VVVVVV and Modern Warfare 2


I feel more than a little stupid admitting to having played Modern Warfare 2 after complaining about  only having played Uncharted 2 due to peer pressure. Yes, I would not have played Modern Warfare if it weren’t for the hype and no, I did not particularly care for this one either. While it is varied to some extent most of the time I felt like I was just shooting random things until one lucky time someone wouldn’t start shooting at me from a random direction for long enough for me to get another checkpoint. I’m sure the multiplayer is great and that there is some real depth to the weapons and AI, but the randomness of it all just made it tiresome.

I should probably say something about the story, though, which felt less like a somewhat realistic war drama (as the first, decidedly better Modern Warfare story) and more like an action-conspiracy-thriller movie with convoluted plot points. The “No Russian” mission has received a lot of publicity and the game even warns you about it being controversial, but what scares me is how people react differently to this mission and for example the bomber mission in the first Modern Warfare. Both has you killing harmless people en masse, and even if the “enemies” are designated as soldiers in MW1 the fact that there’s such a big uproar over slaughtering hundreds of helpless  people in one scenario and not even discussed in another scares me a bit. Which is maybe the reaction Inifinity Ward wanted, I guess. In any case, I have to applaud them for trying to do something that raises the art form when they already know they are going to sell millions.

But to the important part, namely the game VVVVVV by Terry Cavanagh. VVVVVV is a simple exploration/platform game that revolves around the mechanic of instead of jumping, the player can invert the direction of gravity when standing on the ground. In itself not very groundbreaking, maybe, but the important part in this game are the ingeniously designed levels that really force you to think about how to use this ability in a multitude of different ways with fairly few building blocks. The game has an open world of sorts, but it is separated into areas with very distinctive mechanics making them feel a lot different from each other even though the presentation is simple.

My one gripe with VVVVVV is that it became very hard towards the end; the placement of checkpoints was uneven and a lot of the timed things you needed to do had a needlessly narrow timeframe. On the other hand, I have only played the Beta so maybe Terry has already changed all that – in any case, I wish him luck in the Independent Games Festival.

Posted on Nov 28/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Gotland Game Jam 2009


Gotland Game Jam is an event consisting of a 48 hour game-making competition for students and ex-students of the Game development education of Gotland University. As my participation was offsite and I spent most of the weekend on IRC I do not have that much to say about the actual event, though I did play the games created and there were some delightfully weird creations among them.

My own contribution is metroidvania based on the theme “Popecat” called Leim [download]. I am reasonably happy with how it came out.

To be completely honest, I had decided beforehand that I was going to make a metroidvania platformer and crowbar it into whatever theme selected for the Jam; there are sure to be people who consider this the wrong approach to take to a gamejam (and with good reason), but to paraphrase Jon Mak it is usually a better idea to make something you really want than to force innovation for innovation’s sake. There are some other drawbacks though.

For starters, exploration games tend to be sort of a tall order and maybe trying to make a worthwhile one in 48 hours is a lost cause. You need a lot of content to make it interesting, and if you are growing the avatar abilities there are lots of things that can break the level design, forcing you to play it very safe if you do not want to create a horribly broken game. Also, going against what John Harris said about interesting environments I tried to force small areas where each had some gameplay idea instead of doing what I should have done, attempt to create ideas for the world and then build levels around those ideas (although again, maybe not feasible in 48 hours). Adding to this is the central hub I placed in the game and the ever-decreasing energy – originally the idea was meant to allow for incrementally more exploration as getting more energy allowed you to move further in the gameworld instead of having obvious borders, but the concept didn’t really mesh with that idea and all it did was discourage exploration. The cohesiveness of the experience was sort of tacked-on as well as I had to remove a lot of the themes and presentation ideas I had in store, again due to lack of time.

Technologically, this wasn’t really a challenging game and although I did sort of fail design-wise I would say I learned enough from it to make the weekend a worthwhile experience. Anyhow, it was very much fun so perhaps it didn’t have to be in the first place.

Posted on Nov 23/09 by Saint and filed under General game development, Homegrown, Meta-blog | No Comments »

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Time Cufk postmortem


Edmund McMillen has posted a very interesting postmortem of Time Ukcf. He goes into detail both about how it was developed, what worked and what didn’t, but also in depth about what inspired it, expanding on his earlier comments. While I can’t say I “got” everything he talks about only from playing the game, they definitely managed to nail the atmosphere.

A fascinating read.

Posted on Nov 22/09 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2

The singular biggest reason I played Uncharted 2 was because of the hype surrounding it. Of course, most games I play have been acquired due to some preview information, but Uncharted 2 I played mostly because of the ratings, as a matter of professional interest. Knowing this, it seems pointless for me to state what I like about it and not – the comparison to games I played because I was excited to see their release is not really fair.

What can be said about Uncharted 2 is that I now have a better idea of what the makers of Damnation tried to do – just like that game Uncharted is a mixture of Prince of Persia terrain traversal and Gears of War cover-based shooting, only a lot more seamless this time around. It is also a very well-made game on several levels; difficulty ramps up nicely and there is a nice variation between action and traversal segments. While not always visually impressive, it has an immense amount of detail to it and throws some really computationally demanding scenes at the player – sometimes the framerate suffers but in intense scenes that matters little. It also really wants the player too be able to go through it and it was very seldom frustrating.

I actually wonder why I do not like Uncharted 2 more than I do, maybe the dumbed-down, blockbuster-style narrative throws me off. Or maybe playing a game under the given premise just puts me in a mood to reveal it’s flaws. It is a very high-quality game and I had fun playing it, it just felt like work more than relaxation.

Posted on Nov 10/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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IGF 2010 submission entries


The competitors for the Independent Games Festival 2010 have been revealed, and although I have not had time to look at all of them there are a few I feel like mentioning.

Limbo, the beautiful concept that popped up some three or four years ago and then left the world hanging seems to have re-emerged.

Nothing, a retro-style Metroidvania featuring a quadruped creature have been surrounded by silence for a while as well. I much enjoyed the demo of this when I played it a couple of years ago, so it is nice to see it reappear.

Lightyears is a game made by my coworker and one that I enjoyed.

Posted on Nov 04/09 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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Brütal Legend

Brütal Legend

Having played both Psychonauts and Grim Fandango, I had expectations on Brütal Legend very early – expectations that it would be a game with good art direction, great dialogue and somewhat lacking in it’s high-level design. I dare say I was right, and other people seem to have agreed with me. There has been some disappointment, something that is kind of surprising since I thought that once a game designer gets enough renown that people know about their games because of their involvement, you can usually count on them sticking to their guns. Or it might just be me assuming everyone was gushing over the game and me now reading reviews from people who didn’t give two shits about it earlier, that seems more likely.

I like the game, I really do. The presentation is indeed very nice, even though you have to be familiar with heavy metal and appreciate some subtle irony over it’s over-the-top elements in order to fully enjoy it, making it (I assume) slightly harder to get than Psychonauts. And the gameplay is by no means bad, just lacking of polish at times and overall unfocused. Maybe it is pointless to judge a game merely on how it held up to your anticipations when you had a pretty firm idea of what to expect, but perhaps that is the point; Brütal Legend is a game where it is not hard to find out ahead of time what you get. If you have not played a Tim Shafer game before, I guess it is as good as any to start with.

Posted on Nov 02/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »