Saturday, December 20, 2008

What I did on my wnter break

I'm preparing 2 new classes - Fun & Games (a seminar discussion class for 18 senor undergrad students) and Critical Analysis of games (for 30 undergrads) - trying to find readings, think of assignments, and read a lot of extra stuff to add to the lectures to help make sense of all the new material (new to me and them)

I"m also determined to play a lot of videogames. I checked a lot out from our collection at school - i bought them but never had time to play them over the semester. I checked out a lot for hte DS - I like the 2 screens and the different input options. I also took a couple for the XBox360 and the Wii IGNImage via Wikipediaand one for the PSP. I have a couple PSP games at home already that I need to play. I figure I"ll blog some little summaries/reactions to the games and ideas I have about using them in assignments. We bought a lot of the games used and many don't have instructions which is a pain for me. I discovered tho that hte students don't read the videogame instructions (and were ticked that they had to read and understand the instructions for the board games we played. I have found good guides and instructions on the IGN site and have put links to them on our website


MeteosImage via WikipediaMeteos (for the DS) - a puzzle game. I bought it used and it didn't have the instructions. I think I need to read the guide I found on IGN - there are things going on on the screen that I had no understanding of even after playing for 2 hours and sometimes winning. As a puzzle game tho it's kind of typical - match the tiles up in groups of three to have them blast off. Things happen really fast tho - I'd concentrate on the right side of the screen and before I knew it I had lost because of something on teh left hand side. There's some kind of outer space theming - the falling tiles are takng place on different planets. I can see assigning students a group of puzzle games to compare or compare puzzle games on different platforms or different kinds of puzzles. And in the fun class we're going to talk about puzzles so it might be interesting to have them play puzzle games and see what the fun is. Someone I follow on Twitter recommended I check out the Disney verson of Meteos - I'm a big fan of all things Disney so I will look for it when I go shopping later.

LuminesImage via WikipediaLumines II (PSP) - another puzzle game - kind of like Tetris with the falling tiles but the tiles are made up of 4 smaller blocks and each block can be one of 2 colors. You have to maneuver the tile so that you get 4 smaller blocks of the same color in a 2 x 2 arrangement (not a 1 x 4 unfortunately - those I seem to be able to build with no problem). Themusic (in my opinion) is annoying. And some of the flashing skins are hard on my old eyes. The 2 x 2 squares don't disappear immediately - only when the timeline (that maybe is moving in time with the music, I can't tell because the music irritated me and I turned it off) crosses over it. The timeline is a neat feature they added to the tile matching puzzle. if you can work it right, you can stack up 2 x 3 or 3 x 3 (or bigger theoretically) and get more points. You can save at the end of each game. There are 22 levels as a beginner, another 22 for the A level and a third set of 22 levels for the S level. And then lot of other ways to play including competing against the cmoputer. Assignment possibiities: It might be interesting to try and lay out historically the feature development in the puzzle genre - any of the genres probably. Same with some of the euro games (like from carcassone to settlers to stone age). Another assignment - compare puzzle games on the different platforms - how do they take advantage of the strengths of each platform/how are they different from platform to platform.Another assignment - take the timeline feature and work it into another genre - and think how you'd have to change the win/lose conditions and the rules.

Boom BloxImage via WikipediaAnother puzzle game I have been playing is Boom Blox on the Wii. You knock down these stacks of blocks with baseballs and ray guns and bowling balls. Some of the blocks are bombs. Others are filed with explosive gas. It's good destructive fun. There's a big training set of lessons, then 3 areas of quests. As you finish the tutorials and quests you win stuff like castles and ray guns of your own to use in the third section - an area wher eyou can builid your own stack of blox for others to knock down - tho the backgrounds and decorations are limited to what you see in the regular game so no outer space blox. I like the destructive aspect. There are little creatures - cows and dogs and penquins - in the background. If ya toss the ball just right you can bean them in the head and make them disappear; you don't get any extra points (and you really should) but it's still fun. It seems less repetitive than the other puzzle games. And there are lots of ways thru the tutorials so you dont' get stuck having to do the same skill ove rand ovr and over till you accidentally do it correctly or in a timely fashion. And no mind-numbing droney music. Maybe that's one of the adantages of hte console - more space on teh dvd for content and better sound on the tv. I'd like to have the students make their own stack of blocks and decorate it for others to play and evaluate but not sure how to share it. Another assignment possibility migight be to look at how games incorporate avatars or characters representing hte palyer - in this game you pick your avatar out at the beginning but the only time you see that character again is when you restart the game. You don't see him throw the baseball or chase the cows. Kind of irritating that they made me pick him out and then I don't get to play as him.

CivilizationImage via WikipediaSid Meier's Civilization (DS) - ok - i really don't like this kind of game - build units, place units, move units - turn based strategy. You go from the stone age to space age. There are several ways to win - that I like. It had a consistent use of the keys but i couldn't always figure out what triggered the end of my turn and it wasn't always clear to which units I'd already given a destination. It's a good example of in game tutorial level tho. Comparing the content of the tutorials with the directions for the board games we play might be interesting. Or examining the tutorial to see how they teach a variety of skills - what order does the tutorial put things in and is that the optimum pattern. This is definintely one I want to compare across platforms - what did they have to sacrifice to get it on the DS for instance. This isn't a picture of the DS version - it's just the only one I can find at the moment; I'll replace it when I can.

Assassin's CreedImage via WikipediaAssassin's Creed for the DS - just started this one (I have to play it on the xbox360 too). It's a platformer - run,jump, climb walls, run along rails. I think there's fighting - i saw a tutorial with some wicked sword moves and stabby combinations. No massive blood spurts like Mortal Kombat, but that's ok. There are some mini-puzzles. You use the ABXY keys and the LR trigger instead of the stylus. That was kind of irritating. I want to point with the stylus and have the little guy move there. There are spots where you can't see very good - seemed like my little assassin was around the corner from the camera. And now my little assassin is caught in some kind of dumb loop - i keep following hte arrows but there's nothing to do and it just keeps sending me around. Time to check for a hint online I guess (man how lame is that - but hey, this is for educational purposes, not fun!)

N+ (on the PSP) - IT's a good intro the the button mashing type of videogame - one button with the left hand (directions) and one with the right (jump). Except even that is giving me fits. I'd like to blame it on the fact that I"m left handed so i keep trying to jump with the left hand, but mostly don't think that's it. I need more practice. I am going to play the game on the DS too. I think it would be a good first psp game for the students - use a few buttons. Not much story or character development, just action. You could build a story around it I think to give the little ninja some back story.

Text Twist - a casual game - I played it on Yahoo Games - URL: I'm a big fan of Book Worm - maybe it's clear I like puzzle games. I like casual games because you can play them for hours but if you only have a few minutes you can still get in a couple of rounds. This one is a little tougher because you only have 6 letters to work with at a time. I like the twist feature which rearranges the letters because it's hard to rearrange them mentally. There is a timer to compete against. If you ahve the right kind of browser it keeps track of high scores (I was on Firefox and it didn't track them). It's an example of a game with very few rules up front (or maybe very few rules overall). It's on a lot of sites - an example of portal distribution. I can't figure out how they're making money but I enjoyed the game.

Shape Inlay - another casual game on Yahoo Games - URL: - a stream of tiles scrolls across the bottom. You have to drag the pieces up into the puzzle shape, trying to fill it in with the shapes. The drag and drop interface is pretty slick. There's time pressure because if the shape tile area fills up you lose. I can't imagine how you could use up all the tiles so I figure you play to get the most points - you're always going to run out of time/tile space - the trick is to play as long as possible. So you maybe can't win but can delay losing as long as possible. I just noticed - there is no credit for the game creator

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