Archive for November, 2010

Short Wave Gamin #6: Game Dev Story

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It’s pretty obvious that my week-or-so long departure hasn’t been completely covered. I’ve covered about 2 days of it. The rest of the time…well that was devoted to Game Dev Story, an iPhone/iPad game that has completely eaten away at all of my free and non-free time. I can’t remember the last time I was this obsessive over a game. This is more than Fallout 3 or Final Fantasy XII(which I loved, so fuck off) this is like Pokemon Red (that was the one I bought) back on the Game Boy, not the game boy color mind you, this is old school obsession.

“Don’t you guys talk about music anymore?”

We’ll get there eventually. I should talk about music in games more, but when I finally finish Super Meat Boy we’ll talk about that.

It’s a very simple game, you’re starting a game company, you have to hire people to work for you, figure out what kind of game to make, and figure out what characteristics the game should have. That doesn’t sound simple at all, but think of the game Lemonade Stand, it’s a lot like that, or Drug Wars on the TI-83: an entrepreneurial simulation simplified. All of the real work is done forĀ  you, by the people that you hire. The games fun, creativity, graphics and music are the 4 main attributes of your game that are constantly being added to by your programmers, directors, musicians, producers, writers and all the rest of your staff.

For the most part your view never leaves your office, once a year there is an E3 esque convention and the last week of the year there is an award show for all of the fictional games that you have created and all of the other fictional games created in that year that you don’t really hear anything about. When your company grows large enough you will move to a bigger space and be able to hire a few more people.

After you choose what game to make, your employees start working hard to make the game, which goes through alpha, beta and debugging stages before the game is realized. Once your game is finished, you will be reviewed by 4 people giving you game a score between 1 and 10. At the start of the next week you will see your sales figures in “real time.” It’s one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences video gaming when your sales skyrocket, and devastating when your game fails.

I’m not the biggest iPhone/iPad gamer. I enjoy Civilization: Revolutions a lot, it ate my time up on more than twenty occasions, I liked Osmos but I found it difficult to play on a train bumping around a lot, Scrabble of course (but that has taken a back seat to GDS), Sam and Max doesn’t run as well as I was hoping it to, Angry Birds is fun and challenging but I just kind of hit a wall in the game. But nothing is close to GDS. It makes me feel like it’s high school and I’m playing a video game in the back of class (probably because of all my time spent with Drug Wars). You won’t believe how fast the time flies while you’re playing the game, not just the in game time, but I have put my head down to start playing, looked up thinking it was a few minutes later only to discover that I’ve missed my train stop (which is at least 40 min from the time I started playing). In fact… I’ve got some games to make.

http://kairopark.jp/iphone/en/

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/game-dev-story/id396085661?mt=8

Short Wave Gamin #5: Kirby’s Epic Yarn

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500x_500x_kirbyOh Kirby, who knew you could be even cuter then you already were. It’s been almost 7 years since the last Kirby game came out, Kirby’s Air Ride, and the droves of Kirby fans have been patiently waiting for another game. You don’t really hear too much outcry when a new Kirby game isn’t introduced, not like when it’s been years without a Zelda game, but for all of us who love Nintendo’s puffy pink powerful protagonist Epic Yarn is the game we’ve been waiting for (cause we’re not getting anything else).

Kirby is no longer the enemy sucking, blowfish floating, sword wielding crazy ass moaf that he used to be, or that he was in Smash Bros, and now has been transformed into a circle of yarn. Not a ball mind you, just a circle because that’s all that really needs to be done. Kirby is in now in Patch Land, after eating a false tomato, and has joined up with Prince Fluff to help save Patch Land and Dream Land from the nefarious Yin-Yarn.

Kirby as yarn is quite the interesting spectacle, but there isn’t a character in the Nintendo catalog that is better suited than Kirby in this wild world. Kirby is already a cute and simple character that he can be easily ported over to so many styles. Unlike Mario and Luigi, Link or Samus, Kirby has stood tall as an androgynous character that could be easily enjoyed by anyone. He was cute and cuddly looking but packed a huge punch if you touched him the wrong way. Weird? Yeah a bit.

If you’re wondering, “does this whole yarn thing really work?” Well yes, it really fucking does. The worlds are brilliant, with the backgrounds being some of the most breathtaking, futuristic and delicious levels in recent memory on any game console. The game play is simple (except for the annoying train levels) utilizing the Wii-mote held sideways for a classic NES controller feeling. Kirby can transform into different object, such as a parachute to help slow the fall and help plan the trajectory better, a car to dash around, a submarine if under water, a sled if dashing on ice and a few others. The previously mentioned transformations are all basic, there are certain objects, like the giant Kirby head tank, that can only be acquired in certain sections when the game play calls for it. Other examples are the Kirby train, a Kirby spaceship reminiscent of top scrolling space shooters, a Kirby spaceship reminiscent of side scrolling space shooters, a dolphin and a few others. These big time transformations add to the fun of the game play immensely, but are they were never in the forefront of my mind, I was never playing a level in hopes that one of those big changes would come but they were (almost) always a welcome addition.

You cannot die in Epic Yarn, no matter what something will come and save you and you will lose a lot of beads (they’re like coins in this game) but the game play never stops, or restarts always keeping the action moving forward. Does this make the game really easy? Yeah it does, but this isn’t exactly a hardcore game. This is a game that you can very easily introduce to someone who is not a gamer and they will almost immediately pick it up and fall in love. Or this is a game you can play with your young daughter or son to start them on a road to gaming nerdom, if you want to push them down that path already.

The multiplayer is quite fun, unlike the Galaxy series, the second player has a very prominent role in this game by playing Fluff when the first player is Kirby. You both have pretty much the same powers and you go through the levels together, making it a fun time to be had by all. Kathryn and I were playing this weekend, as I forced this game on her but she did seem to be enjoying it a lot. This is a pick up and play game, there’s never a question of to what to do next because it’s so linear and layed out, but that doesn’t mean that just finishing the game will net you 100% completed. After defeating the final boss Yin-Yarn (who was cake compared to puppet Dedede) I was only 60% complete with plenty more stages to unlock, time trials to race, challenges to accept and collectibles to collect.

If you’re on the fence, you should definitely check it out. The Wii rarely received such high quality games any more. There does seem to be a minor resurgence, but who knows how long it will last for. So pick it up, play it, finish it, then play it again because it’s just that good.

Short Wave Gamin #4: Costume Quest

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Costume QuestHappy day after Halloween everybody! It’s been a while. Mostly I’ve been waking up, going straight to work, working all day and, once getting home, playing video games for a few hours until I fall asleep. So what have I been playing?

My one main goal last week was to finish Costume Quest before Halloween. The premise is simple, your sibling is captured and you have to go find her. Also, monsters are stealing all the candy. The game play is turn based combat in a tiny pseudo open world environment. There are three levels that each contain houses (or shops) where you can go trick or treating. Behind the door is either a human more than willing to give you candy or a monster. In traditional RPG fashion you start at level 1 and gain XP from completing quests and defeating monsters until you hit the level cap of 10, and you’ll most definitely make it there by the end of the game. The currency system in the game, much like in the real world, is candy and it can be found everywhere. You gain candy from defeating the monsters, from the people who aren’t monsters behind the house door, from complete quests, and by hitting just about everything in the world from mail boxes to trashcans to piles of leaves. The costume that you are wearing determines you special abilities. As a robot you transform into an impressive Gundam-esque mech, as the knight you become…yup, a big knight, and so forth. I found myself using the robot through out the entire play through on my main character and switching out the rest of my party.

It feels and looks a lot like the RPGs of old, like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, FFVI, Super Mario RPG, and the fun is there but the world is just not the same. It’s like a small scale version of any of those games mentioned. Just when you’ve become tired of trick or treating the monsters start free roaming the level adding a nice variety, but soon enough you will be back going to houses to try and snatch some of that sweet sweet candy.

And why shouldn’t you? The game is about children on Halloween trick or treating, so it makes sense to come back to the mechanic. And, honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to more trick or treating when I had pick it up again a little after the start of the second level, but it’s just a necessary grind and it’s much better than having someone tell me to go collect 50 horns from some beast that only lives in a certain area for the 15th time.

And of course there’s the humor: bumbling adults, hypocritical adults, jaded children, it’s a small world full of characters both with costume and without. The humor pushes the game along, and if you do find yourself growing tired or weary of what’s going on, there’s always a good laugh just around the corner.

Of course it’s not without it’s problems. Maybe it’s just me but I wasn’t a fan of the save structure. The game saves itself after you complete a quest, but I never found it saving at any other point. This became very hectic when, int he final stage, I went a good 30 to 45 minutes without being able to save or have a check point or anything. Add to that how I was trying to just play for another 10 minutes and then get some sleep and I was not a happy trick or treat-er. But after it all I’m glad I kept playing and made it to the next save point. It was frustrating, but so are old school RPGs, and while this wasn’t anywhere near the throw-my-controller-against-the-wall-and-then-stop-on-it-until-its-electrical-guts-are-all-over-the-fucking-floor like older hardcore RPGs, that very short frustrating element brought me back to my pre-high school days of gaming, back when I was still trick or treating. Costume Quest does not touch the difficulty level of the of older RPGs but it captures the nostalgia perfectly.

Costume Quest isn’t an easy game, you will die if you don’t pay attention to your battles, but there isn’t too much of a penalty if you do lose so don’t worry too much. And if you’re looking for achievements or trophies there couldn’t be an easier game to 100%. I was able to finish the game with every achievement as I completed my first play through. It’s not exactly a daunting task either, everything makes sense to do so there isn’t much of a reason not to.

In short, I really enjoyed Costume Quest. It provides just enough challenge to keep you playing while subtly changing the game play enough to keep it interesting. It doesn’t go on too long, I’ve read people say it should have been longer but I think it was the perfect length for the game. About 7 hours of seeing your Halloween costume actually transform you into a super being, 27 years old and finally someone gave me my wish.