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11:35 AM on 05.10.2010

Silent Hill: Shatttered Memories and Compromises

This is an evil horrible thing. Sony of America will pay for this with every ounce of human liquid I can eviscerate from the toothy sacks that they call a QA department.

Destructoid gave me this machine, and Sony took it away. Because I was just a middleman in the affair, I expect there to be an official agreement that Hamza can punch someone in the throat.

But, because THIS happened, I have gotten a chance to play Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on my magically functioning PS2. Upon popping the game in, I have been greeted with some awesome sound design which is only brought down by the questionable decisions by the developers.

Gameplay and atmosphere aside, Shattered Memories sounds fantastic! This time, the music plays more of a cinematic role, with very unnerving ambient music floating in whenever the player moves into a new environment. The environments in the game are pretty mundane, and the music does a great job of opening up the player's imagination to unseen dangers. But the issue of danger is actually a serious problem in the game, because although haunting music and the jarring sounds of cackling infants are intensely effective in arousing my feelings of weakness, the game very explicitly separates the monsters into one distinct world that you spend about 1/8th of the game in. The rest of the time, the game has gone out of the way to let me know that nothing can hurt me. That is stupid, and arrogant.

The developers really thought they were so good at psychological horror that they could get by on the "OMG that's creepy!" moments that come from the little messages and mildly weird junk that the world is populated with. But because I know EXACTLY what the conditions are for my character to be in danger, my doubt fades, my boredom rises, and my frustration and ability to enjoy the awesome sound design is greatly dampened. It's a shame, because if the same music and sound design were applied to a less contrived and well-designed game world, this game would be fucking fantastic.

Yamaoka 1. Climax 0.   read

2:20 AM on 03.21.2010

Audio in Games - Brutal Legend

Can music be more persuasive to a player than gameplay? Hell yes it can.

It took me a couple months after getting my PS3 to grab Brutal Legend, but before I had the ability to play the game, it was the game for me, and I had to have it. And it's not because I love Jack Black, and Tim Shafer's involvement only assured me that this game was going to get released no matter what. The reason I wanted to play Brutal Legend is because it was the first time I saw a video game that was openly stating that the music would be the central theme of the game design. This promo made me come:


Now, plenty and plenty of games have an extreme focus on sound and music to guide and reinforce gameplay, but only two or three come to my mind that used music as the central component of the game, and Vib Ribbon is just too crazy to compare with anything. So that leaves Brutal Legend in a subtly amazing position, and its effect is seen on thousands of youtube comments like this:

I'm a huge fan of many different varieties of metal, and Brutal Legend exposed me to at least three new bands whom I am now obsessed with, including one which I had previously dismissed. By selecting such a huge compendium of Metal masterpieces, Brutal Legend has become the most ass-kicking metal anthology of all time, and it will live on forever as a Rosetta Stone of how all the different bands represented on its soundtrack all connect to a cohesive lore and artistry that is Metal.

Even GTA: Vice City or San Andreas don't achieve this level of musical glory, since the games' music was more of an ambient recreation of the eras, while every single frame of Brutal Legend feels perfectly married to the music, and even the most trudgingly awful moments of tedious strategy gameplay are redeemed by the continuous symphony of Metal imagery and music. For that reason, I'm going to hold on to Brutal Legend forever, to ensure that when my children are born, I can put the controller from my decrepit old PS3 in their hands, and show them how important music can be to the world.   read

12:18 AM on 11.03.2009

AudioGaming- Oddworld:Abe's Odysee

Oddworld came into existence at a fantastic time for gaming. The shift from 2D to 3D was still stumbling about, and the industry had just come out of the incredible streak of games released on the Genesis and Super Nintendo. The makers of Oddworld: Abe's Odysee called themselves Oddworld Inhabitants, and they created a game which was beautiful, bizarre, odd, and highly innovative. The game shines in every single aspect of production, but for now; I'm concerned with the game's sound and its sound alone, and there's plenty to get in to.

The most innovative feature of Abe's Odysee is the voice of Abe and the other stumpy Mudokons which you encounter. You are able to make Abe say a few different prompts by holding down an L button and a face button including: two different whistles, a hello, a giggle, an angry hiss, "come here", "wait", and a glorious fart. Each sound is used in a game you play with other Mudokons, which is virtually just a game of Simon Says which joyfully ends with a fart every time. The most endearing sound in Abe's voice is the boyish giggle he makes after he lets one loose.

Back in 1997 this kind of sound interactivity was almost unheard of, although PaRappa the Rapper was released in the previous year. The game's Simon Says tasks fall into an audio category which Karen Collins, a game sound author, calls "adaptive audio". Adaptive audio is any sound in a game which reacts to a players input; like gunshots or in our case, a cute little fart. The difference between Oddworld's approach and previous examples of adaptive audio is that the skill of memorizing the sequence of sounds creates a slower and more methodical feeling, and the ultimate effect is that you truly feel like you are talking to the other Mudokons with a special language which you and them share. This conversation illusion is evident at the beginning of every encounter, where you must reciprocate the other Mudokon's "hello" before they start to speak with you. While PaRappa the Rapper used adaptive audio to create a purely technical challenge for the player, Oddworld uses the input of the player to immerse them in a foreign world, while also maintaining a technical challenge to keep it fun and realistic.

An interesting thing to note before I get into the other voices is that ALL the voices in ALL the Oddworld games were voiced by one person. Lorne Lanning is his name, and he's a badass. But Abe's Odysee only includes one other fully voiced character within the gameplay, and it's the Sligs.

Sligs are vile, nasty creatures with snouts that look like an ill fitting glove. The sligs are mean as bees, and their voices portray this with a mixture of croaky mumbles and grumbly exclamations. The points in the game where you can control the sligs allows you to talk as one, but it's much more satisfying to make them shoot eachother. The sligs have a ton of attitude, and they're at their most crude when one kills Abe and lets out oa few victory croaks.

The last character voice I wanted to note isn't really a character at all, but a horse-camel-kangaroo dinosaur thing called an Elum. The Elums are very obedient and sweet, and it makes my heart flutter every time I hear one make a mournful moo-howl whenever you ask it to stay behind, they're just adorable.

ATMOSPHERE! This game has loads of it, and it is conveyed through a few different ways. If you're inside the slimy metallic factory setting of Rupture Farms, there's grinding noises and a general soundscape of what I can only describe as mechanical tedium. If you're in the desert setting of Scrabania, there's a lot of animal noise in the background, with an abundance of half cricket-owl noises throughout. These sounds were nothing revolutionary in video game sound design, but they were presented with such detail and care that still today they outperform other titles in the depth and imagery contained within them. The real experiment going on in Abe's Odysee was it's adaptive score.

In video games, an adaptive score is a musical arrangement which changes based on the player's actions. A recent masterpiece of an adaptive score was Shadow of the Collosus, wherein the music would begin as suspenseful and minimal, then slowly build in intensity and OMG-ness once the player had mounted the colossus. In Oddworld, the score will add in exciting drum fills whenever Abe was jumping a particularly treacherous cliff or if he had unwitingly alerted a nearby Scrab of his presence. The drums can get a bit annoying at times, but when they are implemented right, they add a dramatic tension to several segments of the game that make the tedious trial and error gameplay into a much more tolerable, and downright exciting gameplay experience. Adaptive scores have been around since the speeding up of the music at the end of a timer in Super Mario World, but Abe's Odysee really stepped up the whole concept by making it into a more spontaneous effect.

That's it, with science.   read

1:03 PM on 10.15.2009

LOVE dose #2

So I've played about 9 more hours of love since the last post I made, and I have now pretty well wrapped my head around the gameplay. This game is a bit unclear in communicating to the player what you're supposed to do, but fortunately, it's kind of fun figuring out how the different elements work together.

In order to play LOVE to its fullest, you have to deal with routing power from around the world into your settlement, which requires two people to really get it done. Someone has to go and collect a token for the power generator, and another has to build walls and reinforce the settlement so that the AI won't attack your precious home. The design of settlements involves a lot of interesting elements, because you have to be able to defend from incoming AI that will steal your tokens, making you less capable of developing your settlement. This usually involves having simple entry points and large walls, but my settlement uses a slightly more elegant method.

Our monolith is on an island, with one steep bridge leading up to it. I built one extra large tower on a corner of the island which allows me to leap across to the cliff that's nearest us. That's pretty much the only way out, and the bridge is the only way in. While we were building up our settlement, we obscured any work we were doing from passersby by building extra large walls so they couldn't see us. The AI is very intelligent, and it doesn't cheat, so if it can't see you, it won't know you're there. This allowed us to build up to a relatively defensible and advanced state without any attacks, though we always keep one person on guard, watching the bridge.

Once you get power and possibly some better building tokens, you become more visible because enemies can see power beams heading into your settlement. This forces you to develop at a careful pace, and it also forces you to be careful about stealing tokens from enemy settlements, because they will try to find you, and if you're not equipped to defend against them, your settlement is over. It's a very well-paced experience and it's a lot of fun sneaking into other settlements and stealing their tokens, then rushing back to your own home, deftly hopping around the unpredictable world.

That's enough for today, but I would like to add one more thing.

<rant>Online gaming veterans stand out like a sore thumb in LOVE, because they're jaw-clenchingly obnoxious. I was part of a ridiculously over built settlement, which had about 12 people in it and about five entrances. The AI started attacking on a regular basis, and during a firefight, I accidentally shot of a little friendly fire. I looked in the chat screen and saw "WHO'S THE GRIEFER!" "I DUNNO, FUCKING GRIEFER!" "I THINK IT'S MINTAKON GRIEF GRIEF GRIEF". Then some pompous turd said "well, I'm chatting with the dev right now, so I'll tell him."</rant>

Now I can't access LOVE for the time being. These kind of things are why I don't normally play online games, because people play for 8 hours straight and their primate brain takes over. Hopefully I can resolve this without wasting too much of Eskil's time, because this is not the kind of thing he should have to deal with. Seriously, next time, instead of throwing a hissy fit over a griefer or someone who is supposedly ruining your gaming experience, just pull your doughy little face away from the monitor and take a moment to reflect on why your parents always make that sighing sound whenever they look at you.   read

10:13 PM on 10.12.2009

LOVE alpha test diary.

If you aren't familiar with LOVE, it's an online game not quite massive enough to be considered a Massively Multiplayer Game like World of Warcraft. It's a novel new online game where you build settlements with other people, and occasionally there's baddies that will kill you. I've been participating in the alpha test of the game, and I felt like sharing some of the stuff going on in the LOVE servers during this phase of the game's development.

When I started playing LOVE, I was instantly awed by how beautiful the game looks. The game runs fantastically on a cheap graphics card, and the whole visual style of the game is incredibly satisfying to watch. Your basic actions involve moving and jumping, which also involves a double jump you can perform off of solid objects, giving the game a very subtle platforming element. You can also shoot a little energy ball, but it's mostly useless. The first task given to a player is to find a settlement in the game, which you are directed to by a compass at the bottom of the screen.

When I started, I began to run towards where the symbol was pointing, and I immediately found myself hindered by an incredibly diverse landscape. Huge canyons rip through the world, and all manners of outcroppings and geological formations make navigating a very thoughtful task. The world is spherical, and I quickly found that I could chase the sun or run into night time with a few minutes travel. Every single vista looks like a painting, a visual style lilting between Monet-like splotches and indistinct forms, but the world also has a feeling of familiarity in many of it's features. Ice is blue-white, grass is green, water is dark and undulating, and the sky is in what feels like a perpetual sunset.

Now, the real test of a game is its gameplay, and if you thought LOVE was just a cheap randomized world created to showcase some pretty mountains, you might just piss yourself when you get into the actual stuff you can do in the world. When I found a settlement, the first thing I noticed was another person who was building a wall. When I say "building a wall", I don't mean he was placing some brick templates onto a 3d block. That's what all those other games do. This guy was pulling earth up out of the ground and strategically morphing it into a shape and size which not only seemed to make a sturdy defense against the baddies, but it also seemed to express his personal aesthetic preference for how the settlement should look and feel. I can't really elaborate more on that other than to say it is revolutionary for videogames.

I have since explored the world more, and I 've built my own personal cliffside walk around that showcases the gorgeous views which our settlement has. Another thing which is slowly dawning on me whenever I boot up the game is that the world is morphing by itself. Rock slides seems to happen, and the AI enemies are changing and building new structures in their attempt to secure more power.

Soon our settlement should find a weapons token, and once we learn how to build a gun, I'll do a write-up on the battle mechanics in the game.   read

11:54 AM on 09.15.2009

This is my sweet poster.

I made this poster out of sweat and blood, and a little urine. It is the sweetest thing in my apartment, if not only because I haven't bought a wii yet. It cost me $12 to make this, and as far as Ihas been reported, you don't have one. I would suggest you make one, but then my coolness quotient would be slightly changed, and I simply won't stand for that.

On the other hand, I suggest anybody who has a cheap color printing source go to Rasterbator and make a giant Samus or even better, a giant Mr. Destructoid.

We should make a contest for these, Colette's probably got some junk hanging around.   read

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

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