Heavy Rain is doing really well in the reviews. I haven't actually read any of them, but Metacritic is my friend at times.
Nor have I played the entire game, only the demo but that's enough for me to discuss one thing.
The other day I was talking to a friend who'd just tried out the Heavy Rain demo on PSN and he said he really liked it. He said he liked that it seems like the game has a ton of story and that he really enjoyed the gameplay.
I agree about the story part, but the gameplay? Come on!?
During the entire demo, I rarely ever knew what I was doing untill afterwards, when it was already done.
Okay, I'm guessing and hoping this is something that has been discussed already in... Every review, but if it is, why is the game scoring so incredibly high? It's at 88/100 right now.
Let me explain. In the game, a bunch of different commands pop up on the screen. A normal situation in the game might offer you these options:
- Pull your right stick right.
- Pull your right stick in a semi circle counter clockwise.
- Press R1.
But the thing is; they don't tell you what each of the commands does. I don't know, maybe you're just supposed to "get it" naturally, but I sure didn't. They try and make them somewhat understandable since pulling the stick right will likely do something towards the right, like reaching out an arm, but I can't be sure.
For me, personally, that's completely crazy and I wouldn't dream of doing such a control scheme. However, that being said; I'm not saying it's a bad game. Everyone seems to love it, so maybe it's just me not getting it, and maybe it all becomes crystal clear if I get the entire game.
It's just that I can't let go of this weird design choice. Sure, maybe it's immersive for most, but for me it just breaks my suspension of disbelief.
When I told another friend about my frustration, he sent me a link to one of the comics over at Ctrl-Alt-Delete and really, they nailed it.
Despite all this, maybe it really is an amazing adventure to be had? I'm not saying it isn't.
*Phew* Global Game Jam in Skövde, called GSP Games ended last night after 48h.
It was fantastic and incredibly fun! We didn't win, but I'm still very proud of my group of four (or five, depending on how you look at things) people and the game we somehow managed to get done.
We call it Illusive Escape and it can be played online here:
You control it using only your arrow keys. Btw, it has gamepad support if you have one hooked in to your computer.
(If you don't have the Unity web player yet, you'll be asked to download it. It's safe, small and you don't need administrator rights to install it. You don't even need to restart the browser once done.)
The theme we had to follow when making the game was "Deception" and we decided to implement it into the game's setting. You're an evil magician helping prisoners escape from jail. But while they're trying to escape you have to dress them up as guards, so they can safely pass the gates without being shot.
We also had to implement a monkey, a donkey or a key; so we have some prisoners riding donkeys and keys for locking gates (so you can predict the prisoners more easily).
In addition, we weren't allowed to use too many colors or include any text nor numbers. That is, if we wanted to earn a couple of "developer achievements".
I slept for a total of 4h in the 60h, but that's the power of energy drinks I guess.
That's it for now. I'll type a short post mortem later but right now, I just wanted to show the game we made in less than 60 and give a big shout out and thanks to the great group I worked with!
Last year (http://arcadeberg.com/game/christmas-games/) I complained about there not being any real christmas games except for indie stuff.
I'm still not completely satisfied, but I must say that I'm not as depressed this year. With the explosion of iPhone-games and how easy it is for developers (and in the end, the consumer) to update them, I've seen a bunch of games becoming christmasified.
As an example, I'll show you Doodle Jump. A great game (my currect highscore is 58'000 points) that's usually not very christmasy at all.
But a little while ago, they released their update that makes the game more in rythm with the holiday spirit. The same game, but new graphics. And you can still turn them off if you want to.
I think it's great!
Now, I want bigger games on PSN and XBLA to do the same. But the relase of an update is no walk in the park, unfortunately. But still, this is a great step in the right way.
Will we see a Doodle Jump with bunnies and eggs during Easter?
But now; Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!
Remember Bob Came In Pieces, the game made by Ludosity Interactive?
Well, it was released today so first of all, go buy it! It's only about $9, so it's worth it.
But second of all, guess what, I'm in the credits! Who knew? Well... They did. I didn't! I'm thankful, so special thanks to you guys over at Ludosity!
Yesterday, I made a Chocolate Flavoured Sponge Cake. It wasn't all that hard, because I was following a recipe, telling me what ingredients to use and how much of each. It even told me in what order to implement them.
I knew somewhat what I was getting, even before it was done. I expected a sweet, smooth taste and it was what I got. After all, it was a Sponge Cake and after all, I was following a recipe.
There's a new Zelda game out; The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. I'm expecting a boomerang, bombs and a bow. After all, it's a Zelda game and after all, it's following a recipe.
I haven't played Spirit Tracks yet, but I've played a bunch of the previous titles on the NES, SNES, GB, GBC, NGC, N64 and the Wii. (No, I haven't played the CD-I.) And it's a fact that the Zelda games are all cooked using the same tried and proved recipe each time. Sure, there are variations in the spicing and and presentation, but overall, it's always the same amount of eggs, exploration, salt, bombs, sugar, chests and baking powder.
I'm not in any way saying this is a bad thing. Heck, it obviously works and based on the reception of each game, people still love it.
But what I'm thinking is this: How much is gained and lost when using an old and expected recipe for a game?
I don't know, but it's something I've been thinking about for a few days now. Let's continue with Zelda as our subject. At the moment, I'm playing Phantom Hourglass, because I haven't finished it yet and I don't think I should start playing Spirit Tracks before I have.
Even at the beginning of the game, I "knew" I was gonna get the boomerang. When I saw open eyes in the walls, I realised I would probably need a bow and arrow to shoot it, before the game had actually told me that such a thing exist. This is because it's nearly always the case in Zelda. Whenever I see a crack in the wall, I know I'll need bombs and I'll now I'm gonna get them eventually per default.
Again, this isn't a bad thing, per se. It makes me excited and makes me wanna keep on playing so I can break those walls. It makes me feel comfortable and enjoyed while playing.
But a lot of the "Wow-factor" is gone when I get these items. I'm not thinking "Wow, bombs! Awesome!, I'm thinking "The bombs... Finally.". Not to say that I'm not happy when I get them, I'm just so much more happy when I get something new for the Zelda franchise.
Zelda isn't the only game. Of course not. I heard a new Mario game is out on the Wii. Does it have a fire flower? I thought so. I wonder if there will be huge enemies, chests with magical orbs and quick time events God of War 3? So, played Metroid recently, how about those missiles? And let's not forget the morph ball.
I realise you can't change a game completely when making a sequel, of course developers should keep what's good and of course they shouldn't mess with the foundation.
But I can't help but to wonder what is lost when doing this?
If you apply for a job within the game industry, it's very likely that you'll get a question at the interview asking what game impresses you the most regarding the area you want to work with.
I actually don't remember if I got that question when I had my interview before getting a job as Level Designer at GRIN, and if I did, I don't remember the answer anyway.
However, if I were to get that question today I know exactly what I'd answer and I think it'd be a shocker.
The game I think has the most impressive level design is Valkyria Chronicles.
Not a FPS, Third Person Shooter or a Platformer, but a strategy game!
I'm a bit behind on some games so I didn't get Valkyria until a few months ago, but after beating it, I can't say I'm anything but amazed of how fantastic the execution of each level is.
Once again, it's a strategy game! A genre that has never had me raise an eyebrow because of its level design before.
I think it has somewhere around 20 missions (levels, maps, whatever) in the main campaign and what's so interesting is that each and everyone really is unique. It's often a line on the back of the cover with little to no meaning, but in this case it would be perfectly true.
There is no "one tactics" that always work on each level. You're encouraged to play different missions in different manners and they're extremely varied while at the same time never going astray from its core. They never feel weird, out of place or "forced".
Every now and then they present one new level feature. That's what I choose to call it. It can be stuff like trenches, mortar attacks (explosions covering a large area of the level), train carts you can ride, etc. The new level feature open up new possibilities for the level design and they take full advantage of it. And as you progress, there are more and more features and tools to combine to create great levels, different from the previous once, but still familiar enough for you to be able to play right away.
Putting story aside, each level make me very committed to finish it and I feel very involved. Of course, gameplay and presentation are huge parts of this as well, and it's pretty much impossible to ever differentiate game and level design to a great extent but each of the three really merge into something great.
Well, enough rambling for now. My point is, I think you should really have a look at Valkyria because of it's great level design. It's a game that shows that even genres like this can stand out in areas such as that and I think techniques they use can be of great inspiration for any kind of level design. With that, I mean how they use a little to make a lot and the respect of the game's core while introducing new features.
A perfect object for an in-depth analysis if you have the time.
Today is a good day for Ludosity Interactive (http://ludosity.com/, 10/12/2009). Ludosity is a game company founded by a bunch of my friends back from the University and they've made some small games. Both "gaming games" and "serious games".
For a long time I've been visiting them about once every two weeks to check up on them and see how far along their awesome game "Bob Came In Pieces" was. It's been a joy to see it develop and it's been great fun to be able to give some feedback along the way.
They've just released a trailer and the response has been great and they're popping up all over the Internet! Not bad for a little indie game.
(All URL worked 10/12/2009)
It's a physics based puzzle game and I really enjoy playing it! You should definately have a go at it when you get the chance.
And btw, it's made using Unity3D which I've been writing about every now and then.
So here's a shout out for my friends over at Ludosity Interactive! Fun game and good luck!
When playing Scribblenauts I constantly find myself trying to make each and every scenario harder than it has to be. And it’s fun!
I’ve spent a few hours with Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. A game that instantly became one of my all time favorite handheld games. It’s brilliant.
The game in itself is a designers dream, really. If you don’t know about it, I recommend reading up on it or checking some video review.
Summary, coming up:
You’re Maxwell and your mission is to get your hands on a Starite (a star) on every level. Either by simply reaching it, or by solving a puzzle; depending on if it’s an action level or a puzzle level.
The amazing mechanic however, is that you can bring up a keyboard and write any word in it, and it will spawn in the game world. And the crazy thing is, it has a huge amount of words hidden in there. I’ve spawned “laser sword”, “tranquilizer gun”, “wings”, “behemoth”, “ninja”, “shuriken”, “Kraken” and so on… And so on… And so on…
Each thing has a behavior, so you can attack with weapon, shoot with guns, drive vehicles, etc. If you write “hunter” and then “bear”, the hunter will kill the bear.
And yes, you can write “maid” to have her clean up and then type “shotgun”, grab it and kill her. Amazing, isn’t it?
The game in itself is worth all the attention it is getting. I, like many other developers are thinking:
- Why didn’t I think of that! Daaaamn you, 5th Cell!
But(!) the thing that I find really interesting with this game is how I, and most other people play it.
For example, there is one level where the mission is to reunite a cat on a rooftop with a girl standing on the ground.
An obvious, working and easy way to do this would be to simply type “ladder”, climb up to the cat, pick it up and carry it down to the girl.
Did I do that? Of course not! I tried a ton of stuff, like using dynamite to simply destroy the house. Unfortunately, the cat died and I failed. I used a “fan”, placed it on the roof and had the cat blown down. You can use a “helicopter” to get there. Or why not a “jetpack”?
I know I’m not alone in pondering on how to finish the level in a cool, interesting, unnecessary complex or just not an “obvious” way. That’s what makes the game fun for us.
You can’t really “beat the game” (don’t confuse this with finishing it, which you can) because we’re encouraged to try out these mad ideas.
This shows that if you give the player a big enough playing field, there’s a good chance for him to have fun on his own without constant pampering from the game’s creator. This is also often the case with games including a lot of physics, where the player is likely to play around with that, finding different solutions for a given problem.
It’s a fantastic thing, when players start having fun in a game when it’s not just by progressing in it. It’s more of play than a game.
Scribblenauts isn’t the only game that empowers this behavior, but it’s the game that does it best in a very long time! To be completely honest, right now I can’t think of any other game that does it as well.
The two funniest words I’ve found out yet are:
- Longcat – If you’re a lolcatz-fan and is familiar with 4chan, this one will crack you up!
- Ninjashark – It’s a friggin’ Ninja Shark! That is just pure awesomenesss!
I thought I'd give you one of my very best game designs ever! And it's not even a computer game, it's REAL LIFE!
First though, I have to thank everyone who was accidental parts of helping create this game, especially Mathias Wahlin, as it's based on a true story.
For this game to work you need:
- a cake
- a cake slice (or other tool for cutting the cake)
- a game host
- a bunch of people wanting cake!
The premiss for this game is that everyone wants cake NOW and as big a piece as possible!
What you, as the game host do is to have everyone gather around the cake, while you create one cut in the cake, defining the starting line.
Once this is made, what you do is that you align the cake slicer with the cut and then slowly start rotating the slicer along with the cake, creating a "piece" between the original cut and the current position of the slicer.
This is where the players come in, wanting as big a piece as possible. As long as no player says anything, the host slowly keeps making the piece bigger and bigger untill a player suddently says "Stop!". When a player stops the game, the player gets that piece!
Now, that player isn't part of the game anymore. He or she already got a piece. It's not up for the remaining players to get their share.
What happens is that people wants a really big piece, but at the same time if all they do is wait for a huge piece, someone else will always say stop before him! So you have to really consider the risk vs. reward-scenario and find that delicate balance.
It might sound stupid, but I was the host and played this with 10 cake-hungry people at my work and it was hilarious! Poor Cozy-Dave, he had to wait a long time for his piece...
So there you have it, a super duper game design for friends and families!
What'd you think?