Casuality Creeps Into Hardcore Games

If you read my yesterday’s blog post, you probably noticed I bought bragging rights (that would be Playstation 3) for some very unknown reason as I have no time to play it anyway in the nearly future (baby coming in any day now).

Anyway, with my newly purchased PS3 I also got NHL ’10.

There was several things that caught my eye in terms of “casual friendly”. Casual games are more about “guiding player gently to do something and then mainly rewarding the player” whereas hardcore games are more about “you gotta have fast reactions and if you fail you are dead”. Okay, that’s a tiny simplification, but you get the point.

In NHL ’10, there’s several “casual gamer” friendly things.

Tutorials/learning puck handling
Before you can play the game, you can train how to shoot, pass and do stuff with the puck. There’s practice modes to give you a soft landing on real games.

One really cool feature I noticed was that the coach gives feedback after each period. Depending how I played, I get feedback such as “good assists” or “avoid no bad penalties”. In the first game, I paid attention to these and they really felt good guidance on what to do more and what to avoid.

In-game guidance
During the game, there’s an arrow pointing “where to position”. For example, if I play the left wing attacker, the arrow points me “where I need to go”.

Many adventure or action games provide “where to go” information, but it was cool to see the same in a sports game. Really user friendly.

Okay, playing as a goalie is hardcore: “if you do one mistake the opposing team will score”. And half of the time, you just wait for action to happen, and you have no control over getting your team to win – get some points you know.

But, in “be a pro” (or in online multiplayer) there’s a really sweet way to penalize player. It’s pretty obvious for an ice hockey game: penalties. In my first games, I was tackling too hard (doing bad things) and took penalties. Well, when you sit in the bench for 2 minutes (game time, that’s like 30 secs real time) watching others play… you sort of get the idea that “maybe I should stop getting penalties”.

It was cool way to penalize the player. Do stupidities = you don’t get to play for a moment.

Okay, there’s hardcore stuff as well
I’m not trying to say that NHL ’10 is a casual game. Or that it would have anything to do with casual gaming. It’s a hardcore game. I’m just trying to make a point that there are several game design elements done similarly as in casual games. NHL has tons of hardcore things: first is the menus (they are from Dante’s hell: I have to press like 17 buttons and menu items before I get to play), then it’s the six axis controller (left stick to move, right stick handles the … well, stick. Down, up… buttons. That’s certainly not casual), difficulty levels (there’s really tough opponents), learning curve, and many many things.

But for me… it’s casual fun, I’m a casual hardcore guy anyway.

Sorry, Lost Track of Time. Here’s The Blog Post I Was Supposed To Write Yesterday

This article is about game design and “knowing better than others”.

I got PS3 + NHL ’10 couple of days ago. I read some reviews and heard that NHL provides a “be a pro mode” where you can create your own custom player and gain experience during your ice hockey career. After I heard about this (please keep in mind that my NHL experience stopped to ’95 since all those ’97, ’01 were crappy) I thought that “it’s a stupid idea, people want to control their favorite NHL stars, not create their own guy there”. I knew that EA got this thing wrong.

Well, I knew it totally wrong. I got suck down in the game and got that “just one more game” feeling and forgot to write a blog post.

To break down the situation, here’s some facts:

  • NHL ’10 comes with “be a pro mode” where you create your own custom player.
  • EA thinks this is a good idea: EA’s group of designers obviously think this is a good idea and they probably have some years of experience in doing ice hockey games and improving the game.
  • Jesse Schell (author of Art of Game Design) suggest that this might be a good idea: in his book he mentions how “boys want to be superstars/heroes”. Don’t remember exactly how he put it, but basically I can draw a conclusion that book favors this idea.
  • Then there’s this guy who plays NHL ’10 using nickname “cheeseinmyhat” who had already decided that “be a pro is a sucky” idea before testing the game. That would be me.

EA thinks it a good idea.

Designer work suggest the same.

Yet I come “knowing” how “that won’t work”.

Boy was I wrong.

I tested the game once and immediately fell in love with the idea. I tested the game online and in the very beginning it was cool to see “HIETALAHTI” in the back of the jersey (hockey shirt? whadda heck is that called?). I was in the game now. It wasn’t just playing as Koivu or Selänne. I got in the game. And after some matches, when I saw “HIETALAHTI” appearing as 2nd star in the game – it was a great feeling.

And all because I could put my name somewhere.

Couple of notes to self:
– Saying “no” to something before checking/testing/evaluating the idea is not leading anywhere.
– Need to get more points in NHL ’10. I wanna see my name more on those 3 game star selections.

P.S. If anyone wishes to play against – or with – me NHL ’10 with PS3, you can find me using nick cheeseinmyhat.

Is There Any Reason To Use Pure 2D Engine Any More?

Blog post about 2D got several comments. The discussion got me thinking that is there really need to use 2D engine for games? If you can create 3D models and render isometric/top-down views – what’s the benefit of using 2D engine?

One obvious advantage is that you can render very high polygon objects in 2D (as in Lylian game for example). Another reason could be if you are doing a physics based game and want to stick in 2D (thinking of Crayon Physics)

Besides these, is there any reason? Why not use 3D engine, and then render stuff in 2D?

(I’m talking about downloadable indie games, not Flash games for example)

Is There Only 2 Ice Hockey Games In This Planet?

I bought PlayStation 3 and copy of NHL 10. I saw that also NHL 2k10 has their version.

Out of curiosity, I started to check out what ice hockey games there are available, and came to conclusion that for PC – there’s hardly any. NHL ’09 PC got horrible ratings from players. There really didn’t seem to be alternatives for these 2 series.

There were several flash games that mostly resembled (1) air hockey or (2) some sort of shoot out (couple of pretty interesting though). Couple of other hockey games there, but there isn’t many ice hockey flash games though.

Then I tried checking indie/shareware, and there was hardly any. Some downloadable air hockey game, and several hockey manager games – but that’s pretty much it.

Are there any ice hockey games for PC? Games that somewhat model playing as an ice hockey player (not as a manager). 3D? 2D?

Blog RSS Feed Now Working

Thanks Thomas for pointing out that RSS feed was not working after wordpress upgrade. It was due my own custom code (just had to delete one folder and it started to work again). Now you should be able to subscribe to RSS and view the stuff properly.

Please notice that I also post any updates to my Twitter page in case you want to use that as an alternative way to receive updates.

Words to Avoid

Note to self:

When telling people when something gets done, there’s some words that need to be avoided, words such as: “soon” or “asap”.

These words carry close to no meaning. What “soon” means. This year? Next month? Today? In 2 hours?

Same thing with the following: “it’s not a big deal” or “it’s not much work” or “it can be done fast”.

These also have no meaning. Is “fast” or “not big deal” equal to 2 week? 3 Days? 1 month? 2 hours?

Instead of saying “soon” say “today” or “tomorrow before 4 pm”.

Instead of saying “not much work” say “it takes 2 days”.