Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monthly Update: Monthathon #2

For the month of October, I want to give myself a project with a definite deadline; something to accomplish and complete.  So October will become my second Monthathon.  This time, however, won't be a DOOM level.

Despite it being a great theme for October.
Instead, I'm going to create a mod for the board game HeroQuest.  Why HeroQuest, you ask?  Well, besides being a game for which I have infinite affection and nostalgia for, it could also do with a little modding, since there are a few broken systems in it.

For instance, by the time players reach level 2, they are basically invincible.
So I'll be altering a few rules to correct the glaring errors, perhaps adding some new spells, weapons, treasures, monsters, and the like, and I'll finish with a small, five-level Quest Pack.

Every Tuesday and Thursday will be a post on how it's coming along, and the final Quest Pack will be downloadable in a PDF form at the end.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Article: Augmented Reality Games, and Their Genres

With Google and competitors now developing Augmented Reality glasses, I fully expect in the next ten years we'll be playing Augmented Reality videogames, and in twenty years such glasses will be as common as smart phones.

But what will these kinds of games look like?  If the Kinect is any indication, traditional genres won't cut it.  Many reviewers of Kinect games that require the player to run in place claim that either it's hit uncanny valley, or trying to retrofit old genres with new control schemes doesn't work well.

Heck, when the NES powerglove came out, about the only thing it was useful for was racing games; everything else was much better off with a normal controller.

But the Kinect works just fine with some games, like Kinect Adventures, because the mimicry of player to onscreen-character is almost exact; no need to run in place here.

So with AR glasses, don't expect old genres to work the same.

Old Genres That Will Still Work

Puzzle Games - Tetris will always be there.  Waiting at the dentist's office?  Pop open a game of Angry Birds.

This, but with a waiting room for a background.
Odds are puzzle games will still work the same, just as they do on a touchscreen device; the only difference is you will make gestures in the air.  Many puzzle games will be nothing more than a window on your glasses, and won't really be ARGs.

Other puzzle games and retro arcade games may interact with the outside world.  Imagine being a passenger on a long ride, so you play a game out the window, where you fly a craft around the real obstacles outside, like fences, mountains, signs, trees, buildings, or other cars.

Like these kinds of games today, puzzle games and quick-fix arcade games will be "timewasters" just as much in the future.

Adventure Games - I see a huge comeback for this near-extinct genre.  These will become an extension of Alternate Reality Games, but here they will be tailored to the area you live in.  Perhaps you give a starting location and a radius, and the game generates characters, objects, and puzzles that only you see, but can be spread anywhere within your defined space.  They will start off simple, such as creating a game of Hide-and-Seek with an object (find the treasure chest hidden somewhere on your property), and will grow in scope, allowing multiple players in the same game, and offering more intricate puzzles and deep storylines.

Sports Games - Non-contact sports, anyway.  If you and three friends want to get together in a park and play a game of Virtual Bocce, or go Bowling in an empty parking lot, you'll be able to.  For that matter, you'll be able to play Chess on an empty table, and anyone hooked into your game can watch through their own glasses, even if they aren't participating.

Old Genres That Won't Work

First-Person Shooters - I know, I know; this is the thing we all wish we could have.  Since I first heard of the concept of ARGs, I've wanted to play a first-person shooter or survival/horror game.  Unfortunately, even if the guns are virtual, the fast-paced nature of the genre means you'd be running around a city, paying attention to the game and not traffic.

Contact Sports - Sure, you'll love to be able to play basketball even if there's no hoop available, but glasses and contact sports don't mix.  You'd need to bring goggles to go over your glasses, and even then I wouldn't want to chance it.  Delicate technology and a hard fall mean there won't be a big market for it.  Street Hockey nets will remain just as popular as always, and AR glasses won't change that.

New Genres

LAMMARGs - Live Action Role-Playing isn't a videogame exactly, but it will be.  LARPing and MMOs will mix into Live Action Massively Multiplayer Augmented Reality Games (we'll work on the acronym).  Players won't need to dress up, and fighting will be much rarer, but they will take fantasy worlds we've only seen on screens and in our heads and merge them with reality.  This will be the logical extension of Adventure Games mentioned above, and will likely evolve from them, rather than being created with the idea of an MMO in mind.

Board Game Hybrids - Similar to Virtual Chess explained above, new board games and miniatures games will utilize the environment to play a live game of Monster In My Pocket, or Virtual Warhammer 40K.  You would no longer need a flat surface to lay out a board, but instead your uneven surface could be overlayed with a 3D board.  Many Augmented Reality games are already close, such as ARhrrrr, or the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots app.

But imagine you're at a bar with some friends, and the table is littered with empty glasses and bottles.  The table could be transformed in your vision to a grassy field, and the empties become trees and bushes.  Then you and your friends march armies of orcs to the middle and attack, using gestures and non-interfering hand movements (to minimize the chance of knocking over drinks).

I am sure there will be many more new genres as the technology becomes more popular, beginning with these simple hybrids.  What genres can you think of that might be exclusive to AR glasses?  What old genres might still work, and what genres will need to be revised or canned?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flash Game Mini Review: Mamono Sweeper

Like Minesweeper?  Like RPGs?  Well here's a combination!

...Sort of.

Mamono Sweeper is an interesting little game that I find myself coming back to again and again.  It takes the basic concept of Minesweeper and mixes things up just enough to make it feel new and different.

For one thing, it's the mines that are colorful, rather than the numbers.
The major difference between Minesweeper and Mamono Sweeper is that the "mines" in the latter are creatures of various strengths.  Rather than marking mines to avoid, you are looking to attack the creatures at your level and defeat them.  If you find a creature that is level 1, and you are level 1, you can safely click on the creature to defeat it.

If you attack a creature that is a higher level than you, you might still defeat it, but you lose some health.  Lose too much health and you die and lose the game.

Numbers on the board, instead of telling you how many mines are nearby, tell you the total value of all the creatures nearby.  So if there are two creatures nearby, but they are both level three, then the number will read 6, instead of simply 2.

As you defeat monsters, you gain experience, and once you have gained enough, you level up with a quick flash, and you can move on to attacking higher level creatures.

Once you have defeated every creature on the board, you win.

While the game could have been created with abstract mines, the different kinds of monsters makes the game feel more rewarding.  You start only being able to easily defeat blue slime monsters, and work your way up to green dragons.  Like an RPG, it makes you feel good each time you level up and can defeat new monsters.

Ultimately, Mamono Sweeper might not be an actual RPG, but it is entertaining enough to replace Minesweeper as a quick anytime game.  If you like Minesweeper, but think it gets old, this game will provide a new challenge.

Mamono Sweeper can be found here.  If you check the description, you can change the difficulty level and size of the board for a new challenge.

Or, if you can read Japanese, the creator's site is here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Development Log: Facebook Timeline Adventure #3

I just thought I'd give a quick status update on the Facebook Timeline Adventure:

For one thing, it's become a different genre.
It appears that if you are not a friend, the "public" only sees about a month or less back into the timeline, even if you make every post public (which I do).  This makes it virtually impossible for someone to play the game unless they become my friend on Facebook first.

Since Facebook is known for changing its privacy levels without warning, it is entirely possible that this will change, but if it doesn't, I don't want my work on it to go to waste.

So I'm writing the project in such a fashion that, even if it can't go onto the Facebook Timeline, it could still just as easily be put together in book form, PDF form, or others.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Superman 64

Just made this video as a quick joke, to work on my video-making skills.  Also, I've had this idea in my head for a while of a character like this, a guy who loves the most atrocious games and movies and has no idea what makes a game or movie great, so I wanted to see if it was really funny, or only in my head.  I still can't tell, since I made the thing.  Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #29 - Last of the Frenzies

Here are the last of the Frenzies, and by that, that brings an end to all cards in the Vortex, so far.  You can print them all out (they should fit perfectly eight to a page the way I have most cards laid out) on some good cardstock, and you can play the game yourself.  (Just remember to print twice as many Frenzies, Rogations, and Locations, but cross out the duplicate Location card rules).

Unlike the previous cards, the Frenzies above are both more complex and can be more devastating.  Players who are faced with a Zealot with an unknown Frenzy might only have a card that changes stats mildly, like those below, majorly, like those above, or somewhere in between, like the previous batch.

Narratively, Frenzies are various ways of getting your troops pumped up.  The difference between a Devotee and a Zealot, in essence, is that a Devotee is in his right mind, and a Zealot is not his normal self.

Since I'm out of cards to post now, the next development log on The Vortex will probably be either card fixes or rule changes.  Possibly the Location Cards I never posted, which I'll post when I add placeholder art to them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #28 - Frenzies

Now we're getting into the final category of cards: Frenzies.

Frenzies are designed to add an element of chance to the game.  If you think of Chess, you can see everything on the board at once, including your opponent's pieces.  But in Poker, the opponents' cards are hidden, so you have limited information to work with, and have to take a chance about whether you have a better hand than your opponents.

Frenzies are meant to add that element to this game.  You can see a Zealots' basic stats, but there are extra Frenzies placed face-down that prevent you from seeing what has been altered.

Many Frenzies are very simple, like the eight above.  They simply change a card's stats in a direct way, but improving one or two stats at the cost of the others.

Sometimes, however, Frenzies can be slightly more complex.  Mania, for example, lowers all card stats against against Devotees, but makes killing troublesome Zealots much easier.

I am considering changing the wording on some, because in Mania, for instance, is the ultimate effect against zealots a +3 to Attack, or a +2, because of the -1 Attack initially?  I think I'll fix the wording in those cards if I get too much confusion by players on the rules.

Finally, there is a one-of-a-kind Frenzy, Through the Mud, which does something much different than just alter stats.

In the next log, we'll see the last of the Frenzies, which aren't as quite vanilla as these.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Development Log: The Vortex #27 - Last of The Noise

Here are the last eight Red Devotees:

Some of the cards are very weak in their stats, so they make up for it by having very powerful special rules.

The idea behind Pollen is that when you have allergies, getting all riled up isn't going to help, and panicking can make problems worse, so you need to be calm (not a Zealot) to be able to take it on.  Of course I do't mean literally pollen, but an alien species that acts similarly, as with most cards.

Of course, with Lifters, I wasn't thinking weights, but something more akin to morale, which is why it effects all other cards in play.

Kamikaze is perhaps both the weakest and most powerful card, since its stats are minimal, but its special rule is devastating.  The only way to get rid of it without detonation is by True Conversion.

Lost Souls is a bit odd, in that it is a fairly powerful card, yet has a limitation on its powers of conversion.  This is meant to reflect (in a very abstract way) the way a ghost might scare you, but can do no real damage.

Spineless is the one "opposite card" of this set, where its attack stat is poor and its reasoning is good.

Since that's the last of the Devotee cards for all colors, next we'll move on to the final batch of cards, the Frenzies.