GameLogBlogging the experience of gameplay vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (DS) - 12 Sep 2020 - by jp've played this for a few hours (started world 3) and I've been having quite a bit of fun. The game has such a Mario structure it's pretty amazing tbh. Worlds with levels, each world ends in a boss stage/challenge, you collect trophies and Mario coins (there's on in each level) to unlock bonus levels and so on. So far each level is pretty short (though I sometimes have to try to solve them in a few tries in order to get the trophy and the coin) which is nice. I'm worried that the size will grow a lot which I'm not sure is a good idea. Each world seems to introduce a new element - again, very Mario-like - and I'm curious to see what new board elements pop in...jpSat, 12 Sep 2020 16:09:38 UTC (PC) - 10 Sep 2020 - by dkirschner semester hit like a ton of bricks and I have had zero time to even think about playing a game for the past few weeks. But man, tonight I had a great time for 45 minutes just playing this stupid stream-friendly, meme-worthy, speedrunning game about leaping across the tops of semi trucks. I exhausted myself from working ungodly hours this week and not sleeping enough, passed out at 7pm, woke up at 10:00pm, and felt oddly rejuvenated. I decided not to grade essays, which my brain was trying to default toward. I watched some YouTube, talked to my girlfriend, and then, surprised at not being tired yet, thought it would be nice to play a chill game. Enter Clustertruck, an old one that I got from Twitch Prime years ago. The game isn't actually that chill. It's pretty frantic. But you can pick it up and put it down, which is what I realized I wanted, not necessarily chill. The premise, like I've said, is simple. There are semi trucks. They drive forward. You run along the tops of them and jump between them. They will crash and there are obstacles. Avoid all that mess. Jump higher, run faster, do some tricks and rack up points. Use your points to buy upgrades (double jump, mid-air dash, slow time, etc.) so you can go faster and correct mistakes before they kill you. That's it. That's the game. I found two ways to play. The first is how I think the devs intended. You play it like a crazy twitch game and try to chase high scores. The second is actually relaxing. You stand on top of the trucks and ride. Yes, they will crash and you'll need to jump occasionally. But, see if you can get on a truck that takes you all the way to the goal at the end of the level. You have a good vantage point to observe the mayhem happening around you. I wonder if the devs considered a photo mode, or if anyone has found out which trucks in each level will go all the way to the end without crashing. I'm not sure how scripted the trucks' paths are. Like, does truck #52 always collide with truck #36 going around the sharp turn on level 1.4? Does the boulder trigger after truck #11 crosses a line and always roll into trucks #23, 24, and 25? Not sure! Controls are sufficiently balanced between tight and floaty for this kind of game. It's not built for precision really, but more to make the player panicked all the time because you don't know exactly if your character (which you never see because of the first-person perspective) is going to land where you intend. I do wish you had more control over your lateral movement in midair. Speaking of your character, when you run and jump, there is a sort of metallic clanking sound effect sometimes. I think this is probably meant to be the sound of running on a truck trailer, but I like to imagine it is my feet and I am a robot. It was so nice to relax for an evening and not be prepping online classes or doing the schedule or teaching someone how to use technology or preparing assessment reports or writing another abstract or blah blah blah. Just. Dodging exploding trucks. And the world hasn't ended.dkirschnerThu, 10 Sep 2020 23:54:31 UTC Drifter (PS4) - 07 Sep 2020 - by jp think I spent about two hours trying to defeat the first (a first?) boss. It's the bird-guy - on the top. And that's it. Maybe I should be playing on "easy" rather than normal - but, overall I haven't been that impressed with the game. I'm often confused by the art (and perspective) such that I either plunge to my death or miss an exit/path elsewhere. The world is intriguing and interesting, it's definitely an exploration and slow discovery kind of game - but it really is slow. The progression hints at a lot of things, but those first few hours were super, super slow. You need something like 12 upgrade "thingies" to get an actual upgrade. But, they're shown as being completed 4 at a time. Sigh. That was a disappointment and a waste of time (visiting all the shops because I wasn't sure if I had an upgrade - but was maybe at the wrong upgrade shop). There's underground dungeons and things that open and unlock - and it's the sort of game whose progression is neither linear nor completely open (zone-based? I get the sense you should be able to complete each large zone independently of the rest) But, it's super easy to second-guess yourself and then waste a ton of time trying to get something in another zone you don't need yet. Lots if sighing and a fair amount of frustration with that boss - I was getting to the point where he as at 25% health before I'd die... I kind of want to finish that and then quit, but - what's the point really? (there isn't even a trophy in it, the trophies all seemed super out of reach)jpMon, 07 Sep 2020 12:29:05 UTC of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4) - 07 Sep 2020 - by jp was really annoyed that after having had to clear space on the PS4 HD, I had to then wait overnight for a mandatory update to download and install (I also had to make extra space for that as well!). When games force the update it's because you want to go online and I just wanted to play the campaign. I've since found out that, AFAIK, there is no campaign. This explains the forced update. I'm not usually one for PVP FPS games - especially for a game that's been out a while since I'll be far behind the curve. I was level 1 and the next lowest was someone who was level 33 or so. Wow. My guess is that levelling up results in more options and in-game advantages, so we'll see how long I stick around. I only played about 45 minutes - that's a few matches - and was mostly overwhelmed and confused. I didn't know how to use my special abilities, what they were, etc. etc. The experience was "ok" - I get that I need to learn the levels and what not, but I wish there was an empty map mode or something or a tutorial for the characters. There are a LOT of them! (16?) After poking around in the menus I think I found the "campaign". It seems like each character has a tutorial/story you can play - so I'll be doing that and see how much fun it is.jpMon, 07 Sep 2020 12:18:53 UTC Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (PS4) - 04 Sep 2020 - by jp finished playing this last weekend, enjoyed it and have an appreciation for a lot of the little things they did. Here's a few... (a) There's a few moments where the game uses "press the button at the right time" to get you to move forward (there is even a fail state in the game! I died at one point which was a real surprise). They're not quite quicktime events - because you can - to an extent wait to coordinate your button press. They're of the bar with moving cursor, press button when cursor is in certain section of the bar. So, you do a few of these - it's ok. BUT, there is one moment when the event starts and as the player is about to press the button - the whole event is interrupted/cancelled because an NPC acts! It was a genuine surprise and a super cool moment. (an NPC jumped in and stabbed another NPC - I wasn't expecting it, obviously, and they used a dagger I had given them earlier!) (b)There's an interesting "palate cleanser" in terms of how the story choices happen. Like most games in the genre there's a lot of scenes with two characters and you make choices for your responses and so on. So, the usual walking around locations talking to people there and doing things. BUT, there are moments where (usually when travelling between locations on a map - so, from village to village) you have to read paragraphs and then (sometimes) make choices. So, there's a combination of "choose your own adventure" style choices - read a paragraph make a choice and conversations with characters. I really enjoyed how it gave some variety to the pacing and mode of interaction. (c) The game is split up into three books, each with 7 chapters. I don't know if this corresponds with the actual novel (3 novels?). But, it was nice to have a sense of roadmap - like how far this was going, what my progress was, how much time I had left, etc. To be fair though, chapters within the each book aren't equal in terms of length and while I felt that some chapters were "too long" I also appreciated those that were shorter. Overall I can't say how long the game is - but perhaps 2-3 hours per book sounds about right? (d) The game has trophies and I was surprised by how the were distributed across the game. The large majority of them are concentrated in the first book with the last book only having 2 trophies (one is "finish the book"). I was also surprised that the game had "do X" for this trophy and "do the opposite of x" for trophy. I guess I find those annoying (requiring two playthroughs). I guess I'm now curious about what the "game design wisdom" is when it comes to trophies in games - how are trophies distributed over the period of a game's duration? Are there standard patterns that different studios use? Is everyone just coming up with their own strategy? Is there any research/knowledge about trophy design to increase retention, encourage players to finish a game, play longer, etc.?jpFri, 04 Sep 2020 17:43:32 UTC Chronicles X (WiiU) - 23 Aug 2020 - by dkirschner can't believe I never wrote anything for this. Woops! Long story short: I'm shelving it because of the grind. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a sequel in name and gameplay mechanics to Xenoblade Chronicles, which I beat earlier this year. I suppose it was my first big quarantine game and this is likely my last. Fitting! It takes everything from the first game and makes it bigger. The game is humongous. The world is beautiful. It's like a single-player MMORPG. I'll start with some things I enjoyed and finish with my gripes, including the big one about the grind. There's a lot to love here. Setting and narrative context are excellent, really. The last remnant of humanity crash lands on an alien planet. Pieces of the "life hold," which everyone needs to survive long-term, are scattered. Hostile alien races have taken a foothold on the planet and are hunting humanity down (not sure why exactly, didn't get that far), and you'll encounter friendly races too. The crashed ship is a city with six districts. It's a living city. NPCs don't have daily schedules, but will appear certain places at certain times of day for quests and things. Their society is complex. There's an organization called BLADES which fulfill many of the useful functions having to do with exploring the planet, gathering resources, expanding intel, killing native monsters (indigens), and even mediating squabbles between the populous. There are divisions for each of these (eight in total) specialties, and you can join them. The web of complexity governing characters' relationships and interactions is difficult to wrap my head around. There are hundreds upon hundreds of quests/missions of various types. Some are really basic categories like gathering items or killing indigens, but many are narrative and add depth to the city. The hundreds of NPCs are engaged in other vital tasks too like building water plants, growing food, and governing. You know what. The thought of writing in more depth about the 50 hours I sunk into this game is daunting. It's huge, okay? There are many intertwining systems to learn and I still do not understand some of them. For example, I glossed over equipment completely. I never bought or upgraded a single piece. I just got my Skell (flying mech) and have no idea how to outfit it or use it, and the thought of having to get three more Skells for other characters makes me nauseous. There are easily over 1000 items. The game is so huge you use two screens to play. The handheld Wii controller with the screen is where you engage with the map layers (fast travel, checking completion criteria for the game's hex grid spaces [again, literally hundreds of tasks to check off to complete these grids], following objective markers, setting up your mining and research probe networks...). I will say I LOVED having a dedicated screen for the map in this game. It was fun to use and integral to the experience. It made me feel like I was really out in the world surveying this alien planet with this mobile technology in my hands. The writing is infinitely better than Xenoblade Chronicles. I regularly chuckled when given dialogue options. They are often sarcastic and hyperbolic and it's like your character isn't taking it seriously. The quest responses are some of my favorite things in the game, and a lot of the quests are wacky too. There's one where you meet an alien who says he can travel through time and you have to go buy a car for him. Then he gets stuck, not in time, but on an island in the middle of the ocean, and you have to go save him. In another, you can help a character run away from her possessive husband with her new lover by gathering materials for her to stitch together a fake baby to convince her lover to keep her around (yikes!). When he immediately falls for it, you can call her out ("Mutter loudly about how it's clearly a stuffed animal") or support her ("Tremble at the awe-inspiring sight of life's new dawn."). In another quest, you're helping an alien understand human emotions. After you do enough, the alien says something about how much emotional range humans have. You can "Accept" this conclusion or "Deny" it: "Explain that you are dead inside." Really, I might have quit the game sooner had I not enjoyed these dialogue options so much! And for the sake of time, the game requires hours upon hours upon hours of grinding. I played about 50 hours and feel like I did nothing of substance for at least 25% of it, just running around the map trying to find collectibles for quests or taking random "kill x monsters" missions to get experience to unlock the next story quest. See, story quests and "affinity missions" have level caps and other pre-requisites. I occasionally had to direct my attention to grinding to reach a requirement. Often you don't have to grind because there are so many other fun ways to get experience, largely involving exploring, but once that sort of runs out (i.e., you've explored most everywhere), then what's left? I finished Chapter 7 or 8 at level 26. The next chapter had a level requirement of 30, and the next affinity mission was 28. I hadn't had to deal with nearly that much of a gap yet. I figured I'd be able to find plenty of side missions and things to do. But like 8 hours later, I had finally hit 28 and did the affinity mission. Still two more levels to go for 30 and advancing the story. For all the game has going for it, I'll use this fun phrase: "It doesn't respect the player's time." There is so much noise. And it takes some of its simulation so seriously, which adds drag and downtime. For example, you are the main character, and you have two other pretty much main characters. But those two, plus like 15 others, can be switched in and out of your party. Every single time you switch a character out, they go back to a specific place in the city. If you want to add them to your party again, you have to literally go to where they are to recruit them back. And many quests will limit who you can have in your party, require specific characters, so that you frequently are changing characters in and out and sometimes kicking everyone out if the quest requires just you. Then you have to run around the city finding them all again to add them back. I hated that feature so much. Yeah, it's realistic, but my god, who cares?! I know that Doug is a Harrier and is going to spend time in the Hangar. I don't need it reinforced by having to go all the way there every time I want to add him to my party! Ugh. Okay. That's it! Done with this and almost done with the Wii U! Then I can move on to the PS4. dkirschnerSun, 23 Aug 2020 15:46:47 UTC Wars Battlefront II (PS4) - 18 Aug 2020 - by jp I just couldn't. I tried, and kept on trying - but I was continually frustrated across several levels in which I felt things weren't working the way they could. So, I just gave up. I wanted to finish the campaign, it was interesting for sure - but I got to the Lando levels and sigh. Too many attempts with little success.jpTue, 18 Aug 2020 12:20:09 UTC Mania (PS4) - 18 Aug 2020 - by jp'm probably about halfway through this and I'm starting to get a bit tired - mostly because I'll get to the end of the levels and then die at the boss state, and doing the levels all over again feels a bit tiresome to be honest. But, I did enjoy a few hours of multiplayer. The "plus" version (as in, the physical copy that's labelled Sonic Mania Plus - rather than the version I got as part of playstation plus) had a few new things to try out. A coop mode and a competitive mode. The coop mode was weird - one player is Sonic the other Tails but the camera is centered on Sonic and have to really coordinate to stay together on screen (otherwise Tails is off-screen...) But it looks like Tails is invulnerable? It was really weird, tried it for 5 minutes or so - so these are really first impressions. The competitive mode is more fun - the screen is split into the number of players and then you each race through the levels - it's a shared level so if someone nabs a ring it's gone for everyone else. At the end of the level a winner is determined based on who did the best across 6 categories (so, the most wins in categories is overall winner). The categories are score, rings, total rings collected, items, time to finish, and one more? Maybe it was five. This mode is pretty fun as it encourages following different routes (especially if you're slightly behind) so you can get rings and stuff. This one was pretty fun - but the more varied the levels (with fewer chokepoints) the better. The earlier levels worked better when I was playing (3v3)jpTue, 18 Aug 2020 12:03:20 UTC Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (PS4) - 12 Aug 2020 - by jp watched the show based on the novel(s?) this game is based on. But it's been a while and I couldn't remember many of the details - this has made the experience playing the game (so far) quite interesting and fun in unexpected ways. As I play the game, I remember things about the story, and this helps motivate me and drive my curiosity. It also gives me some context that, I think, makes the game less confusing and easier to get into and understand. I never read the book, so I wonder if the game's structure (into chapters and books) is the same as the book? The show wasn't structured this way, as far as I recall, so it's kind of strange to say that the videogame is closer to the source material in terms of structure and order of presentation than the tv show! I'm really enjoying the art style as well, having played most (all?) of the Telltale games since Walking Dead, it's been a nice reminder that these kinds of games don't all have to look or be stylized in the same way as Telltale did. I guess it's also perhaps a sign of how influential that initial art style was? This game isn't 3D made to look 2D though - so in a way it works better since there are fewer (from my experience so far) moments where the 3D "breaks" the 2D illusion as it where. I've finished the 1st book (all 7 chapters), and I'm ready to continue - but I've also been wondering if the game will let me deviate significantly from major book plot points/events? I suspect not, and it's mostly moot since I don't recall all the major plot points...but there was one moment that seemed interesting: you're playing a kid trying to help your dad (the Builder) and can set fire to an old cathedral - I chose not to, but the character tripped and the fire happened anyways. There's a trophy for that - which I thought was interesting (is it rewarding doing the opposite of what happened in the book?), and clearly the old place HAD to burn down. So, I liked that moment and it reminded me of the paper I wrote on the significance of inconsequential choices (the church will burn regardless, but I still cared about the choice I made). I wonder if that will be the general (or has been?) strategy for major plot points? Let the player choose - but force the outcome regardless.jpWed, 12 Aug 2020 16:54:19 UTC Wars Battlefront II (PS4) - 08 Aug 2020 - by jp started playing the campaign and I was genuinely interested! The game looks great, you're playing an imperial agent and I'm intrigued as to where this will all go. However, once the action starts - it just doesn't seem to work all that well for me. I ran into too many moments where I was seeking cover by the side of a wall, shooting at an enemy well-within my sights and having all the shots go into...the wall. The camera seems to be a problem here and it's really getting in the way of things. Also, towards the tail end of the next mission (on Endor, trying to escape via some TIE fighters) - I died a lot due to enemies popping up out of nowhere and overwhelming me. The checkpoints weren't that generous so I got frustrated pretty soon. I've seen plenty of glitchy behavior too - with enemies floating around and bobbing behind cover. I'm not playing on easy - so I guess I could always dial that down, but I'm not having that much fun either? I've debated just deleting it (itching to see what Destiny 2 is up to, and there's the CoD battle royale I'm curious to try, but have no HDD space on the PS4 to spare). I don't know. I've heard the campaign was short and good - but I'm not seeing it yet. Give it more time?jpSat, 08 Aug 2020 14:52:03 UTC