Posts Tagged ‘Games’

Since my about the author page is a bit lacking at the moment I’m considering adding a bit from this post to it when I get the chance.

In the Myers-Briggs personality classification thing, I am an INTJ. Now people may not put a lot of faith in these sorts of tests, and yes I am a little skeptical myself, but the description they give for INTJ is pretty accurate. Depending on where you go on the web you might get slightly different descriptions of the types, but most of places I’ve read describe INTJ as “system builders” or are in some way interested in systems. Usually examples are given that INTJs are interested in things like computer science, engineering, language, law etc. because those all deal with systems. All those things are quite interesting to me to varying degrees but there is type of system that is the most interesting.

I am of course talking about video game. My favorite games are tend to be A) incredibly complex systems with many different variables to consider,  B) turn based to give me a lot of time to consider what to do and C) the characters you play as grow more powerful and you have some choice in what areas the improve in and what skills they learn and D) a minimal amount of randomness, a little bit is okay but it shouldn’t have any affect in the long run, and victory and defeat shouldn’t ride on random chance.

Now I do like to play games that don’t have these elements but those are the ones that I like the best. It usually leads to a situation where you can “break” the game. This is a situation where a some powerful weapon or armor, or some ability of the player, or some combination of these elements renders the player so powerful that none of the enemies stand a chance. The game is effectively “broken” because you can’t really lose unless you try.

Now some people think a well balanced game shouldn’t ever be “broken” no matter what weapons or abilities you get you should still face a challenge. I disagree, I think breaking the game is the reward for understanding the system. Balancing the game is just a matter of how easy is it to break, not making it impossible to break. If there’s doomsday weapons lying around at the beginning of the game and the game is broken with no effort than it is poorly balanced. But if breaking the game requires using several different abilities together in such a way that only someone who deeply understands the system would think of, that is a better game in my opinion. A game that rewards people for understanding the system, and the better you understand it the more broken it is. While really powerful weapons and armor are nice to put in a game as a reward for some quest, that alone should not be enough to break the game, it should only augment the game breaking strategies that the player comes up with.

Now as I mentioned INTJs are well known for building systems and I have made a few attempts at making games and am continuing to do so, and the games started out simple but are now growing to somewhat interesting level of complexity. As I am making the game I try to go by my own beliefs about what makes a good game, a complex system that rewards people for understanding it. If people come up with some combination of abilities that breaks the game and makes it easy, I wouldn’t be terribly upset, in fact that’s what I want. Although I don’t want it to be too easy to break the game. No single ability should be too powerful, but if people find interesting ways to combine abilities, that’s great.

I would say designing interesting game systems is probably some of the most fun I’ve had, aside from playing in those systems of course. Although I’m not a huge fan of making graphics for the game, or even programming the user interface for that matter. I wish I could just design the rules for the game and nothing else, but the other parts of the game have to be built or no one an play it.

 

The title might make you think this is about educational games, but its not. This is about a far more important question, can game developers force boys and girls to play together nicely? Everything I remember from elementary school says this is an impossible task, but maybe Nival can solve this problem, with their new game Prime World.

Details about this game are scarce, but after visiting several different sites I managed to piece together a fairly decent picture, I like to think. Basically they give males a discount for playing male characters and females a discount for playing female characters, and it connects to facebook to verify the gender. So they “strongly encourage” shall we say, people to play as their own gender, and the characters of different genders will have different abilities, which will encourage people to form teams with characters of both genders.

Now there are a lot of different reasons for people to be against this idea. People play characters of different genders for all sorts of reasons, and having what basically amounts to a penalty for playing as a character of the opposite gender, has upset a lot of people. Since offering player choice should be highest concern of any video game developer I could never support a game that deliberately discourages player choice in this way.

Other than being bad game design its doomed to fail. The first signs of trouble for this plan was that within a couple days of this news being posted on gaming sites, I’ve already seen dozens of comments of people stating their intention to make fake Facebook accounts so they can still get discounts while playing as the opposite gender. If people really don’t want to play with people of different gender they will come up with creative ways to get out of it. I’ve seen children figure out creative ways to avoid the opposite gender and I’m sure teenagers and adults can figure it out as well.

Of there might be some unintended side effects of this policy. Normally when you play online games you don’t really know anyone’s gender for sure, but in this game you know a character’s gender is probably the same as the person’s gender. Expect all sorts of disturbing creeps to flock to this game, and harass girls. I mean, more so than in other online games. I understand creeps harass girls in other online games, but now that the developers have gone out of their way to make everyone’s real gender known to the public, its only going to exacerbate that problem.

Although I will never support this game, and I’m sure they are completely wrong with what they are doing here, I am interested because there is a small chance they might just have some success with their goals of getting boys and girls to play nice together. If this does work, teachers might learn from these game developers. Maybe all assignments that are done in groups, every group that has mixed gender can get an extra 50% on their final mark.

So if there’s any other issues, other than the 0bvious, that creeps and perverts will now harass women because they can’t hide their identities, by pretending to be men, like they sometimes do in other online games. Feel free to leave a comment detailing any other issues you have with this.

No doubt people will read this and disagree. If you do actually like the game I would be interested in what it is that you liked about it. The main reason for writing this is to refute an argument somewhere else. Jeff Dunn from the Escapist has written an article tearing down a straw man argument for why fans don’t like FF13. Get this, the reason fans don’t like it because it tried something new, and didn’t fit into the classic template of final fantasy games.

Now if you’ve ever played more than one game in the  Final Fantasy series this might seem like a pretty odd. Doesn’t every game in the series try new things? Some more than others. Final Fantasy 13 tried more new things than some games and less than others, but on the whole its pretty average in that regard, not some huge paradigm shift the article makes it out to be.

I could list every single game in the series and list the new things they tried, but that would take a long time so I’ll just go over a few games in the series, for more details about Final Fantasy games check out this series of articles I randomly found online, which goes pretty in depth into each game and should give you a better idea of how each and every game was unique ans tried things never done before in Final Fantasy.

Well I should start with FF2. Right from the start they were trying things not done in the first game. Gone were the set classes and instead every character could use every weapon and use every spell. And instead of just gaining experience and leveling up, each stat leveled up on its own. The more you used magic the better you got at magic. The more you used physical attacks the better you at physical attacks. and so on. Although they had some similarities the differences led to a very different experience in the first 2 Final Fantasies.

Final Fantasy 4 was the first game in the series where the player had no control over the abilities of the characters. In 1 and 3 you could choose the classes of the characters, and in 2 there where no classes but you decided which spells the characters learned. Taking all the control out of the players hands was a significant change, but its overshadowed by the real game changer of FF4, the active time battle system. No longer could you just wait around all day to decide what to do on your turn, now enemies would continue to attack you. The ATB system would be a part of every final fantasy in the main series form then on, with the exception of 10. Even though 12 and 13 have made some changes to the battle system its still based on the ATB system at its core. Final Fantasy 4 was a greater paradigm shift than anything 13 has to offer.

And what about Final Fantasy 8? Most people either love it or hate it, because it had a lot of really strange changes. Like 13 there is no MP. You have to first draw magic from enemies or special draw points, which will give you a stock of magic to cast later on. Or you could junction magic to your stats to increase them, with different spells increasing stats by different amounts. It was really weird. And you could summon GFs which are basically comparable to summons/eidolons/espers in other Final Fantasy games. However rather than just being instantly summoned and doing damage like in previous games,  it would take some time to summon and while this was happening, the GFs could be attacked and even killed.

And another change is the stripped down equipment in FF8. There is a lot of variance in the equipment in the series. Some games let you have helmets, body armor, gloves, boots etc. Some only let you have a single slot for armor and one for weapon, and maybe an accessory. FF8 was the most stripped down with no armor at all or accessories, and only a weapon. You couldn’t buy new weapons but you could upgrade them if you had the right parts and found the magazine that tells you how to make it.

And really this wouldn’t be complete complete without mentioning FF12. No more battle screen where your guys stand on one side and the enemies stand on the other and you take turns walking over to attack them and then running back to your own side. No this game you fought monsters right in the dungeons with no transition to a battle screen, and you could move you character around during the battle. Some attacks had an area of effect, so where your characters where standing could make a difference. I mean FF12 was a far greater departure from the supposed Final Fantasy template than 13.

So that pretty much destroys the straw man that fans hated FF13 just because it tried new things. I don’t know what sort of template he thinks Final Fantasy games fit into but if it includes games as diverse as FFs 4, 8, and 12, then it must be broad enough to include FF13 as well. It just so happened that the new things they tried in this game mostly sucked. But before I get into that I should mention one change in the game that I did like. There is no MP for using magic in this game. There is an ATB gauge that fills up as in most previous games but its divided into several sections, and more powerful actions take more sections of the ATB gauge. So basically you have to wait longer for powerful actions. Its a new twist on the classic ATB system and I thought it was pretty interesting. So much for hating things just because  they’re different.

Now lets get into some problems. The straight line dungeons of course being they main issue people complained about. Unfortunately this problem has been a long time coming. Way back in the playstation era FF7 had far shorter and more linear dungeons than previous games. It wasn’t quite as bad as the later games and there was still a world map in between dungeons and towns to give some sense of exploration, but anyone who played the older FFs would notice a huge difference in the complexity of dungeons in FF7.

The problem got worse in FF10 when the world map was done away with entirely and all you had to explore was the dungeons, which were shifting to be a bit more linear. Really, FF13 is only a little bit worse than FF10 in terms of linear level design. Its not some huge paradigm shift its just a trend started in the PS1 era finally brought to its ugly conclusion.

So what other changes were made? Well buying items is basically meaningless. Stocking up on items doesn’t have the same impact as it did in previous games. There are far fewer items, and since you get restored to perfect condition after each battle, the items you do get are basically superfluous. Generally in FFs preparation is more than half the battle. With the exception of a few bosses you can skate through the games pretty easily as long as you are prepared, with the right items and equipment. The preparation aspect is completely destroyed in FF13. That alone wouldn’t be so bad if there was some areas of the game that were actually interesting, but there aren’t.

The combat is hopelessly dull, where you can autobattle most of the time and win without thinking. Any enemies that are tough enough where you have to spend some effort are only interesting the first time, and once you figure out how to beat them, its the same every time. Now you might say the previous Final Fantasy had repetitive battles, and you’d be right. The difference is that previous games the battles slowly wore you down. You tolerated the repetitiveness because it wasn’t about the individual battles, but about preparation and endurance. Now the only reason for the battles is gone, and they are just an annoyance that will never have a chance at defeating you.

This is turning out to be a lot longer than I expected and I could just go on and on, but this might go quicker with a quote from Sid Meier, “A game is a series of interesting choices.” So what are the interesting choices in FF13? There really aren’t any. This isn’t some new direction for the series to go, the combat is still built around the ATB system, and it has only minor differences from previous games. The only difference is that they stripped out all the interesting choices. No exploration, no wandering around towns talking to NPCs, and stockpiling items to prepare for a dungeon, no conversation choices, extremely limited choices in battle and in most cases autobattle is the ideal choice anyway. The leveling system is basically the sphere grid from FF10 only less interesting and more restrictive, which I scarcely thought possible.

I’m not one of those people who hated Fallout 3 because it was an FPS rather than a turn based RPG. If Square-Enix wanted to make some completely different gameplay for FF13 it may have pissed a few people off but me and plenty of others would have been happy with it if it actually had interesting gameplay. It did not do anything new, its just a stripped down version of the final fantasy core mechanics, and what was left had no interesting decisions. If they want to make a more streamlined game, okay I’ll give it a shot, but they’ve got to give me something, anything. Some aspect of the game has to have interesting choices.

Sequels are very hard to do right. Looking at games like Fallout 3 or DragonAge 2, its obvious that changing too much will seriously piss off the fans of the original. The most notable exception being Final Fantasy, which is the only series that has an overhaul of the main mechanics, as well as brand new setting and character, in every single game, and people still accuse it of doing the same thing over and over again. Aside from that notable excpetion, the general rule is if you mess around with core gameplay too much people will be pissed.

DeadSpace 2 is pretty much the best that can be hoped for in an environment hostile to change. The gameplay is pretty much the same, everything that was in the old game is still here. It also adds a few new guns, a few new enemies, and of course new levels to explore. Of all the new enemies that they added the most shocking is probably exploding babies. It’s just so edgy. The worst part is that they don’t even drop ammo like all the other enemies do.

The gameplay, like the first DeadSpace, is quite similar to Resident Evil 4 or 5. The main difference being that you can still walk while aiming a gun. Another thing that really sets it apart is that you have to cut of the limbs to kill the enemies. For this reason, the line gun is one of my most used weapons. its available fairly early in the game, and it can hurt two limbs at a time.

I didn’t have the luxury of buying all the weapons in the game, maybe cause I was spending my money on stupid things like ammo and health, so the only new weapon that I tried out on the first playthrough is the javelin gun. Its primary fire is incredibly powerful, and was invaluable for killing the final boss quickly. It secondary fire causes an electric shock of surrounding the place where you just fired a primary shot. I often use this to take out crowds of weak enemies, but it is also useful for taking down stronger enemies. No doubt the expensive weapons I didn’t buy were incredibly awesome and would have made the game much easier.

A pretty big difference between DeadSpace 2 and the first one are the zero gravity areas. In the first DeadSpace, in the zero g rooms you could look at the walls and ceiling, and press a button to jump between them. But no matter what you were always restricted to moving along the floor, walls and ceiling. In this game you can actually float around the whole space of the room, so its much more interesting to have real zero g battles

People who are used to regenerating health may find this game frustrating because it doesn’t have regenerating health and you have to consume items to get your health back. I played on normal difficulty and even I was starting to get frustrated by the last couple chapters. They really pile on the bullshit, with an invincible regenerating enemy that you have to run from, while still killing the regular enemies in the path ahead.

Aside from a few frustrations late in the game it was overall a good game I think. The same solid gameplay mechanics of the first with a few new things added to keep it interesting. If you were a fan of the first game, or a fan of similar games, you should definitely check it out.

Well its been awhile but I finally added in the final boss for the prototype. After you beat him you can talk to everyone in the game, to read the new stuff they have to say, and then you can leave the city finally. Those of you new to the prototypes can use WASD or arrow keys to move the character to the sign marked help, for detailed instructions on how to play.

here it is

And now what to do next. Based on feedback I can try to balance the difficulty better, as well as fix bugs, and maybe add sound someday, but aside from minor changes, this is pretty much the final form of the game. I’ve been thinking about making a turn based strategy game, since I like the slower pace of turn based games. I’m thinking of some rules for the game, and I’ll have to see if I can implement them in game maker. Should have an update on that in a few days.

If you’re new to my game prototypes just use WASD or arrow keys to move to the sign that says help for instructions on how to play. People who have played before may want to check out the instructions as well, cause a few new things have been added. Most notable change is that the I button toggles invincible mode which makes it easier to skip stuff you’ve played in one of my previous prototypes. Honor system, only use it to skip something you’ve already beaten.

Here it is.

Make sure to mention any bugs, or difficulties in the game, so I can address them.

And you might be wondering why it skips from prototype 7 to prototype 9. Wormholes have something to do with it.

The inspiration for this post comes from a comments over at JPH’s blog. So the he’s talking a lot about Dungeon Siege 3 demo, most of which is unrelated to the point I’m making. The main thing is that the game has a minimap but it doesn’t have a real map, but if you press R it will show a glowing path to your destination. Apparently this idea isn’t new, and can be traced back to Fable 2. Taking away the map was a design decision to make the game more intuitive.

I’ve got a great idea to make a really intuitive game. Make the game a single button press. The game goes something like this, 10 minute opening cutscene, a single button press to punch a guy in the face, and another 10 minute cutscene, followed by credits. That’s so intuitive anyone can play. No need for counter-intuitive things like maps, inventory, dialogue trees,  combat mechanics, or anything else that might make people’s heads hurt.

Sarcasm aside, are we really at the point where looking at a map  to figure out where to go next is too hard? I guess it takes the absolute genius of Visceral Games to have a button activated glowing path, and a map, in the same game. Last time I checked nobody is compelled to look at a map just cause it’s in the game, so including a map shouldn’t bother people just cause its not intuitive.

Basically your choices are to wander around with no direction if you want to explore, or go exactly where the next mission objective is. The cool thing about a map is that you can look at it and decide where to go, and figure out how to get there. Some games like Grand Theft Auto, let you choose a place on the map and it gives you a short path there on your minimap. Instead of a path that goes where the game designer wants you to go, you can have a path that goes where you want to go.

Obviously things like deciding where to go, and player choice, are far too complicated for players to handle, so its probably best to get rid of those things, in exchange for a more intuitive game.