Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Parents Gone = Work Party

The events in question took place between high school and college, if I remember correctly. But that's not important.

I was working at the movie theater at the time and the manager (whose butt I had slapped once) was actually fairly young, in his mid 20s or so. I managed to let slip that my parents were going to be away one weekend. Now, what happens when you do this, kids? That's right, everyone decides that there needs to be a party at my place.

And a party there was. It was mostly just people hanging out and stuff. The manager did buy some alcohol for everyone (keep in mind that the employees were between the ages of 16 to 18). I honestly don't remember much. I didn't do much if any drinking, since I was worried about keeping the place in order. Eventually everybody left and I tidied up the place.

The next day I finished off the Smirnoff Ices that the 16 year old fellow employee left behind, for obvious reasons. Then in the evening I gathered up all the trash, loaded it into my car and dumped it in the dumpster at my other place of employment, a Mexican restaurant.

It was as if nothing had happened. Not like the time my parents left my brother home alone and came back to the beer cans everywhere and him passed out on his bed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Companions: Storytelling in Team Ico games

Wrong kind of companion
People look at the Team Ico games and try to find connections to prove that they're all in the same universe. They'll talk about boys with horns, art style, etc. There is, however, a common thread in the gameplay which I feel is what makes the stories in these games so powerful, despite the lack of dialogue. Each game features a companion. In this instance, a companion is a character that stays by the main character's side throughout the majority of the game.

Why would they make all of their games this way? I think it's because it really has a powerful effect on the story. In ICO, your goal is to escape from the castle with Yorda, the daughter of the queen of the castle. The Queen plans to use Yorda to extend her own life. Yorda is mostly useless, only occasionally being able to help by magically activating certain doors. When plalying ICO, I felt a strong need to protect Yorda as if she were my younger sister. That's a bond that I never have with the main character of a game, who I'm used to seeing die. That's one reason that I, as a player, got pulled into ICO's story. Yorda's constant presence and vulnerability made me want to protect her, giving me a stronger connection to the universe and its events.

The Brother

I don't often talk about my brother. This is mostly because the things that are notable are painful. I love him, but he has been the major source of pain for my family.

When we were young we shared a room and he was a great older brother. He's three days shy of two years older than me. Playing together, hanging out, it was good times. I don't remember at what age, specifically, but I think that when I was in the second grade he moved out of our room and got his own. From that point we have done nothing but drift apart.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Backlog Update

I'm healthily making my way through  The Legend of Zelda. I'm seven dungeons in and I have the White Sword and the Blue Ring. It's been really fun, although I have to question how some of the items are supposed to be compelling.

Oh, look! It's a...ladder?

I dug some more into Super Meat Boy. I beat Hell. Now it's just getting stupid hard. I'm putting it in my, "I don't actively care about beating this game" bucket.

I really need to get back to work on Portable Ops.

Weird Dream: Shoulder People and Batman

I had another weird dream last night. I was the only skinny member of an obese family that lived out in the country. Everyone else in the family also had people growing out of their shoulders. I had gone off to go to a Batman Fair, which is much like a county fair, except everything is Batman Themed.

The fair was really cool but when the time came for me to go home I couldn't find my bike. I had to borrow someone's bike to get home in the dark down the country roads. I was worried that I'd get lost in the dark but my brother eventually found me on his motorcycle.

When we got home we had a nice big family moment, and my other family members decided to let their shoulder people get some fresh air.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Please Retweet (and don't RT)

Most people who use twitter regularly have encountered this situation in their twitter feed. You see a tweet from someone in your feed, and then you see someone else retweet it using the old RT @username style. I find this to be incredibly frustrating, since it's wasteful of my time. I am here so say, right now, "Stop all the RT'ing!"

First Reason: Redundancy
As I laid out above, when people use the RT, they run the risk of creating duplicate entries in the feeds of your followers. This becomes especially bad if multiple people in your feed RT the same thing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why I Love Smaller Games


Small Game

I love smaller games such as PSN downloads, indie titles, DS/PSP games, and mobile games. I've spent far more on these games in the past 5 years than I have on "full priced" games.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Some Demo Impressions and a story

I played some demos tonight, so here are my thoughts on them.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
This is an action game that has absolutely stunning stylized visuals and is apparently based on a biblical story (although I'm not sure how THAT works). It's definitely strange. The combat was pretty good, but difficult. It's nice to know that dying isn't final, you can resurrect yourself with some button mashing.

It was a very strange experience for me. It could be a really good game, I just don't know. The gameplay was fun, even though the platforming parts were a little frustrating.

Spirit Tracks Thoughts

I beat Spirit Tracks last night, and it was actually really great. I felt like the game did a wonderful job of fully utilizing the touch aspect of the system that it was on. It was a wonderful improvement on the solid gameplay already found in it's predecessor, Phantom Hourglass.

One of the most welcome improvements was the fact that in the "central dungeon", in this game a tower, which is returned to several times during the game, previously completed portions of the tower do not have to be repeated. Many of the items in the game are variations on standard Zelda items: bombs, bow, boomerang, whip. There was also an item which let you blow gusts of wind (using the microphone) and a wand which let you do some really neat puzzle with sand. The wand would hard the sand and make it stand up as a raised platform, allowing link to create barriers or elevator himself.

Princess Zelda plays a more crucial role in this game since her spirit became disembodied. She follows you throughout the game, but not in an annoying way. As a spirit, she can possess certain armored enemies called Phantoms. The Phantoms only occur in the central dungeon and come in a few varieties. The co-op'esque gameplay provided by this mechanic allows for wonderful and interesting interactions with your items.

The boss battles were all wonderful, the ones at the end were especially great.

This game does feature extensive train travel as a core of the game in a way that is somewhat similar to Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, though in a more rigid way. There are some special gates that facilitate travel via teleportation, so overall, it's on par with the travel in the other two.

Overall, it was a wonderful game.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wind Waker non-Review

Wind Waker was good and enjoyable. Also, when compared to all the Zelda games that preceded it, it was very different. Boasting a new art style and open-sea exploration, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker launched in North America in March of 2003. It was met with a very mixed reaction from fans who found this adventure to be quite different.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Asymmetric Multiplayer

In my WiiU piece, I talked about how the new controller will allow for hidden information and asymmetric multiplayer opportunities. This has actually an idea that I've had on my mind for quite some time. Way back before the PS3 came out and and Starcraft: Ghost was actually still in development, I had an idea for a mixed mode RTS/FPS game where one player, using a PSP that was connected to the PS3 would control the RTS elements of play and the PS3 players would each take individual control of a unit on the battle field. Granted my idea was sloppy, but someone else has actually come up with a similar idea that should work out much better.

This idea has actually come to light in the form of Dust 514, a PS3 shooter that takes place in the persistent EVE Online universe. EVE players take control of the RTS elements and the Dust 514 players take control of individual soldiers.

At Nintendo's conference they showed a tech demo called Chase Mii where one player, using the tablet controller, is chased by the players that are using the Wii Remote. Because they are using the tablet controller, the location of the chased player can't be spotted by the other players. This solves 'screen looking.'

Up until now the significant majority of multiplayer games, both cooperative and competitive, have been symmetric, where each player plays the same way, has access to the same things, etc. So what are some ways that this new multiplayer paradigm can be leveraged?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dream: Jasmine and I go to Cuba

The first thing that I remember about this dream was that Sarah and I were in a city. I was some sort of higher up at a company and SOMEBODY was 'after' me. So we got a limousine to take us to the airport so we could escape to Florida.

We arrived and Florida and checked into our hotel and went down to the lobby restaurant for dinner. At dinner we ran into Jasmine and some other people. During the meal Jasmine and I needed to leave for some reason that required an elevator. We ended up in a kitchen that was filled with alligators! We left there and kept searching for an elevator (such an elusive structure).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How the next generation should shape up.

Nintendo has shown part of their hand. You could definitely argue that it's probably the most important part of their hand, but it's definitely not all of it. We now know what the new controller gimmick is going to be for the WiiU and we know that it's graphical power will be comparable to the PS3 and the Xbox 360. So how are Sony and Microsoft going to respond? This post will be an analysis of how I think they should respond and how I think the next generation should shape up.

Online
We know nothing about what, if any, improvements will be made to the WiiU's online functionality. The Wii has the worst online functionality of the three systems and the Xbox 360 is far and ahead in the lead. I firmly believe that both Sony and Nintendo need to make the social aspects of their systems more robust and more prominent. Every console's online system needs bio's, status updates, now playing status, and a more robust messaging system.

One of the limiting factors for Sony is the XMB. The XMB interface is minimalistic, too minimalistic. The design doesn't lend itself to the amount of information that needs to be displayed for the social aspects of the console's online functionality.

Nintendo's online functionality just needs more. And no more friend codes. I want to be able add someone by their username and be given a list of people that I have recently played list so that they're easy to find and add to my friends list.

Controllers
Every controller for current generation systems needs to work for next generation systems. Nintendo has already confirmed that Wii Remotes will work with the WiiU. The PS3 and XBox 360 standard controllers need to work with their respective followup systems and the Kinect and Move also need to work with the followup systems. The standard gaming controller has reached it's pinnacle, it's not getting better. The motion controllers need to carry over to the next systems because they have yet to be fully utilized.

Power
The next generation from Sony and Microsoft could once again be the humongous leap in visuals that the current generation was over the last, but I don't think that it should be. I think it would be great if the next generation was a more conservative step forward. This will help keep the price of the console's lower and it will help keep the price of game development lower. It will also let the consoles be smaller.

I think that it would be perfectly possible for Sony and Microsoft's next series of consoles to be enough of a step forward that they distinguish themselves graphically from the WiiU, but close enough that making a three-platform game isn't so hard that is makes the WiiU version not worth the cost of development.

Price
I started to mention this in the last section, but the next series of consoles needs to be cheaper. The XBox 360 was somewhat expensive and the PS3 was far too expensive. You can tell that Sony learned their lesson with the PS3 from their Vita price announcement. There's a reason that the PS2 and the Wii were such successes and the software was only part of it.

E3 Impressions: The WiiU

Picture from nintendo.com
Those who were paying attention to video game news closely had already seen rumors which turned out to spoil what the big twist would be for the next Nintendo console. The twist, is that you have a standard controller (Dpad, dual analog, 4 face buttons, 4 shoulder buttons, rumble) that also has a 6.2 inch touch screen with microphone, front facing camera, speakers, and motion sensing.

The new gameplay types that are supported by this new technology are vast. This allows for (certain) games to be played without the television (as shown in the picture above, the console still plays the game, the picture is just transmitted to the controller). This allows for DS style gameplay where extra information and game controls are placed on the controller's screen. It allows for stylus oriented gameplay. This also allows for asymmetric multiplayer and hidden information.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Backlog Update

Image via theskywardsword.com
I'm currently working on a few games, alternating between them to help me get things done.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
This game focus is on Big Boss building an army in order to overcome the enemy. A major component of the gameplay is recruiting troops in the battlefield. My only problem is that the recruitment is rather tedious. After a unit get's knocked out, they have to either be dragged back to the truck, or to another soldier of yours that's on the battlefield. The dragging process gets tedious. I understand that it needs to be difficult so that people can't max their army that easily. But dang!

I'm looking forward to Peace Walker after I finish this but I wish that I had someone to do the co-op with. Maybe I'll be able to find a way to get Sarah to play with me.

Pixeljunk Shooter 2
I've actually beaten this game, but I just need to collect all of the jewels so that I can access the secret final level. It's a truly excellent game and I've loved every minute of it.

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
I'm actually a good deal through with this game, I just need to finish it. The central tower structure is similar to Phantom Hourglass except that it doesn't require you to go through sections that you've already complete.

Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Playing things out of order? You BET I am. I spent some time boating around and trying to check out all sorts of secret areas but I just need to get back on track and try to kill me some dungeons.

After I beat those two Zelda games and get around to beating Zelda 1 (yes, I'm a terrible person), I will have completed every Zelda game (minus the CDI ones, of course), until something new comes out. Oh...wait, I forgot about Majora's Mask. So much work to do.

E3 Impressions: The Vita/NGP/PSV

First of all, let me say that I am very excited about everything that I've seen at E3 so far. As someone who loves their PSP, I am super excited about the Vita.

Things that I'm excited about:
  • Graphics quality
  • Front multi-touch screen
  • Rear touch panel
  • Two thumb sticks
Things that I worry about:
  • Third-party software support
  • Lack of support for my current PSP disc games
The second issue there isn't too much of a big one, since I will deal with that just by keeping my current PSP. 

I've done a look around the internet to do the obvious comparison against the 3DS. It appears to me that, in it's favor, the Vita has better graphics quality, two thumb sticks, the rear touch panel, multitouch, GPS, Bluetooth, and optional 3G support. The 3DS has, in it's favor, 2 screens, 3D, the virtual console, and Nintendo franchises. I firmly believe that the Vita stands a much better chance at fighting the 3DS than the PSP had against the DS. I'm definitely not saying that it's going to be better. The virtual console and Nintendo franchises are HUGE factors in the 3DS's favor.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Video Game Todo List:

What follows is a list of the games that I need to play/beat.

Nullity

James Anderson once claimed "having solved a 1200 year old problem." The problem was 0/0. He gave this operation the value of Nullity. You see, if you ask a computer (or a mathematician), 1/0 is infinity, -1/0 is negative infinity, and 0/0 is not a number.

He then believed that designing computer hardware to actually handle infinities and 0/0 as numbers and not as exceptions would solve many cases of hardware and software crashes. The problem (at least as I see it) is that even if the software won't crash because of these numbers, you still have the problem that they aren't useful for standard practical computing purposes. This means that you'll have check to see if the result of your divisions came out as one of these special values, because they (probably) need to be handled differently from other numbers.

Normally, when you program, you should either 
  1. be certain that you won't perform division by zero (this is usually done by proving that it won't happen)
  2. or check to see if you will be dividing by zero and then handle it accordingly (usually by not dividing).
So you can either have specialized hardware that will do the operation, and you'll have check to see if something funny happens, or use the normal hardware and still check to see if something funny will happen. 

Either way, you're going to have to check something. This doesn't really solve anything.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dreams: I'm a lame wizard.

It has come to my attention that I have started having strange dreams. I've been told that they are so weird that I should write them down somewhere, so here I shall do so. This dream happened some time in the past week.

In this dream, magic was real. It was a real thing, that normal people did and they went to school for it. I had missed out on learning magic in high school and college and decided to begin learning it after college. I was unfortunately forced to enroll as a graduate student even though I'd be taking very low level classes.

As a graduate student I was required to teach courses to lower level students. However, professors (and graduate students) are randomly assigned classes and I was unfortunately assigned a fifth year course in magical history, despite being only a second year student. Terrible person that I am, I had done absolutely no preparation for the first day of class. No syllabus. I hadn't even read the book that we'd be using for the course, The Fall of Eru IlĂșvatar. If you know, Eru IlĂșvatar is the god of Tolkien lore. Although in this dream setting, he was a powerful wizard.

Naturally, I'm on my way to the first day of class and I run into a professor that I didn't like, and I don't think he likes me. In the dream, he was played by a professor that I've had in the past who I don't like very much. We had a short discussion, with him asking me shitheaded questions such as "How prepared are you for your first day?"

I break away from him and rush to class, where I plan to fill time with everyone introducing themselves and also by going over what limited information that I knew about the book. Of course, while we were doing this, I noticed that one of the female students in the class had her nose buried deep in a book and I saw that she was already over halfway through with our book for the course.

Fuck. I had tons of reading to do that night.