Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lux Pain

Weird looking pseudo-adventure mostly-VN I mentioned earlier? Reviews are trickling out, and the mainstream is not impressed.

Most importantly, apparently the translation has problems, and when you're playing a game that's pretty much entirely story, that's a problem.

But for a more positive spin, check here or here or here. Still complaining about the translation problems, but getting into the story.

I do like my VNs but I tend not to like them that much on the DS. (I have NEVER completed the first Phoenix Wright game, and I am still eying Time Hollow warily). Mmmm... Well, if this is incredibly unpopular, maybe I can find a cheap copy on ebay sometime? It's not like I'm short on games.

casual sex

So, the GDC came, and with it that silly sex game contest I grumbled about before.

Apparently the 'winning' entry was a series of random minigames representing different things that happened on the night of someone's first - everything from picking out a dress to getting garlic out of her teeth to trying not to fall off the bed.

Some sites are complaining about the whole thing, largely because of bad reporting making the contest sound even stupider than it was, also slightly because of the normalisation inherent in suggesting that you HAVE to do all of these things in order to have a 'good date' ... Which isn't entirely accurate especially as it was supposed to be autobiographical, one person's actual first time, not a statement of how it should be, although certainly if it were the only such game in existence it would be frustrating. Still, these little details are not exactly the important aspects of a relationship!

The bigger problem I can see is that it doesn't sound like all that much fun, especially as a game themed around sex but not actually focusing on sex itself. People who like porn games will put up with a lot of silly roadblocks that they have to get past in order to get the sex part. Without that, I'm not sure who would be interested enough in the story as presented to stumble through a lot of unrelated minigames just to achieve someone else's ends. Having many different minigames is a problem because it makes it quite tough to make all of them fun. Doable if they're just obstacles to a goal you actually care about, more problematic if they're pretty much the whole game. It would work as a simple free flash game with each minigame being very easy; not much more than that, imo.

So, how could you make a casual-style gameplay-oriented game about sex that doesn't include sex itself and has a more broad appeal?

I'm thinking perhaps a game about trying to achieve privacy. You play a couple, you try to find a place to be alone together, but everything under the sun keeps intervening. People keep interrupting, wanting different things from both of you, everywhere you go you can't find a place where no one will see you, a random movie crew suddenly shines a spotlight on your hiding place, etc. Obviously this needs some work to figure out a proper mechanic for Hilarity to Ensue, but I think it's a general concept that a lot of people could relate to. Even adult couples sometimes have trouble managing to get the privacy they want, with friends and work and children making demands on them. The details of what the couple want to do once they're finally alone together don't need to be gone into - they can just kiss and we can infer the rest from there.

For extra bonus points, this concept helps get across the idea that sex is something people do together, rather than a goal one hunts and the other denies....

Saturday, 28 March 2009

pinker than pink - the rhythm edition

Since I've occasionally pointed out how hard it is to find reviews of games that fall into the 'girl ghetto' (ie, the sort of sites I regularly visit generally won't review this stuff) I thought I'd stick up links to a few titles that I've vaguely heard of. This is not an endorsement nor a sign that I'm actually playing these games (if I were, you'd see me post about it!)

Ener-G Dance Squad: Review written by a guy who makes it clear that a game being "for girls" is an automatic negative...

Ener-G Gym Rockets: He likes this one better, but still makes multiple digs about how girl-stuff automatically sucks and real men don't wear pink.

All Star Cheer Squad: Written by a girl, who didn't like it but still figures that sufficiently young girls will overlook all its weaknesses...

Imagine Ballet Star: From the review, it sounds a lot like Imagine Figure Skater except with three characters to choose from and associated alternate plotlines. The words of the review clearly say that the game is mediocre, yet the numerical score assigned is firmly in the 'crap'. What's with that?

The Cheetah Girls: Passport to Stardom Okay, I hadn't heard of this at all, at this point I'm skimming through DS release lists. Clear EBA ripoff, but hey, EBA was a good game!

Dancing with the Stars - Apparently dreadful, and this is why I complained about the numerical score given to Ballet Star. This sounds like it's a far, far worse game experience, but the same site gave it the same number. And they're an out-of-10 rating site, so they don't have the lack-of-gradation excuse. Pfft. Get rid of numbers completely, make people actually read reviews!

Kira Kira Pop Princess - Just not enough there.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

ooey gooey

Have completed all World of Goo levels legitimately. (Only skipped two while reaching the end - one because I needed to consult a walkthrough to see the obvious (that is, to know how to solve it) but was near the end of the game and just wanted to finish, and one because I knew how to do it but lacked the patience to go through the fiddly steps.)


Here's a nice t-shirt for the girls: Self-Rescuing Princess!


A retelling of the full plot of Fatal Hearts. Using Sims. In Lithuanian.

(Massive spoilers and dodgy auto-translation ahoy.)

Sunday, 22 March 2009

silly gamers

Pickman says, "And we just did some sword fighting"
Pickman says, "There was a knucklhead outside carrying beer to his car"
Pickman says, "and he was like 'oi, you gonna put someone's eye out with that. I've got a sword... It's a pork sword!'"
Pickman says, "And shit like that"
Pickman says, "I asked him whether he wields it one or two handed."
Pickman says, "His dialogue didn't really change, I think he was an NPC."

Saturday, 21 March 2009

slashdot's sensibility fallacy

It's not just slashdot, of course, but it's especially common there because slashdot readers tend to think that they're clever.

The basic problem is thus:

"I am a smart and sensible person. Therefore, all sensible people think what I think."

In terms of video games, this commonly plays out in one of two ways:

"I don't like this game. Therefore, no sensible person would like this game."

Commonly, if a Sensible Slashdot Reader encounters a game they don't like, they insult the intelligence of anyone who does actually like it, or outright assume that absolutely no one likes it. If, for instance, an indie making a complex business sim posts about their less-than-rockstar sales results, a horde of SSRs will post "Your game isn't selling because no one would pay that price for a game which is ugly/not 3d/on a PC/lacking tits/lacking guns/etc." If a company mentions that they're releasing a game not targeted at the typical slashdot market, the SSRs will laugh and point and proclaim that the company is doomed and deserves to die, because no one would buy games like that. Faced with evidence that people actually do buy those games, they will retreat to the earlier position of "Those people are brain damaged."

The flipside also applies:

"I like this game. Therefore, no sensible person could dislike this game."

Faced with the slightest hint of criticism against a game that they LIKE, the SSR will immediately assume that something is outright wrong with the person posting criticism. They tend to then invent a possible (but very stupid, since after all, the critic MUST be stupid) motive for why the critic doesn't like the game. This motive may be an extremely distorted version of the actual criticism, or it may have nothing to do with the actual criticism whatsoever. Then loudly proclaim what idiots the critics are because they believe $FabricatedReason.

sticky balls of goo

You can tell what I've been doing today...

It is possible to detonate the bomb in this level in the right place, opening the doors, in ENTIRELY the wrong way, and to therefore get stuck dealing with the aftermath and swear profusely that the designers are mean and unfair.

... Not that I would admit to such a thing.

Friday, 20 March 2009

build your own adventure

While I'm not actually playing it at the moment myself, I hear that the Mission Builder tool for City of Heroes is now in public beta - that is, available on the test server for anyone to play with. This neat little feature will let you design your own villains and small story-arc encounters with them for others to play. I can't say much more about it at the moment, not being personally involved, so I have no idea how it copes with balance issues or players trying to make the All Penis Squad or whatever.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

irrelevant and lame

Dear lost-in-the-past folks at GameSpy - Why do you even bother HAVING a ds category when you haven't posted a new game review in three months? YOU SUCK. (No, I'm not counting Puzzle Quest, as they made only one review to combine the PC and DS versions.)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

waste your time here!

Broken Picture Telephone

It's only vaguely a game, as there's no real point. You trade off between writing a description of a picture and drawing a picture as described. Meaning gets very distorted. Hilarity ensues.

if you have more free time than I do

Upcoming title on Good Old Games that looks potentially interesting: Septerra Core Reviews suggest it's got a good plot but the graphics were a bit crap/outdated even when it was released. Not that that'll matter THAT much ten years later... on the other hand, if the combat is super-slow it may be too much of a drag. Sounds like a game that really needs a modder's touch. RPGFan mentions that there IS a patch for the game, but the site they link to is not currently offering it. GoG may have the patched version on offer when the game goes on sale, we'll just have to wait and see...

Monday, 16 March 2009

gleeful revenge, the game

From a column rambling about videogames, the casual market, and the idea of games addressing common thoughts and fantasies:

Super Squabble Champ IV This game consists of nothing but petty relationship squabbles in which your character is endowed with the mystical ability to zip back in time and record footage of your partner being a massive bloody hypocrite, then zoom back into the present to play it all back on a giant screen in front of their eyes until they quiver and break down and confess that you were 100% right all along. Then you get a million points and it plays a little song.

... That actually doesn't sound that far off from a playable game idea. (Says I, poking with mild irritation at Time Hollow, which still appears to be going out of its way to try and slow me down from experiencing the story rather than actually having interaction that's FUN.)

Friday, 13 March 2009

skating game news

Gamezebo has a review up for Twinkle Toes Skating

Imagine: Ice Champions which is the sequel to the earlier ice skating game (like before, originally Japanese, translated for the market) is now released.

(There's also a Imagine Ballet Star game in the Imagine lineup which might have the same kind of gameplay, not sure. The graphics look cute and the price is currently really cheap, so if you have a ballet fan around, might be worth grabbing?)

An upcoming Divas On Ice looks like it may be related to the other DS ice skating franchise, Princess On Ice.

you should know better by now

Some early visual novels had particularly annoying gameplay features where you had to select EVERY option and sub-option on a menu, sometimes multiple times, before the game would proceed. Often this was in the context of a 'mystery' game, forcing you to examine/think about every possible object in order to be sure you got the clues. You couldn't just go straight to the right clue, oh no.

This is annoying for multiple reasons - it wastes your time asking for a lot of decisions that don't matter ONE. LITTLE. BIT. because you have to read every option before going on (I mean, in most adventure games, it's a rather good idea to read every possible branch of the conversation tree, but they don't usually staple your hands down and make you do it all at once, you can usually walk away and do something else for a bit) And if the menu's options and sub-options are complicated enough, it frustrates you poking around reading the same text multiple times trying to figure out what exactly you haven't selected yet that's holding you back.

Enter Time Hollow, a DS visual novel trying to cross with an adventure game. I've only played a few minutes and already time and time again I am faced with scenes where I get "point and click interaction!" - meaning that I have to find and click on every object in the room and read the text associated with it, no matter how inane, before I am allowed to even leave the room and move to the next frustrating step. This manages to be even WORSE than the pointless menus, because the hotspots aren't at all clear. You can tell that clicking in place X will give you a text box, but you have no way to tell whether place X is part of the Bed object which you've clicked on five times already or something separate.

A few minutes of this makes me want to stab the developer in the eyes with the stylus. It would have been much less frustrating as an actual visual novel, rather than adding all sorts of complicated interfaces and 'interactivity' that just mean pointless fumbling and delay along your linearity. (see also the Flashback system)

I think I'm going to be grabbing a walkthrough quickly not because this game is in any way hard, but because the process of playing it is so intrinsically not fun that removing any attempt at play may improve it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

the wonderful world of game development

A blogger's tale:

Work for months on iphone game. Release iphone game. Get great reviews. Sell tiny handful of copies. Have commenters tell you it's your own fault for having worked months on a game and expecting a profit out of that, you should give up and die in a fire, you deserve to be stolen from because you suck.

Of course, if you actually do manage to sell more than a handful of copies, then all the commenters will say you deserve to be stolen from because you don't suck. :)

Monday, 9 March 2009

getting the wrong idea

As seen on Penny Arcade:

1up is running an anti-drug campaign based on the idea that getting high will affect your usefulness in raids.

Which makes me wonder - has anyone taken the bad idea from the US Military and given their raid members speed to keep them going on those 36-hour+ encounters?

I have no practical experience of such things to judge their effectiveness. Of course, the main drawback of such things in the real world (shooting your own side, or at least, the Canadians) isn't an issue in many MMORPGs.

Friday, 6 March 2009

the tower symbolises virtue

Slightly disappointed with the ending to Professor Layton. (vague spoilers)

I had guessed most of the plot before the revelations (well, not about the Villain) but my version of what was going on involved a waaaaaaay more active Flora. (I thought she was doing what Bruno was doing, and fully complicit in the challenge to honor her father's memory.) The way she actually turned out was not only disappointing but also rather upsetting if you think about it. She couldn't have been very happy, nor does she seem prepared for what's to come.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

the point, you have missed it

Seen on GameSetWatch - apparently the GDC is doing a game design challenge about losing one's virginity.

The design challenge: 'My First Time'. Our three contestants will be pitching a concept that brings together two unexplored themes for games: sex and autobiography.

... unexplored? HELLO? Okay, the majority of these games are written in Japanese, but... There is not exactly a shortage of games featuring sex. And considering the active doujin scene, I suspect there are probably a number of true stories of losing one's own virginity as well. I will have to go consult my sources to find some links to bombard.

Now, sure, these themes are unusual for certain kinds of games... but not all!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Yo-Jin-Bo now available for download

Known as the only otome visual novel that was officially translated from Japanese to English, this was originally released on CD but went out of print. With the publisher having problems, some worried there would never be away to get a legal copy again. Now the day is saved!

What's it about? Um... a Japanese schoolgirl goes back in time to take the place of a princess and try not to get assassinated, with cute bodyguards to help her out. I haven't actually played it yet!

For more information, pictures of the characters, screenshots, etc, click here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cursor*10 2nd

A cool little flash game where you're trying to climb a tower, but the ghosts of your previous iterations repeat their previous actions, and you'll have to coordinate your efforts between lives in order to reach your goal. Apparently based on an upcoming PSP game...

Monday, 2 March 2009

inclusiveness, political correctness, and stupidity

(language warning!)

Point A: I do not have enough personal experience either with Resident Evil 5 or with the nature of the stereotypes in question to accurately judge it myself. I do not intend to make any sweeping statements about whether it is or isn't racist.

Point B: The internet is full of fucktards whose response to anyone disagreeing with them is to immediately assume that the other opinion is the stupidest thing possible and dismiss anything they have to say without making the tiniest fraction of effort to figure out why they might in fact be disagreeing.

Therefore, Kotaku readers, while I too am stupid enough to immediately assume that you are all idiots who wouldn't get the point if it were chiseled on your foreheads, I would like to point out to you that the protest is not "It's racist because you shoot black people!". It's a bit more complicated than that.

GameStop thinks women are from venus

This doesn't really surprise me, considering the number of times I've seen posts in LJ:Bad_Service from female gamers who've been treated like exotic pests by store employees. Heck, by suggesting that ignoring and laughing at female shoppers is a bad idea, they're making a step up.

I suppose I don't help matters much, as I'm insanely shy and on the rare occasion that I'm in a physical store instead of just buying my games off amazon, am willing to hide behind a companion and let them perform the irritating task of buying the game and making small talk with the cashier. But I behave like this in *any* store. I'm just as prone to running away if a shop assistant greets me and asks me what clothing I'm looking for.

Someday, we will have augmented reality, and I will be able to walk into shops with a sign over my head indicating that the safest way to proceed is "Let me know if you need anything!" Because I will ask, if I can't find what I want on my own. Badgering me about what I want before I've had time to prepare my thoughts will result in nothing but stammering confusion or me brushing you off.

new PC figure skating game

Twinkle Toes Skating

Launch intentionally sabotaged by BFG, but the game is out and can be played.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Linear RPG

Well, more sort of a commentary on the nature of RPGs than an actual RPG... however, I think it's both more interesting as game and as meta-game than That Thing With The Rope Which We Do Not Mention Here.

Check it out and see for yourself.

Archibald's Adventures

Today's Game Giveaway Of The Day looks to be a neat oldschool puzzle platformer. If I actually had time to play more than a fraction of the games that get released these days...

Three Stars of Destiny

A new old-console-style RPG by the developers of Laxius Force, although by all accounts this title is a vast improvement in both graphics and writing.

Click here for more info and to download the free trial