Monday, November 28, 2005

Game Development Books

I've been reading (alot) about game development, and here are some of my favorite books:

  • Game Programming Gems 1-5 is a great series of books that shows some really spectacular programming techniques engineered specifically for games.
  • AI Game Programming Wisdom 1-2 is another series by the same publisher of the above books with more great programming concepts, this time in the way of AI.
  • About Face 2 isn't really about games, but it's about user interfaces, which are crucially important factors in game designs.
  • Chris Crawford on Game Design has already been reviewed. Click here to see my review.
  • The Art of Game Worlds is a highly inspirational and instructive book on graphics and modeling in games. Lots of screenshots make it very fun to look at.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Think Outside the XBox

In my December issue of PC World magazine (which, I must say, is an awesome magazine that I must recommend), there is an article called Next-Generation Game Consoles. This article is in need of some serious correcting.

First of all, the article claims that "many experts give the early nod to the Sony PlayStation 3, which is due to arrive in the spring." Says who? He never says who is giving this information, and another thing: define expert. I could say I'm an expert. On neurology. Prove me wrong.

Then he says that the PS3 "will have a hard time fending off the Xbox 360." What about the Revolution? Oh wait. That isn't a "serious" game system. It's designed with kids in mind. But I digress.

Then he says a particularly degrading thing: "Nintendo looks certain to continue bringing up the rear." Since when have they brought up the rear? Aren't they the ones who came up with Mario Brothers? With Metroid? Not to mention a host of other immensely successful titles. And wasn't the DS out months before the PSP?

Then he drills the designers of the Revolution for not including HDTV. He says that "at press time... Nintendo had not yet announced support for HDTV gaming." Duh. Not everyone has HDTV ya know. Not everyone is a total couch potato like yourself. Besides, even if it did have HD, what does that do to increase gameplay enjoyability? Zip.

He also includes screenshots of not one, but two titles for the XBox. What about the other two systems? He also mentions that the Revolution will only be 15 times more powerful than the GameCube, while the XBox 360 is 35 times more powerful. So what? If the games suck, who cares how powerful the game system is? Why do people buy game systems? To have the best one on their street? To shoot zombies? As a status symbol?

Short answer: no. They buy them to be entertained. If the system has the most powerful processor on the planet, but it's boring to play, what's the point?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Someone wants to Play

Nintendo Wi-Fi is finnaly here! after almost an entire year, the whole package deal is finnaly released!

Mario Kart DS, and some Tony Hawk game (yuck to TH) are Wi-Fi enabled!

Which means, if you have a wireless network in your house, or a hotspot nearby, you can go online and race/play against other people from across the world! or... if you have friends who have the game and are online, you can use these "friend codes" and play against them and them only!

There is always someone ready to play.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Violent Goodness

Many politicians have been using violent games as a talking point recently. I don't get it. They seem to think violent video games create violent kids.

I beg to differ. Violent kids demand and play violent games. If there wasn't a market for games like this, they wouldn't be made. The incredible success of games like Grand Theft Auto are proof that people already wanted these games.

The market does not create demand by raising supply. Rising demand creates the supply. It's a matter of simple economics. Politicians aren't aware of this.

Next time you hear a politician lobbying against violence in games, remind them: Lowering supply only increases demand.

Save Me Now!

Many games lack something important, making them wind up very unsuccessful. Reviews strongly advise against buying these games, and people unlucky enough to buy the game often mourn over the lack of a simple feature: saving.

Game designers can't understand it. They know people want to save things, but they realize that this makes the ame to "easy." But does removing the feature entirely solve the problem?

No. Designers need to find original ways to implement the same feature without making games too easy or too hard.

One easy way to do this is through "save points." When the character walks over a trigger, into a certain room, or finishes a level, they are given an opportunity to save. Games such as the Metroid series, Super Mario 64 DS, and others implement save points. These allow the player to save the game, while not entirely removing the challenge. Sometimes save points are strategically not added--like just before a boss level--so there is still a challenge to that part of the game (who would find a game where you can save during a boss battle fun?)

Another creative implementation is punishment. Saving reduces your score, or removes certain features, such as highscore elligibility. This method makes players want to wait to save, often resulting in the utterance, "Why didn't I save it first?"

A final way to implement saving features is through limitations. The player can only save, say, three times in the whole game. This makes players want to conserve their saves, resulting in more strategic gameplay.

Whatever the method of putting saving into a game, it is imortant simply to put saving into the game. Find a new, creative way to do it, or use the described methods, but somehow designers need to get it in there. Write your Senators today.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Metroid Prime Pinball

sorry, this ones gonna be short and sweet. i'm kinda grounded...

Alright, for the Nintendo DS, Metroid Prime Pinball!!

Well, like any pinball game, you have your ball, your flippers, and your bonuses. well, add that to a condensed version of the MP1 story line, and you have yourself metroid Prime Pinball!

you use the triggers for your flippers, B for bombs, Y for missles, X for power bomb, and A for a flipper.

you have to collect ammunition for Missles and P.bomb though...

as you go, you have to do mini games such as a 3rd person shooting thing where you come out of morph ball and shoot enemies trying to kill you
some wall jump thing where you use L and R triggers to reach the top
and random kill the enemy by running them over with your morph ball.

Lots of fun, it'll keep you occupied for a loong yella time if your on a road trip.

OH! multiplayer too! up to 7 friends (plus you, so 8) can play at once. all it is is a race to 100,000 points... but its quite fun. my sister and i have been playing it on the bus all week. =P

Friday, November 04, 2005

Underground Racing

Need for Speed Underground is one of the funnest racing games I have ever played. In fact, the only close rivals I have seen so far are the sequels, Need for Speed Underground 2 and Need for Speed Most Wanted.

To start with, the graphics are absolutely stunning. The graphics engine has been so finely tuned that thousands of shiny surfaces can be drawn in real-time on my 256 RAM 2.2 Ghz laptop. Tons of awesome smoke and flame effects show up during the game as well, creating a truly spectacular playing world to race in.

The sounds are awesome too. Skids, squeaks, nitro, shifting, crashing, it's all there; and it combines with the graphics to create an incredibly immersive gaming environment. Some sounds can hardly be noticed, but help to create a great feeling of being involved, sucking the gamer into the monitor and putting him behind the driver's seat.

The controls are very intuitive in their default setting, and mapped to your playing style it almost feels as if they don't exist at all, and everything comes naturally and fluidly while playing the game. Combine this with the graphics and sounds I told you of, and it's hard to tell where reality ends and fantasy begins.

The physics engine is top-knotch. Many games in the series have allowed EA to refine their physics algorithms to the point where everything works so well it's hard to steer badly or accelerate at the wrong time; that's how real it feels. I'm not sure how much better it has gotten in NFSU2 or NFSMW, but I'm sure it couldn't have gotten much better than this.

All the things I just mentioned would be totally worthless if it wasn't for the great gameplay. Zipping around at night, winning money to buy parts, earning style to unlock parts and increase your multiplier, and using nitro to blast into first at the last second are all thrilling features that truly make this game a must-play.

Not much of a story however. You're a new guy in town, and you have to prove your guts and skill, and earn respect from the veteran streetracers of the area.

Other than that, this game rocks. It is one of only three games that have a shortcut on my desktop.