Press Start – Paper Mario: The Origami King

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Tab and Wyatt bought me Paper Mario: The Origami King for my birthday. I have enjoyed what I have played so far.

Send snacks.
Not creepy at all.
Hit EVERYTHING.
I would like to thank everyone.
New friends.
It's amnesia.
SOLO.
Most challenging part of the game so far.
I did it!
This made me laugh.
Moving on in Autumn Mountain.

Homecoming: Why are video games so hard to come back to?

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A long time ago (2014), in a living room far far away, I asked Wyatt to help me create my Dragon Age: Inquisition character.

Me on my throne.

We created a:

  • Scrawny Elf
  • With a facial tattoo that covers his entire face
  • Who carries a two-handed sword
  • And has a deep voice

I loved playing as him.

I sunk hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition until I hit the wall and got stuck in the game. At this point, I am sure, a new game entered my orbit, and I blasted away from my elf and the inquisition.

My throne room.

I loaded Dragon Age: Inquisition once more last night. Combat/gameplay rhythms were unfamiliar after being away from the game for so long. My elf had not changed… but I have.

Unlike reading multiple books at the same time, I think video games are harder not to play fully invested in. With big AAA games, I tend to forget about the:

  • Controls (muscle memory does help with skill-based games)
  • Story (I’m thankful for the games that feature a story recap)
  • How much I cared/was invested in characters

So I wanted to ask you:

  1. How long is too long to come back to a game?
  2. At what point do you give up/delete/move on because you simply do not care anymore?

Let me know in the comments below!

Kickstarting ReElise

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Justin Fox is a longtime friend I met through Theology Gaming University (TGU). He just launched a Kickstarter for his game, ReElise, a Hip-Hop RPG. Justin hopes to not only fund his dream but start a movement.

How did your values influence your game, ReElise?

The game started out about race. Mostly a coming of age story. Just exploring culture and how people deal with them. When I got saved (gave my life to Christ) the story completely changed. It became a story about how God can make dry bones live again. However the theme of race still plays a role in that it serves no real role in the story. The main character is a black female…. that is all. Sometimes, it’s just not important in contrast to the big plot, and it shouldn’t always be a plot to insert a person’s views on an almost ageless problem so they can be the guy who “figured out how we can get along”. It’s a problem of classifying people as ” those people ” and that’s not going away. Ever.

ReElise

What exactly is a Hip-Hop RPG?

There’s a lot more to the culture of Hip-Hop than violence, money and abuse of women. There’s dancing, style, language, AMAZING art, and some would even say theology that’s not focused on quite as much. It was supposed to be fun in the early days. I like fun things. A Hip-Hop RPG is a game that  leans into the dopeness that is Hip-Hop. I love it. I wanted it in there. I’m indie… so I do what I want I’m grown and sexy.

How long have you been working on the game and what have you learned?

Steadily for 4 years. I’ve been tinkering with it for roughly 7, but those were entirely different builds.

For me, it’s been the power of belief. Believing that something good can come out of an idea that’s not really been done before, and seeing how the power of that belief carried me through for 4 years. It’s a crazy thing. Not to mention how drastically my belief in Jesus changed the core of the game. Belief is really something else.

ReElise-Hip-Hop-Battles

Engage in epic rap battles.

What would you like to say to anybody thinking about backing ReElise on Kickstarter?

This is more of a movement than it is about just one game. Traditional gameplay but with very non-traditional stories as well as concepts (I mean this is a 2D, hand-animated, Hip-Hop, turned-based, Mature Christian RPG… with sprinkles… definitely unconventional). I’d like to subtly offer deeper things to my audience. I’m giving my audience the chance to simply play a great game, and offer them a deeper story that I truly hope will be beneficial to their lives if they care to look. We’ve just gotta get the colorists, programmers, editors, travel expenses, and advertisements out of the way for this project first. That way we can make this first project everything it needs to be!  There’ll be much much more to come with the support of backers.

Thanks, Justin, for giving us a slice of ReElise pie. We can’t wait to get a taste of your Hip-Hop RPG goodness.

If you’d like to back Justin’s work, check out his Kickstarter page.

Throwback Thursday – Game Mechanics: Unnecessary Checkpoints

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Growing up, I lived in a valley that was hedged in by foothills and mountains. The south end of the valley featured a Border Patrol Checkpoint. Set up to combat illegal aliens and drug smuggling, the checkpoint was situated roughly 70 miles north of the Mexican border. Unnecessary? Politics aside, I think so.

Recently, I have been playing through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen on the Nintendo DS. As the games title insinuates, DQIV is broken into chapters or side stories. The first 5 chapters focus on what turns out to be the support characters. Chapter 6 unites the support characters with the hero of the game, you.

Dragon Quest IV marks my first entry into the Dragon Quest series. While I have enjoyed the 20+ hours I have spent in the game so far, I do have a minor gripe, the unnecessary leveling checkpoints.

20 year old gameplay mechanics aside, Dragon Quest IV commits the sin of the invisible wall. Every few levels, these invisible checkpoints force players to stop and grind (level up) until they are at a sufficient level to proceed in the game. Dungeons, monsters, and bosses are some of the most common level checkpoints found in the game. While I know that this is a common RPG mechanic, I have never been so aware of it. Perhaps this is due to the age of the game? I’m not sure.

Grinding is one of those bite-the-bullet game mechanics. Properly instituted within a game’s design it can be a mechanic that one barely notices. While I am enjoying the time spent with Dragon Quest IV, I can’t help but wish that a more organic type of leveling system be created. However, I do find some sort of twisted comfort in level grinding. The old and the familiar, right? Until next time.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure

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I have a 3 year old. He likes to play video games with his daddy. Anytime the PlayStation 3 chirps to life, he comes running into the room asking what we are going to play. We? Yes, we.

In the haze of Thanksgiving evening, my stomach stuffed with Mexican food, my wife and I headed out to Walmart. Walmart was having some early sales and we wanted in. Walking into the store, my wife and I separated. She went to wrestle for a bike for our son; I went to buy an Xbox 360 bundled with Skylanders for myself. Sounds fair, right?

Skylanders

Skylanders

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is the game I wish I had growing up. Developed by Toys For Bob, Skylanders integrates action figures, NFC technology, and good old fashioned RPG mechanics. My son and I have spent hours playing the game. In fact, we have one more level to complete as of this writing.

Being 3 years old, my son has a hard time controlling games that use a 3D plane. So, we have worked out a system where he sits on my lap, I control the character, and he controls the fire button. Perfect solution. I will note that this solution crumbles any time Skylanders decides to become difficult (ANY boss fight). During those times, I take over and kick the crap out of Kaos.

Overall, I have enjoyed the game. Playing with my son has given us an activity for “Boy’s Club” and has certainly improved his video gaming skills. Skylanders represents the first game we will have beaten together. How cool is that? There is nothing better than sharing your hobby with your kids.

The Old Republic

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Yesterday, the State of Texas celebrated it’s 174th birthday. Happy birthday Texas!

Speaking of other old republics, I started downloading Star Wars: The Old Republic last night. As of this moment, my download is almost done! My plans are to create a Han Solo type character–hey, I’ve always called myself a scoundrel!–. I am really looking forward to playing the game and comparing it to my other BioWare experience, Mass Effect 2.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. The high today, here in East Texas, is 62 degrees. A nice change from the 80 degree weather we have oddly experienced this past week. Until next time.

RIFT Impressions 1.1

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"Nirvana is coming, the mystic portal awaits."

Ah, the smell of a new MMO! The joy of playing through starting content and actually seeing fellow human players running around completing quests. I had forgotten what this feels like.

During my first play session last night, no matter what, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be playing World of Warcraft instead. I mean, there is nothing inherently wrong with RIFT. I fear though that years spent in the refined lands of Azeroth somehow set a mental bar in my head. Why should I play anything less than the perfection that is WoW?

After leveling to level 4, I called it quits last night. That is, until a few minutes later…when I sat down again and played some more. Call it the MMO pull or the relaxation that mindless tasks (kill ten mystic dudes) bring, but I continued to play until I hit level 5. By then my laptop’s fan was screaming and the base of the computer was super hot.

The last time I really dove into an MMO, besides WoW, was with Warhammer Online. Warhammer had something special going for it. At least I thought it did. The public quests, dark art style, and a land perpetually at war drew me in. Heck, the fact that it was something other than World of Warcraft was enough for me. As I progressed through the levels however, I soon came to the conclusion that Warhammer was a shallow affair. My friends quit shortly after the first few months and I did too. Warhammer was fun while it lasted.

I‘m still not sure what I think of RIFT. Can’t tell if it is just more of the same or if something “special” is just over the next horizon. Like I said in my first post, I’ll keep you updated. Until next time.

RIFT Impressions 1.0

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I love the dark castle lurking on the horizon.

Perhaps I am totally burned out on MMO’s, but RIFT seems like more of the same so far. The combat, storyline, and level progression are all things that I have experienced over the years. I will note that the soul system could prove to be interesting… but do I really want to commit to playing “another” level grinder? Something to think about in an age where Lord of the Rings Online is free-to-play.

In my first session of play I have managed to hit level 4. With 6 days left on the free trial, I am going to continue to give the game a shot. Say hello to Waldcelter on the Greenscale shard if you think about it. I could use some friends! More impressions to come!

RIFT Free Trial

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For months now I have heard @Syp talk about the wonders of RIFT via his blog. Being burned out as I am on MMOs, I had decided to take a pass on this one. That is, until I found out that RIFT has a 7 day free trial. Free being the goodness that it is, I think that I may have to take a leap and see what all the talk has been about. Care to join me fellow burnouts?

Impending Doom

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Nearly 7 years after the launch of World of Warcraft, Blizzard is still reporting player growth like McDonald’s used to report how many customers had been served.

World of Warcraft(R) Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide

IRVINE, Calif., Oct 07, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that the subscriber base for World of Warcraft(R), its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), now exceeds 12 million players worldwide. This milestone was reached in the wake of the mainland Chinese launch of World of Warcraft’s second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King(R), and also as global anticipation continues to mount for the December 7 release of the game’s third expansion, Cataclysm(TM).

“The support and enthusiasm that gamers across the world continue to show for World of Warcraft reaffirms our belief that it offers one of the best entertainment values available today,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We are as committed as ever to taking the game to new heights, and we look forward to demonstrating that with Cataclysm in December.”

Since debuting in North America, Australia, and New Zealand on November 23, 2004, World of Warcraft has become the most popular subscription-based MMORPG around the world. It was the bestselling PC game of 2005 and 2006 worldwide, and finished behind only World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade(R), the first expansion pack for the game, in 2007. For 2008, the World of Warcraft series represented three of the top five bestselling PC games, with Wrath of the Lich King finishing the year at #1, and in 2009, World of Warcraft titles claimed three of the top six spots.*

At this point in the games life, I am not surprised that the gaming community is still talking about the WoW monster. World of Warcraft is a power house in that it takes systems found in other games and refines them to something close to perfection. The amount of times I have resubscribed to WoW, after swearing it off, is also a testament to how great this game is (or maybe that is an admission as to how addictive it is).

Up until the announcement of Cataclysm’s release (12/7/10), I really didn’t think that I would ever venture into the lands of Azeroth again. However, the release announcement suddenly had me interested. Here is the thing, all my friends will end up diving back into the game. Especially those of mine who are going to BlizzCon. So do I enter back into a game that is almost seven years old? Like the infamous Death Eaters in Harry Potter, I can feel my soul being sucked back into the void. See ya there!

Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto

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Of course GW2 has great support for parties, but they just don’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs, because your interests are always aligned with all other nearby players anyway. When someone kills a monster, not just that player’s party but everyone who was seriously involved in the fight gets 100% of the XP and loot for the kill. When an event is happening in the world – when the bandits are terrorizing a village – everyone in the area has the same motivation, and when the event ends, everyone gets rewarded.

Above is an excerpt from the recently launched Guild Wars 2 blog. Just wanted to take a moment and note that this new social system reminds me of the Public Quests found in Warhammer Online…except that everyone wins.

Vay

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Press Start:

Vay (link will open iTunes) is a roleplaying game (RPG) originally created by Working Designs for the Sega-CD. One of the first RPG’s on the iPhone/ iPod Touch, Vay provides a perfect dose of story and gameplay for those on the go.

The game opens with a wedding day destroyed, a royal family slaughtered, and  a princess taken hostage. In other words,  enough emotional material to put Batman’s quest for justice to shame. After witnessing the above events, Prince Heibelger sets forth to avenge his family and take back his princess.

Ideology: Monarchy

With his father dead, Prince Heibelger stands to ascend the throne of Lorath. What are his political views? Will the prince continue the monarchy or abolish it in favor of a more democratic type of rule? Sadly, Vay never delves into such issues.

Worldview: Monotheism

Most Japanese RPG’s are built around cultural polytheism. Vay, oddly, goes against this trend and references one God. One can only wonder if this was a translation issue (Japanese to English) or a decision made by the developer?

Gameplay:

The lack of a traditional d-pad and the use of the touch screen for movement can make control a bit inaccurate at times. Otherwise, the battle system (the core of any RPG) is quick and engaging.

In the End:

I have enjoyed the time I have spent with Vay. The linear story, catchy music, humor, and retro design combine to create an experience that is not to be missed. Priced at $4.99, the world of Vay awaits you at the Apple App Store.

– DEFCON Score-

Not perfect but highly recommended

– Level of Impact –

Medium: Casual play. Does not require large chunks of time.

To MMORPG Or Not To MMORPG, That Is The Question: Commandment 4

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To MMO or Not.: The MMORPG Commandments :.

Commandment 4. Know When to Quiteth…

Sad to say, but all things must end and MMO’s are no different. If your preferred MMO has become more of an obligation than a joy, it’s time to retire your character. I myself have also fallen into this most deadly of MMO traps, prioritizing my game obligations above my real life ones. Luckily, I have never lost anything as dramatic as a job or a relationship over it.

Near the end of my MMO playing career I found myself dutifully logging in simply to administrate my guild, check my crafted auctions, and run dungeons, only to fall asleep at the keyboard as I waited for someone in my party to return from AFK (away from keyboard).

Sure guilds, crafting, pvp, dungeon running, and all the social aspects of MMO’s can be fun but they can also be draining, sometimes making us gamers lose sight of what’s really important in life

Are MMO’s evil? Heck no! Just realize you’re playing on a slippery slope.

To MMORPG Or Not To MMORPG, That Is The Question: Commandment 3

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To MMO or Not.: The MMORPG Commandments :.

Commandment 3. Know thine Commitment Required…

Casual Player Friendly” is a buzzword in the online gaming world at the moment. What it means is, the developers want to make online games just as accessible to those players who can only manage a couple of hours a week versus the hardcore “who needs a social life?” players and gold farmers. Unfortunately, as most MMO’s now stand, soloing isn’t very viable for long. Sure all MMO’s start out easy enough but they are designed to require group play before you can access the higher tiered areas, dungeons and epic items. Designers implement this to help build a lasting social experience (and keep their customers paying the monthly fee) but it also means you must rely on others if you really want to advance.

I can remember more than once in Everquest 2 having my paladin spam for an hour, “LFG, PALLY, HEALER!” to finally fall into a half-baked PUG (pick up group) that fell apart the minute a member’s mother called them to dinner.

Of course one can join a guild to avoid these kinds of problems, but then again you have to deal with personalities, and often petty rule sets that have little to do with actual game play. I recall, in WOW, running Molten Core ten times with a guild as a “probationary member.” I was of course allowed to take part in killing the awful beasties (and dying several times in the process) but rolling on items was a right that only went to “Senior members.” I believe becoming said “Senior member” meant you had to know the guild leader, “Chuck,” and spot him for pizza and beer at least twice.

Not all guilds are that elitist but most of the well equipped ones have some kind of lame hierarchy that you must agree to. In addition, these guilds maintain fairly intensive “raiding schedules” that are considered mandatory and will eat up your social life. Your best bet is to find some real life friends and start your own guild with your own timelines for doing dungeons.

Continue to Commandment 4

Surf Report – 8/31/09

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Surf ReportWelcome to a Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :


.: Life :

Too busy. You?

.: Gaming :

Dragon Quest IVThis week I thought I would take a break from the great Pokémon experiment to instead talk about my recent adventures with Dragon Quest IV (DS).

As a gamer, I have had limited exposure to the world of Dragon Quest. My Japanese RPG experiences  to date have mostly consisted of the Final Fantasy series. Granted, I have deviated away from the Final Fantasy series occasionally and explored the worlds of Skies of Arcadia (DC), Golden Sun (GBA), and Chrono Trigger (DS). However, the Dragon Quest series is one that I have read much about but never played until now.

Dragon Quest IV marks my first experience in the world of Dragon Quest. The game is divided up into five chapters, with each chapter introducing a different character/ perspective that will eventually build into the final chapter that features the games main hero. Ten hours into the game, I have reached chapter 4. A tale of revenge, chapter 4 follows Maya and Meena on their quest to avenge their fathers death. Difficulty wise, chapter 4 seems too short on money drops and thus upgrading weapons/ armor has been a pain. Overall, I am enjoying the games simplistic gameplay and engaging storyline. If you haven’t jumped into the world of Dragon Quest, now is the time to do so.

Wave SplinterThat is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!