Archive | December 2011

High Score!

Image via Wikipedia

The thrill of getting a high score is unmatched.  Whether it is besting your friend in a dorm room showdown or being the best in the world, well all like to gain the title champion.  But does adding scores to games actually make them more fun?

Like with every design decision, I think there are pros and cons to adding a scoring system to a game based on how it is implemented.  So I wanted to dive in and see where games do fantastic with scoring and some where they fall a little short.  All of the things I discuss may or may not have been in games you have played and these are just my thoughts on how I think they should be implemented.  I am going to start with some observations I have had with a scores.

The Observations

I was in a game design class in high school, and while it wasn’t terribly technical or challenging we would have competitions to make the best game.  Sometimes we would have to work by ourselves or with a small group (no more than 3 people).  We would build our game, present it, and have a day of play testing everyone’s game before we would vote.  Now why am I telling you this?  Well for two reasons.  The first is that this particular group of classmates was brutal and would try and tear your game apart in anyway they could.  The second is that I somehow managed to make it in the top 3 every time.

One thing that I would always get positive comments on was how I did my scoring system within the game.  I would also observe my classmates playing my game, and they were all trying to beat each other for the high score.  As I was playing through the others games I started to take note of how they did their scoring and how it was tied into the game.  As expected almost everyone used the scoring just as a means to have a leader board and a mark to beat against your friends.  Okay, well there was no difference between how they did it and how I did it.  As I kept playing look for why, I felt really stupid when I noticed one trend of mine that was completely different than anyone else.  I think I didn’t notice it immediately because all the other games were doing the same thing.  They all had low point values.

So what?  Its all relative to the game right?  That is what I thought too, but I think the fact that the numbers you got in my game were staggering compared to others helped push me over the edge in the “fun factor”.  To give an example of the difference in scores the other students high scores would be around 2,000 or so.  Mine would usually end up around 22,000,000.  I don’t know about you, but I am more satisfied with a score of 22,000,000 than 2,000.  But that might just be me.

So what I took from this is if you have a scoring system that helps rank the skill of players against, bigger might just be better.

The Good

I think there are actually many ways games have done good scoring systems.  Like I mentioned before with the bigger might be better, I think this is what Geometry Wars, and especially Geometry Wars 2 did.  They took fun game play and coupled it with extreme scores to keep people coming back to beat their friends.

Another game that comes to mind is Halo 3.  Some people may have never played with the scoring system, and it is for that reason that I think it is good.  It was an optional feature.  Okay, maybe not so optional if you are addicted to getting achievements like I am.  You were able to turn on the meta scoring before a level and rack up points with kills, head shots, vehicle kills and more.  What was really fun was to turn on this feature when you were playing with friends.  Whether it was someone sitting on the couch next to you or a friend over Xbox Live it was fun to see who could get the most points and would result is a lot of kill steals.

This aided in making playing through Halo 3’s campaign multiple times refreshing.  I can usually only play a campaign twice.  Once on normal for the story and once on the hardest mode for the achievement.  I know that I played through Halo 3 at least half a dozen times.  Any game that can use scoring to bring players back to beat their friend or to keep the game play fresh will have a successful title (assuming it is playable in other aspects.  I don’t mean you can make Scoretron 2000 and have a hit.)

The Bad

In modern games we want players to keep wanting to come back for more and to appeal to as many play styles as possible.  Therefore we don’t want to make a game painfully difficult to complete for everyone.  I have seen or heard of others trying to tie the score to game progression.  In other words, if a user did not get to a certain score in the level, they would have to replay that level until they can obtain the minimum score.  That sounds brutal and would turn most gamers I know away from the game with no intention of returning.  Luckily this doesn’t happen to often, but it is a recipe for disaster if you ask me.

Another aspect of scoring that is bad is noticeable if you log into any Call of Duty and check the online leader boards.  Of course I am talking about leader board glitches.  This completely ruins any leader board credibility and just looks bad.  I know there is a handful of gamers that strive for that top slot, but when they are beat out by someone who has an hour game time it is sad.  I think that if a game has a leader board the company should be careful to purge it of glitches, or find a way to track different stats.

Conclusion

Of course these are just my experiences and observations.  I would love to hear from others what their experience with scoring systems have been.  Also mention any games you think got it right or were completely off.  I haven’t been able to play a PS3 so I might be missing a gem in there somewhere.  Thanks for reading!

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Game Preview: Hawken

Hawken is a Mech FPS game being produced by Adhesive Games.  And it looks amazing.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, just check out these two videos that they have made of the gameplay so far:


 

Pretty beautiful right?  Okay, I will admit I might be a little biased towards this game.  But I think it is for good reason.  I always love we a small development team can make such a breathtaking game to compete against these huge companies.  Fresh ideas are always needed in the world of game development.  The other reason is because I have always been a sucker for a good Mech game.  The one I have in mind is Chromehounds which was developed by Sega.  Sadly they shut down the online servers about two years ago otherwise I would still be playing that game.

While this game isn’t completely like Chromehounds (not as much customization), it does look like MechAssault all grown up.  And I have fond memories of the early Xbox Live days playing that game.  I have a lot of hope for this game, and you can guarantee I will be posting updates to this blog as news comes out for this game.

Java Tutorial: If-else Statements

In the last tutorial we left off with getting user input as well as creating variables.  A common thing to want to do with data, whether it is from user input or stored in another way,  is to have the program make “decisions” with the given information.  The reason I put decisions in quotes is because it is up to the programmer to decide what the program will do based off of given information.  But I think this is best seen through an example.  I am not going to set up an entire program for this tutorial, but just do fragments with all the important information.

int num = 10;

if (num < 5 )

{

    System.out.println("The number is less than 5!");

}

else

{

    System.out.println("The number is greater than 5!");

}

 

There we have it, the most basic if-else statement.  Well I guess that isn’t entirely true, the most basic is just an if statement without an else.  And important thing to remember is that you can have an if without an else, but you can’t have an else without an if.  Say that five times fast!

I initialized the integer variable num to the value 10, and I set up the if-else statement accordingly.  For the first part of the statement the condition is num < 5.  If you have knowledge of math symbols you will know that this is read as num is less than 5.

So in this case if the number stored in num is less than 5, the code that follows in the braces will be executed.  However if this statement is false, it will go to the else, and execute the block of codes immediately after it.  In this case which one executes?  If you said the else block then you are correct!  To write it in a more generic way would be as follows:

if (condition)

{

    Some code you want to execute if the if condition is true;

}

else

{

    Execute this code if the if condition is false;

}

 

Pretty simple right?  Now you might be wondering what kind of statements are legal to use in an if statement, so I am going to put them all in a table right here.

Logical Operators in Java

  • <        less than
  • >        greater than
  • <=     less than or equal
  • >=     greater than or equal
  • ==     equivalent
  • !=      does not equal
This should allow you to do any logical comparison against variables you have.  Of course for boolean variables you would only be checking if they are equivalent or not because there is no way to say true is less than false or the other way around.  Another thing you might want to do is have two statements and only do something if they are both true, or at least on is true.  This is referred to as logical and (&&) and logical or (||).  If you put one of these between the two statements in the if declaration it will make the statement true if both sides are true (using and) or if at least one side is true (using or).  Here is an example:
int age = 20;
String name = "Brett";
//using logical and
if (age <= 18 && name == "Brett")
{
    System.out.println("Hello Brett!");
}
else
{ System.out.println("You are not Brett!");
}
//using logical or
if (age <= 18 || name = "Brett")
{
    System.out.println("You are either at least 18 years old or Brett, not sure which though!");
}
else
{
    System.out.println("You are not Brett and you are not at least 18.");
}
 

You can play around with these different logical operators, but if you really thing about it you don’t need to guess in check if you use the proper planning.  There is one more thing that I want to add to this tutorial before ending it and that is that you can do more than just if-else.  You can do if-else if-else.  There can be multiple else if in this statement and I will show you an example that we are all too familiar with.
if (grade <= 90)
{
    System.out.println("You got an A");
}
else if (grade <= 80)
{
    System.out.println("You got a B");
}
else if (grade <= 70)
{
    System.out.println("You got a C");
}
else if (grade <= 60)
{
    System.out.println("You got a D");
}
else
{ System.out.println("You got an F");
}

As you can see there were multiple else if statements, and if one is false, it goes and checks the next statement until it finds the correct block to execute.  That concludes this java tutorial, again if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Practice Problem
Make an interactive story where the user chooses which path to take, and depending on their choice have different blocks of code execute.  Have fun!

Gunnar Eyewear

If you are anything like me, I spend hours in front of a screen per day.  Sometimes I do it for fun playing video games or surfing the web but other times I have no choice and I need to spend hours in front of the screen doing homework.  After working on a brutal paper or program for multiple hours my eyes start to hurt of course but I can’t escape because of deadlines.  If only there was a way to fix this!

Well Gunnar Eyewear claims to hold the solution to this problem.  And while I could explain what they are all about I think the YouTube video that they posted would do it a little better.


I think it is a fantastic idea, but going through their website it makes some pretty amazing claims and it makes me wonder if it does all of these amazing things.  Provides increased visual endurance, enhances the detail of the screen, and decreases eye fatigue?  That all sounds pretty amazing to me.  But I think it is okay for me to be a skeptic when it comes to claims like this.  That coupled with the price of the glasses makes this far from an impulse buy.  Browsing their store the prices seemed to range from around $79 to $200.  The price plus looking a little odd wearing these glasses might put some users off, and if no fatigue or soreness is present these might not be the best investment of your money.

But I wanted to do a little more research on the product so I took to the internet and started browsing the reviews of this product to get some customer input.  From what I gathered all of the people reviewing it who had eye issues and eye fatigue before have been very impressed with this product.  A lot of people said that they were also skeptical but they were pleasantly surprised.  This makes me think this is one of those products that can speak for itself and that I might be interested.  I have found a pair that I am willing to pick up and I probably will next payday.  Then I will be able to give an actual review.  While this product is out I consider this more of a preview that others might like to know about.

If you happen to have used these glasses before or own a pair I would love to hear what you think of them!

PlayStation SimulView

About a month ago I was sitting on the couch playing Black Ops with my sister and she was totally screen looking.  Of course it drove me crazy and if she ever got a kill I blamed it on the fact that I was playing on half the screen size that I usually do and exclaimed “Why can’t we just play on one screen but not see the other player!”  While I was thinking more along the lines of taping a piece of cardboard to the tv and making here sit below it and me stand up, Sony had a slightly better idea.  I saw this ad and it blew my mind:


This is the answer to all the problems!  What a simple, beautiful idea.  Sadly this will cost you a small fortune for the television and glasses,  but if you are a person who enjoys playing games with others in the same room it might be a great investment.  One thing that is a little hard to tell in the ad is the size of the television.  As it shows, it is about the size of a large computer monitor, so if you are trying to replace your living room television you might want to consider other choices.  Otherwise this would make a great television for a room or dorm room setting!  The other thing I would like to comment on is that I tried out the glasses and they are pretty lightweight and fit comfortably over glasses if you already wear them.  Anyways, hats off to Sony for coming out with such a cool way to play on the same couch.

Edit: The one downside I did realize is that while this would be amazing for 2 players, it takes anyone else who wants to watch out of the game.  That kind of stinks!