Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Calling Game Artists!

Both audio and visual artists wanted.

Yes, this is actually just a call to arms, not a full on blog post. So here's the deal, I want to write a game for the Android platform, something that I have yet to see. It's an idea I have been playing with that's a fantasy TCG and RPG game, yes, both types combined into one solid game with an in depth story and top notch gameplay. Pretty much a game that I would want to pay for, and I see many others asking if such a game exists so there is a market for it.

Those who contribute will get an equal share of ownership, that means your work is still under your control and should the game garner any profits in the future you will receive an equal share of it. But this offer only extends to those who work on this from the beginning. After that initial beginning any new contributors will be handled on an individual basis.

I am not doing this for profit, it's just my own project, however the potential for profit is unlimited as the game will be easily expandable, offering some pay-for content in the future. It's a great opportunity for beginning visual and audio artists looking to hone their skills and gain notoriety with a chance to even earn some money, though no promises on the money at this time.

    GUI graphics designer for icons.
    3D model designer for in game elements.
    Music score artist for in background music.

Styles include fantasy and war.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Transport Tycoon - Android Version

I am one of those old, almost fanatical, fans of the Transport Tycoon series. I loved Transport Tycoon Deluxe, even the open source Transport Tycoon Deluxe games were always better than the previous. But 31X screwed up the Transport Tycoon for Android platforms.

To put it simply, it's as if they took a huge dump on the original then sold it for profit, to milk the original title's fame. My first problem, it's too much like the typical Android sim games, too many crappy bubbles and balloons floating everywhere, getting in the way of the scenery and elements that actually give the game a chance.

The transparency settings also don't do much better, and are too difficult to access on the fly, making track and road laying more of a hassle than challenging. The rest of the track and road laying system is good, perfect for the touch screen. But when you go underground everything is in the way, making underground useless.

This leads to the most horrible aspect of the game, the path-finding algorithms. The original algorithms were not great, but the vehicles did obey the way-points, but in this version they ignore the way-points and often wander around aimlessly. The open source, completely free, versions have such powerful path finding that they even implemented lights that allow for realistic tracks. But 31X charges for a path finding algorithm that doesn't even work.

There are gamers who will support just open source, others who only support mainstream markets, I support both. But you should get what you pay for, and this app is not worth anything. The only benefit is that it's designed for touch screen, and none of the others are. That's it. They couldn't even be bothered to port anything. So in this instance, the open source is a million times better than the made for profit one.

If you like the original Transport Tycoon series, steer clear of this game.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Games For Girls

This entire notion that video games are for specific genders only enforces the lame stereotypes that we, as a species, should be discarding by now. Yet I see the question come up so often it's verging on becoming an epidemic. Girls are just as capable of problem solving, hand-eye coordination, and enjoying great art as much as boys, so why delegate games that are "for girls" at all?

The flaw many game developers have is their who misconception that a girl needs to be driven to the gaming market. Now, in the 80s and 90s parents were not buying video games for their girls, but were buying them for their boys, that does not mean girls do not enjoy the same games, just as much, that's the parents' faults. However, in recent years we have seen a huge increase in female gamers, of all ages, into the video game market. So why are they still doing the "for girls" nonsense? Parents.

Again, the parents are to blame for this total nonsense. They will buy only specific "girly" games for their girls, and everything else for their boys, thinking that's what their children like without even asking them. My very first favorite game was Final Fantasy, the original, the very first one made. I loved that game from day one, it was challenging and had a decent story. For the time, the graphics were pleasing. But Final Fantasy was never considered a "girls game."

So if you find this post while trying to find tips on what to buy for your kids, I offer some real advice, and suggest you ditch the 18th century ideas when walking into the future with us.

1. Find out what the child likes. Games are classified as genres, which will loosely describe the type of challenges the player will be facing. These genres come from real life interests, such as puzzles, card games, or strategy. That is your starting point, your first list of games.

2. Show the child videos and images from the game. What they like in imagery may not be what society has tried to tell everyone else what they like. Let them decide. Some girls may prefer the fancy dragons, well drawn and sculpted models of fantastic beasts. Others may prefer the cute animals of Pokemon, well, most of them are adorable. See what sparks their imagination, what captures their attention, not what you think should capture their attention.

3. If possible, let them play the demos. Demo versions are becoming exceedingly popular, devs have found that people who are unsure whether to buy a game are often persuaded by the demo, so you will find plenty of them in the download markets for most game systems. Nintendo's eShop has almost as many demos as they have games now.

4. Do not make suggestions of any sort. You do have the power to say "no" to titles you may find inappropriate, like GTA should not be played by anyone under the age of 18. Just don't say "hey, this looks fun." Kids' opinions should develop on their own, and you injecting your opinion will prevent them from becoming their own person. Let them say "this looks like fun." Make note of what they say, how they react, that is your key to finding them the best game ever for their first experience.

5. If all else fails, read the reviews and discuss them with the child.

The first video game for a child should be a memorable one, one that they can look back on with fond memories of a time when everything was right in the world, when they actually appreciated their parents. Yes, it is a lot of work when done correctly, but then, everything that's worth doing takes a lot of work. Do not rush the process, let them decide on their own pace, let this be the first grown up thing they ever do.

I could go on and on about how parenting today has to change, but that's not the purpose of this article. What I want to encourage parents to do is spend the time to do this right. We have so few such events in a person's life now, a side effect of modernization, video games, especially the first one, offers us opportunities that we have never had before.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Strategy of Bravely Default

Few role playing video games have ever truly captured the notion of strategy, at least until Bravely Default. I had maxed out all the levels, mastered all the jobs, and gotten most of the best equipment long before the final chapter. I thought that this will make the game so boring after this, and that every encounter would be too easy to bother with. I was never so wrong.

Going through all the abilities for each job class, I discovered that there is no "ultimate" setup, and that the enemies in the later chapters are not dependent on their stat values either. Now the game requires pure strategy to progress, no more mining for the best of things, you have to set up each character and their gear to fit into any given situation, a specific area or boss. If all your characters are the same, you will fail.

One of the best classes is the salve-maker, great for healers and attackers. The item attack items do a constant damage value, not based on stats or levels, and they ignore the default action. Attack items always do the same damage, only effected by weaknesses, making them a consistent method of reducing the HP of enemies, as they are also not effected by the number of targets.

For the healer, the medication ability offers a cost-free method or raising all allies. Combined with the healing boost from the salve-maker and using the blessed shield, your healer only needs a good knight to cover them. This is where your variation is a must, a good knight character can protect your healer from many attacks by using the full cover ability, and a ton of defensive equipment. Then give them revenge from your red mage job and they can do full cover with powerful attacks.

The key is how you mix and match your characters and their abilities, the equipment has less of an effect at this point, they depend on their support abilities the most. A knight with dual shield can become invincible, but will offer no real damage to the battle. A healer with salve-maker can keep everyone fighting, but will never have the time to use their offensive abilities. A thief can help with gaining a lot of items from the opponents, but will need a secondary job to become useful in battle, like black mage or vampire.

The one flaw with the strategy system at this point is that there are so many ways to accomplish things, so many variations and builds that can work, there is no "ultimate" combination. You will have to experiment, play around with various arrangements, to find what works best for you in which situation.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bravely Default - A Breath of Fresh Air (with only one flaw)

My first impressions of a game tend to change, often after playing a game for a few days I find more flaws in it than I anticipate. But this one is a rare gem that just gets better. From the "job" system to the rewards for showing you know what to do, Bravely Default has more useful stuff to unlock than almost every RPG I have played. The rebuilding of the town is one of the most useful, and interesting, aspects you have to unlock as you progress.

But first let's look at the jobs, and there are so many of them. The system has a balance to it, while you can level up all the job classes before you need too, with a lot of patience, you cannot make much use of the better abilities until you progress through the story. Most games struggle to find that balance, you can either make your characters over-powerful way too soon, or you find that your characters are not strong enough later on. The job system, combined with the abilities, of Bravely Default finds a great balance.

Each job has abilities and skills, which you can mix and match, with limits, to tailor your characters for various areas. If you rush through the story, your characters will do okay, but if you take the time to mine experience points and job points you will unlock abilities and skills that can make the next area easier.

But point mining is not tedious. The battle system of the game offers a strategy like system, at first even common battles will take forever, while you chop away at the enemies. After a few levels though, you can rush through the battles using "brave" to demolish the enemies, and gain some bonuses for it. The key is learning the weak points of everything, while there are the standard elemental weaknesses some weapons are stronger against some enemy types.

Most axes are strong against enemies in the water family, most bows are strong against enemies in the flying family, and so forth. Taking advantage of these weak points can sway a battle, making it faster, but if you have nothing to use that they are weak too, your battles will still be interesting. The balance of enemies in a location is helpful. In a fire cave you will encounter mostly enemies weak to water, on water they'll be weak to lightning and water, and so forth.

Now on to the breathtaking part of the game, the graphics. Most games these days throw together a bunch of models that they think are so awesome and beautiful, but ultimately just look like cookie cutter versions of other games, and the scenery is always neglected. Bravely Default had some real thought put into it, the scenery is truly awesome and beautiful.

Each locale in the game is crafted so well, and the 3D modeling enhances the scenery, rather than obscuring it like most games. The developers appear to have modeled the world around the images, and the images appear to be hand painted. With the stereoscopic effect on for the 3DS it all looks like a handcrafted model set, illustrating the story so well.

The cinematic scenes are brilliantly composed, giving the appearance and feel of watching a stage play. The characters are all beautifully done, and fit within the scenery. The effects for highlighting focus in battles is also really well done. There is but one major flaw, and this is not the fault of the developers.

The costumes for some of the characters had to be edited, because of oversensitive sensibilities in North America. Yep, a bikini had to be edited into shorts, for example, just because the people in my region are so perverted they think bikinis are sexual content. Or perhaps it was some feminist nonsense. Either way, the original costumes would have been better only because we could have gotten this game much sooner.

That leads into another topic though, so I digress. Bravely Default's story is one of those typical "gotta save the world, oops, we did it wrong" stories. Very common in anime, manga, and Japanese RPGs, but one of my favorite types of stories so meh. The game's story feels a lot like the original Final Fantasy games, before Final Fantasy got ruined by idiotic fans and developers turning it into something tedious and boring.

So if you enjoy retro style RPGs, JPRGs, or a lot of content, Bravely Default is certainly for you. I hope you can enjoy the stereoscopic effect in the game as well, it's so well done, but the camera zooming will cause some players to lose focus a lot, which is a minor flaw as you can turn off that effect for the game and still enjoy the breathtaking art.