Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tools for Game Design

I just started reading a really cool interview on Gamasutra where Brandon Sheffield talked to Hirokazu Yasuhara, one of the original game designers behind Sonic the Hedgehog. It started out quite ordinary and then as he revealed more and more of his design process I started to feel a kind of revelation. A lot of the things he says make complete sense in hindsight, but it is putting those things into words that is just amazing.

Really good interview and something to add to the game design toolkit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Electric Ghost

I just realised that I hadn't written anything recently about my IF project. Well, production slowed down a bit on it due to real life issues, but I have continued fleshing out the plot and some of the script. I think I have a much clearer idea of what I want to accomplish with the game though, and I realised that it slots quite neatly into some other stuff I have been working on. In line with that, I have decided to change the name of the game and unveil the hastily produced logo and banner for the entire story universe, of which this IF project will hopefully be the first release:

I am also working on a comic book script that will occur in the same universe. I don't really know whether it will be linked in any way to the game yet. I will see where the story takes me.

The universe is basically based in the present with some occassional jaunts to the past and the near future. It focuses on two major parties known as The Shades and The Hues for now, and their secret wars for power, and the running of the world. Of course this is nothing original really, but I am hoping to add some unique elements to the way they function and what kind of stories I am telling. My aim is to hopefully make people think a little bit more.

Once I get the game up to the end of at least the first chapter, I will upload it for all to see.

Mighty Jill Off

Mighty Jill Off banner made from artwork by
Harvey James and Auntie Pixelante.

Mighty Jill Off is a masocore platform game featuring a chubby submissive lesbian gimp named Jill ascending a tower in order to please her dominant mistress known simply as the queen. You can get it here. Go and play it then come back once you have died, no continues allowed okay?

Okay, welcome back. How did you enjoy the fall/burn/bite/impaling on a phallic spike? You had better have enjoyed it. The queen gave it to you to like and there's more where that came from.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed the game. It is actually quite tough, and even though it is short, you will probably die a hell of a lot more in the time it takes you to finish it, than you will probably die in the same space of time in most other games you will play this year. The game itself is simple to explain and even to play. You must guide Jill up a tower via an increasingly tortuous set of vertically-inclined platforming levels, sometimes dodging enemies, and other times floating over flames or spikes. There are no moving/invisible/crumbling platforms to navigate, and the only enemies to speak off are spiders that look like pixel versions of the skulltulas from Ocarina of Time. Jill herself can jump, run left and right and float, making the entire game playable with just three buttons. This type of spare and focused design is always really nice to see and it means you can introduce anyone to the game and be confident that they will be jumping and dying in no time.

Like Rescue The Beagles which I wrote about before, it is fun and does have nuances of control and strategy. The first time I played through the game, I finished it in about 31 minutes. The author says she can finish it in about 9 minutes (if I remember correctly) so obviously there is a whole lot of improvement to be had.

I cannot really get across in words how much fun it is to be jumping and floating up a tower at the whim of a hot, dyke queen in order to receive more punishment. I encourage you to experience it for yourself.
For some more of the awesome concept and ingame art you can check out the artist's livejournal page here, and for more games by the author, including a really cool western called Calamity Annie you can check out her blog here.

The Lagos Gaming Scene

I realise that I haven't really gone into what the gaming scene is like in Nigeria at all. Beyond a bit of a rant regarding prices of software over here, nothing else has been highlighted. I am going to attempt to address that in a series of posts.

Most of the gamers I know can be split up into two groups. The current-gen gamers and the last-gen gamers.

The current-gen gamers I interact with regularly own Xbox 360s. If anything, I would say that it is their console of choice for all things game related. Very few of them have ps3s and even fewer have Wiis.

Oddly enough, most of the media/general stores here stock PS3 and Wii games and very few Xbox 360 games. The playstation and Nintendo brand names are really stuck in the heads of most of the buyers for these stores, and they do not really consider the 360 relevant as such. Most of them do not even realise that the 360 can also play dvds and act as a media center. It is just in some limbo space as far as they are concerned. A strictly gaming machine with games they do not understand. The playstation has grand theft auto and pro evolution. Even though these games are also available on the 360 they do not really register this as far as being a reason to buy more 360 games. Why would anyone want to buy a 360 anyway? The PS3 is obviously better.

This makes gamers resort to a place called Alaba Market, an area in Lagos that is known as the center of Igbo traders in the state and also the HQ of anything to do with electronics.

These guys get everything, and if they haven't gotten it yet, they can get it for you. Plasma/LCD High Definition TVs at the cheapest price you are likely to get in the country as well as all sorts of gadgets, music etc. They are also the center of the pirating scene for videogames, music and movies. But, anyway, even though Alaba Market has a lot more choice for the 360 and any other system owner, it is still quite limited.

I just recently got on the current-gen train so I am still wading through all the options available to me in Lagos, but from what I gather from them, it is essentially a sort of pot luck for games, and most people simply wait until a friend of theirs, or they are travelling abroad and get their games that way.

Apart from the current-gen gamers, there are the last-gen gamers who mainly play on the ps2 and xbox. Most of their games are pirated. A pirated game for either of these consoles goes for as little as N1500 (roughly $12) if you are in the right place, and I have never heard of them passing N3000 (roughly $25). This is well within the budget of most people who are still in university or secondary school. It also makes them focus on a few games at a time in order to eke out as much as possible from it. Most of the people that are in this group almost never buy original games. In the stores here, an original Playstation 2 game goes for about N9,000 (about $75) a pop, and the choice is still quite limited. Mainly football and AAA titles like GTA, Pro Evolution, FIFA and Tomb Raider. You occasionally find non-big name titles like Rez or Panzer Dragoon Orta for relatively cheaper (N6000 which is about $50), but these are very few and far between.

Personally, I have never bought a pirated game before, and I don't think I ever will, but it is not hard to understand why most gamers in this country do buy them. There is no official distribution network for our country and no support for any of our consoles or games, so we are very easy prey for the sharks that travel to the states or the uk, pick up games at retail price (most likely bargain bins) and bring them back with their profit, flight ticket, and other expenses tacked on to them. They buy a brand new PS2 game for at worst $40 and sell it to us for $75. What can one do about that? If there was a way for them to buy the games at the dealer prices, we would have a much better deal and it would hopefully give people more of an incentive to pick up original titles. I am not going to hold my breath for that to happen though.

Another thing that struck me when I came back was how much stuff you have to get in order to support your console lifestyle. A stabiliser is a must as is a UPS if you don't want our beloved PHCN (Power Holding Company Nigeria Limited) to mess you up in the middle of a dungeon or mission. I still haven't gotten a UPS for my consoles and I feel the pinch every time I have to replay an entire section because the the 'light went'. It's made me hate games with poorly placed save- and checkpoints even more now, and I really do appreciate my DS.

Actually, this brings me to another topic, that of portable gaming. You would think that in a country with an unstable power supply, over-priced games and not much disposable income that portable gaming would have taken off dramatically. Unfortunately, this doesn;t seem to be the case, admittedly this is based purely on my own limited experience, but I rarely meet people outside the current-gen set that own portable consoles, and even when they do, it is a PSP and it is being used as a very big iPod and storage device. Odd that. I think this has to do with the perception that portable gaming isn't as good as home console/PC gaming simply because the graphics they are capable of are not that great compared to the home consoles, and they are mainly filled with 'kiddy' games like pokemon and patapon. Then again, it could also be because getting pirated games onto a PSP is a lot easier than doing the same with a DS. Hell, I once went into a game store in the complex where my office is and saw a friend of mine downloading games from the store's laptop onto his memory stick for his PSP. I do not know whether they were charging for this service or they were just giving him free games though.

I am hoping to help try and change the perception of portable gaming being limited by organising some gaming get-togethers focused around more than just home console gaming. Will update on the site once I see how that goes.

This brings me neatly to the end of this topic. Hopefully, I will be able to write about our Halo gaming days. I will also try and take some pictures of the next one (if it happens) and if we play some Halo 3, maybe even some videos!

EDIT: Made some grammatical changes and tweaks here and there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Red Alert 3

This is just looking really awesome. It might actually be the first Real-time strategy game that I pick up in almost 10 years. Even though I am sure I will probably still suck at it, having Tim Curry hamming it up is just so tempting. :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yes, Today is post day.

I am trying my hardest to resist getting a PSP once I have some disposable income for this game. Well, not this particular game, but its PSP incarnation - Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G, or Monster Hunter Freedom 2. The need for a co-op hack n slash, gear hunt game has been getting stronger and stronger in me for a while now, and I guess it is keying into my increasing disinterest in games that are too long and have stories (well, dull, generic stories anyways).

Of course there is the problem of getting other people with PSPs to agree to buy Monster Hunter, and even then I would have to see them regularly in order to play it with them...but the temptation is still there. I mean, just look at it!

Huge monsters, big weapons, loot...everything a man could want out of a game distilled into a handheld. I wish Etrian Odyssey was multiplayer at times. I don't know how they would have done it, but it would have been cool to go exploring through the labyrinth with my party knowing that my girlfriend's party was somewhere else in it and then we could hook up and exchange maps in order to get the full picture of the level. And then if someone was in trouble with a FOE, then the other party could wait for them to get killed and sneak in with a warp wire to get them home.

Dammit, its getting harder to resist the lure of Monster Hunter now...shame that Phantasy Star Online has a HORRIBLE camera for offline multiplayer play, that would have been awesome, then I could have used that as a stop-gap until I could legitly afford to get a PSP...preferably the Monster Hunter limited edition one here.


Ok, I know that this is not really videogames related (TRON has videogame inspired visuals and there was a game called TRON 2.0 which was about ok. There are also a huge amount of games based on the light cycle segment of the film...), but I just have to share this.

If you were/are a fan of TRON, you must have been excited. Who cares that it is just some crummy bootleg video?!

Immortal Defense: The Review

"I love you grandpa."

I finished playing Immortal Defense a few days ago, and the night that I finished it I was tired, and elated and I think my mind expanded even only a little bit. THIS is what I want to be able to do with videogames. And in time, maybe I could do more.

Immortal Defense is basically a Tower Defense game. You have a goal which must be defended against a procession of increasingly tough enemies for a set amount of time in every level (called pathspace). You do this by placing 'points' around the level that have different effects. Some just do direct damage to the enemies, others reduce the defence of the enemies and yet others slow them down.

So far so normal. What elevates this beyond the average tower defense game are its visual and aural presentation and its story.

The visuals are highly abstract and are accentuated by very boisterous and highly stylised procedural special effects that end up obscuring the action quite a bit. It can be a bit confusing sometimes, but it also adds to the general ambience of the game. You can almost look at it as a sort of battle induced ecstasy, with your instincts guiding you on your 'path' of destruction.

The sound effects, while nothing necessarily amazing, are very good and quite appropriate to the game's aesthetic. Special mention must go to the music however which is absolutely stellar. From the opening song by Helen Humes, to the custom soundtrack most of which was composed by the designer's father, Walter Eres with some of the songs made by a friend of his called Long Dao. It really gives the feeling of vastness, alienation and just plain weirdness that I think is key to the overall unearthly feel of the game. The entire soundtrack is available free for download here. The sound design doesn't just stop with the gameplay though, even the menu has some very nice incidental sounds that keeps you absorbed in its world from the minute you switch it on.

All this of course would make a pretty solid if quirky game if it were not for the writing and how the story is tied in completely with the gameplay mechanics. The 'points' are aspects of the player's will with names like courage, pride and love. The story constantly challenges the player's perceptions, and I really wish I could say more without spoiling it, but suffice to say, it is very good and it ends very well too. Whenever people talk about narrative in videogames, this should be mentioned alongside Planescape: Torment and Shadow of the Colossus as an example of a peek into the future of videogames as art in their own right.

The overall package is definitely worth the asking price. With the demo you get to fully explore two chapters of the game, and this alone should give you a very good idea of how the game plays, so you should definitely get the demo (sorry mac fans, no version for you guys.)

The gameplay is nothing new, but it is executed in a very fresh way. It has a killer story, very nice music and pretty graphics. What more could one ask for?

Oh, and here's a video in case you were wondering what all the pretty lights actually do -

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Just a few links of some game-related things

First, via rockpapershotgun a story about an 18-hour boss fight from my former addiction, Final Fantasy XI. This is an online game for the PC, PS2, and xbox 360 in which you explore the world of Vana'diel and lose a lot of time.

I remember enjoying it very much when I first got into it and spent many days doing nothing but playing it, but after a while, I couldn't take the endless grind and dependency on other people in order to progress and got out. But wow. I didn't know players hardcore enough to keep at a fight for 18hrs were still playing the game...whether or not having an 18 hour fight in a game is even a good thing is a whole other topic and there are loads of comments on both rockpapershotgun and the source article discussing it.

I think that a huge epic boss fight can really add something to people who are willing to 'invest' in the challenge, but it doesn't have to be a continuous non-stop grind battle. But wow, 18 hours...that's just wrong unless the boss was attacking the entire server, now that would just be awesome and you could contribute your quota to the fight and leave after an hour.

There's a very interesting article on Gamasutra about the art of braid created by the awesome David Hellman.

Cactus also put up a video showcasing some of the work that he is currently working on. All of it looks awesome and the music is pretty nice.

Via kotaku. Capcom has released screenshots of the bosses in Mega man 9 and they are all looking awesome! Yet another game that I am trying to figure out how to get on either my PS3 or Xbox360. This I definitely need.

Been on an Odyssey

Haven't posted in a while as I've been pretty busy over here with non-game related stuff. Some of it interesting and others not so much.

But, I have had time for Etrian Odyssey! I just got this for the Nintendo DS and it is all I hoped it would be. Dungeon Crawling at its finest for me. It's weird, recently I have been hankering for games that are more about gameplay than story or narrative (that is not intrinsically tied in to the gameplay) and I think this is down to the fact that I am having less and less time to sit down and play games, and I don't want anything to make me hanker after it because I want to see what is going to happen after I beat a certain area. Etrian Odyssey is really cool. I have only been playing it for about a week or two now and am on the 6th floor, making progress slowly but surely.

In other news, gaming in Nigeria can be really sucky. I finally bought an X360 (Elite!) and I didn't get any games with it. Weird I know. But, the thought of having Master Chief speaking in German was not really appealing to me (in the long term; short term would have been great). So, I have had my 360 for two weeks and I have not been able to find Halo 3 anywhere in any of the shops in Lagos. Actually, I lie, I have found one person that has it, but they say that they will be selling it to me for fifteen thousand naira (USD126). Not that we don't pay close to this for our games anyways. On average, we pay between twelve thousand five hundred naira to fourteen thousand naira (USD105 - USD118) for a PS3 or Xbox 360 game, but still.

I am in the middle of ordering some games from and I am having trouble with my Nigerian VISA card going through. Even though I definitely have the right amount of money on it, it is still refusing to reflect on the card and so my purchase keeps on getting cancelled because they say I do not have enough money on it. Very annoying. At least they accept the card and will deliver to Nigeria. Unlike Xbox LIVE that refuses to acknowledge my postcode in Lagos. We already have difficulty purchasing games in this country and now, so much is going online. I can't play Braid, Pixeljunk Eden, Rez HD, Ikaruga, Bionic Commando or any other game that requires purchasing online and downloading to the console hard drive. At least PC transactions are a little bit more friendly in that respect. The console manufacturers just behave like we don't exist over here in Africa (unless you are South Africa) and make no provisions for people not present in places that are not directly served by one of their distributors.

Okay...woah, that went way off topic. Anyways, I got some games for the 360 from a friend and now have Oblivion, Gears of War and PES 2008 to look forward to...I am wondering whether I really needed any of these games after all. Two of them are fairly narrative heavy and seem to require a fair investment of my time, and the PES...well, let's just say football is not my thing.