The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Game Mechanics’

Do not read!

Posted by Matt on April 14, 2010

I just finished the first draft of the second last essay of my academic career. Let me have my fun.

Now, let’s talk Pokemon.

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Posted by Matt on March 28, 2010

Haven’t done this in forever.

Game Ideas #3

Idea: Time Paradox: The Videogame

Time travel and videogames are certainly no strangers. One of my favourite games, Chrono Trigger, is based around it, after all. And time warping has become a popular mechanic for action/adventure games.

However, it is worth noting that time travel storylines (especially for older games) make absolutely no sense. And not in the way time travel stories usually do. For example, in CT, your characters always seem to travel back to the point in time in a certain period where they last left that period, so that any changes in it actually count. It simplifies the time travel logic, but it’s also completely bizarre. Its sequel, Chrono Cross, which I have not played (and probably never will, seeing as I’ve lost all interest in JRPGs), did do some interesting things with the ideas of the original (which I maintain is the POINT of a sequel) by incorporating alternate universes and destiny and stuff like that.

But I still feel that is not enough, or at least there haven’t been a lot of games that go to that length. Time travel offers a vast amount of possibilities for games, and not just for stories/aesthetic either. Not even hard sci-fi time travel necessarily, although if you can find ways to create ‘scientific’ time travel logic for your game, go for it. Superhero comics have been messing about with time travel forever, and from it we’ve got fun stuff like the Kang Council. The more mindbending aspects of time travel seem to be rather underutilized, and that’s where this game idea came from.

The Kang Council was one of the inspirations for this idea, which is not set in any particular kind of storyline or genre but I have imagined as an RPG/Adventure game. The basic idea is this: you can form your party out of versions of a character from different time periods. Past, present, and future should all be available (with some reasonable limits, of course) to pluck party members from, including the characters you’ve already met. It could be them 10 years in the future, 20 years in the past, or five seconds ago: you could find them and recruit them. This might be easier to utilize if you keep the setting confined, maybe to a single city. By keeping the game rooted in a single area, I think, would not only make some of these ideas easier to manage, but also allows the effects of your time travelling escapades to be more pronounced without having to resort to ridiculous butterfly effect bullshit.

Yes, altering time should probably be more subtle. If you travel back in time and open a box, your present shouldn’t now to be filled with mutant pine cones or something. Save the bigger consequences for when your characters really start altering things in a much larger scale in the past. You can even make it that many smaller changes that do very little on their own can stack up to create some major changes. And of course, if some of those changes start to make your game a little too unbearable, you could simply go back in time and stop yourself from making those changes.

It would probably also be a good idea to focus on a specific, shorter periods in time for adventures. Much like focusing on a smaller world setting, it would easy up development and make the effects of your choices more immediate. Most time travel games let you go to what we recognize as ‘the past’ (dinosaurs, knights, cowboys) or ‘the future’ (lots of technology and robots and lasers), but that’s all pretty broad. It might be a better idea to make your character travel within 100 or so years of their current time, at most. And, as I hinted at before, that could include very short periods as well. You could go back or forward 2 months, 2 weeks, or 2 hours. Whatever times would be chosen should be done so for the sake of keeping the game interesting. You don’t need to be able to go back/forward to every minute for the next 100 years; but say, early in the game, your protagonist experiments with time travel by going forward or backward a very short distance, and you could keep doing this as a ‘test’ time. Again, the time periods you can visit, while closer together, should be done in the interest of gameplay.

With those major mechanics in minds, let’s get to the meat of the game. I would imagine that it would mission-based, with your characters getting ideas about things to see in the past/future. Say there was a major disaster that happened in the past, and your character goes back to witness it, and maybe even change the outcome. Or say they did something in their present, and want to see what happens in their future because of that decision. There would also be the kinds of things the Chrono games and even The Legend of Zelda have done before, where you take things only found in a certain time period back or forward in order to solve a specific problem. These sorts of missions would make up the bulk of the game, with a ‘big plot’ being unraveled at some point.

While I’d prefer a game that would allow a little more freedom, being able to choose to go back and forward in time and do a number of things and having those effects pile up, and let you deal or not deal with them on your own terms. There would limits to the number of things you could do, of course. We’re not at the point in gaming where developers could reasonably create that kind of complicated, organic game world (and in some cases, why would anyone want a game world like that?). But a really brilliant time travel game would at least try to let the players have some sort of control over the outcome of their shenanigans, at the very least give them options for their time travel missions rather than give them a time machine and then thrust them into a linear ‘gotta save the future!’ story.

On the other hand, it would still be possible to make a more linear game fun using the same ideas. I mean, I would be pleased with a Chrono Trigger-style game which includes different temporal versions of yourself as playable characters. I really, genuinely like some of these concepts, and if they can be integrated into a game of any stripe, that’s one step in the right direction.

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Posted by Matt on February 2, 2010

Now time for nerd stuff.

I found this site today. I knew about this game a while ago, but now they have stuff explaining it in-depth. It has some of the same guys behind it that were behind my precious VS Series before it folded a few years ago. They were awful nice to us nosy, ungrateful fanboys on the Internet, so I do wish them luck in their endeavors.

Anyway, the game seems like a streamlining of many of the ideas they had in VS. The teams with their characteristic gimmicks, the resources, and the terms used are very reminiscent of the earlier game. The idea of the ‘leader’ character I know is something they were thinking about during VS, as I’m pretty sure they had implemented a similar idea in their World of Warcraft CCG (which I really don’t know much about). It was also an idea that had plenty of player support back then, because they thought VS didn’t do a good enough job making the most prominent characters…well, prominent (although, unlike VS, it seems Marvel Superstars will have to go on without a certain spider man). The leader mechanic, as it is, seems like a decent variation on the tropes that have been around since Magic began, especially since they get stronger as the game goes on, adding a real sense of risk/reward with them.

Speaking of Magic, the battle system abandons most of the innovations VS had and goes back to being pretty much exactly like Magic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the leader mechanic actually mixes things up in that regard quite a bit. The also went for a Magic-style resource system (albeit much simpler due to lack of colors), but had the ingenious idea to give the player some resources to start with, as to (for the most part) avoid mana screw-ing players. This also plays off the leader mechanic quite well. See? One good idea in a game like this makes everything else interesting.

As for the aesthetic…very clean for the most part, logos are clear and easy to understand. I can’t help but find the use of live action movie stills a bit gaudy (and they remind me of failed games of the past, many of which went for the same look), but that’s no shot at the designers. Personal quibbles aside, the cards look perfectly okay. The fact that they are slanted horizontal instead of vertical is different. I’m curious to see what a game board looks like.

The major point for distribution is the fact that they are going to try to tie in releases to Marvel movies, which is a perfectly decent idea. Basically, you get as much out of the current films (from the looks of things, they have the rights to everything Fox and Marvel themselves produce, although they also have Ghost Rider, which is Columbia, but no sign of Spider-Man, which is owned by the same studio) as you can in a few basic sets, and then release new releases alongside the new movies (like they are for Iron Man 2), so as long as Marvel and the remaining licensees pump out new films for the next few years (like it looks like they will), then you have plenty of material for releases. I’m not entirely sure if they’ll be able to do the three-sets-a-year thing like they do for other games, but who says they have to be so traditional?

So, in summary, the game looks pretty good. It seems like the designs are still on the ball. And again, I wish them luck with their new game and the new community they hope to build.

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A serious post

Posted by Matt on October 25, 2009

I love fighting games. The problem is that there just aren’t that many of them anymore…or, atleast, not that many interesting or worthwhile ones.

I’ve seen people try to argue that the genre has come back to 90s-levels these days, what with the return of Capcom to the scene. The problem with that, however, is that there is little to no variety in the present fighting game scene. Yes, it’s nice to see Street Fighter and Vs. games back on the market, but reviving old series can’t be the solution to the general fighting game drought, can it? I mean, now we just have two more familiar faces joining the regular iterations of Tekken, Guilty Gear, and the like…the ones that never went away. But that’s pretty much it, aside from filler crap like Naruto games, and the odd new game like Blazblue. If the genre was really ‘back’, wouldn’t we be seeing a greater level of experimentation?

That’s the thing. What Street Fighter IV and Tatsunoko vs Capcom should inspire is a renewal in fighting game production, and with that, ideas. Both these games go back to the basics to draw more people in. This is a good thing: one of the reasons fighting games stagnated is because they became increasingly complex, meaning only veterans or people with lots of time on their hands could get into them. Gone were the days where two friends could fire up Street Fighter II and just putz around. It seems that the fighting game producers started making games specifically for the hardcore fans, meaning that they weren’t actually creating any new hardcore fans (this is the same thing Marvel and DC keep doing with their superhero comics). The audience shrank, and the genre became unprofitable. (not that the hardcore fans really cared, they were more concerned with being the top of whatever their chosen game was). The only fighting game series that went beyond navel-gazing was Smash Bros., which ironically is often snubbed as ‘not a real fighting game’ by snobby, insular fighting game fans, while also having its own set of snobby, insular fans who pretty much stand against the spirit of the series.

But Capcom’s succesful return could serve as an inspiration for others. While it doesn’t mean that hardcore-oriented fighting game need to go away completely, it does indicate that there’s a wider world out there for developers. They don’t need to be making opaque games for a small audience; they don’t need to please only one set of people. We could see a whole crop of new ideas being implemented in fighting games; Since they have become ‘viable’ again, publishers might not be as hesitant to greenlight new ones.

The rise of downloadable games makes it an even better situation for fighting games right now. If you don’t want to spend the cash for a full retail game that might or might not make its cost back, you could put them on XBLA or PSN or WiiWare or Steam. These services are great for smaller, arcade-style experiences, so fighting games are a natural fit. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more of them…we have plenty of indie developers who make homages to Mario, Metroid or classic beat-em-ups, so where are the old school fighting fans who became game developers? Maybe they’ve just been hiding.

Of course, this is just what COULD happen. As you can see, it doesn’t really seem like anyone is looking at SFIV‘s success and is saying ‘Hey, we can make fighting games again!’ And it seems like most fans would just like to see more revivals, like Darkstalkers, rather than completely new things (whoah, a shocker there). I might be alone in my belief that the spirit of creativity that was present in the Darkstalkers‘, Slam Masters‘, and Power Stone‘ of the past needs to revived before those actual games should be. But I also seem to be part of a disorganized demographic of people who like fighting games, but aren’t tourney-level players. Between them and the nostalgic set, we might not be a priority anytime soon.

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Cinderland

Posted by Matt on August 6, 2009

Hey, I got sunburns on my arms. Fuck you.

I started a book! Hopefully I can finish it.

I also started playing Ogre Battle recently. I quite like it still, and its good to play a strategy-RPG that doesn’t follow the FF Tactics mold, while still maintaining the customization aspect that makes me go OCD. It’s a different kind of strategy involved, too – almost reminds of a board/card game-style game.
I am running into some problems, though. One, and this is an issue I didn’t really have any time I played this before, but I am finding that managing some of those little factors can be very stressful. Stuff like Alignment and Reputation can be screwed up quickly and shut you out of various game options (especially classes, AND ESPECIALLY female unit classes, of which you have little choice in). On one hand, it’s a neat balancing idea – it discourages players from making one unit too strong and just plowing through the game, although you can still do that. But one thing can lead to another, and now many of my units that would need high alignment to upgrade are not there yet, and my reputation is rock-bottom and I have no idea how to get it back up. Oh well.

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