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Psychomax's blog

2:20 PM on 12.30.2009

Zack & Wiki: Unreleased Content?

When I tell people that Zack & Wiki is my favorite game for the Wii, they usually tell me "Oh right, I heard that game was really good. I didn't buy it though." Despite all the praise and pleas from review sites, Z&W never had a large presence in the public consciousness.

For me, Z&W was such an amazing experience that long after I beat it, and long after I went back to college and left my Wii behind, I couldn't get it out of my head. So I delved into the fine art of game ripping to continue my obsession. I ripped the concept art galleries, the music, the game script, and just recently, using tools developed by Anton and GaryCXJk, I found a few interesting texture files:

Another area, in the folder for the stage select screen. It seems that originally, there was a far more extensive multiplayer mode than the scribble-fight that was released in the final game. Some other pictures, in a folder labeled "MINIGAME"

So we have proof that a multiplayer mode existed, but what was the gameplay like? All I have right now are a few layout images:

Apparently it was an action-based minigame, with enemies and "max combos," with four players and a time limit. There is also a high score table with numbers up to 20, and a full alphabet to type in the player's name.

Hopefully, if Capcom decides to release a sequel, we'll get to see the minigame in its full incarnation, but otherwise all we have are these few images and speculation. I'll keep digging for more information, and hopefully you all found this as interesting as I did!   read

4:05 PM on 11.20.2009

Whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Professor Layton 1 and 2 spoilers

Professor Layton Comic   read

12:10 PM on 10.26.2009

Belated Introduction Post

If I were born in any previous era, I would be completely fucked. That's because I've been a video gamer before I even owned my first console. When I was growing up my parents never bought into the whole "video game" fad, and my first console was a Game Boy Color that I got the year before the GBA was released. My first game was Link's Awakening, and I cried at the ending.

I owned two games for the PlayStation before I owned the console, (Monster Rancher 2 and Final Fantasy IX) and three games for the PS2 before I owned that console (Kingdom Hearts, Xenosaga, and Final Fantasy X). I even bought strategy guides for games I didn't own, so I'd be able to play them vicariously. I finally caught up to the current generation with the Wii and PSP, which I bought on their opening days. I was finally a full-blown member of the community I had belonged in all my life.

I still mostly play SNES and PS2 era games, I guess trying to make up for lost time. I get all my knowledge of current gen games from this here website. Ah well, destined to be eternally a few steps behind :P I'm better at talking about games than I am at playing them anyway.

I'm 20 years old and a Creative Writing student at UCSC, which has a surprisingly well run game design program. I made my own game for an introductory class, Ozzie's Quest, which got first place in the class and spotted me a free DS! Play it if you have Windows; from what I've heard it's quite a bit of fun. I hope to use my background in creative writing to write for and eventually design my own games professionally.

I suppose that's all there is to know about me for now. I want to try to be a more active part of this community since I'm on the site every day and I'm already on the same network as the IRC channel (whoo #earthbound), so I'm starting a blog and lurking the forums. Follow me on on twitter, and I hope to see more of you all very soon :)   read

4:22 AM on 10.25.2009

Nothing is Sacred: Character Customization

I've really wanted to play Mass Effect since it came out years ago and all my friends were ranting about it, but it wasn't until the other day that I was able to see it in action. It looked really fun, especially the battles and conversations, and the vast, complicated universe Bioware had created. I couldn't wait to jump in and discover all its secrets, explore the nuanced worlds, and experience the complicated story for myself.

Then my friend spoke to the shopkeeper, and the menu slog began.

You could customize the characters skills, his major statistics, his weapon, his weapon's special properties, his weapon's ammo, his armor, his clothing, his everything. My friend told me that it seems confusing to everyone at first, but eventually you get the hang of it and that's when the real fun of the game starts. But I knew from the instant he started scrolling through those numbers that I would never be able to play Mass Effect.

It's not that I don't like the RPG genre, I love it to death. For a long time they were my bread and butter, I harped upon them endlessly, until the day I was forced to face the horrible and brutal truth: I really suck at role playing games. I just don't have the attention span for them, and it's getting worse every game.

All that customization is really supposed to give you more precise control over the characters in the game, like driving a manual car makes it feel like you are an extension of the engine itself, and the protagonist is a blank slate to project your own personality and gameplay style onto. But really, how do such insignificant details do anything to improve the immersive experience? When there are so many numbers they start to lose their meaning, and besides alienating new players, they're completely useless and artificial as a gameplay element.

When I want to create a character, I'm not worrying about what color his eyes and hair is, the bone structure of his face, what his clothes and his weapons look or act like. I think about how he would react to certain situations, what his relationships would be to other characters, whether or not he'd be able to stand up in the face of peril and conflict. Those other details are nice as icing, and when you're watching your character run around the screen it's kind of neat to say "Hey, I chose that t-shirt!" but it's not very fulfilling.

As far as "customizing your gameplay experience," I have no idea how well the number jumble works in that respect, but I do know that there are much simpler ways to do it. In Zelda: OOT, my brother and I had the exact same statistics and items, yet the way we played was completely different. My brother would run head-on into battle and rely on his fairies and hearts to carry him through, while I would use every item at my disposal to stun the enemy before I would strike. These simple choices only took advantage of the natural elements already in place, and had nothing to do with the conscious decisions of stat allocation. In OOT, not only did these stylistic differences create a unique experience for both of us, but it also separated Link himself into two different heroes: the Link who is brash and courageous, and the Link who is slow and thoughtful. Even though we never got to see these personalities in action, they felt much more like extensions of ourselves than say, inFamous, in which you make conscious decisions to move your numerical "good bar" up and down.

And yet more games are moving in the direction of the algorithm orgy. Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness and Patapon, two incredibly promising games for the PSP, were both ridiculously bogged down with menus. Every single piece of equipment has a slightly different statistic, so when you buy a wristband you really have to make sure you're giving it to the right character! All this is frustrating enough when I'm playing it on a PC or Console RPG, but these are portable games! When I'm on the bus to school and I pull out my PSP, I want to be able to play it in short bursts, turn it on and turn it off quickly. But when so much thought has to go into what should be a simple experience, I quickly lost interest.

To be honest, sometimes I just want to play a game to have fun. I want to play an RPG for the story, and I want to kill things by pressing a button. Complex customization and algorithm memorizing may make a more entertaining game for some, but mostly I think it's missing the point of why we play games. When more thought has to go into how we want to play the game eventually than the actual process of playing the game and having fun, something has gone terribly wrong.   read

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