Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sh*tstarter (Quite Literally) - Bathroom Simulator


*Deleted the video because it's autoplay was going off when I was editing my template CONSTANTLY and multiple times layering over itself - go watch it at their kickstarter instead. Or not, because... well it's awful.*
"Have you ever wanted to pick up your poop and throw it at the wall?"
"Oh, well, we have. Quite a few times actually."
You must be bored.
"Come to think of it, I think we've thought of doing that a lot more than we should have.... Anyways, Bathroom Simulator is the game where you can do that."

This pretty much sums up the limited vision of today's Kickstarter project. I'm not going to sugar coat the pill in this scenario; I don't need to play this to know that it's simply... pure crap. From what I can see, the aim of the game is to complete pointless challenges requiring you to balance your poop on objects around a small bathroom. This is actually based on the Half-Life fan-fiction which delves into the secret toilet habits of Gordon Freeman. Sadly this isn't the case, but christ it would've been better if it was.

In the same vein as physics-based games such as OctodadGoat Simulator and I am BreadBathroom Simulator attempts to cast off the shackles of modern game design and instead put emphasis on the manipulation of the core mechanics in order to achieve a purist level of interactivity. Except that it fails... fails a lot. I could be fair by stating that this is an early first impression of an unfinished product... but, nah. Sometimes you just know a bad egg when you see one... and smell one (poop/fart joke).

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy an immature fart joke every now and again and I don't think game design creativity should be confined within the face-painted, and glitter-coated boundaries of a PEGI 3 rating - but Bathroom Simulator isn't big or clever. It's not even necessarily a disgusting looking game as you'll note whilst watching the video. The faeces resembles little more than an extremely flexible and bouncy brown dildo and the concept is beyond puerile and therefore limited in it's comedic scope. I am Bread's concept wasn't funny, weird - yes, but not funny. What's funny about putting bread in a toaster? It's not the concept but instead the finely tuned mechanics and physics engine that spawns the hilarity.

Oh sorry, were you wondering why I hadn't really mentioned anything about the game content itself? That's because the quotes at the beginning of this article pretty much sum it up and to be honest you'll get more out of watching the video yourself. Even ignoring the puerile nature of this game, boiling it down to it's core: you have to wonder how many hours of gameplay will there actually be? Balance poop on the shower. Check. Put poop in the sink. Check (achievement unlocked). Do another poop. Check. The possibilities are endless (sarcasm - the possibilities will indeed end). This next headline from the Kickstarter guesses (correctly) what you're probably thinking:

This game exists purely as YouTube fodder, which in principle isn't something I'm against at all. I've enjoyed many videos of my favourite internet personalities awkwardly stumbling through Octodad or yelling profanities as they launch their slice of bread from the kitchen surface in I am Bread, but these examples had a sense of accomplishment. Attempting to put a basket over the head of an NPC in Skyrim is probably more engaging than the experience Bathroom Simulator hopes to offer.

The funding goal is $800 which is mainly for sound effects and music apparently along with 'finishing the other bathrooms' which is as vague a breakdown as most campaigns I suppose. Here are my thoughts on the stretch goals:

-$2,000: The graphics are the least of your shitty problems, in fact your okay graphics are all you've got going for you at the minute... although a better poop texture wouldn't go amiss.
-$3,000: Pewdiepie isn't playing your stupid game on his Oculus mate.
-$5,000: I'm sorry, but there's no way you're getting this on console. Nope.

This has been one of my more tactless first impressions of a Kickstarter project. I'm not offering any constructive criticism or useable feedback today. I'd rather fund a Flappy Bird clone. -oP

Bathroom Simulator on Kickstarter

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Missed the Mark: Grifta - Morphing Gamepad (Kickstarter)

Today I'm looking at a Kickstarter for an all-purpose, customisable gaming peripheral (customisable means that it comes in bits). The Grifta is ultimately a gaming peripheral version of the Power Ranger Megazords. I believe that whilst this isn't a bad Kickstarter campaign, the product isn't as innovative as the creator thinks it is, but it could be if pushed in the right direction. The Grifta is designed to do everything, which is why I think it's doomed to fail as it tries to fill a void in the peripheral market that doesn't really exist.

I'm not going to argue that  the Grifta isn't a decent controller (when the left and right hand side are combined to create a complete Ultrazord-style gamepad). I can't know for sure unless I use it, but for the sake of argument lets assume that it works and is ergonomic. Looking at the backer tiers, ignoring the limited early bird prices, you can see that the left hand unit costs £50 and the standard controller is £69. Also if you want it to work with your console it also costs £119 for the XIM4 bridge. It's a pretty ugly looking thing when it's put together in my opinion. Check out the rest of the tiers and add-ons on the Kickstarter page because there's too many to mention here so I'll just mention a select few.

The add-ons for mobile and tablet are pretty ludicrous. They'd look at home on an episode of Channel 5's The Gadget Show, but let's be realistic: who in their right mind is going to sit on public transport with custom controllers stuck on the side of their phone. Who is going to withdraw a custom 'selfie stick' so that they can play their games at eye level. No one, it's stupid and impractical. My bag is already crammed full of things when travelling (including a specialised mobile gaming device - my 3DS), plus I'd like to be able to quickly put my phone away just before my stop rather than rush to dismantle a load of chunky plastic components. Let's not forget that mobile technology is changing all the time and personally I don't see the point in investing in peripherals for my phone, hell I don't even have a case. However, luckily the mobile elements are part of a more distant stretch goal than the infra-red module - which is one area I think this product should be focused.

Yes, the best part of this split controller design is its possible use with VR devices. Using the 'antler' motion sensor add-on, one half could be used with an Oculus Rift for weapon aiming, whilst the other is used for movement. Considering how VR development is progressing, I think the development of specialised controllers might be a more lucrative direction to head in (albeit risky, of course). Also, one handed controllers... What about options for gamers with disabilities? It seems like a missed opportunity to create an accessible peripheral for those who are handicapped.

Whilst manufacturing costs and logistics obviously play a part in the overall design, I think we've hit a pretty decent level of gamepad quality and in all honesty, things haven't changed that much in a long time - perhaps there's a reason.

"The triggers, buttons, joystick, and D-Pad are placed to suit the ergonomics of the human hand, and not for the convenience of a simple manufacturing package."

Sure the ergonomic benefits of the Grifta could out-shadow the competitors but after weighing up the whole package, is it worth it? Adding different size grips sounds nice on paper but if you really think about it do your existing gamepads really bother you that much? I guess it might be a case of: you won't know how crap your current peripheral is in comparison until you try this one, but for the sake of the extra money involved maybe ignorance is bliss.

"A flat gamepad can't compete. This controller is designed to provide performance and speed. You can even use it with your gaming mouse."

To be honest I disagree. Let's first look at the 'PC Master Race'. If you are a dedicated PC gamer, then it's a good bet that you've already found the perfect mouse and keyboard setup. In order to cover all bases, it's a common sight to also see cheap wired Xbox 360 controllers used for certain types of games. I haven't tried it with my PC, but I can also connect my PS3 controller to my Macbook if necessary with ease (and I assume the PS4 controller works as well). That's the beauty of modern peripherals - a driver here, a driver there and boom it works. I even plug my keyboard into my consoles sometimes (this helps for comms in Final Fantasy XIV). The important thing here is that in many cases, we already own the peripherals to do the job. Depending on the game, you would need to put the Grifta down in order to use the keyboard as well because I don't know about you guys, but I don't like to let go of the mouse in the middle of a firefight.

For most games a mouse and keyboard pretty much covers it. Although many console gamers may feel comfortable using a gamepad for First Person Shooters, it's widely accepted that a keyboard and mouse gives you much more control and accuracy. I doubt many PC-centric gamers would choose a gamepad over the tried and tested mouse and keyboard (even a bog-standard set). People craving a certain level of immersion can use joysticks and HOTAS (Hands-on Throttle and Stick) setups to have specialist control over the mechanics in Space/flight simulators, and if you're a driving enthusiast then you can get a cheap £25 wheel and pedals if necessary. There are affordable solutions for your specialist gaming needs, although if you have money to burn you could spend thousands on something like this cockpit.

Looking at the current consoles, Playstation joined the world of comfort with their latest Dualshock design and it feels good in your hands. The Xbox One controller retains the simplicity of the tried and tested 360 design, and whilst ergonomically superior to the PS3, it's arguably on-par with the PS4. Both the PS4 and WiiU have unique elements that the Grifta can't imitate, notably the touch pad and tablet element respectively plus the PS4 has a light bar designed for gameplay feedback and for locating players in your living room (don't forget the 6 axis motion sensors). The Grifta doesn't seem to have vibration, which may not matter to PC gamers as much, but if they expect console gamers to be OK with this, well... we may not think about it, but vibration is a form of gameplay feedback that affects the way we play, and I'd personally miss it. If it does vibrate then I can't see it mentioned anywhere. Unless it's a planned additional stretch goal expansion. Remember when you had to buy a rumble pack for you N64? This product is making me think of this scene from Naked Gun:

I'm not saying this is a bad Kickstarter campaign, I appreciate seeing experimentation with gaming peripheral design, but that's exactly what it comes across as to me: an experiment, not a viable product. I believe those looking for specialist peripherals have a great selection available in a fairly consumer-friendly set of price ranges and those people looking for an all-purpose solution, well... try using a gamepad you already own or just stick with the trusty mouse and keyboard setup. If they don't get the funding I hope they rethink their brief and possibly focus on breaking the future VR peripheral market, rather than trying to fix what ain't broke. Oh, one final thought: how many chargers will I need for this thing? -oP


Product Website

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Our Destiny So Far

This began as a planned brief post about my thoughts about the BAFTA games nominations. When I starting writing about the 'Best Game' nomination I then began to rant a little bit too much about Destiny. It turned out that I simply had to put my opinion to paper, and so it warranted it's own article. So here: have some 100% Destiny 'What I think of it now' editorial. Win.

This year I have only played one game on the BAFTA 'Best Game' list: Destiny. I was very willing to defend Bungie's latest experiment at launch; many people didn't understand it and how the landscape of multiplayer gaming is changing and so lashed out. Some people expected a game reminiscent of the loot gathering, dungeon crawling Borderlands combined with the super-fun acrobatic gunplay and grenade tossing of Halo, bundled together in a massively multiplayer experience. Instead they got... well, something kind of difficult to define. I've played for a decent length of time and I appreciate it on a mechanical level, and even on it's Dark Souls-esque take on lore. I didn't mind checking online to read the 'grimoires', in fact it made me feel more engaged even though it was technically removing me from the gameplay experience.

As I kept playing it though, I felt more and more disengaged, although I will disclose that this may be due to all my friends playing it on PS4 while I'm stuck solo on PS3 (boo hoo). I haven't played any of the raids yet, and as it stands I can't for the foreseeable future unless I spend some time making internet Destiny buddies. Destiny is fun, no denying that, however is it £50 plus an extra £35 for the two currently announced 'expansions' worth of fun? You know what: I find it very easy to say no, for what you get I don't think so at all. In reality this game is small and repetitive, and I find myself rushing through it just to get shit done faster. That's not really a good sign, and it doesn't bode well for me personally as I get the same feeling whilst playing most MMOs.

I'll be honest I don't like referring to this new IP as an MMO; it may have MMO features such as a load of people ignoring each other (but occasionally dancing) in a shopping hub whilst buying stuff using basically 20 different types of currency, but it isn't massive and it's only sort of multiplayer some of the time. If anything, it's a faux MMO experience and in that respect whilst I don't think Destiny truly qualifies, it does well in creating an illusion.

As I said earlier, to me it feels like more of an experiment of which I will agree to be a part of for now, but I feel like an experiment on this scale shouldn't be making it's candidates purchase expensively minimal content so soon after launch. I'm not denying Destiny's technical achievement and it's artistic vision, I'm not diminishing the amount of work that's been put into producing a stable (for the most part) environment in which to shoot things with your buddies, and I am not saying the game isn't fun! But for some of us, we just can't invest all our time into one product and simultaneously justify such a large price-tag for what is in reality a 'small' game.

Personally it does just come down to money on this one. I'm not ignorant in the fact that Bungie/Activision has a large development team with associated costs but I don't think the product is worth it. Now, Destiny 2, or rather the second iteration of the franchise (of which I don't think would have the number two tagged onto it), might just be something special. However, we've got a while for that to become a 'thing', and by then the market might be a totally different place. To summarise: good game at it's FPS core, however even though I do enjoy a bit of space-wizardry, it's not a genre that fully works for me and certainly not worth the money. We as customers don't need to accept the way big publishers are carving out the DLC marketplace, especially when there are decent examples of developers and publishers who are continuously supporting their games with content that feels worthwhile for less. I know it's difficult to draw comparisons between the monetary worth of different game content, even on a purely £1-per-hour basis, because people will experience games in different ways for different length of time - but hey, this is my opinion.

For now though, since I do actually enjoy aspects of it I will play a little bit longer (to get my money's worth) and so l'll just have to be Bungie's lab rat until the new breed of 'MOBO' shooters hit the digital shelves, of which I am interested in - but that's a story for another time. -oP

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

First Impressions: Izzy's Revenge (Kickstarter)

Izzy's Revenge is a 2D platform game with beautiful hand drawn artwork - an aesthetic you don't see too often in games of this genre on Kickstarter. In fact I can imagine the artwork translating quite well into a steampunk point-and-click adventure. Yes I did say steampunk: "OMG take my money!" shouts everyone who likes steampunk (which is like, everyone isn't it?).

The story is set in the city of Steelbridge, named because, well there's a bridge made of steel in it. The city is governed by Sid (a big bad steampunk cyborg guy), who's influence of the other guild leaders ensures his control over industry and the economy. Whilst a world of airships may symbolise a world at the peak of it's industrial age, in reality Izzy's dad has made some cool blue light-sabery energy stuff that could tip the balance of power. The bad guys obviously don't quite agree with this, and have not only killed Izzy's father, but have also stolen all the cool light-sabery plans.

As the games title suggests, Izzy must fight her way to each guild boss and get vengeance for the death of her father. One of the main gameplay mechanics involves using an energy weapon which can change form in order to combat the various enemies you will encounter (some are shown in the Kickstarter video). There doesn't seem to be any media which shows the skill/weapon improvement mechanics but this is something that we will probably see more of in future updates I assume. There is also emphasis on the explorative nature of the level design, but I appreciate that it's difficult to see this without showing a large portion of uncut gameplay footage.

There is enough media on this Kickstarter to show that a lot of work has gone into the development, although they are only approximately a quarter the way through. Despite what this small team has achieved over the last year working part time, they have stated that without this funding the project cannot continue. A sad fact, one which I hope they will retract if the Kickstarter is unsuccessful because far too much work has been done to simply cast it aside.

Onto my thoughts of the Kickstarter itself: considering the goal is $55,000, I am curious to know how this money would be used as it isn't broken down on the page. After Kickstarter fees, and the costs of moving to Unity, this money won't go very far to pay the full-time wages of the developers and collaborators for a 2016 release. Despite this problem (which is mainly out of concern for the developers) and one other criticism, this is a well presented campaign and I hope that over the next 28 remaining days we see some more updates and content. The other criticism I mentioned is simply the English grammar HOWEVER the developers are from Valencia, Spain (I've been there - it's lovely!) and we shouldn't penalise them for this, I mean I've made no effort to learn Spanish have you?

Artwork is frequently given as a backer reward and more often then not I'm generally not bothered, but this is a rare occasion where I would actually appreciate a physical book of drawings (although it's a fair bit of money for that tier). It's also one of the highest tiers, but one reward is to have your face in a steampunk advertisement in the game. Which is cool if you have the cash.

At the time of writing there are 28 days left and $1,678 invested in Izzy's Revenge. Go take a look at the links below. Reminder: it's steampunk... Steampunk is cool.-oP


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Pixel Art Collage

I made a college of some of my pixel art in a comic book panel style. I think it's a pretty cool way to display them! I'm going to add to this in the future. -oP

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Five Nights at Freddy's 3 Added To Steam Greenlight

So the third part of the Five Nights at Freddy's is now on Steam Greenlight, and a teaser trailer can be watched below. FNAF was a minor phenomenon when it was released in august of 2014, and whether intentional or not, it captured the soul of the 'let's play' community for a brief time. It seemed to market itself, which was perfect for what I assume to be a very low budget production. I will disclose that I have not played any of these games yet, however I have watched enough of them to be able to have some sort of opinion. Being a seemingly short game with what seems like a limited replay value, I can understand why a sequel was released just 3 months later. Although it did seem strange that the release didn't capitalise on Halloween, being a horror game and all (although I know that it's classification as 'horror' is debated by some). I would guess that the developer didn't want to be smothered under larger studio's horror releases. So the timing of the first release was pretty a pretty smart move I would say, and after all: who isn't in the mood for horror all year round?

The second version of the game seemed to change the format just enough to get people interested again. Although it's pretty much the same thing, we could say the same about any major franchise such as Far Cry 4, which to me is little more than a re-skin of FC3 (harsh but fair I wold say). The way Scott Cawthon, the developer gets away with it, is by making it such a short, cheap game. I'm not trying to diminish his creative work at all, but the fact that this type of game has a very fast development cycle is perfect. Many hobbyists have recognised this as there are hundreds of fan games, and using limited assets you can recreate your own jump-scare-extravaganza. The love for this series won't last long and Scott knows this, and so it made sense to announce a third to capitalise while he can.

I've seen some hate for this series and a lot of love, although sometimes that's in the form of: *screams then laughs nervously* "haha. This game is dumb..." *keeps playing*. If the dev can pull it off and succeed in filling my YouTube recommended list with more thumbnails of not-so-cutesy animatronics and scare-cams, then hats off to you sir. Although I'm not really interested in playing it, I do enjoy watching certain people on YouTube shitting themselves. So thanks for that. All the creepy fan art though - um, you can have that back. -oP

Monday, 19 January 2015

Moonman - First Impressions

In a strange, nocturnal world a moonman is summoned by an ancient mollusc. It sends him to the seven farthest corners of the land to search for fallen moon fragments -- that will power a great star-machine.
This week I checked out the Kickstarter for Moonman, a procedurally generated 2D adventure game. In Moonman you must explore various different worlds looking for moon fragments so that you can turn a machine on or something. The Kickstarter doesn't focus on the lore, which is a good thing; in my opinion this can sometimes be an anti-retention trap that many failed campaigns fall into. Instead mechanics, environments and sprites galore are on display. Fans of Terraria and Starbound may appreciate the pixel art aesthetic and resource gathering and item crafting mechanics on offer. 

While Terraria and Starbound (currently) have a sandbox route of progression, Moonman has a set (albeit flexible) goal but still requires resource gathering and crafting along the way. Arguably one of the main engaging factors of open world sandbox experiences is that they allow you to write your own story, however I also find that this can be detrimental to some players. Without a clear goal, it can be difficult to focus and this can even stifle creativity (something I've experienced before in Minecraft). I enjoy a good sandbox to mess around in, and I think Moonman, whilst being visually similar to other games of this genre, looks like it will tick a box that others don't.

The Kickstarter itself is well written and concise, and shows a decent amount of content. The ratio of text to images is fairly balanced so I felt engaged whilst reading it all. I like pictures! It seems like a lot of work has already gone into the project before they decided to crowd-fund which in my opinion is the best way to encourage investors! There isn't a business-plan break down of where your money is going, but they do give you a rough idea of what it's for.

Much like the Kickstarter, I don't want to ramble on, so I'll let the pictures do the talking. All in all I like the look of the little green dude, plus I like this genre... Also hats, and a pig-face helps. Go check it out.-oP

Moonman Kickstarter
Moonman Website

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dungeon Burglars Gets Featured!

My first game won the game of the month award in October, and now it has also been featured on their website. This is quite a big deal for me and I'm very happy! If you haven't had a look, please go check out the game. It's totally free! Thanks if you have already tried it!

Dungeon Burglars featured on Game Salad


Saturday, 3 January 2015

Save The Game

In 2015 we need to #SaveTheGame.

2014 was a turbulent year for the gaming industry and community. It began almost as a blank canvas, with the new consoles sitting in people's living rooms ready for a year of shiny new IPs with shinier graphics. We have had some high notes, but even the biggest new IP of the year Destiny couldn't escape disappointing some. Nintendo had an awful start, with the reveal of their dismal financial report and failure to keep up in the 'console wars'. Many developers and publishers have had their fair share of scrutiny, and there were few weeks where news from the gaming industry did not feature a negative spotlight.

For most of 2014 we have had a snowballing, torrential downpour of controversy surrounding ethics in journalism, sexism, feminism and an absolutely unacceptable storm of perpetuated abuse and hatred towards various groups of people. The arguments and the hashtags have gone through quite a few evolutions but unfortunately the level of negativity has been consistent (and I don't think I need to say much more about this).

Crowdfunding, despite being an important business model for the indie community, resulted in disappointment for many backers as various projects ended abruptly or failed to meet expectations. The poorly managed finances of the Yogventures game arguably being one of the biggest stories, and Double Fine's sudden release of Spacebase DF-9 with a considerably shortened feature list was another. Not to mention a pile of AAA titles which were shipped buggy, and arguably unfinished, raised questions about the moral obligations of developers who offer $60 pre-orders, plus the ethically questionable review embargo's placed upon new releases. 

To top everything off, the new EU VAT regulations (#VATMOSS #VATMESS), have potentially crippled the finances and spirit of many small and independent developer and content creator. Not everything was awful in 2014, but the memory of last year has definitely been tarnished and upstaged by countless other negative events.

2015 needs to be about #SaveTheGame. I want to begin on a high, focusing on how we can make the future months better for all developers, content creators, and individuals who just love playing games. We need to spread a positive message, learn from the mistakes of last year and help each other. 

I propose we all support one another as creative people, nurture the new blood and reassure those who have already given many years to their industry as an indie. Sometimes all it takes is a retweet or a quick post on any social network; so let's support and co-promote each others projects. If all you can afford is a £1 donation to a Kickstarter or Patreon then go for it, you don't always need to meet a reward tier and you can always buy the game later when you can afford it. Talk to each other and if you like the look of a project then tell the developer, they will appreciate it and it could be the small pickup that they need. I don't want anyone to ignore the problems of the gaming industry, and I'm not suggesting you forget about what has happened, but I think it's important that we start spreading a positive message. 

#SaveTheGame is the hashtag I've started using, and I will associate it with all the promotion of my own, my friends and stranger's games, blogs, YouTube channels and any other content in the effort to spread good intention. Feel free to join me in using this, or spread your own message of goodwill but at the very least try to be good to each other. 

Let's have an awesome year. Thanks, and remember to #SaveTheGame. -oP

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Dark Souls #3

The continuing adventures of Jarvis in Dark Souls - this time we take on the taurus demon. I love this game! This is my first LP of it and if you have somehow never seen the game before, I hope this persuades you to try it!