Category Archives: Gaming

Board games page added

I recently added a new page for board games on the site. I sort of rediscovered how much I enjoy them while in my current game design course and I should have pictures and information about my first one soon. It’s a fan game based on the DC Comics Green Lantern property. There’s more info on the actual page and I can’t wait to show off the real deal. Right now, I’m testing the mechanics and trying to balance everything out. Then I’ll start making the final board and cards and get some pictures of the completed game up on the site. Once that’s done, I have a couple of projects I’ll be starting with a friend. One of them is an original survival horror board game! So keep an eye on that page. I’ll be updating it as the projects progress.

– iain


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Game Ideas: New Super Mario Bros 2 Co-Op

Let me prefix this entry by saying that I’m loving New Super Mario Bros 2 right now. No, it doesn’t necessarily do anything drastic with the classic Mario formula but, since the series is basically a trip down memory lane, I don’t see it as a bad thing. The coin rush mode and the emphasis on collecting coins taps right into my obsessive collector mentality, so I’m certainly enjoying that aspect. The one flaw that keeps nagging at me is the co-op mode. It just feels like it could have been something more than it is. Right now it’s just 2 players running through the same levels as the main game, nothing extra to achieve, with the second player being severely hampered by the single-screen approach of the game. You wouldn’t need to make drastic changes to the gameplay mechanics to make the co-op more compelling; you could just introduce a couple of items to enhance what’s already there.

Collecting coins is the only “cooperative” thing about the mode currently.

Silver Co-Op Coins

Anyone who’s played a Mario game recently has collected the Star Coins in the game. There’s three per level and collecting a certain amount can unlock new paths or item houses. Silver co-op coins could be used as something for players to strive for when they’re playing through in the co-op mode (obviously ;p). These would be coins that are impossible to obtain without the assistance of a second player. Whether it’s a warp pipe that can only be accessed by two players at once, P-switches that need to be pressed by one player so the other can pass a barrier, or areas that can only be scaled by carefully timing jumps off each other, there are a multitude of ways to implement these into the game.

Now, they wouldn’t effect what the player can achieve in the single player campaign. Everything that you would normally do should still be there. The co-op coins would only effect things in that particular mode. They could unlock special co-op only levels and item houses, the same way the Star Coins act in the regular mode.

Co-Op Items

This one might be a little more drastic but we could introduce an item block that could only be smashed by two players at once. Inside this special item block would be some sort of new co-op power up that would fuse the two players together for a short period of time (or longer depending on what it is). The two players would then need to work together to bypass some sort of obstacle that has been designed for that particular power up. Things like a new flying power up that lets you fly higher than normal, a new jumping power up that increases jump height with proper co-op button timing, or maybe a giant turtle shell power up that lets you plow through “indestructible” walls/enemies, could work for this one. Any of these new items could work in conjunction with the Silver co-op coins to increase the replayability of the current co-op mode.

“With our powers combined!…” Seriously, double team/co-op items could be really cool.

There are a lot of ways to improve the current co-op mode (get rid of the single-screen approach for one). The things I listed here are just a couple of quick ideas I had while playing today that I thought stayed true to the older style of Mario Bros gameplay. If anyone has something different or a way to build/improve on what I’ve written, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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Game Ideas: Fighting Online

Been playing a lot of Mortal Kombat and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on my Vita when I get some free time. First thing first, I’m absolutely horrible at those kinds of fighting games, and yet, I still love to play them. The problem I run into is that I eventually get bored of playing the computer and my only other option is to try my hand at playing online. Big deal, right? Well, it kind of is. Fairly quickly after a new fighting game is released, the online community seems to die off and become comprised only of the most hardcore of players. I’m not talking about the guys who give you a bit of a challenge. I’m talking about the guys who have mastered the art of juggling you in the air and killing you before you can land more than a couple of lucky punches. No doubt someone out there is probably going to say “then get better at the game”. Yes, that probably is the obvious route but not everyone wants to spend all of their gaming time only mastering fighting games. Some people, like me, enjoy popping online every now and then just for some fun. The “casual” fighting game fan, for lack of a better (and less annoying) term.

I realize that a lot of games have a matchmaking option that is supposed to pair you up with someone of your skill level, but these systems rarely seem to work. Even if you wait a few weeks after the game comes out before going online (give the better players a chance to build up their records) you still end up fighting some guy that outclasses you in every way. Usually, it’s because all of the other casual players have already given up and the system’s only option is to move you up onto the harder players. What I’d like to see is just a complete separation of the player base. I know it’s probably a risky move but I think it’s one that could help foster a more diverse community than what we see now.

So, how would it work? It’s super basic. When the player enters the online mode, they would see three options; Casual Fighter, Fighter, and Elite Fighter (better names could be thought up later). When a player is just starting off, they can choose any of these options. Maybe you just know that you’re a total badass when it comes to Mortal Kombat. If that’s the case, you can jump straight into the Elite Fighter matchmaking, no questions asked. Once you’ve played a certain number of matches, your win/loss record would then determine which matchmaking you can enter. If you have a win/loss ratio better than 75% then you can only play with the Elite. 40% or better then you’re with the Fighters, or Elite if you so choose. Anything below 40% and you can pick your poison.

It isn’t fool proof by any means but it at least gives the casual player a fighting chance (PUN!) and may keep them around long enough to develop into a better fighter. So, good idea or bad idea?

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Game Ideas: Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush, for the PS Vita, is absolutely fantastic. Possibly, my most played game on the Vita so far. If you aren’t familiar with the game; it’s a 3rd person, open world, action/adventure title. You play as a girl, named Kat, who wakes up in a strange city and finds out that she has the ability to control gravity. I won’t go too far into everything about the game (there’s better places to find recaps/reviews about it) but, suffice it to say, the most unique thing about the game is the gravity abilities. Whether you’re flying, sliding, racing, transporting or fighting, the developers found a bunch of different ways to get you to use Kat’s powers. One thing that was conspicuously absent was the lack of puzzles in the game. So, I thought I might take a minute to offer a couple of ways that I think they could implement puzzles into a future installment (should they decide to make one).

Perspective Puzzles

Finding the right angle for a perspective puzzle could be difficult, yet engaging, if done right.

Perspective puzzles would give the player another reason to explore the game’s open world and it could tie in very easily with the “city life” feel of the world. You could introduce a new character, who’s into graffiti, and have him/her challenge Kat to find all of the tags they’ve left around the various areas of the city. The challenge, of course, would be to find the right way to line up objects in the city so that they form one coherent image. The player may need to be upside down at the time, looking straight down, or standing on the side of a building. There really would be a lot of possibilities with this because of the gravity mechanic that’s already in place. You could also use these types of puzzles another way. Have the player find three or four of them and then answer a riddle or guess what they mean. Kind of like Pictionary.

Simple “Fetch” Style Puzzles

The stasis field mechanic would work perfectly for finding parts around the city.

This one is the more obvious of the two, but I still think it’s a worthwhile idea. There are areas in the city where Kat can unlock challenges by repairing city systems. The thing is, all you have to do to repair something is pay a small amount of gems. It feels like a missed opportunity. I would have the player search for a part of some sort (depending on what they’re trying to repair) and then bring it back to repair the machine with it. The actual puzzle aspect would come into play when you try to repair the machine. That would initiate a mini-game where the player would be tasked with moving parts into place, securing them, etc. It would be a great opportunity to use the Vita’s set of features too. The mini-games could be operated using the front touchscreen, back touchpad, gyroscope, or maybe even find a use for the camera.

I’m sure there are even crazier ways of using the gravity mechanic to implement puzzles into Gravity Rush. These are just two that came to mind while playing the game tonight. I’ll probably come back to this topic after giving it some more thought.

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Game Ideas: Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale

I keep seeing hands-on previews for Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale where they talk about how fun the game is but then lament the fact that they don’t understand the health system. Personally, it seems simple enough. Your character has a meter. It has three levels. The more damage you inflict, the more power you build up in your meter. Once you’ve built up enough energy, you can unleash a level 1, 2, or 3 powered “Super” and gain a point for anyone you hit with that super. The part that seems to be tripping people up is the fact that you aren’t necessarily making the other players weaker as you hit them.

Build up your meter… then hit people. Doesn’t seem that hard.

Let’s compare this to Super Smash Bros, the game that PAS: Battle Royale will understandably be compared to for years to come. In that series, you have a percent meter. The more damage you take, the higher the percentage goes. Once the meter gets to a certain point, it becomes much easier to knock a character off-screen and score a point. Is this really that much easier to understand than the other? They seem like opposite approaches to the same problem to me. One is about increasing power in your character, while the other is about decreasing power in your opponent. They both offer viable strategies and unique gameplay.

Build up your opponent’s meter… then hit them. Same problem. Opposite approaches.

So anyway, I’m reading/watching these previews and I start thinking, is there a better approach that’s more understandable? Better might be the wrong word but I think you get the point. We can’t just stick a health bar in there because then it’s too much like every other fighter. That’s by no means a bad thing. It just seems like the people at SuperBot were going for something different and I want to try and stick with that philosophy.

The Aura System

So, this system would keep the core of PAS: Battle Royale the same. The three-tiered meter, knock outs only come from supers, and everything else, stays like they are. What this would do is add an aura around the player’s character that would change as they take damage. These are the four aura stages the players would encounter.

Green: This is the players starting aura. It indicates that they are healthy and at full strength.

Yellow: The player has taken minimal damage. It isn’t affecting their fighter but it will if they take anymore damage.

Orange: The player has taken extensive damage. Their character’s movement speed has decreased by 10 (random number chosen. This would obviously need to be playtested to determine the best amount) percent.

Red: The player has taken a maximum amount of damage. Their character is visibly exhausted and their movement speed has been reduced by 20 (same reason as above) percent.

The goal behind this system is to add another dimension to the game, without detracting from what SuperBot came up with. Having your aura depleted doesn’t allow other players to knock you out. They still need to hit you with a super to do that. This system just makes it harder to avoid those supers. Basically, it’s meant to give more meaning to all of the hitting besides building up your super meter (which seems to be the big complaint). Players will want to keep their aura green (or yellow) so that they remain quick and nimble, while at the same time, remaining in the thick of battle to build up their super meter.

It’s hard to say whether or not this would work for the game since I haven’t played it yet but I do believe it would address the concern some sites have expressed and possibly add to the experience. Either way, it’s just fun to think about. Personally, as long as the game is fun, I don’t see the problem.

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Game Ideas: Physical DLC

I should start by saying that I haven’t actually played the Skylander game that came out last year, so I can’t speak to the quality of the game but I have been intrigued by the way they’ve handled post-release content. I really like the idea of having some kind of tangible item to go along with the DLC for your game. Some people are still a little cautious about purchasing DLC because of uncertainty of ownership. Whether you like DLC or not, it’s become a part of the gaming industry and it really doesn’t look like it’ll be going away anytime soon. So while we have it, wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to buy something tangible to go along with your new character skin/level/song/whatever? This probably wouldn’t work for every type of game (what would you buy for a COD map pack?) but I got to thinking about it tonight and it could work for quite a few series.

Pretty much any Nintendo, Sony or Sega mascot mash-up

I’d probably go broke buying characters to add to this roster.

It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Mario party, Mario Kart, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing, or the upcoming Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, chances are somebody’s favorite character is going to be left in the cold. These forgotten characters should be sold as action figures that can be downloaded into your game. Using Skylanders as a template, you could package an action figure with a code for a new level and maybe a new item. So for Mario Kart 7, I could buy a Waluigi action figure (w/ kart) and also get a code for a track based around him and possibly a re-skin for an existing item or a completely new one. If you buy a figure for a character who’s already in the game, then maybe you could offer a download for a re-skin so that the player feels like they have a little more ownership over that character.

Racing Games

Maybe a Hot Wheels version of your favorite cars?

Okay, this one seems like a no-brainer all the way. Why hasn’t anyone already inked a deal with Mattel? Those guys make Hot Wheels for crying out loud! Think of a game like Gran Turismo, Need for Speed or Forza Motorsport where you can go buy a Hot Wheels version of the car you want and transfer it into your game. Even if you don’t want the Hot Wheels car… who cares? If you were buying the DLC anyway, why not get something extra with it? Maybe it’s just me but that seems like a win-win for both parties. It increases the shelf-space and visibility of your game, you get collectors trying to buy up all of your toys and the players get a tangible item to go along with their in game item. I’ll continue to be shocked if this never happens.

The Lego games

New constructs and levels built for him? I’ll take 12.

This one stumps me a bit. They already make physical toys based on the same titles that they make games for but they don’t tie the two together beyond the property they’re based on. I don’t want to advocate taking content out of a game but they pack a lot of characters into each of these titles and a lot of them just feel like re-skins. If they were to leave some of the popular characters out (lets say Nightwing, Aquaman, etc in the new Lego Batman) then they could take the time to tailor make some levels based around those characters. Like I said, I don’t like the idea of taking content out of a game so lets go with a different approach. Since they already make the toys, just start packaging some codes inside the boxes that give the player something new in their game. Maybe make a Green Arrow (really hoping he’s in the game, btw) Lego set that gives Lego Batman 2 players some new trick arrows and a couple of levels based on the set they just bought. Or, a Green Lantern set that gives players all-new light constructs and some levels based on the set.

Maybe this is all just me and my nerdist mindset kicking in on this topic but I’m surprised no other company has jumped on this bandwagon yet. Some of them even have things in place to get started (looking at you Lego guys). As an adult, I love the idea of buying a toy and then “bringing it to life”, so I can only imagine what it must be like for a kid. I know child-me would have flipped out over this if it was around back then. Even without that aspect, I still just think it’s a nice added value for those of us who are already buying DLC for their games. I do want to point out that I don’t think it should be the only means of obtaining the content. Keep the download only version for those who aren’t into buying toys. I just think it’s a fun option that benefits both industries and I’d like to see others try something with it.

So what do you think? If more companies jumped onto the Physical DLC (not sure if that’s even the term to use) bandwagon, would you jump on with them? If so, what would you be interested in seeing? If not…well, why not?

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Game Ideas: Starhawk Multiplayer Modes

My current gaming obsession is undoubtably Starhawk on the PS3. If you aren’t playing it, shame on you. It’s a fantastic third person shooter with a unique multiplayer experience thanks to it’s “build and battle” system (I gush because I love). The game is clearly built as a multiplayer experience and I wanted to take a minute to put some multiplayer mode ideas onto the blog that I think could be really fun.

Rift Harvester (small to medium gametype)

If you aren’t familiar with Starhawk, then you’ll need to know that the game’s story is built around the idea of people going into a “gold rush” type frenzy over something called rift energy. This energy source is so important that the build and battle system also revolves around it. What I’d like to do with this mode is bring a little bit of the single player experience over to the multiplayer.

Keep the harvesters safe at all costs.

Rift Harvester mode would work kind of like a reverse version of Zones. But, instead of scrambling to capture and hold as many zones as possible, players would take turns trying to destroy the opposing team’s rift harvesters. It would be a turn based mode, with each team taking turns on offense and defense. The team on offense can only spawn within the pre-determined bases (they can build all they want within that space) and the team on defense can spawn/build anywhere outside of the bases. A match ends when all rift harvesters have been destroyed or when the game reaches a specified time limit.

This mode would revolve entirely around base defense except, one team has multiple bases that they’ll need to defend and the other team could be outside of any of them. We’d need to balance this out. Probably by reducing the team or map sizes for this game mode. That way things aren’t too spread out, making it hard for teams to attack or defend. If everything works the way I hope it would, then the final moments of a game would be one big battle over a single rift harvester.

Harvester Overload (small, medium or large gametype)

This one is pretty quick to explain and if you’ve ever played the chain reaction game mode in Uncharted, then you pretty much know how it works. Harvester Overload would require teams to take over zones in a specific order (numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) in an attempt to overload the other team’s rift harvester. There would only be the 5 zones on the map and anytime a team takes over a zone, the other team will need to recapture the previous zone before they can continue. So, if team 1 takes zone 3, team 2 will need to recapture zone 4 before they can move on to capture 3. Once one team has all 5 zones, a meter will start to build up, showing how long until the opposing team’s Harvester overloads.

Paycheck (small, medium or large gametype)

Another easy to grasp game mode. In Paycheck, there is a single rift harvester on the map and each team is fighting to complete the job. Players start on opposite sides of the map and rush to the middle to build their rift harvester before the other team. Whoever has the harvester in place, starts to collect rift energy for the client. First team to the specified amount wins. Teams would have a home base where they could collect weapons and vehicles before attacking, otherwise the game mode would be based around limited resources for whoever isn’t holding the rift harvester. This would need some serious balancing obviously but I think it could be fun.

‘Hawk Rush (small, medium or large gametype)

Flying in the Hawks is one of the best parts in the game.

For ‘Hawk Rush, think of a base assault or bomb the base style of play, only the players are always within a Hawk. There would be a single rift bomb in the middle of the map and each team would try to deliver it to the opponent’s base and defend it until it explodes. The other team could defuse the bomb by destroying it (yes that would probably make a bomb explode but lets suspend belief). This would probably need to be a best two out of three of three out of five game type but it depends on the difficulty in achieving the goal. I love these kinds of game modes and I think playing this gametype only within a Hawk would make for some intense matches.

So there you have it. These are just a few of the modes I was thinking about while playing Starhawk tonight. I didn’t completely flesh them out or try to think about balancing issues. It was more of an exercise in brainstorming and trying to think of things that could match the play style and the Starhawk universe. If you have any ideas or want to build on what I’ve written, leave a comment.

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