Friday, April 27, 2007

Odin Sphere mania!

I'll assume that since you're reading this, you read Penny Arcade. And by extension, I'll assume that you've read the glowing praise they have heaped upon their review copy of Odin Sphere. For me, this could be a double-edged sword. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Odin Sphere apparently plays as fantastic as it looks. I've been in eager anticipation of this game since I first saw the trailer. I will never grow weary of 2-D sprites, and here is a game seems to take them to a new level.

On the other hand, who knows how many copies of this game will be shipped in the US? Probably not too many. Penny Arcade is an extraordinarily popular site that holds tremendous sway over its readers, and all of this positive publicity may entice people to run out and pick up Odin Sphere; people that may not have done so if that review copy had never been put in the tray.

Hopefully this won't end up with a Disgaea-esque situation, where the only way to get your hands on the game is to shell out $45 at Gamestop for a used version with no case or manual.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Incognito's RPG Impressions: Game Over

Much like Avenger's "Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer" posts, this will be sort of a recurring topic for me. The title still may be a work in progress, though.

I've played what could be described as a "healthy" number of RPGs. In all my gaming history, if seen a lot of stuff. That's pretty much what these posts will be about. When I see things I like, when I see things I don't like, or when I see things that blow me away, I'll post them here. And I'll do my absolute best to avoid spoilers. Look for whited out text where appropriate. So, let's get started with the game du jour: Ar(rrrrrr) Tonelico.

So, what happened in Ar Tonelico that was worth a post here? Well, they pulled some craziness that I have never seen before: the psych-out ending. Yes, that's right. A full-blown, 3-consecutive-boss-battles- followed-by-a-few-lines-of-text- then-roll-credits fake ending. Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out. I knew that there was supposed to be another phase, and I knew that I still hadn't controlled all the playable characters, but this is a game where there is some branching of the storyline. Was it possible that I screwed up hours ago and ended the game prematurely, a la Persona? Oh crap!

This and so much more was going through my head as I stared at the staff credits scrolling down my TV screen. Finally, those cruel credits came to an end, but just because the characters were back on screen, didn't mean that the game wasn't over. There is always the chance of some kind of epilogue. Mercifully, after a minute or two of dialogue, I was returned to the map screen. Phew!

I have to give Gust credit. I've played over 70 RPGs, and it's not often that I see something that is legitimately new. The fake ending was one of the more harrowing things I've seen in a game since Eternal Darkness. I hope I never have to see it again.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Emergency Release 1, Incognito 0

So, I feel like an idiot. Here I was thinking that my DDR pad was teh broken, when it was just one of Microsoft's little safety features getting the better of me. DDR was working fine for me last Friday, but when I tried to boot it up on Sunday afternoon, the light ring on the pad was flashing, but it wasn't making the connection to the 360. So my first thought was: oh crap. I've had this thing for less than two months, and I've already broken it.

When it didn't work again today, I was ready to take drastic action. I was online looking for warranty information, or maybe even *gasp* a third-party dance pad (which, for the record, are ex-pen-sive). As a last ditch effort, I went to the Xbox forums. That's how low I was: I went to a forums site. Anyway, after going through a few pages, I found a post from someone who was having the same problem as I was. The only suggested solution was to plug in the controller after the console was turned on. So, I go ahead an try it. Big surprise, it didn't work. So, in my frustration, I grab the cord and try to pull the plug out. *Pop!* The cord goes slack, but the plug is still in the 360. Wtf?! I go to investigate, and I find that there is a emergency release in the cord. So I reconnected it, and guess what? It worked perfectly. Apparently, it was plugged in just enough to get a few lights to blink, but not enough to work.

Damn you emergency release. I'll get you one day. I'll get you when you least expect it. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Ehem. Excuse me.

Now I can get back on my schedule of "trying to be less fat." Hooray for not being so fat!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back in the saddle

Hoo-hah! The fundamentals exam is over, and I am ready to get back to gaming! W00t!

So, some brief points of interest:

1. I haven't even finished the first Ar Tonelico yet, but lo and behold, there is already proof of a sequel in the works. The interface seems to have received be a huge upgrade. That shiny new harmo gauge looks much better than the original. Sinusoids for the win.

2. Mass Effect has been announced as a September release. Everyone kept hoping for a June/July release date, but that unfortunately was not to be. Personally, I'm not too bummed. Yeah, I'll have to wait a little longer, but it will nicely fill that gap between Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

3. I say this every year around this time, but the rest of this year should be great for RPGs. With Atelier Iris 3, Odin Sphere, Mass Effect, Blue Dragon, Persona 3, Dawn of Mana, and (hopefully) Lost Odyssey all due to hit before the end of year, it should be a busy time for yours truly.

And who knows, maybe I'll have Ar Tonelico 2 to enjoy before the year's out, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pass & Play

For all you click-three, quick download, shockwave type players, I've got an update here you don't want to miss:

(1) Cathy's Caribbean Challenge (which you can download from Big Fish Games) is lame. Don't do it!! I'm warning you!!! Diner Dash it's fact, not even close.

(2) Food Stand, however, with it's ridiculously lame title is excellent. You put together burgers and sell them to customers, but you have to put them together in just the right order and you can earn bonuses by adding sauces to them. It's awesome. So awesome that I bought it before my free trial was even over and I NEVER do that. Go to Big Fish Games and download it NOW!


I wish I knew

I wish I knew what makes a good game. I've enjoyed games of all kinds. Other than a feeling of being complete, there aren't a lot of similarities. And even some of the games I've enjoyed seemed incomplete (see Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii). Maybe one day.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Fake Soccer Recap

I've been debating whether or not to post this all day. On one hand, I was really excited when it happened. On the other hand, it's really dorky to post something like this. It's like getting a championship ring for winning a fantasy football league. In the end, I decided to go for it. It's not like I can get much dorkier anyway. Plus there's a precedent for me doing stuff like this.

I've provided some links to relevant data for those of you who aren't "in the know."


BETHLEHEM, PA - An epic game of football was played today, but not in the classical fashion. No, this game was played inside of Incognito's XBOX 360, but the magnitude of the game was larger than life. We are, of course, speaking of the UEFA Champions League final in Pro Evolution Soccer 2007. This would prove to be a magical match, as the Incogni2 controlled Tottenham Hotspur took on the third-ranked team in Europe: AC Milan. Both teams had a strenuous road to the title game, with Milan beating Barcelona in the semi-finals, and Tottenham crushing arch-rivals Arsenal (7-2) in the quarter-finals, and getting a hard-fought 1-0 win over top-ranked Chelsea in the semis.

The game did not start well for Spurs, as Gilberto Gilardino stuck home a second-chance goal off a save from Paul Robinson in only the second minute. Normally, Spurs are not a strong possession team, rarely winning the match's possession battle. However, the early goal seemed to galvanize Tottenham, and they dominated play in the first half, possessing the ball more than 60% of the time. Bastian Schweinsteiger had some exceptional runs from the right wing in the first half for Spurs, but he failed to get a shot on target. Milan took a 1-0 lead into the break.

The second half belonged to Spurs, specifically to Tottenham captain Robbie Keane. Keane's first nail in Milan's coffin came soon after halftime, when he struck a perfect header off the bottom of the crossbar and in off of a Young-Pyo Lee cross. Another Keane header found the back of the net after a throw-in found it's way to Jermaine Jenas, who delivered the perfect cross into the box.

However, Keane was still not finished. Halfway through the second half, Schweinsteiger showed some strong play in the corner, and was able to deliver the ball into the box. Keane leaped into the air, contorted his body, and struck a spectacular volley low and hard into the corner of the net to cap off his hat trick. Tottenham's defense was also top-notch. AC Milan was unable to mount any sustained pressure past the first five minutes; mostly a credit to the strong center defense by Tottenham's midfielders and center backs.

Tottenham 3 - 1 Milan

Champions League Best Overall Player: Robbie Keane (Tottenham)
Most Goals: Robbie Keane (Tottenham) - 8
Most Assists: DeMarcus Beasley (!) (Tottenham) - 5


So, needless to say, I was pretty excited. Especially about Keane's 3rd goal. You really needed to see it, it is definitely one of my top 3 PES 2007 goals.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Laptop=w00t

As the title would lead you to believe, this post is coming from my new laptop. Hooray! I got it just in time too, since today Windows Update totally f-ed up my PC for the second time in as many months.

Anyways, I've been quiet recently because I've been preparing for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam next Saturday, so don't expect to hear much from me until next Saturday night. However, I will will say this: Puzzle Quest is awesome, and fireball=domination.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, WHY ARE THE PHILLIES SO TERRIBLE! :(

Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer - 4/12/07

The SOE interview was a bust, or at least that's how I'm interpreting it. When the interview begins with "I'm not sure I'm the right person to be interviewing you..." you know it's probably not a good thing. Not to say we didn't have a good conversation about game design, but given that his areas of expertise were computer engineering and programming, we weren't really well aligned.

Supposedly they have open positions across the board, so I guess all isn't lost quite yet. He's supposed to talk to their Lead Designer about doing a phone interview with me, so we'll see what happens with that. I'll let you know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer - 4/10/07

So I got a phone call from Sony Online Entertainment today that said they were looking at my resume from GDC and wanted to schedule a phone interview. Sweet!

It is with the Senior Infrastructure Programmer so I am not sure entirely what that means, but I presume it is similar to the systems design (read: game balancing) roles I have been looking at thus far. This marks my fourth "line in the water," so just for a brief status update here's what I'm looking at right now:
  1. Sent card game to the CEO of Mind Control software on Sunday (4.8.07) - he ran the workshop I attended at GDC and asked that I send him something with "no computer required." My family and friends have played it and seemed to think it was decent, and I would hope they would know better than to lie about this.
  2. Took systems design test for Cryptic Studios on Saturday (4.7.07) - not sure what to say about this. It's part of the interview process but the questions were pretty vague and open-ended so I can't judge how well I did. No idea when I might expect to hear back, but I plan to follow up next week
  3. Interviewed for QA position at Lucasarts at GDC - yeah so testing isn't the most glamorous job in the games industry, but it's a great way to break in, or at least that's what everyone says. The hiring timeline got pushed back so I am "still under consideration." Planning to keep following up on a semi-regular basis.
  4. Phone Interview with SOE on Thursday (4.12.07) - not sure what to expect here, I'm not even sure exactly what kind of position they are looking at, but at the very least it means something in my resume is appealing to some subsection of the gaming industry. Hooray!
This isn't everything I'm looking at, but they are easily the most likely to succeed. I'm also working on putting together materials to get into the Guildhall, a graduate program in game design out of SMU, but I think that is a tale for another time. I just bought G.R.A.W. II today (thank you, $10 off coupon!), so I'm gonna go give it a whirl before I have to get to bed. Later!

Long live the PS2

The PS2 games just keep coming. I'd like to direct you to this preview. It's for Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm.

How excited am I? Very excited. Very, very excited. While I was reading it, the first thing I thought was: a game with a timer? No thanks. But when I kept reading, I started to think that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. Yes, that's right. For the first time ever, I might be OK with the idea of racing against the clock in an RPG.

Really, the selling point of the game is the blades system. As they mention in the article, Ar Tonelico has a similar system, but in Ar Tonelico it is only in place for a few characters, and it only changes little things like how fast certain gauges fill in battle. Extending this system to all of the characters, and having it effect not only appearance, but also weapons and skills, is too cool.

Conveniently, this game comes out the day before I get (essentially) a six day weekend. Booyah.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

As a note... I the only one who writes on this damned thing anymore?! It's the 7th of April and there are three entries (well okay, now four) and they're all mine.

What's up with that?

Diary of an Aspiring Game Designer - 4/7/07

Not sure if that is the actual title I am going to go with for this series of blog entries, but after talking about my adventures trying to break into the game industry with a few of the VP writers, Incognito thought this might for some good blog fodder, so here I am.

Since most of you have no idea what I am talking about I'll do my best to catch you all up on the key points. Some time around my final year of college I realized I had little to no interest in the actual profession I was studying, mechanical engineering. Sure I liked the classes and I was quite good at them, but my experiences in the real world, had left me largely unfulfilled, and faced with that fact I began to look at my options.

One of those options was to start my own game company. I've loved games ever since I was a kid and I had been training to be a mechanical designer for the past five years, so game design seemed like an easy choice, except for the obvious problem of having no training or experience of any kind in the field. Since that didn't really qualify as an option, I decided to explore other career opportunities, which is what landed me here in Richmond working for Capital One as an operations analyst.

Now don't get me wrong, I have a good job, a really good job in fact. The people are nice, the work is at least mildly interesting, and the pay is great. I really have nothing to complain about, but that whole concept of game design has been stewing in my head since I began thinking about it realistically a year ago, and in more nebulous terms long before that. I think I can safely say it's been my dream for a long time.

So in pursuit of that dream I decided to attend this year's Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, and I must say it completely surpassed any of my expectations. For as hard as I still believe the game industry is to get into, it really made me feel like I could do it. I had the opportunity to attend a two-day workshop on game design that was just outstanding. It really got to the core of what it is that makes games great and allowed multiple small teams to rapidly prototype games that were actually fun to play. Not to mention I got to network with some incredibly interesting people, a remarkable number of which who were in my same exact position. In fact, one of my best friends at the conference was a Biochemistry student who is graduating this Spring.

GDC was an awesome experience and it really showed me that if this is what you want to do you can do it. I even had the chance to interview at two places while I was at the conference, one of which was on-site at their studio, and mind you I have no background or training whatsoever. Add to that all the professional contacts I made and follow-ups inquiries I've been conducting since then, I feel a lot closer to my dream than I ever have before.

Now, I am sure your thinking to yourself, "well, then why does it say 'aspiring' in the title?" and on that point you are correct. No one has seen wise enough to hire me just yet, however, I am pursuing this endeavor with all the resources I have at my disposal. Suffice it to say I still have many lines in the water and while I'm sure you'd love to hear about all of them, I think this blog post is plenty long enough already.

Just to whet your appetite a little tough, I will tell you that I spent the better part of my day today taking a design test for a possible employer and I've been developing a card game for another such possibility. If you're interested in hearing more about my adventures, you'll just have to keep checking in ;-). Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Hate Puzzle Quest...

...because it is too damned good and addicting and it is keeping me up late playing it instead of sleeping, being productive, or playing something else. I started playing it last night at about 8:00 with the full intention of stopping at around 9:00 and doing something else...I stopped at a little after midnight.

For reasons that I'm not even entirely sure I understand, this game has me addicted. As you are all probably aware (since it was mentioned previously on this blog), Puzzle Quest is a mix of the flash game Bejeweled with significant RPG elements (exploration, random encounters, stats, equipment, companions, quests, the whole shebang). I know when you think about it it sounds absurd. It certainly did to me, but the whole thing meshes together to be much more than the sum of it's parts.

Without going into too much more detail (I'll save that for a review) you should know it is one of the best examples of handheld gaming to date, and unless you despise puzzle games and/or RPGs you owe to yourself to pick up a copy. It retails for $29.99 and is available for the DS and PSP with a PC version being released later this year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Re: A Clever Ploy?

I find it humorous that you cite an email while chastising me about not adding enough content to the blog. Lazy bum...

(Yep, this is another short one, what'cha gonna do about it? Nothing. That's what.)