Games I’ve Been Playing: Nimble Quest

Yep, it’s only one game this time around.
Playing gameGet Nimble Quest for iOS here.
Get Nimble Quest for Mac here.
Get Nimble Quest for Android here.
Or just watch the trailer here.

Well, it’s time for another helping of the Games I’ve Been Playing series!

As you’ve seen from the title, we’re only going to talk about one single game this time. And it’s not because I haven’t played any other mobile games, it’s just that this is the game that I’m most excited about right now. Not to mention that this game is rather unique so doing a thorough examination of it would be fun.

To tell you the truth, I could have talked about a recent super popular indie game called Ridiculous Fishing. Unlike most people though, I hated that game. So I don’t know if I’m qualified to write about it since I haven’t played much of the game. May be I should just write a short rant about it some time later.

Anyway, yes, I’ve been playing a lot of Nimble Quest lately. In case you don’t know, Nimble Quest is a game from NimbleBit, the creator of Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. Seeing their track record of producing awesome games, could Nimble Quest be another hit? What is it about anyway?

Nimble Quest

In Nimble Quest you take control of a group of heroes fighting monsters in various places. This group of heroes will keep moving forward so you have to control their movement direction with a swipe of your finger to avoid hitting walls or monsters. As those monsters are defeated they may drop a power up or an additional hero that can be added to your group.

It’s funny how most article about this game likened it to Snake (yeah, that classic game on your old Nokia phone) while it actually reminds me of those old JRPGs character train. You know, it’s that silly system where the main characters are lined up and moves around the map in a single row. Not to mention that Nimble Quest takes place in a medieval setting, which is one of the most common settings of JRPG.

Actually, that’s what gets me so excited about the game. If you use a bit of your imagination, you could see Nimble Quest as some sort of Action RPG where the heroes roam around the map battling monsters. And if the mechanism in this game is actually good, then other developers could use the same control scheme to build a new breed of mobile RPGs (because let’s admit it, those virtual joypads suck).

Party train

Well, since I’m kinda pumped for this game, I quickly give it a try when NimbleBit provides a web version of the game as a preview. Unfortunately, my initial reaction after playing it for a while is just “okay”. The game isn’t bad, but it doesn’t make me go “Holy crap, this is the best thing on Earth!” like when I first played Punch Quest or Temple Run.

However my opinion slowly changed once I got the the game on my iPod. Somehow I still feel that the game is “meh”, but then I realized that I’m actually playing it whenever I have time to waste (waiting for a download to finish, int the toilet, etc). So is it actually a good game?

Well, part of if why I play it every time is because it has such a perfect session length for a mobile game. Games like Jetpack Joyride also has a short play session, but each time you finish a session you actually still want to play more. Nimble Quest doesn’t have that feeling, so once I died I feel it’s okay to just close the game.

Now that I think about it, may be that’s why I’m not really into the game in the beginning. Because it doesn’t leave me wanting for more.

Heroes

Another factor that makes me keep playing the game is progress. Not “progress” in the sense of advancing to the next level or unlocking new stuff or revealing another part of the story. While that kind of progress would help, I would stop playing once I got stuck at something.

What I mean by progress is to have every game I played to be meaningful. To have every game session contributes to me getting stronger. And Nimble Quest does pretty well in this area since every time I play I will get some crystals (the in-game currency) and the hero will get some experience points.

I especially like how the heroes can be be leveled up. The heroes can be leveled up by both filling up their experience bar as well as by using crystals to unlock the next level. And they’re not exclusive, filling up their experience will make their leveling up cost to be cheaper. And that further reinforces the feeling of progress since anything I do in the game, whether it’s defeating enemies or collecting crystals, will make my heroes get stronger.

That said, I’m not really a fan of the game upgrading system. The game only have upgrades for those powerups that are randomly dropped by the enemy. And since they’re random, upgrading those powerups doesn’t make me feel stronger. After all, those power ups are not a reliable source of power since I some time get a powerup that I don’t need (such as an attack-increase when there’s no enemy).

The hero leveling system actually suffers a bit of this problem too. Each hero has a specific set of upgrades, like an armor increase for the first level up and an attack range for the second one. So a lot of times I found my hero level up to be kinda useless, because who needs armor when you died instantly if you run into an enemy.

Pre level

By the way, while the early part of the game (like, the first four levels) kinda resembles Snake or even a simple Action RPG, the late-game part actually feels like you’re controlling this train of doom that shoots fireball to all direction. It’s a giant bundle of chaotic fun, too bad at that point the game becomes really hard.

Anyway, right now I’m kinda stuck at the Depth level (a hell/volcano-themed area) and the third hero level up requirement is kinda crazy. So yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish the game at this rate.

Well, that’s all for now. Besides, this post has gotten longer than I originally planned for. Let’s hope I found another game that I’m excited to talk about!

[1GAM-Mar] Grid Chaser: Progress Log #2

Oooh, two logs in a row? =3
One Game A Month
Welcome to the second progress log for project Chaser. In case you don’t know, project Chaser is my March entry for OneGameAMonth. As I have detailed in the first log, on project Chaser player will control the movement of a blue triangle by swiping and will have to chase a moving target in a maze.

Despite that description, the design for the game is definitely not done yet, there’s still a lot of improvement that can be added. One such improvement is for the movement control. At one point a friend of mine complained that it’s not clear where the character (err, triangle) would go next, and I have to agree, it’s not clear whether the player input has been correctly received or not. To try solving this problem, I decided to add a set of arrows in front of the triangle that would give a preview of where it will go next to the future.

I quite liked the arrow addition since it makes the movement much clearer and it fits pretty well with the overall look of the game. That said, another friend of mine claimed that this arrow-preview-thingy is actually confusing, so… -.-a

Movement arrows

Anyway, I didn’t spend the whole weekend just adding arrows, I also remade the prototype to be much more object-oriented and the movement system to be smoother. Now it feels more like a proper game. However I’m starting to feel that the chasing mechanism is kinda boring since I spent so much time doing it and the novelty already wears off.

So I was wondering, how could I make the game more fun and feels less like a chore? Previously I’ve mentioned that Nimble Quest kinda inspires me, so it is very fitting that the answer came while I was playing the preview of Nimble Quest too. And the answer to my question is reward, I need to somehow reward the player for successfully chasing the target.

While playing Nimble Quest, I realized that what keeps me playing is the fact that I’m going to unlock a new character each time I cleared a new level. In short, new character becomes the reward for playing the game. So what would be the reward for playing project Chaser? I don’t want to deal with the hassle of coins, upgrades, or other unlockable items at this point, so it has gotta be something else.

With that in mind, I created Crystal Farming as the reward for playing the game.
(pardon me for the stupid name)

Crystal farming

So, what the hell is crystal farming? Basically, after the player managed to reach the target, the whole map will be filled with crystals and player just need to direct the triangle around to attract and obtain those crystals. It’s fast-paced, easy to do (doesn’t need full concentration) and quite fun. I feel that having an easy but satisfying activity to do is a proper reward after the hassle of chasing down the target.

It’s also worth mentioning that this crystal collecting mechanism is much more scalable than the chasing one. It’s easier to create an upgrade system for collecting those crystals, like having upgrades that can attract more crystals or doubling the value of each crystal.

Well, all of this comes only from my perspective though, how’s people actual responses to it? Fortunately, when I showed the game to a bunch of friends, the crystal farming part seems to get a universal positive response. So I think I actually managed to nail this crystal farming section.

That said, the response to the chasing mechanism is much more mixed. Even though there actually is this sense of escalating intensity, some people find the chasing part to be a bit too hard or takes too much time. And I tend to agree with those observations, I definitely still need to tweak the chasing sessions. The movement control seems to also needs a bit more tweak since apparently each person has a different way of swiping.

And to be honest though, I don’t think that the crystal farming stuff is the best mechanism for reward that I can do for this game, but it definitely is a step in the right direction. And for a game that must be done before April, I think that is enough.

Anyway, check out this video below to see the game in full action.

My emulator keeps crashing whenever I ran the game on it and I don’t want to deal with it right now, so I just recorded myself playing it instead =)

So, what’s next for project Chaser? Well, for starter, I need to start building other levels and additional obstacles for them. I think having 3 mazes is a good target for now. And there’s also that matter of creating a nice tutorial that can make people feel comfortable with the game control.

One other thing that kinda bothers me is how the chasing part and the crystal collecting part seems too separate. I really think that some sort of integration between the two is necessary here. One scenario that comes to mind is to have some random crystals pop out during the chase so the player has to choose whether to go after the crystal or chase the target.

Anyway, that’s all for now, see you on the next progress log!

[1GAM-Mar] Grid Chaser: Progress Log #1

Progress? More like “birth” actually.
One Game A MonthNote: This is the third week of March, but this log only consists of the first two weeks.

It’s already March, which means it’s time for another series of my OneGameAMonth progress logs! You can check out my previous game (and also the progress logs) for January here and for February here.

As I’ve said before, this time around I’ll be returning to my home turf, which is mobile games, so I created a bunch of prototypes on my phone to decide which game idea I want to pursue. One of the initial idea is a game about managing a factory where player have to choose the correct machine to create the desired object. And so I spent the first weekend of March building a prototype for it.

Factory sketch

The game turns out okay-ish. While it feels quite intense and requires a lot of concentration (like Super Hexagon), I feel that the game pacing is too flat. There’s no up and down, there’s no ramping up intensity. In the end I decided to abandon this idea and try another one.

At some point in the next week, a friend of mine mentioned a game idea about being a kidnapper who have to sneak around the neighbourhood and evade people. While the idea sounds kinda meh to me (because if I have to sneak around, I’d rather be Solid Snake), the control he suggested, which have the kidnapper keeps moving while the player control when to turn with swipe, piques my interest. Somehow I can imagine a game about a knight moving around in a dungeon avoiding monsters with that kind of control. And to be honest, Nimble Quest might have inspired me a bit.

On the weekend, as I started opening up Photoshop and Eclipse, suddenly it occurred to me that the game is kinda similar to Pac-Man where we have a guy running around in a maze evading ghosts. And so I decided to just go with the Pac-Man look for my game, which is black background and bright basic shapes. I went with green grid for the maze, light blue triangle for the main character and red circle for the enemy.

It’s kinda interesting that since I already have a visualisation of how the game would look (which is Pac-Man), I can just work on the assets without needing to sketch the whole game first.

Project Pacman

On sunday noon I’m done with the prototyping. While I quite liked how the control turns out, the basic game concept apparently isn’t so good. The game feels like a weird mix of action and strategy where player have to pay attention to both his movement as well as the enemy movement. I tried tweaking stuff like movement speed or the number of enemy, but it doesn’t make the game any better.

Since the control is so fast-paced, I decided to make the game more action-oriented. My initial idea is to make some sort of racing game where the player have to race other people through a series of checkpoints in the maze. I dismissed this idea since it doesn’t rely on the player’s reflex, which is the control’s strong suit.

To properly test a player’s reflex, the player must not know the path in advance and has to react in time. The best way to do this is by having the player chase something, so he has to react quickly according to the target movement. I decided to pursue this idea further, and thus Project Chaser is born.

I simply modified some stuff and by Sunday night I got the game working. I also added some “coin-picking” sound effect when chasing the target to make the chasing part more exciting. And yay, this time around the game feels so much better since it’s now totally action oriented.

Project Chaser prototype

That said, it’s not like the idea doesn’t have any problem. The biggest problem is scalability, how do I make a full game from this chasing concept? I don’t think an endless version of this game is easily doable since it’s pretty boring if the enemy simply got faster and faster. Not to mention that I can’t figure out a good death condition for the game.

So that leaves level-based system, which is also annoying. Not just creating more maze is a pain in the ass, having a simply bigger and more complicated maze is also boring. What’s really needed is variety in the form of environmental obstacles, and while they’re doable, actually creating them will take quite a while.

We’ll see what I can come up with to overcome this problem.

Oh, and by the way, I think I have decided on the name of the game, which is Grid Chaser. The name actually comes from the racing game idea, which supposedly will be named Grid Racer (since it sounds similar to Ridge Racer). But since the game is now about chasing, I simply changed “racer” to “chaser”.

Well, that’s it for now, stay tuned for the third week progress on the next log (which hopefully will come out tomorrow)!

Games I’ve Been Playing: Earn to Die and Rock Runners

Ugh, I really need to shorten the “Games I’ve Been Playing” phrase. Any idea?

Playing gameIt’s been a while since my last post about games I’ve been playing. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean I’m not playing any interesting game. My desktop computer got fried a couple of weeks ago, so I actually have played more mobile games than usual since I can’t play games anywhere else. I kinda feel bad for not writing about those games though =/

Anyway, what important is now I’m back, so let’s get it on!

Oh, and by the way, I finally got all 155 jobs on Pixel People =D The last 5 really took a while since I got lazier in playing it as I got closer to the finish line.

So, what mobile games have I been playing lately? Well, on my Nexus 7 I’ve been playing Earn to Die, which is my current “impossible-to-put-down” game (last time it was Pixel People). Meanwhile on my iPod Touch I’ve been playing Rock Runners, a game which surprisingly has tons of levels and I don’t know if I’ll ever finish them all.

Earn to dieGet Earn to Die for your iOS devices here.
Get Earn to Die for your Android devices here.
Play the flash version here.
Or watch the trailer here.

I first heard about Earn to Die on Walled Garden Weekly podcast, but wasn’t really interested in the game back then so I forgot to try it out. Later on I read on Touch Arcade Android forum (yeah, that iOS gaming site actually have an Android forum now) that the developer is preparing an Android version. Deciding that I’m not going to miss out this time, I finally purchased it for my Nexus 7.

Earn to Die is almost your usual zombie game, it takes place on a zombie apocalypse and you need to drive across the desert to reach safe haven. Your car cannot reach that location at first try, but by upgrading and buying better car (with money you earned along the way) you’ll finally able to reach your destination. In short, it’s a grinding game where you keep doing a certain thing so you can purchase upgrades that will make you perform better on your next try.

I’ll be honest, I’m never a fan of grinding games, the only exception to this is probably Flight. Fortunately Earn to Die shares a lot of traits that make Flight such a great game. For starter, while your vehicle status (like speed, fuel, etc) plays a huge part in determining how far you could drive, player’s skill (such as when to use the booster) also take a role in deciding how far your vehicle will go. Not to mention that the randomness in the game makes each run feels unique. For example, hitting a stack of crates in a slightly different spot could make your vehicle goes right through it instead of stumbling miserably.

Another thing is progress. The game is divided over several levels with different backgrounds and environments that gets more and more difficult. Coupled with vehicles that get cooler and cooler over time, there is a feeling of progress in the game that made people (like me) keep playing it. It’s really fun to get a new upgrade and see how much further that latest upgrade could take you. All of these stuff made the game almost impossible to put down. At one point I just stood still in the toilet playing it for an hour even though I’m done satisfying my bladder.

By the way, it’s interesting to note that lately my “impossible-to-put-down” games have been games with some sort of ending. Is games with ending simply more exciting to play? Might wanna put more thoughts into this one.

Rock RunnersGet Rock Runners for your iOS devices here.
Or watch the trailer here.

If I heard about Earn to Die from a podcast, then I got to know Rock Runners from a more ordinary source, an article on a website. The screenshot got me kinda hooked, but I’m not really sure about purchasing it, until Touch Arcade decided to review it. The review basically said that’s it’s a really nice game but feels repetitive, and me, thinking that maybe I can get over the repetitiveness, decided to just see it for myself 😄

Rock Runners is your typical one touch runner game. Basically your character would automatically run from left to right, and touching the screen would make him jump, and if there’s a grappling ring nearby, he would automatically attach to it then swing forward. While the description sounds pretty plain, the game provides a lot of objects that go along with those abilities, like portals or moving grappling rings that makes the whole game feels more fun and speedy.

So, the big question, is it repetitive? While it’s true that each level of the game consists of several reusable platforming blocks that will be seen on other level, the game itself doesn’t really feel repetitive. Though the early part of the game tends to lend itself on the repetitive side since the variation of the blocks isn’t much yet, the latter levels offer much more variation that each level feels rather unique. That said, while levels like these are okay, having a unique and distinct level like in Rayman Jungle Run or Wind-up Knight is much, much better.

Speaking of levels, there are tons of them here, at least 100. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish they cut back on the number of levels. As it is now, the game’s pacing and difficulty curve feels a bit weird, the first 10 levels are totally easy and the difficulty only truly picks up at level 30 or so. By reducing the number of levels they should be able to make a much better difficulty curve. Again, case in point here would be Rayman Jungle Run and Wind-up Knight where they manage to pull off a perfect difficulty curve with 40-50 levels.

Bottom line, I think there’s a missed opportunity here. While the gameplay feels solid and the whole game is polished, actually executing those stunts correctly doesn’t really feel rewarding. Somehow pulling off all those jumping and swinging doesn’t feel as good as it should be.

Well, that’s it for now! I hope I can write about even more interesting games in the next post, but for now I gotta finish Earn to Die =D