Mochi First Impressions Game Review Mash-Up: Friday, July 31, 2009

Mochi First Impressions Game Review Mash-Up: Friday, July 31, 2009

I love games. Doing all of these reviews is starting to help bring back a little passion for games that I seem to have lost as this has become more of a job than a hobby. These reviews are certainly helping me to focus on my games and book on game programming again.On that note, I have extended this to review ALL games in both Featured and New Releases for today. I Don't have time to do a full review (event short first impressions) of each, so I have chosen 4 Featured and the 5 most interesting (not good or bad) New Releases to review. I chose based almost solely on the name and the icon. The other 3 remaining New Releases will get an even shorter capsule review. This was a pretty good day all around. No real clunkers, but here were a couple IP issues, a few that need more work, but one that was the best so far this week.

Game selection:
: Gondar TD, Sugar Crash, Pantechnicon Connection, Devil House
New Release: Smashdoll, The Stairway, Old School ALIEN SHOOT OUT, Captain Adventure Man, Duck Hunt Remake
Capsule: Cake Deco, Smile, Inkblot

Flash Game: A game that defines the Flash genre (clicking, and or throwing / matching / steering / collecting / running into / avoiding things across a physics or non-physics based timeline) or is disparagingly called hey, that's a "Flash Game" by console and PC game developers. Not that their disparagement isn't jealousy.

Games In Flash: Any game that does not fit into the above Flash Game category.

Both: Mostly tradition casual games : TD, Match 3, Diner Dash, etc.


Game: Gondar TD (Flash Game and Game In Flash)

gondar td

Description: A very detailed, well made Tower Defense.
First Impression: TD's are fun, but they are not usually the type of game that jump out at me as something that I want to go back an play again. Aside from the music loop that doesn't loop properly, this is one that I will definitely go back and play. The game makes extensive use of gritty, almost post apocalyptical visuals, and is very well paced.
Rating: B+ : Qualify throughout, but the screen was a little dark for my liking. Also, that music loop needs to be fixed. Other than that, a very solid, fun, above average Mochi game.

Game:Game: Sugar Crash (Game In Flash)

sugar crash

Description: One of the most unique Breakout / Arkanoid games to date. You play a sugar cube and you need to keep the child in the air by bouncing him off of fun things so he doesn't get bored. You can even bounce him to a nap if you need a break. (Just like real life).
First Impression: Unlike the iPhone Shake The Baby game, this actually shows some real-world (albeit tongue in cheek) insight into taking care of a child. This a fun, well made, very well thought out, high quality retro game with a modern stylings.
Rating: B+ : Very well done, It deserves a lot of plays.


Game: Pantechnicon Connection (Flash Game)


Description: Create a road of words by using the final 2 3 or 4 letters of the last word in the new word.
First Impression: It actually took me 4 or tries to figure out what was going on in this game. I am DENSE! It is simple, and a good, unique idea. The production is solid, but not flashy.
Rating: B : Not a bad word game, but it is difficult.


Game:Devil House (Game In Flash)

devil house

Description: Your friends have been turned in Zombies. Turn them back (with enough serum) or shoot their lights out. Protect the ones who have not been turned yet.
First Impression:
This is simply the best game I have played all week. It is like Smash TV with a Zombie theme. Play it and you will like it. Quality all the way through.
A : These are the types of games that make sitting though the countless coloring book, dress-up, mouse chaser games worth the effort, Bravo!


Game: Smashdoll (Flash Game)

smash doll

Description: More of an activity or toy than a game, simply throw the nicely animated stickman around the room and make him bleed in the physics engine demo.
First Impression:
I had a few laughs, and it is well constructed for what it is.
C : Not much game here, but still better than some of the actual games I have reviewed this week. You can turn off the blood if you want to.


Game: The Stairway (Game In Flash)


Description: You have died, and to make to to your final destination, you must play 3 types of word games.
First Impression:
This actually is better than some of the word games Mochi Featured. Could it be that the music is stolen (I have no idea) and that is why they didn't feature it? The game has a very well defined atmosphere and a variety of word puzzles to play. It reminds me of a lower budget version of Book Worm Adventures (not exactly the same though).
B : A solid effort. The most fun I have had in any of the word games for the past few days. I especially enjoyed the "hang man" where you little figure falls down the pyramid when you guess incorrectly.


Game : Old School ALIEN SHOOT OUT(Game In Flash)
A Space invaders clone.

Old school

First Impression:
This is a pretty good version of Space Invaders. Good: All of the simple graphics are well animated and pleasant to look at. Bad: There are about 1000 of these and this one adds nothing new. Does it have to? No. As an accomplishment in basic game development, it is pretty good. As a marketable game, it is not. There is no sound, but at least in that case the none of it is stolen.
: C. Add some sound, a color splash here or there, and maybe a unique feature or too and it could be a decent game.


Game: Captain Adventure Man (Game In Flash)


Description: An arcade adventure puzzle game where you must move rocks to find treasure and items for special abilities.
First Impression:
Another very high quality game that Mochi didn't feature. It is pretty difficult as you can accidentally move a rock and then have no way to get to an item.
: B+. This is a very good looking, solid puzzle game. The atmosphere, visuals and sound really are a treat. The difficulty level might be set a tad too high at the beginning. With practice though, it will be easier to play.


Game: Duck Hunt Remake (Game In Flash)


Description: Play an unlicensed version of Nintendo Duck Hunt, re-made for the Flash Gaming Crowd.
First Impression:
This is a well constructed shooting gallery game that resembles the Nintendo original a little too closely. The visuals have been re-done for the new era (but look very close to the originals), and the sounds are nice (but also sound a little to close to the originals). After my first round ended, I got stuck on the result screen and could not go any further.
B- : There are some serious (questionable) IP issues, and some bugs, but the game play and core quality are nice.


Capsule Reviews:

Cake Deco: Girls might enjoy this dress-up game for cakes. Decent quality, but not really a game, more of an activity. Average at best with pleasant visuals. Grade: C+

Smile: Puzzle game where you are tasked with turning each of the adjoining smile faces into one with sun glasses. Good, but not great. Grade C+.

Inkblot: The inkblot looks nice and is well animated in this snake-like traditional Flash game. Nice to look at, but the control makes it a bitch to play: Grade C.


Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mochi Game Review Mash-Up: Thursday, July 30, 2009

I have decided to go back to the 9 new games (not featured) today because I like torture. Actually, my hope is to find some gems missed by the over-worked Mochi staff, and the provide some constructive criticism - unless I get pissed off again, which happens a lot. Remember, these are really "first impression" reviews. If I do go back and play a game more, I'll mention it in a overall blog and game weekly mash-up. Since there are only 8 new games (one is a duplicate for Facebook), I chose the first featured game also. Also, I am a little lucky today because most of the games are by the same (pretty decent) developer.

Game selection: Pool Practice, Lightning, Train Shooters, Topstar Control, Summoner Saga chapter 5, Parking Mania (Facebook), Gems Swap 2 (Facebook), Castle Defense (Facebook), Extreme Cars

Flash Game: A game that defines the Flash genre (clicking, and or throwing / matching / steering / collecting / running into / avoiding things across a physics or non-physics based timeline) or is disparagingly called hey, that's a "Flash Game" by console and PC game developers. Not that their disparagement isn't jealousy.

Games In Flash: Any game that does not fit into the above Flash Game category.

Both: Mostly tradition casual games : TD, Match 3, Diner Dash, etc.


Game: Pool Practice (Game In Flash)


Description: Practice pool by knocking 10 red balls into the pockets.
First Impression: This is a nice little pool engine that has been used to created a simplified version of of the pub game. Not bad, but nothing to get excited about.
Rating: B : Technically proficient and decent looking. It is fun for a few minutes of pool fun. What more can you ask?

Game:Game: Lightning (Flash Game)


Description: Attempt to take a picture of lightening - a reaction game. Click the mouse fast after the lightening shows up to take a photo.
First Impression: Not really a game, but more a of a little Flash toy. There isn't much game play here.
Rating: C : This game is polished, but lacks in the game play area. I think davekd, the Mochi user who has at least 1/2 of the games on the list today, is a very polished Flash developer. Gameplay-wise, he is a little lacking though. He has created quite a few unique, simple games and is also putting them on FaceBook also. I admire that more than you can imagine, but I would like to see some of the games get a makeover in the fun department.


Game: Train Shooters (Flash Game)


Description: A reverse tower defense game where you ride train and fire at attackers on the side of the tracks.
First Impression: This is a pretty good game idea, executed in a sloppy way. The train on the track moves very smoothly and the enemy turn toward the player and shoot. Technically, it has something going on. Visually and game play wise it is lacking. I do think it looks ok, and the shooting action is fun for a while, but it is very repetitive.
Rating: C : This is a good idea that can be fleshed out into a much deeper and more fun game.


Game: Topstar Control (Flash Game).

top star

Description: Guide the colored stars to their respective colored galaxies with the mouse.
First Impression:
This games is kind of fun. The action for the first few minutes is easy and it ramps up pretty well. The sounds and visuals are affective.
B-: I would have given it a B, but then my game ended, it just kind of froze with the eyes bugged out of some stars. It took me a little while to find the little red button in the lower right that brought up the menu. This game has some very nice sound and music that makes me think of 80's games.


Game: Summoner Saga chapter 5 (Game in Flash)


Description:Hmm, now wait just one second. This is an odd one. It is a high quality Japanese RPG / Adventure. But Mochi didn't feature it, so they may have seen IP problems with it.
First Impression:
IP and potential stolen game issues aside, this is a well made game.
N/A : I can't rate this game as is. There are just too many questions about its origin. Play it, check out the Mochi developer and the site it comes from and see for yourself. I would like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so the game gets an A if it can be proven to be legitimate.


Game: Parking Mania (Facebook)


Description: Try to park a very frustrating car in series of parking spaces.
First Impression:
Visually this game is pretty good. The idea is a sound one too. I have a problem with any game where the controls make the game difficult on purpose though. That simply is not fun for me.
C : Frustratingly difficult on purpose. Once you turn the wheels of the car and press the acceleration, the car will go in that direction even if you stop the car and attempt to re-right the wheels while stopped. You have t accelerate to turn the wheels on the car. I know this isn't a simulation by any means, but in my own car, I can turn the steering wheel to straighten out the wheels without crashing into a planter (unless I just watched the LA Galaxy lose again). If that simple control was added, this game would be more fun to play.


Game : Gems Swap 2 (Facebook) (Game in Flash / Flash Game)
A match-3 gem style game. Match a gem in each square of the pattern before time runs out.


First Impression:
There is nothing truly unique about this game, but it certainly is a decent macth-3 with nice visuals and some non-irritating sound effects. The goal of matching a gem in each square of the pattern is both unique and difficult.
: B : A solid B. It does provide good time for the right audience.


Game: Castle Defense (Facebook) (Game In Flash / Flash game)


Description: A relatively simple Tower Defense game where you defend a castle.
First Impression:
I reviewed the non-facebook version of this game about a year ago. It is a decent TD game, but nothing extra special, everything it should have.
: B : Pretty good, fun, and free and executed nicely.


Game: Extreme Cars (Game in Flash)


Description: Race your car through the desert in this high quality first person racing game. You can JUMP over cars Speed Racer style!
First Impression:
This game is a technical achievement. The big breasted woman, speed, and jumping will help keep some players coming back, but the racing is just a little lacking. This has to do the linear nature of the course (always straight) and the fact that the car doesn't steer, but merely moves side to side. This is very similar to many classic attempts at racing though.
A- : An incredible technical achievement (except for some rendering hiccups) but it is lacking somewhat in the arcade fun department. It's still a nice ride though, and the jumping makes for a better overall experience.


Flash Game Interweb Mash-up : July 29. 2009

Flash Game Interweb Mash-up : July 29. 2009

We delivered the first 3 chapters for our book on Flash Game Development this past weekend. Before I start my game and write up for the next chapter, I have been spending the week playing and many different games as possible and reviewing them. I have also been visiting many of the blogs that I have not been able to frequent as much as I would like. Since this is my 2nd blog / site related Mash-up in less than a week (and I have done 6 game related ones in a row), I decided to search the corners of the infobaun for some new places to excavate game related wisdom (I have also mixed in some of the usual suspects).

Kongregate, doesn't expect you to get paid by the hour...
Last week I linked to this article by Greg from Kongregate. Ryan, over at the We Make Flash Games Blog, has posted his rebuttal on one of the points. Ryan has taken issue with Greg's comment that indie devs should not expect to get paid by the hour. This seemingly innocuous comment has exploded in a very lively debate. After reading Ryan's rebuttal, I have to agree with much of what he said, but Greg also should be given a little benefit of the doubt as to the exact nature of his comments. It is REALITY right now that most unsolicited indie devs don't make a good hourly wage. But, Ryan argues that they SHOULD and that those "kids" who give away their games are de-valuing the games and lowering the market price for those who need to live off of their games. They might be arguing different points, but Ryan's points are very much the reality for all of us indie game developers. Greg seems like a good guy, so I don't think he was trying to say "EAT THIS you dumb shits", but it might look like that to some people (including me at first, and maybe at second).

The GameList Newsletter
The GameList newsletter has quite a few good games listed in their Fresh Cut Friday game list. They are all worth trying out, and I see quite a few games from friends and associates there. Nice selections.

Mr. Zar Jaz Himself on Game Design
Jeff Minter has posted an extensive development diary on his classic game, Gridrunner. It should be required reading for any budding video game designer. I loved the Atari 8-bit version.

Mochi Really Pushing Direct User Monetization
Because of their new "Coins" product, Mochi is pushing what they call Direct User Monetization. I think the AdvetureQuest or PopCap models are better, because trying to get people to pay for what was previously free might be a stretch now. Maybe it will work, as I'd love to actually make some money off portal games.

Squize, even if the Spammers aren't listening (reading) we sure are.
Squize takes on the lowest form of information super highway road kill, and also douses us with a hefty amount of cool stats from his new asteroid blast-fest.

Flash Game Distribution Is Getting some Props.
I have used FGD for a few games, but they were already on Mochi distribution, so most portals had already seen them. Mark G had a pretty good experience using them and you can read about too.

Did you read the toaster's man page first?
Michael James Williams has a very insightful post concerning API's, their associated documentation, and their failure to answer to commonly asked questions. Also, check out the wonderful cartoon associated with the article.

It's like I'm back in the little bedroom room I shared with my brother and the Atari ST burning hot from over-use...
The Grumpy Gamer is reporting that Steam is selling all the old Lucas Film games and adventures. These really were some of the best games of the era. If you want to see a genre that has NOT been over saturated in the current "free" Flash game markets, these would fit the bill.

If marketing tells you to put an Easter Egg in the game, is it really still and Easter Egg?
My answer is no, and Dad Hacker has a interesting story about one that he was asked by a Marketoid (his beautiful title) to put in to the Atari 800 version of Super Pacman. Dan Hodges found his Easter Egg in the Atari 8-bit version of Donkey Kong (the best version ever made by the way). I suspect no Marketoid had anything to do with this one.

A portal owner's view of Mochi Coins and Mochi Leaderboards enhancements
I can't empathize, but I can sympathize with this view. The feeling of being screwed sucks. As a game developers, we feel screwed by everyone, all the time. Here is what one portal owner feels about the new ways in which Mochi is trying to screw him. Do you agree?

An alternative opinion on Mochi Coins
Freelance Flash Games has tried it and gives a short review and opinion on the subject. Also, check out his reviews/options on GamerSafe. Then, check out The Game Idea Factory that he just created and released.

What inspires your game design?
Porter's World has a nice set of tips on places to find inspiration. Steve seems to be inspired only after his neglect injures one of his kids (just kidding, Steve, don't hit me... again).

Just how many ads can you fit on one blog page?
Wow, The unigamesity blog has an entry on the hardest Flash Game ever (Run). That game is difficult, but I had an even harder time trying to find the blog post amid all of those ads (just kidding). Actually, if that works, I may use it to pay for this blog. Their blog is pretty popular, so maybe its working well for them. I like money too.

I can't let these go to waste
I have been reviewing Mochi games all week. Here is a list the ones I have actually gone back to play multiple times.

Bear & Bees(B+)


Barnstormer (B)

The Black Box (B+)

Invaders Catch (A)

Ginger Bread Circus (A)

Twin Shot 2 (A+)

Remember Flash Game Blogs for your minute by minute dose.


Mochi Game Review Interweb Mash-Up: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mochi Game Review Interweb Mash-Up: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

7 Featured and the 2 best non-featured games on tap for today. It's a very strong group of games today and almost everyone will find a game that they will like to play.

Yesterday was NOT a great day for Mochi new games. There was some fun to be had, but mostly I was disappointed. Today, I switch over to the games that Mochi has designated as featured games. Since there are only 7 that I have not reviewed before I will select the 2 best non-featured games and review those too. I'm still going to be tough on these games. Just because Mochi has selected them doesn't mean I will like them too. In after, after witnessing the dreck that Mochi has to sift through to find good games to feature, I am sure they let some poor games through. As always, I am not going to be mean and I will try to add something constructive if I don't like a game.

Game selection: RedCap, Invaders Catch!, Gingerbread Circus, Flower shop Keeper, Bubble Boom, twin botz, Twin Shot 2, WordQuake, Now You Jump

Flash Game: A game made by and for the new crowd of Flash gamers. From simple games like Click the Dot, Throw The Cat, and Keep Something In Air to Timeline based scrolling games, Bloons and Tower Defense Games. Some of these are hybrids: Fort instance, TD games are basically turn based strategy games, but made in specifically with the Flash game crowd in mind. Quizzes and games with stolen IP are certainly Flash games.

Games In Flash: Games that just just happen to be coded in Flash, but could have been done on any platform. This includes classic game types and new games that don't necessarily take advantage of Flash specific features - time line animation and set stage scrolling, etc. They also are not targeted at the FLASH game crowd, but at all gamers, classic gamers, or traditional casual gamers. TD and Bloons bridge the gap between the two types.


Game: RedCap (Game In Flash)

red cap

Description: A puzzle game disguised as platformer
First Impression: Red Cap is difficult! On each screen, you must solve a puzzle to open a door to get to the next screen. There is treasure to collect and baddies to avoid. It is very much like the early 8-bit classic, Montezuma's Revenge.
Rating: B+ : A quality, fun, game. The difficulty level was a tad high for me though.

Game:Game: Invaders Catch! (Game In Flash)


Description: A quality space blaster with cartoon graphics.
First Impression: Finally! A blast-em-up worth playing! It's been a while. Invaders catch is a cartoony space blasting fun time. It is a little like Space Invaders, but has many charms all of its own.
Rating: A: This game is reminds me of going to to arcade in the 80's and finding a new, awesome game! The look is very modern though, but with some retro sensibilities.


Game: Gingerbread Circus (Flash Game / Game in Flash)


Description: A knife throwing game, set in a circus with gingerbread mean and woman.
First Impression: What a fun little game this is! It reminds me of Point Blank, and is a blast to play. Each of the Gingerbread characters has a personality all its own.
Rating: A : Boy do the Mochi guys have their finger on the pulse of the good games. This one is worth a bunch of plays!


Game:Flower shop Keeper (Game In Flash)

Flower shop

Description: Diner Dash in a lower shop.
First Impression:
Not my cup of tea, but certainly a fine, well made casual game for the right audience.
B+ : Good music, nice visuals and decent, if repetitive game play that will satisfy control freaks (and there are a lot of them).


Game: Bubble Boom (Flash Game)


Description:Chain reaction game where to click to create a circle (bubble). As it grows, it hits other floating circles and they expand and pop too.
First Impression:
Chain reaction games are fun, but ultimately I'm not a good judge of them as they stray far from my gaming preferences. There seem to be a lot of game rendering hiccups that slow down play.
B : This is a solid game. I'm not sure if the rendering hiccups are on purpose or not, but they detract from the overall experience for me.


Game: twin botz (Game In Flash)

twin botz

Description: One hell of a shooting game. You have 6 guns at your disposal. You (attempt to) control 2 robots on the sides of the screen and 4 laser cannon at the bottom against an onslaught of strange creatures from the top of the screen.
First Impression:
This is a very fun shooter with some great Muse-like music to go with it.With too much stiff on the screen it can get a little slow, but it certainly would please Amiga/ST fans with it's classic 16-bit gaming influences.
A : A very fun, well made shooter. (I love those).


Game : Twin Shot 2 (Game in Flash)
Platform game where you play either a good (free) or evil (pay) cupid character. Two players on the same keyboard also available.

twin shot

First Impression:
What can I say? This is one of the best, if not the best, indie platform game I have played. Whimsy and quality is in abundance.
: A+ : Play and enjoy it. You will not be wasting your time.


Game: WordQuake (Flash Game)

work quake

Description: A word unscramble game with an earthquake theme. You must unscramble the 7 letter word on each line and lock it before the earthquake comes.
First Impression:
This is a quality production, but it isn't as much fun as I would like. I didn't know there were so many 7 letter words =)
: B : A good word game that jumble players will enjoy. This was not a Featured Game, but could have been.


Game: Now You Jump (Flash Game - a classic example)

sheep roids

Description: Keep a square in the air by jumping on moving platforms.You can play 2 player co-op or against on another (at same computer).
First Impression:
This is a very simple looking game with some nice game play. I'm sure there are a lot of players out there for a game like this.
B : This actually is a nice little game. It didn't take too much time to make (probably), but could have been a featured game (it was not).


Mochi Game Review Interweb Mash-Up: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mochi Game Review Interweb Mash-Up: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nine more games on tap for today.


Not much good going on today. Some fun to be had, but its a stretch. This is the worst day so far with only a couple average (C) games and one slightly above average (B-) game. Now I understand what the Mochi game reviewers have to go through each day. The next one of these will be on Featured Games because my eyes, brain, heart and soul hurt after today.

Game selection: I am reviewing the 9 new "Recent Games" on the Mochi Publishers page, but I can't help looking over at the "Featured Games" with envy. For a few days, there were games that showed up on both lists, but today there is not. (you'll see why) Maybe someone at Mochi can explain to me if I am missing games by only doing the recent ones. It is obvious to me that the "Featured Games" will mostly get A and B rankings (so what's the fun in that), but I might switch over to those tomorrow for a day (tomorrow) to make sure I don't miss some gems.

Today's wonderful collection: Succubus Dress Up, Car
in a Maze, uNinja, uPokemon, River Cat English, Cool Racing, Fighters
Attack, Sheep Invaders, Sheepteroids

I am still working out the definition of Flash Game and Game in Flash, but here goes:

Flash Game: A game made by and for the new crowd of Flash gamers. From simple games like Click the Dot, Throw The Cat, and Keep Something In Air to Time line based scrolling games, Bloons and Tower Defense Games. Some of these are hybrids: For instance, TD games are basically turn based strategy games, but made in specifically with the Flash game crowd in mind. Quizzes and games with stolen IP are certainly Flash games.

Games In Flash: Games that just just happen to be coded in Flash, but could have been done on any platform. This includes classic game types and new games that don't necessarily take advantage of Flash specific features - time line animation and set stage scrolling, etc. They also are not targeted at the FLASH game crowd, but at all gamers, classic gamers, or traditional casual gamers. TD and Bloons bridge the gap between the two types.

The Ratings are getting lower as I get more and more angry.


Game: Succubus Dress Up (Flash Game)


Description: A dress up game where you put clothes on an anima styled vixen,
First Impression: More like color forms than dress-up as the clothes don't stick in the correct place, but any place. Probably not the game parents want their little girls to play.
Rating: D : Good graphics, but who is the audience? No game play really and clothes can be spread all over the place.

Car in a Maze (Flash Game and Game In Flash)


Description: Steer a car through a maze and try to reach the goal. There are hidden stones that you cannot see. If you veer off the road or hit a stone, you must start over.
First Impression: There are good racing games and bad racing games and then there is this. It certainly looks like it came from a tutorial, but I don't read other peoples game tutorials much, so I don't know which one. No matter, this game needs A LOT of work. It is a nice first effort for a simple game, but it lacks in so many places.
Rating: D : There is no fun to be had here. For a first game, it is ok, but this is the type of game that will go no place fast (literally and figuratively). The game is difficult because the car is hard to control, and I think the author meant it that way. Also, the stones in the road appear out of no where, so you never know when you will be sent back to the start. There is the genesis of a game here, but not much else (yet). It needs work.


Game: uNinja (Flash Game)


Description: Take a survey on personality / Ninja skills and you will be told what Naruto village you come from.
First Impression: Wow, stolen IP and a quiz. Awesome.
Rating: F: - Don't steal IP for any reason. Also, there is no game here. Music is stolen too. The quiz ideas is solid one, but don't steal.


Game: uPokemon (Flash Game)


Description: See uNinja but replace everything with Pokemon.
First Impression:
More stolen IP. I like the stolen Stix like song.
F: - Don't steal IP for any reason. Also, there is no game here. Music is stolen too. The quiz ideas is solid one, but don't steal.


Game: River Cat English (Flash Game)

smelly cat

Description: Click and drag the correct color fish to the fat hungry cat.
First Impression:
This is no more than a simple diversion, but it certainly is the more game-like and fun one so far.
C : Pretty good idea, decent execution. Some of the music and assets might not be original, but I don't know for sure. Could use some variety or power ups, etc.


Game: Cool Racing (Game Made In Flash)


Description: Race (well drive fast, as there are no other cars to race). Choose from three cars and four tracks.
First Impression:
The best game so far today. The driving is done pretty well and you can't trick it because it uses way points.
B- : Technically this is well made, and there is some polish. The racing action isn't very fun though. It shows some effort and a very nice attempt.


Description: Fighters Attack (Flash Game)


First Impression:
There really isn't much game here. You are a jet at the bottom of the screen and you can press the space bar to continuously fire your guns at jets that fly down the screen at you. Kill 20 and you win (yeah!), get hit 3 times and you lose (boo).
: D : Not much to rate here. A good effort for a first or second game or for assignment class on basic game development.


Game: Sheep Invaders (Game Made In Flash)

sheep invaders

Description: Space Invaders with sheep.
First Impression:
Nothing new here, but a decent effort. Some good humor.
: C : Decent enough classic game with a funny theme. If you are going to steal sounds, don't do it from the game you are cloning.


Game: Sheepteroids (Game Made In Flash)

sheep roids

Description: Asteroids with sheep
First Impression:
Nothing new here, but a decent effort. The ship acceleration is not implemented very well. You either coast or zip, but nothing in between
C : Not as good as Sheep Invaders, but better than most of the games today.



Wii Motion Plus/Wii Sports Resort : First Impressions

I picked-up my reserved copy of Wii-Motion Plus/Wii Sports Resort yesterday at Target.  My first impression is this:

No Need To Reserve It.

There were many many copies, and not too many buyers.  I also noticed that Target was giving away a free game with every Wii sold.  Wow, what a difference a year makes.

Since we were preparing for my wife's birthday today, I did not get much of chance to play last night.  However, after everyone finally fell asleep at about 10:30 last night, I slipped downstairs and turned on the Wii for this first time in about a month.

Inside the box is an actual game-box for Wii sports Resort (Cool. Unlike Wii sports that had no box so we all had to download a fake one a create it ourselves..oops, I maybe only uber-nerds like me did that, but so what?), and new rubber "enclosure" for the Wiimote and Wii-motion-Plus combo.

My next impression was this:

The Wiimote Is Now Huge!

Honestly, it feels very substantial now.  There are obvious anatomy jokes to be made here, but forget those.  Think Star Wars Lightsaber instead.  Yes.  It feels like one now.   If you are an uber-geek, imagine that the Wii-Motion Plus is the Adegan crystal  that you need to fuse into your lightsaber  handle (Wiimote) to give it color and power...oops, I've gone too far again, haven't I?

Honestly though, the promise of the Wiimote for me has always been a decent Star Wars game using a lightsaber.  The original Wiimote was just not "aligned with The Force" enough to pull it off.  However. Wii-motion appears to promise something better.

Upon booting Wii Sports Resort for the first time (and after going through the some what amusing Sky-Diving title sequence) you are dropped into the game select screen.  From here. I instantly picked "Sword fighting" and I was off to do battle.

To get Wii-motion Plus to work properly, you need to first place the device on a flat surface to it can calibrate.  Then, you will also need to point it directly at the screen and press [B] at the start of each battle.  This may sound annoying, but you get used to it.

So, how is the sword fighting?

It is awesome.

Yes, I've said it.  Awesome.  You will notice that the new Wii-motion Plus "crystal" seems to work as promised.  The sword really seems to move at a 1:1 ratio with your own movements.   Swing right, left, upper-cut, or crash down from the top.  It all seems to just work.  It helps that the first few opponents don't fight back.   Dispatching them is like the Jedi fighting those stupid robots in Episode II.  Sure, the setting is fencing arena at beach resort, but that doesn't stop it from feeling like Star Wars anyway.  You grab the Wii-Mote+Wii Motion Plus with two hands, and swing it around like every kid since 1977 has grabbed and swung a wrapping paper-role on Christmas morning.  But this time, instead of getting in trouble for  whacking your brother on the back of the neck and sending him crashing across the living room,  you get to fight Mii's (albeit new versions, with legs) whacking them until they fall into the Sarlacc pit...err I mean, off the raised platform and into the ocean.

Search your feelings Luke...

I played some of the other games, and they were fine, but the Sword Fighting was all I cared about.  Honestly, it felt like it was 1979, playing Asteroids and imagining I was flying an X-Wing shooting Tie-Fighters instead of space rocks.   Just that experience is worth the $49.99.    Tonight I'll try it with two players, and go in-depth with some of the other games, but really none of that will matter much. 

I'm sold.

This is what I've been waiting for almost 3 years.


FIOS, DSL and Verizon. I want to laugh and I want to cry #1(Updated)

FIOS, DSL and Verizon. I want to laugh and I want to cry #1

**** Update ****

Last Thursday, as I was getting into my car to leave for work, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a Verizon technician. He took a look around and said, "Yep" conduit under the concrete will be pretty expensive. How about if we go Airborn?"   He explained that we could wire from the pole, to condo behind us (in the air) and then drop a line down to my back door.  I said "shit yeah, let's do it".

I am keeping my finders crossed that the line will be put in before the Fios installer shows up on Friday...  We'll see.

**** End Update ****

I have gone web, blog, and internet silent for the last week as I have been struggling with a both a Verizon DSL connection problem and with my 3 year long attempt to have FIOS installed to replaced that aging, slow DSL connection.

The FIOS story begins: The long awaited FIOS (Verizon's Fiber Optic Internet Service - I don't know what FIOS actually stands for) system was advertised as being available by groups of young teens canvassing the neighborhood 3 years ago. I signed up on the spot and was told it would be available later in the year. That was 2006. Steve, who lived about 10 blocks away at the time, was already enjoying his 20Mbps connection, huge library of free on-demand content and copious HD channels at the time. I figured that it would only be a matter of weeks before I would be able to actually make proper use of the Amazon S3 backup space I had purchased, and more.

I called and visited the Verizon site almost every week, waiting for the "It's Now Available" message to show up when I typed in my land-line phone number. I waited and waited and waited. Finally, 3 months ago (almost 3 years later), the message came up and said "You Can Order Now" and I did. Then the trouble really started.

What follows is not a condemnation of Verizon because they have been more than helpful, but a story of woe based on circumstance rather than ineptitude. I think that Verizon is very large, with many departments and multiple pieces of technology that all rely on one another, complement one another, and in many cases contradict one another. This goes for both their internal systems for customer service and their service offerings. Everyone I talked to was very helpful, but I fear the system is so complicated that there certainly can be no one person or group of people that understand all of it all of the time.

I have been a Verizon DSL customer for 3 years with no real complaints. The service works (when my ancient analog phone line is not crackling). There have been some hiccups now and then, mostly based on the corner of the city I live in being pretty far from a modern phone relay facility. I have had my speed fluxuate between 48kbps to 1740kpbs and sometimes not work at all. I have had both Windows, Mac, XBox and Wii connection problems, but overall, 95% of the time everything has been pretty good. Until FIOS reared its oh so pretty head.

Back to the FIOS story. 3 months ago I finally ordered FIOS and was ready for a complete media takeover by the fiber wonder: TV, Phone, and Internet service all wrapped up in a nice little package. I was looking forward to steaming all of my Netflix On-Demand (through the XBOX) movies and TV shows in a better quality than the fuzzy lo-fi DSL could handle. It was two days before the install when I get the call - "This is Verizon, we are sorry, but we cannot install FIOS until you sign a form". After a couple weeks of trying to get the form sent to me, I looked it over and signed. It basically said that because I live in a small 5 unit townhouse group, that the president of the townhouse association (luckily me) had to sign the form to allow Verizon to install conduit to my unit. I faxed it in and figured I'd be up and running in no time flat.

Another call came not minutes after I faxed the form, saying "Sorry, it will be the end of the year before we can install." Damn, that sucked, but I decided that I didn't want their TV service anyway, after comparing their DVR to the much superior one from Dish Network anyway, so I dodged a bullet there. That should have been the end of the story until December, except...

I received at least one call a night and at least 3 mailers a week advertising FIOS in my neighborhood. I ignored all of them for 2 months, but was caught after a couple beers and a Galaxy game in a chatty mood. I told the salesperson on the phone that I was informed it would not be available in my area until the end of the year, but he would not have any of it. He looked up my address, my phone number, and insisted that all previous problems were dealt with and that I was ready to install. "Great", I thought, I didn't have to do anything but be patient once again and FIOS fell in my lap.

I had an install scheduled for last Friday, but the "fun" started on Thursday. My DSL connection went mysteriously wonky and wouldn't connect. I went and asked some of my neighbors and they said that theirs worked, but that their phone line was a little fuzzy (so was mine). One of my neighbors has his Townhouse right next to the "Verizon" pole connection and POTS box for the complex and he said that a comedy troop of different Verizon technicians and contractors had been playing around with the pole and the box over the last few days and that maybe they caused the problem. I figured that I would wait until Friday afternoon, get my FIOS Internet and Phone installed and not have to worry about that old POTS analog phone stuff anyway.

When the Verizon technician arrived on Friday, he took a look around, rubbed his chin, when to his truck a few times, looked at the pole and the Verizon box (both FIOS and POTS) shared by the complex and then told me that I would have to install my own conduit from the pole to my house. What the fuck? The pole is 100 feet away, and to install even PVC would mean snaking it around my neighbor's back yard, through a couple fences and to my back door. The technician left my house, and I was left fuming. I received another call from Verizon about 30 minutes later asking when I would like to try to install again. I was about to tell him where to put his fucking install, but I instead gave him a date two weeks away. I told him that someone broke my DSL connection and that I was told that I have to install my own conduit. He was not impressed with my anger and ignored me because his job is to simply schedule installs (fair enough).

Now I was without a reliable phone, DSL, or FIOS connection and it was the weekend. That is when I get the bulk of my work done on the site: write make games, blog entries, read stories about naked celebrities on the Superficial - you know, all of the important stuff. After playing with the DSL, the phone line, and the router for all of Saturday, I was convinced that it was not an internal network problem. I called Verizon, and after an hour of assuring the tech support person that I had Windows installed properly (I know he was just doing his job) and that each of my non-dsl lines had a filter on it (why would it have worked 2 days before with no changes if lines didn't have filters on them?), he set up a technician to come out today. I had to pay for my sister to wait for him at the house and write up the answer to each of the questions he might ask because I will be in a meeting with my "no-so-understanding if I need to take a call about my DSL, Boss" during most of the "window" time they gave me.

Today, still frustrated with the FIOS problem, let alone the DSL problem, I called Verizon and swam through the jungle that is their automated system until I got to a couple humans. I must have said "yes" and my phone number loudly and clearly 20 times before I reached someone who understood the problem. Ah ha!  I found some answers. I was NOT supposed to install my own conduit, but clear a space for Verizon to do it themselves. That might still be a major problem, but at least I was not being tasked with something nearly impossible. I can dig some weeds and move some rocks, but installing conduit for brittle fiber is not one of my specialties.

So, the DSL guys should be arriving soon, and I should be receiving a call to set up an appointment to look at the conduit install area today. Will I have to write a #2 of this entry with a happy story or a sad story?

Update: DSL is FIXED!!! Verizon DSL guy was awesome. His name was Rod (out of Redondo Beach area), and my sister says that he was absolutely fantastic! He made Verizon proud. Rod also explained that YES, the FIOS people did, indeed create a problem with my DSL  connection when they tried to shove some fiber into it. He had to do some major repairs. Why could the FIOS people not tell they they had created a problem? The answer is that the yall seem to work for different agencies and event different companies inside Verizon.

Now let's have the FIOS people make them proud too.

Update on FIOS: Still no call or email from FIOS on the install...


Mochi Game Review Mash-up:'Monday July 27, 2009

Mochi Game Review Mash-up:  Monday July 27, 2009

Mochi "First Look" game reviews. Every day brings a new crop from the Mochi gods, let's hope yours is there and its not crap. I have now added my own designation to each game as a FLASH game or a Game Made In Flash. There is a difference.

Today's list of games: Office Catapult, Bouncing Letters (Facebook), I Love You 2, Biffs Box Panic!, Chase the Bunny, Barnstormer, Rotatix, Balance Of Power, The Black Box

play each game for about 5 minutes and then do a brief write-up on my
first impressions. Some games deserve much more time, some are
candidates for me to put in our Retro Arcade Showcase, and some make me
want to throw the mouse at the wall in disgust. Let's see which ones we
get this time...  

Note: My ratings are getting harsher as
my patience gets tested. The more of these I do in a row the more C's
D's and F's were are going to start to see.  

Game:Office Catapult Flash Game

Office Catapult

Description: Fling the wadded up paper into the trash can in this physics based first person puzzler. It is set in an office and you are a bored worker, playing with a ruler and some paper. Beware of office fans that will blow your flung paper off course.

First Impression: This is a very well done catapult game. I'm not quite sure how many levels there are, but after the 4th or 5th, I found it pretty difficult.

Rating: B+. It could use some sound, and more obstacles, but it is quite well done.

Game: Bouncing Letters (Facebook) Game Made In Flash


Description: Create words by shooting letters (in balls) as other letters (in balls) at the top of the screen.

First Impression: I have got to give them credit for innovation on this one. Spelling games are difficult to pull off because the size of the dictionary necessary makes for some unwieldy sized data structures. That being said, I think they limited the words available with some strategic letter selection.

Rating: B : A well done, quality production. A good game, but not a great one..

Game: I Love You 2 Game Made In Flash

I love You 2

Description: An interactive "love story" with some mini-games. It is basically a conversation between two people that you participate in.

First Impression: Sometimes art speaks for itself and sometimes it is left open to various interpretations that are argued over through time. This seems like it is a very innovative text adventure / action game with a retro feel. It is mature themed, but I never made it that far. The story is a little like the classic game Hacker. You are at your computer, communicating with someone on the other end, and interspersed is an odd mini-game that get more and more difficult and frustrating as you progress. This certainly is art, but I can't put my finger on the game part. It needs a lot of patience and time, but could be good if I had the time to devote to it.

Rating: C : The heart is in the right place, but the fun is not. I think the author has some very creative ideas and can execute them in a pleasing manner. Now its time to make them more fun to play.

Game: Biffs Box Panic! Game Made In Flash


Description: Roll Biff along the ground and group colored boxes in stacks of three.

First Impression: The simple description belies a very well made, innovation match-3 style game. High quality all around. This would have made a good 16-bit era puzzler.

Rating: B+. This game should have a sponsor and it should be on many portals. Everything, from the instructions to the power ups and atmosphere is high quality.

Game:Chase the Bunny Flash Game


Description: Using a ball, chase and tag the bunny across the scrolling landscape.

First Impression: I was afraid this would happen. I didn't want to have to award a F any game, but here is the first. With in the first 3 seconds of scrolling the beach ball across the landscape, it falls off the screen and cannot come back.

F : Sorry, I gave it a chance, but there is nothing really game-like here. Clean it up, get rid of the bugs and let me take a look again.

Game:Barnstormer Game Made In Flash


Description: A version of the popular Activision Atari 2600 game, re-made for a new generation.

First Impression:  A little conflict of interest here as the author has used some of our free music samples in the game. Barnstormer is a well made retro style scrolling game. It could use a little polish in places, but it certainly is fun to play and a lot of time was put into the game elements.

Rating: B : A solid game that is fun to play and satisfies my retro sensibilities.

Game:Rotatix A Flash Toy


Description: Less game and more toy-like creative diversion, Rotatix is a pleasant way to waste a few minutes.

First Impression: By manipulating the five unnamed settings at the bottom of the screen, you can change the way in which a chain of five colored lines creates beautiful artistic impressions. The music is nice and the idea is pretty solid.

B. There isn't much game, here, but the idea of changing "knobs" to create art as a diversion is a sound one.

Game:Balance Of Power A Game Made In Flash


Description: A turn-based strategy game, not unlike a combination of checkers, chess, Stratego, and Othello. It is played on a grid where you must use the influence of your pieces to bring people to your side rather than kill anyone. It is a novel concept.

First Impression: I'm terrible at games like this, but that shouldn't sully the experience for anyone else. It am still a little confused by the rules, but this is a very well put together game that strategy fans should enjoy.

Rating: B. It needs to be a little easier for strategy novices like me to enjoy at the start, but that doesn't take too much away from this quality product.

Game:The Black Box Game Made In flash

Black Box

Description: An eerie Myst-like adventure with a point and click interface.

First Impression: Wow, this is a well done little game. I'm sure adventure fans of all types will really enjoy a game such as this. The music and visual are done well, and the game interface is well thought out.

Rating: B+. Time was certainly spent making this game. I couldn't figure out how to light the candle, but there is a walk-through for those (like me) who need it.


Mochi Game Review Mash-up: Sunday July 26, 2009

Mochi Game Review Mash-up:  Sunday July 26, 2009

It's Sunday, a day I normally leave for TV shows on the DVR and playing
with my kids outside. But,  I'm trying to get a good handle on
the quality of Mochi Games, so I am reviewing the latest 9 games on the
publisher page everyday (or as often as I can). Rather than focus on
the Mochi featured games, I want to see all of the games, from he drek
to the new MochiCoins games. All games are the product of some hard
work (some more than others), and all deserve the same chance to
viewed, review and played. That being said, I am fully aware that few
people really cares what I think about their games, and that reviews,
in general, are a pretty lame way to decide to play a game or not.

I play each game for about 5 minutes and then do a brief write-up on my
first impressions. Some games deserve much more time, some are
candidates for me to put in our Retro Arcade Showcase, and some make me
want to throw the mouse at the wall in disgust. Let's see which ones we
get this time...  

Note: My ratings are getting harsher as my patience gets tested. The
more of these I do in a row the more C's D's and F's were are going to
start to see.  

Game: Smiley Blocks Unstacker


Description: A match-2 , 3 and 4
style puzzle game with colored blocks and a time limit. Blocks stack up
the bottom of the screen and your job is to remove like colors in
groups of 2,3, and 4 stacked vertically or horizontally.

First Impression:
Not really innovative, but certainly has some play value. On the harder
levels it is a challenge. The timer bar is a nice element.

Rating: C+ :
Pretty average, but has some nice elements, up beat music and pretty
good game play. The visuals are simple but effective.
 The hand-made font is pretty nice, but the system fonts look
a little plain.


shoot em

Using an ever expanding arsenal of weaponry, cause as much damage as
you can to the stick-man.

First Impression:
There is a difference between "Flash Games" and games "Made In Flash.
FLASH games are diversion made for and by 14 year old boys. There is
nothing wrong with that. Games Made In Flash are simply games made with
the technology that puts swfs in a browser, but usually look and act
like traditional console, classic, board, or retro games in some way.
 This certainly is a FLASH game, rather than a game made in
Flash. It isn't really my cup of tea. but I can see the appeal. The
stick-man has some nice animations and some time was definitely put
into the arsenal of weapons.

Rating: B :
It certainly has some appeal,  and the location shots are
pretty hilarious.



Run, jump, collect and explore in this well done Great Giana Sisters
(sic) style game.

First Impression:
What a lovely, well made platform game in the style of Mario. A tribute
to all great 16-bit platformers.

Rating: A :
High quality all around. I will be bringing my young son back this one,
even it I think he would like to kill the stick-man in Shoot'm more =)

Game: Konect


Draw a line to attach all life savers but don't let the life savers hit
the lines (?!)

First Impression:
Even after playing I don't quite understand if I can't draw my line
across itself of not. This  is a  FLASH 
game , not just a game made in Flash. It is a little like
Filler or Qix and is quite challenging.  

Rating C : I
find it kind of fun and I am sure it was a challenge to build and
de-bug.  I would love to give it a higher rating, but there is
something missing that it needs to get into the B range.  I
can't put my finger on it though.

Game: Rescue Service.


Use your plane to rescue people and shoot baddies in this ambitious
side scroller.

First Impression:
 I had high hopes for this one, but it is all wrong. Sorry, I
really wanted to like this, but it needs some major improvements. I
can't tell if I am successful or not at it.  I can say that it
is certainly fun to shoot all of the green missiles at the ground, but
other than that I can't really understand what to do.   The
passengers on level one look like robots, but that doesn't really
matter. It is cool that I can shoot them, and I see my rescue number go
up when I land on them.  Those are the best pluses for this
game right now.

Rating: D :
There is the shell of a nice future game here. It has some good retro
themes and it isn't just another click the dot,  shoot the
dot, throw the dot, match 3 the dot game. It has some
innovation and a clear sense of the retro past. Please pretty it with
some polish and I will give it a proper play through. I would love to
give it an A grade some day (or at least a C).

Game: 'Hang the Boss' Trivia. Economical quiz.

hang the boss

Hang man with business related word puzzles where the boss dies if you
fail. What is this, Enron?

First Impression:
 Play really difficult hang-man word puzzles and if you fail,
you hang the boss. You start by choosing from Marketing or Business /
Finance questions (does the fun ever stop?).   The puzzles
seem to have been ripped directly from text books on the subject. This
is actually a very adequate and fun way to study for a test if you have
read the books or material it references. As a casual game it fails
miserably. It might do well in a word game contest though.  

Rating: C :
Some bugs, such as the HTML text boxes are showing HTML mixed with the
text in the instructions.  This is a pretty good engine that
can be used for better applications than casual games. It isn't much
fun unless you know the subject and the interface needs a little polish
and improvement.  

Game: DropSum v2

drop sum

A Mochi Coins puzzle game not unlike Sudoku, but also not like it at

First Impression:
The goal is to make rows and columns of numbered circles that add up to
9.   This game has a lot of polish and is done quite well.
There are loads of extras and special tiles. It reminds me of Book Worm
Deluxe with numbers.

Rating: B.
Well done. I don't find games like this to have lasting appeal, but
with loads of tiles and a premium mode (400 MC), it seems that a lot of
time was put into this one. Its gets a B because I am still not fully
behind paying extra for web games. Prove to me it works and this game
gets an A.

Game: Adaptation


A basic shooter with a unique twist. You become the letters that fall
down and hit you.

First Impression:
This game isn't much to look at but I like it. It falls into the Flash
Game category (by 14 for 14), but it also has a little special
something to it. Your shots change based on the number of protrusions
out from the letter you are shaped as. There are also some pretty nice
faked particles.

Rating C :
Overall it is lacking, but it certainly is a nice blast for a few

Game: Bird Hunter


Shoot birds by rotating your character and firing your gun. Shoot 25
before time runs out.

First Impression:
Not bad for a max 1 hour game.

D : Needs some major improvements just be make it to a C. For
what it is, it is kind of fun, but one play through is all you need.


Expressing An Emotional State Of Mind In A Game

There are games I'd like to create, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to approach them. Many of these games have to do with true emotions that are difficult to describe in game form, however, I still feel the need to make them. Games are the only "art form" that I have seen to any serious level of completion. In a way, games happen to be the one of the only ways I can express myself, albeit, in a very primitive way. A game like Home Computer Wars was created so I could express the feeling of being 14 years old in 1984 and thinking my Atari Computer was the best thing in the world. Games like Daphnie's Balloon Pop and Katie's Heart Catcher were created to express some rather simple emotions about my children (i.e. "I love You, here is a game I made for you"). Even some non-game projects like Game Storm! were created because of my frustration with trying to come-up marketable game ideas while others flood the market. However, while these games were created because of an emotion, they really don't express it or help the player to understand anything more about it while playing.

This has started to bother me. I have chosen games as a form of expression (or did games choose me?), yet their very nature makes it difficult to express anything beyond the very basic thoughts and ideas. People who find other forms of expression their forte, (seemingly) have a much easier time with this. Rock musicians can write songs about emotions, and if they are skilled enough, they can convey those emotions their their work. Painters have a similar ability, mostly because they are some very common images that can universally create certain emotions for people. Games can include both of these elements, and they do help set a tone, but I'm more interested in creating a game that let's someone experience an emotion by actual game-play.

After I have a life-altering (or even semi-life altering as described below) emotional experience, I'd love to have the ability to make game that helps me express my true emotional state of mind in game. I don't even necessarily care if anyone plays it (OK, I do), but if they did, I'd also like them to get some understanding of both why it was made, and what I was feeling when I made it.

An Emotional Story To Tell

For example, last week while at the local park with my oldest daughter, she had an unfortunate accident. Because the city cannot afford to have anyone clean the park, I had taken it upon myself to clean-up the trash and sweep the wood chips off the play area and back into the pit under the swings. Along with her scooter, my daughter had asked me to take our baseball gloves with us. She does not play baseball, but she loves to play catch . Playing catch with her is one of the greatest simple joys of my entire life. However, I was so involved in my "sweeping" to clean-up the deteriorating park, the gloves and ball lay unused on the grass, and my daughter rode her scooter around the park. All of sudden, I heard her scream, and I looked over to see that she had dived off her scooter (trying to dodge some other little kids), and had landed on her right hand. After a trip to the after-hours doctor, she had a cast on her broken arm, and I had guilt in my heart. If I had not been so adamant about cleaning the park, I would have been playing catch with her, and she would not have had her accident. Now, playing catch (or anything else) is going to be impossible for some time.

So, if I was a writer I could, for example, just craft a story about someone who concentrates on the wrong things and eventually regrets his choices. A musician could take those words and make a song about it. How, as a game maker can do the same thing, but make the game interesting to play, and allow the player to understand a bit about the emotional underpinnings of the situation portrayed?

What follows are some explorations of game types that I might use to create a game that tries to express complex emotions.

Choose Your Own Adventure

This seems to be the easiest and most base form of trying to express some kind of emotion based on story in a game. You create an in-depth narrative, and allow players to makes simple choices to see where it goes. The interactivity level is very low, but it does allow the game-maker to craft the exact story they want to make. This is obviously more like writing than game-making, and it requires a really talented author to pull-off something that is truly "emotional". However, to keep players interested in reading reams of text, you need to create fantastic and/or controversial situations and cliff-hangers, and then let them decides on the actions. However, not all "emotional stories" have these types of choices. Still, it's at least a very straight-forward way to go and creating an indie/Flash game would be quite simple, if not entirely successful way to go.

Interactive Fiction : Z-Engine

I suppose the second easiest way to express these emotions would be to create a piece of Interactive Fiction (a fancy word name for a text adventure). There are a plethora of mature tools available to make Infocom-like text adventures that allow the author to express all sorts of situations and emotions that are difficult in other game types. Inform is one of the most well-known free pieces of software available for the creation of Interactive Fiction. You write a story-game that then compiles down to a Z-Engine compatible file that can be played by multitude of interpreters on different platforms. You can even find a JavaScript engine to play in a web browser named Parchment , and there are Flash interpreters being built right now...but they are are either proprietary (like the Violet engine used by JayIsGames,com), or unfinished like the promising Flaxo engine. Without a freely available and working Flash interpreter for Z-Engine games, the audience would be limited to the hardcore I.F. crowd. Furthermore, that hard-core Interactive Fiction crowd who would probably find the emotions I want to express rather primitive for their sophisticated tastes.

Interactive Storytelling : Storytron

A step or two beyond Z-Engine games is Storytron, the Chris Crawford led project to create a system to build games based on human interactions. The example game Balance Of Power 21st Century is very interesting. It certainly allows a game-maker to create a set of circumstances in which they must make choices and then live with the consequences. However, the game looks more like a way to simulate how a group of people feels and reacts to one another, and less like a system to help express a emotions stemming from an unfortunate event. Also, to be honest, somewhat like the original Balance Of Power, the game require someone with an immense amount of patience to play, otherwise the casual player (me) will simply make the most controversial choices to see what they affect. The good news is, there is a Java based player (that I could not get to work on my Mac) so getting a web audience to play a game should not prove very difficult. Still, there is no way to play games in Flash, so the audience would be limited.

A Custom Game Engine

So, after going through the most common forms of interactive fiction/story engines, I'm left with the desire to make my own engine that would allow me to create a game based on a sophisticated emotion and let the player experience some of it. However, I cannot escape the feeling that it will not work as any kind of game. Still, my desire to try to express some kind of complex emotion that can be experienced by a player outweighs my misgivings, so I'm going to make an attempt to design something that might work as a game. Without any further adieu, here is the my design for a game based on the experience with my daughter in the park.

Name: Catch In The Park

Genre: Real-Time Strategy/Resource Management

Based On: Lemmings, Diner Dash

Setting: A Suburban Park with a large field, swings, play equipment, and a circular path that can be used to ride bikes, scooters etc, around the outside.

Game Set-Up: The game starts with a pristine, empty park on a bright summer day. Soon, children begin arriving with their parents in groups of 3. One parent and two kids. The groups wait at the park entrance so they can be "assigned" what to do by the player.

Game Play: The player's job is to keep the park patrons happy, and to keep the park clean. However, this is not as easy as it first looks. Since there is only one parent forr every two kids, the player must divide the attention of each parent (color-coded to their children) as equally as possible. Children will want to do different things, and the parents much stay in as close proximity to each child. However, the "emotional" state of the parents much be kept up at all times. While the kids have arrived just to "play" at the park, the parents are the selfish ones, each requiring a specific activity with one or more of their children to be fulfilled before they will be satisfied and leave the park. The player completes levels and scores points as satisfied parents leave with their kids.

Game Leveling: On the initial levels, a parent will arrive with kids that are close in age. That means that they will want to do mostly the same things. If the kids want to "swing". the parent can remain close to both, and thus fulfilling their (possible) internal desire to push both kids on the swings at the same time. The same thing goes for the slides, or riding bikes/scooters around the path. Parents are easily satisfied, and leave happily from the park. However, as the game advances, the ages of the kids gets further and further apart, and the parent arrives with a desire to satisfy some kid of specific activity with each one. However, by performing an activity with one child, leaves the other open for disaster or a "tantrum" from the other. The most "advanced" activity is to play "catch" on the grass with the older kids, but this also takes the most concentration and leaves the other child open for a disaster. If a child falls and breaks and arm. leg, etc. the park clears-out, and the player has to wait for more parents to arrive to make them "satisfied". A level is "won" after a set number of "satisfied" parents leave the park.

Other Activities:

  • Catching Falling Children: The player can save the day by noticing when a child is going to fall (off the swings, slides, on their bike) and try to catch them. This will send the closest "parent" over to save a child, usually not their own. If they succeed, the actual parent of the child get so embarrassed that they leave the park, but at least the leave "satisfied".
  • Cleaning The Park: As the day goes on, the park gets very dirty. If it gets too dirty, people will stop coming. Since the city cannot afford to send anyone to clean-up, parents can be assigned to pick-up trash. However, this means they will be away from their kids and accidents can occur. Successfully cleaning the park will open it to more parents and their children.

Winning The Game: Ultimately, there is no way to win the game.The parents will never be able to suitably satisfy all their own needs (or their children's) needs on harder levels. A game is "lost"if the entire day goes by and not enough "satisfied" parents have left park. This is inevitable, but they the player can extend their play by getting better and better and managing the emotions of the parents with the needs of the children. Still, the game has a fatalistic streak,as there it truly no way to be successful.

So would "Catch In The Park" be a an enjoyable game? On the surface, it could appeal to players of "casual" management sims, with the underlying emotions of "joy" and "satisfaction", but also "guilt", and ultimately "hopelessness" coming through the actual playing of the game. The game could be played as straight sim by people who did not really understand the circumstances, but for parents who might find the situations portrayed familiar, it could allow a totally different level of play and expression. Or, it could just be a terrible mess. I suppose the only way to find out is to try to make the game. Maybe I'll follow-up this post at a later date with an update on my progress...or maybe I'll just wait until my daughter's arm gets better, and take her to the park again.


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