Category: Games

January 28th, 2019
Blog Entry

Snowman Quest – pre-post-mortem

Over the past few years, I’ve often thought, “I enjoy video games so much – I should make my own!”, in a way that never occurs to me for films or TV shows. A few years ago, I started writing a text adventure called Super Shoplifter, where you had to steal things for some reason, but it got bogged down in the design phase and never made it to anything playable.

This past weekend, I “finished” my first game: Snowman Quest. I started it in January and challenged myself to complete it within a month. It’s a text adventure, made with the Quest text adventure creator, and although there’s still some polish left to add, I learned a lot from the road here.

Putting the fun in last

A huge part of the fun of text adventures lies in the descriptions of the world, and your interactions with the items and characters inside it.

For Snowman Quest, I focused on the game mechanics first: how to push objects to different rooms, how to open, close, turn on, and make other objects require other objects to function. It sounds simple, especially for a text adventure, but just getting the game up and running and “completable” was my most important task.

The core of the game – dressing a snowman – didn’t change much throughout development, but it wasn’t until the mechanics were done that I settled on the main character and overall mood of the game. I think having something playable was a big motivator for me, as well as helping me to avoid getting bogged down in the “nice to have” elements that are so fun to add.

Ideas come thick and fast

I never really understood the term “feature creep” until my ideas list started including things like “take your wellies off or Dad tells you off for walking mud inside the house”. The game takes place in a garden and house, and at points I also considered introducing travel to other areas: ride your bike to the shops, or go to a friend’s house. I realised that each time I added a room or idea, it had to enhance – not simply expand – the player’s experience.

It was very tempting to keep adding and adding these little touches, and my polish list still has quite a few things, but I’ll stick to things that fit within the existing game world.

Anticipation is everything

When you’re playing a great game, there’s often two kinds of actions: what the developer wants you to do, and what the developer expects you to try and has prepared something fun for. It’s the second kind that proved the most fun, especially as realistically I only expected two players, both people I know very well but with totally different experience levels with text adventures.

Knowing how my players’ minds work was my greatest ally when adding extra touches. That might mean nobody else outside my family would try or ever see these things – and in fact, looking back on my notes on the first playthrough, most of the extra actions were never used – but putting them in was a lot of fun on its own.

Some details matter

I spent a lot of time adding in scenery and background detail, to avoid the fun-killing “I can’t see that” or “I don’t know what you mean” responses.

In the first playthrough, I estimate only about 15% of those details were spotted, and those were in the first few minutes. Once my “subject” started amassing items and exploring more rooms, the details seemingly became less important, as there were clear actions to take. So knowing here to put the emphasis on detail was interesting.

Where challenge comes from

The biggest enemy of a text adventure is guessing the right text string to pull off the action that you know is required.

In my game, two items need to be joined together to create a new one. I added a command for “combine x with y” which also included the synonyms “connect x to y” and “add x to y”. But my player kept using “attach”, which wasn’t in my dictionary, so kept getting an error. That led to a lot of avoidable frustration. Next time, I’ll use a thesaurus to add verbs.

The road ahead

There are still things I want to add to Snowman Quest, and improvements based on the above, but I don’t know if I’ll create another text adventure in the foreseeable future. It was a lot of fun, especially the writing aspect, but partway through the project I discovered Pico-8, a so-called “fantasy console” that has sparked my interest. I’ve never done any coding before – Quest uses dropdowns, and although you can code it yourself, for me that resulted in many frequent errors even getting the basic “msg” command to work – but the idea of creating everything myself is very appealing. I’ve contributed music to others’ projects before, and it’s been a long time since I drew a sprite, but I think it’s a good place to start. So watch this space!


February 15th, 2012
Blog Entry

My first ever press release

Another month, another milestone.

Today I got a quote and my name in a press release for the first time. For the truly dedicated readers out there, here’s the press release in full:

Nintendo Life unveils redesign and enters PlayStation sector with Push Square

Loughborough, UK, 13th February 2012: Nlife Ltd is proud to announce that Nintendo Life, the world’s largest independent Nintendo-focused website, has undergone a major face-lift to cement its position as the world’s leading destination for Nintendo fans.

The latest update builds upon an existing well-loved design and adds HTML5 support. The site has been refined to make browsing Nintendo Life’s world-beating archive of news, features and over 2,100 reviews easier and more enjoyable than before.

The major upgrade comes hot on the heels of the Nlife Ltd’s acquisition and successful relaunch of Push Square earlier this month. With 500 reviews and 10,000 news articles in its back catalogue and now the guidance of the Nlife team going forward, Push Square is poised to become a major player in the global PlayStation space.

“It’s great to finally see Push Square and the new Nintendo Life design go live,” said Nintendo Life Managing Director Anthony Dickens. “We’ve been working on these updates for some time; our site’s readership has grown exponentially over the past few years and we hope they’ll love the new layout as we progress with more updates and features in 2012.”

“I’ve been a fan of both Nintendo and PlayStation for many years,” said Network Editor James Newton. “I’m really excited to lead the team into a new era of game coverage: with Vita and Wii U both due out this year it’s set to be a great 2012 for gaming, our network and our readers.”

Nlife has also entered into a partnership with Eurogamer Network to handle the advertising sales for Nintendo Life as well as the newly relaunched Push Square. Rupert Loman, Managing Director of Eurogamer added: “We’ve been really impressed by the Nintendo Life team and what they’ve achieved so far. We’re looking forward to helping them maximise their success with both sites.”

Visit Nintendo Life at www.nintendolife.com.
Visit Push Square at www.pushsquare.com.

About Nlife Ltd.:
Incorporated in 2010, Nlife Ltd publishes Nintendo Life, one of the world’s leading Nintendo-centric consumer websites; Push Square, a brand new exclusively PlayStation website; and KINECTaku, a leading specialist KINECT-focused website. The network of sites boasts an international roster of contributors and attracts a global audience of over 800,000 unique users each month. Nlife Ltd has recently partnered with the Eurogamer Network in a deal which will see Eurogamer.net becoming Nintendo Life’s sole agent for advertising sales and business development globally.

More information on Nlife Ltd and related sites can be found at www.nlife.com.


January 13th, 2012
Blog Entry

How to Make Your Games Website a Success

Since I started as Nintendo Life’s news editor in May 2010 our traffic has more than doubled. I won’t claim all the credit for this, but I have learnt a few things about how to make your site successful. Here are my tips.

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December 16th, 2011
Blog Entry

The Best of Nintendo Life in 2011

2011 has been a phenomenal year for Nintendo Life, with fantastic statistics and even better content. I wanted to round up what I think have been some of the highlights of the last 12 months.

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February 22nd, 2011
Blog Entry

Something I didn’t write that’s still awesome

I know this site is normally just for me, but I wanted to share a little extra something that we just published over on Nintendo Life that makes me proud of what we do.

My good friend and colleague Corbie Dillard wrote up a mammoth Nintendo 3DS FAQ that covers everything – colours, games, hardware, the lot. It’s probably the most comprehensive piece I’ve seen on the console and will only get more useful as we get more hands-on time with the machine.

Go read it. It’s good.

3DS FAQ


November 30th, 2010
Blog Entry

My latest outings

kinect I haven’t written here for the whole month and with the last few hours of November now ticking away I thought I’d share this bit of gaming news with you.

As you know I write for three gaming websites, and recently the official Microsoft France blog asked me to write something to be posted on their blog. Yesterday it went up, and here it is!

http://xbox.frogz.fr/post/2010/11/29/Le-lancement-britannique-de-Kinect-vu-par-KINECTakucom.aspx

If your French is as good as mine, there’s an English version at the bottom, or reprinted below. The website itself also has a photo from my wife so double bonus!

Gamers up and down the UK braved the cold to get their hands on Kinect first, but customers in London were treated to a touch of glamour at Kinect’s official launch party.

Above a glowing ice rink at the Natural History Museum, popstar Leona Lewis took to the stage to perform several of her biggest hits whilst staff from Kinect developers Frontier, Rare and Lionhead were on hand to discuss the new technology.

Following the party, the countdown to Kinect was on at Game’s flagship Oxford Street store, where boyband The Wanted were on hand to try out the games and serve the first customers at the tills, even taking part in a Video Kinect call with gamers attending the midnight launch at Game’s Leeds store.

They weren’t the only special guests, however: Kinect’s creative director Kudo Tsunoda was on hand to check out proceedings, snapping photos and chatting to customers about the sensor, its games and the future of Kinect.

Of the launch titles, by far the most asked-for was Rare’s Kinect Sports, without a doubt one of the most impressive applications of the technology out there, and MTV’s Dance Central flew off the shelves too. Both titles seem to have captured the imagination of gamers and non-gamers alike, although many customers spoke of their excitement at playing pack-in game Kinect Adventures.

The readers and staff at KINECTaku joined in with the excitement on their forums and via Twitter gamers counting down to the launch of the sensor and sharing their hopes for the future.

Whilst the UK launch didn’t quite match the sensor’s global debut at Times Square for spectacle and impact, it still carried the same kind of atmosphere normally reserved for new console launches. The excitement surrounding the product was unbelievable, with all ages and levels of gaming experience eager to become the controller.

Kinect got off to a flying start in the UK, and once word of mouth begins to kick in Kinect looks like being a huge success for Microsoft.

James Newton, KINECTaku

Let accusations of bias commence now!


November 2nd, 2010
Blog Entry

The press release to end all press releases

I read a lot of press releases. Actually, that’s not true: I delete a lot of press releases without reading them, usually because they’re not relevant to my (very niche) websites. But this press release… this is what I’m talking about.

Taking sideswipes at everything from game chains to rival franchises, it’s funny enough to be worth a read regardless of whether or not you care about Superstars V8 Racing, the game in question.

Reverb Games News: I like your style. More of this please.

GameGasm Issues Apology Regarding Superstars V8 Racing Availability

Midwestern Retailer Mistakenly Throws Launch Event for Digital PlayStation®Network Release

Ivanhoe, MN—November 2, 2010—Midwestern video game retail giant GameGasm confirmed today that Superstars V8 Racing was never actually stocked in their stores after throngs of customers showed up for their midnight launch last Tuesday morning at 12:01 a.m.

“We had people waiting in line outside in the cold from the minute we closed at 8 p.m., right up until the clock struck midnight and we reopened for the Superstars V8 Racing launch event,” said Hugh Harding, District Manager for the Ivanhoe-area GameGasm chain. “Little did we realize, despite the fact that we had filled our quota for pointless, high-pressure pre-order sales, the fans were in for a huge shock. Apparently this game wasn’t actually shipped to our stores, and instead went live exclusively on PlayStation Network across North America.”

GameGasm Assistant Sales Associate Ryan Bullet added, “Consumers were just as confused as we were. The game is apparently packed with features and is only $19.99. I mean, sure, it’s no Gran Turismo 5, but is that game actually ever going to come out? We’ve had pre-orders for GT5 since before the PlayStation 3 even launched! Superstars V8 Racing is at least good enough to fill the gap until Polyphony Digital’s game hits– however much longer that may be.”

After the midnight launch incident, GameGasm corporate officials issued an official apology to all of the customers that pre-ordered Superstars V8 Racing at its stores, and instead directed them to PlayStation Network. Even still, all customers asking for a refund on their $5.00 pre-order deposit were met with grief, as per corporate policy. Other customers instead opted to move their pre-orders to Call You Names: Banned Ops or Just Pants 4.

Developed by veteran racing studio Milestone s.r.l., makers of premiere European racing franchise titles like the SBK: Superbike World Championship series and WRC: FIA World Rally Championship, Superstars V8 Racing puts you behind the wheel of world-class cars in five single-player modes and supports up to 12-player online racing across 10 official tracks.  The game also offers pick up and play mechanics and adjustable realism settings that drive home the experience for hardcore racing fans and casual enthusiasts alike.

For more information about GameGasm and the availability of Superstars V8 Racing please visit: www.gamegasm.biz

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About GameGasm Stores, Inc

Aside from being completely fake, Midwestern retail giant GameGasm operates nearly 400 video game store locations across the middle of the country in the CST time zone, which may or may not also be a complete and total myth. The company has consistently won the annual “Consumers Approval of Performance” award for the last nine years, and continually remains profitable each fiscal quarter thanks to its “Sixty-Dollar Game Is Worth Forty Cents” trade-in program.  For more information please visit: www.gamegasm.biz.


October 28th, 2010
Blog Entry

KINECTaku is now live!

The third part of the Nintendo Life world domination plan is available now: KINECTaku launched yesterday and has already received a rapturous reception (mostly from me).

I was busy preparing content before the site went live, so I’ve got around 7,500 words on there already. In total for October I’ve so far written 62,829 words, or thereabouts.

Last month I wrote the equivalent of The Great Gatsby; this month I’ve even surpassed that. Next year, when I’m writing for four websites, I’ll probably be churning out Great Expectations every month or so.

On the whole I’m rather pleased with how my writing’s going. Movemodo perhaps hasn’t had the huge impact I was expecting but it’s very early days yet, and looking to the future it’s a very real possibility I could be writing for three big sites, or even just one massive one.

Sometime next month I’ll hit a milestone: 500,000 words written across Twitter, my blog and all three gaming sites since I opened this place about five years ago. At this rate I’ll likely hit 1,000,000 in about a year’s time, which is simultaneously cheering and frightening. I’m writing at a pretty fast pace these days, and I’m obviously proud that I’m actually writing, just like I always wanted to.

I hope you enjoy reading KINECTaku (or you can call it Kinectaku, I’m easy!) and the rest of my work too.


August 17th, 2010
Blog Entry

Learning about my character

fable_2_art_071

Normally in a game everything’s mapped out for you along the way, and you learn about the character that someone else created. Not so in Fable II, which has given me the only example I can remember of learning about a character that I created.

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July 29th, 2010
Blog Entry

The Carnival of Video Game Bloggers is moving on

I’ve been running the Carnival of Video Game Bloggers for over three and a half years now: here’s the first Carnival for those of you curious to see how it started. It features the inaugural Jordan Bieber Award for Most Articles Submitted and a photo from Spartacus, so that’s something worth clicking for.

Sadly, I haven’t had the time to give the Carnival proper attention in the past year or so: I’ve been writing more and more for Nintendo Life as it continues to grow and devour the world of independent Nintendo reporting, but I don’t want the Carnival to die, so it’s moving hands.

Eclipse from the excellent Gaming My Way has stepped in to give the Carnival a good home, and I wanted to say a public thank you to him for taking it on permanently. I’m sure it’ll be a huge success under his guidance and I wish him all the best.

Thanks to all my regular contributors to the Carnival over the years – Jordan Bieber, Alvaro Fernandez, David Herbert, jigsaw hc, old-wizard, Eric Gargiulo, Apocalypso, Eclipse (of course!) and everyone else who sent in articles, hosted the Carnival and helped out in any way. You have my gratitude.

I’m listening to No Use Crying by Embrace, from This New Day [UK]


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