Monday, September 24, 2007

The Golden Compass (BOOK)

This book was okay. The story was interesting, but not particularly captivating, and yet somewhat predictable. The most interesting character is the bear and when he was introduced that was the most interesting part of the story.

It seemed to me they didn't fully utilize the elements of the story and set them into action until the middle of the book, those elements being the golden compass, the Daemons, and whatever else was in this world. And you know the story would somehow get this girl to the North when they introduced it in chapter 2. I was just waiting for random events to throw her there, and I was like, oh it finally happens in chapter 10.

It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't very good either. I think I might've liked it when I was 12, or maybe 13.

The Golden Compass


Thoughts on The Princess Bride

First off, this movie is absolutely horrible. The story is predictable and unsuspenseful, the acting is mediocre, the sets are totally fake, the cinematography is bland and seems to be trying to hide the community park just to the left of the lens, and the production values are just atrocious.

Then I realized, there is no way this movie is this bad unless it's intentional. But then I thought to myself, what's the point of making this movie intentionally bad? Because it's supposed to be a story being read by a Grandpa? I don't get it.

I also wonder how much different this movie would be if it was just the story without the grandpa and kid. I know there's a reason for them being there, but I just don't see why this movie couldn't have been just been a movie without a grandpa telling it.

I also noticed how many other things ripped off this movie, the first of which being the Secret of Monkey Island. The traveling circus troupe is a direct source for the "Men of Low Morale Fiber" and the idea of the Machine was also ripped by Monkey island, and also having the end being in a church where they go "Stop the wedding!" Also the line "I am character name. Prepare to die!" was copied by Guybrush.

And then I realized Shrek ripped this movie off too, and some other game called A Tale of Two Kingdoms.

So yes, it was horrible. Robotech was so amazingly corny that it was just funny. This movie was just so awful that you're not sure whether to laugh along or pretend that it's not awful.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Team Fortress 2 BETA

- The spy class is amazingly fun. It's exactly how I dreamed of playing the perfect spy in an online game.
- Each class has it's own strengths and play styles, and it's consistenly fun to play each.
- The achievement points, stats, and personal goals are a great addition to the gameplay. They make you want to play the other classes and be the best you can be. It would be nice however if it better detailed how much and what you needed to reach each individual achievement.
- The simplicity of the interface and having each classes skills limited to the same keys (1-4 keys and mouse) make learning new classes easy. I hate all those other games that have specific keys that you have to learn when you try out new classes or guns. Everything in TF2 runs on the same keys, no matter what class you use.
- 2 Classes seem less useful: Pyro and the Demo-man. Pyro just seems like a worse version of Heavy weapons, except the Pyro is only effective within 10 feet. And Demo-man can only set up bombs, which the engineer can also kind of do in a better way (with turrets), or the pyro can shoot grenades, which the soldier seems better at by shooting rockets. I've yet to find any overwhelming strengths that make me want to use these characters, but they aren't that bad.
EDIT: I've found the Demo-man useful, but pyro is still sucky.
- The rocket jump for the soldier seems mostly useless (it's too small!), and the health loss for using it is too great to warrant the vertical gain.
- More gameplay modes than just CTF (Capture the Flag) and CP (Control Point) would be nice. It seems like you could develop all sorts of strategies with these classes for other game modes, like Bomb Defusal, Hostages, VIPs, etc.
- It seems like this game MUST be played with lots of teamwork and communication. Playing in silence is no fun at all.

Overall, it's great fun and a refreshing change from normal shooters that have only one gameplay mode.

Team Fortress 2 (BETA)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Revisiting La Croix Pan

In order to commemorate 4,000 downloads for La Croix Pan as it has now been 4 months since the game was released, I am writing this post.

Not much has changed since I released it on that ever so fateful day of June 13, 2007. I got a surge of downloads in the first week, then it appears people waited one or two weeks for me to update it and fix bugs, and then it got another surge of downloads.

After getting over 2,000 downloads in its first month, the publicity died down yet it was still getting downloaded. All but one of the reviews about the game were written in the game's first month (to my knowledge) and I haven't seen any new publicity since then.

It's a whole different feeling from releasing a game than having an infinite amount of game concepts and ideas in your head. You don't really know your true skill as a designer until you finally finish and complete a project from the idea to the release.

One of the main things I learned was that alpha-testing and beta-testing can totally change your game. It can remove annoyances that would've dropped off hundreds of potential players, and it can improve your game to another level.

Your game can always be better than its current state. It just depends on how long and how much you want to polish it. For me, that was the duration of the time I was waiting on my OH SO CUSTOM AND HOMEMADE music to be finished (which was sadly to say, about a month long). But even as I got somewhat frustrated with the development time being delayed due to late music, it helped me perfect my game over and over and have it ready for beta-testing. I would constantly revisit every room in the game, jotting down things that I knew could be improved, and adding tiny little features here and there. That extra time helped me polish every little detail so that everything was as perfect as it could be.

After the game was released, I think there were only a total of three bugs found (each somewhat moderate). I think that wasn't too bad considering what a hit-and-miss process the beta-testing was. My testers literally just ran through the game, and if they found a bug, I'd go back and fix it. After that, they'd test again, and if they didn't find a bug, that was it--game released, bugs or no bugs.

Overall, it was a crazy experience that I'm more than willing to go through again.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Little Known Secrets About Football

When the game gets into crunch time (around 4:00 in the 4th quarter) and the score is close, the underdog team will gain super-human powers when they possess the ball to reach 1st downs on every other play. This skill would be very handy in the other 3 quarters of the game, but it is only possible to utilize it at the end of a game, and only if you are losing.

The REDO Call
Whenever a ridiculously long play happens, or a game winning pass or kick is made, the referees always make up an excuse to redo it. They either throw a flag out onto the field and make up some reason for some little insignificant touch on the play, or overrule the call with some other inane notion. The reason behind this? Quite simply, they have an innate desire to let losing fans renew their hope, and winning fans' dreams to be shattered.

In conclusion, only watch football during the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter, and never believe a touchdown run without a flag called.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Freeware 2D Sidescrollers

I've been playing a good amount of 2D sidescrollers lately (all free), and I thought I'd compile a list of them, rating each one.

By Nifflas:
Within a Deep Forest (3/5 stars) *Good*
Nifflas' first game, Within a Deep Forest is a side-scroller about a bouncing ball with various powers. The gameplay is fairly well done, if not overly frustrating in some situations. The different powers of the ball create for some interesting gameplay situations, yet the challening difficulty and somewhat lackluster story doesn't make this game feel like a whole.

Knytt (4/5 stars) *Great!*
Nifflas returns to the platformer but this time he puts the emphasize on exploration, emotion, and sets it up on a colossal scale. The gameplay is quite simple, but proves rewarding as you explore this vast land with amazing attention to detail. The gameplay is nothing special, but the sheer emotional impact is enough of a reason to play this game.

Knytt Stories (3/5 stars) *Good*
Knytt Stories is close to an exact replica of Knytt, except with more gameplay features. These gameplay features include various powerups, more enemies, and various levels instead of one epic game. The focus of the game is still on exploration and emotion, yet it feels like the power-ups are just keys to unlock dead ends (large pits, cliffs, etc) to proceed through the game. Because of this, I did not enjoy exploring as much since most levels seemed to be very linear.

By Studio Pixel:
Cave Story (5/5) *SUPERB!*
Cave story is a relatively different game from Nifflas' as the emphasize is on story, characters, and combat. Cave Story is a very fun game that progresses well; all the characters develop and are well written, the story is revealed at the right pace, and you are constantly getting new weapons and gameplay features.
On the negative side, the first boss fights are a little too easy, while the last boss fights are too hard, usually requiring you to die several times to figure out the right strategy. Also, some of the optional features and better endings require you to do some inane things that I would never do without a walkthrough.

By Bernie:
A Game with Kitty (5/5) *SUPERB!*
A very fun and cute game where you play as a Kitty who must save the world by going to the moon and stopping an evil scientist. The gameplay is very fun, and the power-ups add tremendously to the experience. The only negative aspects are that the characters and story are absent in the middle sections and the difficulty gets insanely hard on the last level.

Darkside Adventures (AGwK 2) (4/5) *Good*
An indirect sequel to A Game with Kitty, Darkside adventures has a lot more charm to it, yet some of it is offset by some annoying problems. The player character is kind of a jerk, and the difficulty swaps between medium and impossible quite frequently. And this time around, there aren't as many power-ups making the gameplay more mundane, yet different.

Cave Story
A Game With Kitty


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Elements of a Story

The following is a list of elements that I have found to be intriguing in different media, from books, to movies, to television shows. I think they are all useful to take into account when creating your own story.

1. Sympathizable Characters
One of the reasons you want the good guys to win is become you sympathize with them. You want the reader to understand, like, and root for the main character, otherwise the reader will not care for this character on his journey or what's happening to him.
In Ender's Game: You sympathize with Ender as he's despised as a "Third" child, beat up at school, taken away from his family, put in a strange and hostile environment, and has no friends to help him. When he finally turns the tide, you're rooting for him the whole time.

2. Mystery Element
I find this as an effective means of getting the reader to continue into the story. You want to draw the reader in by leaving certain questions unanswered that will make them speculate about what's really going on.
In LOST: The best example to illustrate a "mystery element" would be in LOST. You are presented with so many questions, and that gives the viewer greater incentive to keep watching. What does the hatch do? Who are the others? What was the Dharma Initiative? What do the others want?

3. New Concepts
One of the interesting aspects about fantasy or Sci-Fi stories is the ability to create new worlds with different rules than our own. New concepts are always interesting to the reader and gets them thinking about the prospects and origins of those concepts.
In MINORITY REPORT: The viewer is introduced to the concept of preventing murder before it happens by seeing the future. The viewer is thus interested to keep watching to fully understand this concept.
In MEMENTO: The concept of a man with no short-term memory pays off well in the movie and keeps the viewer interested.

4. Character Conflicts and Development
It suddenly dawned on me that characters do not have to be inveterately good or evil. Characters can have a wide range of motives, emotions, and desires, and these things can propel the story.
In Ender's Game: In the battle school, there are many characters each with their own motive and side, fighting each other for different reasons. Over time, some characters who were considered enemies become friends, and some friends may become enemies.
In Lord of the Flies: The story in Lord of the Flies would not exist without the conflicts between the characters. All the characters start out as somewhat good. As tension grows and arguments develop, these characters fight each other in various ways until the story progress and the final battle is waged.

5. Inherent Danger
The concept of suspense keeps the viewer interested for the protagonist's safety. Many movies and books use the concept of "Inherent Danger" to always have the protagonist watching his back. This means that throughout some part of the story, someone or something is coming after the protagonist trying to stop him.
In THE MATRIX: With the concept of the Agents, Neo must always watch his back every time he enters the Matrix. Suspense is achieved here.
In 1984: By introducing the reader to the concept of the Thought Police and what happens to Criminals, the viewer is constantly in worry for Winston Smith as he embarks down his road of rebellion.

6. Things Go Wrong
If everything in a story went exactly as planned, that would probably be a boring story. Unexpected things have to change the course of events to spark interest and set a new course for the story.
In THE MATRIX: If Neo's visit to the Oracle was uneventful, and then Morpheus said we must attack the Agents just to strike a moral blow, and then they did that, and then the movie ended; that would be a boring movie.
Instead, Morpheus gets kidnapped on the visit and the characters have to adapt to the situation. The viewer is interested.
In STAR WARS: If Alderaan was never destroyed and Luke went there to give the plans for the Death Star, and then they blew it up, that would be a boring movie. Instead, you know what happened.

7. Double-Goal
Sort of a tie-in with "Things Go Wrong," is the double-goal. Nearly all the major movies released today have a Double-Goal story. The original goal set upon at the beginning of the story is never the final goal. The goal always changes sometime during the course of events to a SECOND goal.
In MINORITY REPORT: John Anderton's original goal is to get his Minority Report and prove his innocence. Then, his second goal is to expose the chief and the corruption in Pre-Crime.

8. Twists
Plot twists aren't necessary for a story, they just pay-off the reader and are a great addition to changing the reader's perspective. Twists don't necessarily have to be "Goal-Changing." There can be small twists, medium twists, or HUGE twists.
In KOTOR: By revealing your true identity as REVAN the player is given a new outlook on what has happened and what he must do to continue.

© 2007 TheJBurger

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