Two Second Comparison of EVE Online and Star Trek Online

20 March 2010 Leave a comment

EVE ships are better than Star Trek Online ships because they don’t all look the same and are smart enough to handle proper shields. Flying around in circles to protect your weak spot while it heals really is NOT an interesting mechanic or play strategy. It’s boring, annoying, and a fun deterrent.

Categories: MMO Tags: ,

Too True

22 January 2010 Leave a comment

“The Game Designer that thought of ‘grey loot’ should be beaten to death with backpacks.” – my friend Nate during an email discussion on backpack limitations.

Categories: Uncategorized

100 Game Cupcakes

7 January 2010 1 comment
Categories: classic games

I still suck at Dragon’s Lair

12 December 2009 Leave a comment

In 1983 I was 11 going on 12 and a video game addict. It was not unlike me to swipe laundry-bound quarters to feed my addiction. When Scholastic’s book club paper for our grade came around each month, I’d scour it for any books on video games, and there were a lot of them back in the day (mostly focused on how to beat Pac-Man). It was reading, right?

Word came to me somehow that there was a very new game on the market that was extremely exciting, with art that had never before been seen. Dragon’s Lair took a little while to make it to Ridgewood, Queens, and my friend Rob found it at some corner store on Woodward or Onderdonk a few blocks from our house. Sweet!

It cost 50 cents to play Dragon’s Lair, and Rob always seemed to have the coinage on him. I watched him play a bit, and then put my two quarters up to ensure that I’d get the next round. Not that it was needed: we were the only two kids in the entire deli. But old habits die hard, and spots is a habit I’ll probably have until the day I die.

What I had seen, which was a beautiful work of art, and what I experienced were two different things. The art and sound for Dragon’s Lair is simply amazing courtesy of the expensive laserdisk technology it was using. The game play? Oh my fucking HARD.

You are Dirk Daring out to save Princess Daphne, who’s been kidnapped by a seemingly horny dragon who lives in a castle with lots of clever traps. Your job is to quickly twitch your way around these traps while making yourself useful with nothing but a sword, or, on the coin-op machine, a controller and button.

In most games, both then and now, when you started the game, you were randomly placed in a scene in which a split second choice had to be made. If this was the first time you encountered this scene, you would probably die as you’d make the wrong choice. The same would go for the second and third time, depending upon the number of choices available to you. Timing was of the essence, and as a player you didn’t have to worry about strategy or thinking at all. Thinking was death. Choosing unwisely was death. And many a kid spent a few quarters just trying to get past the first couple of scenes.

That was me: I spent a few quarters trying to get past the first couple of scenes and then I gave up. There was simply no fun in constantly dying because of one bad decision. A lot of people around me felt the same way. Dragon’s Lair wasn’t a game; it was an investment in success. I went back to the older Ms. Pac-Man coin-op and would simply occasionally glance at Dragon’s Lair to see if anyone actually found any success at it. Five minutes with Ms. Pac-Man was four minutes, thirty seconds more than I ever spent with Dirk, and she was a cheaper date, too.

Despite my lack of success at Dragon’s Lair, I always enjoy reading about it in the history books. It’s been ported endlessly to other platforms over the years, most recently to the iPhone. It was with some reluctance that I purchased my own copy of Dragon’s Lair for my phone. I never paid attention to the ports, was never successful at the game. But finally, this morning, I did it.

And what did I find?

Yes, death, my old friend. Each and every decision outside of the initial swing sword at purple things when you fall through the bridge scene met with Dirk’s untimely but well-designed death. This is one game I think I’m simply doomed to suck at.

The Sims Online as Social Networking Game Inspiration?

10 December 2009 1 comment

I made an off-the-cuff comment a short while ago regarding both The Sims Online and the current crop of social networking games that is now making me scratch my head and say hmmm

Consider social networking games. Many of them require a lot of similar behaviors pioneered by The Sims Online, such as going to another person’s cafe (as an example) and picking up trash and chasing out dancing penguins.

I’m not describing The Sims Online in the above quote, but rather what we do now in many social networking games, by the way.

I only beta tested The Sims Online, so my experiences with the game are very limited and so what follows is based on what my friends (some of whom wound up sticking with The Sims Online once it launched) and I did during beta.

The game was very similar to The Sims, where you’d have a house that you’d buy and place stuff in. You would go around to other houses of other players and socialize and use objects to help your avatar gain in skill and earn money. This is an extremely basic overview of the game and how it related to player interactivity.

Now consider the many social networking games such as the ‘Ville and ‘City games out on the social networking sites. You have your own area of the game in which you build and do stuff. Then you visit friends, where you can go an aid them in limited means. Doing so well earn you cash and some experience points. Granted, in these types of social networking games you are limited in what you can do (usually limited to just pressing an “okay” button), but the fundamentals are there.

Is it fair to say that The Sims Online inspired some of the design choices of some of the most popular social networking games out there today? I don’t know, but there is a very strong similarity in design.

No Twinkies For You!

7 December 2009 1 comment

Ernest Adams, who’s articles we studied in my Concepts in Gaming Class (I: student, not teacher!) has published the latest in his great series of “Bad Designer, No Twinkie.” Read the tenth article in the series here.

Adams also has a No Twinkie database, which you can check out here.

Categories: design

EDGE on Alpha Centauri

7 December 2009 1 comment

EDGE Magazine has published a fantastic look at one of the more forgotten brilliant games of all time: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri:

Many games have opened at the end of civilisation, but only Alpha Centauri could open at the end of Civilization – repositioning Civ’s victory condition of manned flight to Alpha Centauri from a conclusion to a prelude. For those who pursued that victory it’s a sobering beginning, proposing that regardless of how enlightened or ruthless your climb to power was, the Earth of 2060 you leave behind is at critical mass: a map that’s been played out, save for the drawn-out bickering over the last exhausted resource tiles. In a case of life imitating turn-based strategy, those who had never touched a Civ title would be likely to find the setting just as plausible.

Alpha Centauri, unlike Colonization or Pirates! screams to be remade, but if I recall correctly (and if I’m wrong, let me know in the comments) Sid Meier has no plans to remake this game. Which is a shame, as it’s an amazing strategy game that is, in many respects, much better than the Civ games.