Friday, April 11, 2014

Inspiring? Well..

I took a break from working on the game earlier today to play some Castlevania. I hadn't played any of the metroidvanias for a while, so I figured I'd play through the first area of one of them for some inspiration. Of all of them, I've played  Ecclesia the least, so I went with that.

What did I learn? Well..

First off, the tilesets in this game are absolutely beautiful. Even in enclosed areas, they tend to use larger parallax backgrounds, and they all look awesome. They basically have at least 2-3 different backgrounds for both horizontal and vertical type rooms, with vertical layouts having tower-esque backgrounds, making the environments feel very natural.

Other than that? 

At least in the first area, the level design is... practically non-existent. More so than I remembered. The rooms all felt the same, with very few of them being anything more than a hallway with enemies randomly scattered everywhere. You'd be hard pressed to distinguish one room from the others if not for different combinations of enemies.

I mean, maybe it was just to ease players into combat, and there's more complicated layouts later? Because otherwise it's just..a bad first area. In most games, the first level is what most people remember the most. But usually that memory isn't "big flat surface".

I'll have to play the rest of it, and see how it changes throughout the rest of the game.


  1. Order of Ecclesia is... a tad on the weak side of the castlevania games, at least in my opinion.It's pretty and has some good effects, but feels unpolished. The true masterpieces (at least according to my views) were the two with Soma Cruz and the soul system (the names of which I can never remember, due to being a derp).

    1. circle of the moon had the soul card system

    2. He's speaking of the Sorrow games (Aria on the GBA, Dawn on the DS).

      Although imo the most enjoyable of the recent games was Portrait of Ruin, but none of them catch up to Symphony of the Night, though.
      The dimension switch idea in Harmony of Dissonance was pretty good, but that one is lacking in other fields.

      Order of Ecclesia is great for its back-to-oldschool-difficulty with some of the bosses (pretty much useless trying to kill them with the wrong setup), but the level design is probably the weakest in all the castleroids.

  2. Yeah, Ecclesia has pretty boring to look at. I remember finally reaching dracula's castle and it just looked so uninspired. I think it's my least favorite of metroidvania castlevanias (second to CotM, of course). Also, the fact that there are no weapons to collect, but glyphs, was also kinda lame. Whatever.

    The soundtrack is mind-numbingly awesome, tho.

  3. I loved the game, so I hope you have fun with it too. It has a fantastic combat system, it's very nice not having to wait around for your MP to recover, and just being able to use whatever abilities you want at any time. The level design does get better after the second/third area. That being said, I think the boss arenas are generally more thought out then the main levels. One of my favorite things about this game is that there is legitimate challenge to it, and the level scaling is fairly low. The previous two DS games were fun, but I don't really remember dying in them very often. I died in Ecclesia quite a few times before I got through it. I also did go through the game on hard mode with max level 1.

    Look out for the transformations too! There are three to collect in the game, but the third is very boring. I will second the anon above me and say that the soundtrack is fantastic.

  4. OoE is a mixed bag. It has some of the most challenging boss battles in the metroidvanias and a cool, if not great,battle system. (But what could come close to the excellence of the Sorrow titles and the jam-packed variety of SotN?) Great soundtrack, pretty good story for what it is.

    The level design, though... in order to get a sense of variety in the level selection, each stage is tiny and extremely simplistic. (Sort of like with Portrait of Ruin, except with even less interesting design.) You don't find many of the neat interactive foreground and background stuff from SotN, very few small, pointless, but beautiful/interesting details like chairs you can sit in, tables you can walk on, etc. I don't remember that ever really changing. I hate the idea of an overworld map, too. It's like they were too lazy to come up with an overworld that connected everything, so they just made a menu. Really disappointing.

    And while I loved what they did, conceptually, with Drac's castle in OoE, the design was boring, too. I don't know why IGA and co. ever moved away from the massive, interconnected castle setting if THAT'S what they were going to give us.

    Still, one of the better metroidvanias despite its flaws. It's no Harmony of Dissonance, that's for sure. It's sad we probably won't see another sprite-based metroidvania from the same team. I didn't realize how much I loved them until I was no longer overwhelmed with their continuous releases.

  5. Long-time follower, first-time poster.

    OoE is one of my favorite CVs, but level design is not where it shines. It's fairly easy to get lost in some of the later stages (I'm looking at you water stages) because the areas can seem a bit bland. A few of them are pretty memorable and interesting though, but where OoE really shines is the combat system and the boss fights. Also, the music IS awesome.

    Combat is both very rewarding and very's like the CV equivalent of one of the Souls games, and unlike the challenge of earlier CV titles, the difficulty is legit, instead of being mainly a byproduct of controls (I'm looking at you, Simon Belmont's Bad Knees.) The bosses are all unique and challenging, and their arenas are mostly integral to the fight in some way (only one I can think of that isn't is Blackmore, but then again he takes up an entire side of the screen.) In Drac's Castle, there's a a boss that takes up the whole room, pretty much, and it's not a small room. You actually have to climb him to get to his vulnerable spots. Then there are the 'human' fights...each with their own unique and awesome theme and lots of emotional charge aside from the very sweet mechanics of the fights.

    ...and of course Shanoa is awesome.

    I hope I'm not the only one looking forward to what IGA releases on his own in the future.

  6. >just called a castlevania game a metroidvania

    You better fuckin' check yoself son.

    1. Considering the term was coined due to Symphony of the Night, and refers to every Castlevania that follows that formula (as well as non-Castlevania games that follow it.), I don't see what your issue is.

  7. I hope I am alive the day there is a game like GTA or INfamous which includes some serious H. Just sayin' I'm sure it's a ways off, but it can happen.

    1. There may be games like that eventually, but it wouldn't be a mainstream game. I also think that sort of thing will be more common as 3d game development becomes more accessible, like 2d has

    2. I sure hope there still remains lots of 2D H-games... 3D just doesn't do it for me when it comes to H.
      (which is ironic since my specialty in university was 3D engines)

    3. That's mostly because there haven't been any real action H games yet, outside of mods.

    4. GTA5 has cost $ 100 million and had a team of 250 people. H-games are limited on the pc markets and it does not earn as much as the market for console video games. I hope someday to see a H-game at the same level as games that are funded on Kickstarter.

    5. Let's not forget we westerners are notorious for pirating pornographic content. The Japanese market gives H-game developers a lot more respect and are more open to purchasing such content, but outside markets in the west especially tend to steal their porn a lot more often than they actually purchase it. That's why you see a lot of games forbidding shipping outside of Japan.

      If you disagree then feel free to call me a cockface though.

    6. I wonder if development teams of these big games have "black" copies of games. For example, A black copy of arkham city maybe has an adult scene or two with catwoman or harley quinn that just simply couldn't be released to the public because of an AO rating (at least in the US).

    7. @AnonymousApril 11, 2014 at 11:40 PM

      I think it has more to do with our nanny state family values groups than "piracy".

      A developer is not really loosing anything by shipping to another market when it comes to data based products.

      Seriously, we have games with all kinds of gore, but show a "hot coffee" and all the "special" people and groups come out to burn the witch....

      Even though its just a game...

      I imagine our international image are of a bunch of crazies that take games seriously.

    8. It's because in our western mind, games are for children.
      Now we all know this isn't true, and more and more games include some kind of softcore or implied porn (GTA, The witcher, etc...).
      But there still is a lot of people who consider that games are just for children: those who simply don't play games. They will reject porn in games because "children", and any argument you make will simply be countered by "children".

      Another point to consider is that full-blown porn doesn't belong to the same distribution market -your typical game store won't stock them-. However, this is becoming a moot point since digital distribution is taking over, but it was a serious hindrance in the past.

    9. LOL, Dude your comment brought me back to this quote.

  8. How many cats have you found? I only have the white one so far. You should put collectible cats in your games.

  9. Don't forget that you are infinitely more cognizant of design stuff than you were when you played through it when you were younger.

  10. I'm trying to remember any cool level design, but I can't think of any during the earlier parts of the game. Except for the lighthouse, maybe ?
    There are some pretty cool rooms from time to time, but it's overall pretty bland.

  11. To me, OoE as a whole was kind of underwhelming. It had some pretty interesting innovations, sure, and the fact that we don't spend the entire game in Dracula's Castle (or at least on its grounds) is a refreshing thing that hasn't been done in quite a while. (Not counting the 3D games, which I'm not too experienced with, I don't think it'd ever been done since the linear old-school games.)

    However, good concepts do not always equal good execution.

    The areas, when you compare them to one another, have vastly different themes. But most of them just feel too ridiculously short, even smaller than the subsections of Dracula's Castle. Heck, some of the areas accessable from the world map, IMO, are basically like 5~8 rooms in a straight line populated with enemies. Obviously uninspired filler. Design, as mentioned before, wasn't one of the highlights of this game. As one anon indicated, it would've been better to make the overworld interconnected (at least for the most part), with subsections just like Dracula's Castle typically is. You shouldn't need to jump to a menu every time you want to switch between areas that are clearly supposed to be adjacent to one another. Just replace the area-boundary map jumps with transitional screens (maybe with warp spots in each transition?), and unlike older Metroidvania games, make each transitional room different, to reflect the areas you're travelling between. Make them feel natural (if a little bit condensed).

    Even once you get to the actual castle, while it is many times larger than any of the existing stages, it just feels so... small, in comparison to the castle from other games. I suppose another reason is that, unlike other CV games, the castle isn't the entirety of the game. But still...

    All in all, a Metroidvania is supposed to feel contiguous. OoE is just too disconnected and broken up. It hurts the feeling of exploration, in my opinion.

    But it did very well in the multimedia department. Great music and excellent graphics did paint a unique and beautiful picture for each area, and they certainly showed what they were capable of with regards to outdoor areas.

  12. OoE is one of those games that you really have to give a chance. It actually re-uses tiles a bit later in the game, which I was exceedingly disappointed in at first. I hold Castlevania to a high standard!

    After accomplishing a certain objective in the game, though, the real bulk of the game is unlocked and you start to see that classic backtracking level design, and feel that the weapons and magics you're using are actually powerful.

    Level-wise? Not the best Castlevania. Art and gameplay? Absolutely beautiful. The sheer number of glyphs and beautiful pixel art keeps everything fresh. Dat soundtrack, too.

  13. Order of ecclesia is so good... and so short

  14. Ecclesia has the worst level design, but there is a use for an open first level: to give your player the opportunity to test every tool of dodging that you provide in a friendly environment, before moving them into more limited areas.

    I like Shanoa the best of the character designs. The problem with the DS Castlevania games is that they're full of nice things, but the overall cohesion is absolutely missing. It has all the simplicity of the earlier Castlevania movement style, but adds unending clutter. You end up abandoning the simple movement style of the early games by pimping yourself with glyphs/souls/etc.

    The move COOL STUFF you add, the harder it is to make the experience easily immersive.