Kenneth on Games: The Inciting Incident In “Mirror’s Edge Catalyst”

Praise the Conglomerate, I got into the Mirror’s Edge Catalyst beta! Ever since the first one I’ve been a huge fan of movement mechanics in games, and I’m hyped for their next installment. One of the things that the first Mirror’s Edge did well was the blending of level design with the player’s emotional state. When you were scared, you hid in underground tunnels, and when you were confident, you fought in environments with plenty of cover. There was a connection where the player felt the same things that Faith did. So far, Catalyst has tried to use cutscenes to achieve this same effect, and I don’t think it works as well.

WARNING: Spoilers for very early events. This is from the beta, so it might change for the full release.

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Kenneth on Games: Focus Points in “Dark Souls 3”

When I first played Dark Souls, I thought “wow, this game sucks.” Then as I kept at it, I started saying “you know, this isn’t terrible.” Now, I’d sell my firstborn child for a new Dark Souls. Luckily, I don’t need to because the third game has been out and I’ve been busy racking up my death counter. But Dark Souls 3 implements something we haven’t seen since Demon Souls: a mana bar. These new “focus points” add more options to your combat repertoire, but they come at a cost to not only the complexity level, but also the thematic core of a Souls game itself.

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Kenneth on Games: Exploration in “Hyper Light Drifter”

Hyper Light Drifter, in one word, is dense. The levels are dense. The boss fights are dense. The story is dense. Even the minimap is dense. Players have to commit a lot of their time and energy to unraveling all of this density and finding a method to the madness, and that’s what makes the game fun. When you finally figure out how to beat the Hierophant after struggling against him for an hour, it feels awesome. But there’s also a large part of the game that isn’t quite as awesome to struggle against: the exploration.

WARNING: Some secret locations, in case you want to discover them naturally yourself.

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Kenneth on Games: Relationships in “Stardew Valley”

Stardew Valley is a lot like my life. I wake up, work a little bit, spend the rest of the day wandering around aimlessly, then go to sleep because I have no friends. So I decided to change that (in Stardew Valley, not in real life) and I forced myself to be the friendliest farmer in town. A lot of Stardew Valley’s appeal is about developing happy relationships with your fellow villagers, but video games still have a lot of problems with relationships and I’m not sure that Stardew Valley solves them.

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Kenneth on Games: Conversations in “Undertale”

I certainly don’t think that Undertale is the “game-to-end-all-games” like its fans say it is, but it’s still worth an analysis. Undertale might be one of those rare titles that uses conversations as an actual game mechanic. Of course, you can argue that Undertale isn’t really about conversations, it’s about bullet hells that are thinly masked as conversations, and you would be totally right. But for what it’s worth, Undertale definitely has its moments.

WARNING: Boss spoilers, especially for pacifists.

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Drexel Undergraduate Game Design Team Wins at GDC2016

Congratulations to the 51StandFire senior project team and faculty advisor Jichen Zhu for winning first place for best game play at Intel’s University Games Showcase at this year’s Game Developers Conference! The competition this year included Carnegie Mellon, NYU, RIT, Savannah College of Art and Design, SMU, USC, UC/Santa Cruz, Utah, the University of Texas, and Digipen.

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Kenneth on Games: Levels in “Azure Striker Gunvolt”

If I had three words to describe Japanese game design, those words would be Azure Striker Gunvolt. This spiritual successor to Megaman Zero is stuffed with all the things we’ve come to expect from Japanese titles. Cringeworthy characters, overtutorialized dialogue… but also some great level design. I have plenty of problems with the high level concepts behind Asian games, but I’ll never turn down a good Megaman-like.

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Student Spotlight: Asexual Representation in the Media

As a term, asexual has traditionally been used in biology to describe organisms that reproduce without sex. However, over the last decade, asexual has developed into a term to describe people who don’t experience sexual attraction. For an asexual person, they may find someone more emotionally or romantically attractive. There’s a wide spectrum of asexuality identification, but the common denominator is that an asexual person doesn’t experience the typical sexual attraction portrayed in the media.

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Kenneth on Games: Dominion in “League of Legends”

Ever since Dominion shut down, I’ve been crying myself to sleep. But I’ve also been thinking deeply about the circumstances behind it. Obviously, Dominion has been a dead game mode for a long time, and it only makes sense for Riot to cut their losses. There are plenty of reasons why Dominion died: queue bugs, unbalanced champions, lack of marketing. Still, there are other games that have done Dominion’s job and succeeded. While I was grieving, I took a look at these and tried to figure out what went wrong with Dominion in terms of game design.

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