Archive for the ‘Game Thoughts’ Category

Waiting for the shine to wear off

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I have a great strategy for saving money on video games, although it means I haven’t played much new lately.

When a new game comes out, I allow myself to get excited about it – then I go to CheapAssGamer and ask the site to send me an email when the game drops in price – say to $30 or $40. So I get the excitement of ‘buying’ the game.

A few months later, I get an email declaring some absurdly low price on the game…and inevitably, I pass. With the hype a few months behind me, most of these flashy new games just don’t seem like something I really want to put 30 hours into.

What’s the moral? It may be that, to capture my purchase, you need to be flexible and aggressive with your early sales. Drop the price to $40 after a month, and I might buy in.

Categories: Game Thoughts

Cthulhu Saves the World

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m having a good time with Cthulhu Saves the World, fromĀ Zeboyd Games. It’s polished enough to feel like a game instead of a demo, but unpolished enough that it’s almost like getting a behind-the-seams look at a game’s creation.

It’s been a while since I played a JRPG, in the Lunar/Vay/Shining the Holy Ark style. It’s very refreshing in a way, to wander through an area, have monsters jump out, and need to kill them.

Modern games want to make every encounter meaningful: either dramatica and impressive, or relevant to the plot. RPGs like Fallout have enemies who perceive, go through mood changes, flee when injured, and have finite numbers.

But sometimes getting simple answers can be really fun, too. “Where did these monsters come from?” “Who cares! They’re trying to claw your face off!”

Soul Calibur – Dreamcast – YouTube

December 8, 2011 1 comment

Soul Calibur – Dreamcast – YouTube.

Soul Calibur was an incredible game. I’ve been following a bit of Soul Calibur V, and that got me checking out Soul Calibur again. It’s amazing that this is about twelve years old now. The newer consoles have better, sharper graphics, of course, but there’s really nothing about the motion of the characters or the fluidity of the gameplay that’s missing.

It’s a big step from Soul Edge, just a few years earlier.

Altogether, this just reminds me what an incredible step forward the Dreamcast was. I don’t think the gaming industry knew quite what to do with it. We went from awkward, janky polygons on the Playstation straight into something that actually looked good. Moments in Dreamcast games which were designed to be awe-inspiring are still awe-inspiring today. Especially hooked into a VGA monitor, it was our first foray into HD gaming.

It makes me feel lucky, like we skipped over a missing link. Like there should have been another series of consoles on the level of the N64 before we actually got to the Dreamcast. It’s disappointing that it was the last Sega console, but it was certainly a good way to go out.

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Terraria, Minecraft, and order out of chaos

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I got caught up in playing a few hours of Terraria tonight, and I think I finally understand the great appeal of Minecraft. It’s not so much about the pyramids, the recreations of spaceships, the working computers…it’s about coming to something which is random and disordered, and making something meaningful out of it.

The situation that brought this to mind was just walking off a ledge. When I turned around, I found that the ledge was slightly too high to jump to. So I build a wooden platform, attached it to the wall, then jumped up. I realized then that anyone who hypothetically came there after me would benefit from my work, be able to get up the cliff easily, and would see the randomness of nature changed into something suitable for human use. That’s kinda cool.

So now I have a tower and a mine and I’m figuring out what to do next. Ping me if you want, and let’s start building together.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Light spoilers follow.


I understand all the complaints I heard about being forced into boss fights. You really are just thrown into a room with someone who wants you dead, and forced to shoot your way out.

The setup of these fights didn’t really bother me – Jensen’s in a dangerous line of work, and when a crazy mercenary wants you dead, you have to fight back. I think what really bothered people about these fights is that they’re hard. They test skills you haven’t been encouraged to develop – outguessing and outthinking enemies, tracking invisible targets, accurate shooting on the run, etc. They’re very interesting fights, but a big departure from the rest of the gameplay.

I do find Deus Ex impressive for having social boss fights. There are a number of opportunities during the game to argue with targets, to read their emotions and to respond where they’re weakest. It might not be recognizable due to the lack of special effects and explosions, but these are boss fights: trials that require you to take the skills you’ve developed and prove your mastery.


After finishing the game, it’s interesting to recognize the difficult situation Human Revolution is in, being a prequel. The game gives you opportunities to make grand choices that will shape the evolution of humanity for centuries…except not, really, since the original Deus Ex will start the same way regardless of what you chose. I’m not sure if any of the possible endings is the ‘canon’ ending, although I think any of them could work. The ending that removes Jensen from the equation is probably the most likely; otherwise, it seems like Adam Jensen would be a major player that JC Denton would end up interacting with.


Finally, from what I understand, the Missing Link DLC will feature Adam with his augmentations disabled and his weapons missing. I’m a little disappointed at the amount of DLC that takes this path. The Jedi Temple in The Force Unleashed, Big Surf Island in Burnout Paradise, Demons of the Badlands in Red Faction: Guerrilla…all these DLC are separate from the main game, forcing the player to start again at the beginning of their progression, or accept a default loadout. (Well, Burnout’s a little different, but still, Big Surf has its own license and own challenges.)

When I buy DLC to extend the game, I want to bring my character and my gameplay. I want my upgraded guns that reflect my play style. I want my efforts to impact the story, even if it’s just a brief mention at the end.

Dynasty Warriors

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I ended up spending most of the day today spending Dynasty Warriors 7. Despite the fact that I’ve totally played this game before, in Dynasty Warriors 2 & 4.

DW gets a bad rap for being repetitive, but it’s also interesting to see how the developers innovate each game. The games are strangely loyal to their source material, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so that means that every game features the same characters, the same battles, the same plotlines. It’s become a sort of joke about the series that we’ve fought the Yellow Turban Rebellion a few hundred times now.

It does mean that those small tweaks to gameplay and systems are significant. I think Dynasty Warriors 7 is kind of the pinnacle of the series – it looks good, plays well, has good story and cutscenes, and interesting extra modes.

The idea of doing frequent DW installments is kinda passe, anyway. Nowadays, it would make more sense as DLC – release one Dynasty Warriors game per console generation, then update it with characters, new maps, art packs, gameplay modes, weapons, and even new gameplay systems. There’s no reason for incremental improvements from year to year anymore. (I’m looking at you, too, Madden.)

Anyway, it was fun. Which says a lot about it, too. I know that Dynasty Warriors is meaningless, and I have better ways to spend my time. But watching that combo meter climb to 100, 500, 1000, and more just feels good somehow. I wade effortlessly through foes that were a challenge a few hours ago, and I know that I’m becoming stronger. I wish real life were like that – that I could clearly see the relationship between effort and results.

I think the usual curve for reality is a slow start (lots of effort, little result), then rapid gain (little effort, lots of result) followed by incremental improvement (lots of effort, little result). I wish I could get past more of the slow starts. It’d be nice to lose some weight.

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On Nostalgia

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

An article in Kill Screen made an interesting statement – that if you looked at the first 100 games on the Atari 2600, and the first 100 games on the Xbox 360, the Atari features dramatically more variety of gameplay. Figured I’d take a look at some of the early games of each.

Atari’s 1977-78 titles (my best guess of genre for each):

Arcade x4
Educational x3
Card Games x3
Racing x3
Shooting x3
Sports x5
??? (Codebreaker)

That’s 23 titles. So, the first 23 games on Xbox 360:

Action Sports x2
First Person Shooter x4
Survival Horror
Sports x7
Third-Person Shooter
Racing x5

The lists are about the same length. We’ve certainly seen the clustering change, but the variety is about the same. (It would look even better, too, if we excluded all the yearly updates of sports titles. They’re not really indicative of changing trends, since they’re updated every year like clockwork.)

I see comments like this occasionally, boiling down to “I miss the good ol’ days.” It’s all nostalgia, and it makes me sad for these gamers, because their nostalgia is blinding them to how good they have it now. These are the good ol’ days. Games like Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption are amazing achievements, and I’m glad I live in an age where they can exist. Some genres have seen an objective increase in quality, such as racing and sports; Pole Position has its charms, but Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit controls better, looks better, plays better, rewards better, and progresses better. Because we’ve learned something from making video games for 30 years.

Categories: Game Design, Game Thoughts