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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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First Impression: The Legend Of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild (Wii U) ~ Hyping Hype

Official websiteBreathoftheWildFinalCover.jpg

Hype, hype and even more hype. That was the internet right before this game dropped onto store shelves. While many reviewers already finished the game, I’m only 10 hours into the game. But, I have played enough to talk about this game. While this game was in development, I tried to read as little press material as I can. To avoid spoiling myself. But I couldn’t avoid it, every social media I went to was full of the latest rumors and articles about this game. In any case, I picked up this game right after the launch weekend. During the launch weekend, I was out of town. For those who missed it, why I’m not playing this on the Nintendo Switch. Well, that’s because budget reasons and I’m waiting to buy the Switch until more games have been released on it. At the moment of writing this article, there are too few games being released on the Switch that I actually want to play. And because I already own a Wii U and the game has been released on the Wii U, why not.  Also, this article will be spoiler-free. Since, honestly, I haven’t finished the game myself. So, yeah. No worries about that. So, enough rambling… two weeks after the release of the game, it’s time to talk about my first impressions of this game. And as usual, feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below.

Stop that hype train?

 

When this game was announced, the hype train was real. Everybody and their dog were hyped for this game. An open world Zelda game that took inspiration from games like FallOut and Skyrim, what’s not to love. Well, To be really honest, I wasn’t hyped. I honestly was disappointed.  At first, I was afraid that Nintendo was making a Skyrim-clone in a Zelda coat of paint.

Maybe I’m unable to let go of the past, the at first, this game didn’t feel like a true Zelda game. In my eyes, a typical Zelda game was like the old-school Tomb Raider games. A linear adventure game with a big central world that you could explore. But after a few hours of playing this game, something started to click in me.

If you are skeptical of this game and you are afraid it changes way too much from the Zelda-formula; don’t worry too much. Since this game changes a lot of things but some changes are for the better. Something I truly love from this game is how you can do dungeons and quests out of order.

But, something that was truly lacking, a more alive overworld. Everything has been made more interesting in this game. But, I’ll talk more about that later in the article. Let’s take a quick look at the story first.

I was pleasantly surprised how this game is able to tell an interesting Zelda story. Especially since you can explore wherever and however you want. The story of this game has all your typical Zelda lore. The narrative is present wherever you go. You decide the pace of the story. When you want more story, you do the main quests. When you want to take a break from the story, you do side quests or explore.

Something I was both hyped and let down by is the voice acting. While the voice acting is very well done, I’m let down that it’s underused. It feels like every voice actor only had one or two sheets of papers with lines, and that was it. And so far I have seen, it’s all a monolog talking to Link. What a missed opportunity there. But, maybe I haven’t advanced far enough into the main story yet, but so far, I find that the voice acting is underused. But when it’s used, it’s amazing.

Run around

In the past, I stopped playing games like Skyrim because I was too overwhelmed by the skill and tech trees. Where was way too much to do in that game. But, in this game, you get a sort of tutorial in the first area. You get your first taste of the shrines, the world, the story, the gameplay and the controls. Right after you have beaten the first four shrines, you get the paraglider. And then, you can go out into the world and explore your heart’s content.

So, in this game, you play as Link. And in this title, he is equipped with a lot more abilities than before. You don’t have to wait to unlock the spin attack or something amongst those lines, Link can do them all from the word GO.

Honestly, I was able to learn the controls quite quickly in this game. The more advanced tricks were learned naturally or with a quick tutorial. The controls of this game are quite responsive and I rarely have trouble with them. Apart from some gyroscope puzzles in some shrines, I don’t have any issues with them. The only thing I always confuse are the buttons for your inventory and your map. I can’t count on one hand anymore how many times I have opened my map in the middle of a battle when I only wanted to change my weapon.

That reminds me, the combat in this game is almost perfect in my eyes. Apart from some weapons doing way too much damage, it’s quite alright. Something that frustrates be beyond believe as well is that some weapons do so much damage and when you pick them up, they are weaker then your current weapon. Annoying spears, ugh.

Time for nitpicking

 In general, I think this game is pretty great. While it’s not 100% Zelda in my eyes, it’s growing more and more in my heart every hour I spend on it. I start to notice the attention to detail the developers put into this game. To create a living and breathing world that every Zelda fan would feel home in.

Something that also helps are the gorgeous visuals and the amazing soundtrack. Seriously, the presentation of this game is perfect. But, it does come with a price. The frame rate isn’t always stable. In some cases, the game drops under 30fps. And one time, I almost had a game crash. While the game always quickly recovers itself, it’s a letdown. Maybe with patches in the future, this improves.

Oh, that reminds me. Something I wish is also improved in a patch is the loading times when you enter and exit a shrine. The loading time isn’t that long, but it breaks the immersion. If those loading times could be improved, I would be so thankful. Something like an unskippable animation like in the older 3D Zelda games would do just fine.

Speaking about loading times, I wish you had an option to have to press a button when you want to re-enter the game. I had more than once, that I was reading the tips and the game loaded and I was thrown right into the game. I wasn’t done reading those tips just yet.

While I have a lot more to say about this game, I think I’ll leave those things for the review when I have finished the game. But in conclusion, give this game a chance. Sure, this game has flaws and changes a lot of the traditional Zelda formula, but it presents the original Zelda formula with a lot of improvements. Veteran Zelda players will feel right at home and enjoy themselves with the setting and the story. Everything feels so alive and much more realistic. I recommend this game already, but I’m curious if the game holds up when I have beaten it. Like I told earlier, at first, I wasn’t a big fan of the concept of this game. But, it’s winning me over. The charm of this game, it’s something I didn’t know I was missing from my Zelda gaming life.

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

First Impression: Bully – Scholarship Edition (PC / Steam) ~ It’s a game at least.

bully-scholarship-edition-pc-boxartOfficial website

My current studies in college are teacher. So, honest, I was quite interested in this game. I was curious how they would address the problems of a bully. Knowing the developer, the first impression of this game is that this game actually gives bullying a “good vibe”. But let me explain in this article why I think the game is actually not even worth it. How they totally missed tons and tons of opportunities. If you follow me on my Twitter, you know that I tweeted out to Q that this game left me ‘meh’.  In other words, I’m not extremely interested in beating this game. There are just too many flaws in this game that it isn’t even funny. And it’s an extreme shame, RockStar games are known for amazing games but they failed on various parts in this game. I kinda feel like a real teacher now, sometimes repeating this same information but in different ways. Hah! Food for thought. Something my colleague teachers will understand. Anyways, while I do realize that I can possibly get hate on this article, I honestly only care about people who can say their opinion with respect. And I invite you to post a comment with your own thoughts on this article and or the game. 

And I haven’t played yet.

pc-09bigWhen you have games like GTA under your belt, you expect quality things from the developer. But the download on Steam was just finished and I noticed that the game was going to be a major let down.

I researched the problem and I wasn’t the only one. The game has freezing issues at the start-up loading screen. I repeat, the start-up loading screen. Yeah, and I haven’t played the game yet. And we are off to a great start. And sorry RockStar, you have no excuse! At the title screen it says “1.200”. Assuming this is your version number, this means most likely that you released 2 patches. Ignoring that issue is a shame.

Then the main menu, I seriously thought that I was going to pull my hair out. The main menu on the Steam version is terrible. It has an interesting design behind it but it barely has any options you expect from the main menu. To configure most options, apart from video (If I recall correctly), have to be done when you loaded your save.

Sadly enough, the problems don’t stop there. The game can be played with an XBOX360 controller. And honestly, I recommend playing it with a controller. Why? Because the controls feel stiff and awkward. The controller’s controls are an improvement but not that much. And how can a big studio not program the recognition of the controller? I found this out in mid-game. So, I plugged in my controller and I have to reboot the game in order for it to work. And here is the fun part, when I unplugged it mid-game, the game didn’t react to keyboard input!

Nice try guys.

bully-scholarship-edition-qdphGraphically this game is pretty okay. It isn’t anything amazing but thankfully they used some detail. But then, the developer got GTA in their heads and the designing a school got a “GTA upgrade”.

You can buy new clothes to wear instead of the uniform. I facefalmed hard right there. If you missed why, look up the definition of a school uniform. You have to wear that uniform and nothing else. Okay, it’s to rebel, I understand. But you easily get in trouble in real life if you break rules.

Now, the animation. Do I truly have to? Well, here we go then. The animation of this game is just awful. Please tell me when I can come out of hiding after the hoard of angry fanboys went by.

The game is riddled with animation problems. From twitching characters to people falling upwards, they got it all. As if this game has been thrown on Steam just to have some more cash. This game is pretty bad at hiding it’s problems. In cutscenes you can see the problems popping up. In the cutscenes! I mean, come on. If you know your engine has issues, use movies like in the old days as cut scenes.

More issues

344247-bully-scholarship-edition-windows-screenshot-picking-a-lockI might start talking again about the design and the animation of this game in this article, but if I don’t, I’ll surely talk about it in my full review if I ever write one.

Another BIG issue I have to address is the sound. From the music to the sound effects. The music, honestly, is bland. I always listen to the game’s music when writing articles. It helps my brain to get into the mood and feel from the game. But the music is nothing special. I find it hard to even remember tunes from the game. While I can easily recognize many tracks of other games I played. But that might be because I didn’t hear everything yet.

And the sound effects, my lords. Are they bad! The sound of students stepping sounds like they clapped two coconut shells to each other. Or those old plastic pots with cords that you walked around with on the playing ground. It breaks the immersion quick.  I had it happen often.

And don’t get my started about the students. They are loud and thanks to that you can barely hear what’s said in some cutscenes and what your reply was of a student you praised or said bad things too. Also, they sometimes give you awkward replies or the same one over and over again.

Is this game junk? Well, no not completely. The gameplay is somewhat interesting. But please, anything but the classes. While they could have showed the interesting part of teaching they replaced the courses by simple mini-games. And English class is such a pain for a not native speaker. Trying to make words with the letters given. I had to struggle a lot. My native language isn’t English, it’s Dutch. So, that’s a spot where they missed something they could have done gameplay wise.

Anyways, I think I’m going to leave it here. I might play this game a bit more to research it but that’s my current opinion on it. If you want to try it, know it didn’t talk in depth about the graphics, design, gameplay and control. That’s something for you to discover. But I warn my readers, think this one through before you buy it. You might be let down by the sheer unpolished elements in this game.