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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 00:48:20     -    Starcraft (PC)

    After playing through the single player campaigns, some friends and I decided to play a multiplayer game to see who would get bragging rights to be a Starcraft champion. It was a three versus three match with, players Doody and Matt on my team. I must admit that I’ve played this game ten years ago and even now when I started playing again it still had its famous appeal that it had so long ago and that’s the multiplayer aspect. Unlike the computer, human players are unpredictable and I found myself constantly changing my attack strategy when I find the units that my opponents are constructing. Throughout the course of the game there was quite a bit of trash talk around the table (we had a small LAN party with our laptops). I really thought it was fun spitting out these random insults because we were all very much into the game. At some points, my opponents would spit insults and in the game I would attack their buildings and at that point they would settle down and concentrate on a counter attack. It was very fun to play multiplayer and even my roommates who weren’t playing had a great time watching us play and battle verbally.

    As we played more games that night, I’ve thought it was interesting to see the different strategies of my friends as opponents and those that were on my team. It was definitely fun to try and think of combinations of units that my team could use to attack our opponents. Like I would go for long range ground units and my team members would help support them with air support. This would obviously be in any RTS game but Starcraft is different because of the three different unique races as opposed to just the one human race that Age of Empires has. I know that there are different civilizations for Age of Empires but honestly they all seem the same to me even though they claim they have different bonuses such as attack or resource gathering. Starcraft is unique because of the amount of character design put into this game and these different types of races allow for a different type of play style. Like Zerg should always attack en masse or Terrans must have a healthy combination of ground and air units to succeed. These different play styles accompanied with multiplayer where your teammates can be another race to supplement yours create a unique experience every time a game starts up.

    I give credit where it’s due and the game company Blizzard has a great motto that I believe every game designer should follow and that’s “easy to play, hard to master.” You can see this in virtually every game they made such as Diablo and World of Warcraft, they are masters at attracting the casual gamer yet they also bring hardcore gamers with the specifics of their gameplay mechanics. In Starcraft, it’s easy to build structures and units to attack the enemy, you can win this way but to be a real master at the game you need to learn to build fast and mix and match units that complement each other in a fight. This is especially true in multiplayer where there speed is key to winning the game.

    The level design in the game varies very little, most of the time you will get either an earth like open ground or a space station type map to battle on. The game does come with a map editor but the templates seem to suggest that the levels you make can have a mixed type of the maps mentioned earlier. However it’s the content of the map that counts and some levels have a two chunks of land with a huge bridge in the middle and this will allow for some very interesting gameplay if one can’t produce air units. The game is in 2D but it kind of adds another dimension with some terrain raised slightly higher and units on that terrain can see the ones below it but the units not on the mountain can’t see above it unless being attacked which creates some strategic play.

    The story in Starcraft is quite well written, and is significantly better than other RTS games that I have played. In Age of Empires, they have a few campaigns where they talk about Atilla the Hun or William Wallace, but if you’ve taken a history class then you already know what happens to these characters and what they’ve done. There are many twists and turns in the game that I won’t spoil for anyone but just know that some friends become enemies and some enemies become friends and the story was good enough to propel me to continue playing the game.

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 23:40:25     -    Starcraft (PC)

    Starcraft is a real-time strategy game about three warring species; the human race called Terrans, the elite alien race called Protoss, and the savage swarms of the animalistic Zerg. The player gathers resources to build structures that produce offensive and defensive units to attack the other race. The game is a classic RTS and unique in the fact that the three different races that the player can control have very different play styles yet still have the basic concept of building and producing units.

    As I started the single player campaign of the Terrans, I was thrust into a tutorial on how to play the game. The tutorial allowed me to learn the tools that I needed to play the game as well as get accustomed to the user interface and the world of Starcraft. For instance I was taught how to select my marines and have them move to a location and attack any enemies they saw on the way. There’s a difference between a move and an attack-move. While the marines were marching, they did see enemies and these were the Zerg, a type of mutated alien bent on killing and eating anything they see. Surviving my first encounter with the Zerg allowed me some insight to the story of Starcraft and what it would eventually lead up to.

    These Terran characters resembled the human race in Starcraft. They have people semi integrated with machines and I thought that was kind of cool because I feel like in the future, as we are constantly making new technology that helps us fight our enemies, we will eventually break the line between man and machine and have a nice synthetic mix of both. So I really liked the Terran race. The Protoss were an alien race with advanced technology. Instead of building their structures and units, they would just “warp” them in. Their builder unit, called a probe, would just start a portal that would automatically move in the structure and during this warping time the probe can still gather resources and go about its business. But the warp would have to be in the radius of one structure called a Pylon to be able to transport the building. I particularly liked the design of Protoss characters because they didn’t have any mouths, to talk they would just their natural psychic powers to link their mind with another person or to a group of people. The Zerg were the most interesting to play as. Their builder units would not build or warp in structures, they would mutate into the structure! This also means that all the Zerg buildings were alive and would be able to heal over time. Also, like the Protoss, their buildings must be built on a purple slime called “creep” seeping out of their starting building called a hatchery which expands the more creep colonies and hatcheries are built.

    Each race still had the same "build this structure to produce this unit" kind of scheme but each one was completely different to play because of their narrative background in the game world.

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Feb 8th, 2008 at 23:44:38.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 23:25:25     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    So basically now I’ve gotten a little bit further into the game where I gained a few party members and am now going the Bhujerba mines to rescue Vaan’s girlfriend Penelo. I’ve got few more things at my disposal now. I am now able to use gambits which are like scripted actions for my party members during battle. Say when I enter battle, if I originally put Vaan’s gambit to “attack nearest foe” then that’s exactly what he will do. I can also have another gambit where Ashe will “heal” an ally when they are below 70% hit points. And we can basically prioritize the gambits so that the character will heal first instead of fight. This whole system is very intuitive and I was able to fight battles without having to waste time selecting an action and pausing the whole flow of the game. What’s also a neat trick that I can do is change the party leader in enemies, in the previous Final Fantasy’s you’d be stuck with the main character throughout the whole game but in this game that’s not entirely the case. It’s a minor thing but it’s a welcome change of pace to the traditional RPG game.

    So as I was on my way to the Bhujerba caves, my party met with a character named Lamont and he for reasons not entirely clear he needed to go there as well. This was also neat aspect that I saw, usually a party can only consist of three party members, but Lamont entered my party as a guest. This means that he entered my party and will fight along side me but I can’t control him. This makes part of the battles easier as another character who can damage enemies and heal your characters is always a welcome addition. As I entered deeper into the cave, my party eventually met with the kidnappers after a small argument, my party was forced to run out the cave with the giant lizard humanoids on our trail. This was an interesting event because the I was in direct control of my character and the game gave me a choice to fight or run. I could’ve fought them but I didn’t save recently and I didn’t want to lose my progress. I should probably stop at this point because I could potential just lose track of time playing this game.

    The game sets a good level design and this provides a nice mood for the game. Take Rabanastre for example, the city is overflowing with life, the market place has people in stands talking and trying to sell their products other traders and merchants. In the gutters below the city, there are many, many people sitting around and living the poor man’s life. And if you leave the city gates, you see a long strip of desert and sand all around with the strange wild life walking around. This creates a sense of desolation that contrasts with the city’s vibrant life.

    The game also has a bunch of innovations over the previous Final Fantasy’s . The new battle system that removed the use of the battleground speeds up the game play, no longer will the player have to run and get into a fight randomly and load to the battleground unintentionally. The use of the gambit system helps to speed game play and allows the casual gamer to set up his battle plan as he sees fit.

    The license point system was also a good move by the developers, besides the traditional kill and gain experience/level up system. The license point board allows the player to customize their party members and so the characters who were originally meant to weild a sword and shield can be magic caster, and it's a great way to give freedom to the player and his characters.

    As with all Role Playing Games, the story and character development also contributes to a good RPG. The story in this game about the war torn country to trying to redeem itself is pretty good and can almost rival a script written by Peter Jackson! Well not really, but it’s decent enough to keep the player interested in the game and helps motivate him to progress further.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 25th, 2008 at 23:34:11.

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    Jan 25th, 2008 at 15:41:21     -    Final Fantasy XII (PS2)

    In Final Fantasy XII the player controls a main character Vahn, a gutter boy who lives in a city Rabanastre recently occupied by a warring nation Archadia. The other nation locked in a losing war with them is Rozarria and the princess of that nation Ashe is slowly building a resistance to fight back. Vahn eventually meets with Ashe and gathers a band of adventurers, a sky pirate, a viera (humanoid rabbit),and an ex-captain and travels the world of Ivalice to find a way to defeat the armies of Archadia.

    As soon as I selected "New Game", I was greeted with a beautiful computer generated video depicting the recent history of Rabanastre, where Lady Ashe gets married to a prince, Rasler, who leads the war against Archadia. As the cutscene unfolds Rasler is killed and the ex-captain I mentioned earlier, Basch, brings his body back to the country of Dalmasca where Rabanastre is. As the cutscene ends, the in-game engine takes over and I control a character named Reks, who is evidently Vaan's older brother. This is where the “tutorial” part of the game begins and the player is then forced to read text on how to operate Reks and how to interact with the environment. This is also the part in the game where it teaches you how the battle mechanic works. This is quite interesting because in previous Final Fantasy games and other RPGs there would be a game world with enemies, but as soon as you make contact with the enemy, the game would change “modes” and the player would be transferred to a battlefield where the main character draws his weapon and fights his enemy in this field. In this game, they completely remove the battlefield and you can fight the enemies in the game world that you are already in.

    As I defeat my first boss fight, where the enemy has a larger amount of hit points than ordinary minions and can execute special attacks, the game’s story unfolds during this tutorial with Basch assassinating his king and killing Reks in the process. The game then tells the story of how Dalmasca falls under Archadian rule and Lady Ashe takes her life. The game shifts over to Reks brother Vaan, and I am then tasked with cleaning the sewers of rats using the new battle system I just learned. At this point the game keeps going in and out of cut scenes explaining how Vaan is sick of the gutter boy life he lives and one day wants to become a sky pirate. I basically kept running around town enjoying the scenery and did my first hunt, which is basically like being a bounty hunter where I look for a specific animal, which will turn out to be a boss, and kill it to gain a reward from the person who posted the bounty. I think this is a good point to stop for the first session and next log I will try to get as far into the game as possible.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jan 25th, 2008 at 21:50:10.

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