The Animal Farm

March 20th, 2010

Reviews for Zach

Zach asked me to fulfill my reviewing obligations, and although he hasn’t visited me once since we parted, citing lamer and lamer excuses each time (”I’m getting married” or “I just bought a house”), I will oblige. With not one but two reviews - and one of those reviews will be a sweeping generalization of multiple games at the same time.

First the generalized review:
While trying to push Word Duelist out the door, I had the pleasure of reviewing something like 20+ games. Plus I’ve playtested quite a number. I won’t go into each game individually - I don’t want to talk about games that aren’t out yet, nor do I have the time to touch on each game individually - but I will give you the general state of XBLIG: Unfortunate.

With something like 18 different variations of Blackjack, 5 massage apps, a host of Avatar games that are little more than screensavers, and a series of games that literally just show you a screen and ask you to pass the game pad around, the volume of junk is absurd. There are gems - beautiful gems that deserve your time - but wading through the rubbish is an exercise in pain.

Here are some of the gems to watch out for: Rotor’scope, Mega Monster Madness, Dungeon Adventure, Missing Reel, Zombie Armageddon.

One day I’m going to write up a nasty attack on $1 games, Race to the Bottom economics, and voluntary peer reviewing, and by the end of it I think I’ll hurt even my own feelings.

And Now a Resonance of Fate Review
I’m only about six hours deep into Resonance of Fate (RoF), so I can’t really talk about the deeper story, but I feel like I have enough feeling for the battle system and game flow to talk about it.

First an overview: RoF is a JRPG that came out a week after FF13. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia where mankind lives in a giant tower, and the cast features three bounty hunters taking on missions to survive. None of this should be new if you’ve played games since the year 2000.

Where RoF breaks the mold is that it throws away conventional battle mechanics for something much more stylized - your characters are John Woo-inspired gunslingers, jumping around the battlefield and over enemies, hiding behind cover, rolling and dodging and darting around the map as they fire submachines or dual pistols into their enemies.

There’s a lot going on in the battle system, and you’re not gently nudged into this - the game has a monolithic battle tutorial in the beginning which shows you everything you’ll be doing from start to finish. Luckily it’s mostly intuitive - the tutorial makes it seem more daunting than it is, but a lot of things just happen fluidly, and you have plenty of time to react.

Which is not to say that battle is easy, because it isn’t. It’s actually very, very hard. Mismanage for a moment, and you can get snubbed out quickly. So while getting the hang of battle isn’t too bad, getting the hang of battling well is a job in itself. But it’s a rewarding job.

Outside of battle, you’re greeted with at times a very linear and at others a very non-linear game, and I think this game hits the perfect balance. There’s a main hub town where you accept missions - one story mission per chapter and a host of optional side missions. You have your choice of how your approach things.

When you’re on a mission, the mission is generally pretty linear. Dungeon design is light - often a line of connected rooms, where each room has a new battle. And you know what? I like this. Finally a game that realizes that I don’t need to explore every nook, that wasting my time with worthless rooms is really just wasting my time, that there is no shame in going from Point A - Point B with each point in between punctuated with something interesting.

The game also introduces a lot of nifty things, like an interesting weapon customization system that semi-mirrors what I had planned for Steam Powered.

In short, it’s a pretty fun game, and I’ll probably be playing it through to completion.

But my battery is about to die, so I’d better cut this off.

Dont’ make passes.

March 31st, 2008

Death of Kings

The Video Game Development Blog Carnival is dead. I just wasn’t getting the submissions necessary to make it worthwhile. It was a nice experiment, I thought, and maybe if the site gains more traffic I’ll try again.

McGraw and I submitted a paper on a new way to do ambient occlusion map generation entirely in the GPU. I’d like to say that I contributed a lot, but to be fair, McGraw did most of the heavy lifting. I ran a few experiments and gathered some pictures and implemented a bit and bounced some ideas back and forth, but the bulk of the implementation and writing was his. It’s a really cool method; hopefully it’ll get some use. I’m considering asking McGraw for his code so I can put out a free tool.

First draft of the thesis is finished. Did I mention this? I want to go through it the next few days and flesh it out a bit, fix up some formatting and grammar mistakes. My defense is the 10th (come!), so I’m setting a hard deadline of the 3rd to have everything finalized. At which point I can prepare for my defense.

I discovered the deadline for the film festival this time around is the 16th. We really want to get a movie out there - our last chance at film greatness - but we’re also pretty busy and don’t have a lot of ideas fleshed out.

You test the waters.

March 5th, 2008

The Video Game Development Blog Carnival Issue 3

This one will be short. I got a whole lot of spam this time around, and it’s getting hard to separate the good from the bad, so if I don’t mention you, please let me know.

Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains posted a discussion of brain training games. If you’re looking into this area, you may want to give the article a look.

Norman Moore of The Game of Self sent in OpenSocial and Persistent Worlds, which talks about an interface that can potentially be used on social networking sites to develop games. Could be neat, a game which interfaces with my Facebook friend list in some way.

Annndd that’s about it. I’ll go ahead and plug our own blog with a few of our post-mortems if you’re interested.

Go to bed.

February 2nd, 2008

The Video Game Development Blog Carnival Issue 2

Issue 2 is here!

Before I get started, you’re going to notice a slight change from the last issue. First is that, while I was rather lenient last time, this time around I’m only going to post about things that I can directly tie to game development specifically. As such, some people who submitted articles may notice that they are not mentioned. Second, I’m putting an upward limit (about 3) on the number of articles by a single submitter, because some people went a little overboard. My goal here is to keep the carnival relevant and uncluttered.

I’ll kick things off on the engineering side this time, starting with a good article by Josh Petrie of Scientific Ninja titled Write Games, Not Engines. He makes a very solid case for avoiding writing engines specifically, and instead building a host of reusable functionality as you write games. We also have an article submitted by, well, me, titled Game Process Management. Here I talk about treating a game system as a series of small, individual processes to help manage state flow, among other things.

On the art side, Andrew Edgington of Learn Photoshop Now has submitted a lot of material. His article Add Icy Effects to Your Text walks through the steps to create a neat icy look, which may be easily modifiable to create other looks. That blog and his other, Learn Digital Photography Now, contain a lot of good information for modifying digital photos or making informed camera purchases.

On the more producer-ish side, Danogo of submitted Discover the Fascinating History of Online Games With a Big Featured Gallery which, well, I think the title says about everything I could say.

That’s all the game dev related stuff we received this time around. I would again encourage anyone out there who has any relevant articles to send something in for the carnival this time next month.

Wish fulfillment

January 2nd, 2008

The Video Game Development Blog Carnival Issue 1

Here we go guys. Quite a few submissions for the first carnival, mostly in the art and production fields:

Andrew Edgington of the blogs Learn Photoshop Now, Complete Photography Secrets Guide and Edit Your Digital Photos went above and beyond, submitting four articles focused on digital photography and image filtering techniques:
Photoshop to Make Line Drawing, Old Photo Effect in Photoshop, Create Cool Photo Edges with Photoshop, and a guide for Canon cameras titled The Canon Power of PowerShot Digital Cameras by Canon. I tried a few of the techniques he presents, and they produce some pretty good results. Might come in handy for the texture or GUI artists out there.

Brenda Brathwaite of Applied Game Design submitted Design Portfolios - Is there such a thing?. This one focuses on the stuff you need to show off if you want to get a job as a designer. I don’t know much about Brenda, but I get the feeling from the article that she’s a professional (and in a hiring capacity) and that she’s offering some serious, professional advice. I would advise any designers looking for a job to have a look.

K Peney of Write the Game presents the guest article Player Collectives, which talks about the player behavior in relation to the number of players a game has. It’s focused toward MMOs, which have a large number of players playing concurrently and thus may need special consideration.

Blue Skelton of Blue Skelton Publications sent in the Video Game Production Book, which talks briefly about a game production book he purchased. He also sent in Production Blog: The Best Video Games of 2007, which is, well, self-explanatory.

Finally, I was the only one to submit anything programming related: an OpenGL Guide, which is a collection of 10 OpenGL demos, and an article on Event Driven Systems. I’m a little biased, but both articles are pretty much awesome.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted something. We had more entries than I expected, and they were all excellent. Same time next month?

We could use a few clowns, though.

December 5th, 2007

Video Game Development Blog Carnival

I just recently discovered blog carnivals, and I though it might be fun to try it out. Thoughts Serializer tried hosting one some time ago and reportedly didn’t have much success, but I’m going to stubbornly try my hand anyhow.

Here’s the idea: Every month, if you have an article or a blog post dedicated to the topic of game development, submit that post to me using this link. At the beginning of the next month, I will collect the articles together and post them here for everyone to see. Anything related to game development is welcome, whether it involve programming, design, writing, art, modeling, or whatever.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, regardless of skill level. I know there’s a lot of game development related writing out there, and this might help us all find some good stuff.

And there will be cotton candy.