Saturday, 31 May 2008

Movies that aren't

It's generally considered that The Karate Kid part 3 was a failure for two somewhat-related reasons. One, the actor was getting too old to play the part of Daniel as written. And two, it had negative character development - rather than learn and grow from his experiences in part 2, Daniel had regressed and become more whiny, rebellious, and and immature.

What if the movie instead had featured a Daniel who had graduated from college, married, and had a small baby? A young man struggling to deal with the challenges of adulthood - bills, work, things that can't be solved with fists? And yet, using the strength, discipline, and flexibility he had gained from his training to find ways to cope with these challenges. Since there would have to be some karate in the movie for the franchise, perhaps he might also be founding a dojo and trying to teach others as Miyagi-sensei taught him?

You may wonder what this has to do with gaming...

In old D&D as you became higher level, you were supposed to found a stronghold and gain followers - to become something more than just a wandering adventurer. I don't think most people bothered, mostly because it's hard to have a fun group adventure if everybody's busy running their own fiefs. But in a computer game, a story focused on just one hero can work.

Can we have a compelling experience for a hero with a family (that isn't in refrigerators)? Fighting to defend your home? Working to craft a legacy?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

OMG Ponies

You know what there should be? My Little Pony, the RPG. (That's tabletop, kids, not video games.)

Anyone who was a fan of the cartoon can hopefully see what I mean. It was FULL of magic and adventure! Demons! Dragons! Ancient mystical cities swallowed up into pocket dimensions! Thousand-year prophecies! Spells gone awry! DOOM!

And also singing and eating cookies, but that's just a sideline.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

a different sort of adventure game

I haven't actually played this myself yet, so I'll just link to this review of Mystery at Mansfield Manor Totally online game which you only get to play for a short period of time (no ownership here) but on the other hand, they're not trying to charge you the standard cost of owning a game either. It's a bit more like renting a movie. A long and slightly interactive movie.

Anyway, it's a Clue-esque murder mystery with FMV scenes.

hopping to the beat

A hacked-up Super Mario World level in time to music:

(Also, a sign of what's wrong with copyright laws today. This sort of thing is clearly not properly allowed and yet clearly a good and joyous thing! :) )

Monday, 26 May 2008

episodic gaming

It can be tough to sell people on the one at a time price, if they know that even if your series is successful, eventually you'll have deals like this Sam And Max one...

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Age of Conan doesn't want your kind here

So, I'm not much into MMORPGs and wasn't eagerly awaiting the Age of Conan release, but I tend to keep up with news. I read interviews early on claiming that they were updating the conan-setting to make it a little more female inclusive, so women too could wander around in tiger skins swinging huge swords. Cool, thinks I.

Reading some of the launch reports, they mention that the newbie character proceeding through the plot will have women falling all over him.

"Several quests involve the local house of prostitution and its illustrious madam, and her tart dialogue leaves little to the imagination. Even the newly freed Casilda offers you her questionable services, so between that aspect and plenty of salty writing, it's obvious that Age of Conan earned its M rating."

Hrm, I think. I wonder how that works with female players?

Apparently not very well. While the AoC forums won't even let you in to read player impressions without a cd-key, a little google-caching was enough to let me read some threads. Sure enough, a female player was complaining that she'd started the game and was constantly being offered sexual services by female NPCs and ignored by male ones. Her objection, she specified, was not an anti-lesbian stance, but that the characters seemed to react to her entirely as a man, not as a woman. It felt like the plot writers had completely forgotten female players.

Depressingly, the thread is full of people saying charming things like "if you don't like it, go back to the kitchen" and "Conan is a sexist world, it would be a disgrace to the author to be inclusive!" and "if you care about something minor like that you must be a RL bitch" and "I was really hoping morons like you wouldn't play this game".

Then, of course, there was the quite serious, non-ironic "If the game has to cater to WOMEN, then someone might ask it to cater to HOMOSEXUALS, and WHERE WOULD IT END???"

I dunno... with a game that doesn't suck, maybe?

Friday, 23 May 2008

penny arcade game

I poked a bit at the demo last night. Not much, because I was very very sleepy and the demo won't let you save, so any progress I made would be wasted anyway. It's cute, but the bits I like most are the 2d stuff, and the actual 3d gameplay is a lot less interesting. (Also, the way the 3d character breathes/sways while voiceover goes on annoys me.) I'm a little confused by the combat, as one of the first combat sessions said something about blocking attacks when a bar flashes, but I never see anything flash. And, of course, the pathfinding often leaves the character standing in confusion unable to navigate around obstacles.

Here is my character design - I do like the way it came out.

Will I be buying? Dunno. Probably not at the moment, I have other demands on my time.

There is some huffing in some corners about the copy-protection. Am I bothered? No. Why? Because it's a downloadable game. I get really pissy about buying a CD and being told I can't reinstall it or sell it. With a downloadable, I thoroughly understand the desire to keep an eye on an install code and disable it if suddenly there are 1000 users a week trying to use it. From what I understand, that is the intent, rather than 'you can install once and then never again!!'

Anyway, it would be hypocritical of me to complain now, as I've bought a variety of small downloadable games that operate under similar principles and where I may eventually need to contact support if I keep reinstalling them. I do get annoyed with companies who say that you get X installs and that's it, but not so much with the "just ask, we're just keeping an eye on it" variety.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

british government thinks they can control the internet

Guys, there's a reason there aren't ratings on video/game downloads.


Unless you turn off the internet and allow through only carefully screened content, you can't do that.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

go while you go

I originally misread this article as being about a game in which you skiied down mountains desperately looking for a toilet (and, i suppose, explode if you can't find one in time.)

That's not quite what they meant by combining skiing and peeing...

(although after the wii game Think Geek had for april fool's, I'm dubious about this until there are pictures!)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

these holes three are not for thee

Somewhat more common in novels than in RPGs, but... A lot of times, there is a Prophecy. Now, obviously, you have to accept a certain sort of magic in the world for there to be prophecies at all, but you really have to wonder about the gods in books where prophecies exist only in very bad rhyming verse. Sometimes even the characters in the book admit that the rhyme sucks (signal from fred!) but the question of WHY it's rhyming is rarely addressed.

Surely, if the ancient gods wanted to give you a poem, they could make it a poem that didn't suck. Divine powers and all that.

Now, there would be reason within a game world for someone to turn a non-rhyming prophecy into a rhyming one, or particularly into a song. It's easier to pass down the oral tradition that way. Which can be handy in fantasy-medieval communities where literacy isn't all that common.

It would be nice to see a plot in which the characters had to track down the original source of a prophecy and find out just how distorted it had gotten over time through the license of bards...

games are just like comics!

Everything tastes better with a monkey!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Cutscene Stupids (and what games could do instead)

So, a typical Cutscene Stupid:

You're playing a Rogue-type. You're sneaking around in stealth mode so that no enemies can get the drop on you. You enter a new room.

Suddenly control is taken away from you. The game turns off your stealth and marches you blithely forward into the center of the room. A bunch of enemies come out and surround you. There is a long, non-interactive conversation where the villains posture about how great they are and you click through in frustration, not paying much attention, just wanting to get back to your character.

Finally, control is given back to you and you begin a boss fight, annoyed.

How can it be done better?


First possibility, making the pre-fight dialog not a cutscene. Imagine the scene like this instead:

You sneak into a room full of pillars with an altar at the far end. As you approach the altar, you step into some sort of sensor or trap and you are detected. The doors to the room slam shut, blocking escape. The Villain appears in front of you, laughs, and starts talking.

Every time he speaks, you have the option to reply (possibly in multiple ways) or to say, effectively, "#*)% you" and start the fight right away. However, when that dialog box comes up, you can still move your character - on a timer. If you move too far away from the villain or if you fail to answer for more than X seconds, the fight starts immediately. But if you're careful, you can take a few steps, answer, take a few steps, answer - all the while moving yourself to a more advantageous position.

So you carefully back away, looking frantically to both sides as you try to keep the conversation going, looking for an exit, something you can use... finally, you're just far enough, and you jump to the side, dodging behind a pillar. The villain roars in outrage and combat begins - but you're out of Line Of Sight and can engage stealth again! The villain's first shot splats harmlessly against the pillar you're taking cover behind!

This is much more cinematic and makes the villain dialog less pointless - if you have to reload and go through the 'cutscene' again, it's not a total waste of your time, because it's actually part of the fight.


Second possibility, intertwining dialog and combat. Talking can be an actual combat tactic. Asking the villain questions, insulting him, relaying information to him to try and change his mind about things - all of these could serve to either DISTRACT the enemy, allowing you to get in a better hit, or PERSUADE the enemy and actually end the fight via diplomacy. Fighting diplomacy. You may have to fight to keep yourself alive long enough to make him listen to you!

Again, this is more cinematic. Hero and villain in movie are likely to be talking WHILE hitting each other with swords, rather than only before and after.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

adventures in the obscure

Here's something odd I turned up - in production, apparently, a Russian visual novel.

Based on some famous work of Russian literature and not likely to get an English translation...

Monday, 12 May 2008


So, um, I haven't been posting much.

That doesn't mean I don't play any games at all.

Actually, the game I've just been playing is, er... a free demo that's quite innocent of a game that isn't. :) See, the basic idea of the game is that you're a cute little anime girl and you're playing a game very similar to Uno with a bunch of other cute anime girls. They all giggle, blush, sigh, whine, and otherwise react to the way the cards are played and it's just.... CUTE!

In the full version of the game, when you win you can choose one of the girls with the lowest scores to see naughty pictures of, but in the demo it just says 'Buy the game to see the CG', so it's not really naughty. Still, this isn't a game you'll want to be looking at if you're opposed to That Sort Of Thing.

There's not really much point to it... there's only so much skill and strategy that can go into playing Uno, and the 'reward' of the full game isn't there. But it makes me giggle. Oh, and the game is in Japanese although enough of it is English that it's pretty obvious what to do - choose the first option on the menu to start the game, click on cards to select and play them.

Obviously the following link should be considered not work safe, but if you want to see, go here - Shoujo Mahou Gakuen - Oshaberi Card Game (Magical Girls' School - "Chatting" Card Game)
The Rainbow Road is really punishing!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

update on Bioware DRM

After sufficient screaming, apparently they're dialing the ray of doom down a little. So I can adjust my prospects for purchasing Mass Effect PC back to 'Maybe, depending on how the reviews say it runs'

Thursday, 8 May 2008

dinosaur games

check it out?

(I don't have much to say, I haven't actually played it yet. I simply approve of the general concept of games in which you play a dinosaur.)

on DRM, and why I hates it

funny comics over here at twenty-sided

Well, another mainstream game I don't need to worry about whether I ought to buy, then. Saves me the hassle of having to upgrade the computer, too.


Apparently at some point when I wasn't paying attention the Kings Quest 3 Remake Project actually finished. Neat.

I wonder if climbing up and down That @#@(*$& Mountain will still be there? Somehow, I suspect, the remake will have removed some of the stupidly difficult inching along with arrow keys necessary to complete the original game without falling to your death.

As far as I know, the Quest For Glory 2 remake is still slowly chugging along.

Ah, Sierra, back in the day when the appearance of a mountain and two tiny tings filled my heart with brand pride.... back in the days before you ripped our hearts out and slammed them into the nearest bin, declaring that we didn't need those anymore...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Thursday, 1 May 2008

mario kart

How on earth are you supposed to get 14 power slides around the lap in that time? Hrmph.

GTA4 can piss right off

I'm sorry, I just don't get it.

I get that it's a good game if you're into that sort of thing. I don't want to stop you from playing it if you like it. I hear it even has good writing, which I applaud in a game. Big open world, lots to see, pretty cool. Enjoy it.

I don't get the apotheosis, the screaming fanboys proclaiming it the centerpiece of games-as-art and the Best Game Ever etc etc etc. Personally, you could not pay me to play it.

... Well, okay, if you paid me enough I'd at least try I guess.

Why? Because I have zero interest in driving around shooting people. I do not want to be a gangster. I do not want to pick up hookers. I do not want to kill hookers. I do not want to shoot cops. I do not want to curbstomp people. I do not want to run drugs. Spitting profanities does not make me bounce with glee. Crashing cars does not excite me. Actually, these are all things I'm scared of in the real world - cars, guns, and nasty violent people - and while for some people, engaging with the things they're scared of in game format is exhilerating, for me personally I'd rather do something fun.

And all that open world, living breathing city stuff? Makes the game less appealing rather than more, to me. Not because it's not cool, but... Well, for one thing, making things 'realer' removes the silliness of the old shooting gallery games and brings things closer to a worship-the-gun action movie which as said I'm just not into. For another, having this big open world to explore makes me want to be able to interact with it in a way that doesn't involve gunning people down. Can we have a sandbox game that isn't about being a murderer? Where's my sandbox mystery investigation game?

So, like I said. I don't care if you're playing it and you're liking it, I'm not trying to take it away from you. But don't expect me to sing its praises.