Review — Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

INTRO

The intro dialog really throws you into the story, and the theme of the game (street life). It introduced the character well, an overview of the story, and foreshadowed events to come. The intro screen makes it easy to start or load games. I definitely “felt” like the character from the start.

However, I found some of the starting dialog a little too overwhelmingly “gangster”, compared to the rest of the storyline. It might potentially turn off some players who arn’t that crazy about the setting.

GETTING GOING

The game teaches you seamlessly about the controls and interface as you go along the storyline. For example, as soon as it shows you an action your character can you, the story beckons you to use it. It gives it less of a concrete “tutorial” feel, which are often painfully long. The controls and interface are easy to figure out, and the more complexe functions don’t overwhelm the gameplay until either you figure it out or the game teaches you about it.

I found some of the dialogs a little dragged on. I wish they had cut to the action a little earlier in those cases.

FUN

As a whole, this game is more addicting than sugar coated crack (pun intended). Most missions arn’t that difficult to beat, but need a certain level of concentration that lets the game take over your senses. In several high speed car chases, where the car needed to be intact, and in a certain location by a certain time frame, my heart rate was through the roof. The gameplay lets you use a combination of maneuveurs, tactics and strategy (up to a point) to complete missions.

Adding more fun elements to the game would be like adding sprinkles to the already delicious donut. Certainly adding interesting characters, cars, or missions would make the game a little funner.

VISUALS

I enjoy driving around town and seeing the different styles of buildings and roads in different corners of town. The characters during dialog are comic-book looking, giving you a surreal feeling. The interface is very crisp and easy to use, and also entertaining sometimes (clicking on your couch to save the game). The details arn’t overwhelming, but there’s just enough to keep your interest in your environment.

INTELLIGENCE

Feels like all criminal actions I have on the town affects it. For example, drug dealing, running over people, stealing cars will attract attention from the police. I also find the felony system clever and realistic. The enemy gangsters are fairly easy to beat, which I find a little dissapointing. Being able to beat 3 gangsters with guns and 2 with machine guns using your basic pistol seems a little unrealistic. I would have made the combats a little more tactical in nature, and harder.

IMMERSION

Once the controls become second nature, GTA really drags you into the game by making you feel like you belong in a living and breathing environment, with consequences to every action. It makes you realize that breaking the law can be really fun, but also hard to do without getting busted or killed. The dialogs gives a sense of purpose to the missions.

The game gives you alot of freedom to do what you want, but makes the missions necessary to your development as a crime lord. You’re able to play on your own terms, and switch to “mission mode” whenever you want.

What I would have liked to see is a possibility to literally create your own gang. Being able to recruit gangsters, control territories, compete for drug trade and such would add to the immersion by 10x. However, I do understand how much more work this would involve, and that the game is already well rounded for a wide audience.

CAMERAS

The perspective are very cleverly done, although the size of the screen sometimes makes it difficult to notice important obstacles on the road when you’re driving. For what console they were working with, I think they did the best they could. The smart camera dosn’t always point to the ideal location (in the middle of a fight), which could be improved. I think they should have added the option of clicking a button to focus directly in front of your character or vehicule.

Sometimes, I found the fact that you can’t see that much far ahead of you a little frustrating. Being able to look directly in front/behind you would definitely make the gameplay more fair.

CONTROLS

In general, the controls are very friendly. The driving and combat controls are smooth. It’s a little difficult to control everything at once; for example, when you’re in a car chase, and also trying to see your map using the GPS; but I think that’s understanble, considering multi-tasking for most people dosn’t come naturally, and the game reflects that fact. The interface is also very easy to use, being very intuitive to your needs. A real no-brainer; in a good way.

IDEAS

The drug dealing system added to the game I found was a nice add-on. It added a unique business element to the game. The weapons ordering online system you could access through the game was also cool and fresh. They expanded so much on the original idea of driving around town accomplising missions for your gang. Just when I thought the idea of GTA was sucked dry, they still found a way to suprise me.

MEMORY

After quitting the game for whatever reason, my blood is still pumping a little faster than normal, due to the high speed action of the game. I know I’m always going to want to play more until I’ve discovered all the new unique features that GTA: Chinatown has to offer me.

If I had 50 words to tell someone the high-point of the game, it would be: “Doing crime on a whim, holding a drug dealing business, attracting 3 cops attention just because you can; that’s GTA”.

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Game Design Challenge #1

I’ve decided to enter the DP Game Design Challenge. Although I admit that it will be doubly challenging to fit this in my schedule, along with developing my flash game, and finishing my board game concept.

The challenge consists of playing and writting a few paragraphs about 100 best reviewed games (of any console). I’ll have to include observations on many of the game’s elements, such as immersion, fun, intelligence (AI), visuals and ideas.

David Perry, the one who hosts this challenge, says that 95% of all aspiring game designers fail because of a lack of passion. That’s the reason he created the challenge; to help you determine if game design is really your calling in life.

I really admire David Perry. I visited his website after it being referenced in his book: “David Perry on Game Design: The Brainstorm Toolkit”. It’s an amazing book. If you plan on making game design your career, make sure to have it in your library.

I will be posting game reviews on my blog as I proceed through the challenge.

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My Journey In Game Design

Today is a good day.

Since December 2008, I believed myself settled down for good. Having graduated from Computer Programming at college.. a permanant job, a confortable wage, and a promising career in IT was just around the corner.

It’s as if all these months of keyboard bashing have brainwashed me into forgetting my true calling. Now that I think about it, I feel deeply ashamed of myself for ever believing I could stop dreaming at 20 years old.

Since I first understood the concept of computer programming, all I’ve ever wanted to do was make games. The day I picked up my first book on programming BASIC, I was already knee-deep in ideas for original creations. I even remember my first game idea, which I vowed to complete one day.

I suppose this can all be summed up in a few words of advice:
Don’t ever forget your passion. No amount of money will drown it out, and if left unchecked, will come back to bite you in the ass.

Next year, I’m off to the University of Montreal to further my education. Wish me luck.

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Flash Games – The Industry’s Freeway

If you’re like me, from one minute to the next, you’ll spontaneously get the urge to hunt flash games on the internet.

I think it’s the fact that the internet carries an infinite supply of them, and that there’s flavours to fit any gaming mood, that draws me to them. Also the fact that they barely take 10 seconds to load.

Flash games are one of the gaming industries fastest growing trends. This is due to several reasons; here are a few :

  • Flash games are relatively easy to create
  • Extremely small load time
  • Their audio-visual nature

Hundreds of games come out everyday, and 95% of them are weeded out as boring. People have incredibly low attential spans these days, so flash games need to be very addictive and distinct in order to attract visitors.

For game developers, the flash games industry is a good fit. It’s the means for a creative programmer to earn a big amount of money for something he enjoys doing.

For new players in the flash game market, Flash Game License is a great place to start out. It’s a website where developers meet publishers, and bid money on flash projects. It also includes a big and friendly community to answer questions and offer support.

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Introduction to Adaptable Game Design

Adaptability is important when planning and developing a game. It’s just as important as when designing any computer system. Times change, and so software set in stone normally gets replaced by newer and more flexible systems.

Use of the Unreal Engine lasted a long time partly because of excellent design planning. Its makers realized that the framework of a game is almost as important as the final product. Even if a game does well on its initial release, modifying the original game with exciting expansions can flood it in the spotlight. However, in order for this to be possible, the application needs to be adaptable to these kinds of changes.

A good framework revolves around a smart class architecture. Classes need to be well defined, and with clear goals in mind. For example, a class called “Player” initially used to create instances of human players can’t also calculate the final game score. Doing so introduces dissorganization, and in turn makes the game design harder to manage.

To make a game design adatable to change, its creator needs to keep an open mind to future modifications. Here are important points to keep in mind when designing an adaptable game:

  • Don’t duplicate code; create structures when possible
  • Use object-orientated principles
  • Keep future implimentations in mind when defining classes/functions
  • Don’t go outside the scope of a class or variable

I will be posting a sequel to this post, going into further detail about game design adaptibility. If you want to know when it’s available, subscribe to this blog to stay updated. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read.

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The Clash of MMORPGs

It’s mindblowing how many massive multiplayer role playing games litter the internet.

Many of them have nice graphics. They’re also quite user-friendly, and easy to play. What angers me about them is how generic most of them are.

  1. Enter game,
  2. Kill ‘x’ monsters,
  3. Gain a level,
  4. Lather, rinse, repeat

I’ll admit that some MMORPGs have a unique selling point of some kind. Sometimes it involves controlling more than one character, flying through the world instead of run, or completely unique character classes. It can a nice change from the usual, but in the big picture, it only really adds 30 mins to 1 hour to my playing time.

Maybe it’s just me, and I’m picky when it comes to MMORPG games, but can you blame me?

I’ve played Everquest for a good part of my childhood, which in my opinion is the game that carved out the road for modern MMORPGs. It was great for its time; an immense world full of suprises, addictive combat, and interesting NPCs. I, like tens of thousands of other players, was rooted to the game.

I don’t think the MMORPG model is a thing of the past. Besides, World of Warcraft is still around. What the next big MMORPG needs is something truly unique. Eve Online did a pretty good job; high tech space world with endless factions and missions, including a complex economic system. It’s the first of its kind that I’ve seen to this date.

So, what’s next in the world of MMORPGs? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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Earn Money Programming Games

Did you know that Paul Preese, the creator of Desktop Tower Defense, makes around $8,000 a month?

Programming games, even as a hobby, can be lucrative. Even publishing free flash games on the internet has potential to bring in money through advertisements.

Any novice programmer has the ability to create such a game. Most addictive games are very simplistic. This includes flash games, browser games as well as some application games.

Here’s an interesting success story for you:
Chris Sawyer developed Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Alone.

Since its initial release, Roller Coaster Tycoon earned him $30 million. You may think this is a poor example, since this game came out in 1999, and times have changed. However, I’m telling you this to make my point clear about how a good game idea can go very far.

If you’re having trouble thinking of an original game idea, here are a few pointers :

  • Browse free games on the internet, and make a note of the ones that catch your eye.
  • Find a game that you can play for 2+ hours
  • Think of some universal facts to base your game around. Revenge, love, and greed are some of them.
  • Consider the importance of buzz-worthy. Are people going to want to share your game with others?

To finish off, here’s something to think about. What’s stopping you from creating a popular game? Seriously. I bet most of today’s most addictive flash games are created by amateurs. If you think you have a good game idea, good chances are that the game will catch on if developed properly.

Thanks for reading. Stay posted for more eye-opening articles.

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