Gaming like its 1999

So, as promised todays blog post is about Chrono Cross. It was released for the Playstation back in 1999 as a spiritual sequel to Chrono Trigger. Now Chrono Trigger was one of my favorite games of all time, but I didn’t get around to playing Cross until this week. I am only about half way through the game, but I think it is already safe to say that this game is better than anything I have played for years. Yes, I love it.

As I sat down to play the game for the first time I couldn’t stop smiling, and that smile still hasn’t worn off. The game brings back the light hearted and playful feelings of childhood. It isn’t just nostalgia either. It is the dialog, which never takes itself too seriously, the art style, which is bright and impressionistic, the music, which is simple, yet emotional, to finally the story, which is creative and unique. I understand just how much hyperbole I put into that last sentence, but it is all true. In an era when soul less shooting games are a dime a dozen, and multiplayer means more than story, this 11 year old game is the biggest breath of fresh air I have experienced in a long time.

As bad as I think the gaming industry is, perhaps even worse than the film industry, I used to still have some hope. After all, there were still people making role playing games, namely Square-Enix, the same people who made Chrono Cross. Like I said, I used to hope, that was until I played Final Fantasy XIII. When I played Final Fantasy XIII I thought it was a good game, but I felt that something was missing. It wasn’t until today that I realized that everything that makes Chrono Cross amazing is what makes FFXIII a lifeless shell of an experience. In Chrono Cross the story is complex and deep, but the characters never take themselves too seriously. The game is always okay with some self-deprecating humor and silliness. As a result the world feels more alive for it. In FFXIII on the other hand there is almost never a fun moment; the characters are constantly dead serious, regardless of the situation. It felt like they were whining, like their problems didn’t matter, and I didn’t really care. A lot of people criticized FFXIII for its linear world. I didn’t realize how linear it was until I was dropped into the wide open space of Cross. In Chrono Cross you can talk to everyone, you don’t have to, but you want to. Everyone has something to say, some quest to send you on, some hint to give you, and if you are lucky:  even a story to tell. The cities feel alive, and the characters feel real. FFXIII lacks both cities and other people. Maybe Square-Enix though no one would notice?

There is so much more I could bring up. How Cross has a battle system that forces the player to actually think about each and every move they make, or how the games multiple branching story lines have almost certainly ensured another play through, or how the games themes of man’s effect on nature, along with the nature of reality itself has left me actually feeling bad for my in game actions. For now though, I think it is sufficient to say that Chrono Cross is a shining diamond in the crumbing mines that is the gaming industry. My only regret is that it took me this long to finally play it.

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A tale of Two Schools

I plan for this blog to be a record of my day to day activities and thoughts as I begin NC State University this fall. However, before I can move forward I feel I must first look back on the year long path that has brought me to where I am today. While I am attending NC State the path that I have followed has been shaped by a very different school: New York University.

It all began almost a year ago when I received in the mail an advertisement for NYU’s new school in Abu Dhabi. While admittedly I had little to no interest in attending school in the middle east, what did peak my interest was the name NYU. It was from that point onward that a seed was planted in my mind. A seed that would grow and develop throughout my senior year.

I planned to be a Computer Science major (and am), so NC State was a natural choice due to its location and strong engineering background. However, as I began to look more into New York University, the more it began to appeal to me. First, and foremost was its central location in downtown Manhattan. It is right next to Greenwich Village. For any of you that don’t know, “the village” was, along with San Francisco the emanating point from which much of the counterculture of the 1960s sprang. Along with that it was one of the most respected schools in the States…. and in all truthfulness the 60:40 female to male ratio was pretty appealing as well.

Now, there were other schools that I could have found similar benefits at. For instance UNC is very similar to NYU, but I was blinded at the time. For me it became NYU or bust. So I sent out my applications to both NC State and NYU, and the wait began. Now I must explain a development that happened in the interm, while the esteemed Admissions people reviewed my applications. I gained a new love: Philosophy. I began to read the works of Kafka and Camus with enthusiasm. And as it turns out, NYU just happened to be the top Philosophy school in the world (according to the Philosophy Gourmet at least). My resolve was strengthened ten fold.

Before I knew it, it was spring. Actually thats a lie, I counted the days till I got my acceptance/rejection letters, as any good college-student-to-be does. I was accepted to NC State on my birthday. It was a cause for celebration indeed. It wouldn’t be another month until I got the letter from NYU. And when I did it was the worst possible news. I wasn’t accepted, nor was I rejected. I was waitlisted. I was plunged into university limbo. You see, as much as I wanted to let go of NYU, NYU didn’t want to let go of me. It would only get worse.

Every day I would check a forum of people in the same boat as I was. A boat stalled on the river Styx. After a month of this it finally became apparent that I, and many others like me weren’t going to be getting off the waitlist: it was time to move on. I put it out of my mind, and for a while NYU become only a memory that seemed silly and distant. That is, until I got an email two weeks ago. The email told me I was accepted, not to NYU, but another school: NYU Poly.

I devoted the next 24 hours to finding out everything I could about the aforementioned school. Ever other piece of information I could gather either brought my hoped up, or dropped them into the dirt. You get to take NYU classes I learn; but only as upperclassmen, and only one or two a year. Its located in downtown New York; but in a “bad” part of Brooklyn. It is one of the US’s oldest technical schools; but it almost went bankrupt before NYU purchased it. Right when I had settled against it, NYU made its last fleeting grasp to pull me back in: I was offered a $72k scholarship. Two days ago I finally made my decision: I am going to NC State. What the future holds for me, I dont know. But I hope to share it (at the very least the interesting parts) with you, my readers.

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T – One Week

One week from today my team and I will be leaving for Baltimore and the national TSA competition. Meaning 7 days is all we have left to put the finishing touches on SkyWolf. On that note I am happy to report that we are very close to being done, or at least as done as we are going to be. We completely reworked the tutorial to be in space, approaching the planet, as opposed to already on the planet. We also added a second space level (pictured above) that is a flight through an asteroid belt as the player approaches the planet. The only challenge left is to rework level 4, which is still in some desperate need of TLC. All in all I think we are going to have a very strong showing in Baltimore and are hoping for the best.

On a rather exciting side note, I finally switched our hosting over to JustHost. It was a pain free switch, and I think everyone will be able to feel the speed increase. I will be blogging from the convention next week, so until then: tata!

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The Educational Part

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As I mentioned before, SkyWolf placed second at the State competition. A few weeks later I was volunteering at a conference downtown and in the break room who should I run into but the very man who judged our game. He revealed to me that every aspect of the game got a 10/10. With the only exception being “educational value.” We have made it our mission to prevent this from occurring again by building our “educational value” deeply into the gameplay this time.

How did we do this? Well, we broke one of the promises we made to ourselves when we started development: we added math questions into the game. Now, before you dismiss it, hear us out: it actually works well. When your ship runs into a health canister, instead of just getting the health you are faced with the screen above. You get four seconds each to answer three question that are either basic addition, subtraction, or multiplication questions. We found that the fast paced nature of the questions actually added to the intensity of the gameplay instead of detracting from int. I am pretty pleased with it, and think that it can actually be used as a tool for memorizing multiplication. It will be a default part of the game we submit at the TSA competition. For those of you who prefer limited brain activity, there will be an option to turn it off in the released version, but why would you do that? More info as it develops!

19 Days Remaining!

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Moving forward with rev2

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3D health and energy bars! We are very pleased. It is just one of the new features we have in the works for the second release of SkyWolf planned for the end of the month. More feature posts coming soon!

Edit: Now with Anti-Aliasing!!!

22 Days till TSA Nationals!

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We are back my friends!

It has been a long time, perhaps too long. The past couple months have been hectic for me. Between AP exams, finishing up High School and preparing for college I have had almost no time to devote to the site or any of the usual projects I work on. I am finally through all that. My high school career will be over by next week and I couldn’t be more excited.

First, a little background on what happened to SkyWolf: namely that we released it! Back in March to coincide with the  North Carolina State TSA competition we put it up for public download. Between then and now we have had some problems with the link, but it is all working now! You can download it here. So on the topic of the TSA competition, how did we do? After a roller coaster of emotion involving a series of events that will forever go down as some of the most memorable in my life I am happy to say that we got second place. I would like to thank my two friends Joshua and Joseph for all their support at the competition.

Now, what of the future? Well, the future is nationals. This June my team and I are bringing SkyWolf to the national TSA competition in Baltimore Maryland. Between now and then we will be working on revamping the game in a number of aspects, the biggest of which being making it more educational. The reason for our SkyWolf missing the gold it seems was its lack of educational value. Apparently flying around shooting ships doesn’t have much social value, who knew? To remedy this we will be adding quick mental puzzles ala “Brian Age” into certain sections of the game. More information on that will be coming soon. With this improvement I think we are serious contenders for first place. It is going to be an exciting couple of months.

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PALM VILLAGE PEOPLEEEEE!

So although we are not done with skywolf yet I am proud to announce that we will be working on a new project conventionally named PALM VILLAGE PEOPLE the game will be for windows phone in September so lookout for it!

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Soemting happen on teh way

I couldn’t come up with a good title.  How can you tell?

Well, a picture says a thousand words, so here’s a montage of two.

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So, yea. I mainly posted because I was a bit scared myself that nothing was going to happen for a long while. We kinda slowed down after TSA State. By the way, in case Ark_mage2 hasn’t already mentioned it, we got second place in Electronic Game Design with Skywolf! (We completely expected to get first place, but apparently lost points because it wasn’t educational enough. Ideas to fix that are welcome; just post a comment or something.)

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The future is here

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No, this isn’t my blog post introducing SkyWolf properly. Nor is it the post where I tell you how SkyWolf got second place at the State TSA competition. Instead I am here to give you a glimpse at my new future: Windows Phone 7 development. With Silverlight and XNA it is everything I ever wanted in a development platform. I don’t plan on looking back.

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Have One On Me – Joanna Newsom

Cov (Maybe)

With the March 7 deadline for the completion of the beta of our game fast approaching I haven’t had much free time to review any of the new albums I have been listening to. In all honestly most of them haven’t been all that exciting. This is, until now. Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom was released this week.

Continue reading

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