Ninja Gaiden Sigma – Orientating Oneself in Tairon

July 14th, 2016

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Watch a few minutes of the video above. What do you notice about the nature of the environment? And what effect do you think these things would have on the player?

Here are some observations I made whilst playing:

The visual and structural design, as well as the lack of permanency, make it difficult to orientate oneself within Tairon. Because most rooms are narrow and bendy in shape, it is harder for the player to define the room as a simple shape, a technique which is useful when organising the town layout into a mental schema (for example, “the big round room comes after the narrow walkway”). The samey texturing and lack of landmarks similarly deny the player the visual resources with which they can make each room in their mental model of Tairon distinct from the rest. The constant respawning of foot soldiers every second time the player returns to a room prevents one from using the presence of enemies as a means of monitoring their movement through the environment. And, finally, the doors and ledges deceive the player into investigating unnecessary dead ends. Tairon, as a site the player must traverse in various ways throughout the adventure, is a somewhat sluggish stop gap that punctuates the otherwise linear and forward-moving sets of Ninja Gaiden Sigma.

A Few Comments on Nano Assault EX (3DS)

July 9th, 2016

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I guess my writing hiatus is officially over now, right? I’m currently working through old notes and drafts, and so some of the short-form pieces will find their way here. If you missed my tweets from a few months ago, I’ve written a 10,000 word chapter for an upcoming edited book titled Level Design: Processes and Experiences, which will be released at the end of the year. It was quite a project and I’ll have more to say about it later on. For now, a few bullet points on 3DS eShop shmup Nano Assault EX. This title was part of the second Nindies Humble Bundle, so if you bought in, then you’ll probably have it in your collection already.

Planetoid Levels


Tunnel Levels




3D Visuals


Writing Hiatus

April 14th, 2015

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As is probably evident by now, I’m currently on a writing hiatus. I’ve stopped writing since September last year and will probably remain inactive for the near future. I’m currently doing a masters so that I can teach Mandarin in Australian schools. I’m also taking advantage of the opportunity to improve my Mandarin and bring it up closer to a native speaker level. It’s the right time for me to be taking these steps, so I’ve had to put writing aside for the time being. Such is life.

The good news is that I still have time to play games and take notes as I play. I’m also sitting on about three issues of copy for the new zine project, Adventures in Games Analysis. Daniel (Stolen Projects) and I were ready to release the first issue a bit less than a year ago, but I had trouble banging out the preface (which I’d left to the last minute) and decided to put it on hold as I stew over the direction of the series. The problem was that in the time between writing the original copy and being ready to publish it, I published GDC: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4, edited the Starseed Observatory, designed The Cave of Atman, and had been working to support a small group of critical gamers. These engagements changed my perspective on my own writing, and that change wasn’t reflected in the first issue of the zine. The actual analysis in the zine is great and doesn’t require much modification. Rather, I just need a few weeks to sit down and make some sensible cuts, additions, and tweaks.

Speaking of content and copy, here is a list of everything I’ve finished or have in draft copy for the first few issues:

And there’s a few more things that are in various stages of completion. Just typing out this list makes me super excited to get back into the writing game. I’m doing all that I can at the moment to make my transition into Chinese teaching a smooth and successful one. The way I see it, any effort that I invest now is going to go a long way in freeing my time and energy in the future, so it’s worth putting in the hard yards now.

If you’re absolutely dying for your fix of games analysis, though, I recommend checking out Joe Rothenberg’s game Nobody Said it Was Easy. Joe studied Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4 and then applied the concepts to his own game. Each level is short and communicates its ideas succinctly, so playing with a critical eye is a great way to review your understanding of the concepts covered in the book.

See you soon,