Transformers: Forged to Fight Review

The Transformers: Forged to Fight mobile game just came out in the U.S. for iOS and Android. It’s a fighting game that includes characters from many different generations of the Transformers franchise. That means you can have G1 Optimus Prime fight the live action Micheal Bay movie, Optimus Prime. Alternatively, you could have fan-created Windblade from the IDW comics take on Beast Wars Rhinox.

Developed by Kabam, who also made a very popular Marvel Comics fighting game called Contest of Champions. Transformers: Forged to Fight uses the same fighting game engine as Contest of Champions, but adds a 3D experience to the game by giving the characters the ability to sidestep.

STORY

The idea behind Transformers: Forged To Fight is that Transformers from every single aspect of the franchise’s history are being drawn into battle by an unknown enemy. You’re going to see characters from the original 1980s generation, Beast Wars, The Michael Bayverse live action movies, and the IDW comics fighting each other in one-on-one battles.

The story of the game comes to you by way of single-player chapters. Marissa Fairborn is the human character who acts as your battle commander.

At each stage, you are on a map that can have multiple branching paths. It allows you as the player to take an easier route or a harder one. Each with its own varying levels of rewards.

MULTIPLAYER

With multiplayer comes base management. Along with harvesting resources, you’ll be able to assign idle Transformers to guard against other players attacking your base. You’ll also be able to form an alliance with your friends. If you join in on alliance battles you stand to get larger rewards than going at it solo.

CONCLUSION

One of the biggest reasons to play Transformers: Forged To Fight, is the ability to collect so many Transformers from many different generations of the franchise. This is something you haven’t been able to do before in thirty plus years Transformers games. With so many different characters you’ll get some unique animations. Everything from Transforming, shooting, and special moves.

As far as mobile fighting games go this is one of the best ones I’ve played. It’s fun and easy enough to learn. Though I do wish I could find a list of moves.

Like nearly every other mobile game available, this one is freemium. You’re going to get asked a lot to buy energy, crystals, shields, repair kids, etc at every opportunity. Personally, I would rather spend twenty bucks up front to have a fully unlocked game.

 

YOSHICAST #005: Grand Theft Auto

Thanks for checking out episode #005 of the YOSHICAST! If you want to comment on what you’ve heard on this episode please send an e-mail, leave a comment, Facebook me, or call me up and leave a voice mail. I’d love to hear from you. (360) 610-7047.

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On this episode of the YOSHICAST, Bo and I talk about our favorite video game. Grand Theft Auto V.

Show Notes:

Team Power Awesome Team Gallery

The Transformers: Battle to Save The Earth – The David Crane Interview

David Crane, video gaming industry’s pioneer. The man behind such classic titles as Pitfall, Ghostbusters, A Boy and His Blob, and Amazing Tennis. Mr. Crane is also the man behind ‘The Transformers: Battle to Save Earth’. A game for the Commodore 64.

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The Transformers: Battle to Save The Earth, is an action role-playing game released by Activision in 1986. As the Autobots, players fight the Decepticons in an attempt to stop them from stealing Earth’s resources. At the end of the game the winner is decided by which side, Autobot or Decepticons, has the most resource points. A medal is awarded to the player depending on their performance.

My personal copy of The Transformers: Battle To Save The Earth.
My personal copy of The Transformers: Battle to Save The Earth.

I contacted Mr. Crane and asked him a few questions about the Transformers video game. He was very generous with his time. His answers are amazing when you read about all the tricks and technologies he had to implement or invent to complete the project.

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David Crane

Question: Did you (or Activision), seek out the Transformers property or did Hasrbo come to you?

I was not involved in the initial discussions about the Transformer license – we had a department for that – so I wouldn’t know who initiated contact.  What did happen at Activision, however, is that when a possible license was available, the game designers were consulted to determine our interest in making a game based on that property.  If we didn’t think a license would add value to a game (or vice versa), we wouldn’t recommend the deal.

David Crane (1983)
David Crane (1983)

Question: What was it like working with Hasrbo on the Transformers game?

They were pretty hands-off, which is the way a game designer likes it.  The toy products were available off the shelf for artistic review, and we also had a couple of animated feature films to draw upon.

Question: How much say did you have on the story of the game?

I personally did not have to interface with Hasbro, and I created the story of the game from scratch.  So either they didn’t need story control, or they liked my story enough that comments never filtered down to me from the licensing department.

David Crane (1979)
David Crane (1979)

Question: Where you given any source materials to work from?

I don’t recall any special, private source materials that weren’t available publicly, such as the toys and films.  That said, licensors always provide “camera ready art” of a product’s logos and such.  Those things would have been given directly to the game’s artist, Hilary Mills.

Question: How long did it take to create the Transformers game?

Transformers was a typical C-64 development project, taking about a year to produce.

Question: Something that sticks out to me is that the game features both Rodimus Prime and Hot Rod. Essentially this is two versions of the same character. Do you recall the reasoning why the game was developed to show this character in both versions at the same time? 

I am not about to contradict you, since I haven’t looked at the game in 30 years, but I remember putting both Optimus Prime and Hotrod in the game.  I don’t think I have ever heard of Rodimus Prime (although it is possible that the manual writers mixed up some of the names).

Question: Do you have any stories during the development of the Transformers that sick out?

Transformers_Battle_To_Save_Earth_FloppyfrontStating the obvious, what was cool about the Transformers toys was that they could transform from a car to a robot using hinges and gears.  These days, a video game console renders game characters three-dimensionally, and can thus duplicate those transformations easily.  The C-64 had a 2D display and generally had to pre-render every sprite image.  Using a pre-rendered method to show, for example, a 16-step transformation would require all of the Commodore’s memory to store 16 full, large sprite images.

I wanted to make the Transformer characters HUGE (for the day), taking up half the screen height.  A C-64 disk couldn’t hold 16 transformations of every Transformer in the game.  So to make it happen I had to invent a way.  I had the artist create a sheet of elements which, if properly superimposed, would create the illusion of rotating, sliding parts to transform from car to robot.  I then created a drawing language similar to Postscript that could draw each element from a small data file.

When a Transformer was about to transform, I spawned a hidden screen buffer in the C-64 RAM and drew the “element sheet” Postscript-like into the RAM from one compressed data table.  From another table I composited a number of the drawn elements into predetermined positions.  This table would say “Take N rows and M columns of pixels starting at X,Y in the element sheet, and draw them to the visible screen at X1, Y1.  Repeat that process for a number of the elements to composite together each of the interim transformations that the Transformer went through.  The benefit was that 16 transformations only took up one “screen” of memory.  It was a masterpiece of art and programming.

Most modern mobile gaming platforms use this element sheet innovation, now called a “Sprite Sheet.”

Question: I read on your Reddit – Ask Me Anything interview that the Transformers: Battle to Save The Earth, you created “Digitized Speech” for the Commodore 64 so that the player could hear the entire Transformers history. Is the audio we hear here from an actual voice actor or is it 100% digital? If it was a voice actor, is he someone recognizable?

Transformers_Battle_To_Save_Earth_BackOne of the animated Transformers films or TV shows had a narrated story about how these intelligent transforming beings came to be.  The intro that you hear if you play the flip side of the C-64 diskette is the audio track from this intro, recorded by a professional announcer.  In the video version, there were cartoon animations accompanying the story.  The C-64 could never have accomplished that, so the artist created a slide show from the video version.

Transformers: The Battle To Save The EarthTO make the C-64 do this, (yet another innovation that had never been done on that platform), I had to first digitize the voice over in a form that the C-64 could produce.  (That was 4 bits per sample, although I don’t recall the sample rate.)  Then I had to write a completely new disk driver, replacing both the driver in the C-64 and downloading a new driver to the 1541 disk drive.  Commodore’s original disk driver was too slow to use for this – I recall my version was 20 times faster than the original.

Using this much improved disk driver I was able to download a full screen slide show image (during the silence between sentences), and then download data quickly enough to play the audio voice over while the related slide was displayed.  All of that effort went into the content on the back side of the disk.  Effort like this, above and beyond the call of duty, was typical of Activision, and part of why our games were so successful.

Question: The art here is really quite amazing to look at. Was this all you? Where you given anything to work from?

The art was all Hilary Mills, one of the first professional video game artists.  The tools that she had to work with were like stone knives and bearskins.  Photoshop was not even a dream back then.  She did a remarkable job with tools that basically required drawing each individual colored pixel of an image

Question: The title screen of the game reads: Vol 1: The Battle to Save Earth. Was there talk that there would be multiple Transformers games produced by Activion?

It is unlikely that we would have entered  into a license agreement that didn’t allow for sequels.  Further games just didn’t happen.

I would like to thank Crane for his time. It was a sincere honor and pleasure to have had this opportunity to interview a legend and pioneer in the video game industry.

Related Links

Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers: Mystery of Convoy

Do you know the worst Transformers game of all time? Arguably it’s Transformers: Mystery of Convoy. (The direct translation of the title is: Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers: Mystery of Convoy.) This 1986 cartridge game was created exclusively for the Japanese Nintendo Famicom system. It’s a game so bad they misspelled “Convoy”. 

So why does this game exist? Because the 1986 the animated Transformers movie didn’t get released in Japan until 1990. Fans watching The Transformers cartoon went from season 2 to season 3 without a movie in between. This left a question with Japaneses Transformers fans. What the hell happened to Optimus Prime?

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To capitalize on this, Transformers: Mystery of Convoy, was made to answer that question. The game’s title “Convoy” being Optimus Prime and mystery of who killed him.

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Mystery of Convoy is a 2D platformer game consisting of 10 notoriously difficult levels. You play as Ultra Magnus, firing your short range gun at waves of enemies.

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I’ve read about people who’ve played this game. All express their frustration over how difficult it is. Sluggish controls, poor hit mechanics, and an insane number of enemies are just some of the reasons this game sucks.

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The game has a few secrets and four possible endings. Bumblebee is in the game to help you skip levels, but only if you kill special red enemy jets that appear at random. If you collect hidden letters to spell “RODIMUS” you get one of two good ending screens. The first telling you that Rodimus Prime will continue the investigation. Now you can play the whole game again as Rodimus Prime. If you beat the game as Rodimus Prime, you are shown the second good ending.

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The funny thing is, I can’t find anything about this game that actually answers the question of what happened to Opimtus Prime. Do you know? Leave a comment below.

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Useful Links

Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules

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The Swords & Wizardry Complete Rules are now free to download in PDF form. I have been hearing roomers about this possibly happening for a month or so now and its really exciting to see that it actually has happened. Now more people can play the tabletop RPG that I have been enjoying for a few years now.

I got into Swords & Wizardry, after spending years playing tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and Pathfinder. I was never happy with those games and every now and then when my gaming group would come over we would do a one shot of some random RPG I had collected in hopes of finding something better than the two previously mentioned games. Eventually, we stumbled onto Swords & Wizardry, and from the moment I drew up my first Character, I knew this a great game.

Swords & Wizardry is based upon one of the first versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Using the old game as a starting point, Swords & Wizardry takes the rules and simplify them, making them easier to read. If you have ever wanted to try Dungeons & Dragons, or any RPG for that matter, I really think that Swords & Wizardry is one of the better starting points for new people and a game that veteran players will enjoy.

The 5th Edition

While I was at PAX this year, I had a chance to play a demo of Dungeons & Dragons Next with an official representative of Wizards of the Coast. You can see a video of the game I was playing here. I really had an enjoyable time playing the game and after it was over, I was able to talk to our Dungeon Master and ask several questions about the new edition and how it was progressing. Unfortunately, I left the gaming table somewhat disappointed with the state of Dungeons & Dragons Next and I don’t expect the things I would need to buy the game to be addressed by it’s release sometime in 2014.

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In a nutshell D&D Next is still too complex for my tastes. Please don’t get me wrong, I do think that the 5th edition of this game is a lot better than 4th edition. I figured that out just by looking at my character sheet. Gone are skill checks from your character sheet. Now if you want to do something outside the box that would be considered a skill you just use your Ability Score Modifiers and add them to your D20 roll to see if you accomplish your goal. This is a nice example of how the game has been cleaned up and streamlined. But the sad fact is that you are still doing a ton of math, adding all your extra points of damage from weapons or abilities, rolling extra dice for advantage and so on. I found this to not only be confusing, but also detracting and slowing down the story being played out in front of me.

The latest version of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), currently known has D&D Next, is Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) latest attempt to reboot the worlds most popular tabletop role playing game. The game is currently in beta stages and WotC is receiving feedback from fans who have been testing out the new rules. WotC is trying to bat a home run with this game by trying to win back fans after the D&D 4th edition failure, while at the same time converting older fans who have been perfectly content playing older editions of the game.

I do understand and respect that there are gamers out in the world that enjoy the mathematical crunch of a good game mechanic. I am just not one one of those gamers. When I first looked at my printed off character sheet for a level one Cleric for 5th edition, I let out a sigh of disappointment. Already I knew that if I had to write out this character by hand that there was no way I could fit all the information I needed on the front and back of one character sheet. Which to me is very disappointing. To me when I think of a tabletop role playing game, I think pencil and paper. I feel like I should be able to write down everything I need with a pencil and one sheet of paper. I shouldn’t need to print off the character sheet from my computer or need several index cards to write down all the extra information my character has. That’s just not fun for me.

When D&D Next was first announced, I was feeling very optimistic about it. I recall early talks of this 5th edition by WotC being modular. Think three ring binder of sorts that would contain the rules for how to play D&D in its most basic form. Rules light if you will. Then, as you wanted to add eliminates from 2nd, 3rd, or 4th editions of the game, along with extra character options you could just by adding on packs or sheets and inserting them into your binder. D&D Next. The edition for everyone. I thought this was was a great idea and something I could see myself buying. But shortly after the first beta of the game was released for public testing, I knew that this great idea was no longer going to be an option for fans.

The truth of the matter is, I cut my teeth on D&D. I love the name of the game and I want to support it. But the reality is I have found that I enjoy gaming with a modern clone of the original D&D game called Swords & Wizardry. I would rather play a game called Dungeons & Dragons. I want to come back home to my roots and play and support the game that has been around since before I was born. I just don’t see that happening with D&D Next. But like any fan of the hobby, I will continue to hold out hope until the official rule books are released and and I can see for myself what WotC is asking me to buy.

Acquisitions Incorporated

Something I think that keeps a lot of people from getting started with a tabletop role playing game is the intimidation factor. Tabletop role playing games don’t use the thin little rules booklet that comes with most board games or video games. Tabletop role playing games come with books of rules. Just that alone is a turn off to a lot of people. Which is really quite sad because they are walking away from one of the best gaming experiences one can ever have.

Dungeons & Dragons: Core Rulebook Gift Set
Dungeons & Dragons: Core Rulebook Gift Set

One thing I think that tabletop role playing game producers and fans can do to help bring new people into the hobby is by producing videos of game play. They give new players a foothold on how to approach and play these kinds of games. A great example of this is Acquisitions Incorporated, an adventuring party founded by the creators of Penny Arcade and hosted by Wizards of the Coast, creators of Dungeons & Dragons.

These videos are entertaining to everyone and are so worth watching.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmWri849I18]