Thursday, April 26, 2007


I made another story.

There is another number in the title.

It's called room 96.

Please read and comment.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Role of Saving in Games

Save games have evolved in video games pretty much like everything else has.

1: In the beginning...
The first "quest" games--the ones that have you go an epic journey, which require various sitdowns to complete the game--sometimes had no save games at all. You either had to beat the game in one sitting or start over. Or other times the game would save, but you would only get a fixed amount of lives to reach the ending, which was a very hard thing to accomplish. Either way, these games were ridiculously hard and frustrating.
Think: Mario, Sonic

2: Passwords
And then somewhere along the line the idea was to include a password with each level. Then, when you quit your game, your progress was lost, but your game could be resumed from that level with a password. The problem was, you either forgot the password, or some levels would be so long, that hours passed until the next password. Not very intuitive, but better than nothing.
Think: Out of this World, Flashback

3: Save points
So, you still couldn't save wherever you wanted, but you could save at specific "save points" that the designers included in some levels. Lots of RPGs used this, and you could also save on the world map. This method was fairly straightforward and functional for the player, and worked well, except when save points were spaced out over an hour of gameplay, making it extremely hard to decide if you should save your health potions, thinking that there might be a save point around the corner, or use your health potions because you were still hours away.
Think: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger

4: Unlockable Content and Autosaving
In this type of savegame whatever thingamajig, you couldn't save anywhere in the game really. The game automatically decided that after you completed a level, that level was unlocked. Then you could resume your progress from each level. Some of these games also came with autosaves during the level, so you wouldn't have to restart from the beginning of the level. This method works fairly well, and the only setback is when autosaves are spaced too far apart.
Think: Goldeneye (N64), Halo

5: The Universal Save
And today, 90% of games use the UNIVERSAL SAVE method (at least PC games anyway). You can save at anytime, and anywhere you want just by pressing a key. You can play for five minutes and leave, or you can play for three hours, then save and leave.
Think: Command & Conquer, Half-Life, Monkey Island, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Call of Duty

The main bulk of PC games use the universal save, and a good chunk of console games use the unlockable content and autosave. I don't know if console games have less memory, or maybe they just want to make it more challenging.

You'd think a Universal Save would always be the best option, but the one main argument I've heard for the Save point system is: "[the save point system] increases tension because you aren't always safe, and you have to tough it out until you can reach the next [save point]."
It's an extremely valid argument, and it makes me wonder if the Universal Save isn't always the best option. With the universal save, sometimes you feel too cosy with the save button always at your fingertips, but I've grown accustomed to playing a game in the moment, and not worrying about my consequences too much.

Anyway, that's all.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Casino Royale

It was nice to see a somewhat more serious take on the Bond movies. Q and his gadgets are fine; 007 and his corny jokes are alright; but I like seeing a more serious and SMART spy movie.

The Good:
The actor for James Bond
Action sequences
Spy maneuvers
An interesting plot
Card games
Plot twists

The Bad:
Confusing plot twists (especially if you already didn't completely understand the plot).

4 out of 5 stars.


Friday, April 06, 2007

How to Make Your Own Zelda Game

I know I've already talked about this before, but I have to finish it.

Stage 1: Tutorial
Stage 2: World
Stage 3: Dungeons
Stage 4: Progression
Stage 5: Plot-Reversal
Stage 6: End-Game

In this introductory stage, the game will introduce the player to all the basic concepts of that Zelda game. This stage will start the player off with no weapons, let him explore and find his first weapons in a confined area, and then he will prepare to enter the first dungeon.
In the first dungeon, the player is introduced to what they are about to get into for the next 30 hours. After the player beats the dungeon, the rest of the world will open up to them, thus entering stage 2.


The Zelda world is simple. The gameplay goes as follows:

Show various OPTIONAL problems in the world upon the player first entering that area. This sets up a road block for the player which he cannot solve until he gains later items. The player will keep these problems in their mind and scream with joy when they find the item that will solve that problem. Solving the problem will reward the player with a secret item, help with a side-quest, money, or another useful item. E.g. A giant rock is covering a cave which the player cannot destroy. The player finds bombs later in the game and uses them to blow up the rock. Inside the cave, there is a chest filled with money. Happiness ensues.

Money can be used in towns to buy items. Items may include upgrades to existing accessories, potions, ammo, or other rare antiquities. Money may also be used in specific side-quests.

Pieces of Heart are scattered throughout the world - collecting several gives the player more life energy, making the game easier.
Collecting money is always useful for the player, but only if there is something valuable to buy or use it for.
All items are upgradable. This includes increasing the capacity for money in your wallet, and ammo for bombs, arrows, etc. Your shield and sword are also upgradable, but they may be forced to upgrade in the MAIN QUEST.


These sidequests have ranged from killing Poes, collecting golden bugs, trading masks, helping people out, or anything else. The reward for these side-quests may be unique, or may be just money.


Along with the side-quests are mini-games, which are small games in the world which reward you with money or another prize. Mini-Games have ranged from horseback-riding, fishing, digging, archery, etc.

The MAIN QUEST of the game is to progress through the dungeons and reach the end, where the story will come to a close. Dungeons go something like this:
Each dungeon has a specific theme, like WATER, DESERT, FIRE, JUNGLE.

To progress through each dungeon, you will have to solve puzzles, destroy mini-bosses, fight off enemies, and use keys on doors, until you get to the SPECIAL ITEM in each dungeon. This special item will usually help you to get the master key which opens the final door in each dungeon. There, you will fight the BOSS, gain a new heart container, and get a little more of the story.

Each dungeon will reward you with new items/weapons, and may open up new side-quests in between travels. The standard weapon list for Zelda is as follows, but each game usually adds its own specific item:
Sword - Wooden Sword, Metal Sword, Master Sword
Shield - Wooden Shield, Metal Shield, Mirror Shield
Bombs - Upgradable - Different Types
Bow+Arrow - Upgradable - Different Types

Horse - May be a side-quest or part of the main quest

The player will repeat the side-quests, solve world problems, and move through the first 1/3 of the dungeons.

STAGE 5: Plot-Reversal
The player will reach the end of the first series of dungeons and reach his first goal (such as collecting three broken watches) where a sudden plot twist is revealed, detailing what you will be doing for the last half of the game (such as collecting 5 broken mirrors). After this, new areas open up to the player and he searches for the last dungeons.


By this time, the player will have traversed throughout the whole world and solved all the dungeons. The story will have progressed in-between dungeons and the player will realize what the end is coming down to.

The player will enter the last dungeon and make use of every item/technique/skill that he has learned so far. The player will fight several mini-bosses, and then fight from 3-5 incarnations of the final boss. After that, the game will end.


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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Non-Linearity In Games

Games can be of two types: linear, or non-linear. The definition of linear is "of, relating to, resembling, or having a graph that is a line and especially a straight line." Thus, a linear game is one that follows a straight line, having no deviation from that line, and the player is not allowed to stray from that line.

What is the role of linearity in games? 90% of the time, the story determines the role of linearity in games. Strategy games, which usually have little or no story, are very NON-LINEAR, giving you many options of how you play the game. RPG games usually require you to hop around a world not forcing you into a path, which makes the game half-linear. And adventure games and FPS games usually restrict you to the story, making those games completely LINEAR.

Completely linear games are usually frowned upon because they limit the player's choices and freedoms, creating for a more boring playing style. After all, the more choices the player has to victory, the more interesting the gameplay will be. But then comes along a game like Half-Life 2 which is completely linear, yet ultimately amazing in every aspect. If HL-2 was a non-linear game, it would ruin the atmosphere and the story aspect of the game. It would detract from the cinematic atmosphere if you could run around that world and preform your chores in any order you choose. So, how do you incorporate non-linearity into a game (giving the player more options and choices) without ruining the story or atmosphere?

Half-Life 1 and many other games have developed a certain formula for balancing linearity and non-linearity, without ruining the story. Half-Life 1 would throw you into various "arenas" where you had to solve puzzles and fight enemies to get to the next level/arena. Once in the arenas, you usually had to find the exit and get to the next level, however you did that. The arenas gave you freedom, but each arena was in a linear path toward the end.
So, you would say that Half-Life 1 has a linear level structure, but non-linear aspects to finishing each level (some of the time).
And to add to the non-linear formula, the player is given multiple weapons, multiple ways to kill enemies, and multiple ways to solve puzzles.

If Half-Life was completely non-linear, that would ruin most of the story progression and "cool moments" in it. So instead, they have this formula, which one person put it as "...sections of non-linearity wrapped up in a path of linearity."

Zelda uses this formula in a way too. You are required to beat each dungeon in a successive order, but each dungeon can be beaten (somewhat) non-linearly (is that a word?). And then in between dungeons, you can explore the world if you want.

My rule of thumb would be this: if you can incorporate non-linearity into a game, without detracting from the atmosphere, then do it. But by all means, if it will detract from the atmosphere (which it most often does), keep the game linear in those scenes.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Role of Story in Games

I would say that there are 4 levels of story in games, and how they relate to the gameplay.

0% Story Level - Sandbox Gameplay
In this type of game, there is no story, and you play the game for what it is: a game. Some people say in this type of game "you create your own story," but that's just kind of dumb. There are no stories in these games, there is just gameplay. That is fine, and especially fine if the gameplay is so addictive and amazing that a story will just detract from it.
THINK OF: Jetpack, Sammy-Snake, Tetris, Pac-Man, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Transport Tycoon, Theme Hospital, or any Tycoon game.

10-20% Story Level - Guide To Your Actions
In this level, the gameplay is executed similarily as before, except there is a small driving force for your actions. You are given a huge sandbox to play in, but you have a reason to play in it other than "WIN." You know why you're there, what your motives are, and what you're trying to achieve. These type of games may only progress the story in cut-scenes in between missions and such.
THINK OF: Millennium: Return to Earth, Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Heroes of Might & Magic, or any other strategy game.

50% Story Level - Tour Guide
In this style of gameplay, there is a delicate balance between story and freedom. At the beginning of the game, you are given a clear goal, the direction to achieve it, but it is your choice when and if you achieve it. You may be limited on that path, but you will have plenty of freedom to explore the area along that path.
THINK OF: Final Fantasy, Quest For Glory, KotOR, Monkey Island, or any other adventure/RPG game.

100% Story Level - No Freedom
The final and most restrictive style of story on the gameplay; this style is mainly used for cinematic games. Everything you do in this game is a direct result from the story. There are no side-quests or extra things to do other than progress the story by your actiosn. Any deviation from the main story or executing side-tasks will probably detract from the atmosphere in this story. The developers must choose to restrict the player on the single path the designers have chosen, because if the player wanders off, the result will be a loss of immersion.
THINK OF: Half-Life, Halo, Call of Duty, other FPSs, and some adventure games probably.

Based on the above, it would seem that strategy games have the least amount of story. First Person shooters on the other hand restrict you directly to the story. And somewhere stuck in the middle are role-playing games which have a main story, but let you do whatever you want. Adventure games can be fully about the story, or have some deviation.

You could probably list those old console games like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Sonic somewhere along these lines, but it would be awkward. Those games restrict you to one path, but don't have a strong story. They would be listed in the 10-20% category, yet there is no freedom.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


If Half-Life 2 was a movie with a political message about today's world and had a confusing plot, it would indeed be Children of Men.
The whole style and atmopshere just screams Half-Life 2 in every aspect. In fact, it almost seemed like the movie was eye candy in the same way I stare at the enviroment in Half-Life 2. The way the characters talk, walk, and move through the city reminds me of the game in every way. Is this a bad thing? No, not really, if you like watching movies for cool stuff, which is a good reason to watch movies.

The plot was confusing (because I'm deaf), and it seemed like they just wanted to throw in a motive to get the plot rolling. I could not completely understand the world they lived in, the sides that were taken, the situation of the government, and what exactly the rebels were trying to do. What exactly is the human project? Why can't they give the baby to the rebels? Why can't they give it to the government?

The car chase scene and the tanks in the street scene were pretty amazing. I wasn't counting, but it seemed like they had the camera rolling for 1-5 minutes, which is pretty crazy.

Confusing, nice to watch movie, with interesting cinematography, cut short with an unexplained ending.


No scores.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

THE DEPARTED - From An Analytical Perspective

There were several things I noticed about this movie:

# 1 - Double-Weave Scenes
Rarely throughout the whole movie will one scene play by itself. There's almost always two scenes playing simoultaenously throughout the movie, and the film switches between the two every 10-30 seconds. It keeps you interested in two narratives at the same time. But the movie also uses the one scene style, such as the chase scene in the streets, or the final scene at the rooftop building.

# 2 - Cut-Out-Scenes
Every movie does this: they cut out the in-between scenes and you just assume that when they showed the protaganist call the cab, he rode home, even though they resume the scene at his front door. But in the Departed, they take it to another level. Along with the double-weave scenes, they cut out large portions of what you might call "unnecessary" segments. By doing this, the action moves much faster, and all the filler scenes are removed. It's confusing sometimes, but it gets you right into the action.

# 3 - Don't Answer Questions
The movie throws in many subplots and questions about all the characters, and never fully answers them. SPOILERS Was Jack Nicholson really an FBI informant? Was that other Mafia member really a second undercover cop? How did Mark Whalberg know to kill Matt Damon? And more.
But the movie doesn't answer these, in full at least. The movie is so fast paced and moving from scene to scene, you barely have time to think about these questions, before a whole new stage is set.

# 4 - 150 Minutes = Not Long
The movie is 2 hours and 30 minutes long, yet it is one of the most fast-paced movies I have ever scene. You can owe that to the directing style.

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