Rozovian’s Music Log

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Posts Tagged ‘games’

Skills

Posted by Ad on December 16, 2010

Talking about Mass Effect brought up something else. Skill points. It’s the real-world equivalent of actual skills, except you don’t actually need to know anything, and learning is done by fidgeting with something for long enough or just accomplishing something possibly unrelated and deciding to gain that specific skill.

Which kind’a bothers me. I know how much easier it is for a game to have a vehicle which either is or isn’t operational, and letting a player character with motor skill x fix it if it wasn’t. But how about minigames that involve a simplified engine and replacing or fixing broken parts. Educational _and_ utilizing ppl’s real-world skills. But then the developers might actually have to know how car engines work. Oh, how difficult.

With more and more areas of education understanding the benefits of game-like learning tools, it’s rather silly that games themselves resort to silly numeric skills. Then again, telekinesis isn’t really a skill you pick up… well, anywhere irl. AFAIK, anyway.

I remember playing America’s Army back when it was compatible with Mac. It was fun. It was educational. Also, someone saved someone’s life using skills he picked up in the game. This is the kind of educational gains games can provide, if only the games would be built to incorporate real-world solutions.

What if you would, irl, successfully fix a car engine through guessing? It wouldn’t work because you don’t have the technical skill, right? Wrong, it’d work. because that’s how the world works. The real one. Now, extend that scenario to medical aid (instead of a magic healing bar or healing gun), electrical systems, metalworks, farming, aiming, etc.

Yeah, about aiming, you don’t really have crosshairs irk. Not half a meter above the weapon at least. Wanna aim close, you line up the sights; wanna run, can’t really aim well; wanna jump and shoot, goodbye accuracy.

But back on topic: the skill point system could be utilized backwards instead, as an indicator for how well you’ve performed different skills. Say we have a game where you’ve got first aid, broken engines, broken electrical systems, and shooting. Say players success rate with these things are tracked. Shooting would be kind’a easy to track, it’s all about how well you hit ppl/things that are clearly targets. Shooting into the sky (which is dangerous, btw) wouldn’t hurt your hit %, but hitting friendlies and missing hostiles would. Broken electrical systems and engines and stuff would also be easy to track – a success rate and a time spent per success… modified by how broken/complicated the things were. First aid could be tracked by checking if you’re following the correct procedure. I’ve taken first aid classes in our scouts group, in school and during my service. I should know the stuff better than I can remember atm. Give me a game with which to remind me, not a game where it’s trivialized in order to make it more “fun”.

On a related note, I want games where one player can command his forced RTS-style, and other players can fight those forces FPS-style. it’d make small LAN-parties so much more interesting.

Anyway, imagine if schools would track more interesting things than just proficiency in the subject taught in the classes taken. That could make kids more interested in learning. Imagine if schools would have disaster days, where select student get to treat (fake) injuries and get ppl out of a (not really) collapsing or burning building. Or give a class a couple of broken vehicles and let them fix them up. See how fast and how well they work. Teamwork _and_ technical skills. Or give them a completely out-there task, like build a synth (I’ve been doing that in Reaktor, it’s made me realize I should have taken more math classes) or do a TV commercial or an emergency plan.

Learning is more versatile than knowing. PPL should realize that while they’re still in school.

I’m becoming more and more interested in survivalism. Contrast that with how much time I spent in front of the computer, and see how that makes sense. 😀

Posted in education, game design | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mass Defect

Posted by Ad on December 15, 2010

A copy of Mass Effect recently appeared near one of my computers. It said it worked on Mac. It kind’a did. After a couple of hours trying to figure out the problem, I think I’m sure it’s the graphics card. The game allegedly runs fine of an nVidia-MacBook, but not on my Radeon-iMac. And obviously not on my pre-Intel Radeon PowerBook.

So what bothers me about this? That there’s no official Mac version? That it works on some macs and not others? That it took me hours to figure this all out? Yes to all applicable, but the last one more than the others.

The game and the audio works just fine, but the 3d parts of the screen turns white and a lot of models are missing. I saw vistas of space and empty chairs in the intro, then a quick whiteout and flashes of the geometry. Said white flashes might be effects, since they managed to obscure just part of a hallway at one point, but once I turned too far the whole world went white again. Not the HUD, just the world.

On a related note, we have a lot of snow outside. They say there were these things called ditches than ran across the lawns. I have no idea what they’re talking about.

Anyway, missing models and a big whiteness. And there are instances where I found myself probably in a corner with the camera inside some thing, outside the geometry. There I could see something, but it was pretty weird and abstract looking. And dark, so probably just the other side of the thing I was looking through.

I might have spent 2-3 hours on figuring this out, trying different settings and seeing if the same problems persist, googling how to tell if the firmware is up to date and how to force an OS X 10.5-compatible updater to update on 10.6, rendering issues and how to access the graphics card’s settings, getting all kinds of support forum posts and torrent links in all that searching. And it all leads me to a simple solution:

I need to steal that laptop.

Also, I came across probably dozens of threads with ppl stating these same problems, or similar. On that note, some Radeon-OS X compatibility problem could explain the weird texture things happening on big ships in FreeSpace 2. Or did I solve that with some vSync thing, I don’t remember.

And to address the piracy issue, I’d buy a Steam licence if the game would work for me. It’s just 15 euros. BioWare, do you hear me? Make an official Mac version available, or leak a Radeon-compatible Cider version or something. Keyword: Radeon-compatible.

Post title refers to defects, not defecting. It’s punny in writing.

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Freedom in Space

Posted by Ad on November 24, 2010

There once was a boy that would visit his cousins and see them play an amazing-looking space flight dogfighting game. The boy and his cousins grew up. The boy,  now a man with a cool, proper beard, went online and got improved graphics and other assets for the now open-source game he saw his cousins play. And it’s awesome.

FreeSpace 2, for those of you wondering. I really enjoy how the story treats the player not as the savior of the universe and  the chosen one and all that stuff, but as just another pilot in a big epic story. It feels much more realistic, those briefings not asking me to kindly accept the quest of killing create x, but telling me my mission is to destroy all Shivan ships while following a certain attack plan. And sometimes the attack plan fails.

But it could be so much bigger. Epic…er. What if I wouldn’t know what missions await me upon replaying the game? What if the failure to defend a supply ship leads to a significantly different situation later on. Say there’s two missions involving supply ships to the construction of a new huge ship. Fail those missions, and the huge ship will not be fully equipped when going into battle. Maybe it won’t be called into the same battles it otherwise would have been. Say both missions go off without a hitch, both supply ships reach their destination. Then we have a ginormous badass ship impacting the story.

I’m still waiting for a game with a story so modular it’s unpredictable and with so many different story-changing parameters it’s practically always new. Take a game of Civ, for example. Make it a meta-game, with individual battles being the gameplay for us players while the computer runs the meta-game. We fight in different terrains against different forces. The game moves the story from battle to battle. Through these individual battles, escort missions, protection duties, recon missions, etc. we change the course of the game. Terrain, technology, units, things are different every time. Attack a city, defend a city, attack a resource, defend a resource, attack their units, defend ours…

Even without a modular meta-game you can still have branching storylines depending on the outcome of key missions. Maybe the FreeSpace mod community has got something like this. The game is open source, it’s possible they’ve made it possible. Which would be awesome.

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Abloogy-woogy- *boom*

Posted by Ad on November 16, 2010

I might get it, but it’s not done yet and I’m not sure I’ll like it.

Not talking about Supoer Meat Boy, which I’m pretty sure I’ll get the second I see it’s out for mac on Steam. If I have money on my PayPal account at that moment, thatis. Anyway, I’m talking about Undead Labs’ unnamed Zombie-killing console MMO.

I’ve never really liked MMOs. In principle, cooperative play is fun, but it usually forces you to play the same level together on the same screen, and you don’t have much say in the story. In an MMO there’s these bigger raids going on and that’s about all the story you get. Right? Idunno, I don’t play them. Then there’s the grinding and stuff.

I also don’t like the math thing that a lot of games, including MMOs, do. Yes, there’s a lot of math going on behind the scenes in every game, like how weapon x either has water-element attributes and +2 on Saturdays, or has sharpness 3 out of 10 because it’s a wrench or something else that’s kind’a blunt and not really designed for cutting. But if I shoot an enemy in the leg, I want him to limp and stuff, not bleed red numbers. If I chop his head off, I expect him to die, not just lose 40% of his health.
This is what makes Undead Labs’ project so interesting – it takes the stuff I conceptually like about MMOs and leaves out the stuff I’d except to just be bothered by.

I’m not a big fan of zombies tho. Maybe because of their position among horror/fantasy/scifi monsters as one of the more plausible ones, and that combined with my imagination makes going to the basement shower in my house a little scary at times. Down the stairs, there could be zombies coming from the left, from the right, or from behind/under the stairs. I’ve more than once, while the “energy-saving” light bulb in the sauna warms up, walked around down there, looking for things I could use as weapons. Ideally, I’d get my hands on an axe, but the sauna ladle might work too.

Upstairs, I’d probably go for my sister’s katana; the melon-knife I call it. If only it was sharpened (die, watermelons, die). No slicy action, but I could do some thrusty stabby damage with it in its current state. Hm, for someone who doesn’t like zombies, I seem to think about surviving them a lot. Could explain my tendency for buying flashlights and battier all the time. They also make great improvised gifts. Everybody needs flashlights.

I’m still scared of the dark. My imagination lives there.

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My longest post ever

Posted by Ad on November 4, 2010

Yes.

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Doing it wrong

Posted by Ad on October 28, 2010

I saw a YouTube comment a while back, in which someone stated having grown up on the modern RPGs but felt the older ones (snes-era, according to the video commented on) were just… better. The graphics were 2d, no voice acting, low-resolution sprites, menu-driven combat in many of the games, static monster sprites in many of the games, etc.. So why are these games “better”?

I’ve been thinking of what makes for a good game, what about a game that makes it enjoyable. in board games, I’m pretty sure it’s the opportunity to screw things up for other players. Quarto, chinese checkers, rummy, even games as  simple as four/five-in-a-row have that. More advanced games like Illuminati is also about screwing things up for other players (tho often through threats diplomacy). One of the games that has seen the most play among our gaming group would be Blokus. For this very reason. Our Uno games tend to be competitive. Our adapted rules to other games make them more competitive. More opportunities to screw things up for other players.
So what about video games, esp. single-player RPG games? I had a short list in my head, a list of the most important features of a game, but have forgotten some of them. Oh well. Here’s what I do remember:

1. Controls. If the controls are sluggish, the game sucks. If thinking about a direction causes the character to spurt head-first in that direction, the game will be annoying. If the character won’t even move until you shove the stick as far as it goes, the game will be annoying. Some RPGs have a run button. Some don’t. And don’t get me started on menu-driven combat.

2. Exploration. Not applicable to all kinds of games, but my favorite part of a Civ game is when most of the map is blank and I can just head in whatever direction I want, see what’s there. Many RPGs have a huge world, whether or not you ever get to see a world map. Aquaria is a great example of games based around exploration. If new areas aren’t interesting enough, exploration isn’t a reward enough to keep ppl playing. if there are no new areas, your game is small, and it better have a good focus on other important elements… like investigating a mystery… Oh wait, that’s also a form of exploration.

3. Story. Yes, you kind’a need a story to justify the gameplay. No, you really don’t need much. Mario and Zelda are just going to rescue the damsel in distress by defeating the bad guy, right? That’s actually a pretty deep story for a game, it has TWO objectives (albeit accomplished at the same time the same way). Then there are stories that are long and/or thick, but still not very deep. And then there’s the worst kind, the ones that stop the game to tell a story you either already know or don’t really care about. I mean, at the start of Monkey Island 1, what would we need to know about Guybrush Threepwood besides that he wants to become a pirate?

4. Icons. A guy in a green tunic and a silly green hat? Red cap, mustache, red and blue clothing? Yellow/orange space armor with big shoulder thingies? A blue hedgehog with red boots? Classic video game heroes. As tech advanced, we got more complicated appearances for the characters, but this didn’t make them better. The good ones are iconic for their simplicity, they’re archetypes and their appearance somehow reflects this. More recent successful characters would have to include Master Chief. Why? Archetype with an easily identified appearance. Kratos? Sackboy? Whether or not the characters themselves are iconic, something in the game must be. The design of Portal and the archetype GLaDOS represents? The design of the world of BioSchock? The design of the world of Aquaria?

5. Mythology. Related to icons. By this I don’t mean a creation myth, gods and giants, and the source of life, magic, and everything. I just mean a set of rules that the world design abides by. Maybe numbers, shapes, colors, locations, maybe these things represent something, making things identified through their association with whatever is referenced in their design? If the bad guy has horns, and we all know it, other characters with horns will be perceived as bad guys, right? How about the color red, or black? How about a pitchfork? Goat legs? Silly tail? Red or black eyes? If we establish this as the face of evil, all these attributes will be associated with evil. Goatherders, farmers, and emo kids beware. How about pale skin, fangs, and cape? How about suit and tie? How about the blue water people, the brown mountain people, and the green forest people? All identified as iconic in the Zelda series, but the mythology goes deeper than that, as evidenced with a few characters in Twilight Princess, where mere colored dots under some characters’ eyes identify them as tied to one of these peoples/locations, depending on their color.

6. Freedom. Tied to controls and exploration. Sequence-breaking was one of the main features of the Metroid series, at least before being constrained to a 3d gameplay and/or a more story-driven gameplay. This freedom has been enjoyed by lots of gamers. Is it weird that a game which unintentionally includes abilities to skip entire sections of the game is so enjoyable because of such an oversight on the designers’ part? Maybe. I don’t care, I just like being able to go places. Linear exploration is like sitting in a bus, whereas freedom is having your own car. In keeping with that analogy, Aquaria had a car, and I want cars in more games. And stories that take cars into account, plz… or at least doesn’t get in the way.

7. Direction, parallel of freedom. As much fun as a sandbox game can be, without a clear story the freedom comes off as lazy game design. Huge world, somewhere something to do that moves the story forward, but no incentive to go there and not a lot of clues pointing that way either. Either make the story as free as the world, or don’t make the world so free. As much as invisible walls and seemingly arbitrary restrictions bother me, I’m more bothered by being far from my objectives because the game never told me where I was supposed to go. I would of course prefer to be able to go anywhere, and the story would adapt, give me the story of where I am, not of where I should be, plz.

8. What else… NO GRINDING! Okay so I played through game X last year, now I wanna play it again. I don’t want to have to run around area X for an hour, again, to level up so I can beat the boss. How about we do away with all this exp crap and just let ppl play on skill and knowledge? Battles back in the day were limited by tech, but they weren’t limited by loading times and long attack animations, so the grinding was a lot faster then. Still annoying when you play the old games, but nowhere near the wait it takes to grind in modern games.

That’s all I can think of atm, but I’m sure there’s more to it than this. I’ll probably revise this at some point, post a new version. These are my thoughts today. The main problem with newer games is that they’re still doing what the old games are doing, except prettier and slower. I don’t think Metroid: Other M’s story, or most modern games’ for that matter, is half as bad as some of the direction and tech behind it makes it look like. We’re years ahead of the snes, why are we still designing games as if they’re nothing but a graphical 3d upgrade of those games? With the interactive nature of video games, why are the stories still so linear?

Games like Civ and Illuminati end up as a modular story that’s based in the game mechanics. I don’t see why RPGs, shooters, and others couldn’t do the same. Anybody know anybody who does this?

Posted in video game industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I thought this was a game

Posted by Ad on October 27, 2010

I wanna talk a bit about cutscenes. I’ve been thinking about the kind of decisions I’d make if i ever got to make a game, and the kind of things I’m advocating in the game I’m involved in (tho only in charge of the sound).

I tried to think of games where I enjoyed cutscenes. FFX came to mind as an example of having annoying characters say annoying things to other annoying characters, and occasionally Auron or Kimahri would grunt or something (which captured my feelings about the other characters quite well). As annoying as these überproduced modern FF games are, the older ones handled this so much better, despite being far simpler in design. On that note, playing through Seiken Densetsu 3, there’s a lot of cutscenes. How come these don’t bother me?

Granted, there were cutscenes in FFX that I enjoyed. The spectacular ones, the ones that showed you a world rather than showed the characters I didn’t care for steal the spotlight and ramble hormone-induced whines and conceited rants that stem from a sense of entitlement. Seriously, Tidus or Seymour, which one was more annoying?

Another example of games with cutscenes that don’t bother me would be from the Monkey Island series. While the dialogue tends to be interactive, even the parts where it isn’t don’t bother me. Why? Because it’s funny. Much like a terrible ad can really irk you, a funny ad both serves its function of making you aware of the product but can also be enjoyable and thus memorable. This is why I’d much rather use 020202 than 0100100 as my go-to service for finding ppl/places (in Finland at least). 0100100’s sponsor message got REALLY annoying when you’re watching a show like Lost and it cuts to the sponsor message… which is LOUD!

Metroid: Other M’s cutscenes give us information we either don’t care about or that we already figured out. There are a few scenes that, at least in retrospect, were good. The killer rabbit scene is one, tho it feels as if having to stop the game and have a “Where’s Waldo” minigame in order to see the cutscene is the wrong approach.

With Bobby Kotick thinking of making movies out of cutscenes in games, and a lot of big games treating cutscenes as their sole storytelling device in their games, I can’t help but wonder if we’re heading in the wrong direction. We already have cinema, and it’s _so_ 20th century.

If I could call the shots? if the cutscene isn’t spectacular or funny enough, don’t use a cutscene. portal’s storytelling is done within a fully interactive world, the game never stops the game to tell the story, never takes control away from the player, never has the story running in like a clown into an operating room shouting at the surgeons: “Hey look at me, I’m here and I’m explaining what you guys are doing and why! Hey! Listen!” Tho if I were a surgeon, I at least have the choice of going after the clown with a scalpel. I think the Hippocratic Oath has, or at least should make an exception for situations like that.

Yes, there are things that you need to stop the game for to explain, but as useful as cutscenes are for telling the story, the story should never be a clown in an OR. You can tell that the patient in surgery is important by having guards outside the OR, or somewhere else where we can see them. We don’t need someone stopping the game to tell us that.

Cutscenes can also be used as a reward, but then they’d have to be enjoyable. When they’re overused, you get a “success” jingle and a cutscene that shows you what happened. While it’s useful to somehow cue the player’s attention to whatever they just achieved, grabbing and turning their heads and pointing to whatever they just made happen is a really annoying way of doing that. I mean, we have stereo sound, we have particle effects, we have all kinds of stuff. Just widening the field of view and moving the camera slightly would be enough. You don’t need to stop the game to tell us we did something. (this is where I grab and turn your head and point to the Metroid Prime series)

It’s much more rewarding when it’s either funny or spectacular. When it’s not, it a break too short and unpredictable to be a snack/toilet break yet long enough to break immersion. And the more often it happens, the more annoying it gets. Just imagine if ever sentence you typed correctly would result in a jingle and a “nice work” screen that would last 5 seconds. Unless you’re the kind of writer that makes really long sentences or simply don’t write a lot of them you’ll get annoyed. Fast.

I think the big problem is that the visuals now rivals that of the movies, so game directors think they’re movie directors. That’s when we end up with games that play themselves while we wait for an opportunity to do something. If this evolution keeps going, all the video game industry will have accomplished is to make actors obsolete. Oh and players, too.

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Should get a job in the industry

Posted by Ad on July 19, 2010

It’s 3 PM. Just woke up and had breakfast/lunch. I went to bed 7 AM. Technically, I went to bed around 1 AM, couldn’t sleep, did stuff, tried again, couldn’t sleep, did more stuff etc…

So what kept me up? Sirlin Games’ characters, Caesar II, and the idea of a survival game I wanna make. As if I could. I dug up Caesar II the other day, having fun with it. I suck at these kinds of management games, but I still like seeing the city and stuff grow. The survival game idea/sketch is something I’d like to make some day, so I’m keeping quiet about how it works.

Sirlin’s characters tho… I’ve been reading his blog and articles from time to time, and came across his Fantasy Strike characters. I wrote music for them. I know he’s got someone already, and it’s probably ocremix, but I don’t care. I had fun. 😀

Anyway, with stuff revolving a lot around games and stuff, I’m thinking I should just learn programming and start making crappy looking games with decent gameplay and awesome music. I got nothing better to do anyway.

Just gotta learn to program. *sigh*

Posted in me, music industry | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

London, school, stuff…

Posted by Ad on April 10, 2010

No, not yet. Going later.

I’ve gotten a lot of music projects out of the way, but some of them still weigh me down. I guess I can share some quick thoughts about them:

Rap beats for a couple of friends. Fun to try something new, but it’s really not a style I’m used to. Makes it difficult.

Two remix projects I’m involved in. Neither remix is turning out as I wanted it to, and they’re both using some big plugins so they make the whole computer run slow. I should just extract the midi, write them with terrible instruments, then move the midi back in. That’s actually not a bad idea. Hm…

Seiken Densetsu 3 Remix Project – Songs of Light and Darkness Lost and Borked Files. I’m starting to hate it. Way more trouble than it’s worth. Stupid Rozo, promised to run it and cover all the tracks. No more promises. I promise.

What else… yeah, Pokémon remix project, need to fix those. Assorted non-project mixes. Need to downprioritize those. Bionic Commando… I’m not happy with it, should redo it. I have a lot better sounds now. Just need to re-render the drums and replace the audio, that might be enough. Oh and take off the limiters from every friggin’ track in it and most of my other slightly older works.

And I should apply for schools. You see how big a priority that is for me.

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Assorted music plans…

Posted by Ad on December 28, 2009

The thing is, I have a lot of ideas for albums. I’m just not sure I’m pro enough to really make one. I’m just throwing this out there for the ppl that know this stuff:

Am I good enough yet?

By that I mean, do I have the tools and the skills and the knowledge and discerning enough ears to make a commersial album, be that one intended for licencing or for listening? If, I don’t need to do the mastering myself.  What do you think?

In any case, I’ve also got plans for a website, need a few demos for it. Since I want to compose for games, I want to show I can do different styles. I have a few ideas, but what do you think would make good examples/be good challenges for me?

All this assuming I have readers. 😀

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