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3:12 AM on 06.02.2010

"Beat Hazard Makes me Nauseous...

...or Beat Hazard vs. Audiosurf Part 2."

Let's get straight to it. In the last post I said Beat Hazard is barely designed at all. Think of this as a more organized breakdown on that topic.

It's About High Scores Baby!

For a game that's about high scores, Beat Hazard sure does have a boring high score system. You get a multiplier by simply picking up +1 power-ups that are dropped from enemies. You can also gain more multipliers by surviving for a bit or not shooting. But that's about it. You don't lose multipliers when you die, so its not hard to keep it up. Actually dying will destroy all enemies and probably give you more multiplier bonuses.
What's worse is that as you achieve new ranks you will gain bigger starting multipliers. Sounds good in theory, but that means that the people who have been player longer will always get higher scores, turning the game into a grind to get higher levels. Not only that, leaderboards are not based on single songs, instead being sorted by song length, survival scores, and total score. This means you either find a really busy song, grind for survival time/points or grind for total score.

By contrast Audiosurf scores song by song basis, songs with special game changing tags (which include limiting it to certain characters), songs by difficulty, and nearby/friend/global high scores. This might seem like too much, and you it could be hard to find a song to actually compete in, but it also includes the ability to search popular songs, friends' songs played, and there is always the ever changing radio, which provides tons of achievements.

You are an Ugly Motherf@*|<er My Friend!

While it may not initially come off as a bad looking game, Beat Hazard's overall visual design is poor. The ship models in the game are functional, but not at all pleasing to look at, and at odds with the particle effects that are abused in the game. You could even go as far as calling them programmer's graphics (ex. early art of Braid:) The particles rarely add anything but noise. Audiosurf uses color to tell you what the blocks are worth or to mark intensity in a song. Beat Hazard distracts you with it. Particularly annoying is the smaller ships' shots and boss laser beams. Because they are particle effects as well they easily get lost in the noise and are hard to see, meaning you die often from unknown reasons.

Hell, even the Achievements are ugly. Not to mention the text and logo...

Artificial Challenge

At least the game's challenging right? That way you'll keep coming back to do better each time right? Too bad its wrong for all the wrong reasons. Most of the difficulty of the game comes from trying to see through the effects and make out enemy fire. At least half my deaths are caused by some unseen force. These further soured the deaths that were my fault, making me feel cheated instead of having room to improve. The menu is hard to see through the effects sometime. Even the Achievements (here I go again) are artificial challenges. Other than a few odd challenges all the achievements are things that are going to be earned simply by playing the game. Beat 25 songs? Play the game for 5 hours? Well, maybe the frustration of trying to enjoy your music in this game for 5 hours is the achievement...

The Good Stuff

Despite all my trashing of the game, I do enjoy it quite a bit (though I expect a lot of the enjoyment comes from my love of music and twin stick shooters). It's just that I feel like the game wasted so much potential. I wanted the game to be really good and marvel in its brilliance. Instead I get something that feels half-baked and in awful need of serious art direction. With 10 dollars you can get highly polished experiences such as Audiosurf, Shatter, and the more experimental and interesting Gridrunner Revolution or Everyday Shooter.

That's a shame, because when Beat Hazard is good, it's REAL GOOD. Playing moody songs by UNKLE or busy songs by Shinichi Osawa provide some good experiences. It just takes much too long to find them.

Still, if you like twin stick shooters, and the music syncing gimmick sounds interesting, go ahead a pick up the demo. Right now it feels more like a prototype than anything, but its an interesting concept that deserves attention, if only to see what updates to the game will improve upon. If you check the Steam forums you'll see there are quite a few fans of the game, although I would be kinda wary since you will see some of those fan people who will get a little defensive about the game...

Other 10 Dollar recommendations...


Audiosurf's mechanics and leaderboards will hook high score junkies even if it doesn't provide some of the immediate visual/audio feedback as frequently as Beat Hazard. Its different characters, difficulties and stat trackers also give you tons of way to be competitive. It also has a cohesive and well done art design.

Everyday Shooter provides strange and interesting chaining mechanics, as well as being varied, experimental and having great visual design. It also replaces sound effects with guitar riffs that go with the "bedroom rock" soundtrack. Although I suspect there are as many haters of this game as there are lovers.

Shatter is a fresh take on Breakout that involves new mechanics, interesting level design, co-op and great boss fights. May be too short for many people, but highscore junkies will keep coming back to it.   read


3:25 AM on 05.04.2010

Beat Hazard vs. Audiosurf part 1

Recently I purchased Beat Hazard on Steam. The demo gave me a taste, enough to wet my interest. With a little nudging a succumbed. It's only 10 bucks right?

The game will inevitably draw comparisons to Audiosurf, another 10 dollar indie title that generates tracks out of your music. I have been playing Audiosurf since the Beta and bought it a short time after it was released. After playing Audiosurf, it becomes clear that Beat Hazard its the weaker of the two, by a long shot.

If you can only get one of the two, go with Audiosurf. Unless you REALLY like twin stick shooters

The problem I have with Beat Hazard is not the fact that your music is not synced totally. Its not the seizure inducing effects.

Its the fact that underneath all of its effects and and colors, Beat Hazard is barely a game. And a not a very well designed one either.

I have logged in quite a bit of time with the game, so it is not entirely without merit. Its just that every time I play, the little game designer in me comes up with more small nags for the game. Having played Audiosurf only increases the frustration; Audiosurf itself is very well designed.

When I play Beat Hazard it get the idea that the creator had very little idea what makes a game design solid. The game itself is a mediocre shooter with weak art to match. Without the particle effects it would be incredibly empty. If it wasn't for my addiction to arena shooters I would have stopped playing a long time ago. Even now I find my self distracted by sessions of Everyday Shooter, another strong example of design.

By contrast, Audiosurf shows not only a strong sense of visual design, but a strong sense of game design as well. The models and colors of the game are simple, bright and complement each other. Color in the game changes to fit the intensity of the song. In Beat Hazard colors are there just cause. Even the small details, such as the fonts used and images for Achievements show a competence that Beat Hazard does not have. Beat Hazard has some of the ugliest fonts and Achievements I have ever seen. Not to mention being totally generic, boringly named, and require nothing more than time to achieve for the most part. Less than a week in and I already accomplished almost half of them.

In the gameplay department, Audiosurf totally has Beat Hazard beat. Audiosurf plays like a racing/puzzle game. Beat Hazard is a 360 shooter. Although I love shooters, Audiosurf is much more fresh and lends itself much better to music syncing (though still not perfect). The only immediate effect in Beat Hazard are the bullet patterns you fire. Audiosurf shows notable syncing in the background, ship, and in the game itself. It also allows you to play the game in a multitude of ways, accommodating play styles and adding variety. Audiosurf also features Leaderboards on a song by song basis. There is no such feature in Beat Hazard. Everyone shares the same Leaderboard, regardless of what songs they have been playing. It does not encourage competition except for high score junkies. While you could argue that Beat Hazard could get these in the future, the fact is, Audiosurf had them since the start.

Audiosurf was designed strongly around its use of music and level generation. Beat Hazard was barely designed at all.

I could go on. But that will all for now..   read


12:44 AM on 04.22.2010

Hey Listen! Playtesters Needed!

I am currently making a retro style hardcore shooter and I need some playtesters willing to test out various elements.

In order to make the very best game I can I'll be needed playtesters to test out the basic game mechanics and specific changes I make along the way. New features will be both major and minor but to get the balance right I'll need feedback.

keep in mind that most of the content is in arcade mode, story mode being a work in progress. i am also working on an alternate method of opening doors.

I will inform playtesters of updates as they come.

If this sounds interesting to you please leave a comment.
Thanks Dtoiders!

EDIT: new link below:
http://www.filefront.com/16200317/goRe%20houNds.zip   read


12:19 AM on 04.20.2010

Prototype IS Ultimate Spider-Man

Actually, this post should be title Prototype is Ultimate Spider-Man. Part 2.



More specifically, Prototype is a continuation of the Venom Sections of Ultimate Spider-Man. There are so many undeniable similarities.

The Setting

Immediately obvious is the fact that both of them take place in Manhattan. When playing Prototype for the first time I was greeted with a sense of deja vu. Where have I done this before? Of course! Ultimate Spider-Man!

Well, now you're saying, "What about all the other games that are set in New York?". Well, that's when the next part comes in.

The Moves

One of the first moves you'll use in Prototype is the jump. Alex Mercer can jump massive distances, which is very useful for getting around the city fast. You know what? Venom can too. Both Mercer and Venom can leap massie distances, climb upon buildings, and suck up civilians for health. Not only that they both have moves which allow them to smash enemies faces into the ground and break their backs (okay Mercer just kinda rips 'em in half, but you get the idea). Oh, and there's that tentacle whip thing too. And tossing cars at helicopters. Mercer is pretty much Venom on crack.

The Missions

So there are those go beat up those guys missions in Spider-Man right? In Prototype there are the go kill those guys missions. But what do you expect right? That proves nothing. Well there are the race missions. But those are in other sandbox games too, right? Yea, but they don't use that similar sphere checkpoint system that both Prototype and Spider-Man use. And the medal ranks.

Okay so those are kinda weak examples. But what about that level in Prototype where you have to chase down the hunter? In mission 15 you have to follow a Hunter Leader, then consume him. It even shows a distance meter similar to the ones in the chase missions of Ultimate Spider-Man...

Closing Comments

Anyone who has played both Ultimate Spider-Man and Prototype will be able to see what I'm talking about. The feel of both games is incredibly similar. Not to mention that they are both published by Activision though.

Of course, all of these similarities could be coincidences... right?



Next, I shall compare Freedom Fighters and Red Faction:Guerrilla.   read


1:36 AM on 03.22.2010

Patchwork Heroes: Impressions


So Patchwork Heroes was released recently. I remember hearing a small tid bit about it a while ago then it fell of my radar. So today, in my search for games I came across the PSN demo for this quirky little game. I ended up buying it. Here are some things about the gameplay, and my first impressions:

GAMEPLAY

The simplest way I can describe this game is that its a quirky mashup of elements similar to the arcade games Dig Dug 2, and Qix.
You control a small group as you take down massive flying battle ships. To do this you will have to separate sections of the ship by sawing them. If you've played Dig Dug 2 you'll have a sense of familiarity with this. In Dig Dug 2 you connect pegs to sink landmasses, enemies and all.

In Patchwork Heroes the emphasis is on sawing off the largest pieces possible. This is especially crucial because of the time limit. If you do not make the time, the ship will reach your home and bomb it, ending your run. By sawing off large pieces you slow down the ship and receive a time bonus. Sawing off pieces with enemies on them also earns you Mojo, which when used turns you invincible and lets you saw faster and destroy reinforced pieces of the ship.



Along the way you will also encounter enemies and hostages. Hostages play a crucial part, since sawing off a piece of the ship with a prisoner will drop them to their doom. Saving hostages unlocks their Resident Card, with a little blurb about them.

Getting hit by enemies will knock down one of your team members. When you run out the level ends. These are the equivalent of lives. However, the game handles these in a unique way. You have bombs, which are very useful because not only do they take out large chunks of the ship, but also destroy reinforced pieces that otherwise can only be destroyed by using Mojo attacks. To use bombs you'll need to leave behind a team mate to hold the bomb in place. When the bomb blows they will parachute to safety. On the other hand, getting attacked by enemies will caused a little portrait and name to pop up, stating that they are dead. This give a bit of uniqueness to them, something I have not seen since Cannon Fodder (where each soldier would have a name and rank, and the dead count were listed at the menu). Apparently there is also a graveyard where you can visit them, although I haven't unlocked it yet, it seems.

SUMMARY
So far I've been having a great time with Patchwork Heroes. The colorful graphics and wonderful art style and music call a kind of olde Eastern European flavor, especially with everything looking like paper dolls or fabric. Its also got this heavy mechanical feeling going on, especially in the menus and environment design. Apparently the game was done by the same people as Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman!, and it definitely shows.

The game costs $9.99 and contains two modes from the get go: Story, and Challenge. Definitely a good price for something with a lot flavor. I recommend checking out the demo at the least.   read


3:16 AM on 03.20.2010

DevLog: gorehounds newest version now available

DOWNLOAD HERE: http://www.filedropper.com/gorehounds
Hardcore retro shooter.
For Windows Xp and Higher. Enjoy, and please leave feedback!


goRe houNDs is a personal project I've been working on for a while. I mentioned previously that it started as an experimental project for class and evolved into a shooter as I went on.

Recently, I've been adding some more experimental elements to the game. As one character, getting killed releases your soul and allows you to posses other bodies. This works as a kind of substitute for the typical lives scenario.
The DIE system, which randomizes elements, also was another experiment that worked quite successfully. As I progress I want to try some more experimental gameplay elements. Many of my previous games were very experimental, and though I love the action of this old school format, I want to get back and explore those possibilities.

For now, please enjoy the current version of the game, and leave some feedback. Thank You.   read


9:21 AM on 03.17.2010

DevLog: evolving a concept

So I'm currently working on a little indie shooter I'm calling goRe houNds. Right now its following the path of a minimalistic, retro, arcade style shooter. And it involves zombies...

Oh, of course, zombies! That hasn't been overdone at all! (/sarcasm)
However, I originally had no intentions to create a game about zombies. It evolved from a prototype of something that I started for my multimedia class. Now it seems to be evolving again, I'm beginning to experiment again, messing around with game play styles, characters, and story telling methods. I already have an alternate slime mode that replaces the zombies and I want to see what else I can get away with...

above: slime mode

The game started as a prototype for a game revolving around the half serious concept of relations between boys and girl. Basically the idea was you were a girl and you had to manipulate guys in order to get them to follow you and give you what you want, as well as get them to protect you from other girls. Pretty ridiculous.

As I worked I found that the reactions of the boy characters were very zombie like and since I was still in the concept stage I decided to maybe try out a zombie game.
The first variations of the zombie theme were a slower paced, survival horror style game. It had large, mazelike areas, and slow shooting.

When working with all the initial concepts I used basic shapes to represent all of the characters. This helped me focus on working on gameplay as opposed to graphics. It was not until later in development that I began to create the minimalistic graphics that I now use. By that time I already had players getting scared by the appearance of the red square (the stand in graphic for what would eventually become the fast zombie variant).

My next step in development was to add new characters to the mix. However, I wanted these characters to be more than just a different skin for an existing character. Instead I took a fighting game approach to the characters, where each character has the same basic controls but different characteristics and abilities. That way each character would provide a new experience, not just a different face.


Tricia is a psychic character that can make enemies explode into gore bombs

This approach provided an alternate to a common convention of shooters. Its been established that you start off with something weak, like a pistol and eventually upgrade to more powerful weapons. The problem with this is that it takes quite a bit of time to get these weapons, and more often than not you don't get much ammo for them, severely limiting their use. Instead each of the characters in my game have different weapons, strengths, and weaknesses. One character has incredibly powerful weapons that can destroy groups of enemies. But careless use of these weapons will have them ricochet back and kill them. One character has short range attacks, but moves very fast and can command survivors to attack enemies and protect him. Of course I'm still working on the balance of each characters weapons, but so far each character provides something different.

My most recent addition is what I call the BLOODY DIE! system. Basically its a small addition that randomizes locations of objects and elements to slightly change the layout of the areas. I added this when I felt that enemies and arenas were getting predictable. A little randomization helped a lot with this.

That's all a for now. I'm finishing up the next version of my game at the moment, so expect to see it up sometime soon. Some more discussion on the creation of the game, and game design in general will follow.
For those interested in playing the last version of the game, try the link below. I've changed quite a bit in the new version, but it should give you an idea of the basic gameplay.

http://www.mediafire.com/?qfrog2rmmjy

(just so you know, it has the old title screen and name)
CONTROLS:
WASD-move
left click- primary fire
right click-secondary fire
middle click/f- knife (places movement cursor with Ben, which survivors rally around)
Q-command survivors to stay
E-command survivors to follow
SPACE- open/close orange doors, break brown walls.
  read


9:41 AM on 03.12.2010

Something about Sex: why beat-em ups are sex in digital form

You see what people don’t realize is that beat-em ups are more than just a dying genre, they are the most many games, the videogame equivalent of sex. If we all realized this sooner, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a dead genre. The following is evidence:

They’re all about violent thrusts
This is what makes it the most obvious. The genre at its core is all about violent thrusting, and all real men know that’s what makes sex good. A good violent thrust is the most essential technique in bring pleasure to a mate. Beat-em ups are all about violent thrusting, be it punches, kicks, or shoving a 2x4 down opponent’s throats.

Repetitive actions
Some say that beat-em ups are dying because they are all repetitive and by nature that will tire itself out. Well those people are wrong. All good things are worth doing multiple times. That is why we have genres and videogames. And there is nothing more satisfying than violently, and repeatedly thrusting. Anyone who has actually gotten laid can attest to that.

Timing and control
Again, the subtle art of bringing a partner to a climax requires careful timing and control. Varying the degrees of pleasure, speed, and location. Beat-em ups require the careful timing of thrusting punches and kicks, and control of the crowd. Sounding similar yet? You bet it is.

Tons of phallic symbols
This is the final and most undeniable evidence. We all know that many weapons are nothing more than phallic extending symbols. Swords, pipes, bats, guns, hell even a 2x4. I mean come on, it’s a freakin piece of WOOD! And guess what games prominently feature all of these? That’s right, beat-em ups! Beat-em ups give you all these phallic extending weapons and let you violently thrust and throw them at your opponents. Again, and again, and again….

On the other hand…this could make beat-em ups some of the gayest games ever. I mean, a whole bunch of guys waving phallic symbols at each other and smacking each other around with them? Yea that’s pretty gay. That would make the ‘90’s Alien Vs. Predator arcade game the gayest of them all. Because as Jim Sterling points out in the his “How Aliens are Blatantly Better than Predators” article, Aliens are giant phallic symbols, and you beating hordes of them with your violent phallic extensions only makes it gayer. Pretty much a giant cock slapping contest.



Oh yea, this also makes all first person shooters gay. A bunch of guys waving around their penis extension guns and shooting them at each other? Very gay. That’s right, Modern Warfare and Halo are gay.   read


6:13 AM on 03.10.2010

Devlog: a question to you Dtoiders.

I would like some quick opinions from you faithful Dtoiders. I am thinking of writing blog entries which shall consist of stories relating to game design and my own experiences creating games, as well as updates on the status of my own games.

I would publish it on another site such as wordpress, but i feel that it would receive much less attention, if any at all. I'm thinking that publishing it here in a hardcore gaming community might be a much better idea, and could be interesting to others in the community as well.

Anyone have any opinions on that?   read


4:39 AM on 02.16.2010

yo! introduction!

I'm a newbie here so i figure introductions are in order.

The name's iconstyle, though sometimes i work under the alias of "cigarettes". That said lemme hit you with a few quick facts 'bout myself:

-i dont capitilize my "i"s. Just cause.
-i consider myself to be an artist. i work with pen and ink, pencil, sharpie, paints, computers, and the good old craft of writing.
-i love every part of videogames, from the design, creation, discussion and playing.
-i dig retro+old school games, and i'm always on the lookout for fresh new experiences in games.
-i consider myself an indie gamer.
-i MAKE games in my free time. Its an on off experience and i'm just starting to learn the craft.
-i'm working on a retro 360 degree zombie shooter , with some dry humor and slime killin' for good measure.
-some of my favorite games are MOTHER 3, LOZ:Link's Awakening, Darius, Gradius, Super Mario World, Spelunky, and Shadow of the Colossus.
-i think games can be art. and i liked Passage. so there.
-always open for chat about games, art, music and stuff.
-i enjoy any music with something original to bring to the table.
-my videogame knowledge is so seriously intense most people have no idea what the hell i'm talking about when it comes to games (probably cuz i play games that are 20 years old...)

that's all for now. i'll probably be putting up some updates 'bout that game i'm working on, 'ta 'till then.   read


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