Friday, 17 November 2017

Zen Pinball : Worlds Within Worlds

Beyond 'Zen Pinball 2' (from Zen Studios)... what is there? Is there life? Only because you can load up and tap out so quickly from this essential game for anyone's worthy smartphone or tablet. But it's still distracting, addictive and pretty endless... I just keep tapping back.

This is because Zen's collection of pinball tables provide a fast, second home for former 'big game' addicts like me, with its range of tables that celebrate everything from scientific figures to top movies and big games likes Skyrim. And there's nothing like seeing a new table open up and fill the corners of a top tablet screen with flashing lanes, retro detail and nostalgic colours. [Star Wars fans currently have at least 13 tables to choose from.]

You see, this could be where former gamers come to die - or else wrestle free, somehow, from their former cravings. [In fact, will there be another post after this one here at Notes from Super Worlds? You'd have to sign up to the blog find out!] Indeed, for those poor folk who have simply run out of time for immersive, virtual worlds, well... there is Zen Pinball and the like, where we can safely re-live, and unlock, former glories and top scenes from cult movies.

But it's also for people who may discover these great movies, and enjoy playing a range of very different tables, all united by the same, reliable, instant form of game-play. They can range from the tricky to the pointless and bland to the varied, well-paced and inventive. Forget the level-based interruptions of Angry Birds. Welcome to the truly immersive, flipper-based art of Pinball.

My recommended tables from Zen Studios:

- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back / Return of the Jedi
- Aliens
- Back to the Future

What are your favourite tables? What tables don't exist yet? Ghostbusters (original)? Indiana Jones? If you've found this humble entry of mine, then please leave me a comment underneath. Because as mentioned, I just keep coming back. I find - as a kid from the 80s - that the rise, or return, of pinball via devices and consoles pays the highest form of tribute to the glorious past of well-loved movie and game-worlds. They are worlds within worlds. And the future looks bright... PS4 versions from Zen have split-screen, as well as Tournaments filled with time-based and high-score challenges to compete in. Let's hope the revolution continues expanding which, in turn, begs the question: what makes the ultimate table? I think it must simply be about the balancing of everything correctly, from the array of challenges, intriguing layout and effects to the multi-ball modes and overall tribute the table manages to pay to its theme and setting. And I have a good feeling about it. I feel that if Zen Studios keeps shaping its tables right, they might return to some of their creations and introduce even more improvements and surprises, new modes or enhancements, and maybe even better cut-scenes, mini-games etc.

Check out the 'Jaws' table:

Or the 'Back to the Future' table:

Tips to Play Longer at Pinball:

- It's all in the flipper. Timing is everything.

- Learn to keep an eye on the Info (dot-screen) at the top, and also an eye on the pathways where you need to aim the ball (usually highlighted).

- Try and balance the ball on one flipper in order to take a pause and aim better.

- Read the Table Guides.

- Some of the tables will ask you to 'Select a Scene' from a movie. Use a flipper to select a scene.

- You can also 'nudge' the table to prevent the ball from falling down: by swiping up your screen (or left or right). Be careful, however, as too many times will cause a Tilt lock.

- Keep camera on overhead or top-down view, so you can see everything. (i do)

- Keep calm and carry on, your accuracy will improve!

Note: You can buy the multi-pack Zen versions (eg. Aliens Pinball), but it's more recommended to use the Zen Pinball 2 app and buy them individually - from within this app. That way, it's much easier to import them across other devices as you 'collect' more tables over time.


See also my guide at Bananatic Games Portal, on the Bananapedia section:
Zen Pinball 2 : Join the Revolution!

See also: Wikipedia Information

Friday, 20 October 2017

10 things we NEED for Red Dead Redemption 2, sandbox games...and beyond...

The Wild West: just one of the many perfect locations for sandbox, story-led and multiplayer gaming. Saddle up! We ride out again soon… However, let's hope for the following:

Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer image
Watch trailer on our YT...

1. No interfering, overblown cut-scenes!

The single-player campaign needs to be slicker and more involving than last time.

What’s the point of single-player campaigns? To open up the map, develop characters, unlock new possibilities, inject a sense of wonder - surprise - about the game’s potential. It should Introduce and reveal the scope of the game, before letting us rip into the multiplayer PvP and cooperative game modes….

In fact, why is this game not going to be an MMO right from the outset? ? It would be a dangerous place… But the answer is we don’t want to miss out on the above potential of a well-crafted single-player campaign. Maybe it will end up that way, like Skyrim.

But….if there’s going to be a western-set story then we need less long-winded dialogue between characters. Some from the first game would just ramble on for ages. Most of GTA V seemed pretty unnecessary and the characters were not greatly loveable. There were moments of surprise and humour, but please remember Rockstar: we’re here for the quality of the tasks and not for the next cut-scene and ‘story’. They could take a leaf out of Far Cry or Uncharted, where the missions and story lead into each other, keeping the pace. It was difficult to feel much for John Marston at the end of Red Dead Redemption, but it was well done overall (great music too). I do remember the ending of the barn sequence. And... there were some cool characters we cared about - like the old cowboy survivor. Let’s hope to see some moving deaths or characters like that again.

Image from Red Dead Redemption 2

2. No restrictions to player freedom

Isn’t it always annoying when you find you can’t do something or go everywhere in a game? The map is closed or something. Well, let’s hope there are as few restrictions as possible. Let’s hope that lots of choices are simply left open. Examples? Multiple endings? The use of the world for planning and setting up defences or strategic use in mini-quests, like learning the train time-tables on station notice-boards to overhearing talk about events as we wait on the station. I loved how the map changed over the course of the story, with newspapers revealing these changes. Progression is important. However, the changes should be undetectable and not restrictive. There was a little too much riding in the last game, so faster rides in carriages might be an option (although stealing a horse might be necessary). Maybe the game could have realism settings.

3. The sheriff is coming!

A hallmark of Rockstar and GTA titles is being chased by the AI cops. Let’s hope the AI is just as capable, but what might be cool is if you get rewarded for helping others escape and get a request to join up with fellow outlaw players.

It was unrealistic - and unfair - when unrelenting scores of lawmen come along and rain on the parade, if memory serves me. There should always be a way to escape or give up. It should just feel more...realistic. The idea that the sheriff is on your trail is a great aspect in cowboy games. But when they all miraculously show up it basically sucks. Make sure there’s enough time to feel a bit worried or prepare for a big shoot-out.

4. Sieges and town shoot-outs

On that note, let’s hope to see more of this kind of setup. Preparation for attacks and defences were a bit lacking in the first game. From turning tables over to shooting chandeliers. It will make for some fine western set-pieces and emergence.

5. Ready for Streaming and Captures

Why are so few games exploiting the potential of video captures and spectator modes?
On some modes, you could even have a western movie setting, which allows you to set up characters, cameras and things, and ‘film’ a capture of an entire attack. Then edit the results. It could be an extra DLC or extension for Youtube creators to have to get their teeth into….

IDEA: Wouldn't it be cool to walk into a movie theater in Red Dead 2 (as you could in the first one) and have an option to 'project' your best captures to other players around.

6. Game-Changing DLC

The Undead Redemption DLC was a great success. It reinvented the entire game map we’d been playing and gave it a huge new level of involvement. Will they do something similar here? Turn the game into an Undead masterpiece… If you’re going to update everything, it’d be a big shame not to let some kind of apocalypse or extra dimension strike again. Indians?

7. Multiplayer modes and Mini-Games

Co-operative play. I remember well the zombie mode where all players had to fight together until the end. These game modes had been prepared with love and attention to maximise co-operation and fun. Some more brilliantly-crafted scenarios with this kind of engagement would be essential, and make for some top Twitch entertainment.

Mini-games… there should be so many that this could form a huge feature.

Basically, if Red Dead Redemption 2 wants to be a classic, massively successful game, it needs to present a full sandbox world - that is the game itself. The single-player should simply make the most of that sandbox. But in the end, the sandbox needs to pull gamers back with the prospect of fine, guided - and shared - experiences.

8. Something new...

Most of these suggestions are inspired by the foundation of what Red Dead and GTA have already brought to the gaming table as a whole. Let’s hope there’s something more to push things forward, no-one has thought about…

You have to come back to the root of why people put a game disc into their console for in the first place, or why they click on the game to load up…. It’s about seeing how your character and gameplay unfolds. It’s about playing alongside other people and sharing the madness and mini-scenarios. My suggestion: let’s try and cut-down on endless mass shooting that is multiplayer. Sometimes I enter multiplayer and I just die continually. Or I don't want to play alongside a load of unknowns. How about if you help other players in the wilderness you see an option to add them to Friends, or Ride in their Posse? Or Challenge to a Duel?! What about something new in multiplayer mode that encourages bonds in the game?

IDEA: A character who MUST meet an end? ‘Blaze of Glory’ setting…?

Gamers want to ride into the game, with friends or without, or with cameras rolling and develop a veteran character that goes somewhere. Beyond the single-player story, where can this go? What about a continuation? Maybe there should be a time-limit on your multiplayer character, before he dies of heavy drinking or something and you have to bury him and make a new one. This could add a fascinating edge to the game beyond the game. How will he or she end up? Perhaps you’ve escaped from that single-player past to become a man of the law, a bounty-hunter always adventuring or have chosen to go back to being an outlaw, within a band of outlaws who may be taken off one by one. If you’ve chosen to go it alone, the game would be more of a survival adventure. You’ll need to make careful choices about companions, even if it’s just your horse you need to look after or use effectively. In every case, maybe it will just be a matter of time before you’re hung - literally - out to dry, or cornered and go out guns blazing. The trick will be in seeing just how your doomed, customised character will end up. How glorious will be that end?

What are your ideas? One thing is clear, judging by the Youtube and Twitch community: games are now entertainment with players acting out the role of hero or sensational victim.

9. Skill-up! A ‘Chilled-out’ Game Mode

Let's have an option to slow down the game a little. What other skills will a character emerge with from Red Dead Redemption 2? Wouldn’t it be good if - besides poker and mini-games - there were other skills you could pick up? River fishing? A knowledge of steam train sabotage? As game-worlds get more and more detailed, why not give the players an experience of the world they can use and take away. Horse training? It’s the fine balance of what is fun and what is boring, but if a player profits from spending time building a fire that doesn’t blow out in the wind, or digging a hole in which to trap an animal or opponent player - it’s not only an experience, an effort - but rewarding fun.

10. Capturing freedom...and weird events.

Or ‘emergent gameplay’ - where strange, unpredictable events can happen in a game….
Let’s see tons of stuff like this again. From horses bolting when snakes are present to horses falling on trains and generally just great re-play amusement. The would probably involve wildlife and NPCs. Greater interaction and depth with NPCs in Rockstar games - where they’re so heavily populated by villagers and townsfolk - is long overdue.

The Virtual Wild West...

So Rockstar. A lot to live up to. Don’t rush it. I’m not sure whether to pity or envy the game-developers or - especially - the testers. But... what do you get if you really ‘go to town’ with this project, or even, ‘the extra mile’. Not just a sequel with a lot of shiny, upgraded elements. Maybe not another Skyrim, with a massive load of depth and longevity that breaks records for awhile. But possibly... some new winning formulae inside that will push the sandbox game further down the line; push the sharing, streaming and multiplayer longevity….and which you can then apply to your next title, or expand on. Until you realise: you don’t need to keep making new titles. You could just keep on feeding and expanding one 'ultimate' map or setting. Maybe bring portions of it into the virtual…

The point is, before the virtual 'happens', have we really pushed the sandbox genre as far as it can go yet?

We’ll see….

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Write Game Reviews to Earn Bananas (and Free CS:GO skins) BANANATIC

So I'm wondering around the house wondering what to do to fill a restless 'gap' in a day. Problem? I don't feel like playing any of the games in my collection. What new game to play now? ... and... how to get some extra beer money to buy maybe a full-price top game title...?

Well, there's no need to feel guilty about playing games anymore....

The Answer: try out some titles over at Bananatic, a games portal and overall fun site that allows members to garner 'bananas' for doing different game-related well as feel part of a games community that swap stories or tips via nicely integrated forums. It's a well thought-out site with regional versions across the globe....


It's all in the name of collecting - gradually - more and more 'bananas'... until, one day, for all round good behavior, you can 'cash in' or swap them all for Amazon or Steam codes (etc.)...until... there you are, with your full price game title for free (or for a lot less than you'd have thought) in your trigger-happy hands...

What about these 'activities' on the site?....The main one is that you can actually try out new games by launching them through the site, and have a go at guided 'game quests'. This is a great feature. If you complete one then you get - you guessed it - a certain load of sweet bananas... It's no scam site, it's just affiliate marketing i.e. supporting games publishers.

And Bananatic is actually a great motivator to give types of games - from casual, mini, shooter to major MMOs - a shot, which you otherwise wouldn't bother to...and it might also lead you into a bigger title, in a similar vein....and you'll be grateful to Bananatic.

Later on that day, maybe you want to share your thoughts about this game you tried?....Ok, head over to the Bananapedia and, for a fairly short review submitted you can get more bananas. That's right: write games reviews, collect bananas, and swap for vouchers. As long as it's original content and reads well it should get included in the site. If it's a good one, you may get extra as the review is ranked. And it doesn't have to be a review. It could be a Guide, Tutorial etc...

Write a game review and get some bananas to spend...

Still feeling helpful? Or perhaps a little less so now....Why not check the forums to see what's popular and help out with a question or start a new thread. You still get a banana or two.

click to enlarge activities...

Beyond this, it's just a great-looking site that's still evolving and enhancing its features as a 'games portal'. There's a mini-games section or 'Fun Zone'. I hope they enhance the 'banana mod' section, as connecting them to well-known gaming characters is an amusing touch.

It's not just about clicks, it seems to actually care about its gaming community, enhance its 'game quest' feature and delight in being able to offer what it can to struggling gamers looking to save up for a bigger title on Steam or whatever... Currently (2017) they have a great offer where you can get a Free Random Steam game just by clicking on a treasure box (on the map view in the shop) and then trying and completing the first Game Quest...simple!

So...'bananas' are the Steam keys, CS:GO skins and more....

It's real easy to sign up via Google, give it a go! Remember's more about fun and filling gaps, than desperately working the site to harvest bananas. You might find yourself spoiling the fun, and getting monitored for abuse.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Note after being 'INSIDE'

An updated, twisted, more artistic version of the classic 'Prince of Persia' 2D platformer games set in a dark, mysterious and menacing world would conjure up what...? Something like 'INSIDE' (wikipedia). The 'experience' gets progressively more interesting, puzzling and twisted. At the same time it remains atmospherically impressive and consistent in its combination of these key ingredients. Don't worry it's not overly frustrating and the sections when it does get hard finally betray their secrets. They should keep you playing.

Need I say more? This clip of gameplay should serve as a taster but also a reminder of how effective games can be when they simply focus on key elements such as atmosphere, intrigue, surprise, level design...unfolding with very little explanation or delay...

Friday, 14 October 2016

An Underwater Journey

I've had a long day and I'm in no mood for intense, concentrated console fighting or game progression. But don't think there aren't any developers out there who aren't tapping right into this frame of mind.

So now I'm slip-streaming with the fishes, diving down and exploring great caverns, hanging onto dolphins and even onto the mighty whales of the deep.

Ok so, ABZU is made by the same guy who did Journey and Flower, only this is the underwater version, so you can expect - and welcome - the same sort of format and magic. Any tiresome difficulty level or story aspects are sort of side-lined for a more direct, accessible experience. There's something to do with a lost underwater civilisation, a re-connection with the sea-life and a whole lot of dangerous triangles.

What's great though is the way the strengths of those former titles have been elevated or continued here: the sense of space, the quantity of avatar control and the slip-streaming scenes are back, longer and just as thrilling.

A superb family game. Includes an interesting Meditation setting (hidden in the levels) for re-visiting the undersea settings, learning about the correctly-modeled aquatic life and admiring the details. A nice feature now that these games are getting so pretty. It would all make for a great Virtual Reality experience too.

Desert and walking experience (tick)
Magical Seeds and wind experience (tick)
Underwater experience (tick)
What's next... Jungle? Save the Rainforest?

And might I suggest... bring back the multiplayer elements again, or as an additional feature.

Read about the game on Wikipedia

Streaming time:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Space Log: 'No Man's Sky'

I'm on a strange planet, gathering resources feverishly. I'm worrying about my health and life support systems. I'm very eager, as with most games, to master the controls quickly, master my resources, go exploring and feel immersed, adventurous, inspired...

Secretly, I'm hoping the experience will be unique and yet also shared. Maybe I can find things no one will find (and share them online), maybe I can make some good-looking space videos from my footage, maybe I'll be able to leave some kind of mark or artistic message on a planet for some future gamer to find... However, I'm hoping they'll be other players around somewhere, and maybe the setting will promote some kind of talking point, or... something... I want to see a bit of story somehow too, or some science-fiction problems to unravel... Maybe the game will even bring people - mankind even - together...

Remember the game Journey? Even touches of that would be ok.

Who knows? Did the developers of the game know? The big hook is that the game is a massive 'procedurally generated' affair in that there is a living universe going on. The lifeforms are also generated and 'live' ... sort of...

The line on the official site reads: No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy

It's a mysterious website, of course and with no mention of Muliplayer anywhere for the moment (Oct 2016). But what a nice canvas. What an elaborate, long-running party to invite everybody to...

So I purchased my Limited Edition Box and am into 'No Man's Sky'... I was still enjoying it actually, when a sort of backlash began against the game online. I'm thinking it's a big shame. This surely can't go wrong.

Is the proof of the pudding just in the eating? No, not these days of easy streaming, the proof is about the sharing, and - in fact - the game doesn't look that bad... But the controversy is taking centre stage at the moment as the success of the game 'as a game' raises questions.

How 'good' are the sandbox / 'make-your-own-adventure' features of this 'Space Survival and Exploration Sim'... You can subscribe here or to my Youtube channel to see - maybe - some of my own, shared adventures recorded. They may not be anything originally anticipated. You see, I had hoped to meet some fellow travellers, like in Journey. I had maybe hoped to create something or join some sort of cause. The canvas was a good one. But maybe the canvas is just too big for Hello Games to manage. Will they pack up and sod off on holiday? Or will they stick onto the hype they started and do something rich and rewarding with the procedural magic stuff?

So what did I really want from such a game? Its success was not a big surprise.

The trouble with the 'big games' is they attract a lot of attention these days. A lot of hopes. They offer a lot of possibilities for multi-gaming, video sharing / streaming skills, artistic creation, silly moments, hidden messages, hidden meanings... And most of the people bothering to provide feedback or to write Twitter posts, reviews etc. on the young-ish side of life; a big chunk of the internet. People want a vehicle to share with others. People want to 'own' experiences and share a sort of wry 'enlightenment' they can master by skill, chance or personal taste. Original trailer for the game:

Did the creators of 'No Man's Sky' know themselves? Not judging by a lot of the flak they seem to be getting now. Of course they wanted to hype and market an experience, an endless universe. But it sums up lots of questions and maybe that's where the game will ultimately score: by providing a potent question mark - or a black, monolithic signpost - in the evolution of big, modern, complex games.

ok... language is good... now what...

Was it all just too big? Is it that when games get so big and so complex, they start to imitate Life too directly, and people will be more easily tempted to switch off, than waste hours of time in upgrades and exploration?

In the end, what is the experience of a game going to provide? I don't want to just go about surviving and finding things, although this is OK if there's something really intriguing there. Alien Isolation was so intense in its focus as a survival game, that this was offering a unique, survival experience. It becomes amusing to find out how people play and fail at that game, how long they will last... And by sticking close to a well-known movie, it uses that super-dark, signature spirituality and wraps it up in its bleak, predator-prey experience.

So a game has to provide more content by way of connection and inspiration. It has to be a potent, heady brew of art, sound, story planning, multi-player input and challenging, changing interest. Or else it needs to focus on pure fun/challenge and the Single-Player mode, (although these are getting a bit old hat and lonely now, in this connected age).

I reckon that 'No Man's Sky' proves that people wanted that heady brew of something media rich, something internet-rich, collaborative, spiritual, fun, artistic, escapist, challenging... but instead have been left somewhat in the cold, gazing at another procedurally-generated planet. Sure, this can stick around on my shelf for a good while, but...

And meanwhile in Star Wars Battlefront, large multi-player teams are attacking the Death Star in a very direct, specific type of fantasy experience that is also a familiar and social or co-operative experience.

Let's see if 'No Man's Sky' will just trundle along and fizzle out, or whether new updates can enable the procedural wizardry to offer some potent depth to itself and to other games to come...

So... in the meantime, stay strapped in for any of my further comments or adventures. One thing about the game is you need your paddles in space. And since I've bought the boat as it is now, will sail on for some hopefully interesting discoveries, forever searching... for the ultimate game... a universe to fill with my own people, my own past, present, future... !! Hold on, has the kettle just boiled?

No Man's Sky : WIKIPEDIA information

Continued space adventures....