Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Frozen (and) Tangled

Two Disney movies that can get you stuck to your seat.

Frozen is the story of two sisters, the elder being locked away (by choice) from society to hide her ice-themed magic. Tangled is the story of a girl who has magic powers and is hidden away secretly by a selfish kidnapper in a tower hidden deep in the woods. In both stories, the previously isolated girl is set free near the beginning of the tale and endures some form of chase, being tricked by someone, and learning something.

Frozen beats Tangled in the catchy music department. As of this post Tangled's (Spoiler in Link) "I See the Light"  which is perhaps my favourite song in that film has around 150,000 results on Youtube. Doing the same search for Frozen's (Spoiler in Link) "Let it Go" returns 3.x million and has some ludicrous variations (no spoiler here, just silliness by Mikey Bustos).

While not as popular in the song department, I think Tangled has a better story. Tangled's characters all play an important part too, even the side characters that have no voice lines like Pascal the chameleon and the horse, Maximus. In Frozen, Cristoph has to "translate" for Sven the reindeer. Why? You also have a lot of throw away people that are seemingly just there to take space and/or plug in another song. Specifically those rock trolls and Olaf the snowman who literally walks into a scene from stage left and sings his solo soon after.

I also like that Tangled has a wider array of background art instead of just interiors, snow and more of the same. If you have ever done a 3D course you will know that organic stuff like leaves and grass are harder to pull off than say, stone or ice. There's also a bigger variety of environments in Tangled to show off those textures as opposed to Frozen's icy tundra.

I give Frozen four snowballs out of five while Tangled gets four and a half out of five locks of hair. Both are good movies, and I would watch both again. :)

Monday, 30 March 2015

MMO Design: Vindictus Quest Structure

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Most MMO's I've played have the quest structured similar to this:

  • NPC Person has Obvious Marker (?/!) that they have a quest for you
  • Talk to NPC Person to pick up quest
  • Do something which 80% of the time involves fighting
  • Return to NPC Person and get monetary / XP rewards
  • With enough XP your Stats might go up

While Vindictus also has that, there are extra and somewhat hidden quests (mentioned only once during the tutorial phase and never again) you can undertake in the form of Equipment Sets which serve as both a gold drain and time wall. How it works is this:

  • Find NPC Person in town (no obvious mark)
  • Purchase a Story scroll from them and read it to begin Quest
  • Quest is often a combination of collection, crafting and luck
  • When complete, you gain some "title"
  • Each title you earn boosts stats (STR/DEX etc)

It's the first time I've seen a "Pay for Quest" structure that gives out permanent Stat bonuses as a reward but I think it's pretty clever as it really rewards those who play the game longer (to go after those quests). Two of the same character with the same gear at the same level can still vastly differ in power levels due to the title system, and I for one would actually like to see this system in more games. Properly implemented with a few tweaks I think it could even replace the old XP and level structure that everyone is used to.

What do you think?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends

The eighth iteration of the same game.

Personally, the last one I played I think was Dynasty Warriors 3 a long time ago. While the graphics are better it is pretty much the same action game as that one but with more rock music because its so Xtreme it doesn't need that initial "e".

So Xtreme Lubu's horse can charge-surf through a tidal wave!

If you've never played any Dynasty Warriors game before you basically get put into the shoes of some semi-historic person and spend most of your time in semi-historic battlefields to slaughter knock out thousands upon thousands of foes with attacks that range into the magical and the absurd (but still cool to do).

Important characters (and there are quite a few) have pretty nice and unique models. The less important the character, the more generic the model. This means standard soldiers come from a clone factory and only differentiate themselves by the color of their sashes and head wraps. Not that it matters, you soon learn to pay them no attention what so ever.

There are quite a few modes of play, but my favorites were the Story mode (which you should play in order by the way, starting from Lu Bu and working your way down to Jin) because you learn a bit of quasi-history while watching a lot of cut scenes and Ambition mode which sees you develop a kingdom of your own. Toying around with making a story series for my play through on that one. :P

Overall, I found it to be a pretty entertaining game so I give it three swords out of five. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

American Sniper

50% Sniping, 50% PTSD.

The film follows the life of Chris Kyle (played by a believable Bradley Cooper), from his youth to when he becomes "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history" and how it messes up with his mind in that he can't leave the war behind. As you might imagine, there's a fair bit of gunfire and violence involved but Clint Eastwood seems to know his stuff when it comes to that. Having an adversarial sniper (no matter how fictitious) was a good idea too.

A most gifted killer.

I know I might draw some hate by writing this next part since it is about a real guy, but I can only hope that part near the end where he is playing around with a real gun (or even a toy one for that matter) at home, pointing it at his family members and then leaving it cocked on a shelf somewhere was made up. That is never cool or a good idea (eg. "hey, daddy could do it, why can't I?"), regardless of how much training you have.

Also the final action part where he puts his team in danger by deciding to try get vengeance. Wow. That could have ended verrrrrry differently.

The true pity for me is that by succeeding to "come back" from the war mentally was probably what does him in in the end, as I don't see how his paranoid version would have let anyone get the drop on him.

Anywho, as a film I give American Sniper three bullets out of five. While he did what was right by him and his family, I would not pay to watch a good soldier lose his edge a second time.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Nameless: Punishment

[This is part of my Creative Writing Experiment.]

The three gladiatrices tried to keep under the shade of the nearby plateau as they continued their journey towards the first batch of bandits Drisana wanted them to silence. The caravan mistress had given them free choice of gear to bring but due to the heat they were wearing only light clothing with miscellaneous pieces of leather armor and carrying few weapons between them, opting instead to load up on a little food and a lot of precious water for the journey across the hot sands.

Indas, who was up front, suddenly spotted something in the distance and signaled the sisters to a halt.

Up ahead was an almost clear patch of desert, with one ominous looking black obelisk in the middle. Someone was chained to it.

"I don't suppose we are about to stop helping strangers now are we?" asked Nessa sarcastically as she took the lead, advancing quickly but cautiously with her companions in tow.

Finally reaching the imposing stone they found a blonde and brutalized, naked woman chained to it. She was still breathing. Not wasting any time the gladiatrices began to hack at the chains, causing the captive to rouse from her unconsciousness.

"Run... it's... coming..." was all she could mutter as Indas managed to break a chain on her side.

The ground suddenly shook violently and from a distance, Nerith could see something moving underneath the sand heading straight towards them. They worked quicker on the chains, hacking free all but one attached to the woman's left leg before giving up to instead face whatever was coming towards them. Only two seconds later did slimy grey tentacles burst forth from the sand, squirming quickly at each of them but none managed to get close as they were hacked and parried back.

A second set of tentacles then emerged grabbing the ankles of each woman and the legs of the captive. Having had enough of this beast Indas reached down and flexing all her muscles, not only freed its grasp from her leg but managed to yank the creature's bulbous, disgusting sack of a body partially out to the surface. Confused, the monster let all the girls go as it desperately tried to burrow into the sand once more but Indas dug her feet in and pulled even stronger, exposing more of it to the surface. Able to see their foe clearly now, the sisters quickly went to work on it with their blades, stabbing, hacking and chopping at it until finally it exploded, covering them and the entire area in it's white, sticky entrails.

"That was disgusting," was all Nerith could say as she spat out some of the vileness that entered her mouth.

With the captive finally free they retreated back to the shade and gave her some water, spare clothes and time to recover. Eventually she was strong enough to talk.

"Thank you for rescuing me," she began. "I am Jasmine of Gedrin."

"What did you do to be chained out here?" asked Nerith.

"You don't know?" Jasmine asked, truly surprised. "That is the punishment of any mage is caught refusing to work for the wizard king."

She suddenly began to cry. "Please, my people. My village. They need your help."

"Here we go again," muttered Nessa to herself as she rolled her eyes.

"Wyrmias, the man that... did this to me... he and his soldiers are still there," continued Jasmine. "He is a sorcerer of the king."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Design: Empty / Scaled Maps

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Do you like empty maps?

I have a quick test for you all! Picture yourself running through a large zone in one of your games. Of the two versions below, which do you prefer?

A) The map is almost fully devoid of enemies, NPCs, and items to interact with and only serves as "travel time" from point A to B.

B) The map has a lot of NPCs you can interact with. Some to talk to. Some quest givers. Some to fight against.

Personally, I pick option B, because option A is stupid. Even if you are trying to show the scale of something having a player move through an otherwise empty map is not fun. Some good examples of this - Assassin's Creed 3 underground and getting out into the styx in Project Zomboid. There's lots of ground to cover. By walking. And walking. And walking. That's so exci..zzzzzzzzz....

One of the tips when designing Neverwinter Online Foundries is to not scale your maps unless there's something of interest there. You have a huge castle? Awesome. It better be filled with lore, explorable stuff, important details and/or NPCs. If the only room with interaction is a room in the highest tower then screw everything in between. Design it so the player goes immediately there (or at least has a clear option to) or prepare for a low score.

Unlike a tabletop D&D session where time and movement are really dependent on the dungeon master, computer games where you are literally controlling every step of a character takes can get boring and tiring quickly (if that is all you are doing), especially when moving through "purely decorative" environments. What do you think? Do you agree?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Today I Smiled: Second Wind

Sorry for the post frequency slow down, that last daily run really burned through my prepped content (and me) but don't worry, it will probably be back to that in a few weeks when I catch my breath. This is just a small post just to say that one of my Neverwinter Foundry Quests got second place. Woohoo!

I lost by .9? DAMN!

While there wasn't actually a prize for second place, I still got 132,000 Astral Diamonds for tying in the Best Story section. Woo! At least I won something... ;P

I also learned a few things since my last post, such as not counting the word "The" in alphabetical listings (so I fixed my lists on the top right there), that all snakes are deaf (but can "hear" vibrations), and that 3D pens are actually a thing (a must see for artists).

Lastly I'll leave you with an video links for an old but funny Mountain Dew Ad, a talented tight rope artist, and a silly site where you compare meerkats. Hope you all have a great day!