Glee! Re: Spore “Your MacBook will be fine.” Oh boy oh boy.
I’m 100 puzzles into Professor Layton and I have that must-continue-playing Jones that means there will be terrible withdrawl symptoms once the game ends and I have to wait for the promised sequel. One DLC puzzle a week is simply not enough. Where I expected to find pain and eye-roll moments with the story… well I still find those, but it isn’t as bad as I expected. The overlying narrative is (so far) interesting enough to not make me hate it, although they do like to stretch the puzzle-giving reasoning at times. Did I expect something with some sort of philosophical themes when I entered? No, and I may not get it but it seems like it may be coming, so that’s enough to keep me going.
My coworker and friend Jim Preston has a fantastic article up at Gamasutra. It features the phrase “cultural bowel obstruction”. If that isn’t enough to get you to click through, then you are lost dear reader. It beats the piss out of my earlier argument.
I caught a cold or something this past weekend which gave me ample time to do nothing* but game. Take that chores!
Eternal Sonata is surprisingly great. It channels all of the good things about Final Fantasy 9 and gets rid of some of the bad: load times, Vaseline-smeared graphics, random battles. It is still burdened by some of the most overwrought prose one can imagine, but that is sort of endemic of the Japanese flavor of the genre. Seriously, what screenwriting class did these folks take that said it was okay to open with a voice over meditation on seasonal changes from a narrator?
But overall, it’s very enjoyable. The light/dark battle mechanic could have been absolutely terrible, but it was executed excellently. The characters really pop off the screen and while they satisfy a lot of the JRPG tropes, they aren’t overly annoying. The cutscenes still allow you to get a sandwich and take a nap during them (kidding), but at least they make more sense than the internally-inconsistent hand-waving kid-playing-with-action-figures of FFXII.
So if you’ve been avoiding it because of the average reviews, yet you like the genre, I highly suggest picking it up. I’m about eight hours in and I’ll probably try and finish it. Word of warning: the first two bosses are ridiculously hard until you understand the battle mechanic. It’s truly a trial by fire, but the game gets a lot easier after that.
*I did take a trip to the local evil game store to pick up a Cobalt Blue DS (They had a promotion where I could trade in my old `n busted Phat and get the new Cobalt for $80. Since the battery was weak on the Cobalt, this was a no-brainer. I also got my hands on Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I won’t spoil anything, but if you like solving puzzles, get your hands on this. It’s the early front-runner for Game of the Year, largely because it has no competition, but also on its own merits.
I’m trying to get shit together for my GDC trip this week, so I need to do two weeks of work in one, so I doubt I’ll be posting much this week unless I see something awesome I want to comment on. I know its a death knell for blogs to take a break, but this ain’t my day job.
My post on my favorite achievements was one of the most read on the site, thanks to some gracious external linking. It is a topic I am somewhat passionate about because I feel achievements provide a real carrot-stick structure that a lot of hardcore players care about. And when they are motivated to keep playing your game for the reason that they are having fun, well that’s the point, isn’t it?
Now well I find Lionhead games to be… less than I would expect, I was pleased to see this developer blog from the guy behind the achievements on Fable 2, Mike West. The guy clearly gets what makes achievements useful to designers – they extend gameplay to reward players for playing the game in both expected and unexpected ways. He justifiably scorns Mass Effect‘s achievements as pointless grinding, which they were. I would add that they offer no supplement to either external story or intrinsic gameplay.
I’ll reserve my judgment on Fable 2 (I remain greatly skeptical that one can tell a good story when it is framed by trite decisions that neatly fall into categories of either melodramatic good or reasonless evil) for when it hits, but I’m glad to see that their heart is in the right place for achievements. Most teams when presented with the achievements hammer, toss it aside and drive the nails that are the players’ interest curves in with their bare hands.