Sword Sister: My Entry to the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest

I’ve finished and submitted my game to the contest! It took me about two weeks to make and features:

  • An epic story that keeps pulling you in as you learn more about the game world.
  • 40-55 minutes of gameplay.
  • Risk/reward; most dungeons have bonus rewards and minibosses for those who choose to explore a little further.
  • Likeable NPCs and PCs with real personality.
  • Side quests.
  • A pet kitty!!

Download:
Sendspace: https://www.sendspace.com/file/i3u0sn
MEGA: https://mega.co.nz/#!5EhXhYxS!eRRyAG3rArB3gV6CGg2w_FmaqhwZ5JeVCYUOMFGjEbg

When downloading from Sendspace make sure to untick the box that makes you download their app.

The game can be accessed on the contest page here. Public voting is open until July 7th, so if you tried the game and liked it, please vote on the contest page! You do need to make an account but there’s no email confirmation.

2014 Indie Game Maker Contest part 2

Some more screenshots of my game in development, the game is about 50% completed and all content so far has been polished and repolished several times.

More updates soon!

2014 Indie Game Maker Contest

I recently got the RPG Maker XV Ace bundle from the HumbleBundle website for around $12, thinking I would eventually give it a go eventually. Last week I ran it, tried some tutorials and had a lot of fun!

I figured I would create a half-assed game or two to get my bearings then get to planning my dream RPG. Then I discovered the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest hosted by RPG Maker and Humble Bundle and knew I had to get in on it.

So here’s some screenshots my first RPG, which I will be submitting to the contest, it’s about 30% complete from a development standpoint and currently has about 15 minutes of gameplay (I am aiming for 30+ minutes in the end).

The rules say you must start no earlier than May 29th and submit it by June 30. I started on about June 15 so I’m already a little behind.

The game is currently called NatashaQuest but the name is still pending, as is the overall tone of the game (ie; I’m not entirely sure if I want it to be humorous or serious).

More updates soon! :)

Review: Rocksmith 2014

Rocksmith 2014 is both a game and learning tool for use with a real electric guitar or bass. You plug in your guitar to a USB port with a special cable and can play through step by step guitar lessons, learn specific songs and riffs and play a variety of arcade style games with your guitar as the controller.

2014-04-25_00005Everything the game does is done in a very incremental, adaptive and intuitive way, from the games to the lessons, everything is designed to help you retain information about notes, chords and scales, etc, as well as building up your muscle memory to improve your skill at playing guitar. It’s obvious a lot of work and research has gone into making Rocksmith 2014 a powerful education tool that can teach anyone to play guitar while still being fun.

The lessons try to teach you how to play in the way a real guitar tutor would; by explaining techniques, showing you how they are played and then giving you a go while gradually making things more advanced each time. The practice riffs also slow down and let you do things at your own pace if it thinks you are having trouble.

2014-04-25_00003There are also a decent amount of ‘Learn a Song’ songs that come with the game that start you off by getting you to play the very base notes that hold the song together, the game reacts to how well you are doing and gradually adds in more notes if you are getting everything right, eventually the notes will become chords and with enough practice you will easily learn how to play a song from start to finish.

The arcade games are designed to make you remember specific aspects of guitar playing as well as increasing your reaction time, muscle memory and being able to play without looking at the guitar neck. One game has you shooting ducks by playing the right note as they appear in front of different frets, another has you strumming entire chords in a zombie rail shooter. I found all the games to be both fun and very helpful.

2014-04-25_00006Some other nice features Rocksmith 2014 has is a full tone designer where you can create your own digital sound using a variety of pedals, amps, loops and more. The real life equivalent of this kind of equipment is really expensive so I found it really fun to be able to play around with this kind of stuff. There’s also multiplayer modes, online leaderboards and session mode where you have an automatic band accompanying your guitar as you play.

I don’t have many bad things to say about Rocksmith 2014 other than the song selection not being entirely to my taste, but a few DLCs fixed that for me. I also had an incredibly hard time getting a Rocksmith RealTone cable in Australia, all of the retail stores were sold out for over a month and I had to order one online. Some may also argue that the game is too repetitive, but with learning any instrument, repetition is the key to success and I think this game really makes the repetition as fun as it can possibly be.

2014-04-25_00007If you have a guitar sitting in the corner of your room which you don’t really play because you’ve given up on learning it on your own, then I highly suggest you try Rocksmith 2014, you will almost definitely improve at playing guitar, learn some new songs and have lots of fun. If you want to learn guitar on your own, this is the way to do it.

I give Rocksmith 2014 9/10.

Review: Tony Hawks Pro Skater HD

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is the latest of the Tony Hawk skating boarding games. HD is a 2012 remake of the original Pro Skater 1 and 2 games. The game is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Steam), with the console versions getting extra features such as multiplayer for whatever reason.

2014-04-20_00003HD is definitely aimed at fans of the original Pro Skater series, it features maps, music, skaters and challenges from the early games in a blatant effort to provoke nostalgia from fans like me. The game takes you back to two minute runs with classic career objectives such as getting the secret tape, kick flipping TC’s roof gap and what not. In addition to the Career mode, the game also has a few other game modes such as Big Head Survival, Hawkman and extra Projectives when you finish Career.

2014-04-20_00005Yes, the high school level is back! Yes, the warehouse level is back! And yes you can once again Ollie the Magic Bum 5x. Most of the best levels from Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2 are included as well as three levels from Pro Skater 3 if you purchase the Revert Pack DLC which also adds the revert mechanic which significantly increases your combo potential.

While the game has obviously gotten a huge graphics upgrade, I felt like the physics were a bit… off. Things seemed to feel more realistic in the original games, but in HD it feels like I’m sometimes flying unnaturally through the air. There’s also no animations for stacking/bailing; your character just kinda ragdolls on the spot and spurts out blood.

2014-04-20_00008The PC version unfortunately has a few optimization and other console-porty errors. There’s also no skater creator like there was in Pro Skater 2 and 3, but instead, a decent assortment of uncanny-valley-esque professional skaters from both the older games and current real-life professionals.

Despite its flaws, I really liked HD, I loved the playing the old maps, hearing the old music (the new music was really good too!) and the simplistic game mechanics of the original Pro Skater games before the series let you natas-spin fire hydrants for 10 minutes and walk around off-board whenever you please.

2014-04-20_00001However if you were late to the series you might not find HD as fun as other Tony Hawk’s games, as this is purely a remake of the original Pro Skater games and doesn’t really improve on the old features much, but if you’re looking for a cheap childhood nostalgia trip, I recommend you give Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD a look.

I give Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD 6/10.

Review: Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online takes place during the Second Era of The Elder Scrolls universe, before all of the singleplayer games. Tamriel is world divided, three alliances fight for the throne and right to rule the realm.

Screenshot_20140408_200128Unlike the other Elder Scrolls games, ESO is an MMO and uses megaservers, meaning everyone plays on the same server, but everyone is put into an instance of the zone they are with a few hundred other players. You can join your friends in their instances whenever you wish.

I fully came into ESO expecting it to be nothing like the single player games, as to not be disappointed, but they have really nailed the TES feel when it comes to the stories, quests and exploration parts of the game. During some of the quests I felt very emotionally attached to the NPCs, a feeling I’ve only gotten from other TES games.

Screenshot_20140406_154812ESO is not like other MMOs, there are no quests that have you retrieving 50 bear asses, or killing ‘X amount of Y’. Every quest is highly story-based and usually has some kind of interesting twist or decision the player needs to make. You really feel like part of the game world, even though there are thousands of other players.

Never once did I feel like I was grinding to try and level up, I got immersed in quests and explored around and found I was being rewarded for it, I didn’t have to worry about where I should be at my current level or what gear I should be using, I was able to just immerse myself in the game world and play without thinking about the meta all the time, like you are forced to do in other MMOs.

Screenshot_20140406_162353However when it comes to the other factors that go into making a great TES game ESO doesn’t quite make it. You cannot be a murdering psychopath and kill everyone in each town, you cannot steal every single plate and cup and dump them all in your house. Obviously as an MMO, ESO has it’s limitations and it will never be able to embody all the greatest things from the single player series, but it really is a masterpiece in its own way.

As most Elder Scrolls fans know, the games have been getting more and more casualized and simplified with each release… Morrowind had a huge amount of skills, weapon types and gameplay systems, then Oblivion had less and Skyrim had significantly less. ESO does follow this pattern with having only 6 weapon ‘skill lines’ and 4 different classes. Its only redeeming factor regarding this is that it’s an MMO and things need to be kept simple to be properly balanced.

Screenshot_20140406_020851I felt that the character development, despite there only being 4 unique classes, was very good. You can build your character however you want, even if you started as a Sorcerer, you can still be a very good tank by assigning skill points appropriately. The skill points you spend on your class skills are the very same skill points you use on your crafting, armor and other skills, meaning you can make your character however you like and play your own way. Want to be a Nightblade that uses a healing staff and heavy armor? Depending on how you spend your skill points, this could be a very good combination!

The crafting system was also very nice, a bit complex but once I figured it out I really enjoyed it. You can craft your gear in a variety of different racial styles and with different traits depending on what styles you have learned and what traits you have researched from other items.

Screenshot_20140406_205504The only way to PvP in ESO is in the Alliance War, which plays very similar to Guild Wars 2′s World versus World system. The three alliances fight each other and capture castles, camps and forts in an effort to take over Cyrodiil. Players can buy and build seige equipment to attack castles and other fortifications. I found the large scale battles to be very enjoyable, but the actual zone is a bit to big for those that just want to jump into some PvP and fight other players straight away.

Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either love or hate Elder Scrolls Online… you might hate that the game isn’t enough like the previous TES games to be enjoyable, or you might be happy you have finally found something that is close enough to TES and can be played with your friends. I am the latter.

Elder Scrolls Online brings a very refreshing change to the MMO scene with story-driven content and highly immersive experiences, while it doesn’t play exactly like the rest of the series, it definitely tries embody much of what The Elder Scrolls is about into an online experience.

I give Elder Scrolls Online 8.5/10.

Morrowind Overhaul

Recently I reinstalled Morrowind and thought I’d try the popular Morrowind Overhaul. Last time I tried it I had lots of issues getting the majority of the mods installed properly, however there is now a nice fancy all-in-one installer that does most of the work for you.

Morrowind Overhaul is a large collection of graphic and gameplay enhancements that make Morrowind a much more enjoyable experience while still preserving the spirit of the game. It also makes the game easier to play for people who enjoyed the later TES games and wanted to try Morrowind for the first time.

I had seen pictures of the overhaul before but I have to say I was extremely happy to be able to play it for my self with such beautiful graphics at a decent frame rate (100+ indoors and 50+ outdoors), the characters in particular were very impressive.

As for gameplay changes, the overhaul introduces a few tweaks that really make the game more user-friendly and fun to play. For example, one of the worst things I remember about Morrowind was collecting alchemy ingredients; you had to activate the plant to open the loot window, then click and drag the ingredients to your inventory, then close the window. The overhaul makes it so you activate the plant, the model disappears and you get the ingredient in your inventory just like in Skyrim.

Below are some screenshots I took of my current adventure in overhauled Morrowind as a Dark Elf mage.

MGE Screenshot 007 MGE Screenshot 010  MGE Screenshot 003MGE Screenshot 011

Free-to-Play vs Subscription

Free-to-play business models have become very popular as of the last few years, not just for MMOs, but for other genres too. We’ve all seen games that we once paid for become available to all.

During the ESO beta I read literally thousands of complaints about the game not being free-to-play, I’m actually amazed that people have already come to expect their games to just be free by now.

Personally I am still a fan of subscriptions for MMOs. I would rather pay monthly to not have to worry about paying to get ahead of other players with microtransactions – cosmetics, XP boosters, etc. Most companies don’t adopt any kind of pay-to-win microtransactions but the pressure is still always there to buy the better or prettier items from the cash shop.

WoW_Store

WoW’s infamous in-game store.

Some subscription games offer a cash shop as well as having to pay monthly for the game which I find completely unnecessary. I agree with having to pay for account services such as character name change, character re-customization, but people shouldn’t be extorted with an in-game shop if they are already paying monthly.

Subscription games also keep out undesirable players such as troll accounts, gold sellers and cheaters, no one wants to pay and subscribe to a game just to be banned or ignored by every player.

The need for games to change from subscription to free-to-play is something that has affected all games, in all genres and I’m sure it will keep happening until there are no more subscription models – just look at Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning; the only big-name western MMO (besides WoW) to refuse to go free-to-play and now it’s shut down forever.

Guild Wars 2 is pay once, but supported by microtransactions.

Guild Wars 2 is pay once, but supported by microtransactions.

One of the key features that I think free-to-play has going for it is that people with little money can play the game for free because rich people subsidize them by buying microtransactions which make their game experience better. Where as subscription games have all players paying an equal amount regardless of their economic background, no one gets extra items or an advantage just because they have more money to blow – and personally, this model shares my political ideals; I’d prefer to know that everyone is on a level playing field.

However, free-to-play games are free of the mental stress of knowing you paid for game time and now you feel pressured to make the most out of it.

I think subscriptions for popular MMOs will still be around a while longer, but many new games from other genres will continue to adopt free-to-play/microtransaction models upon release.

Review: State of Decay

State of Decay brings a new style of gameplay to the zombie game scene, incorporating third person action, RPG and community/resource management into a nice open-world zombie survival game.

2014-03-06_00020In the game, you control a single character at a time and can switch to others when you become friends with them. Each character has their own inventory and stats and traits that may help your community. For example, some survivors might of been a vet or doctor before the outbreak and can use the communities medical supplies more efficiently.

Your community is a collection of survivors who have banded together and found a defendable home to live in, you can upgrade your home base using resources you scavenge in the world and find new survivors to recruit into your community as well as help other established communities and organize resource trades with them.

shedfightThe game is entirely single player but the developers have tried to give the game a more dynamic feel by making events happen in your game while you’re not playing it. I’m not too sure how I feel about this, it does make things more interesting but I don’t like having that lack of control in a single player game.

Lily, your communities’ radio girl, will advise you about current events and distress signals that are happening in the world. These may include; nearby hordes that need to be wiped out, a survivor in trouble, a community member that needs help with a task, a sighting of an infestation that needs to be dealt with or even a friend at home base that needs help with their depression or anger issues.

missionWhile not completing tasks and story missions you will usually find yourself exploring and looking for resources to take back home. Food tends to disappear the quickest, especially when you have a large home population, so building a garden at home or finding a reliable source of food and building an outpost there is a must.

Characters can also specialize in certain fields such as blunt weapons, edged weapons or rifles, etc. Some characters will naturally be better at certain weapons or abilities depending on their traits… the main character I used was an alcoholic and she could not increase her ‘Wits’ stats at all because of that.

2014-03-02_00001Cars are also a big part of the game, after a while of gameplay you will notice that you eventually run out of cars if you don’t start returning them to your home base after you use them. Vehicles can be an amazing zombie killing tool but can get damaged easily after running down a few hordes, so it’s always good to build a proper workshop at home and have a mechanic to repair the good cars you find.

When your community gets too large you will tend to have more problems with survivors not getting along with each other and various mental problems some survivors are having, offenders can be evicted if you don’t feel like having to deal with them and sick or dying people can even be mercy killed before they turn. Finding a bigger and better home is always something that should be on the smart survivalist’s mind when exploring.

uiThe currency of the game is influence and can be spent at community homes to buy items out of their supply locker as well as support while outside of home such as artillery strikes and car delivery. A community with well built facilities will tend to produce more items in their supply locker each day.

When your character dies, you will have to play another character back at home whom you have made friends with – if you have no other player characters you respawn as a new recruit to the community with a few starting items.

2014-03-06_00003My biggest issue with the game would have to be the graphics. It’s not the overall quality that annoys me, but in certain locations with certain lightning I find it very hard to see which was really off-putting for me. I also had quite a few bugs that made my game’s story behave very weird, luckily I was still able to finish it.

The game also has a DLC called ‘Breakdown’ which adds a never-ending gamemode that allows the player a bit more freedom than in the original game, however it should be played after you have finished the main story.

I enjoyed the originality of State of Decay, I felt like I really got attached to the characters I found in the game as well as my own which is rare for a sandbox-type game and I enjoyed being able to play with a community/home management system while also getting to play in an immersive third person action RPG. Unfortunately the graphics were bad enough to make me feel ill at times.

I give State of Decay 7.5/10.

Review: Shadowrun Returns

If you’re unfamiliar with the Shadowrun universe, it’s set in future earth and incorporates both cyberpunk and fantasy elements. Before now, Shadowrun has been a very popular tabletop game, an action RPG on the Sega Genesis and even a team-based multiplayer FPS.

Thanks to Kickstarter, Shadowrun has returned as a traditional isometric-style RPG that plays very similar to the old Fallout games, with combat that feels like it’s out of the XCOM games.

2014-03-25_00005Character creation involves choosing your class and race, in the Shadowrun universe you can be a Human, Elf, Troll, Orc or Dwarf, each of which have their own unique restrictions and perks associated with them, for example, Trolls and Orcs tend to make terrible Deckers or Riggers because of the high intelligence required, however they start with more HP and are better at strength-based abilities.

Your class choice has a huge impact on how you will be playing the game in combat situations. The classes include;

  • Street Samurai, master of weapons, both melee and ranged.
  • Mage, master of magic and magical support.
  • Decker, master of the matrix (cyberspace).
  • Shaman, master of the spirits, summoning and magical support.
  • Rigger, master of mechanical drones and engineering.
  • Physical Adept, master of unarmed and chi magic.

2014-03-19_00001Regardless of which class you choose at the start of the game, you can always later specialize in a different field of skills, your class mostly just affects your starting stats.

Gameplay outside of combat is in real time, you control your character by clicking where you want to move or what you want to interact with, if you have companions they will automatically follow you.

During combat, the game becomes turn based. Each character in the fight has a certain number of action points they can use during their turn. For example if you have 3 AP you could choose to run to cover, fire a burst of bullets with your SMG and then cast a heal spell on one of your friends.

2014-03-25_00006Rather than having a leveling and experience points system, Shadowrun Returns simply rewards players with karma points for completing tasks which they can spend on leveling up their skills.

Although Shadowrun Returns is an RPG, it doesn’t quite incorporate all of the elements of freedom that most RPGs have. For example, you cannot go back to areas you have already been or choose what order to do certain tasks in. The main campaign follows quite closely to the story with very few side missions.

While on an actual mission you are given a fair amount of freedom in regards to how you accomplish your tasks… will you open the door by jacking into the matrix, battling security programs and finding the door controls, will you fight your way in meatspace to the door switch, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake… or will you simply get your break down the door because you’re a giant troll with ridiculous strength?

2014-03-25_00003The game has a lovely soundtrack with a real cyberpunk feel to it. There is no voice acting though, so if you aren’t a big fan of reading dialogue you may find that off-putting.

I found the story to be absolutely amazing! It was probably the best story I’ve experienced in an RPG thus far. My only issue is that it ended after 10 hours of gameplay and I felt like I had not fully developed my character yet and that there was still a lot of things I wanted to try. But I suppose 10 hours of gameplay isn’t bad considering the game comes with a built in module/map editor and there are loads of modules on the Steam Workshop.

If you’re looking for a more freedom-based experience with this game, I recommend getting the module ‘Shadowrun Unlimited’ from the Workshop.

Overall, I really liked this game, it has just about everything I look for in an RPG. It lacks a bit of freedom in the default campaign, but makes up for it with modding tools.

I give Shadowrun Returns 8/10.