Shovel Knight, moving 2D->3D Progression?

NOTE: I recently watched half of the Shovel Knight QL, and intended the following to be a comment on it. But the post turned out longer and more reflective than originally intended so here it is:

I just realized another reason for my aversion to 2D platformers, or perhaps even 2D games in general. Since I grew up during the PS1 era, the first game that I really enjoyed was Final Fantasy 7. Before that, since I have older brothers, I played some games on the SNES and NES. But I guess in some sense 2D games felt more linear/restrictive, just in sense of movement. So playing FF7 was like expanding my mind in how I think about moving about the world. But at the same time I realize that all games have restrictions, and stories for RPGs are overall fairly linear, no matter how complicated character development or side quests can get. So I guess in a way, I have trained myself to think that 3D is the logical progression for video games after 2D, and even now I sometimes find myself thinking that VR is the next logical progression for video games.

But I know that it's not like 2D will ever go away, or that 3D or VR is necessarily better or worse than 2D. It was just interesting to reflect on how I think about 2D games. Somehow whenever I look at a 2D platformer I almost automatically think "there's no depth to this", and in a sense it's true (again only in terms of movement). But at the same time I enjoy playing SF4, which is sort of in between, and I see the complexity of fighting games. But at the same time when I see other 2D fighting games like Blazblue, Persona, KoF, Super Turbo, something is missing. Or maybe I just don't have time to play everything, which is normal.

Recently I've been thinking "I can't wait until people stop making these 8-bit 2D platformers, and devs start making polygonal 3D platforms to target the nostalgia of people like me who grew up during the PS1 era" (something like Spyro 1/2). But.. that's kind of weird because at that point, there is almost a kind of hidden expectation/assumption that IF a game is in 3D it's NOT retro, and that once it is in 3D it's expected to have HD graphics. This is relevant to me personally because over the past year I purchased both the Metal Gear Legacy Collection and the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.

After playing the Remaster, I can hardly imagine going back to play the PS2 versions. Somehow looking at old 3D games from PS2 era doesn't have nostalgia for me, but looking at some old 3D PS1 era (like Spyro 2) does. And when I look at old 2D games, I imagine what it might look like in 3D or with better graphics. Almost 90% of the time I don't find pixel art styles appealing. It just looks chunky. I know it's part of the aesthetic and it activates different associations for different people. It's hard to completely abandon the logic of progression when it comes to art. Hmm. Perhaps there is some sort of threshold or critical point that all these 8-bit 2D platformers will reach and we will start seeing VR remakes of old PS1 era games.. or something.

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400Days Impressions: Human-Sanity

So just downloaded and played 4/5 of 400Days (all except Bonnie) and here are some of my thoughts and impressions about the story (in my order of playing): SPOILERS--

Russel:

Not sure why I chose to start w/ Russel. Maybe because he was black like Lee and was subconsciously drawn to him. I wanted to play one of the girls' stories last and Vince somewhere in the middle, so I just went from there.

Hah, when the car drove up I was like, oh crap is it Lily?! In my playthrough of season 1 I had let Lily stay with us, so she stole the RV, was half expecting it was her. I figured I would get in and get a free ride. I tried to keep an open mind throughout with the stranger, but jesus. When it came down to it at the gas station I just left him. I try to adopt a strict no killing policy... because I have too much faith in humanity. Russel's still a young guy, and running away from his previous group takes guts. Hope he turns out okay.

Shel:

Alright music! It would be very good if the group could sit down together once a week or so and share something creative that they have done with each other, whether it's music, poetry or whatnot.. you know.. keep the sanity levels in check. Had bad feeling about Roman, but again trying to keep an open mind here. My faith in humanity kicked in again and I let the thief go.

Now that I think about it, since the thief didn't even speak english, the only reason Roman threatened the guy was to scare everyone else in the group! What a douche! Yeah by the end I was pretty convinced that Roman was trying to turn this into his little dictatorship.

When it came to the decision to kill Steph or run away with Becca. I chose to run away, BUT I really wish we could have saved Steph and ran away with her as well. Steph seemed really nice.. and pretty.. so I was kinda hoping.. LESBIAN ORGY.. *COUGH*.. just kidding. But I was also afraid that Becca would run away after we ran away, which would make the decision basically 1. Kill Steph OR 2. Runaway and lose Becca. Again my faith in humanity.. hurts to see someone so young talking so coolly about killing someone.

Vince:

The asian dude who is probably Glenn's brother woooOOOoooo! (I'm being a ghost). Kind of amazing how they set this whole scene in the bus. Honestly I wasn't paying much attention to what Justin and Danny were saying and kept my mouth shut for most of it.. which is probably what I would have done irl. Danny accused of sodomy or something? Justin a con man? That's really all I caught.

Got pretty intense pretty quick, cheap rookie ass cop. Lol so when it came down to shooting whose leg off, I really had no preference, since as I said I wasn't paying much attention to dialogue. As far as I was concerned we're humans trying to survive. DAT FAITH... so... whatever reason I chose to shoot Justin's leg (the white con man). Lol maybe I subconsciously wanted to shoot myself (my real name is Justin). I was hoping we would be able to carry him along with us (like in episode2, but with less dying), but oh well.

Wyatt:

Honestly thought it said "Watt". Like above, I wasn't listening TOO much to what Eddie was saying, just wanted to get somewhere safe. I thought whoever we hit was a walker, so I wanted to leave. I wasn't going out there. I think this was the least exciting/interesting story arc out of the 4 I played so far. In the fog, on the run, with some guy who makes terrible jokes to relieve stress. Along with my faith in humanity, I also appreciate some quality silence, you know.. like meditative silence... keeps the sanity levels in check (better than cracking terrible jokes imo).

____--------Thanks for reading, I appreciate it, leave a comment if you want. =)

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Candy box: motivation to play, curiosity and game trailers

Curiosity and Motivation: Slowly pulling back the curtain?

So, as per Patrick's latest Worth Reading article I tried playing Candy Box. At first it was silly, I threw some candies on the ground, I ate some. But then slowly, more and more options opened up. I kept my browser open as I went about doing other things like eating lunch, going to the washroom, or browsing in other tabs of my browser. Slowly but surely, I get more candies, and more things to do with those candies.

Which got me thinking. A few days ago I commented on a certain game trailer, saying how it really bothers me that lots of trailers these days show all the different aspects of a game, it's mechanics and how it will work. And now I think I have a better idea of why I am bothered by this. Trailers like these, just don't leave a lot to the imagination. If you lay out all the games mechanics and show me how everything works, this takes out the curiosity factor, my own motivation going into a game trying to figure things out for myself, and enjoy the process as it happens.

This is why I think Candy Box is such a great case study about how motivation to find out more about games and play them more. You start off with one thing that is simple, then slowly show the player more things he can do with those things and expand on that. Right now, I'm pretty excited to just leave my computer on for the next few hours.

The money factor, trailers and established series?

NOW hold up, I just compared Candy Box, a text-based web-browser game, to Remember Me, a futuristic sci-fi game coming out this summer on consoles. So let's take a moment to consider how money factors into all this. You don't spend any money on free web-browser games like Candy Box, or Frog Fractions. But you would spend a few dozen dollars on Remember Me, if you decide to get it. So it seems like games which actually cost money would actually need trailers like the one above to inform players what they are spending money on, right? Well not completely.

As I was thinking about these things I thought about a trailer that I watched recently and made me immediately go "I want this game, I'm getting it, no matter what, holy crap, FUCK DAMN." And that trailer was for MGSV. I'm not even a huge MGS fan. I did play MGS4, and I have watched playthroughs of MGS1,2, and 3. The great part about the trailer is, I don't even know really how the game will play. Which takes into consideration the next factor, established franchises.

It seems the more established a series already is, the less they have to show in trailers for people to get excited for. This is partly true. I remember as a kid, ever since Final Fantasy 7, up until about Final Fantasy X-2, I would eagerly await and buy the next big Final Fantasy game. I would go into each game knowing next to nothing about the games mechanics, who the characters were and so on. All I knew was that this was going to be another final fantasy game, another world to get lost in, another amazing story with cool characters to boot!

How to make people interested?

I didn't care how much it cost. Now, it might be easy to chock this attitude up to me being a kid, but I think it is really relevant to how games present and market themselves. How do games capture our interest and what keeps us interested?

I can't even pinpoint to you what about the MGSV trailer had me so captivated. Maybe it was the idea of playing as a character who has been in a coma after 9 years, maybe it was the flaming whale? Maybe it was riding on a horse through a flaming forest? I don't know, but the fact that it did captivate my interest without showing me or explicitly explaining to me the games mechanics is noteworthy.

I just don't find it interesting to watch trailers where a developer is talking over gameplay footage saying "here is X mechanic, you can you use it to do Y... like so." And so I don't think it's the best way to make trailers for games, whether or not those games come from established companies or not.

I want to close by saying, there's probably no super magic formula for creating awesome trailers. Creating trailers takes creativity and work just in the same way that making an actual game does. I realize that money and how well-established a series is factors into marketing decisions. But somehow, deep down, something like the MGSV trailer, or the first few minutes of Candy Box showed me enough of the game, in a creative and new way to create enough of a sense of curiosity and motivation in me to find out more, to want more. I want more candies and lollipops almost similarly to how I want more MGSV.

Hmm yeah I just did compare MGSV to Candy Box... hmmm... I don't have any real answers to what makes a great trailer. Maybe we should spend less time watching trailers and just buy more on impulse, give in to those urges of curiosity and see where it takes us? What I do know is that by questioning what makes me interested in games via trailers or whatnot, I'm simultaneously questioning what makes me tick as a person, and what developers think makes people interested enough to play their game.

P.S. A final Note on that MGSV trailer

I'm not sure if I am the only one, but after watching the MGSV trailer for the second time. I went to watch the full conference on the FOX engine. I skimmed through it, but I didn't really find that interesting either. And I think I realize now why. It's because the conference is kind of like those game trailers that talk about the games mechanics and explain how everything works. Rather than tell me about the game engine, I think I'd rather see it in action. See what it's like when creativity really puts the engine through it's paces. And I think the trailer did just that, and it did so in such a brilliant fashion that puts all those floating balls demonstrations to shame.

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UMvC3: First time story

Note: Sorry if the first part of this blog is sort of boring, it's just basically me sharing my story, and then giving some thoughts about what I learned.

Today I went to a launch event for UMvC3 at a local game store, and I thought I'd share my experience, I learned a lot. Among other things I finally realized why playing against people in real life makes such a difference. Before I get into that, some backstory: The game store started out buying and selling used retro games and systems, but over the years its collection keeps growing, and they sells lots of games, controllers, systems, and now they even stock limited copies of new releases. I'm in university and I live on residence, and the game store is a 5 minute walk from my res.

It was something of a coincidence that I knew about this UMvC3 launch event. A few months ago I had bought a PS1 copy of Final Fantasy Tactics from them, and just last week for whatever reason I decided to check out their website again. Then I found out that, now, along with their game store, they also have a game center right next door! (consoles hooked up to tvs, and you pay an admission fee to play almost any game you want) This was where they were going to hold their umvc3 launch event. I thought, cool, I should definitely go! I hadn't played mvc3, and I've never played in an arcade-like setting. I went there at 3:30p.m. And there were around 6 people playing vanilla mvc3. And there was also a monitor with SSF4AE running, but no one was playing that. It didn't look like they had extra sticks either, but I didn't bother to ask. Instead I asked the guy at the front desk the obvious, so when can we play umvc3? He reassured me that it should be coming in any minute now. So I paid the $5 admission and sat down to watch some mvc3 matches. It still gives me a light headache watching this game, it's so flashy and fast compared to ssf4. So, since I had no one to play with, I sat down beside one of the mvc3 stations where the guys were playing and watched.

Then two other guys, came in and they were there for umvc3 as well, but it still hadn't come yet. So they came in and watched a little bit, then one of the guys asked me if I wanted to play ssf4ae (since it was right beside where I was sitting), I said sure. Then he proceeded to beat me with various characters, but I did manage to get in a few rounds/games against some of his weaker characters. It was fun even though the stick had some technical difficulties (the ball top almost rolled off, and i got the weird feeling that the roundhouse button just decided not to work on me randomly). At some point while I was playing this guy (let's call him X), Umvc3 came in!

That tackle and rocket assist is awesome!

But since I was playing ssf4, and the 6 people who were playing vanilla mvc3 were already waiting for umvc3 to come, I couldn't play umvc3 just yet. So after some waiting and some more ssf4ae with another guy, and some more waiting, X invited me to play umvc3 with him (since he was now not playing against anyone). I was excited, but I told him the truth, "Yeah this is my first time playing mvc3, so I barely know anything." He told me the basic controls and we went into it. I tried out ghost rider/amaterasu/phoenix wright, then I switched to wolvie/akuma/nemesis and proceeded to just stick with that. I didn't want to waste this guys time and stare down the moves-list, so we just went into it. And he beat me, over and over again.

But somehow it was fun. Maybe this is the same with every new game one plays, but I wanted to keep playing. Even if I could get just a little damage on him, or even if he was going easy on me because I was new, I could tell, "hey, maybe spend some time in training mode, and you could play this game too... maybe not now, not tomorrow, but someday." When he was playing me in ssf4ae, I remember times when I was getting frustrated, but I kept my composure, thought about what I was doing and kept playing. There were a few moments where I just wanted to give up and throw my hands up in the air, and if I was playing online at home, that's probably what I would have done (It has happened that I have gotten so mad at myself after losing a round, that I just get up and walk away and let the guy beat me). But this was different, I was playing against real people and it wouldn't be nice to blow up in front of a complete stranger.

The fat one ^-^

Then after a while I hopped off of umvc3 and let X's friend play umvc3 with him. I watched some more, then some other guy asked if I wanted to play AE, I said sure. He said he played mostly 3rd Strike. And I was beating him pretty consistently with my Rufus. He asked how come I don't use Yun. So I told him I didn't buy ae, and I'm not that good at all the only character I know how to use is Rufus. But after playing some more, I decided to try out Yun at least. Then he started beating me.

Then it was already 6:15p.m.! If I didn't have to go to a study session at 7, and didn't have to still eat dinner, then I could have stayed until it closed. So I left and headed back to residence, showered, had a few bites of dinner and headed to that study session.

Be fit, stay healthy!

And here I am! 4 or so hours later, writing a blog about spending about a quarter of my day playing video games! What have I learned? Well after thinking about it some more, playing against real people is almost like working out at a gym with other people. As opposed to working out alone, or playing online (and alone) at home. It's seriously a different feeling. You are surrounding by people like you, who (supposedly) want to have fun and get better at playing the game. You can't give up so easily when around other people with similar goals as you, especially when those people around you are better than you.

For example, I don't know if this has happened to anyone, but sometimes I use the treadmill in my residence's exercise room and then someone else enters the exercise room, I feel like I need to push myself harder and not take so many rests, this leads to a better workout, because I'm pushing myself closer to my limit and outside of my comfort zone. A similar thing happens when playing games with people in real life. There were so many times where I actually missed Rufus jf.HK into Ultra1 and went under my opponent, call it nerves, blame the stick, whatever. If I was at home I would have been so angry at myself, but since I was playing around other people, I wanted to put my best foot forward and keep going.

So I have to say that the $5 admission was well worth it! I got to try out umvc3, which I will probably buy at some point in the near future. And I got to experience for the first time in my life, the real difference between playing people online and playing people in real life. This was seriously an eye-opener. After playing umvc3, I actually wanted to sit down and go through all the characters and learn all their moves and try out all sorts of teams, combos and everything! It's been a while since I've been that interested in a game. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't played any video games in a while (due to school), or maybe it's because I haven't gotten any new games in a while (last game I bought was Catherine in August), or maybe... just maybe, I've found the next game that I can really delve into and have fun with.

I'll probably be going back to that local game store's game center to play again. I don't know when, but I'm sure if I do go back, I'll be a better player and person than I was the first time I went there.

Thanks for reading, I know it's long. >.>

P.S. I just realized how ironic it is to have one picture saying "Be fit, stay healthy" and then a picture of Rufus... But let's just remember Rufus is a video game character.

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SSF4: Keeping the Options Free

Recently playing SSF4 I realized something that has ultimately been hurting my game, or at least now that I think about it, I think it has. I've been playing Rufus since SF4 came out, and I like to think that I'm an okay player now. But of course it's hard to lose. Eventually I convinced myself that: 1. Rufus is free to jump-ins. 2. He has no reliable anti-air and 3. Sucks at footsies.  Then I started cursing people who have 3/4 frame uppercuts, I started never using jump forward HK, and never using Snakes Strike. I thought, hey, jumping is stupid, I can just get uppercut out of divekick, and snakes strike sucks because it's so slow.

A few days ago though, I played against a bison player, he owned me. Then I ran into him again, this time I picked Ken, he picked Adon. He knew a few combos, but I didn't really care. All I did was spam different versions of the uppercut, block, throw and ultra and I ended up winning. This just made me more mad. I ended up losing a bunch more rounds, while winning a few, and quit for the day.

Then today, I played again. I thought, you know what... I should just start using Snakes Strike and jf.HK more, see what happens. I've heard it before, "just go random". That's basically what I tried to do, I lost a few rounds and won a few rounds as usual. But what really made me think about things differently was these 2 games I had against a Viper player. The first game, I thought, okay this guy just wants to super jump, flame kick, seismo me when I'm on the ground and thunder knuckle me to death. So I'm just going to spam Snakes Strike. Then, to my surprise, I beat most of his superjumps or jumpins. I ended up winning a round, but he won the other 2 rounds. He messaged me after saying something like, "noob stupid spammer." I replied saying, "yeah nd u lost a round, I wasn't even trying." Which was true, I just didn't care, screw my slow uppercut, I just do it.

Then I ran into the Viper player again. We picked same characters, same ultras. I basically did the same thing as before, except I realized that now he was looking for the random snake strike, and doing HP thunder knuckle. So I started blocking a little more, and punishing his knuckle. I ended up winning 2 rounds to 1. If I remember right, I won both rounds with Ultra 2, first round he jumped at me, the winning round I caught him doing a backdash as I woke up.

Honestly I feel like a changed Rufus. I realize now that I can't cut off my options like that by saying things like, "Snakes Strike sucks I don't want to use it" or blaming other characters for being "better" in certain areas. I'm not saying that all of a sudden I'm so good, I still get owned by some people and get mad, like today I lost 2-0 to a bison and a balrog because they were smarter than me and I didn't know what to do. But now, hopefully, I can be more open about Rufus' strength, weaknesses, and how to keep it random, but also smart.

It's like Poker, if you can make your opponent think your going to do something, and you know he thinks that and what he's going to do about it, you can beat him. I still don't really know what the balance is between "random" and "smart", but hopefully now that I'm actually using 2 moves (Snakes Strike and jf.HK) that I had avoided using before, I can keep getting better, and not being scare.

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Today Practicing Piano in Res.

Okay so I live in one of my university's residences. It happens to be the smallest residence, only housing about 300 students, so you see a lot of familiar faces, and know a number of people by name even though you don't hang out with them. So there's this one guy he is always really friendly, and has a heavy chinese-mandarin accent, but his english is fairly fluent. He always says how he's excited to meet new people, and tries getting involved with the residence events (ex. taking pictures and video of residence events and uploading them to facebook, or going out with friends in residence etc.) Also I've seen him asking for advice about applying for job positions or leadership positions within residence, like "what is the easiest to get into" and "what work it involves" and so forth. 
 
Okay so 3 other background things that need to be mentioned before getting to what actually happened today: 1. My residence has a room with a grand piano that can be reserved at the front desk. You need a key to remove the lock from the cover of the grand piano. Since I play piano, I reserve it for about an hour each day, on weekdays. 2. In order to get back into residence next year, you have to do a Reapplication. The main thing they are looking for is involvement in the residence. There is one specific section of the reapplication for Peer Evaluation. Basically, you put down the name of the resident you want to comment on, check whether they made a positive/negative contribution to the residence, and make any comments if you want. 3. An upper year resident made a handy facebook group for people who are reapplying for residence. I'll get back to this later.
 
Okay, so today when I went to the piano room, I was practicing alright for a while. Then the asian guy, let's just call him John, that I mentioned earlier, comes in... with two other people a guy and a girl, who were clearly non-residents (it is protocol at our residence to sign in and out guests, and be with our guests at all times). He says to me off-handedly "oh nice music," to which I mumble "thanks." Now I thought, okay he's just showing his friends the music room and they'll be gone in a few seconds. No, one of his friends carries in an electric keyboard and they start hooking it up to the wall. And then John leaves the room saying to his 2 friends, "yeah if they ask who you are just say you're with John and my room number". 
 
That's when I started getting angry. I was thinking, "What are they thinking? I reserved this room days ago and they're going to come in here and think they can push me out?" Honestly I felt like punching one of them, but I remembered I probably wouldn't get back into residence if I did that. I was able to get them NOT to practice by asking them, but they had to stay in the room because John had left them, and they wouldn't have a key to get back in. I had trouble concentrating for the remainder of the session. At one point the girl went outside to talk on the phone, then when I was done practicing and she went back into the room I heard her say, "Oh he finally left." Now I was ready to go back in there and start yelling, but again that wouldn't have done anything. What really struck me was the absolute disrespect of how they came in and didn't even ask if they could use the room, and then proceeded to almost start practicing.
 
Now this gets me back to Peer Evaluations. Now basically how I've been filling it out, is by looking at members of the Facebook group, seeing who I know and writing comments about them and how they participate in residence stuff. The thinking behind this is that, I would want other people to be positive about me, and I certainly wouldn't want to screw someone over by writing negative comments them, or by having people write negative comments about me. Now John was one of the people I wrote down. After this incident I almost considered changing my comment about him to be negative. But then I remember that probably wouldn't make a difference either because he's spent his whole time in residence trying to be friendly with everyone and probably has many positive evaluations from other people. 

Now I'm just really annoyed, and pissed off. At the whole idea of Peer Evaluation as a sort of Prisoner's Dilemma, at John (and by extension most Mandarin-Chinese people) and of course my own ineptitude.

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Negligible differences, getting Red Dead Redemption

So my brother messaged me earlier today here is roughly how the dialogue went:
Brother: hey I'm getting red dead for the xbox, any objections?
Me: Isn't it also on the ps3? I'd rather get it for that because I prefer the ps3 controller.
Brother: really? the xbox version got better reviews. 
Me: Well from what I know there aren't any major difference, it is a great game either way.
Brother: look here. xbox is crisper and more shrubs! 
Me: Alright fine.. 
-End dialogue-
 
*First off I should say that I am very excited to finally be getting and being able to play this game, and my brother messaging me came as a big surprise!*
 
So...I knew something was wrong when he said, "xbox version got better reviews." Because I knew red dead is an amazing game regardless of platform, and the only reason I could think of was slightly different graphics. And from my brothers next message, I was right. So I just sort of gave up at the end because I didn't want to argue about it, but I started thinking about what I don't like about these system comparisons and here's what I came up with:
 
System comparisons are almost useless because really when you're looking at them, you're only judging the game on one aspect, the graphics. It's not like you're going to be sitting on the couch thinking "oh this game would look so much worse/better on the other system, just look at those shrubs." Instead, you're going to be playing the game... learning about the characters, doing stuff.. Sure you can stare at screenshots comparisons, but really what you're doing is seeing which screenshot looks better. It is very different actually being IN the game and seeing and playing the game the way it is meant to be seen and played. 
 
I feel I should say something about why I prefer the ps3 controller over xbox controller. I just find the ps3 more responsive and sensitive. I don't like how the xbox controller is shaped, I find the battery pack gets in the way of comfortably holding the controller, and also the triggers and buttons feel more stiff overall. Also the d-pad is much better on ps3 controller. This is just my personal preference, and with red dead redemption I knew I wouldn't be bothered with whatever graphical differences there were, and I greatly prefer the ps3 controller. 
 
In any case I am excited to get a chance to play this game and look forward to finding out what makes it such a great experience!

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