Big Design Conference and Sylveon, destroyer of worlds

Big Design Conference

This Friday and Saturday I’ll be down in Dallas for Big Design ( I haven’t attended or spoken at this conference before so it should interesting. The Grumpy Cat talk is also making another appearance here, so if you missed it in Atlanta and find yourself in Dallas on Friday, you’re in luck.


10am: Digital/Analog Summit
A summit meeting of game designers who have worked in the digital or tabletop fields, or both. Let’s sit them together and see what happens.

2am: Grumpy Cat’s Guide to Game Design

I’ll also be around on Saturday, and my current plan is to bring a couple of the more easily portable board games and one or two prototypes.  The airplane/cargo/route management thing I’ve left languishing in a corner is a good candidate.

Work goes on

Art for the battle of the bands game is starting to come in, and at last count it looks like about a third of the cards have been drafted and sketched out.  Woo hoo!  I had originally figured that the work load to make each card would be similar to the Knit2Go cards, those averaged around 90 min a card.  Ha, I was so wrong.  So stupidly, stupidly wrong.  The original test card clocked in at somewhere around 3 hrs, and it’s easily one of the simplest in the game.  While I’ve got some ideas for some expansion packs to support the game down the road, this is probably going to be the only game I make reminiscent of a CCG, at least for the foreseeable future.  Cause seriously….the time commitment is unreal.

While I get annoyed with BotB, I’ve been putting work in on the super secret unity rpg.  According to my hastily-shambled-together Excel gantt chart, I’ve got about 50% of the raw data implemented now and roughly 70% of the core systems functioning (combat, crafting, the %*()^ main menu UI…) Once I finish getting the base structures for the job classes in, I think I’ll be ready to roll on actually getting the first area up and playable.  And my playable, I mean just playable.  Cause …art. I’m slow.

Speaking of art, I did finally start working on some character portraits for the main PC and NPCs to try and get a feel for what they’ll look like.  I figure when I get back from Dallas that’ll be the first big update I’ll make about it.

And ….Sylveon

Anyone who knows me, attended any talk I’ve given, or has ready any of my bios, knows that I love Pokémon.  Heck, I even hosted a Pokémon launch party this past Sunday, where we even had the East Coast Pokémon League’s very own Normal type Gym Leader in residence (yay, thanks Matt!).  And I have to say, despite any obvious bias I have towards the series, that they did a good job on this installment. A very good job.

Rarely have I seen a game studio as fastidiously and elegantly address 15 years worth of player complaints, wish lists, grind factors, and road blocks.  I can only imagine there must have been some shake up at the Game Freak office, ’cause this kind of 180 on attention to detail, UX design, and accessibility just doesn’t happen – especially all at once.  Of course, now that I look at the time passage, it’s quite possible that kids who started playing in ’98 are finally working at Game Freak, and have the first-hand-player-knowledge of everything that sucks and needs to be changed. Don’t know why or who is responsible, but THANK YOU.

Even for those of you who hate Pokémon or just don’t get it, Game Freak did so many things right this go around that it bears study. If you attended/read the Grumpy Cat slides, they actually address a couple of my main annoyance points in there.  Woot.   I’m only about 30 hrs into X right now, but here’s the rundown.

The good:

  • World Wide release : finally, we’re not left along in Japan’s dust and spoonfed all the game information months before we get our grubby paws on it.  For literally the first time ever, I find myself on equal footing with Japanese players in battles, we’re trading at the same level, and everyone around the world is helping each other out to find all the new best items, ‘manz, and moves.  For a game that is ostensibly all about multiplayer interactions, this has been a long time coming.
  • Pokemon-amie:  Ok, I thought this was a stupid nintendogs-esque ripoff side system when I first saw it – but I entreat you to just get one of your battle guys up to 5 hearts, then take him out for a spin. The shear amount of joy and happiness this thing has given me cannot be overstated.
  • Stupid grind reduction – a lot of the cleanups have been around getting rid of stupid grind, which I cannot thank them enough for. Little things like ‘oh, you’re party’s full – here pick one to send back to the computer’.  That alone made me do a happy dance.  What are some of the earliest items you can get?  False Swipe, exp share, skates (what I don’t have to hold down the b button anymore?!?!?), and a day care road that’s the longest and straightest in the game.  Dear god thank you.  It’s like every poké-prayer has been answered by a benevolent Poké-god.  The shear amount of time savings is mind-boggling. It’s like how I rant on constantly – figure out what you want your players to do (*cough* battle) and let them spend the time there. Not all the time on the ginormously arduous task of getting there.
  • Accessibility of EV training – unless you’re a hardcore battler/breeder, you might not even know what the heck and EV is, much less how to train them.  Thanks Super Training.  Thank You.  Thank You so much for getting rid of the guesswork and tedium.
  • THE BANK – ok, it’s not out yet, but this alone is worth celebrating.  I have wasted non trivial amounts of time transferring and organizing generations of ‘manz onto multiple cartridges, and finally Game Freak has heard our wailing of despair.  Seriously…my Black game is unplayable due to full boxes.  I cannot friggin wait for this thing to come out later this year.
  • Multiplayer untethered from friends – Ok, I am not a school kid any longer.  I do not interact with other Poképlayers or DS’son a daily basis.  More like…maybe once a month or something.  Trading/Battling/Playing in general with my friends over any kind of wifi or interact connection has been impossible or obnoxious until now. The game is ABOUT interacting with friends….making some parts of it nigh-on unplayable unless you have 2 DSs and a lot of free time on your hands. But now, no longer.  Biggest overhaul to multiplayer ever, and god was it needed – welcome to the internet, Game Freak.  Game Chat – Win.  OPowers – Win.  Easy access to trading and battling – WIn.  OMG PASSERBY  – Biggest Win ever.  I now have a new friend in Australia who is more active than my friends down the road.  Do I care what his real name is or if he’s even a ‘he’?  No.  Does it matter? No.  Can we trade power-ups and battle until wee hours of the morning?  You bet.

The bad:  (not all that much yet I could find – I’m sure I’ll find something to truly piss me off eventually)

  •  Lack of info.  Just a general ginormous lack of info. I like discovery, I like exploration, I like all those good things that come with feeling clever-er than your neighbor.  I HATE randomly trying out every combination under the sun and calling that exploration.  That’s not discovery. That’s madness.  No scientist just throws shit together in a beaker and hopes for the best -they have plans of attack and methods to inform every experiment they try. But when you have Zero knowledge of the new system, you can’t build that kind of methodology.  I’m looking at you Sylveon.  You adorable pile of rage-inducing pink Sylveon.

    Obscene amounts of time were wasted on this. But totally worth it.

    So, here’s the deal. (And no, I won’t spoil it) We knew there was a new Eveelution, we knew it’s name, and it’s type.  But nothing else on how to get it.  There are also 7 other Eveelutions out there all of which follow basically 2 different systems for leveling up.  Naturally, I started with one of these systems and tried everything under the sun.  Of course…this failed.  The way to actually get this little guy was so unintuitive (for me) that I basically stumbled into it by accident…42 levels in.  Uncool.  While I’m super happy to have him now (and he kicks  sooo much Poké butt) I’m extremely dissatisfied with the process.  A single in-game hint woulda been appreciated – especially considering it breaks ALL pre-existing evolution methods for any pokemon ever. /rage. Seriously, one old dude in a house saying “You know, I read a book once….”

  • Daily randomness – Ok, some amount of randomness is good.  Like the weather, that’s a nice little bit of visual and tactical randomness. But tying TMs to a random quiz a day?!?!?  This is infuriating.  I better have just missed a store where I can purchase them all for fat loads of cash, rather than having to go back to his same chic on a cliff and get a randomly determined TM a day. UGHGHGHG.  Want to plan that perfect battle lineup?  Hope you had the TM and ‘man on a previous game, cause this is painful.  There are other daily random item giveaways as well, but non as infuriating as this one.


Alright, that’s enough ranting for today . I caught a couple of Ditto last night and I need to hoof it to the GTS while the getting’s good.

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