Thursday, March 31, 2011

EC Studios

I find myself branching a few different projects into an actual group as of late, and as such i've set up anotehr email to deal with it and all EC related work, etc. 
Echo's Corner Studios
That's all for teh momment, my current project is taking up a good slog of time.  I'm working on part 6 of Awakening, other writing and Wonderland Complex, the game that's being built.  all in all, busy days.  hopefully some content put up again within the next week.  I'll try to put a link up for the most recent build of Wonderland Complex, as more playtesting is always better than less.
Also, Under the Desk, book review ala crude picture montage, is underway, after a long time stagnation.  Many thanks to the three inspirations; The Spoony One, Yahtzee, and Daniel Floyd.  That should be up in the next few weeks if i can get it done.  So much on the horizon, so much fun. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts On...Limitless

   I got a chance to see Limitless last Monday, and what a time.  All I had heard before going in was that it was a remake of something back in the day, as so much is currently.  I also caught the trailer sometime in the months preceding.  This also marks the first time I’ve been out to a theatre in some time.  It takes an intriguing movie or persuasive people to get me into a theatre, and it was the people this time, not so much the film.  Personally, I’ve been thinking of going to see Red Riding Hood, but that’s because it looks so delightfully camp, and I’d like to give the director a shot when she isn’t working with the Twilight series.   Back to topic.    Oh, and I’ll be touching on mild *SPOILERS*

   Bradley Cooper’s character explains himself as a muse-less writer, burnt out and in the gutter, so to speak, until a chance encounter with an estranged ex-brother-in-law provides him with a miracle drug.  NZT, our deus-ex, acts as a jacked up, adult version of Ritalin, with no real downside or side effect, if used as directed (overdose causes memory lapses and psychosis).  As our protagonist pulls his life together, he starts moving up in the world, learning ad mastering skills, languages and perception in seconds rather than the requisite 10,000 hours it takes everyone else.  He moves into the world of finance and business, gets in trouble with a loan shark, and meets DeNiro’s character at the top of the corporate ladder.
   As for what didn’t sit well, the start up bugged me.  I think I’m just getting burnt out on “Tarantino-ing” movies, starting with the end and then recapping.  Limitless pushes it a bit though, which is a nice twist.  The film starts with our suited protagonist on a ledge with pounding at the door behind him, ready to jump.  Then comes the first two acts as narrated flashback to bring the audience back to the ledge.  It works, but it’s probably just me who’s getting to dislike the quick peek forward before being brought back. 
   As a good note, the film doesn’t end with a swan dive away from pursuers, but goes on to end the scene and then provide a fast forward epilogue.  It’s a good time, but outside of a handful of one-liners, isn’t that memorable.  The acting is good, but nothing worthy of stunning praise.  Bradley Cooper’s transformation from a dishevelled writer to the sleek and suited business version of himself was that dramatic a moment as it should have been for me, but then I find makeover scenes a tad insulting.  Still, the glimmer and gloss of Cooper’s blue eyes once he’s back on his wonder drug feels wonderfully simple and effective.  The film was dynamic and constantly in motion, yet everything was visible and at no point was I unsure of what was happening on-screen.  The stretched zoom-shots were dizzying at times, but were used to good effect for the time segues.
   The only thought that still stands out to me is something that I saw when coming out of the theatre.  On ticket booth was a small poster which looked to be advertising the drug of the poster and my thought was this:  there aren’t many drug tie-ins with movies.  I’ve seen plenty of toys, books and games, but not many pharmaceutical’s marketed alongside movies, which is a pity, because if there was ever a drug to buy, NZT would be it, closely followed by some of the health care products provided by Umbrella Corp.  I haven’t looked in to it, but what a fun concept.  The entire movie can be treated as an ad for a miracle drug with the profitable message, stick to the dose, don’t skip daily usage and your life will improve drastically.  You’ll acquire fame, fortune and the illusive lifestyle of those who have it, along with all their toys.  Such build up for an enhanced concentration drug.

   Overall impression was good.  It’s not the smartest movie out there by any margin, but it’s fast paced, good to look at and coherent.  What complaints I level at it are drowned out by the good time I had; it was fun.  If the trailer was a good time for you, give it a look.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts On...Heroes of Mana

   Last night i spent an hour or so playing Heroes of Mana (NDS) and found it enjoyable.  One of the main reasons i had a good time with it was that I've played far too much Warcraft III over the years.  I've also sunk literally hundreds of hours into all three Final Fantasy Tactics games.  both of these lend themselves well, as the art is done by the same guy as FFT:A2, Ryoma Itō.  It's nice Character style, but very easy to spot.  
   One of the issues i found was that after the first twenty or so minutes, i was skipping through the dialogue and story, moving as quickly as i could to get to the combat, the plight of the people and why they were fighting as forgotten as most things that aren't shiny enough to hold my attention.  The crazy thing was, I wasn't missing much.  whenever i did slow down enough to grasp what was going on, the plot was so unbearably by the numbers that it might as well have used the stylus to connect the dots.  does this sound familiar?
A small unit of soldiers featuring a rookie, a grizzled veteran, a a swordsman, a glass canon mage, a female thief, an archer.  they are sent into enemy territory a a diversion while their armada invades the capital to seize a McGuffin.  upon their arrival to the castle, they're turned on and have to fight against their own side.  plot twist which is so overused it might as well be a light curve in the road.  
   I don't know, but the lack of originality on the plot side bugged me.  still, it's a safe product, which is how i have it in my hands. WC3 is fun.  Square RTS's are fun.  throw in a standard plot that allows the player party to get in a lot of fights and we're off on a good time.
   It left me wanting something other than WC3 port skinned and codded by the FFT crew, glorious though they are.  The mechanics work well.  Units are selectable with more accuracy than a mouse would allow, something impressive for hardware, but it doesn't push the envelope far enough.  a bit more freedom on the over world would be appreciated.  
    Maybe my issue with it is it's like many games i enjoy, but not enough like certain ones.  Were it more free roaming like the first FFT, or dare i say it, Mount & Blade, one of the pinnacles of wide open sandbox games, i might have enjoyed it a bit more.  As it is I i might play it more, but I'm pessimistic that it will surprise me.
   Fun, but didn't do enough to distinguish itself on its own merits.

//Images blatantly ripped off of Google.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Awakening – Part V

   Something which occurred to me after bouncing around a few sites was that I’m going about this process with a slight miscalculation.  The elements of these games are more akin to myth arcs of heros than to the fairy tales that plague children with nightmares.  What I mean by this is that they will always contain a level of action as well as exploration, rather than exploration and adventure which happens to have action.  Survival horror overhaul not so much.  Action horror overhaul yes. 
   So what’s the difference?  Well, for one, the tropes that both rely on are different, to a certain degree.  Vulnerability in a protagonist isn’t mandatory, and indeed, Link is nothing if not an adaptable antagonist whose vulnerabilities are downplayed as game play progresses.  Vulnerability is still in place, but not at the forefront.  A parallel would be Dead Space as action horror against Silent Hill as survival horror.  The protagonists are both vulnerable and capable, but Dead Space’s lead is encased in armour and weilds a number of power tools while the lead’s of Silent Hill games are underpowered and mostly stay that way.  The difference is the focus of frailty. 
   This doesn’t deviate that far from my original intent.  Survival horror would have Link negotiate Koholint with a shield and a limited supply of magic powder and that’s it.  Action horror gives him a full complement of tools (see below) while still keeping his frailty (and fatality) a pressing concern by ramping up the difficulty of dungeons and the damage dealt by monsters. Genre change doen with, onwards!
   Legend of Zelda has become, over its many iterations, formulaic.  Link goes about the over world, exploring, uncovering minor treasures (pieces of heart, rupees, etc) and talking to the many inhabitants which he meets.  He is directed, after some story events, towards the first of several themed dungeons.  He makes his to the dungeon.  Inside the dungeon he finds a new tool or weapon which he uses to negotiate the puzzles he encounters and to defeat the boss which guards the quest item.  Link’s new tool might then be used to open up new passages in the over world, allowing for more exploring. 
   This is something which sees some variety (Link finds his new toy before the dungeon, to gain access to it, the boss isn’t beaten using the newly acquired tool) but has, for the most part, become tradition.  This game is no different.  All of the tools and weapons link acquires fit into or overlap between three categories: offense, defence, environmental/ease of access.  What follows is the item placement and the flow.  I’ll go into detail of specific items afterwards.
Wake up/On the Way (OtW) – sword.1, shield.1, magic powder (from mushroom)
Level 1: Tail Cave – Roc’s Feather
OtW – Bombs
Level 2: Bottle Grotto – Power Bracelet
OtW – Shovel, Ocarina
Level 3: Key Cavern – Pegasus Boots
OtW – song, (date with Marin), sword.2
Level 4: Angler’s Tunnel – Flippers
OtW –song
Level 5: Catfish’s Maw – shield.2
OtW – bow, (reveal, life boost)
Level 6: Face Shrine – daydream cloak
OtW – rooster, shield.3
Level 7: Eagle’s Tower – Rope (hookshot replacement)
OtW – sword.3 (seashells)
Level 8: Turtle Rock – fire rod/lamp
OtW – boomerang
Wing Fish/End Game
    For the most part Link’s tools fall under multiple categories.  The sword itself is both ease of access as well as the primary offensive tool.  Bushes that block Link’s way are cut down (ignoring the logic of just jumping over bush, of climbing about it, but that’s game logic so we’ll move past it), opening new paths.  Come to think of it, most all the tools that Link acquires are used to get past broken bridges at one point or another. 

  • The Sword – The battered sword (fist level) does one quarter damage and is found on the beach.  The steel sword (second level) does regular damage and is found in caves on the way to Anglers tunnel.  The Seashell Sword (level three) is found in the seashell cottage and does double damage as well as sending out sword beams at full life.
  • The Shield – Link gets a wooden shield (first level) from Marin before he explores the beach at the beginning of the game, which last fifteen to twenty hits before breaking.  The solid bone shield (level two) is found in Catfish’s Maw and doesn’t break, but can still be stolen by like-likes.  Link finds the mirror shield (level three) before Eagle’s Tower.
  • Magic Powder – Made from a mushroom found in the Mysterious Wood, this changes a few enemies but is mostly used to set things of fire.  Sources of light are valuable and finding refills are important.  Fire and light plays a larger part when night comes and shadows need to be kept at bay.
  • Roc’s Feather – Let’s Link jump.  No change.
  • Bombs – Bought from the Mabe shop, these now cause far more damage, doing a full seven hearts of damage to Link.  Link is warned about their damage when he buys them from the shop.
  • Power Bracelet – Pick up pots rocks and other things.  No change.
  • Shovel – Allows Link dig in the ground.  Bought from the shop in Mabe Village. No change.
  • Ocarina – Plays songs and is found in the dream shrine in Mabe Village.  Link learns a few more songs, the Ballad of the Wind Fish, Frog’s Song of Soul (resurrects the dead or asleep), Manbo’s Mambo (teleports Link to different ponds on the island), Muse’s Melody (progress the time of day to dawn), Hero’s Anthem (repels monster’s), and Richard’s Requiem (learned upon Richard’s death near the end of the game, this restocks inventory items (bombs, bow, powder, etc).
  • Pegasus Boots – Using the boots allows Link to dash as well as charge.  Holding down the button makes Link run on the spot before charging forward.  Tapping a direction without holding down to charged makes link dash in a direction, acting as a dodge backward and a strafe to each side.
  • Flippers – Allows Link to swim and dive.  No change.
  • Bow – Buy from the shop for a very large sum.  No change.
  • Daydream Cloak – similar effect to the Cane of Somaria from A Link to the Past, this turns link intangible and invisible, visible only by his shadow, allowing him to bypass traps and the gaze of monsters, but not holes, or damage by contact.  This is one of the items that is heavily influenced by the reveal of just before Face Shrine, where Link finds it.  
  • Rope – The rope is found in Eagle’s tower and, if used with the bow, acts as a makeshift hookshot.  Used alone it immobilizes enemies, tethering them for a short period of time.  Sword and rope makes a wide spin attack, while equipped with the power bracelet it can be used to pull, lift and throw things from a distance.
  • Fire rod/lamp – The last tool Link finds in a dungeon, and the last mandatory weapon to equip before Link heads off to wake the Wind Fish, this lantern sends out a stream of fire (link the fire rod) which burns things alive.  When equipped, it also produces a radius of light which repels shadows and nightmarish creatures that thrive on the dark.  This makes traveling the over world far less threatening, as Link now has a constant source of light during the night periods which keep monsters away.
  • Boomerang – Traded in a cave on the beach for one of the items in your inventory.  No change
   Those are the items Link comes across.  A few changes, but for the most part, tinged towards a more defensive and reactionary style of game play.  Part VI looks at the dungeons of Koholint, more story and more ways to shift the game towards action horror.