Well, I just spent the entire weekend working on the Global Game Jam. It was really fun. This year my team (made up of friends of mine from school and larping) created a web game about being a cute little bacteria named Cillo and you’re trying to colonize and survive. If you’re interested in playing our game you can find it at Prokaryote Hero. Tell me what you think. Long hours of work went into this game (and into playing League of Legends).
Archive for January, 2011
Castle Ravenloft is a board game that was released this year by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. The basic idea of the game is that you’re playing fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons in the Ravensloft setting only the rules are simplified and the characters are pre-generated. One of the best things about Castle Ravenloft for those of us who haven’t got people to play with all the time is the solo adventures that are included. The adventure booklet is your DM and you are the hero(es) and the monsters. Both of the solo adventures are well written and easily explain the fact that you’re one adventurer on your own in the world where normally adventurers travel in packs.
The art and the miniatures are gorgeous. The miniatures for this game are plastic casts of the real miniatures released for use with Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve actually had my roommates raiding my copy of Castle Ravenloft for their D&D game. The art on the cards for the attacks and items are also really nice. Everything is color coded and easy to use. Even the miniatures are color coded, heroes being one color, low level monsters another, etc.
Castle Ravenloft does very well at maintaining a level of urgency. It always feels like you’re about to lose any second now, especially in the solo missions. I actually finished one of them, a mission where you have multiple heroes you can use but only one at a time, and the last one I had left was the wizard. It was really close, but I barely scraped out the victory. The level of urgency is wonderful. The stories are also well written which helps the feel of the game.
My one problem with Castle Ravenloft is really just a petty grievance from a gamer who has played 3.5 and 4.0 D&D. The rules are way simplified. But that is also a good thing, really. It means that people who don’t normally play table top roleplaying games can play this and not feel like they’re left behind or slowing down play like can be the problem in real tabletop play.
In conclusion, Castle Ravenloft’s solo game play is very well done. I really love that it exists. Most games like this don’t acknowledge the fact that its very difficult sometimes to find other people willing to play. And so, I give Castle Ravenloft’s solo adventures a 5 out of 5 hearts and thoroughly suggest at least that you try playing it at some point.
Hopefully soon I will get some people to play Castle Ravenloft with me and a camera so I can take some pictures of the board while in play. Once I have, a review of the multiplayer portion of the game will be available.
I picked up a neat little game in the Mac App Store the other day. Its called 3Doku and the basic concept is that its sudoku, only in 3D. Its quite neat and way harder than normal sudoku, which is something I needed. You work through slices to solve each puzzle and they’re all dependent on each other. The graphics are really simple, but are exactly what you need to play. It tells you when you pick a number wrong and has a little toolbar for adding notes and stuff. The only thing I can find wrong with this game is that when you enable “View Hints”, it basically gives you the answers. Its kind of sad actually. There’s nothing like watching a sudoku game with 584 empty cells left be solved in under a minute because all you have to do is input the answers like it tells you to.
Now, while the “View Hints” thing bothers me, the rest of the game is quite fun. I really like having a nice challenging sudoku game. Sadly, there isn’t all that much more to say. Its pretty much self explanatory. Its a well made little game. For that, I give it a 4 out of 5.
WolfQuest is a serious game devoted to educating people about the plight of the wolf in the wild and just how hard it is for a wolf to survive and form a family. It also teaches about wolves in general, demonstrating things like pack hunting behaviors and communication methods. The basic concept of the game is that you’re a dispersal wolf seeking a mate so that you can start your own pack. In my case, I was playing a black and brown female named Runt. The wolf you play is highly customized which is a really nice touch. The graphics are quite nice and I felt very immersed in the wolf’s habitat and life. The controls are for the most part very simple to use and understand, though I’ve yet to get the hang of hunting elk. The wolf interaction scenes are very neat, with the same sort of dialogue choices that most RPGs have.
Now, I get to start my complaints. Periodically, I’m getting stuck in “conversation mode” when there aren’t any other wolves around or when there is, but I have no dialogue options. I’ve had to load from save repeatedly because of this. Save early save often, while a fabulous motto in programming, should not be the way to play a video game. While that is my only real complaint, its a problem that is really hindering game play. I actually beat the first episode but couldn’t save because I got stuck in conversation mode and 5 tries later I haven’t been able to find a dispersal male since.
Overall, this game does a very good job in teaching the things it seeks to teach, and subtly enough that it isn’t annoying. Its a very good game along with being educational. It has some programming flaws that make play hard at times, but hopefully these bugs can be fixed in a later version. I’ll give WolfQuest a 3.5 out of 5 hearts. Its very good, but fix that bug!
If you’re interested in playing WolfQuest and learning about the wolves and their natural habitat, check it out for free at wolfquest.org.
Something came up in class today, something that I’m very interested in hearing people’s opinions on. Quest dialogue, do you read it? When do you read it? Why do you read it? When a game designer takes 80 hours to write up the dialogue, we kind of care whether it gets read or not and there is a strange phenomenon where people playing MMORPGs don’t read quest dialogue. I’m really curious why. I know that I read the quest dialogue in the games that I play. But, well, its very well established that I care deeply about the story of the world I’m playing in. Do you just want to power through leveling in an MMO and read the dialogue in single player games? Do you power through all games? I know I power through quests that I’ve repeated. Like, the entire blood elf starting area. You have no idea how many blood elves I have leveled. But anyway, drop me a comment so I know how you feel about this.
Tags: Linux Game, Mac Game, PC Game
First up, in the this double feature episode, I’ll be talking about the Atlantis MUD client. A MUD, or multi user dungeon, is a long standing tradition in geeky gaming. At first, these text based role-playing adventure games were the only multiplayer online games available but over the years, we’ve moved up in the world and developed graphics. But that doesn’t mean that the MUD is dead. Far from it, in fact. These games can be played in several ways, including through command line magic, portals made by the game’s developers or through clients like Atlantis. The Atlantis client is fairly bare bones compared to other MUD clients out there, but I like it because it does what I need it to. It has an address book for the MUD servers that you want to keep track of and allows you to be connected to multiple MUD servers at once, notifying you if something happens in one of the other games while you aren’t looking. Certainly, it doesn’t have on screen maps or hotkeys like some MUD clients, but I don’t really need those. I have the in-game map and I like to type out the commands. Granted, some people might like that sort of thing.Second up in the double feature is Lusternia. Lusternia is a MUD which is fantasy based. I play Lara, a wiccan in training, who is part of the Serenwilde Commune. The game is very detailed and also very user friendly. I’ve played other MUDs before where I couldn’t figure out in the slightest what I was supposed to be doing and the combat system completely eluded me. This one is fairly straight forward. Quite a few of the quests are layed fetch and carry quests, but its entertaining at the very least. I’ve only really explored a very small amount of this game, being only level 16. You don’t even get out of being a novice until you’re level 21. I suggest that you try it out.
So the scores. First up, the Atlantis MUD client. Simple to use and stores the bare minimum of information you need to play. Its functional and simple to use. Some other clients have more frills, though. In total, it get a 3.5 out of 5 hearts.
And Lusternia. A very entertaining MUD, well done and user friendly. From what I’ve played so far, I give it a 4 out of 5 hearts.
Well, this was a remarkably sleepless weekend, but it was a blast. For the first time ever, I competed on the WPI team for the MIT Mystery Hunt. The basic idea of the Mystery Hunt is that we have to fight our way through a series of puzzles. This year, we went through worlds 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3 from Mario Bros, Megaman, Zelda, Katamari Damacy and Portal. In order to go through these levels we had to solve multi-layered puzzles including such things as math problems where subtraction isn’t really subtraction but is actually related to the Fibonacci Sequence or crazy crossword puzzles including teleportation. Once you solve all the puzzles in an area, world 1-2 for example, you gain the knowledge necessary to solve the meta puzzle. Its quite ingenious. The goal is to be the first team to solve all of the meta puzzles and then the super meta puzzle and find the coin that signifies your victory. This is no small task, especially given the difficulty level of the puzzles. I loved this weekend, this was one of the best games I’ve ever played. The puzzles run everything from esoteric programming knowledge to random youtube videos and that’s just the first level. I can’t wait until next year. I spent the entire weekend at our satellite base in Worcester instead of going in to Cambridge so that we could sleep in our own beds instead of on floors somewhere in the student center or something.
A more normal post will be available on Wednesday. I’ll probably be talking about Atlantis, the client I just started using for the MUD that I play. I might start talking about the MUD as well. Its called Lusternia. Its quite a good bit of fun.
And now we move back into that hectic time of year where I have classes. On the plus side, I’ll be taking 3 game design courses this term so my classes will be conducive to writing on this blog. Who knows, you might even get to hear about some of my projects. Sadly, I can’t say all because I already had to sign a non-disclosure for one of my courses. Stupid super secret game design engines. Well, anyway, there wont be much in the way of a post today, but I’m getting ready for the MIT Mystery Hunt this weekend.
The MIT Mystery Hunt is a pretty amazing thing run up at MIT where there are puzzles in puzzles in puzzles in…you get it. The end goal is to solve the super meta puzzles. This year’s theme appears to be Super Mario Bros. We think we have to save Peach. Maybe. Its hard to tell. Well, back to work I go. On Monday, I’ll talk about how it went.
When last I was discussing the ESRB, I had left off with games that are rated for anyone over the age of 10 years old. So now we get into the games for teenagers and adults. In this category, we start with the T rating. The T rating is commonly known as T for Teen. These games are intended to be for people over the age of 13. Games rated T are things like Tomb Raider and tend to be very violent and have strong sexual overtones. These games also can have gambling and strong language. Now, here’s something that tends to confuse me. What exactly is mild language and what is strong language? As far as I can tell strong language is the frequent use of “profanities” and mild language is the much less frequent use of those same words. I think.
Next up is the M rating. M stands for Mature and this is where my hands-on knowledge of the games gets a touch sketchy. I don’t tend to play games that are more than a T rating. Blood Rayne is really the only game I’ve played with an M rating for more than a a few hours. A lot of the popular military games have an M rating because of the violence and language. These games have a lot of blood and gore (see also : zombies or explosives). The M rated games are rated for play by people over the age of 17, which seems like a fairly arbitrary cut-off to be perfectly honest. Considering how you can drive at 16 and vote at 18. Well, I guess 17 is where you get violent video games. Sure…
And the rest, the rest is just porn. No, I’m not kidding. If a game has an Ao rating (Adult Only), it is for people who are 18 and up only. A lot of gaming stores won’t even carry these games. They include such titles as the various games by Play Boy and one of the Grand Theft Auto games. There are exactly 24 games on the list of those with an Ao rating as of right now. These games are the one case where I will flat out say, listen to the age recommendations. In the case of the others, its really up to you as a parent to think about what your child is ready for. I was playing Blood Rayne in middle school and I’m certainly not a homicidal maniac. But Ao games are a completely different kettle of fish. If you wouldn’t want your child to have a copy of Play Boy, then don’t give them any of these games.
And this concludes my explanation of the ESRB rating system. I hope it helps you in your attempts to buy games both for yourself and others in the future. I have to say, I enjoyed writing this up and I might see about writing some more of this sort of helpful guide. Have anything in the gaming world that mystifies you? Anything you’d love to know? Looking for anything in particular in a game? Leave a comment or email me and I’ll be sure to help you out.
Sorry for not posting on Friday, I was moving back in at school and didn’t have the time I would have liked to write up a post. Instead, I’ve decided to start working on an informative series I like to call The ESRB and You : How not to buy the wrong games for your kids.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing ratings for the content of games and making sure that advertising doesn’t contain things might offend people or be inappropriate for some viewers. The rating system at its core is quite simple, but it has both just enough similarities and enough differences from the system used to rate movies that it can be confusing at times.
First up is “ec” or early childhood. These games are approved for very small children to play. Games that fall in this category are usually things like Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street or the Jump Start series. They tend to be educational and have absolutely no violence or inappropriate themes. The controls also tend to be very simple and friendly.
Next up is “E” or everyone. Games rated E for Everyone are also very kid-friendly though not all kid oriented. These games include a lot of sports games and puzzle games along with some games with mild language and cartoon violence. So here comes the question : What is cartoon violence? Cartoon violence is when the characters aren’t human or poof in a cloud instead of leaving corpses or don’t really die, they just pass though. Things like that. Take the Pokemon games for example. In those games, when you lose a battle, your Pokemon merely faints rather than dies. Or you could look at games like Super Mario Bros. where you fight giant mushrooms and turtles and no one really dies and its very unrealistic. Games rated E are, according to the ESRB, for children 6 and older. This is usually the case, though with anything, if you have any questions about the game and its suitability for your child, you should play it yourself and see what you think.
The last game I’ll cover in this installment is E 10+ or everyone over 10. These games might be more violent or have more mild language and unlike E games, E 10+ games can have some mild suggestive themes, which is why they shouldn’t be played until a child is old enough to understand them. An example of a game rated E 10+ is Rockband 3. The game has no violence, but the lyrics to the songs might have mild language or suggestive themes. Again, its up to you as the parent to know whether or not your child is ready for these kinds of things.
As a game designer, I take the claims that video games can cause children to become violent very seriously and somewhat personally. I’ve been playing video games for longer than I can remember and while yes, I do enjoy playing a high combat swordplay game on the weekends, I’m not really a violent person. My parents always made sure they knew what I was playing and that I was capable of understanding the themes present in the game and capable of knowing what should and should not be applied to real life and what should stay in the game. This is something that all parents should do. If you have any questions about a particular game, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and maybe I can tell you about it. Always remember, yours is the final say and you should be paying attention to the games that your child plays.