Archive for January, 2011

Global Game Jam

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Uncategorized
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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).

I hope you like it! Hopefully, we’ll be releasing some more games like this.

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Castle Ravenloft: The Solo Adventures

Posted: January 28, 2011 in 5 Hearts
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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.

3Doku

Posted: January 26, 2011 in 4 Hearts
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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.

4/5 HeartsIf you’re interested in playing 3Doku, you can find it at the Mac App Store for $2.99.

WolfQuest

Posted: January 24, 2011 in 3.5 Hearts
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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.

Atlantis and Lusternia

Posted: January 19, 2011 in 3.5 Hearts, 4 Hearts
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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.

4/5 Hearts

MIT Mystery Hunt

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
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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.