Friday, June 28, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 9 - The Last of Bugs

Another week, another podcast.  Just an early warning, we did go through the first hour or so of The Last of Us, so skip ahead if you don't want that hour spoiled:

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Apologies for the late podcast this week, I didn’t want to post this episode so soon after the last … okay, no, I just got lazy and have been playing Battlefield 3 Premium. Aaaaanyway… 
This week, we’re joined by Animator and Artist Brian Paquette, who was an integral part of our action team back on Warriors: Legends of Troy. He brought The Last of Us for me to try, where I broke this great looking game, and we go into a little detail about our first impressions of the game. Harold describes the strangeness of Driver: San Francisco, we chat briefly about Guild Wars and MMOs, and Harold gets really quiet because he owns a 386 (with turbo!), and Harold and I get into game balancing by statistics, and we completely alienate our guest. All this awkwardness, and more on this week’s Game Over! Retry? 
It's interesting to note that Jon was almost correct in his writeup: I had a 286 with Turbo, and I had played Blockout on it. Seriously, it's a real thing...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 8 - Requires tablet to function

E3 has come and gone, and we tried to do an episode immediately, but decided to give it some more time (and I had a bunch of other things to do), but here it is:

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Join us this week as we stumble through a late session of Game Over! Retry?! No seriously, this week we just gargle around our E3 reactions. We tried to avoid doing a typical post-E3 news round up episode, and shot the shit about what they saw at this year’s E3, the potential and caveats of socially-reliant gaming and tablet controls, I get cynical about game trends, and Harold is still on Animal Crossing: New Leaf. 
The best part of this episode is that before we walked into this recording session, we hadn’t heard that Microsoft had renounced their stance on DRM. Talk about worst timing ever. But, last week we DID call the whole megaman thing, right? I guess you win some, you lose some. 
Man, this feels like a podcasting hangover.
As always, send feedback to us through the usual places, thanks!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On My Mind: The level headed, 20/20 look at E3 from a game designer POV

So, the major press conferences happened.  What did you really think?

So after all that hoopla about MS, Sony, and this morning with Nintendo, and with your typical internet  hyperbole narrative in "needing to decide a winner" (and as far as I can tell, everyone online is agreeing that it's Sony), I think I should step in and throw in my two cents from a gamer and a game designer perspective.  And before I go any further, let's make this very clear:

I'm a fan of games.  My allegiance is to all of gaming, and not any particular platform.

This may not be very apparent in the past though, and you can easily skew my previous purchasing habit to shape whatever narrative you want.  If you look through what I own, the past generation is fairly lopsided to MS:

  • 350+ XBox 360 games
  • 140+ Wii games
  • 60+ PS3 games

So you can easily paint me as a 360 fanboy with that.  But wait, you can also ask, "holy hell there was 100 Wii games that were even worth your time, N-bot?"  And then you realize, oh wait, that's still 60+ PS3 retail disk games, and that's way beyond the 2nd or even 3rd deviation of your average PS3 owner.

My point is, whether it's because it's work related and I bought games for reference and research, or that I'm just curious about what's fun and interesting, I'll buy it, so it's not really a platform "fan".  Of course, there are other reasons why I will put certain purchases on one platform over another (be it online, multiplayer, controller preference, bonus stages, etc).


With that out of the way, do I want to declare who won out of those three (or five if you count Ubi and EA)?  Cheesy answer: We did, gamers.  There's so much new games, and new ideas, how can you NOT get excited for these games.  Let's separate the the marketing hype, the pretend-smack talk, and some of the lameduck showings of mediocre ideas (Ryse, I'm looking at you), and look at what was there (for all of them), and the things that spoke to me as a designer looking at things:

  • MGS being the first major Japanese designed game to tackle open world, how will that differ?
  • Forza 5 with the "drivatars" can be game-changing on how AI works in games
  • The smartglass integration on XBox one (Ryse seemed meh, but Project Spark seemed WAY more integrated)
  • NFS:Rival merging in multiple single player games into an MP game (and that lighting model, wow)
  • Tablet usage in Battlefield 4
  • The Crew reminds me heavily of Fuel, Test Drive, Burnout Paradise mixed in together, and the level of online integration will be interesting to watch (and whether the lack of online could be handled gracefully with such a design)
  • Rabbids using Kinect? as a pseudo-TV show like interactive game and entertainment looks and sounds interesting (and yes, it totally reminds me of that sesame street kinect game that I have)
  • The Division mixing in different genres and play styles together (another tablet integration, looks like you all need to get a tablet first before diving into next gen gaming)
  • Rain looks like a fantastic idea from a gameplay mechanic
  • That indie representation at the Sony conference
  • Destiny as a persistant MMO like game, and handling the multiple ways of play/integration (although what they showed feels like Borderlands, in space)
  • Mario 3DWorld being a 4 player 3D game, which in my mind, will have all sorts of crazy camera design "problems"
  • Smash Brothers having a 3DS and Wii U version and having cross platform play
Yeah, that's a lot of game (and interesting game ideas to dig into as a designer) even if you want to have to pick console allegiance.  Yet that's kind of my point: why pick?


I know that for some, buying all systems is a financial issue, and that's fine.  But realistically, if I can afford it, I will eventually have to get all three, only to see (and to play armchair designer) on these platforms.  As a (former)designer, it's still somewhat important for me to see what people are doing, how creative ideas are pushing the envelop of design and play.  Sure, I can choose to downplay the Wii U because it's lacking in horsepower, but I will end up missing out on Nintendo's next take on racing (and hey, anti-gravity track design, how do you convey that to casual players who may not get it?).  The same can be said with XBox One: how will that drivatar work for Forza, how will adaptive AI change the way games should be designed?


For me, as someone who has to play the dual role of game player and game designer, there are two ways to take conferences like this: I can just be just a consumer, cheering on what will be best for me (and yes, that does mean cheaper systems, more games, and more pro-consumer policies, hint hint); yet I can also be the designer, looking at all the ideas and innovation coming out from everywhere, and furiously jotting notes down and re-examine what I know and reevaluating where everything is going.  No matter how you approach this, it's an exciting time to be a gamer.


Aright, I'm done rambling on.  If you feel like commenting, leave me a note.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 7 - The Pre-E3 Extravaganza

We lied, we did another episode REALLY right before E3:

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As promised, Game Over! Retry? has officially gone weekly! Join us this week for our non-E3 E3 Podcast with our special guest and old friend and colleague, JW, aka Jason Wilson . This episode, we shoot off on a bunch of random tangents as we try to get Harold’s attention away from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, JW describes his own experience of playing Monaco with players of varying gaming experience and skill, Jon recalls dickery in MMO’s past, we contemplate the upcoming generation of hardware, how to reboot classic games, and look back at what we feel defined this closing generation of gaming. We’re also joined by a studio audience … of one silent character. JW makes a bold statement … rather a bold joke, but you can quote him on it. Did you get enough of us this week already? No? Then click the Play button below and get listening! 
All this and then some, on this week’s episode of Game Over! Retry?
Yes. I downloaded Animal Crossing last night.  Pro-tip: don't start the game at midnight.

As always, send feedback to us through the usual places, thanks!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Game Over! Retry? Podcast: Episode 6 - Rambling on and on and on about tutorials...

Hi folks, just in time for the weekend, and right before E3:

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People. People who need people. Are the luckiest people… Jon confronts Harold about how long it’s been since they last talk (which wasn’t that long ago). In this episode, the duo discusses single-player co-op campaign gameplay (Battlefield: Bad Company), digitized pen & paper mobile role playing (Knights of Pen & Paper), simplified input context and cognitive relevance (GIRP, QWOP, Heavy Rain), and typical gameplay tutorial conventions (Uncharted, Bulletstorm, DOTA 2) 
All this and then some, on this week’s episode of Game Over! Retry?
I think I had briefly talked about XBox One at some point, but it was merely a "as a designer, new hardware and possibilities are exciting".

As always, send feedback to us through the usual places, thanks!