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June 03rd 2015

Back in the days of Personal Halfquake development, one active player continued to send me the most elaborate suggestions for the game. There were a handful of people who I could talk to about ideas, but not many like Khimitsu, who went into the smallest of details, showing me once and for all that random game design is simply not good!

For PHQ, I took lots of inspiration from the game Final Fantasy XI, in which basic progression was based purely on chance, such as weapon or crafting skill-ups. What I loved about random rewards was the thrill of finally getting them; what I hated was the disappointment and anger that built up from not being favored by luck. Honestly, it seemed like the perfect mix for a game based on Halfquake.

But Khimitsu (or Futeko, as he calls himself today) insisted: Random is ultimately a bad game design choice; there will always be one super unlucky player who will get nothing, and there will always be the incredibly lucky one who always gets everything at their first try. And to this day, I design games avoiding this very issue that Khim presented to me.

I learned to value Khim's input more and more over the years. But just recently, something he did flat out inspired me: He fulfilled one of his dreams and flew to South Africa to work as a volunteer in a Wild Animal Ranch to get up close to his favourite animals - cheetahs.

The approach to just do it reminded me that one should never give up. If you have a dream, make it happen, or at least try. Thanks to people like Khim I've got the courage and motivation to do so.

So once again, thank you, Khim.

Speaking of getting things done: After a family incident (I wrote about it on Patreon), I'm back on track with Walter's Deal and closing in on the finish line. I've got solid ideas for the book cover and the website is almost done as well.

Something also clicked in my head and I've had a very interesting idea for my first standalone game project. I'll be talking more about it soon.

If you want to see more of my thoughts, or if you want to help out Mr. Dragon below, join me.

May 11th 2015

Apparently I'm 31 years old now. I'm not sure how it happened, but I guess overnight. Despite my age, I'm still spending time on creating strange things, like books about teleportation. Which is proof that I haven't grown up completely just yet. I'm filing that away for next Sunday (but I'll probably forget).

Anyway! Walter's Deal is coming along, I just have to read it once more and meanwhile I'll probably get feedback from beta-readers. If you would like to be a part of it, you know where to find me.

Apart from that, I'd also like to talk to you about a thing called Patreon.

I know some of you have tried to show your support with your hard earned money in the past, and the shop is kind of awkward for that (what's a "Pawesome Edition" anyway?!). That's why I've set up my Patreon Page, which is basically a subscription. For example, you give me a dollar each month, and I'll be there to post about what's going on with my projects (and my life) (almost) every day.

Basically it's about you firing some motivation my way. In return, since I'm almost done writing, I'll start making more games like "The Shortest Game", "Phrasegames", "Download Master", "ScarCity", ...

Oops. You saw nothing.

April 07th 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, your re-remix is served.

Thanks again Kowi, Szaladin and Task - that was a fun exercise!

March 17th 2015

The remixes are in! Get ready for some ear candy:

Thanks a lot for your remixes! I'll follow up with the re-remix soon. If anyone still wants to try their luck and outmatch the above works, here's the source file.

Walter's Deal is also almost done, I'll probably need another one or two months until it's finished. If anyone wants to help me beta-read it, let me know.

February 19th 2015

More than a decade ago, just when we had bought a new PlayStation 2, we - that is my girlfriend Auri and I - were looking for games to play, and in Auri's hometown there weren't any big game stores that you'd expect from other cities. Instead, we paid a visit to a little electronics shop that featured a small section dedicated to games. There were the usual hits like Final Fantasy X, Tekken Tag Tournament and various sports games. Auri picked up a game that looked like this:

I basically said, "Why would you want to play this? It looks like crap."
She insisted on buying it, saying she had a good feeling about it.
Turns out, she was right. Shadow Hearts was amazing and keeps inspiring me to this day. Though I wouldn't realize that until a few hours into the game.

The first time we booted it up, I was confused. The game used 2D pre-rendered backgrounds, something I thought I'd never see again on the PS2, since, you know, it was the future and all. 2D backgrounds were so 1999.
Also, the game's initial battle surroundings looked kind of blocky, unfinished; I was used to Final Fantasy IX battles at this point, so my expectations were kind of high. The music drove me crazy with that annoying eerie MIDI voice.

However, I slowly started to notice the little details. The protagonist was able to transform into monsters with special powers, which was kind of like summoning creatures in Final Fantasy. Turns out, he's a total bad-ass, but still had troubles handling it all. The girl in his party whacked monsters with her book, which was hilarious.
The story was creepy, engaging and still didn't take itself too seriously. All in all, the game grew on me. But I discovered more that would make me fall in love with it.

The Judgement Ring

Usually, in RPGs you select an attack and the hero strikes the enemies, and in most games there's a hit chance, which means the computer rolls a die for you and if you miss, you miss. Not in Shadow Hearts!

The Judgement Ring gave you control over your luck and turned it into a skill-based mini-game. When you chose an action, the judgement ring would appear in a variety of forms. In the image above, you can see three yellow hitzones. The green line moves clock-wise (starting north) like a radar, and you press X whenever the green line is within the hitzones. Each hitzone you hit results in your character kicking the enemy with a combo (in this case up to three times). If you miss a zone, the combo gets only executed the amount of zones you hit. If you want to take a higher risk, you can try and hit the red edges, which would turn your attacks into critical hits. High risk, high reward! (Here's a perfect judgement ring run from Shadow Hearts 2.)

But that's not all. The Judgement Ring was used for all kinds of things, like opening chests and pushing buttons. It could be adjusted with equipment items, for example changing the speed of the green line or the size of the strike areas. Not only do you level up your character, but you yourself get better at hitting things the further you are in the game.

The Music

At first, as I described above, it freaked me out with its MIDI voices, but then I noticed, hey, the soundtrack's actually not that bad, in fact it's pretty damn good and catchy! It certainly fit the mood of the story.

The Protagonist's Transformation

This may seem like a really small thing, but it had a huge impact on me. You might have already seen it, but in the early stages of the game, when Yuri transforms he cries out in pain, holding his hands against his head. Look what he does near the end of the game.

Bad-ass! Imagine an MMORPG; you get a spell at level 1 with a really wild casting animation. Wouldn't it be better, if at level 50 you'd cast those lower level spells with just a snap of your fingers? And at level 100 you'd just casually wave a hand?

The Enemies

The monster designs were something entirely else too. I mean, look at these adorable abominations. Don't you want to hug them?

The Totally Serious Ghost Story

Close your eyes and hear for yourself.

Shadow Hearts 2

Shadow Hearts was one of the most charming game's I've ever played. The good news is that Shadow Hearts 2 was even better in almost every way (the music was still pretty good.) The bad news is that Shadow Hearts 3 was crap and the company got dissolved.

Oh well.




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