Similar to my RPG idea, I have another game idea swimming around my thoughts. Unfortunately I don’t know how interesting it would be to people other then myself. So I’m going to put it out there for the half dozen or so people who read this blog.

This game is an adventure action game, the story is you play someone who can see into the future when they dream ( a powerful form of lucid dreaming). Most of the time you see yourself getting an A on that test, or getting a date with the hot girl, except for one night when something disturbing happens. You dream that your in some kind of undisclosed building you’ve never been in before,the watch on your hand says that it is one month from where time is now. You make your way to the entrance which has been boarded up, grabbing a crowbar you start ripping the boards off , when suddenly you feel a sharp pain through your chest, looking down you see a blade sticking out of you. You turn around to see someone with a strange mask on chanting as they remove the blade and perform the coup d’etat.

The objective is you need to figure who is going to kill you, where the murder is going to take place, and figure out how to keep yourself alive when the time comes. I’m thinking that once a week you will have the dream again which depending upon actions taken during the week could change the situation. Each time you dream you have full control of yourself as you try to gather any and all clues that could save your life. During the rest of the week you will go to classes meet with friends and family ( I still don’t know how involved this would be) as more clues come together you may try to sneak around and investigate your friend’s homes to see if they’re doing something suspicious.

Right now I don’t know if the entire game will just be that one month, or if there will be a story as survival means that someone else will try to kill you revealing a major conspiracy. The idea of effecting the event comes from dealing with your friends and loved ones. Suddenly all those innocuous questions could mean something. For instance if your friends asks you how your leg is doing and you say it’s bothering you, you might find your leg broken upon reliving the event. There will be a lot of replay value as the killer will be different each time, and there are many ways to come to the truth.

So what do you guys thing, best seller or bargain bin? I forget how I came up with the idea, perhaps I dreamt it and I’m really psychic, or I have way too much time on my hands. Both are very good possibilities 🙂

Josh

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One subject of constant debate is on making concessions of game design to appeal to the mainstream over the core gamers. This argument has been told countless times regarding the Wii, but for this entry it will be on game design in general. I find this topic interesting as I come from a game play first point of view, and I prefer to keep my nose out of the business end of things.

Let’s get a few thing straight, the more complex a title is the narrower the fan base is going to be. That will never change, 12 year old boys aren’t interested in adjusting tax sliders to get optimum economic balance. However game play depth keeps gamers playing longer and can easily make up for less then amazing graphics among other things (look at X-Com). As I mentioned in an earlier entry, creating games is a business first and foremost, but should it get in the way of creating a great game?

In an interview Will Wright said that the game play of Spore was intentionally simplified to attract a larger audience at the cost of the game play depth. Unfortunately for someone like me that has put the final nail in the coffin for Spore and I will not be buying Spore anytime soon. I perfectly understand the position however, by making the game play simple more kids and non gamers will buy it making more money for Maxis and EA, and perhaps give Will Wright the authority to make a complex game play driven title at some point. I still believe that this was a mistake, and I don’t see people coming back to Spore or going to be calling it the best game out there. The meat of any game is the game play, the stuff the player is going to be doing, by removing it your leaving the player with less to do. Now I want to take this chance to explain something.

I’m not talking about niche or casual games for this entry, but the multi million dollar AAA games that are released. For niche titles I expect to sweat the details, and I want to see if that piece of armor provides .34242352 more protection then another, simplifying games aimed at niche gamers is a huge mistake. On the other hand when I play a casual game I’m not looking for something to tax my brain. I just want to hit a few buttons or deal with one kind of game mechanic and have fun. Both sides are fine in my opinion, the middle ground comes from the mainstream titles, the ones we see advertised on TV all the time.

Can a game be complex and still be enjoyed by the mainstream? I say yes but with a few caveats, no matter what you will most likely annoyed the extreme ends of both sides of your audience. Unless you actually create two games in one, one very simple and one very complex, but I doubt a publisher will be interested in that. Another way to look at this is looking at the titles Peter Molyneux, I’ve said it before that I’ve yet to find a game he’s made recently that I’ve fallen in love with. Yet I love the ideas he dreams up, and I’m willing to vote for his titles every time. I’d rather support the guy who takes chances and will either win big or lose big then the one who plays it safe every time. I’m looking forward to Fable 2, having enjoyed the first one but felt it could have been so much better.

The trick is to balance out these two opposing forces, whether it is better to create a game that will make loads of money or create one that fans will be playing for a very long time. I think Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said ” You can please some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.”

Josh

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Tonight’s entry is on the joy of AARs or After Action Reports. Personality I think these sell games better then advertisements and have really become the cornerstone of selling niche titles. An AAR is basically a dramatic retelling of some one’s game play experience, strategy titles lend themselves the best in my opinion for AARs, as they give the player time to think, and can let the player fill in a lot of the story gaps with their imagination. I know that I’ve wanted to play more games thanks to AARs, and if it wasn’t for one I would have never tried X-Com in the first place, yet they also help in another way.

Creative writing, let’s face it not the best course for gamers who have to write about some uninteresting topic. Yet AARs thrive on the creativity and imagination of their writers, who can take in game events and turn them into amazing tales. Creative writing would have been so much better if we could write AARs. Being able to write an excellent AAR is a great way for writers to improve their story telling, and provide some entertainment for their friends.

Thanks to AARs, I’ve played Galactic Civilizations 2, King of Dragon Pass, Armageddon Empires, X-Com, and I attempted to play Dominions 2 (thank you Bruce Geryk). Now here’s a list of some of my favorites and ones you need to read.

X-Com the book:: The first AAR that I read on X-Com and my favorite, not only involving myself (Pfreak was my code name), but convincing me that I had to play X-Com. A great AAR that actually had a successful ending (for those that play strategy titles on hard, that is pretty rare).

X-Com 2 Electric Boogaloo: A 2nd AAR based on X-Com, except this time it’s based on a modern day remake of it. While this one doesn’t have a true ending (due to limitations of the mod) it does feature a lot more behind the scenes drama. Which sure as hell beats most Soaps these days. I had yet another guest star role under the same name, this time however surviving a lot longer and kicking much more alien ass.

Farming with Trolls 101: This one is on the game King of Dragon Pass, and is important on the list. I knew about the other games before reading their respective AARs, however this was my first glimpse at the game, and has gotten me interested enough to add it to my list of games to buy once money starts coming in. Unfortunately the writer had to stop due to problems, but he did an excellent job of getting me and other people interested in this little known gem.

Horny rabbits in Space Part one and two : No this isn’t a Cinemax feature, you sickos out there, but a humorous look at galactic conquest with Galactic Civilizations 2. Part 1 deals with the game with the first expansion and part 2 which is being worked on now has both expansions. While they’re not detailed on game mechanics, they inject much needed personality to the game. Looking at what’s been added with the latest expansion makes me want to try it out.

AARs are a great way to get your game noticed and help sell the more complex titles out there. I would love to do one on a game, but I need to find one that I’m generally good at and that hasn’t been attempted yet, no way can I compete with the X-Com ones.

Josh.

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When I was going through my mind about the best movie license games it didn’t hit me to think about not so current titles. Tonight once again proving that I’m late to the party, I finally watched Tron for the first time. This was not the first time I was introduced to the world of Tron, the first was one of my favorite license titles and an exceptional movie based game .

Tron 2.0 was a game based on a movie, that took place in a video game (phew try wrapping your head around that for a second). The game was basically a sequel to the original movie that came out in 1982, staring the son of one of the main characters. Unfortunately I traded the game a few years ago and haven’t bought another copy so pardon me if my memory is hazy about the story. The game managed to do a lot of things right which in some ways mirror the Chronicles of Riddick success.

First is the pedigree of the developers, Monolith has a reputation for great first person shooters, they were of course behind No One Lives Forever (which I did not play alright! I just know someone is going to comment), and later on FEAR. Then there is the license itself, a movie like this really just begs to be made into a video game, which gave us basic arcade games back in the old days. Monolith not only managed to capture the world, but gave us some great moments. Tron 2.0 looked fantastic giving us that wire frame look that we all know and love. The developers had an easy time taking the movie property and making a game out of it, as the movie itself takes place inside a game.

The run and gun aspects of a FPS were different in Tron 2.0. First is the pivotal weapon the info disc, it isn’t used like a regular gun for obvious reasons, and can also be used for defense. The game had a lite RPG system allowing the player to install upgrades onto themselves and to their various weapons (I’m still waiting on the parts for Josh 1.65, I’m getting laser eyes), making the basic game play different for players. Then there are the some of the best moments of the movie put into game form. Info disc battles and light cycle combat, both featured and used for great effect. One of my favorite levels in Tron 2.0 was having the player escape the nightmare that is formatting the hard drive. Watching the level being erased by a giant red wall of death was a great moment. The game wasn’t perfect however, it did feature a lot more platforming elements compared to most FPS including one level that was nothing but. Still it worked in many ways like other great license titles.

The first way is that the game was built as a sequel to the movie, not for the movie itself. This allowed the designers to take more liberties and not follow the events of the movie rigidly. While Chronicles of Riddick was designed to take place before the movie, Tron 2.0 took place after Tron. The game play as mentioned above was not dumbed down and in many ways had more then the average FPS which is similar to CoR again. Once again game play was not sacrificed for using a movie license in a game, which is the main recurring theme in great license titles.

Supposedly there was a Tron movie sequel in the works to go along with Tron 2.0, I haven’t heard anything about that, fortunately Tron 2.0 is an acceptable continuation of that universe.

Josh

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