Learning Game Design

with Arcade Berg

Posts Tagged ‘gaming

SSF2THDR reviews

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Finally Capcom’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is within reach! Being one of the best fighting-games ever I’ve been looking forward to its remake since the first announcement. IGN.com (available 23/11-08) has finally released a review of the game and they like it; thank god.

http://ps3.ign.com/articles/932/932390p1.html (available 23/11-08)

David Sirlin, the lead designer of the game got some really interesting stuff to read on his website about the game. It’s about how he rebalanced it but the good thing is that he motivates his decisions and talks about the process. I’m guessing his writing is much more rewarding to read if you’re already a Street Fighter-fan, so you know what he’s referring to when talking about FIreballs and Dragon Punch.

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/street-fighter-mini-site.html

If you’re an aspiring game designer with interest in Fighting-games; read it!

Can you be more badass than Blanka?

Can you be more badass than Blanka?

Written by Arcade

November 23, 2008 at 11:56 am

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Am I left 2 die?

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Left 4 Dead by Valve seems to be THE game right now.

For a few days now, I constantly get pop-up messages from Steam saying “[Nick] is playing Left 4 Dead”. People at work play it during the lunch breaks. The reviews are all giving it good grades with an average of 88,4% right now at Gamerankings.com (21/11-08) for PC and 88.5% for the 360.

So here’s my question: What’s the big deal?

I tried out the demo for both the PC and 360, I’ve tried to play it single-player and multi-player, with headphones and 5.1 surround but I still don’t see why people are so hooked.

It’s not a bad game at all. Its quality in the production is noticable high as expected when it comes to Valve.  I’m guessing the name Valve earns some addition to sales alone.

I had two problems with the game:

1. The environments are boring. Maybe the game is in some way a technical achievement, I don’t know but the levels feel sterile, empty and not exciting at all. I hear many people argue that it doesn’t matter because they’re too busy looking at the zombies running at you but I disagree. I looked at them (and that’s in no way a level design-injury) because there is nothing else to look at when there aren’t any zombies around. (Yes there are moments like that.)

But that’s all a small issue, I’m personally all about the gameplay and play a game no matter how freakishly ugly it is if the gameplay is fun. Which leads us to the next thing…

2. The game’s feel is for me… Hollow. I keep shooting zombies and when they’re dead I think: “So they’re dead. Now what?” I don’t feel an army of endorphins running trough my system. Actually, I don’t feel many of them at all. And the ones I do feel are kind of slow and seems to be limping. If the game doesn’t make me feel good for shooting the undead, then the zombie-shooter is a failure in my book.

Too bad really. I was really looking forward to the game, mostly for the co-op but I’m afraid I’ll let this one pass.

 

Left 4 Dead by Valve

Left 4 Dead by Valve

Written by Arcade

November 21, 2008 at 7:31 pm

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Bunker – Aced

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Yes! I finally aced the Bunker level in LittleBigPlanet. Probably took me 3-4 hours and one play-through of the level is no more than 10 minutes… All I got was a crappy helmet.

Written by Arcade

November 18, 2008 at 10:34 pm

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Reason of absence

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So uhm… I haven’t posted anything in a while and I’m not sure my excuse is adequate. For the last week and a half, pretty much all I’ve been doing except from work is gaming.

Usually, I don’t game that much because of lack of time. But really, this fall is too good to pass up. I figured there is a part of the 24h-cycle I haven’t fully made use of; the night. So listen to my symphony of the night! I’ve stocked up on energy drinks and when I get tired I’ll drink some. Of course, this isn’t a valid method for long but right now I have both Fallout 3 and LittleBigPlanet so drastic measures are needed.

Though, let it be heard that I haven’t forgot about the blog! I’ve secretly been writing on a couple of posts (one on graphics and one on the “magic circle”) and shortly I’ll post my thoughts (not reviews!) on Fallout 3 as well as the happiest game in a long time; LittleBigPlanet.

Oh, one more thing! I just gotta share this with you guys because I laughed out loud at the office while watching this. (Not that I watch YouTube at work! … I saw it on Gametrailers…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpzAAgtZ7V4 (avalible 14/11-08)

Written by Arcade

November 14, 2008 at 6:09 pm

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LittleBigPlanet – First Impression

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LittleBigPlanet, the game with a following resembling a religious cult in which I’ve been a member since the early days.

The game finally had its european release today but I was fortunate enough to have it waiting for me with the rest of my snail-mail when I got home from work.

I played for about 4 hours yesterday before going to bed. Unfortunately the servers were all down for maintanance so I didn’t get a chance to try out any of the online features or any kind of multiplayer.

Of course, after all the hype and all my intense daydreaming the first 20 minutes or so wasn’t “all that”. It felt great, for sure, but it wasn’t the naïve religious-like extatic super wow-feeling I somehow had come to expect. But it grew on me, in less than an hour I was completely sold.

The moon-landing physics when moving around felt a bit weird at first but once I got used to it, it worked like a charm.

I still haven’t tried and built anything so I can’t comment on it except to say that it fear that it’ll feel a bit tedious to use the pop-it menu.

I’ll be gone for the weekend so I won’t have the chance to play it more untill next week or maybe sunday night, but once I’ve tried out the level building tools, the community and of course the local and online multiplayer I’ll let y’all know what I think.

Problem is… I still haven’t finished Fallout 3 either. So little time…

Oh, by the way! Right now my Sackboy looks totally rad in his giant sombrero and long manly moustache!

Written by Arcade

November 7, 2008 at 5:50 pm

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Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

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Last week Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia from Konami showed up for the DS. I’m about 5 hours into the game and I think it’s great!

It’s well adapted for the Nintendo DS plattform by allowing for very short play sessions without leaving the playe unsatisified and annoyed which I feel is the case in many DS-games. I mostly play it on the bus to and from work and sometimes during the lunch and that’s about it.

Making me feel that it’s okay to spent that little time per play session is a fantastic acclompishment and something that shows that when done right; handheld gaming can be great fun! I often feel that handheld games still require me to invest a lot of time per session if I am to get something from it.

The controls in this Castlevania is just like all the other in the 2D-series after Symphony of the Night (which by the way still is THE best Castlevania game and should be purchased by all via XBLA or PSN) and it’s just as responsive as ever. If I die, it’s because I screw up; just like in the Megaman franchise. Personally I’m very happy that they don’t require the player to use the stylus or touch screen at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the touch screen. I absolutely love Nintendo’s Kirby: Power Paintbrush (aka. Kirby: Canvas Curse, aka. Touch! Kirby). In fact, it’s one of my favorite games for the DS. However I don’t like it when I’m required to change my grip on the console, going from a “classic” D-pad + face button grip to a stylus grip like they do in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.

The bosses seem as far into the game as I gotten have been tremendously hard untill I figure out a good tactic after which I can overcome the obstacle with great success. The challenge overall can seem a bit too much for casual players but then again, Castlevania has never aimed to please them anyway. For Castlevania-fans, such as myself the difficulty is just about right and quite similar to the previous games.

And the art, oh, the art! The game is beautiful! As always with the series, the sprites are wonderfully animated and there is never a “cheap trick” to it. If you’re wearing a rapier in your left hand and a mace in the right, you can be damn sure that’s how it’s gonna look in the game when Shanoa (the game’s avatar) starts bashing away.

If I could play this game on my TV instead, I would.

The downside of the game for me is for one the monotomous sound effects that after a while can get a bit annoying but at the same time, it’s pretty much the same effects they’ve been using for several games now so it’s pretty charming.  That is however no excuse.

If you’re a Castlevania-fan, odds are that you’re already well aware of this game and need to hear nothing more. However, if you’re just a gamer looking for a good DS-game I’d highly recommend this. It’s not for everyone but I think you at least should check it out, it’s worth that much.

What I want now is a new great 2D Castlevania-game for the PS3 and/or Xbox 360!

 

Box art

Box art

An early boss fight

An early boss fight

Shanoa; the protagonist

Shanoa; the protagonist

Written by Arcade

November 4, 2008 at 8:51 pm

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Achievements

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I have 167 Achievements and 2830 Gamerscore on my Xbox Live account.

I have 13 Trophies making me a level 2 user on my Playstation Network account.

I have 15 achievements from Team Fortress 2 on my Steam account.

Achievements ruin the fun and freedom of playing for some, including me.

I’m not saying a game is bad simply because of achievements. I’m merely of the opinion that achievements aren’t a good thing per default. They can be used as a powerful tool to enhance games but unfortunately it’s a double edged sword and I don’t think everyone is wielding it just right.

I’m not offering a solution for this. All I do is trying to define some of the problems while also noting some of the positive aspects as well.

The word

The phenomena of which I speak, the “achievements” has many different names depending on the community. Being it Achievements by Microsoft or Trophies by Sony, the fact remains that they are all the same thing; a pseudo-trophy of accomplishing something in a game that is predefined by the developers. The trophy is then connected to your registered profile of the present community.

In this text I’ll continuously use the term “achievement” as a union of all different communities reward-term.

Player Types

Richard Bartle writes in HEARTS, CLUBS, DIAMONDS, SPADES: PLAYERS WHO SUIT MUDS (http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm, available 29/10-2008) about four different kinds of players. His text and classification of players are focused on playing MUD; the types however are applicable on many kinds of games. The text is also used in several Computer Game Development educations, the one I studied being one of them.

The player types are Explorers, Socialisers, Killers and Achievers. I think what I’m about to present is mostly valid for the last one; Achievers.

Achievers regard points-gathering and rising in levels as their main goal, and all is ultimately subserviant to this. Exploration is necessary only to find new sources of treasure, or improved ways of wringing points from it. Socialising is a relaxing method of discovering what other players know about the business of accumulating points, that their knowledge can be applied to the task of gaining riches. Killing is only necessary to eliminate rivals or people who get in the way, or to gain vast amounts of points (if points are awarded for killing other players).

          Richard Bartle

One important thing to note if you haven’t and will not read Bartle’s text is that a player is seldom 100% of anything. It’s an interest graph in which each player is leaning one way or another.

Playing for rewards

What is the goal when playing?

When playing, you want to play in the “most rewarding” way. Especially achievers. What rewarding means goes from having fun to acquiring achievements and Gamerscore. Achievements are just meta score that doesn’t really mean anything except for self confirmation, aka. E-penis.

Simply put, E-penis is a measure of how much power you have on the internets. E-penis can be from power from controlling a BBS, chat room, ISP, live journal, message board, website, or wiki. It can come from being powerful in a game (whether from wasting their life away to gain skill or by cheating). It can also be from the old-fashioned past-time of mailbombing; maybe even Denial of Service attacks over IRC (large scale DoS get you sent to prison). Pretty much, the larger your E-penis is, the less you’re really worth in real life. TRUTH.

          Encyclopedia Dramatica
http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/E-penis, available 29/10-2008

Okay, so maybe that quote is a bit extreme but you get the point.

The most rewarding way of playing is for some the way that gives me the most achievements. Let’s use the term achievers for this kind of player.

Another thing that makes the meta scores lose some of it’s’ value is due to the increasing amount of different achievement communities. Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Steam and Blizzard; for each new player base that initiate an achievement system all the other are affected in something very much like inflation.

The E-penis Utopia would be if all games were to share one system. But then again, not all games have achievements. I believe Sony has made a bunch of Playstation 3 owners grumpy about this.

The Problem

And here comes the problem with achievements, they direct the way you play the game. The keyword here is being restriction.

Normally you can’t get all the achievements in a game by “simply playing it”.

Take Bioware’s Mass Effect for the 360 as an example. There is an achievements for gaining enough Paragon points (gained by playing as “good”) and another for gaining enough Renegade points (gained by playing as “evil”).

Now, when I played through Mass Effect I started playing as a Renegade doing things my way, the badass way. I started fights, I insulted people, I stole and I slaughtered. Heck, I even committed genocide. My Renegade points just kept coming but a bit into the game the “Should I solve this the “good” or the “evil” way?”-dilemma was gone for me. Since I knew there was an achievement for gaining enough Renegade points, I kept choosing the “evil” way of playing at every opportunity I got. If I were to choose a Paragon-approach I would all of a sudden work against getting the achievement, since I figured you can’t get both in one play-through.

In Mass Effect there is also achievements for defeating X enemies with a Sniper Rifle, another for defeating Y enemies with Tech Ability Thingymabob, another for defeating Z enemies with Biotic Ability Watchamacallit and so on…

The problem? “Forced” play-style.

My character became a great sniper early on in the game as it was the weapon I felt most comfortable with. Unfortunately after a while I got the “Sniper Achievement” and thereafter I felt I shouldn’t use the Sniper Rifle anymore (except during hard sections where I simply had to ignore the achievement urge) because there was no “reward” by doing so in comparison to other weapons in my inventory. Therefore I started using pistols, shotguns and assault rifles instead, even though I often felt some of them being of very little use compared to my beautiful long-distance-one-shot-one-kill-divine-sniper-rifle-of-gorgeousness!

Is Achievements a selling point?

At the time this is written; tomorrow is the release-day for Bethesda’s Fallout 3. I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition a while back. I just can’t resist the bubble-head Pipboy! I knew I didn’t want to order it for the PC because I prefer playing in the couch with a controller staring at my TV but there was still the decision of whether I should get it to the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3.

I finally decided on the 360-version because of the promised exclusive downloadable content being released for PC and 360 and not Playstation. If it weren’t for that I’d gone with the PS3-version due to the fact that I then wouldn’t have to bestow the achievements a single ounce of consideration. In short: the gaming experience wouldn’t be affected.

Let’s just hope that Bethesda’s isn’t mean to me and that I can have some self control and just ignore the achievements and play the game for what it is alone.

I can’t deny that these meta scores are a success. A lot of people choose the 360-version over the PS3-version for multi platform games because of the achievements. I don’t. I’m kind of the opposite.

It aint all bad

But let’s not get all depressed about achievements now. As mentioned before, they can be used as a tool of good as well!

Achievements can enhance gameplay or at least replayability by a great extent.

I have finished EA’s Army of Two four times, once with the A.I. and the rest with three different friends. More than just playing on different difficulties I also found some extra enjoyment in earning some of the achievements by, just as in Mass Effect, defeating enemies with weapon X, Y and Z, using the shield-bash technique, etc.

I know this is in a way a contradiction to what I’ve previously stated. Why am I enjoying it when I hated it a few paragraphs ago? I think I’m excused because I (and many others) don’t usually play through the same game four times. I gained these extra achievements mainly thanks to the amount of time dedicated to the game.

How it should be used

If there are to be achievements, I’d rather see progress based and game mode encouraging only.

Progress based achievement is a great kind feat for a reward; the motivator for playing some more is still there. I want to play more, to get more achievements. It’s the same psychological urge for getting confirmation of my worth, but it doesn’t dictate how I should play except for “more”.

If we only use only progress based, I can still brag.

”I’ve finished more games than you.”

“I got more score than you.”

But it only means I’ve progressed more in games. Not that I’ve played according to the game designers whim. I can still progress my score, I can still “level up”. My e-penis still grows.

In addition to progress based I think achievements that promote trying out all the game modes in a game are great! Cheering the player to try out the Multi-Player mode in an otherwise Single-Player game, perform a race in Time Trial Play in a tournament racing game and so on. Requiring the player to win a match online is also fair enough as long as the achievement doesn’t dictate pre-requisites of winning. “Win 20 online games”, sounds good enough. “Win 20 online games utilizing only the knife” is bad.

Why can’t I just don’t care?

Some might say I’m just silly, since you can just discard the scores all together, but somehow I find it difficult to do.

I want to play for fun!

Written by Arcade

October 29, 2008 at 11:00 pm

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