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Super Meat Boy

Thoughts on: Rockman 3 Burst Chasers (The opposite of speed is frustration)

Watching SGDQ 2015 over the past week helped to prove two things to me. The first is that regardless of the game, watching someone who has devoted their time into mastering anything is mesmerizing regardless if the game was Tetris: Grandmaster, Mario: Lost Levels, or Super Noah’s Ark 3D. The second that should be apparent is that playing a game quickly is hard. To have small (1/60 – 5/60 per second) frame windows to inputs, mastering complex rhythm sensitive button combinations, and knowing how to react to during long sessions of concentration is something to admire. But some games can be made to be played faster, like the video below:

 

Rockman 4: Burst Chasers is a rom hack of Rockman 3 played at a high gameloop and that speed makes all the difference in terms of difficulty with the game. Think of strapping a blaster to Sonic and throwing him into the Megaman world.

The game was intended to be played at the pace and speed of Megaman, fast enough to get and understanding of the world and decent enough time to react to it. Throw Sonic into this world and it becomes a chaotic mess. The only thing that a player can do is to try and take it slow, like Megaman would, until you develop the reaction enough and are comfortable enough with RockSonic to run through the world at the speed that RockSonic was intended to run at, or memorize the game world to know when to do what action.

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Let’s Talk about: Crypt of the Necrodancer

The game came out about a month ago on Early Access Steam (7/30) and I didn’t know how I wanted to approach the game at first. The game is fun, the music is addicting but I found myself turning away from playing it from time to time. For a rogue-like, it does its job of creating a high-replayability by having generated dungeons for all stages, daily challenges, and different playthrough experiences because of the randomized weapons, power-ups and enemies.

Good music, hard learning experience.
Good music, hard learning experience.

What I was shying away from was the other part of rogue-like games, the “keep you on your toes” part. The game’s mechanics are simple. You move to the beat. You attack to the beat. You create paths through walls to the beat. But this also means that you learn about your enemies to the beat. Once you get past the first few enemies learned through the tutorial, you quickly find enemies where you don’t know their attack patterns and movements. Normally, when you come across something that you’ve not experienced prior, you can take your time to figure out how to approach these kinds of enemies, but with the restrictions of actions per beat, timed length of the song/stages and other enemies trying to eat your face by throwing their heads in your direction, it makes it difficult to learn and understand an enemy. It makes it even more frustrating when you die to that enemy and you haven’t learned a gosh-dern thing about how or why you died.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk about: Crypt of the Necrodancer”

Teaching the Player p2.2 – More on Reactive vs Planned Gameplay

Previous posts in the Series Teaching the Player

And a link to the part 1

Running for Speed

The Speed Running community is a fantastic example of people who take every opportunity to transition all games from a Reaction to Planned Gameplay. They approach every game with its predefined rules and regardless of how well a game teaches you a mechanic, the speed runners put in the time to perfect the most opportune route and routine in getting from the start to the end of the game. They epitomize the idea of “Reaction Gameplay + Time = Planned Gameplay” by learning all of the inadequacies of the player’s abilities and the gamespace’s rules and manipulating them to get a more optimized path for faster completion, and shaving frames, seconds or even minutes off of runtimes by understanding what can be done by the player and what will happen in the gamespace when the player performs the action.

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Teaching the Player p2: Reactive vs Planned Game Design

                Past Articles in the series can be found here

 

Old Man: It’s dangerous to go it alone. Here, take this.

                Link: But, what am I supposed to do with it?

                Old Man: <shrugs>

 

Some of the more thrilling parts of life are the times that you’re anxious, you don’t know what’s coming up, but it’s approaching fast and all you can do is traverse yourself through it. You’re given something new and unexpected and you are forced to adapt with the goal of thriving in a new environment. This can also be a source of fear and concern because you aren’t in the normal comfort zone that you once thrived in when getting to this point, yet you’re expected to perform at the high quality that got you to this point? You don’t even know if the rules have changed at this point, the tools being the same, or the uses of any new tools that you may come across.

Of course I’m referring to game design and not my previous post, silly person. But why can’t these causes for frustration and anxiety translate between gaming and real life? If the tools you’re given aren’t explained to you and the tasks that are presented to you require a certain level of proficiency using those tools, how are you supposed to operate at a level of high proficiency?

Continue reading “Teaching the Player p2: Reactive vs Planned Game Design”

Teaching the player: Prelude and First Screens

You know what sucks in a game? Being force fed how you are supposed to interact with the world. You know what also sucks? Not knowing what to do, or knowing exactly what to do and making it nearly impossible to accomplish. There are a myriad of ways this can be done correctly or incorrectly and I’m sure there were active decisions as to why certain designs were chosen, but they all contribute to or take away from the player experience in one form or another and it’s left to a good level designer to understand what works best for their game and how to design the level around making the most out of the player experience.

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Child of Light and the new “Indie” scene

Child of Light is another one of those games that is hard to categorize. It’s a game marketed as an indie game but clearly developed by a major developer, Ubisoft, which can be fairly misleading for players if they don’t pay attention. This usually means that Child of Light gets graded on an easier scale because of the “indie” aspect in mind and while I don’t believe it should, I still think that the game is exceptionally done for what it is.

If only all games looked like a PBS storybook.
If only all games looked like a PBS storybook.

It’s essentially a basic platfomer with classic JRPG combat using elements to try and make the battle system more active than simply being “turn-based”, a clearly defined art-style that captures a whimsy of 80-90s European ‘Storybook’ Animation, a soundscape that’s as euphoric and resounds with the environment as Ni no Kuni (PS3) and one of the only other games in the past few years that made me enjoy an older style JRPG (the other actually being Ni no Kuni). If you’ve read any other articles of me criticizing The Final Fantasy franchise, the reigning poster child of what’s right and wrong with JRPGs, you’d know that I’m not entirely too happy with the current direction of the franchise so it’s great to see another game that can get me to be excited about an RPG that is of a slower pace like older Final Fantasies.

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Why this game feels new – 2D Platformers

I’ve come to help you with your problems, so we can be free.

                Just how much room for improvement is there? When I look at a game, what gets me interested can vary greatly. Mechanics, story, perceptual shifts and so on are all aspects where the medium of gaming is leaps and bounds over the immersion of other media, but when going through the list of games month after month, there are very few examples that I can point to that “this is what gaming should exemplify and aspire to be, and the rest of you lot are the uninspired novelists hunting for words in a coffeeshop for hours a day.” I guess that’s a bit hypocritical because I’m in the middle of writing this at a coffeeshop-esqure environment, and have written at length in such an environment for quite some time because it is important to know where you work best and this environment is one of them for me. And I’d like to think that my level of output is greater than what some put out, especially after seeing how much time of others is spent on FB or random YouTube searches, but I digress.

The point is, most games that people tend to jump on the hype-train don’t have much to set themselves apart from predecessors and contemporaries, especially when there is so much more that can be done within the various genres that it makes it a chore to find a game that doesn’t “borrows heavily” from another which came out all of a few months prior.

A lot of this seems to come from incestual idea-sharing, where there are only so many new ideas that come out and once an idea is created, it gets passed around like an answer sheet throughout a class of overachievers. Only a few people create new ideas every development team tries to figure out how they can use that idea in order to make the game seem current and ingenious.

Continue reading “Why this game feels new – 2D Platformers”

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