“Match 3″ style games are very popular, but I’m often frustrated when playing them. Let’s discuss why.
The two I’ve been playing most recently are PuzzleQuest and the new Ron Gilbert game, Scurvy Scallywags. Scurvy Scallywags is relatively casual, so I’ll focus on PuzzleQuest. All match-3 games suffer from the problem that frustrates me, though.
The issue is an overuse of random dice rolls. The manifestation of this in PuzzleQuest is that the computer enemy can randomly attack you if the random rolls result in chain attacks. This is terribly frustrating, especially in PuzzleQuest where it feels like you’re supposed to be strategizing more.
Lets think about this from a higher level. How does a “turn” work in each of these games? (more…)
I was playing Skyrim the other day and and interesting game mechanic occurred to me. Skyrim has instances of this mechanic, but Minecraft makes great use of it…
Imagine you’re playing Skyrim, and you have decide to take up archery. So you get a bow and a number of arrows. You then find a practice dummy, and fire a handful of practice shots. Every arrow you shoot can be found again and picked up. And it brings me great joy to do so.
It is truly pleasing to be able to go an fetch an arrow I’ve shot. It is an incredibly simple thing, but it’s quite possibly my favorite activity when playing Skyrim. Perhaps it’s because it’s relatively uncommon for this “Conservation of Mass” feature to exist in a game.
The results when adventuring in Skyrim are disappointing, unfortunately. Arrows you shoot into your enemies are not guaranteed to be picked up. Each time I kill a monster with one shot – something requiring some skill – I run up to the fresh corpse for my loot, and discover that apparently my shot was so good that the arrow disintegrated upon striking the target. sad…
Minecraft has a similar issue with arrows, but the bigger part of the gameplay – the building – is all about conservation of mass. The world you see when you enter the game, for the most part, will be completely conserved as you play the game. You can pick up the ground, the water, and the trees. That delightful “pop” as the world is converted from mass to inventory, and that “thump” as it is returned – cocaine.
The human in me is satisfied by a world that behaves this way. It’s comforting to know that I could move that mountain if I wanted to.
hmm… I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim lately, but now I want to play Minecraft…
I just went to Best Buy at Santana Row (in San Jose) to pick up a game I bought online. I didn’t expect it to be a learning experience, but it was. I learned that I should not shop at Best Buy.
Just a few numbers from the experience:
- Time of arrival at Best Buy - 8:30 pm Sunday, November 23rd
- Amount of money spent at Best Buy – $8.65
- Time spent browsing in the store – 20 minutes
- Number of people in line when I got in the “Store Pick up” line – 2 (not counting myself)
- Number of people who cut in line while I was waiting - 1
- Number of people at the counter serving people - 1
- Time it took for me to get to the front of the line – 30 minutes
- Time it took for me to give the girl my name, and for her to find my item – approximately 2 minutes
- Time of departure from Best Buy – 9:25 pm
I waited in line for 30 minutes so I could get my $8 game, and I will not be going back. Best Buy got a little bit of money from me and alienated me as a customer.
Compare that to the fact that I spent about $100 on Steam this week during which I was visiting with my family for Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to wait in line, got what I as a customer consider some great deals, and was left feeling very happy.
My experience with Amazon this week was much like Steam. Great buys and I’m happy about the whole experience.
Man I love the internet.
Alright, it’s not a true roguelike in that it’s not turn based and you can continue after death if you want, but there’s no need to split hairs. Transcendence is really fun. And it’s free.
I might describe it as “Diablo in space”. You’ve got a randomly generated “Dungeon”, where it’s a series of solar systems connected by star gates. You pick one of three ship classes, and you fly around, kill stuff, collect the loot, and upgrade your ship. There’s even a bit of a storyline and a pretty well fleshed out universe.
The graphics might be considered a little simple, but if you can get over that there’s a really compelling game underneath. Something that’s well worth the zero dollars you have to pay for it. I highly recommend it.
I just finished playing Final Fantasy XIII. I say “finished playing” because I “finished” it two weeks before. I haven’t enjoyed the extra content in a Final Fantasy since Final Fantasy VII. I think it helped a lot that I essentially skipped Final Fantasy XII. I played about 4 hours, felt overwhelmed, and quit.
I have a single tip for anyone who is getting tired of JRPGs, but would still like to get through Final Fantasy XIII:
Read the Datalog
I think there is a lot of storyline lost in translation. Reading through the story recaps every once in a while will get you back on track. Also note that the character biographies change as the story progresses. It’ll put an exclamation mark next to the new stuff, though. I essentially made it my goal to make all the exclamation marks go away. It’s felt like storyline upkeep to me, almost.
Anyways, just wanted to mention that. I approve of the game’s responsiveness, too. All the previous Final Fantasies had too many black screens while things loaded. Apparently all I needed was a menu that loaded in a reasonable amount of time…
I have been playing a lot of Rogue clones lately. Since the original Rogue is all ASCII and keyboard controlled, it’s a bit hard to just jump in and play. I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the Roguelike games I played as I gradually learned to play. If you’ve never played Rogue before, and you’d like to try it, this list should be a good starting point. It will start you with full mouse control and work all the way towards full keyboard control.
Info About Rogue
- Rogue is a dungeon crawler game. Your general goal is to collect gold and items and defeat monsters as you descend the floors of the Dungeon of Doom. The ultimate goal was originally to find the Amulet of Yendor.
- Rogue was created in the early 80s. Check out the wiki if you want to read about it.
- Rogue is turn-based, which is usually synonymous with slow in the gaming world. With Rogue, though, once you are used to the keyboard commands it can play really fast.
- There are a ton of Rogue clones, termed “roguelike” games. I built a timeline of the more famous ones here.
- You get one life. When you die, you have to start from the beginning.
- Most roguelikes are free, and a lot of them are open source.
I was looking through the wiki for Rogue the other day and though it would be interesting to see a timeline of the major Rogue clones. So I made a little chart as an exercise (and now I know what I need to play). I’ll let it speak for itself:
A Brief Timeline of Rogue Clones
So I finally sat down with Rogue, the game from the early 80s that was the inspiration for many of the Dungeon Crawlers I’ve played over the years. It started with Desktop Dungeons, which I spotted on my TIGSource RSS feed. It’s easy to play, but tricky to master, and it has a surprising amount of depth. Most of the Rogue aficionados would probably scoff at its use of graphics, but it makes it easier for noobs like me.
So I played that for a bit (I’m still working through the different classes, actually), and then I thought “Maybe Rogue is on the iPhone…”. Of course it is! In fact, there’s a free version called simply “Rogue” by Gandreas Software that’s pretty good, and Rogue Touch was $0.99 a few days ago so I picked that up, too. So far I’ve played Rogue Touch more, but I think it’s because I have some “I bought it so I better play it” guilt. The free Rogue has the classic ascii graphics, an interesting glyph-based (you draw commands on a 9×9 grid) interface, and it’s a bit faster to play. Rogue Touch seems a little bit easy compared to the Gandreas version, but maybe it’s just me.
Anyways, now that I’m finally playing it, I can understand why it was so hot when it came out. I’m also starting to understand why some people prefer the ascii version. It’s a lot faster, like vi compared to Word. I’ll probably gravitate in that direction once I get a better feel for it.
I recently built a cocktail arcade cabinet from scratch. I talked about fabrication previously, and I’d like to outline the software I’ve got on it for those who are interested. It wasn’t an dead-simple setup since emulators all have different interfaces, but I ended up with a setup that’s relatively streamlined.
It’s important to figure out what emulators you want. I had decided that I wanted the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles, as well as MAME. I don’t have any analog controls, so anything requiring that was out of the question. My primary goal was a cabinet that would play Donkey Kong, but I wanted the ability to play other things as well. My final list of emulators was as follows:
I had a really good time with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is very similar, except for one game-breaking issue.
In Warlords, the gameplay is largely strategic, except for the fact that you don’t know which pieces are going to slide in when you make a match. This was the only real flaw in the game for me. I’d make a match, then a bunch of attack pieces would slide in and the computer would get a free strike on me. The good news was that you could mitigate this frustration a bit by matching pieces in areas where there weren’t attack pieces. As long as a full match wasn’t randomly inserted, you’d be ok. A bit awkward, but the rest of the game was so good I could overlook this little flaw.
Galactrix goes with hexagonal pieces instead of square. This make for more possible moves. The problem is that the pieces can now come into the board from all sides. With the board being so small, it amplifies the issue from Warlords. If there are attack pieces on the board, chances are any move you make will result in a random attack piece coming in and the computer getting a free strike. What interesting is the better you play (the longer your combos), the more random pieces slide in, and the more chance you have of giving the computer a free attack.
I played Galactrix for a few hours over the course of two days. My final 10 games were against the same ship that kept winning because of random pieces. After that, I quit and uninstalled it. I really really really wanted to like it but based on the number of swear words that came out of my mouth, I wasn’t enjoying myself.
I’m still in on the next Puzzle Quest, though. Hopefully they’ll come up with a way to remove the randomness so I can strategize a bit more.