Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Endless Ocean again? - This time a real review.

,Wildcard’s Score Card - Endless Ocean


Endless Ocean is a leisurely paced exploration game for the Wii. While there are certainly tasks offered up for the player to complete, most of my sessions have been spent simply swimming around, looking for new fish, seascapes, and hidden treasures.

Strong Points

The seascape and creature design is fabulous. It’s very easy to let yourself be immersed in the game, focusing on its beauty and serenity. As been pointed out in every review, both positive and negative, the game is extremely tranquil and relaxing. What’s more exciting to me is how different Endless Ocean is from standard game fair. Somebody took a big risk with this, but the Wii’s casual audience and Nintendo’s commitment to providing unique casual gaming experiences created a perfect situation for a game like this to flourish. On a previous gen system, titles like this would be released and whither into obscurity, but on the Wii it has surfaced as a potential hit…or at least cult hit. I purchased it specifically because I wanted to support these sorts of games. I’ve spent the last four nights playing nothing else because the game is so darned good.

Weak Points

While the graphics are gorgeous, they are limited by the Wii’s power, and occasionally something will look awkward or move poorly. Because the game focuses totally on the experience issues like these that would be nothing on a standard action-type game are distracting in this one. The above water graphics are relatively crude, but also irrelevant. Your human partner in the game, a biologist character, has some personal issues in the storyline which I found annoying. In a game that is essentially stress-free, having an in-game character with personal problems was distracting to me. You have to ‘talk’ to her to find out what’s next in the story-line missions, but after a short while, I really didn’t want to. While I wasn’t talking to her, the plot-line (unessential as it is) stalled and I found myself getting bored with the game. Once I realized what I needed to do next, the enjoyment level jumped back up again.


Anyone who has complained that video games are in a rut, recycling the same ideas over and over again, should check out Endless Ocean. That said, it isn’t for everyone. It’s obviously a casual game, so people who only like high-octane action/strategy-fests will find little to stimulate them. For those of us who enjoy more sedate experiences, Endless Ocean delivers exactly what it promises. In other words, if you think you’ll like it, I think you’ll love it.

Wrap Up

Endless Ocean is a bargain title at only $30. I’m hoping it’s a hit so more EO titles, with enhanced graphics and even larger areas to explore are released, and more games like EO are created. This game, rendered with the power of an Xbox360 or a PS3 would be unbelievable. Even on the Wii, it’s wonderful and remarkable. What shortcomings the game does have are largely unrelated to the core activity – exploring an amazing undersea world. While they lower the scores on mainstream game media reviews, they have very little impact on the overall game experience.

Grade: A

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Game Submission Guidelines

Most game designers would like to design their game, show it to a publisher, and let the money start rolling in. Everyone knows it doesn't really work like that (except for me, one time) but it's still how we all wish it would work.

I think the future of game publishing, from a designer's point of view, is in self publishing. It's a lot harder than the 'fire and forget' system of getting an established publisher to make your game, but your chances for success are vastly, VASTLY, improved.

If you ignore those odds and want to submit a game anyway I suggest the following:
  • Make sure your prototype is ready to play*. If I can't play it, I can't evaluate it properly.
  • Make it look nice. Art isn't required, but clip art is easy, free and will add a lot to the presentation.
  • Don't go crazy with art. Art directors will always want to redo everything anyway.
  • Do go crazy with rules. Clear as crystal. Keep typos to a minimum. This isn't a resume', so a lone spelling error shouldn't disqualify you. That said, if it's too hard to read or we can't figure it out, we're not interested.
  • Don't worry about marketing, pricing, or presentation. Like art directors, marketing and sales directors have there own ideas about those sorts of things.
* Prototypes need not be full games. Just enough to experience the core mechanics. If it's a card game, include enough cards that a few turns can be played. I use printer-ready buisiness cards to print my card-game prototypes. It's worked really well (until my printer pooped out on me!)

In all honesty, it doesn't hurt to try and get feedback from companies on your games, even if you know they aren't going to publish it. The more comments from people outside your circle of friends, the better your game will be. If you can, take it to conventions and try it out there (easier said than done, I know.)

Hobby game designers have this notion that their ideas are special and that if too many people see it, the idea will be stolen. For the most part, that's rubbish. The more people that see your ideas the more valuable feedback you're likely to get. Also, everyone thinks their ideas are better than yours, so stealing ideas isn't on most people's to-do list. The best way to prove them wrong is to turn your idea into a reality. That's where the value is.