Journal Entry 8A: Bioshock Infinite

Its been a long time coming so I figured I’d have some real talk here about Bioshock Infinite which is finally out this past week.

To tell you the truth, my hype for the game slowly died with each passing delay. I was stoked to play it… when it was supposed to be out 7 months ago. At this point I was thinking more along the lines of “well I guess its finally out, cool I guess”. I only ended up picking it up because was informed by Gamestop that I had a preorder for it that I didn’t even remember placing, so I figured I might as well.

While I’m not quite finished yet, the atmosphere Irrational has presented us with in this game is pretty impressive. Its not really a game about personal choice, but about the choices we make as people, the uncertainty behind that, and the human need to use myths as a means of comfort and power. The storytelling ability of Irrational is quite something here.

The art direction is just as responsible for this, though. The world shown to us in this 1912 era floating city tells you so much about it without even saying a word. Between the run down minorities washroom vs pristine whites washroom hidden around the boardwalk area, to the strangely advanced technology (such as mechanical horses) and the founding fathers being idolized as religious figures, it gives us a mysterious version of America that never existed, and the contrast is bizarre and intriguing. The good writing of both the player character and Elizabeth make the consequences of what you face in the game seem like a far bigger problem than just restarting at the nearest checkpoint. Irrational took some huge gambles here since if a game’s characters suck than it will too most likely. But it paid off.

Without giving away any real spoilers, the game has some seriously unsettling moments due to how simply weird they are. Such as giant animatronic George Washingtons wielding chain-guns, to horrifying zombies generated by temporal loops.

The only thing I can really knock the game for is the guns don’t feel very effective or satisfying, but otherwise everyone should probably check this out.

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Journal Entry 7B: Personal Entry

So at PAX we directed as many people that we knew to try out our game. We got a lot of good feedback from just these people, which confirmed a few suspicions we had about a few elements (for example, Strongman’s jump has a slight delay w/ an animation, but it was throwing off some players’ judgement on jumps). There were also a few minor issues we didn’t quite catch in time for this build, but from what I gather a lot of people who checked out the booth liked it!

We plan to meet with our programmer asap to discuss with him the feedback we got and get to polishing some of these core elements while we work on tilesets and constructing world 2.

Journal Entry 7A: PAXPAXPAX

So yeah, this past weekend was PAX and probably my favorite so far. The expo hall this year was pretty fantastic, with such things as the only two games I bought a Wii U for (Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101) available to demo, Carbine Studios brought Wildstar which very well might get me back into MMOs, Divekick was hilarious and wonderful, Battleblock Theater returned with its release date now on the horizon, and Riot of course had their thunderdome, the largest booth in the hall. And to top it all off I got to meet one of my industry heroes, Tim Schafer.

I also managed to get some networking done between the playing, tournaments, panels, and concerts. I spoke with people from Muzzy Lane who really impressed me with how their educational games work, in that it seems like you don’t even realize you’re learning things when playing. I also spoke with head audio, head narrative design, and a 3d artist from Carbine, who were showing off Wildstar. They were all really cool people and I think the active role they were taking with crowd interaction is going to make for some really good feedback on the demo they brought. Wildstar itself was also really, really fun and everyone should go sign up for the beta if they still can.

Also everyone go see the VGO if they are playing a show near you and haven’t seen them before. They’re rad.

Journal Entry 6B: Personal Entry

This week was primarily spent with me in an organizational role for our team to ensure the PAX build was ready for this previous Friday (sometimes I feel I have slowly shifted into a team lead-esque position alongside my usual duties). The work we needed was started a little later than we wanted and it was somewhat of a close call. Thankfully that’s why I set our internal deadline a few days ahead of the actual due date to leave room for error. I’ve learned by now to plan for mistakes just in case. I worked closely with our programmer, Lorion Oshin, throughout Tues night and Wed morning/afternoon as he worked hard to get things ready on the coding end while he ran things by me to make sure they were accurate/correct. We managed to get it ready just in time. While not perfect (there are a few game crashing bugs we found last minute but they only occur when your game would have ended regardless) and the boss could use some polish, but for a demo build we’re happy with it.

Journal Entry 6A: Divekick

It was brought to my attention that at PAX this coming weekend, a wonderful new game called Divekick would be present for the masses to play and is developed by One True Game Studios and Iron Galaxy Studios. This game is actually a parody of various elements of recent fighting games that actually makes for a pretty hilarious and fun experience. The name comes from a type of attack in fighters called a “divekick” where an airborne character comes down at the opponent, often with a kick, at a difficult to deal with angle and speed. These types of moves tend to be very good and abuseable. Divekick is entirely based on it.

In Divekick, this is your only means of attack. All you can do is jump straight vertically, and perform divekicks for yourself. Pressing kick while standing causes you do a backwards dodge. First person to five successful divekicks on the opponent is the winner. While players have a lifebar, you are KO’d in one hit regardless so it is purely for humor purposes.

The game has a great sense of humor, as most of its mechanics are parodies of elements from other games. For example, “Kick Factor”, a parody of X-Factor from Marvel vs Capcom 3, is a comeback mechanic in the form of a meter that fills by divekicking. Activating it provides a temporary boost in speed and a more advantageous angle of dive. Landing the kick on the opponent results in the mentor of the main characters, Dive and Kick (named Uncle Sensei), to announce “HEADSHOT!”, an obvious reference to FPS games. This also slightly weakens the opponent for a few seconds in the following round. The game also has selectable “gems”, a reference to the same feature to Street Fighter X Tekken, which provide temporary boosts during a round when requirements are met. There are only 2 in Divekick, one that increases jump speed and one that increases jump speed. There are also joke “DLC” gems, a reference to the business practices of some companies, that are incredibly powerful but aren’t actually ever available. To avoid draws, a mechanic called Hold the Line starts when a round is about to time out. A vertical line appears at the center of the ring and the closest person when time is out is declared the winner.

The playable characters, besides Dive and Kick, are all parodies of famous fighting game characters who were infamous for their divekicks, such as Wolverine (poking fun at MvC3 Wolverine), who in this is a cigar chomping, anthropomorphic Wolverine, who causes the opponent to bounce high off the ground if he lands a kick (same as actual Wolverine in MvC3)

This game is supposed to be at PAX, so everyone please check it out. It is supposed to be on PSN in the new future for download.

Journal Entry 5B: Personal Entry

With our internal deadline for the PAX build of our game intended for this coming Wednesday (so that we can ensure they are in by Fri when they are actually due), I’ve just been trying to make sure everyone is on task.

We’re short 2 backgrounds and a couple animations for the world 1 boss and we’d be pretty much done. Then I can begin writing the next comic.

Journal Entry 5A: Learning from Early Game Experiences

So I recently saw this article about how designers can sometimes incorporate noteworthy elements from their past as a player into the games they would make today. It got me thinking about whether or not I do this when I am say, designing levels or writing story/narrative elements.

In terms of level design, I can definitely say I take more than a few pages from Megaman design sensibilities. These games are well known for teaching a player how to do something through the gameplay itself, and not having to straight up tell the player what to do. Whenever they introduce a new element, there is rarely punishment for failure the very first time it is introduced to give the player a chance to learn it in a controlled environment before consequences for failure set in, or a chance to see an obstacle in action before one must traverse it. Youtuber Egoraptor has a whole 20 min on this subjest and why its important here if you haven’t already seen it (possibly NWS because Ego swears a lot but he’s right so give him a listen). I’m also an advocate of how Valve and many other successful developers of multiplayer games design their key visual elements. For example, When developing TF2, Valve made it a point that each playable class looked so different from one another that you could easy tell what was what at a distance, so that their silhouettes were easily distinguishable from one another. You can’t have the player confused when playing.

For writing, I would say I’m inspired by elements present in the Banjo-Kazooie series (humor) and anything that Platinum Games makes or made when they were still called Clover (rule of cool). The BK series tends to set up the story in just an intro cutscene to tell you why you are about to do, you know, the things in the game ahead, and really never revisits the story or even has cutscenes again until the very end of the game. But as you explore the game’s large and varied world you encounter a TON of characters, that all have lots of often quite funny dialogue. I feel dialogue like that is important to understand the personality of your characters with a “show, don’t tell” feel. And I love how Platinum’s narrative style focuses more on whether or not something is awesome as opposed to whether or not it makes sense. There’s so much over the top, crazy stuff in God Hand, Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta, Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising, etc that makes you go “what?” a lot, but you don’t really care because its ridiculous and cool.