Sunday, 18 March 2018

Elemental Heroes - A Preview of the Elements [Network]

Before bringing the next preview of the book, I thought I’d go over some of the elements within it. And what better place to start than with those elements. The idea with them is much the same as magical attacks within games like Kingdom Hearts or Skyrim, but I wanted to expand the range considerably. The basic ones like fire, water, and electric are there, but then you get ones that don’t seem like they would be much use, such as gravity and wind. I’ve worked in as much as I could with all of them – looking for both world uses and mobility uses. They are ever growing with new things always being added to them. While some of them won’t get much use within this story, you can guarantee that they will get time to shine in future stories.
As for the world itself, I’m looking at the construction-based games. The ones where you can build cities and individual houses. The easiest comparison to make would be The Sims series, along with SimCity. However, the idea has been given a bit of an addition in the form of health for individual pieces of those buildings, kind of like Fortnite or Dragon Quest Builders. This comes into play quite a bit with one major area of the story. There’s also the simulation zones and rooms, which put into real terms the idea of virtual reality. As seen in the preview last month, zones build a place within the parameters set, such as an office or a small plaza. Rooms are more like the virtual reality we know, but here a person is literally transported to another world as a copy that they have full control of.

The main talking point of the novel is the characters and theming. I’m not going deep into this, as the story explores these things and would ruin one of the largest parts of it. The police force – as seen from the preview last month – is split into two divisions. The main force which makes up the bulk of the entire force, and the elemental division. This elemental division has Gary Storm as a Primary Commander, though there is a Secondary Commander as well. These two head the elemental division along with numerous technicians and researchers. The Primary Elemental Unit had already been formed prior to this first episode, and is led by Terrance. The PEU also includes Robin, Heather, Ira, and Martha. The Secondary Elemental Unit is formed with Kieron taking leadership, Brandon and Emma by his side. The elemental division is different from the main force in that there are only two units. The main force has four people to a unit, with multiple units within both primary and secondary categories.
The city of focus is Ballart [Ba-lart] within the region of Gigalish. Ballart isn’t the capital or the largest city, but it does house the largest police force station. The central area of the city features several plaza areas. One of these holds the abandoned building that came known by the name of the Infected Caverns. As stated above, health of individual pieces of buildings is a factor that comes into play, and it is within this place that happens. Another place within the city is near its outer ring – dubbed the dry lands. There’s a story about why the place got the name, and it has to do with a certain crowd of people trying to avoid paying for their power and damaging the system.
As for the story, it’s a simple tale of good and evil, but with a bit of moral questioning. I’m not going into it all as you can read it, but the preview that will come later focuses on one of these questions. And that is the running of the force. It’s one of the major themes within the story that starts with the second episode. The main force sees the elemental division as redundant – or at least the fact they have their own units as redundant. It runs through most of the eight episodes, and needs to be read to fully feel the impact of it. You’ll get an understanding of it upon reading the preview, I’m sure.

All of these elements I’m talking about – including the influences – are coming together nicely to bring a story that will have a clear beginning and end while still leaving the way for more to be explored in the future. It might seem like there’s too much of an emphasis on all the influences, but I’m hoping the previews I’m posting prove that isn’t the case. The next time I come back with a post about Elemental Heroes, it will be the second preview. There’s other things that I haven’t talked about, as I want you all to experience them yourselves when reading.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Nintendo Direct 8-March-2018 [Gaming]

Yesterday is was announced that a new Nintendo Direct would run for half an hour at 22:00 GMT today. What a wild ride that was. There were quite a few ports, but one of them was a big one. Yes, Super Smash Bros. is coming to the Switch, and the Inklings will be playable. That's all that was shown, but we know it's coming, and coming this year.

The main splotlight was for Mario Tennis Aces, where more content was shown for it. Fifteen characters - including a chain-chomp for some reason - the mechanics of the game, along with a simple mode which will turn the game into a more focused tennis game. And motion controls for a more casual play. It's coming on 22-June, and before release an online tournament will happen, allowing a play of the game for all who're interested. Keeping with Mario related games, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker comes to Switch with some new Odyssey related levels. It's also hitting the 3DS. Another Mario and Luigi game is getting a 3DS remake - this time Bowser's Inside Story, with the added mode of Bowser Jr.'s Journey. This one is set for 2019, so it's a while off yet. And speaking of Luigi, he's getting a bit more love in the form of the Gamecube Luigi's Mansion getting a 3DS remake. WarioWare Gold brings the largest amount of microgames to the 3DS, and looks set to expand on previous games in the series.

The rest of the 3DS highlights included Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers and Detective Pikachu, with the other Switch highlights bringing more news on Kirby Star Allies, Okami HD coming in the summer, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido also coming to Switch, Octopath Traveller getting two new character reveals. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, and Dark Souls: Remastered, were also shown. The latter of which is getting amiibo support. Undertale is coming, along with Little Nightmares. South Park: The Fractured But Whole gets a port, but not The Stick of Truth. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition gets a release date of 18-May, and ARMS is getting a three-day Global Testpunch to those who haven't played yet to trial the game out. Splatoon 2 gets both free content and paid-DLC. The free stuff includes more outfits and stages, along with a new Rank X for competitive modes, but it's the paid-DLC that's more interesting. A new story campaign is coming, that follows the adventures of an Octoling. Yup, that thing fans have been asking for since the original game is happening, as the Octoling can also represent you in online matches. And the last thing to touch upon is CRASH BANDICOOT IS COMING TO THE SWITCH! Yup, the N.Sane Trilogy is making an appearance on the Switch, bringing the original three games to Nintendo consoles for the first time. I'd prefer Spyro, but considering that trilogy hasn't been announced yet, I can wait a year.

The Direct did well in hyping people up, and it looks as though Smash Bros. reveals are still going to be as interesting as ever. The news on Kirby Star Allies was good, as was the stuff on Mario Tennis Aces. As you probably saw above, I am all for Crash Bandicoot on Switch. The new content to Splatoon might get me playing again, and I might even give the Octoling expansion an a-okay to play. I doubt my 3DS will get much use this year, but I might bring it out again for Detective Pikachu. Everything else isn't really on my radar, though I do recall saying I might check Hyrule Warriors on Switch.
As a showcase of news, the Direct did what it had to do. If this is the last before E3 [aside from maybe a Pokémon Direct] then it has set the scene for this half of the year well. The obvious thing now is for Smash Bros. to get a larger reveal at E3, along with the obvious games that were missing here - such as Yoshi and The World Ends With You. Mario Odyssey DLC that was rumoured can also wait for E3.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Future of Mario Kart - Refresh of the Grand Prix [Gaming]

Mario Kart as a series has had numerous features. Double Dash introduced numerous features that haven’t returned in any other game, such as two racers per kart and the All-Cup Tour. Missions from MKDS returned in the form of online challenges in MKWii, but haven’t returned since. The latest features appear to be mainstays of the series, and considering gliders, underwater racing, and anti-gravity affect how the tracks work, removing such features would only be limiting returning tracks that use such features. The on thing that has stayed the same is the way the Grand Prix mode works. Aside from SNES and GBA games, it has always been 16 tracks, with 16 reworked retro tracks having been added since MKDS for a total of 32. Within this post will be two ways to rework the Grand Prix mode to give it a bit of a refresh.

The first is changing the way tracks are displayed, and borrows heavily from a little known infamous Wii game called Wheelspin. The idea behind how tracks were displayed in that game was simple. It was a triangle set-up, with ten tracks per triangle. With the next Mario Kart, the same principle could be applied – four cups with ten tracks within each. There would also be a bit of choice in how you approached the tracks within a cup. The first four tracks would be unlocked from the start. Completing two tracks that make up the lower points of the smaller triangle unlocks the track that makes the top point. On the below image, that would mean completing Mario Kart Stadium and Water Park would unlock Shy Guy Falls. In terms of actual points tallying, each track would only be able to be completed once when that cup is started. Once all ten tracks are completed the total points are tallied and a record of that is displayed on screen. The cup can then be restarted, but all tracks would remain unlocked to try in any order. This increases the amount of tracks in the base game by eight, giving four more retro tracks to choose from. If you’ve read the previous entry in this series, you’ll know that the list of tracks that haven’t returned is running low for some of the games. As such, for this revised Grand Prix mode, that rule is out. After all, as was already stated, only one track is available for use in the N64 game, and similar stories are happening for both the GCN and DS within two games.
For the second way to rework the Grand Prix mode – remove the cups altogether. Think of it this way – there’s a map that features all the tracks. The four classes act as the cups, which work as seasons as you start on the first track and end on the last with the other 30 randomised in order. Mirror mode is available on all classes and acts as an extra challenge. Just as with the other idea, the progress per challenge is saved, so there’s no rush to get through it all at once. Having the classes take the form of the cups fixes a problem with recent games – which is that anything below 150cc has become redundant to most players. Yes, forcing them to go through the lower speed classes might not be the best thing, but it serves as a way to bring progression back into the series. With Mario Kart 7, characters were unlocked only in 150cc cups, and with Mario Kart 8 it didn’t even matter which speed class you raced in as a character unlocked after every cup win. However, 8 Deluxe had all characters unlocked from the start, so progression isn’t so much about the characters any more. Unless they were actually able to be kept as a surprise. With the way this is set out, it allows for two multiplayer modes. Free-mode – where tracks are freely available to choose – or set limit mode. This allows customisation of a season to play from three tracks to the full 32, but they will always be bookended by the first and last tracks of the roster. As for any download content, within Grand Prix mode they are separate on first run, but after will be mixed in with the regular roster. For multiplayer they are available from the start.

Now, I don’t mind the current format, but I do know that a refresh allows for new ideas to be brought in and give a fresh take on the current formula. Mario Kart has always expanded its feature set in other ways, but hasn’t ever touched the way tracks are presented aside from adding more. These are just two ideas for doing so, but I’ve seen plenty asking for it to go the Crash Team Racing or Diddy Kong Racing route of having open-ended maps to explore with themed areas. I feel Mario Kart should stay away from that and leave it for another Nintendo racing IP to tackle. Next time, I’ll be talking about other features. Whether expanding on current ones or bringing in a few new.

Future of Mario Kart Series