Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bite Sized RPG Chunks: Mmm... Delicious

One of the advantages of playing Final Fantasy I on the ipod touch is that I can get in quick play sessions.  I'm not slaving over the game for hours the way I sometimes do in modern RPGs and MMOs.  The ipod lets me pick up and play for 5 minutes, make some progress, save and quit.  It works well and I don't feel any RPG burn out at all.

Compare that to Dragon Age II where I only play once every few days and but devote a large block of time to my play sessions.  By the end of a session I'm often burned out on DAII.

It actually makes me kind of concerned for my Final Fantasy Project because the thought of going back to old school save points sounds like a pain in the ass.  The games aren't that old but not being able to save on the fly is going to be inconvenient.

Part of the reason the modern, save anywhere, approach exists is the increase in technology but I think that demographics play a part as well.  A whole generation of gamers has grown up and now they have responsibilities like jobs and families to attend to.  It's a lot easier to game and still be responsible when you can save and quit at the drop of a hat.  Gaming becomes less of a time constraint on adult life.

I like the modern approach and really hope we don't regress.  I can look back on save points nostalgically as long as I don't have to actually deal with them.  Save points are not the way of the future and I don't think they'll be missed.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Playing With Friends

Sitting down to write is always the hardest part of writing.

A really good friend of mine died last week, so I haven't felt much like writing. But, it's time to start getting back into my daily life.  I miss writing already, but not all my thoughts today are gaming related.

I've known my friend since we were around 3 years old.  I have memories of playing all sorts of games with him over the course of the last 20 years from NES to Xbox 360.  One of the memories that kept flashing through my head this last week was about playing couch co-op games with him while we were roomates in college.

Freshman year we lived in the dorms and we also got a little game called Guitar Hero.  We ended up socializing with a ton of people on our floor because we would rock out with Guitar Hero and leave our door open.  But the best part of the game was knowing that every night we could both relax for a while and hang out together.  Working on our skills and learning to master a new type of game together was an awesome bonding experience.

I still remember how elated he was the first time he beat "Bark at the Moon."  It was the final track of the game and, at the time, seemed impossible to complete.  I don't think either of us would have gotten as good at Guitar Hero if we weren't playing together.

When we were upperclassmen we got good at racquetball together the same way, by encouraging one another and playing in person on a regular basis. 

I guess this applies to anything that a person wants to get better at, but games are a fun experience and a great excuse to bond.  It's the perfect reason to build couch co-op into modern games.  Yes, we can connect online, but it's such a blast to play a game side-by-side.

There's something to be said for being face to face with your friends.  It's underrated today.  I love playing online with people, but something is lost when you aren't in the same room.  You can keep up with people on Facebook, text them every day, or call them up on the phone...

But don't forget to get together once in a while.  Those memories will stay with you for a long time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Viewing: FPS Mario Edition

Hey everyone, it's been a really long week.  No chance to write whatsoever.  Just wanted to post this awesome video in case you haven't seen it already.  It's by one of my favorite effects guy online, Freddie Wong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Virtual D-pad

As much as I like touch devices, there's something about an actual button that can't be replicated.  A game designed completely around a touch interface is great, but emulating a traditional controller on a touch device leads to mixed results.

Final Fantasy I uses a virtual d-pad that is definitely a hindrance to the game.  The d-pad is often unresponsive or laggy in interpreting inputs.  It's not game-breaking, but it's an annoyance for sure.  Attempting to push a direction multiple times before it actually acknowledges my touch gets frustrating.

It's a shame that the d-pad falls short because the rest of the controls in the game, from battle actions to the menus, have all been modified to work seamlessly on a touch device.  I wish that Square-Enix could have found a better way to do character movement, but I can't really think of one.  It's just one of the pitfalls of porting a game from a system that was controller based.

Going forward it will be interesting to see how developers choose to tackle similar problems.  Just look at games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.  They have no traditional buttons, but they're two of the most highly regarded games on the platform.  But generally, on a touch device, the more touch oriented you can make a game the better it will turn out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fly Higher with Tiny Wings

Tiny Wings is about momentum, reaction time, flying, and an adorable bird all at the same time.  It's a fun experience and it only takes one button to play.  Well, one touch at any rate.

In Tiny Wings the world is made up of islands and each of these islands has a series of hills on it.  Your goal is to help the bird cross as many islands as possible in one day.  With a touch of the screen the bird folds his wings and gains momentum downhill.  When you release your touch the bird flaps his wings and tries his best to soar majestically with the momentum he's gained.

Stringing together hill jumps makes the bird go exponentially higher and farther.  It's a simple gameplay mechanic that I can't seem to get enough of.  The sense of accomplishment I get from executing jumps successfully is amazing.

The game not only has cute graphics, but they're procedurally generated too.  The hills and islands change colors and designs every day.  That's pretty sweet for an indie game to do.

This is my favorite 60 second game right now.  I've been playing it every night before bed on my ipod touch.  Having a gameplay session that's satisfying and quick has been essential lately because of my busy schedule.  I want a complete gaming experience in one minute, because sometimes that's all I can afford to spare.

In this respect, Tiny Wings delivers a perfect experience at only 99 cents.  Check it out on the app store or, if I haven't sold you on it yet, take a look at the video below.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Me vs My Xbox 360

This was my weekend accomplishment.  After fearing that I would have to pay upwards of a couple hundred bucks for a new Xbox 360 I decided to do some home repairs.  Things went fairly smoothly thanks to helpful advice and diagrams on the internet.

The problem was a dirty laser head, which is what I was expecting.  All I had to do was lightly rub the laser head with a q-tip a few times.  Then I fired it up and the system started reading discs perfectly again.  The sad thing is this would cost at least $100 and 2-3 weeks of time if I sent it to Microsoft and they did the exact same thing.

The case was annoying, but after taking apart the plastic layer on the outside the rest of the process was simple enough.  A gaming console is just a specific type of computer, so if you've ever built or upgraded your own hardware you would feel right at home with the innards of a modern console.  If you have problems and are out of warranty like I am, don't be afraid to crack open your case and see what you can do on your own.

I really hope this fix will stay, I don't want to have to purchase another Xbox 360.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Viewing: EXPLAIN TO ME Edition

After another long week of not much gaming, I thought the least I could do is bring you an awesome game related video.

With my limited spare time this week I have been re-reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  It's a wonderful fantasy novel and I think the author has a promising future ahead of him. I finished it up last night and now I'm about to dive into the second novel in the series, which was just released.

 Besides that I've been playing a little Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and anticipating the release of Dragon Age II next week.  Hopefully you'll see more on those topics from me soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dragon Age: Origins Wrap-Up

My finished playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins clocked in at right around 72 hours.  Side note: I love how Steam keeps track of total time played for each game on my PC.  Anyway, my adventure is over and I feel accomplished.

I mostly had a good time playing DA:O, but the dialogue and conversation system started to drive me crazy towards the end of the game.  I wanted to scream at the characters, "GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!" on more then one occasion.  Besides that, I already mentioned my gripes when I first returned to DA:O to finish up my game.

After the final cutscene wrapped up, I immediately jumped into the Dragon Age II demo.

I first tried it on the Xbox 360 and was disappointed with what I found.  They had taken a great RPG intellectual property and turned it into a button mashing hack-and-slash with little to no strategy. There's no way you can get me to play through Dragon Age II on that system.  I'm going to go ahead and assume it's pretty much the same on the PS3 since they're both consoles.

I quickly retreated to the safety of my PC and downloaded the demo there.  Once I tried it out I was a much happier RPG fan.  The pause and think mechanic is still an important part of the PC version and auto-attack hasn't been replaced by a button mash fest.

Not only did I find what I know and loved from DA:O in the Dragon Age II demo, but they improved on a bunch of the mechanics too!  Gone is the plodding dialogue system and in it's place is a re-purposed dialogue system from Mass Effect that feels quick and intuitive.  Conversations flow more smoothly and the story briskly moves along.  The combat system is tighter and more responsive.  Activated abilities take effect immediately which makes me feel more in tune with my characters.  Not to mention that auto-attack animations look at least ten times more badass than in DA:O.  The Dragon Age II advancement system also has a more substantial feel to it.  Every ability that can be picked up looks like it can change the way I play my class.  That will make for some interesting choices while leveling.

I'm glad I finally finished my Dragon Age: Origins playthrough, but now I can't wait for Dragon Age II to release next week!  One final bloody screenshot to send DA:O on it's merry way.

My Final Ogre Kill of the Game... Stupid Ogres