jp's GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplayhttps://www.gamelog.cl/gamers/GamerPage.php?idgamer=1The Simpsons Game (DS) - Wed, 21 Sep 2022 12:45:05https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485Ok, so a little Youtube sleuthing (5 minutes, really) shows that - it seems like the basic storyline and overall structure of the game (DS) is the same as the other console versions. However, those are in 3D (not sidescrolling 2D or kind of isometric 2D) and...look worse? I can't tell if the gameplay is wonky or not - but they did go with 3D looks pretty good! (saw xbox360 footage). It's obviously stylized to look like the show. I'm going to assume that the gameplay is better - mostly because of the additional freedom of movement making the location puzzles seem less linear/obvious, combat seems more open - less just having to take hits will button mashing - and there's more "resources" (e.g. voice, animation, characters etc.) and features. I think the cut-scenes in the 360 version are animated - so it looks like some of the ones in the DS game where recreated in-engine and then exported to the DS? Like, wow. I guess picture thought: Should we consider The Simpsons Game (DS) a contemporaneous demake of the 360/ps3 version? Clearly the console version are deeper/richer/have more features and so on - and clearly they're following the same big picture game design in terms of powers, abilities, locations, and also storyline. Oh, and yes - Will Wright does appear in the console version!Wed, 21 Sep 2022 12:45:05 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485&iddiary=12986Unexplored 2 (PC) - Wed, 21 Sep 2022 12:26:24https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7490Here's another game I'm playing thanks/for/due to my critical game design seminar! I haven't played ALL that much - in terms of hours. I'm still in my 2nd run - and the 1st included all the tutorial/on-boarding and wasn't that short in terms of playtime because I was reading everything and trying to wrap my head around the game. So, quick thoughts for now: (a) I’m really enjoying the fate system – it’s a cool way to solve so many design problems without requiring a lot of development time implementing multiple gameplay sub-systems. This seems like it adds so much RPG flavor in a way that is mechanically fun. At the moment I’m still having a hard time understanding how the system connects to/relates to my character and their attributes – but I think that’s mostly my lack of knowledge more than anything. Oh, the fate system is basically a system where you (representationally) randomly pull a token from a bag - and hope it's green (success) and not red (fail). I think the kinds/numbers of token in the bag when you start is dependent on your attributes and other modifiers. But, there's some wrinkled: There's a spirit points system where you can spend 5 pts to draw again, if you run out you can draw again - but suffer a negative status effect (fatigued?), and some tokens let you draw again for free (there's tokens that add more green tokens to the bag, etc.). So, it's a system that mirrors the usual "check for X" you see in TRPGs, so you can use it to handle picking locks, climbing, etc. all kinds of things - thus super flexible! (b) I love the lore/information system that adds things to the map for you to explore/find. It feels really rewarding to just have stuff pop-up on the map even if I don’t plan on getting to it yet. I’m only in my 2nd run (first one was longer than I thought) so I still don’t have a good understanding of how these things will play out over multiple runs (if at all). So, if I clear an area of the sigils – is that area “empty” in future runs? I think there is an effect, but I’m not sure yet and looking forward to exploring that as I play more. The idea is that when you die - you continue as a new character, but it's been a few years and time has passed so stuff updates on the map! There are factions that are possibly fighting each other and stuff like that. (c) I’ve been playing on my Steamdeck – and it works really well! Some text is a bit small, but I’m also getting older and that’s an extra challenge. I’m just (positively) surprised by how smooth it seems to run. I haven’t done any specialized tweaking of options or whatnot – so just “vanilla” loading as it were. (d) I still don’t understand the overall progression system in the game across runs – I know there’s stuff that gets unlocked and so on, but it’s not that clear to me how the overall narrative is/will progress. With these games my (as a player) worry is that each run will make the overall game harder (because “evil has made more progress in taking over the world”), but that seems untenable in a game like this – too easy for players to get to an overall world-state they can’t get out off – the lead designer is super smart, so has thought of this but I don't know how – so at this point I’m very curious to better understand (as a player) how the meta-progression works. I don’t know yet because I haven’t played enough. (e) I invited the designer to talk to class and as he was answering their questions I had an "epiphany" – “Wow, Civ is a roguelike!” which is perhaps an obvious epiphany – but there you go. This was mostly because I sense that Unexplored 2’s “run” is quite long (play time wise) – which makes it “feel” less rogue-like because you don’t have that many iterations on each run? I’m curious how long a “normal” run that ends in success takes for this game – it seems like a long one, but again I don’t really understand at this point what the overall meta-progression is like (e.g. I solve/resolve the first quest I’m sent on, and then die, do I have to do it again?)Wed, 21 Sep 2022 12:26:24 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7490&iddiary=12985The Simpsons Game (DS) - Sun, 18 Sep 2022 23:40:41https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485This game is both terrible and amazing. I've finished - and the challenge definitely ramped up significantly, almost to a "ugh, why bother" stage. But, I did complete it! Terrible? Well, the controls feel a bit wonky, the combat system isn't that responsive and you feel like you can't help but take damage - so it's just button mashing in the end. The platforming is floaty, I often died from things that came out of nowhere (off screen). In all it feels like a crappy old school platformer (with easy puzzles) and brawling from the old days...so, often unfair and unforgiving. BUT, the level design is really fun, and interesting, and funny, and wacky - and everything you'd expect (hope for?) in a Simpsons game that really tries to be as true to the spirit of the source material as possible. The game really goes meta in terms of it being a game and the characters knowing it's a game - you even meet Matt Groening because he supposedly has the power to save the town from the alien invaders (but he doesn't really care) - so you go to god - who's all distracted playing a DS game for help! Also, along the way, you meet villain Will Wright who is taunted mercilessly as he floats around on a platform powered by a "The Sims" crystal. Oh, an EA executives are also made fun of (and the company as a whole). They try to bribe the mayor so he wont ban Grand theft Itchy - but there's a riot. Oh, you also save some 16-bit versions of Simpsons characters from another videogame. The whole thing is loony crazy - like many of the Simpsons episodes. I checked the final credits and Will Wright and Matt Groening are thanked - but they don't appear in the cast. So, their voices were done by actors and not them? I'm not sure - but Will Wright did sound like him, but who knows. So, the game was well worth playing for that - and to be fair the gameplay while wonky is varied and surprisingly so. There's lots of things (e.g. Space Invader style short level) that appear only once...almost as/for a gag. Definitely a lot of thought and care went into the game. So what happened? Why the rough edges? My guess is that short time and budget meant that it shipped when it needed to rather than when it was done? I also wonder what the connection/relation is to the other Simpsons games ("The Simpsons Game"). Perhaps the DS version was the little sibling title? It feels like the gameplay is unique to this title, but I could be totally wrong. The other games are PS2 era? I'll have to check just for my own curiosity.Sun, 18 Sep 2022 23:40:41 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485&iddiary=12982The Simpsons Game (DS) - Mon, 05 Sep 2022 23:41:10https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485Having just played the Heracles platforming game on the DS I was not prepared for how GOOD this game is. So good I think I blew through a third of it without putting it down. It's mostly a platforming game - but the variety in the levels is really quite something AND you play as Marge, Homer, Lisa, and Bart - sometimes alternating in a level - each of whom has a special ability/mechanics (required for the level). There is simply a lot of variety in this small cart. I'm surprised I hadn't heard more about the game when it came out because it really is much more than I was expecting. The characters are even voiced by the original voice actors! (I checked the credits, at least a few names I recognized - so I assumed they got the entire cast). Things of note so far: (1) There's a level where Marge wants to get the game Grand Theft Scratchy banned - her power is to wield a megaphone and get people to join her cause. In the level you beat up little kids (that are wearing Itchy or Scratchy masks)! You eventually make your way to city hall to confront the mayor. He won't ban the game because he's in a hot tub with an EA executive! This game pulls no punches! (2) There's a level where you play as Lisa (and Bart) who are taking down a gian t factory that's chopping down all the trees (a Mr. Burns company, but it has another name). In one of the interior levels Lenny and Carl are tied to a moving conveyor belt and you need to disable the saws that would otherwise hurt them. Carl has a bark that's something like "This won't happen when Obama is president" or something to that effect! Wow! (3) The game has cut-scenes that are not animated (like the show) but they look pretty decent. I think they're 3D animations (modelled characters) that are then rendered to look like those in the show. You can tell they're 3D models - but the effect is pretty impressive! (4) The premise of the game is really meta. The Simpsons game falls from the sky - and Bart learns that he has special powers (like in the game). Later, after visiting the professor's house and going through a portal - the professor tries to give the kids the strategy guide to the game - which has cheats they could use to be more powerful (and defeat an alien invasion). So meta!Mon, 05 Sep 2022 23:41:10 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7485&iddiary=12979Heracles: Battle with the Gods (DS) - Mon, 05 Sep 2022 19:43:14https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7484This is definitely not the same Heracles as the one in the JRPG I recently finished playing. It's a platformer! And it's wonky in terms of the controls and general feel. And I was ready to dismiss it entirely - when I took a look at the credits and saw that the game was made by a really small team! It might have been one programmer! The more I think about it, the more I realize that these "B" quality DS games are great examples of what students can do NOW with existing tools and in small teams. This is mostly a testament to how much improvement we've seen in the tools available for game development. In other words, a bunch of students (and here I mean people with little experience and a limited amount of time). My guess is that the team that made this game probably had some experience, but worse tools and a similarly limited time frame in which to deliver the game. All that being said, the game does have a litle twist in its mechanics as a platforming game. Heracles can jump and shoot stuff - but, he can also build a little arch he can walk up (allowing a bit of extra height needed to reach platforms). He can even build an arch on top of an existing arch for even more height! It took me a while to wrap my head around this, how it worked, how to best use it, and what button to press...but I got there and made my way through a few of the areas (there's a boss fight at the end of each one - the first one was laughably easy - it's a giant flying centaur that drops spears you must dodge until he drops to the ground at which time you can hit it once before it flies away) The game makes nice use of the DS dual screens - the levels are vertical across both screens which is nice (also a bit unusual) and it was interesting to navigate the levels (once I was used to the controls and general feel for the jumps and such).Mon, 05 Sep 2022 19:43:14 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7484&iddiary=12978Lionel Trains: On Track (DS) - Mon, 05 Sep 2022 18:43:13https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7483Oh, wow. This game is not what I was expecting. I didn't even look at the back of the box before putting it in (because I do often enjoy the surprise of going into a game completely blind). I wish the game had a tutorial - it's essentially a "large" scale economic simulation game where you own and run multiple train lines that travel between cities on rail lines you must build. You must also pay attention to the demand for goods at each city and what the supply is such that you can pay the costs of running that train and make some money along the way. It's not quite a game that's all that easy to play on the DS - there's a map you need to scroll around on and the lack of tutorial meant that I spent way too long trying to understand how to lay down rails and what all the many, many icons meant. To be fair, I still don't. I was able to make a right mess of the second mission in the campaign. So. Big fail on my part. I thought I'd check the manual - but it was not helpful (also in French, I don't know why - English one got lost probably?). All that to say that this was a real surprise - a hardcore economic train sim camouflaged as what I assumed was a kid's train game (I used to have a Lionel trains set when I was much younger).Mon, 05 Sep 2022 18:43:13 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7483&iddiary=12977Arctic Tale (DS) - Mon, 05 Sep 2022 18:29:14https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7482I played a bit more of Chapter 1 - trying to get to Chapter 2. I met the requirements but then I had to go search for food on the ice, and kept falling through. I failed at this a few times and I tried to pay attention to see what it was I was doing wrong or misunderstanding about the game. No luck. So, I guess I have to admit that this NatGeo kids game was simply too challenging for me! (or, that I lacked the patience to keep on trying or desire to look at a guide for an answer or solution)Mon, 05 Sep 2022 18:29:14 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7482&iddiary=12976Arctic Tale (DS) - Mon, 22 Aug 2022 23:30:38https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7482Another NatGeo game - the other one I played was March of the Penguins. I'm going to guess that this game is also based/inspired by a documentary film (this time about polar bears, going by the game's cover). The March of the Penguins game was really a mess - if memory serves - in terms of it just not being interesting to play and having wonky controls that made things harder. So, I was not expecting much from this one and I assumed I'd play 30 minutes and go "yup, also a mess" and be done with it. So far, that's not been the case. The game is divided into chapters and I've only on the first one - and, it's an "open area" where you run around as a little polar bear, you have to explore the environment finding food and stuff (basically collecting things), but there are also some mini-games to complete (to get more of the things you're collecting) and you can also turn into a Fox or a Walrus (giving you access to a few more mini-games that are available around the level). It's not an "oh wow this is amazing" kind of experience - for me at least (I'm not the target audience), but it is a surprisingly more open and interesting experience than I was expecting. Yes, it's simple - not realistic and all that, but I can see kids having fun with it and being drawn into the simple gameplay and the setting. Technically it's "ok" (even considering the time) with controls being a little fiddly, animations that are a bit tricky at times, BUT - it does work and is reasonably intuitive. So far. I'm genuinely curious to see what the next chapters have to show, which is already a major step up from what I expected. I guess so far it's a nice examples of throwing in little amounts of variety to keep things fresher and more interesting while not having to develop an insane amount of content.Mon, 22 Aug 2022 23:30:38 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7482&iddiary=12974Glory of Heracles (DS) - Sun, 21 Aug 2022 14:14:07https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7473Oh, one last thing - one of the characters (Leucos) starts the game as boy/man - though everyone can tell that she's a girl/woman. The reasons for the cross-dressing are made clear later in the story, and the "we can tell you're a girl" despite her insisting she's not were often brought up in the game and, more importantly, nobody really seems to make a big deal about it. At most they don't understand why Leucos is so adamant that she's a boy when she's clearly not. So, it's about bad acting/disguise and not about gender identity. It just caught all my attention with the discussion surrounding trans people and so on, and I thought it was interesting that in this game it's not an identity issue, but about poor disguises. I don't think the game is about trans issues at all, but it does show how random games can include something like this without making a big deal of it.Sun, 21 Aug 2022 14:14:07 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7473&iddiary=12973Glory of Heracles (DS) - Sun, 21 Aug 2022 14:03:16https://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7473I was definitely not expecting to play this all the way to the end - but here we are - I got there. I was curious to see where the story and characters were going and it was fun to look at my daughter (playing Hades) and say that we were both playing games that significantly used greek mythology, albeit in different ways. In the end all the different Heracles' were explained, and it made sense enough as a fun story element, including a few sad and dramatic plot reveals and twists (the "big" Heracles was actually his younger brother Iphicles? and we then rescue/recover the real one - but Iphicles dies?). Overall I liked the mini-games that you used to help boost your spells and skills for greater effect. There's enough of them that they don't get TOO old, but they also use the touch screen and, you're not obliged or required to use them either (it just means that fights might take a bit longer, but the mini-games take time - so maybe it's a wash in the end? I'm not too sure). The mini-games having different levels of difficulty (pegged mostly to the level of the spell) was also useful and I found that as I played longer and started to get more adventurous with different spell and skills that I enjoyed having to engage with a larger variety of the mini-games. Good stuff there, and also nicely DS-specific. The final cut-scene was...nice, interesting - but sort of surprising when compared to the intro cut-scene. The intro is all full-anime animation, while the final is in-engine (for the game character stuff) but has a few semi-static scenes with really poor art. In this sense the anime aesthetic was clearly used to start everything off with a bang (perhaps also for a cool TV commercial?) and no one's really expecting people to finish the game (~35hrs for me) so why spend all that budget there? Strangely the game has a Newgame+ mode and a few more things to encourage replayability (there's a list of items with "????" for the weapons you haven't found and that sort of thing). Overall? Glad I played it, not sure it's 35 hrs of premium entertainment, but I was intrigued by the story enough to continue and from a game design side, I did appreciate the combat system and the touch-screen minigames designed in support of it.Sun, 21 Aug 2022 14:03:16 CDThttps://www.gamelog.cl/logs/LogPage.php?Log_Id=7473&iddiary=12972