Monster Hunter Freedom unite3In a previous post, I talked about how hard it was for me to try to enjoy Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite. I tried and tried to feel like all the times I died or was screwed up by some system that I didn’t know about yet were somehow worth it in order to say that I was good at the game. Ultimately, I gave up on it.

Thankfully, my brother and I later had a conversation about how he was breezing through Monster Hunter 3 and that encouraged me to try to understand the way the game worked before finally deleting it for the extra memory on my Vita. With that little extra effort I put in (along with what was probably a competitive drive, seeing as how my brother is six years younger than me), the game finally opened up to me.

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Eliss InfinityAnyone who has owned or played a Nintendo 64 knows what it’s like to question how exactly you should be holding your controller. Is it left and right? Middle and right? How do I use the Z button if I need the D-pad?

Obviously, things have changed over time, although the same basic principles have prevailed since the arcade era: push buttons and tilt sticks to move and act. Of course, the ubiquity of the touch screen nowadays makes things a little more free-range, although many games stick to the idea of buttons and a single cursor (which is basically the modern equivalent of a joystick). That is, until you run up against games like Eliss Infinity.

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Wolfenstein New OrderA lot of first-person shooters claim that they offer two ways to complete every mission: stealthily or with a full frontal assault. Unfortunately, a lot of games fall flat in that regard, or if they DO manage to have some sort of noticeable ability to assassinate or avoid enemies, the reward is the same as when you just unload on them (i.e. enemies are now dead or you got to the goal).

That’s why playing Wolfenstein: The New Order was so refreshing for me: the reward for spending the time avoiding enemies and sneakily stabbing them in the neck was actually a gift and not just “okay, now you can say you did it with stealth but we’ll reward you and the fighty guy in the same way.”

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I never really liked rhythm games. It wasn’t because I didn’t like music; I’ve been writing and playing music for over a decade now. No, it was mostly because every rhythm game I played, whether it was Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, seemed to revolve around a goal that I just had no interest in: getting a high score for the sake of getting a high score. Despite the history of the high score and its importance to video games since the dawn of arcades, nothing about seeing my name up there in the top 10 ever appealed to me. It’s for this reason that I always avoided rhythm games. That is, until I played Patapon.

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868-hack cap

Michael Brough has frustrated gamers before with his extremely cryptic games like Corrypt and Zaga 33, but 868-Hack is probably his best yet. Why? Because it’s easy to understand yet still incredibly complex. I’m going to be talking about how the balancing in this game makes it stand out as a simple structure that still has great depth. Many games employ some very complicated balancing strategies that are never really witnessed or understood by their players: 868-Hack is the opposite, opting for a balancing system that is bold-faced in its simplicity. It’s for this reason that I saw how much potential it has as a lesson in balance.

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Arkham City Mr. Freeze

When I think about the Batman villain Mr. Freeze nowadays, I’m thankful to say that my mind doesn’t immediately go to a frosted-faced Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead, I now think of that amazing fight in Batman: Arkham City. That fight stands out as one of the best boss fights I’ve ever encountered in a video game for two simple reasons: pacing and Mr. Freeze’s adaptive AI. There’s a lot I learned about how to design a boss fight just from this five minute battle.

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Vandana Shiva

I recently attended a talk by environmentalist Vandana Shiva, hosted by Public Interest Alberta in a packed hotel ballroom. She spoke–after glowing introductions–about things like GMOs (or genetically engineered organisms, if you will), economy, the term “progress”, and feminism. I won’t lie, she is a very good speaker: very friendly, easy to relate to, and most importantly, she appeals to the already existing values of the audience. How do I know what the audience thinks? First, in my city, for about 50% of the population you can tell who’s liberal and who’s conservative just by how they dress and how they react to events that tout “revolution” and “anti-establishment” as main topics. I do consider myself a liberal person, but, after looking into Shiva’s past claims, I find myself conflicted as to whether or not she was really taking a realistic approach.

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Dungeons and Dragons

The talk I went to last weekend, the one with the two Bioware writers, talked about using Dungeons and Dragons as a pathway to understanding how writing for video games work. What they meant, as I understand it, is that writing adventures and acting as Dungeon Master in a game of D&D is very much akin to writing a plot and dialogue for a video game because you need to account for choices that player’s can make, choices that don’t necessarily follow a rigid structure.

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Okay, I realize that I just wrote about Rain in my last post, but I’ve been thinking about it a bit more and now I’ve got more to say, namely about the visuals. Like I described in the last post, the central mechanic for the main character in this game is sort of a “forced” visibility caused by falling rain. Therefore, when you’re not being rained on, you’re invisible. Pretty simple, but the game makes you take that knowledge to the next level, presenting you with puzzles that push the mechanic to the limit. The effect is used to hide from monsters–also “invisible”–who are constantly looking to kill anything that’s not them for some unknown reason (again, I’m not done the game yet). Of course, things like getting the cuffs of your pants muddy will make you visible even when you’re not being rained on, so there’s that to watch out for, too. This effect, which is basically the whole reason this game is good, reminds me a lot of visual effects that I’m starting to see more and more of.

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I recently got around to hotseating a game that’s been sitting on my PS3 for a while now: “Rain” by Japanese studios, Aquire and SCE Japan. It’s basically a puzzle/platformer where the central mechanic of the game is that the player’s character can’t be seen unless there’s rain falling on his head. When you picture it, it’s actually easier to imagine it as you being invisible but still having a physical form. This means that, since it’s always raining throughout the entire game (so far: I’m not done yet), your form is “outlined” by the rain bouncing off your body. If you still don’t get it, watch this video that Playstation posted of “Rain” gameplay.

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