How the Setup of Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fundamentally Changes its Combat

The most obvious change that Fire Emblem: Three Houses has brought to the series is the more involved way in which you manage your life off of the battlefield. Instead of restocking your items and triggering support conversations from menus, you’re character is controlled in a fully-rendered hub-world. This system gives everything a much stronger sense of place, while the additional activities you have give you a means of making even deeper connections with the cast. I had so much written on this topic that it ended up forming the basis for my review.

That doesn’t mean the combat has been left alone. Under the hood, there are some sizable changes that make it differ from other Fire Emblem games in recent years. Not sure whether the changes came about because of the story, or the story changed to reflect the mechanical differences. Nevertheless, I thought it would be cool to highlight how they feed off each other to create a unique battle experience.

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Super Mario Maker Design Diary: Tight Squeeze

Going into Super Mario Maker, did you have a plan? A grandiose level design idea that you scribbled in a notebook as a child that been patiently waiting to burst off of the page and into the game? Can’t say I did. After completing the tutorial, I found myself at a loss. What the heck do I do now?

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Game Design Talk: The Broken New Auto Block and Auto Tech Gems in Street Fighter X Tekken

Not too long ago, Capcom released a series of new gems for use with Street Fighter X Tekken. Though I’ve grown into being a gem-hater over the last few months, the original set of gems had little impact on the overall outcome of a match. However, I found out the hard way that the new set of auto block and auto tech gems are a much bigger deal. Why are they such a problem?

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Game Design Talk: Making Fun Games For the Shallow and Deep Ends of the Pool

A few days ago, I was listening to the most recent episode of the Weekend Confirmed podcast that featured David Jaffe, the original designer behind God of War and Twisted Metal. One topic they talked about in particular caught my ear, and it was a discussion about making games fun for different skill levels. The analogy they used was a pool, where the shallow end of the pool was the place for entry-level players and the deep end for the hardcore crowd.

Making a game that is rewarding to all skill levels is hard.

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Game Design Talk: Facing The Scummiest Skylanders Scenario Imaginable

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is a pretty good game on its own. My brother and I played through it with only four toys, and we had a pretty good time with it. Say what you will about the evil and genius marketing ploy of tying the purchase of toys as in-game characters into the mix, but the overall package is fairly solid and enjoyable.

However, it’s not perfect. Particularly when your lack of toys impedes your progress through the game. My brother and I experienced the scummiest of these moments during the final boss fight.

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Game Design Talk – Is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Too Big?

There is nothing about the Skyrim experience that you can describe as “small”. Everything from the size of the world, to the number of quests, to the number of ways to play that game are too large to quantify. Because of how much stuff there is to do in the game, I’m fairly certain that the majority of Skyrim players will never finish the main quest, let alone experience everything that game has to offer.

In spite of its girth, it amazes me how great Skyrim is on almost every front. With that said, could Skyrim have been an overall better game if it wasn’t so grand?

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Game Design Talk: Do You Need Context in Your Video Games?

Having recently completed Vanquish, the game got me thinking about the context behind any given video game. What I mean by context in this sense, is the context behind your actions within a game. For instance, the story of a Super Mario game might be paper thin, but the context for actions is clear: you’re trying to save Princess Peach. Oftentimes, people will use the word ‘story’ in place of ‘context’, but I think context is a better fitting word in this sense.

The context behind Vanquish is awful for a number of reasons, yet I really enjoyed playing that game strictly because I loved the gameplay mechanics that drove the experience. I simply chose to tune out the convoluted story, poor dialogue and bad voice acting.

Though I’ve sort of talked about this topic in the past, I wanted to open this up for discussion. Do you need context in your video games in order to enjoy them?

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Game Design Talk: The Racing Game Wall

For a few days, I was on a roll with Split/Second. I was really enjoying the progression through the career mode and I thought this wouldn’t end like my experiences with Burnout Paradise or Blur, where I hit a figurative brick wall. In both games, I hit a point where I needed “x” amount of points to move onto the next set of challenges, yet I couldn’t muster up the skills to make the necessary progress. At first, I was finishing second or third in my Split/Second races, which was enough to get me to the next episode. However, my lack of perfection eventually caught up.

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Game Design Talk: Rock Band 3 Career Mode

Since I wrote up my initial impressions of Rock Band 3, I’ve had the opportunity to play a few more sessions, including one family party where this and Just Dance 2 were big hits. Harmonix did an amazing job revamping the game on all levels, though I’m of two minds about one major change to the game.

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Game Design Talk: God of War Puts Me Through Hell


After powering through 2/3 of the game in a weekend, I’ve slowly chipped away at God of War ever since. I’m pretty close to the end now, though I currently need to take a break from it to vent my current frustration.

Not that I hate the game or anything. I think it’s pretty fantastic. However, I just passed a part of the game that made me want to rip my hair out. For God of War vets, you probably have a good idea of where I’m going with this. If you haven’t made it this far, I must warn you that there are mild spoilers ahead.

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