About Adam Lutton

Game Designer / Programmer

10/06/2024 – New Stream Graphics & CyberSurfer Update

There’s been quite a long gap since the last one of these. I’ve just been so busy with everything that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write one of these. Even while I write this, I have tabs open for scripts for at least two videos. Although one of them might appear in this post if I can finish it before this goes up.

With that said, here’s what I’ve been up to.

New Stream Graphics

I decided my stream graphics needed updating, but instead of just opening up Blender and going at it, I decided to spend some time designing my ideas before making them, which I think has led to a much better result than last time.

Let’s start with the game dev scene.

I’ve gone for a rustic-looking apartment looking over a cityscape. This scene has undergone a couple of reworks and changes since I originally made it. I’m showing its current state here.

Let’s start with the foreground first. There’s a desk with a decent wood material on it, a couple of props, a keyboard and mouse, and a mousepad. The keyboard and mouse models are not mine; I found those on the Internet. However, the textures are mine. It’s a plastic-like material with some grime added on top for believability. The mousepad is the camo pattern I like using, but with some additional texture on top.

There’s a picture of my dog on my desk, of course. And then there’s the two monitors. I made these myself, and they are, in fact, properly 16:9. They also use a plastic material, minus the grime. The screen is an LCD shader mixed with a Holdout shader. The Holdout shader allows the screen to be transparent when rendered, so I can put dynamic objects behind it like animated UI and such. I’ll get to that later.

There’s a brick texture behind the desk. I couldn’t make it as realistic as I would have liked, as it made my performance tank while navigating the scene, which was a real pain. Off to the left is glass, which slightly reflects the inside of the room but mostly just serves as a window to the outside.

Before I get to the outside, here’s the rest of the room you don’t see:

As you can see, there’s a couch and a couple of shelves, along with a carpet and ceiling. I had some ideas about reusing this room with different angles, but it’ll probably require more details if I want to do that.

Now, the outside of the room.

This is a procedural city made with geometry nodes. I followed a tutorial for this as I don’t really know what I’m doing with geo nodes yet. Either way, it’s better than what I was doing before with my shoddily made buildings. The scaling on the buildings is fairly inaccurate, and the glass warps the look of them a bit, but I’m willing to live with it.

Game Dev Cam Screen Example

Here’s the camera scene when all the UI is applied behind the rendered image. I’m pretty bad at making fake UI, but I think this looks OK for now. I might look into actually making a Windows Form application with custom graphics and using that instead. But considering the amount of changes this one scene has had since I made it, I think I’ll just live with it for now.

Overall, I like it, but I think there’s room for improvement. But at the same time, those improvements require me to further develop my own skill set. Plus, the lighting is a bit weird-looking, as the outside lighting doesn’t light up the room enough.

Moving on to the gaming scene now.

I designed this to look like a run-down arcade you might find in a failing shopping centre or motorway service station. Starting with the foreground again, there’s a table with a wood material on it and a brick material under it. The TV is actually the same as in my last layout, but with a Holdout shader on the screen mixed with a glossy shader over it to give it a proper look. There’s a plastic sign next to it with text that changes between scenes.

Behind all that is the rest of the arcade. The red camo material is used for the carpet, with some additional bits to make it look like carpet. And then there’s the cabinets themselves.

I just had to include a Rotaction cabinet, of course. SICKHACKS.root also makes a comeback, as Cybersurfer still doesn’t have an actual name. The other game is Tempo Catastrophe, a parody of the Time Crisis games, which seem to infest every single British arcade. And to top it off, a bog standard claw machine.

The latter of the two aren’t as highly detailed as they’re background objects, but they look decent enough in the final render.

Finally, on the back wall, there’s a text object with an emissive shader that I use as a sign, and an exit door that opens on the ending scene, which is a major light source as all the other lights are turned off.

I feel better about this scene than the game dev one. It’s come together quite well, although it did require a lot more effort with all the additional props needed. If I were going to change one thing, I would probably make it look more rundown, with some added rubbish thrown about. I’m also not too happy with the scaling of the room; it’s pretty bloody massive. Like a Megabowl arcade space, if any of you remember those.

I’m not sure how long these will last, but I think they’re pretty neat. The last layout was used for 2 years; let’s see if this lasts longer.

What’s Going On With CyberSurfer?

Last time I made a video and blog post about Cybersurfer, I mentioned that I was looking into a way to build tracks with the spline tool, and I got something working based on a video I found. Well, after a few months of tweaking and adding to it, hoping it would make it more powerful, I’ve realised that I am being an idiot about it.

The video covers this in more detail, and I would suggest you watch that, but I’ll go over some of the basic points.

Based on the video I found, I was able to make a track that follows the spline with the correct UVs and so on. I looked great. Then I started testing it by adding additional verticality and twisting it around. Like making loops and corkscrews.

This is where shortcomings in both my player code and the track generation became evident. Basically, whenever I would hit a bend on a loop, the player would jitter because of the lack of geometry. And when I hit corkscrews, I had the same issue, along with an additional bug where the player wouldn’t stick to the track in those sections.

Adding additional resolution was possible, but it added it to the whole track. Considering how long it’s intended to be, that might end up being too demanding. So I figured that the best solution would be to increase poly counts, but only in the specific parts where I needed it.

Alongside that, I still want things like tunnels and half-pipes in the level, sometimes going around corners. Again, I need extra geometry for that.

My solution was to subdivide the mesh, although along the width, not the length. I go over it in the video in more detail, but the long and short of it is that although I got the subdivision to work, it was an absolute mess. Furthermore, the idea of making tunnels with it is virtually impossible.

As the code got more complicated, trying to accommodate the idea of adding more vertices to it, it became more difficult to manipulate them.

In the end, I looked at all the code and decided that I needed to rethink it. Here’s a summary of what I’m going to try:

  • Change how I mark out which part of the track needs additional verts by using knot data instead.
  • Be able to add additional resolution along the length per section.
  • Append half-pipe sections onto the edges of the corners instead of manipulating the mesh.
  • Tunnels and other half-pipe sections might become separate pieces that are attached to the track.

Again, there’s more detail in the video, but this more or less covers everything.

The Godot Video

I finally got around to making a video about my experiences with Godot and the things I like and don’t like about it. I’m not an expert on game engines, so it comes from a place of just spewing out my opinions and thoughts in a very general way.

I’m less critical of Godot, although there are still plenty of things I don’t like. But I did find quite a few things I liked, including specific nodes and example-based documentation.

The video has done a lot better than I was expecting it to, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been fantastic. There are a lot of new things to look at and many things to improve on.

Am I going to use Godot again? Yes.

I have an idea for a project, but I haven’t really had the time to start designing it. But with all these videos out of the way, I should get some time soon. I’m not going to say anything about it until I start making a prototype.

Other Things

I have a new weapon asset. I’m calling it the “Czech 75”, which is a very legally distinct name for a pistol based on a real gun that a character from the anime Gunsmith Cats uses. This is in fact the same pistol from the 7DFPS game, although it has been modified a bit with better topology and several other improvements. And most importantly, it is now textured.

So, here’s a VR-ready pistol that you can put into your games. Enjoy.

In related news, the shotgun asset pack is now permanently discounted. I probably need to improve these ones as well at some point, but I can’t really be arsed. I have far too many things on the go right now.

But I am curious if there’s a demand for more weapons. I should also note that both of these were modelled and rigged by my friend and modified, animated, and textured by me. And half of the money from either of these goes to him. If I make more, I’ll likely have to do it on my own, which means I’ll have to learn more about the creation process. To be fair, as part of my Monday streams, I’m learning various aspects of Blender and trying to create things I haven’t before, which is helping me learn how to do stuff like this on my own instead of having to rely on others.

7DFPS is happening later in the year, so perhaps I’ll use that as an excuse for making more of this stuff.

Again, sorry for the large gap between this post and the last one. I have been very busy. And a new gaming roundup post is in the works, so look forward to that in the near future.

-Adam

31/01/2024 – Global Game Jam 2024

Global Game Jam has come and gone again, and I made another game for it. This year’s theme was “Make Me Laugh”. I spent a good chunk of January learning Godot for this year’s GGJ, and as part of that, I made a quick prototype of a 2-player robot arena game. I made it because my friend and I were discussing the lack of Robot Wars-related games and thought about making one for GGJ.

As it happens, the theme fit quite well with the idea, so we decided to fill it full of ridiculous items instead of robots and hope that it would be funny. We thought it was silly, but when we presented it to the sleep-deprived audience, it didn’t get much of a reaction.

But anyway, here’s an outline of the game. 2-player robot arena. You can choose a character body, which will have a set amount of weapon placement points each. You then pick a weapon, and then you spawn into the arena. The arena is a 20m x 20m area. There’s a pit that can be activated via a button on the wall and a dropzone where random items drop.

Here are the body models. I’m personally quite fond of the man holding axles model, as it is way more horrifying than I expected it to be when I came up with the idea. And I quite like the box, too. But I should probably note that I modelled both of those while my teammate did the cheese and the toilet. But I did the textures for all of them.

With a bit more experience with Godot, development this time around went a lot more smoothly. However, that’s also because I was in charge of the programming for the most part. Not to say that I’m a better programmer than my friend, but more to say that I spent a lot more of my time doing the work.

Either way, I used the C# version of Godot 4.2.1 and found the programming side of things to be OK. But there’s still a lot of issues I have with Godot, predominately the general hierarchy of things. Accessing nodes is the biggest pain in the arse, and prefabs don’t really work in the same way they do in Unity. You can’t drag and drop something from the files into the inspector; you have to load it as a packed scene and then convert it to the correct node. But not every node is accessible through code. If you wanted to instantiate a vehicle body via code, for instance, you couldn’t. Hell, you can’t even access it.

I also had issues getting information on the root node of an object, and for one of the scripts, I ended up using GetParent() five times on one bit of code just to get the name of the player object. However, soon after the event, I remembered that Node Groups existed, and I probably should have used that instead.

But the more pressing issue with Godot is just how buggy some of the node types are. For the game, we heavily relied on the VehicleBody3D node to drive the player models. But for the first few days, the wheels on the player models simply went through the floor, and I couldn’t figure out why. And after researching, it turns out that the node by default doesn’t really work how you’d expect and suffers from many bugs. That said, I did eventually find a post that suggested altering the stiffness of the suspension plus some other values until you got the behaviour you wanted. After about 30 minutes of tweaking the values, I eventually solved the issue.

I have no real complaints about the art side of things; Blender is pretty robust these days, although I did learn that the GPU compute option wasn’t configured correctly, and after fixing that, rendering stuff took literal seconds instead of minutes. What bothers me is that this option was always there, but I hadn’t set it up properly. Considering I upgraded my PC primarily to improve productivity, I wonder if I had checked the right boxes, I could have saved a bit of money.

That’s really it as far as GGJ goes.

As for the new stream layout stuff, I finished greyboxing the gaming part of it, and now I just need to set up the textures. I also need to get started on the game dev scenes and the transition animations for both.

Hopefully, I can get all this sorted out by March. I don’t really want to be working on this instead of playing through Dragon’s Dogma 2. On the gaming side of things, I’m making my way through Infinite Wealth and having a blast. I also gave Graven ago and had mixed feelings about it. Persona 3 Royal and Granblue Fantasy Relink are coming soon, with the former being on Game Pass. Relink is a bit too expensive for me at the moment, so I might wait for a sale.

Anyway, till next time.

-Adam

09/01/2024 – 7DFPS And Future Plans

7DFPS happened again, and I submitted a new game. And this one is better than that god-awful zombie game from last year, I promise.

Making a VR game was easier in some ways than I was expecting, and weirder in some ways. I definitely didn’t like being tied to Unity’s pre-built systems as tightly as I was. That said, although the game isn’t as fully developed as I’d like, it’s definitely an improvement.

I’m not gonna write too much about the game because I made a video about it, along with some other info about stuff I’m working on that I’ve previously written about. Here’s the video:

Plans For 2024

My plans are a bit of a mess for 2024 so far due to some things taking a bit longer to do than I expected. However, for January, my focus is on Global Game Jam, which starts on the 22nd.

Alongside that, I’m working on improving my stream layout with new art and transitions. It’s going to be quite the challenge. But things are looking good so far with some of my early brainstorming.

Beyond that, I’m gonna focus full-time on Cybersurfer. I’m really close to a breakthrough with it, and I can’t wait to get back to it after GGJ. And in regards to game dev, my stream schedule for it is going to change. It’s still going to be on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but now I will stream in the evenings as well. It won’t be consistent because of how my evenings can be, but it will give me more time to work on stuff.

The gaming streams are going to change a bit. Alongside my regular playthroughs of games, I’m gonna try doing one-off variety streams with many games. I’m then going to take those streams, cut them up on a per-game basis, and put the videos on YouTube as scheduled releases. Probably just one a week to give me some time to make content. I’m not sure how frequent these streams will be, but I’ve got plenty of weird ass games I want to check out.

A bit of a short one, especially after the bloody long post that the end of year one was. Keep tuned into my Twitch and YouTube channels (Both of them), and I’ll see you guys next time.

-Adam

ADMAN’s Den: July – December 2023

Another year, another list of games I played. As always, I write this over a period of months; please forgive any inconsistencies in my writing style.

Only Up!

This gained some popularity as a stream game, and it was cheap, so I decided to give it a go to see if I could get even a small morsel of an increase to my average viewer count on Twitch. I tried Jump King back in the day, which is a very similar kind of game, but I really didn’t enjoy it. But this game seemed easier, and it was.

That said, it’s pretty fucking jank. The controls are messy, and the collision detection is spotty at best. The physics are very much tilted against you. There are a couple of points where the game will forcibly knock you off and force you down to the bottom of the map to start again. Thankfully, the devs added a lift that gets you back to the midpoint if that does happen.

Another thing that’s annoying is the voiceover, which is a bunch of nonsensical motivational messages. And you can’t disable them, as the sound options do absolutely nothing.

Reference to a better game.

It’s not that good of a game, and I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered with it.

Happy Game

Despite the title, this isn’t all that happy of a game. This is made by the same folks as Machinarium, which I didn’t play much of. But much like that game, it’s a point-and-click adventure type of thing with some pretty messed-up visuals and morbid puzzles to boot.

The game is about a kid having a series of nightmares around various objects and a pet, constantly trying to get back the items the dream is taking away from them. The one involving the dog was especially uncomfortable, and I went and petted my dog right after finishing the game.

The visual style kind of reminded me of the music video for “Welcome To The Machine” by Pink Floyd, although more bloody and gross.

It’s quite a short game; I think I finished it in under 2 hours. Worth playing? Kind of, but don’t spend too much on it.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Well, since the last time I talked about this game, I have finished it. And it’s a pretty good game despite the technical issues, and probably the sole reason I had Game Pass as long as I did this year.

But yeah, I kept playing it and made my way through some pretty average bosses and a couple of decent ones. The highlight of which was Lu Bu, whom I fought twice. He has a deceivingly normal fight that seems harder than it actually is. But if you bait out his special attacks, you can exploit him pretty consistently and eventually get him in a critical state where you can deliver a high-damage attack. His second fight is definitely easier than his first, although most of that is due to knowing what to expect from him. But don’t get me wrong; it still took me a few tries to get him.

The other bosses can be interesting, but very few stand out. The only other example I can think of besides the last two main mission bosses is a boss that has three phases. Two phases are on one health bar, and then after defeating it, it revives and spawns another health bar, and then spams you with charge attacks that you have to parry and get the boss in a vulnerable state to do heavy damage.

The very last main boss is pretty fun. It’s a one-on-one fight against a human enemy, which is actually fairly refreshing considering what the previous fights were up to that point. It’s not difficult either; it only took me two tries. After that fight, in the post-end game, there’s not really much at all. There are a handful of more difficult missions and the option for new game+ and I think there is an endless mode as well, but I can’t remember.

Either way, technical difficulties aside, I had fun with this. Nioh is still probably a better game overall, but the additional platforming and verticality are nice additions. I like the parry system, although some instances of it can come off as bullshit at times. And the Chinese short sword and associated moveset are really fun to use.

Don’t pass on it; it’s better than you think.

A Plague Tale: Requiem

The second game I’ve played to completion on XCloud. And with my improved Internet speed, it was a much better experience than the last time. I could actually see what I was doing instead of getting excessive amounts of macroblocking.

Anyway, Plague Tale: Requiem is very similar to the first game, but with some refinements. You still need to avoid rats, and there’s now even bloody more of them. The stealth stuff has been improved, and you can now avoid a lot of combat if you want, especially with new tools that get rats out of the way. The tar mechanic is quite effective.

They’ve doubled down on the rats acting more like a liquid simulation, which has led to some additional mechanics for how they work. Although these mechanics are frequently used only once. There’s a section where Hugo is able to shoot out geysers of rats from the ground at will to stop incoming enemies. Late into the game, there’s a section where the rats pulse out towards you like waves, and you have to take over so they go around you. The game is full of these one-and-done types of game mechanics, and most of them are well implemented.

A new weapon you get is a crossbow, and as you can imagine, it adds a few more mechanics to the game, like shooting rope or bait to lure the rats away. You don’t get a tonne of ammo for it, but it’s pretty neat.

I’m struggling to say too much about the game because I can’t remember much due to how much time has passed since I played it and when I started writing this post, but also because I don’t want to spoil the story. But I will say this: I think the ending is extremely underwhelming and abrupt. It very much soured my view of the whole game. You do all this work dealing with rats, puzzles, and stealth gameplay, and your reward is unfulfilling.

It’s pretty, at least, and looks pretty good via XCloud.

Chronicles Of Riddick

I’ve been meaning to play this Vin Diesel simulator for a while. Jokes aside, these games are considered cult classics. I’m a fan of this era of Starbreeze, being a big fan of the first The Darkness game. But this game is a bit mixed. Some highs, some interesting things, and then a good dash of bullshit thrown in.

The game is about Riddick, an extremely competent killer, going to a prison called Butcher Bay. This is a prequel to the movie Pitch Black, where the prison is mentioned in an off-hand comment. I actually didn’t watch the first two films until I was most of the way through Butcher Bay. There’s a lot of extra world-building that is quite interesting, but unfortunately gets put to the side in favour of everyone’s favourite baldy anti-hero.

But I digress. Riddick gets sent to prison. When in prison, you talk to the inmate and get side quests to do, including killing other inmates or getting specific items for them. Although The Darkness also does this, I wasn’t quite expecting it from Butcher Bay, considering how linear I was expecting it to be. There’s other optional stuff that’s worth doing too, and some of it can be missed as the game doesn’t always tell you that you can do it. There’s a bit early into the game where you break into the warden’s shower room. Here, you can change into one of their uniforms and go through the rest of the area without the guards bothering you. However, I didn’t know about this and proceeded to kill everything between there and the objective.

Stealth is a fairly major part of the game, but it’s kind of wonky. Enemies will often see you in the dark. Noise is a big factor as well, but it’s hard to tell how loud you’re actually being. Enemies’ sight ranges are pretty ridiculous as well. Especially once you get to the mines section, the stealth starts breaking down, and you’re turned into mince meat. And I died a lot. You get near bugger all health, and it melts away in a fraction of a second in most combat situations. For a while, I thought it was an issue with the unlocked frame rate, but it wasn’t. You just get rinsed on normal difficulty.

Still looks pretty good despite its age.

There is a section in the Dark Athena game that does have FPS-dependent physics, however. There’s a gravity chamber that will pull the player towards it if they don’t fight against it, but at a greater than 60Hz frame rate, the moment you enter the room, you’re flinged straight at the damn thing, killing you.

The game’s visuals still hold up for the most part. The environments look great, but the character models look a bit dodgy, and the animations can be a bit stiff.

Just to end on a high note, there’s some mech sections in the game that are pretty fun because it’s the only time where you’re able to obliterate enemies while negating most of their damage.

Good game, but a little rough these days.

Call Of Duty WWII

I played this as part of my WWII COD Marathon streams (Collection for this game here), with this being the last game of the marathon (I don’t own Vanguard yet) and the one previous being World At War. And the immediate difference between this game and that game is the order of magnitude improvement in the graphics. Holy shit, it looks good by comparison. To be fair, we are comparing an early-ish PS3 game to a late-PS4 game, and the changes in technology between the two games are pretty substantial, but playing them back-to-back was a bit jarring.

Playing through all the WWII CODs was a bit of a slog by the time I got to WWII. At some point, the repetitiveness of shooting Nazis (With some Italians, Japanese, and Socialist French thrown in for good measure) gets a bit tedious. WWII changes that formula by adding in some much-needed gameplay variety. Stealth sections, optional objectives, and changes to the pacing bring some much-needed diversification. In addition to this, allies have specific abilities that can assist you, whether it’s giving you health packs, ammo, or even artillery support. It’s a nice addition and kind of reminds me of kill streaks.

Generally, I found the gameplay to be a breath of fresh air compared to the other WWII games.

I also want to make a small note about the sound design. COD has always had some pretty good sound, but this game takes it a step further and really hammers in the audio detail. The bullets whizzing by, the sounds of metal hitting metal, lead hitting flesh, and the explosions all have much higher fidelity than the previous games I’ve played.

So what’s the bad part? Its inaccuracies.

There’s a lot of Russian guns in Normandy, and although the Germans did modify and use Russian weapons, there’s no evidence to support the idea that they made it that far west. There’s also a whole mission where you kill the guy running Paris alongside the French Resistance, but in reality, that dude surrendered without issue. Hill 400 is renamed completely, and you and your company go and take it. But in reality, The Big Red One battalion took that hill and was even covered in Call Of Duty 2. Some dude did a video on all the inaccuracies; I’d highly recommend searching it out if you’re interested.

The last negative point is just the story. It’s a bit shit. There’s a couple of dumb scenes that lead to characters getting killed, which didn’t really need to happen. Or rather, the setup for them is so bad you look at it and think, “If they had just used their head and done something a bit different, they could have lived easily”. There’s also some scenes regarding war crimes that are just far too short to be impactful.

Other than those negative points, I actually enjoyed my time with the game quite a bit. I was expecting it to be much worse based on what people had to say about it.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

I played Jet Set Radio Future some time ago and really enjoyed the aesthetic and music, but the gameplay is dated at best and clunky at worst. Very floaty jumping and getting speed were issues, and there were a lot of dumb platforming and combat sections. So when Bomb Rush Cyberfunk was announced, much like everyone else, I was stoked to play it. And after a number of years, it’s here. I played it, and I love it. It’s really damn good.

Imagine if Jet Set Radio made sweet love to the Tony Hawk series; this is the kind of game you’d get. You like skateboards and BMXs, along with the already existing stable of inline skates. Each has their own unique ability, which helps you get into specific places to get collectables.

But why do I say Tony Hawk? Well, besides the previously mentioned skateboards, the combo system is very reminiscent of those games. Pull off more tricks, get more combo multipliers, and get more points. Doing things like wall running and grinding into corners also increases the combo multiplier.

As a cherry on top of the movement option, you get a rocket boost back. Using it while doing tricks lets you do a special trick, which also has the bonus of renewing your combo timer while doing manuals and such. The entire suite of movement options is just perfectly tuned. It feels so good to play.

As for the minute-to-minute gameplay, you go from district to district facing off against rival crews, challenging their lines, and eventually having a face-off where the crew with the higher score wins. None of that is particularly difficult. The other side of the game is dealing with the ever-intensifying police force. Get a high enough heat level, and they will send freaking mechs at you.

The only three negatives I have with the game are: the combat is kind of blows; the police get really annoying later on when you’re trying to explore and do stuff; and once you finish the game and do all collectables, there is NOTHING to do but grind around. If they had nicked Skate’s Own The Spot feature or something or some kind of score competition between your friend group, that could help lengthen my playtime a bit.

And I really do want to play more of it. Since I finished it, it’s been on my mind since. Mostly the soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to almost every day since. It’s a damn good soundtrack.

The devs still update the game and have been adding a lot of quality-of-life improvements, and the modding scene is getting pretty wild. Custom maps are soon to be available too, so I might check in again once some good ones get made.

HoloCure

This is my first experience with this type of game. The genre seems to be referred to as “Auto Shooter Survival”. In other words, it’s something akin to “I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1” but instead of having direct control over when you attack, it does it automatically. You gain extra attacks and abilities the longer you survive and level up.

In case you’ve been living under rock, this game is a HoloLive fan game featuring VTubers and their greater “lore”. You play as the VTubers, and you fight against representations of each of their fanbases. Usually made of chibi versions of animals or objects. There’s a lot of references in there that someone more obsessed than me would likely appreciate. Especially a lot of weapons you get and the combination weapons you can craft from them.

The pixel art is really well done. The girls are very cute in their chibi forms, and the various enemies emote quite well in their simple animations. It’s got style.

YAGOO’d

However, once you get late into a stage, it becomes a complete clusterfuck of lights and colours. Not necessarily in a way that impacts gameplay. I never felt like it was getting in the way of me being able to see where I was going or what I was aiming for. But it’s certainly a little overwhelming.

When I started playing it, I did start to get a Tetris-Effect-like response from it. Seeing the play symbol pickups in my dreams, along with hearing the coin sounds. After a while, it stopped, but it was an interesting observation nonetheless.

The game is still in active development as of writing this, and I’m looking forward to more characters and weapons being added.

Gun

Gun is Neversoft’s answer to Red Dead Revolver. But unlike that game, this one is actually open-world. It’s a little rough by today’s standards. It required some file modifications to get working on my PC correctly. It only runs at 30FPS, which feels pretty bad, but it’s mostly consistent, at least framerate-wise. The controls are not great by default, but with a little tweaking, you can make it feel a little better.

What I found surprising was just how violent this game was. I’m not talking comical over-the-top stuff either. Yes, you can blow limbs off and that’s all good, but you can also find people in agony after a gunfight and finish them off. Or scalp them, which you can do to pretty much every enemy. You can’t sell the scalps or really do anything with them, but you can do it. You also see some throats get cut, which are surprisingly more detailed than you’d expect.

I suppose in this day and age, some people might look at this game and condemn its “racial stereotypes”. But I found that it was only skin deep; once you actually look at the characters and see how they act and do things, you realise it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s hard to explain in detail, but it ends up making sense.

I wasn’t super compelled by the story, and most of the side quests were pretty bad. But it’s kind of fun for the time I had with it. It’s also another game I streamed and you can find the collection here.

Star Wars: Republic Commando

Over the years, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game, about how underrated it is, and about how everyone who played it desperately wants a sequel. And I fail to understand why.

The game has an interesting point of view. You’re a 4-man squad of elite clone troopers during the clone wars. You get to see a bunch of different battles from the films from that perspective, but you also get some original missions that fill in a few gaps between the movies. It also introduces General Grievous, although I don’t know if this is his actual first introduction into the universe as the characters seem to know who he is already. But it’s the earliest piece of media I’ve seen him in. Anyway, it takes you to all these places, but the actual story is very bare bones. I think there were a bunch of logs and notes that I picked up during the game, but there’s no cutscenes at all. So there’s a lot of detail that’s lost on me.

As for the minute-to-minute gameplay, well, it’s a lot of shooting. And the gunplay is bad. Enemies are really bullet-spongy, especially the Super Battle Droids. The guns lack recoil and weight, so shooting them feels really awful. You also can’t gauge their power. Throw that in with enemies that do not go down easily, and you just feel like someone trying to take on a tank with a pea shooter.

The game difficulty is a bit all over the place too. There’s often parts where you’re just blasting through, mowing down everything in your path, and then one section will bring it to a screeching halt and kill you and your teammates over and over again. There’s a section late in the game on a bridge that I had to do over and over because I just kept getting minced by the Supers that spawned there. There’s little to no cover on the bridge, and my teammates kept getting killed.

Another aspect of the combat and level design is setting up tactical positions for your teammates. Sniping positions and turrets specifically. These sections would be a lot better if my teammates were more effective at eliminating the enemy and if it played more like a tower defence situation. As is, they’re often quite short, and I don’t think the idea was fully fleshed out.

To top it all off, the game is just very repetitive. It brings very little to the table besides shooting people in corridors, even in outside environments. There are definitely some ideas here, but they just aren’t fully realised. I suppose those shortcomings are due to the time constraints of getting this game out in line with the Clone Wars TV series and Episode III. I’m disappointed, but it is what it is.

You can watch my playthrough here.

Dusk Diver

I’ve had this one on my to-play list for quite some time now. I first saw it during the Indie Live Expo, where I thought the combat looked interesting. Well, now I’ve played it, and I can say I’m a bit disappointed with it. The combat is probably a highlight, but it’s still only decent at best. It’s not terribly deep, but it’s responsive enough. The real problem is that every combat section lasts for WAY too long. A typical video game encounter might have a dozen enemies or so, right? And a typical game wouldn’t spawn more. Here, it’s more than that and usually spawns about 2 or 3 more rounds of them. So each encounter ends up being a massive slog.

The enemy variety isn’t too bad, but some of the bigger ones end up having way too much health. The boss fights end up being a highlight, but at some point I just wanted to finish the game and be done with it.

Outside of the combat sections, you get a Yakuza-lite experience. You run around a borough of Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei; unfortunately, the name is too long for me to remember. Around the city are collectables and side quests. You actually need to collect the collectables, known as Shards, to be able to continue the story. Thankfully, the game offers you the option to talk to a dude, give him money, and then they’ll be highlighted on your map. Even without that, I never got blocked from progressing.

As for the side quests, they mostly involve running around town, talking to people, taking pictures of things, or having more fights with the usual bunch of monsters. A lot of it is fairly meaningless.

To top it off, the story is excruciatingly dull. Basically, you gain a bunch of magical powers, you control some small monsters that turn into humans, and they assist you in combat. And you spend the whole game trying to stop the world those dudes are from and your world from merging. That’s about it. It drags that plot out quite a bit.

I’m a bit disappointed with it. I have no idea if the sequel is better or not. If you want to watch my playthrough you can do so here.

Sprawl

Sprawl makes a great first impression but gets worse as it goes on. With the highlights being the movement mechanics and the environment art.

The game is set in a cyberpunk world where machines have taken over control of the central government. You play as an assassin. And you work your way through the level, murdering dudes and robots.

As I said, the movement mechanics are pretty good, taking a page out of Titanfall’s book with wallrunning, sliding, dashing, and more. The larger environments lend themselves well to those mechanics, with a lot of space and height to run around in. Unfortunately, the game also spends a lot of time in smaller environments like apartment buildings and sewers. Plus, there are several places where it’s just open-space arenas.

That said, when it works, it works. But Titanfall is still king. And I mentioned that the environments look great. Very worn and filthy, full of Chinese characters as you would expect from a cyberpunk theme, despite the fact that no one actually uses the language. The atmosphere is definitely on point when you’re running around urban areas. The industrial places are a bit too dull. Like I said, they’re more or less sewers.

But how’s the shooting? Decent. There are a lot of difficulty options, including how much damage you take and receive. I would personally recommend that you ramp up the player’s damage output to its maximum, as the enemies are bullet-spongy as fuck, to the point where it’s a detriment.

The difficulty is all over the place in general. I got through most of the game without issue, but in a few places I would just die repeatedly and quickly. I’m not sure if it’s due to bugs or if I just wasn’t paying attention to my health.

The weapon selection is pretty crap. Nothing is all that crazy; nothing really does the damage you’d expect. And the shotgun is terrible. It takes about 2 seconds to pump and is a complete piss-up in regards to how much damage it will do. Some enemies will get minced in one shot at point blank range, and then another enemy will tank 2 or 3 shots under the same scenario.

I’m a bit disappointed in it, but I did finish it. And you can watch the playthrough here.

Like A Dragon: Gaiden – The Man Who Erased His Name

Despite their best efforts, Kiryu is back again as the protagonist of a Yakuza- Wait sorry, Like a Dragon game. Although this time he’s called Joryu. Why? Well, play Yakuza 6, and you’ll find out why. But due to those events, he is unable to return to the orphanage and is now working for the Daijouji faction, doing odd jobs for them.

Anyway, this game runs somewhat in parallel to Yakuza: Like A Dragon / Like A Dragon 7 / Yakuza 7 (Jesus fucking Christ, this naming system somehow managed to get worse). And I’ll stop talking about the story because you really should just play these games already if you haven’t. The story is such a huge part of it that spoiling it would be a significant disservice.

So let’s talk about the side stuff and general gameplay.

Kiryu 14 seconds after being freed from the responsibilities of running an orphanage.

They brought back fighting styles, just two this time. You have the classic Dragon Of Dojima style, which I pretty much used exclusively as it does a lot more damage, and the Joryu style, which lets you use gadgets and is more focused on counters, grapples, and fast jabs.

Don’t get me wrong, Joryu style isn’t awful or anything; I just found the gadgets to be somewhat lacklustre in terms of power and a bit gimmicky. There are three gadgets to use: a grappling hook, which is probably the most effective, an explosive cigarette, and a swarm of drones.

Combat in Gaiden seems to call back to Yakuza 3 a bit, with a lot of enemies getting hyper-armour and blocking your attacks frequently. Compared to 6, where enemies got thrown around a lot from Kiryu’s punches, kicks, and getting walloped from a bicycle. Plus, Kiryu gets stunned and knocked down a lot more in Gaiden. You feel a lot less powerful over all. Furthermore, there are many more fights in general, which now take longer in general, which slows the pacing down. Considering the length of the main story, that’s probably intentional.

Kiryu on the town

Story progress is actually gated behind getting a certain rank on a casino boat (Long story, play the game), which unlocks new areas of the ship to progress the story. How do you get higher ranks? Akame’s Requests and Colosseum battles.

Akame’s Requests take the place of side stories from the previous game. There’s quite a few of them; some of them are simple, like giving a person a healing drink, and some are more complicated, involving getting pictures of certain monuments, finding rare materials, and, in one case, doing a series of quizzes. They can get really tedious, and some are downright a pain (Karaoke and Pool specifically). But, if you’re already familiar with the series’ side quest stuff, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

The Colosseum battles are pretty dull. There’s some variation, but for the most part, you fight the same enemies over and over. There’s also team battles, where you use teammates that you get from various side quests, DLC, and recruiting. These fights are a bit different as your teammates use special abilities, plus you can play as other characters if you want. But I just found the whole thing to be a drag, notably near the end of the game where the Platinum fights require your teammates to be levelled up to be strong enough to stand a decent chance. And the way you level them? Either talk to a trainer and pay an obscene amount of money to train them, which can also fail, or do the lower-ranked fights over and over.

Do you like hurting other people?

In terms of other side stuff, karaoke is back, of course, but so is pool, which is surprising as I thought the Dragon Engine couldn’t support it. That said, considering how it behaves, I suspect they took the code from Zero and jammed it in there like some unholy blend. However, thanks to that, something else has returned. Pocket Circuit.

I spent an alarming amount of time playing Pocket Circuit, as is per tradition when I play these games. I’d wager it added about another 10 hours to my play time. There’s not much more I can really add to that because it’s not that much different from its previous incarnations. The surrounding characters around it aren’t really all that noteworthy either. But hell, I still did all of it.

And for the last thing, it comes with a demo for Infinite Wealth. It’s pretty rare for a game to come with a demo these days, let alone a demo for its own sequel. It’s not terribly long; you play a bit as Kiryu and then play as Ichiban for the rest. You can walk around town and collect trash, and then you continue the story and get a boss fight. There’s actually two experiences in the demo; what I just described is the story demo. There’s a “Hawaii” demo, which is just an exploration demo where you can do various side quests, whizz around on a Segway, and do a small handful of mini-games. One of those is karaoke, and the other one is a Pokemon Snap-esque thing where you take pictures of perverts from a tram car.

And don’t worry, I will rarely ever mention Pokemon on this blog.

Anyway, if you want to see my full playthrough of Like A Dragon: Gaiden, you can view the collection here. But I’ll warn you now, a lot of it was Pocket Circuit.

Atomic Heart

Atomic Heart has been in development for what seems like eons. Every once in a while, I’d see a bit of a tech demo of it, whether it be a weird shader, some really neat mechanical animation, or horrifying monsters. And in 2023, it finally did come out. Although I didn’t get a chance to play it until very late in the year.

The whacky art style is certainly retained in the released game. The mechanical animation is excellent, and the Soviet-era utopia art design is pretty interesting. The music is fantastic as well, especially the choices in licenced songs, which of course include a couple of songs from my favourite Russian band, Kino.

Now, I did stream the game, and it does come with a “streamer mode”. So why did I hear the licenced songs? Simple: The streamer mode doesn’t work. Weirdly, none of the songs got me muted on Twitch, but the music that plays when using the upgrade machines did.

As for the gameplay, it’s a very weird genre mishmash. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it takes its ideas from Bioshock, and in some ways it does. But there’s other influences, like Far Cry, thrown in. Let me explain.

You get a bunch of Bioshock-esque powers that you can upgrade, as well as a bunch of weird weaponry. But then you get outside, and suddenly there are a variety of other small housing areas you can visit and do stuff in. Much like Far Cry 3 onwards. You can even drive a shitty red Lada to each of the places while listening to the radio.

There is a point to going to these places; there’s a series of dungeon-like areas you can access that have a series of challenges or puzzles to face. As you progress through them, you find chests that contain upgrade parts for your weapons. Which you’re going to need, but I’ll get to that later. The dungeons can vary from OK to dreary. A couple of them have annoying boss fights in them, while others (If not all of them) have stupid puzzles involving magnets, valves, or both. They’re neither interesting nor difficult, so near the end of the game, I was really sick of them. Thankfully, there’s only about 8 of these places.

But getting back to the gunplay. In a word, it sucks. Particularly early on when they do near bugger-all in terms of damage. Enemies feel bullet-spongy as a result, and I spent most of my resources early on crafting ammo. The shotgun in particular, is disappointing. Often taking 4 or more shots at point blank range to kill a standard enemy, regardless of where you hit them. With upgrades, it does eventually become the 1-hit wonder you’d expect it to be at close range, but you’re basically at the end of the game at that point.

The bosses could be better. A lot of them aren’t actually difficult to deal with, but rather just eat all of your ammo. More often than not, I would have to reload a save before a fight, stock up on rocket launcher ammo, then go into the fight on slightly more even ground. However, none of them stood out that much.

The most interesting part of the game, which only comes up a couple of times, are the surrealist dream-like sequences where you’re platforming around a bizarre looking environment filled with odd architecture and clown versions of military equipment. These segments really remind me of some of those earlier tech demos, and that’s what I was expecting more from this game.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that the main character occasionally calls people “Crispy Critters”. This doesn’t mean much in English. But apparently the original Russian line is a bunch of nonsense that translates to “Fucking Pies!”. A friend who was watching my stream let me know about this, and now I’m trying to find a way of using it in my general vocabulary.

You can watch my playthrough here.

Gal Guardians

Originally called Grim Guardians, Gal Guardians is a Classicvania-style game featuring characters from the Gal Gun series. Which, admittedly, I haven’t played much off. And for once, I’m not lying for a joke; I really haven’t played much of the games. I played a bit of Gal Gun VR, and that was about it.

Anyway, you play as two characters, kind of like Portrait Of Ruin (A Castlevania game I still haven’t played), with two very different weapon sets and sub-weapon sets. Maya uses slashing attacks and magic; Shinobu uses a submachine gun. Yes, you read that correctly.

Shinobu & Maya

The art is pretty good, the player characters animate well, and there’s a lot of neat details. The enemies look pretty good too, although they’re fairly standard types. They would not look out of place in a Castlevania game. Then again, Castlevania has even crazier enemies, like maids and mirror monsters.

As for level design, well, like I said, it’s Classicvania. Mostly linear levels with a boss at the end. But there are branching paths like Rondo Of Blood, but most of these either lead to additional secrets or just loop back around. Once you get to the ending section, even more pathways open, and you can unlock even more stuff and find more students to rescue. And there is one alternative version of a boss. These additional pathways do make replaying the levels a bit more tolerable as they provide differences in level design, environments, and enemies.

The endings are worth noting, as there are three of them. One is a “Normal” ending, one is a “True” ending, and one is a very direct reference to Gal Gun. Getting the first of the three is easy; the second one requires you to find some machine parts; and the third requires you to find every student in the game.

Endings being gated behind collectables can be a mixed bag at times, but here it’s not too bad. At least compared to the endings in some of the Castlevania games, which require you to obtain some pretty arbitrary items hidden in some rooms and break some random wall somewhere.

Pretty good game, you should check it out. And if you want to see my playthrough, it’s here.

Other Stuff I Played:

Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae

I remembered people talking about this game some years ago and how good the combat was. And the combat is pretty decent; however, in every other respect, it’s awful. The camera is bad, it’s really repetitive, and the bosses have really cheap attacks. I played it for about an hour and never touched it again.

Metal Wolf Chaos

I could tell you in words how I feel about Metal Wolf Chaos, or you could watch me play the whole game in three videos.

But I think it’s fair to say, it’s a life changing experience.

Hi-Fi Rush Spectra Doors

There’s one last thing for me to do in Hi-Fi Rush, and it’s the Spectra Doors, a series of challenge rooms you can find throughout the game that are only accessible in New Game+. The first 8 aren’t too bad, but the following 8 that unlock after that are considerably more challenging. Unfortunately, to get the secret ending, I need to finish these, but as of the time of writing, I still haven’t done that.

Need For Speed: Unbound

I played this on Game Pass, first via XCloud, but then I downloaded it so I could play it at a higher framerate. Unfortunately, the improved frame rate doesn’t solve the problem of the cars handling like boats. It also doesn’t solve the problem of the God awful voice acting and shit music that plagues it. This is another game I played for a couple of hours and dropped. I’m not surprised it didn’t sell well.

Wild Arms 5

I’m quite early in this still, but the hex-based combat system seems pretty good. I started playing this on my phone on a day when my power was out. I’m playing an undubbed version, so I get all the Nana Mizuki goodness. Or I would if the game had more voiced lines. I still need to finish the other games in the series, but I will play more of this periodically over the next year.

Heavenly Sword

I remember enjoying this game back in the day, but I never finished it. So I decided to finally rectify that. The combat is mostly fine, but I had forgotten how broken the blocking mechanic was. It simply doesn’t work. Parrying does work, but I only started using it in the last fight to fling projectiles back at the boss.

The cutscenes are a lot fucking weirder than I remember. King Bohan is extremely horny, and the behaviour of the other characters is borderline nonsense at times. Plus, the cutscenes often feel very disjointed with what you’re doing in the gameplay at times.

Nariko is a pretty crap character. I think the games industry is bad at writing women now, but this character back then has all the same issues as female characters now. Overly arrogant, borderline delusional, and completely unable to listen to reason. Every other character is more or less exploited in favour of her deranged worldview. I don’t really want to go on a rant about this, so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, emulate this game if you can, it runs terribly on PS3. And you can watch my playthrough here.

Cultic

This one is still in “Early Access”, or, to be more specific, only Chapter 1 is available. Some people have compared this to Blood, which I can certainly understand given the movement mechanics both these games have and their love of throwing dynamite at people. The art style is pretty cool, quite dark, and retro-inspired. The guns are designed well but a bit wimpy to use, but you can upgrade them. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

Jusant

A game dedicated to rock climbing. The gameplay is pretty solid, and the controls work well enough. The rope-swinging stuff is really fun. I might try to emulate it for SandSurfer if I ever get to that point. It’s fairly linear, but there are some multiple paths and additional exploration to be had. It’s fairly short too; I got through most of it in a day. It’s pretty neat, and it’s on Game Pass. You can watch my playthrough here.

Kannagi Usagi

Imagine Sekiro, but with a bit clunkier of a combat system, as a boss rush game, and with anime girls. That’s Kannagi Usagi in a nutshell. For what it’s worth, it works quite well. The animations are stiffer than I’d like, and there’s no animation cancelling of any kind, but for what it’s offering, the execution is pretty decent. It is quite graphically demanding. I suspect that’s due to some advanced Unity features, high poly assets, and the fact that characters are VRM models. Which you really shouldn’t be using for characters in a game.

Did I mention it’s completely free? You can watch my playthrough here, here, and here.

Wild Hearts

Another game I haven’t played much of. It’s a Monster Hunter clone from Omega Force and Koei Tecmo that EA of all people published. It’s available on Game Pass, which is how I’m playing it. The combat is snappier than Monster Hunter, and the monster designs are a bit more grotesque. Unfortunately, it runs like absolute shit, even on the newer rig. I’ll play a bit more of it and see if I like it more or not.

My Top 10 Games Of The Year

It’s that time again. This year was better than last year for releases for me, but my top 10 might still surprise you. But before that, a bit of other stuff.

Released Games That I Wanted To Play Or Play More Of

There were so many games I missed out on this year due to lack of finances, so I’ll just list them in bullet points.

  • Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
  • Street Fighter 6
  • Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
  • Neptunia: Sisters VS Sisters
  • Hogwarts Legacy
  • Resident Evil 4 (Remake)
  • Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

There’s also Ion Fury: Aftershock which I do own, but I haven’t played yet because I’m still working my way through the base game.

Worst I Played

I think Only Up is probably my least favourite game of the year. It’s not hard to see why; it’s a streamer bait game, one I fell for hook, line, and sinker for. It didn’t really bring new viewers to my channel, just spam bots. And it just sucks. It’s jank as fuck, and the reward for finishing it is non-existent. Fuck this game.

That said, worse games did come out this year, but I did not play them.


Right, now here is my Top 10:

  1. Planet Of Lana
  2. Kanngi Usagi
  3. Jusant
  4. Gal Guardians: Demon Purge
  5. HoloCure: Save The Fans
  6. Like A Dragon: Ishin Kiwami
  7. Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name
  8. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
  9. Hi-Fi Rush
  10. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

I actually managed to play 10 games I liked this year. 1 & 2 were very close for me. But Bomb Rush edges it out by a hair. The movement mechanics are just so good, the music is amazing, the style is great, and there’s so much potential for more. Hi-Fi Rush is excellent as well, and you should absolutely play it, but Goddamn, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is good.

Anime Corner:

Suki na Ko ga Megane wo Wasureta

This anime is bad for my heart. The two main characters’ interactions are cripplingly adorable. The character animation is also very well done. The backgrounds are 3D, but they’re not completely awful to look at. The whole plot of it is that an eccentric girl forgets her glasses, and the boy sitting at the desk next to her starts realising how cute she is as she has to rely on him to help her do things with her poor eyesight and gets closer to her to share textbooks and so on. Bit of a slow-paced show, but worth watching.

Uchi no Kaisha no Chiisai Senpai no Hanashi

A typical office romcom, but the girl is a short but buxom woman who is a senpai to the male character. Kinda like Uzaki-chan, but with less teasing and bullying. Instead, various characters are pushing the two together romantically, and the interactions and scenarios are pretty good. They don’t get too pervy either, which helps on the believability side, even if you’re the type of person who prefers fanservice. Worth checking out.

Under Ninja

It’s probably the weirdest show about ninjas I’ve ever watched. It’s got international conspiracies: a pregnant woman in a rubber suit disguised as a strange old geezer, a 20-something-year-old bum pretending to be a high schooler, and a cat riding a motorcycle. That said, the manga seems way crazier and more vulgar, with a lot less censorship. Maybe the BDs will add more, but I suspect they won’t. So check out the manga instead.

My Top 10 Anime Of The Year

Special Mentions:

Oshi no Ko

But only the first episode, which is technically a prologue movie. It’s really well done, and I enjoyed the show overall, but that first episode is really stand out.

Under Ninja

I already talked about it above, but it’s weird and entertaining. But again, read the manga.

Bungou Stray Dogs 4th & 5th Series

This is quite a long-running series at this point. But the 4th and 5th series really turn the status quo on its head. The gang is now wanted as criminals against a force so insanely overpowered that it seems borderline impossible that they would overcome it. However, the way they handle that situation is why this is only in the special mentions section and not the top 10. But I still enjoyed it.

Worst Anime I Watched:

Keikenzumi na Kimi to, Keiken Zero na Ore ga, Otsukiai suru Hanashi

The guy’s a virgin; the girl isn’t a virgin. Drama ensues, and it made me want to slam my head against the wall with how terrible the character’s responses to these situations are. Don’t watch this; it’s a waste of time.

Top 10

  1. Uma Musume: Pretty Derby Season 3
  2. Uma Musume: Pretty Derby – Road to the Top
  3. Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story Season 2
  4. Kimi no Koto ga Daidaidaidaidaisuki na 100-nin no Kanojo
  5. Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!
  6. Kaminaki Sekai no Kamisama Katsudou
  7. Uchi no Kaisha no Chiisai Senpai no Hanashi
  8. Princess Principal: Crown Handler 3
  9. Kimi wa Houkago Insomnia
  10. Suki na Ko ga Megane wo Wasureta

I’m going to clarify something. If you check my MyAnimeList page, you’ll notice that the anime I ranked the highest for 2023 is Birdie Wing, and yes, I enjoyed it a lot. But the anime that has had the longest impact on my mind and that I still think about is Megane. Insomnia was also really good, but some of the drama was a bit daft at times. My tolerance for teenage angst is still quite low, even after all these years of wasting my time watching Japanese high school anime.

Pretty interesting year for anime; there was a lot of stuff not even in my top 10 that I would still strongly recommend, like Pluto, Nier Automata, Dekiru Neko wa Kyou mo Yuutsu, and more. Some might not like a lot of the shows that came out this year, but you can safely disregard their opinions as they are likely casual as fuck anyway.

And that’s it. Look forward to a slightly more normal blog post soon-ish about 7DFPS and my plans for the year.

ADMAN

07/12/2023 – Everything Is Broken

Last week was bloody terrible for me, and the entire month has been a bit shit. But I’m here to give you an update… After nearly two months of silence.

Upgrading & Breaking My PC

The big thing that’s happened since the last blog post is that I finally upgraded my PC. My old system was running a Ryzen 7 2700 and a GTX 1070. They’ve served me well the past few years, but as I’ve gotten more into 3D production, I’ve needed a lot more horsepower. Plus, I’ve been struggling to run a lot of games lately. And very recently, that GPU started becoming the minimum spec for a lot of new games. Anyway, the new CPU is a Ryzen 7 5800X3D and the GPU is a RTX 3060.

I went with the 5800X3D as I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, and it’s likely the best chip for the AM4 board. It’s also the last chip for the AM4 board. So if I do need to upgrade again in the future, it’s gonna be a full upgrade. I’ve definitely seen a performance improvement with it, and OBS is throwing up less of a shitfit when I stream games now.

Getting the chip in was more of a headache than I thought. First of all, it didn’t come with a new heatsink, so I had to use my old one, meaning I had to clean up all the thermal paste and re-apply it, using some old paste my dad dug up that was almost finished up. And then I remounted the fan, but without removing the motherboard from the case. I ended up with a solution where I took a few bits of non-static packaging and a tissue packet and used them to keep the rear bracket from falling out. It worked out in the end, but it took more work than I was originally expecting.

As for the RTX 3060, well with this, I can now do raytracing to a reasonable level. This will make material creation in Blender MUCH FASTER. Working on materials previously was a massive pain in the arse. Plus, it’s nice to know that I should be able to throw any mainstream game at this thing without issues, at least for the next few years.

I played around a bit with the raytracing stuff, mostly just messing with Minecraft and Quake II RTX. I might give Portal RTX a go at some point.

Getting the GPU in literally took 5 minutes and was probably the least painful part of this experience.

But anyway, the performance boost is really nice, and better productivity is always a good thing… Or it would be if EVERYTHING DIDN’T BREAK.

Shortly after getting my rig up and running again, my 4TB media drive which contains a lot of my video footage just straight up fucking broke. Inaccessible. There was about 3TB worth of stuff on there. I’m going to try and get it sent off to a repair place, but it’s likely going to cost me a fucking lot of money.

In the process of replacing parts, my PC was moved around a bit, among other things. This was likely to be the root cause of the problem.

Following this however, I decided to take advantage of the Black Friday deals and get myself two new SATA SSDs. One to replace the media drive, and the other to clone my documents folder.

It took a few days, but when I got them, I started by putting in the new media drive. I left it in for a few days before doing anything with it, and then decided to download a whole bunch of shit. And then it eventually stopped accepting downloading, and some of the files it did download were corrupted. Following that, I couldn’t access the drive at all.

But when I booted the machine the morning after, I could access the drive again, and all the files that had been downloaded properly were fine. The corrupted ones were still busted, but I just deleted those and re-downloaded them. So I’ve decided to just take it slow when downloading stuff to that drive.

I also cloned my documents drive onto another SSD, which for some reason didn’t work when I first tried the process, but did work the second time around. I waited a few days as this was during the issues with the new media drive, but this morning (5th December when I write this) I finally swapped it over.

It didn’t replace my original drive immediately; I had to go into disk management and change the drive letter from Q to F. Once I did that, it worked, but then the SSD I have for games was no longer showing up, so I restarted again, and Windows gave me a blank screen. One more restart later, and everything finally booted up properly.

However, that isn’t the end of this story. I still have a 2TB NVME SSD to install, which I will probably do later this week.

But this whole endeavour has ended up costing me A LOT of money. I don’t like begging for cash, but if you’re reading this and appreciate the game dev work I do or generally enjoy my streams, and have a few bob to spare, consider donating to me on Ko-Fi.

CyberSurfer Progress

A lot has actually changed in the past couple of months in regards to the project. Last time, I mentioned all the rail grinding stuff. Well, that’s actually been changed significantly. Using the Spline Utility part of the spline package, I’ve rebuilt the whole system so that it can finally follow curved rails, or bezier curve rails. There’s a video tutorial a little later in this post, but the results are much improved over what I previously had.

But the big thing that happened was the first public demo of the prototype. Here’s a video of me talking about it, alongside some other things.

The demo didn’t go over all too well with players. Most of the complaints were about the speed. Players didn’t like having to slow down for obstacles; the placement of them seemed poor; collisions were a bit messy; and so on. I didn’t get too many complaints about the game feel. The only complaint I got about the grinding was about how jumping between the rails kills your momentum, which is something I thought I fixed, but in further testing later on, when I increased the speed of the grinding, it became clear that it wasn’t fixed.

The game as it is now is quite different compared to the original GGJ game. Especially the aspect where the player can move however they want, compared to the original, where they were limited to only left and right. But that change brings about a very different form of level design, which I did not account for. However, instead of adapting to that change, I’ve decided to go back to the original idea of pushing the player down the track like in the original game.

However, this time, I will not be spewing waypoint triggers along the track in order to rotate the player. This time I’m going to use splines to create the track and rotate the player’s aiming based on it, similar to how I handle rail grinding.

After a bit of work, I can finally generate tracks from splines. In addition to this, I can generate colliders on the sides to keep the player within bounds. So now I can have non-flat tracks with the correct colliders. I haven’t fully tested the track generation, but it should be fine for most scenarios.

Well, when I say it’s not flat, I mean the track as a whole. But I am thinking about having the actual surface be curved, especially around corners, and maybe even having half- or full-pipe sections. But that’s going to require even more complicated programming, and I barely understand what I’m doing as is.

Finally, the rail grinding tutorial.

Pretty basic stuff. The differences with my old code were mostly the spline utilities stuff. I am calculating the direction of the player slightly differently. Instead of using the dot product, I’m calculating the angle between the player’s forward and the spline tangent (Read as: Forward) of the point of the spline the player is in contact with. It seems like it works better. There’s a GitHub repo linked in the description of the video if you’re interested in seeing the code.

With the track generation stuff in a good place, the next thing I’m likely going to be focusing on is level design. And following that, a lot more animation work. I’m not sure when I’ll be working on an overhauled trick system, but that’ll definitely be part of the upgrade.

VR Development

In preparation for 7DFPS, I decided to learn how to develop VR-specific stuff in Unity. Following their starter tutorials, I built myself a room and placed a few objects in it. Including a mirror.

The tutorial covers things like locomotion, grabbing objects, objects having correct physics, and socketing. The last one is the act of placing objects in specific places, like putting a hat on a hook or on top of my head, like in that image there.

It’s given me a good jumping-off point for learning how all of this works, although I must admit, it is a little jank in places.

7DFPS

Following that jumping-off point, I decided to get started on building the 7DFPS game. To give a general overview of the game I’m going for. Imagine Pistol Whip but with your own music, and the gun handling of Half-Life: Alyx. I mentioned it in one of the videos I linked previously.

But for my idea, I’m setting up a spline, splitting it up into a random number of sections, and turning each section in one of three directions. I should also note that each section is the same length. That’s just to make my life a bit easier. After that, I have the player use spline animate using the song’s duration as the total time it takes to traverse the spline.

To top it off, I spawn a few cubes to act as buildings along the sides of the path. In theory, these were meant to act as cover points, but as I’ve been working on it I’ve gotten a bit lazy, and now they’re just decorative. The enemy generation is soon to follow, but I haven’t quite gotten it to work yet.

What I just recently started working on is putting the gun in the game. It’s actually been easier than I thought to get the model and animations set up. It’s not fully done yet, but it’s getting there. Following that will be enemy spawning, enemy AI, and then finally loading in user tracks.

There’s still a lot to do, and as of writing this, I’ve still got about a week left until the originally set deadline. But it’s my understanding that it will be extended out to the end of the month, like last year. Hopefully that gives me enough time to really make this something worth people’s time. And hopefully enough to give it a decent amount of paint so it doesn’t look like a mess of placeholders like it currently does.

Well, there’s your update. I’m working on the year-end GOTY list stuff like I usually do; hopefully it’ll be more on-time this year compared to last time. But I still have more than half of it left to write, and I’ve still got games to play. So maybe don’t expect it in as much of a timely fashion as I hoped.

Till next time.

-Adam

09/10/2023 – Cybersurfer Update

Happy 11th birthday to the blog. It’s not that important of a milestone compared to last year, but worth noting nonetheless.

But let’s get to the real news:

I did mention this partial rewrite in the last blog post as the last post took so long to write (I was busy with stuff, not that the post was long) that some of the work was done. But now I can get into more detail.

The hoverboard is now a model on top of a collider, an upright capsule collider to be exact. Propulsion works in more or less the same way, but is currently fully controlled by the player. Furthermore, in my last iteration of the hoverboard, when turning, I had a part of the script that would animate the board’s model to tilt it when moving, giving it a more believable look. I’m just adding a smooth damp value to the model’s rotation based on the input. Here’s a code snippet:

Vector3 newRot = hoverboardModel.transform.localRotation.eulerAngles;
if (grounded)
{
    newRot.z = Mathf.SmoothDampAngle(newRot.z, input.x * rollTurnRotAngle, ref rollRotVelocity, turnRotSeekSpeed);
    //newRot.x = Mathf.SmoothDampAngle(newRot.x, slopeAngle, ref pitchRotVelocity, 0.05f);
    newRot.y = Mathf.SmoothDampAngle(newRot.y, 180f + (input.x * yawTurnRotAngle), ref yawRotVelocity, turnRotSeekSpeed);

hoverboardModel.transform.SetLocalPositionAndRotation(hoverboardModel.transform.localPosition, Quaternion.Euler(Vector3.Lerp(hoverboardModel.transform.eulerAngles, newRot, playerTurnTorque * Time.deltaTime)));
}

(I’ve highlighted the code because it’s hard to see with the dark theme)
I’ve continued with that feature and made further additions to it, which gives it a lot more of a snowboard turning look. That said, I’m not finished with it.

I played more games for research during the process of rewriting the code, and one of the games I played was Extreme G Racing. An interesting thing to note about the behaviour of that game is that the player has a very large turning circle. So large in fact, that it is very difficult to get the player to face the wrong direction as you’re more likely to collide into the sides than get the vehicle to turn around on the track. I might change the behaviour to match that at some point.

In regards to the physics, I do mention this in the video at the top: the player’s gravity is relative to them and not the global value. This is set to the normal of the surface they’re on. In theory, it helps keep the player connected to the surface they’re on a lot better and gives me more flexibility in terms of track design. Previously, I couldn’t create loops as the physics driven system I had previously would break and push the player away from the ground. And now I can make corkscrew and loop sections of track without issue.

Loop section.
Corkscrew section.

I’m really looking forward to making some new tracks with these mechanics; it’s certainly more interesting to look at than a flat track.

The big new thing is rails, and I didn’t really cover this in detail in the video, so I’ll be going into more depth about building it now.

My first attempt at this new version of rails involved making rails in Blender and then importing them into Unity, including even more CSV files with vertex points, and lining them up. As you can imagine this got very tedious extremely quickly and I began looking for alternatives.

Nothing to do with the text, I just thought this bug was funny.

I then updated Unity and began using its built-in spline tools to create the rails. As I said in the video, this worked great. But then I tried to use it with spline animate to have the player move on the things, and that’s where it fell apart. The camera was a jittery mess and the whole thing wasn’t smooth at all. So I deliberately made the splines linear instead of curves, then made a script that got all the waypoints on the line and used Vector3.MoveTowards to get the player to move along the rail path.

And it worked… Until I tried getting back on the rail to go in the opposite direction. This is when the trouble began. I had to figure out what direction the player was coming in from and their position on the rail. Plus some edge cases on top of that. This led to a lot of if statements, which I am not too happy with.

But as you can see, it did work. What came next was figuring out loop-de-loop rail sections. Which required further code changes and even more pain.

As you can see, the biggest issue was keeping the player upright properly while going through the loop. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a good solution for that problem with the system I’ve built. Someone did suggest to me pointing them up towards a point in the centre of the loop, but considering I’m going to arbitrarily build and place these rails, it seems like a lot of work, plus even more additional work if I edit anything thereafter.

I’ve been looking at the way other people and other games have built their rail grinding stuff, and more recent things seem to be using something similar to the spline animate system that the spline tools have built-in. So I may need to give it another chance and perhaps that’ll solve the issue.

One thing I am mostly happy with is the rail switching mechanic.

This took a lot longer to figure out, but the solution is quite simple in theory. When I’m on the rail and lean left or right, I shoot out a sphere cast (Spherical raycast) within a certain range to the left or right of the player. If it hits a rail, I then draw an arc from the player’s position to the hit position (Note that I said hit position, not spline track position). If the player then presses the jump button, I do a slerp using a sin wave to give it a curved arc. Here’s the code for that slerp:

private IEnumerator MoveToNextRail(RailSplineScript nextRailScript, Vector3 hitPoint)
{
    float timer = 0;
    float step = jumpTime / linePoints; //Line points refers to the number of points on the arc being drawn. More points = smoother arc.
    int i = 0;
    float progress = 0;
    Vector3 startPos = transform.position;
    while (progress < 1) //Should be using time progress, not number increments
    {
         progress = timer / jumpTime;
         transform.position = Vector3.Slerp(startPos, hitPoint, progress) + (transform.up * (jumpHeight * Mathf.Sin(progress * Mathf.PI)));
         timer += Time.deltaTime;
         yield return null;
    }
    transform.position = hitPoint;
    currentRailScript = nextRailScript;
    CalculateAndSetRailPos(); //Sets up some stuff for the spline points system mentioned earlier
    onRail = true;
}

It works pretty well; it’s not the smoothest looking thing in the world, but it does work. Although I suspect some of the issues with the smoothness have to do with the camera, which I will probably fix soon anyway. Another issue is just the positioning of the player themselves when they switch rails. They’re off-centre. It is a problem that eventually corrects itself as they keep going on the thing, but it is annoying.

But yeah, that’s the new stuff out of the way. As for improvements and what’s next, well here’s a list:

  • Fix the camera on rails
  • Change the rail system again and see if I can get spline animate working
  • Create tracks using the spline tool, minimising Blender usage for level creation
  • Create some levels using all the existing tools and mechanics (Demo!)
  • New character animations
  • Better foot placement on the board
  • Overhaul the trick system

I’m probably giving myself a lot more work to do than I’d like, but hopefully it works out. I really want this idea to work out. I’ve put so much time into it, and it’s really fun to just move around.

What Else Is Going On?

Well I did the WWII COD Marathon and it went alright. I gained some new followers out of it and some of them have hopped back into chat and such since. Wasn’t a massive gain, but whatever. The COD games I’ve never played before will be mentioned in the year end “ADMAN’s Den” post along with my usual top 10s, but I will say that I enjoyed WWII more than I thought I would, but it’s definitely got some issues.

I do want to do a highlight video for it, but honestly, after looking through the highlights for the first COD game, it’s very difficult to find clips that are worth putting in a video. I could make a death counter video, but I don’t think it would be that entertaining. So maybe what I’ll do is grab clips from all the games and shove them into one video instead of doing a video per game. More time spent in prep, but less time editing.

As I mentioned in the video at the top, Unity did something stupid, and now I’m finally in a position where I’m thinking of changing engines. But I want to do a video about the experience of learning new tools. However, since making the video, I’ve come to realise just how busy I am with all the videos I need to make and all the work that Cybersurfer still requires, and I think I might need to delay the original timeframe I wanted to work on it.

On that note, Rotaction needs to be updated soon, or it’s going to be pulled from the Google Play Store. Or at the very least, unavailable to download on modern phones. It will continue to be available on Itch.io, so don’t worry there. The deadline is November 1st, so I need to deal with that soon.

Another thing is back-porting the new hoverboard code into SandSurfer, and changing it to be an actual sand surfing board without all the hoverboard stuff. It’ll take some work, but hopefully it’ll be better than it currently is. But I have no idea when I’ll get a chance to work on it.

But that’s your update. Sorry for the radio silence, but that’s just how it is sometimes. I’ll probably post again once the demo is available for Demo Day. If I can get it working by then. Till next time.

-Adam

01/08/2023 – Cybersurfer?

It’s very early, but I need the feedback. This is Cybersurfer, a follow-up to my GGJ game SICKHACKS.root.

I’m not gonna retread the same things that are in the video, you can watch it yourself, but I do want to talk about what I want the game to be going forward as well as some of the games I’m gonna be looking at or re-looking at.

But as I said, I’m not terribly happy with where the project is at the minute. It plays OK, but it definitely feels like it’s lacking something. Plus the physics driven hoverboard is now more of a hinderance as I look towards different level design aspects. Specifically verticality. The game Distance as well as Wipeout are my two points of reference in terms of what kind of level design I want.


And here’s where I have to admit that I took too long writing this blog post that everything in that video and previously written is now outdated.

Following the that video, I did another stream where I played a handful of games and made notes about various aspects of them, and how they handled the same problems I was having. It was a very informative stream and helped me realise that I was trying to over design everything.

And now, as I’m writing this, the whole physics driven hoverboard system has been scrapped. And the spline based system that I attempted to follow it with has also been scrapped.

The new system is fairly simple, a player model on top of a collider acting as a cushion of air. I’ve ditched the waypoint system, and instead I’m just letting the player control their forward speed and turning themselves, and it’s working out pretty well now. On top of that, I have a bit of rotation to the player model when they turn and a sine wave to make the model bob up and down like they’re on a hoverboard.

It’s a night and day difference and a definite improvement.

Next up is getting the player to stick to the track regardless of the verticality of said track. I’m using Distance’s magnetism as a reference here. My plan is just use a downward force while grounded, and magnetise the player to surface once they get close enough. I suspect it’s going to be more difficult than I’m envisioning though.

Learning To Rig

I recently had a Twitch stream where I taught myself how to rig a robotic arm model.

It’s a very basic model with some problems due to some of the ways I was trying to rig it, but once I figured out the issues it was too late to re-do the model. However, the animation side of things turned out alright.

The next stage of this is getting more familiar with IK stuff as well as other bone constraint systems.

YouTube Content & Future Plans?

Demo Day 51 happened, and although I did not submit a demo, I did stream other people’s demos and provided as much feedback as I could. Here’s the playlist. I do want to get more content on to my channel as it would likely help my Twitch performance, but it’s difficult to find the time to make stuff that would be palettable.

YouTube’s algorithms prefer shorter videos, so uploading whole VODs would probably be a bad idea, but I could cut down my playthroughs into highlights. But requires time I just don’t really have, either to watch 30 to 60+ hour playthroughs to find stuff worth putting it, or to find time to edit it down. But I think I’m gonna be forced into doing it because I am at the absolute mercy of the algorithm gods.

As for future plans, well it’s coming up to the 78th anniversary of the end of WWII, and I want to commemorate it by playing through all of the WWII Call Of Duty games. Those being COD 1-3, World At War, Finest Hour, Big Red One, and WWII. I’ll probably using that stream as the experiment for creating highlights for YouTube, alongside uploading the VODs of it, possibly. Either way, the playthroughs will be available in my Twitch collections page as per usual.

That’s it for the time being. There’s probably more I’m forgetting to mention, but I took so long in writing this blog post it’s better just to move on. I’ll see you next time.

-Adam

ADMAN’s Den: January – June 2023

It’s that time a again, a full dive into most of the things I’ve been playing and watching in the past six months. And as a reminder, I write this over a period of months (Although in this one’s case about a week or so) and as such the language may be a little disjointed in places.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Portable Ops is one of the few Metal Gear games I’ve never played. It takes place post-MGS3 and has the player explore bases in South America.

Let’s get this out the way, I don’t like this game. The controls are terrible, and don’t hold up at all. CQC is broken at times and grabbing enemies just outright breaks at times. By default the game runs at 20FPS, but you can mod it to be 60FPS.

The stamina system really limits your ability to explore levels, and is only restored with rations. It’s designed this way because it wants you to switch characters and place them throughout the level, which you need to do to effectively recruit people. Unlike PeaceWalker and MGSV, if you want to recruit people you need to knock them out and then drag them to a truck near the start of the level. And if that sounds tedious, it is. But there is a way around it, place your teammates at various points on the map and then drag the enemies to them and then there’s a Codec number you can call that will auto-collect them. It still sucks though.

But the thing that really gets my goat, is how uninspired the boss fights are. They’re all bullet spongy shooting fests with no puzzle to it at all. And they’re ruthless at doing damage to you. To make matters worse, you get thrown into levels thinking they’re gonna be a sneaking mission, but then you get thrown into a boss fight completely unprepared and with the wrong equipment.

Story-wise, it’s semi-interesting, but it’s also lacking the depth that something like PeaceWalker would go on to improve on. The amount of voiced dialogue is fairly minimal, but that’s not surprising considering it’s a PSP game.

I’m still getting through it, more or less forcing myself through it, but I’ll and finish it soon. I’m also streaming it, so keep an eye on the my Twitch channel.

Like A Dragon: Ishin (Kiwami)

Ishin has finally released in English. People are finally going to understand why it’s so good. Or they would if it weren’t for the problems.

You play as Sakamoto Ryouma, who is a fairly famous historical figure in Japan who was assassinated. In real history, he helped end the Edo period and bring in the Meiji Restoration turning Japan into a modern empire. Well following the events in this game, after the events in the beginning, he assumes the identity of Saito Hajime (Who was a real Shinsengumi member) and joins the Shinsengumi in order to find the culprit to the murder of his mentor.

The new visuals are nice for the most part, generally sharper. A lot of the characters have been replaced with characters from Zero and 7, which actually ends up spoiling a lot of stuff in the long run, but fun to see them nonetheless.

Getting to do a lot of the side quests for the first time is great, there’s a lot of ones I missed my first time through because of the language barrier, plus a bunch of side activities like the second home things that I never touched in my original playthrough. Plus I get some additional context for the stuff I did previously see.

The card system from the underground dungeon segment from the original has been greatly expanded upon and is now available in all battles. Although I like the powers, the whole game has been rebalanced around them, and now battles feature significantly more powerful enemies and are tougher overall as a result. Combat in general is not as great as the original Ishin. It’s much slower and input lag is prevalent, the latter byproduct of using Unreal Engine no doubt.

Other things they’ve changed is how much money you get from various activities and the value of items that you pawn. They’ve definitely taken off a couple of digits from a lot of items, especially the platinum plates that you win from the gambling mini-games. It means there’s a lot more grinding for cash now. One exploit, which is now patched, was that chicken races could be started without actually spending your money. I used that to earn a considerable amount of cash, but a day or two later the patch came in. But I got the sword upgrades I needed, so no big deal I suppose. Leveling is also slower, but it’s not that big of a problem as you can get items to boost that.

One last point on the visuals, some cutscenes have changed due to a difference in particle effects. If I say “Bathhouse scene” you’ll know what I’m talking about, and that specific scene is drastically worse than the original.

As negative as I might seem, I still like this game. I’m glad it finally came out in English and I’m glad I got to see all the content I missed. But it is a lesser version than the original PS4 version, and if you speak Japanese I would recommend getting that version instead. You can watch my full playthrough here.

I Expect You To Die

Been a while since I had a VR game on one of these posts. “I Expect You To Die” is an Escape Room style game where you play as a spy trying to thwart an international conspiracy. It’s very slapstick though, which is appropriate for VR. The opening song is fantastic too.

The puzzles are very entertaining, with multiple ways of solving them, and even some different escape routes for some of them. A favourite level of mine was the one where you’re in an underwater escape pod as various things start to break and you have to react quickly to seal broken windows or stop fires. Plus there’s a draw filled with grenades.

The puzzles definitely get harder as the game goes on, although I would chalk up a lot of the difficulty to the hints being more subtle.

I had a great time with this, I might play the next two when I can afford them. Also, I did stream this and you can watch the playthrough here.

Valkyrie Drive -BHIKKHUNI-

I wouldn’t normally talk about games like this on the blog because I don’t want people to think I’m some kind of degenerate, but there’s also not that many games to talk about.

It’s about girls with a virus that causes them to turn into weapons, and the best way of suppressing it is for them to beat the shit out of each other. It’s from the same people as Senran Kagura.

PLOT and BACKSTORY are represented well, all the girls are well equipped in that regard. But the actual plot is boring, and that’s mostly due to the characters. They’re just boring. You’ve got two sisters who are closer than anyone should be comfortable with, a stupidly powerful girl that the game hypes up a lot, a moody girl that doesn’t like anyone, a tryhard, a rival to the powerful girl, and finally a girl who just eats a lot and is 6 feet tall.

There’s nothing really special about any of them and their personalities don’t really develop at all. I’m trying to follow the story, but I feel like skipping the cutscenes more often than not because they’re long and visually uninteresting.

Combat is decent, but I’d say about half of the characters are not fun to play. Rinka and Viola play fairly well, but Mana is fucking awful. She uses a bow and her melee attacks are pathetic, but her ranged attacks are slow and do little damage. She is dreadful to play and I loathe the levels that require her.

But the general combat revolves around air juggling for the most part. You charge your jump to dash forward and then use a launch move to get them in the air and then charge jump again to chase after them in a way that stuns them, or press launch again to close the gap with a different combo.

Customisation is a pretty big thing in these types of games of course, lots of outfits you can have the girls wear. But it seems fairly limited here, with a lot of items likely being behind bonus modes. And if you want to use a character’s outfit on someone else, you have to do a mini-game to boost your bond with them, and then you can use it. The process is a bit tedious.

I’m gonna try and finish it, but it’s something I play when I have free time in the morning.

Lost Planet

I’ve always had a weird interest in the original Lost Planet. There’s just something about fighting giant monsters to gather a key resource that you need to live is just kinda interesting to me. I don’t really care about the plot, it’s something about the main character wanting to kill the monsters because they killed his dad or something, plus a bunch of other colonisation/terraforming related shenanigans.

But who cares about that shit, shooting giant monsters with mechs is pretty fun. I like how the game just lets you jump in and out of them at will and you can swap out the weapons they’re using. The only downside is that they don’t really last all that long, and for a couple of boss fights they’re required, but it needs up being more difficult than other fights.

You get a grappling hook too, but it’s not like Just Cause. You can’t just grapple everything and go anywhere. The levels are quite linear, so the amount of places they’ll let you grapple to is pretty minimal, but you can use it on enemies and dropkick them on arrival. So that’s neat.

The biggest gripe with the game are the checkpoints, and no, the little stations you mash a button for are not checkpoints. Not always anyway. The actual checkpoints are fairly far apart from each other, often more than 5 minutes apart. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the game’s habit of randomly killing you.

But I’ll end on a nice note, the performance is fantastic. I hit the max FPS of 120 pretty much constantly. The benchmark mode with the unlocked FPS would hit near enough 300 FPS. Good stuff, but it’s also a game from 2006, so probably not unexpected.

Ghostwire: Tokyo

Well this was a disappointment. Well, it’s not completely terrible, but there’s a lot I don’t like. But let’s get the biggest complaint out the way; the game is boring. Just fucking dull. The majority of the game is so by-the-book Ubisoft open world design that it’s painful. The map is full of icons and there’s a crap load of pointless collectables. And none of that stuff is even remotely scary or unnerving.

The best way for me to describe the game is that it’s a lesser Far Cry 3 with Yokai and Ghosts. But the combat is worse, much worse, and very repetitive. The level of combat variety you can expect is 3 different elemental powers and a few different ways of shooting them out your hand. But all the enemies are damage sponges, so expect to be fighting them a Hell of a lot.

The boss fights are a joke, extremely easy fights that usually rely on the single mechanic to defeat them. While I was playing I had a “Is that it?” reaction to a couple of them.

As for the story, everyone but the player gets spirited away in some fog and the bad guy kidnaps the main character’s sister. And I kinda stopped caring beyond that. I’m not sure what about made me stop giving a shit, but I honestly couldn’t give less of a damn if I tried.

Last thing I’ll complain about, the performance isn’t great. My PC is getting on in years admittedly, but even on the lowest of settings with FSR enabled, keeping the game above 60FPS is near impossible. Indoor environments notwithstanding, being out the city leads to a lot stuttering in and out of combat and general playability is pretty bad. The FoV also requires a mod to be changed.

But let’s talk about some of the good stuff to end on. There are some interesting segments, but they are short and not super in-depth. Most of them take place inside building and such, with a lot of non-Euclidean geometry and creepy imagery oozing from the walls.

There’s a reoccurring environment of a labyrinth city, where streets and stuff go off in all directions and you have to navigate it using the limited and pretty poor platforming mechanics. But visually it’s quite interesting.

Photo mode can be fun at least.

The second memorable section, which if I remember correctly is completely optional, is a section inside of a high school. You’re basically helping out the ghosts of an occult club solve a mystery of why crazy things are happening around a school. The dark corridors, echoing sounds, and the lack of escape routes really makes the section way scarier than anything else in the game.

To top it off, there’s a anatomical model that follows you around during a part of the section and you have to keep looking at it to stop it from chasing you. Probably the most interesting mechanic the game offers.

The bad news is that the whole section lasts for about an hour and there’s nothing else like it for the rest of the game.

Overall, disappointing and under-delivers on the idea that it could have been. I kinda wish I had played it on Game Pass instead of buying it. You can watch my full playthrough here.

Hi-Fi Rush

From one Tango Gameworks game to another, except this one is actually good and not disappointing in the slightest.

It’s a rhythm-based action game where you fight robots and bosses in-time to the music. And the key thing here is, everything is synced up to the music. Attacks, jumps, everything. That sounds like a pain in the arse, but they’ve taken a different approach with it. Your attacks are timed with the music, regardless of whether you are. But you are graded on whether or not you can keep the timing yourself. The timing windows are pretty damn big however, and on top of that there are a bunch of accessibility options if you need them. Although I didn’t.

The combat works very well, there’s a good amount of combos plus you can call in a teammate for some additional attacks. Plus you get a grappling hook, which is always nice as it lets you close the distance. The battle rankings are bit off at times, if you don’t rely on teammates to help perform special attacks or get really good at parrying, your rank will never really get above a B. It’s not a big deal however.

The boss fights are definitely a highlight, barring the first and last fights, they all focus on different mechanics or present themselves in a non-standard way. For one fight, you’re combating a giant animal mech, and then after damaging it enough, the pilot gets out and you can damage them normally, plus some additional bits like some laser dodging. Then another boss is just the two of you walking in a circle talking and a beat memorisation sequence pops up and you have to beat that correctly to continue the conversation.

I understood this reference.

If I was going to complain about the combat, I might give grief about some of the enemies. Especially the samurai type of enemies. Their attacks are instant and it’s hard to pay attention to when they’re going to attack while you’re surrounded by other enemies. Plus, their Sequence Attack is longest and most difficult of any enemy type in the game. That said, the bird type enemy is also a pain the backside because it relies heavily on getting your parries right.

For my last few points, the visuals and music. They’re both fantastic. Unfortunately due to the fact I was streaming the game, I had to play with Streamer Mode on, which removed all the licensed music. A shame, but the non-licensed music is still really damn good. The visuals are pretty much on-point. The characters are very expressive, and the cartoon look really pops on the screen with text-effects and various other VFX that does a substantial job selling the style.

Easily one of my favourite games of the year. You can watch my full playthrough here.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Imagine Nioh but in China. That’s the basic premise behind Wo Long, albeit with some streamlining.

Team Ninja of course doing some great work when it comes to the combat here. It’s snappy and mostly responsive. They’ve doubled-down on parrying, goes for a Sekiro-style reflect system. More or less every attack can be reflected away, staggering the enemy and buffing you, and once it reaches a certain point you can stagger them and deliver a critical hit.

It’s a good system for the most part, but the reflection timing is a bit whack, I often getting mistimed or it doesn’t work at all. On top of all that, each weapon has martial arts assigned to it, which is a special attack. The spirit animal system returns, but works very differently now. Some provide attacks and others produce an area of effect healing pool. An interesting change. The archery and magic mechanics are also present and work very similarly to Nioh.

The photo mode seems neat.

The loot, leveling, and other systems are much more streamlined compared to Nioh. I don’t mind it so much because there was a lot of shit to do Nioh, so trimming it back a bit so I can focus on the gameplay more than the menus is preferable to me. On that note, you no longer go back to a hub menu between missions now and just start the next mission immediately, but you can travel to and from side missions from the “bonfire” equivalents and it will remember your progress on the main mission when you come back. It’s a nice improvement, but it also means I need to remember to occasionally check for side missions.

Whereas the enemies in Nioh were based on Japanese mythology, Wo Long is of course based on Chinese mythology. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere as familiar with the monster types, but some of them are really grotesque. Stuff like multiple headed birds, mutated tigers, and so on.

My last point is on the morale system. Defeating enemies, finding flag points, and even doing parries on bosses special attacks all raise a morale meter. This meter determines how easy or difficult an enemy will be. What this means in real terms is, the more exploring you do of a level, the more damage you’ll do to the boss at the end of it. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword though, as it can make some bosses an absolute joke. You also have AI NPCs you can recruit to help in the levels which also greatly lessen the difficulty. However, I don’t mind this so much. It helps the pacing a lot.

My character.

I’m still quite early with the game, I’m struggling to find the time to sit down and play it. But considering I’m playing it through Game Pass, I really should get my time with it before it gets rotated out.

Planet Of Lana

Bit of a tailend entry here, I literally played it the week of me trying to finish and publish this post. It’s puzzle platformer much in the style of LIMBO and Inside. The player character’s village gets abducted by what seems to be alien robots, and the player’s goal is to get his village back. Along the way you meet a four-legged black blob with weird powers.

I didn’t take too many screenshots, but I can assure you it’s a very pretty game. It’s a mix of drawn art and 3D models, blended together really well. A lot of colour too, with a good consideration towards of the colour pallette. The animations of the enemy robots are also very well done. The sound design is quite strong too, with some excellent atmospheric sounds.

It’s a fairly short game, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of buying it. I got it off Game Pass alongside other stuff, so I’m less bothered. You can see my full playthrough here.

Other Stuff I Played:

Rollerdrome

Jet Set Radio with guns and also an arena shooter. The gameplay is pretty solid, pulling off tricks is fun and it flows well once you get the hang of it. But it might be a little fiddly at first. And the art style is great too.

GrimGrimoire: OnceMore

A remake of an early Vanillaware game. If you’re familiar with them, you should already know that you’re going to greeted by a very rich art style. That said, the gameplay was not what I was expecting. At its core, it’s a tower defence game with resource and unit management, but you play against AI that is also managing its own towers and resources. So it’s basically a MOBA without the hero characters. I’ll keep chipping at it, but I would have preferred this game on PC rather than PS4.

Henry Stickmin Collection

I saw gameplay of this game a while back when a bunch of VTubers were playing it and got curious. It harkens back to an era of Flash games that I haven’t thought about in years. It’s got some pretty good comedy, and a lot of memes from the 2000s up to more recent years. A lot of the fail states are hilarious, and some of the options that you think would be illogical end up being the right choice for the puzzle. It does have some severe technical problems though, it crashed an alarming amount of times for me, which is a shame. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it.

Midnight Fight Express

Moderately enjoyable brawler. Takes a lot from the Batman games in terms of combat, and a tiny bit of Yakuza. Lots of parrying, picking up and using weapons, etc. Standard stuff. I did change the control scheme because what it’s set to by default isn’t great. I did find the combat to be repetitive after a while. There’s a good amount of character customisation, but requires the player to complete challenges to get the best stuff, but you have to replay the levels to get information on what those challenges are.

The game generates .gifs for some of your more “Interesting moments” while playing, but it my experience, it mostly just records fuck ups or nothing particularly special.

Prodeus

I’m having a hard time calling this a “Boomer Shooter”. It doesn’t feel retro. Some weapons have Aim Down Sight mechanics, there’s mid-level checkpoints, plus a generally modern feel. It’s pixelated look is the only old looking thing about it. The gore is pretty good, you basically paint the walls red, which helps with navigation a lot. I say that because the levels are very similar looking and there’s a lack of colour contrast or even colour variation in general. My last point is on the weapons, they sound good, but I think their very plain. Not much creativity so far. You get a pistol, a couple of shotguns, a rocket launcher, and some kind of rail gun. They’re not bad, but it’s pretty standard. DOOM Eternal managed to provide some alternative versions of its arsenal, especially its Super-Shotgun having a grappling hook. There’s nothing like that here so far.

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengeance of the Slayer

This is related to another game called Hypnospace Outlaw, which I haven’t played. This is another old-school styled shooter, similar to Duke3D. I’ll be honest, it’s trying to look like shit and it succeeds. But it is also just kind of shit. It’s a boring game. The weapons are creative at least. You get a shotgun that fires glass shards and a crossbow that throws cans of explosive sludge. I’m not gonna keep playing this.

Touhou Luna Nights

Another late entry on to this blog post. I should start by saying that I know nothing about the Touhou games and characters. My friend knows a bit about the series, so I generally chat to him about characters in this. Anyway, you play as a maid named Sakuya who has time stopping powers and it’s a Metroidvania type of game. The platforming isn’t easy, there’s a lot of stuff that can damage you and there are even flying enemies that refuse to die that can interfere with your platforming. Enemy variety is pretty good though. You don’t get any new main weapons, but you get a few abilities that use up MP. And finally the boss fights are very damn difficult, but my understanding is that’s pretty standard for a Touhou game.

Distance

I played this for research for one of my projects, but it has been on my backlog for quite a period of time. It’s similar to Trackmania where you’re a car on a track with checkpoints, but then it adds weird horror elements and a story into the mix. Well that, and a bunch of track hazards and a focus on doing acrobatics in a car. I had fun with it though, and got a good amount of ideas for the game I’m working on.

Anime Corner:

Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!

Quite a while ago now, the manga for this was reasonably popular. Then several hiatuses and the ending happened, and everyone more or less forgot about it; barring a handful of nutters demanding an anime for it. Well someone must have listened to them, because here we are. And you know what? It’s actually a pretty good adaptation. The animation has some dodgy bits here and there, but the characters are still fun and the voice acting is well done. Rie Takahashi does a good job as Tomo.

This is also a rare adaptation where it tells the whole story, and even improves the ending. In the manga it’s a very sudden single page affair, but here it pads it out a bit and improves both the context and the timing. Honestly, if you never read the manga for it originally, give it a shot. Hell, watch it even if you did, it’s a pretty good time. Misuzu is still great.

NieR:Automata Ver1.1a

Now this is a weird one. Automata was already a strange game with odd side stories and anecdotes. The anime doubles-down on that and adds even more, including adapting the manga chapters that are a prequel for A2 and explain her backstory. 2B looks excellent in 2D and it’s telling the story in a very interesting way. Unfortunately, only 7 episodes have aired and is currently on hiatus.

Kaminaki Sekai no Kamisama Katsudou

I don’t like Isekai… But, this show, really fucking interesting. Main character is the son of a cult leader and is sacrificed to the cult’s god. While he’s in a process of drowning, he asks to be reincarnated into a world where gods don’t exist. And so he does. The show has an interesting world, and some of the worst 3DCGI I’ve seen. But you know what? I don’t care. The show is absolutely hilarious, and it seems like the animators know it. They’ve got no budget and they don’t care. They’ll tell entire scenes in pixel art and still frames and it’ll get the point across just fine. I’d recommend giving it a look if you’re a fan of “So bad, it’s good” anime.

Other Things?

Threads

Jesus Christ, this movie is unnerving. It’s an extremely pessimistic view on Britain’s precautions and reaction to nuclear war, and shows the consequences thereof. Even for a movie from the 80s, the practical effects hold up quite well. My understanding is that Sheffield council gave them free-range to go to town on a street they were looking to demolish anyway. And they did. There’s images of destroyed houses, the whole street on fire, and so on. The make-up for people suffering from burns and radiation is also very well made. And that’s just from the nuke going off.

The rest of the film covers having to live life in a country basically sent back to the Victorian times, with little to no electricity, limited food, no fuel for cars or other machines, etc. That aspect, watching the world go to pot, makes me really uncomfortable. I ended up looking up an episode of a show called QED called “A Guide To Armageddon”, which is predecessor to this film and goes over the government’s nuclear war strategy and describes in detail why it’s in adequate. And now I want to see an even older film called “The War Game”, which is very similar to Threads, but was never aired on television back when it was originally made.

I cannot stop thinking about the things I saw in this film. Very few films have ever unsettled me like this.

Right, that’s it from me until December/January. GOTY is gonna be interesting this year, that’s for sure. And normal blog posts will resume soon.

ADMAN

04/05/2023 – Demo Day 50

I haven’t made a post in a while, but I’m back, and with a new demo for Sand Surfer. There’s been a few changes to it, mostly focusing on the player character and smoothing out all of the movement and playability of it.

The bow now has proper animations, and a better aiming system. The movement feels a lot better. Jumping has been fixed. The player can now slide by crouching while running, and so on.

Considering that I don’t get anywhere near enough time I would like to actually work on this thing, I’d say the progress is somewhat decent. But now it’s going back on the back burner so I can work on “CyberSurfer”, a derivative of SICKHACKS.root, my game from Global Game Jam earlier this year.

CyberSurfer will be my next main game project, and I’m gonna try and really get this one out into the mainstream more. Not sure how, but I’ll probably have to start shilling much harder.

In other news, my shotgun asset pack was rejected from the Unity asset store and I’ve yet to receive any reply to my request for more information. However, I have decided to sell it anyway on other storefronts.

It’s on Itch.io (Link above) as well as my Ko-Fi Store. I will try to expand on the Unity asset when I can and re-submit it when I’ve done that, but there’s only so much I can do.

But while I’m here, I’ll explain why it was rejected; it was “Too Simple”. No elaboration on that point whatsoever. Didn’t tell me what I needed to add or what was unsatisfactory. Companies do this shit a lot these days and it’s been driving me mad. Vagueness. Deliberately refusing to provide detail or specifics and then using that as justification to reject, ban, or otherwise punish customers and developers.

I don’t like it, and you’re seeing it a lot. Throw in power-tripping jackasses without even a modicum of personal responsibility to not abuse it or use rational thought to understand what people are actually saying, and the whole thing gets worse. Ever had to deal with shitty forum moderators? While they got a significant promotion and are now ruining the Internet at large.

Anyway, my ranting aside, you can now use those shotguns in your game if you want to.

Next up, I put out a new Blender/Unity tutorial.

I’m cooking up another one on Skyboxes and after that, I’ll be making a tutorial on materials from Blender into Unity in both URP and HDRP.

Outside of game dev and other projects, I went to Belfast for the first time in 3 years. It’s changed a bit, a lot of the shops are different. I had Yakitori for the first time, there was Japanese fast food place that did it, although I’d struggle to call it fast food as it took quite a while to come out, I almost finished my meal by the time my friend got his. But if I went back, I’d probably get some of the larger items like the Katsu curry bowl.

While I was in Belfast, I had a list of things I wanted to get. The first item was a new backpack, my old one has had a hole in it for some time (Which I did patch up pretty well) but I decided that I should replace it. Got a nice one from a surplus store. Next on my list was a Swiss Army Knife. I was intending to get one when I turned 18, but I never got around to it, but I have one now. It’s quite stiff getting some of the tools out. The knife is sharp, very sharp, as the cuts on my hands currently might suggest.

The last thing on my list was straight razor, which I forgot about. So instead I went to CeX and got some more Xbox games for my collection. Dead Or Alive 3 and Call Of Duty: Finest Hour are the two big ones, plus the game for the 4th Harry Potter book. I’m trying to get a full collection of those games, but it’s gonna take a while, and likely get expensive. I also bought some anime, Haibane Renmei and 5cm Per Second.

And for the actual reason I went to Belfast: I saw the Mario film. It’s OK. It’s a kids movie and it’s fairly inoffensive. My only issue with it is Peach being overly “Kick-ass”, to the point where I wonder what her character arc is even supposed to be. Bowser’s maddening love of her gets a bit weird too, but that might just be Jack Black’s portrayal. Not that I have anything against the man.

That’s it for now. Reminder that I stream on Twitch most days of the week during daytime hours, so check that out. Till next time.

-Adam

28/03/2023 – Tweaking Things

Let’s start with a minor update on Sand Surfer.

I’ve spent the last couple of week tweaking and changing how the hoverboard works inside the debugging level I made for SICKHACKS.root for testing stuff. The biggest change comes from the camera, I’ve replaced the fixed camera with a free look camera so you can rotate around the player, with additional adjustments to fix the camera bounicess.

The board handling isn’t that much different. The board now rotates a bit as you turn, and the physics have been adjusted slightly. I did do some other experimenting with different ways of producing the hoverboard effect. One involved putting the board on top of a couple of sphere colliders and another involved using wheel colliders. The latter was terrible, and the former worked in a sense, but still felt bad, especially when turning. So I’m sticking with the physics driven system.

Next thing to work on is gonna be the archery and general player movement. This project is gonna be a long one.

Next up, an update on those guns.

Lever action reload animation.

The guns are done. The animations are made, the materials are made, and they’ve been exported as Unity assets and general .FBX models. Unfortunately I have to wait for Unity to approve the asset pack before I can promote it as available. But the pages for Itch and Ko-Fi are itching to be made public. So as soon as they’re ready, I’ll post here about it.

I’m pretty bloody happy with how these turned out and I hope folks make some interesting stuff with them.

And lastly, an update on SICKHACKS.root.

There is a new update, v007. It is not a James Bond reference, it really is the 7th build of this game I’ve made. This is the last update, and it’s pretty substantial.

The board handling has been redone and now feels a lot more hoverboard like. Level 1’s colliders have been changed so you can’t get out of the level easily now. The camera system has been tweaked. And finally the player collider has been slightly reduced in size so that there’s less random fails.

I AM NEVER TOUCHING THIS PROJECT AGAIN

But that is not the end of the story. I am working on a new project under the name “Cyber Surfer Prototype” that takes all the ideas I’ve been working on with that game, and making it into something more worthwhile. It’s gonna be awhile before I get to work on it as Sand Surfer is my current priority until Demo Day 50 is over.

That’s everything for the time being. Again, I’ll make a post once those gun assets are available. I’m also planning a trip to Belfast soon, which will be the first time I’ve been there since 2020. 3 Goddamn years.

Till next time.

-Adam