Sunday, October 31, 2010

Games within games.

Sorry for the missed post on Thursday, personal issues arose that made it so if I had posted, it would have been so angst ridden and poorly thought out that I would have deserved to be slapped about the face with a trout.  So back to the topic at hand.  Games within games.  Sometimes called mini games, other times side adventures, and even other times not given a specific name, just something else to do.  These will pop up in various kinds of games, such as RPGs, strategy games, platformers and even some adventure games.  They usually involve performing some tasks that is different from the standard style of the game.  Examples of this include the mini defense game in ff7, the racing game in Beyond Good and Evil and the shooters in Dead Space.

The purpose of these games usually depends upon the context of it within the game.  For Beyond Good and Evil, it's used to collect extra items, and sometimes to advance the plot slightly.  For Final Fantasy it's used to illustrate a story part of the game where a city is under attack.  The actual reasons range from these to just something extra the developers of the game wanted to put into it, to either test the waters for new ideas or even because they wanted to present the player with a different kind of experience then they would normally get within the game.  Sometimes these side games will be quite helpful and give the player new rewards or items.  Sometimes they will just be there as time sinks within a game.

Short post tonight, as tonight is the start of The walking Dead TV show on AMC, and we're still cleaning up a bit after the Halloween party we threw.  Going to be doing a double post this week to make up for some lost space etc, and thinking of trying out a few new ideas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Missing post, new games

So, as to the reason there was not post on Thursday, I was sick, like stay home from work, destroying bathrooms sicks.  So no post from me, as it would have most likely consisted of me rambling about bunnies and how they were plotting to take over the Russian throne.  So, onto some new games, a bit of blizzcon and other such things.

So Fallout New Vegas.  Newest game in the fallout series, made by Bethesda software creators of games such as Oblivion etc etc.  So some people have called it Fallout 3 with just an expansion pack.  So after giving it a few hours, some general cursing at my lack of good choices that I've been doing for some of the game options, I have to say, really people?  It's using the Fallout 3 engine yes, I am aware.  It's also a completely new story, different setting in the world, some new abilities, and it also now has included challenges from Borderlands, and the ability to create ammo rounds now.  So I'm not really seeing the problem people have with this.  So far it's been fun, I'm going to actually beat this one, unlike the last Fallout where my disc has disappeared into the great void, thus rendering my unable to actually beat the game unless I either find it, or buy myself a new copy.  More then likely going with the copy as I can pick up some other games along the way.  So my general consensus about the game with a quick review is, if you liked Fallout 3, pick up this game.  If you did not like Fallout 3, then your more then likely not going to enjoy this game as well.

Blizzcon was this weekend, and the geek that I am, I got the live stream and watched it in my house.  I have to give it a resounding, ehhh.   Nothing really new and exciting came out of it, and honestly considering I don't play World of Warcraft anymore, the special pets and such don't really entice me all that much.  The starcraft 2 tournaments though were fun to watch.  Makes me want to get back into the game, and really get destroyed by some people (not that good at it, as some of you may be guessing from my comments about my prowess with the game).  But at the end of the day, if your having fun right?

So what's on the Horizon for this here space of the net?  Well, I'm going to continue talking about some mechanics, might ask a few friends of mine to put up some writing of their own to spice things up a bit, I'll have a review of Gamma Worlds for Tuesday, and that's about it, as I'm still a bit under the weather.

Catch you all later.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A small break from survival horror

So I'm taking a small break from survival horror for the time.  Just picked up Fallout New Vegas and started playing it with my friend Dyslexic penguin.  So I'll be putting up a review of that in a few days, more then likely this weekend so I have some time to fully absorb the new game.  So today I'll be talking about the pay models used in most online games.  The three main models you'll see in most online games are either a free model, micro payments or full subscription based.

Free based games mostly tend to be small, web based online games, or some pc based MMO's use this model as well (I'll go into greater detail on those as well soon).  Most free games are free, with either micro payments put in, or advertising features built in to generate revenue for the game.  Some even have subscription based services, offering the players more options if they choose to pay a monthly fee.   Subscription based games are actually the most common model of online games you'll find.  How these work is you agree to pay a standard monthly fee, and you get access to all of the content of the game.  So all of the standard updates ,areas, services and features are included in this.  Most companies will give you a small discount if you agree to pay multiple months in advance.

Micro payments are actually the newest version of transactions you'll find in alot of online games.  How these usually work is your given full normal access to the game, and you can do all of the usual things.  How micro payments come in is that you can pay some money to either get a special in game currency or access to a special store.  The special currency will allow you to buy in game items such as weapons, armor, abilities or skills.  Some games make it so you don't need to use micro transactions to acquire everything in the game, if you have the time to spend getting it yourself.  In these games micro payments let people even out the playing fields somewhat.  Others give the micro payers special privileges, special areas only they can go into or even special classes they get access too.

Some subscription based games have even gone the route of micro payments.  Turbine is a very good example, taking both of their games (Lord of the rings online and Dungeons and dragons online) and turning them into micro payment based.  You buy turbine points from their online store and use them to purchase expansions, new items, special offer and other things from the game.  So you actually get to pick and choose what items you want.  If three new classes come out and you only want one, just grab the one you want.  This makes it a bit cheaper on the average gamer.

The last type of payment is much more obscure, but it's called a life time payment.  It's usually a large sum of money (a few hundred dollars upfront) but it guarantees you access to the game as long as it lasts.  Turbine did it with Lord of the rings, Champions online had it, and so did the ill fated game Hellgate London.

I hope you enjoyed this look into various payment methods of online games.  If I've missed one, please let me know.        

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Survival horror games done wrong

So, last post I went in-depth into a game I thought was very well done, Dead Space.  Now to talk about I game i just could not get into, Resident Evil 5 (also known as RE5).  Resident Evil 5 is a continuation of the changes they made in RE4.  These include a certain graphic style, a move away from the previous games enemies of zombies created by the T virus, and also the umbrella corp not having as large a role, if at all in these games.  In this game your playing as Chris Redfield , with a female partner (Sheva Alomar).  Your sent to an African area to handle what may be a biohazard outbreak (the story is that since Umbrella went under, their trade secrets and bio-weapon instruments have been spread all over the world, so now your part of an elite group sent in to suppress outbreaks).  So your dropped into this location, and so begins the game.

So lets start with what's wrong with this game.  First off, it's not that scary.  You'll get the occasional surprise moment when something jumps out at you, but otherwise I've yet to be really scared by this game.  So let's talk supplies, enemies and controls.  First off controls.  The firing and combat just seems clunky and awkward to me.  Your mellee attack, the same stupid knife they've given you in every game so far still does next to nothing.  They added in a few situational moves you can use, such as roundhouse kicks and curb stomping, but these don't seem to actually do much to enemies.  I've curb stomped a basic zombie three times and he still kept coming up at me.  Also ammo is still at a premium in this game.  It seems like I always run out of ammo just as I get to the next area, so I'm also hunting and pecking for ammo to find for myself.  I also ended up buying myself some armor from the shop, and was unsure if I was actually using it.  I couldn't equip it, and it was taking up space in my inventory, so I'm guessing it was being used.  The screen to split things with your ally also seems a bit clunky.  Also, shooting just seems stiff.  Also they like ding the BS move RE4 did, where head shotting some guys makes huge insects come out and keep on fighting.  So your usual method of hunting down enemies just doesn't seem to work that well.

So controls are a bit wonky, it's story is well, not the best thing we've ever seen.  So we come to graphics, sounds and world.  Now, the graphics are definitely nice, but that's where they end.  It doesn't seem spooky or dramatic or anything at all to me.  The sounds are generic, usual shuffling noises and people talking.  Most of them are not talking in english though so it's not that scary to me.  Also the enemies seem very weird in the amount of damage they do.  A guy hitting me with an ax does less damage then a dog jumping at me.  Combine this with the lack of inventory space, ammo coming up for guns I do not currently have, the bad controls and everything else, and I really can't recommend this game.  I'm still playing it some more though, since it's a game I've yet to fully beat.  

So what's coming up soon.  I've got fallout Las vegas tuesday(my copy of fallout 3 is missing, of course) and Fable 3 next week.  Plus Blizcon is this weekend so I'm going to attempt to do some live blogging of it.  I'm going to mostly focus on some starcraft 2 tournaments, some of the panels and Diablo 3 panels.  Plus I'm hoping they announce their new MMO soon.  So that's it for me for now.  


Thursday, October 14, 2010

No post tonight

Sorry folks, no post tonight.  Personal issues etc.  Will plan a large update this weekend to make up for it though.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dead space, a game done well.

So, with Dead Space 2 coming around the corner and Halloween coming around the corner, I figured it's time to take a look at what I consider to be a very good example of a survival horror game.  Now, this game has been out for quite a while, so I'm going to go into the story a bit to help explain what makes this game well done.


So the game takes place in deep space.  Your answering a distress call from a planet cracker ship, and your playing the lucky engineer who is going along for the ride.  Your girlfriend is also on the ship, so that's the hook they use to draw your character onto the ship.  As soon as you land, your hit by how empty the ship is, and how in eerie it all looks.  No one is around, and everything is abandoned.  Not so much that it's been a long time, more like just recently everyone tried to run away and never quite got there.  So the usual shenanigans go down.  The monsters pop up, chase you away from everyone else, and you spend the rest of the game chasing your girlfriend, following orders of people as you repair just about everything there is on the ship, and dealing with all of the weird monsters out to carve you into tiny pieces.

So, as I had talked about earlier, a few things make a good survival horror game.  We've established the first part, atmosphere.  The ship is very well made, and really does make you think people could live on it.  It's believable in size and scope, and the furnishings do a good job of conveying just how swiftly this all seemed to go down.  You can see the remains of people lying about, and even run into a few living people, all insane and scared by what has happened on the ship.  The monsters themselves help to bring forth this atmosphere.  They are twisted shapes of dead people, turned into killing machines by a mysterious alien technology/biological thing that seeks to establish more of itself.  Since it can only infect dead humans, it seeks to kill more of them.

Sound is something this game does very well as well.  The music is light and fits the atmosphere, and the general sounds you hear are either sounds from the machines around you, creature skittering about, or what works even best, dead silence in space.  The only sounds you can hear are from inside of your suit, and nothing else even makes a peep.  This is such a small thing to overlook in some games, but done well fits in so properly, whenever I see a game that does not do this I end up shaking my head.  The voice acting is done well, emotions pouring out of the characters.  Your character does not ever talk, but that's forgivable.

And finally, the controls.  Now, I've been trying to not try to write angry rants or anything in this blog, as it's not what I am trying to portray.  But controls, this is one of the things that will drive me mental in a game.  We've had games regularly coming out since 1985 (The nintendo system, atari before that as well) and yet, I still see games coming out with just poor, sloppy control schemes.  I should be able to move while I shoot, or at least dodge.  Item selection should be simple, maps brought up nicely, and status screens easy to read.  So many games just don't get his (I'm looking at you Resident Evil 5, yes you).  Dead Rising gives you an easy to follow status/item menu, combat controls that work freely and well, a decent physical attack that actually makes sense to use.  Your also not invincible, and can easily run out of ammo if your not careful with how you use it.  The ammo is a nice touch as well, you only get ammo for weapons your using.  So if you have a mine layer, and never use it, you never get ammo for it.  This makes inventory management a bit easier to manage, and makes sense from a game play perspective.  This makes both combat and exploring the station alot easier to handle.

This is one of the few game I own that I've actually played through multiple times, not just for achievements but also because the game was just fun to play again.  This game is honestly a very good example of how to do a survival horror game right.  Next time we're going to look at two games that I think belong in the bottom of the barrel in terms of survival horror games.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fatigue/energy levels in games

So, this is a bit out of the theme of survival horror games I've been doing this month, but since it's been a very long day for me and mine, I got to thinking of energy levels/fatigue in various games.  These range in variety from game to game.  Some games give you an energy bar, which depletes as you perform various actions within the game, thus limiting your abilities.  Others give you a finite amount of uses of various powers, or even recharging meters.  Still others let you build up meters, slowly saving up power to unleash it at a later date upon your foes.

One thing I hear from some people is why these even exist in the games they show up in.  The usual answer is to limit the players power.  Alot of times, a character will have some moves, that if they could use unlimited numbers of times, they would easily defeat every single opponent they run into.  The developers/designers still want players to have these moves, but they want people to think about how to use them.  So you don't use it on the hordes of little things running around, but instead save it for that big monster coming down the path a bit.  Other games use it to give the players a fight or flight mechanism.  They may not want you to be able to defeat every enemy coming down your path, so they limit what you can use so you have to pick and choose your fights.

A third reason is to increase the difficulty of the game.  Some games will make it their mission to frustrate players, and limiting what they can and cannot do is another way to frustrate players.  Of course, this is rarer and rarer these days.

So because of the fact that I am somewhat exhausted right now, this post is going to be a tiny bit shorter then some others.  So as we get closer to Halloween, I'm going to be continuing my reviews of some survival horror games I enjoy, as long as some that I just plain wonder about.  I'm also going to be doing some semi live blogging of Blizzcon this year, so if your interested in that, feel free to hop on by and check it out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Insane, or Perfectly Scripted

And Today, a very special post from Guest Blogger Vales, I hope to live up to the Saga Mechanic name.

To carry with the October theme of dark and spooky, I’m going to tackle the idea of madness in gaming. There are only a few games than directly handle madness or sanity within the game, although as an avid tabletop gamer, I love adding Sanity as a floating stat to my players character sheets. In the video game world there are two games that come to mind which use sanity as a meter of strength or closeness to the truth. The first is Eternal Darkness. In ED you got quick flashes of the truth or a freakish horrific incident (or sometimes just the screen going black with the no video signal blink for 10 seconds), and it really screwed with the character, let alone the player holding the controller. The first time I saw the no video trick, I was honestly taken. I tried to figure out what happened, because it just cut that scene and I wanted the next moment. Bastards got me good. The next game is a bit newer, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This game is a bit more touchy with your characters sanity, as for you sanity equals health bar, and just like anyone going over the edge, you’re never really sure when you’ve lost it completely. No on-screen indication always makes it a bit more intense.

But I mentioned sanity in tabletop gaming, and that’s where I understand it best. There is nothing quite like have your players gather up to discuss their plans on how to attack the necromancer’s stronghold and because one character has a low enough sanity, I make some quiet d20 rolls behind the scenes and pass him a perception note. For all he knows, he’s picked up on someone spying on them. He hears someone in the hall, then gets the eerie feeling that he’s being watched. I get to watch it all unfold from across the table. The one perception character laments his “terrible roll” I must have made for him, and demands to make his own roll. Others stat trying to put out spying counter-measures, magic spells, mechanical locks, anything. I watch the mild panic settle on my players. After ten minutes, it goes away, the feeling of being watched, they move on - but they wonder.

Sanity is not just a health bar for your mental abilities and faculties. It’s your paranoia meter, it’s your hidden fear triggers, and if you play it right, as a developer (damn you ED) you can evoke a huge range of emotions.

Got any other times you’ve seen Sanity come up? Or remember a time you got had in a tabletop game because you didn’t know everything going on? (Any game of Paranoia done well does this.) Post a comment, I’ll be back here to respond to your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fear, a survival horror look

No, not the game Fear.  Fear from the game your playing itself.  We've all felt some kind of emotion playing a game.  Frustration when you get to a particularly annoying boss or puzzle.  Joy when you finish off that boss, or even anger or sorrow at seeing someone you've grown close to in a game die or move on.  Few games though, can invoke the fear, anxiety and sanity breaking madness of a good survival horror game.  Wether it's the fear from the unknown in the game causing the player to make a misstep, or making them look over their shoulder so much they fail to notice the danger right in front of them.  Since the original Resident Evil (and before it clocktower, yes I've been doing my homework) the survival horror genre has been attempting to scare, and make extremely anxious, it's player base.

This mechanic of fear is an interesting one.  I touched on it briefly in my last post, and will expand upon it a bit here as well.  Everyone experiences the fear in these games a bit differently.  I recall my most frightful experience thus far has been playing Silent Hill 2, alone in the dark during college.  With no lights on and by myself in the middle of a dorm room, nothing so far has given me that level of terror, and it actually made me play the game better then before.  I was paying more attention to things and straining to hear if anything was coming around the corner.  Other people become affected and become worse at a game.  They may lose focus and try to find that far-away tell tale noise, only to miss the giant monster coming from in front of them.  Other people cannot take the fright of the games and instead decide to walk away, never playing the games again.

This post is going to be cut a bit short, as it's a bit late for me right now.  I may need to skip a day or two of posts due to some real life issues going on right now, but I'll attempt to make them up as I go.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Survival Horror, what scares me

So survival horror, one of my favorite genres.  My all time favorite is still RPGs(and MMORPGs as well, but i'll get to that in a bit).  So what exactly makes a game, survival horror.  Well, we could do some analysis of the words, get out their meaning etc etc, but why do that?  Instead we're going to look at some of the games in the genre, their common themes and why some seem to be more popular then others.  So let's start with two classics, Silent Hill and Resident Evil.

Resident evil is a zombie survival horror game that focuses on an evil corporation that creates a new type of bio-weapon that turns people into zombies, hunters and other weird creatures.  This is more of a semi natural survival horror, as it attempts to explain what is going on by using a real world thing (virus, mutations and in the later games some kind of weird, insect thing I'm not 100% sure on that)  In this style of the genre, your usually trained in some kind of military or special combat (police officer etc) and thus are able to use various weapons.  The survival horror part comes from the lack of supplies scattered around and the feeling that your all alone, usually in a vast city or similar environment.  The game tends to be scary of the in your face kind, things jumping out of windows or randomly showing.  The music and general sounds do help a little bit, but overall I don't rate these games as very good examples of the genre.  Their still good games (except RE5, why oh why do my legs disappear when I pull out a gun).

So, onto Silent Hill.  This game does have some general jump out at you moments, but tends to focus more on the supernatural aspect of survival horror.  Your in a town, covered by fog.  Your all alone except for occasionally running into people who for all intensive purposes are kind of crazy.  The creatures you meet are also twisted, somewhat human in shape but always horribly transformed into something so obviously not human but human enough to make you cringe.  your also never really given a good answer of what is going on and what these creatures are.  One game alludes them all to being people and your just seeing them as monsters, one suggest they are creatures from a young girls twisted mind, and another never even gives them an explanation.  The terror in this game comes less from random events and more from your surroundings.  The landscape is foggy, worn down and flickers between somewhat normal and a dark, twisted version of itself.  The sound and atmosphere also make this game.  You hear things twitch and shudder around you, horrible sounds of huge metal fans or even random words float around you.  For me personally this kind of game is what truly defines the genre.  Your character is really just a normal person stuck in this horrific place, with only their regular skills, wits and sometimes no weapons to get themselves out of the situation.

Now, these two series of game are of course not the entire genre in of themselves.  We have the fatal frame series, the clocktower series (one i've been meaning to explore some more as time permits) and even the dead space series (which for some reason intrigues me to no end, one of the few newer games I've played through multiple times).  These games also tend to have some kind of otherworldly horror involved in them, sometimes set in the future or in a very small area to further heighten the tension.  At the end of the day, that is what survival horror, I believe is trying to accomplish.  It's trying to build tension and fear.  You don't feel like the all powerful god of destruction when playing these games.  You feel like an average person trying to make it out alive and hope what is left of your sanity is enough to make it to the grocery store without falling over twitching in some random puddle.

This is just the first Halloween themed post coming up.  I'm going to be reviewing some survival horror games as time permits, go a little more in depth into the genre and also talk about online play in games and how it has affected different genres.