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12:07 PM on 09.14.2009

A Game Called LOVE

I haven't played an MMO since Ultima Online, but I may just break my streak for a new game being made by a man named Eskil Steenberg. His Game is called LOVE, and it's an MMORPG which will have constantly changing worlds with servers that support 100-110 players each. The gameplay isn't totally clear yet, but it appears that it's a completely cooperative game where you use tokens to build your cities and change the landscape. It seems like there's going to be AI enemies which you have to fend off, and the game will transform over time to make new resources available. The game is designed to work on a 1.5GHz processor and a $100 graphics card, so basically, almost anyone will be able to play it.

The biggest thing behind LOVE seems to be how Steenberg has made the game. On his page, which you can check out here, he describes the game in terms of a philosophy which not only guided the creation of the game engine, but also in how the gameplay functions. While reading the Quel Solaar news page, there are many posts where it appears the Steenberg was starting to go a little bit insane while making the game, and this makes me very anxious to see what he's made. The entire game's code is open source and anyone can download and use the tools which were created for the game's development. You can see a teaser of the game here.

The game is now out of Pre-Alpha and should be moving to Beta testing sometime soon. Are you excited?   read

3:24 AM on 09.05.2009

Meteos, Music, Awesome.

I've been playing a ton of Meteos on my DS lately. It's a puzzle game that thoroughly employs the use of the DS stylus to create an extremely enjoyable, and emotionally responsive game. The game's audio is so wonderful that I almost hooked the DS's headphone jack into a set of very fancy speakers which I have only used with one other DS game, which was Elite Beat Agents, and I only did that because there was Jamiroquai in that game and my balls weren't hopping around in my sack the way they should've been.



Meteos has a wonderfully integrated musical accompaniment which is directly tied in with the gameplay. Whereas most games have a bell noise or a happy flute noise for when you do something right, Meteos has up to 20 different sounds which very clearly communicate HOW well you're playing the game. The humble goal of the game is to line up blocks, and if you line them up in a simple way, they blast away into space and somehow this all saves our universe from some evil planet akin to the Mr. Shadow thing from The Fifth Element. Whenever you successfully blast these blocks off the top of the screen, there is an accompanying 3 or 4 note melody which tells you in a very distinct video game way: "Great Job!".

This is to be expected and it makes the game live up to the standard of just about every video game ever made. But Meteos' shining beam of awesome sound design comes from the variability of these "Great Job!" sounds. If you manage to link several chains of blocks together, the little melody you've been hearing raises in pitch and excitement. For every difficult task in the game, there's an accompanying sound which specifically tells you how awesome you are at the game. This adds an extremely addictive component to the game, but most of all, it just makes it more fun.

This magic really reveals itself when you go into the extra features of the game and listen to all the little sound clips. Every level has its own style and melody, and there's up to about 60 different sounds for each level. 3 of these are the background music, and the other sounds are all there to signify different events in the game. Because Meteos can become a mildly chaotic game at times, these musical cues keep me from being lost in the haze of everything on the screen. Every little sound that is bouncing at me is telling me something about how I'm playing, and I believe that it makes me play the game differently at a behavioral level because I crave the excitement of a really good round when I'm playing well, and the music is speeding by with a huge assortment of frenetic sound effects.

This level of detail is something that needs to show up in more games. There's a lot of games out there which seem to want nothing more than to sound like a big budget movie, and though these game soundtracks have all the tension and dramaticism of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, they also have all the shallowness and emotional relevance of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. The sound design in Meteos is in a totally different direction. It relies on simple messages to convey complex meanings, which are crafted in great detail to respond directly to the interactive commands of the player, which is exactly how video games work best.   read

2:46 AM on 09.03.2009

I made a song for Dtoid!

well, more specifically, I made a song for the Dtoid cursed mountain contest.

here's a link to it

the contest was to write a song about your introduction to survival horror video games. it contains a few dirty words and refers to Pyramid Head, which is why it's awesome. I am equally proud and ashamed of the fact that I wrote this nice song just so I could get some swag.   read

2:50 AM on 08.13.2009

Thinking about Gitaroo Man

A little while ago, I was thinking about how the technical demands of rhythm games could be used to evoke a physical response in a player in order to elicit complex emotional reactions based on the images and sounds occurring on screen. This is all very general, but I think a game I've been pklaying shows both the errors possibly inherent in this idea and the great strengths that rhythm games have in causing severe physical stress.

I'm playing Gitaroo Man, and in three days of playing this video game, I have sprained the middle finger on my right hand. This game is BALLS HARD. The first pass through the game is actually very easy, but the "master's play" function pushes the game mechanic to its extremes. The gameplay becomes incredibly precise, and the margin for error drops significantly. Still, I noticed that the game is less exciting on the higher difficulty, although I do feel a great rush of anxiety towards the end of a difficult section, and particularly toward the end of a whole song. This lack of intensity in my physical excitement is not totally clear yet, but I think it may have to do with the mechanical difficulties of the game increasing my hormonal/physiological response to a very short term burst, and then not allowing much sustained adrenaline pumping, I checked my heart rate after the rounds, and it was increased, but on the first run through, I had to stop playing at times because the game was making me so excited I could feel my heart beating through my chest..

This was all very unscientific, but it leads to some thoughts towards repetition in rhythm games. It's no mystery that rhythm games rely heavily on variety and pacing in the difficulty of a level. If a section has too much of the same pattern, our minds grow bored and shift to auto pilot, and if a surprise comes after that point, it can be quite aggravating. Gitaroo Man excels at maintaining a strong degree of variety in all of the carefully crafted levels. But once you've learned the patterns in a level, your brain has less opportunity to be surprised, and the overall physical stress experienced while playing the game drops a lot.

In developing a game that uses a rhythm mechanic in the gameplay, it would call for an incredible amount of detail in the design of that single rhythm mechanic to be effective, so implementing it into the overall mood of an emotionally poignant setting would be BALLS HARD. The pacing of the narrative would have to remain synchronous with the pacing and excitement of the rhythm element; but the overall effect, if achieved, would be pretty amazing.

My first idea was a horror game which used a virtual instrument to repel enemies, but now I realize that it would only work if every enemy asked for a different pattern, which would be very hard to communicate to the player.   read

1:17 AM on 07.28.2009

Music Games and their brood.

The first rhythm game I ever played was Parappa the Rappa, and ever since I played it, I have been craving rhythm in my gameplay. Most games have at least some rhythmic elements in their gameplay, You have to wait for the monster to attack Link's shield before you can properly time your attack. That's basically a rhythm challenge, but I'm still craving something more. Dance Dance Revolution pisses me off because it's so mindless and the colorful screens piss me off. Guitar Hero just plain pisses me off, I think it's the screaming fans at the end of a level, I feel like the people who made the game are just treating me like a total nutweasel who desires nothing in life more than to have a bunch of anonymous groupies screaming for my precious seed.
I liked Parappa the rappa because it had something called [u]'tude[/u], Parappa may not have had lot of personality, but he definitely had 'tude. It was fun to play that game because the levels had really great songs, and the characters were kind of insane. A gigantic chicken tells you how to make a cake, then seamlessly works into a commentary on the how money brings us down. That was so much better than being able to play Journey to a raving audience of virtual groupies.

Some recent rhythm games have had similar amounts of ;tude, but again, I feel like the designers were insulting my intelligence. Elite Beat Agents and Rhythm Heaven on the DS hve pretty good gameplay, but both also have deeply asinine contexts for the rhythm challenges. Though Elite Beat Agents had some moments of greatness, they didn't defeat the game's overall lameness.

So, what am I still craving? I'm craving rhythm challenges that are entirely part of the game's design, not more of these games which use semi-retarded explanations for why I'm flicking my DS wand to the beat of a fucking major scale. How about a horror rhythm game? Trust me it's not retarded, and it's because horror games already use limiting gameplay to cause tension and stress int he player. There's a very good reason that you can't move and shoot at the same time in the Early Resident Evil games. It makes you more vulnerable, which makes you feel less in control, and then you get scared. If there's one thing rhthm games do really well, it's causing physical tension for the player. When I'm on a hard section of a rhythm challenge, my muscles are tense, my breathing is short and I'm totally doubtful of my abilities to complete the task. If someone could take this sensation cause by a rhythm challenge and make it work in a horror game, I would play the crap out of that game.

I don't know the details, maybe some magic kazoo that makes malicious fanged naked grandmas bleed out of their eyes and die when you play a little tune to a beat. It would be like Ocarina of Time with a malicious old wrinkly lady.   read

11:55 AM on 07.21.2009

Video Gaming Prevalent in Weak Nation!

In a recent report from the Fui Xianghui elite government polling office, the amount of video gaming taking place in the United States continues to rise, explaining the incredible inefficiency and depravity of Western Culture. Handsome and well fed officials stated,"I personally do not play any video games as they are in no way conducive to the solidarity of our powerful country and its inevitable prosperity." Other sources also stated that weak and sexually inept American gamers are swine. "I do not like them, they are puny and pasty," said 13 year old mother Lu Feng, who has successfully trained her strong Chinese children to not fall prey to malevolent and sickly products, which would in no way shape the Nation of China into the invincible great nation it has always been and will forever be.   read

1:04 AM on 07.18.2009

The Advantage is mighty.

While the NES Advantage is without a doubt the mightiest of all game controllers ever released, the band "The Advantage" more than lives up to it's glorious namesake. I've been learning to play Kraid's lair on the guitar, and I sorted it out tonight, so I decided to go online and see if the Advantage had already performed the moody, desolate tune with the kind of ardor and virtuosity I expect of them.

And they clobbered it. The drummer even mixes it up quite a bit, but still enforces the ever-looming dread and isolation that Kraid's hulking green mass instills in my mind.

[embed]140352:20728[/embed]   read

12:21 PM on 07.16.2009

AudioGaming- Thinking about Killer 7

Lately, I've been rolling over what it was that was so incredible about the audio in Killer 7. The game is deeply uncomforting in its visual style, with moments of often shockingly beautiful environments simultaneously presented with horrendously stylized enemies. The whole game feels like a bad mescaline trip, and although I enjoy playing the game, what really keeps me tuned in is the devious laughter, the scattered electronic ambient noise, and pulsating techno beats which drive the game along. In other words, the game's visuals fill me with an urge to vomit, but the game's audio gives me a rock hard erection.

In the majority of games, the audio track serves two purposes; it sets an emotional mood with music and/or sound effects, or it provides momentary tidbits of sound which indicate whether a player has progressed through a challenge (i.e. the harp that plays when you open a chest in Zelda: Ocarina of Time). These little tidbits of audio are somewhat of a reward for the player, as they almost always sound very pretty, and they saturate the player with a feeling of accomplishment. This feeling of accomplishment is critical to keeping a player hooked up to the game.

Killer 7 uses this same format to convey a sense of progress, but the musical choices are intentionally oppressive on the player's ear. Much like the game's visuals, the audio combines unpleasant sounds with really cool video game audio to create something totally bizarre. When you encounter an enemy in Killer 7, you immediately hear a howling, psychotic bit of laughter. The laughter is designed to help you understand that an enemy is close by, so you can stop and find them. The mood of the laughter is hard to pin down, but upon first hearing it, I know that something horrible is out there, and the game designer (the infamous Suda51) intentionally decided not to allow the player to initially see the enemy, which dramatically heightens the tension caused by the demonic laughter. The obfuscation of information is a classic tool for psychological horror and suspense directors like David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock, and it allows the viewer to apply their subconscious fears on a sound or obscured image, and in Killer 7 I am always expecting the worst when I hear that distant, disturbing laughter.

The game's actual music track is far less jarring, and although the pre-mentioned "puzzle-completion" sound is still in the game, the designers decided that an untuned guitar playing haphazard chords would be more appropriate than a harmonious harp interlude. I mentioned David Lynch a second ago, and he comes to mind again. Killer 7 seems to be one of the first games I've played since Sanitarium on the pc which unabashedly embraced the dark side. It isn't afraid to make you feel unpleasant in order to draw you into the game's world. The game literally makes my girlfriend nauseous when she watches it.

There's other awesome stuff in the game, but I'm not going to go into it, it's definitely worth playing if you're looking for an especially bizarre game.   read

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