jp's GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay to Singularity (iPd) - Tue, 26 Sep 2023 18:38:18've reach the point where the main simulation takes too long to make any real progress AND I think I tapped it out in terms of things to unlock and see? I think because some things get unlocked based on progress in the other idle game simulations that are part of the game as a whole. So, with the main one getting a bit tiresome (the dinosaurs is the only one that seems to have a pretty regular/even progression - I can cycle/restart every few days and there are still new things appearing and getting added) and the space one being quite uneven (sometimes it moves faster, but other times it's super slow with no progress). So, I'm going to delete it - mostly because I've installed a few other games on my phone and I don't want to play too many at once. BUT - it's been really interesting to see this game. Most of what I've learned comes from the fact that there are multiple idle games in the game - and they all function slightly differently from each other AND the experience playing them is noticeable different for me. So, the rate at which you can make progress is important, and the feeling of things being fast or slow is also super important. And how often new things get added/unlocked, etc. The other thing I think characterizes this game is how much of an element of surprise there was as I played - new stuff opening up, new games, mini-events, etc. All of this kept me playing longer because it was fun to discover an entirely new idle game - plumb its depths (at least a little) while continuing to play. So, good stuff!Tue, 26 Sep 2023 18:38:18 CDT, Blood & Teef (Switch) - Tue, 26 Sep 2023 17:01:49 picked this up on a lark - no research, no references other than HEY, it's ORKS! (and 40k). I guess the art style intrigued me because it's cartoony, simple, and with a sense of humor. Sort of like what the orks used to be in 40K before it was called 40K - it was all darkly funny and a bit stupid, but hey - that was the game's flavor. It's interesting to see how quickly and effectively Games Workshop was able to wipe the past and overwrite it with a darker, grittier, and grimmier (not a real world) flavor of ork. To be fair, it made sense - and was thematically more consistent with the rest of the universe. So, what's the game? Well - couch co-op (one of the main reasons I got it actually, with the idea of playing with the kids) side-scrolling platforming shooter. I played it a few months ago (so this entry is way late) - but I recall there being a control scheme I didn't quite get used to...and the game was doing everything it should by the numbers (points, upgrades in between levels, there's some sort of story, boss levels, and so on). From what we played - (2 levels?) - you fight orks and humans (guardsmen and marines) and it was fine. Not boring, but fine - fun enough for a couch co-op experience, but I realized that neither of us was urging the other to play the game again, so it started to collect dust (the box at least) and so I've decided to just put it on the shelf.Tue, 26 Sep 2023 17:01:49 CDT and the Impossible Lair (PS4) - Sat, 23 Sep 2023 17:20:55 the one hand this is a by-the-numbers platforming game with collectibles out the wazoo and cute characters and a silly story. On the other hand... (a) The game's difficulty is a lot higher than I expected - and it's not easy to pick up (sometimes even find) the five bonus coins hidden in each level (that you need to use to pay to open access to more of the overworld map). On the other hand, if you fail a section too often - the game lets you skip it (I haven't done this myself yet, but it's what a character promises AND they even make fun of the developers while they're at it by muttering things like "I told them it was too hard" and stuff like that). Also, one of the game's collectibles is "tonics" (like potions?) you can select. Up to three per level. Many of them make the game a bit easier - slow it down, add more checkpoints, give you more time to grab Laylee if you've taken a hit (Laylee is sort of like a shield, take a hit and she flies around - catch her and your shield is back, don't and one more hit and game over). The tonics come with a price - they lower your feather rewards (the currency used to unlock tonics when you find them) at the end of the level. It's interesting to see how many different options and ways the game incorporates to help smooth out any difficulties. (b) The game's main conceit is that you have to defeat the big baddie - and he's in an "impossible lair". So, to make things easier for you, you need to rescue bees and each bee acts as a "one hit shield". Presumably you can attempt the lair whenever you want. I thought you just had to defeat the baddie, but it turns out that he runs away (after taking a few hits) and it's a whole level you need to clear - and it's really hard. I wasn't able to make it past the first area (after hitting the baddie a few times). Officially I completed 3% of the impossible lair! I'm guessing there are people that can just clear it - without any other stuff - and I wonder if playing more will result in more stuff to make it easier other than more bees. You can only rescue one bee per level! (I've got 11? 12?) (c) The game has an overworld from where you enter all the levels - they're like pages from a picture book. The overworld itself has secrets and things you need to puzzle out to open more areas and reach more book pages. So, that's really neat to - and it's a lower stakes activity. BUT, you can also just straight up teleport to the pages - so even here the game is accessible, but allows you to explore and so on. I've really enjoyed this part of the game as well... So, there's lots of smart and considered design here - my guess is that the designers were trying to make a game accessible to a new (kids) audience, while also keeping things interesting for (older) fans of the franchise.Sat, 23 Sep 2023 17:20:55 CDT Hellsinger (PC) - Sun, 17 Sep 2023 15:35:47, this game is really metal! It really is...which makes sense, given the name. But, the more I play the more I realize that the game really does a good job of making you feel the music (you can't just "tune it out"). It's badass in the way that DOOM is badass - and it makes me think of this game as a sort of "alternate universe" version of doom. It's a FPS, with demons and stuff, and you feel like a badass as you jump around, dodge and strafe, all to the beat of heavy metal music. It would be unfair to compare the game to Guitar Hero or other music games where "doing poorly" is equated - aurally - with muted music, loss of certain parts (e.g. vocals) - leaving only the beat (I wonder if the beat is on top of the music's drum parts?). But, that's how the game operates. BUT, where things get different is that here you really want to get your streak up - back to back kills/hits and an overall multiplier result in doing more damage, which feels more badass, and so on. The game does seem built around the positive feedback loop...when you miss though, it's a bummer and hard to recover from. I've completed two levels (after the tutorial) and failed a few times with the 3rd. Which surprised me, tbh - because I felt like I was "pretty good" at the game (despite losing at least once in each of the levels played, but resurrecting in them - at a score cost). Anyways, the difficulty jump seems more about my failing to keep a streak up (and not dodging all that well?) But, it might also be that I chose my weapons poorly? (unlike other FPS games where you either have all the weapons or you find them along the way, here you choose a weapon to use - presumably leaving the others behind - which feels annoying as I kept trying to switch over to the shotgun only to realize I didn't have it - because I'd picked twin pistols instead). So, I then played a few torment levels that are basically short challenges that reward you with what I think are permanent boons to make things easier. There are 3 for each level, so perhaps the ideal progression is to complete a level, then do the 3 boons and then move on to the next level? We'll see how it goes the next time I play level 3. Am I having fun? Yes - but it's tricky for me - you have to do everything on the beat, and missing the beat on the keyboard as you're also trying to hit the reload (R)_, or switch weapons, or all might be a bit too much for my middle-aged hands at this point. I could always lower the difficulty level, but I'm playing on the middle one now...which I've assumed is the "regular person" one. Oh, there's a leaderboard for scores from the campaign as well - it surprised me that this wasn't separate. As in, I though it might have been a competitive mode as a separate thing. My guess is that they really want to encourage replayability (there aren't THAT many levels in the game for - I assume - content/song licensing challenges) - so, go back and see if you can beat your earlier score or your friends' might be part of the intended experience.Sun, 17 Sep 2023 15:35:47 CDT Brigade (PS4) - Sun, 17 Sep 2023 15:22:48've been playing this for a lot more than I expected - but I'm starting to tire a little. I might not finish it but... I've been super impressed by the game's art direction, they really leaned into the "Indiana Jones-style" temples and stuff, more fairly on the adventure pulps the game mimics. And, it's just fun. I'm a bit confused by the game's meta-progression and collectibles. The game has lots of things to find/collect as you play and, when I wasn't paying too much attention I missed a few and assumed that it would all work out because the meta-progression elements would just unlock as you hit certain thresholds. So, get 10 relics and unlock this boon, 15 for the next and so on. Here, the relics are grouped thematically - and you get the boon when you complete a full set. And, 3/4 of the way in - I have LOTS of sets that are all missing just one relic. I then assumed that perhaps each set of relics corresponds to a level - so I played a level with a guide (so as not to miss anything) and...that didn't yield a full set either. If I had been paying attention I would have noticed that the sets aren't constrained to a level. BUT, this means that what I had assumed was one of the draws for playing more (to be fair the story is forgettable in a way that is consistent with the genre) is actually kind of out of reach. I'm a bit let down by this, because it seems that these boons are more like Campaign+ type rewards, but - why bother then? I don't have any particular desire to go back and play earlier levels (other than to find/unlock stuff I missed).. Similarly, the game has a rune-system where you find runes you can put into slots on weapons that change how that weapon behaves - more damage, heal you on kill, freeze enemies, etc. It's fun - BUT, once you use a rune you can remove it from a weapon by destroying it. So, I filled up a weapon with runes, and I've been using that while hoarding all the other ones because I feel like I don't want to waste them. I think this was another design mistake - I want to experiment with the runes, mix and match, try different combinations, but their relative scarcity means that I feel locked in to my choices. Of course having a system with re-usable runes would require MORE rune-types - but that still might have been better from the player experience side of things?Sun, 17 Sep 2023 15:22:48 CDT Mesa (PC) - Sat, 16 Sep 2023 20:10:10 played this believing it to be a (originally) fan recreation of Half-Life using Half Life 2's engine. I played it as such - marveling at the things I remembered from Half-Life and for others, wondering if I simply did not recall certain moments from the game or if this was something new/added/modified in the process of recreation. So, I'll mostly be writing about Black Mesa as if it was Half-Life...and having played Half-Life, this will be a bit weird. After all, I played HL shortly after it came out...and that's easily 20 years at this point. Huh. (1) There were moments in the original that I remember as genuinely surprising and shocking. Realizing that the tram ride was NOT a cut-scene was one of them. This was in the days of 3D acceleration as novelty... so, my recollection is that the tram ride looked amazing, and thus it had to be a cut-scene. And, after bumping the mouse, and seeing the screen move - OMG! There were other similar moments in the game: I remember the shock when you get to the surface and the soldiers attack you, there was a helicopter fight that was notable, and I remember being creeped out by the Man in Black - whom you started to notice. I think I noticed him MORE this time - cued in as I was to his importance and appearance. That being said, these moments were no longer surprising. (2) I remembered some of the game's weapons, but I did not recall how many weapons the game has - nor that there was a secondary mode of fire (new addition perhaps?). So, it was fun to play around here and experiment with more ways of shooting and such. Similarly, I didn't remember being able to pick up objects and mess around with them - e.g. picking up cans so that the ceiling critters would "eat" those allowing me to walk past them without concern. (3) I didn't remember having to spend so much time in vents wandering around. Nor did I remember the cold-areas? I vaguely remembered riding on the trams - but it seems there was more tram riding here? Wow - it's all such a blur! I did play about 1/2 of the game - maybe more? And I remember that the Xen part of the game was kind of boring - though the weapons (which I did not get to) were rather fun - especially the weird alien thing you put on your arm and fire "bugs" that homed in your enemies. I guess those are still in the game? For 5 and a half hours, getting to the midway point seems pretty good. Which makes me wonder if I played it much slower and more carefully back then? I'm assuming that I played the game for longer sessions - so I would have finished it much faster? But, I did noticed this time around that I knew how to make progress, wasn't too concerned with picking up stuff, finding secrets, or even killing every monster. There is a fair amount of back tracking, and I can see how people might get lost (there was one puzzle I bumbled around abit - it's the one where there's an electrified pit of water and you have to turn off the electricity, then plug something in the water into the wall socket... that last part took me too long to realize). I think the only real disappointment, and this might be a HL2 engine issue? was a dexterity moment where you have to jump on to a rotating blade to them jump on to a ledge. It simply did not work for me - I'd fall off, you could not stay on the blade... I was starting to get really frustrated with this section until I decided to try something new... I made a stack of barrels and was (barely) able to make it up on to the ledge. So, were the barrels the real solution? I doubt it - all the level design indicated that you had to jump on to the rotating blades... Why did I stop? Well, I got to a section with conveyor belts and ceiling presses - time your movement so as to avoid getting squished - I just kept getting squished, especially in the section where the conveyor belts turned 90 degrees and I got stuck on the geometry, jumped and died. Ugh.Sat, 16 Sep 2023 20:10:10 CDT (PC) - Sun, 03 Sep 2023 15:28:58 definitely played Doom back in the day. I definitely played Doom II. But, I don't think I ever played the whole thing. Most likely I only played Episode 1 (the shareware version) and, most likely, I did have access to a pirated version of the whole thing but never got around to it because Doom II came out. So, it's been fun to "go back" and play this for class - especially with an eye to see what's changed, what hasn't, what's distinctive. What follows are basically my notes from playing and they're in no particular order, though they do reflect some sense of thinking about the game as a whole: (a) The music is really great, and really sets the tone and the mood. I don't remember the music from back in the day so perhaps I never heard it? Or, I was playing with the music down, SFX up and with little speakers. I don't remember having a headset back then - so the experience now (with headset) really makes the game shine. You can hear monsters hiding in closets - but weirdly, it feels a bit "dated" because - I think - the sound volume is pretty even across distances. So, a monster in a closet within range sounds the same as one really close. I could be wrong on this though... (b) I had forgotten how fast the game was in terms of moving around - strafing, dodging and shooting are essential AND because you're aiming is "fixed" (no mouselook) you have to move your character to be able to aim at a target either by turning around or by sidestepping. Nowadays you swing the aim reticule around and your character can stay in place - but not so back then! It really changes the dynamic play environment in ways I don't think I had fully appreciated. (to be fair, the remake is really true to this part of the game - even as you can stand still and aim and fire) (c) I had forgotten how dynamic the levels where - as in, the layout of stuff changes as doors open, walls retract, pillars descend, or ascend, and so on. It gives the levels a really interesting feel to them because - as you often backtrack a lot - there is excitement in seeing what's changed or having to adjust to a new situation (enemies attacking from above, etc.) You can see how iD was really going for "these levels are NOT possible in Wolfenstein 3D" where they were much more rectangular and "straight" feeling. (d) I remembered secrets being a thing - I'd forgotten how many and often there would be secret areas in the game. I remember the (back in the day, from Wolfenstein) importance to understand that there might even be secret rooms within secreto rooms! (e) The game has several weapons, and to my surprise - while fun, the game is less about choosing the right weapon for the job and more about the shooting and ammo. I mean, the weapons ARE different, but their difference didn't seem to be different enough from each other gameplay-wise. It was fun to find the chainsaw though - in a secret area, of course. (f) The game has health and armor - but, unlike later games that treat armor as a sort of extra health bar (sometimes auto-replenishing, ala Halo), here armor just reduces damage, but you still take damage. I think it's a dynamic that's important and often under discussed? I might be alone here in feeling that it's an important part of Dooms feeling - I don't remember if it carried on to Quake or not either. (g) There was more "wandering around trying to find the key" than I remembered - that might be a "it was better understood back then by players in the day"? Maybe I've just forgotten? Sort of like players (today) being unable to play Ultima IV or other games with no signposting and very little handholding. (h) Apparently you could play co-op out of the box. I have no recollection of this at all. Huh.Sun, 03 Sep 2023 15:28:58 CDT Are Coming! (iPd) - Wed, 30 Aug 2023 17:50:39've been playing a mobile game called Cells, and as part of its monetization you can watch ads to get boosts and so on. For a while I was seeing a LOT of ads for games where you have a character or mob of characters that are all shooting enemies that are chasing you and you have to guide your mob through gates to get more characters added to your mob, of better weapons, etc. I had heard that many of these games were using deceptive ads where the gameplay in the ads (which looked fun) was different from that in the game. So, I made a note of a few of the games and decided I'd install and try them out to see what was what. All of this because the gameplay in the ads, like I said, seemed to be fun. This is one of those games and - the gameplay pretty much IS what was in the ads. The characters are 3D stick figures, you clear levels that increase in difficulty, get coins to spend on upgrading your mob to be larger, more effective, etc. Soon after I installed the game I noticed there was an option to remove ads for X dollars (a few, but nothing too pricey. So I paid the price expecting ads to be removed. And the were. Sort of. So, not entirely. There used to be a banner at the bottom of the screen that had an ad and it was gone. BUT, the game has ads in lots of other places. Now, I don't think this is a bad thing per se, but what really annoyed me (and led me to uninstall the game) was that ad viewing is used to gate access to the game's content! So, I might unlock a new weapon from playing the game. BUT, the weapon is only available to be unlocked after watching an ad. If I don't watch the ad, the weapon does not become available. And this stuff happens elsewhere too. It feels scummy and is a bad gameplay experience for me, and I don't think I've ever seen a game that does it like this. After playing a while I unlocked a special "base" - I'm not sure how that will develop, since I won't play any more - because I don't want to be forced to watch ads to make progress in the game - especially after paying (some) money to remove ads from the game! I would have been ok with this if the ads stayed as an option - but as a requirement? No thanks. Oh..another annoying thing - occasionally you get a "pop-up" for something to unlock/get from viewing an ad. And there's no button to "close" or "move on" without clicking on the "watch the ad" button. You have to wait a few seconds for the other button to appear! This one actually feels more like a dark pattern! I might have to re-install the game just to grab some screenshots of this game to use as an example in class...Wed, 30 Aug 2023 17:50:39 CDT Keeping an Eye on You (PC) - Mon, 28 Aug 2023 21:09:10 this game you perform the work of a government surveillance agent - investigating people suspected of certain crimes (or possible crimes). The name of the series definitely gives away where this game is coming from (a critique/examination of the surveillance state). As far as games go it's straightforward in that there's (at least in the two episodes/chapters I've played so far) plenty of scaffolding, even handholding, in terms of getting you to find the info you need to make progress in the game. However, I only recently realized (through some experimentation) that the game is more flexible in its design than I though: (1) The game's UI highlights when there are nuggets of information you can find (and then send to your bosses) - I first played as a "completionist" assuming that you had to locate ALL the nuggets and send them along...but, it turns out you don't have to! (2) You can occasionally send bad/wrong info along as well - normally by sending it for association with the wrong person. The first time I did this (by mistake) the game alerted me...and then I realized I could (purposefully?) muddy the database/information - it's sort of like intentionally polluting the "truth" the system knows. I'm guessing there are dangerous ramifications to this some times and I'm guessing there's also something interesting to be said for adding noise to a system - I wonder if I'll see effects of this? (e.g. wrong person accused because I fed something factually incorrect into the system) (3) Going off of (1) above, I've been wondering what it means to play such that you intentionally feed as little info as you can? This isn't a game where you can "take down the system from within" (I think), but it does feel interesting to purposefully NOT feed information to the system just because you can and it's there. Over the last few years I've re-evaluated my relationship towards sites/services that make use of my input in agreggate (e.g. reviewing something) and I'm much less willing to, say, write an Amazon review. My default is "no", I'm just making it easier for you to make more money with no benefit/reward for myself. So, why should I? When I do - it's because I want to directly support someone (e.g. writing a review for a book I enjoyed and want to support the author). And, this game feels similar? Why should I feed the system more info than it needs? More info can be good (more context, etc.) but also bad (more ways to screw people over).Mon, 28 Aug 2023 21:09:10 CDT (PC) - Mon, 28 Aug 2023 20:56:15 did eventually go back and finish it - and each story did have some different mechanic going on in addition to the photographs. I don't remember how everything connected/tied in narratively - but I do remember being satisfied enough to have been happy to finish the game. Now that I've finished it I must say that I'm much more impressed/satisfied with how the game integrated story stuff with mechanics and dynamics. It's a good example of ludonarrative coherence (as opposed to dissonance) such that I think I might use it as a more modern example. At this point Rohrer's Passage is a bit long in the tooth - though in its favor its not long and it's reasonably easy to explain. But, we'll see...Mon, 28 Aug 2023 20:56:15 CDT