söndag 10 juli 2016

Top 4: Poorly designed enemies in The Binding of Isaac: Re- and Afterbirth

I've been playing a lot of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and the DLC Afterbirth lately, I'd guess that I have around 250 hours logged. I'm getting all of the icons or whatever on Hard checked and while I certainly enjoy the game (otherwise I wouldn't have kept playing it for as much time as I have, obviously), there are definitely a few problems with it. To me the biggest problem is the below four enemies. They are all poorly designed to the point of them being very frustrating, thankfully however the game does feature a host of different enemies so that makes it less of a problem. Without further ado here is the list:

4. Spider

This to me seems to be an addition from the original version of the game. One of the major problems with it is that it is just too prevalent! If it didn't appear as much, or if the game treated it as an actually difficult enemy (which it is!), then it would be more OK. But alas it is treated as the completely harmless static fly, and the game just POURS these suckers on you. Many bosses spit these out at you, worst of all is of course the big flying ball which splits up into smaller balls and and puke these SoB's at your sorry ass.

The main problem with the spider is that once you get close enough to it, it will decide to lock on to you, and once it starts moving it will move very quickly towards your destination. It will easily round corners as well while doing this. The problem is you as the player has no idea when you are close enough for it to lock on. Because if you are not it will just randomly move in a given direction. A simple solution would have been to just make it flash a different color when locking on. Just imagine the spider never stopping, and always locking on to you. It would be the worst enemy in the game. It would not be acceptable, but the problem is, once you are close to it, and if you don't react correctly and/or your speed stat is not high enough, the spider virtually *is* that enemy, albeit for a very short time. I call the spider bosses, because they are much harder to avoid taking damage from than most bosses, couple that with how often they appear and that's a very bad thing.

3. Bony

Once your speed stat, and of course, the damage stat, is high enough, these pose less of a problem. But they are still fundamentally annoying. Once you step into one of these guy's cardinal directions, they will very quickly stop and shoot a very quick bone shot, towards your *current* location - meaning they can throw them diagonally! And if you would happen to stay in the cardinal direction, they will continue to throw bones for all eternity in very quick succession (this one blows my mind how you can come up with at all)! So yeah. How do you shoot an enemy in this game again? YOU HAVE TO BE IN THIS FUCKING THING'S CARDINAL DIRECTION! Meaning you have to swipe past it quickly and time your shot so that it hits, while dodging the bone. The main problem is that the bone is so goddamn fast, it gets shot directly at your position, and Bony does it so quickly in succession. It's just poor design, through and through, the definition of artifical difficulty.

2. Leaper

Oh God help me from this thing. It's just a brain fart all the way through. Once it jumps its small shadow is often very difficult to spot, and then it more or less teleports onto your position and shoots out very fast bullets in its cardinal directions. It's always so nice with enemies that teleport directly onto your position. That is the definition of fun. You can't even shoot it directly since it fires in all four directions, and then often will just jump away again. To add insult to injury you often meet four or more of these at once.

1. Drowned Charger

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Do not want! Why, oh why did you add this enemy with the fucking DLC???? It has SO much health, charges towards you, and it by design rewards poor gameplay! If you try to dodge it and it dies, you almost always get hit by the diagonal bullets it shoots out as it dies. So you have to stick to your guns and play a kind of "chicken race" with it, hoping you will kill it before it charges into you. How can you even come up with something like that? It's like penalizing the player in Super Mario Bros for trying to jump on a Goomba! I'm out.

måndag 23 september 2013

The current state of video games

As you might be familiar with, Wind Waker HD was released a few days ago. Wind Waker is definitely one of my top five games of all time, but I was sceptical to this new version. As the years have passed I've made a promise to myself not to pay money for the same game twice, except for some very rare cases. I like Nintendo just as much as the next guy, but they do have a tendency to re-release their games ad infinitum.

To me Wind Waker is still today a very beautiful game with a unique cel-shaded look. The only thing that needs to be done to it is 1. Up the resolution (which Nintendo obviously has done) 2. Add slightly more polygons to some of the models (the rounded ones, which Nintendo HAS NOT done inexplicably). But that is still not something I would consider paying full price for. Adding a ton of bloom to the game, and some weird lighting effect which makes everything look like clay instead of the clean cel-shaded look is really uncalled for. Yes, WWHD has a higher resolution, but to me it certainly looks worse than the old game. And don't get me started on the heavy-handed attempt at introducing "social media" to the game via the bottles that people can send out and write messages in. I had enough of that crap in New Super Luigi U, where 99 percent of the messages were people understandably complaining that the game was too difficult. Which is true, thanks to the permanent ice physics.

Worst of all though is yet to come, I watched a video from one of those Youtube-celebrity accounts where the guy went through some changes that had been made to WWHD. Namely they had sped up a few things. This is just so sad to me, I don't even know where to begin. Let's Plays have been a thing for a while now, and I've read on a certain imageboard that people actually will watch a let's play instead of playing a game if they think it's too hard or takes too long to play through. It's bizarre, to be honest. This need for insta-gratification is what is responsible for the state of video games today. Why even play games if you feel like that? If you can't sit down and really immerse yourself into a game, why bother? I foresee a bleak future where you instead of playing games or watch movies, download the memory of having done so like in Total Recall, so you have time to do something else, I don't know what.

Some stuff:

servadacsgamedev.blogspot.com - my game development blog
http://backloggery.com/Servadac - my Backloggery account
@servadac42 - my twitter account

torsdag 25 juli 2013

Up and coming games

Here are the main upcoming games I'm looking forward to and intend to purchase once they are out:

Grand Theft Auto V - X-Box 360 - September 17
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze - Wii U - November 11
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - 3DS - November 11
Super Mario 3D World - Wii U - December 12

So yeah, a lot of Nintendo games and well-known franchises. There just aren't that many other interesting games coming out I think unless you are into mobas, Minecraft, rougelikes or whatever other hellish incarnations they pass off as video games these days. I'd like to play the new game by the studio that made Muramasa or Last of Us for that matter, but Sony are evil and I wont buy a PS3 for just one or a couple of games. GTA V is going to be sweet, GTA IV was awesome even though it gets a lot of hate from the die-hard GTA fans.

DKCR was perhaps not perfect (damn you forced waggle controls!), but it was a very good game in its own right. The next game in the series can only be better since there are no waggle controls this time around. While ALttP is not my favorite Zelda, actually far from it, another top-down Zelda game you simply can't miss and this one looks really cool from the videos they have released. Super Mario is always Super Mario and platformers is my favorite genre besides real FPS games (not pseudo-game interactive movies like the CoD-games).

onsdag 24 juli 2013

Features in Megaman games

A slightly different blog post this time around since I wanted to talk about features in Megaman games, and what I like and dislike about them.

The slide - This is a very good idea on paper since it seems to add a strategic element to the game. That is, you need to time your slides in order to avoid enemy attacks. However, since the Megaman game in question that has the feature needs to be designed around it, it renders it quite pointless. Because pressing the button combination to slide at the right moment isn't exactly 'hard'. If you design the game so that Megaman can walk to avoid the enemies instead of sliding it's basicly the same game except you have not added a feature that there is no need for. A better solution to lower the hitbox would probably be to enable Megaman to duck. But we all know Megaman can't duck, right?

The charge-up buster - A common complaint I've read about the buster is that it made the robot master weapons pointless in Megaman 4 since a charged-up shot was more powerful than any other weapon. While that could be true I think there are other aspects of the feature that are more important when determining whether it's good or bad (said reason is merely a balance issue I think since apparently this was not a problem in MM5 or 6). Basicly charging the buster is always the right idea, meaning you always hear that sound throughout the game which is less than ideal. Also it takes mashing the button to shoot lemons pointless which I think is a skill that should be promoted. Thirdly missing a charge shot is often really bad for you which means you have to shoot them really precisely, as opposed to missing with a lemon which is no big deal. Which changes the dynamic of the combat for the worse.

E-tanks - As a kid I loved the E-tanks because they meant I could farm them like crazy on Gemini Man's stage and finally complete a Megaman game! A few years later I realize how they break the game in half since you do not have to care about the RM weaknesses which is integral to the gameplay in the games. It also creates a vicious circle where the RM's need to be made harder in order to still be challenging even when taking E-tanks into account, which in turn makes them too hard to complete without using E-tanks.

Rush - I'm not against Rush per-se, but I'm not a fan of the way he has been used in the games. The Rush Coil makes you able to reach higher places, but since you have it from the beginning and have almost infinite energy, placing stuff higher up becomes kinda a moot point. Rush Jet was overpowered in MM3, but in the other games I think it was underpowered in that you move up and down too slowly and can easily run into stuff. Rush Marine obviously was extremely limited in when you could use it.

Items in MM2 - These I like. Turn Item 1 and 3 into one item like in Rosenkreuzstilette and I think it's the best solution. Not too broken and still useful.

Magnet Beam - I like the Magnet Beam, but the problem is you can skip entire areas by just using the beam, making it a bit too good. Perhaps limit it's energy more or design the levels to limit it's usefulness that way.

The Shop - Ewwww. Nope, Megaman is not an RPG or Action-Adventure game. I felt MM9 was balanced after people using the shop items, making going through the game without them a pain.

torsdag 18 juli 2013

Megaman Unlimited Frustration


It's been a long while since I posted an entry here but now it's time again. I've played and completed the recently released fan game Megaman Unlimited and I feel like venting some of my thoughts.

First I want to start out by saying that being a maker of a Megaman fan game myself I have a lot of respect for the people who did this game. I know all too well how much of your time and effort goes into doing something like this. It feels like I'm kind of in a unique position having this point of view and being able to see clearly what kind of design choices has gone into the game and how they affect the end result.

When you first start out playing MMU it strikes you what an extremely difficult game it is. Unfortunately the difficulty in the game is of a kind that lately has been commonly reffered to as "artificial difficulty". This means in almost every screen of the game you have to memorize exactly what to do and tip-toe through the stage in order to not die. Before you have the strategies for the stage down, they seem incredibly hard, once you know them they aren't a big deal except for their LENGTH. A better approach would be to have the player being able to intuitively combat what comes up on the screen instead of all this trial-and-error. The worst offender being Rainbow Man stage, hello Quick Man lasers! One of the worst Megaman gimmicks makes an unwelcome return and is now more irritating than ever.

Another thing that becomes apparent quite quickly is that the stages are way too long. Commercial Megaman games are known for having short stages, and in my opinion it fits the games perfectly. Rom hacks are known to have really long stages and all it does is show how it doesn't suit this kind of game. There is nothing more frustrating than playing for what feels like 15 minutes and die right before the checkpoint and having to do it all over again. Personally I would like the stages to be 50% shorter, but objectively they still need to be slightly shorter maybe by 25%.

The length of stages ties into the third major problem with the game. The enemies do WAY too much damage to Megaman. Once in my playthrough I played Tank Man's stage and was at 50% life by the third screen! It doesn't help that the enemies and their bullets are very hard to dodge before you have played enough to learn their patterns, and that the item drops are very infrequent.

Since the stages are so long, you *really* want to finish the robot master once you get to him or her, and as usual E-tank abuse works like a charm when fighting the RM's at the end otheir respective stages. Making it uneccessary to care about the weakness order until the refights. The robot master designs are imo a bit strange, they look more like something out of an X series game. Their patterns are very predictable and need more randomness introduced. Also for some reason you take a million damage when Megaman touches them making the E-tank timing hard sometimes. Regarding the NES-limitations I know the developers didn't make the game with them in mind, but some things are just so blatantly non-NES it looks kinda stupid. Yo-Yo Man's string is one of those things (the leprechaun enemy's coins in Rainbow Man stage is another, the NES would never be able to handle that many sprites). I mean even hell has different temperatures.

There are a number of somewhat obvious bugs that haven't been sorted out despite the game being in development for five years. Sometimes when you fall diagonally down right at the edge of a platform Megaman will bounce up about a pixel, play the landing sound and then fall down instead of landing on the platform. This is a well-known problem when designing a platform game, how to make the hit detection of the player object decide whether it has landed on top of the platform or its side, when hitting the very tip of the edge at a 45 degree angle. BUT it's kinda easy to workaround, I for one did it in my game in GameMaker so a game developed in C++ should be able to solve it fine.

Other minor things is that the slide sometimes fails, even when using the dedicated slide button I think, but I can't confirm this. Sometimes when jumping right at the edge of a platform you will just fall down instead of jumping and the spike hitboxes are f-ed up when using Rush Jet near them.

A lot of complaints from me but like I said I have a ton of respect for the developers of this game and their effort. At the same time I can't honestly say I enjoyed the game or even had fun when playing it, I just played to beat it while trying desperately to control my frustration and not rage-quit. Making a very hard game is something anyone can do, the difficult part is to make a balanced game that feels fair without being too easy. This is why I can't stand Megaman rom hacks. This game should've been tested by beta testers outside of the development team so that they could have access to said testers' valuable input regarding the difficulty. I know myself that when you develop a game like this and play through the stages over and over again, your view of its difficulty will be very subjective and it's easy to start raising it just because you worry it might be too easy. What do I know, maybe they want I Wanna Be the Megaman, but I'm willing to bet that was not the case.

I don't know when I will make another blog post but hopefully a bit more frequent. See you!

tisdag 13 december 2011

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword second impressions

I wrote a rant about a lot of stuff I didn't like about the latest entry to the Zelda franchise in my last blog post. Now I am about 37 hours into the game, and from the fourth or fifth dungeon forward I must say I am really enjoying the game. For some reason the limited amount of tools you had to your exposal in the early parts of the game really made the levels feel like a chore. Usually the earlier parts and first dungeons of Zelda games make up for this by being really simple in their structure. Not so much in SS. The Desert dungeon (number three?) is a real bitch in how complicated it is. To me it feels more like one of the late dungeons when compared to Twilight Princess or Wind Waker. This was one of the couple of places where I got stuck really badly as well. It's a fine line to balance on when making the game difficult enough so it's challenging, without making it too hard so you get stuck and sick and tired of playing. SS didn't hit on the right side of this line in the first parts I feel.

Another thing which gets better the more you play is that you learn how to use the motion controls. They are not bad or unresponsive by any stretch of the imagination, but the features that use them the most - like flying your bird or using the sword - takes some time getting used to. Once you have mastered them they work like a charm though. This is mostly just a matter of getting used to something that is different from the previous games. Having to slice the enemies from exactly the right angle and with the right timing is mighty different from just jamming the A-button until your foe has been properly disposed of.

People have complained about the excessive amount of backtracking in the game, and I must say I agree that it's less than satisfying. There are only three main areas that you go to in the game that I'm not going to spoil, but you go back to them at least three times each! Also there is a kind of disjointed feel to the way the game and the story progresses that makes you think the story is just there to loosely tie the different gameplay devices that can be found in the game together. Compare this to the story in Wind Waker, where there is an afterthought behind everything, and it ties back all the way to the very first Zelda game! These games are all about nostalgia, so being able to do that in a convincing manner is a real homerun as far as player satisfaction goes.

The goddess cubes which you find and strike to activate chests in the overworld sky are a genious addition, and to me doing this sort of side quest really is the best part of these games as it is relaxed and laid-back, and feels really rewarding and challenging. I haven't finished SS yet obviously, but if I would rank the Zelda games currently it would look like this:

1. Wind Waker
2. The Legend of Zelda
3. Link's Awakening
4. Twilight Princess
5. Majora's Mask
6. Skyward Sword
7. Ocarina of Time
8. A Link to the Past
9. Zelda II (to be fair I haven't played this one much)

Not listed: Various Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance knockoffs, as well as the horrific PCi-games ("Great! I'll grab my STUFF!").

As you can see I'm not a huge fan of OoT, I never played it through until long after its release when I got it along with WW. Link's Awakening I played on a long flight to the US when I was a kid and it was the game that got me hooked on the franchise. SS doesn't get higher than number six on this list which is less than impressive, then again these are some of the best games ever created so the competition is pretty steep. As mentioned I haven't even finished it yet, and most likely it will grow on me with repeated playthroughs.

tisdag 22 november 2011

Skyward Sword: First Impressions

Right now I am a few hours into Skyward Sword (I'm currently at work so I can't check the exact number), and about to enter the third "dungeon"-area. From what I've read this is a pretty long game so it's not really fair to come to some sort of final judgment just yet, but I still want to share some initial impressions and discuss what's good and not so good about the game. Zelda games are probably among the most anticipated games to get released, and as such the expectations are really high every time a new one sees the light of day. Skyward Sword is no exception to this rule.

Each new Zelda game tries to come up with something new while staying true to the old tried and proven formula of gathering stuff from chests and hackin' and slashing the old Moblins. New in this one is first and foremost the Wii Motion Plus controls which really are something else. This is what you envisioned the Wii being used for when it first came out. I've read mixed reports on the responsiveness of the controls, but in my humble opinion they work fine. Swordplay really immerses you into the game in a way few other games right now do, especially on other systems. I believe this really is the future although Wii-U, Nintendo's next console, seems to take a step back and forego motion control for a more traditional (X-box hueg) gamepad. My only gripe would be that when fighting even the easiest opponents that wield swords, they anticipate your strikes with great success. When playing you sort of feel the need to exaggerate your moves in order for them to register which makes even the weakest enemies parry them effectively. Of course there are enemies that don't carry swords and can't parry your attacks, but the ones that do should've had an easier tier I believe.

As a nod to Wind Waker, probably my favorite Zelda game of all time (and it would be appear that it will stay that way for at least a while longer), you start out on an "island" in the sky appropriately named Skyloft. Instead of a boat you have an Avatar-inspired bird compatriot that you can fly around with to other small island or down below a cover of clouds to the dungeon areas below. One of the main complaints about Wind Waker, unfortunately was that sailing on the huge sea became tedious after a while. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed doing this and never really felt it became boring (after a while you could warp to most places instantly like in any Zelda game anyway). Nintendo have obviously listened to this piece of critique and the area that you can fly around in is as a result extremely limited in scope. this is a bit of a bummer, but again flying around contrary to sailing really is boring since there is zero sense of movement or speed about it. The distant islands slowly crawl toward you, a bit like flying in an airplane.

Some reviewers have focused on the dungeons now being less defined to the start of the "cave"-part of the dungeon and instead stretching to the area outside as well. I can't understand how this is any different than any of the other 3D-Zeldas going back to the very first one; Ocarina of Time, but maybe these reviewers know something I don't.

Speaking of the dungeons, the first couple of ones that I've been to so far have not impressed me. Even though the first dungeons should be simple in their design and easy, that doesn't stop them from being able to be interesting or challenging from a novice's perspective. I found the first two ones in SS quite bland and uninspired. The new items don't feel that innovative and frankly aren't that fun to use.

Wind Waker, and even Twilight Princess, although to a lesser degree, both had that wow-feeling when playing them for the first time which largely is missing here. Aside from the Wii Motion Plus-aided swordplay, SS more or less feels like Twilight Princess 2. That accounts for the graphics resolution as well which to be honest is not up to par in SS. Wii-U with its 1080p resolution can't come around fast enough.

What I've written so far sounds very negative, but make no mistake that all these things aside, SS is still a very good game and quite addictive to boot. I'm just worried that it won't pick up and become the awesome game you expect every new entry to this series to be. Time will tell.