Thursday, December 30, 2010

Anime: "Shinryaku! Ika Musume!"

Splice of life animes don't get more random than this one >.<

Ika Musume, loosely translated as 'Squid Girl', is angry with human beings for defiling the ocean and has come to the surface to invade them. After creating a hole in the wall of a shop on a beach, she was forced to work there to pay off the damages.

The whole anime is basically about life of a girl who has squid like powers. Her 'hair' are tentacles, the 'hat' she's wearing are her fins, and she can also 'vomit' squid ink. Unfortunately for her, (and quite expectedly for us), most of the humans she encountered were not normal and some have outstanding reactions towards her, usually much to her dismay.

As an anime that is driven by its characters, I'll just go through the main characters, WITH PICTURES UNLIKE THE WIKIPEDIA ONE! =D (There are side characters, but they only appear for an episodes or two )


Ika Musume - Weird Squid Girl. Talented, genius but airheaded and ignorant.

Eiko Aizawa - Hot headed manageress of the shop. Very bad at studies.

Chizuru Aizawa - Sister of Eiko. Yandere, nuff said :p

Takeru Aizawa - Little brother of Aizawa family. Nothing special as pointed out by Ika.

Nagisa Saito - A girl who is actually scared of Ika and really believes that she is capable of an a large extent. She loves Goto. Poor girl =/

GorĊ Arashiyama - A lifeguard and childhood friend of Eiko. Loves Chizuru. Poor guy =/

Sanae Nagatsuki - Introduced as a cute, shy and polite girl, upon seeing Ika, she evolved into a really creepy stalker who is very VERY infatuated with her.

Cindy Campbell - Strange American(?) girl who works as an Investigator for some research department on alien species. She believe Ika is an alien and at a point of time, Chizuru too.


It IS a rather strange and random anime, but suffice to say it delivered pretty well. I'm honestly not sure if the excessive use and display of Ika Musume's tentacles mean anything as all the episodes seemed innocent enough. Maybe it's just my over-imagination ^^;

Here's the PV:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anime: "Panty and Stockings with Garterbelt"

I seem to be attracted to animes of total randomness more so than those with actual 'meaning'. "Panty and Stockings with Garterbelt" is truly a strange, disturbing, interesting and weird anime all at once, just as its title suggests. It took me a bit of courage to begin watching this. It's also incredibly vulgar and full of sexual references. I wondered how they managed to air this in Japan, especially with the anime ban just around the corner.

The first thing that catches the eye, other than the title, is the art. It's art style has the same heavy cell-shading/chibi theme as popular Cartoon Network cartoons such as Dexter and Powerpuff Girls, although from time to time, they switched to conventional anime style. Or even put in real life pictures. Somehow before everyone dies, the show will suddenly switch to a real life small model of the creature/person and it will subsequently get blown up:

The setting seems normal enough though. Basically angels known as the Anarchy Sisters, aptly named Panty and Stockings, were banished from heaven to Daton City on the surface due to their screwed up behaviors. To return, they have to kill 'Ghosts', and collect Heaven Coins to return. Wtf Heaven Coins. It's so stupid that I loved the concept.

That's not all though. If you have watched the very disturbing trailer (which I will embed below), you'll come to know that both angels have the ability to transform certain parts of their clothing into weapons that can be used to defeat Ghosts. Panty can transform panties into guns and Stockings can transform stockings into katanas...

They were sent to Reverend Garterbelt, some cool black dude with a huge afro that is somehow also supposedly a homosexual. Yeah, he's not normal either. Not by a long shot. But despite his madness and antics, along the episodes we know that he will ultimately the good guy in the series.

So here's a brief description about the main characters. Heheh, Brief.

Panty - Seems like some stereotypical celebrity blondie that just wants to make out with guys. She's actually pretty f'ed up. She's incredibly rude, vulgar and doesn't seem to take her Ghost killing duties seriously. She also hates sweets.

Stockings - Stereotypical goth loli. Loves to eat sweet stuff. She seemed to have a BDSM fetish with her at the receiving end.

Garterbelt - Godly holy black man with the most overpowering afro. He is indestructible. Or at least, he always reconstructs somehow. He always gives advice to defeating a Ghost. Also, he is gay for Brief.

Kneesocks and Scanty - Devil counterparts to Panty and Stockings. Like most random villains, they get overly ecstatic before ultimately getting defeated.

Brief - Some geek who loves Panty. Although his role is usually insignificant, it changed in the last episode. Also it is hinted that he might be the main character for the next season.

Chuck - Strange zipper dog thing. He also throws up (literally) Panty and Stocking's mission for certain episodes.

Despite the obscenity, it is a fairly good watch (provided you are of the right age). The episodes usually don't make much heck of a sense and sometimes the randomness can be overwhelming. There are also tons of parodies. For example there's an episode that's a direct parody of Transformers as shown by the pic below:

Also, the last episode parodies the old Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet. Sorry I just have to say it lol. I don't think many people watched that movie. Anyways below is the trailer:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This X'mas = 4 HRs, 3 animes, 2 otomos and a brand new LG handphone

It's really been quite some time since I actually watched anime or did any anime review. A week of my holiday somehow disappeared into a swirl of alcohol, shit talking, anime screenings and monster hunting.

Then I realized I just finished 3 half season and 1 full season animes in the whole week. Perhaps that's why time flew by pretty fast. Yet I know that it's still no match for other otaku marathoners.

Anyway, a bunch of animu reviews are coming right up. I think I have enough to flood the blog's front page. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Finally, a breather!

It's been close to a month since the last update. The exams and projects have finally come to an end and the 3 week holiday has begun. I still can't believe a month has passed. Everything was incredibly hectic and busy. I haven't been playing much games for the past 3 months and couldn't find the motivation to review them, especially since I do not have time to complete them.

As for the game project, I really do not mind showing it to everyone, but I'm still unsure about the copyright issues related to it. I was told that it's okay to show by my classmates, but I would rather play safe I guess. But do look out for it! I've already passed it to a couple of people for them to try =)

I wanted to do many things during this 3 weeks, and I really hope it doesn't pass by too quickly. The Monster Hunter craze has started again with it's new game (Monster Hunter 3) and it's pushing everyone's priorities away, myself included. Finally all of us are desperate enough cohesively to play Monster Hunter together. It shows how sad MMORPGs are nowadays; there are just too many better alternatives. And Cataclysm is not helping.

On a final note, after observing my stats, I found that it is much better to write guides than reviews. So I will try my best to post more guides from various games and cut down on my reviews. I also find that it's much more productive that way. Speaking of guides, I might post maths/programming related stuff here, although to what extent I have not decided.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Facebook Bejewled Blitz Elite Tricks

I really enjoyed doing this to the extent where the excitement of getting high score pales in comparison. Then, my friend linked me this video. I really didn't think it was possible to do it in the real match -_-;

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Game Design: "Greed in games"

Just this afternoon, I was (somewhat) silently looking at my friend's returned paper and remarked on his 6-11 framework of a ancient Intellvision game Astrosmash. In his framework, he listed the existence of the 'Collection' instinct which leads to the 'Greed'. My lecturer actually circled this section and wrote 'Why?'. The question I ask is, why not? If you looked at the video link on Astrosmash I gave above, you can see clearly why my friend actually wrote 'Collection'; the points. It's not really literal collecting per se...wait, see now I'm confused. Suddenly it seemed very obvious that the player is driven to collect points in this game. Suddenly, when you put it that way, isn't many, if not all, games driven by greed?

That reminded me that I actually have a draft sitting in my blogspot here waiting to be written. I had this idea that games were all driven by some greed because for some odd reason, all the assignments I did about the 6-11 framework somehow had 'Greed' listed somewhere. A game without 'Greed' somehow doesn't cut it. I wish I could list an example but I couldn't! All games, digital or not, computerized or board, have some form of Greed. Which leads to the question: 'What is Greed?'

Is it because the idea of Greed is too broad? In my definition and words, Greed is basically the desire to possess something they don't have. From this simple definition, I believe that there is greed in every human being. I can even say that even monks are greedy in the sense that they want to seek enlightenment. Without greed, there is no drive. What is a human without drive? Without 'want'? Wouldn't they just be an empty shell?

It didn't seem so obvious then as it did now. Why do I play games? What kept me hooked? What kept OTHERS hooked? Why did I lose interest in some of them? Is it true that EVERY game plays with our greediness? Is it true, based on testing my friends' pre-alpha games, that the better games always have a better hook that preys on the greedy nature of humans? In game design discussions, it's always asking what players WANT WANT WANT. The moment a developer does not consider that, a game will just...crumble. If it doesn't and sells well, I think it is an 'Accident'. I think a lot of games are accidents, like 'Everquest' or 'Starcraft'. You can disagree with me on that; it's not the point of the discussion.

We start by looking at the infamous 'High Score'. Back then when Pong was first developed, it didn't have any way to track scores. I find it extremely hard to believe that people find the game fun without tracking the score at some given point of time, whether physically or mentally, consciously or unconsciously. Then came the arcades and High Score was introduced. My lecturer 'forced' me to watch this documentary known as 'Chasing Ghosts' which shows exactly how important it is to the arcade scene.

Whether the game LASTS is based on how difficult it is to fulfill a player's greed and their tolerance. A good example is the Disgaea series. From that game you can draw out 3 main groups of people because of it's extreme grind. Firstly, those who don't have the tolerance nor time to dedicate will just be greedy for the story. When the story ends, the game ends. Secondly, those who have too much time and incredibly tolerance to grind through everything and obtain everything the game have to offer to create the ultimate party/character. Thirdly, those who are greedy enough to try but do not have the tolerance, time nor dedication to continue.

I think it's rather safe to agree that most people fall under the first and third category. I'm not gonna conduct surveys on this; it seems pretty obvious and more so in this generation since people are getting busier and busier. I personally know people from all three categories and the ones fulfilling the second are thought to be insane and usually either have no job, play games during their jobs or in National Service (^^).

But you see, the moment a player loses interest is when it feels tedious to fulfill the greed within the player. If there's an incredibly difficult boss fight that only skilled players can defeat, the player will fight use the greed within him to drive himself to improve. After many futile attempts, they might give up, possibly due to a serious case of learned helplessness. When they give up depends on their tolerance level of such events.

All this leads to why I find the idea of 'Achievements' ingenious. The combination of the simple mechanic of collecting points in game and the fact that you are showing it (usually) to the rest of the world creates a rather powerful effect on gamers. Suddenly, pride and competition comes into play and together they can furiously generate lots of greed until the player chooses to 'let it all rest and move on'.

That choice, by the way, isn't really an easy choice. It means there is an emptiness in you that you find that it's better just to ignore it. It's still a hole in you, in the end, a hole that's difficult to ignore. A hole that will forever be waiting to be filled. How well you ignore it also depends on how perceptively tedious it is to achieve it (again, your tolerance level).

If we have to look at all the genres of games, there is always the existence of preying on the greediness of us. You might be playing RTS'/fighting games and you are greedy for the defeat of your opponent, maybe also greedy to add to your win-loss ratio, be it against him or not. You might be playing RPG's and want to beat all the bosses and secret bosses, and collect the best weapons in the game. You might be playYou might be playing Bejeweled and...well you know how this will go. OR, you can just be greedy for the story of the game.

Greed exists in all games. Card games, board games, dice games, Dungeons and Dragons, Zelda, FPS', Civilization, exists because it is part of the human nature. Game developers have the be aware of that when they are designing their games, and I believe this will bring them closer to making their games 'Fun'.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

AFAX Aftermath!

Alas, the festival came and went once again. This festival was vastly different for me though as it has emotionally affected me in many ways (goes to show how otaku I am). It's actually due to 2 events: the movie screening of Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and the Day 1 concert featuring Aniki and JAM Project.

I honestly haven't done anything otaku-related for a long time. I could always barely resist all the figurines and stuff but for some reason when it comes to Yuki merchandise, all voices of reason failed. It happened in Weiss Schwarz (just look at the old otaku posts), it happened in AFAX and it's gonna happen in a very large scale very soon.

The first day was pretty okay. I wasn't really looking forward to anything in particular, just minding my business, looking at figurines and accessories just like what I did for the past two AFAs. For some reason, this year's AFA is flooded with Touhou, Yuki (I don't see the other SOS members) and nendoroids. There weren't that many back in 08 or 09 and I know because I look out for these 3 things.

The main highlight was the concert though, and now I kinda regretted not getting the VIP seating. JAM Project was freakin' awesome. Days ago I was jokingly telling my friends that their members will sing their individual songs. Holy shit I really didn't expect them to really do that. Endou singing 'Yuusha oh Tanjou', Okui singing her popular 'Rondo Revolution', Yoshiki with his 'Makka na Chikai', Katadani with 'We Are' and of course Kageyama with his extremely popular 'Cha-la Head Cha-la'.

The entire stage is electrifying and I was sure I lost my voice singing 'Yuusha Oh Tanjou'. They also sang Rescue Fire, Rocks and SKILL. It's a really epic time with them. Even with my aching back, legs, fingers, wrists, arms and hands, I kept standing. Aniki didn't help the condition when he came up lol.

End of day 1, bought a so-called $30 3D poster that anyone who is sane wouldn't buy, a $58 Yuki Nendoroid and $15 for the movie the next day. I don't seem to spend alot compared to others but it's infinitely more than what I have spent the past 2 AFAs combined. Good thing there weren't other Yuki stuff and good thing I didn't enter the KKNM booth.

Second day, I managed to pull myself early enough to rush down to the event and grab a nice seat for myself. It was a pretty hard decision, deciding whether to spend $15 to come down and watch since I already know what's gonna happen from the book. I savored every moment of the movie. It was fantastic, the way Haruhi smiled, the way Yuki shy away from everything, the way Mikuru break into tears. Kyon was finally given lots of depth but it was great because it was illustrated and animated beautifully.

You can really tell the ungodly amount of effort put into this movie. Aside from having vivid details, the expressions on each and every character were incredibly well done. Every part of the plot were like pieces of art, carefully strung together to form a great masterpiece. Perhaps my otaku/fanboyism is blinding me and causing me to be extemely biased, but I can safely say that Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya will not disappoint Haruhists out there.

Time to save up for the Haruhi extra pack! It's finally coming and I must be prepared for it >.<

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My [Fallout: New Vegas] Unarmed/Melee build

NOTE: For those coming here to look for the pure Melee build, you can skip all this to the bottom of the post. This is specifically an Unarmed-Critical build. The pure melee build I came up with is actually more straightforward and is posted all the way below.

I've been playing quite a bit of Fallout: New Vegas this weekend, and again I'm tempted to make a pure unarmed/melee character despite how much I love shooting people down. Seems that all Fallout games have this weird effect on me...

Anyway, I followed the basic rules of assigning stats I have for all the Fallout games I played:

1) Never put 10 in any stat. 8 is usually good enough. 9 if you can afford. AGI might be an exception.

2) Check if CHA is useless in the game. In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, it's so bad you might as well dump it no matter what character you play unless you like seeing your companions being badass instead of you.

3) Never EVER dump INT unless you are forced to.
4) END is not as important in most builds, including this unarmed/melee build. It's good to have, not bad to lose it either.

5) AGI should be 8 or above for FO1 and 2. For Fallout 3 onwards, depends if you want to screw your VATS AP or not.

So here's a simple breakdown:

S - 8 (+2 from power armor and implant)
P - 5 (+1 from implant to qualify for Better Critical perk at level 16, enough time for you to play around the world before entering The Strip)
E - 5 (For Toughness perk)
C - 1 (crappy stat)
I - 4 (I wish I had the old Gifted trait to turn this into 9 =/, 4 for Comprehension/Educated perk)
A - 8 (I like VATS)
L - 9 (For the love of critical %)

I probably metagamed abit, like finding out if certain implants are available (especially for my 5 Perception). I could probably drop -1 INT for +1 AGI to be REALLY REALLY min/maxing, but that would involve me running to The Strip at level 2-3.

This build though, is very similar to most of my Unarmed/Melee character builds in all the Fallout games I've played, but they are usually very easy to screw up and shoot your own feet by wasting 1 stat point or picking the wrong perk.

In New Vegas, perks for Unarmed/Melee should be very straightforward. Plan ahead, make sure you have 45% into Melee Weapons to qualify for the Super Slam perk by levle 8 (yes, even if you are making a pure Unarmed build). The rest should be no-brainer:

2: Confirmed Bachelor/Intense Training
4: Comprehension/Educated
6: Toughness
8: Super Slam
10: Finesse
12: Piercing Strike
14: Purifier
16: Paralyzing Palm/Action Boy (I haven't decided yet)
18: Ninja
20: Action Boy/Toughness (anything you want really)

The rest should be more or less up to you because by then you should be one-hitting Deathclaws (or so I heard :p). Anyway, once you are in the game, do NOT piss off Caesar too much. You need to get the Legion Assault Kung-Fu move from one of his lackeys in his tent at The Fort.

Before I forget, my tagged skills are: Unarmed, Sneak and Speech. Tagging isn't as important in Fallout 3/New Vegas, but with your INT at 4, every bit really helps. Especially since you are spending some on Melee Weapons if you are playing Unarmed.

I'll just sum up my build by saying that it's mostly a crit-fisher unarmed build, taking advantage of the fact that Unarmed's crit damage is through the roof (2x I think). If you are playing a Melee Weapons build, you might be better off dropping luck and dumping perception so you can have more points to spend somewhere else.

My hardcore playthrough was pretty tough at the start, like more melee characters in all Fallout games. The good doctor gave me a boxing glove for a weapon and I thought it was a joke item that can be thrown away when I saw it at first. I didn't realize the developers were serious about making me wear that crap and try to do damage. I hardly did do any with it btw.

Hey but look at the bright side. I don't have to carry ammo, so that can be reserved for food, drinks and other wonderful drugs out there. Keep all your drugs, you'll never know when you need them. Keep the Buffouts, Med-X, Rad-X, RadAways, Jet, SuperBombs, Psycho and even Mentats. All these will turn you into the HULK that even makes Super Mutants pee their pants.

Your first breakthrough will be Freeway. Run to Mike and at his shop and beg him to show you his secret wares. There you will see the Power First, everyone's favorite unarmed weapon in FO1 and 2 (then again, back then there were only 4 unarmed weapons in the game, not counting boxing gloves). From thereafter, everything should be smooth sailing.

Then we come to the 4 main factions of the game. I initially wanted to help NCR but after going to all its camps, it felt like a dog place to be in, mostly because it reminds me of National Server =/

So I wanted to help House, but realized he's too screwed up as a person to help. Caesar is...well...I thought the wasteland setting is bad enough, but crucifying people openly? Turning towns into ghost towns? Not happening. I love the robots House has though, so that really gives me one option, which is to help Yes Man who will help me take over New Vegas. Neat!

Besides look at how happy he is!

*updated 24/12/10*
Melee Build?
The main reason for crit-fishing for an Unarmed build is that Unarmed does 100% extra damage on critical (as far as I know when I posted this). I have one/two hit a Deathclaw before with this build so I don't think it's far from the truth.

The melee build is in fact much simpler and you can build it with ease since it isn't worth it to look for high crits; it's more important to get better raw damage. Melee is essentially almost as easy to build as a gun character imho:

S - 8 (+2 from power armor and implant)
P - 1 (don't need this imo)
E - 9 (+1 from implant to make it 10)
C - 1 (crappy stat)
I - 8 (to make the game really easy)
A - 8 (I like VATS)
L - 5 (you can actually drop this further since there is a +1 luck implant...)

As you can see from above, it's really easy to build a melee character. Your strength and endurance stats are max out, allowing you to be the ideal melee tank you would expect to be. High intelligence means you have a ton of skill points to distribute for other skills. And since you are no longer looking for Better Criticals perk, you really don't need perception at all. The rest of the stats are just flavor.

The stats above aren't the best SPECIAL for melee build, but I'm just showing that you can have more freedom of allocating points wherever you wish as compared to the crit-fishing Unarmed build. Also, with that many skill points, perks should be incredibly easy to qualify. As for the perks themselves, you basically pick everything that increases your damage and survivability. You can even choose to branch your specialization and try a bit of throwing/lockpicking/whatever.

For the unarmed-critical build, not so much...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Midterms are over!

Oh my god, it's finally done, not that I'm getting less busier, but it feels like I finally have a breather. I managed to score quite well for my core modules, but right now, my non-cores are in great danger (psychology mostly). I shan't delve into the details though. I guess I should be just happy my cores I relatively safe now.

On to other stuff, it's been like 2-3 weeks since the last update? I know but I have really been unexpectedly busy ever since I entered Digipen. It's really not an easy place to be in, but honestly, I'd rather not be in anywhere else. It's tiring but fun to just exist in school, making games.

I have been looking at a few games to try recently. Etrian Odyssey 3 for my DS and Fallout: New Vegas are all on my top list at the moment. I hope I can post the game me and my friend made here, or at least if getting a video up is even possible. Also, I have quite a few stuff to rant about, just that the time I use to rant about them, my mind tells me that it should be better spent studying instead -.-

Sucks when you are the paranoid type, huh ^^

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Still Alive, I think

Well, this has been a really long absence of updates recently, mostly due to workload from school. It's really getting harder and harder to find motivation to play long-term games or even update any blog in general. Seeing how incredibly important mid-terms are in DigiPen, I have to stay away from recreation stuff and focus on studying.

Everything just seems to snowball here. Grades, assignments, projects, deadlines...they keep coming incessantly, espacially for this week. I'm surprised that I'm even giving myself time to type this out. In fact I'm supposed to complete my ENG 110 assignment right now due on Friday afternoon or I'll never make it in time. Today is Wednesday btw.

We'll just have to see how my midterms goes and largely dependent on my mood, I'll come back to do another review or article. Lots of things are being researched and taught here in my school in the process of making a game, more so than I did in polytechnic due to specialization and I'm keen to whipping something out...I just don't have the time or mood to do so at the moment =(

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Game Programmer's Trap

What is a game programmer's trap? Let me first state that generally, game designers are programmers than artists. Programmers are naturally curious about applying mathematics into their games so once they learn something, they eagerly want to make a game or a game feature that implements it. That is what I call a game programmer's trap.

We sometimes forget what games are meant for and become solely interested in showing our technical skills. Games have only one purpose: To create experiences for the player, or to put it into simpler terms, to let the player have fun. Mathematics and code are just means of achieving this goal. Ultimately, the most important thing is the content.

I believe that the designers should let the design of the game drive the code and not vice versa. This may seem obvious, but it's so simple to forget. It should not be the case where you learn ray-casting and you want to make a game that utilizes it. No, it should be the case where you want to make a game, and research on ray-casting when you happen to need it. Showing off technical aspect does not make a game; it makes a technical demo.

I cannot emphasize how important content is to a game. You can have 2 fundamentally same games with different content and still capture the attention of the audience. Look at the newer Mario and Kirby platformer games. The player have to go from point A to point B, so fundamentally, they are exactly the same, but what sets them apart is the content and features. Anyway, the point here is that consumers don't care about your technical showcases. Others might, I might, my classmates might, your future employers might, but a regular salaryman most likely don't.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you should abandon all hope in technicality in games. That's not the point I'm driving at here. Yes, having better technical skills allow more options of games to make. The point I'm driving is NOT to let your curiosity on all things mathematical and technical decide the game and its features.

For example, I have a simple Mario-like game. One day I learnt ray-casting and I want to implement line-of-sight to the game. Take a step back and think it through first. Does the game really need it? Don't do it because you CAN. Do it because you NEED it in the game design. Piling up too many unnecessary features to a game will simply destroy it.

It may seem like a really trivial thing to some. I might seem like I'm stating the obvious of the obvious, but when you are learning or formulating implantations as a programmer, it's hard to ignore it because you just figured it out and you want to put it into practice. Go ahead, do it in a separate tech demo. Just don't add it into the game itself unless the game demands it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

3rd week in DigiPen

This is my...what...3rd week already in DigiPen. Homework are starting to pile up gradually. At this point, as long as I keep most my weekdays away from gaming, I should be relatively safe unless there's suddenly a big concept in my maths module I don't understand.

It's great to have a head start. For maths, we are just introducing on Points and Vectors, and just getting started onto defining a line with Points and Vectors (which strangely looks like Ray Casting). I admit that Maths is my weak point but I'm really comfortable with Points and Vectors. It's probably the only topic in maths I'm rather comfortable with.

On top of that there's the game project module. Thankfully we are working on a very nice in-house engine called ProjectFUN, so I don't expect too much work on the engine itself, mostly just let loose and create something that's fun for others to play. The engine really looks like Flash, just that instead of ActionScript, we are using C++ for codes.

University is so different from polytechnic in so many damn ways. Or maybe it's just DigiPen. Every lesson is extremely detailed but they end up being interesting despite how drone-y the lecturer is. Almost everyone is passionate about making games. I met quite a few with great ideas which they are willing to put into practice.

The school itself has a quiet and comfortable environment. The lecturers, assistants and the people there are extremely helpful, friendly and experienced. Even my Psychology, English Composition and Maths classes' lecturers made reference to games (Psychology talking about the social aspect of RTS, MMO and other genres and English FEMALE INDIAN lecturer bringing out references from Bioshock game designer).

It's by no means easy though. I had troubles adjusting at first, especially between this and my semi-active Blazblue website commitments, but it's all fine and dandy now that I know when I can readily commit to both. I almost blundered my first maths test but thankfully I still barely passed. The average score of the entire cohort for that maths test is like 19/40 marks.

There's a whole bunch of guys who got lower than 10, with around eight of them with pure zeros. I had background knowledge so I had an edge so even if the questions are difficult, I have my previous experiences to fall back on. I really really wonder what it must be like for those new in this field. Most pioneers from NYP DET course went through hell and back to gain the knowledge we have about this field so we are sitting rather comfortably at the moment. We can take the extra details we learn from the lessons and apply it immediately to our experiences. For them, it must've been really tough...

I know I'm busy, but as time passes, it gets harder and harder to feel that I'm actually busy. Maybe because I'm actually having fun studying? I stopped playing Starcraft 2 for the past 4 days without even realizing it. Even the textbooks are fun to read because I KNOW I can learn something extremely relevant and important out of them.

There's still a loooong way to go though and this is only the beginning. Maybe a year later you'll see me ranting and posting about the hell that is DigiPen...who knows? Now I feel like I'm lacking quite a bit of sleep already, but I am still able to pull through to get my homework done, and I don't do them grudgingly, thankfully.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: "Mount and Blade"

First off, I'm going to thank John for introducing me this game. Sandbox games are actually one of my favorite genres in the games industry. We don't really get to see many of those nowadays. Others I've enjoyed include Sid Meyer's Pirates and Vikings: The Strategy of Ultimate Conquest.

The most important thing about sandbox games is the setting, so for Mount and Blade (I'm just going to call it MnB for short), the setting is Medieval. No magic, no mysteries, just straight up sword, shields, arrows, and of course, horses. It currently looks a little incomplete here and these, but despite that, it has enough working features to keep me going.

When you start the new game, a series of questions will be thrown at you. These, as most gamers would expect, determine your starting stats. Afterwards you will be thrown to your stats page which you probably will not understand what all those words mean. Look up a guide in GameFAQs, or explore them yourself, it's up to you but you will definitely not understand them the first time you play like most age old RPGs.

Finally, they'll ask you which faction's city to start from. This only gives you your starting location, not your faction, so don't worry if you start in a faction you don't like. We'll go more into that later.

After creating your character, the game throws you into combat instantly against a random guy. Win or lose, you will be rescued by a merchant and he will ask if you'd like to do some stuff. This is basically just the introduction of the game and the quest is very optional. Nothing bad will happen if you refuse him.

Okay so now you get to travel around. As a sandbox game, most people will feel at a loss on what to do. Even after the introduction quest, some will not know what's their objective in the game. There isn't one really, but essentially, you'd either want to be a mercenary or a vassal for a lord. Being a vassal is generally more fun because you will easily be involved in politics, huge wars, and all the other minor variables that run the game.

Or you can just be a hired blade, running around signing random contracts with random lords, changing your faction at a whim and simply just...wander around the world and try to make a living. I didn't really find that interesting so I became a vassal with all my characters.

But the common mechanics used to making your living is: Gather an army, level them up, customize your army, and go do what you want with them. This process is repeated many times especially at the lower levels.

Oh yes, I haven't actually tried to work for a claimant (people who have rights to the throne in a faction, and some mishap happened that caused them to get exiled or whatever). Most of this guide is going to be mostly about being a vassal, since that's where all the fun and combat lies.

So now we can finally look at factions. There are a total of 6 factions you can join and when you do, your relation with other nations will be adjusted accordingly whenever your faction goes to war.

When you are in a faction though, it doesn't mean you are limited to that faction's soldiers. You can still go around recruiting different recruits from different factions, but chances are, you are going to stay inside the faction's boarders and thus your army will most probably contain mostly soldiers from that faction.

Joining a faction will immediately grant you a fief, which generates free income for you. Winning sieges to castles and towns will also give you a chance (depending how much your king loves) to own it.

As far as factions go, all factions have more or less different army composition. Swadians have the best equipments and knights, and Vaegirs have very good knights and the best archers, Nords have the best infantry but no calvary, Khergits have all their soldiers on light horses, Rhodoks supposedly beat calvary armies with their heavy spear reliance, Sarranid have the best knights.

So know your faction's army composition and your enemy's before heading to better. Nords heavy reliance on infantry may seem like a joke on open field thanks to calvary, but they are hell to beat when you are sieging them when you are denied your horses.

Likewise, Khergits can be incredibly annoying on open field, but when you siege their castles, they are almost a joke.

Now we come to possibly the most addictive part of the game. Combat.

Combat mechanics is easily explained in their tutorial. Right click + move up blocks high, hold left click + move up prepares your overhead swing, right click + move left blocks left hits, left click + move left prepares your rightwards swing, etc...

It does not seem like much, but it can get messy, especially when it's possible to have up to 50 soldiers per side per battle. A tip from me is to learn to combat on a horse. It may seem hard at first, but you'll get the hang of it eventually. On open battles (i.e. not in castles), being mounted gives you many advantages, that's why the game is called MOUNT and Blade.

Firstly, being mounted increases the chances of footmen or archers hitting your horse instead of you. Secondly, you can perform very cheap and painful hit and runs. Thirdly, if you get targeted, it's easier to just turn your horse around and just gallop away out of their range. All these add up to give a huge boost to your survivability.

So I recommend you build your character to at least be able to combat well on a mount. There's a good reason why I say fighting Nords on an open field a joke and why Khergits are incredibly annoying to fight.

Like I mentioned, Mount and Blade is a sandbox game. Some will love it. Some will hate it. It's definitely not a game for everybody. There are a lot of small but important mechanics I haven't covered like quests, taverns, marketplaces, tournaments, marrying, etc.

I hope the review is good enough to at least get everyone interested in the game. For those who eventually like it, beware because this game can become one of the biggest time-sink in your life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Evil Farmers

A recent post about Zynga, the creators of oh-so-famoose FarmVille on Facebook, on SFWeekly has spreaded almost everywhere on the net. The original post can be found here.

Just to requote Zynga CEO Mark Pincus: "I don't fucking want innovation. You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers."

I always didn't like Zynga for creating FarmVille, a game that really abuses social engineering (I think that's what it's called) to get people to play it but what we are seeing here could potentially destroy the game industry. If you thought Microsoft or McDonald is evil and somehow bent on WORLD DOMINATION, you obviously haven't seen what they could've done to make it worse, which is what Zynga is doing.

BLATANTLY copying games and using their influence to overshadow the originals and claim theirs is the one? That's very evil in so many damn ways. It's the total opposite of what Microsoft is doing which is giving newer developers a chance to stand beside them. Zynga just takes your game, copy it, and says that it's theirs.

I heard a lot of game developers, both indie and mainstream alike (espacially indie,'s indie people) have voiced their dissent over Zynga's methods. It's less obvious here and SG because we are still growing, almost everyone is still running around going 'let's make cool innovative games in the future!'.

I think we should be aware that the games industry is still an industry; a market. And with us being only human, there are bound be encounter evil people like these.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

[Game Design] Why do we play games?

Looking at the question in the title, the short and simple answer would be "To have fun", which leads to the near unanswerable question of "What is fun?". Some may say that it's simply a positive emotion, which can come in the form of Happiness or Excitement. But it doesn't really answer the question that most game designers look for, which is "How to make our games fun?". We can only show, through past observations, history and experience, what is fun.

I sat through a lecture today which presented me with a model that breaks down what makes a game, which we can get a clearer view on what is fun. Whether it really is fun is something we can not, and possibly can never explain, but it paints a clearer picture of it.

This model is basically called the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) model. It's a very 'obvious' model, some of you may already realized it some time in your life while playing games. Well, this is a documented and formal approach, a framework if you will, so that game designers have a easier time understanding their trade and for future game designers to have a easier time picking the trade up. In other words, a guideline.

For those who have examined games before, we know that games are fundamentally made up of Rules and Tools. Rules determine the dimensions and restrictions, as well as the objective(s) of the game. Tools are given to the players to help them achieve the goal, sometimes by even allowing them to break certain rules. Anyway, that is how I view games until today, so if you disagree and want to tell me, by all means email me. MDA model simply elaborated this point and documented it.

Mechanics are basically the Rules and Tools we designers give the players, which was explained above. Dynamics is basically the grouping of some Mechanics. So let's say the player wants to 'Fight'. 'Fight' is a Dynamic that has the Mechanics...say...'Punch' and 'Kick'. Simple enough.

But the most complicated part is the Aesthetics, which is the emotional feedback from the player. This is where we are most interested in, because this is the place where players journey to find 'fun' in your games. The MDA model suggests that the Aesthetics portion breaks down into 8 different kinds of 'fun':
- Sensation (i.e. Pleasure)
- Fantasy (i.e. Roleplaying)
- Narrative (i.e. Storytelling)
- Challenge (i.e. Puzzles)
- Fellowship (i.e. Social Network)
- Discovery (i.e. Exploration)
- Expression (i.e. Self-discovery)
- Submission (i.e. just to pass time)

Looking at those 8, you might realize that it more or less covers what we humans define as 'fun'. From there, we can probably break down deeper into simpler sections like emotions and stuff like that. My lecturer threw me something called the '6-11 model' to replace the Aesthetics part which I won't go too deeply into here. I'll just go through it.

6-11 is short for 6 Emotions, 11 Instincts. Emotions are Fear, Anger, Pride, Sadness, Joy and Excitement. The Instincts are Survival, Identification, Collecting, Greed, Aggressiveness, Competition, Revenge, Protection, Curiosity, Color/Music Appreciation, and Communication.

As you can see, it is really quite an extensive range of emotions and instincts. It's made by my lecturer so kudos to him for trying to create this framework. Basically you loop between an Instinct and an Emotion. Dynamics-Mechanics come in during an Instinct. So let's take Donkey Kong, the first popular platformer game:

This is my definition of Donkey Kong using the 6-11 model and MDA model. It's not accurate; I don't think it's meant to be. After doing it, I realized that there are probably some small holes to be patched in the model. However, it is detailed and to the point, and I guess it is good to know that there is some sort of good guideline to finding out what is 'fun'.

If you tried to use the 6-11 model, you'd realize that it almost exclusively ends up with either of these 3 emotions: 'Joy', 'Excitement' and 'Sadness'. Then we can go on to ask 'If Joy and Excitement is Fun, what is Joy and Excitement?' which brings us back to an endless loop that can never be answered. But, we can infer from the 6-11 model that 'Fun' is the result of positive emotions such as 'Excitement' and 'Joy', which is a mix of the other emotions and instincts depending on the game. From here, we can paint a rather vague but valid formula to 'What is fun?'.

So in the end, we still can't define the meaning of 'Fun', but we do know how did 'fun' come about in various games. Designers still have to discover how to produce the instincts and emotions required in their games. That will be the content/the meat of the game and most important aspect to making it 'fun'. But thanks to these models, it's probably going to be a little easier.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Starcraft 2 and Patch 1.1 and rantings

Already around a month into release and we are seeing the first balancing patch layout for Starcraft 2. It is not the full patch list though we can more or less see where Blizzard is heading to with it.

Protoss getting their Zealot production rate slightly nerfed, Terran getting the same with Reapers, and also a slight nerf with Tanks and Battlecruisers damage and armor respectively, and Zerg getting some random Ultralisk nerf. For Protoss and Terran, it really doesn't affect their style of play unless you have been doing nothing but cheese to get to plat/diamond league. It's mostly a Zerg buff in the sense that now they are much more survivable early game, where they can pull off a 15 hatch build slightly easier.

I can't say what more am I expecting from the patch. Everyone on and beyond crying for Marauder nerf and Roaches buff since forever. Everyone just loves comparing units on a 1-1 basis. "Omg my roaches cost almost as much as marauders but cannot 1v1 them! NERF!". What did you expect? You are playing Zerg, you are meant to take map control and get more resources than all the other races.

I do agree that Zerg is underpowered only because it is hard for them to expand at the start, thus forced to 1v1 units all the time. That's what this patch is for and hopefully we'll see Zerg being played like how they are meant to. Then again I'm mostly a Terran/Protoss player so take my opinion with a pinch of salt before you start quoting this line and go "Says the Terran player, heh". I do play Zerg occasionally so I at least feel the shit you guys go through.

Before I go on to talk about how much I hate dealing with tanks and battlecruisers as a Terran, I just talk about something minor that happened just the other day. I was laddering as per normal as Terran, I was high gold (again, take my opinions with a pinch of salt), my opponent was mid gold and playing Protoss. I scouted, got map control, made sure he's not doing anything funny, made sure his army is in his base and brought almost everything in my base out. I had 1 viking, 1 raven, tanks and marines. Simple push, and a bit risky on my side.

So I managed to siege right outside his base. This is what everyone hates; a couple of siege tanks right outside your doorstep and he KNOWS I'm doing it cus I killed an observer ON MY WAY there. So he had phoenixes trying to do some fancy gravity and stalkers blinking straight into me. Naturally, everything died thanks to PDD. I say again, everything died for him thanks to PDD. Makes alot of sense right? I only had 3-4 tanks, he had gazillion stalkers. It should at least even out SINCE he had enough phoenixes to gravity 3 of my tanks. I bet my marines are the ones killing everything.

Then he started spamming "OMG TANKS, TERRANS ARE SO OVERPOWERED" etc for like 5 mins and left the game. I'd rather he say "PDD IS SO OVERPOWERED" than that tbh. And it's not like the 1.1 patch is going to make tanks' damage lower against stalkers.

Honestly, when they said tanks are going to be base damage: 35 and to Armored: 50, I wasn't really concerned since I can finally save some of my gas and build hellions to stop zealots and zerglings. Besides, I build tanks mainly to kill all your armored units.

Okay now we go into Battlecruisers. I lost quite a few TvT matchups ONLY because I didn't go battlecruisers when my opponent did. Battlecruisers are so silly and come to think of it, they are like slow armored mutalisks with a Yamato Cannon. When I see a Battlecruiser/Viking mix, suddenly, my marine/tank/viking mix becomes next to useless. My marines melt before it, and if you got armor upgrades, I don't think they deal damage at all. Vikings melt before his other vikings. Turrets get obliterated to yamatos, the list goes on. You'd need either a dedicated army just to fight it off (vikings/thors/marines on stim), OR get battlecruisers yourself. The latter is much easier to transition into.

And Tanks. Don't think I don't hate them too. Do you have any idea how hard it is for a terran to siege tank another terran's base? I really wished that my marines can do more than just hugging the tanks and stopping MMM balls. When they are playing mech like you, suddenly it gets really boring. It will come down to who have more sight for their tanks and the whole process of taking out tanks with turrets beside them is extremely slow. Again, this is where battlecruisers just stupidly solves everything.

Oh well, that's enough of me ranting. In all, I still feel that Zerg is very strong mid-late game, just that it's rather painful for them to be at early game.

And here's one of my favourite videos from day[9]Sean's Dailies for those having some problems with TvP. This helped me get out of silver league and a good simple build order to start off with for newer players. I jumped into SC2 thinking I can do 1/1/1 and died many times before I decided to find vids like these:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

BlazBlue 2v2 Tournament Clinic Aftermath

First of all, thanks to everyone who made their way up here instead of going straight home and the handful of veterans also came up to spare a few tips or two to the newcomers. I expected it to become more of a console session than a 'clinic', but it, in the end, accomplished what it's supposed to do. Oh yes, thanks to Jonda and Vx especially for dropping by and generating hype. Wouldn't be the same without you guys.

It was a little messy, a little squeezy, but we couldn't ask for more. Even though we allocated a timing for everyone to be in the room, even though some 'illegally' remained, we are happy just because everyone is gracious enough to let the others have a chance to play. Shoutouts to Mizzet and Icecube, I can FINALLY talk to you all in a better, quieter and 'happier' environment...

It was only 3 hours, but it sure was tiring, possibly due to our lack of sleep. All the questions flying towards us were constructive and generally hard to answer in a short period of time. Questions like "How to use Tager to fight XXX?" or "How to get XXX into corner with Jin?" requires lots of matchup experiences and are too general to give a short answer. BUT most of the questions asked are good questions. I was actually afraid of people throwing annoying questions to me like "How to get Litchi's pole to hit the 2nd time in XXX combo?" but thankfully there wasn't.

A lot of you guys are generally good, just needs more experience so that you guys can get your combos and hit-confirms down. Also generally, everyone needs to mash less and block more. This applies to everyone I see in the clinic. Too many times you guys get counter-hit for no good reason.

Also, I'm happy to know that there are actually people who read the guides posted on this site. Jae and I came up with this site, and were worried about the potential traffic heading to it. I was honestly surprised when some of you guys went 'Oh he's Zio, he made the Hakumen guide on the WEBSITE'. This gives us incentive to continuously post more stuff here, to ultimately make a the one website for Singapore Blazblue players to drop by.

So thanks to all the participants for making me hogging my X360 all the way to Iluma worth it. I hope you guys had an enjoyable time, although I have no idea what's going on downstairs. If you guys have any complaints I hope you guys wrote it in the Limited Edition Feedback Form. STOP LYING TO THE FEEDBACK FORM OMG. Otherwise, forget it, bear no grudges and wait for the next event.

Please do visit the forums. Stop lurking now that you know us. We won't bite, much less eat you. More posts means more organizing needed means we might actually have our character sub-forums. Again, thanks for coming to the tournament AND not forgetting Arcadia for making all these very possible. Your immense and willing contribution for the community will not be forgotten.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yay new mouse!

Since the day I bought and dragged my new com home 8 friggin' months ago at IT Fair at Expo, I have actually been playing games on a ball mouse. It has a model name: SAGM002, and after a bit of Googling, I found out that it's by this company called Sysgration. Not to say it's a bad mouse aside from its horribly sticky scroller though.

I hadn't really felt the need of a new mouse. The days when I played Bad Company 2 on it frequently, I mostly felt like I died because I deserve it instead of the mouse. Hey, maybe it's just BC2. Maybe if I played Modern Warfare 2, I'll think otherwise. Regardless, I can get headshots, turn 180 degrees quickly and still felt that I played pretty decently.

Then came Starcraft 2. Played at least a 100 games using the same ball mouse. At first it didn't matter, but when I slowly improved and fighting getting opponents, losing because you can't fire off an EMP where and when you want it to seriously bugs the hell out of me. What do you mean that I spent 15 mins to build up my army, expecting to collide into yours and LOSE because my mouse REFUSE to move to the right spot (there were 4 buddy-buddy templars groups together at the back).

These occurrence happened more frequently as I play. Suddenly while I'm working on codes, I realized that I was having difficulty SCROLLING to find a line of codes. Suddenly, I realized that I'm having problems HIGHLIGHTING a small amount text for replacing. Suddenly, I realized that the ball movement noises irked the hell out of me.

So I just decided to by a new friggin' mouse! So I shopped at Funan Challenger last Monday for a new mouse. I saw the selections and realized that I only know two brands of mouses thanks to being elitist/gamer: Logitech and Razer. The rest of the mouse are either too mobile-friendly (for laptops, ie they are really small and don't have the wire length), wireless (usually heavy, irritating to maintain and of course, lag), or suspicious (everything that's not Razer/Logitech, and as such making this long sentence irrelevant anyway).

I eyed at all the strange new Razer mouses. I wanted one that felt like good old Copperhead or Diamondback. Then I looked at the cheap $50 Abyssus. It looked incredibly suited for my needs but my elitist self just went "It's a cheap mouse!". Undecided and dejected, and convincing myself that TechDrome probably sells for cheaper, I headed to Sim Lim.

So I don't really know mouse stats that much. I called YH to ask if laser or infra-red actually means anything. The reason I was asking was because Abyssus is $50 infra-red 3500DPI and Copperhead is $90 laser 2000DPI, which didn't really make much sense to me other than 'laser is probably more expensive to produce, so actually Copperhead is extremely not worth it now since DPI is lesser and it costs more'.

I asked around the staff in the end. God I love TechDrome guys; they seem to know every shit there is to know in their store. I just told him "Actually, I'm looking for a mouse to upgrade from my BALL mouse" and they were like "Wuuuuuuuut??!" and started asking if I play FPS and stuff. I just said "No, I just want to play SC2 semi-seriously and the ball mouse almost killed me last game".

So this jolly big plump spectacled guy pointed at the $50 Abyssus and started throwing all kinds of information, most of which I don't really need to know in all due seriousness but my elitist self would just get high listening to. He could've just stopped at "Abyssus is good enough for RTS", but he went to add info like "Korean SC2 players are sponsored these in their tournaments", which should've made me go "Are you sure?" but instead I went "OMG IT'S MINE WHERE MY ATM CARD?!?".

So I picked it, he tried to tempt me into buying a SC2 mousepad which my elitist side actually lost (not a huge fan of SC2 story anyway, mostly a fan of it's mechanics). The friendly uncle gives me a good discount, which makes me wish (once again) that TechDrome should never fall.

I went home, coiled up the ball mouse that is SAGM002 and plugged in my brand new Abyssus. Wow, I suddenly felt POWER. All of a sudden, I felt I can accomplish anything and I can play any game. I didn't felt like this when I was using Copperhead. It's probably because I was using a ball mouse for so long and jumping to a 3500dpi Razer is such a huge huge huge step. I guess subconsciously, I really really missed using an actually good mouse.

And also, it's good having a glowing, stylish mouse on my computer again. Anyway, it's a great mouse, definitely more than you need as an RTS player. If you are looking for a good gaming mouse and don't need the extra buttons everywhere (gosh are people THAT lazy?), Abyssus is definately good bang for buck.