Thursday, January 26, 2012

Video game log, week one!

As part of one of my course requirements, I am to log some of my experiences with gaming as they relate to learning.  This blog will serve as my repository of thoughts on the subject, at least for this semester.

Two experiences this week have stood out a great deal to me, as I reflect on my gaming.  The first occurred as my playgroup was setting up for League of Legends.  Someone suggested that they should play AD Kennen solo bottom; for those of you who play League on a regular basis, this struck me as wrong for two reasons.  First, Kennen's skills all scale off of AP, not AD.  Second, two people (of a team of 5) are generally sent bottom so that the team might be better equipped to fight at the Dragon (between mid and bottom lanes).  In any case, his strategy worked out brilliantly; AD Kennen (starting boots into 3x Doran's Blade --> Phantom Dancer, for those of you interested) works very well as a bot solo...

...but the best part of that build is that it "messes" with the established metagame of "solo top, solo mid, one jungle, two bot" in such a way as to create advantages in the mid lane also, which most mid chars can't handle.  Even against someone who could quite well (Casseopeia), this new strategy proved to be superior.  We were playing an entirely different game than them, and won easily as a result.  It's fun to watch the metagame change -- congratulations to my friend for picking up on the pro stream that began to establish this as a new norm a couple days ago.

The second interesting case involves the new Zelda game, Skyward Sword.  One of the bosses is a cross between an octopus and a Cyclops.  The game introduces said boss by having you attack the tentacles before the rest is seen.  Once the player realizes that the monster is a Cyclops, there is a choice as to how to attack it -- either continue hitting tentacles, or shoot the eye with the level's new item, the Bow.  My wife and I were split; she wanted me to attack the tentacles, while I wanted to shoot straight for the eye due to prior experience with both Zelda bosses (Gohma, etc) and the Cyclops myth in general.

As it turns out, while my approach was efficient, it also turned out to be dangerous.  Each tentacle I did not cut down eventually shot out at me as if the "octopus" part of the beast had become a Medusa instead, with writhing snakes shooting out at me.  I was thankful to have Addie's advice, as taking out a few tentacles each time the eye became vulnerable helped mitigate the boss's assault.  Sometimes a new perspective is incredibly useful!  I hope to have this experience in WoW with the class at some point.

Edit:  This is still part of week 1....I just couldn't resist talking about this feature.  Some spoilers for Zelda:  Skyward Sword's game mechanics follow.

The way the Timeshift Stones are used throughout the game is absolutely fantastic at teaching you what exactly they are, and how they function.  Other games should be looking to this as an example of how to introduce complex mechanics.

Timeshift Stones alter the time-state of a radius around them when activated.  Specifically, they reveal the past  when activated.  This is used to transform a desert into a lush forest, filled with greenery.  They are used in the Lanayru Desert portions of the game; the first time you visit, all of the Timeshift Stones are immobile and quite simple to interact with.

When you return (hours later in the adventure), you discover that you can move certain types of Timeshift Stones around.  This means that you can effectively change the present into the past over a much wider area -- for instance, a Timeshift Stone on a boat means that you sail toward desert sand, only to find that it turns into a beautiful ocean as you move forward towards it.  This more complex mechanic would have been much more difficult to grasp without the introduction of the stones on the first trip.

On what I presume is your final required visit to Lanayru Desert, not only do Timeshift Stones move, but they do so without you actively moving them around manually -- making certain portions of the game a literal race against time, as you struggle to keep up with the moving Timeshift Stone so that Link does not get stuck in the desert.  It was quite difficult...but would have been nearly impossible if the game had not been preparing players for this critical sequence over the course of 22 hours.

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