Archive for January, 2012

Basic Info: Rendering

Posted: January 29, 2012 in INFR 2350
Tags: ,
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on the topic of rendering, I am simply posting what I understand and basic topics related to rendering. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong below in the comments!

What is “Rendering?”

Rendering is the process of producing an image from a scene, object or model. Scenes, objects, and models are data structures that contain a ton of information on what they are supposed to represent.  This includes geometry, viewpoint, lighting, shading, textures and all sorts of descriptive data on the scene. This data is used to create an image of what it is intended to be. This information is often passed through a computer’s GPU which creates an output of the object.

Rendering is used in any case that requires 3D computer graphics.

Cool, well that sounds pretty easy. Guess there isn’t much on this topic. Can we move onto something else?

False. There is plenty to know when it comes to rendering. Rendering can also take a variety of times depending on what is being rendered. Different techniques and application are used for rendering.

Rendering in Video Games vs. Movies

In 3D graphics, people often think of 3D animated films or video games. 3D animated films use pre-rendering which renders every single frame of the movie and saves it for later where it it stitched into the movie itself. This is very computer intensive process, which is why animating firms such as Pixar have what we call, “rendering farms” or “server farms” which are giant buildings that contain several high end computers/servers that crunch down on rendering processes. Even having such large resources to do the rendering, it can still take a significant time to render an entire movie.

A good example is in an article in Wired.com, it said it took 7 hours to render a single frame in Toy Story 3.  7 hours! PER FRAME! According to the article it took 1084 days to make the movie. No wonder why it takes so long when rendering is such an time consuming activity.

Video games on the other hand use real-time rendering, but if we’re doing it in “real-time” wouldn’t we need super duper intense computers to render each frame in real time?

No. Real time rendering uses simplified approximations in the data (approximations) to keep things simple and render quicker on the screen. Movie scenes each have very exact values that need to be rendered to look “perfect” on the big screen.

Real time rendering screenshot of Final Fantasy XIII. Notice the flat grass texture, simplified scenes to render quicker! Not every blade of grass is rendered, only important objects.

Pre-rendered scene from Final Fantasy XIII. Notice that this is way more detailed, every hair on Lightning is rendered. These types of scenes are often cutscenes and not times where players can interact. 

Techniques of Rendering:

Ray Casting

Ray casting parses the information in scene files pixel by pixel, line by line from the point of view outward. Imagine rays are being cast from the point of view. Ray casting uses rough simulations for things such as optical properties, lighting etc. In addition color of scenes can be based on using texture maps. This type of rendering is often used for real time simulations such as games or any application where extreme detail is not priority/important. This technique is not as computationally costly as ray tracing.

Ray Tracing 

This technique aims to use the natural flow of light on the scene. Light is interpreted as particles when a scene is being rendered. This technique has several other topics within it that I will not discuss such as path tracgin, Monte Carlo methods, Bidirectional path tracing and much more. This method is very costly because of how much needs to be calculated to create a photo realistic image. This technique is too slow to be used in real time applications for the average consumer (we don’t all own super computers!)

Scanline rendering and rasterization

Sort of like ray casting, but instead of a pixel by pixel approach to rendering, this uses a primitive to primitive rendering approach. This would mean it would render triangles to triangles as an example. By going through each primitive, the computer will decide how this affects pixels on the screen and will modify the pixel accordingly to the primitive. This approximation is called rasterization and is used by all current GPUs. This technique is faster than going pixel to pixel because primitives can take up a large area of pixels and rasterization ignores all empty areas so it does not need to render those pixels. This is a quick technique, though it provides a lesser-quality image versus ray casting (pixel by pixel).

Other info:

There are so many other topics for rendering such as radiosity, sampling and filtering (anti-aliasing). This will be all I will be going over this blog post though. Stay tuned for more though!

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War, Spies, and Briefcases.

Posted: January 29, 2012 in INFR 2330
Tags: , ,
Update: Pictures of the physical prototype will be added later, after it is made/completed. 

When people think of war, or even World War II, they often think of gunshots, rifles, machine guns, dogfights and anything that makes a bang. There is also another side to the war where the objective was to be as quiet as possible pretty much. And this is what brings us to the espionage based events of WWII mainly between the US and the Soviets. This espionage activity was mostly due to the nuclear arms race and the soviets were trying to get information on the US’s infamous Manhattan Project. Likewise the US tried to gain information on its enemies and their nuclear arms/plans as well.

This leads us to the theme of our board game. Players will try to collect intelligence placed in briefcases from the opposing team.

There will be no violence/death in this WWII game!

Goals/Objectives

Each team will have a total of 3 briefcases which contain intel from each country. Players will try to collect the enemy team’s intel and head back to their base with it. First team to get all 3 briefcases will win.

Game Mechanics and Dynamics

This game uses a similar Collection dynamic that was used in my previous post of Cats and Mice. Players will use the collection dynamic to pick up suitcases and bring them back to their Headquarters (starting box of each team). In a way this will also include a race to the finish dynamic, as players want to reach the other side of the board to receive a briefcase before an enemy reaches their briefcases.

Yes we will be using the cliche briefcase full of Top Secret information. Similar to getting enemy intel from Team Fortress. 

Player Conflict

The game will also be a team based competition between the US team and Soviet team. The players will be travelling across the board trying to reach the other side. There will be conflict between the players if a player moves across a tile with an enemy player on it. This will break out into a sequence of a “War” type scenario with cards or dice, more on that later.

Kind of reminds me of Spy vs. Spy. Anyone else remember that? The good old days. 

Rules and Mechanics:

Setup:

There will be 3 briefcases on each side on the board, which is divided in 2 with one being a US area, and the other is Soviet area. Players will put their pieces on the starting tile for their respective teams. Try to keep it even, with 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, etc. Teams will choose one person from each side to do the starting roll with the dice, highest number means that team gets to go first. The sequence of players will be all players of one team will roll, then the other team’s players can roll. It will not be US player rolls, Soviet player rolls, US player rolls etc. It will be a team based sequence (Ex. US player 1 rolls, US player 2 rolls, Soviet player 1 rolls, Soviet player 2 rolls).

Gameplay:

Players will have their usual dice rolls to move the number of tiles represented on the dice. There will be alternate paths along the board, some with forks. Direction to take on a fork will result in a deciding action, such as rolling a dice, even number goes left, odd number goes right on the fork. This type of movement will only occur when players are on enemy tiles. So if a Soviet player reaches a fork in the path while on US soil, they must let the dice decide the path they take. While if a Soviet player is on their own turf, they can choose which direction to take.

Players will reach enemy briefcases, and must return back to their base with the briefcase.

What happens if I cross an enemy player?

Good question. You will break out into a “War” sequence. It will be a best 2/3 situation with dice rolls, where players must roll a higher number than the other player. Losing player will be sent back to their starting tile (they didn’t die! They just got sent back to HQ due to.. injuries).

If the player that lost is holding a briefcase, the briefcase will be dropped onto that tile where they once stood. If the briefcase belongs to your team, a player can go by, pick it up, and return it to HQ. While if it is an enemy briefcase, you can go retrieve it and bring it back to your HQ.

Some tiles will contain “Event Cards” which will affect the player drawing a card. Cards will pertain to the WW2 theme, such as “Your pen gun misfired into you food, you have been slowed. Next 2 turns -2 from your movement rolls.” There can also be beneficial cards such as “You’ve received false identity documents for your enemy team’s country. Going through enemy checkpoints just got a whole lot easier. +1 to all your dice roll in their territory.”

What? I’m totally a real officer for your army…

Resolution:

First team to get all enemy briefcases back to their HQ will win the game! Success, all their nuclear planned goodness is yours!

Update: I will try to get pictures of the actual game prototype being made later on, when it’s created. 

Goals and Objectives

The objective of the game is for the mice players to bring back the bits of cheese to their hole, while the cat players’ objective is to catch the mice players. The first team to reach a set amount (i.e 3 pieces of cheese, or 3 mice “kills) wins. This game is meant for an even number of players such as 2,4,6 etc.

Love me some cheese. Who doesn’t like cheese? You don’t? Get out 🙂 

Game Mechanics/Dynamics

The game will involve a mixture of collection and predator/play style mechanics and dynamics. The mice players in the game will be playing with a collection based mechanic, where they must go to patches on the board that contain cheese, picking it up and heading back to their holes to successfully gain a point for choose. While on the other team, the cats, their objective is to hunt down their prey, which are the mice players. Cat players will be predators on the gameboard trying to catch up to the mice and capturing/killing the mice players.

Catch those pesky mice!!! Trying to get all my cheese. 

Player Conflict

The game is based around team based competition. There will be physical conflict between the player pieces on the board, where mice players are trying to avoid conflict with the cats, while cats are trying to catch the mice pieces on the board.

No, sadly mice will not be able to attack/capture the cats. 

Rules and Mechanics:

Here are the rules and mechanics of the game so far:

Setup:

The board for the game will have a “squiggly path” layout over the board. There will be several routes, where there will be forks and loops for several path choices. Players will be able to choose directions to head, while number of tiles to travel will be based on dice rolls.

The board will have more paths/be bigger. But I just wanted to give you an idea on what I meant by “squiggly board.” 

Cats will start on the designated starting box on the board, while Mice will start at their designated starting tile, also known as their home/mouse hole. Mice players get to roll first, while cat players must wait 2 turns before they can start to roll.

 Gameplay:

The mice players will receive a bonus 2 rolls at the start before cat players can join in and start moving.

 Gameplay for the mice:

The objective is to located the cheese pieces scattered along the board. A mouse player must land on a tile with a cheese piece to collect the cheese. After collection, the mouse player must head back to their hole in a path of their choice. Once they are safely returned home, they will be awarded 1 point for the cheese count. Once the total cheese count returned back to their hole reaches the agreed upon amount to win, the mice team wins (Ex. goal 3 pieces of cheese per player, 3 players, total of 9 pieces, can be achieved through teamwork and not strictly 3 pieces from each player).

 Gameplay for the cats:

After the mice players have finished their first 2 rolls of the dice, the cat players can start moving out of their starting boxes. The cats can choose any direction they wish to go and they must chase the mouse players. Goal of the cats will be to land on top of a mouse player. Cats do not need to finish landing on a tile with a mouse, if the cat passes over a tile while moving with a mouse on that tile, the mouse will be sent back to their starting position. In essence, mice will respawn.

Mice will have a respawn penalty of 1 missed turn.

Resolution:

First team to reach 3 points per player (or another number that was agreed upon) will win the game. Cats will get points for each mouse capture, mice will get points for each cheese capture.

Other gameplay concepts/rules:

The game board will have certain tiles that say “Cat Item Card” or will be colored to be identified as that. This will allow the player that lands on these tiles to draw a card from the Cat Item Card pile, where it will have a specific even/item such as “Move to closest mouse, 5 tiles away from the mouse in a direction the mouse player specifies.” The same will be for the mice players, where a card may say “Go to the closest cheese piece.” to speed the game up and to give boosts to players.

There will be a radius near the mice spawning box, where cats will not be allowed to enter. This will prevent any camping-style gameplay.

Can’t be a cherry picker, earn those points! 

After working away and meeting up late into the night, the “Race to the Finish” style board game for Game Design and Production was completed as a polished prototype. An attempt was made to make it look pretty, trying to mask what it really was; the lid of a pizza box.

Me and my group members Sascha Maurer and Jason Poirier played a quick round of the game dubbed “Race from the Aces” after they explained the rules of the game to me. Took 15-25minutes to complete the game, with Sascha quickly dominating the round. But realizing the game was pretty much complete and spitting out a few new ideas for the game board for a later version, we cracked down to business on ideas and planning for the “Territory Acquisition Prototype.”

What our initial ideas were:

The Board:

The original drawing for the board was kind of a squiggly cloud looking board with squares/drawn areas on it. But it was decided to keep the board simple and base it on a square grid. Now what size should we use? We first wanted a 20×20 grid, but realized this meant there would be a total of 400 squares. That’s a lot of territory to try and conquer am I right? So that’s a no go. We reduced the large number of squares into a 12×12 grid, meaning there would be a total of 144 squares. Not a problem. This worked perfectly with the game system/ideas we thought of for the game.

Thus we agreed upon a 12×12 grid board, with certain sections as different terrain, which includes water, volcano/magma, grasslands, air, forests etc. (Final elements still TBA). We pretty much want to base the elements/terrain sections of the board on the 5 basic elements for the tribes in the game (more details later).

Here are some example boards to give a rough idea of what it may or may not look like, refinements will obviously be made:

Board will look differently depending on incorporated elements on each tile plus it will be in a 12×12 grid dimension.

In the final stages, if time/budget permitting, the board can be made “pretty” by making it somewhat 3D/textured with a 12×12 grid overlay upon the terrain.

The Players: Setup:

This territorial game will be for 2-4 players as requested.

Each player will control a certain tribe at the beginning of the game. Depending on what 4 elements we choose to incorporate into the board game, this will then lead to further perks and benefits depending on your tribe. The selection on the type of tribe a player is is still to be declared. Possible ways to choose are:

  • Have element cards face down, shuffled/rearrange them on a tabletop and have players select a card. Players roll a die and selection order will be highest number to lowest number on the roll
  • Whatever element of the square you start off on will be your tribes element (more details on where you start on the board later)
  • Players simply choose what element they want to be

After certain elements are chosen, players can then also choose a certain “Hero” card. Heroes are certain types of characters that will be given to players, each with a unique buff and is the commanding/lead character of the player’s army. The Heroes we have thought to include are the following, each with unique abilities/buffs for one’s army:

  • Warrior (Offensive buffs)
  • Healer (Defensive buffs)
  • Leader/General (Reinforcement buffs)
  • Assassin/Thief (Offense/Defense buffs)
  • More to be thought of/added; TBA

The selection process will be similar to one of the element selection ideas. Hero cards will be placed face down on a tabletop and shuffled thoroughly so selection will be random. Order of selection process will be dependent on dice rolls. Highest roller picks first, descending to lowest roller picking last.

Gameplay: How do I work this thing?

To setup the base/camp/starting positions, using 12 sided die, players will roll them to get values. One die will represent the grids X-Axis, then other die represents the Y-Axis, thus providing us with an X,Y coordinate. This coordinate will be the starting tile position the player will be on. In the event of the same coordinate as another player, the player will simply roll again. If a player is right beside another player, you must take that position. The game goes on! It’s part of the challenge depending how lucky/unlucky you may be.

A twelve sided die.

A twenty sided die. Remember this is bad, as we are not playing on a 20×20 board with 400 tiles!

Next we will talk about the game mechanics. After setting up camp on whatever tile you may have gotten, players will start off with 5-10 soldiers (TBA) on the tile. The player to make their first person will be the one who rolled the lowest number from the selection process. So pretty much you will go in ascending order based on the dice values you rolled, lowest to highest. Opposite of the selection order.

Players must follow the phase pattern that structure every turn.

  1. Reinforcement – At the beginning of every turn (excluding the first round of turns), every tile occupied by that player will receive 1 additional soldier up to a maximum of 5-10 (TBA)
  2. Movement – Player is allowed to transfer troops to different tiles that are adjacent to the tile the soldier is originally on. This means if a tile of 5 soldiers, a player can only transfer soldiers to another tile touching that tile in a turn. This can be repeated for any tiles you want that you already occupied in the previous round. I.E you cannot transfer soldiers to an unoccupied tile, then transfer those troops to another unoccupied tile.
  3. Battle – Players can choose to attack tiles that are occupied by other players. Battle system will be discussed further down

The battle system of the game will either incorporate cards or dice. This will essentially be a player playing war with another player. Player 1 (challenger) will draw a card or roll a die. Player 2 will draw a card or roll a die. Whoever has the highest value (Ace to King or 1-12 lowest to highest) wins, and loser deducts 1 soldier from the soldier count of their tile. This will continue until one of the tiles reaches zero. If the challenger wins, the player can choose to move troops into that tile immediately, but only using the tile that just fought. If troops are unavailable, the tile will remain unoccupied.

This brings up another point. You must have at least 1 soldier on a tile to occupy it and gain reinforcements.

When occupying a tile, there will be chips available to place on tiles. Players must place 2 chips on a tile to indicate a) the tribe and b) the soldier count. Tribe colors will be dependent on the element they belong to and soldier count will range from 1-5 or 1-10 (TBA). The chip placement will look like the following:

This will continue until players are all defeated, or whoever owns the most territory after a certain number of turns (ex. 30) wins the game. The choice of how to win has not been declared yet.

Important Tip!: Depending on your tribes element, the tile you occupy can give you a buff (TBA) So water tribe on a water tile can give you the advantage you need!

Well that’s cool, anything else?

Yes! Actually there are many other features that were discussed, but not 100% decided upon how to implement it into the game, or organize it into the game mechanics. This includes “Event Cards”, “Item Cards” etc. This will add buffs are other neat things that will help players get an advantage in the game and acquire more territory faster. The type of cards have not been created/discussed entirely yet but we hope to add more features to the mechanics of the game.

We must establish and develop/iron out the core features of the game, gameplay, and game mechanics.

That is our territorial acquisition prototype for now. Let’s just call it “That Territorial Acquisition Game With Tribes And Elements” (TTAGWTAE) Sounds cool huh?

Pronounced: tag-wuh-tay

Be sure to right click and open image in new tab/window to look at images in full size on the screenshot comparisons. The thumbnails don’t show all that jaggy goodness.

I’ve been noticing a while while playing Gran Turismo 5 (GT5) there would often be “jaggies” (rough lines) in the shadows of vehicles or in the lines of the car in certain light. I thought to myself what’s going on? A quick search and I quickly found out it was the anti-aliasing that couldn’t keep up in the game on the PS3.

I would like to write a whole blog post on everything there is to know about anti-aliasing, the limitations on current generation consoles, and all sorts of goodies; but let’s be serious, I’m not expert on this stuff. So I’ll write what I know and what I have experienced. Nothing more, nothing less. I can’t pretend to know everything and ramble on about anti-aliasing when I have no idea what I’m talking about. But on with the post.

What is anti-aliasing?

It is a technique for removing/minimizing/smoothing edges that contain artifacts that create a “jagged” look. These jagged edges are often called “jaggies”

When there becomes an abundance of jagged edges on the objects in a game within a scene, it can become quite overwhelming and look… well, bad.

Here is an example of a jaggy showing up in GT5 in one of the car’s shadows:

Where is it used?

For this blog post I will be concentrating on anti-aliasing on the PS3. Though it is still used on the Xbox 360 as well as computer based games. It’s pretty much used anywhere you need to smooth an edge, not gaming exclusive.

Okay… so the PS3 can make things look all smooth and awesome?

No. Not always. Let’s start with the PS3’s hardware. It uses a cell processor as its CPU that is a PowerPC-base core with several SPEs (Synergistic Processing Elements). The graphics is done through the PS3’s GPU, called the RSX based off of Nvidia’s G70 architecture.  The system has 256MB of RAM and the GPU has a total of 256MB as well, combining to a total of only 512MB of RAM in the whole machine. In today’s standards, that’s not a lot of RAM. This causes developers to develop techniques around these hardware limitations to squeeze the most graphics performance out of the machine. So after giving you an idea that the PS3’s hardware isn’t the most hardcore hardware for gaming, let’s get onto how it does the anti-aliasing.

The conventional way/old school way of doing anti aliasing is doing all the processes through the GPU. Nowadays new techniques are being developed for anti aliasing processing.

What kind of techniques are used for anti-aliasing? 

PS3 supports a variety of AA (anti-aliasing) techniques. There is the the technique that the Xbox 360 uses which is MSAA (Multi-sample Anti-Aliasing), QCAA (Quincunx Anti-Aliasing), and the more recent MLAA (Morphological Anti-Aliasing).

The PS3’s quincunx AA is sad to have superior anti aliasing over Xbox 360’s MSAA without affecting performance/using more resources. QCAA likes to blur details more, thus blurs the jaggies together making things look smoother. A comparison of MSAA with an Xbox 360 and QCAA with a PS3:

Although the Xbox shows a bit more detail texture wise, it does contain a lot more jagged edges versus the PS3’s smoother anti aliased scene.

Well about those other techniques you said developers are using?

An interesting custom anti aliasing technique used in a game was actually done in The Saboteur by Pandemic. Some people say they simply found edges and blurred them, it’s actually not the case. They developed an algorithm that took advantage of the PS3’s cell processor and ran the algorithm through its SPUs, finding edges using luminance and applying multiple passes of blending over the edges to make it look good.

Well how did they go and do t hat?

The Saboteur took advantage of the PS3’s Cell CPU (this anti aliasing cannot be found on the Xbox 360 version of The Saboteur). They offloaded tasks usually only processed by the GPU onto the SPUs of the PS3. This allowed it to do all the processes sooner, allowing the game to pass the scene several times through a “filter” of blurring the edges in the game. Though because this technique puts the whole screen through the filters before outputting them onto the screen, even the HUD is affected by the AA technique, blurring the HUD. Here is a comparison of the PS3 and Xbox versions. Sadly I cannot embed the video. But I here are pictures as well:

PS3

Xbox 360

I enjoy how one of the bushes in the well’s shadow is completed unaffected and remains green on the Xbox screenshot. Shadows on dynamic objects… hmm, maybe the next post? 

http://www.eurogamer.net/videos/the-saboteur-xbox-360-versus-ps3-face-off

Summary

Overall, anti aliasing techniques are evolving, though in the current generation platforms/consoles, it is very limited on what we do due to the limited resources in the hardware. Through this, developers are innovating with new ideas, creating new anti-aliasing techniques. It may work for them, but in the end it has to work well for your game. Every technique has a tradeoff, performance and graphic-wise. Though AA is a great example of seeing how developers are pushing limited technology to their limits and developing techniques into further advancement.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert, professional, or entirely educated on this topic. This will be a general explanation/overview on what I know and what I can share. 

SLI stands for Scalable Link Interface which was developed by Nvidia as a multi-GPU solution. This allows a user to link two or more video cards (GPUs) together to create a single output from the GPUs working collectively. All of this creates parallel processing, which increases the power/performance for graphics in a computer. Similarly AMD also has their own multi-GPU solution for their GPUs called CrossfireX. I will only be talking about SLI from Nvidia, but some of the things can be applied to AMD’s CrossfireX.

The number of GPUs you can put together using SLI is dependent on your motherboard (and your budget haha), whether or not it is SLI certified or has enough slots to host several GPUs on it. Also a user must have a power supply unit that is capable or providing enough power to the additional cards.

How do I use SLI?

To use SLI, in addition to having a capable motherboard, your video cards must have the identical GPU. They can be different brands, clock speeds, BIOS revisions and memory size, but the GPU series itself must be the same to work with each other (ex. you can SLI an EVGA GTX560 Ti and a Gigabyte GTX560 Ti together, but you cannot SLI an EVGA GTX480 and an EVGA GTX 290 together).

So what does SLI do for me graphics wise? 

Besides just better performance overall, if two GPUs are SLI’d together, while running PhysX based applications (games) one GPU can be dedicated entirely towards the calculation of the physics in the game, while the other GPU handles all the rendering within the game and the graphics related processing. Working together, they produce one output of all the physics calculation and graphics processing to create realistic outputs. The increased performance also increases the framerate of applications.

The graph shows the dramatic increase in framerate with the help of an addition GPU to increase the graphics performance

What else can it do for me?

If you’re looking for a performance computer to chew away at graphic processes, such as a gaming computer, but don’t want to buy the highest end card, SLI is often a solution.

By combining 2 GPUs that slightly under perform a higher-end GPU, often the setup can exceed or match the high end GPU’s output. An example is a benchmark test at Tom’s hardware where 2 GTX460 that are in SLI configuration are put up against a GTX480. During the benchmark test, the SLI configuration of the two GTX460s wins every time with a significant margin.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-460-sli-geforce-gtx-480,2694-9.html

Even though as of this blog post the GTX400 series GPUs have been replaced by the GTX500 series, using the 500 series pricing here is an example of the cost benefit of SLI:

GTX580 card is around $500, where a GTX560 card is under $200. You can get better performance (assuming the 500 series have similar benchmarks to the 400 series, probably not, but I’m just using this as a price reference for the 400 series) for more than $100 less than a high end video card if you are on a budget!

Personally I find it a worthy investment to SLI GPUs. Another way to approach this to invest in a high end GPU now, and later when it starts to get “out of date” you can buy the same GPU for a cheaper price and SLI it. This will give you a performance boost you need to stay ahead of the game.

An SLI comparison to a Non-SLI application. Generally the SLI video is smoother and has more detail I suggest watching it at the highest resolution to see things better. 

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Found this lovely gem from the top of of closet, covered in ancient dust. So ancient in fact that the dust was no longer fluffy, it was actually solidified into some sort of dust film/layer on the top of the box. Used some water and paper towel to polish it up and voila! Let’s open this chest of goodness.

Name of the Game: Pokemon Master Trainer

Year game published: 1998-1999

Intended Players: For 2-6 players, ages 7+

Game Duration: 1-2 hours or more (from what I remember from my childhood)

Basics: As the instruction manual says, the objective is to “Be the first player to collect 20 Power Points worth of Pokemon, defeat a Pokemon Master, and become the World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer!” Sounds like fun, let’s get started!

Game Setup: There are plenty of chips available, each with a Pokemon on one side, and a Pokeball logo on the other. Each chip is coloured accordingly to different areas of the board. Shuffle the chips and place corresponding chips to their proper places on the board. Extra chips can be placed back in the tray. Shuffle the decks of Item cards and Event Cards and place to the side.

Next, shuffle the 6 Starter Pokemon chips face down and let players choose one.

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I’m not sure who’s idea it was to include Clefairy and Meowth as starter Pokemon. They should be slapped in the face. Maybe a Pidgey or Rattata since that’s all you see/fight at the beginning on the Pokemon games for Gameboy. But at least the other ones are cool?

Shuffle the 5 Rival Cards and place them facedown in a stack in the middle on the gameboard of Indigo Plateau (they are the bosses you fight at the end)

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I always hated Gary. And of course he gets the strongest Pokemon. Awesome. Spoiled brat.

Lastly pick your little Ash Ketchum figure/player piece and place it on the Pallet Town rectangle.

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Creepy little guy. Comes in Green, Blue, Orange, Pink, Yellow, and Beige/Brown/Tan. 

And here’s the board all setup in its glory.

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I forgot the Rival Card in the center when I took this photo. The photo with the cards there was being uploaded upside down for some strange reason through WordPress. Oh well, onto gameplay.

Gameplay: Whoever got the short end of the stick, i.e got the weakest Pokemon (smallest big yellow number on the chip called the Power Point) gets to go first. Players will roll their dice to go forward on the board. You cannot go backwards until you reach Cerulean City, where you will be given choices on which direction you want to go. After this you can go in any direction you want to collect Pokemon if you need it before going to the final stage.

3 types of board spaces:

  • City or Town – lets you draw 2 item cards or special cities let you revive your KO’ed Pokemon.
  • Catch’em! – flip over the chip and try to catch a Pokemon!
  • Draw Event Card – take an Even Card, show everyone and read it out loud.

To catch a Pokemon, at the bottom of the chip, there will be a specific number you have to roll to catch the Pokemon. You can only use one die. Or you can use an item card such as a Master Ball to help you catch it. Must be used before you roll for a Pokemon.

Battling your Pokemon with other players happens when you passby another player on the board, you can choose to challenge them, or if you draw an Event Card that says to Battle. To battle you must pick your Pokemon, then roll a die. Your Pokemon’s attack + number on the die + any item cards you play (attack modifiers) will be added up and compared. Highest number wins, and winner takes 2 random item cards from other player. If other player doesn’t have any, then it is taken from the deck.

You can also trade Pokemon with other players, same circumstances as the battles. If you pass a player or draw an event card that says to trade. Starter Pokemon cannot be traded.

There are various item cards, which I won’t go through in detail, as they have descriptions written on them which are pretty self explanatory.

Once again, the goal is to get a total of 20 power points by catching Pokemon, this allows you to advance to the Indigo Plateau where you challenge one Rival. First one to do that wins!

That’s the game in a nutshell. There are plenty of other small things in addition to the game, but you just have to play the game to get into that. Straight forward game with lots of variety and challenge.

Game Reflection:

Personally, I find board/card games created before the year 2000 so well made and thought out. These days you don’t really hear much about board or card games. I find a lot of them in this era to be well designed, gameplay well thought out, and generally really fun to play. This game for example is very straightforward and easy to grasp, yet offers so much variety (numerous chips for different Pokemon every round, different paths etc.) Solid game to play on a rainy day. I remember as kid I’d always want to play this boardgame whenever I could.

What I liked:

  • It’s Pokemon, the original Pokemon. What’s not to like?!
  • Simple and easy to learn
  • Variety and ability to change your gameplay experience every round
  • In depth game with a story that follows Pokemon
  • Sturdy construction with thick cardboard chips and detailed plastic player pieces

What I disliked:

  • Gary is in it. And he has the strongest Pokemon. Kidding, I won’t use that against the game
  • Lacks room for 6 players even though it says up to 6 players. With 6 players I think it’s being a bit generous since I could barely fit 3 pieces on the starting block and roughly 4 people can sit around the board comfortably
  • Game takes a while to play. I recall sometimes I would need a break from the game as it was quite hard to catch the Pokemon with so many paths around the board
  • A lot of chips to sort since they are all the same size only different color. If they get mixed up it will take a while to setup the game

What I would change:

  • Nothing too serious. Overall I still think it is a well thought out and planned game. The duration of the game is a personal thing perhaps, but I still think it’s a solid board game for kids/older kids/people who like Pokemon
  • At most, maybe change the shape of the chips in different areas to help sorting/distinguishing chips (circles, hexagons etc.)