The Walking Dead: yet another point of view

I wouldn’t be surprised if by this point the amount of reviews of this game is in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. Even if I tried my best to stay original – I wouldn’t be able to. Well, this is not a review anyway, just a few thoughts I had while playing (or, mostly, watching) The Walking Dead on the Playstation Vita.

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It honestly feels like the game belongs on the Vita – if not for some frustrating issues

To leave the objectively bad stuff out of the way: yes, it doesn’t seem like Telltale even tried to optimize the loading screens and laggy scenes. While the game looks fantastic and for the most part plays fairly smooth – a five second lag before a quick time event is just unacceptable. Not to mention the game freezing on me and graphical glitches like missing houses (along with the ground they were on) and random white polygons. If the second season finds its way on the Vita at some point I hope I won’t have to suffer through that again.

That said, the game is great and a staple of western story-centric game development, likely for years to come. This is by all means a visual novel, something that’s been said more often than anyone could bear hearing about. And since I’m used to the usual anime-style visual novels watching this zombie apocalypse unfold was a rather unusual experience. This is not the game’s fault, but after having read the likes of Muv-Luv, Zero Escape and such (hell, even Type-Moon games probably count despite Nasu trying to be too edgy in most of them) I felt rather desensitized to the grim and mostly deadly events happening throughout TWD’s story.

Basically, I did not have enough time to learn more about the characters and build deeper relationships. This is where the game’s ultimate strength, its spectacular meaningful choice system, ended up making my perception of the cast rather shallow. The requirement to maintain a mostly linear plot despite all of the possible outcomes effectively made interactions with everyone safe and short to the point of a generic NPC encounter. What do I know about most of the cast? What have I went through with them? Most of them – not much, because they only joined me for a short while and even then I spent more time fixing things and messing things up even more than actually having any meaningful experiences.

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Got to give the game credit – I genuinely wanted to save Clementine and I tried my best to take care of her and help her get used to this new world

The character I spent the most time with was an exception, but then the little girl didn’t exactly do much until Episode 4. Not that you can blame her, of course… And then there was the fisherman, who tagged along with you since the first episode as well – and only had one major development throughout the game which only really paid off in the very last episode when you were focused on something else either way. For the most part he was just there causing arguments so that the game could make you choose sides. The rest of the cast was simply kinda… around.

Muv-Luv, for instance, is an example of the opposite extreme. It spent so much time building character relationships that it made a lot of people, I believe, drop the game at the first part of the trilogy. Without the sequels Muv-Luv Extra was effectively a mediocre dating sim no better than most other ones. It wasn’t bad per se, but if you’re not into this kind of game, there’s nothing there that can capture your attention. Of course this paid off later big time, but you’d probably suffer through MLE only if you knew that in advance.

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Possibly my favorite scene in the entire trilogy

And once you did and stumbled upon certain plot developments in Unlimited and Alternative (granted, these are considered some of the best visual novels of all time), even when they mostly concern secondary characters… The Walking Dead just doesn’t cut it in that respect. It makes you struggle with some genuinely tough choices, but you don’t feel the fallback from those that much.

Even if Telltale padded the game out with unvoiced, barely animated slice-of-life-ish chatter, the hard decisions would leave a much bigger impact, if only for me. If you’re going to hit on emotions, to provoke the feels, you have to make it matter. Frankly the game was just too short for its own good. It was absolutely brilliant, the animation, the direction and the voice acting quality were all stellar, if not groundbreaking at times, the branching was very smart, the “shit has hit the fan” situations were top notch, an easy 9.5 out of 10. And I might very well be a spoiled brat. But just this once I really wish eastern storytelling could meet with western production, direction and game design.

If you haven’t played TWD or Muv-Luv yet, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do when you have a lot of free time on your hands.

I feel bad for posting my uneducated and childish opinions, but this is, for once, my personal blog… I might proofread and restructure this later, I egoistically think I might be onto something, but I’m sure I wasn’t able to properly express it. Back to coding for now.

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Comvoy no nazo

The catgirl clearly likes shiny things. What do you know, I actually wrote thirty more lines of code.

Another short-lived demo here.

If you’ve never played Mystery of Convoy, now is the time. Or just go watch AllieRX’s review and Arino’s Game Center CX challenge.

Tagged

A certain green robot

Pdf

Work’s been crazy. I’ve got to add PDF support to our reader-ish commercial app – and it’s one hell of a mess on Android.

About the only decent solution I’ve found is muPDF – but it’s GPL. We could buy a commercial license of course – there’s an option for that – but given our focus on selling customized versions of our app this might prove to be financially impossible. Swing’s pdf-renderer, while fairly decent, produces a lot of creepy artefacts instead of text in a lot of documents and a significant amount of work must be done to support CMYK in its Android version.

And given that there’s only one GPL library that works well and even most of shareware libraries have their own issues (no outlines and acid-colored CMYK in Qoppa, barely usable androidpdf.mobi and so on) it seems unwise to develop an in-house PDF renderer.

Honestly, at this point I’d consider porting Pdf.js to Java. Not like it’s a realistic solution, but if all else fails…

 

Google + Samsung

The biggest news this week was the 10-year patent deal between Google and Samsung that is essentially going to unite the efforts of two giants in regards to Android. Which means Google will focus on Samsung hardware, possibly killing off its Nexus line down the line – which is a pity since many great devices were adapted for it with a reasonable price-point in mind – and Samsung will focus on Android and likely Chrome OS, contributing to the development of the former and cutting most ties with Microsoft over Windows laptops and Intel over Tizen.

In case of Microsoft they seem to have an Android patent dispute – since Microsoft holds enough patents to make money from almost every Android device on the market – and Samsung wants to drive them off the mobile market altogether out of spite. Not like Microsoft is a significant player, with only two left, but still. Samsung doesn’t have the same kind of animosity towards Intel, but they have their own chips to sell so we’re likely to see more and more Exynos-powered devices in the years to come.

I didn’t intend to make a digest of the articles analysing the subject, but if I skipped that my concerns would look out of place. The state of the mobile market is dangerously close to ending up just like the state of the desktop for decades. A grand unrivaled alliance in the form of Samsungle, much like Wintel of the past, and Apple offering an alternative. Apple’s market share will inevitably fall, but will yet again remain high enough to matter, though most trends will probably be set by Samsungle.

That leaves us with no place for any third party. And that is a sad state of things as both iOS and Android have their fair share of issues that, while largely irrelevant to the general consumer, make them not as attractive for the smaller audience of “power users” to which I think I more or less belong. That said, Android might end up becoming just as good as Windows in five to ten years, but during that time the only hope I have is that the Wintel crowd will keep producing awesome things like the Surface Pro. Since there’s nobody who will be able to deconstruct the established market.

The chance for the likes of Ubuntu Touch, Tizen, Sailfish and others to take off seems to be largely gone, and only Windows Phone might or might not keep their minor share, depending on how well Microsoft does in other areas of its business. This might be for the good of most people, but really disappointing for me.

 

Yunodroid

Just as a side note, I do intend to bring Yuno to Android as a C++ or a D library, I’ve started that one a long while ago and after I get some experience with actual games I’m considering making a “once and for all” framework. The one issue I’m struggling with, except for the lack of experience in coding shaders, is the script subsystem. Once I figure that out – I’m really interested in creating a VN/SRPG framework, that being one of my favourite game genres. First of all though – the platformer that’s long overdue.

I just have to let go of the complicated design thoughts first and start with a simple rectangular dude jumping on simple square tiles…

Excuses general

Oh, screw WordPress, I made a long post and it didn’t save any of it and I can’t even restore it now.

tl;dr it had a lot of excuses, a lot of comments on Android and a few game logic considerations, but I don’t want to type it all over again. In short, I’m not dead yet.

Progress

I don’t like how WordPress doesn’t let me pick categories in all of its “New post” forms except for the furthest one in the dashboard panel..

Anyway, this link will likely be dead before anyone reads this post, but hooray, sound works in non-IE browsers (will have to use another sound thingamajig most likely, I was naively thinking that Web Audio API is an HTML5 standard everyone conforms to), I can more or less track loading of the resources and write text and whatnot, so in general the framework in its simplest configuration seems to be mostly usable.

Next, spritesheets, sprite animations and Tiled maps support. With that done I will be actually able to start planning the game logic. Not exactly on a Ludum Dare schedule here, but this is my first foray into Dart and into front-end web script development in general.