Category: Entertainment & Fun

Hamilton Playtest and Progress Update

We have had some very busy weeks here at M5 Games. We have been wrapping up many of the major components of the game such as the sound effects and the completion of the world maps. Which means that we are inching ever closer to finishing off the game and announcing our release date. This also meant that it was a good time to get some playtesting input and to give some of our close friends and colleagues a first hand look into the world of StretchBot.
Getting to this playtesting night was pretty big milestone for our team. To some we may have been a little overzealous about showcasing StretchBot but this cycle of development worked for us and this project. Many game designers will tell you to get peoples hands on your game as soon as possible because it's their input that matters the most. I agree with this mostly but it's a case to case basis. For StretchBot we had a vision and we didn't want major mass input until we had that solid working copy of that vision. In our case if we did a major playtest too early it may distract us from attaining and then properly testing our big picture ideas first. We definitely wanted the game to be at a point where we could avoid too many comments from casual testers suggesting new game components. We wished to avoid comments like: "You should add a giant robot dragon here!" and "What if the stretch could do magic and jump kicks?". Luckily we were able to keep our test focused to the analysis we really wanted.

Playtesting Night Photo

Was it luck? We definitely feel lucky. The playtest went far better than we could have expected in terms of interest and quality of feedback. It was hard to predict how the informal event was going to go even after the first testers arrived. One thing we definitely miscalculated was the average length of play. We had set the objective to get feedback on some very specific aspects of the game thus we limited the testers experience to just a few levels and with minimal story and other game components explained. We were focused on feedback for controls and comprehension and general scale of difficulty in the level designs. We figured we would let people play for 10-15 minutes enough time to taste 2-3 levels and give us some feedback. We didn't expect that most people wanted to keep playing and that their fun quotient seemed to rise with more exposure time. We just couldn't ruin our testers buzz so an event that was planned to run for 2 hours actually went for around 6 hours. It was a really fun event for us and great way for us to cut our teeth as we get used to testing a mobile game in large scale. The input has been incredibly helpful for us as we check off many of the game mechanics and systems. This major milestone also feels great for the team because we are only a few steps away to wrapping up the whole project and we are heading down that road with a new head of confidence and energy.

Playtesting Night Photo

Thanks to everyone who came out on that warm March Hamilton night! and thanks to the StrangeBarn for hosting us. Next on the agenda are playtests in Toronto and Montreal. Stay tuned for updates on that!

Happy Pi Day!

It's everybody's favourite constants special day (March 14th = 3/14 = 3.14 = π) and we at M5 Games are celebrating by eating pie and discussing circles. The fact of the matter is that without Pi (π) the universe that we have created for Stretch and his rebel hacker buddies would be far less interesting. Every enemy would just be moving in straight lines! There would be no circular punch attack! Actually Stretch wouldn't even be able to move because his on screen D-pad would be useless without π and the trigonometric functions that come with it.

In fact π is the only mathematical constant we use in the whole development of StretchBot. Sorry e there are no natural logarithms here! So we are quite thankful to π and think that you should take this time to learn a few things about this powerful constant ratio!

So check out some of these cool resources for the story of π and its special day!

A Brief History of π:

Official π Day organization:

7 NES Games We Would Add To The Nintendo Classic

If you like games, chances are that you or someone around you picked up a Nintendo Classic this holiday season. It's a miniature version of the original Nintendo console preloaded with 30 games and no-hassle video hookups. For some its a tough sell because ROMs and emulators have been easily available for two decades. On one hand its low price tag and classic controllers make it a viable sell, but on the other, it's really just a glorified 30-in-1 cartridge. Don't get me wrong this would have been the greatest and most sought after multi game cartridge ever made, if it had existed during the consoles long life time, but it's still just 30 games. Now, yes, these are 30 incredible games and many show up  on "greatest games of all time" lists but is it enough? I think the biggest drawback to the "system" is that it lacks the customization and fluidity we have become accustom to in our consoles. If it could play NES cartridges (therefore forgoing its miniature size) or if other games could be loaded on and added to the already great list then the lifetime of the Nintendo Classic would probably be greatly extended. Instead, unless the hackers find a way,  it seems like this system will probably just become a curiosity and relic of the 2016 holiday season.

Not all is lost though. All this pessimism got me thinking because the Nintendo Classic's lineup will never change what games would I have bundled with it to keep it company for all eternity? So I took this as an excuse to revel in some of the unsung and loved NES games of my childhood.

1. Blaster Master (1988)

Blaster Master had it all. Half platforming jumping vehicle game and half faux-3D zelda-esque shooter packaged with a story about radioactive frogs. Great graphics and extremely fun to play with lots of puzzles and adventuring. With all the variety this was a title you could really get into, but I guess Nintendo did not consider it "classic" enough.

2. Baseball Stars (1989)

There are not a lot of sports games on the Nintendo Classic. If you are looking for a standard team sport game then there is just one and that's TECMO BOWL. This does not do the "regular" Nintendo justice because it had some really great sports games. SNK's Baseball Stars being one of the premier ones. This game was not just great for its exciting game play but also because it allows players tonnes of options for customization. You can make your own teams and players. There is a season mode where after each game your team receives an amount of money depending on how well you played. As the manager you get to spend this money to hire new players, make your players stronger and a variety of other cool things. Play Ball!

3. Jackal (1988)

Konami's Jackal is one of the best two player cooperative games I have ever played. Maybe I have not played enough? but I know many of hours were lost on this one. You play as army jeep with a variety of weapons that is  tasked with saving hostages and causing general mayhem in some non-descript battle-zone. I believe this game has the power to bring people together and provided  a defining chapter in my relationship with my brother. A run through this game would be more effective than any escape room or other modern team building exercise. Intense and just enough "crazy difficult", this game could suck up hours with its rage inspired "ok let's try that level one more time" anthem ringing out over  countless sugar fueled sleepovers.

4. DuckTales (1989)

Probably the first adventure platformer I ever played this game still shines after more than 25 years. It has all the hallmarks of the genre, non-linear levels filled with plenty of secrets and puzzles. The variety of the worlds is what kept my interest as a kid. There is only one level of each type but they are intricate and unique enough that all stand on their own. Lastly and importantly during all this adventuring you are treated to an amazing soundtrack. DuckTales has one of the best soundtracks of any NES game (Actually many of the games on this list would fit into my top 10, but that's for a future post!).

5. NARC (1990)

NARC was a game I probably may have never touched if it wasn't for a chance family trip and a pair of older cousins. I admit I didn't put this game on this list for its game play, which is passable. NARC offers a two player cooperative side scroller experience that takes it's cues from a game like Double Dragon. Its fun but nothing particular special. I put this game on the list because the content of this game is ridiculous. it's a portal into the subconscious fears of the late 80's and early 90's manifest in 8 bits. You play the role of either a red or blue narcotics officer in what seems to be Robocop's Detroit but filled with evil clowns and junkies with an unlimited supply of syringes to throw at you. The game does have action and some interesting scenes but I like it more for its artifact status. It definitely belongs on a early rung of that long lineage of over-the-top crime games that includes the Grand Theft Auto series and might be a good reason to buy a second controller.

6. Blades of Steel (1988)

I am Canadian and this game is great. It's easily the first console hockey game that I loved and I have played many since. The controls are great and the action fast. The fights are unique enough to make the game feel bigger and more advanced. I am pretty sure its the first game that I played that had real voice recordings. "Shoots the Pass!"  Plus the mini-game during the second period intermission was one of the most memorable and exciting parts of any sports game. "Will it come will it not?" This game does not try to be just some hockey simulator but more like a incredibly well designed hockey themed video game.

7. GemFire (1992)

There are a surprising number of adventure and RPG titles on the Nintendo Classic, more than i expected, but I think it could  still use a good strategy game like KOEI's GemFire. You know, something for the nitty-gritty gamers. Released simultaneously on both SNES and NES in 1992 Gemfire is a beautiful medieval themed turn-based strategy game. As a kid I was first drawn to it's JRPG aesthetic but was a little apprehensive because of the seemingly complicated game play, I am glad I stuck it out because this game is addictive and fun and I got many hours of enjoyment out of this classic.

Bonus shoutouts:

Caveman Games (1990)

Caveman Olympics! The author has decided that this addition needs no justification.

Basewars (1991)

Read Baseball Stars above and sprinkle in some laser sword wielding robots for good measure.

Maniac Mansion (1990)

Another great title for the adventure seekers. The first thing you will notice about this 1990 LucasArts classic is that the game is  obviously a ported PC game. This game was not originally designed for a console life, but it's a great game and it broke the barriers. A great story and a great giant puzzle this game didnt need a mouse and was just as effective with only 2 buttons and d-pad.

So there you have it! A short stroll through the 8-bit recesses of your mind. Maybe this list conjured up some of your long lost gaming memories? So tell us what games would you have liked to see on the Nintendo Classic?

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