Two Tribes totally teases Toki Tori Two.


Just posted on their official Steam pages and YouTube page, developer Two Tribes has announced that they are making a follow up to personal favorite Toki Tori 2.

Not much is known at this time, although the teaser trailer hints at some new locals and power-ups, including one that totally buffs out the strangely tech-savvy chicken protagonist from the first game.

Also announced is that they will be accepting help from the community to make this game better than ever. Details have been released on Two Tribes' website.

If you haven't checked out the original, or any other of Two Tribes' games, head on down to their Steam page and check them out. Their games ooze with visual charm, musical magic, and that simple-but-addictive gameplay that makes them hard to put down.

How excited are you for this new title? Sound off below!


Mass Effect 2 load times on PC: Gone!

Just a quick, crazy post. I downloaded this gizmo here and watched the load times in Mass Effect 2 on PC (recently purchased on sale on Steam) from minutes to seconds. It blew my mind.

In any case. Hi. How are you guys? I've started another blog elsewhere, hence my quietness here. At the risk of seeming shameless, I shall plug it now.

Ready? Go. 

Thanks for reading.


Why Kinect and Move won't be successful, even if they're better.

E3 is over and the dust has settled; now is the time for quiet reflection. With emotions no longer running hot,  it's a fair place to examine what happened, and what this E3 really means for the future of games. It's hard to argue that motion controls were en vogue this year, and plenty have talked yin and yang on which company is doing what better. And I think that's fascinating, and certainly there's a lot to talk about, but I don't know that too many people are analyzing the business strategies and whether they will be effective.
Both Sony and Microsoft, in their obvious attempts to play catch-up, each have two terrible flaws in their strategies. Perhaps I am underestimating the power of their marketing, or people's gullibility, but overall I feel that the major companies are themselves overestimating people's willingness to just hop onto the same thing. The companies each have one individual weakness, but also each share a common flaw in the way they present their new "everybody can play" devices.
Microsoft seems to completely miss the point by doing EXACTLY what Nintendo did, while forgetting about the part where the quality of the product matters. During their press conference they displayed a couple of their games, and despite the obvious part where Kinect Sports isn't even trying to be different, it was obvious that they didn't put as much polish into the final product. Wii Sports may have been simple, but it was clear that it was on purpose. The look was crisp, clean, and ran at a smoother-than-smooth 60 frames per second. When I was instructed by the two ladies on stage to "Look at that water," only groans could be heard. Not only was the line about as natural as a bag of Doritos, it also reminded me that the water looked awful. As I write this, I'm watching my roommate play Blur, and seeing the cars splash through puddles of water, it just looks, well, wet. The plasticy goop I saw in that demo were nowhere near noteworthy. In the end though, perhaps the sales figures of Deca Sports and Carnival Games illustrate how little this new consumer values that kind of quality. They just want the experience... but well get to that in a bit.
One of Sony's major flaws hinges on the fact that it doesn't have the installation base. That will only compound it's problem with the other one it shares with Microsoft, but at least it can make up for that by having a more similar product. It's easy to see how someone would look at the PS3 controller and go "oh, I know what that is." That is, of course, if they know what a PS3 is. The PS3 has been doing better as of late, but I don't know that there's a lot for it to appeal to a more massive audience. About all it has  right now is the ability of the PS3 to double up as a Blu-Ray player. It may actually become this a fairly sought-after gift, the "Wii-HD + Blu-Ray player," quickly closing it's issue of not being in many homes, but it still has a terrible uphill battle, especially when Cost is involved...
And that brings me to both the biggest reason neither system will have mainstream success; cost. Sony's fighting an uphill battle because it requires a whole new set of controllers, even if you already have the $300 system. It also requires a camera in there, for everyone who didn't buy Eye of Judgment (so everyone except and Penny Arcade's Tycho.) Microsoft has tried to be coy in it's pricing, which admittedly even at the rumored $150, will still be cheaper than the stockpile of supplies Sony is asking you to purchase. However, Sony's hardware is also way more flexible, turning already existing games like Dead Space and Resident Evil into superior products (should the tech work as well). I still don't buy that Natal will be accurate enough for a real shooter like those, but it doesn't help that Microsoft isn't marketing towards the Modern Warfare and Halo crowds. Oh sure, I'm interested in Dance Central, but I've also been playing DDR for the past 10 years. Even still, that's a "bridge" title, at best. Regardless, Microsoft may be jumping the gun by not appealing to it's existing fanbase. After all, it was the Nintendo fans who spread the Wii like a virus to get it where it is today. Microsoft seems to be skipping that first step, and it's going to cost them. Also, in the end, why would anybody pay for something they likely already have in the Wii? How can you grab an audience that already has what it wants? Again, that's where Sony is more likely to fail, unless people clearly understand that it's a "high def" upgrade, which I doubt they will. At least the horridly named Kinect can be "we're kind of the same but different!" It's a bit of give and take on either end that will likely only keep the market where it is.
Overall, I think Sony has the better tech. Like the Wii, it is suitable for so many kinds of games, and it sounds like it's actually more stable than the Wii's oft-finicky controls. I still don't fully trust in Microsoft's controller not lagging behind, as well as that horrible interface. It's slow, and there's just no tactile feedback. But my personal opinions of the products aside, I still don't see either overtaking the Wii's crazy success any time soon.
So what say you, the reader? Let's try and keep the flaming to a low simmer, if we could. I'm all for reasonable discussions!
Oh and as always, I rant on Twitter @docrandle
And now lobotomy patients enjoying Kinect:


Video Games Live to broadcast on BBC in August!

If you've never seen Video Games Live, you're missing out. Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall have put one of the greatest live shows together where your favorite video game hits are played by a live orchestra. There's stage performances, contests, and even a chance to play a live-action game of Space Invaders! I'm psyched to be seeing the show next weekend (Saturday June 12), and this news piece strikes perfect timing for me to talk about it. You can read the full press release for their big show on PBS here
How awesome is Video Games Live? So awesome:

I'll be attending the Dallas show on the 12th, and the Indy show in August (during GenCon). Anybody else plan on attending these shows? Do you have any Video Games LIve stories to share?
As always I can be followed on Twitter @docrandle.

WarioWare: Did It Myself - The Making of Mewtroid II

WarioWare: DIY is a great way to find out how much you know about game development. After browsing the YouTubes and seeing some of the bi-weekly "contest" winners, that fact can become quite apparent. Now granted, programming and me go together about as well as two things that don't go well together, but I have spent a lot of time studying game design specifically. And I don't just mean playing games and going "oh okay, that's fun," I mean I've taken courses on it in my "spare time." Turns out those don't really grant credits to someone going for a Creative Writing major. 
In any case, I'm not trying to be all Self-inflated Ego Guy (Ok, maybe a little. Let me have this), but I think the few games I've been working on in DIY can back up some of my talk. Regardless of whether or not it does, I did want to kind of chronicle my game creating experiences now and again, to maybe get some pointers, and maybe teach someone else how to make quality WarioWare games. I'm here to share, and if anybody else would like in on some of this WarioWare DIY community action, let's start trading. My friend code is 2966-1083-9598; let's do this!
I wish I could actually show my progress here, but I don't have any capturing equipment and I'm not going to be that guy on YouTube who holds his cell-phone camera up to the DS and hopes for the best. So let's just use our imaginations! 
When charged with the task of entering the "creatures" contest, I remembered that  Mewtroid was one of my favorite WarioWare Twisted mini-games, and that I would pay homage to it with a "sequel." Below you will find footage of the original WarioWare: Twisted title Mewtroid: 

It's more fun than it looks thanks to the tilting mechanic, but in any case, you can see the appeal right? Adorable kitten who shoots things = instant gold. Knowing that I couldn't replicate the experience directly without the aid of on-screen directional buttons (something I'm not a fan of), I decided create a different game. However, I couldn't possibly resist that cute animation, so I re-created it as best as I could.  Then I gave the cat one enemy to fire upon: The Father Brain. So now I had an objective, and a few art ideas (put a top-hat and mustache on Mother Brain = Father Brain), but I still needed an actual game-play mechanic. 
I decided to try my hand at the classic WarioWare gameplay of waiting for a bar to fill up to press A (or tap, if you will). There would be an on-screen bar that would fill up and if the player hit the on-screen "Fire!" button, then all would be well. With that idea, I began drawing up the rough conceptual art and then put my game into motion. 
Being that this was my 3rd game, I'd learned my way around the tools. However, there's one thing I still never got the hang of: cycling animations. Before Mewtroid II, I had been working on a Micro-game that involved a clown juggling some balls, and you would have to guess which hand the green one ended up in (similar to the Knife Guy mini-game in Mario RPG). I never did figure out how to get the animations to cycle back and forth between each other without creating a solid AI that always ended the same. There's no fun in games that end up like that, I believe, so I eventually had to scrap the whole project. In Mewtroid II, I ran into a similar issue when I tried cycling animations of the bar filling up. I couldn't make the animations and the programming work together to give me what I needed, which is a win condition when the bar is full and the player presses the "Fire!" button. I knew I had to scrap it, and thought that the whole game was over. 
Fortunately a new trick came into mind: Overlap. I created a new power-bar, one that was just all red with a green spot on the top. I then created a second sprite that was just a white line that would travel up and down the bar. If it was hovering over that green area, I used the Overlap command to turn a switch on for as long as it was there. If the player presses the fire button while the reticule is hovering over the green, then it turns the "Fire!" button's switch ON, which won the game. It took some tinkering to get the animations on the reticule and power bar lined up, but it worked, and now I think I may actually have a better game for it.  
In Mewtroid II, the game starts with the cat in a laying position, who at the 1-4 time mark rolls on to his side and exposes his weapon. If timed properly, this can happen as soon as he turns over, otherwise he is stuck laying on his side and waiting for you to time the tap correctly. Meanwhile, Father Brain approaches from the right side, pipe in maw, to destroy you. If you fail to fire by the end, he will reach you and the game will be over. This made Time the only way you could fail the game, which wasn't bad at first. But then I gave the game to my roommate to test out, and he discovered a problem: players could just spam the fire button until it went into the green and they would win every time. Well that just removes the skill portion of a timing-based Micro-game completely! I devised a new trick. For every shot the player attempts to fire while the reticule is in the red, there will be an audio queue, the slashing sound effect, that will warn them that they're not doing it right. If they misfire 4 times, the gun explodes and the player loses. Now there's a penalty for spamming, the game is just a little more complex, and better in the long run. 
I had some issues getting the animations working, namely trying to find a convincing "Hyper Beam." What I originally went for ended up looking like the cat (Seamus, by the way) was just hosing off the Father Brain. What I eventually did is just created a singular, large beam attack that flies form the cannon and off screen. Overall it looks good (turning the Father Brain's upper torso into a bouncing fish-bone for no reason), unless the player is successful in pulling off the first possible shot, in which case the angle seems a bit off. In the end, however, I would call it a  success. (It also allowed me to free up a few more animation cells, which I used elsewhere in the project.) 
There's not a real random factor to the game, but there is an increasingly difficult skill-factor, which does exactly what I wanted to have in the first place. I had to rework some mechanics and some animations, but in the end I think it all came out perfectly. 
And on one last note about the music: I'm not at all a competent composer. Which sucks, because I really like music, and I've been toying with it, trying to self-learn compositions, or at least figure out what sounds "good." What I ended up doing for this was borrowing a frame out of 9-Volt's Metroid remix. I replaced the first track with cat sounds and doubled the notes, giving it a more fast-paced feeling. I also toggled a couple settings on the other layers to switch things up, and I think it came out fairly well. 
Please hit me up with your friend codes so we can start trading games. If I'm only delusional and not making good games, I want to know so i can start learning how to make them better. I know for most people this thing might be a fun little gadget, but for me, I'm trying to take it like a serious project. 1 Game a week is my goal. So far I've got three total games (and all of the tutorial stuff) under my belt, and I think I'm running strong. 
Also let me know what you think of this article. Is this kind of "pseudo-developer diary-ish thing" a segment I should continue updating? Let me know if there's some different info I could give to help you out, or if this is even remotely helpful at all. Leave feedback below and let's get something done, together. 
As always you can follow my sparse but informative(?) posts on Twitter: @DocRandle

How achievements would work in a Pokemon game

Points - Gotta catch 'em all  

Craig Harris of IGN seems quite adamant that Nintendo needs an achievement system, and there's little reason to believe otherwise. Maybe the Wii and DS don't need an achievement system, but to say it wouldn't be cool to have one seems a little small-minded. Achievements are big, and while achievement whoring is unsightly, there really is something gratifying about S-Ranking your favorite game. I decided to think how a Nintendo game with achievements would effect me. Naturally, this lead to thinking about what would happen if Pokemon had achievements.
Pokemon, for the record, happens to be one of my favorite games. I'm not trying to say it's brilliant, but I think there is a genius and joy to the simple pleasure of raising your favorite pet monsters. And the series is surprisingly complex, with a mountain of content and activities to keep you more busy than most games. The only reason I bother mentioning this is because if Pokemon DID have achievements tied to it, I would likely be on that S-Rank list. I thought it prudent to share my thoughts on some ideas for good and bad achievements, designed roughly to accommodate the sort of do's and don'ts associated with the 360's own system.
First, they're called a Poke-chievements. Deal with that. 
Now, your typical 360 game has 1,000 achievement points spread across roughly 50 unlocks. You can probably approximate your own values here; I'm just to lazy to assign the points. Also, I'll be using Pokemon Platinum as an example because it's more recent and it gives me a lot to work with. Here's how they look: 
   Achievement Name - Achievement description - Personal commentary.
  1. I Choose You!  - Select your starting Pokemon. - Who doesn't love a starter achievement.
  2. One down... -  Catch your first Pokemon. - It's a long way to go from here.
  3. Gem of a Town - Reach Sandgem. - Exploration achievements are also awesome.
  4. This is the Life - Reach Jubilife. - More exploration!
  5. Gear Up - Obtain the Poketch. - It's great for telling the time.
  6. Rocky Road - Reach Oreburgh. - Alternatively: "Ore Not to Be"
  7. Badge Coal-ector - Obtain the Coal Badge. - Yes, I also like puns.
  8. This is the Life - Reach Jubilife City. - Exploration is key.
  9. The Solution - Evolve a Pokemon for the first time. - If you're gonna win...
  10. Two for the Route - Win your first Double Trainer Battle - You're a 1 man tag-team.
  11. Smell's nice... - Reach Floaroma Town - Use flower power.
  12. Mars Attacks! - Defeat Team Galactic Commander Mars - Gotta fight for your right to move ahead in the story.
  13. Is that... Cheryl?! - Accompany Cheryl to the end of the forest - Yes, that was a Silent Hill reference.
  14. Gotta See 'em All - 50 - See all of the pokemon (excludes special event Pokemon). - Nobody should expect you to see Mew for an achievement.
  15. Eternally Yours - Reach Eterna City - Do it, now.
  16. Trim the Hedges - Obtain the Forest Badge.
  17. They're Heeeeeere - Encounter Rotom - I still love that he gets boss music.
  18. Jupiter Attacks! - Defeat Team Galactic Commander Jupiter. - Alternatively: "He's Jupiter than You"
  19. Senior Explorer - Complete the Underground tutorial. - Down in the Underground~
  20. Mira, This Way! - Accompany Mira to the end of the Cave. - Mira also means "look," in Spanish!
  21. That Hairstyle is a Relic - Obtain the Relic Badge - Her fashion statement says "Yep, that's purple"
  22. Home Away from Home - Reach Solaceon Town. - As an avid fan of breeding, I spend way too much time in Solaceon.
  23. The Next Generation - Hatch a Pokemon Egg that your Pokemon made. - Knockin' those Poke-boots together.
  24. That Ol' Cobble Road - Obtain the Cobble Badge - Maybe she's born with it... Maybe it's Maylene.
  25. On Safari - Catch more than 5 Pokemon in the Great Marsh
  26. What's Past is Pastoria - Reach Pastoria - Are these exploration achievements getting too frequent?
  27. Fen for Yourself - Obtain the Fen badge - Give Crasher an elbow drop.
  28. Maid of Honor - Defeat the young Master or Mistress of Pokemon Mansion - Because there's 5 maids before that, you see.
  29. An Ancient Place... - Reach Celestic Town - It's where the old people live.
  30. The Eerie Canal - Reach Canalave City. - That hotel still creeps me out.
  31. Riley's Ranger - Accompany Riley to the end of the cave. - Kids sure do love that Lucario.
  32. What's Yours is Mine - Obtain the Mine Badge - If he isn't voiced by Steve Blum in the anime, somebody dropped the ball.
  33. Icicle, You-cicle - Obtain the Icicle Badge. - I hate the cold.
  34. Saturn Attacks! - Defeat Team Galactic Commander Saturn - Alternatively "Your Turn, Saturn!"
  35. Done with Cyrus - Defeat Cyrus. - He's kind of a big deal.
  36. Giratina, I Choose You! - Capture Giratina - A legendary feat, no?
  37. A Beacon of Light - Obtain the Beacon Badge - Please shut Volkner's whiny self up.
  38. League Champion! - Defeat the Elite Four and Cynthia! - You had to have seen this coming, right?
  39. Even More to Go - Obtain the National Pokedex - No, really, gotta catch them all.
  40. Master of Time and Space - Capture Dialga and Palkia - Remember when Heroes was good?
  41. By the Fullmoon's Light - Capture Cresselia - And then never care about her again.
  42. Fight! Survive! Battle - Reach Fight Area. - What a terrible name for a town.
  43. The Magnificent Villa - Obtain all the furniture for your villa in the Resort Area. - That's expensive, if you didn't know.
  44. Ribbon Master - Obtain the Luxury Royal Ribbon - Because I'm a dick.
  45. Hot in Here - Capture Heatran - And then stop caring about him.
  46. The Secret Undersea Master - Fish up a Level 100 Magikarp - I did it. Now you have to. For the points.
  47. Champion isn't Enough - Defeat the 5 Battle Frontier Leaders - You know, I still haven't done this.
  48. Dig, Dug - Dig up 100 items in The Underground. - with David Bowie.
  49. Fashionable - Win the highest rank in a Contest. - Do it with a Purugly for maximum win.
  50. Triple 7's - Get a jackpot in the Veilstone Game Corner.
 Yeah, so it's not difficult, I know. Admittedly, these aren't the most difficult achievements to get, in fact a lot of them are just progression based. However, in developing this list, there were some issues I ran up against; there are simply some achievement ideas that I don't like no matter what game or system they belong to. For example: 
Gotta Trade 'em All - Perform X trades with your friends - It always kind of bothers me when there's an achievement that requires that you have friends who all have the same schedule as you. It's not that I'm a social misanthrope, I just don't think it's necessarily proper to punish someone for not having friends as obsessed with the game as you are, or not having a the ability to play online, or in the case of some games, when the server goes down. Now of course some games, like Team Fortress 2, can't NOT have multi-player achievements, but Modern Warfare 2 did it right by having the online multi-player use it's own reward system. 
Gotta Really Catch 'em All - First of all, only kids with no time and people who are insane (I am of the latter) will spend the time to complete their Pokedex. It's not particularly fair because it requires having other games or friends with the other games to obtain. I don't really see the point of making someone buy other games to get the achievement in your game. Also, requiring that they find legendaries is kind of weak. Seeing other Pokemon helps keep the idea of the game's addictive nature, while requiring less-than-insane objectives. 
The new Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are coming out tomorrow, so it's unlikely that they'll have achievements. But should the future series have them, what would you like to see? How do you feel about an achievement system in your Pokemon games? Do you already have that S-Rank? I would, as always, love to hear your thoughts below. 
Also, feel free to stalk me on Twitter.

Nintendo localizes "Dotstream," now called "Light Trax"

In a recent article (though not recent enough; thanks new job! (no, really, thanks.)) I listed off a few titles that I would love to see released. Among them, I mentioned Dotstream. At the media summit on Wednesday, Nintendo announced the upcoming title Light Trax, a part of their Art Style banner that is clearly one of the original 6 Bit Generations stepping up to the plate.
The original Dotstream was about racing your colored light on a track against other lights, dodging obstacles along the way. It had a somewhat F-Zero, but simplified, style to the gameplay. I'm not sure if it ever had a multi-player, but that seems like it would have been a perfect fit for the GBA, where each player has their own screen.
Light Trax continues that tradition, but throws in some three-dimensional aspects, in what I assume to be another mode, with the original style of gameplay remaining intact. The goal is to drive around and hit boosts and avoid areas that drag you down, and to win the race. The new perspective of shifting into in new directions, dodging three-dimensional objects, and even doing a little Audiosurf-style tunnel-running is much more in the vain of F-Zero: GX.
I'm really glad to see this game, but I can't help but be a little disappointed in the back of my head that this won't be the original Dotstream on DSiWare, as I was sure that's where we would see it. The new 3D stuff is great, but I'm not sure how it will play, and if it will be enough to justify taking up my big screen. Also, being on DSiWare would have afforded the game some great local multi-player races, whereas the Wii version, I assume, will contain none of that.
So the overall lesson here is that it's good to see Nintendo continuing to localize and import some titles from it's overseas branch. Along similar lines they've also announced X-Scape, a remake of an old GameBoy title simply named X (which leaves me unable to decide whether or not the new name is clever). They've also announced that some exclusive Club.Nintendo merchandise will be coming soon, a previously japan-only title and another small Game and Watch Collection.
There's been a lot of other Nintendo news, but I think everybody will be soaking up the Mario and the Metroid stuff, so it's of no surprise. What do you think of these upcoming re-releases? Anything you're excited for, or still pining for? Love to hear from you in the comments section.
Also, you can follow my occasional rants and updates on Twitter!


Import THIS! A list of games Nintendo should localize and release

Dear followers and anyone else who finds this, 

 Found this on the internets. Looked about right.
I apologize, but Giant Bomb is a problem with copying and pasting, and honestly, I just don't feel like working around it by reinstalling other browsers or retyping my article. So I link now to my blog on The Examiner and ask that you humbly forgive me. From here I out I will to take into account my technical difficulties and plan around them.
This does not change me wanting to hear what you think, be it in the comments below or the comments on my Examiner page. For full disclosure, my Examiner blog is a free-lance gig that does occasionally pay based on hits and comments and views. but I'm not in this for the money, I'm just here for the experience. I would greatly appreciate feedback and as always, you can follow me on Twitter @DocRandle.
Thanks, and have a great day.

A discussion on the proper display of health in video games

For the health of it 

Health. Shields. General well-being. Size. Sanity. There's a lot of ways a game can tell you how well you're doing, and even more ways it can display it. Sometimes it's a health bar, sometimes it's a number of HP (Hit Points), and sometimes it's how your character looks. I think it's time we sat down and talked about what really works, and what doesn't in a game. Now of course, there is no real "Golden Rule." Some games can do things that others can't, but it should be safe to say that there are some good base rules that can be laid down. Regardless of what you call it (rings, health bars, hit points), we will refer to this general concept as "health" for the sake of this article.

Display your dismay 

If there's one thing that's more aggravating than losing health, it's not knowing why. Setting up a central hud element that points to the direction of your damage, especially in a first person shooter, is key. Imagine how frustrating Left 4 Dead would be if it didn't tell you there was a zombie right behind you. Most games have figured this out, and it's pretty common, but every now and again someone drops the ball. The original Mass Effect comes to mind, where the flashes of red were barely visible, very broad, and quick to disappear. 

It's not just about clearly showing the direction, though. A player should be able to tell where the projectiles are coming from, if they're in a position to know. Borderlands does a wonderful job of trailing each bullet with a long, white streak that is easily visible and points your enemies out clearly. This allows you to take cover in the proper direction, while helping you to locate your enemy which makes for better gun-play. Unless you're dealing with purposefully hidden snipers, a visual cue like trailing bullets or distant muzzle flash is key to a less frustrating experience. 

Health Utility Display 

What's the proper way to display health on the user interface? The classic is a health bar. Ideally, it should always be displayed somewhere on the screen in a place that's easy to find and not in the way. Typically a corner is the ideal location, although games like Metroid Prime have managed to move it to a more central location, without getting in the way. 

However, some games have proven a little more esoteric about displaying health. The earlier Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles, for instance, require a player to pause a game, and then read the color of a snapshot of their current situation to figure out "about" how hurt they are. Having to pause the game to understand the situation is a bad idea, because your player is required to leave the moment and break their immersion. 

The knowledge of a character's health should always be immediately available to the player. Not juts full health, or low health, but any health. Some games prefer to hide your health unless you're under immediate stress or even until you actually start taking damage. Theoretically, this is to minimize HUD elements, keeping a player more immersed, but it ends up being more frustrating and leading to a weaker design. A developer's best bet would be to follow in the examples of Dead Space and Borderlands: Integration through narrative. This may not work as well for more realistic games, but anyone willing to make a small stretch of the imagination can find plenty of HUD-less solutions. In a much less realistic, but incredibly useful move, the original Mario Bros. let you know whether or not you were allowed to take a hit by showing Mario as being twice as big, which also served as a unique game mechanic in physically traversing the two-dimensional world.

 "Tolerable" does not equate to "Good"     

"Hero, your health is low" 

Now that we've discussed the where and how a health bar should be displayed, let's talk about the tricky solution on what to do when that bar starts to sink as the danger sets in. The new super-popular trend is to have red start creeping in from the sides to alert you that you're in trouble, and I would like to dicuss why this is the worst idae to have found it's way into video games since the tailing mission. At best, the encroaching red display is mostly distant and relatively calm. At it's worst, this style of danger- warning covers almost everything on the screen and deafens the sound (save for a slow-pounding heartbeat for some reason). Thanks to this new visual and audio barrier it will be harder to find cover, harder to locate your enemies, and more difficult to defend yourself outside of firing blindly ahead. The end result? Frustration in the player. If the developer's intent is to aggrivate the player as a punishment for getting hit with a bullet, I suppose it's "Mission Accomplished," but if you're trying to display health issues during a fire fight, might I recommend something less game-ruining? Turning the entire world black and white is a popular variation to this mechanic. While not as damaging, it can still be a great hinderance to the player who is already struggling to survive.

For the record, nobody violates this worst than Modern Warfare 2, who finds it necessary to splatter your screen with rasberry preserves every time you take a bullet to the shin. How it gets there, and why, I have no idea, but enjoy the blindness, I guess. 

The alternative to this is an audio cue, which in the older days wasn't well implemented, either. I think everyone can relate to tearing the garden apart in Zelda to find one more heart that will end the insufferable beeping sound. While a completely different than your standard health mechanic, Yoshi's Island had a similar irritating quality: whenever you were hit by anything, Baby Mario would become suddeny enveloped in a bubble and would drift around screaming at the top of his lungs for you to rescue him before a timer hit 0 and you officially lost.

However, in this day and age, since regenerating health and shields are all the rage, a beeping or buzzing would serve a much better purpose. It needs to go away as soon as you're out of trouble (or at least behind cover). It's just as immediate, if not more so, without being as intrusive as the encroaching redness. Kirby games tend to do something similar, giving you a loud beep as soon as you enter low-health teritory, but leaving it to the player to remember that they were low afterwards.

How's your health? 

Overall, I think the games that have tackled this matter best are Borderlands, Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, and Super Mario Bros. They're clear, concise, sometimes part of the actual fiction, and very intuitive. 

On the side of needing improvement, we have Mass Effect 2 (What's the point of a regenerating health bar and shields? Just have one long bar that regenerates. Also, displaying your health and the health of your teammates needs to be consistent and more clear), Modern Warfare 2 (getting shot in the knee does not splatter jelly all over my eyes, and it's unclear how much more damage I can take before death), and Pokemon (Sure it's clear, but in a game that isn't even action based, a constant beeping is ridiculous and irritating, especially when a healing item takes you out of the red). 

So what do you think? Any other pros or cons to health readings you think should be mentioned? Maybe something you think I'm incorrect about? Perhaps you can explain to me the fascination with regenerating shields/health, which I personally believe most games implement in a more harmful manner that constantly stops the action. Also feel free to list games you think have performed well or poorly below. 

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @docrandle.

Two new Pokemon for upcoming fifth generation project revealed

Crafty Japanophiles have uncovered new information regarding two new Pokemon from the next generation of games, a project that was announced earlier this month. Supposedly they're going to be upgrading the mechanics and trying to give the series a more fresh set of improvements, but whatever. Let's talk new faces. Here they are:


Part of me wants to believe these aren't even real based on two things: the first is that they kind of don't really even look like Pokemon. Maybe the one on the right (clearly the unevolved form), but that thing on the left... I don't know, maybe. The other reason I don't think they're real leads back to the misinformation I remember finding about the last generation of Pokemon games. IGN says they're supposed to be dark types, which only further leads my suspicion. Seeing as how dark types are generally regarded as being "cool" by the older crowd (likely because they're dark and gritty), if someone WERE to make up fake Pokemon, dark would be the first type I would expect them to do.
In any case, I don't suppose it looks too terrible. I would expect some fire in there, if it's not strictly dark, just because of the little flame tuft of hair on the tiny guy's head. It's not the worst designed Pokemon (*Cough*Claydol*Cough*). I hope this is not a symbol of some crazy direction they're taking with the next generation designs. I don't need them trying to give my Pokemans an edge. I'm not one of those people who thinks there hasn't been a cool Pokemon since the original 150... not by a long shot. I love Loudred and Bastiodon and whatever that crazy Metroid Prime looking thing Shellos evolves into....I'm just worried that we don't really need more monsters. Allthough I should have known they would never stop. They will never stop. Even if the series does evolve into a completely new type of game, there will always be new monsters piled on top.
I'll save my discussion on how to make a better Pokemon for closer to the release of HeartGold and SoulSilver, so for now, let's just talk about our thoughts on this Pokemon, shall we?