Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Colors! stuff, and Playing With A Purpose

So instead of doing really meaningful stuff, I've been spending a lot of time with my DS while on the road, mostly with Puzzle Quest, and with the Colors homebrew as mentioned in an earlier post.

This has been quite an experiment, really, playing around with Colors. I've never done anything that equates with painting before doing artwork, as I've pretty much learned on-the-job doing things digitally. I assume that if I was doing this with real paints, I'd be creating the world's thickest paintings ever, based on the amount of color layering I wind up doing (there is no UNDO button! If you want to make a change, you "paint" over it). But so far, I'm pretty happy with my results in this wacky new medium.

The duck is my first attempt. I'm trying to do everything freehand; just to make my life harder, I've set a goal to try an avoid using any rference material as my actual freehand art isn't very good. I'm more of a 3-D animator guy than a traditional artist, anyway.

My second attempt is the moai, in which I quickly broke my "no reference material" rule, as it is based on the cover of an airline magazine that was on a recent flight. It wound up turning out a bit darker than planned...the overhead reading light on the airplane turned out to be too direct on the DS screen, giving me perfect bright lighting on the screen while I was working on it. Sure I can adjust the levels in photoshop, and then it looks a lot better, but that would be cheating!

Finally, on the trip home, I wound up drawing the hippo you see here. Knowing about the airplane lighting issue, I was more aware of the brightness levels, and was able to compensate better this time.

It should be noted that these images really didn't take that much time...most of the wasted free time was spent on Puzzle Quest, which, for some ungodly known reason, I decided to dedicate to myself to "beat." "Beat" not in the sense of "getting to the finish of the game," but more like "come to grasp it it's workings a little bit better to gain an advantage."

For those who are not aware of the Puzzle Quest set up, it's basically a match-three casual game mated with an RPG. You select your typical D&D-ish class, and then travel around a world, completing Quests, fighting many a monster, sieging towns, gaining magic spells and powerful artifacts, increasing stats, buying and selling weapons, etc. But everything is done through a fairly standard Bejeweled casual game interface. With slight variations depending on what you are doing. Such as...

When fighting monsters, you take turns playing Bejeweled against your opponent; matching three colored same-colored jewels removes them from the matrix and add to your appropriate colored mana to be used later for magical spells, removing three or more skulls in row does damage to your opponent, removing gold increases your gold, and removing purple stars adds to your experience, which increases your levels. That's the basic format, with various twists, some I've listed below.

If you want to train your mount (I've recently upgraded my giant rat to a wolf), you do the same as above, but with time limits. If you are forging new equipment, you are trying to get rid of "anvil" symbols, without creating a "no legal move" board. If you are trying to capture a monster, then you are playing a simple "remove all symbols" puzzle; but one false move, and there'll be a leftover symbol, and the monster escapes.

And so on.

Unlike playing Bejeweled, however, the fact that the puzzle game is merely a game wrapper for all the actions within this RPG world is sort of engrossing. You aren't playing the game to simply pass time, as you would on your standard casual game, but now YOU ARE PLAYING WITH A MISSION!!! In fact, Penny Arcade humorously capture it all in this comic. Strangely, on paper, it doesn't seem like it would work. But it works wonderfully. It should be noted that Puzzle Pirates also follows this model somewhat, albeit in a more, MMORG kind of way.

There's quite a bit of strategy involved, meta-game wise. Collecting colored symbols are always good; nothing like using them for a well-timed magic attack in the heat of the battle. However, simply being bloodthristy means that you are probably not collecting a lot of gold or experience. Conversely, do you spend you turn collecting those experience symbols, and hope that the monster doesn't kill you off with some wacky combo thing, when you could simply kill him off instead?

Lately, I bought a few items that increase my damage when knocking out the skull symbols, which usually puts me in a large lead with the simpler monsters; at which point I can start using the life-point gap to collect the meta-game stuff. But not always; I've had a Harpy on the ropes with 3 life points left, and me holding on to about 30 life points, and then watched the Harpy pull off an amazingly lucky combo, taking me out. Not fun.

Now if I could only get past the stupid 2 headed Ogre who gets a free turn when ever he collects 3 or more Gold symbols, I'd be in business.

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