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I’ve always wondered whether or not there is a correlation between the number of useable guns in a first-person shooter games, and how this influences people’s decisions to purchase these games. The fact that just about every FPS explicitly boasts the number weapons at the player’s disposal on the retail packaging leads me to assume that marketing research has shown that this relationship does exist. Afterall, with the small amount of space available for advertising on a game’s cover box, a game publisher has to choose how to occupy this real estate to attract the most attention, and they almost always choose to state things like, “Wreak havoc with an arsenal of over 36 INSANE guns!” and “Splatter your foes with 20 eye-gouging, skull-splitting melee weapons”.

Why is this? Why would this one thing, among all the other features of a new game, attract so many buyers? Well, because it sounds fun. I mean, who wouldn’t want to impale a nazi-zombie 20 different ways? It sounds awesome! Even if in reality, the game is absolutely no fun, the idea of the possibilities sells. However, this brings me to my next question: Is it really the number of weapons that sounds fun, or rather, what you can do with those weapons?

Think about it, if a game had 5 billion different guns, and each one made the same “pew pew” sound, and all the enemies just folded over and died the same way, you wouldn’t care a bit. But that’s not what happens (in most games). When people read about all the different guns, they think of all the cool death animations and simulated destruction they can create. That is what’s fun. If you just break it down, I think this is what goes on in the consumer’s head (and the publisher’s):

Crapload o’ Guns = violence and destruction -> Violence and destruction = fun -> Fun = I want it -> I want it = $$$ for EA

I just read that Borderlands has something like “Over 17 million guns“… I’m gonna go buy it.

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I know I never finish the projects I start (*ahem* Broquest *ahem*), but I’d like to blame it on all the other extracurricular activities I have going on. Regardless, last night I was reflecting on a horror movie I recently watched, and it got me thinking about making a short horror/thriller game. I must admit, I’ve never really enjoyed these games. Never got into Silent Hill, didn’t enjoy Resident Evil until the forth installment (but didn’t finish it), and never gave those Condemned games a chance (doubt I missed much). Despite not playing them, I think making something like this could be fun.

I think I want to go about it a little differently though. I want to make a game that doesn’t set out to scare you. No monsters will ever be shown, no outright shocking images. No sudden bursts of sound to make you jump, I’ve always thought that was a cheap shot for the horror genre. Instead I want to present a little mystery, and let the player explore. Hopefully letting the player’s imagination build the suspense. I’m leaning towards a first person view in order to get a more confined feel, which also has the benefit of eliminating an player animations. I don’t want you to make a character explore the world, I want YOU to explore the world. There will be little dialogue, if any, and it will all be written on screen. I want the player to hear it with the voice in their head. The only sounds will be footsteps, and doors opening and closing, with the ambient occasional music.

I don’t really have any story ideas yet, but I want it to be subtle. I plan on a small environment (maybe a house) so that small changes can be made and it won’t take long for them to be discovered (such as a previously closed door being open). I think that in a small environment, where very little is happening, small changes can have a huge impact on the player’s imagination.

I’ll probably use AGS for this, as I don’t really know any other programs I am as capable with. I’m just worried about how the first person perspective will work… I don’t want this to behave like Myst.

Today kicks off my week of spring-break, only to open the front door and find about 3 inches of snow piling up. Yeah, snow. I know this spring break is a tad early in the year, but I was definitely not expecting this. I live in Atlanta for godsakes! Anyways, I actually love days like today. The inclimate weather leaves me with nothing to do but hole-up and play video games.

A couple days ago, I hit up Xbox Live and downloaded a slew of new game demoes just to see whats out there. Resident Evil 5, Fear 2, some Tom Clancy wannabe flight-sim, and a few others. Fear 2 was kinda cool, nothing new. Everything else was pretty bland.

However, there was one game that stood out: Braid.

braid_title

I must’ve played the demo 4 or 5 times through, with it never getting old. Today’s snowy weather was the icing on the cake. I plopped down the measly $15 (actually closer to $18 due to stupid Microsoft points, thats another topic though), and haven’t been more satisfied by a game in some time. I’m normally not even a big platformer fan, being the self-proclaimed “worst Mario Brothers player on Earth”, but there’s magic in this one. I’m sure there are plenty of reviews out there that outline what makes this game so much fun, so I’m not gonna go in to it right now. All I have to say is that for any of you who haven’t played Braid, skip the reviews, skip the youtube videos, and just download the demo. It’s free, and it’s much more satisfying than some metascore.

Dear Nintendo,

Dear Nintendo,

Why on Earth would I buy a DSi? I am perfectly content with my shiny, black DS Lite, and all of its capabilities. I have no desire to let a Warioware game make me look like a fool, and I can see no other use for 2 cameras other than gimmicky “you’re in the game!” games. I understand that the DSi has a slimmer size, however, the hand cramps I get after 30 minutes of Moon, or Metroid make a smaller device the opposite of what I would like in a new handheld. Additionally, the reduction in size has also eliminated some of the functionality. I predict that on April 5th, we will hear a collective cry of grief from GBA games everywhere.

Sincerely,

Dustin

Master Chiefs Everywhar!!

Master Chiefs Everywhar!!

Really? I mean, really? I have not even played the demo for Halo Wars yet, and I already know what the prime downfall of the game is. I wish someone would tell me what marketing genius decided to adapt the Halo franchise to the RTS genre on a platform that primarly controls with two thumbsticks.

HAS THIS EVER WORKED?

I consider myself a PC gamer first and a console gamer second, so I’ve never given past console RTS’s a chance, given that I could always just go play C&C or Starcraft instead. My opinion is that if you even have to mention the controls in a review, the game has failed. Control issues with a game amounts to the same as when you have that brat kicking the back of your seat in a movie theatre. It removes you from the game, and constantly reminds you that you are not actually a badass space marine, and that you should probably be writing a term paper or doing the dishes instead of wasting your life with an xbox. The immersion factor is what motivates you to procrastinate your daily responsibilities and not feel guilty. When you’re having a good time, it is time well spent. Period.

With this said, why would Microsoft allow a developer to take their flagship franchise, the almighty Halo, and drag it through the mud. Perhaps they feel that the Halo name is so strong, and that the sheer marketing momentum of a new Halo game will overcome the complaints of control issues, and still produce a profitable (albiet not fun) product. Perhaps they are correct. However, if this is their strategy, then it will only produce short-term success.

When it comes to an RTS, the mouse and keyboard always wins. You’re not going to rush anyone when you’re too busy fumbling with shoulder and directional pads. And guess what, when it comes to an FPS, the mouse and keyboard also always wins. No matter how skilled you get with those thumbsticks, when put up against the precision of a mouse, you lose. You lose bad. Like headshots-while-flying-through-the-air-and-shit bad. I’m sure there’s some crazy Korean kid out there with Master-chief sneakers that can prove me wrong, but he’s putting a lot more effort into getting good with a gamepad than I would ever have to put into getting good with a mouse and keyboard to pwn him.

However, this is no secret. Gamers know this, and game developers know this. I predict that this is the main reason you can’t play Left 4 Dead on Xbox Live against PC players. It would no longer be fun. The console gamers would have a severe handicap, at which point, the game no longer competes based on skill. In fact, a few companies have attempted to remedy this issue by manufacturing controller adapters for the xbox. According to the review, it even works!

With this said, I will attempt another prediction. Even if you were to get Halo Wars to work flawlessly with a mouse and keyboard setup, all control issues aside, you would be left with a mediocre RTS. The developer focused so much on getting the controls right, I have no doubt that game quality was sacrificed. When I watch youtube videos of squads of Spartans (Master Chiefs) attacking enemies, I can’t help but think of continuity errors. For the last decade, Bungie has showed us that a single Spartan (you) can single handedly beat everyone’s asses. But in Halo Wars, you need a squad of these fellows, and they probably die a lot.

(EDIT: Shortly after writing this blog, I came across this article: http://rtspcgames.com/gaming/halo-wars-controls-better-than-a-pc-rts/.  I think someone is lying to us…)

Bro Break. Moon Shock.

So, in the event of class, and work, and life, Broquest is on hold. Hopefully during spring break, work will resume to completion.

However, until then, I must recommend a new DS game I am enjoying. Moon. It’s good. Slightly repetitive at times, but perfect for a handheld FPS. Also, I must admit that I’m playing the 1994 classic, System Shock, concurrently with Moon. The art style of Moon reminded me of System Shock, so I gave it a download and have been playing it while slow at work. Because of this, I find myself trying to do many of the things from System Shock while playing Moon and am jolted back to the realization of the games simplicity. Oh well, I don’t think Moon developer, Renegade Kid, set out to dupe System Shock, so it’s not really fair to make the comparison. However, the further I get in System Shock, the more I yearn for a DS port.

Man, what a great game. Moon is good, System Shock is great.

As predicted, Broquest is not yet complete. However, an end is in sight, and I am still excited about it. All the rooms are complete (aside from some touching up), and work on dialogue (the most entertaining part) is moving along. Hopefully it will be complete in the very near future, but now progress is at the mercy of any real deadlines I have to meet prior to working on the game.