The Typing of The Dead: Overkill

8 12 2013

Obviously one look at this game and two things should be obvious. The first, is that this game does not take itself (or anything) too seriously. Second, that the game is based around a zombie killing grind-house type genre. So why am I writing a blog post about this game? Because it’s refreshingly fun, and also because it has the potential to do something amazing for education type game. Now before I talk about that, let me explain the basic mechanics and what you can do in this game.

The game actually does a great job at introducing you to new mechanics and events in the game. Obviously as the name implies, this is a typing game. I’m sure we all remember the old style “space invaders” typing games some of us played back in the MS-DOS days on an old 486. The crafty folks at Modern Dream have basically taken the same concept of educational typing challenges and slapped it into a cheesy zombie shoot em’ up type action game. You don’t actually control your avatar, which ends up being great later on because you are obviously typing! The camera movement is reminiscent of any arcade shooting game you would have played in the 90’s. If one doesn’t come to mind, just think of Time Crisis.

Kill it before it gets to you!

Your avatar will navigate various levels, where you will literally be presented with typing challenges. The basic mechanic is you shoot zombies by typing whatever the presented word is. Naturally, depending on the difficulty of the enemy, the typing challenges are often time sensitive. If you take too long, you’ll start getting hit or eaten by the enemy. Successfully typing the word results in shooting the enemy, target, or challenge. The overall concept of the mechanic might not sound engaging, but it’s actually very cleverly executed. Word of warning though, as I previously stated, the game does not take itself to seriously and is plainly meant to target adult audiences with the crass humor and violence.

Like I said, crass humor.

Like I said, crass humor.

While playing the first couple of chapters ( yes there is a story ) I found I was actually experiencing anxiety as hordes of zombies closed in on me and I struggled to blast away on the keyboard to execute them in time before they started chewing on me. Most of the time however, I found myself literally laughing out loud at the audacity and slapstick type humor the game possesses. Not only are the game events ridiculous and over the top, a lot of the humor is built into the words the game presents for you to type. Sometimes, it is just senseless random words, other times full sentences of the most ridiculous phrases you can imagine.

Example of ridiculous phrases

To keep the gameplay from getting stale, or giving you cramps in your wrists, they incorporate pickups and bonuses in the rooms your character clears. You activate these when you see them by simply hitting ‘tab’. Sometimes they are bullet time items, which can be strategically used to slow time down when killing multiple enemies. The game will also sometimes give you just single letters on a group of zombies or projectiles being thrown at you, which helps break up typing full words or phrases. A lot of them will also be bonus based twitch skills. The majority of the game is actually based around your ability to react and prioritize targets. You will often be approached by several obstacles or enemies and have to figure out which one to start typing first. You can even back out of a phrase you are typing in order to engage another target first. At first glance, this would sound kind of clumsy and an overall pain, but the game handles the transitions very smoothly. The game will also automatically pick the correct phrase you wish to start typing by the first letter you hit. So no two phrases that you are presented at the same time with will start with the same letter. Upon  completing a level, challenge, or mini-game you will be presented with your stats, so the game even has leaderboards!

I’m good at typing!

As you’ll notice from that picture, the game even incorporates a multiplayer game mode. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m assuming it functions similar to Time Crisis which I mentioned earlier. You can play with random people on the internet through matchmaking, or you can invite your friends via Steam. The game does an interesting job at pacing, level design, and unique events throughout the levels to keep you excited and perhaps a little anxious. There are even boss fights, which are usually involved in managing multiple typing challenges with varying time sensitive twitch typing events. Overall, the gameplay is fun, surprisingly engaging, and actually refreshing.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

This baddy likes to throw stuff at you.

So now that I’ve covered the basic mechanics and what you do in the game. I want to talk about why I was really impressed with this game, other than it being engaging to me. After the initial “sticker shock” hit me when I found I was enjoying something that I didn’t expect to like in the first place. The thought occurred to me, “I’m having A LOT of fun with a game that’s just making me type words….” So once you look through the over-the-top humor, classy grind-house action and art aesthetic, this game is doing something pretty amazing. You can literally have a lot of genuine fun playing this game, and all you are doing is practicing your typing skills.

So from a design perspective, I’m immediately drawn to other possibilities… what if you could do this with math? Programming? World History? Can you imagine if portions of your high school experience taught you various subject matter via interactive methods like this that ACTUALLY engage you? If you actually look at how much information in the typical game a player is required to learn, memorize, and retain it is pretty amazing. I think this is the power that games can have, and it is an untapped potential. Our education system is long over-due for an overhaul. It hasn’t had a major overhaul since the industrial revolution, or thereabouts. I urge you to take the time and watch some of this gentleman’s lectures. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

So at the end of the day, this game is not only fun, engaging, but it is also making you practice and refine what would be considered a “hard skill” on your resume. ( My WPM is 150, or something crazy ) It also does a great job of showcasing how we can create games that are unique and refreshingly fun while being outside the “norm” of game genres. You can pick this game up for $20 on Steam right now, so if this looks like it would appeal to you, I urge you to take a look.

Thanks for reading!





The Secret World Review

28 07 2012

To be honest, I really hadn’t followed The Secret World at all during its development. Once it had been out for a week or so I started to hear things about it. At the time I had been playing Tera Online, which had great gameplay but terrible story narrative. So needless to say I was dying to play something with an actual story.

So I promptly started to look at reviews, and once again I observed vastly different and varying reviews with stark differences in opinion. So this was something I knew I had to try for myself. Most of all it boasted an incredibly strong story.

So I bought it, and chose to make an Illuminati character. Other than the entry cinematic, the first portion of an MMO that a player gets to see is naturally the character creation screen. To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the character creation. The character models were odd and it took quite a bit of effort to create something that didn’t hurt your eyes to look at. Also, along with the weird character models the selections are pretty limited, at least when compared to today’s standards of options when creating a character.

I obviously did not let this dissuade me in my quest to check this game out, so I ended up creating an exotic Illuminati character and went about playing the game. I won’t go into play-by-play detail of the game itself, instead I’ll put out some of my feelings and initial first impressions after playing through the majority of the beginner area and the first to instances/dungeons.

I was greeted by a pretty strong and compelling story narrative right away, albeit a little odd and different, but I can definitely do odd. If you like Stephen King novels, you’ll love the story and visual aesthetics TSW throws at you. More or less, the main premise behind TSW is that all legends/myths/secrets/supernatural stuff is true and fair game. So pretty much like an alternate reality here on earth. The NPC’s are all fully voice acted, and do a pretty solid job of adding depth to their character. Your character does not speak however, just kind of stands there like a bump on a log, which seemed awkward to me since the NPC’s I was reacting with were conveying emotion to me. To be honest, it felt a little… how do you say.. “Half-Assed”. To go to all that work with voice acting, animation, and dialogue. Then not to even have your character speak? It definitely broke immersion for me just a little.

Getting past that, lets talk a little about the gameplay. Where the story narrative and aesthetic design of the world shine as strong points for this game, the moment-to-moment gameplay combat feels awkward. Some have described it as, “floaty”. The character animations as far as running and acting seem okay, but using abilities in combat just feels jerky and unfinished. After awhile you do get used to it, but it doesn’t feel like they were attempting an alternate style of gameplay, it feels like I said unfinished and or rushed to release. That being said, they did produce an interesting and refreshing take on leveling.

Instead of having character levels, you level your weapons. Your character can carry two weapons at any given time. There are no restrictions when you can change, or what to. As long as you put the necessary points earned from playing into those weapons so you can use them. The other interesting aspect is you are limited to a set amount of usable abilities and a set amount of passive abilities. So you have to carefully mix and match your abilities both active and passive. This creates a refreshing and creative way since you can literally build your character however you want.

The characters also do not use armor; you use talismans and jewelry to increase your base stats. This however brings up an interesting, yet somewhat problematic topic. So instead of wearing armor, you just equip whatever fashionable clothes you like on your character. I’m sure some of you see where this is going, yes that’s right, ITEM MALL EVERYBODY!!!…… oh wait you ask, doesn’t the game have an up front price WITH a subscription fee? Why yes, you would be correct!

So now that I’m done being facetious, your character can unlock clothing via completing “decks” or unlocking weapon trees to completion. While these do give you so cool looking outfits, the exotic and everyday stuff has to be purchased in game via an item mall. This, personally I think is a TERRIBLE design decision. In a free to play model, or even a regular pay up front model, this would seem okay since the clothes are purely cosmetic. However, players are paying a monthly subscription fee, on top of having already paid full price for the game. This is going to come across as nothing more than a money grab, plain and simple. I believe long run, with that business model, they will end up alienating their customers and honestly it probably turned off a lot of potential buyers when they read about it.

Last thing I’ll mention are the quests, TSW does a good job of offering more than, “Hey go here, kill that pig, get some meat and claws, then come back to me and I’ll give you some mad loot!, annnnnd repeat till level cap” style quests. The game does have a few of those, but it also incorporates its version of AGR (augmented reality) style quests, where you actually have to use the built in game browser to research a quest in order to solve it, or just look up a walkthrough. The quests can be challenging and time consuming, but when properly utilized (without cheating) you get that, aha!, moment of elation. The fully voice acted NPC’s do a great job of delivering the quests to you in audio versus assaulting your eyes with walls of text.

So in recap, The Secret World does a great job of delivering a compelling and interesting story with fleshed out NPC’s, but somewhat falls flat on its face with gameplay combat and their business model. This game appeals to those that prefer strong story narrative over enjoyable gameplay, and because of this it will probably end up being played long term by a niche group and will end up being a free to play model or without a subscription.

TSW does have more to it, good and bad, that I haven’t mentioned here. My goal was to give you a rough idea of what it is about. My advice is to seek a friend who is playing and can give you their 24 hour buddy pass, to check it out. Hopefully with time, they can patch some of the inconsistencies. However with Guild Wars 2 on the horizon, time might not be on their side.

P.S. Gonna add a couple pictures at the end because they look cool, and aesthetically speaking they were awesome! (I would have added more but kept forgetting to take screenshots)