Posts filed under ‘thinking’

Ludums: Irem on Nes, Alien: Isolation, make your own adventure aka Minecraft

My new job involves long sit downs in a glass cubicle filled with constant fiddling with variables and often 16 minute returns from a Swedish server built in a summer by a former golf pro. Let that context inform these reviews.


Metal Storm is probably the best NES game I never played. The music is awesome. I mean really I hear the tunes in my head at work sometimes. It is at heart an R-Type game, but where r-type felt like a draft in memorization as difficultly Metal Storm is more of a full fledged novel. It requires consistent play with its central mechanic: the ability to reverse gravity at will. Its the way the game manages to introduce puzzles with out every signaling you are in a puzzle that makes it unique. I am not sure where, maybe level 3? In which you have to trick some magnets to fire, nearly crushing you, jump onto their platform, and then reverse gravity to get around a block. This section isn’t overtly difficult, but it does require skills. Later level require you to think about power ups switching from shields to blasters to take out different objectives. Its not as Mechanically complex as I would like it to be, but when you attenuate to its antiquated nature it becomes a gem you hum as you reconsider and plot out your next move.


The hardest part of Alien: Isolation is the beginning. That first stealth puzzle is really the most difficult thing in the game so far. After you’ve managed to take down 3-4 humans the Alien is easy peasy. Why? Because the Alien means death. It is that simple. What to reset a puzzle? Run away from the Alien. Alien: Isolation makes a good case for presence and graphics in video games. It is essentially a love letter to H.R. Geiger and in that it’s a game whose skin is more compelling than often the storyline is. In fact Isolation’s story is sadly rather weak. Its gameplay however is compulsive. I knew I needed it the second I saw the hack tool that said tool exists fully realized inside a set of stealth rules that create serious tension is even better. Alien: Isolation is a film that was chewed and cured into gameplay. However its designer had the lateral thinking skills available to iterate on the known gameplay elements enough to make it work. The result is engrossing exploration situations that are tense, but rarely frightening. The world design brims with detail, but it’s really the story Geiger is telling that makes it important, from the communal shower stalls to the lightbox hallways, the lived in way the station resembles an oil rig or the abundance of hiding spots the belie another meta-game: which spot is truly strategy and which is merely aesthetics? Film is a great medium to play in.

Minecraft is not a game I have ever binged in before, but last week with the server down I redownloaded this hot MS property

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/e2a/7654/files/2014/12/img_3248.png and got to work on my first house which in turn became a 3 hour construction binge including torches, numerous pick axes, cobblestone fences, creepers, and a garden on top of a house. I wanted to change nature to make my house more realizable. It was strangely satisfying to finally have a minecraft property something like what I had seen in youtube videos and then a day later I was bored, so I crafted numerous swords and set out on a journey at midnight fighting Zombies and eating pork chops, minecraft is a game that understands play. It understands that you shouldn’t take it seriously rather that frivolity becomes seriousness the more you play. It is a game that is entertaining as long as you are entertaining. Its the perfect sandbox for tots. Good work Notch 🙂

December 29, 2014 at 1:39 pm 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

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

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

Quickies: PID the castle levels

PID is a newish indie platformer from a company with the amazing name Might and Delight. Two things I usually like together, however PID suffers a bit from the unity syndrome. The unity syndrome is when an indie game bears such similarity to another unity game that one simply feels one is playing the same game. In the case of PID it bears a resemblance to the equally excellent Rochard. Both are 2d platformers done in Unity only with remarkably different storylines, aesthetics, and play mechanics. PID involves a boy who over sleeps in an intergalactic school bus and finds himself immersed in the politics of an alien world. The game features co-op with both players using the same pc which is cool, but unlikely for someone like me.

PID is the story of various distractions, as the game begins our protagonist is looking for a bus back to his planet, only to be promised one in the first few minutes and then to discover that the old man in question is merely delusional, and a bus can only be caught from in town. From there PID grows into a gravity based platformer. Kurt, the plucky Pixar like protagonist of this surrealist epic, quickly acquires the ability to shoot two little gravity beams that will either send him up or to the side. These abilities aren’t terribly exciting, Rochard for features a gravity mechanic as well, but so far the game has made rather good use of them. You will flip plates, have to time throw to levitate boxes, and occasionally lob one into a tube to deal with an enemy.

And that might be where the game’s problems begin. PID has great surrealist design. It reminds of Windowsill:

But where Windowsill’s joy was the discovery of its surrealist mechanics PID is sadly more mundane in its play style. Kurt will be avoiding a surprisingly mundane group of machines in the castle level (confession I have not made it out of the castle yet). However the later parts of the castle introduce some creepy automatons that stalk Kurt through levels and have to be dealt with bombs, lasers, or other methods. These newer enemies suggest the game gets much more involved later. Truth be told I enjoyed the dining room levels quite a bit, because they reminded me of Mickey mouse in castle of illusion which was a major game for me when I was younger and the sitting room where I now reside is turning out to be wonderful as well. But PID initially in sound track and over all vibe is a bit of downer, propelled by jazz / surf rock bass lines the game’s opening levels seem almost sedate and the world around PID is often standing still.


Despite this, or maybe due to a love of platformers, I plundered through the first levels in a two hour binge arriving this morning at a really cool boss fight which involved smashing plates. I can only tentatively recommend PID, it’s design is fabulous, but the play mechanics are only now building to something truly exemplary. Might and Delight might have produced a gem, but nearing the end of the first section I am only now starting to get intrigued. The story, which in the trailer sounds awesome, is another problem, while an interesting idea it lacks execution and often falters in places, PID is a great could have been with story. The sound track only gets darker as one plays which is strange because PID is so much a game of surprise, it’s world is fairly original and it’s story book premise have great potential, but hey I haven’t even reached this guy yet: so who knows what is has in store. So to recap: it looks like a unity game, that same ethereal glow resounds around the game’s graphics. The world is greatly realized, but the enemies only become interesting towards the end of the first section. The game’s hook is gravity manipulation which works like lobbing a soft ball, it doesn’t quite have a fast pace to it, but it does lend to some ok puzzles.

Available from their website or Steam.

November 2, 2012 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

Final Fantasy XIV version 1.2.3


A long time ago in a Korean town far from the enticements of Soeul I discovered the pc bar and Korean pc bar culture. I lost (according to battle net) 350 games of Starcraft and won one. With such unescalating returns I decided to try the other games at the pc bar only to find a Korean I’d was required to get into the average kart game. However there was an exception. Guild Wars was everywhere, billboards advertised it on the sides of buildings, Korean newspapers reported on Nc Soft’s acquiring some of the original developers from Blizzard, The game was everywhere and unlike nexon’s cafe games it was open to all. I logged in as a woman and began to play. The server was derelict, a few npcs strolled around, some large town houses loomed in the fields, and worms were everywhere. I was supposed to kill the worms. I turned it off and sold my account. Mmos weren’t for me.

Desire is, in psychoanalytic theory, a creation. We learn to desire and it’s origins are often frivolous. A film might teach a girl how to desire as a woman, a role model might inspire a boy to a life in mathematics, but games (outside of their filmic parts) inspire desire in very different ways. We often don’t identify with games the way we identify with other art forms. If you watch a film you empathize, you hate, you love, characters in the film. Their behavior forms a fabricate that becomes the agent of desire and spreads wide ideas of how and what desire should be used, maintained, and sublimated. In games desire is often created by sensation or rewards. If you play chess and you win, you will probably want to play chess more. If you play a first person shooter, even if you detest the main character and story, the sheer spectacle of rocketing into combat might be enough to make the game stick and hence, to use the Deluezean term, a desiring machine is born. Games work in other ways too, and their cinematic elements can make the game stick too (I love the characters in hunted: the demon’s forge, but detest the game play), however I will maintain the three central ideas of sensation, rewards, and identification for the remainder of this review, even though final fantasy xiv has a strong social element to it, and that selfishness vs selflessness of the game is often not explored.

After Guild Wars I didn’t bother with mmos. I looked at them and just thought, that’s not for me. A friend however installed Skyrim on my pc and while I didn’t like it at first, the game quickly became an obsession, the thought of sending my Mage to Mage school, of developing npc control techniques, and just the general expansiveness of the world drew me in. What does Skyrim teach me? To desire character growth, branching skill trees, and to bear with repetive actions for a minor reward. The the results of these labor gave me a few valuable moments, such as when I learned I could take down trolls in a few hits, or casting an illusion spell that enraged guests at a wedding enough that they killed the bride (who I in turn took the dress off of and then enchanted with a 100% discount on destruction spells). Skyrim taught me that building a character can be rewarding and highly empowering… Perhaps a little bit to much so I took down the final boss with no problem. After Skyrim I fell in love with Spore which attenuated me to the click and wait tactics of many mmos, when I began to realize the strategy lies outside of the actions you are taking the game took on a new light, and well it gave me the fortitude to make it through my first few levels in ff xiv.

So that takes me to almost up to Final Fantasy xiv 1.2.3. I bought the game from amazon and downloaded it, then downloaded the patches from another server. I placed my bets on FF XIV because unlike every other mmo, it launched with an absolutely abysmal reputation, but as the game was patched and fixed YouTube videos led me to believe it was getting better, hence for 19.99 I would be entering into a game that come October would retail for 59.99 on the ps3 and a game where the developers seem to be in consistent communication with the fan base. If it turned out I didn’t like I just had to wait a month or so and then sell my key for more.

The first thing ff xiv did right was drop me into a storyline. The Gridania storyline opens with an absolutely beautiful cinematic backdrop and then introduces us to two fairly comical characters with British accents. I know that British accent = fantasy world, but somehow I always feels that final fantasy characters aren’t quite indebted to such Tolkein like lineages to require the Queen’s lisp. I would have preferred an American accent on some of the characters, but the voice acting is above average, and the humor pretty good. So score one ff xiv, you didn’t make me kill worms. Next the game went into a quick combat tutorial which my thaumaturge went through pretty quickly, then even more story and finally I was dropped off in the woods with a good sense of how to get home. I grinned a little and quickly leveled up to 5 in no time before hitting the adventurer’s guild and be introduced to Mom. Mom is an npc who gives you you’re initial quests. In Gridania people develop Woodsin, a kinda karmic retribution for harming the woods. In other words all those lingering doubts about litter, recycling, are made into game form and form a rather good impetus to continue the quest line and avoid being eaten by an elemental. However the game devolves a little here, instead of being given more story quests, it becomes centered around guidleves. Guidleves are simple quests that involve doing repetive things for exp. Battlecraft fieldleves produce orange hotspots on the map were you can battle enemies at levels you set at a crystal. The leves are based around camps and include crafting leves and battle leves. I found the grinding to be not overly hard, but just a little grueling. I really would have preferred more content and less battling for exp, but until you hit 50, the game requires a little grinding. The grinding however doesn’t take terribly long provided you get in a party, choose a leve that’s just a little above your parties’ level, and then manage to chew through your creeps in time to get a chain exp bonus. Chain bonuses are awarded by battle time, the faster you kill creeps above your level the faster your bonus grows. Chain bonuses can level up a class pretty quickly, but do slow a tad at times if your party is lower level than you. You can grind about 2 levels an hour after level 10. Before level 10 you can do more than 5 an hour. Parties have the advantage of leve sharing so your four leves plus the other party members leves quickly add up and because they’re adjustable as you level up you can make the enemies more difficult meaning exp doesn’t shrink as you get higher. The leve system is pretty good and is more efficient than using a macro bot to level you, but I still feel it needs more variety, a little more storyline tie in, and could give a slightly bigger exp bonus when you hit the dreaded mid levels where exp remains constant, but the amount needed to level grows. At first combat annoyed me, the click and wait method really got on my nerves, but around level 20 all these things dissipated and the reward of smack, kill, run away!! Begins to fall into place, mmos reveals the dissonance between a player’s first reaction and the developers over exposure to the game. The combat in ff xiv is really offsetting if you haven’t already played similar games. I will not even begin to discuss the crafting which is just an awful game mechanic that needs to be done away with as quickly as possible, combat has the incentive of being social: parties are fun, strategic: you have to make decisions about which enemies to take on, who to heal, and other questions, and your characters attributes factor highly into their damage output and input. Crafting on the other hand is just a set of menus. I actually just created an autohotkey script that presses enter once every 5 seconds and let it run for 3 hours, this usually nets me about 2 levels in crafting and 99 of whatever thing I am making.

The major lesson mmos teach us is that systems attract game players, the question one should be asking then is, what systems are worth it and why? What mechanics should input and export from the system and why? A lot of the design principles in ff xiv are based off ideas of the real and not so much on fun, using a menu is not fun regardless of how much worth a high level crafter might bring to the game, crafting needs to be a game in itself and not just a bunch of menus off setting to first timers. Addtionally crafting is complicated by necessary items, in gridania for instance a culinarian can create marmot steaks. Marmot steaks require marmot meat and gridania walnuts, two things the forest is full of, however the recipe also requires garlean garlic an item only found far from gridania, hence marmot steak, an item intended for low level culinarians and to buff low-level melee players can not be made until a player has reached the their 20s or 30s. This additionally complicated by an undesirable gathering system that while slightly more interactive and interesting than crafting is still sub-par. A botanist for instance is presented with a simple interface (not even mapped onto the in question) in which they set a notch in the tree and then have to time their button presses to swing as close to the notch as possible, the game breaks all sorts of video game logics, it rarely nets you wood (believe it or not you can get garlic by swinging an axe at a tree), but it also takes a possibly interesting part of the in game economy and boils it down to a mini-game that is less well developed than many prototypes on new grounds.

This brings me to one really nice part of ff xiv: the economy. Ff xiv has a huge crafting economy. All the little trinkets you collect from battles or gathering leves become items sellable at the market wards or craftable if you have the complimentary items. The market wards are still problematic, while asking an npc will search all available items in the wards, npc still compete for space in the wards, but talking to an npc in the main room bring up a search function which shows how much an item just sold for and quantities. I am not sure if it includes all the npcs In the wards, but I believe it does connect you to other npcs. This means that the game supports a rather impressive player driven economy. I find myself buying almost all my gear from the wards because someone high on virtual life just produced the exact staff my conjuror needs and is selling at half the price of npcs, other items though might not be as profitable, cotton for instance is priced at twice it’s npc price because apparently many players don’t know that cotton is sold by npcs at the weaver’s guild in ul’dah. The wards additionally are difficult to access and make little sense in the game’s world (I would prefer to have an npc at a shop that takes down what you’re selling at makes a big searchable list of all the items players are selling in game and let’s you stay in the city you’re in), but square should be complimented for creating a recipe for almost every in game item. The possibilities are amazing and it makes crafting a humanitarian gesture, another player on a quest with me crafted two diremite rings for my conjuror when she saw some of my spells slip. The ability to make items on the fly is cool, it’s just boring.

Crafting only creates desire with in social networks, not by the crafting game itself. Additionally motives of profit or sharing bear down on this menu based sub-game (hint if your item glows red wait, only use careful synthesis when you at 80% and have over 30 durability remaining). We learn to desire crafting by coercion outside of the game itself. I can think of few games I play regularly just to impress others.

Learning to desire with in the limits of an mmo is hard, but once there the space of availability is huge, the character builds diverse, etc. mmo are peculiar Once you get into the game enough to care about your character, the crafting becomes a minuscule, but necessary chore, but you may as well disable the option till you reach at least 20, the game simply isn’t any fun when all you’re doing is menus. Crafting bots for ff xiv exist on the net and can be downloaded easily, but I wrote one in autohotkey in about 10 minutes just using their API, but it does have the disadvantage of producing the same item over and over again something which the game punishes with diminishing exp for each serial item made.

Right now ff xiv is flush with players trying to grind to 30 and get a goobbue mount before the goobbue mount is removed in 1.2.3a because of this I might have come into the game during a grind heavy time instead of a story centric period, I have done two storyline quests with other players and both went the same way. For Imperial Devices you make your way to a remote location in gridania and then your party is granted one hour in the dungeon. The dungeon is beautiful. A swooping cinematic introduces it and then you the actual layout lacks inspiration, but is serviceable as a dungeon. My party included one level 42 gladiator who pummeled us through the mission in o time. I think it would have been more fun with just level 30s, but the final boss is quite hard and really takes a tank. Seeds of Initiative went similarly a level 50 killed the boss for me, however this added on job quest tied into the main storyline perfectly and made sense in the context of the game which furthers adds to my claim that the game is fairly well written. Square has over twenty years experience creating fantasy content, and their writing has improved remarkably since the NES days. However right after an elemental protesting killing in the name of the forest you are given a mission to “take down” an over grown bird in another land, hence non-lethal missions for the white Mage are necessary according to the story line, but chafe with the games combat mechanics. However support classes can definitely play non-lethally and in fact might prosper if you place your attribute points along such a line.

Ff xiv is one of the few games in which the support class is really important and necessary. Once one is attenuated to the game, the actual act of proceeding through dungeons becomes strategical and the conjuror becomes a fairly important class. Less then 28% percent of players choose support as their role hence a good white Mage is in demand. In the game the white Mage has to balance casting and cool down times with estimations of when party members will take damage, and who to prioritize. This is more demanding that it seems and I really loved my time healing other level 30s and sacred prisming into stone skin for my exp party. The game’s supporters will have their hands full mending every scrap, while managing a dwindling mp pool and enemies intelligent enough to go for the healer’s throat. That is once you get past that initial discomfort of click and wait, the oddness of the crafting system, the unfamiliar elements in recipes, the necessary linkshells never explained in a tutorial, the mending and repair systems, the sparse story line, the pressures to help your friends, and all the other desires you become attenuated to in the games initial hours.

Johanthan Blow at a talk at rice university gets into the idea of skinner boxes and creating desire. Desire is certainly created, the mechanisms of desiring machines are various, but the problem with skinner boxes is how they reveal how blatantly desire can be produced. The act of positively reinforcing something causes a subject to desire. Given such a blank state, the ethics of desire comes up. We can for instance create a desiring machine between a child and an interest or between a child and a commercial product. Capitalism often prefers addictions that lead back into consumption and production is often left on the sidelines. If the games that mmos make us play are actually beneficial is a question I struggle to answer. Currently I am incensed that my server is down , I had an entire to do list of crafts and quests to do, but to critique mmos purely off their skinner box like means of producing desire loses the fact that other games attenuate us to tasks that might not be beneficial either. Additionally mmos make their means of producing desire blatant, a player goes away knowing that they were in a way conned into liking something, but the result of all this clicking, waiting, and calculating is a game that’s surprisingly deep and varied. Players have built and rebuilt classes to discover the algorithms behind spells, the effects of leveling, the most efficient means to achieve 50 in a class and the diversity of builds is immense that for parts of the game one must become dependent on others, and that is where the game really shines: in dependency. On one of my linkshells a cat gives me all her food so I can level up my culinarian class, on another I am asking a blacksmith for cooking knives. All of this is so satisfying I don’t find myself wondering to other games, trying other things, yet I do not feel strongly enough to feel overwhelmed. These games crudely produce mechanics that are terribly offsetting to first timers, but grow into emotional worlds and kinships, they became minor tasks in a social order, mmos show us how far we’ll go for friends.


July 28, 2012 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Kawaii feminism

When I made the unfortunate, and rather stupid, decision of moving to Japan I crated all my stuff up in a big box, marked “magic dragon island” on it and then sent it off with my body a few days behind. My beneficiaries in Japan received it, made no mention of it and when I arrived and was promptly fired from my job I left it there to sick to pick it up along with the 80 kilos of luggage I was carrying at the time. In my time in Japan I was consistently told I liked anime. Now, there’s a problem with this comment. I grew up in Houston, home of the anime nerds. We had fan subs before there were fan subs, we had anime shops well probably like a decade after L.A. or something, but we had the internet and me and my younger brother somehow managed to get entire fansubbed libraries of things like Evangelion and Vision of Escaflowne. I loved ‘m. I watched them constantly and the stories of ennui with in, the suffering of these bug eyed folks touched me. I remember somewhere towards the end of an all night barrage of Vision of Escaflowne something snapped and that was it. I was no longer into anime. Haven’t watched a series or dug a single ova since then. That was it, no more anime.

Now humans are sadly complicated things. I love anime design, I really do. School girls, hyper-cute “kawaii” (I believe that is the word) shit is awesome. I love it, but I’m not into anime. The plots don’t grab, the stories don’t move me, I just don’t feel the connection. Convincing Japanese people of this proved impossible. A simple set of stereotypes guided their actions. They could not be swayed, possibly because aggravating someone like me is the whole point. But anyway, years pass by, things trickle under the bridge and along comes Fortune Summoners. A demo on steam of a Japanese bug eyed cutesy all girl, mega-girly game. It’s awesome. Is it as awesome as Princess Maker or the DS dating sims? I don’t know, but the game has ok-ish combat. You unsheathe your sword, up to parry, and take out some slimes. The girl has ambivalent physics, jumps soar you over gaps, but also leave long skids. The game doesn’t control quite right on a mouse and keyboard to my liking, but I have a wii-mote and will try that.

Now did a group of Japanese developers across the pacific have the same experience as me growing up? No, they didn’t. They continued to fascinate over girly books and school girls with magical powers. They continued to dream. Now they apparently make low budget fantasies for trans-gender obsessed geeks. Fortune Summoners reeks of indie production values. It is a niche game in a niche game in which women are not just unspokenly superior, but cram in the hallways of its magical school and venture out to taken on foolish quests by mischievous boys. Bilitis is not a sexual action here, it dictates the very fabric of society. Cuteness becomes a virtue, and our protagonist and her new found friend share an instantaneous bond so deep it might as well be out of an Agnis Varda film. Kawaii feminism runs deep, but is its unspoken pedophilia a notion to the audience’s own unspoken inability to grow up? Does the otaku dig the kids cuz he’s still a kid himself? Maturity requires experiences and geeks, dateless and often friendless, never grow with the same maturity as others. They never learn about tricks and traps as quickly, we’re condemned like Heidegger to always be stepping into fox holes. My point is initial relationships, friendships, the bonds of socializing are often denied to the fan base that makes up a great part of these games. If I’m understanding correctly there are women biologically and culturally assigned to that sex who dig these games, but I feel like for me this is a form of extimacy. The doll like girl is out, the Alice of my dreams she has never had a relationship, never blossomed into sexual maturity, never puked at a party after a guy roofied her, never felt violated by a man (possibly one like me), she is still pure in a way I see myself. Is kawaii for male fans there fore a means of storing femininity outside the self? Is it a wish for a self that missplaced in sexuality goes unfullfilled? And is the fan boys like myself behind forming a kinda kawaii feminism? A sisterhood of the girly things?

Madonna has recently decided to inaugurate two other divas to her stage. Miss Nicki Minaj and Ms M.I.A. are now sharing stage with the sophistication of the material girl. By sophistication, I mean look at the performance in this video. Madonna is well beyond the simple hunks that defend her. M.I.A. is able to command the stage with out sexuality… well for me at least. Her politics and imagination are enough to fill a song.

The lesson behind these two gender performances (Madonna and M.I.A. Miss Minaj I will leave for another day) is that a woman’s politics or self is primary and sexuality secondary. Despite all her prolific eroticism, Madonna always remains aloof from domination, even when she desires. What these women are passing between themselves are dialogues more complex than anything found in kawaii. Having been assigned to women, these three have found jubilation in gender messages that exert a surprisingly hefty weight on the patriarchy (especially in M.I.A.’s case). And what’s with those dancers in the Madonna video? Faded out anime cheerleaders, they exist faceless and slightly creepy especially in the light of three women so articulate and complex. And perhaps that’s the point, nothing in M.I.A.’s performance or Madonna’s suggests that such storehouses of the feminine have anything to do with being a woman.

February 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

The Lulz

The Lulz (iPad autocomplete already contains the phrase Lulz in capitals no less) have become the celebrity hackers that Hollywood will one day throw into our future as the past. They are at times an almost perfect imitation of what hackers from The Wachowskis would act like (google the dudes who made the matrix), in fact the fiction of the hacker, the past Hollywood imagined appears to have infiltrated the present, remember hackers? Remember all those 2600 kids and wanna be 2600 kids like me backorficing each other while over irc arguing on the merits of if or if not hackers actually dressed, acted, or even bore a similarity to the actors in that film?

I do. I also remember a little irc server, set up on the back of a bank’s mainframe, or what the dude claimed was a discarded unix server from a bank, to get on it you just had to know. I was kinda lucky at that time because I was in the rom scene so I had an fserve serving up rooms which i played in slow motion on an ancient Macintosh. It could manage super nes rooms with a little effort. I don’t think my teenage brain ever registered rom hacking as illegal, neither did it occur to me that flash rom carts were just now coming-out and folks were downloading game boy games to game boys, puerto rican sys ops were flirting with 14 year old girls, and we head no idea what the names on the channel that owned the server were up to. Joining the servers other channel was an experience in waiting as the seemingly always on nicks stood there in silence like the arbiters of a kafka story, working their way to some goal far away from the social scene. If you started joking you could stay. Those chatrooms disappeared for me after high school. Computers moved on, games became isos and burnable (I ruined a ps one with an ancient soldiering iron and a mod chip one summer while my mom lived with “friends” between houses) I got einhander to work with out a mod chip and was elated as was I by that square Enix fighting game that I absolutely loved for some reason. My mom’s temporary house came with a big tv and all those lights from square’s games still impress me. The world was abuzz with the dawn glow of the Internet age, anything was piratable, napster and gnutella were downloading music, my college Internet connection introduced me to high speed connections, content was free and piling down the internets like lemmings in the sea. I had video games up to my knees, sega Saturn, dreamcast, psx, neo geo Roms, I played darkstalkers alone in my dorm room, I got a slim sony viao and broke it in a matter of days. The iPod came, and I had music, never used iTunes, I left college, I moved in alone to an apartment. I went broke, I ended up in Asia. That’s when I found the chatrooms again.

The slow decline of life to the everyday is something we all dread. Life doesn’t begin till you’re forty, the Chinese say. My life at thirty was depressing in the extreme, but at least I had made it to semi-stability. That’s when the most ludicrous idea occurred to me, to make video games. I began by starting up my programming lessons again and learning ruby, this naturally lead to JavaScript, to processing, to flash, back to JavaScript, through a little python, back to android sdks aka java, and then today porting a flash project over to ruby. I posted on a million forums and then I ended up in chatrooms. And then the developer conferences, Denver, San Francisco, Shanghai. I met similar illusioned human beings at all of them. In San Francisco at Gdc I was hanging out with two devs from a Chinese mobile phone company when one of them decided to show me something. The dev said he found a room around the corner. We went down one of those paths and out into that city, the tangle of knots impenetrable to security cam, the place where bodies go to disappear, and somewhere on the router we were way back in the metropolis in the part where the chat rooms and the casinos become one. I remember a bar where sys ops went to trade python commands, and another where the Lulz were said to hold unions meetings, but then I saw it, hovering over in space, that impossible feel, the way the ops stood, like marble statues with funny names, and I understood I had been taken back to that room, somehow we had walked into he past the year of the emu when games became physically decoupled from their packages and the companies fought them instead of making them available. It was surreal to see all those games incorporable again, like finding your grandmother’s soul in the attic. We had come from the year of the eshop and arrived at the backbone of internet’s commerce, the first transmission of immaterial goods, lifted from the cardboard and plastic of their origins. Ok I was lying, I couldn’t see the games,but in the room 10 names sat in marble silence. And the Dev said, we found it like this 30 years ago. The silence in the room was startlingly, tangible, the way a white screen worked, and that’s how I learned about the Internet. My best friend , my buddy of twenty years, always there with me.

Well that’s how I remember hackers ending.

June 22, 2011 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

Diary of Woe or the educator’s dream

I am sitting around again tonight solving some basic problems with programming and I was reading this interview with David Foster Wallace, so Mr. Wallace and i am chatting in my head, or more accurately he is giving me advice, “who does it have to be a video game?” he asks and quietly i am of course agreeing, silly me adding to this digital spectacle, but something in what Wallace says, my Wallace not the dead one, presents me with a kinda vision of society I hadn’t been privy to other wise, with out technophilia the u.s. Has no room to grow. If we weren’t in love with ipads, we wouldn’t be purchasing them. Modern literateis growing in spurts, imagine if we valued or saw progressions in language as we value modificstions in chip size, what would we think of colson whitehead’s calm acceptance of the creative life in apex hides the hurt? Would we find in jennifer egan’s recent writing a vertigo of emotion that uses time, subjective time not the type of clock cycles, to push meaning to its edge?

The third twave feminists present a unique vision of feminity (and one that often ignores gender dessent) but one of the things luce irigary argues is that genders can’t be equal, perfect equality just wouldn’t make the thing go. Adam Curtis’ recent documentary all watched over by machinesofi loving grace makes a similar point: our view of nature as balancedis flawed, ecosystem skitteri allover the equality spectrum, life outside of human societyis rarely even. We live in a culture though, or at least i livein a culture perhaps mostly a virtuality propped by my ignorance, that values technological consumption as a virtue, i won’t get into any devils and commodity fetishism, but this is a society very much so balanced on the idea of material goods as to ignore the cultural, immaterial goods such as software are somewhat well paid, while goods such ad maternity or teaching are fairly under valued. This brings me back to Wallace, in our little chat he seems to see no difference between a software engineer and a montessori teacher, and it makes mewonder. Teaching isn’t what those that can’t do as woody allen would have it, rather it is what those that expand empathy to degrees previously unseen, those who squinch and squelter to smplify and reduce ideas, those that try to advance understanding do. At that i see a value init higher than programming,t so much of software is just there to provide consumerism with an easy taget, so much of teaching is to provide people with the opportunities for production. Education grows in leaps and bounds it is merely that new platforms aren’t deployed withthe same vigor as our game consoles, american society should be more abreast on changes in teaching.


June 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


August 2021

Posts by Month

Posts by Category