Friday, June 29

1up MMO Update 6/29/07

1up's weekly MMO Update has been posted. Once again, lots of interesting things to read. I have about fifteen tabs open just waiting to be read. Check it out.

Thursday, June 28

Customizable Controls

Update: Add Itagaki Interview

Ben 10: Protector of the Earth is coming to Wii, and Gamespy has posted a preview. Ben 10 is an action platformer based on the WB cartoon license. Patrick Joynt writes the preview and describes the control scheme as follows (emphasis my own):
The Wii controls were simple enough, with shakes of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk creating the various attacks and the analog stick used for movement. However, what we really appreciated was the option to use button inputs on the Wii controllers. Being able to use the controls you prefer is something every Wii game should support.
Do you agree with this statement. Do you think that Wii games should have multiple control schemes? Do you think games in general should have customizable controls? Mostly, I do not. Particularly for Wii. I feel, that if a game is designed for a system, it should be designed to that system. And that definitely includes controls. We play video games, we interact with them through control. Therefore, the controls should facilitate our playing. The control is the game.
Codename Revolution has a fantastic excerpt from an interview with Itagaki in the August 2007 issue of Nintendo Power.
I think it’s (Wii) a very interesting piece of hardware, and it’d be interesting for us to challenge that area as well. . . . I do think that it’s totally different from the DS, though…I think it would depend on how you make it (a hard-core action title on Wii). You would really have to design it for the strengths of the hardware. If you used the kind of control scheme that most developers are using right now for the Wii and tried to do a really hard-core action game, I think people would just throw up their hands and say “No, we can’t deal with that”. The Wii has its own reason for existence. If you don’t adapt what you’re doing to fit that, then there’s not much point in bringing an action game to the platform.
My problem is not that game control should be customizable. Its that the control scheme and the game should be one entity. I feel like when a game has multiple control schemes, its almost as if the developer couldn't find a single good way to control the game, so the player is instead left with a bunch of sub-par options. This happens all the time on Wii, as it were. However, I also think that in some cases the option for different control schemes is important, like PC first-person-shooters.Lets present a counter argument. Control schemes should always be customizable. Players should have the option to interface with the game in the way that most suits them. If the game has a control scheme that the player is unable to adapt to, then the player just won't play at all. Allow the players decide how is best to play.

My opinion is just one. I want to hear what you think.

Tuesday, June 26

SimCity: A New Society

I am sorry about the gap in posts. I ran through several posts that read like mud, so scrapped each one. Here is a post I'm actually proud enough of to post. Enjoy.SimCity was released in 1989 by EA Games. SimCity was lated succeeded by three games, the latest being Sim City 4, released in 2004. That was three years ago, and in due time, a new additions to the franchise is finally being released. SimCity as you've known it will become SimCity Socities.With Maxis hard at work on "Pure Awesomeness," also known as Spore, a new pair of wings has undertaken the SimCity brand. Tilted Mill Entertainment in the development seat this time, drawing from previous experience on simulator titles, Caeser IV and Immortal Cities. Game design is a fascinating topic, but so is sequel design. Tilted Mill Entertainment saw SimCity 4 and wanted to do something different. In an interview with 1up, VP of EA Rod Humble had this to say:
We thought that SimCity 4 was a brilliantly executed point of the simulation track of urban planning and it really nailed all those physical attributes, but we were sort of fearful that any design we did might start veering back towards that territory and we definitely wanted to do something different. And so, placing it with a different developer made a lot of sense and was a lot of fun as well. And when we showed the concept, the Tilted Mill guys got ahold of it and said, 'Hey, this is great. Let's change it here, here, here, and how about this and this?' and we sort of got the fire hose of creativity from them. And it was a great fit. It's been such a pleasure working on this project.
I haven't played SimCity 4, but from what I've read it pretty much perfected the city building simulator. EA is being very logical, they simply didn't want to retread on broken glass. Societies is a sort of branch off of what SimCity has given us before. Put bluntly, the game is completely different from previous iterations. This is not a bad thing. I'll be honest though, as a gamer, I'm having trouble coming to terms with the new SimCity, its just so different from the greatness of the franchise. However, as a game designer, I really like some of the ideas Tilted Mill is throwing into the cog.SimCity Societies is less a simulator and more of a sand box. Comparisons can be made more easily to RollerCoaster Tycoon than to traditional SimCity gameplay. One immediate example is that players now plot down individual buildings as opposed to zoning areas. Societies is about creating a unique society all to its own. This is represented in many ways: graphically, governance, economy, and people. There are three types of buildings in Societies: housing, work, and venues (entertainment). All are necessary in creating a thriving society with productive citizens. Additionally, each building brings with it certain attributes, called "societal energies," which contribute to defining your particular society. The six energies are creativity, devotion, industry, knowledge, obedience, and wealth. A venue tied to devotion may be a church. An industry venue, meanwhile, may be a bar or club.
Societies is customizable. Players can take to any energy they prefer, or mix or match for perhaps unexpected results. An obedience focused city will eventually become very "big brother" in style. A city built with creativity will be more like the board game "candy land." And of course, players can mix and match any buildings with any other, creating a montage of societal energies.

What I like most about this design is that the energies are a web. The six energies criss-cross and connect with one another. The means to creating a city on any given point is building the energy types that the player desires. Because players have placement control over individual buildings, they are able to construct a blueprint for any city layout they please. And not only physically, but societally as well. This is where SimCity Societies really shines: organic gameplay.
Players are simultaneously constructing a city and a society. Both develop organically according to the players' decisions. Placing buildings serves multiple ends, similar to how the factory mini-game in Chocolatier affected the meta game. Buildings are not only physical entities, they are also a piece of your society. Players build a city of brick and mortar which then creates a society of laws and individuals. Socities takes the gameplay of SimCity one step further. It does change much of the content from previous games, but thats ok, because this is a new game, with cool new ideas. I'm looking forward to it.

IGN preview
IGN video demonstration
1up preview
1up video demonstration

Saturday, June 23

Using the License: Harry Potter

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix will be released for most every platform this upcoming week. IGN's review is up early and briefly discusses the map and navigation system used by the game. Hogwarts is apparently enormous and allows for hours of free-roaming, without any loading screens. Navigating most free-roaming games requires a map, and in many a zoomed map and compass tucked into the corner of the screen. EA has taken a really cool approach to navigating Hogwarts castle by really using an element of the Harry Potter license: the marauders map. In the books, the marauders map allows the beholder to see the entire castle grounds and inhabitants therein.

In The Order of the Phoenix game, players can open up the map to see a layout of the whole castle, and then select specific places or people to travel to. After players exit the map screen a trail of footsteps will appear on the ground to lead them to their desired destination. Follow the magical footsteps and what is seemingly a confusing maze of hallways is a linear pathway to where the player needs to be. There are some cool ideas in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, but this is probably my favorite. The reason being is that EA really uses the book license and takes a creative and logical approach to navigating a free-roaming world. MMO Update

1up has posted their latest weekly massively-multiplayer-online game update which you can read right here. Once again the post covers everything under the MMO sun, its pretty amazing how much news and articles writer Michael Zenke can keep track of each week. Lots of interesting stuff comes out of this week's post that I'm working through for myself as we speak. Check it out.

Flash Puzzle Games: Nodes and StarShine

There are a couple of interesting puzzle games over at Newgrounds today. One is Nodes, the other is StarShine. StarShine is nice graphically, and the radial control is also quite cool. But I think the game suffers in design because it is difficult to actually plan out each puzzle and therefore levels divulge into random guess work that will net you the win within a few trys. Nodes is better. As you play you begin to discover geometrical strategies for solving each puzzle. As the levels progress you can see patterns and almost intuitively move the lines where they should be. Check them out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 20

Chocolatier: A Recipe for Success

The other day I heard about a game called Chocolatier over at Big Fish. I downloaded the demo and tried it tonight and, Imust say, I'm fairly impressed. Chocolatier is designed for the casual gamers market, but can be enjoyed by all. After all, even core gamers like me and probably you can still succumb to the addictive qualities of simpler online games. Players build a chocolate business empire in this tycoon sim. After the first few minutes of play, players found a new and rising chocolate business destined to take over the world, free trade and globalization intact. The premise is fun and unique, seting a tone of quality time to come.
The chocolate making mini-game

I have only played twenty minutes thusfar, but in that short span of time I have noticed a really cool gameplay mechanic. Players obtain recipies for chocolate bars and must cook them in a little mini-game at the city factory. The mini-game is simple (intentionally), but certainly fun at the same time. Players shoot ingredients, from an ingredient cannon of sorts, into tray slots to create chocolate bars. The faster and more efficient chocolatier's are, the faster the ingredients will come and trays will renew, allowing players to make more and more bars within a given time limit. When the time is up, players are told how many bars they were able to produce. This could have been a simple distraction from the main game. But what Big Fish has done is meld this with the empire half of the game.

Each week, in game time, chocolate bars are sold from the factory where the bars were produced. The number of bars sold per week are, ingredients willing, the number of bars the player was able to create in the mini-game. Big Fish has merged the mini-game portion of Chocolatier with the empire portion. This is a cause and effect relationship. A player's success in the main empire game is somewhat determined by his or her skill in the mini-game. Its beautiful game design, really. But the real filling in the chocolate bar, so to speak, is the balancing of these two game areas. The mini-game is pretty easy but becomes progressively more challening both in game as the speed ramps up, and as players acquire more difficult recipes. Just about anyone can play the mini-game with good enough efficiency. Second, a player's skill is neither detrimental to the game's enjoyment nor the empire's sucess. Therefore, while the mini-game does effect the main game in a significant way, it isnt a make or break deal. All of this is good for a casual game.
The empire building game

There are other facets of Chocolatier that make the game fun to play and are pretty much guaranteed hits with the casual crowd. One is collection. Everybody loves collection. Poke'mon is proof. Actually, almost any RPG has some form of collection: collection of experience points, collection of new and better weapons and items, collection of allies, etc. In Chocolatier, players collect recipes for a smorgasbord of what-have -yous from chocolate bars to nuggets. Collecting new chocolate recipes is fun. Players look forward to the next recipe because it will allow them to expand their empire further and bigger. A funny thing about collection systems, is that players always feel accomplished after each and every addition, simply because its the newest and best at the time. I was ecstatic to find "Dark Chocolate" as my second recipe in the game. Why? Because its better than normal chocolate in numerous ways. Nevermind that there are thirty-odd more recipes to acquire. I have my dark chocolate now and its better than regular chocolate.

A third system Chocolatier employs is that of exploration. "Exploration is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get." Chocolatier allows players to create a multi-national chocolate empire. Players visit many cities throughout the world, diverse in look, characters, and chocolate sold. There is also a strategy aspect to this. As it takes time in weeks to travel from city to city, players must plan so that their chocolate stock doesn't deplete during the journey. Its just plain fun.

Chocolatier is a cool little game. I actually want to play right now just thinking about it. Even so, the longevity and replayability of the game are questionable. These probably vary from person to person, so I'll have to play more to determine for myself. Check it out, if you would and discover the casual gamer in you.

On another note entirely, have you guys seen the new Game Trailers. Its even better then before. No more windows and multiple versions of trailers! Yay!

this friendly neighborhood blog post brought to by the word "employ" (because it rocks).

Sunday, June 17

2008 IGF Submissions Open

Submissions for the 10th annual Independent Games Festival are now open. From the official site.
The IGF is pleased to announce that we're opening up submissions for the historic 10th Annual Independent Games Festival, for which the awards will be handed out in February 2008 at Game Developers Conference.

The 2008 IGF Main Competition will again be open to all independent developers to submit their games - whether it be on PC, console digital download, Web browser, or other more exotic formats. The prizes again total nearly $50,000, with a $20,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and the deadline to enter the Main Competition is Monday, October 1st 2007.

The 2008 IGF Student Competition will once again award the best student games, and this year will also include student 'mods' to existing games. As a result, the number of Student Showcase winners has been increased to 12. The deadline to enter the Student Competition is Monday, October 15th, 2007.
All-around good news. I guess theres no such thing as too early, huh?


Saturday, June 16

Splinter Cell: Conviction--Consequence in Games

A few weeks ago IGN wrote up a series of articles on Splinter Cell: Conviction. The articles are very high quality, penned by Erik Brudvig, and cover a variety of Conviction's features. Conviction is the fifth installment in the Splinter Cell series, coming after Ubisoft Shanghai's Double Agent. Conviction returns the Splinter Cell name to its original creator, Ubisoft Montreal. Montreal also created the third game in the series, Chaos Theory. Before I go any further, I want to say that Ubisoft Montreal is my favorite game developer and Chaos Theory is my favorite Splinter Cell title, not to mention one of my favorite Gamecube games. So I'm quite excited for Conviction, and for good reason too.

There is much to discuss about Conviction in terms of game design, but I wanted to write today's post on one thing in particular: consequence. Consequence and penalty are very important to video games. We can see this way back to Pac-Man, when you lose a life, and eventually lose the game, when hit by ghosts. Same thing with Galaga and Super Mario Bros. In more recent games you may have to restart from a save point, room, or area post-death. Consequence takes many forms outside of character death, as well. Basically, players are penalized when they mess up or play poorly. In Chaos Theory players were encouraged to play stealthily and take out enemies discretely. The game encouraged this by punishing players for playing otherwise. AI guards would search the area if Sam left any traces and fire-on-sight if Sam was seen.
Metal Gear Solid employs a similar, yet more defined, system. In Snake is seen guards immediately go into Alert mode and will hunt and fire at Sam mercilessly. If Snake is able to escape from view and stay hidden for long enough, guards will switch to evasion mode and slowly search the area. Finally, guards will remain in caution mode if Snake remains hidden. All of this means is that Metal Gear Solid also promotes a stealthy play style. Being noticed is bad. Who wants to evade enemies and sit there for 3 minutes while the guards walk in loops? I didn't. Thats why when I played both Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell I would respectively either commit suicide or reload the area. The consequences were just to great. Furthermore, I like to play both games without killing anyone, so getting into fire fights is out of the question. Furthermore, since both games promoted stealthy play, I preferred to play stealthily. Conviction is looking to change all of this.As mentioned above, consequences for playing poorly can be too great, even detrimental to gameplay. Consequences can also be too little. Striking a balance is key to making a good game. Penalties for playing improperly have to be large enough so as to discourage the player from doing so, but small enough to keep the player playing at all, and ideally, without reloading the map. Every game requires its own penalty considerations and calibrations. Conviction is taking an entirely different approach to game penalty.Conviction's theme is improvisation. Players must be quick on their feet to complete their goals, which means being able find the most optimal approach to any given situation and be dynamic enough to adapt to the quick-paced changes. For one (from what I've gathered), Conviction is not exclusively about hiding and dispatching of foes discretely, as previous Splinter Cell's have been. This is still important, to be certain. As Sam Fisher, players can blend into the crowd Jason Bourne style (books, which are awesome. not movies, which are not) to sneak past an a guard or two. But eventually, players may gave to create havoc to achieve their goals. This might mean causing a distraction or, perhaps, even blatantly drawing a guard to yourself. Therefore, unlike games of Splinter Cell past, Conviction will encourage players to improvise and create solutions to rapidly changing situations. The idea is that players shouldn't have to reload the level.In IGN's The Rules are Changing preview, Senior Producer on Conviction, Mathieu Ferland, said:
Improvisation is a concept we wanted to bring to the gamers, as we felt it was one of the strongest shared elements of all spy agent on his own. They have to be able to deal with anything, anytime, anywhere, faster, smarter. . . .We are creating chaos in the system and we ask the player to 'surf' this chaos, and ultimately create order in the midst of it so that they can pass through.
Producer on Conviction, Danny LePage, said in IGN's Hiding in Broad Daylight preview:
In previous Splinter Cells, your goal as a player was not to disturb the AI so you could slip by unnoticed, in Conviction, you HAVE to disturb them if you want to avoid their attention, so more than likely, you'll be creating chaos and mayhem to reach your goals. . . .So the player can expect to survive and even thrive when all else fails and they get into a fight. Players will probably come to rely on combat as one of their tools, instead of a sign that they failed and should now reload the map.
Conviction does not punish the player for being noticed, not really. Being seen just changes up the gameplay, forces the players to adapt. "Failure to adapt" is, therefore, the fault of the player, as opposed to "playing stealthily." The consequence of playing rudimentarily is death, of course. But, unlike being seen in past Splinter Cell's, the risk of being seen in Conviction is much less. This is because Sam Fisher now has the means to defend himself. Conviction is designed so that players will be seen, but will then be able to adapt to new situations.This is a quite an innovative design method, but seems as though it will work quite well. Then again, Montreal runs the risk of having too little risk. If the game is easier to play through in any one way, cheaply, then this concept of consequence is broken. Montreal needs to balance the risk of players starting a commotion with the consequences of doing so. If they can do this correctly then Conviction should be a fun ride.

What games have you played where you feel the consequences are too great, or too low?
Based off of what you know, how do you feel about Conviction's risk/consequence system? Do you think it will work? How does it compare to the systems of previous Splinter Cell titles? Will it be better or worse? How so?

Thursday, June 14

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

NiGHTS into Dreams

Next-Gen has a short but very nice article on NiGHTS into Dreams on the Sega Saturn. It is a retrospective on why NiGHTS was such a good game and why it hasn't been ripped off yet.
Edge writes:
Because, with Nights, playtime is its own reward – and though high scores are the ultimate goal, the joy in playing and scoring highly are the same act. Flightpaths are cut with intricate patterns of items that beg to be linked together – collected in quick succession – for bonuses. For those willing to find the optimal paths some stages can be continuously linked in a flow broken only by the clock and an inevitable need to move on.
Read the whole article, its only a couple of pages and well worth it.

Saturday, June 9

Designing To a System: Ninja Gaiden DS

Following up on the other day's Designing To the DS article comes todays post on Team Ninja's masterpiece en route, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword.

I posted on Ninja Gaiden back in march. But much new information has surfaced since then. According to Itagaki, players will be able to fight just as fast and with as wide a set of maneuvers as previous Ninja Gaidens. He has also stated that this is the fastest Ninja Gaiden title yet. And after seeing this gameplay demonstration, I'm convinced it is.

If you aren't able to watch the video then I'll summarize for you. Ninja Gaiden plays almost entirely with the touch screen. Every actual button, face, directional, trigger or otherwise, causes Ryu to block. And thats it. When playing Dragon Sword, the DS system is held book style, ala Meteos: Disney Magic, Hotel Dusk, and Brain Age. Of course the game will allow for left or right handed play, but for the sake of simplicity lets assume we're all right handed. Players hold the main half of DS with their left hand and the stylus with their right. The left screen shows a map of the area along with the requisite indicators such as player location, and the right screen shows all the action. The whole game is played via touch screen implementation and supposedly allows for all the complexity of Ninja Gaiden Black or Sigma. Since I love control schemes so much I've created a convient description for your perusal.

Players move around by tapping and holding any area on the touch screen. Block by pushing any button on the DS. In so far as we know, Ryu is unable to roll. Tapping the screen quickly will cause Ryu to throw a ninja star to that location. Swipe the stylus horizontally across an enemy and Ryu will dash into that enemy and slash horizontally. Same goes for downward vertical swipes. Upward vertical slashes will launch enemies into the air, uppercut style. Double tapping anywhere will make Ryu jump. Double tapping again while in the air will double jump. Swiping across while airborn and Ryu will slash too. Swipe downard while airborn to perform a powerful slam. Tap the screen while in the air and Ryu will throw a ninja star. There are also two special moves. One is the ultimate techinue. To perform this, hold block and scribble the touch screen wildly to charge a strong attack. Continually scribbling will power up more and more. Releasing block will release Ryu's awesome power. The second attack is Ninpo. When enemies fall they drop Ki orbs. Collect them to fill your Ninpo meter. When full, players can tap a "sanskrit" icon in the top right corner of the touch screen to start the attack. A japanese character will appear on screen. Trace the character to unleash the attack. Players can guide the direction of the attack by dragging it across the screen.

Those are the controls. Simple, but effective. And that's really the whole point. A couple of quotations from a Gamespy interview with Itagaki, lead designer at Team Ninja:
The challenge for me is to make the number-one game in the genre. Whether it's fighting or action, I want it to be the best.

First of all when I looked at the DS I wanted to create something where I play while touching the screen, obviously. It could have been anything -- it could have been DOA for that matter. But I decided that it should be Ninja Gaiden.
Itagaki had a couple of goals in mind when creating Dragon Sword: It should be designer for the DS, and it should use the touch screen. The touch screen is a very important part of the DS system. Itagaki is taking advantage of the DS's best and most unique feature. Furthermore, he is not using the touch screen for the sake of using the touch screen. Itagaki is capitalizing on the touch screen's capabilites. He is using the swift input method of the touch screen to create quick-paced, action-heavy gameplay. The various stylus swipes allow for just as much comboing as more traditional controls, and, the control is more intuitive and tactile, always big pluses.

The other thing I should mention is the graphics. Developers have a hard time putting 3D graphics on the DS, I think, ismply because their are very few games that actually do them well. Dragaon Sword is an exception. The way they pulled off the amazing visuals is by making completely 2D backdrops. Not only are the backgrounds great looking, but this allows for more processing to be allocated towards character models and particle effects, which are 3D. And viola, great graphics solved on the DS.

Lastly, a choice quotation. Itagaki:
I’d like to show everybody some of the new stuff that we’ve been working on in the near future. The only problem with that is that when the other developers see what we’re doing, they’re going to lose all of their motivation to create any game in the same genre, because there’s no way they can beat it.
You gotta love the guy.

IGN Preview
1up Preview
Gameinformer Interview
Gamespy Preview
Gamespy Interview

Slash and Dash
Do you think that Dragon Sword would play as well with a button control system on the DS as opposed to a stylus control system?

"Come on and meet your maker."

Kotaku pointed out today a web game called game, game, game, and again game. The game is by Jason Nelson over at Secret Technology. Its really pretty interesting. The about section says the game is basically a rebellion against cultural beliefs and norms as well as the popular "clean" look if the internet and video games. I should also mention that the art style is really cool, featuring mostly hand drawn everything along with home video clips probably from the 70's. Check it out and then let us know what you think in the comments section. He has a bunch of other games it seems, as well, so I'll be looking at those this week too.

Wednesday, June 6

Metal Gear Solid 4 E3 2006 Trailer: Remastered

If you have a lower resolution, like me (1024), the trailer probably sticks out a bit. I dont't know why this is, but I'm going to keep the trailer up anyway. Its not too bad to be detrimental.

Designing To a System: Nintendo DS

After too much ado, I finally bring you the first Designing To a System article, previously espoused upon. Today's topic is the Nintendo DS.Nintendo DS is a very special system. The handheld is not original, as most probably think. Its neither the first handheld to have two screens, nor is it the first touch screen system. However, the DS is the first successful system to boast these features. The reason for this success is another story. Right now we want to look at what the DS has to offer, then figure out how to make a game specifically designed to it. The most important aspects of the DS, to me, are the touchscreen and the hinge space between the two screens. The touch screen is important for obvious reasons, its literally integral to the system. Touch screens are by nature tactile experiences, more so than buttons or triggers or even remote waving. The reason for this is because their is so much feedback to the player. Touching allows players to feel the screen, see the result of their touching on screen, and hear the touch through both the physical tap and the system's speakers. The stylus brings the game outside of the screen, serving as a bridge between game and player.
On the left we have Yoshi's Island DS, making use of the dead zone. On the right we have Sonic Rush, which pretends there is no gap (note the mesh).

The second aspect of the DS, which I find to be critical to a game's success, is the gap between the top and bottom screen. The fact that the DS has two screens is negligible when considering the hinge strip chasm that separates them. But the blank spot should not be thought of so negitively; just the opposite, think of the hinge as white space. Most any artist will tell you that use of white space is pivitol to painting well. The DS is the same. Designers must be wise to use both screens as effectively as possible while taking into account the space between them. Let us make another analogy: just like with a sonnet or villanelle or any other poetic form, designers must work within the bounds of a systems strengths and weaknesses. The DS's white space is known as the dead zone, there are two ways to use it. One way, the more popular of the two, is to split the two screens by showing distinct and separated images on each. The other way ("using the dead zone") is to fill in the gap between the screens. The latter is to my knowledge exclusively seen in games that play across both screens, like Metroid Prime Pinball and Yoshi's Island DS. To be clear, not all DS games using a single play field across both screens use the dead zone, Sonic Rush is an example of a game that skips the gap.
Yay! The best DS game ever...except for one other. Can you guess my favorite DS game? If you know me personally your excluded from the competition. P.S. Who ever is play stinks.

Whether or not to use the dead zone or the touch screen are not the questions you want to be asking yourself, not even close. We must design in cooperation with the features of the DS in order to create a game that truly fits. When making a game for the DS, one must take the correct approach. Think, "The DS has a touch screen, two screens, and a space between them (among other things that are also important). How can I craft a game that takes advantage of these opportunities?" Design to a system. Otherwise you'll just end up making a square peg for a round hole. And that wouldn't do at all.

I had originally intended to talk about Ninja Gaiden DS in this post, but the post got kind of long. So that's what you'll be getting next, sorry to spoil it for you.

Touching Is Feeling
What other aspects of the DS do you find most important?

Sunday, June 3

Pollen Sonata Teaser

Amazing gameplay video of a conceptual game calle dPollen Sonata. Hopefully heading to a Wii near you.

Saturday, June 2

Castle Draw and Defend Atlantis

Chris Kohler over at GameLife tipped me off to an interesting little game called Castle Draw by Free World Group. In Castle Draw you draw rocks of varying sizes to stop stick figures from climbing up your castle walls. The game reminded me of anoter flash game I played a while back called Defend Atlantis, by Super Flash Bros. Defend Atlantis plays similarly but not exactly the same. In this flash game you also draw circles, this time to create bubbles. Both games are pretty interesting, give them a try.

It rhymes. Their both verbs. Its awesome.

Friday, June 1


Crush is not the first puzzle of game of its ilk for the PSP. You may recall, there was also Exit and Practical Intelligence Quotient. Players control characters in each of the aforementioned titles, unlike traditional puzzle games like Tetris of Lumines. But what seperates Crush from all of them is its perspective switching gameplay. Crush was developed exclusively for PSP by Zoe Mode. The closest video game comparison one can make to Crush is Nintendo's recent Wii title, Super Paper Mario. What makes both games special is the ability to switch perspective.

In Crush, players take control of Danny as he explores his unconscious. The nether-regions of the mind are manifested in elaborate three-dimensional floating block mazes. To complete each level, players must collect lost marbles while finding their way to the end. This, however, is impossible to achieve within the limitations of the three-dimensional world. Fortunately, players can switch the game's perspective at any time with the tap of a button, "crushing" it. What was once three-dimensional is now two. In Crush, Super Mario 64=Pac-Man. When the perspective is snapped from 3d to 2d. The whole world flattens to the plane on which Danny is standing. Foreground blocks and platforms fade backward, and background blocks come forward. Sometimes this means side-scroller style perspective, other times it may mean top down. This allows players to cross seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But what makes this gameplay mechanic so awesome?
This is what I like about Crush. The game has a single gameplay mechanic: switching perspective. This tool is simple enough to be understood, but complex and dynamic in use. The player understands this tool, what it does, how to use it, etc. Therefore, the game becomes a test of player skill. The question isn't how to use this gameplay mechanic, but how best to use it.

The fact that players can switch perspective is awesome, to be sure, but is a novelty compared to what else this game achieves. Crush successfully implements one of video gaming's greatest goals, challenge and player skill. The levels are a challenge, neigh, unbeatable without the perspective mechanic that Crush makes available. All thats left is how good is the player at using that mechanic. I'll tell you right now, this is what 90% of video games are, and what makes the best games so good. Think of any game you've ever played. Unless its built 100% on chance or luck, your game gives players a challenge along with tools to overcome that challenge. The best games figure out how to take these tools and make the game neither too easy nor too difficult for the player. The difficulty is dependant on how much player skill is required. Enter Crush. Players can crush the game world. Awesome. But the crushing is not what really matters, its the player's ability to use the mechanic that makes the game good.


Why do you think Crush is cool?
Do you agree with anything I just said? Why or why not?
Have you bought Crush yet? My mailbox address is...