Day: December 1, 2009

Now Then…What Shall We Talk About?

Seriously. I’ve been wondering what the hell I’m going to do with this blog for the last two months.

This blog was basically always about what I was working on and learning outside my job. Well, currently I have no side projects (I need a Mac to continue Inaria iPhone development, and I just can’t face the code mess that is Planitia any longer).

And I haven’t learned anything recently to merit a technical article.

And, sadly, I’m giving up on Name That Game. Stupid

But then I had an idea, once that should have occurred to me before.

I was going to write an article called “Amuse-Bouche“, about the rather large number of short indie games that attempt to get a point across or create a mood in a small amount of gameplay. One of the defining aspects of the amuse-bouche is that it ends; there’s no infinite number of levels that provide no resolution. In fact, providing a resolution is a big part of what an amuse-bouche game is about.

An excellent (indeed, near-perfect) example of an amuse-bouche game is Small Worlds. If you’ve got ten minutes, play it right now.

Other amuse-bouche games would be You Have To Burn The Rope, Achievement Unlocked and ROM Check Fail.

So to sum up, an amuse-bouche game is one that a) can be played typically in an hour or less, b) has a definite ending, and c) deliberately evokes a reaction beyond “having fun gaming”.

And then I realized that this is exactly what I should be doing.

Planitia was too big. Star Revolution was too big. Inaria and Sandworm were pretty much just right.

And what was I going to do next? A 3D RPG. A Neverwinter Nights. All on my own. Yeah, right.

So…all hail the return of the forty-hour game! And it will be my personal goal to create at least one of these every month for the next year.

I already know what my first one is going to be. It’s going to be a short Metroidvania called “Zeta”, and it’ll be directly inspired by Iji (which isn’t exactly an amuse-bouche game but everybody should play it anyway).

Weekend Gaming 3

You know, I didn’t really mean to turn this into a series. It’s just that right now there’s very little in my life except work and Weekend Gaming.

Except for some reason I spent four hours cooking on Thursday. I can’t quite remember why.


First things first: Brutal Legend.

Brutal Legend basically epitomizes “flawed gem”. There’s a lot of it that’s just damn fun, and tons of excellent music in it, and a world that you just stare at in disbelief.

On the other hand, the main campaign of the game consists of a gameplay component that is initially very confusing and gives you little feedback on whether you are doing well or poorly.

On the other other hand, it’s got tons of hilarious dialog, an extremely well-told story with tons of that is simultaneously complete and has tons of sequel hooks, and all of the voice acting is top-notch, even though half the voices in the game are done by people with little voice acting experience.

On the other other other hand, lots of people will hit the middle of the game, come up against the limit of their console-based RTS skills, and never get to see half of that awesomeness.

On the other other other other hand, the people who do back up, read the instructions and figure out how to effectively fight stage battles will be thoroughly rewarded.

Personally I thoroughly enjoyed it (you know, once I figured out the stage battles) and I thought the ending was awesome.

Megan beat it on Brutal difficulty. She is hardcore. I’m pretty much in awe.

Next up: Metal Gear Solid 4.

Basically this is what I popped in when I was done with Brutal Legend. I wasn’t expecting that much, since it is the sequel to the absolutely abysmal Metal Gear Solid 2. I’d also heard things about long install times and limited gameplay.

First off, there are five acts in the game and there is an install period of 2-3 minutes at the beginning of each act. Since each act will take you at least two hours to play (and more likely 3-5) I think the people who complained about the install times were blowing them out of proportion.

(Okay, I’ll be honest. I think the people who complained about the install times are spoiled brats who never waited ten minutes for a Commodore 64 game to load just so they could play a Galaxian clone. I think they should grow the eff up.)

Limited gameplay. This game follows in Metal Gear Solid 2’s tradition of the game becoming less and less interactive as the game progresses. You will have a couple chapters of large areas to explore with lots of people to sneak past (or shoot, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Then as the game nears its resolution the cutscenes will get longer as the interactive parts get shorter. This did not bother me for two reasons.

First, I’ve played previous MGS games and I know that the storytelling is a big part. I know there will be occasions where I’ll just be sitting there holding the controller watching stuff happen on the screen. I’ve always been okay with this, because the stuff happening on the screen is almost always entertaining. And in MGS4, what’s happening on the screen is pretty much always awesome. I was blown away multiple times by not only how well-produced the cutscenes were, but the plot twists they presented. And all of the cutscenes (barring some absolutely bizarre live-action video at the beginning of each game) are all done in-engine.

Second, while your chances to interact become less numerous, they become more meaningful. I don’t want to spoil, but the later game sequences deviate greatly from the normal MGS gameplay and it’s okay because they are awesome. There’s none of this “run around as a naked man from one cutscene to the next” crap that was in MGS2.

Another big change to the gameplay is that shooting your way out of bad situation is now more viable than it was in the past. Previously getting caught in MGS was a Bad Thing (not as bad as getting caught in the Thief games, but still bad). Now it’s possible to just kill your way through an area if you so desire – and you’ll have dozens of realistically reproduced weapons to allow you to do just that.

If this bugs you, think about it – you’re not covertly infiltrating enemy bases any more. You’re in the middle of a war zone – what’s a few more dead bodies? If you want to sneak and conserve your resources, that’s fine. But if you gotten frustrated playing past games and wanted to just shoot everybody, that is now also fine.

(My favorite weapon? The P90. Good stopping power, fifty rounds in a mag, can be fitted with a suppressor and you can still use CQC while you hold it. God, I love that gun. If I could actually buy a submachine gun out here in Real Life, that’s the one I’d get.)

Downsides? Well…I think the game might have been a little too aggressive at the end. Remember the end of Return of the King? Yeah, it’s like that, only with Metal Gear Solid characters. The fate of every major character of the entire series is resolved, and all plot strings are fairly ruthlessly tied up.

Overall I think Kojima made up for MGS2 with 3 and 4 (and indeed, 4 explains a lot of the stuff that just made no sense in 2). It’s a worthy ending to the current series of games and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Finally, if you’re longtime readers of this blog, you know that occasionally my kids will find a game (usually something downloadable) that they will go absolutely nuts over and force me to buy for them. Previously it was The Maw. Before that it was Braid.

Now it’s Fat Princess. Both my daughters absolutely love this game, which, oddly enough, is another console-based RTS-ish…thingy. While I initially wouldn’t let Jewel play it because of the blood (which reminded me of Castle Crashers), it turns out you can turn that off, at which point defeated enemies fall down and pop into a puff of confetti. (I wish you could do that in Castle Crashers.)

Plus on the easiest level, Jewel, a four-year-old, can actually win games. At least against the computer.

I sense a potential birthday present.