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2014.06.10

Ping

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 29 – Vaults Inc

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.

Ludum dare 29 – vaults inc

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 (EDIT 2021: not available anymore)

Ludum dare 29 – vaults inc
Ludum dare 29 – vaults inc

The post was originally on blog.Gamenific.com

2014.03.26

Free to Play movie

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.

Free to play movie

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.

Free to play movie

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 Rating: 4
2013.11.30

Vacation is More Work

There is another vacations! Hey!!!!!

After Argentina and Chile last year and Cube and Mexico in May, this time I will visit… nowhere!

The old plan

That’s it. I was planning to go to Disney World, USA. The idea was to go in a big group and have fun. I went to Disney when I was in college (I lived in USA for 6 month in a exchange program) and I loved it! Loved it! Disney creates a magic atmosphere that one cannot ignore. They mastered the idea themed park.

Vacation is more work

Well, my original plan started to go wrong when I foresaw a complicated end-of-year in my job, due a project that I was involved. Things went worse with time. My boss said once or twice that we would stay in extra hours if needed.

Then I reached the moment of choice. With a lot of uncertainty, dollar-real ratio in a bad shape, and missed the momentum, I’ve finally decided to abort my trip and stay home.

The new plan

Cry no more! I have a new plan!

Besides my formal job, I invest a great deal of time in my lovely hobby: designing video games. I do all the process, from programming, drawing, writing, painting and whatever it is needed.

I have about 8 prototypes that I believe that can reach the market someday. One of them is a puzzle game called Picubic. It charming, it is challenging and it is fun. But most of all, it is the closest one to have, at this moment, a shot in the wild wild market. I named the gaming division of Bruno Massa Corporation as Gamenific, a mix of Magnific (magnificent) and Game!

Vacation is more work

For this reason, since I decided to abort my trip I also decided to invest all my time to launch it. Finish it once and for all and sell it. The plan is to launch it’s beta ITS WEDNESDAY! Kinda of… The plan is in fact, to launch a funding campaign in Indiegogo (the poorer cousin from Kickstarter) to help to leverage some money and close it. But most of all, to attract people. The company will only gain traction if there is a big enough audience. Let’s create a brand!

Vacation is more work

I can now only hope that this plan works. Otherwise, it will be a waste of a good Disney moment.

2013.09.05

Rock of Ages

The Chilean designers from ACE Team are back with the new crazy game Rock of Ages. Its a strategy and action game like none you have seen before.

You control a ball that will roll downhill until it crashes at the enemy’s castle front gates. Repeat if it is not damaged enough. Your adversary does the same. The first to break into the castle wins. You can put obstacles between your enemy’s ball and your castle, in a Tower Defense way. You should balance your time and money between preparing defenses and attacking.

Rock of ages

It’s overall idea is really nice but actual gameplay is not that fun. Well, It is fun at the beginning. I believe that it is fun in a sandbox mode, which you might experiment a lot. But for a single single player campaign, it is very frustrating. In the defense mode, the match is too short to allow you to test different strategies (or you win, or you lose in 2 or 3 rounds), neither gives you hints of would be a good call. In the offense ball rolling mode, the strategy is simple: avoid obstacles that make your ball weaker and go as fast as you can in the final meters in order to hit the gates as harder as you can. The problem is: that’s it. Not much else to do.

Nor difficult, especially for a strategy/action game. I was able to finish the game without complex thinking. The basic defense units, presented in the very first stages will take care of most of your needs in the entire game. The extra unities, gained when you reach later levels, are just visuals, offering almost no useful functionality. In like manner, the collectible stars, which was supposed to be difficult to obtain and would give the right to pass some portals, are also a piece of cake. So, it is more a matter to go and take them.

Rock of ages

Another polarizing aspect is the humour. I felt it is genuine and fun, but you have to give it a chance, because it is not obvious or for the masses. Each stage is thematic from historic figures like Pope, or ancient legends, like 300’s spartans. The jokes are silly and the application in the actual level is vague. Nonetheless, it reminds me the same weird fun style from Zeno Clash.

Bottom line: play this game if you want to explore an original and beautiful game. Does not expect deep strategy nor loads of LoL moments.

My Rating: 6
Metacritic: 74
2013.08.27

Ludum Dare 27

I participated at Ludum Dare (give the game, in Latin), edition 27. It is a competition to create a game in 48 hours (in Brazil, from 10pm Friday till 10pm Sunday). The theme was “10 seconds”, but I refused to create an action game. It would be the most common approach. Rather, I created a strategy game.

In fact there are 2 competitions: COMPO and JAM modes. The Jam allows you to bring a team and use pre-build stuff.You have to choose what mode you are going to compete. I didn’t know that was one OR the other, so I created a game in 48h and enhanced it in the next day.

Take a look. There are also some pictures from my design process.

But if you want to play it, [download it][] (EDIT 2021: not available anymore)!

2013.07.14

Bastion

I’ve heard about Bastion for quite some time. People love it as a very refined indie game. This review aims to confirm all you heard elsewhere: Bastion is a lovely game and I’m both happy and sad for finishing it.

Core mechanics are the main success factor presented. The fluid gameplay makes it accessible for almost everyone. He combat is satisfying and challenging. There are enough weapons to make you believe there is a variety, but not much to make you think there are just for filling in content. Each weapon requires a different play style

The graphics are great. It was given a lot of work to give Bastion a singular look. Its cartoonish characters and hand maid painted scenarios are richly detailed. You will believe in the universe.

Bastion

The enemies are also nice looking as well animated. They have different tactics and you have to fight them with a strategy, specially in the later levels and the arena.

But the most notable and unique feature of this game is the narrator. The whole story is from the point of view of an old man that follow the trajectory of the Kid to restore the Bastion to its former glory. The uniqueness is: he speaks the whole time! In the middle of the action, the narrator comes with fun comments. Sometimes it might get a bit annoying,  but I personally felt as a amazing immersing technique.

You must try it. It is available on every platform, including browsers, so there is no excuse.

My Rating: 9
Metacritic: 86
2013.04.29

Geralt of Rivia 2

It has been almost 2 years since I bought, at the release date, The Witcher 2. I played it furiously for a whole week. Maybe 40 hours. But one day I went to a 4 day travel and I totally lost the momentum.

I must confess that the review I wrote by 2011 I had not yet finished the game, but very much close to the ending.

Lately, news about the third installment emerge every day. I was caught by a nostalgia and shame. I recommended the game to all people that I talked to. I love the series. I found an inner strength to re-enter it’s universe. Loading an more than a year ago saved game, I was able to finally finish the game. I originally bought from gog.com, the CD Projekt distributing company. I don’t even remember why I got it again from Valve’s Steam, but there it was.

Now I revisit my original review with new insights.

Geralt of rivia 2

How superb are the visuals!  A totally unknown polish company manage to create a top 5 best looking game of all history, imo. The lights and color palette are amazing. The details presented in their 3D models are also incredible. Geralt of Rivia is very richly designed, with nice clothing. The same for the other characters and the scenes. Castles, dungeons, forests. Everything seems to be designed with care.

The story is for adults: strong on politics, sexual interests, loads of anti hero characters. It makes the game stand out among others, but it is not for everyone. However the story is also very confusing. My perception it happens because the game is based in a established book universe. The authors know the geography and history, but the players do not. When they vomit geography details as part of the main plot, I felt like listening mandarin.

Geralt of rivia 2

Once thing I disliked quite much in the game’s design: auto saving just before cut scenes. Generally, after important cut scenes, there is a battle. But if you lose, guess what: you have to see again the cut scene! Holly cow! How many times, specially at the end, I died but I had to see the whole dialogue all over again. Also noting that, but the ending of the game, the among of dialogues sky rocketed. Based on your choices on the dialogues, you will face one of the 16 endings. Almost all of them decided by the very last hour or two.

Re reading this, I fell like i hated the game, judging by the amount of complaining. Do not think this. It is like complaining about your son or girlfriend: it is because you liked them very much that you point the weak points. This Polish company gained my heart. I loved their work. I liked the first one very much. But this one shows how much effort were put into the game. 2 years later, it still seems as fresh as a new release. I feel sorry that i wont play it again for a second ending, but the third game is coming… I cannot wait!

My Rating: 9
Metacritic: 88
2013.03.09

Gaming Habbit ROI

Buying impulse can be a disease. There are several ill people that cannot control their own reasoning and buy everything they see. Until they got empty pockets.

The gaming industry is now living a transformation (well, it already operates in large scale in this nee model), the distribution channels can be now totally digital. So if you see an ad, in matter of minutes you can buy and start the download. And if your internet connection is fast enough, the time difference between wanting and buying can be really short. Virtually immediate.

I’m not saying that impulses is wrong. And sometimes we have special items and tastes. We love stuff and when there are more to buy, we get excited.

I consider myself a economic guy. Hardly I go with impulses when we are talking about spending my own money. But other day I came with the question: the games that I bought worth? I played? Liked them?

Inspired by the indie developer Cliff, from Positech, I did some math in order to find what games was a bang of the buck.

The math is funding out how much time i played the game and divide by the price I payed. Thanks to Steam, I can see how much time I was with a game opened in my screen. Also I can check my credit card to see how much. So all data I need is available.

There is one consideration: I’ve played several pirated games in my life and bought then recently for the sake of peace of mind. I did not count them also because I could not measure the amount of time I spent on them. Surely Mass Effect, Deus Ex 1, Morrowind and Oblivion, SimCity would be high on the list otherwise.

Considering that I can wait a bit for a game, I get many of them in a year of two after the release. These games tend to present a better ROI (Return of Investment). Buying at the release date is generally a bad decision, so unless is a long and good game, it will present a worse ratio.

The absolute king is… Team Fortress 2! Of course, it was free. But it is the game played most in recent years. More than 99 hours.

Then it comes smaller games that I bought very cheaply: Zeno Clash, Amnesia and GRID. All of them I played a lot, so the metrics favour them.

Then It comes some best-sellers that I played a big price, but I got me into them for a very long time: LA Noire i played 26 hours (and yet not finished), Witcher 2, Batman Arckham City and Skyrim, (other that I bought in the same day they launched the game and I still -shame- did not finished it).

Some of them I’m still playing, so there are some that would go even further up in the list. I can see Mark of the Ninja going this way… but I will write about it later…

2012.12.01

Zeno Clash

Zeno Clash is the debut game from the Chilean developer Ace Team. It is an impressive piece of work that really explores the graphical capabilities of the Unreal engine. The game, while very strange looking, is very beautiful. The team used a very broad range of colors and textures and lights to give a unique feeling for each stage and characters. Don’t expect a very detailed environment, but it will catch your eyeballs nonetheless.

Zeno clash

The game is just like a first person shooter, but without the shooter part. That s because the game is all about brawling. While there are weapons, most combats you will only punch and kick. It’s very fun to focus on close range combat. You do not need to worry about stealth and very precise aim, but timing is required. Get close, avoid being hit and give everything you get. It is hard but much more pleasant that firing with guns: a bit relaxing I dare to say.

Zeno clash

If the gameplay is a bit weird the story and theme are really crazy. The world of Zenozoik is populated by strange and ugly creatures. The whole theme is messed on purpose giving the player a  constant itchy feeling of surprise. The dialogs are very cryptic and never reveals the whole story. Several elements of the game, from the characters, places and dialogs all seem to be some sort of reference, like Matrix movies.I personally never found out any  direct reference, but I would bet that there are some link with the Biblic texts. I don’t know.

Zeno clash

The game is short, with some repeating stages and mechanics. But I found myself enjoying most of the ride. I know that a sequel is getting cooked and I’m anxious to see the much more experienced team diving again in this universe.

Zeno clash

It’s a classic of weirdness and I recommend to take a look. But be aware that is a love or hate product. My tip is: play a demo first. 😉

Gamespot: +Innovative, +Unique , -Shallow , -Weak Story

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 77