Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: July 2005 (page 1 of 4)

Random Things that Amused Me This Week

J of Damned Vulpine pointed out to me that the frontpage of the Miami New Times web site has a GTA theme. Another sign that video games are permeating into the mainstream. There appears to be no permanent link, unfortunately.

The Senate is proposing to ban Chimeras. Metafilter snarks well on the topic:

I can’t believe the stupidity of our leaders – to make all this noise about Chimeras when anyone with sense knows that Hydras are much more dangerous. To say nothing of the corrupting influence on our youth of the Satyr and River-Nymph Agenda.

I’ve been saving this one for a while: the Wilhelm Scream. You’ve heard it dozens of times in dozens of films, including Indiana Jones, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings film. Originally a sound clip called “as Man Being Eaten by Alligator”, it was originally recorded in the 1950s, and has been making cameos in films ever since. The audio file at this link gives a few good examples of the Wilhelm in action.

Lastly, GrowRPG is a neat little flash puzzle. Good for wasting an hour or two.

The Heroes’ Journey, and Luck

Scott Miller posted this one a while ago: an article by Bob Bates regarding using the classic Hero’s Journey theorums about storytelling first articulated by Joseph Campbell. I saw Bob give this speech at a game conference recently, and the article, if anything, is better than the presentation. Continue reading

Yes, Game Devs are Sometimes Jealous Bitches

Brian points out an article on Slashdot about how Microsoft’s image maps don’t show the Apple buildings. Pretty amusing. Even if you accept that the picture is an old one, it seems odd to use an old one in such a rapidly growing part of the world. Continue reading

Girls Who Are Boys Who Love Boys Like They’re Girls

Nick Yee’s Daedalus Project has a new issue up – or very nearly so. It’s showing up in bloglines, but I can’t seem to see the actual research on the site soon. I’m sure all of this will be remedied shortly.. Continue reading

Needs More Cowbell

Jamie mentions a new bit of slang wandering around his office: Cowbell, as in this game needs more of it.

It comes from this famous SNL skit. And I love it…because I used to be a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan. But I was talking about the Call of Duty team. “This level needs more cowbell,” they’ll say. And what do they mean by that?

In a word – explosions. But more than just explosions. They mean seeing your buddy get capped right in front of you. They mean a plane gets shot down overhead and plummets straight at you, trailing smoke. They mean stuff catching fire. They mean the building collapses around you.

You KNOW that one’s going into the ZenLexicon. If we all start using it, maybe ‘cowbell’ will start becoming a judging criteria in PCGamer reviews.


Original comment thread is here.

Bringing Hot Coffee to the House

So, the House of Representatives is now involved in protecting us from ourselves, passing a resolution to recommend to the FTC that they look into what the hell Rockstar was thinking. Idlenews has the best analysis and commentary. And for those who want to blame liberals or conservatives, the vote was 355 to 21.

Clearly, the logic is that games are kid things, and kids don’t vote. This logic is staggeringly wrong – the average age of a gamer is 30, says the ESA — and the whole trail of politician-think would be hilarious if it wasn’t threatening my rent check. Continue reading

Terrible Endings Destroy a Lot of Wonderful Games

So I may just have a shorter temper than I used to, but I was totally prepared to quit Psychonauts again, in the final level. In the level after my bout with gaming OCD, I was furious with rage. I’m going to save my reasoning for a later post (which will be a lengthy one entitled ‘why the platformer is doomed’), but suffice it to say for now that the designers put together a level that, all combined, everything that is wrong with the genre.

Which was surprising, because up until that point, I was discussing how this Game Of The Year candidate could walk on water and heal lepers to anyone who would walk by my desk at work. Fortunately for Psychonauts GotY chances, God of War also managed to screw up their final levels with inane jumping puzzles. That’s when I started to realize how common the phenomenon of having a good thing and then screwing it up with a bizarre aberration of a game design decision near the end is. I started to make a list of the games that have screwed this up, in my experience.

  • Psychonauts: Jumping puzzle from hell.
  • God Of War: Inane ‘hell’ jumping puzzles inserted into a game that had previously been fairly light in them
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines: The interminable sewers level, which were 1/10 as cool and 10 times as long as any other level in the game, with too much combat and not nearly enough cool, sexy vampire stuff.
  • Halflife (1): The ‘Zen’ levels
  • Alice: Some insanely stupidly hard boss monster. To be fair, I don’t know how close to the end it was because I quit in disgust

Continue reading

Another Game Nearly Destroyed By Obsessive Compulsiveness

I was almost done with Psychonauts last week, perhaps two levels from the end, when I almost quit the game in disgust. You see, there was a power-up (A Psi Challenge Marker, to be precise) placed on a hard-to-reach pipe that you slid right off of if you landed. Failure required a fair amount of climbing to try again.

In no way did I need that power-up. I was far enough along that I knew I’d gain almost no benefit from it. But there’s something about me that has a ‘collect ‘em all’ vibe going through me – I just have to. This is evident in other games as well. When I play Civilization, I have to clear out all the black squares. When I play Diablo, I have to clear the whole map of critters. In this case, though, I spent about an hour trying to get this one powerup, and almost quit the game in disgust from the whole ordeal. Even though sidestepping this one powerup wouldn’t have slowed down my gameplay at all. Continue reading

Hot Coffee Talk

Needless to say, the Hot Coffee incident has now gotten everyone to pitch in their two cents. It’s impossible to link them all, so I’ll just link the good ones I’ve found.

Ron Gilbert points out a Game Revolution article that discusses the overall trends in violence and teen violence. He mentions the same data that I off-handedly mentioned earlier (that teen violence has been steadily decreasing since 1993 and is at it’s lowest point ever), but sorts through it more carefully, and provides helpful charts to illustrate it. Money quote:

If I may quote directly from the D.O.J. report, “Recently, the offending rates for 14-17 year-olds reached the lowest levels ever recorded.” In other words, the Playstation era has, in fact, produced the most non-violent kids ever

Continue reading

Jack Thompson vs the Sims

So, Jack Thompson is still a tool. Now, though, he’s a tool focused on bigger game: the Sims 2, which I’ve noted previously, has breasts and is still rated Teen. Which of course, leaves me in the unusual position of rooting for Electronic Arts.

The interesting thing is that there’s a cheat code built into the game, which will unpixellate the naughty bits. This stands in sharp contrast with GTA: SA, where a patch is required for the PC version and the purchase of a Gameshark is required to unlock the content on the console. Metafilter helpfully provided some screenshots of what you’ll see if you do so. Be warned, though, you’ll go straight to hell if you see such naughty pictures! Let’s hand the soapbox over to Mr. Tool! Continue reading

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