Over the years I’ve been working to keep up with what’s hot in gaming. Even if it’s not a game I’m too excited about, I try to get an idea of what people dig about it. I struggle to find something that excites me not only on first impression, but also after 10 hours into it. My game of the year is undoubtedly Bloodborne for PlayStation 4, which singlehandedly sold the system for me, but it’s rare for me to find something that resonates with me so well.

For the most part I’ve been gravitating towards Nintendo’s games. These tend to be well designed and easy to jump in and jump out, without lengthy tutorials. You don’t have to put in heavy work to get some joy out of it. The multiplayer gameplay is also brings me back to Nintendo’s games, since it seems like the entire game industry outside of Nintendo has forgotten why game systems have multiple controllers. More often these days, I find myself gravitating towards older games.

My main game of the moment is Final Fantasy VII.

bryson_ff7
These fun moments make me smile.

I played through this game when it released. I was 13 years old. After playing Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, I was hooked on RPGs. I couldn’t get enough RPGs and this was by far my most anticipated game. And what do you know? It actually exceeded my expectations. I long considered this my favorite game of all time. This fact was definite until I played through Xenogears and Ico. Then, it became a toss-up. Over the years I’ve dabbled in emulated versions of FF7 but never replaying it more than the first 8 or so hours, which the first arc of the story within Midgar. It took me about 60 hours to beat it the first time, so it’s a relatively small chunk of the game. Continue Reading…

This is not only a review, but my highest recommendation of what I believe to be the most comprehensive text written on the Japanese game industry in the 80’s and 90’s. At least in English! šŸ˜‰ The book I’m talking about, as you might’ve guessed by now, is the following…

untold_history_of_japanese_game_developers_book

The Untold History of Japanese GameĀ Developers by John Szczepaniak available on Amazon.com

Yes, the title is a mouthful. The book itself has a lot of writing as well at over 500 pages, so I’ll try to keep this short. If you have an interest in knowing what the Japanese industry was like “way back when,” or you want to know the story behind some of the cherished and/or niche titles you grew up loving, this might be the only place for you to get a glimpse of that world. Continue Reading…

A few weeks ago I attended the Unity LA Meetup OUYA talk. There was a talk and lengthy Q&A with some people from OUYA. The event cleared up a lot of questions I had about the project.

Representing OUYA on stage wasĀ Raffi Bagdasarian, who left product development at Sony to join the OUYA team. He explained that OUYA was originally known as Boxer8. He also brought on the Unity plug-in developer Tim over Skype to talk about some technical aspects of the Unity integration.

Developers can sign up for the OUYA developer program for free atĀ http://devs.ouya.tv . There you can download the SDK, view the actively updating documentation, and lurk in the forums. They’re still ironing out the upload process so you’re not able to upload to the OUYA online store yet.

Ouya Unity LA Meetup
Unity LA Meetup (photo courtesy of the Meetup page!)

And now some bullet points:

  • The console will be running Android 4.1 Jellybean.
  • The SDK consists of in-app purchase and controller APIs.
  • Games are required to be free to play, but features can be unlocked with in-app purchases. This apparently is also a method to curb piracy.
  • There’s the typical 70% (developer) / 30% (provider) split.
  • They’re focusing on app discovery for the OUYA store, aiming to organize the shops by more detailed metrics than “highest grossing” or “most downloads.” Using metrics such as most played, longest played, etc.
  • Approval process will have guidelines — not total free for all. Initially they’ll be reviewing every game manually. Eventually they’ll work peer review into the process, similar to Xbox Indie Games.
  • As far as the style guide, they were working on prepping an official one. But in the meantime, feel free to use OUYA name and branding as long as you’re not presenting yourself as sanctioned officially by OUYA. Also, it’s supposed to be spelled in all caps! haha šŸ™‚
  • There won’t be a content rating system like ESRB, but they’re planning something similar to Google Play.
  • Online matchmaking, achievements, Xbox Live features, etc. Not at launch, but planned for eventual release. Until then, feel free to roll your own systems.

More Stuff, Etc…

  • With only 8 gigs of built in storage, game sizes should be developed with that in mind. They’re working out what the hard limits should be as some games currently in development are a few gigs.
  • They recommended tools like the Unity asset store’s APK Splitter, to give a quick initial download from the store and load in assets as needed during the game.
  • They’re looking into cloud storage. At the time they were apparently debating it.
  • Looking into system level integration of Facebook and Twitter. I’m assuming for viral sharing games, and another metric for surfacing content.
  • Developers won’t be restricted from accessing websites from within games, should be able to pull any kind of data.
  • No access to Android Google Play store from within OUYA.
  • They’re open to accepting apps that are outside of games, like video players, etc.
  • No vibration with controller, mouse + keyboard are allowed.
  • They’ll have store analytics available to developers at launch, supposed to be better than Apple’s minimal dataset.
  • Piracy – since every game is free to play, they’re relying on in-app purchases API calls to unlock things.

Continue Reading…

The Gnomon SchoolĀ hosts great talks on the making of games and movies. I’ve attended a couple of these talks before and they were always more impressive than I imagined them to be. The last one I went to was one by Naughty Dog, on the subject of the making of Uncharted, and I had attened a Wall-E session before that. It was a great talk that not only covered the visual side of development, but how the game design meshed together with it.

The latest talk was covering the visual effects of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The game was developed as a joint effort between two game development studios, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games.

Lighting

The first segment discussed lighting, the talk was given by Dave Blizard of Sledgehammer Games. He began his talk going over the history and significance of light.

  • Light is made up of a combination of colors.
  • Science & Religion has long given significance to light.
  • Mayan’s Yucatan TempleĀ of KukulkanĀ was designed with light in mind. 2 times a year, a shadow is cast on it to bring a serpent to life along the outer walls of the temple.

He showed a slide of how a sun overhead can be a religious symbol and fascinates people because it is so unusual — showing pictures of tourists capturing the moments when the shadow is directly overhead.

He then uses this point to show how a directly overhead shadow in a game looks pretty terrible and bland.

For inspiration in lighting scenes, he would look to chiaroscuro in old paintings.

Continue Reading…

I found a link to et tu Gamer? in the comments to a Gamasutra article about game preservation. Right away I saw that this was without a doubt a site worth bookmarking. The homepage features galleries for a select few games but the gallery section contains a comprehensive archive.

Apparently the creator is attempting to archive as much video game art as he can get ahold of. The I’ve seen so far is incredible quality and definitely worth a gander.

Check it out!


Check out Play Peep!

A great site popped up in my Twitter feed a couple weeks ago, Play Peep. It’s a great resource for game art reference, especially in the area of UI. The site seems to have a focus on mobile phone games, with a bit of additions from social games and the 3DS game Pushmo. While many of the games have a similar “poppy” graphic look to them, it’s interesting to see how different teams have tried to differentiate and how they go about solving layout of UI elements in their games. Compare and contrast.

Some posts that stand out to me:

PlayPeep was created by Dom2D.

Check it out!

Ā I got a few new games in the last few months and I’ve really been trying to buckle down and finish them all! I got Super Mario 3D Land for Nintendo 3DS as an Xmas gift. I was looking forward to it as I heard it had a lot of old-school-ish Mario action. To me, it’s the best Mario game since Super Mario Galaxy — it’s even made by the Super Mario Galaxy team.

The game plays something like a mix between Mario Galaxy, Crash Bandicoot, and Super Mario Bros 3. The stages are generally short with a focus on a theme. For instance, there’s the “underwater level” and then the “spinning helicopter floating down platforming level”, and the “running on spinning gears level”. Similar to Galaxy, each level introduces slightly different gameplay mechanics and keeps things fresh. I finished the game and there aren’t many stages that even feel similar.

For the most part, the game is pretty easy for experienced gamers. My girlfriend was terrible when she started but she kept at it. She brought to my attention that the game actually blatantly helps you out when you die a number of times in a stage. It’ll give you a special white tanooki suit which appears in a floating “?” box, which makes it optional to collect if you’re too proud.

Find Mii for 3DS, I’m addicted to this game.

I’ve been in love with the 3DS since I figured out how the Play Coin system works and discovered the “Find Me” mini game installed. Find Me is a super basic RPG game where the goal is to defeat monsters in a series of stages. You draw random fighters by spending Play Coins, which is a built in 3DS currency you get by walking with the 3DS. The hired fighters can make one move, attack or magic. The type of magic they use is determined by the color shirt they have (i.e. blue shirt = water, red shirt = fire). It’s soooo ridiculously simple but I’ve been taking my 3DS with me wherever I go so I can earn Play Coins — hoping that I can spot pass with people to help me along. When you finish it twice you unlock the sequel, which was added in a 3DS system update. Not bad for being free!
Continue Reading…

A Downtown Los Angeles WC ad wants to put us out of business! Nature is the largest competitor of the Video Game Industry.

Here are some folks crowding around Skulls of the Shogun. I didn’t get a chance to play it but will probably play it on Xbox 360 soon enough.

 

Here’s the StarDrone station, swingy game for PSN.

Deepak Fights Robots. I heard this described as “Bubble Bobble meets Bollywood.” Didn’t play but it looked fun. Looked like single room puzzles where you have to find the correct way to defeat or avoid evil robots.

The crew, David Rodriguez and Chris Rock. Minhua’s head in the bottom right corner, haha.

The kissing game. She tried hard to convince us to play and for me to affix metal diodes to my tongue with fixodent to play a cheesy racing game. Cute idea but… PASS!!

Continue Reading…

The Indiecade game festival is going on this weekend in Los Angeles, California! It takes place October 8-9. We didn’t even bother to submit anything this year due to a complete lack of response that we received last year. The show does make for a good environment to meet up with other developers and see what interesting things are going on.

Looking forward to it!

I’ve been excited to get started with Xenoblade for Wii. I imported the Limited Edition with the red classic controller from game.co.uk. I had to mod my Wii to play it because I wasn’t going to let Nintendo of America get between me and the game!

I’m a huge fan of Xenogears and I’ve heard that this game is one of the best RPGs in recent years. Something with that JRPG feel that you know and love. So far so good, the game hooked me from the start with it’s intro setting up the conflict and letting you explore a world living on top of giant robots.

The game focuses a lot on exploration, you get experience by traveling to new area and discovering landmarks. The flow of the game is super quick — it even lets you transport to any landmark you’ve been before at just about any time.

Battle system’s a realtime-menu based one — those are all of the rage these days. I’m not amazed by it yet, but it’s easy to understand from the get-go.

Here is an example of how the battle system plays out…

My time’s been split with Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 3DS.

I wanted to get a 3DS when it came out. Beyond it being expensive, I managed to convince myself not to get one because there wasn’t even anything I wanted to play on it. But I played Zelda at Target for about 3 seconds and I knew I had to buy one. I waited a few more weeks and the price dropped.

Words can’t explain how amazing this game is. Each part has such intricate attention to detail, I can’t think of many games that compare to it. The 3D looks great but you sorta get used to it after a while. But it’s the graphical overhaul that really makes it worthwhile. Higher resolution textures, new models (Link has fingers now), better character animation. But they didn’t mess with the timing of anything, feels exactly the same. The controls are annoying sometimes — partially because it’s an old game and partially because of the 3DS stick.

I want Nintendo to make another game on par with this!

I’ve also been playing some Final Fantasy 13 on PS3.

 

It’s by far the most consistently beautiful game I’ve ever played. It got a lot of flack for its linearity and how the first 10 hours of the game are basically tutorials for the battle system — but I believe it got a lot more criticism than it deserved. It was questionable that they hold your hand through so much of the earlier battles. They reveal features of the battle system slowly, and it’s easy to win by just tapping X as fast a possible. But once you start to get an understanding of the whole system, it’s very awesome. Story does seem pretty lame though, unfortunately. Everything else is top notch.

I like that it’s very easy to pick up and play. The linearity does help me jump in and play 30 minutes before I go to work or some other times like that. Not having to remember which quest I was on the last time I played it helps me come back to it and progress speedily.

It’s interesting how these RPGs are streamlining gameplay to make them more accessible to their aging audience. The last RPG I finished was The Lost Odyssey and that was very old school, which I liked, but made it so that you had to dedicate yourself to it (2 hour long dungeons with few save points) to move forward.