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Goodbye, cruel (adventure) blog! (Total: Day 400)

Yep! I’m (probably temporarily) ending my blog. I’d say it’s not “giving up” because it let me achieve exactly what I set out to do, and I don’t think I’m getting much out of daily updates at this point.

I started last year unemployed, so I decided to update the blog daily as a way to stay creative and productive, even on the worst days. And I did it!

I kept it going this year because I didn’t feel like I had a compelling reason to stop. Now I’m working full time – and with my commute, that takes about 13 hours out of each of my weekdays. I have to write my blog on my phone (which is awful) while on public transport; I’m writing this from South Yarra station while trying not to fall over in the train. It’s not ideal!

Now that I’m more productive than ever, the blog felt like superfluous stress. More importantly, I didn’t feel like I was producing very interesting content.

The idea of this blog has always been selfish. I wrote for myself, but shared it with friends and strangers for feedback as a means to improve. It was never specifically designed to be read by others, though obviously having others read it was never a bad thing. The problem is that it wasn’t interesting to me.

So it’s not so much that I’m worried about the perceived quality of content – I just don’t feel like I’m personally benefiting at this point. It’s cutting into my tiny amount of free time, which stops me developing other skills (like art and programming, both of which I need to improve) as well as writing for Goomba Stomp, which I haven’t been able to do for a while. Also, writing blog posts on a moving rickety bus is the worst.

Thanks to all those who have helped me out to this point. This isn’t a sad thing for me – I feel like this was a success, and I’m only quitting now because it feels like it won’t succeed further (without some serious time investment to make it more entertainment-focused).

Signing off! Have a great day, and thanks for reading.

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On Using Enemies as Skateboards (Day 31)

So this is an esoteric one, and as far as I know it’s only happened in the one (brilliant) game; Devil May Cry 3.

Fans of DMC will understand immediately, but newcomers may wonder how – or even why – somebody could ride an enemy around the stage like a skateboard. A bleeding, screaming, demonic skateboard.

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This is what Devil May Cry is all about – style over practically or logic. The series starts with the protagonist stopping a motorbike by shooting the gravity out of it, then DMC3 begins with a younger version of that same character killing a bunch of demons with a ceiling fan.

If you haven’t played the series, you are singlehandedly to blame for all global misfortune.

Also – and I wish I didn’t have to say this so much in my adult life – but I’m sorry for the short and weird one. Long day!

What are your favourite memories of, uh, riding an enemy as a skateboard? Do you have more than one? Please let me know in the comments!

On “Health Orbs” (Day 29)

“Health Orbs” here refers to items the player can collect that heal them. These typically exist separate to the narrative, as a simple – but effective – gameplay mechanic. In a select few cases the game may justify it, usually by having the protagonist absorb something (blood, souls) from their enemy.

There have been thousands of methods of healing characters throughout gaming, but I still think the “health orb” is one of the most efficient and interesting.

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Diablo 3 is one of the most straightforward and interesting examples in recent memory – when enemies die, they have a chance to drop a health orb. If the player touches it, they heal by a certain amount. Simple, right?

This is easy to understand even for the most casual of gamers, but the real brilliance of the mechanic lies in the way it makes players move forward. In most games, running low on health makes you retreat and either wait until you heal or find another means of healing (depending on the game). In Diablo 3, players are actively rewarded for fighting to their last, which is infinitely more fun and dramatic.

Another game that uses this mechanic in a more roundabout way is 2016’s DOOMDOOM has “glory kills”, where the player can execute injured demons to restore health, somehow.

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This is exactly the same idea, though done with a bit more flair (and in a slightly more obfuscated way). Players are rewarded for staying in the fight and moving forward, rather than taking cover and hiding.

We’re moving away from the basic idea a little, but this is also present in Bloodborne. Players can restore lost health if they fight back within a small time limit after being hit, which encourages them to stay in the fray and keep the fight going – and that’s brilliant.

Rarely do people talk about their exciting gaming memories and say “I was running away, because I was low on health, then I hid for 30 seconds while it recovered!”. It’s boring gameplay in almost every case. Systems like the ones mentioned above allow players to recover by taking risks and having a more exciting gameplay session, all without breaking the flow of gameplay (or combat, as in these examples).

Do you agree? Are there any combat-centric health recovery systems that come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

On Iron Sights (Day 25)

“Iron Sights” is the term used to describe the process of looking down the barrel of a gun in order to aim more effectively. This is opposed to “firing from the hip”, which is shooting while just using the crosshairs (or an estimate of the centre of your screen) to aim.

Iron Sights became extremely popular, I think, around the time of the success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I haven’t done a scrap of research on that, to be clear, it’s a total guess.

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In some ways, iron sights are more immersive and ‘realistic’ than aiming with crosshairs, if only because they’re diegetic.  They also present an interesting tactical decision to be made – take the time to lift your gun for precision aiming, or take the loss of accuracy to start firing immediately from the hip?

I assume that was always the idea behind iron sights, but in practice many games rely on it anyway, despite offering the option of hip fire.

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Often, firing the hip is entirely worthless, but firing down the sights is pinpoint accurate. There’s no real decision to be made in many of these cases, because aiming is always best, even in split second moments.

How do you feel about iron sights? Do you prefer the crosshair-laden days of yore? Let me know in the comments!

On Limited Sprinting (Day 20)

Today’s post is all about games that limit your ability to run faster than normal, tying it to something like a stamina bar. To be perfectly frank, games that limit your ability to sprint shit me to tears.

I just can’t see a good justification for it. Why waste my time forcing me to walk every few seconds? How does it make any sense that I’m too tired to run unless I just jog for 5 seconds?

I get it in some cases. In combat, for example, infinite sprinting could be very overpowered and/or hard to balance around. In cases like this, limit my sprinting when it matters, not when I’m exploring. It’s just a massive waste of time.

Are there any examples of limited sprinting you hate (or love)? What are they, and why? Let me know in the comments!

On Fast Travel (Day 19)

This will be another short post, because I’m writing it on a bus and I’m only this far into the sentence with pretty intense motion sickness.

Today’s post is on fast travel – more specifically, “non-diegetic” fast travel. Games like Fallout 3/NV/4 and Skyrim/Oblivion that let players teleport to discovered locations via their in-game map.

Like most people (I assume), I’m of two minds about the system. On the one hand it’s a fantastic convenience, and as I get busier in life I’m beginning to appreciate that immensely.

On the other, I’ve been playing Survival Mode in Fallout 4 recently and have thoroughly enjoyed my inability to fast travel.

I won’t get into whether or not the player is at fault for using optional systems like this (that’s an enormous post in itself), but I think there are benefits to each side.

Most obviously, fast travel is majorly convenient. It sucks to be given an epic quest and then be told you have to walk for four hours to start it properly.

However, that quest won’t be half as satisfying when you get there, and you’ll miss a bunch of content along the way.

I played F4 when it first released and got bored pretty quickly. I’m enjoying Survival Mode a lot more for a few reasons, but wanted to mention this because I’m finally learning my way around the world. It no longer feels like a disconnected array of theme parks.

How do you feel? Is the convenience worth sacrificing immersion? Do you love or hate fast travel, or a combination of the two? Let me know!

On Joke Weapons (Day 16)

Following on from yesterday’s post, today I’m talking about “joke weapons”. To clarify, these aren’t weapons that are especially bad (necessarily), but are weapons that are hard to find and are patently ridiculous or ill-fitting with the themes of the game.

Joke weapons tend to go in one of two directions – they’re absolutely worthless, or insanely brutal. Occasionally a game will balance them, but that tends to be the exception rather than the norm.

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Joke weapons are universally difficult to acquire, and as such are often a point of pride even when they’re not especially useful.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of them, in general. I have fond memories of discovering joke weapons and having my friends not believe me – something the Internet has largely ruined, for better or worse. Still, I enjoy the novelty of them. They’re the quintessential secret – something so well-hidden and bizarre that even when you see it, it’s hard to believe that it exists in the game.

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I’m not a huge fan when the weapons are the best in the game, though. They’re funny and often clever, but the novelty wears off quickly. When I’m spending a lot of time using them – because they’re the best – the joke wears off pretty quickly, and you’re stuck swinging a daschund at orcs, or whatever. It sounds funny now, but in another 15 hours you’ll probably miss your sword.

I’m an especially big fan of their inclusion in horror games, however. I love that joke weapons feel like something from another game, and the idea of goofy or stupid weapons in grim dark horror titles appeals to me greatly because of that strange, almost unbelievable dichotomy.

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Cutting it short here because it’s so hot that my MYKI card has begun to melt, so I need to find some shade. How do you feel about joke weapons? Do you have any favourites? Let me know in the comments!