It seems I’ve been a little lax with the blog. I’ll try to keep the updates coming a little more often. I’ve been doing game reviews for Game Chronicles. I figure it’s worth the writing practice, and having to articulate what I think about a particular game helps me think about it more critically. So far, I’ve got a review of Tales from Space: About A Blob, with more on the way.

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I recently bought a copy of Deadly Premonition on the Xbox 360. After seeing video of it, it seemed like a quirky game I might appreciate, and for $20, I wouldn’t mind giving it a chance. After having played it for a few days, I think it’s definitely an interesting game that people should try out. I wouldn’t say it’s an excellent game, but it’s a unique hybrid of a Shenmue-style sandbox world and a Silent Hill survivor horror game that I most definitely enjoy.

I’d like to say again that I enjoy playing this game. Deadly Premonition is definitely a quirky piece of work. The main character, an FBI Agent nicknamed York, is pretty clearly a lunatic, and the other people in the town you explore are visibly uncomfortable dealing with him.  The game is loaded with atmosphere, and the small town is filled with things to do. When you aren’t working on the case, you can explore places to look for Agent Honor badges, talk to the townspeople, buy a new car, perform part-time work to help out the inhabitants of the town, and many other things. I can’t emphasize enough that I found the game enjoyable, in spite of the issues that plague the game.

However, it does have its issues. The first thing anyone mentions is that the graphics aren’t pretty. They aren’t. Enough said there, moving on. The biggest issue I have with the game is the user interface. More specifically, the map. In regards to moving around the town, the user is given all the information they need to get from place to place, except maybe an icon to indicate the location of a car they can drive. This usually isn’t an issue, because your car is usually going to be where you left it, and is usually within spitting distance. However, the way the information in the map is presented to a player generates a lot of confusion.

I’d like to go over this step by step. There are three distinct map methods. The first is a circular mini-map that shows the immediate area during normal play.  It shows maybe two blocks around York, who is represented by an arrow pointed at the top of the screen. There is also a compass indicating which way is north.  This map is fine. I have no issue with it, though a method to make it zoom out a little would have been nice. Symbols indicating points of interest are displayed as well.

The second map is accessed by pausing the game then highlighting the Map option, but leaving it there without selecting it. This map covers the entire town and cannot be manipulated in any way, not even zooming in or out. The scale is small, but you can make out bodies of water, roads, and railroad tracks. However, there is no icon to indicate York’s present location or any points of interest, and the entire thing is brown. It seems intended to serve more as an very large symbol of a map, but because of the third map, it’s forced to function as more than is intended.

The third map is accessed by actually selecting the Map option. This brings up an area of maybe 4-5 blocks around York.  Like the circular map overlay displayed during normal play, this is in full color and has icons indicating points of interest and an arrow representing York’s current location and facing. Unfortunately, the compass indicating which direction is north does not always point up. The arrow indicating York’s facing, on the other hand, does. The area of 4-5 blocks is also the maximum zoom on this map, though the area of the map shown can be moved with the left analog stick.

These cause serious UI issues. A player has extreme tunnel vision and in almost all cases, cannot see both their current location and the location they would like to visit on the map at the same time. These are the steps I had to end up using to go from one place to another.

Step 1: Make sure York is facing north.

Step 2: Call up the map and memorize what the area around York looks like.

Step 2: Use the shoulder triggers to switch the focus the map through every single point of interest until I find the location I’m looking for. Alternatively, use the left analog stick and slowly scroll around the very large map until I happen to, by blind luck, come across the place I want to visit.

Step 3: Memorize what this area looks like.

Step 4: Back out of the map screen and into the pause menu screen.

Step 5: Look at the large zoomed out map that shows the entire town, which has no icons indicating anything. Try to find out where York is and where I want to go, trying to remember what each of the places looked like.

Step 6 (Optional): Realize I forgot what a place looked like. Repeat steps 2-5.

Step 7 (Optional): Realize that York wasn’t facing north, so the actual scrollable map is a rotated version of the large town map, so those memorized locations aren’t going to be anywhere near as useful. Exit all menus, face north, and repeat steps 2-5.

Step 8: Figure out a route and go there. If I forget where to turn, then I need to either face the car north or exit the car and face north, then repeat steps 2-5.

I enjoy this game. I really do. But the lack of attention to the user interface here should have been picked up in quality assurance at the absolute latest. Getting from place to place in a game where its most prominent feature is a town with a lot of things to do shouldn’t be this difficult a task.

OWLBEARS 2 Draft 1

March 3, 2009

Concept

Hey everyone. I’ve whipped up this simple and silly RPG for your enjoyment. It’s based off another RPG I saw that was purely a game of make believe, and I liked the concept and attitude, so I’ve decided to turn it into an actual game with mechanics. Even if you don’t play it, I hope you at least have fun reading through this look at fantasy literature through the eyes of a 9 year old with ADD and a worn copy of The Hobbit.

Special thanks to: Stuart Robins? I assume this is the creator of the original concept and game. If you’re reading this, sorry I couldn’t figure out how to contact you.
The original Owlbears can be found at: http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/owlbears

Introduction

Owlbears 2 is an awesome game for cool kids in which you are an owlbear, a killer beast that’s HALF OWL and HALF BEAR. You get all the powers of both, and maybe more! Flight and super strength are at your wingfingerclawtips.

This game is about action. Owlbears don’t sit around and drink tea and talk. They fly around and blow stuff up and rip ninjas in half, and it’s really really really cool.

Don’t tell your mom about this game or she might take it away.

The World

There’s a valley with hobbits and a forest with elves and a mountain with dwarves and an evil place with orcs and an evil wizard. There’s a forest of tree people and a UFO with aliens too. And some more stuff, and it’s all cooler than a treehouse!

Character Creation

Pick a cool name like CRUSHKILL or POWERBOMB.

If you really want, pick a bear type and an owl type. Like if you’re an owlbear that’s part arctic owl and part polar bear, you could be an arctic polar owlbear or something. And you could shoot freeze lasers out of your eyes!

Finally, get a weapon or gadget or power or something. Every owlbear starts out with bear claws and wings and an owl beak and super strength. And punching and kicking. But you get something special in addition to that, but just one thing. Like a machine gun, or a laser sword, or the power to shoot freeze
lasers out of your eyes.

Adventures

Owlbears are cool because they are half owl and half bear. But they are also cool because they do cool stuff, like have spaceship races and beating up aliens. Someone suggests some kinda situation. Maybe ghosts with laserbeams show up, or pirates with swordlegs instead of peglegs. And they’d have guns for hands.

Doing Stuff

Owlbears are awesome and they fight all the time. Owlbear adventures involve stuff like punching orcs and ripping ninjas in half and blowing up AN ENTIRE ARMY OF WIZARDS. Or the sneaky bearowls.

A SQUAD OF ALIENS WITH LASER AXES SHOWS UP! Anyone else would be dead meat, but you’re an OWLBEAR. You take out your ROCKET LAUNCHER and start blasting them! FWOOSH! KABOOM! BLAMMO! DOOSH! That’s four big sound-words, or onosomething. Even sounds that aren’t actual fighting count, since it’s still really neat, like, shotguns are super powerful because of that sound it makes between shots, you know, that ka-CHACK sound. That ought to be enough to take them down, right?

WRONG! They have laser-axes! It’s not like some stupid weak old laser sword. Everyone has those. You gotta hit them like, ten times before they die. Actually, more than that. You want it to be big and noisy, so maybe you gotta hit ’em five times for everyone that’s playing.  And guess what? You’re not allowed to use the same words on them in the same fight again because it’d be boring. Everyone gets to take a turn if you’re all fighting the same thing, though, so they don’t go down until everyone’s done something, unless someone’s taking too long. And you don’t get to switch weapons and fight with something else with different noises right away, because you already had your turn.  And you can’t take someone else’s words either. If you come up with the noisiest and most sounds, you are the COOLEST. But only if you use noises that make sense, okay? If someone says one of your noises doesn’t sound right, and nobody disagrees with them, then that word doesn’t count! And don’t try dumb stuff like try to say that “BOOM” and “BOOOOOOOOOM” are two different words.

And they don’t drop until EVERYONE’S had a turn, even if the bad guys got hit enough to take them down. So it’s fair for everyone and we don’t get crybabies, isn’t that right, Timmy?

Owlbears shouldn’t just make noises though. Owlbears DO stuff. Say what you’re doing, and get really detailed and vivid and cool about it. Which of these is cooler?

“Bloodspear kicks the ninja over and over. KER-POW! BONK! WHAM! CRAAAASH!”

“Bloodspear smashes his foot into the ninja’s nuts! KER-POW! Then he tackles the ninja and pushes him against a wall and head-butts him! BONK! And then the wall breaks open and there’s a BILLION DOLLARS behind it! So Bloodspear takes it. THen he body-slams the ninja into a solid gold statue of himself, because the people who made this room knew that Bloodspear was coming, because he’s so awesome and everyone loves him and he shows up in like, all the ancient prophecies, all of them, and even the new prophecies, so they made this solid gold statue! Of Bloodspear! WHAM!”

That first guy got more noise in, yeah? But the second guy was clearly better and more cool.

Being Cool

Speaking of cool, after every fight, figure out who the coolest is. My dad says we live in America so we have to vote. If nobody feels like voting, it’s whoever got the most noises in. If there’s a tie, everyone who tied wins, but you can’t vote for yourself because that’s dumb. Whoever gets to be the coolest gets a new tool or gadget. So you can get a new awesome power, like having a gun, or a car, or a staff, except there are swords on the ends, and the entire center part is one big sword.

Moving On

Now, someone else gets to come up with a cool situation, like a necromancer builds a giant fake owlbear robot that shoots exploding feather missiles. Then everyone takes it on. And whoever the coolest is gets a new thing. After everyone comes up with a cool story and everyone beats it, then everyone votes on what the coolest situation was. Whoever made up the coolest one gets one more power. Then you check to see if any of you are cool enough to have five or more special powers or items. If you do, YOU ARE SO COOL YOU GET TO BE THE KING OF THE OWLBEARS. Tell everyone how awesome your coronation is. If five is too many or too little, you guys can change it or something, but do it before the game starts, okay?

Then the episode ends and the credits roll, and you can start the next game with new Owlbears if you want, but the Owlbear King has to come up with a new Owlbear. He gets to come up with the first situation of the next episode, though.

Examples: Owlbears

Powerfist is an owlbear that has a cyborg eye because he was cool enough to get one. He has a big fat six shooter with an axe attached to the end, and he uses his cyborg eye to aim it, and he has a belt made of bullets. And skulls. No, wait. Bullets that are skulls. The gun shoots out skulls.

Blackskull is an even cooler owlbear. He has super sharp claws, and an airplane. It’s an F-14 bomber, and it flies at mach infinity, and drops those bombs that make an awesome whistling noise while it’s falling down. And the plane has a sword at the tip, so he can fly around and swordfight with the plane. And he doesn’t ride on the inside of the plane, he stands on the wing, because I think that’d be really cool.

Red Lightning Washington is an owlbear that’s also the King of America, and he’ll be King of Owlbears soon too. And he’s a ninja village chief! He wears an American flag as a ninja outfit and he flips out and karate chops people. He has a sword that’s as tall as a skyscraper, and every time he kills someone with it, he leaves them on it like a shishkebab. He is a master of the way of the ninja.

Rocket Billy is an owlbear that is a living rocket. He has super speed, and he can light his farts to go even faster. And he has a red Cadillac, and he can light its farts to go EVEN FASTER!

Examples: Situations

You guys are fighting a bunch of aliens and they have big space ships, okay? And the space ships are flying saucers and they glow green, and they shoot lasers and machine guns. And the aliens have axes. Laser axes. They’re axes made of lasers. And they shoot lasers. Or they can swing the axe and there’ll be a big green shockwave and it’ll fly out and cut peoples’ heads off. They’re all illegal and here to take over the world so they can take our jobs like mom’s always talking about.

There’s an evil wizard named Deathgore, and he raised an army of undead orcs with wings to try to take over the world. They also have a space ship, and it’s chained to the ground, and they’re going to use the space ship to launch the world into the sun unless the king gives him a million dollars.

All of a sudden, Nelson’s mom shows up and tells the Owlbears that they can’t go on adventures anymore, and that’s dumb.