless aspects of shmups into tight visceral situations worth your attention. It’s also free.

**monument valley** iOS
Somewhere up in the British sky there is a great wonka and he loves games. He also likes ico and M.C. Escher. Monument Valley does a lot of what Fez claimed to just with out all the clutter of those controllers & puzzles with highly subjective solutions. Instead if focuses in on the optical illusion Escher made and turns them into puzzles that are never overly challenging, but man is finished this game in a day. I believe after you finish there is a little more to the game, but right now the initial experience has left me pleased. One of the better ios games and one of the few that excels from being a touched based game.

**metal slug anthology** psp/ vita
Back in the day I had a neo geo and it was my bread and butter. I best Blue’s Journey at least 8 times. By the time Metal Slug hit I was in high school and working on things like Fatal Fury Real bout. The original metal slug is one of the best examples of enemy design ever made. Each unit has a specific purpose yet it never feels unfair… Well except that last boss. The levels a re joy to make it through contains enough super heroic Rambo shit to keep you entertained. I am not sure why no one has done a run and gun game as good as this one over the years. Unfortunately tacked onto the original metal slug are it’s numerous sequels. 3 was designed by the original designer of street fighter / moon patrol / KoF and shows a creativity of spirit with unique challenges and ideas in each level, but the later games feel like a milking of the franchise and then let’s not even mention those loading screens. Yes the official psp port of metal slug anthology contains loading screens the illegally emulated versions do not. While it’s not a huge deal it breaks up the flow and feels annoying. For such a great series Snk playmore should have spent more time. It’s a shame Nazca no logger exists because they made some of the better arcade games out there (in the hunt, metal slug, and gun force 2). Still this package contains more ideas in a segment than many games do in a full campaign.

April 13, 2014 at 12:18 am Leave a comment

A week of Luftrausers

Difficulty is a harsh thing, but we desire the situations that produce it even if we dread it in abstraction. If any art form could produce a consistent study of difficulty, and make it’s audience experience it more brutally it would have to be video games. We desire play that enforces situations of great stress, it’s just when that play becomes mundane, when the game ceases to be “fair” and becomes “cheap” we cease to prefer it. What Luftrausers is good at is understanding exactly what makes difficulty desirable in video games. It just then happens to mess the whole thing up.

The new arcade movement is a set of video game designers intrigued by the idea of difficult games as a medium. Their muses include numerous quarter crunching arcade games and well probably life. The flagship product of the movement is Hotline Miami a game so difficult and random it can ultimately be immutably frustrating with out ever seeming impossible. The game is made of humane mistakes, a guy rounds a corner before you come in or you happen to miss judge a shot, shatter a window, and get eaten by guard dogs. The game is difficult with out ever seeming out of the player’s possibility. Luftrausers is similarly intoxicating. We understand our plane and how it moves and how it moves is intense. It’s first set of goals are challenging with out ever seeming impossible.

What sets luftrausers apart from Hotline Miami is a key feature of it’s genre: the high score. Shmups are built around scoring mechanics, players all over the world compete to be the best at mushi mushi pork & other shmups. On my third day in Luftrausers I did something I have never done before: I made the highest score on psn. At 64k my score has reigned supreme for over a week now. I receive fan mail asking me opinions on plane builds and parts usage. My theories of the game’s spawning algorithms are discussed by other players. I have never felt as in tune with a game as this one, so why am I so unhappy with it?

Richard Garfield held a talk on a cruise where he discussed luck versus skill. High skill games often deter players from playing again. Crush a 9 year old in chess and they will simply think they’re stupid, beat a 6 year old at a board game and they’ll just think you got lucky. The level of intention a player can express in a game in turn determines how likely a player will interrupt the result as their fault. Fail a mission in Hotline Miami? Well guess what, it’s just because that guy rounded a corner and he probably won’t next time. The problem is shmups are a high skill genre. Once you’ve beaten r-type you can pretty much always beat r-type. A good game of touhou involves a lot of luck, but experience ensures you will come through ok. Shmups are games that consistent play usually ensures success in the future. I couldn’t make a 64k score again even I tried… And I have tried.

What does one do when your skill at a game is so consistently misread? When I watched totalbiscuit’s wtf for luftrausers I was struck by something: he’s a lot better player than I am. The people emailing me on psn? More committed. Now am I a regular shmup player who understood chain kills, popcorn, managing said corn, leading, and other basic shmup skills before those other players did? Probably. But here is the problem, high skilled players of Luftrausers are not properly rewarded. The game is simply,to chaotic to provide skill sets with proper motivation to continue. Take the missions for example.

Luftrausers is based on numerous missions that often teach you fascinating facets of the game. These challenges can range from the mundane: kill 5 enemy types to the absurd: take down a blimp with nothing, but homing missiles. The problem the missions reveal is that when we read luftrausers as more than just a high score sandbox, but rather as a level with a mission to accomplish the game becomes difficult in ways that jostle with the underlying craziness. When you’re only out to play or make a high score getting gunned down by a minor foe is nothing, it’s like losing a mission in Hotline to mistiming a random dog. The problem is when you’re tasked with something exceedingly high skill: take down a blimp or kill an ace at Max combo in SMFT mode all of the chaos means excessive repeating to get a few seconds practice to only to have your hopes dashed again as the next play through proves even more difficult… Say aces spawning in the first moment or the blimp showing up extra early. The problem becomes this frustration is not with your inept skill level, but rather with your inability to better your skill level do to randomly spawning foes. The game becomes cheap in a way Hotline Miami never did. It switches the fault line of frustration from your own (I suck at chess) to the game (this game is cheap) it’s like any of those numerous nes moments in the angry video game nerd adventures. I would like to say this challenge makes the game better, but in reality it makes it worse. It encourages excessive play in order to spawn a random seed that happens to be forgiving enough for the player to practice their skills. Luftrausers’ problem is that it trains pilots to be skilled and then drops them into an environment where those skills become irrelevant. It fails to make the difficulty of the missions engaging and in the end it just relies on a cheap trick of fast infinite respawns to keep the player going. It is however the best hi score sandbox ever made, it just fails as a linear game.

March 30, 2014 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

Did tablet kids create the Flappy Bird sensation?

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Everyone hates flappy bird. Here is one poster from that neogaf thread:

Opus Angelorum
Member
02-08-2014, 04:34 PM, Post #7
Its a piece of shit, and an excuse for people who know nothing of games to proclaim their expertise.

The later is a kinder variant of what is an increasingly virulent backlash at a small Hanoi based indie developer who just wanted to make a simple game. The problem the game presents is: who is this silent majority driving the game’s appeal? The answer might be these kids.

The number of manufacturers producing low end android devices marketed at children has grown by over 100% in a year in some cases going from 7 kid proof models to over 512 tablets rugged enough for kids play. Children playing on cheap tablets has become so ubiquitous that global toys sales are down, Nintendo’s kid friendly products are failing to appeal to a generation that would rather play Toca Kitchen. So my question is this: are tablet kids the culprits behind the flappy bird craze? Did a group of human beings only recently enabled in the marketplace collectively purchase and play a free game adults despise?

Let’s look at the game. Flappy Bird is so simple it’s almost ridiculous, but for children trying to build hand coordination it’s a self-esteem boost and an awesome way to spend time. The game’s completely free model also means that even with parental lock the vast majority of children could download it easily. So did kids drive capitalism’s wheels and push something adults find odious to the top of the App Store? It would hardly be the first time.

In 1990 John Hughes released Home Alone. The film was almost universally panned by critics. It went on to gross millions and become a staple in holiday films. Did Americans universally enjoy a film that critics despised? No, it was kids. Children enjoyed the story of a kid alone with out parents taking down two bumbling burglars. It was a piece of entertainment that failed the parent kid bridge Pixar and Nintendo are so good at building. Instead the film simply hooked kids in a way that made kids love it. Children could not make the decision to see Home Alone alone though.

In A Visit from the Goon squad Jennifer Egan predicts entire market places geared towards a new generation of kids participating in the marketplace with their thumbs. She even notes an iTunes variant that is full of musicians trying to get toddlers to buy their music. Capitalism in Egan’s fiction stoops down to the level of the pre-lingual. That is how easy the iPad has made purchasing that we can now do it before we can even speak.

I can not prove that Flappy Bird is the product of a generation of internet enabled toddlers, but I can speculate and it does seem sensical. What it says is that children will increasingly be able to determine their own entertainment decisions. That they picked one that adults find so odious that the elders are mystified and in backlash should come as no surprise. After all part of what made Kevin so successful wasn’t that he necessarily more clever that the burglars, rather that they couldn’t believe they were being defeated by a kid. Children will make the decisions on what clogs the top ten lists on the App Store or google play much longer than gamers will.

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February 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Shelter by might and delight

We’re supposed to use words to describe things.

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Shelter is a game by Might and Delight. Might and Delight’s history is unknown to me beyond their last game P.I.D. Which was a disaster in some sense, but a compelling one in another. Shelter is a far more focused game. You are a badger mom. Now I know you just went out and bought the game based out that fact alone, but maybe we should discuss the mechanics?

You know that little grey baby at your side? It needs food. Your cubs will starve to death if not given enough food and that makes up a healthy portion of the game. Shelter is not a stress inducing game, what it does right is realize the potential of ambient play. It’s also really really linear, but the linearity ensures you don’t get lost. There are a few thankfully small sections were the anxiety bird descends and the play mechanics change to scurrying from cover to cover.

Creatively the game derives from nature documentaries, Disney films, and Metal Gear Solid. Mechanics include a well done night level, flash floods, and using brush to hunt foxes. The game is more than it’s parts by a long shot. It is propelled by a soundtrack that’s indolence and any meanderings capture the experience of a nature walk perfectly. The outdoors are meant to be relaxing, Shelter understands that.

When you’re in the wilderness thought often ceases. Nature still provides enough for the mind to see that our attention often shifts elsewhere, we become attuned to the asymmetrical ambience that surrounds us. Nature is a form of meditation and Shelter realizes this. The game is as charming as a nature walk. It reminds me of a 3 day hike I took into the Grand Tetons, the stillness of that horizon. With ambient play becoming so vast Shelter does something important: it doesn’t risk atmosphere for mechanics.

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    On another note I recently bought SMB2 aka Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic from the 3DS eshop and am enjoying it immensely. It got me thinking about platformers and the way they ended up going. Yume Kojo is not an inherently violent game, each and every critter can be chocked out of the way, playing as the princess you can politely put them down in another space. This creates an interesting tension because enemies require skill to be squashed. The game preserves a slightly more complicated ecosystem of ostriches, shy guys, ninjas, and ninnies. The game also has some interesting mechanics, things pulled up from roots include bombs, a watch that stops time, and a potion that makes a door and what with those doors anyways? Do the coins in the alternative dimension do anything? I collect them like rare gems Hoping they increase my score a bit. Yume Kojo is a lot like Quack Shot, it’s not necessarily lethal and it also makes riding enemies a breeze. It suggests a different place platformers could have gone to a less lethal and more constructive world. One where gender is a choice, and platforms are cosmopolitan accommodators. The vertical levels designs still give me the chills, those pauses as we adjust to the next free fall sections. I love this game even if it’s not as adrenaline pounding as Mario Brothers be. I want to make a spiritual sequel with horses and dragons and mice, a gravity system, an insane race to awesome. So many of these ideas need to be fleshed out, but instead we’re getting a 4 player 3D Mario that looks awful.

    Also have been playing this game a bit:

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    It took a little bit to get it and I won’t get in depth this early through, but the hype is worth it on this one.

    September 30, 2013 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

    Two things

    Wasabi on a Zombie’s tongue
    The sensation so hot is forgets all about consumerism
    Are there pokaballs in your daesin?
    Does pretension pay?
    The blue sky is pleasured by a Samuria with orgasmic hands
    His erections lead the way.

    Also, this is a video game blog kinda. Might and Delight made a little platformer called P.I.D. Awhile back. There next game is Shelter and it’s really a serene experience, imagine laid back jazz motifs to a wilderness survival game. It works and I really like it, will update with photos when I get a chance, off to Phuket to surf till Friday.

    September 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

    For Kakao

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    An iOS game only has to compete against idle time. When you’re at work and all the work is done, you can boot up Plants vs Zombies and play all you want. An iOS game only needs to be better than another iOS game. So this week I have been exploring that most heinous part of gaming: the casual or social gamer. On message boards all over the net console games decry the social gamer. Social games are often seen as the bane of console fanatics. Numerous triple A publishers have sacrificed time and resources for big budget console chart toppers to dip into the apparently more lucrative world of iOS and android games. This has led to anyone who ever liked Final Fantasy 9 having to ball tears and sheathe with hatred after discovering the director of their favorite game now makes mobile crap.

    Mobile crap is the detritus of a market in which cash hungry or merely desperate, but surprisingly digitally literate, desperadoes shovel shit onto a mobile device’s App Store. These games are obviously rip offs of other games or perhaps there’s something there and console gamers aren’t seeing it. Try getting off Candy Crush Saga etc. regardless mobile crap is all the stuff you wish wasn’t on an App Store in lieu of your favorite game. In the midst of sampling these crap tarts I came across a shump that’s a bit of a gem. I have no idea what the name is though because my Korean has shriveled to a neuron in my memory bank and I think some sujo swept the rest away.

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    Ok so I have a small confession to make: I like big brilliant cartoony graphics. Really, they do things for me. This game makes Mario look like a noir, the colors pop is so vibrant. Another pleasure of mine are Japanese shooters that involve magical girls who often ride brooms and fight hoards of baddies. This game instead has you piloting a robotic cat submarine so double points for originality.

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    But what makes the game stand out is that it’s an endless shooter. Shumps often require you hold down the shoot button for long periods of time, hence this loss of a button is actually an improvement, more shooters should just simplify down to auto-shoot. Now unlike almost every other shump I have ever played my bullets have range. Your stream of damage only goes about 2/3 of the screen in front of you meaning that maneuvering is necessary. Ok so add to this a typical level up super powered beam thing and a distance tracker and you start to get the game. Oh yeah it also gets a bit tough early on and the waves of enemies become almost impenetrable after the third boss, so I am pretty confident practice of in app purchases are required. Probably the later. Additionally instead of being a bullet hell dodger this game is a school of fish dodger if you can damage them enough you can weave a path a through the game other wise you’re just going to have to dodge. Dead fish float in the water till a tap clears them causing bonus points and in the case of puffer fish an additional explosion.

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    For Kakao is how I found then, these little shumps are all intended to be used on a Korean social network. As far as I can tell none of them are beatable with out in app purchases, but for the 3 days I have before vacation begins they will suffice.

    But is that how these games work? Do they provide such small subjective and personal Utopias that cash flush gamers like myself end up punching lots of little transactions into them? Has the App Store fragmented our tastes and little niche bubbles pop up a FarmVille addict there a match 3 fan there? What mobile crap makes me wonder about is how to design a market place that rewards such niche markets, that dots every subjective desire with affection, but then requires them to stand in line with their nemesis? It makes me curious how hegemonies in the industry will strangle it and make it their usual plateau of influence. Big name publishers are desperate to dominate the mobile space, is their consistent and steady output of crappy games and ad campaigns intended to destroy the lush indies underneath who might have your perfect game? And let’s not forgot about those consoles. They compete with your home time, when home cinemas and 3D TVs could be equally demanding pressures as much as family or the joy of jogging could be. Console games compete against time that capitalism requires: your leisure time or the spending moments, it’s that iOS and Android have out a shopping mall in our hands and ask we spend our idle time more productively that worries me.

    Tried these two today:

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    I don’t remember the name of the game, but one is a really direct clone of a puzzle arcade game. The thing about the games is: I had fun playing two of them, so I don’t know maybe the console mobile division is a healthy separation.

    September 25, 2013 at 4:04 am Leave a comment

    In praise of fascism or Ni No Kuni

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    About all we knew was that Shadar was evil. His means were horrendous, in the family safe environments of our game there exists a condition: broken hearted. Shader imposes this condition, how exactly he does I do not know. He has never come down to impose it on me, and the condition is so common that his imposition of it must spread like a disease, people all over the content are broken hearted except one little area Shadar decimated where he left behind a single witch to carry out his heart extracting activities.

    Ni No Kuni approximately translates to another world. That is where the action happens in this game: in a fantasy land that connects with the “real” through a surprisingly wholesome mechanic of feelings. Why one world would be exciting, large, and quite adventurous and the other is a mundane town is another question. Does the excitement of the other world require a boring counterpart at it’s base? Is our world in other worlds a sedate pill from which fantasy suckles? Motorville is the emotionally regular plateau on which Ni No Kuni rests, an entire fantasy globe transcribed to a single linear plane of automobiles and country stores. This fact is rarely acknowledged in the storyline.

    Shakespeare stole from other stories. He told tales he had heard from others, but his genuis was in finding the reasoning and diversity of people residing in them. Anyone can tell you Hamlet, but who can explain Hamlet? Much less who can make an indecisive brooding douche bag into a compelling character? Ni No Kuni follows acknowledged tropes: you are the Messiah, “the one the prophecies foretold” but the game offers little explanation for Oliver’s actions. Your name is Olivier btw, your magical doll is Mr. Drippy (high lord of the faeries) who comically has a Welsh or Scottish accent so deep it becomes amusing. Ni No Kuni might be designed by Level-5, but it lacks Miyazaki’s magical ability to make relatable characters. The characters in the game are literally cut from stereotypical cloth. In the 50 something hours I spent in the game, it rarely stopped for characterization and even story moments while often uplifting are scarce in plot detail. Ni No Kuni has great design, but a puny storyline unworthy of the Ghibli heritage. This isn’t a case of plot by theft, rather it is laid out in so stereotypical a fashion the story is in the commons: your are the Messiah.

    As the Messiah Oliver espouses the virtues of kindness and selflessness. He is hardly as complicated as Buddha or compelling as Christ, rather he is plain and his philosophy hardly varies into the harsh reality of ethics. He is simply put a childhood fable, but one whose momentary influence on a child’s ethics will be shattered the moment a child decides to take a selfish act. Oliver acquires and maintains his status as the good guy by remaining “pure hearted” or simple in his ethical dimension. This is why Shadar is such a surprise.

    Ni No Kuni’s main nemesis is a wizard known for leaving his victims “broken hearted”. The broken hearted are enfeebled in such a manor that they can no longer accomplish basic duties like opening doors, adventuring, etc. Shadar attacks your group several times in the game, but never quite fleshes out as a character. Once you beat him the game attempts an explanation of his actions: Shadar was a soldier blah blah saw some atrocities blah blah asked to kill kids refuses blah blah is horrified by war and… becomes an evil wizard to stop war. Yes Ni No Kuni is a game in love with fascism. Shadar’s global reign of evil is also a time of peace. In order to prevent war Shadar became a dark wizard who intimidated an entire globe into acquiescence. I know. Way to go Shadar. This one little factoid might be the storyline’s defining moment. It’s the only thing in Ni No Kuni that provides depth to the characters.

    The Pokemon like battle system is awesome, in the higher levels your a.i. Driven companions can become a bit of a chore, but over all the affinities, the weaknesses, the strengths all balance out to a remarkably interesting team. Leveling up creatures to their final form isn’t a lengthy task and the game provides a gym somewhere to do it.

    Graphically the game is just amazing. Studio Ghibli’s creations are some of the most intricate and well designed creations in the history of animation, and the expression and characterization their designs provide are amazing. In the end players of this game will go in for this reason. The battle system is ok, the storyline is passable, but drops into the horrid at times, however the world is enchanting and the privilege of raising Ghibli pets is hard to pass on. I had a lot of fun.

    September 23, 2013 at 2:24 am Leave a comment

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