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Project Spark

We just discovered an awesome little game/tool called Project Spark.  I remember back at E3 they showed off this new tool that would allow players to create their own games, build their own worlds, and (hyperbole) revolutionize the way games are played.  Well, it’s now available for people to try on Xbox One and Windows 8.

I was skeptical, but after playing around for a few hours I am totally loving what this thing can do.  I’ll try and explain a very broad overview of Project Spark, but you really need to watch the video I made to truly understand.  It’s a long one, so use the times below to jump to different parts that may interest you:

  • Creative mode (01:30-12:25)
  • Someone made the Original Fable RPG (12:31)
  • Pinball (17:47)

Project Spark Create ModeCreate Mode

The possibilities in Create Mode aren’t endless, but they are closer than anything else I’ve experienced.  Creating any kind of game from a platformer to a fully realized RPG is as simple as hand-crafting the terran, adding props, and “scripting” (Koding, as Project Spark likes to call it) the gameplay.  Utilize Kode is simple because everything is built with intuitive ‘when’ and ‘do’ statements.  When X occurs, do Y.  The interface offers visual cues to follow, and if you have any experience playing games you will know what to look for when trying to make the game play how you would expect.

Add, subtract, expand, erode, smooth, blockify — it’s all there.  After playing EverQuest Landmark for so long, I felt like Project Spark was almost too easy.  Not that Landmark makes things difficult, but Project Spark’s terrain tools are so natural feeling that I really sort of with Landmark could be this easy.  Project Spark’s limitations are really only in what props can be placed.

Project Spark Zombie GamePlay Mode

Play everything from a fully realized RPG, 3D platformers like Mario 64, or side-scrollers like Donkey Kong.  All of these can be made in the create mode then be shared and played.  I get a huge Warcraft 3 custom game vibe from Play Mode.  Looking at all the Tower Defense, Defend the point, and mini-RPGs out there it’s like the perfect ‘game’ to play when you are itching for that custom map experience.

Marketplace

Project Spark is free to play, so the developers are making their money via a marketplace.  You can buy tokens or earn credits.  Both will let you buy assets to use in-game when building.  You can buy individual props (everything from barrels to characters like a Knight) or new textures.  You can buy entire packages to make castles, new spell effects, new abilities, sounds, etc.  If you are serious about making games and love to get feedback from people who vote on them, etc., then you will love Project Spark’s marketplace.  I’m unsure as to whether or not there will be monetization for people to be able to sell their creations or not.

Check out the video above for a more in-depth look at Project Spark.

Quick Thoughts on Dark Souls 2

I’m a big fan of the Dark Souls games, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Dark Souls 2.  I’ve only put in around 15 hours so I haven’t seen too much of the game yet. Had I not gotten the game two days late and restarted my character five times I would probably be farther along. Still, there’s a lot of interesting changes worth noting, both positive and negative.

Spells Require Stamina

This is actually a pretty big deal. Your spells still have a limited number of charges but they also require stamina to use. So after you run away or roll to the side to avoid a nasty blow you have to regain enough stamina to cast your spells. This is pretty much why I decided not to try playing a caster on my first go through.

Cool New Covenants

I really like most of the new Covenants they added to the game. There is a decent mix of co-op and pvp along with some new PvE covenants. There’s a Champion one, for example, that makes the game more difficult and disables all summoning so you have to do it yourself. Another interesting one is the Blue Sentinals, a PVP covenant that summons people to defend members of the Way of the Blue co-op covenant when they get invaded by enemy players.

Soul Memory

This a record of all the souls you have acquired. I believe the idea of it is to prevent people from making low-level characters with powerful gear to invade the worlds of new players. Some people also claim that this prevents co-op summoning if the range is above 500k or something like that. It seems that nobody is exactly sure about the mechanics of this but it sure is bothering a lot of people. [Read more...]

South Park: The Stick of Truth

south-park-stick-of-truth

The new South Park RPG comes out today and we were lucky enough to get an early review copy from Ubisoft. It probably goes without saying that the game is full of violence, cursing, and a whole lot of other offensive content, but it’s South Park so that should be fairly obvious by now. The show has been on for over 15 years or something, so I’m sure most people who would complain about anything are probably burnt out by now. But hey, at least it seems like they go out of their way to insult everybody rather than any specific thing.

cartman-the-stick-of-truthPresentation and Story

The Stick of Truth looks pretty much just like the TV show. Admittedly, I’ve only seen sporadic episodes from the first several seasons but they seemed to replicate the aesthetic rather well. The music is also fantastic and features a lot of pieces that fit really well with the fantasy motif. As far as I can tell all of the voice actors seem to be the same people that do the TV show, and the whole game seems stuffed with various cameos and references.

In the beginning you take on the role of the “New Kid” and create your very own South Park character. The creation is fairly limited but you are able to pick from several hair styles and colors, a base outfit, and even skin color (Which does influence a few conversations in a way I’m sure you can imagine.). Once you are in the game you can wobble around and explore your environment which consists of parts of South Park (Some neighborhood streets, downtown, etc.). Almost immediately you will find your way over to Cartman’s backyard and be asked by the grand wizard himself to join the KKK — the Kingdom of Kupa Keep. It’s then that you get to choose between one of four classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew. I’m actually very curious as to how many people do a double take at that point in the game. Anyway, through most of the game you will essentially be taking part of the kids’ fantasy game that has the humans and drow elves waging war over the fate of The Stick of Truth which grants the bearer powers over the universe. [Read more...]

The Second Half of Bravely Default: How to Almost Ruin a Great Game

*NOTE* If you at all care about spoilers then you might not want to read this. I’m going to try and be as vague as possible but read at your own risk.

Bravely Default ReviewI just completed Bravely Default a few minutes ago and I’m left feeling mixed emotions. Not because I’m sad that it’s over or because I found the ending good or bad, but because I can’t quite decide how I felt about the experience as a whole. Earlier I made a post about game length, and at that point I was near the end of the game’s fourth chapter and around 40 hours in. To be completely honest I think the game should have ended maybe a little after that.

The problem with the second half of Bravely Default is that for some unknown, but assuredly unbelievably stupid, reason they decided to make the final 4 chapters a quicky version of the first four. I don’t mean as a whole, either. Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 have you very quickly replaying the events of the first four chapters FOUR additional times just at a quicker pace. All of the side missions are just to defeat the bosses you already defeated but the main goal is to awaken every crystal again. All of this happens with very little dialogue change as well. I won’t bother going into the details of why this is happening in the narrative but that wouldn’t be an excuse for it anyway. A game that has you replay content over and over until it makes you ill can’t be justified even if it fits within the story. I mean, even the characters start to remark about the ridiculousness of this.

I feel conflicted because I still really enjoyed the game. The combat and jobs and all other aspects of the game are top notch. I just cannot understand why they felt the need to pad the game out with extreme levels of repetitiveness. Bravely Default seems to have received many great reviews but I have to wonder how many of them only take into account the first half of the game and not the whole experience. I won’t say that Bravely Default is a bad game because it really isn’t. However I think the second half of the game keeps it from being truly exceptional.

Unexpected side effect: I think I finally understand why Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day started to lose his mind.

First Impressions of Bravely Default

bravely-default-boxartI’ve been playing a lot of Bravely Default these past few days. So far it has been a very positive experience and is almost certainly the best 3DS RPG I’ve played. Rather than wait dozens of hours until I finish and possibly review it I decided I’d offer some fist impressions of the game. Most of it is good stuff but there are a few things that are starting to irk me.

Beautiful visuals. The little chibi characters are cute and funny but I’m actually more impressed with the backgrounds. The cities you run around in have a very interesting look to them. They have a somewhat hand-drawn look to them like they were pulled straight out of a fantasy/fairytale book and presented in a three-dimensional papercrafty sort of way. Maybe that’s not a great way to describe but it does look very nice.

The BRAVE and DEFAULT combat system is actually pretty interesting. Choosing to default acts somewhat like a guard and prevents some damage done to you while also giving BP. Most regular actions require at least one BP but if you choose to you can BRAVE to gain additional actions for that turn. You can even go into debt and take extra points that your current BP doesn’t cover. You may have to skip a few turns if you go negative but it lets you do several different actions in 1 turn. The battle system gives you a lot of strategic options and there are several fights where you need to make smart use of the system.

Tons of jobs. The game uses classic final fantasy jobs and they are awesome. You acquire new jobs by defeating the holder of the current job asterisk which then lets you adopt that job. Along with exp that increases your regular level you get JP to increase your job level. Higher job levels give you more abilities to use, both active and passive. Another really cool thing you get to do is equip a second set of job abilities. So if you are a thief, for example, you could also equip white mage abilities. Then there are the passive abilities that can be equipped which leads to a whole lot more cross-job awesomeness. Sometimes you might want to get several levels in a job just for ONE specific ability which might help out another job.

A world map and airship! I can’t remember the last time we got both of these things. It’s funny how this isn’t technically a Final Fantasy game and yet it is the best Final Fantasy game in many, many years.

Most of my negatives seem to revolve around the village rebuilding mechanic.

bravely-defaultIn order to build up your village, which is required to unlock a lot of stuff, you need to devote workers and real time to build them. It’s a similar mechanic to a lot of iOS games where it might take 10 real hours to build something. Fortunately you can attach additional workers to make it go faster but this is still the kind of mechanic that I was hoping to never see on portable systems. I absolutely hate this kind of progression.

In order to get more workers for your village you need streetpasses, which I’m liking to rarely ever see in North America unless I attend a convention. You do get 3-5 workers per server day if you connect online but it’s still somewhat frustrating. I’m not a big fan of the streetpass feature at all.

For time to pass you need to have your 3DS on or in sleep mode. It’s not like animal crossing where time passes whether you are powered on or not. Sure, they may be entirely different kinds of games but they both still deal with the passing of real time. I’m not personally a fan of leaving my electronics in sleep mode for long periods of time especially when I sometimes might not play my 3DS for weeks at a time. So if I want to chip away at some of these buildings that take 99 hours to build then I need to have the system at least in sleep mode.

Really most of my complaints are just a small aspect of the game and some just boil down to personal preference. Bravely Default is still an incredibly fantastic game from what I’ve seen so far. If you have a 3DS you should definitely check it out.