Archive for November, 2013

Ok then so last Friday heralded the latest installment to the Legend of Zelda series; Link Between Worlds. Released on the 3DS this is the latest in a line of Zelda games to find its way onto the Nintendo hand held and of course I just had to get it straight away (Because why the hell not?) It is a direct sequel to the very popular Link to the Past game that was released in the 80’s and the first direct sequel to any Zelda game, even going so far as to use the same map as the original game, but of course with newer graphics and more ways of getting about.

So let’s have a little looksy at the game shall we?

Of course I only wanted to use the trailer as an example of some of the goings on in the game because well, considering I’ve had it since Friday, I haven’t really made too much headway and a game play video would have been a big spoiler for me.

So we once again have Link, the hero, looking to save the world of Hyrule from the evil forces of Ganon, who this time has help from a mysterious new person called Yuga, who has a bit of an addiction with perfection and paintings, not a healthy combination but then it takes all kinds. The player takes control of Link, leading him through the world of Hyrule and Lorule in a bid to save the descendants of the Seven Sages that locked Ganon away many years ago.

Now looking at the game from a design perspective, Nintendo were very clever in their approach. While they have used the original maps from the original Link to the Past, they have given it a brilliantly refreshing feel, with the classic monsters and bad guys being touched up with the new graphics that have accompanied the game into the modern world. Of course there are those that are going to gripe about how Nintendo went purely for a nostalgia feeling throughout the game so that it could draw in old crowds, but really, who cares about that stuff, it’s Legend of Zelda for crying out loud, if the company wants to nostalgia the hell out of it, let them, for it gives players those old memories to relive while making new ones while they play an awesome new game and talk about it with newer generations of gaming. The 3D effects throughout the world are top notch, with that disorientating feel that comes with a top down view and multiple layers within a game, it’s refreshing to have to get to grips with a new way to play the game, especially since some of the levels have different floors that require the player to find their way up and the next level can be seen directly above, unlike in older games when the player merely went from room to room and walked up some stairs. It’s great, and they have done really well to make some of the dungeons more challenging throughout as well with the new effects in place. So hats off to them for that.

I do have a gripe with one part of the system, which came from a review, the writer of which mentioned that the player could only access items of importance by renting them before they could buy them, which at first seemed to be really rubbish, especially considering the prices that were being asked by the character that supplied the items, but really, in my experience, when it comes to actually playing the game yourself, it isn’t as much of a grind as you first thought it would be and the Rupees are really easy to come by, so really there was no need to have a go at a system that actually works, for when the player causes Link to die, the character that loans the items will then retrieve them so that you have to rent them again, which admittedly is annoying but you soon get used to it and if anything it makes you more determined to just buy the items in order to keep them for yourself. But I do find that the renting system is quite unneeded within the game as it can lead to frustration if the player dies within the game and then some git comes along and steals back stuff that he lent you.

The thing that really tips the game for me though is the freakishly awesome idea of giving Link the power to turn himself into a living painting on the wall. Whoever created that needs a medal, a cookie and a promotion because damn it just makes the game that much more exciting to play and infinitely more challenging, because there have been times when I have forgotten about the power only to find myself stuck in a dungeon, then remembering and finding that it was the key to the puzzle in the first place!! Such a cool idea and definitely one they should build on in the future.

Flow

Very, very easy to achieve with this game to say the least. To put it into perspective, I was on the bus the other day, the journey normally takes a little over an hour for me to get from where I live to university, and I don’t like this normally as it is a drag, but I had my trusty 3DS with me and the new Link Between Worlds and so I kicked it up and started playing and before I knew it my stop was coming up. I had gotten so immersed into the game I completely lost myself in it and had to pull myself out so that I didn’t miss my stop and be late for my class. It’s just so immersive, with the kickass classic soundtrack, quests and challenges, along with new and eventful things to take into account as well, it is very easy to slip into a state of flow and lose hours each day to the game.

Aspects of Play

Finally getting down to this and I have to say that competitiveness is never really in a Zelda game, unless of course you get a couple of friends that also have the game and want to challenge you to see who can finish it first. But I will say however, that through the StreetPass application on the DS system, it is possible to challenge other Zelda players to a battle, so I guess there is that in terms of competitiveness, but if you just want to play through the game then there really isn’t all that much about it in terms of competition or indeed chance, as everything happens for a reason and the odds are always stacked against the player, with no random events taking place and no chance in sight of a reprieve from the action (See what I did there?) But seriously, in terms of Agon and Alea, there is no sign of them, so this leave the other two lovely categories Ilinx and Mimicry. (Huzzah!)

Ilinx – Ilinx is always a part of a good old RPG and Link Between Worlds is no different, with the player believing that they often need to run in one direction to complete a quest and gather an item, only to find that they need to be somewhere completely different. The elements of the game all seem pretty spaced out and separate at first, but eventually you come to realize that there is a set pattern to the game that needs to be followed, with items gained in one location required to complete another and upon building on that, with there being no set pattern in which the player has to tackle these challenges, they essentially create this system of “Free Will” for the player, giving them the illusion that they can indeed choose their path when really, they need to run through a certain series of events, challenges and dungeons in order to progress, following a pattern that the creators have placed subtly in the game for the player to fall into.

Mimicry – This one is fairly obvious because the player takes on the role of the hero; Link. The player has to take control of him, guide him through obstacles and ultimately help him save Hyrule and Lorule from the tyranny of the dark forces that are conspiring from the safety of their giant dark castle. The player will have to take the character Link through the puzzles, challenges and dungeons of the game and help to acquire the items necessary in order to complete the game. As with all Zelda games, the player isn’t allowed to create their own character as the iconic character of the Zelda franchise is Link himself, coming to the fore in each iteration of the game to save the world from darkness and destruction. Often he is a descendant of someone that looks mightily like himself (Maybe a long lost relative HMMMM!?!?!) But either way Link is the hero and the player always takes on his role in the story, bringing Light into a world filled with Darkness and indeed (Like Mario and many others) saving the Princess.

Above is a side by side comparison of the original Link to the Past map and the current map that is used within Link Between Worlds, as can be seen they are pretty much identical, the first of many indications that Link Between Worlds is definitely a continuation of the Link to the Past story line. (Really want to see what it will do to the Time Line in Hyrule Historia)

Update

Ok so now I have finally completed the game and I can honestly say that it is one of the most enjoyable Zelda experiences that I have had in a long time, with the top down view of the old Link to the Past and the sleek new graphics, along with the compelling storyline and free roam aspect it makes for one hell of a compelling game to play and replay, as when you complete it on Normal Mode, you can create a new save on the game and start all over again in Hero Mode, which is of course a lot harder because the monsters hit harder. I just hope there is another mode after this one where it is even more difficult because let’s face it, I’m going to want to play it again once I have completed this version.

Hero Mode is also a clever addition to the game as it gives the newly experienced player the chance to test what they know about the game in a much more unforgiving environment and it will force them to use their skills and equipment in even more innovative and interesting ways as they try to complete the game and battle monsters that are even more set out to get Link than before. Of course there is the annoyance that you start over but that is to be expected really and once you get past the initial story starter you can jump straight in and get on with the stuff you did before, only with more foreknowledge and experience, meaning that if the player is smart and utilizes their abilities and skills from the previous save wisely then there isn’t really any reason why they should struggle all that much against the foes of the worlds.

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Ok so we are several weeks into the project now, and even though we have a long way to go in terms of gathering information and building the level, we have made headway and this post is really just to direct my happy readers towards the Wiki we have created for the project and offer the information that we have gathered, along with additional information and a little more insight into the project and how we are getting along.

The web link is http://www.project-paragon.wikia.com

If you feel like having a look and are interested in what we are currently doing with the project and how we are progressing, then go for it, alternatively there are the other members of the groups blogs that can also be viewed as we are all offering updates with information as to what we are working on individually and as a group.

Client Project – Ticket Office

Posted: November 19, 2013 in Client Project

So we are slowly moving away from working on the assets of the level that we are creating for the client project and beginning work on the major buildings in and around the station in order to get them completed, ready for insertion to the UDK level. I am working on creating the old ticket office that still stands in the station today, even though it is no longer used.

bookingoffice-1 shoesmithbillyhullparagonstation

So we had to create a game proposal for a game design, taking into account our increased knowledge of Game Theory and the Aspects of Play that we have been researching over the past couple of months. Here is my initial game proposal:

I plan on creating a Modern Fantasy type RPG game. The game will take place within the modern day world, but there will be elements of a fantasy world present as well. Magick, beings such as vampire, werewolves, zombies and witches shall be present within the world, each one living within the ordinary world by day, taking on alternate personas, while at night time, the underworld comes alive as these beings take on the forms of their true selves, living and fighting to survive in an increasingly hostile world.

The player will assume the role of one of the many races present within the world, taking on their struggle to exist in a world that wants their kind exterminated. They will have to fight against the other races of the underworld and the humans if they are to survive. The player will have to complete quests and challenges throughout the game in order to ensure the safety of their characters race; they will of course come across opposition and shall have to deal with this and any obstacles they come across.

There will also be achievements for the player to unlock, as well as challenges set within their race stronghold to complete for titles which will elevate their characters position within the organization, which will also unlock higher level quests that the player can complete for extra prestige and recognition throughout the underworld.

Of course the quests and challenges won’t be limited to just the underworld; there shall be adventures to complete during the daytime as well when the character has to assume their normal world role in order to pass for a normal person in the everyday world. They shall have to work a lot more carefully, as people are aware of the underworld and they are constantly on the watch for anyone that stands out from the crowd. Stealth and cunning shall be paramount throughout the day time quests and challenges; otherwise the player’s character could come under close scrutiny and suspicion by the human enforcers.

And then if the player decides that they want to take a break from questing and achievement gaining, they can always travel around the world as it is shall be an open world game with the opportunity to look around and find out the cities secrets and bonus items. Or they can take part in the casual games of cards and dice, wagering their hard earned currency with the chance to earn more by beating the competition.

Due to the nature of the underworld, there shall be horror genre overtones present, especially when the player is exploring the strongholds of the underworld races. Blood, gore and death shall be everywhere as the underworld races feed on the human populace, while the humans are trying to bring order to a world that they consider is full of darkness and evil, with them being at the bottom of the food chain and having to fight back with the enforcers so that they can survive.

Unfortunately, due to constraints such as my lack of knowledge for some of the programs that I planned on using, such as UDK, I have amended my proposal since then, instead proposing to make a board game, as is stated in this new proposal that outlines my newer ideas.

The game I am proposing to create is a fantasy RPG board game. The aim of the game will be for the players to complete quests and challenges in order to level up their characters and progress through various locations and settings. The game will be created with modern fantasy in mind, so the players will be able to venture through modern structures and locations, instead of the traditional high fantasy locations that are normally present within board games of this nature.

The player shall take on the role of a character that they can create from a series of pre-set races and classes that are listed within the rules book, creating a character that suits their play style and preferences. There will be character sheets present with the board for the player to write down their character stats and skills onto so that they can keep track of what their character can do within the game and how the dice rolls will be influenced depending on their stats values.

There will be several challenges available within the game, with obstacles and challenges for the player or players to overcome. Monsters, difficult terrain, traps and possibly even other players will be in the paths of the main player or players, intent on stopping them from passing through the levels and completing their goals.

The board will consist of various character pieces, to act as avatars for the players to move through the game, a set of cards that can be used at certain times in the game, various different avatar icons shall also be used to represent the various monsters that can be placed around the board for players to encounter and fight. There shall also be other icons that can be placed around the map such as chests, doors, traps and obstacles that the player will not be able to move over and so will have to move around them. The board will be interchangeable for different campaigns and quests, meaning there is a very versatile level of play available to keep the game fresh. The players won’t even have to stick to the quests that are listed in the book, they will be able to create their own quests and use the boards to create their own set locations with their own challenges and pitfalls for the characters to venture through.

Platform Expos 2013

Posted: November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

So Platform has just come to an end for another year and I don’t mind saying that it was definitely the best year yet. Plenty of things to see, do and talk about all over the place as Hull was the host of the gaming convention once again, this time littered around the city center, with the City Hall being the main stage for events and talks.

Representatives from companies such as Jagex, Microsoft and Sony were all present, with talks and games littered about the showgrounds for people to attend and play, offering insights into what is going on in the industry at the moment. Exciting times are ahead my friends.

I spent most of my time hanging around the Jagex booth, talking to the reps there, getting to know them a little and finding out more about the game that they were showcasing; Ace of Spades. The game, in the simplest terms, is a first person shooter, in a world that is very similar to Minecraft. Blocks are destructible, so the environment can become decimated as rockets and bullets fly about and miners and engineers create and destroy the world around them.

Above is an example of the how to create a map within the world of Ace of Spades, there are a large selection of tools, structures and layouts that players can use to create any map they can imagine.

Jagex were also holding several tournament style matches, with teams competing for the prize, while the commentators were working within their booth between the player areas on the stage. The matches were streamed on Twitch.Tv as well, offering the game and the convention more publicity. I entered into several matches with friends in the hopes that we would win some prizes, unfortunately we weren’t good enough to win anything, but we picked up some cool Ace of Spades T-shirts from the Jagex booth and had a really good time playing.

There were also many other events on as well, such as the Retro Gaming center that had been set up in the Guild Hall, people could go and play on the old generation consoles and relive some of their earlier years of gaming with the likes of the Atari, the Nintendo 64 and many other consoles.

Ferensway Art Gallery was home to the majority of the talks held at Platform, with representatives from several major companies giving talks about several topics. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the talks due to the fact that I spent the majority of my time talking to people in City Hall about their games and then playing those games, but I heard they were very popular and interesting and I really wish I had taken the time to get to them.

I really enjoyed Platform and cannot wait for the next one to come along, I will spend more time trying to get to the Talks instead of sitting and playing games all day, but it was fun talking to some of the developers and spending time checking out their games, seeing what was out there and what to expect over the next few months.

Aspects of Play – Game Hacker

Posted: November 15, 2013 in Aspects of Play

Game Hacker is a very interesting type of game in the sense that while it is a game, it is actually a shell of a game, and the players take the pieces and they make the game that they want to play. The name is an obvious indication as to what Game Hacker is, but to clarify it is essentially a game that hacks other games and incorporates them into one bigger game.

The players make the rules, they choose the games to work into it, whether it is an element of the game, pieces, rules, dice, statistics, whatever, the players choose what they want to incorporate and then they write the rules.

We were introduced to this product so that we could gain a better understanding of how rules and mechanics of games are thought up and how they help to shape a game and whether a player will enjoy the experience of creating their own rules, creating fair rules that everyone will enjoy instead of creating overpowering and game destroying rules that leave games completely broken and unplayable.

We had the afternoon to create our own game that we could play, creating the rules and using or “hacking” any other game that we wanted to incorporate into the game that we were going to create using the Game Hacker pieces and the pieces from the games that we were going to “hack”. Needless to say there were suggestions and debates flying around the place and at first it seemed that nothing was going to get done and the game would not be settled on.

We were split into teams, each one creating their own game that incorporated other games or elements of games and then we were going to play them. However it turned into something completely different because we all decided to create one giant game that kept us in our teams and had a competitive aspect too it, along with an element of chance due to dice rolls. Keeping our team board separate, we decided to give each board a teleportal piece and created a game where each team had to gather four keys, one key on each teams board. The teams had to send their character piece to other boards to acquire the keys, before moving to the final board to capture the stash of Monopoly money that was the final prize. The first team to reach the final board and claim the money was the winner.

In order to make the game more complex and difficult for the players, we took several other aspects of games and incorporated those into it as well, to give it an edge that we felt was challenging, fun and fair to all players. See through board pieces were classed as “Icy” meaning whenever a player tried to move over them, due to the slippery surface, they would have to use up two movement steps in order to cross it, while if they were setting off from an icy piece, their movement was halved, with them being unable to move at all if they rolled a one on the die.

There were some really amusing moments, especially when it came to collecting the keys, due to the fact that we created a system using Trivial Pursuit cards, where the team trying to collect the key had to answer a question from a card that was randomly picked, and the question picked from a dice roll, there were times when it would take the team more than one try in order to be successful, so we worked it so that each team got three tries when they were trying to answer questions, if they failed they would then be moved to the nearest ice piece and would have to travel back to the key in order to try their hand at general knowledge once again. Other times it would come down to the wire for players that ran into one another because then card battles would commence, using ordinary playing cards, with the highest value card being the victor and the loser being moved back a number of pieces equal to the difference between the card values.

Needless to say, with there being more than two teams and more than two boards, the game was long and after three hours, we concluded that the team with the most keys was the winner. The game was a lot of fun and there were many tough moments when players spent a lot of time trying to retrieve a key or they were losing multiple card battles, pushing them back away from the key they wanted to reach, but overall there was a lot of fun moments and the game was very enjoyable. Being able to create our own rules and essentially our own game out of existing pieces from other games, with a custom board was really entertaining and gave us the chance to come up with something both fun and interesting while being completely original and implementing several elements that complimented each players favourite games.

Nobody really seemed to experience a State of Flow, as there were a lot of elements to focus on instead of a single element of the game, and due to Alea being present in the dice roll, while people may have been waiting for that miracle roll that would give them the goal that they were setting out to achieve, they didn’t experience Flow either, as there was a lot to focus on, people talking, outside distractions and general waywardness due to the fact that there were a lot of us involved in the process of creating and playing the game. Heck we didn’t even create a name for the game that we created.

But needless to say, Game Hacker is brilliantly done, giving people the opportunity to create their own board games while hacking into other games, putting a spin on the different elements and having a laugh with their friends and family.

https://i0.wp.com/images.mmosite.com/my/upload/47/15/talonkane/10/0630/2010063023013_339.jpg

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is an old tabletop board game that is still popular, even though it has been around for many years. The game consists of several elements that make up the whole.

The Dungeon Master – The Dungeon Master is the storyteller of the game, they set up the board, help to create the characters, carry out the acts of the monsters within the game and roll the dice for the players. They are the central figure within the game, not playing any characters themselves, instead taking on the role of storyteller, helping to roll the game along while the other players carry out acts and take on the roles of their characters within the game.

The Players – The players are another very important aspect of the game that has to be present in order for it to work and be a game. Without the players there would be no characters and therefore there would not be a game. They each choose and take on the role of a character at the beginning of the game, then stick with that character until the game is finished. They have to move across a board and battle monsters and overcome other challenges in order to complete quests, collect gold and loot and level up their characters. They also have to work as a team, otherwise they would surely fail and their quest would never be complete.

The Board – It is possible for the players to create their own settings without the use of a premade board, but it does help out and save a lot of time if there is one. The players have to start in one area of the board and work their way across to either the cave entrance if they are in an outside area, or the cave exit if they are in a cave or dungeon. There are many settings and expansions the players can pick up and use, meaning there are many different settings and literally hundreds of different adventures that they can take their characters through, levelling up and gaining more items in their inventory, becoming stronger and moving on to other adventures that can be set up at any time and in any place that has a table top.

Dice – Dice are another important part of the game for they are the deciders whether a player or monster hits or misses their target, or whether they can pass through difficult terrain or any number of other things that a dice roll shall be required for. While they are important in the game, they do bring about with them the aspect of Alea due to the nature of having to roll a dice, hoping for a particular outcome. The player shall feel disappointment or worry if they do not get the roll that they hope for, or they shall feel elated or ecstatic if they manage to obtain the number that they require to perform a specific action, such as attacking. The aspect of chance within a game that can be as predefined or improvised as the Dungeon Master wants is quite interesting for they can be used to create some really unique situations within the game that the players have no control over, even though they are setting out with the intention of either solving or circumnavigating the situation in the first place as it could put them and their characters in a difficult position that they may be hard pressed to overcome.

Aspects of Play

Alea – As has been mentioned before in the dice section, the game relies on the aspect of chance quite heavily, especially any time the die are cast with the express hopes for a specific outcome. This makes D&D a very interesting game to play because while the players are trying to achieve success in their quests by defeating creatures, gaining experience, navigating through dungeons and other settings and many other things within the game for their characters and the play experience, the control is taken away from them when they enter combat or want to pass over some difficult terrain, because these things require a dice roll, meaning they shall have to hope for the numbers they need in order to be successful to appear within the roll, otherwise they may not be successful at all. Chance dictates whether the characters and monsters hit one another or deal damage, whether the characters can move over difficult terrain successfully or whether they have something go wrong and they fall and injure themselves or whether they are successful but injure themselves. The player can also roll die for the chance to persuade or intimidate enemies within the game, meaning force isn’t needed for the players to advance through the level, but of course the aspect of Alea comes into play each time and there is a likely scenario when the player shall fail their rolls with the die and they may have the situation start to swing against them and the rest of the team, meaning they may have to start fighting their way through to their goals.

Mimicry – Mimicry is once again present in this game, as it is a Roleplaying Game through and through, with players taking on the roles of characters within the game from differing races and background, with differing skills, working in a team together to complete as many quests as they can over a prolonged period of time, usually one or two quests per week depending on what each player is able to attend. The Dungeon Master is also performing in a sense too because they are a player taking on the role of a storyteller, taking on the challenge of telling the story of this team of characters as they travel across the land and through dungeons, killing monsters, gaining experience and acquiring items throughout their travels, battling monsters and horrors that no ordinary person would face.

State of Flow

Flow is quite difficult to achieve in D&D. The main reason for this is because it isn’t the type of game that tends to be competitive, or in some other way stimulating in terms of bringing about a higher focus or stimulation. The game is fun to play without a doubt, and there are many aspects in it that may make a player think their turn through before they move or throw a die, but they don’t really need to focus to the extent that they will enter Flow, this would really only serve to extend the game to the point of exasperation and frustration for the other players if one person takes a long time to complete one turn. The dice throw also tend to prevent Flow, as the player has no control over the outcome and therefore cannot focus their will against it in order to influence the outcome of the roll. The players may reach some level of focus, especially the players that are playing the support roles, because they will have to balance completing quests with supporting their team and helping them in combat, but this still will not achieve Flow. Time does tend to pass quickly while players are in the game, as happens when the players are having fun and have good company, but this is due to the nature of the game, as each quest tends to span several hours depending on the number of players within the game along with the length and difficulty of the quest, but this once again is not attributed to Flow.

Personal Experience

I was recently sat playing D&D with some friends while we all munched on pizza and had a few drinks. Taking on the role of Cleric, meaning I was the designated healer of a team of 8, so I definitely had to make sure I kept up with the group, otherwise they could have easily been defeated in combat due to the lack of healing that could have been going on if I had fallen behind. The game was fun, it lasted several hours, we had a decent length quest, and the second part of it takes part either later this week or another week, depending on how many of us can make it.

I enjoyed myself, but I found that my attention tended to wander after a while as the quest started to drag on a little, or at least it did in my mind. I didn’t achieve Flow at all, because I found that while the game was fun, it wasn’t stimulating to the point of hitting that higher focus. A lot of us were disappointed with our dice rolling as well, as more often than not the dice tended to conspire against us. This could have been another factor that denied Flow to the group