Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Game Design: Game of the Week 8 - Super Smash Brothers Brawl ~ Learning AI?


This week in game design was more of a warm up, going over some topics we had already gone over before. Among them of note was difficulty though and that’s something I wanted to get more in depth with for this post. There are a variety of ways one can ramp up the difficulty, and I don’t mean for any specific game. There are general methods, such as the easier to implement, selectable difficulty (from easiest to hardest), the pacing of the game (making it harder as you go along) and the most interesting of all, dynamic difficulty. 

Dynamic difficulty is the hardest to implement in any game because you have to detect just how well a player is doing. It can be several things, from observing and noting behaviours, to seeing how well they are doing over the course of the game, etc.

Different games have different ways of implementing this and it’s not always a common sight in games. Some examples though include changing the layout of a level, changing enemy strength and smarts, changing the rules and restrictions of the game, etc. This of course applies to any sort of difficulty change, but dynamic difficulty is more interesting because it has to watch carefully how you’re doing and make the right transition smoothly. The reason people might want to use this dynamic difficulty is so that players are always given adequate challenge.

Flow Theory

Quick note, we went over flow theory which is in essence, being in the zone. Time seems to slow down for you, you’re completely focused on the task you’re doing and you’re not really thinking about it, you’re just doing things automatically. This is a state that game developpers would like to strive to achieve, so that people will be spending all their time fully immersed in the game. In order to achieve the state, you can’t be bored, meaning it’s not too easy and it can’t be too difficult. This all depends on your skill and the difficulty of the game.

So to go with what I was talking about dynamic difficulty, difficulty changes to match your skill so that you get into the flow of the game! Well this was a longer introduction than I expected to do but it’s important. For the game of the week, we will go over Super Smash Brothers Brawl and how their AI is difficulty wise, and some interesting behaviours that many people have been observing closely, I will get into that later on.

Game of the Week

Super Smash Brothers Brawl is the third entry in Nintendo’s very popular party fighting game franchise. This one, being on the Wii boasts the largest cast of characters, stages, items, unlockables and secrets. The game brings together characters from various series of Nintendo’s history as well as guest characters including Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Hideo Kojima’s Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Franchise.

Combining franchises from all over Nintendo since 1999

Basic information on the game

2 to 4 players compete in battles with the goal to knock their opponents off. Rather than dealing with “vitality” like most fighters do, whenever you hit an opponent a percentage increases, which designates how far a character will fly when they are hit. The goal is to knock them off the stage, preventing them from getting back on or knocking them to any of the four sides of the screen.

The entire roster of characters in Brawl

Player’s choose from a large roaster of different characters all with different attacks and abilities, including abilities that aid the player in getting back onto the stage should they be knocked down. For your attacks, you merely press either the a button or b button (on gamecube controllers) and a direction on the control stick to execute different attacks. You can pop up a defence shield to absorb attacks, as well as dodge either by rolling or in place. To counter shields, you can execute throws against opponents which will snag them no matter if their shield is up or not, but they can still be dodged.

A Free for all match between four players online

The system is easy to get the hang of but there is enough depth that the better players will always come out on top of the weaker players. The game has a variety of systems that keep the action frantic and exciting, the inclusion of items which can turn the tide of battle in your favour or against you and the newest item being the smash ball, which allows characters to use a devastating ability against your foes.

Main menu

There are a variety of single player modes, including a decently long adventure mode titled Subspace Emissary with an unsurprisingly uninteresting plot. Other modes include, multi-man melee, where you must defeat a bunch of faceless enemies or survive as long as possible, home run contest, classic mode (fight against a variety of opponents with special modifiers such as 3 vs 1 giant character), as well as being able to fight the computer in multiplayer. Multiplayer consists of online modes, special Brawl where you can choose from different modifiers (such as giant characters, all metal characters, etc) to make it more interesting, tournament modes, and the normal multiplayer mode. In all multiplayer modes you can fight against ai opponents.

The Artificial Intelligence

I am sure most of us already know what Brawl is all about so I won’t go any further into other features in the game like that, I want to get into what I was focusing on before, the AI. Now when you choose CPU opponents you choose from a variety of different levels, 1 to 9, 1 being the easiest and 9 being the hardest. At level 1 for example, they usually just walk around, throwing a random attack every now and then, while on the other side a level 9 players will be using their entire arsenal of moves, dodging and shielding your attacks and acting more like a human player.

The different difficulty levels you can select

There are many games out there that modify difficulty in much lazier ways, such as just increasing their damage, health, etc. For fighting games in general, when the difficulty of an AI is increased, it must always be about it’s behaviour, if not then the AI is not worthy to being in the game. Other games of course do this but there are still a lot of games out there with incredibly stupid AI, that only are able to kill you because they suddenly just shoot in your direction. Otherwise that AI might stand out in the open like they are a commando (looking at you Call of Duty).

Super Smash Brothers Brawl of course does this, like I mentioned. Level 1s are cannon fodder while Level 9s can actually present quite a challenge to some players. Of course they are no match for the best of players but for lower level players they are quite fun to fight against and provide a decent match for them.

Example of Super Smash Bros. Melee's AI

Now Brawl represents a great step in AI from it’s predecessor Super Smash Bros. Melee. In Melee, the AI simply walked around the stage and if they got close enough attacked you. If you shielded, they automatically tried to grab you. They hardly ever used all of their attacks as well, simply using light standard attacks over and over. This made them extremely predictable, I was able to bait out their grab attempts on me by just holding shield and waiting till they tried to grab, and then punish them. They would almost always use the same basic attack once they got into range of me, and the powerful smash attacks that  all characters have were hardly ever used when I had a lot of damage on me. They could have easily sent me flying to my doom but instead they just wanted to keep hitting me with those light attacks. This was all on the hardest AI too, they were pretty stupid. That was just my experience though, perhaps I never even let them get the chance to use the attacks.

A Free for all match between 4 CPUs

Now Brawl on the otherhand shows a great change. I’ve looked on various forums posts and pretty much everyone agrees the Brawl AI is much more difficult. They are much smarter, using their defensive abilities (roll and shielding) at appropriate times, almost seeming human-like though they are still running on algorithms that are calculated. The thing is they try and choose from a variety of different options instead of always choosing the same one like in melee, they might dodge, they might roll, they might just try and shield, or they might try and counter attack. If they head towards you, they might charge in with an attack or roll to try and bait and attack from you, then counter attack. The algorithms that the AI follow are much more difficult to pinpoint, though there are still ways to exploit them. Also they sometimes have issues if a stage is particularly odd (or user created) and can suicide with items if they blow up. Without items and with a normal stage though they can be rather competent. It’s much more difficult to exploit them then it was in Melee and overall it makes the AI players more challenging and more fun to fight against.

Two AI performing a rather well coordinated "combo" on a player.

There are a few interesting things to note though about the AI. One, they actually try and target you first and foremost. If you are in a free for all match with you and 3 other AI, you might notice that they are usually trying to chase you. That’s because they hate you and they are programmed to go after you as a priority. Only under certain circumstances will they try and deviate to attack their AI brethren. I first noticed then when I first played the game, I thought I was against an entire team due to their behaviour. It’s unfortunate that it’s like this because it kind of takes away from the free for all feel of a match when they all gang up on you, KO you then attack each other after you died.
In this video a player fights against CPU opponents. Notice how they go after him more frequently then each other.

Can they learn?

This is what I really wanted to talk about in this blog, it is the potential learning behavior of the AI in this game. Yes, Brawl’s AI can learn, at least that’s what many players believe. It seems as if, after playing for a long time the Brawl AI will be observing your attacks and calculating just what is going on that’s working, what is hitting the bots, what attacks and techniques are you using that are effective? Sometimes they might just try using your moves and copying you even if they aren’t effective.

Footage of an experienced(Tournament level) player's footage versus his AI counterpart

For example, I tend to use Link a lot, playing with him right when I first got the game. Now the AI just used basic behaviours and such, nothing special. After a while, I fought an AI playing as Link and I noticed something. He was using techniques I frequently did. What I liked to do was grab a bomb, jump back and throw it at the same time, very oftenly, at a certain jump height too. AI started doing that. I frequently use the jumping A, forward aerial attack, at a very low height. The attack consisted of two slashes and I made sure I got both in. AI started doing that a ton. I did a jumping boomerang attack frequently, similar in the way I used the bombs. AI used that behaviour at the same distances I usually tried do it.

A player versus an AI that he believes fights similarly to Ally, one of the top Smash Brothers Brawl players in Canada. The AI demonstrates a high level of play against the play, meaning it's very competent.

The AI calculated where and when I used these attacks, what distance I was to other players and other factors it believed contributed to me using the move. Now I thought at first it could just be wishful thinking, but I noticed this with many of my other characters too. The AI would repeat actions that I frequented, such as using Falco, I jumped and immediately used a dashing ability. AI liked to frequent that move quite a bit after I was using for a while. Not only did it try and copy my moves but it seemed to overall know better when to dodge my attacks, they became very slippery and difficult to hit if using the same tactic over and over.

A player's test of the AI's ability to adapt to an attack. By the end the AI is able to counter the move the player uses over and over.

The most obvious and rather funny example of this is to have a 4 player match (real players) all using Captain Falcon. Using his famous Falcon Punch over and over throughout the match has yielded results where the AI adapted to this, using Falcon punch more and more frequently than it used to. It was definitely “learning” to do this, though it wasn’t exactly effective, it was using this knowledge.  Another interesting example is that some players might have taught them to taunt. The infamous “teabagging” known in many first person shooters has been reportedly done by AI. I myself experienced this against an AI who KO’d me, then proceeded to walk to the edge of the stage and tea bag. This may be wishful thinking but I believe they learned this to since I did it from time to time.

An AI using Falcon Punch repeatedly many times in a row

CPUs learning to teabag

More CPU teabagging


I know there is no definite answer to whether they TRULY learn or not but I am greatly leaning on the side they do. My experiences against the AI and the Captain Falcon Punch example feel like proof enough for me. Other people also think this is true, as some AI have shown some pretty neat skills they have learned from their human counterparts. But in any case, I think it’s really awesome that Super Smash brothers Brawl does this. Any other game that does this kind of learning behaviour deserves props for this because it’s always fun to try and teach an AI. It’s like having a pet.


I found a very useful post, with some videos testing the AI, it's actually pretty neat. This person is trying to break down the way the AI is able to adapt to situations. Unfortunately there isn't too much more progress with it, but the information that was found is interesting.

CPU learning Tests 1

CPU learning Tests 2

CPU learning Tests 3

CPU learning Tests 4

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reading Week Drawing

Since I had some time off during reading week of university, I wanted to try my hand at some drawing again since I haven't done any for a really long time.  I decided to go with something a bit more complicated than just a character posing in a background so I decided to make what looks like a movie poster.

I made it based on League of Legends, featuring 4 characters from the Kingdom of Demacia. Usually my drawings just feature one character so this was a step up for me. It features the token League of Legends asian man, Xin Zhao, Lux the Light mage (Who I have drawn before), Garen her older brother and Jarvan IV, the Prince of Demacia who apparently sneaks around a lot.

All four of them (Except Xin Zhao) also shout DEMACIA!

Tunes of the Week 7 - Final Fantasy Type-0

One of the three games part of the Final Fantasy Fabula Nova Crystallis series (Other games including Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII Versus), this game was formerly known as Final Fantasy XIII Agito until being changed to the title Final Fantasy Type-0. The game has so far only been released in Japan for the PSP but is rumored to have localization in other countries, only time will tell.

The music for this particular game is Takeharu Ishimoto, the same composer behind Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core's music. Both that game and this game's music has a similar style and both equally great and varied.  For Final Fantasy Type-0, much of the music uses a combination of full orchestra, choir, guitar, and synthesized sounds. The music of the game is quite varied in terms of theme, to represent all of the different environments of the game. The quality of all the music is great, everything piece of music being rather strong though of course I prefer some songs over others. Overall the entire collection is quite great, I even prefer it over his work in Final Fantasy VII : Crisis core.

Peaceful Fighting  - One of my favourite battle themes in the game

Theme of Rem, one of the protagonists of the game

Theme of Machina, one of the protagonists of the game

The Main theme of Final Fantasy Type-0

Choose a Way to Die - One of the other main themes

Ending Theme - Including fully orchestrated versions of many of the main themes

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Evolution of Nintendo Characters

Nintendo's long had a large catalogue of successful and beloved franchises. Starting from the 2D era with the original Nintendo and up till now in the 3D era featured on the Wii. They've all gone through an evolution of their looks both in style and due to increasing technology. Comparing the original concept art for some of the characters compared to the concept art of them now can be rather different but they still retain the same feel of the character. Obvious I am not going to go over every single character but I will go over some of the notable ones and show how they changed over time.


Everyone knows Mario, gamer or not. Everyone recognizes the Hat, Mustache and overalls. That's always been the recurring feature in every single iteration of Mario. I took a look online and found a few images showing how he changed. Though the colors of his outfit may change, the overalls color, hair color, etc, the hat is always red. Once the Super Nintendo era hit, his appearance in Super Mario World has pretty much been how he looks in every other game now. The transition from 2D to 3D didn't change that, his overalls, mustache, hair and hat, shoes were all the same color in the appearances following it (Granted they didn't use older sprites). Even his face pretty much stays the same too.

The original Super Mario Bros. artwork

One of Mario's different looks, in paper form in "Paper Mario"

Of course they've never wanted to make him look different from his trademark appearance, he has made different apperances in different outfits over the years in various Mario Spin Off titles (such as Mario Party) but usually retained the overalls as his main outfit anyways. The main thing that's been added over the years is increased detail into the character. As you can see in the Wii titles he has proper textures that make his overalls feel more real but he still retains the same comical feel that he always has had. He has had some different looks in other games though, such as his apperance in paper mario where he was... well paper. Otherwise he hasn't had too much diversity in terms of outfits or changes.
Mario's staple apperance
Another staple character in Nintendo's best selling Zelda franchise. Link's had a much more diverse set of looks than Mario has over the years. I even took a look at his different looks in my first graphics blog. In his first 2D sprite, his look was rather limited of course but he has always retained the green tunic and green hat. You can also see his elf-like ears on the very first sprite as well and some knee high boots. These three aspects have always been a staple for the character and is present in every iteration of him.

Link's first appearance in the Legend of Zelda

The details in his outfit have ranged though as well as his age. Over the years he has grown older and older. Where as Mario has always seemed like the same age, Link used to be a young child, probably around 10 years old. His first step to adulthood came in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, though he started out as a child then became an adult through time. 

Link's appearance in Ocarina of Time

He went back to his kid form, but this time in Cell Shaded form (of course still with tunic and hat) in WindWaker. His hairstyle also varied a bit as this cell shaded link. Also, the Ocarina of Time and Cell shaded link were the first to have leggings, the rest didn't wear any form of leg wear.

Link's appearance in Windwaker

Twilight Princess was once again an even older link or around the same age as Ocarina of Time's Adult Link and this time he actually wore pants, not tights, real pants. His tunic of course looked more detailed and he even had a set of chain mail underneath the tunic as well. This particular title boasted the most realistic looking and gritty Link.
Link's appearance in Twilight Princess

The Skyward Sword look followed just late last year, back to a similar style as the cell shaded link, featuring a less realistic Link. He is also an adult incarnation of Link and features some differences to his outfit such as belts being different, but the main difference is the new, non realistic look he has.

Link's apperance in Skyward Sword

The debut of the Wii U announced at E3 also marked the first time we might see Link in HD, with more detail than we have ever seen in him before. This particular Link bolsters the same realistic look, which may hint at Nintendo planning for another realistic style Zelda game.

The Zelda HD Wii U tech demo

Link's been more interesting than Mario, because he has been changing not only outfits and ages, but also completely different art styles while still maintaining to look like Link. Even despite the differences you always know that's Link because of those staple features of his Hat, Tunic, boots and his Legendary Weapons the Master Sword and Hyrulian Shield.


One of the staple heroines of Nintendo, Samus has always been a character shrouded with some mystery. Coming from the Metroid Franchise, Samus has always been bolstered in high tech, space armor called the Varia Suit. Over the years she has had a variety of different suits as well as even gone out of the suit at times. The first time she went out of the suit was at the end of the first Metroid game, where you could only see it if you collected 100% of all items in the game. You didn't even know she was a woman till you beat the game in fact. I myself didn't know she was a woman until Super Smash Brothers came out since I had never beat the games when I was that young.

Samus' appearance in Super Smash Brothers Brawl

Her design has changed over time, the first Metroid she featured a much less detailed, simpler look in her suit. By the time Metroid 2 came out, her design was revamped and looks much more closely to how she has looked in many of the major games after. Of course her sprite wouldn't be able to show it since it was only on the NES but the vision for the staple look for Samus then on was set. When Super Metroid came out we were able to see how they really wanted the sprite to look finally and the design was pretty much set in stone from there, having a few tweaks (though not major) from the Metroid II design.

Samus' "Zero Suit" in Super Smash Brothers Brawl

Several GBA games came out featuring new designs for Samus. Metroid Fusion featured a plot that forced her suit to change, making a more “tight” looking suit that looked quite a bit different, though retained a similar shape in visor and the same red helmet despite the different colors on the body. This was also the first game to show Samus in her new “Zero Suit” look. In prior games she was essentially in a bikini when she took her armor off but this game gave her the “Zero Suit”, which was a light blue, skin tight jump suit. She has retained this appearance for out of armor experiences in pretty much every game I can remember after that. Metroid Zero Mision changed the armor design again, looking more akin to the original Metroid armor, though with a now revamped GBA sprite. It was pretty much a more detailed and final look that the original Metroid armor wanted to achieve.

Her apperance in Metroid Prime 3 : Corruption

Once 2002 hit, the Metroid Prime games came out and retained the Varia suit's look that was set in Super Metroid, but in 3D! Metroid Prime 3 changed that with a revamped look for her armor. It got a lot more blues in the overall color palette as well as a few design changes that remind me slightly of Master Chief from the Halo series. The reason for the changed Varia suit in Metroid Prime 3 is story related however, so it was “essential” indeed to give this change in look for story reasons anyways. In the most recent game Metroid Other M, a collaboration of Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden series) and Nintendo, Samus was reatured with a less bulky, thinner Varia Suit. Her shoulder pads were noticeably smaller to boot.

Samus in Civilian clothes in Metroid Other M and the Varia Suit

The particular color palette for Samus has always been the red helmet with that particular, triangle and/or curved visor (which is either green or blue), and the orange and yellow armor. She's gone for that fiery palette most of the time and if not, then featuring a light blue for her zero suits. Aside from her staple Varia suit, she has a variety of other suits that change from game to game, but her staple look has always and will always be the Varia suit.

Who Changed the most?

Well all the characters have retained their staple looks the whole time but who changed the most? Well that's a very debatable question and depends on some factors. I think hands down Mario changed the least in every possible way so he is out of the count for me. Link's certainly had the most variety in terms of art styles, which have led into different outfits and features. Samus has always gone for a realistic style but her armor has evolved into different shapes over time as well and her zero suit, metroid fusion look and normal Varia suit all look significantly different. However Link has been different ages and looks as well and compared to his original concept art still looks quite a bit different, more so in my opinion than Samus does when compared to her original concept art. So I guess I will have to go with Link. What are you thoughts, who do you think changed the most?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design: Games that Failed - Sonic the Hedgehog (360, PS3, 2006)

Sonic is one of the most well known video game icons in the world, right along with Mario. His games have always been known for fast, platforming action. His first games in 2D were his best and showed that fast, rapid gameplay can be so intense and fun. He made the transition to 3D in the forms of Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 on the Dreamcast. These games have been pretty well regarded as solid transitions into 3D for sonic. Over the years he would be present in other 3D games such as Sonic Heroes, but soon with the coming of the next gen systems, Sonic was going to go onto those platforms too.

Sonic Team released the next generation of Sonic, in HD, on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in 2006. I can't say whether it showed hope that it would be a great game from the pre-release trailers but it was nowhere near the Next Gen title fans were hoping it would be. I think most people who have played the game or watched gameplay of people going through it, that it was definetely not the best sonic game. In fact, some have dubbed it as the worst Sonic Game. Now the fact they already had solid foundations in 3D sonic games made it surprising that this game failed so hard. But they didn't fail in terms of sales at least, it wasn't a major bomb, it had around 1 million total sales all around the world.

Anyways we are here to talk about why the game is a failure as a game, not whether or not it was successful in making a profit. So let's get right into it.

Gameplay basics

So it's a 3D platformer and you go through a variety of levels in different locals, making your way through them via various techniques and reach the goal. Finish faster and you get a higher ranking, which provides you rings to purchase boosts that will help your character. To connect all the levels, you go to a hub that's essentially a town, which contains portals to all the levels you want to visit. Doesn't sound too bad so far right?

The evil town area

Well before we go into how the game controls, first off the town is too big. In the sense that it's just a bunch of empty space with little to nothing to do. There are a few really really tedious sidequests that usually have to do with unlocking the next area, but otherwise there is nothing there. Also the upgrades I mentioned are pretty much required for you to get if you want to continue the game, so you're not going to be at an advantage compared to another Sonic player.


In this Let's Play you can already see how strangely Sonic controls

This area isn't so much the problem (Though it DOES have problems which I will get into later), it's the main gameplay. Getting through the levels at first seems exciting but then you begin to notice issues, very detrimental issues that completely ruin the experience. Camera control, its bad, there is no saying it any other way. The camera frequently is hard to control or gets into awkward angles at the wrong moments, causing you to die a horrible death. Your controls, Sonic controls so flimsy that its hard to really move in any direction you really want. The slightest wrong movement with the stick sends you flying off in a random direction to your doom. These are the foundations of what makes a platforming game, if you can't get these right, your game is doomed. And doomed it is in this case. The controls are just too clumsy to be worthy of Sonic.

Level Variety

The variety of levels you actually go through are numerous at first. You start the game as Sonic but soon unlock two other Hedgehogs to play as, Shadow and Silver. You begin to play through them and realize that with the clumsy controls, you die a whole lot. The levels are pretty big and vary quite a bit but then when you begin to play as the other hedgehogs you also realize... “Hey, didn't I do this level before?” These levels get re-used a lot, over and over, except slightly tweaked to fit the different play styles of the hedgehogs. And then once you beat all three arcs that the Hedgehogs get to go through, we get to go to the same levels again for the final act, but with 100% more rainbowy color palette changes.

Different characters!?
Silver (left), Sonic (middle), Shadow (right)

The 3 characters have different abilities that make them... well a bit different. Sonic has a homing attack to automatically smash enemies, Shadow, I honestly can't remember what he had different, and Silver can use physics and launch various objects at people. At least they all play differently but the clumsy controls just doesn't make it that enjoyable. Each character also has unique sections only available to the character. Sonic has “Mach Speed Sections”, Shadow has “Driving sections” and Silver has... “Puzzle sections?”. The puzzles aren't so bad though they arent great, the worst is the Mach Speed and Driving Sections.

Break Dancing Sections

Go to 10:55 and 38:45 for Break Dancing Sections

Break dancing. This word sounds random now but you will see a LOT of it in Mach Speed sections. This is by far one of the most frustrating and worst experiences in the game. We all know Sonic is meant to go fast and these sections are what provide it. Sonic zooms around at lightning speed and here, the clumsy controls go crazy. The tiniest... fraction of the control stick you move... completely crazy direction is where Sonic goes. The controls are so loose it's not even funny, I've seen people have to repeat these levels over and over because of how bad they are. Also, break dancing again. When you hit an object, you lose any rings you have and... break dance. If you happen to die, you will be break dancing as the camera comes to a stop and you see Sonic break dancing into the distance. It's looks absolutely hilarious and you hear him saying “WHOA” in the most undramatic way possible. These sections can definetely take the cake for worst sections in the game.

Driving Sections

8:40 for Driving Sections

The driving sections aren't quite as bad as the mach speed sections, you just control (with much difficulty) various vehicles, from cars to motorcycles, to hang gliders? They control pretty bad but its not nearly as bad as Mach Speed. At least you're not going to crash into a wall and break dance all of a sudden. But they are prone to some pretty weird glitches (glitches is a MAJOR factor in the game I will get into in a bit). I've seen Shadow go through walls, his vehicles suddenly explode for absolutely no reason, etc. Crazy things in these sections.


Back to the normal gameplay, glitchy is the way to describe it. Very, very glitchy. Hit detection can be poor at times, the homing attacks Sonic has can launch you in a crazy direction to your doom. In one of the boss battles as Sonic, vs Silver, you get literally get stuck in a corner for over an hour, not dying but not able to move. We get to hear over that hour “IT'S NO USE” from Silver as he keeps using his telekinesis to launch you into the wall. Your one little ring keeping you alive that whole time. If you're particularly unlucky he can also launch you into space. You heard that right, space.

Going where no Hedgehog has gone before

Other glitches include the random exploding vehicles I mentioned earlier, weird hit detection in mach speed sections, weird detection of the controls in the game, snowboard sections where gravity doesn't want to apply to your board anymore, switches not activating, going through walls, physics not applying at all, drowning in hip deep water, etc. The list goes on and on, there is just too much to cover that breaks this game.

A large compilation of tons of Sonic 2006 glitches

The fact these kinds of glitches were all present in the game is inexcusable. The PS3 version was delayed, released after the Xbox 360 version and apparently it had all the same glitches and ran even worse on the system. Also load times, you'll be looking at the loading screen a lot.

Don't get me started on the plot.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tunes of the Week 6 : Heroes of Might and Magic II

Last week I featured Heroes of Might and Magic III as my tunes of the week, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to feature it's predecessor's music as well. Heroes of Might and Magic II is a fair bit older in many ways than Heroes III. Whereas Heroes of Might and Magic III uses 3D models rendered as sprites, Heroes II uses hand-drawn sprites.

The game IS old school and so it's its music, using much simpler midi music in all the themes. Like Heroes III, every faction in the game has their own theme but all these themes are really good as well. Where the game doesn't decide to go with midi it actually uses opera singing. Opera singing in a game this old!? It's pretty impressive in my opinion, not to mention that the singing actually makes the music really enjoyable and even more "epic" than it would be without. The game combines the midi sounds, singing and some real instruments as well in it's songs.

Though the confusing part is, the music got changed around in different versions of the game, so I am not FULLY sure which are the original versions of the songs.

Here is a few of my favourite themes

Sorceress Town Theme

Warlock Town Theme

Necromancer Town Theme

Barbarian Town theme

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Computer Graphics: How I make Digital Drawings

Instead of focusing on games this week I decided I would dedicate this post on how I managed to make a digital drawing I was working on in my spare time this week. I put quite a bit of time into making it and the drawing consisted of my certain style of drawing and creating a background with great help from use of Photoshop layers and filters to create the effects I wanted so it suited with my drawing. I see now that these filters are actually very similar with what we’ve learned in computer graphics, they are just not processed in real time.

I’m going to look over how I created a character and then on how I made the background to mesh with that character.


The tools I used to work on my digital art was a digital tablet, along with Photoshop CS5 which is included in my school computer.


I decided to draw the character “Lux” featured in the Free-To-Play MOBA game, League of Legends. So the first thing I decided to do was get references from the game, taking the splash art they use for the character and putting it inside the canvas of my image in photoshop. I took as many of them as I could so I could try to get as much resemblance to the character as I could. Then I decided on a pose, drawing crude outlines to try and test what could look like a good pose. I finally decided on one that would represent her character best.

From there I made the outline more refined until it was good enough to represent the shape of the body I needed for the pose. I made sure to make a copy of it for reference later and then I began to add details that would shape the character. I started with details in the face and adding hair, then working to all the other details in armor, boots, gloves, etc. I continued to add details ,always referencing the images of Lux I was using to help me define her look. Eventually the final outline was completed.

The final outline completed

For my particular style of drawing, the outline is present all the time and I use solid colors rather than a painting-like style. I color in all the areas in the outline to the appropriate color, continuing to watch my reference images. I keep on doing this, eventually finishing all the color, without shading. Also every color and piece of equipment on the character has a different layer, so the skin is on a different layer than the pieces of armor for example. The reason I use this is so that it’s easy to change the entire color later if I need to.

Colored in

Now I move to shading, rather than choosing a color I use one single layer for shading. I take a normal layer, putting the opacity to 66% then using pure black on all the areas I want shaded. Due to the opacity it adds to the base color to make it look shaded. This method I discovered later on and it’s a lot easier than my old method which was to use the actual color I wanted to represent the shaded area. This meant I needed a ton of layers to represent each color since I have so many layers for every base color already. Highlights than follow using the same structure as how I did with the shading.

Adding shading


That pretty much completes my character now and then I move to the part I have the most trouble with, the background. I usually have no idea what background I want and is particularly difficult for me to even make one even if it comes to mind. I know I want to choose a background that fits with my character, so I choose an ocean and a bridge since I am so unimaginative.

Turning this...

To make my background, I looked around for a publicly available ocean image that everyone is able to use. I had to choose one that fit with the perspective of my character. From there I took the image in and now I began to make use of the Photoshop post-processing effects. I used the “Cut-Out” filter in Photoshop, which took the image and cut out the colors to look more in tune with the style of my image.

...into this, with the cut-out filter

I actually understand what the Cut-Out filter actually does as well, since all it’s doing is taking the image, limiting it to a certain number of colors, (I chose only 8) so that way it would still mesh with the simplicity of how I made my color palette but still retain detail of the base image. It then averages out the values of colors to a specific color in the image, much like how cell shading works. So say if there are a variety of different blue hues in your scene, it will choose anything from a certain range of blue hues and then force them all to look like the same blue hue. It allows me to maintain detail while maintain simplicity too.

Creating a base bridge

I then added the bridge, using the pen tool to make straight lines so that it would look proper. I use the skew tool as well to angle it properly so that it would go with the perspective and movement of my character. Once I got the base color in, I found a texture, overlayed it over top of the bridge, manipulating it and duplicating it so that it would look natural on the bridge. I made sure that it wasn’t too overlayed so that it wouldn’t look hyper realistic and not mesh with the scene.

Then making it look nice

Everything Together

Afterwards I added some effects after wards to enhance the scene. I used gradients to overlay over the ocean layer and make the scene brighter on the end of the sun while being darker on the far edges. This gave it a more 3D look. I applied another gradient individually on the bridge so that it would look naturally more lit since it wouldn’t look good if I applied the gradient all over the scene. I soon added a light blue shader over the entire scene, using once again the overlay option and messing with the opacity to find the right balance. This shader went over the entire scene to give even Lux a slight blue hue, but not too much.

Added gradients

Added blue shading effect

I went with some pretty simple Photoshop effects but it really helped to enhance the scene, compared to the original without the effects it didn’t look quite as vibrant and really made the picture look a whole lot better.

The final drawing

This is pretty much how I make all my digital drawings at the moment, though I am working on changing my art style/upgrading it with new techniques. This is what I am most comfortable with at the moment and I still see myself improving in some aspects over time. Though I don’t use too many crazy photoshop effects, it’s mostly due to the particular style I am using as well as some unfamiliarity with all the photoshop systems and also my lack of skill in creating backgrounds. I’m trying to learn more and more to improve myself in all these regards. Maybe one day I will be able to make another post with what I have learned.