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LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the amount of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt myself too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of my games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing worked. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this story time about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too much plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPG’s use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

retro_game_challenge_coverart

Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beaten the first three levels of a top down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat the certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and theme is this. A big open world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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Review: The Legend Of Zelda – Minish Cap (GBA) ~ Easiest Zelda Game?

The_Legend_of_Zelda_The_Minish_Cap_Game_CoverZelda wiki entry

Ah man, I have a ton of memories of this game. I played this game when I didn’t have enough money to buy games myself. I was quite young. If I remember correctly, I was just getting into high school. So, I was 11 – 12 years old when I rented this game from the video game store. I almost finished the game before my rent time was over. So, after I returned it, I rented it the next weekend. As it turned out, somebody else rented it and saved over my save file. I was so let down, I actually didn’t play the game that much. After a year or two, my local game store stopped renting out games. They sold them all second hand. Then I bought this game and I finished it in a week. But how was my experience? Well, let’s take a look at it! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

Easy?

45103-The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_The_Minish_Cap_(U)(DCS)-6So, I claim in my title that this is the easiest Zelda game in the series. And I stand by that claim. This game is rather on the easy side. Not only that, it’s quite short. But more on that, later.

The story in this game tells the story how Link got his green hat. Once every 1000 years, there is a special festival for the Minish. A race that helped create the master sword. Link is the grandson of the blacksmith with the Princess Zelda as childhood friend.

You get asked to deliver a sword to the King. After you play a bit around on the festival, you see Vaati, the winner of the sword contest destroy the Master Sword and turn Zelda into stone.

That’s all I’m going to “spoil” from the story. (It are the first ten minutes of the game anyways.) The story is pretty well crafted. The characters are memorable and written pretty well. There is one thing that Nintendo implemented that I’m not a big fan off. That are the Kingstones.

These stones are pretty much the ways you open secrets in this game. You find them all over the world and your goal is to match your piece with somebody else. Then you open a cave or something along those lines. On paper, this can be interesting… But in theory, it isn’t. The two flaws here is that you see where the secret opens AND you have way and way to many Kingstones in the end. This gives the Kingstones less value and ruins the fun.

New items

zelda_minish_capGraphically, this game looks amazing. It gives off some Wind Waker vibes. The world is really colorful and bright. It’s really pleasant to look at.

The animations also give off this Wind Waker vibe. There isn’t anything I didn’t like about the visual presentation of this game.

What I really liked in this game was the world design. In this game, you can shrink down to a really small size, to the size of the Minish. This makes some locations that more memorable. When I replayed this game I often thought: “Oh hey, there are Minish living in this roof.” Oh, also, like in the Legend Of Zelda Link’s Awakening, this game also has references to the Mario games. Have fun looking for them!

In this game, you get some classical Zelda items like the boomerang and the bow and arrow. Yet, there are also some new items. The Mole Mitts you can use to dig your way in certain areas. A special cane that helps you flip over enemies and an upgraded Roc’s feather. You get a special cape to jump around. This cape also makes your jump longer. Oh yeah, and the vacuum cleaner… I mean the gust jar. This nifty item can suck up air and spit it back out. Guess what it’s used in a water puzzle.

The items are used very creatively. But one part that is introduced extremely well is the Four Swords. When you defeat a dungeon, you get a new element. With this element, you can create clones of Link in certain places. This makes the puzzles in some areas really well done.

Earlier in the review I said that this game was easy. To a seasoned Zelda player, this game can be easily beaten. When this is your first Zelda game, it will take you a bit longer. I felt that in some areas, the game could be a bit harder. It’s one of those games you play through because it’s a fun game. The atmosphere is there.

Music

 45103-The_Legend_of_Zelda_-_The_Minish_Cap_(U)(DCS)-16The music in this game is one of the strongest points in this game. When I listen to music from the GBA, I think that there aren’t that many soundtracks that sound as nice on the gameboy advance then this one. At least, as far that I played.

The soundtrack also has some remixed tracks from the previous games. This got a smile on my face.

The sound design is well done. There weren’t any sounds I thought were out of place.

The controls are responsive and spot on. I didn’t have much trouble controlling Link. Apart from some ice puzzles, I think the controls are perfect.

This game isn’t that long. Instead of the usual 8 dungeons and one final dungeon, this game has 6 dungeons. I wished there were a bit more dungeons then that.

In any case, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time for the conclusion! (Oh, for my new readers… Yes, I left some things out. Gameplay wise and such… Just because if you are interested I want that there things that you can discover.)

Conclusion

The bad:

 – Kingstones aren’t well implemented.

 – This game isn’t that difficult.

 – I wished this game was longer.

The good:

+ Solid gameplay.

+ Fun new story.

+ Nice visuals.

+ Great music and sound design.

+ Fun new items.

+ …

Final thoughts:

This game is quite well made. It came out near the end of the Gameboy advance’s life cycle… So, it’s a bit overlooked. While it’s not the best Zelda game out there, it’s a really good one. Apart from Zelda fans, I would recommend this game to any new Zelda player. This game is the perfect entry level Zelda game to start with the series.

While this game has some flaws, I think it doesn’t take much away from the experience. I didn’t find that much negative things to say about this game. That’s why I give it full marks. It’s one of the best games out on the GBA and it’s a must own!

Score: 100/100

Anyways, thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article sometime, but until then… Have a great day and game on~

Game Diary #1: Craziness ~ NES games

Arpegibe Well, this is my game diary. In this series, I’ll write a story in a sort of diary style. Of course it’s fake. But why do I write it then? Well, in the story I’ll hide some game names or obvious references to games or game series. At the end I’ll post the solution and where you can find them. Can you find them all? I’ll try to give each entry a certain theme. In this article I’ll hide 10 (popular) Nintendo series. Are you ready? Let’s go then! Oh, leave in the comments how many series you found. Also, when I made a reference without noticing, feel free to put it in the comments. Oh yeah, if you play this game, be careful while reading the comments for spoilers. Oh yeah, all the references are NES games. 

The entry

Dear game diary,

Today I played several games again. It’s almost like yesterday when I met Troid. Man, he is a great guy. I played the whole day with him. I’m jealous of his job. He is a game reviewer for a magazine. It earns way more then my paper boy job at the local news store.

Troid told me that he wants to go to space one day. Sadly enough, we are bound to earth.

Mom bought a new vacuum cleaner today. I saw the name Kirby on the vacuum bag. The previous one broke. My dad told me that a metal gear in it went missing. Well, I don’t remember it exactly what he told me, and it doesn’t matter that much really. We have a new vacuum cleaner.

My dad came back from his duck hunt the other day and showed us the dog he found. Jokingly he said that he saw the dog laughing to him whenever he missed the ducks. I have such a crazy old man. My mother isn’t that crazy on the other hand, well she is crazy about him.

Felix, our cat, threw up on the carpet today. My brother had to clean it up. It has his fault. I know that it’s my cat, but hey, if it’s his fault; I’m not going to clean up his mess.

But I’m going to leave it here. The kick-off of the soccer match is about to start.

Cheers,

Jonez

The solution.

And now, in order. (Select the text to see it.)

  1. “met Troid” , come on, just paste that together.
  2. The holiday job is a title of a NES game. Paper-boy.
  3. The most difficult one: “bound to earth”. Earthbound. 
  4. Yes, Kirby is also the name of a vacuum bag.
  5. a Metal Gear is missing.
  6. Duck Hunt, the activity from which the dad returned. 
  7. “My mother” – Mother series. (Yeah, cheated a bit on this one. Thought it would be a sneaky one for some challenge.)
  8. The cat’s name. Felix the cat. It’s a NES game.
  9. “Kick-Off” is the name of a soccer series.
  10. And yeah, Soccer is a NES game too.

Closing

So, I created this story while sitting on the bus home from college. I had this series on my Dutch blog, when I still had it, and now I decided to revive it. I hope you enjoyed trying to find them all. Feel free to send me idea’s for next time. But until my next article guys!