Archive for February, 2011

A cycle of continuous withdrawal and addiction

So there, I’ve finally done it again, another year have gone by and I am thrown back into the well again.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it really much means that I can only see one part of the world, and think that this is the only world that I will live in and live with.  But all the philosophy aside, I am talking about my on and off again relationship with World of Warcraft.  After 6 years of this game even I wonder to myself sometimes how I can go back to it, but how can I not when people around me constantly tempt me?  When my brother constantly insist that the game is “different”, much like how people say each version of the iPhone is different.

All the login screens of the expansions

Growing up with WoW since my high school days, I’ve always never realized everyone’s motivation in playing it, and after the recent lecture about people the things people do to achieve and obtain a virtual character, it just struck me again.

Character selection screen

I think it really comes down to what are the qualities of a good online RPG, but I think if we are to list all of them we can go all day.  Because let’s be honest, one can only fit so many things into a game, and the reason behind the successes of many games are hugely due to their execution and their appeal to the need of modern gamers.  On the topic of WoW, their execution methods are practically ever-changing, so much to the point that it doesn’t even feel like I am playing the same game I did a year ago anymore.  Quest interactions, quirky references to movies and other games make the game stand amongst so many other old-school RPG’s out there.  Such techniques really separate you from being you and REALLY into someone else at times.  Because honestly, who would want to level a character from 1-85 being the same person?  I mean sure you get stronger, but at the end of it all you are just…you.  But what makes it different in WoW is that while you are forced to follow that law, it attempts to throw you into the role of an actual hero of a nation, an actual achiever of the race, and not just a high-leveled fighter in the community.

Players waiting for a once only world event - opening of the gate to a new raid dungeon

I think on that fact alone, it is how the game still gets users to pay 15 dollars a month, and certainly, it is worth every penny to the people who appreciates it.  Comparing to the initial beta and “vanilla” versions of the game, that 15 dollars would only grow in value.  Sure there are expansions you have to buy to keep up with the content, but if you are to spend so and so amount of money every year on games  that run the same way every time you turn it on, why not take a leap of faith and see where 15 dollars a month can take you?

I guess despite all that, it may seem unfair that I don’t even talk about what the game has to offer, and to be quite honest, I myself am not sure how much more the game has to offer.  You want dungeons?  You have them.  You want shiny armor and weapons? You certainly have over 10 million of them.  You want to adventure?  You can do so with up to 40 or so friends.  Or maybe you just want to run around town, dance around and party?  You can too with all the right clothing.  The point is, it is unfair to brand a game to be not fun or not entertaining based on whether certain things YOU like exist in it or not, it really is how many people it appeals to with the amount of things it has.  Certainly if something about it captures the audience, that in itself is a fun factor of its own.  Now am I saying that there are no flaws in games then?  Certainly not, WoW definitely has its flaws, but then again flaws are all subjective to each person like how qualities are subjective to each person.

But all of this comes back to why I am even talking about this game…the technicalities behind it or whatnot.  Then at this point, you can already conclude that the game REALLY is essentially just a click, auto-attack till death type of RPG.  But really, you can only do so much with a mouse and a keyboard.  As for things that make it stand out amongst other games in terms of gameplay and controls is that you are never really done the game.  What I mean is that the game does not END at the game but goes on in other mediums, for they be other games, books, movies, shows, or comics.  It even goes to the point that “playing WoW” is no longer playing a game, but its…a way of life…a feeling.

So there’s my rant and thoughts on WoW…do I actually like the game?  Not really.  But can i quit playing it?  Definitely not.

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Design entry #2

After the recent meeting with the group at the workshop, we were able to flesh out the basic designs of the vehicles and cars used for the actual game.  Moreover from the programming side, Patrick and Winson seemed to have accomplished quite a bit as well with the completion of the basic physics and the particle systems.  The basic system also includes the car’s hit points and speed.  Now my part is to really define the textures of each car and level as we plan to use several particle effects for the lighting to suit the theme of the game.  Also we will be hoping to implement suitable sound and music to fit the game.

I think there’s also a need for us to integrate all of this information into our game doc that all of us seem to be neglecting in a way.  At the moment it does seem possible to put it together in time, but there’s always room for more implementations.  If the time allows we can add more lighting effects that we plan on using in the first place to enhance the graphics a bit more, but for now I think our main focus is still putting everything together.

As for the GUI, a recent rendition of our game title has been complete by our graphics person Tuo, and personally I found it to be very nice and fitting, hope that inspiration for the perfect GUI screen comes any time soon…Because I desperately need some input on that matter.

Design Entry #1

I think I was rather late on my mark to start a design entry after 2-3 weeks in.  But rather than saying that there is much to work on, it’s more of a matter of what direction everything goes at this point.  Since members from my previous team dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, we merged with another team in order to fill our remaining position.  Even now then with a group of 7 members our workload seemed to have reduced for certain aspects of the game, but it doesn’t seem like we get much slack because our merge meant that we have to put together a new game.

Although that sounds like a lot to do, it’s not entirely so when all the physics are intact from our previous games, and I think for the most part it’s just the redesigning to fit the new game theme and the new concepts for the GDW requirements.  It’s not so much that I hate to do this but I guess thinking of a vehicle for a game that involves ‘speeding through a data highway’ isn’t my forte at the moment.

However, we do have the game’s basic look and premise in mind, and with me tasked with part of the graphics I think my main goal right now is to figure out the models and textures out, so more and more concepts it is.

Humans, Monsters and Fireworks

Out of the ‘not-so-intense’ gaming that I’ve done in the past, I don’t remember myself ever liking a game that I cannot beat, for not being able to beat it kind of defeats the purpose of ever playing a game extensively, and of course, practice comes along and even that only takes you so far.  Thus I believed there must always be something else in a game that leaves an impression on you even if you can’t get past the first screen.  For that matter, I would like to share my thoughts on a series of games where those other elements that stuck even when I could not beat the game itself:  the Touhou Project games.

Cover-art of the 8th installment: Imperishable Night

Touhou Project was a series of games released for the NEC PC-9801 and Windows by the 1-man team Team Shanghai Alice.  They are initially created as dojin soft which are essentially just games made for fun and enjoyment rather than for profit, it does count as an Indy game in a sense, but only the design team of said games involves much less people and funding than indy game companies.  The game is entirely designed by 1 person only, and he takes care of every single aspect of the games he produced.  Onto the actual game itself, it is pretty much your everyday top-down shoot ’em ups similar to titles like 1942 and Raiden.  However, the exceptions are that no airplanes are involved, and there are more bullets on screen than you can imagine.  The main characters you control in the game are actual flying humans that possess different types of abilities.  Although such abilities are not implemented as an actual game mechanic, it gives the characters more depth compared to just an ordinary airplane.  Also since they’re humans, they are also subjected to human emotions and interactions with other characters in the game, where some are villains and some are comrades.

A Dialogue Scene

The games themselves feature a standard shoot ’em up moveset of D-pad control on the keyboard, with Z as shoot, X as bombs, and a SHIFT key ‘flight-mode’ that allows the players to see the hitbox of the character.  You may see it as boring and not cutting edge, but when actually playing, you would wish for it to be simple and easy.  The objective of the games aren’t entirely difficult to figure out as you are more than likely forced to go all the way to the end of a stage.  In terms of rules there aren’t many, for the only rule in the game is essentially just shooting everything that comes in your general direction.  Sure there are things you can limit yourself from doing to achieve a higher score, but for the most part, you are only tasked with separating your character from a rainstorm of projectiles and destroying the things that produce them.

Hakurei Reimu, one of the main characters of the series

As mentioned above, the game features humans as actual controllable players with unique bullet styles, however, these attributes change from game to game for the same character and almost never remain the same.  As such, old attributes such as movement speed and power are neglected in the more recent games.  Moreover, the ‘creeps’ and more prominently, bosses you encounter each possesses a wide array of extremely bizarre and intricate bullet patterns that more than often mesmerizes you.

Kirisame Marisa, another main character in the series, good friend of Reimu

Also mentioned above, the elements of the games that left a lasting impression on me were the story and characters.  Touhou Project features too many characters to count each with their respective back story and personalities, although many of these personalities are not explicitly stated and are branded to them through the in-game dialogues, each characters are more fleshed out than the average space ship and battle tank in your average shoot ’em up games.  Also, each installment of the games are sequential thus boss characters return a game after as playable characters or important characters in the plot.  It’s as though through progression in each game, you as the main character encounters more and more friends (although they are not real for the most part).  The story, often not associated with shoot ’em ups, usually talks about the strange ambitions of creatures such as vampires, ghosts, and other mythical Japanese monsters.  The story’s outcome can also be dictated by whether or not you played the game well enough.

On top of that, the game is accompanied by an unusual use of bright colors and bullet shapes that look more like fireworks than an attack.  Music for the most part can go from piano arranges to something like electric trance to something out of an orchestra.  When put together, all of these elements sort of immerse the player into something like a strange case of acid trip that’s hard to explain and hard to comprehend.  Not that it’s an unpleasant type of acid trip, but it really serves as something that can be a jaw-dropping experience.  Although the game originally served only as a non-profit project, but the obscure plot lines and diverse characters bred a following of fans, to the point now where annual large scale conventions in Japan are dedicated to the entirety of the series, and merchandising of the game exists worldwide in the forms of comics, figurines, artworks, music CD’s and animations.

Overall, I do think the gameplay alone can be overly challenging and unforgiving, and sure the graphics are not top notch because of man power and platform issues, but somehow, everything else that came with it complimented it in such a way that it became good as a whole.  Perhaps it’s the story, or the music, or the fact that all the characters are girls, or maybe just the fact that you can show off to your friends how you dodge those curtain of bullets.

Shot of game GUI

Some examples of in-game music:

For the General Wiki Page

For the In-Depth Wiki Page

For the official Team Shanghai Alice Site (Japanese)


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