Apologies

I haven’t been able to post very much recently due to increased work and family responsibilities. Everything is fine but I do have a tougher work load than I am used to. Because of this I have been unable to post anything worthwhile, not that I have been doing so in some consistent frequency before; ha.

I am currently in the process of acquiring a new computer, the Zotac en760 in particular, of which I will be doing a review on with benchmarks (As I haven’t seen much information about it).

I actually have quite a few posts that are unfinished and unpolished that if anyone wants, I will release but if not, I will release them once I do refine my thoughts on those topics. It will be a little while from my next post but I hope you guys will be patient with me.

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Also, go and watch Edge of Tomorrow. Excuse me for profanity but that film was “fucking” amazing. Certainly not perfect but so far, one of my favorite movies this entire year.

 

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Recommendation: Knights of Sidonia – Tsutomu Nihei

This is a Science Fiction based Japanese Manga by Tsutomu Nihei. I recommend the Manga heavily and it was very recently adapted into an anime. It is an little odd, 3d animation at 18 fps with some drawn backdrops but once you acclimate to the style that is used, the anime is incredibly well done and follows the manga incredibly well. It was released just a few days ago (as per the time that this entry was written) onto netflix and although I haven’t heard the English dubbing, the voice acting in Japanese is impressive. The only problems I have with the subtitle translations are that they use some alternate terms from the manga, but it isn’t too big of a deal.

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I highly recommend this to watch or read (I preferably enjoy the manga) for anyone who enjoys science fiction, action, mechs/robots, and a light splash of comedy. There is an amazingly well realized “world” that isn’t spoon-fed to the viewer. It does require attention (i.e. not glancing at something else for extended periods of time) but it is enthralling and after you immerse yourself into this world, you can’t help but want to know what comes next.

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Thoughts On – Transistor 2014 (SuperGiant Games)

Transistor is the newest game that SuperGiant Games (developer) has put out. Their first game “Bastion” was met with critical success, selling many copies and being highly rated. Notable features of Bastion were gorgeous hand-drawn art, absolutely stunning music, and the famous narrator voiced by Logan Cunningham. But does Transistor meet up to the high bar set by it’s predecessor? I’ve just completed the game and I will honestly have to say, “ehhh, not really?”. I will start with a disclaimer that there may be spoilers, so if you plan to play the game, be warned.

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Of course, that’s not really a satisfactory answer so let me expand on that. Supergiant’s new game is very good. There’s no doubt about that. The first thing that you notice upon starting up the game is the absolutely impeccable art. It has a very distinct art style thanks to it’s artist Jen Zee (You can find other works of her art here or at her deviantart page ). It has a very original oil painted look that is very consistent throughout the game  and not only is it beautiful but it lends itself very well the game world. The world is dark but peppered with cold neon and led lighting. There’s a lack of nature or really any organic. The world is very lonely and to a certain degree dystopian.

And to compliment the art, the music is expectedly fantastic. It isn’t as forward as the music in Bastion and is much more ambient. But when the vocals do kick in, oh boy. The vocalist, Ashley Barrett (who also sang in Bastion), has a stunning voice. It is amazing how much emotion and impact she has, which just has to show how far video games have come as a medium. But I can’t leave out Darren Korb, the composer of the music in both game. The music completely immerses the player into the game world. I have to say, bravo. The music is a combination of multiple styles, from almost retro synth, to relaxing guitar progressions. An interesting thing you can do while in game is that if you press the “tab” key (I’m unsure about the PS4 version), the main character, Red, will hum along to what song is playing. My particularly favorite piece is “We All Become”, which was used in the original reveal trailer when Supergiant announced Transistor. The entire soundtrack is available on Supergiant’s Youtube channel or available for purchase in their store. Darren Korb is quickly becoming, if not already is, one of my favorite video game music composers.

And if there wasn’t enough buzz words to be said, the gameplay itself is very well done. Borrowing the isometric third person style from Bastion and taking inspiration from turn based strategy games, Transistor has formed a pseudo-turn-based gameplay with lots of action and a surprising amount of depth to its combat (almost reminiscent of Final Fantasy XIII’s). The main element of gameplay lies with your sword, the Transistor. The sword has many abilities and picks up abilities as the game progresses. The abilities that you collect are seemingly the “souls”/personalities of people who have passed. And the detailed descriptions of the abilities also contain descriptions of these people. These abilties are all relatively unique. During combat you will not swing the Transistor as a sword, instead the abilities emanate from the sword as a projectile. Your abilties (named similarly to methods in programming ie. spark() ) all have unique properties from long or short ranged projectiles, bombs, seduction, and a plethora of other effects. And these abilities can be equipped on a bar with four available slots. But the interesting thing that can be done, is to upgrade your abilities with any other abilities. And the further you level up, you unlock the ability to upgrade skill with two upgrades and use your abilities with passive effects. Don’t fret though, the skills are freely interchangeable so any decision you make isn’t set in stone.

Thanks to this system, you can have varied play-styles to suit however you want to approach a give situation. And you will have to master how you play because some of the enemies can be quite difficult to dispatch of. There is also a “test” room that appears periodically in the game where you can test your skills in multiple rooms (such as endurance, strategy, or efficiency).

When combat begins, your character is confined to a certain area but she has the ability to stop time and make decisions. Moving around the battlefield or using a skill will use up a bar at the top of the screen, so you have to be wary of what you do during this period. But you’re not restricted to acting in that phase, you can still move around and perform actions not in this mode. But certain actions will be unavailable for you depending on what mode you’re in; for example, the ability to summon help is only available when out of the planning mode. Other than that, it would seem like it’s a no brainer to just use the planning mode. But when you hit enemies, they will recoil, move, and react to a certain degree. So even if you’ve constructed a fantastic plan to wipe everything off in one move, it may not fare very well. You have to consider how your attacks might effect the enemies and their abilities. Although you can blindly attack everything in sight, it’s not recommended.

I found the game to be very fun and enjoyable with a very well realized world. But it’s not perfect, at least, it doesn’t meet the bar of Supergiant’s previous game.

If you’ve played Bastion and didn’t enjoy it, you probably won’t enjoy Transistor very much. It is essentially Bastion with alternate art/music and improved combat. There is very little that really sets it apart from Bastion. The art style is very similar, music is a little depreciated, gameplay very reminiscent of Bastion, and the story is sort of… unsatisfactory. The game felt unsatisfying. There are some complaints that I’ve read that the game is short, I don’t feel that way. It’s a good 5-8 hours, depending on how you play, and it is a very nice experience. But the game just feels unsatisfying. It feels almost shallow. I didn’t feel as emotionally invested into the game as with Bastion. In Bastion, there is a segment of the game [SPOILERS] in which you carry the main villain, from death. It is a magnificent culmination of emotion into this one moment. And when you’ve set him down, you are given a immense choice. That experience was just an incredible moment, one of the greatest I’ve had ever playing a game. But Transistor lacked that. I didn’t care as much for the characters, or even Red (main character).[SPOILER] I didn’t particularly care when someone died, I didn’t even really care when Red died either. There was a moment when I felt something tug at the back of my throat but I just didn’t feel invested into the game. Which is unfortunate when this game is seemingly made for someone like me. Science fiction, strategical and deep combat, beautiful art and music, interesting story. And yet, it was shallow. Bastion was also a relatively short game but it didn’t feel short since you were so invested into the experience, when it was over, everything felt good. When Transistor was finished, I had a mixed feeling of indifference and dissatisfaction.

To address the story directly, it does it’s job. And not much more unfortunately.

Some more minor grievances I had with the game was firstly with the narrator, the voice of Transistor. Supergiant games brought back Logan Cunningham, the voice of Rucks in the Bastion, of which he does a fantastic job. But I can’t help but feel his voice is inappropriate for this particular role. Again, he does a fantastic job voicing what is essentially the second main character. Other minor complaints about the game are just nitpicking, path finding can be weird, there are random performance issues, sometimes dying can feel cheap. But no game is perfect.

So to conclude this relatively large essay, the game is pretty good and certainly has it’s flaws. Would I recommend picking it up, to a certain degree. If you are a fan of Supergiant games, go ahead and get it, you probably have already. For those that aren’t, unless there is some reason compelling you to purchase this game, maybe it would be better to wait for a sale for a slight discount. I want to reiterate that Transistor is a good game. It may not live up to people’s expectations after Bastion but it doesn’t have to. The game is a beautiful work of art but it’s flaws come from a moderately poor execution of it’s ideas.


 

If you have any questions or ideas about what I should address, just post a comment below. The next post will probably be about Rick and Morty. Have a good day.

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Game Analysis (lite) – “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” Game Menu

I will be posting moderately regularly observations of how games work and analysis of certain aspects of them. In this particular case, I’ll be looking at some game menus. I think when developing games, this is a vital aspect of a game that should not be overlooked. After all, it is the first element of the game that you introduce to the player.

The problem though with having a menu that is comprehensive and well constructed is that it’s hard to dedicate resources to an aspect that not many will really notice. It’s important to balance the effort put into something and the pay off received. And to another degree, putting effort into anything and not having that effort recognized is demotivating. So generally, little effort is put into elements of games/applications that aren’t directly present to the user. But they really need to be, beauty is in the details.

So the game menu I’m going to look at is “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”‘s (Not the Director’s Cut). This is one of my favorite video games. It is a first-person RPG (role playing game) based on the 2000 game of the same name “Deus Ex”. The game is relatively punishing/difficult with stealth and shooter elements. I do heartily recommend anyone to play this game. But let’s look at the menu now.

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It is a pretty comprehensive menu. The first three icons let you initiate the game.

  • Continue will start the game directly at the last save point on record
  • New game starts a new game with a “choose difficulty” sub-menu
  • Load game is particularly good as it offers two automatic save states (latest auto-save and previous auto-save) and a list of manual save states.

The load game menu is structured like this because of the gameplay and the menu itself directly effects gameplay as well, although it may not seem immediately so. Because the core of the gameplay is very dependent the decisions you make, save states are very  important so that if the player makes an irreparable mistake, they can reset to a previous saved state and change their actions.

The only drawback to this load system, is that it can make the game too easy for those who choose to abuse it. In that case, all you can do is trust in the player to play the game.

The next aspect about menu’s to discuss is the ever critical “options” menu. This is more so important for PC games rather than  for console games, as there is generally little reason to make an options menu for console games. The options menu give the player to ability to control,

  • Video parameters, consisting of two parts; A simple set of options such as brightness, resolution, aspect ratio, full-screen/windowed, etc. Then a more advanced set of options that give control over exactly what the game renders (Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, Texture Resolution, etc.) so that you can tune the performance of  a game to give you a more desirable experience as you play; Generally you trade off performance (generally referring frames per second [fps], higher give you a smoother experience) with Detail/Beauty. As PC builds are various, you may need to change the aspect ratio and/or resolution to fit your monitor or change up the advanced options to get the game running competently on your particular machine.
  • Audio volumes. In this particular game, the audio options give individual meters to music, dialogue, sound effects, and an option to turn on captions. Audio is one of the most important parts of a video game, despite what it may seem. It is similar to movies; if you have a good soundtrack, people will be invested into the game; if you have good sound effects, you will believe the objects in the world are real; etc. etc.. In video games, sound is something you are constantly exposed to. It provides a sense of feedback (of course it’s not the only way to give feedback to a player). As the player is not actually in the game, they can not feel if they’ve actually done anything and if you don’t provide feedback, the player can’t know if they actually committed an action. And this may lead to frustration. The reason why a player would want individual meters for sound over a master controller, is that players want to have an experience tailored for them. Music will inevitably loop, some sounds will be too loud or soft, players may just dislike voice actors and not want to listen. It’s important to give the player control of their experience, so that they can be invested into the experience of playing a game.
  • Controls. In here, the player can re-bind the actions of the keyboard and mouse. Controls are the most vital part of a game. Without them, the player can not do anything, what you have isn’t a game at all. But the control scheme that the developer will set as default may not suit everyone’s needs or may not be particularly convenient/intuitive. A rather extreme example of this are disabled/amputees. I remember a short anecdote about a player with one arm and to play games, he used a mouse with a plethora of buttons in order to make up for the lack of an ability to use a keyboard. But there were games he wanted to play but was unable to since there was a lack of re-bind-able keys. Again, a rather extreme example but an example nonetheless.
  • And finally gameplay. This is more of an extraneous set of options in my opinion (although that opinion varies depending on game itself and in this game, it may be more important then I give it credit for) but I can certainly see why it’s available. There are a set of gameplay elements that the player may want to change to further tailor the experience while they play. In this particular menu there are,
  1. Automatic Inventory Management
  2. Show Prompts
  3. Show Reticle
  4. Cover Style
  5. Objective Locators
  6. Object Highlight
  7. Field of view
  8. Text Language

All of these serve to more so directly change the gameplay over the other options.

The final set of icon’s are “Tutorial”, “Credits”, and “Exit Game”. The tutorial gives you a set of videos that teach you how to play or use game mechanics. Useful for learning or relearning something you may not be aware of.  Credits show’s the player who worked on the game and Exit Game does what it says.

Exit game is quite vital as the player won’t play the entire game in a single sitting (you’d be surprised at how many games actually forget to put exit game into the menu). Credits are there to accredit those who have worked on the game and hopefully, give the player information about the particular developers/studios involved and make them interested in other games they’ve worked on.

I have no eloquent conclusion to this analysis other than, game menu’s are important. But I want more people to be aware of exactly how important they really are, as they’re an element generally hastily put together or with little thought. A game menu really effects how a game is perceived by the consumer and that can lead to higher sales of a game and better reviews. But it is hard to find the balance between effort put in and the payoff received. It is important to know and understand this balance so as developers can avoid being burned out or demotivated. And this ability is also useful in other aspects of life; although it’s up to you to see how to utilize this.


That was the end of my first “Game Analysis (lite)”. There’s not really a particular point that I intend to make with these but they’re notes about aspects of video games, how to learn from them and make use of this knowledge not only in making video games but how to use this knowledge in our individual lives.

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Hey, second post/first day

Hey, to whomever is reading this, welcome to Cythos@wordpress. About three weeks ago, school started, at least in my region, and life is hectic as usual. I just started to play a game called Minecraft at minecraft(.)net. Its a pretty fun game, very pixel’y and in the free version you can create using blocks or destroy other peoples creation in multi-player mode. Well thats about it, now to study for my US history essay tomorrow. Bye.

This is a post that I had written out four years ago but I seem to have forgotten to publish it. Fortunately, you guys get to see where I started. Humble beginnings I suppose.

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Oh wow.

Hello nonexistent viewers, Cythos here.

Man, a lot of time has passed since I never posted. I made this account about 4 years ago now. It has been one hell of a journey those four years have been. No longer a violist, working in a physics research lab, learning to code my first game.

wow.

Well, at least I made it through high school.

I’ll be posting updates to my game here, although I probably won’t post for several months, maybe years. If I even remember I still have this account then. I’m surprised this domain didn’t get kicked after all this time. At least I have it now.

I’m currently working on learning C# for monodevelop/unity engine. It’s a bit tough, tough, really quite hard. The concepts behind coding aren’t difficult but it’s not clicking very nicely in my brain. For the mass amount of information out on the internet, there’s really very few resources for just starting out without encountering that gigantic wall which is the first step.

But, I’m doing it right now. Just learning the basics of C#; syntax, variables, methods, etc. The book I’m using is certainly helping out.

I’ll be posting some game journal stuff that I’ve been holding onto for a little while. The idea I have in my head is far different from what I had originally brewing inside. It went from an action/schmup/stealth to a story-driven stealth concept. While I’m working on this concept on pen/paper, I’m just going through the basics of coding. Hopefully, they’ll eventually coincide and I’ll have something working.

We’ll see.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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