2016.02.22

Shadow of Mordor is one of that type of game that sucks me in in a way that I cannot stop desiring to play. My last love was The Witcher 3, which I slowed played for more than 125 hours during months. But the scope is so much smaller that TW3 that I was determined to finish the game as soon as possible. It took me about half a week but I did it. SoM is officially over. Credits, like in all modern game or movie, are endless. Satisfaction. Because I am a completionist, I still have it installed to allow me to go back to it and at least finish the 100% mark (I would love to do all the Steam achievements too, but some are too obscure).

The mechanics presented here is nothing new. The main character, Talion, is a Assassin’s Creed wanderer. He climbs castles, towers and hills just like any AC character always do. The advantage here is that the enemies, the orcs, are very stupid and lose track of you almost instantaneously. Each to run away from messy situations. The combat is also very derivative of this new generation of third person action games, just as Assassin’s Creed, Batman and God of War. It is very generous on targeting your enemies. The conter attack time window is very broad.

Shadow of Mordor, therefore, is an easy game once you get the general flow. However, it is very fun.

One of the main features of this game is the nemesis system (it is how the developer calls it). In the game, orcs have an hierarchical military structure and they interact withing the chain quite often. The challenge rivals, assume the vacant position, are promoted. Killing the high command leaders triggers a series of promotions. Player can also induce rebellions, plot assassinations and other situations that actively shapes a new order. It is really interesting mechanics. You will get furious to see an orc getting more powerful and promoted because he killed you. In their culture, it is a demonstration of mighty.

Another cool concept is that any of these orc leaders have strengths and weaknesses that you can, and should, explore. They can be imune to ranged or melee attacks, forcing you master all the combat techniques. They can also have a critical fear of bees, caragors (a thematic tiger) or traitors infiltrated in their outpost. Exploiting such flaw will make them act erratic and try to run away. It will open a great opportunity window for finishing them off. Every time you need to kill one of them, it is imperative to study these character aspects to plan the strategy.

Graphically the game is stunning. I could run it in full HD in High preset and several times I had to stop just to take a mental photo of the moment. Nothing to comment further: great.

The story, however, it just ok. There are some problems that annoyed me:

  • It is too fragmented: there are some secondary characters that come and go in matter of two missions. Some are genuinely cool, but vanish from the story too soon.
  • The bosses are mini games: there are basically 3 bosses in the game. Without spoiling the story any further, they are merely a mini game. Almost no interaction. And they are not present throughout the game, so I were never engaged to kill them.
  • The main story is essentially a tutorial: the game have a core mechanics that is supposed to be an infinite loop. The main story presents new combat or gameplay features until almost the last mission! And like any tutorial-mission in games, they are always easy on the player.

There is one aspect of the game story that I liked and I fell worth to mention: the lore of the game. While the game is not about the main events of Lord of the Rings (it happens long before the LotR), it crosses with some cool characters and events that made me feel is was part of the famous story.

I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor very much. I totally recommend you to play it. I was curious when all major game reviewers were telling very good things about the game (they also were surprised). Due the brazilian current ratio, I had to wait for a better price; and it was worthy!

My grade: 8

Metacritic: 84

2015.12.22

Like almost everybody else, I was not expecting this game being this good. From the makers of the fun but niche FPS Serious Sam, Croteam, a puzzle game this deep have to catch everybody by surprise.

The game is a series of 3D puzzles. You control a character using the ordinary 3D FPS control scheme. Nothing fancy. But there is no combat. None. Some puzzles require some action, like running an synchronizing with other moving elements, like elevators.

The difficulty rate is really nice. At the beginning you face easy puzzles. Eventually one is harder, to keep you interested. Then a new tools or functionality is presented. And the cycle repeats, now mixing the usage of the tools in the levels.

The visuals are super clean but yet super nice. It allowed me to play in my notebook with any reservations. The whole universe feels right. The UI is super minimalistic.

The story is presented thru a inside or head voice, in a God-speaking to you kinda way and thru computers and holograms. Most of them does not clarify anything, but just expose someone’s opinions and points of view. It is up to you, the player, to figure out what the hack is going on. And it is deliberated dual, in the way that there is no one truth to the story. Every player will experience it in a personal way. The whole presentation is a follows the introspective and philosophical themes.

The game is a blast. I struggled in some puzzles but most of them are doable. Some extras are given for those that keep the super hard out-of-the-box puzzles. I saw the solution of some of them on the internet, and my mind exploded. They were super bizarre. I felt that just finishing the game and doing one or other extra puzzle would suffice. But I enjoyed every moment.

And also, I saved the game just before the final moment because I wanted to experience the multiple endings of the game.

Totally recommend it.

My Grade: 8.5

Metacritic: 85

2015.11.01

Spoiler alert: It is now my favorite game of all time. Period.

I played The Witcher (1) couple of years ago, after reading an interesting review saying that it was one of the best RPGs ever made. The review also alerted that the game suffered deeply from bad translation and bugs when first came to english markets. The second edition, called Enhanced Edition, fixed most of these issues and indeed enhanced some aspects of the game. When I played, I had to agree that the game and the universe were fantastic. I loved the idea of playing with a anti-hero.

The Witcher 2 came and I also loved it. It departed from the Aurora Engine (used in Obsidian’s classic RPGs like Neverwinter Nights) to a home made. The art direction took a overhaul and started to show the real vision. The general gameplay also transitioned to a more action oriented, with a third person over-the-shoulder camera style.

The Witcher 3 was announced and I had to confess that I was a bit worried about the open world nature. The Witcher main strength, as a series, was the strong story telling. Open world games tend to have a loose and light story. See Bethesda’s Elder Scroll and RockStar’s GTA series.

The closer to the release, the more excited I was getting. It was one of the very few titles that I have ever pre-ordered.

And it delivered!

Since from the very start, the game shows that it has a fantastic story driven gameplay and strong action mechanics. Since from the very start, it will keep your mouth and eyes opened. It is how I stayed for hours of playing. There are 3 pillars that make this game so awesome:

Story

The most surprising good feature is the story elements. As I said before, open world games tend to be a bit light in order to accommodate a generic and open nature of the game. They generally just introduce the gameplay elements. But in Wild Hunt, the main story have a purpose, a true life. The plot is complex and it raises in tension each step.

But what surprised me most is the richness of  the side quests. They did not fall into the trap of creating a bunch of generic side quests, like most Assassin’s Creed or Borderlands, or even Skyrim, with several missions that are purely kill a target or get an item. They are more elaborate, with an introduction of context on each of them, multi stepped and often with resolution with a moral dilemma. Combat and violence is not always the way of resolving things. In summary, they put a lot of effort on creating all of them, avoiding the generic content-fill approach.

The characters fell deep and believable. They have different motivations: some are greedy, some are brutal, some are kind, some are funny. Geralt cannot be defined as good or evil. He is more complex. You can save one beautiful lady by letting dozens die. You can take part of a monster that is counter attacking humans that are invading its territory. You can date some different girls, but notice that for every decision, there are consequences. You will never face a “right” decision.

Gameplay

They listened to the players from previous games and they changed and tweaked The Witcher formula while maintaining the series main concepts. Alchemy is proved to be useful, magic and combat are complementary. The players are constantly forced to change styles and mastering all the techniques. It creates variable combats and protects the players from being a mere button presser, with monotonous single style of play.

The map traversal is fun and interesting. The land is filled with monsters and mysterious characters. Beautiful landscapes. Detailed cities. Do yourself a favor and avoid the main roads and explore the map. The horse Roach is useful and fun. Fast travel is done nicely (altought I hate where the Crow’s Perch).

The developers got almost all the design choices right. All the information is presented clearly and most of the boring aspects, like loot and inventory administration, streamlined.

Graphics

The third element that hooked me also stunned almost everyone in the world: the graphical presentation is absolutely the best. Skyrim did quite a splash when it came out, but it is nothing, nothing compared to The Witcher. They extracted the most of the technology to bring a very detailed and brilliant world even imagined.

They animated EVERY dialog. All the set pieces are cinema like, with moving, talking, gesticulating and vivid characters. For sure they invented some animation editor to allow to procedurally change camera angles and some gestures, but man, it works really well.

The cities are huge. It takes quite a time to cross one city. One of many. The terrain is so beautiful that they put some situations in the story that the main character itself stops and take a moment watching the view.

In the sound department, all the dialogues are voiced, in a enormous production challenge.

Bonus: Customer friendly

Unlike most of today’s businessmen in these industry, the guys from CD Prokect really mean customers-first. They proved in the past, creating the Good Old Game (not only GOG.com) with no DRM, and they proved this time. The game was fixed and really enhanced patch after patch, mostly due the players feedback. They are for me the ultimate inspiration for business management for an digital company. It should definitively a inspiration for Konami or EA heads.

My final thoughts are quite simple: it took me months to complete the 130+ hours of the main campaign. I was delaying it on purpose, fearing it would end. I liked so much that I could say that it is probably my favorite game of all time.

My Grade: 10

Metacritic: 93

2015.01.31

Without any delay, I give it to you: Mark of the Ninja entered to my Top 10 Games of All Time. That is the how much I liked the game.

This beautifully crafted 2D action stealth game. You are asked to go thru the stealthy approach in the entire game, but if you are more willing to make it a blood bath, it is a viable option too.

The controls are sharp and the levels are very well designed. And just like Super Meat Boy, the difficulty level is at the point that it you will get compelled to replay it for a better score.

Music is great, story also very good (makes you wanting to know more about the mysteries ahead). I got really inspired by the Klei production.

I played it until I got almost all the badges and challenges completed. When I finally got almost everything possible, it made me sad to uninstall it.

Metacritics: 91

My Grade: 10

2014.09.22

Como dito anteriormente, eu estava bem interessado em entrar na competição do INOVApps, um concurso do Ministério das Comunicações para criação de aplicativos e jogos educativos ou de utilidade pública.

Por ser um indie (a caminho de ser um profissional em tempo integral) a alguns anos, eu tenho muito material já criado. Eu gosto muito de experimentar e já tenho diversos protótipos e ideias já começados. Material não faltaria para uma adaptação.

O concurso avalia somente a documentação do projeto e o produto em si. Isso significa que todos os jogos, prototipos e testes que eu já fiz, joguei e compartilhei com amigos não vale muito. Teria de transformar isso em palavras: seu funcionamento, as dificuldades de um eventual projeto a quais as experiências ao jogar.

Como o concurso permitia inscrever até 2 projetos por pessoa, acabei inscrevendo 2 jogos: Cidades Maravilhosas e Linha do Conhecimento.

Cidades Maravilhosas é um jogo sobre construir uma cidade. Em cada rodada o jogador constrói uma nova obra na cidade. Cada obra traz alguns benefícios (e as vezes malefícios) a cidade e eles são bem dependentes da sua localização (nenhuma residência quer ficar próxima a um lixão ou aeroporto barulhento). E como a lista de obras é única para todos os jogadores, se alguém fizer um estádio, as outras cidades vão ficar sem ele. É importante balancear cuidadosamente a distribuição da cidade. Ganha quem tiver a cidade mais desenvolvida (maior população).

Linha do Conhecimento é sobre educação, mais propriamente História do Brasil sem ser decoreba. O jogo começa com dois eventos históricos na “mesa”. Cada jogador terá uma lista de eventos históricos na mão e tem de dizer se eles vem antes, depois ou entre estes dois eventos. Simples não?! Simples, mas muito divertido. Eu já joguei este jogo sem qualquer arte com alguns grupos de amigo, só com textos e figuras genéricas e a aceitação foi enorme. Ele dá tanto para ser usado numa sala de aula como numa roda de amigos.

Documentos

Com a cada dia mais eminente estréia do primeiro jogo oficial da Gamenific, Picubic, minha atenção ficou bem dividida. E tudo isso trabalhando só depois do expediente, na madrugada. Foi um enorme desafio vender a ideia a alguns artistas talentosos que conheço e fazer eles mergulharem no projeto. No final, fiquei contente com os que aceitaram: Tom e Ricardo são experientes e tem um estilo muito diferente da abordagem tradicional, e só com o pouco que já criaram acho que vai dar aos avaliadores uma boa impressão.

Gravei uma séries de vídeos para os dois jogos. Mas só deu tempo de produzir o do Cidades Maravilhosas, pois Ricardo tinha já muitos compromissos (lembrando que o concurso foi anunciado a 1 mes). Tentamos passar tanto a ideia do projeto como uma passada de projetos passados.

Linha do Conhecimento ficou prejudicado por não ter sido minha escohla inicial. Eu tinha planejado criar um jogo sobre segurança pública, “Segurança e Inteligência”, mas depois de escrever, gravar, prototipar, achei que não estava na pegada correta para um concuso de jogos sérios/educativos. Então tomamos a decisão de trocar. Eu apostava no Linha do Conhecimento como um backup, pois era um projeto mais antigo, mas depois que optamos por promovê-lo, tentamos que revisitar os códigos para ver se ele ainda era divertido mesmo.

Agora não é Esperar

No final das contas, acho que ambos os projetos são muito bons. Como os jurados nunca jogaram e terão de sentir isso somente lendo um documento, tudo é possível. Enquanto isso, eu vou manter o desenvolvimento andando num ritmo básico, pois se os projetos forem selecionados, eu posso já ter adiantado um pouco do trabalho. Se não for, tenho total interesse em prosseguir com os projetos de outra forma, então o trabalho não será perdido. Devo ir postando aqui qualquer novidade.

Em novembro, vamos todos saber o que aconteceu.

2014.08.11

Descobri semana passada que o Ministério das Comunicações está organizando um corcurso nacional de Aplicativos e Jogos Sérios para dispositivos móveis. Serão 25 escolhidos em cada categoria com prêmio de 100 mil reais cada! Nada mal se o ganhador for uma pessoa física.

Ministério

Achei particularmente curioso o concurso vir deste ministério e não do MinC (Ministério da Cultura). Há vários anos atrás (acho que em 2003), eu e meu amigo Gabriel participamos do JogosBR, um concurso similar mas que era para promover a indústria dos jogos eletrônicos no geral. Nosso jogo foi o Color Rangers, um jogo de estratégia com RPG no universo dos heróis japoneses. Ele passou na primeira etapa, mas não da segunda, que é a que valeria dinheiro mesmo. Hoje eu teria condições de executar este projeto com certeza. Ao menos a primeira fase nos rendeu uma foto ao lado do então Ministro da Cultura, Gilberto Gil. No começo do ano nós descobrimos que a Behold, uma desenvolvedora brasileira, estava fazendo um jogo chamado Color Squad, um jogo de estratégia com RPG no universo dos heróis japoneses… Coincidência? Acho que não, mas isso não importa. Fico até orgulhoso pois mostra que tivemos uma ideia bem legal.

Documentos como produto final

Assim como o antigo concurso do Ministério da Cultura, este concurso vai julgar um projeto de jogo e não o jogo já feito. Isso é uma postura bem diferente do que eu já fiz principalmente nos Ludum Dare (competição de criação de jogos em 48h) em que o que vai a juri é o jogo que você conseguiu criar. No INOVApps, o que vai ser julgado é a proposta. É uma série de documentos que descrevem o jogo e como ele será feito. Deve-se dizer qual é a mecânica do jogo, seu tema, fases, arte conceitual. Com base nestes documentos eles vão ver quem tem uma boa ideia e parece ter capacidade de executá-la. Eu tenho um pouco de receio deste tipo de abordagem já que ele dá margem para os participantes viajarem na maionese e escreverem projetos . E pior, dá margem para que eles sequer escrevam uma linha de código para o jogo final. Com relação a este último item, o regulamento do concurso lida bem pois, mesmo com os ganhadores já definidos, só vai liberar grande parte dos recursos só depois de dar entregáveis. Só depois do jogo concluído é que se teria direito a mais de 40% do dinheiro.

Jogos sérios

Investiguei na internet e li bastante sobre o assunto de jogos sérios. Fiquei um pouco temeroso pois a maioria dos jogos sérios… não é jogo, e sim conteúdo interativo. Segundo a teoria dos jogos, um jogo deve ter uma dinâmica entre os participantes, em que a ação de um afetaria o outro. Vi vários visualizadores 3D e 2D, com diversos graus de interação. Mas vi realmente poucos que eu chamaria de jogos. Sem qualquer tipo de pontuação ou limitarores (como vidas), é difícil considerar um infográfico interativo como um jogo. Espero que a banca tenha isso em mente.

Minha proposta

Estou totalmente tentado a participar do concurso. Estou já com alguns pequenos protótipos que poderia facilmente adaptar para um jogo mais educativo, com temática mais séria, mas ainda sim mantendo ele divertido e interessante. Sempre fui facisnado com o conceito de que, na pele de um governante, é tudo bem mais complicado que se apenas ver de fora. Gosto do conceito de que tudo tem 2 lados. Meus jogos sempre refletem isso, fazendo com que o jogador sempre tenha um certo dilema ao tentar ganhar dinheiro em detrimento da felicidade ou tentar vencer a guerra deixando alguns aliados morrerem. Para apresentar alguma proposta é preciso que ela seja enquadrada em uma das categorias listadas no edital. Estou querendo abordar a violência. No mundo dos jogos ela é sempre retratada de uma maneira muito simplista: bem contra o mal. Mesmo em jogos de estratégia, todos os que não são amigos são inimigos. Acho que dá para explorar este conceito de quem é amigo e quem é inimigo, além do que eu já tentei, ao colocar dilemas morais. Também estou bastante interessado tem temas de governabilidade. Acho que posso atacar temas como turismo e uma dinâmica de toma-lá-dá-cá. Algo como Trópico, mas com uma pegada um pouco mais didática e com base histórica. Qualquer que seja a proposta, vou tentar fazer uma obra de entreterimento. Isso por uma razão pragmática: se o jogo for bom e divertido, os jogadores jogarão mais e o conteúdo informativo será mais fixado. Não adianta ser uma obra intessante que a pessoa vê, usa e joga fora. Ele tem de ter uma vida útil longa. E vou tentar garantir isso por meio de um mecânicas de jogo.

2014.08.01

 Yesterday I played Witcher Adventure (still in Beta) again, this time I could play for a little longer. I am participating in the Beta program, to give the developers the much feedback as we can. The game is a digital implementation of the homonymous boardgame, launched by Fantasy Flight Games.

First and foremost, the beta label means that: the game is incomplete. The main mechanics are working, the graphics are there, but there are many details missing, things that you will notice when you try it.

I am particularly interested in the game because my next game, project Vaults Inc, can learn a lot from it.

Visuals

Visuals are great. The game is really pretty and follows almost exactly the boardgame. There are also several similarities to Blizzard’s HeartStone by giving a plain card game a 3D vivid feeling. In the visual aspect, its a 10.

Story

Witcher Adventure do not have a fixed story. Instead each player will have a mission and submissions during the match. Even being a very mechanic driven strategy game, the story elements work amazingly well. It is better than other games that just include some generic and irrelevant context.

Multiplayer

The beta is all about the multiplayer aspect. The initial menu options are all very straight forward because the game has no other options to offer. Because there was not many players invited to the beta (at least I suppose), for several moments that I entered in the game lobby looking for a companion I was alone there. The whole lobby feature is lacking a lot of robustness. It just says that there is or isn’t people waiting to play with you, nothing else. It could be strengthened by looking into Valve’s Alien Swarm, because they are similar in terms of important variables: number of players and scenario/match duration players voted for. The “waiting for other players to join” feels so lonely.

Bugs

The current game is full of bugs. It’s a bit unfair, because most games are full of bugs. In a action driven game, all the bugs are generally forgotten seconds later because the player’s attention is needed again But in the case of a strategy, turn-based, very slow paced games, the logic is pretty exposed. You can see and analyze quite precisely the output of a given command. In Witcher Adventure, the forum is full of minor bugs, but there are a couple of critical ones, in which the whole match is compromised. The most critical ones were related to network. ALL of my plays stooped due a player’s network problem. Yep, I could not go to a single match to the end… I want to play it more (if there is any people online to do so)!

My grade: 8

2014.06.10

I’m not dead. Neither the blog. I’m going to —poorly- explain why.

I’m just very focused on other projects, like my own new company Gamenific. It is, for now, a informal company, but I am investing more and more time and money and energy into it. The Gamenific blog, that I write, is getting much more updated than this one.

My main day job is also requiring loads of time. Specially at the beginning of the year, when I was responsible for implementing a Online Booking tool in the company, was very demanding. I was working 16 hours a day. No social life was allowed. I cannot stress enough that it is very counter productive: working that much for long periods is very tiring. Tired minds do not think properly and make constantly wrong decisions. One after the other.

But now things are normal again.

World Cup is here. It will officially start this Thursday and Rio de Janeiro, one of the hosting cities, is up side down. The transport is the worst, not only it is operating with overcapacity, but also the worker unions are taking the advantage of the situation to start constant strikes to raise the salaries. The population is a hostage.

Back to Gamenific:

My plan is to make this company my life. If all goes right, it will become my main source of income in the next year, maybe two. And at this point I plan to make it a full day job.

Being a one-man company is not easy. By far. The amount of work that it takes is enormous. Secondary administrative tasks, like blogging, contacting new contractors, marketing, making strategic plans… is very demanding. I wish I have someone to share the burden. But I am not complaining. On the contrary, it is very fun. Is hard and I love it.

I will keep Gamenific news in the Gamenific blog as much as possible, keeping this bog more as a personal view, specially related to programming, video games, cinema. Eventually I address some political or economical matters.

In Brazil, national elections are coming. I think it will be the subject of some texts in the near future.

2014.04.29

Ludum Dare! The famous indie game competition has just ended and I once again locked me out of the world for 3 days to design, program,

In this edition, the theme was “Beneath the Surface”. In comparison with other editions, a very easy theme because it defines only the thematic aspect of the game. Most of games can be adapted to fit the theme, from shooters, strategy games, platformers. It is much harder when it restricts the mechanics of the game, like “10 Seconds” from Ludum Dare 27.

In my case, even with an easy theme, I face a lot of difficulty to design the game. I know that Ludum Dare audience is mainly indie designers with very little experience and they appreciate mostly popular action game genres, like platformer, top-down adventures and first person shooters. But it was definitively not what I wanted in this edition. With an easy theme, I wanted to innovate in the mechanics.

In Brazil, the competition started Friday by 10pm. It is generally a good thing, because we are tired from work and it is close to sleeping time. Because the openness we got from the theme, I faced a lot of difficulty on designing, because designing requires restricting yourself. I only closed the final mechanics by Saturday lunch, 12 hours after the competition start.

Vaults Inc

Vaults Inc is a turn based strategy game. It is like a city building, but underground: you build a bunker from a post-nuclear-war universe. Imagine Fallout’s vaults. I wanted to grab a little of its universe, specially the visuals and humor. Each turn the player have to build a new block in the bunker. Each block can increase or decrease or Income, Money, Fame or Population. The strategy comes from the interaction that each new block generates: Landfill decreases Fame is placed next to a residential block; slaughterhouse generates more income if placed next to a restaurant; fancy restaurant decreases fame is other fancy restaurants are built. Timing and Location are crucial. Bigger bunkers means bigger problems: the more you grow, your fame and income start to go down. The game has typically 50 turns and the player have to reach the biggest population possible.“The most complete Fallout-Bunker-Simulator. Learn it for a future not that improbable”

Play it online for free

The post was originally on blog.Gamenific.com

2014.03.26

Yesterday I watched the Free to Play movie, produced by Valve. I can be only seeing inside the Steam gaming platform. I’ve never knew that it has video player functionalities. Without any further due, the verdict: very boring. The film is about video gaming as an sport, particularly about Dota 2. It tells 3 parallel stories of players that will participate into the biggest tournament ever. The prize would be one million dollars for the winner. At the time, it was, but light years, the biggest prize in history.

The 3 main characters are not particularly captivating. They are portrayed as nerds that are taking a lot of pressure by family members to work or study instead invest the whole time into gaming. The characters keep saying that they are motivated and determined to win. But that is all. You see that they are facing difficult situations, but nothing different from a teenagers entering into adulthood: what should I do with my life? Despite the fact that the announcement alone of a such big prize created a huge repercussion in the internet gaming community and media, the tournament is poorly described. During the whole film, I was never sure what was going on in the competition.

But one thing it was very impressive the the CG scenes that describe some parts of the matches in the competition. I believe that Valve CG animators entered in action. They were short but very very well done. The bottom line is that this film is in fact a propaganda about video game as an sport and the Valve game Dota. It repeatedly say that this competition was a milestone and it might actually be the case. But even being free to watch, Free to Play is not worthy.

My grade: 4