Xbox 360 Impressions Update

I’ve been playing some more Catan in the last days. After a meal, it’s nice to pop in a multiplayer match. Because I ALWAYS loose, I get frustrated quickly and leave the console rather then getting stuck in front of it. Generally it is very good. It could use some interface tweaking though. Very important and useful functions are often invisible. For example, there is a screen that shows how many resources are in play. This screen is quite important as you can consult it before you start trading to check what you can expect to get from others. The screen is shown by holding one of the trigger buttons. Although I generally like quasi-modes, there is no hint telling players that this function exists at all. As a result, players will request resources that nobody has and waste everybody’s time. Also, I don’t quite get why I have to press ANOTHER trigger button just to see how many points everybody has. The whole GOAL of the game is to collect points, why would such a vital information be hidden? It’s not like this one number takes up precious space.
Also, I ran against a poorly documented rule – it seems like you can’t build more than 5 settlements but the actual message box that pops up spells something like “No more space to settle”. I might have lost 2 games until I figured it out.
Of course, I’m just whining because I didn’t manage to score even one win online. :-(

Grand Theft Auto 4
I played some more GTA4. Actually, more than I should have. It is very addictive. I think I got a good impression of the scope so far and I’m quite surprised. Compared to San Andreas, there is a lot of stuff missing. For example, San Andreas had a rudimentary car tuning system. I really like the cars in GTA4 and was looking forward to unlock that feature to mess around with them. I was surprised when I realized it was missing this time. Although it seems like a step backwards, on a second thought I think it was a good choice to leave it out. San Andreas was this bloated, convoluted behemoth. GTA4 is more focused, slimmer and polished. So you don’t have to choose the exact menu when you buy a burger and you don’t get fat and don’t have to hit the gym to get in shape. The title “GTA4″ is actually spot-on: it is a GTA3 remake, rather than a San Andreas sequel.

Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this but the story is really good – at least as good as a solid movie or TV series. The main character is very well fleshed out and lovable. There are cool plot twists and witty dialogue (not just funny but witty!). Because of the story and the refined boiled-down mechanics, I think this is the best one to start if you haven’t played the series yet (Yu-Chung: hint, hint!).

The only problem so far: Sady, this one is very true. :-/

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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