Friday, January 15, 2021

Community Jam Projects in Dreams -- Exactly What I Needed

I'm continuing to play Dreams, and I have to admit, I'm starting to surprise myself by how designing levels in this game is just starting to "make sense" now. I was complaining earlier this week to my oldest about how I wanted to just be able to get into the game and "make things happen."  What I meant by that was to finally lose the sense of confusion when approaching the myriad of game controls.

Something clicked this week and I was able to flesh out a quest where you collect 8 shells and a crab pops out of the water to tell you a story.  Was it the most elegant of presentations? No.  Did it work? Yes!  . . . and it even had a strange bit of charm to it.

Backing up for a second . . . why the heck was I making a shell collecting quest with a story telling crab? Well that's because Dreams has a community "game jam" of sorts every couple of weeks. I discovered it about three weeks ago and submitted my first piece.

The theme two weeks ago was "illusion." For this "game jam," I made a very long hallway with words that floated in the air while you walked through a swirling mist.  The words came from a poem I wrote 20+ years ago about a time in my life where I had a pretty severe allergic response and ended up with beet-red eyes for about a month.  It was pretty crazy.

On paper the poem is quite short--one of my shortest.  In game, it ended up being super overblown and dramatic.  I liked it, and it was really fun to make.


The coolest thing about this, however, is that by entering it into a community game jam, my level has been played through many more times than it would have otherwise and even received a few thumbs up from people passing through! Yes!

So this week's game jam has the theme of "storytelling." I wasn't sure what I was going to do at first, but after making a "beach scene," I decided to have a crab give a quest to collect shells before he'd tell you a story.  That was my basic shtick . . . a crab telling you a story.

Next came making the shells so that they would be collectible when you ran over the top of them. To do this I had to make a microchip that would destroy the shell, make a sound, and send a signal to another microchip that was counting shells. 

The first night trying to craft the collectible shells was a bust, but, after complaining to my kid and a good night's sleep, something just clicked . . . and I figured it all out.

The power of the microchip!

Next was figuring out what to do with the crab, so I made it so after you collected the 8 shells, the "counting" microchip would send a signal to another microchip that would delete the small crab and make a large crab and a book appear and queue a timeline.  For the timeline, I simply read an old, motivational boy scout tale I heard once about crabs in a bucket. 

This is why I'm not an electrician . . .

After this, it was all polish.  I started adding beach towels, chairs, beach balls, palm trees . . . basically all the beach themed items I could find from searching Dream's item directory.  I added a dock and a lighthouse, an exit, and a seagull flying overhead.

At first the lighthouse was merely going to be decoration, but then I thought . . . nah . . . I want to go out there!  So I found a raft model and invented a kind of moving conveyor to and from the lighthouse, but what to put in the lighthouse?  Why . . . how about a crab rave?! YES!

As I kept creating and adding things, I then hit a wall.  Yup.  I found the limit on things I could add to the game.  I simply ran out of audio space and object space, and then I had to call my project "done."

Check it out!


I'm really enjoying myself in Dreams lately. It took quite a bit of fiddling and thinking to overcome the hurdles I had initially, but it feels pretty refreshing to have made something like this, and the community game jams seem like just the thing.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

. . . and then . . . Just Shapes & Beats

 When an indie game gets such high ratings as these:

  • 98% positive reviews on Steam
  • 8/10 from Destructoid
  • 5/5 from Gamestop

. . . you just know it's gonna be good, so if you need something to convince you, there you go.

As for me and my fam, Just Shapes & Beats is yet another in the list of our favorite rhythm games. For me, up until this point, it's been all about the awesome music I've been hearing from the room adjacent to me while the kids play.  For the kids, it's the amount of personality the game crams into the simple character designs, it's about the challenge of memorizing a grueling bullet hell, and yes . . . the music.


When the kids first started playing this game, I remember my son saying, "How can this music slap so hard when the only words in it are 'close to me'." Truer words about a song that slaps have never been said.

I'd categorize this game as a rhythm game hybrid that's mostly a bullet hell where memorizing patterns is king. The object of the game? Keep your little blue square inside the black spaces of the game, and that my friends is surprisingly difficult. You do get a chance to warp your square a couple inches away from your start point with the press of a button, but if you land in an occupied area, you'll get a bite taken out of your cube. In normal levels, you only get 3 bites out of you 'til you need to start over or return to the last checkpoint.  In boss levels, you can take up to 6 hits. You can go from completely healthy to dead in just a few seconds though, so you have to be in the groove.

As per most indie games, they get away with taking tons of liberties that regular games can't risk.  For example, after you beat the first boss, the game makes you think you've beaten it for a minute, and then the boss you just beat goes on an insane rampage as he turns all the blue graphics to magenta and chases you back down the campaign map nodes you just traveled down.

I WILL TURN ALL THE BLUE THINGS MAGENTA!! RAWWWRRRR!

Insanity I say!  Making you think the game is over?  Making you think you lost progress? Yup. And that extra bit of charm is just amazing. This is what happens when you put creativity first, and God bless the indie titles that pull it off as well as Just Shapes & Beats has.

Our personal copy of Just Shapes and Beats is on the Switch, but it's also available on Steam, PS4, and Stadia. If you haven't played the game recently, but enjoyed it in the past, you might want to go revisit it again, back in June 2020, the team at Berzerk unleashed 5 new levels. The kids are going to have to get past me though if they want to play them. I just started up a new game all to myself.

Y'all . . . it's freaking hard and you die a lot, but the music is so fun that you don't even mind starting over again.

Happy Dueling! 

Monday, January 11, 2021

. . . and now . . . Rhythm Heaven Fever

Ever since talking about Robeats and Rock Band the other day, I've been taking a little inventory in my head of all the Rhythm games we own, and it's a fair amount. The first one that really stood out though was a game we put a lot of mileage on back when the Wii was king.

That's right, it's Rhythm Heaven Fever TIME!!! 

Literally the only two keys you'll need to press in game. Simple.

Although this wasn't the first in the series of rhythm heaven fever games (it was actually number three in the series when counting the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game), it is one that's lived on and been played several times over at our house. I even downloaded the music and made a mix CD of the jams for my son to listen to in the car.

Believe it or not, there's actually still a fanbase for this game, enough to support a reddit page and justify some super cute stickers on Redbubble, and supposedly a hacked version of the game with download links hidden in a "we are number one" video. Classy!

If you're unfamiliar with the game, the essence is that you'll be tapping A, B, and releasing said keys, to the beat.  That's it, but it's done in a series of rhythm games with super happy and fun music.  

For instance, the first thing you'll be doing is playing golf to the beat while two monkeys throw golf balls for you to hit out over the ocean for a hole in one. 

What water hazard? 

Before you know it, you'll be screwing on large and small robot heads in a toy factory and doing all kinds of other cute and fun tasks. After playing four different mini-games in a row, you'll open up what is called a "remix" that features a rhythm game mash up of all the previously won mini-games.

If you manage to get a "superb" rating and earn a medal in these rhythm games, you'll be opening up a whole set of other fun and challenging rhythm sub-games and features, like winding up and releasing toy cars or seeing how far you can descend down and endless game of keeping the tempo.

The biggest difference between this game and its predecessors is, however, the presence of two-player games. Head-to-head yet cooperative 2-player games are the best!

Forking supersonic peas flicked from a mile away is soooo satisfying!

This game ranks pretty high around our house. Definitely one of the top rhythm games we've played and instantly the game that comes to mind (at least to my children) when I say "rhythm game."

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

CR 328 -- DC Universe Online Turns 10

Well well well . . . I guess I'm really not surprised at all to tell you that DCUO has turned 10 years old. It's always been a pretty great game with some fun innovations. It keeps rocking out the updates year over year, and it makes a ton of money . . . so, again, no surprises.

Possibly the most surprising thing here is that I'm "once again" playing during this anniversary! WHAT?! Yeah, I truly thought I would never set foot inside this game again. I was sooooo done, but the lure of hanging with Team Spode again was too great. Here I am, CR 328. Wild.

Anyway, the 10th Anniversary looks to be pretty epic. All month long, DCUO will be hosting the "Attack of the Anti-monitor" event which includes:

- Giant 3-headed dog licks!

- Glowy balls of paradox demons!

- Oracle herself telepresence bot! (less exciting, but I'll take it)

- A new event raid with a big cute chonky boi!

- Ten Tickles!

Even better, it really really REALLY sounds like you should log on to the game on January 11th itself because there's going to be a goodie pack on the anniversary day itself. Can't miss that!

OH BOI! WHAT WILL IT BE!!

I just want an updated piece of anniversary day cake to throw around, really. I'm a simple man with simple needs, but if they wanna drop a new texture pack and a bunch of awesome stuff on me, I'll take it. To be honest, what I've really been getting with this anniversary event so far is feat points! Love me some feat points.

Here's to you, DCUO!  You've provided me with a lot of entertainment over the years.  It's good to be back playing with Team Spode as you turn 10.

Happy Dueling!

Friday, January 8, 2021

From Robeats to Rock Band and Back Again

My youngest son plays a lot of Roblox. Lately he's been playing a lot of one particular game in Roblox called Robeats. What's Robeats? Well, I'll let this fandom page I found explain it for us:

RoBeats is an MMO Vertical Scrolling Rhythm Game (Commonly abbreviated as 'VSRG') ... You can buy songs with in-game coins, and buy harder versions using stars. The easiest songs are difficulty 1, while the hardest are difficulty 34. ... The gameplay is extremely similar to the Guitar Hero video games, with some elements inspired by osu! as well.

So basically, you zone into a city block filled with people and visit shops and chat to each other, and then queue up for head-to-head rhythm games on a difficulty scale where you press ASDF to the beat.

Ready to move my blox!

I've watched him play, and I've even played the game myself. The fact is, he's getting really good at this game. He even recently uploaded a video from his YouTube channel where he slayed this jam.

Knowing this, I had to have him play Rock Band. It's been on the top shelf of our garage storage for a long time just waiting for this moment. It's a totally different experience in that you are either on the drum set using 3 limbs (instead of 4 fingers), or holding a guitar and using both hands in different ways: one to press the buttons on the neck and one to strum.

So I went into the garage and got the Rock Band gear down, wiped all the dust off, brought it inside, and set it up. He was hesitant at first because of the style of the music, but after seeing me work through a couple songs, he gave it a shot and after a few tries managed to complete a song. 

Y'all, mission successful. Since that time the house has taken a liking to "I think I'm paranoid" by Garbage, and the I've caught all the kids humming it like it was the 90's. hahaha!

Dad and Son Jamming!

The highlight was being able to back my son up on drums at the same time he was playing, but the real surprise was when he committed himself to learning the drum part himself and beating my high score. Methinks the kid has some natural talent -- really glad we have him playing French Horn in band.

I highly doubt Rock Band will take the place of Robeats for him, but I was just happy to play it again with him and expose him to another rhythm game.

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Overwatch Night Redux and Holiday Thoughts

The KI Krushers (no, we really don't call ourselves that) started our 2021 season with a bang, smack, and a heal last night -- just like it was 2018!

Since there were only 5 of the 6 from our standard team representing, we opted for Quick Play instead of Competitive matches.

5 up, 3 down! I'll take it!

Those wins helped me finish up the last of the holiday event and snag the Frosty the Roadhog skin on the final night.

Hideously jolly, ain't he?

Earlier in the week I played a good couple of hours with The Art of Warlord and Renee Wooften, and I when I'm with that group, I'm all about playing Reinhardt. Because of that, I went ahead and spent my coins on the Conductor skin, which was one of the three that I wanted from the event. It's all good. I'll eventually get the zen and the torb skins I wanted -- unless Overwatch 2 comes out and we stop playing Vanilla Overwatch altogether.

Choo choo!!! Tickets please! *bleep* kill sound

That said, it'll be interesting to see what 2021 does to Overwatch. The word on the Internets is that Beta will begin sometime this year and that Overwatch 2 will be released "late 2021." I'm imagining late 2021 is very late 2021. When it happens, I imagine the whole gang will jump over and want to try something new.  As for Overwatch itself, I don't know . . . we'll probably get a new hero, a bunch of new skins, a couple new holiday mode games, and a couple maps?  Maybe?!  Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

What I do know is that Lunar New Year is coming up in February and we'll be getting some new skins for the event. Master Ian Gamer crafted up a "skins prediction" excel graph in a recent video. He's putting his bets on Symmetra, Bastion, Soldier 76, and Orisa.  He also points out that being the year of the "Metal Ox," Orisa would be the PERFECT candidate. I have to agree. He's right, she is basically a metal ox. It's a missed opportunity otherwise.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Delving those MMO Pool Labyrinths

There was a viral Twitter post I saw yesterday that kind of sparked something inside me late last night.

Looks awesome, doesn't it?

So I did some digging and looked up a couple of magical places like this.  There's something called the Y-40, which is located inside a Hotel swimming pool in Italy? I found more details at poolinsider.com.

"The Y-40 is really a labyrinth of spaces designed for different underwater swimming, diving and viewing activities. The pool features various depths for divers of all levels and some cool interactive features. It has four artificial underwater caves that simulate what you might run into in the ocean, a cylindrical area with extreme depths for experiences divers looking to push their limits, various ledges, underwater glass viewing panels for spectators and even a 43 foot transparent tunnel for visitors who don't want to get wet."
There's also a deep dive pool called Nemo 33 in Belgium. It sounds like a scuba diver's playground! 
"Nemo 33 features numerous structures meant to simulate the experience of deep-sea diving, including intricate passageways and underwater caves submerged in 660,000 gallons (2.5 million liters) of water. Endowed with surreal vastness and astonishing architecture, visitors can participate in aquatic activities like swimming, scuba diving, and freediving."
Those places sound amazing but are way out of my budget. hehe. And that's why my mind naturally went to video games and particularly to a couple of weird MMO zones. 
~~

First, in Everquest on the continent of Velious, there's a little underwater dungeon called Siren's Grotto. Gimme a shout if you remember this spot! 

I actually downloaded Everquest, logged in, and went to Siren's Grotto last night.  It took me a few minutes to remember how handy some of the map tools were in the game and before I knew it, I had a glowing trail leading me to exactly where I needed to go to get there.

You just need to kill a few sirens and head on into the underwater cave in Cobalt Scar.

When I was spending a lot of time in this zone, oh . . . what 17 or 18 years ago? It was because I needed a quest item from a rare mob for my Beastlord epic weapon quest. I remember I spent quite a long time at the entrance of the zone killing the same mob over and over again. I think boredom eventually caused me to branch out and start hunting in other areas of the zone, but this place was a bit of a nightmare and it was easy to aggro multiple mobs and not even know it because, just like Dory, you just keep swimming.

Well Goo Goo G'Joob to you too, Mr. Walrus.

Before I knew it, I was killing mermaids. These old school mermaids man . . . they were the best!

Red tails and green hair . . . it's an unusual breed of mermaid . . .

I remember one time I came to this zone with an actual group and we were killing things for experience and loot, which was odd because it wasn't a popular spot to go because of it's maze like nature and because the risk vs. reward just wasn't there, but yeah . . . it's all a distant memory now.

This place definitely feels like a virtual crazy pool maze, and those swimming pool pictures got me thinking about this place hard.

Apparently that lady in the middle is a boss for an Enchanter epic quest?

~~

Second, in Wizard101 there's a zone called "The Grotto" in Celestia.  While this place isn't as much as a maze as Siren's Grotto in Everquest, it really does have some of those same watery corridors that feel like a maze.

How exactly does an underwater pool work inside an underwater dome work? Magic!

It's too bad you don't stay in this zone for too long. I really like it.

Swimming underwater in the grotto in Wizard101! Yes!

Everything in this zone has a nice muted sound to it and you really feel underwater. It even features a fun giant shark/eel/monster head tunnel that you can swim through and a castle made out of coral.

An Icy crab man named Governor Nereus lives inside

Going inside the giant eel's mouth was always one of my favorite moments in Celestia.

If there's a great questing spot in Celestia, this is definitely on the top of the list for me.

~~

. . . and of course there are other areas in other MMOs that are underwater. Most recently I've visited Atlantis in DCUO where you can even transform into a seahorse and race through the seaweed. That race would qualify as a maze for sure! 

Project Gorgon also recently added a few underwater caves to Sun Vale. From what I remember it was a seaweed crafting reagent paradise.

As for other MMOs, I've read about them, but I can't really remember running the underwater Aquatic Ruins fractal in GW2, I don't think I've ever seen Vashj'r in World of Warcraft, and I've never found the secret underwater cave in Sea of Thieves. but those are all underwater "mazes" I wouldn't mind visiting in the future.

What do you think? You got any good underwater game spots? Lemme know in the comments below.

Happy Dueling!