A defense for motion control in games

Last night I read a screed on The Verge forums from a guy who lamented the fact that games have become too accessible. He remembers fondly the time spent as a youth when he played difficult games, and calls out the new Zelda game (Skyward Sword) as example of a “soft, hit-detection-free experience.”

Even though I’ve just started playing the game, I don’t feel this way about Skyward Sword at all. In fact, I’m finding it more difficult than other Zelda games I’ve played. There are a few reasons for this: mostly because of the precision motion control required, but also due to other changes, such as a shield that wears down over time, and fewer randomly found hearts. Playing this morning, I actually died to the first dungeon boss. While it could have been that my sleep-deprived mind couldn’t recognize patterns effectively, it’s also true that I played through Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask without ever coming close to dying.

Some Wii games certainly do have “floaty” controls, but these are games that have a broad audience (such as Wii Sports). However, most of the other games I’ve played on the Wii use the remote/nunchuck combo for a more traditional control scheme; perhaps they use the remote for pointing a cursor on the screen as well. While the Wii made broad strokes into a “blue ocean” of non-gamers, it still has a lot to offer to those who were raised on the original NES.

No comments · Written by Nathan at 4:41 pm · Tags ,


In my very slim
amount of free time…

Mother 3 Fan Translation Patcher

I own the GBA cartridge, you cretins, so I hold the moral high ground here. =] It was just getting too frustrating having to constantly refer to a translated script… you really miss a lot of the game, which is a shame when the most interesting thing about the Earthbound/Mother series is the writing.

No comments · Written by Nathan at 8:08 pm · Tags , ,


Game Makin’: nonograms?

Nonogram game screenshot #1

Makin’ another game! It’s a nonogram game, inspired by Mario’s Picross (read more details about the whole genre at Game Set Watch).

Admittedly, nonograms aren’t for everyone. I enjoy them, however, because they’re simple logic puzzles that have a visual component… they’re more interesting to me than the straight-up numbers of sudoku. When I explained the concept to Chandra, she seemed interested! It’s my goal to make something that she’ll play through =]

1 comment · Written by Nathan at 9:19 am · Tags , , ,


Review: Zelda II: the Adventure of Link

When I was younger, I really looked up to my cousin Doug. He was four years older than me, and about as cool as I could hope to become. Not only was he socially adept and a good skateboarder, but he was also way better than me at video games (obviously the attribute that I envied the most). Once, when we were all on a family vacation, he had convinced his parents to let him bring his Nintendo to my great-grandparents’ house. My sister and I watched him play through a large portion of his collection of NES games… probably the most game endings you’d see in one sitting prior to YouTube. I’m sure some kids might have demanded a turn playing, but I was totally content to to watch these games (Blaster Master, Metroid, Super Mario Bros. 2, etc.) being played at levels nearing perfection. One of the games he beat was Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link. Now, I really liked the first Zelda game, but when I got home and tried playing the sequel, I didn’t do so well. The game was really unforgiving, which basically ensured that I would not finish it. I didn’t have the mental fortitude as a kid to not get discouraged by having to repeat a section of a game over and over again. (As an aside, I also never finished other difficult side scrolling games, such as Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania.)

I’m old and tenacious now. Or maybe I’m just stupid enough not to know when to quit. Regardless, I had the idea that since I’ve finished most of the other games in the Zelda series, I should go back and finish Zelda II. So I busted out the NES (no Virtual Console here, punk!) and played through the game. Having completed it, I now feel like I’m in a better position to comment on the “black sheep” of the Zelda franchise.

Zelda II is usually dismissed by gamers, due to its departure from the “traditional” top-down view that all other 2D Zelda games use. Instead, it is broken up into an overhead “exploration” view, and a side-scrolling “action” view. The “action” view, while being something of a new paradigm for the series, is also notoriously difficult. Even though Zelda II doesn’t contain much of the exploration and puzzle-solving that gamers associate with the name “Zelda,” I still like it. In my mind, it’s a great example of a sequel done right. It takes the characters and world of the first game, and instead of rehashing the first game, creates something entirely new (from a game play perspective).

While the game is difficult, it’s not impossible. The great thing is that it’s possible to progress in the game using tenacity to replace skill. If you are having difficulty dispatching some of the tougher enemies in the game, you can fight weaker enemies until your character’s attack power and life meter increase. Unlike the first game in the series, enemies do not drop health-replenishing hearts. Instead, the main character, Link, gets a “Heal” spell very early in the game. Running out of MP to cast the spell while in a dungeon puts you in a tight spot… or does it? Every 6th enemy drops a magic-replenishing jar, which (if the process is repeated enough) will fill up your magic gauge, which in turn refills your life. Plus, as you progress through the game (and gain skill at the game mechanics), these “helpers” become more and more superfluous.

My conclusion is that I like it. It’s a worthy game to invest time in completing, especially since it’s not really that long by modern standards (maybe 7-10 hours, depending on your playing ability). It’s nice to feel a sense of accomplishment from finishing a hard game, rather than one that is based on item collection or mediocre puzzles. Many games in the Zelda franchise are “going through the motions,” but it’s nice to see this early sequel adding something genuinely new and different to the series.

No comments · Written by Nathan at 1:58 pm · Tags , ,


Armada

So I finally decided to be “done” with this little shooting game I’ve been working on for a while. It’s called “Armada.” The goal is to destroy 1,000 enemies. Whenever you kill one, another one jumps on the screen to take its place. However, the more enemies you kill, the faster your ship moves and shoots. Check it out on Kongregate.

One thing I’ve learned about myself during its development is that I can get really bogged down working on more than one thing at a time. My personal programming time is so limited that having two active projects slows things down considerably. Plus, if a project takes too long, I lose motivation pretty quickly. When waking up early in the morning, one has to be excited about what one is doing (an aside: tips for waking up early).

No comments · Written by Nathan at 11:51 am · Tags , , ,


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