Gamers, what are you up to?

October 12, 2008

Over the past ten or so days since my last post, I’ve been doing several relevant things (my justification for not blogging) toward my goal of writing in the game industry. I’ll list these things shortly, but I’m interested in what you guys and gals are up to. Now, I know that everyone thinks the indie project they’re working on is the next revolutionary idea and they want to keep it hush-hush, but c’mon. I know you’re dying to let someone know what kind of magic is happening and it might as well be me. Leave a comment with a relevant link to your site or wiki or whatnot; if for no other reason, use my blog as another way to market your project.

...sometimes the void looks back.

...sometimes the void looks back.

As for me, I recently purchased Fable: The Lost Chapters for the PC. I know it’s 4 years old or something, but better late than never, right? AND, with Fable 2 coming out this month, I think I’ve timed it perfectly; none of this waiting forever for a sequel. So, I’m almost finished with the Lost Chapters but feel like the game is more of a grind than actual fun now. I have never really felt all that attached to my character because he never says anything, even when directly asked a question. It’s a throw back to games like the first Final Fantasy or Breath of Fire (I loved this series!), but not in a good way. Don’t you think responses are just as likely to influence your “Good/Evil” gauge, or at least your public identity, as actions?

I also read Joseph Finder’s Power Play. Though this isn’t directly game related, reading is as big a part of writing as writing itself. If a musician doesn’t listen to music, why the hell are they doing it in the first place? If you like a quick read that is very smart and full of action, read this book. Mr. Finder has an amazing ability to keep a hostage situation believable from every perspective, while making you hate the big wigs in corporate America even more.

I just purchased Flint Dille and John Suur Platten’s The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design and wow! In the first 25 pages, I wrote 8 interesting pages based on their exercises. What I wrote may never see the light of day, but it’s writing – and it’s game writing to boot! If you remember, I attended Flint Dille’s panel at the Austin GDC and absolutely loved it. The man has a comfortable presence on stage and spoke with us (the audience) rather than to us. The same goes for the book; it comes across as casual/informal while tackling some very technical issues in an in-depth manner. Though I’m only halfway through it, I highly recommend it.

Lastly, if you haven’t heard, Richard Garriott is in space! This is just a cool thing, no matter how you slice it.

Now, I’ve shown you mine, time to show me yours. What are you up to? Show me, show me, show me!

Spore (PC) – Review

September 28, 2008

Probably the most hyped game in the past few months (definitely since GTA4 and MGS4), Spore is Will Wright’s and EA’s newest Sims-like game with added components of an RTS (real-time strategy). The object of the game is to take a creature from a microscopic stage (I’d say single-cell, but I’m not sure) of life all the way through galactic conquest via evolutionary add-ons, trade and warfare. How’s that for an elevator pitch?

Look! A Spike-tailed Bloody Phlegm!

Good: The game is an immersive world with a gradual learning curve. I believe this is something the whole family can enjoy for small snippets of time, but then again, I don’t have kids. Do I have any parents reading? What do you think?

The Creature Creator (sold seperately for those who want to populate their world with their own creations) is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the ability to fully customize the positions of arms, legs, necks, tails, spinal curvature , spikes, poison jets, skin color and texture, etc. The curse: for anyone with any level of OCD, get ready to spend a lot of time color coordinating arms and legs, swelling the belly and tapering the tails – and when you’re finally done with the creature, you’ll be too mentally fatigued to play the game that day.

Ahh...Cartoony-space. What can't you do?

Ahh...Cartoony-space. What can't you do?

Another beautiful aspect of the game that other studios should pay attention to is the level pacing. There are five different stages, or levels, to Spore: Cellular, Creature, Tribal, Civilization and Space (or Kick in the Nards). I found that when I began to tire of swallowing bits of cellular debris and adding spikes to my sides, it was time to move to the next stage. Also, by the time I made it to space, I was worried the game was almost over, only to find around 40% of the game’s content is in the final stage. Just say no to final stage Boss Battles and yes to long, immersive, final levels allowing you to use everything you’ve learned throughout the game!

The bad: Repetition. Once you make it to space, it’s all about repeating the terraforming and colonization of other planets and returning home to defend your planets. When you pan out to see the galactic view, you realize how long a journey you have to make it to the center and how many of these planets you have to colonize…and then you yawn. So, long final level? Check. Immersive? BONK!

Also, if you’re truly talking about an evolving species, the creature should have to carry on the traits of his ancestors, not suddenly switch from being a carnivore to an herbivore or removing all spikes and adding dancing feet. It’s fun, but doesn’t this destroy the idea of evolution?