Thursday, March 29, 2007

LOST - A Not So Comprehensive Review

I will no longer stand for comments saying that the show does not reveal anything.

"But today, you have practically 25/100 pieces of the puzzle! Back in season 1 you only had like 7/100 pieces." - Me, about 6 months ago.
(6 Months Later = Today) Now you have about 37/100 pieces of the puzzle. You know that everything was orchestrated for Ben's surgery, but you don't know why the others are on the island or why they steal kids. You know there is the Dharma Intitiative vs. Hostiles conflict, and that the others live in a nice town.

Lost is getting kind of boring actually, because the mystery is disappearing. They need a new hatch, or something like that that will resurrect the show from falling off a cliff. They need a new mystery element to come in and save the day. The hatch was an amazing story element, and now that they blew it up, they need to do something else besides having the LOSTies get captured over and over again by the others.

One more thing. They need to get all these crazy characters' motives straight.
BEN: The evil second-in-command bad guy. (OTHERS SIDE)
Juliet: Appears to be an other, but wants to get outta here? ( ??? SIDE? )
Jack: Wants to get off the island, but wants to save his friends, but lives in the Others' Camp. (??? SIDE? )
Locke: Doesn't want to let anyone off the island, and is crazy? ( ??? SIDE? )
BEN'S DAUGHTER: Attacks the others, sabotages them, interfers with their plans, yet somehow works with them and lives with them at the same time (??? SIDE? )

SAYID: Will kill the others without questioning motives.
DESMOND: Sees the future, and is british.

JACK: ...What is he doing!?!
LOCKE: ... What is he doing!?!?
KATE: ...
SAYWER: Nicknames are getting old, but he's still funny.

The 2 reason to watch LOST:
Funny dialogs between Hurley and Sawyer, and
The story.

That's it.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lost is still on...

LOST is at a defining moment in the show. They are either going to destroy the show by confuzzling it with all sorts of random plot-holes, or they will finally tie everything together.

Every time it seems like you're about to get an answer, they open the door and present you with another question. Then it takes 2 more episodes to get back to that question, and they still don't answer it.

Needless to say, alot of stuff happened in the episode, but it all felt like it was pushing us BACK in the search for answers. I want to see something EXTRAORDINARY happen, like somebody leaves the island. But nope, the sub blows up, and now we're gonna get stuck watching the others and the LOSTies argue for five episodes.

Next week on LOST, it's revealed that one of the characters is really a mole from the beginning.
If that happens, then lost really has Jumped the Shark(tm).

Tired of Lost.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

LOST - Season 3.5

There are about 8-10 more episodes this season (presuming the show ends in May). Here is my prediction of what will happen:

- Ben is no longer assumed as the leader of the others; Ben is the man under the leader, kind of like Darth Vader and the emperor.
- There are two methods to becoming an other: brainwashing, and the voluntary way. Jack is a voluntary guy. Evidently, all the kidnapped passengers are voluntary also, but only after getting over the trauma stage of being planewrecked on an island and captured by a group of savages.
- The LOSTies will meet with Jack and ask what's going on? and he will respond only with, "It's not what it looks like. These are GOOD people!"
- A third faction will be fully introduced, along with the current OTHERs and LOSTies.
- They will go back to the Russian scientists, but only for the season finale.

- If the others are so super-human, then why do they want to kill themselves so willingly? And any super-human powers they have only seem to be intelluctual or psychological to them. They die alot and get schooled by LOSTy violence. And I guess if you are "angry," "scared," or have any negative traits, you cannot gain this super intellectual and pyschological power.
- Jack and that grey haired overweight guy really get along good after 2 days of being back on the main island. They forgive Jack for almost killing Ben, betraying the others, blackmailing them, and all that. There's no better way to settle it than with a game of touch-football!
- How can that French lady live on the island for 16? years, not ask questions, not explore beyond a 2 mile radius of jungle, and then not explain everything she knows to the only new friends she has?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

What I Learned Designing Games (AGS)

I can't really believe it's been almost 5½ years since I first found AGS. I was an eager, energetic game-designing ambitionist* back then, and I could only wait to hurl out that new Indiana Jones sequel, which I knew was going to be the best game ever, thanks to my design skills.
* Not a real word.

You learn a lot in five years, and it makes you look back and wonder, "Did I really learn anything at all?"
The answer is most likely no.

Game Design Tips
Making Games is WORK--NOT play: Game-Designing is fun; you get to throw out all sorts of crazy ideas and features you'd ever want to see in a game and wrap it all together. Game-development is hard work; you have to sit at a computer slaving away the hours working on pixels and lines of monotonous code.
The only way that game-development will be fun, is if it is a learning process, and you push yourself to the next level in everything you do. If you already know how to design and develop everything, then it will be a long and tedious process to the finish line.
Plan it out: Know EXACTLY what you want to make. Know who the characters are, how the plot is going to end, why these things are happening, when to implement the puzzles, and where to end it all. It's probably less fun to do this, but it makes your game less of an illogical and crummy mess when it's finished.
Fan-Games are good, but they are superfluous: Everyone wants to make their own sequel/prequel/fan-game about their favorite series. It's fun, because you love that series to death and want to create something in that world, but it's already been done before. RARELY are any fan-games ever good.
Breaking the 4th wall gets old, fast: The best thing about making a game for the first time is including as many in-jokes as you can about other Lucasarts and Sierra adventure games. It makes me feel all happy inside every time I manage to slip another in-joke in about my favorite game. But this is NOT the way to go. Everyone can make an inference to some obscure adventure game, but it is much harder to create an atmosphere in a game, maintain it, and then finish the game and say I created that world from scratch.
Humor games outnumber serious games about 4-1, and a serious game is much harder to attempt.
EXCEPTIONS: If you are going to break the 4th wall, do it in an awesome and good manner, e.g. Secret of Monkey Island, Space Quest, FL-CL.
If you are making a serious game, THEN DO NOT BREAK THE 4TH WALL.
Less Puzzle Games, more ADVENTURE games: It's so easy to create bad puzzles, and it's so hard to realize that they're bad. Adventure games continuously fall into this weird heap of a quest where the protagonist has to collect random items and then give them all to a guy blocking a door and then go on to the next section, where you learn why you're in the next section, where the next guy blocking a door is, and then you repeat. (Unfair)
Start thinking realistically. Start applying puzzles to the situation, and have the puzzles rise out of the situation and the world instead making boring, generic puzzles.
Adventure games DO NOT have to be about endless quests and trading items, reaching for items out of reach, and then unlocking doors. You can do so much more in a game, instead of boring trading tasks. Prioritize your puzzles according to your story, game world, characters, and locations.
Adventure games are old, and I dare say the standard adventure game interface is flawed (Walk, Hand, Eye, Mouth). The more I use a text-parser, the more I miss using reason and logic instead of clicking on everything.
Adventure games need NEW features in order to survive. Cross the genre and make a hybrid (Quest For Glory), implement new features (New Verb actions like KICK!), totally change the interface (LOOM), or just do something that will make the game different, and a new learning experience to every player. Old adventure games have been designed with the same interface countless times. Pump something new into the genre.

Besides the above, you can learn specific skills in puzzle-making, animation, backgrounds, characters, story, world-building, etc.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Atmosphere (In Adventure Games)

Creating (a believable) atmosphere in adventure games can be a very hard thing to do sometimes. But there are some key things that can boost the atmopshere in your game, and once you know them, they are easy to apply.

Each item is labeled with a number and a plus. E.g. "+5"
+1 (min) Means that this will help the game a little.
+5 (max) means that this will improve the game ALOT.

1: Animated Backgrounds +2
Lots of places in real life are not still life. Trees wave in the wind, lights flicker on and off, doors open and close, and some things are shiny. Having a blank slate of a background can be okay in most places, but making it animated can make it awesome.
E.g. trees blowing, grass moving, water rushing, dirt blowing, lights flickering, fans moving, etc.
2: Animated Objects +2
Self-Explanatory. Interacting with objects in the world, and then having then animate, makes the world seem so much more alive.
E.g. Doors opening/closing, cabinets opening/closing, turning on machines, turning on lights, using computers, using tvs, picking up phones, etc.
3: Animated Characters
3-1: Actions +3
All player actions should be animated. The animations don't have to be a smooth 10 frame animation. They can be simple, but having 1 frame is 10x better than nothing, and have 2 frames is twice as good as one frame. And having 3 frames will make it seem very smooth and believable.
E.g. The character animates for: picking up items, reaching up high, reaching down low, falling down, sitting, opening objects, using objects, etc.
3-2: Speaking +4
People don't just open and close their mouths while speaking to each other; they make gestures. People cross their arms, kick the ground, wave their hands, shrug their shoulders, or put their hands in their pockets.
3-3: Idle +2
People do not just stand idlely on the side of a path waiting for you to trade an object with them. As funny as it may sound, PEOPLE DO THINGS. Nobody stands around doing nothing unless they have a specific reason. But if you can think up a reason for why someone is standing there doing nothing, then that's good, and you're all set.
But you have to make the character animated, no matter where he's standing. NOBODY just stands or sits somewhere and stares straight all day, unless they have a serious problem. People turn their heads, change their postures, move their legs, and other stuff.
4: Sound Ambience +3
Unless the location the player is in literally has dead silence, you need to have some kind of background noise. For city scenes you can have crowd noises. For outdoor scenes you could have the wind blowing or animal noises. For ocean scenes you can have the waves hitting the rocks or sliding up onshore. For indoor scenes you could have the sound of machinery humming or something.
5: Sound Actions +2
Every individual action the player can preform should have some kind of sound. The sound can be loud or subtle, but opening doors, picking up objects, walking around, using computers, etc. should all produce a sound effect.
6: Music +5
In my experience, the difference between a good game, and the difference between an unforgettable game is most often times the music. Great music can stick with the player forever, and improve the atmosphere ALOT. Don't underestimate the use of music in a game.
7: Writing +4
The things people say, or the things people do can be the base for the whole atmosphere. If a serious game suddenly breaks the 4th wall, the atmosphere is destroyed. If characters do things or say things that are totally ridiculous (and usually the author doesn't know it), then the atmosphere can be destroyed.
The level of seriousness/funniness should be maintained in a game, and kept consistent, otherwise the player will lose his sense of disbelief.

Atmosphere in games comes down to 3 things:
GRAPHICS: Animations, characters, objects, backgrounds
AUDIO: Sound effects, ambience, music
WRITING: Story, dialogue, etc.
Either of the items/sub-items can improve the atmosphere in their own way, or on the contrary, destroy it.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

LOST - 2 Types of Episodes

There are two types of episodes in LOST: the ones that developed character and have the characters exploring, and the ones that develop the plot and progress it.
The last episode was about 9/10 character, and 1/10 plot.
Was it a good episode? Yes...
Did anything happen? No...

When LOST first premiered I was not that excited about a Survivor (fiction) show, mixed with Gilligan's Island and Cast Away. I think I watched five minutes of the first episode and the whole second episode. The show was OKAY but I wasn't too interested. Polar bears, repeating radio signals in the jungle for 15 years, french ladies running around the island, one of the passengers is really a convict... Yeah.

I saw probably about 3-5 whole episodes and then I saw the season finale which was awesome. The one real thing that got me hooked onto the show was the plot. The characters are good yes, but they are not the reason I watch the show. I was struck by curiosity about this weird hatch on a jungle island, repeating radio messages for 15 years, polar bears, a group of "others" and all sortsa weird stuff.

It is nice to see the characters interacting with each other and exploring the island, but it would be even better if it was relevant to the master plot.

Side-Note: I wish ABC would just STOP TALKING about LOST and promising SHOCKING REVELATIONS or AMAZING TWISTS.
1: When you watch the episode, none of that stuff really happens, and
2: I would probably enjoy the episode more if the twist caught me off-guard (Michael in the hatch anyone? :-O ) and...
3: Lots of the AMAZING REVELATIONS they give us, were already inferred by 90% of the viewing audience, except they never said it OUT LOUD in the show. Then they finally say it out loud, and they expect us to think it's a twist or something.

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