Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New appreciation

I just wanted to update real quick on my new appreciation for Goichi Suda, or Suda 51. I played No More Heroes a couple months ago and loved how unique and unexpected the experience was. The game always kept me on my toes and wondering what will happen next. Really tough to find games like that these days, everyone seems to follow the same tried and true formula.

No More Heroes had a couple small downfalls as everyone knows. The "open world" gameplay and side quests are just not fun and you want to get back to the missions as fast as possible. But I found it easy to ignore the frustrations because the rest of the game shines so bright. I highly recommend playing it.

After beating NMH, I decided to look up some more Grasshopper/Suda51 games. I kicked myself into playing Killer 7 all the way through. Immediately I felt the same issues as NMH, some basic game design frustrations. But I pushed on and ended up playing what will go down as one of my favorite games. Killer 7 offers an experience I have not seen in games. A multi-layered level of story depth that still has my mind stirring. On the surface, Killer 7 offers an interesting story with a cool plot twist. Then as you finish the game, you begin to question what all the unexplained pieces mean. You dig deep, and the more you dig the more you appreciate the game. As my mind stirred I began to search for story analysis and immediately found this huge faq analysis and was blown away at the level of detail. I advise not looking at this until you played the game once. Killer 7 Plot Analysis

I can only hope that another game like this will be created. I'm really looking forward to Flower, Sun, and Rain for the DS this year. Apparently it is very much like the movie Groundhog Day. And Suda 51 is teaming up with Hideo Kojima for a project, possibly a Snatcher sequel.

I even played Samurai Champloo a little bit. Unique style again and great presentation. It eventually got stale after a few hours though.

So go down to gamestop and deflect all the pre-order pitches and pick up NMH(if you like unique game-play) or Killer 7(if you like story).

Now I'm off to play some Beyond Good & Evil. Another apparent gem I passed up.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I saw the latest Coen brother's movie "No Country for Old Men" and was reminded how much I appreciate movies that allow for personal interpretation. They leave such a long lasting impact and spark inspired conversation between fellow viewers.

Recently I have come across a few games that allow this similar analysis and interpretation and thought I'd share them. I suggest playing through each game first, without any knowledge further than the control inputs. Then read the creator's message or statement. They provide a detailed explanation of what the game-play represents.

Each of these games has been a unique experience I haven't had playing games and that inspires me.

The Marriage


Monday, July 30, 2007

Inspiration Wanted (apply within)

Inspiration comes from anywhere when you are developing games. Sometimes in the shower, a LOT of times from watching movies, and occasionally when you misunderstand what someone is saying and your imagination wanders. A short time ago I was inspired from an unusual place and it has stuck with me, probably because I have yet to act on that inspiration.

The inspiration came from 2 small independent pc games created by Nicklas Nygren, also known as Nifflas, a 24 year old developer from Sweden. The first is Knytt , a game based on exploration and atmosphere. You play as a small creature that can jump and crawl on walls. Your goal is to find pieces of a broken spaceship using a Shadow of the Colossus style light as a guide. Sounds pretty simple, but this game isn’t about introducing some new mechanic to defeat enemies. It’s about the details in sound, music, and level design. Ambient sound effects, music that fits thematically with each area, and background life are just a couple details that are focused on. You get the sense of being alone, on an adventure in this empty world. Much like as if you were to walk into the woods right now. You would hear the wind, see some trees moving, a small creature stirring here and there, and nothing more. This would continue as you explored the woods, and after a period of time you might find something unique, like a waterfall or patch of flowers. These moments are so much more rewarding and allow you to appreciate the simple things in life. Many games have achieved this feeling; Miyamoto often refers to Zelda as a journey into the woods when he was younger. Knytt just simplifies this concept to its’ core.

The next game is Within a Deep Forest , a more traditional game with similarities to Metroid. You play as a bouncing rubbery ball. You can move the ball around and change the ball’s density to make it bounce higher or lower. As you progress, you find ball forms that have different abilities and allow you to gain access to new areas. The game has excellent music and attention to detail. The unique thing about Nifflas’ games is that they don’t have the player killing enemies. In fact, they rarely have enemies at all. The mechanic in this game can be frustrating, but if you make it past the learning curve it has some excellent level design.

Nifflas’ next game has been in the works for a while now. It is a continuation of the Knytt series called Knytt Stories and will be out the end of next month. I hope his style expands and grows in this next installment.

Another small game that has inspired me is Everyday Shooter , a game by Jonathan Mak being published by Sony on the Playstation Network. It’s a mix between Geometry Wars and Rez. Every enemy you defeat creates part of the music, so every time you play you get a unique soundtrack. I love to see that our industry can still support independent development and lately I have been more and more into quick, casual, games like these.
We are still in some of the early phases of development at work. This portion of the job requires lots of inspiration, which comes in random bursts. Certain aspects of the game I can see clearly and can’t wait to get the ideas down on paper and into the game. Other areas are still waiting for that spark. But that’s the best thing about working with a talented team. Great ideas appear all the time and from all departments.

Other things going on….my eyes are doing well since the Lasik. I have headaches, dry eyes, and still some halos at night. All supposed to go away. I bought an iPhone today, apple makes some slick products, I was sold as soon as I heard about it. Before tossing my old phone I finished God of War: Betrayal on it. It’s the only cell phone game outside of Tetris I have played. It’s impressive how much of GoW they brought over. There are too many fights in the game as a whole, which reminds you how repetitive the combat can be. They also didn’t get any music or sound effects while playing, which takes you out of the experience. Still, impressive what can be done on a phone and represents the franchise well.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The goggles do nothing!

Sweet. Now I have officially become a blogger. I don’t update my page often. I think I’m going to just start posting every Sunday evening, we’ll see how that goes.

I’m now writing this blog from a new perspective, without contacts or glasses. I went through Lasik surgery Friday! I’m still amazed at how fast and easy the process has been, thought I'd share the process with you.
I woke up Friday morning, had my roommate Paul drive me to the doctor’s office. They brought me in a couple different rooms, had me stare at a small house till it came into focus, all the usual eye tests to double check their numbers. Then I end up waiting in a room for about 30 minutes, they said they were a little behind, didn’t help my nerves very much. So I ask to go to the bathroom, I can’t see shit by the way because my glasses are off. I go to the bathroom, and just as I come out a nurse grabs my hand and says ok come lay down here. I lay down on this machine. It’s cold as hell in the room. The place a pillow under my legs and ask if I want a blanket, so of course I say yes. I wait for the doctor, he comes in and I’m like, I still have sensation in my eyes, don’t you need to numb me up? He says, “Of course, we do that now.”

So they place some drops in my eyes and I’m rotated under this giant circle of light. They tell me to look straight ahead into the dark center. They tape one eye shut, and place a piece of plastic into my other eye that stops me from blinking. They then take a small ring and put it over my eye. The doctor says, “Now your vision will gray out during the procedure, but that is normal.” I see something else placed on my eye and the doctor says “Suction on”. My vision starts to go blurry and blacks out completely. I’m thinking, wtf, this isn’t “gray out”. But whatever, I’m not worried about looking around anymore because I can’t. I feel pressure on my eye and maybe a slight burn, but nothing bad at all. The doctor counts down, and after about 15 seconds they turn the suction off and I see lots of blurry light. I close that eye, they tape it up, and then the same thing happens on the other eye.

That process was cutting a flap in my eye with a laser so they can get to my cornea. It’s called intraLasik, and has replaced the use of an actual blade, thank god. They roll me out and I keep my eyes closed. They tell me to stay there for few minutes. I’m nervously waiting with my eyes closed, and after a few minutes my eyes begin to burn a little. The nurse comes in and drops more stuff in my eyes to keep me numb.

Eventually the doctor grabs my hand and walks me down to the next machine. Similar layout. I’m rolled under a bright light again. This time I have to stare at a red blinking dot. I then see the doctor use a tool to peel away the flap they created, kinda cool. I can barely see the blinking red dot because my vision was so bad, but I stare anyways. There is a loud ticking sound for about 20 seconds and the doctor keeps saying I’m doing well and keep looking at the dot. He then takes the tool and places the flap back. He takes some sort of brush and wipes my eye a bunch of times to make sure the flap is in place. That eye is taped shut, then they do the same thing again.

And that was it for the procedure. The doctor checks my eyes, then they tape goggles over them and send me on my way. I can already tell my vision is better, but the goggles made it hard to notice. I fumble to use my cell phone and call my roommate to pick me up. I walk out of the office on my own and hop in his car to head home. My eyes start burning on the way out and I keep them closed except when I’m walking.

I finally get home, take all the drugs they gave me and try to go to sleep. This was the worst part. I’m in bed trying to sleep with a burning sensation in my eyes. This lasts for 15 minutes or so, until the drugs kicked in and knocked me out. I wake up 5 hours later, take the goggles off and put drops in my eyes. That’s it! My vision was great already. The only bad things left are, I can’t rub my eyes and I have to wear goggles when I sleep for a week. Also, at night, lights have large halos and blurs around them. Sort of like when your eyes are watering. That is supposed to just go away after time.

I know this has nothing to do with video games, but so many people in the industry have bad eyes and are considering Lasik. Hopefully this will help ease the nervousness of the process. It’s a pretty expensive process if you haven’t looked into it, around 2-3k per eye. Well worth it, in my opinion. And if you live in California, aren't you required to have at least 1 elective surgery?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Original Hardcore

My blog has begun!! I have been meaning to do this for a while, so I figured June 22, 2007 is the best time to start. My mind stirs at night, and tonight I have a lot of things bouncing around.

So let me begin with a little about myself. I am currently working as a Senior Combat Designer at SCEA Santa Monica. A unique title that I am proud to hold. I recently finished working on God of War 2 with an extremely talented team. We are in the initial stages of our next project.

I have been in the industry for over 6 years now and I’m still excited about what I do and the potential of video games. I have had the privilege to work alongside my best friends as well as gain new friends through this career. We are all passionate about what we do, and we are all leaving our marks on this growing medium. Some of them have blogs, which can be found on the right.

And now for the blogging. So lately I have been playing Pac-Man Championship Edition and loving it. The first videos I saw of the game had me hooked. The polish on the original game was gleaming but it still kept its roots. This is how old school games should be updated and it adds another great example of how digital distribution can work. I only have one concern with the game, the price (10$). I actually didn’t buy the game right away because I felt it was overpriced. Seven, eight dollars, no problem, but when you hit double digits it feels expensive. I finally gave in though and bought the game, it’s definitely worth the 10$, just hard to see that from the outside.

I never played pac-man that much, I think I played that old arcade game Pac-Land more than the original. After playing Championship Edition for a while though I have gained an even deeper respect for what this game accomplishes. It is a very simple concept for anyone to pick up and allows onlookers to appreciate the dramatic highs. When a ghost is hunting you down and you barely catch a power pellet, you and your audience sigh in relief. Now running off that adrenaline rush from the chase, you turn on the ghosts and seek out your revenge.

All of that drama actually occurs on the side, as your main goal is to collect pellets and fruit to complete the stages. They have incorporated a 2 level combo system that allows you to combo ghosts or keep going after pellets. These systems add a greed factor that the player must balance. Fear, greed, revenge, relief, anger; all these emotions from a simple video game.

They then take this package and polish it by making the stage pulse in a psychedelic effect that matches the music, dramatic pauses and screen shakes when you eat ghosts, and music that intensifies as your time runs out.

I never thought I would be into pac-man again, but some mechanics hold up to the test of time. (Tetris, Robotron, Pac-Man, etc) All it needs is a nice new package wrapped around it.

Continuing on the old school gaming trend, this weekend I’m seeing Chasing Ghosts, a documentary on the original hardcore gamers that mastered games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. I didn’t really grow up in this age but was part of a different hardcore gamer scene, the birth of arcade fighting games. I spent countless hours and met best friends playing Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and all the other random fighters like Bloodstorm, Time Killers, Wargods, and World Heroes. The trailer reminds me a lot of those times, only a little less cheesy.