Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:52:56 - Sims City 4 (PC)
After playing the for a few more hours I have gained a new understanding of this innovative simulator. For example, I found the sum of money I started with insufficient when I first started playing. The city's money was quickly squandered on unnecessary frivolities (Who knew that a bustling city doesn't need a Hospital till the population reaches 10,000?). However, I now find the game extremely accessible and can appreciate the ways the designers alleviate a beginner's problems. For example, in easy mode the game starts you off with rather generous funds in comparison to what is required of the "new" mayor. I really appreciate that the game starts you with a rather large sum of money. I feel the game gives you a good amount of wiggle-room with the budget; which allows the player a sufficient amount of creativity and freedom in which to start their city.
Although I am still disappointed I did not find the tutorials sufficient, I have found this game extremely fun. The interactions between me, the player, and the game allow for a successful form of rather addicting game play. Much of the challenges involved with the game represent real life challenges that cities face. For example, keeping the town's funds in order is a huge source of challenge as well as reward. The player is challenged to make successful deals with neighboring towns and even face decisions involving raising taxes and maintaining utilities and services. All these aspects (and many more) contribute to this game having a very low boredom factor. I felt myself drawn to play for hours because of the game's addicting qualities. The fact that the game is very emergent, allows the player to enjoy exploring their own destiny through the building of a successful city. As the desire to maintain and improve one's city kept me playing for hours, with no hint of boredom.
This gameplay experience has left me very impressed. The game has excellent graphics, offers a wide variety of interactions, and has truly mastered a manageable level of resource management (see more in Game Design section). However, this would not be a good game log with the recognition of some qualities the game lacks. I still can not ignore some of the less intuitive parts of the game. For example, I was not able to access the tutorials tips I needed in the beginning of the game. The way to toggle them on and off was not obvious at all. It took an experienced player to tell me about them, when the game should have made them more accessible. I was also disappointed with the way the game communicated necessary information. When information needed to be expressed to me, a dialog box came up in the center of the screen. This always distracted from what I was trying to accomplish at the moment, and I was not able to pause from this position. This made it difficult to fix important problems quickly. I felt it would have been better for the dialog boxes to pop up in the corner of a screen, since they came so frequently. This would allow the player more freedom to control the game world during times of crisis.
Another qualm I have with the game involves how difficult it is to come back from mistakes. When I would be negligent and too trigger happy with the "cheetah speed" setting, I sometimes found myself bankrupt. Once your city hits bottom, it is nearly impossible to revive it. This only happened with one of my cities, but the memory of disappointment and sadness has not left me. I could not believe how difficult it was to revive a bleeding city! Cutting funds made citizens strike, and raising taxes made people leave. This makes for a very depressing situation. A city you spend hours mastering can be ruined with a few minutes of not paying attention!
Many of these frustrations accompany any resource management game. However, I feel this game did an excellent job at providing the player with a well balanced form of resource management. This brings me very nicely to the main subject of my Game Design section; which focuses on the ways this game effectively provides the player with challenge requiring proper resource management.
This game is clearly a game dedicated to challenge the player in the form of resource management. Many games which rely heavily on resource management can take it too far for beginners. For example, Civilization III takes resource management to the extreme, requiring the player to reach a high level of skill to surpass even easy mode. However I feel Sim City 4 had a proper learning curve for the average player. Although the player may face a slow start, learning how to use resources available to you soon becomes intuitive. In every city your money (simoleons) are your main resource you are challenged to maintain. Money is the key to a successful city in real life, why should this be any different for a game dedicated to simulating the issues associated with creating a real city?
I was impressed at how well the game designers balanced challenge with reward. An excess of challenge (especially those involving resource management) often leaves the player frustrated. A frustrated player is likely to quit playing the game and simply "give-up". On the other hand, a resource management game may be too easy, leaving the player bored and wanting to quit. There is a fine gap in which the player feels sufficiently challenged and sufficiently rewarded. I feel Sim City 4 succeed in placing the player an appropriate level of challenge.
Although I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning, I quickly learned the basics and was able to appreciate the dynamics between resource management and game play. For example, building a successful city is not simply about making a profit. It is necessary for the Mayor to manage everything from traffic to air population. All these small aspects add up to make for an extremely awarding game play once a successful city is established. Understanding the intricacies of rule/ player interactions has led me to declare this a game worthy of playing and a game truly worthy of creative praise.
This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:54:01.
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Mar 6th, 2008 at 00:46:20 - Sims City 4 (PC)
Sim City 4 is a city building simulator in which the player acts as the Mayor. As Mayor the player is given full control of the city and has the ability to create a booming metropolis, an agricultural paradise, or even pave a path of destruction with natural disasters.
From the beginning I found this game to be another great edition to the Maxis simulator games. The graphics were extremely impressive and from the start it was clear that I had a lot to learn about the game. I began playing the game by opening a random city and trying my best to succeed (I have already mastered Sims 2, how hard could this be?). Wow, it only took me three minutes to realize that going through the tutorials would be a must. I was very anxious to dive right into the game and I wish that the game had provided "tutorial tips" along with my first city. I really appreciate it when simulator games teach you the rules of the game while you play your own file. Once I took the main tutorial I understood why "tutorial tips" may have worked for Sims 2, but defiantly would not have proved very effective for Sim City 4. The expanse of the game was massive. After taking the "beginners" tutorial I found four other tutorials that were still dedicated to simple concepts. The variety of options within the game were extremely impressive and rather intimidating. After the tutorials I was left with the thought, "This game has plenty of room to get extremely complicated. How will I manage?"
Once I had heard all the tutorials and mentally prepared myself for my first city, I dove in. I was rather surprised at how difficult it was to establish all the basics for my city. I found out that this game was not about simply "learning the game". This game is about learning how to play the game in the way they want you to play the game. After struggling to understand simple problems like, "Why aren't people moving in?" and "Why do I have no money?" I found myself frustrated. I left the tutorials with a feeling of excitement, yet I quickly found the actual gameplay very confusing. I knew my enjoyability of the game was limited by my insufficient knowledge of the basics. But I was not going to give up on a game in which I was determined to enjoy. Finally I got up the courage to ask help from a friend who literally plays this game 24/7.
At every bump I hit, I simply asked for his advice. This method of learning quickly proved extremely effective. I learned this game becomes much easier once a strategy is established. My friend developed a method for a successful city by using specific learned tricks and short-cuts I would have never found in a mere few hours of playing. Within a half hour of his advice, my knowledge of the game had multiplied ten fold. (I had even learned that the tutorial tips I thought the game lacked actually existed, and I merely had to toggle them on.)
As of now I can more clearly see how this game could become addicting. The player is given an extraordinary amount of control when it comes to the construction and maintenance of each city (as well as the entire land as a whole). Once past the basics of maintaining a city, the player has a vast range of manipulation and control. Although I wish the tutorials had been more efficient at preparing me for the emersive gameplay, I realize that more experienced gamers could have solely relied on the tutorials. I have left the first game session knowing how this game is meant to be played; and after a short break I intend on successfully playing the game in the way the designers intended.
Until next time!
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Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:52:16 - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
I found that after playing for a few more hours the game controls became easier. Now I can quickly control the camera as well as the horse during the battle sequences. (However, I think that getting a grasp of camera angles and controls should take a lot less than a "few hours" ).
In my earlier entry, I was impressed that the none of the colossi proved too difficult, or left me wanting to give up. After getting further in the game though, I feel I must change my mind. Since all the battles play like puzzles, it isn't much surprise that the player can get stuck; and I certainly got stuck. This is truly a frustrating feeling. With one of the colossi, I simply could not figure out how to bring him down. However, after about ten minutes of wandering, the game knew I was stuck and a voice from the heavens gave me a hint on what do to next. I really appreciate that the game has this built in hint system that doesn't stray from the game play. The game designers realized people may get stuck, and thought it fitting that "god" should give them some help. However, although "god" was trying to help, I found his hints too vague. Only after I accidentally stumbled upon the solution did I understand what the hint had actually meant. Thank you game designers for trying to point me in the right direction (I really appreciate it), but is it too much to ask to be a little more direct?
More evidence against my original opinion of the game "not being frustrating enough to quit" involves a navigation problem. We can all agree there is plenty of room to get stuck during a battle, but once I found myself completely stuck before I had even reached the beast!
[The light reflected off your sword is supposed to "guide" you to the beast's location. However after following the light, I ended up at a blank wall. After 45 minutes of wandering around and being frustrated, I decided to "cheat" and look up what to do online (I wasn't prepared to spend all night just looking for the monster). I was glad I looked it up because, wow, I would have never gotten that. (I was supposed to go completely around the map in order to reach a place far far behind the original wall I kept running into.) ]
On a more positive note, I realized I hadn't mentioned much about the music during my first entry. During all the parts where your character is traveling to the next beast, there is no music at all. After my friend pointed this out to me, I could clearly see how this small aspect truly changed my game play experience. The lack of music created such a desolate feel, and added to the melancholy tone of your entire mission. The music only begins once the colossus is reached. This change in setting is really effective at enhancing the "epic" tone of each battle. As the fight climaxes, so do the instruments. I can really appreciate this creative addition to the game, which is very unique to this game (and also brings me perfectly to the subject of my DESIGN section.)
Simply put this game is in its own class. Many aspects of this game (the pace, use of sound, story, segmentation, game mechanics) are unlike any other game I have played (in some very good ways, as well as some more negative ways). My first observation on what made this game unique is it's lack of attention to simple game mechanics.
I believe both the frustrations from my second game play entry are good examples of the game simply not being mechanically intuitive. It took me a second time of playing to realize that many of my initial frustrations could be linked to this problem. This game fails to address simple game mechanical issues from the very start. For example, the controls were very clunky and took hours to master. This is not a very good starting place for a game. Also there were small aspects of the game that I felt should have been conveyed to the player more openly. For example, I found out that the light reflected off your sword will also point to the monster's weak points by trial and error on the third or fourth colossi. Why did the game not tell me this in the beginning? Also the storyline drags at a very strange pace unlike any other game I have played. (Very little information is revealed during game play besides the first cut scenes.)
It was a strange realization that this game had problems (such as terrible camera angles, clunky controls, and unhelpful hints) that most game designers have already mastered addressing. Why does such a simple game still struggle in pointing the player in the right direction, or even allowing the player to properly ride a horse?
Another more negative aspect I found unique in this game involves the story (although I'm sure this wouldn't bother most people). The game begins with hardly any background and fails to reveal much more than what we initially see at the beginning. In this aspect, I feel the game story runs like a foreign film. (When comparing a foreign film to what we see everyday in America, there are often differences in pace or changes in formula). I have come to believe that the storyline is just not a fundamental part of this game (note: I have not finished the game, perhaps there is an amazing heap of storyline at the end that I am missing out on). Not having a strong storyline is fine, but also strange for a game of this genre (adding to my statement that this game is simply different than anything else).
On a more positive note, I was extremely impressed at how well the game defined the colossi. I feel the designers did a great job making each beast unique (in terms of physical experience as well as the different levels of game play they provide). This really adds to the game's replay value (for example, you may have a favorite battle that you would wish to endure again). In no other game have I seen such creativity in terms of just a battle. Every battle I have encountered is extremely different, and although they can sometimes be frustrating, I can always appreciate what the game designers put me through from a creative standpoint. They test your character mentally and physically as he is pushed to swim the oceans, climb the beasts, and even fly to victory.
So yes, perhaps the pacing is strange and the controls difficult to master, but I believe that the uniqueness of this game truly makes it a game worth playing. The feeling of solving the puzzle and defeating the colossi singlehandedly is worth the tricky camera angles and the occasional frustrations. I would suggest this game to any gamer looking for a new way to feel epically heroic.
This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:53:31.
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Feb 20th, 2008 at 23:30:21 - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Gamelog 2/20/08- Shadow of the colossus
"Shadow of the Colossus" is a third player adventure game where you play a character with the task of defeating the many colossi of a magical abandoned land in order to resurrect your deceased lover. The highlights of this game involve the actual battles with the colossi and traveling through the mystical land in order to reach the next beast.
I have seen this game played by other people many a time. As a viewer I was mostly impressed by game's environment. The combination of epic music with beautiful settings simply enhanced the excitement of seeing the colossi themselves. The vast land is gorgeous and I could simply get lost in the mesmerizing battles. The mystical feel of the game and epic battles made me think playing the game would feel just as amazing as watching it.
However, once I was personally behind the controller I felt differently. The mystic world of the colossi was still amazing but I felt distracted by the camera angles. During the game your horse is your main source of transportation. I found him very difficult to control, making the "traveling" parts of the game very stressful. Once I reached the colossus I found it difficult to keep a good camera angle on my character as well as the colossus. This made the battles more difficult than I feel the game designers intended.
Although the camera angles were frustrating during the battle scenes, I could really appreciate how the designers made the battles immersive. There are plenty of times to fail (falling off the beast, not being sure of where to hit him next, getting killed, etc.), but none of them proved too difficult. I know I am still in the beginning of the game, but after the first few colossi I have never reached a point where I felt like giving up. As an unexperienced gamer, I was wary that the battles themselves would be too challenging for me, or I would easily get discouraged and want to quit. However, so far the camera angles have proved more frustrating than any beast.
I found it interesting that the battles are more like "puzzles" than brawls. The fight is more about "solving" how to beat them, rather than actually beating them. The fun of conquering the colossus in this game is solving how to take down the beast. This "puzzle" element really impressed me. I think it really added to the game, and makes it unique in comparison to other games involving epic fighting.
A quick word about the storyline. So far little storyline has been revealed, despite long cut scenes. I really enjoy the story aspect of games like this and wish that this game had revealed more background in the beginning. However, I have faith that more will be revealed in due time and I guess I'll have to be patient and defeat some more colossi before I am allowed to get more information about the story.
Till next time!
This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Feb 21st, 2008 at 20:12:23.
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