Posts tagged ‘design’

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.

July 28, 2014 at 1:57 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

Design journals for this week

uncharted: golden abyss Miyamoto once mentioned that their competitors wanted to make film: Naughty Dog does. Uncharted is a film. It’s full of love able characters, small set pieces, a shooty cover game, and a rock climbing game. However cover based shooters: done them before. Climbing games: loved the focus of Prince of Persia. That becomes Uncharted’s main problem. Where a series like Gears of Wars can do cinematics, but excel at gameplay Uncharted cranks up the character button, doubles down on suspense, and forgets about gameplay. I might not finish it before my ps plus membership ends, and I man not so sure it really matters. The primary reason I keep playing is to experience a story. A well characterized one.
rayman: legends Have now unlocked almost every level. And now the game becomes a check in everyday for lums and daily challenge fest. The remixed music levels essentially ask you to play blind which is not a bad idea because you are playing to the beat. I enjoyed the game a lot, but I am not so sure why the game needs to be endless. Part of what makes these games fun is the mastery of a finite challenge. It’s the infinity in details, the possibility in level design that makes platformers come back for me. Leaderboards should globally clock complete times for levels. That said the challenge levels aren’t bad and do a good job of introducing you to a global score system.
strikers: 1945 An old Psiyko release which has been sitting around my vita for a bit. At first it was to fast for me,mthe psp visuals are reduced to a small black bordered box on the vita, but it keeps growing for some reason. I still can’t adjust to the danmaku sufficiently to not be credit feeding the machine, which means Psiyko’s strategy (which I am told is agreession) eludes me. What I like about the game is that the bomb system works as a piece of cover, you call in your squad and they take flack for you for a bit. The result is some serious strategic moments of gameplay. The difference in the ships’ abilities is also refreshing.

April 26, 2014 at 11:05 pm 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

Bad Games: Steam Trading Cards / Guardian Cross

Villian had begun to simply leave the games open. “Sell them immediately,” he told me. jas concurred. In the second day of the Steam sale they discovered Steam Trading cards, a new currency Valve has introduced that sounds odious on paper. Cards work like this: you open a game and let it sit there. Every half hour you get a new card. The cards are worth 0.40 to 0.12 u.s. cents. The wages of play are low. The case gets worse when you look at the trading card’s FAQ: be sure to login in every week to be eligible for boosters, the FAQ advises. So not only do we need to play more games for puny material rewards, we need to use steam weekly to qualify for more cards. The problem is, the system works fine when you’re actually playing a game. I opened Dust: An Elysian Tale as my first trading card game and immediately got engrossed. Every hour or so a new card would pop up in my inventory. The cards were carefully made, the art work expressive and exactly like the thing on collectible trading games in my youth. The promotion worked in other words, instead of sitting there waiting on cards, I played Dust for a few hours. Trading Cards are only available in certain games, but they work as a reason to open games. You are rewarded with a nice piece of artwork and the possibility of netting a u.s. quarter in profit for doing so. The cards are then in turn grindable for experience points on your steam profile. Get to a higher level receive rarer cards. My level was already well above many other players, I have the 8 years of service badge and numerous holiday sales behind me.

The gamification of Steam, the way it has become a RPG is questionable. Gamification often makes Things competitive that shouldn’t be. Karma fishers (I am one btw) race to get their links on reddit before others do. Particularly avaricious fishers down vote other Fisher’s links and often triple post links to several reddit’s to score better. Both of the later behaviors I do not engage in. Points systems are great, but introduce stress in places we go to relax and converse in. In the case of stackoverflow teenagers racing for guru status in a particular nerdy field often troll each other just to gain an advantage in status or merely take out deep seated frustrations. Long before quantization became a norm, delicious made links… Delicious, I loved posting to it as much as I enjoy the new followers on my blog. The problem with Steam’s exp is that it doesn’t seem to introduce anything: reddit at least encourages timely link drops while sadly degrading conversation with fishers looking to score high points in comment threads. In other words points encourage better coverage of the net outside of reddit while making conversing inside of reddit less tenable. Steam exp can do something worse: it can inspire game gluttony and completely enjoyable stings of literally watching a menu screen for nothing more than 0.15 cent card drop.

As it turns out Dust: An Elysian Tale is far more than I anticipated. The combat is breezy, but the three enemy types require strategies to get through and the story line picks up amazingly well around chapter 2. Questions of ethics and genocide, of situational violence and the greater good come to the fore. It’s a really well done game with a very well rounded ethical compass. The only problem is, I wasn’t really playing Dust: An Elysian tail I was playing Steam Trading Cards. You see, steam only allows you to collect half of the cards required for a badge from a game by playing the game. The other cards need to come from different games. In order to complete my mission and try out these new badges I had to get out of an engrossing platformer just opening up to a dimension most games don’t touch and get into another game.

As I said Steam Trading Cards is an advertisement, it promotes playing through a multitude of games. Most of these games I already own. In order to get my Dust badge I needed to sell cards acquired from other games in a marketplace and then turn them into the cards I required. This turned out to be a 6 hour affair. I opened The Binding of Issac and sacrificed my badge in that game and almost four of my life in order to shift 4 more cards out of that. The gave me enough for 1 or 2 more cards for Dust. I like The Blinding of Isaac, but I have to admit, I really just wanted to play Dust. Isaac expended I moved onto Monaco. Now Monaco is not a game I enjoy and even worse all my progress had been lost in an update that enforces online play. I struggled through Monaco, but ultimately left it and Isaac running on the PC while I went out and paid bills and ate dinner etc. promotion avoided, I got the cards and didn’t even play the game. What’s worse is that the game I was playing was the most heinous of con jobs, it incentives spending time with media I would rather not consume while discouraging you from using any other service except Steam for long periods of time. Ludology needs ethics, capitalism needs more than trade laws and bankruptcy courts: it needs a moral conscience. Steam Cards work great as a reward for playing media you enjoy playing. Really, I wish I still had my fidget card as a memento of my play through, but their design also degrades the practice of games while turning a game into time sink, players simply open an application and wait on money to come through. As a game it subverts the practice of gaming, and me more skeptical of digital marketplaces as a whole. It also turns out my friends list is now limited, expandable only by grinding a useless quest unless I happen to like trading card enabled games. Yet we see these games so often now. On iOS Square-Enix had turned Hiroyuki Ito from a game designer into a cash machine.

Ito was the director of Final Fantasy 9, the game that in many ways Introduced jrpgs to the more serious plots and writing that mark Final Fantasy today. He did this by directing a game that had great characterization, all of the characters were enjoyable to interact with and their role well realized. He did the Sam thing win Final Fantasy 12. Both games made us aware of what it’s like to care for digital characters and then made this link part of a slice of atmosphere miles long in length. Ito is a master of intention, his characters inhabit real understandable states, they are relatable and often down trodden, their worlds are perfect simulacrum of our own presumptions of what a fantasy world should be, he gives us what we want with out the power fantasies that usually permeate gaming, although his games do build into power trips eventually. What makes this situation devastating is that Ito’s last game is Guardian Cross, a pay to play iOS title that nickels and dimes you at every turn. You have lose 5 points per battle, gaining 3 of you win. When you run out of points, you need to purchase more. The game is based on cards (again cards!) that you must squire from a shooting range. The gun game is so rudimentary it almost feels like a budget hunting sim. In addition to this, the hunts are also limited, you need to pay for them too eventually. Graphically the game has the production values of third rate Church booklet. It looks like a piece of crappy propoganda more than the exaggerated details of his previous games.

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Ito is clearly being under utilized, and seeing his work being degraded to this stature is alarming in the extreme. The artwork on the cards though is beautiful.

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Cards are not gaming’s oldest medium and the simplified combat system in Guardian Cross is sickening. However trading cards are a more recent medium. Wikipedia claims trading cards came about in the 19th century and then picked up popularity in the 1950s with Topps trading cards. Trading Cards hold literally no intrinsic value. They are an abstract commodity, like money, reliant on a group of users who assign value to them. In the case of sports cards value is often determined by performance of player although personal preference comes into play too. In the case of purely made up cards like the Garbage Pail Kids, they are simply collectible because they work as miniature artwork. In a country such as America that lacks pronounced art galleries, they work as a totem for children to trade in for their image needs. Cards have artificial rarities, Topps trading cards makes sure that some cards are rare, foil, common, etc. their artificial scarcity makes them desirable. Yet, despite this asymmetry, despite the fact we could easily produce a more lenient and less competitive world of trading cards where consumers can just buy the cards they desire, we continue to buy into an artificial market that scars us, rewards us, and disappoints us. What we want is winners, but we all agree to be regular losers in order to do so. Asymmetrical markets, scarcity, and inequality are part of the discourse of these markets. trading cards are a cruel world, but the exact hell we desire. If they are anything to go by, we’ll be designing games with even more punishing systems of control, with scarcity that truly envelops entire wholes, with the exact necessary cruelty we all seek to produce by purchasing them.

July 20, 2013 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment


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