Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for April, 2008

A U@W design post-mortem (my point of view)

But first–

A DISCLAIMER: Since I’m no longer an employee of Petroglyph, know that this is simply my own opinion and not that of my previous employer or anyone else for that matter. I’m not speaking for them, just for myself where I see errors in my own decisions.

Also, there were, of course, others involved with some of these decisions. Games, unless they’re small indy games, are a result of team efforts rather than just one person. However, for the sake of not pointing any fingers anywhere but at moi, it’s just me, me, me, taking blame (or kudos) in this writeup for how things turned out. That’s not 100% reality, but I’ll take my share of both good and bad.

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Panzer Dragoon on Gamasutra

A shameless link to the gamasutra article on Panzer Dragoon, one of my most beloved franchises.

What I always loved about this series was the world it created.  Ruined cities half-submerged and forgotten, a fallen empire based on biotechnology that almost destroyed the world, power-hungry empires desperate to seize that tech, and some really epic and fun boss encounters.  Man, the stories you can tell in that world just from a visual aspect alone are fantastic.

PD Saga holds the special place in my heart for turning what was becoming a typically mundane JRPG experience at the time on its head.  Position and timing mattered again in RPG fights, which was a godsend instead of just hitting attack over and over.

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Back from Oz

Wow. Dynamite trip. I can’t recommend Heron Island more highly if you want an affordable place to get away from technology and just enjoy diving, snorkeling, eating, and major relaxing. Wonderful staff, wonderful place. No cell phones, internet connections, or TV. Well, OK they have one in a room you can watch… but why?

Makes you really hate seagulls, though. Watching them snatch up the hatching baby turtles as they run for the ocean… grrr

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Wanna learn to dive?

So now for a plug, since we had a great experience.

Kris and I are off to Australia soon, and of course if you’re going to Australia, you have to see the Great Barrier Reef… and of course if you’re at the reef, you really need to dive to experience it. So, we just finished our PADI open water certification yesterday in preparation for our upcoming trip.

Our Dive Master that led us is Bill Duckro, who runs Scuba Views on N. Rancho @ Cheyenne here in Las Vegas with his wife, Marilyn. They’re two of the nicest people you could possibly meet. Bill is a very supportive and patient instructor, and really helped both of us through a few rough spots over the training course in both the open water and pool dives. It really shows that Bill and all the other great people we met while in training really love to dive and want to share that experience with others.

So if you’re in Las Vegas and looking to learn how to dive, or already do and want to meet some great people to do it with, I really can’t recommend them highly enough. They have diver community meetings every first Thursday of the month at 6:30 PM so you can meet other divers from the area and just have fun!

Check out their website, or better yet, just stop in and chat with them in person!

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Things I've learned from Lost Odyssey (Disc 2)

Ah yes, another disc down, so on with the further learnings!

  1. So I’ve concluded that mortal characters exist only to be nice, juicy sponges for the immortals to squeeze knowledge from. I was hoping that they’d be a bit more powerful than the other immortals in terms of using the same spells, but alas that doesn’t seem to be the case. The immortals seem more powerful in just about every way once they learn from the mortals. It’s become a game of “drag the mortal” since they’re really so limited in role as opposed to the immortals that I find them not as fun to use.  I’ve found I have to shuffle them in in certain sets of mortals / immortals just to sponge skills efficiently.
  2. Items soon invalidate most mortal character skills. Sure, you can learn Black Magic 5 or White Magic 5 from one of the mortals when they get it… then 10 minutes later get an accessory that teaches you black & white magic 5 together at once.  I’m hoping this stops, otherwise I’m going to be reluctant to learn skills from the mortals, except in the quest for achievements.
  3. Slot +3 skill & 2 Accessory talent = oh god that’s nice.  A mortal comes through this time!  If the game keeps up with giving the mortals skills like that, then they’re certainly worth dragging around.
  4. Yes, the game still crashes after about 10 minutes and I have to reset it.  Sometimes I hear the blade sliding out to tell me it crashed, but I never see it happen.  Total system lockup.  I hoped for a reprieve after disc 1, but alas, it was not to be.
  5. It’s nice that there’s not combat every three steps… unless you’re trying to actually get into combat to either level or have certain actions happen.  DW VIII solved this by giving one character a spell to call a fight up at any time.  I’d LOVE something like that in this game.  I end up running around in circles sometimes just to find a fight.
  6. The game has a spell that locks the formation of your party, and then tells you “you can’t change formation in combat”.  Uh, you can’t change formation in combat anyway… at least if you can, I’ve never figured out how to do it.
  7. Elemental influence is still important, and the boss fights still require some thought.  Bravo in not making them cake-walks as the game goes on.

So still enjoying it, but as my party gets bigger and I play longer, I’m starting to see some flaws.  The lack of melee fighters over spellcasters is annoying.  Hopefully the two other mortals I get will be more front-row guys than the currently very crowded back-row I have now.

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The realm of the discarded

Wow.

Today, I sat at a wrecked boat in about 40 feet of water with my wife and our Dive Master, Bill. A few fish swam by us as we went around the boat and explored the bottom of a small part of Lake Mead. It was 58 degrees in the water down at the boat, with about 30 feet of visibility.

Wetsuits are a godsend… a few minutes after you flood them, that is.

The lake is 100 feet or more down from where it was a year ago. There was a whole tank base on an island where they purified water used to make concrete for the Hoover Dam. Our boat was beached next to it. Apparently, it used to be what Bill used for part of the open water certification, because it was completely submerged, and the boat, which was in about 140 feet of water at the time, was used in part of the advanced cert. The tank structure is now bone-dry and the boat is well within recreational dive limits.

There’s a B-29 bomber down in the lake that’s in about 300 feet of water now. Man, that must be cool to see. I guess in about a year or so, if the lake continues to dwindle, that’ll almost be in range for open water diving. There’s a town down there as well, in even deeper water… for the time being.

I’ve always been someone that loves to know about the origin of things humans create. I guess I’m a history buff in a way. The funny thing is that I’m not into history for the sake of names and places. I’m into it for the stories that the things left behind tell, or more specifically, what they could potentially tell. Seeing a run-down out-of-business diner along a highway makes me wonder who’s dream it was to open that place, what it must have been like when it was new, and how that dream changed and was eventually abandoned through a myriad of factors. Did it change owners and fail? Did the owners just pick a bad spot? Was it too expensive to get food to that location? Was there a tragedy that caused it to eventually shut down? Did they just get tired of it? Anything is possible.

There’s tons of stories to every object above water, but diving gives you a glimpse into the stories of objects completely discarded and given up on by those from the surface world. Every comb, pair of sunglasses, beer can, and wreck you come across has some story to it. It got there through actions of someone on the surface, either through carelessness, apathy, or tragedy.

The imagination reels with delight.

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