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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.

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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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Gamer’s Thoughts: Super Mario Odyssey isn’t a perfect game.

Super_Mario_OdysseyOfficial website

I wanted to write a review about this game for quite a while. I have finished this game over a month ago and I haven’t written a first impression or a review about this game. I want to fix that today. But, instead of writing a review I wanted to do something special. While the game got praise from other bloggers left and right, I want to point out some of the flaws and issues I have with the game. Disclaimer, I don’t think this is a bad game but I want to explain my reasoning for why I wouldn’t give this game a 100/100. So, let’s get critical and look at this game again. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts on the game and/or the game. 

Mini-review

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So, what do I actually think about this game? While it’s a very unique and enjoyable game, I found the game quite repetitive.

The music and sound design were amazing but I sometimes had trouble with the controls and more advanced moves.

The visuals are amazing and I loved running around in all the different kingdoms but I found the story lacking and I expected a lot more from the hype and praise it got.

If I would have to give my score for this game it would be an 80/100. Since in my eyes, the game could have done so much more and it left me disappointed in some areas of the game.

This game has a lot to love. Like I said, the visuals, the music, the concept… they are all amazing. The attention to detail is amazing. Cappy is one of the most helpful companions I have seen in a while. Yet, I felt like I enjoyed this game less then the other 3D platformers I played like A Hat In Time. So yeah, personally I felt that there was something lacking. Something that kept me from fully enjoying the game and that thought exercise resulted in this article.

Breath of the Wild did it better

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The story has one big issue and that’s the open world and the overkill of moons you can collect. Now, not too long before the release of this game, Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda – Breath of the Wild. In this game, you were also able to run around freely and gather the things you need to finish the game.

Now, there is a big difference in how the story is handled in the Zelda games and in the Mario games. The big difference is in how the ending is handled. And if you don’t want either of these games spoiled, just start reading when the text is black again. If you don’t mind the spoilers, just highlight the next part in order for you to read it.

So, in each kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey, there is a story quest you can complete to easily get enough moons to advance to the next kingdom. But, this is an open world game so you can skip this story quest by collecting other moons. Fair enough. You can do the same thing in the Zelda game. You don’t have to defeat the divine beasts in order for you to go to the final boss. 

Now, here is the difference between the two games. If you don’t defeat the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, you will have a harder time before you go and do the battle with Ganon. Since you will need to defeat them before you can fight with Ganon. The more Divine Beasts you beat, the easier you make it for yourself during the final battle. Since they bring down Ganon’s health to half if you have beaten all 4 Divine Beasts. This is not only good story writing, it’s also an amazing reward for the player. You helped free the souls from their prisons and they came back one last time to help the hero in his quest to defeat evil. 

In Super Mario Odyssey, this doesn’t matter at all. I haven’t finished the story quest in three kingdoms and it doesn’t have any difference on the ending scenes or on the final battle at all. So, why should I bother saving or helping people in a certain kingdom? When I entered a kingdom, I felt like I was dropped in a zone and if I found enough goodies I was allowed to go to the next zone. 

Another thing Breath of the Wild did better then Super Mario Odyssey are the Korok Seeds vs Moons. Now, you get both items as rewards for solving puzzles or doing small challenges in the world.  At some moments I felt like Super Mario Odyssey was the whole Korok Seed quest with a Mario skin. Now, I felt rewarded when I found a Korok Seed. Even when I had beaten the game. It gave me another chance to upgrade my bag so I was able to carry more equipment in the game and experiment more.

Now, besides needing them to continue in the main story, there are no additional rewards for collecting moons. Besides unlocking one more world/level, and maybe two small completion bonus things at the end of the game, I didn’t feel any incentive to collect these moons. I felt like I was on a fetch quest for them just because it’s a video game.

The final thing that Breath of the Wild did better is the towers and map mechanics. Yes, the towers. I loved climbing towers in Breath of the Wild and looking over the whole zone trying to find interesting areas to visit. I felt a lack of that in Super Mario Odyssey. Also, the mechanic where you could pin beams of light on the map as markers for you to visit later… man, that would have been great in Super Mario Odyssey as well.

And it would fit the visual theming of the game extremely well. The map of each kingdom is a travel brochure of the kingdom. And let’s be honest, how many times you wrote on the map of a travel brochure to mark certain areas you still want to visit.

And a final and possibly a minor thing is that Breath of the Wild felt more interconnected. The best way to explain here is, ask yourself this. You can walk over from region to region in Breath of the Wild easily. You need to fly over from kingdom to kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. And while it’s on a planet, you are able to fall into a void if you reach the edge of a kingdom.

A Hat In Time did it better

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Now, I’m certain that people will disagree with me on this but I felt that the controls of A Hat In Time felt better than Super Mario Odyssey.

It’s no secret that I’m not the best in platforming games. So, the running up walls move in A Hat In Time was a godsend to me.

But, the issue is that nowadays, I miss various jumps because I try to rely on that mechanic. It gets better when I kept playing Super Mario Odyssey but I missed that mechanic. Not only that, I got so much used to the dive move in A Hat In Time. I was able to pull off more advanced moves than I ever could in a platforming game. With the 2nd dive/jump, you were able to stop at any time you want. So, if you noticed that you overshoot the jump, you can save yourself easily.

So, at that moment I started comparing the moves I was able to pull off in A Hat In Time to Super Mario Odyssey. And I felt like I was more in control in A Hat In Time. For example, I can’t pull off the Cappy Jump at all in Super Mario Odyssey but I’m able to defeat the hardest jumping challenges in A Hat In Time. I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I think it has to do with the two things I said above.

Or it might have to do with me being more used to the XBOX360 controller I play A Hat In Time with compared to the first game I had beaten on Nintendo Switch. Maybe when I’m more used to the Switch controller, I might be able to do these more difficult moves.

Other things

Now, remember, I still enjoyed myself with Super Mario Odyssey and it’s still a great game. But, I have seen other games do certain aspects better. Besides that, are there other things I don’t like about Super Mario Odyssey?

The motion controls were also a big issue for me. I played a lot of this game on the go. On the train from and to work. And I think that I’m unable to get a few moons easily without those motion control moves. But, that’s mentioned in almost every review I have seen. And as pointed out by some, why weren’t they able to remap those moves to certain buttons that went barely used in the game like ZL/ZR?

Besides that, I think I have said my main issues with the game. I could go on and extremely nitpick, but that would make this article boring to read. Like I felt each world should have its own Rabbit mini-boss and not repeat them over several worlds with barely any differences…

In the end and I have mentioned this multiple times, I think that this game is wonderful, one of the best games Nintendo has put out in 2017. While it isn’t their best game from 2017, it’s in the top 5. While I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise, it could have done things a lot better and I hope I was able to point that out in this article.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in the next article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

First Impression: Dungeon Kingdom – Sign of the Moon (PC) ~ Moon Time

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Steam store page

Official site

A few weeks ago, I got a press key for a game sent to me. I’m so glad that the developer reached out to me since this game looks amazing. This game is being created by a small team based in France. It’s still in early access so a lot of things can change between what you read here and what is in the final game. I have played the June 2017 build in order to write this review.  While I got this game for free, the developer wanted that this article is 100% my opinion. I hope you are ready to dive into a new fantasy world since we have the sign of the moon and have to save the land. As usual in my articles, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the game. 

The sign of the Moon

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So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the game. I have only been through the first few areas of the game and been exploring and testing out different set-ups and just learning the ins and outs of this game. I could write a whole paragraph to talk about the story, but the press kit sums it up quite nicely.

At the dawn of the Fourth Age… You, a poor young man struggling to make ends meet, have been summoned by a strange man claiming to be a member of the prestigious Mages’ Guild, to join him on a great quest. In the hope for a better future, you accept his request, for who could refuse to follow such a seemingly eminent member of the Mages’ Guild?

A feeling in the back of your mind tells you that this is related to the strange symbol of a moon on you hand… Your quest will require you to explore the Dungeon Kingdom world, to uncover hidden treasures, solve puzzles and battle dangerous creatures in many areas, from dark dungeons to snowy mountains.

The story sounds quite interesting, so I can’t wait to see where the developer takes it. So far, I haven’t experienced the story too much. The writing is good. There isn’t a lot of world building at the start. You are thrown into a fantasy world and you expect to understand everything. While this could be seen as annoying to some people, I like it. Since you learn about the world in various scrolls and books scattered around in the world. I highly recommend that you read them since they might be useful to solve some puzzles.

The good exploring

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Let’s talk about the things I think were really good in this game. The visual presentation of this game is really well done. The game looks amazing.

I loved to walk around in the dungeon and towns since they just look amazing. I really love the fact that you can hold the left mouse button down to look around at the position you are standing. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no button to quickly snap the camera back into place. Apart from taking one step. This snaps the camera back in the right place.

The music and sound effects are really quite well done. While there isn’t a lot of music in the game, the sound effects and sound design more than make up for it. You really feel that you are in a dungeon or palace and it helps to add to the atmosphere. There is one sound effect I didn’t like, and that is the sleeping sound effect. It didn’t click with me. I think something that would add to it is a sort of “waking up” sound where you hear a tent zipper go open or something along those lines.

Something that adds to the immersion is as well the voice acting. It’s really well done. The dialogue also changed depending on your course of action.

The only nitpick I have when it comes to the presentation is that the game doesn’t use its own custom cursor. It would be amazing if the game uses some sort of custom glove/hand icon instead of the white arrow that Windows uses. It would fit a bit more into the visual presentation of the game.

Something I found really impressive is the dynamic light system. You can pick up candles to light up your way. And they do, in a very pleasing visual manner. Something I didn’t like here is that when a candle runs out, it looks like you can still light it. I didn’t find a way to do that. Also, it would be amazing if you can light candles in the environment that have gone out.

The tutorial does an excellent job of teaching you the basic mechanics of the game. I highly recommend that you play through this at least once. The tutorial is really short and sweet. Also, it doesn’t hold your hand too much, it lets you explore at your own pace. And if you want to read the last explanation again, you click a button and it’s explained again.

The dungeons themselves aren’t randomly generated. They are all handcrafted and all the loot is placed everywhere. If you look around enough, you can equip yourself with all the weapons and armor you will need. The game also allows you to tweak the stats to each character in your party to your liking. When you have enough stat points to do so that is.

The gameplay itself is amazing. You explore and fighting through various locations. There are also various secrets to discover in each area. Those secrets will be really beneficial to you on your journey. It’s also wise to keep some items that at first serve no purpose since you can use them to leave them on pressure switches. You can throw items to anywhere you want.

While this game has permadeath, you can save and load anytime you want. There is also an autosave.

Something personal and minor I really like in this game is the fact that there is a feature to change the controls to an AZERTY layout. 🙂

The automap system is amazing. The only thing I miss is to be able to put notes on the map. Maybe I’m too much spoiled by games like the Zelda DS games and Etrain Odyssey.

The RPG elements in this game are great. There is realism in this game thanks to the hunger and stamina system. You need to give your characters a rest and a meal or otherwise they won’t be able to survive.

Things that need improving

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Something that I didn’t like was how slow you were able to attack and how quick your enemies were. I died various times when I discovered the first secret to some enemies. There is a cool down time before you can attack again.

At first, I hated the controls of the combat. I had to use the right mouse click on the hand to attack. I thought this was the only way to attack. But then, I looked at the “Help & Shortcuts” menu and learned that there are buttons to attack. I think this would be really handy to mention in the tutorial.

I also think that the early game enemies are too strong. It just takes too long for you to be able to either counter-attack or use a spell against enemies. I lost two characters before I was able to slay one enemy. The combat system needs some polishing up in my opinion.

Speaking of shortcuts and controls, I think it would be lovely if you can rebind them. While the current control scheme does work for some people, some controls don’t work for me.

This game could use some polish here and there. This game could benefit from a lot of tweaks that seem minor but would go a long way. Like a bit more sound effects, like when you open a door. The game is good, but with these minor improvements, it would be great. But, I think that this is something they are working on since it’s still in early access.

While it’s challenging that you need to find your weapons in the wild, I find it very odd that when you hire an adventurer, he or she doesn’t have a weapon at their disposal. I think it would be an improvement if they have a basic knife or a basic weapon at the start.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, this game is amazing. I fell in love with the amazing visuals and the gameplay that this game has. I’ll follow the development of this game for sure. I also think that this game is worth your money. The asking price is perfect in my opinion.

The game is still in early access and the developer listens to the feedback that it gets. If you have ideas and suggestions on how to improve the game, open a topic on the Steam forums or write them an email.

I can’t wait to see where this game goes. I can’t say it enough, but I have to say that this game is worth your time if you enjoy dungeon crawlers. I do have to warn you that it’s still in early access, but report each bug or oddity since I think this game will become better because of it.

When this game leaves early access, I’ll surely take another look at the game and write a full review here on my blog. But for now, I enjoyed my time in the early access and will continue to play it. Before I repeat what I said too many times, it’s time to wrap up this article. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.