Level Design: From Lyrics to Levels

By Published November 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Level design is akin to writing: eventually, the creative flow of ideas is impeded by some form of 'block' (level designers block, perhaps?). I've done a lot of level design for video games (Majesty 2, Mount & Blade) and tabletop games, and I recently came across a unique idea for planning out a steampunk-based dungeon. Bear with me here - I will be designing this dungeon through use of lyrics in a song; yes, that means lines will be metamorphosed into rooms (or elements) of the dungeon. This trick can be applied to video games and tabletop gaming, and I've tried to make the dungeon described below as neutral as possible. For sake of knowing, I designed this dungeon with Savage Worlds (a Dungeons & Dragons-esque tabletop rules system) in mind.

I realized the lyrics in the song "Re-Education (Through Labor)" by Rise Against had fantastic lyrics for a steampunk or skeletal dungeon. Since skeletons and undead are overdone in level design, we're going to opt for something steampunk-driven. It's more fun, anyway. This trick won't work for every song (you might have trouble converting Bieber or Beyonce to dungeon-crawling), but a lot of rock and punk songs should be convertible. First: Let's take the lyrics and begin siphoning ideas from them.

Black X Interval of Time Sales!

By Published November 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Black Friday - or as I've grown to call it, Black November - exploded into the gaming scene with the evolution of websites and applications like Newegg or Steam. My press inbox alone has been flooded with around thirty-seven emails about sales on just as many (or more) websites... and that was just in the last twelve hours. What was once an American tradition of treacherous line-camping from dusk to dawn - rain, sleet, or snow - has advanced into a global phenomenon of e-sales. There was a time when gamers made their annual pilgrimage from their homes to electronics stores, venturing forth under the cover of night to stake their claim of a 5'x5' piece of concrete. This day would be theirs to plunder! When the doors to shops opened, a ravenous crowd of (mostly stinky) nerds stampeded security guards and "rent-a-cops," leaving a wake of empty shelves and destruction on the quest to the "Consumer Electronics" aisle. It's become obsolete!

Weekend Gaming at the price of $1

By Published November 25, 2010 at 11:34 am

GreenManGaming.com, the UK-based independent seller of digital video games, has announced its offer (for this weekend only) to trade in the games you buy from them for only 1 £/€/$ less than what you paid for it! It's like a trial: you buy a game for £25, play it for the weekend, then you trade it back to them for £24 - thus giving you a full weekend of play for only £1.

All you need to do is to do to be eligible for this offer is buy your game on Friday the 27th of November, play it, and then trade it back before midnight PST on Sunday the 29th of November.

Just some of the games open to this offer are: Tropico 3, Cities XL 2011 (which we reviewed), Spellforce 2 Gold Edition, Kings Bounty: The Legend, and The Void. Just head over to GreenManGaming on Friday and see what you can get. You can never have too many PC games.

Green Man Gaming is a new UK-based independent digital retailer selling games globally, and the only one with the ability to allow customers to sell back those titles they no longer want to play in return for credit that can be used on future purchases.

Now if only more digital retailers allowed you to do that...

Faery: Legends of Avalon Review

in Games
Published November 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Perhaps the only game I've ever been embarrassed about when asked the question “What are you currently playing?”

If there was one game on the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace that I would have, without a shadow of a doubt, proclaimed that I would never play - it would have been Faery: Legends of Avalon. The cover, the synopsis, the screenshots, even the trailer: it's the kind of game you'd feel embarrassed about playing, just for the title. Then, as if the gaming God himself had come down and demanded that I stop thinking such thoughts about a product that people had worked hard on, Gamers Nexus was contacted by one of our nice PR contacts and asked if we'd be interested in reviewing Faery: Legends of Avalon. Being the generous, kind-hearted, soul I am, I knew that our loyal readers wouldn't have been able to go a week without reading about the thoughts streaming from my brain, so I decided to give it a good honest go.

Hoard Review

in Games
Published November 19, 2010 at 10:04 am

Rushing through small towns causing fear and panic as you utterly destroy everything in your path, compiling an incredibly massive mound of cold, hard gold, and stealing princesses straight from the castle. Life never gets any better than this! ..Or does it? Try doing all of this as a terrifying dragon in Hoard. I mean, it was great on foot - but as a dragon!? Like any other dragon, your one and only goal is to amass as much gold as possible within a time limit. From burning villages to destroying wizard's towers, you'll uncover gold piles and gem stones that you must take to your hoard. It's not easy though: you've got competition, and it's fierce. Other dragons will attempt to expand their own hoards and prevent you from doing the same. It's only business to attempt the same; entering the free for all are knights and archers, out to rescue the fair maiden from your clutches and defend their human settlements. Better yet, multiplayer makes it possible for even more dragons to compete for gold!

Woody Two-Legs Review

in Games
Published November 18, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Arrgh Maties! Best turn yer sails an' flee before ye' accidentally end up playing this game. No, seriously.

Woody Two-Legs is a game with artful charm, and opens with the pirate (Woody Two-Legs himself) convincing you he's worth your time, and his intentions are reinforced with gold. Woody managed to finally gather up some gold in his travels and now he merely seeks to bury it humbly under the ground. It is here that the to-be antagonist makes his entry - and Davy Jones wants his gold back. Woody (that's you) has to fend off a couple of waves of Jones' minions - each wave is completed by slaying a mini-boss, inevitably leading to the release of a Kraken and finally, Davy Jones himself. All this effort just so Woody can bury his gold under a red X. Sounds like quite the daunting task for a washed up pirate, right? Wrong. The game's largest set-back is simply difficulty.


Farmville != Game; Social 'Gamers' Instill Rage

By Published November 15, 2010 at 9:58 am

So I’m sitting at home listening to music and cruising Caps Lock when I get an xfire from Lelldorianx: "You should write another ragequit column." About what, I ask him.  "System," he says to me, "you need to write a column on what real gamers are." I know that there is an amazing story behind this, so I brace myself for the lulz that are about to ensue. He tells me that there are people at his school who masquerade as gamers. "How does a person masquerade as a gamer?" I ask him, and he tells me that these people play Facebook 'games,' then dub themselves gamers. Thanks to our previously-written 'what it means to be a gamer' column, calling these… things games is a mortal sin. They are just as much “games” as Flash videos are a “cinematic experience.” First the uneducated tween bastards steal our holy scripture (leet speek) from us and call it textese or text speak, and now they think playing that horrible crap gives them the right to call themselves gamers? To hell with these charlatans I say, may they burn in a righteous fire for such heresy.


Alien Breed 3: Descent Announced

By Published November 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

Hot on the heels of the latest entrance in the Alien Breed franchise, Alien Breed 2: Assault, comes the final chapter in the saga: Alien Breed 3: Descent.

Cities XL 2011

in Games
Published November 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

As the virtual mayor of a city, you undertake enormous building projects that lead to the ultimate metropolis. Cities XL 2011 is a new form of SimCity - but with lots, lots more people. You don't need to be an economics major to figure out the inner-workings of city building simulations, but you do need a little bit of patience.

Cities XL 2011 adds to the foundation set by Cities XL, this time offering more buildings, maps, and improvements to the interface. Oddly enough, the original game was widely advertised as an MMO City Builder, but its 2011 variant had no multiplayer to be found. After choosing where you'd like to expand your empire -- err, city, you set out to connect your city square (the town hall, in effect) to civilization: build roads, set up infrastructure, and prepare to put that civil engineering degree to use.

Costume Quest Review

in Games
Published November 10, 2010 at 12:44 am

Costume Quest was one of those games that truly snuck up on me. I pride myself on keeping up-to-date on all the things entertainment, especially when it encompasses the industry that pays me! That in mind, imagine my shock when I found out about the development of a game from one of my favourite developers only three days before it was due to come out! Yeah, uhhh... Dropped the ball on that one. Double Fine is led by the now-legendary Tim Schafer, best known for imbuing greatness within such titles as The Secret of Monkey Island (with the help of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman), Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and most recently, Brütal Legend.

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