Band of Bugs Preview: Live Integration Pt. 1

May 18, 2007 at 1:01 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

nblogo.jpgBand of Bugs, in typical NinjaBee fashion, pushes the boundaries of Xbox Live Arcade.  Even being on the cutting edge, NinjaBee still instills confidence in their ability to pull it off.  After all, they had Outpost Kaloki X out for the Xbox 360 launch and helped pioneer full campaign DLC when they shipped expansions for it (some are even free!).  But I digress. 

Chief among their challenges and innovations in Band of Bugs was allowing user created maps into online multiplayer matches.  BoB will be the first XBLA title to allow this.  But the best part of this feature is how easily and quickly this happens in-game.  
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Wahoo/NinjaBee Culture: Part 1

May 17, 2007 at 12:18 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

The NinjaBee stalks its prey outside Wahoo Studios in Orem, UT.Besides getting an in depth look at Band of Bugs, I also got to know more about Wahoo Studios and NinjaBee from an insider’s perspective.  My thoughts and reflections on that perspective will be found here over the coming weeks in this multi-part series.  Read on and return for more.  (And I promise I haven’t forgotten about the rest of the Band of Bugs Preview!)

A few weekends ago (seems like ages already) I got to hang out with many of the people responsible for creating some of my favorite Xbox Live Arcade titles.  The curtains were peeled back and I got to know the men and women behind said curtain there at Wahoo Studios in Orem, Utah. 

You might not recognize the Wahoo name at first because they use the name NinjaBee for all of their independently funded projects (e.g. Outpost Kaloki X, Cloning Clyde, and soon Band of Bugs).  Naming conventions aside, these are the men and women responsible for sucking up way too many hours of my life over the past year and a half.  And there I was, sitting in their offices, watching the unglamorous but somehow magical process of games being created.  And I couldn’t have been happier.
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Street Trace: NYC Preview — Multiplayer

May 15, 2007 at 12:14 pm (Gaia Industries, Gaming, XBLA, Xbox 360)

[Reposted from XBLArcade.com

This is the third and final part of my Street Trace: NYC preview.  Part 1 is herePart 2 is here.

Multiplayer is where I think Street Trace: NYC really shines.  The first bit you should notice: 8 player matches over Live and up to 4 players locally in split-screen.  Thank you Gaia for understanding the importance of both setups!  And yes, there are bots too.  Beyond that, it gets better and better. 

Go ahead…you know you wanna read the rest.
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Street Trace: NYC Preview — Single Player

May 10, 2007 at 4:16 pm (Gaming, XBLA, Xbox 360)

Excerpt Reposted from XBLArcade.com 

Here is part 2 of the 3-part preview of Street Trace: NYC.  In this part I will cover the single player experience in the game.

Street Trace: NYC’s single player experience consists of a three-pronged attack — Tournaments, Time Trials, and Exhibition matches.  (I mentioned it before but let me reiterate — there is also a Tutorial.  Use it.)  Personally, I think single player will be more of a tasty appetizer before a meal of multiplayer.  But do not fret loners — the single player content is plentiful and varied enough to stand alone, just like you.  Here’s the breakdown of each of the modes.

In the next and final section of this Street Trace: NYC preview I will give a quick map breakdown, discuss the crazy amount of different multiplayer events, and get you ready to trash talk your friends.

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Street Trace: NYC Preview — Gameplay

May 9, 2007 at 1:14 am (Gaia Industries, Gaming, XBLA, Xbox 360)

NYC #1

The good people at Gaia Industries were nice enough to give me a private look at their upcoming game, Street Trace: NYC (including schooling me in some multiplayer, thanks Damon!).  The result of that sneak peak can be found at XBLArcade.com in my 3-part preview.  Part one is up now and more parts are soon to follow.  Go here, read stuff.  For a taste of my preview, click below.
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Puzzle Quest creators at it again with Galactrix

May 7, 2007 at 1:21 pm (Gaming, PC, XBLA, Xbox 360)

Galactrix

Go on over to XBLArcade.com to check out my blurb about the latest venture from Infinite Interactive’s (developers of Puzzle Quest) — a sci-fi RPG Collapse mashup called Galactrix.  Maybe it will make the jump to XBLA too?  Only time will tell.

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Band of Bugs Preview: Multiplayer [Update]

May 2, 2007 at 10:23 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

Band of Bugs Attack 1

Tacked on?  Not a chance.  Multiplayer was clearly important to the design of this game from day one.  When paired with the level editor (I haven’t forgotten…I will cover the Level Editor in detail in my next section.), the multiplayer experience of Band of Bugs can extend into infinity.  BoB‘s strong replay value results partly from said user created content and partly because the basic gameplay is simple but has enough variance and depth to make it interesting and new each time you play.
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Band of Bugs Preview: Sound

May 1, 2007 at 2:54 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

EarbudsUnfortunately I was not able to experience the full effect of the sound design in Band of Bugs as I was playing on a mono TV or a mono headset (blasted faulty headphone converters!) for most of the time.

Here’s what I can tell you: The character voices were fun in that Simlish way.  (Where does NinjaBee come up with these fake mumble languages?)  The music matched well with the style of the game and avoided becoming grating even after many hours of play.

As for sound effects: As I dug deeper into the game I got very used to the “Thwack” sound of hitting someone with a melee weapon but it never truly annoyed me.  In fact, I felt a certain satisfaction in hearing that sound as I brought the smack down on some unsuspecting Warrior or Grunt.  Maybe the satisfaction worked as counterpoint to the anger, confusion, and disappointment I felt when I heard the sad bubbling sound of a “Weak Hit”.  Damn those pitiful dice rolls!  (Grr…that is another thing I forgot to mention in my Gameplay section…guess I will update the Addendum!)

Overall, I think the sound adds the appropriate dimensions to the game without ever overpowering or distracting from BoB‘s focus: combat, combat, and more combat.  But I am warning you now, the NinjaBee’s voice will cut through your soul like Hanzo steel.

[Also posted at XBLArcade.com]

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Band of Bugs Preview: Graphics [Update]

April 30, 2007 at 3:12 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

Band of Bugs Old Screen No NoLet me make something clear right off the bat. If you have seen the Band of Bugs screenshots from January avoid judging this game too quickly. Of course, the game looks similar to those shots, but the look and feel of the visuals come alive when everything is animated.  Even the units’ idle animations have much more visual impact than those flat and still screenshots, trust me.  So, if you have written this game off just because of those old screens, wait for the release, download the trial, play it, and then make your visual assessment. 

Well, you could wait, but you might as well check out the new screens below which I think give a much better impression of the game’s style and feel. Check ‘em out.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Band of Bugs Preview: Gameplay (Addendum) [Update]

April 30, 2007 at 2:10 pm (Gaming, NinjaBee, XBLA, Xbox 360)

nblogo.jpgI just remembered another very strategic part of the game that should have been included: Weapon Switching.  Many characters have more than one weapon at their disposal and that can lead to some interesting battle variations.  Some units can even change between a melee weapon and a ranged weapon.

Of course, each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses so you will be force to weigh your options carefully.  Do you choose a weapon with a lower chance to hit but a chance for Knock Back?  Obviously choosing the best weapon for the situation becomes hugely important. 

The only drawback to changing to the perfect weapon for a given situation: Changing your weapon uses your unit’s turn.  So, you must anticipate the weapon your unit will need a whole round in advance.  Not any easy task.

I swear, the more I talk about this game the more depth I find.

[Update] To prove my point further, I remembered something else: Dice Rolls.  When you move to attack an opponent, a bar will show your chance to do a double damage critical hit (Red), an average hit (Orange), or a dreaded Weak Hit (Yellow).  A lot of the strategy in the game hinges on bonuses that tip those percentages in your favor. 

Many of these bonuses are based on where you attack your opponent (e.g., You attack from behind which raises your chance to hit with full power) or the location of your friendly units (e.g., one of your units is standing next to the attacking unit, so the attacking unit has a higher chance to hit).  But sometimes the unthinkable can still happen and you can get a weak hit just when you needed a run-of-the-mill average hit.  Thus, luck can indeed play a role in your successes and failures and helps to keep the levels fresh even after playing them a second or third time (gotta get those Gold Rankings, right?).

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