Home Talks and Slides My GameLog Research and Projects Publications Resume Teaching
GameBreadth Project  //   Game Ontology Project  //   GameLog

My GameLog

A person who is seriously interested in games, game studies, and game design should play a lot of games.

To the right you will see the latest GameLog (diary) entries I have recorded for the games I'm currently playing and my thought and feelings on the game, the experience of playing it, and so on. If you want to see all the games I'm playing, or the ones I'm no longer playing you can follow the "List of Games I'm Currently Playing" and the " List of Games I've Finished Playing".

GameLog Logo

During the summer of 2003 I started a little project to keep track of the videogames I had been playing. I also wanted to keep track of my thoughts as I played them. Thus, GameLog was born as a blogging tool for gamers. If you are interested you can hop on over and register. I personally enjoy reading about other people's thoughts on the games they play and the more the merrier!

Games I'm Currently Playing ] - [ Games I've Finished Playing ]

Wednesday 21 September, 2022   //  The Simpsons Game (DS)

Ok, 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!

Wednesday 21 September, 2022   //  Unexplored 2 (PC)

Here'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?)

Sunday 18 September, 2022   //  The Simpsons Game (DS)

This 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, 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.

Monday 5 September, 2022   //  The Simpsons Game (DS)

Having 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!

I have been keeping track of this information for the past 19 year(s), 3 month(s) and 2 day(s).

kudos for original design to Rodrigo Barria