Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cadillacs and Dinosaurs

This game kicks serious dinosaur butt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Most Amazing Mech Simulation Game Ever

I recently discovered the Playstation 2 game "Robot Alchemic Drive", although I haven't gotten to play it yet - but it looks incredible. Giant robots punching each other through buildings is pretty much impossible to NOT be fun. Something about the controls of R.A.D., which it appears are very clunky and awkward - just the way a mech should operate - gave me a brilliant idea for a Mech game. Humor me for a minute here:

It's an in-cockpit simulation like the Mechwarrior series, of course. Nothing beats the feeling of being in an authentic, detailed fictional war machine! In the regular Mechwarrior games, movement is controlled via a throttle configuration to control speed, while the torso twists from side to side to aim or move weak armor away from the enemy. This basically amounts to the mechs handling like a futuristic tank, with jump jets and lasers. That's awesome, it works great for that series. What I really like about the clunky control scheme in R.A.D. is how it gives the mechs such a sense of scale, and how it adds an entirely new layer of skill to even basic piloting. Think about a massive, tall, bipedal robot. It's not going to be a very stable vehicle. Again, it works in Mechwarrior because pilots wear neurohelmets to control balance effortlessly, but I'd like to see something different in a new Mech game. In many cases, giving more control to the player is a sure-fire way to add more depth to game mechanics - something the current video game generation could stand to learn. That's what I propose for this Mech game.

In R.A.D., you control each limb of the robot individually. The robots control slowly and awkwardly. I'd like to see even MORE clunkyness in my Mechs, though! It's not nearly enough! Part of this idea comes from watching some really good R.A.D. videos where the players know what they're doing. They make the robots do some ridiculous stuff! I've seen robots uppercut enemy robots, and then punch them again on the way down - all using pretty detailed control of the individual limbs of the robot! That type of control takes SKILL! A beginner could not do that sort of thing. A real mech shouldn't be pilotable by just anyone, they should take some real skill to control a humanoid bipedal robot, right? So, the clunkier and more awkward you make the mech to control, the more awesome it will be to make the mech do awesome stuff! That's the assumption I'm working with, anyway. But just how clunky do I want this mech to handle?

In this fabled Mech game I'd love to play, there will be detailed control of each limb of the mech - of course. But here's what R.A.D. doesn't do, that I want to see: control over the mech's balance. If you screw up walking forward, you should fall over. If you want to run, you need to lean forward and lean into your turns properly and time your leg movement properly, just like you're really running. Unlike Mechwarrior, you can actually sidestep or make quicker movements in this game, although doing so will be DIFFICULT. As it should be. Dodging enemy fire and melee attacks would be more dynamic in this mech game, unlike in Mechwarrior where you need to just run perpendicularly to enemy missiles to avoid them and use cover to avoid everything else. Ducking, diving and maybe even rolling on the ground could be possible to avoid enemy attacks. In the Battletech books which I've recently started reading, the mechs are capable of this - why can't they do it in the games? Melee attacks would be much more physics-based, and you could have a chance to regain your balance if you are struck or pushed, provided you have enough skill at controlling your mech's posture and leg positions to maintain balance. Guns would of course have recoil, requiring a slightly forward posture and good arm position to fire accurately. Seriously, I think the skill ceiling for this game would be insane! Playing the game as a noobie would be a neverending hell of falling over and being killed over and over, but improving at such a game would certainly be rewarding.

Of course this sounds like the most detailed mech simulation anyone could think of, but how on earth would you actually play it? I can think of only three possibilities. The first is one way in which you could control everything AT THE SAME TIME: a special controller in the vein of Steel Battalion - but even more complex and probably expensive! Analog sticks for both hands could control the arms, conceivably - maybe with the addition of hat sticks and sliders and things for finer control of different axes of motion of the arms. Legs could be controlled via foot pedals, but simple analog pedals with a single axis wouldn't be enough. Multiple pedals or perhaps rotating pedals might do it. There would then be a ton of additional buttons, and maybe a third middle joystick, to control the mech's posture and other functions. Weapon switching, power and heat management, and other things would need to be handled by traditional buttons. Ridiculously complicated and impractical? You bet. Fun as hell once you get good at it? YES!

The next solution for control is one that allows for real-time simultaneous control of the mech, but I think might take away from the clunkiness and skill ceiling: motion controls. Something like a wiimote, in each hand, and strapped to each foot, but with a LOT more buttons to deal with. Or, perhaps, all those motion controls in addition to a PC keyboard and mouse, might be satisfactory. That would still be ridiculous fun to play and control, but I think remove some of the skill involved with managing each limb.

Finally, the solution easiest and cheapest to implement, but the clunkiest of ALL: pure mouse and keyboard control. Really, it would center on mouse control for the axes of movement for all limbs and posture, and using the keyboard to rapidly switch between limbs using hotkeys. It would be POSSIBLE to control the mech with adequate speed using a mouse with hotkeys - look at any RTS and you can see how possible it is to control so many things at the same time, so rapidly. But it's really, REALLY difficult. Running while shooting, for example, would take ridiculously fast and accurate mouse and keyboard skills. It would be FAR easier to make mistakes resulting in the mech falling over. But this is still probably the most realistic control method that still provides the adequate amount of control.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quick Update

Thought I'd update a little on my goings-on. My laptop has been having issues for a while with gaming, and I think I finally got it diagnosed! It appears to be an overheating problem. It also seems like a bit of a pain to fix, and I had been planning to build a new PC soon anyway, so I'm just going to tolerate it for a few months. I have my PS3 to keep me occupied with gaming for a long while. On the PC I've mostly just been playing 2D games and emulators because that's all it can consistently handle. Played through Super Metroid in its entirety in 4 hours last week, which I had never done before, so I figured it was about time to! I have the Starcraft 2 beta downloaded, and it's as amazing as I had hoped, but unfortunately the framerate is just not that consistent. I'll be building a new PC this summer so I can play the full game properly.

On the PS3, at the moment I'm going through Just Cause 2 and having a ton of fun. This game is absolutely massive! So many crazy situations and so many things to do, I highly recommend it! Beyond that, the two games I continue to come back to are BlazBlue and Guitar Hero. In GH, I got into it pretty recently, so maybe I'm behind the trends here, but the plus side is it was pretty cheap. I'm working my way through the game (Metallica, and occasionally World Tour for Tool and Dream Theater songs) in hard mode right now, after beating everything on medium. Adding the 5th button was a real challenge, but I've finally got it and it's so much more fun because if that! Soon I'll try to transition to Expert. In BlazBlue, I'm playing a lot more online, and winning more. I think I'm around level 28 right now, playing almost exclusively Tager.

Currently I'm getting super-hyped for Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar's western sandbox game coming up in May. I haven't been this hyped for a game since the Orange Box, I think, and this game just cannot come soon enough!

Finally, some non-gaming stuff, but I just want to mention it anyway, I had a big epiphany in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last week. I've been training in BJJ for 4 and a half years now, and I'm sure any hardcore gamer can identify with the awesome feeling of a major epiphany in any game of skill and strategy, which is what BJJ is for me. The rest of this paragraph won't make a lick of sense to you unless you know about grappling, so if you don't you might as well stop reading. I had been having some issues with my guard in the last year or two, and then last Friday, all of a sudden, I was rolling with a friend and something in my brain just clicked. I was using rubber guard pretty much exclusively, all the time, from full guard, no matter if it was gi or no gi. When it works, it's awesome, and I get an omoplata and probably finish them 60% of the time. Side note, so many people don't actually finish the omoplata submission, I've been working really hard on learning that skill and it's probably my #1 submission now. Anyway, when I was starting out in BJJ I was doing everything standard with my guard game, and had good success with it. I have long legs, and my guard was fairly good. Around the time I got my blue belt, I started trying to learn rubber guard, and just stopped doing my fundamental guard moves in favor of rubber guard. I would break them down and go straight for mission control, and if they tried to break out, I'd just work rubber guard stuff on them regardless. So last friday, I had my friend in my guard, and broke him down properly, with the intent to go for rubber guard. He started standing up, in anticipation of mission control. Instead of going for mission control ANYWAY, as I normally would, I just went to a completely textbook armbar from the guard, got it, hooked under his leg and rolled him over for the finish. I realize now that I was getting tunnel-vision about the rubber guard. I wasn't being adaptable and I was neglecting the fundamentals because of that. I don't doubt rubber guard is fantastic, and innovative, and effective. But there's a time for it, and there's a legitimate time for the traditional closed guard game, as well.