Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Quick Review: The Longest Journey

Geeze, that took forever. That is one game that really lives up to its title. It feels like it too. Anyways, quick review of The Longest Journey.

As a matter of fact: yes.

Genre: 3rd Person Point and Click Adventure

Story: To be honest, I thought it was only okay. It's really grand and sweeping, but the characters seem somewhat inconsistant. The world and lore around it are really neat, and the attention to detail was great. Also, it has a really satisfying ending, though I was surprised that a few things weren't tied off. Not the best adventure game story, but it was decent.

Graphics: Background still look pretty nice, but low-res text and 3d models are annoyingly out of date. And the pre-rendered FMV sequences look really horrible. It's not too bad though, and it certainly isn't eye-straining. It just would be nice if it hadn't aged so badly.

Music: Nice and atmospheric.

Voice acting: It was generally pretty good, but it felt really scripted at times. Most characters were also boring to listen to. Except this talking bird named Crow. He stole the show. Actually, on that note, the ending has him in it as a major character, and I think that was the best choice in the game. When you first meet him he's an inventory object, but his progression is really great and you grow really attached to him. The ending was an excellent nod towards this progression of the character, and felt really great.

This guy right here. He's awesome.

Gameplay: *sigh* I really wanted to enjoy it, but this was honestly painful. This game pretty much represents every bad design decision that is a trope of Adventure Games. Ridiculously overcomplicated MacGyver puzzles? Check. Agonizing walking speed? Check. Fetch quests and running back and forth? Check. Tons of dialogue with a really boring and simple dialogue system? Check. Annoying timed part in which you wrestle with the controls? Check. Honestly, it's terrible. Unless you're a hardcore adventure gamer, you're gonna hate the gameplay.

Puzzles: See comment relating to MacGyver puzzles. Also, I really had to use hints for most of this game. There's no way any sane human could think up half the stuff you have to do.

Length: The first third of the game feels just right, the middle feels too long, yet the ending feels rushed. Overall though, it felt a little too long.

Overall: You know, I really wanted to like this game. I haven't played a good adventure game in a while, so I was hoping this would be one. But I don't think so. It has some good parts, but it has a lot of bad parts. Crow was an amazing character, though even he's not very memorable since he's in such a bland game. Ultimately, I'd say skip it. There's a lot better out there.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Six: Modout 3

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Er, sort of.

SHADE: Pffff.... god this is boring.
SHADE: ...there's gotta be some way to make this game more interesting.
SHADE: Hm? Mods?
SHADE: *clicks*
SHADE: Shoot.
SHADE: *downloads*
SHADE: *plays*


SHADE: ...god this is boring.

To be honest the game kept me entertained
for about a month and introduced me to some neat ideas. (1960's robot designs were really cool.) It at least
deserves props for that
Plus, the modability on
the PC is really neat, and there is a ton of really creative and great
extra content out there. In the end, it doesn't save the game from eventually slipping from my mind, falling into the same stack of brilliant-yet-flawed-games-that-I've-beaten (and will probably not play again for many years), next to titles like Neverwinter Nights and Assassin's Creed. Was it worth 60 dollars? ...ffhhh... is any game? I dunno. If it weren't for the flaws, I'd say Fallout 3 comes damn close.

Just make sure that if you play it, you try out a ton of mods afterwards. That really does help save the game from doom.

In the end: It was fun. It was mindless... but fun. I reccomend that you try it on a console, and if you like it, buy it for PC. If your PC can handle it, that is. And if it can't, don't buy it at all.

And that's all I can say about the game.

-Review End-

- Shade Jackrabbit

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Five: The End?

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3.

Of course, at the end of every journey, it must come to a close. Well, okay, it could decide not to come to a close and encourage open-world gameplay, but that only works if your world is interesting and there is some sort of appropriate award for doing so. (Learning more about the story, for example, is often a good reward for RPGs. Unfortunately the story in Fallout 3 is too weak for this, as I mentioned in Part Three of my review.) I don't really think Fallout 3 would benefit from an open-world ending, so the rather abrupt and decisive ending didn't really bother me. Still, if you want to be able to continue fighting "the good fight" after the ending, you may want to look into getting the some of the DLC (downloadable content) such as Broken Steel, which apparently lets you play after the ending.

Truly he was the master of the wasteland.

At this point though, I found myself a bit confused. I had finally gotten through the game. It had been a long and hard journey, and I had conquered all odds. But... something was missing.

Sometimes games have the problem that, after you beat them, you just want to keep playing. But at a certain point I found myself not even looking forward to playing Fallout 3. The world was too bland, my skills were too high, and I had to install a mod to allow me to keep levelling up, for I had hit the level barrier way too soon. There just wasn't a challenge. When I beat the game, I felt relief.

Except... I didn't.

I have to admit, shots like this are pretty awe-inspiring when rendered in full 3d.

There was something about the wasteland that called me back. Maybe it was the fact that half the map markers were left un-seen. Maybe it was that I had played the good guy yet in the end I died, leaving a hollow feeling like all my work was for naught. (Speaking of which, in the end you either live or die, and it's pretty much a yes/no choice.) Maybe it was even that I wanted to know more about what was going on.

But it wasn't any of those things. I'll tell you what it really was:

I was bored.

This guy may be having more fun than I was at that point.

When it comes down to it, I think Fallout 3 is quite honestly one thing: Unsatisfying. That's not to say it's bad, as it's quite a bit better than some RPGs (like Dungeon Lords, though that isn't hard), and the gameplay is pretty satisfying, but it's really not much better than playing solitaire for hours on end. There quite simply isn't much thought, and the world isn't very intriguing.

And I think what bugs me the most is that it could be so much better. There are some really bad mistakes that Bethesda made, that really hold the game back from the title of "masterpiece". I really wanted to like the game, and there were a few points (listening to my robot butler tell horrible yet brilliant science jokes, completing the Wasteland Survivor Guide for Moira Brown, taking out a base of raiders or slavers with a sniper-rifle) that were really fun and are even, dare I say, memorable. But most if it is just so bland.

It's too bad really, because I spent a long time on this game, and I'm not sure if it was worth it. On one hand, it pushed the bar and reminded me that "satisfactory", "safe" and "solid" games aren't good enough, and had some really nice moments. On the other, most of it was forgettable, and the ending gives no satisfaction.

I guess to summarize: Gameplay? Pretty good. Story and Dialogue: Passable. Graphics? Both impressive and lacking. Music? Great. Overall?

...I don't know. I've written five parts about this silly game. It's crazy. The game's not bad, like Dungeon Lords. The game isn't really good, like BioShock. The game's just... mediocre? No, even that isn't right. I don't know what to think, or what to say about the game. It's... solid. The game is very solid. My reccomendation? ...I have no damn clue. Borrow it from a friend? Try it? Hopefully all this helped, cause I still don't really know what to think.

Just... something doesn't feel right. Could this really be... the end?

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Four: Graphics, Music, Sound

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3.

So before I wrap up the review, I still need to talk about the polishings. You know, the eyecandy, the sounds, the music; the stuff that any game that wants to succeed as more than a niche title or wants to hide gameplay flaws must have.

And you know what? This is one of the areas that Fallout 3 really succeeds. ...and fails a tiny little bit. Let's look at the graphics first: They're really good, but when you look closely kinda bad. Let's look at some shots, shall we?

Yeah, this is why the bomb is bad.

The shot certainly looks really good. The sky is overcast and dark, and we can see the wreckage of what used to be a small town, including cars and a house that have been ruined. Off in the distance there's some of those power line things, and let me just tell you: that's not a flat image. Those are 3D objects, and it's pretty damn impressive. Now let's look at another shot.

I'm interested to know how a tire got buried that deep in the ground.

It may not be that seeable here. But look at that rock in the lower-left corner. Anyhthing seem odd about it? Okay, yeah, I shrunk down the image so it's blurred a little. Let me just crop it to show you.

Is this a rock or rubber?

Okay, not so good now, is it? Note that this is with the highest-resolution textures. It's rather disappointing, really. Considering the technical capabilities in this day and age, it would've been nice to have a "super-high" setting for textures, to get more realistic ones. It's not as apparent when wandering the wastelands, but when you get indoors it can be really blatant and a little annoying.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the graphics are pretty good. They looks dank and depressing, and really feel dead. Great for a game taking place in a post-apocalypse wasteland.

Now the music is an area where the game really shines. The game doesn't really have any music, except in certain places where it is added for atmosphere. But most of the time you have to listen to your radio, which is often playing songs from the 50's. Pretty cheery songs too.

Actually, it's an interesting clashing effect, the graphics and the music. You'll have a pretty happy song playing, and you'll be attacking supermutants with your shishkebab. And sometimes it seems to just fit perfectly too, in a twisted sort of way.

And the sound? Well, the sound works. Quite well. Great game to play with headphones.

So overall: Nice eyecandy and earcandy, though the former needs a tad bit more detail.

Oh! And I said at some point that I'd talk about the supermutants, didn't I? Okay, well... they're orcs. Seriously, they're just people that mutated into orcs. But they're pretty deadly.

...I really can't add more. They're just orcs.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Three: Story, Dialogue, and Atmosphere

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Sorry about the lack of pictures in this one, but there's not much that can really be shown.

So what's a well-designed game without a good story to match it? ...well, Fallout 3, basically.

You see, there are a lot of problems that can cause a game's story to just not be good enough. Sometimes the story tries to much, sometimes it doesn't make you care enough, sometimes it gives you too much free reign, and sometimes it's completely seperate from the game.

Well... yeah, it's the last three. The main problem with Fallout 3's storyline is that it doesn't really matter what you do, aside from a few places that are part of the main plot. Okay, yes, the game cares about whether or not you blow up Megaton, but it certainly doesn't care if you retrieve Agatha's violin so she can run her radio station again.

That one in particular really got to me, because the whole time there's been only one other radio station that isn't broadcasting government propoganda. Yet when Agatha's station is renewed, nobody listens to it, and nobody seems to really care. Well, yes, it is very nice to have a new radio station playing classical violin music (a favorite of mine, which clashes nicely with blowing up zombies with grenades), it still isn't enough in terms of story. What would've been cool would be if you went back to Megaton, and someone's listening to it, and comments "Oh, hey there! Have you heard this Agatha lady's music? She just popped out of nowhere, apparently helped by a certain wasteland wanderer? *wink wink* Love the tunes she plays. So anyways, what did you want?"

Now, this isn't the only case of disconnect between actions and story, but I think it's a good example. We're talking about an entire new radio station, yet nobody seems to care.

And the story itself doesn't really hold up. Whenever you talk to people core to the storyline, they act as if time hasn't passed nearly as much as it may really have. For example, after moving into Megaton, people still will think you don't live there. And when you catch up to your dad, he acts like a lot less time has passed than it probably has. (For me, it was probably close to a year of in-game time, he acted like it was a few weeks.)

And the final nail in the coffin that makes me label this story as "poor" is that I don't care about any of the characters. Even dear old Dad doesn't feel as close to me as my shotgun, because he wasn't around for long enough. You're supposed to feel for him because he was there for 17 years of the character's life, yet he's only there for like 30 minutes of the player's life. This is pretty damn important. Characters like Moira Brown or the Sheriff from Megaton are more connected to me, because the latter is keeping an eye on the place I've spent days of the game in, and I've been trading with Moira as well as researching for her book. (It's one of the sidequests, and a pretty good one, if I may add.) But dear old dad? Bah. Hardly knew him. No character connections, no empathy, so I don't care.

And speaking of people, they really talk funny. I know I'm Canadian and may not know what most Americans from Washington D.C. sound like, but the dialogue in Fallout 3 is really... poorly acted. It's pretty wooden, although oddly enough it seems the male actors did a worse job than the female actors. I don't know why that is, but most of the men are really boring to listen to, and it's very hard to care about what any of them say.

That being said, a few performances stick out. The robots in particular are really well-acted, and some of the scientists have quirky and very mad voices. (The very stereotypical "scheming mad scientist" voice.) A few of the characters early in the game are done really well as well, such as the bully, Butch, who sounds like an authentic jerk.

A really impressive thing about the game is actually how many people are voice acted. Namely, all of them. It's not that impressive at first, but after playing for hours on end it really does help the feeling of immersion and is simply brilliant to see this sprawling wasteland where even the lone wanderers have their own lines. Not to say that those are original lines (they often duplicate across multiple people) but it's still quite an earfull. (What did bother me in particular though was the old man voice. He
seemed to play basically all the old men in the game, and it was really
obvious by the end.)

Now, this isn't to say that the place feels alive. This is the wasteland of a nuclear apocalypse. This place is dead, with what's left being either heartless monsters or small groups (or on occasion singular people) using all their effort to stay alive. And I really do have to say, the game pulls it off quite well. From the crushed houses to the collapsing metro and sewer stations, the game really feels like it takes place in the remnants of society. Order has given in to chaos, and there are only a few bastions of law and peace in the land. And those are constantly under threat.

Actually, one of the best atmosphere components is the raiders. Basically groups of sadistic wanderers, they hunt the wastelands and attack caravans; they mutilate, torture, murder, and downright destroy the people they find, and are really just plain sick. They're the crooks, the serial killers, the psychos: the people who can now run free thanks to the loss of order. I'd give you some pictures, but I really can't. There's a reason for that M rating. Still, they really add to the sense of hopelessness and despair that the dead wastelands have, and the game would certainly not be the same without them.

So to summarize: While the story itself is really poor, the amount of dialogue in the game and the fact that everyone talks is pretty amazing. The atmosphere is also really good, immersing the player into the world.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part Two: Interface, Health, and Items

Continuing on from my last post, these are my thoughts on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Sorry that it's a bit late, but I got caught up in some other stuff.

Now, if this were simply a first-person shooter, talking about the core combat would've been the end of gameplay discussions. But, considering that there are a heavy amount of RPG elements at play, I'll have to offer my opinions on them as well.

First off, I thought the inventory system was simplistic, but pretty good. Things were pretty well organized, and it's neat to be able to bring up your inventory in-battle and use items. Sorta reminds me of the item-swapping done in The Legend of Zelda, actually. That being said, at times the inventory can get really cluttered, and it would've been nice to have some sort of filter to organize by weapon damage or armor defense, instead of just by name. Still, it works quite well.

Actually, that does bring up the matter of the Pip-Boy, which is your method of information storage and organization.

Oh no my head is crippled!

Sort of like a tri-corder from Star Trek, it scans health and allows VATS to operate. To be honest, I think the idea is pretty cool. It also collects notes and picks up radio stations, as well as create and log maps. It's nice because it keeps everything in one place, and you can easily swap between looking at your stats like health, checking your inventory, and looking at the information you've gathered. All while the game is conveniantly paused. Note that there is a brief period of inaction before and after the Pip-Boy is brought up, during which things still move and the enemy can damage you. This is a pretty fair element though, considering that you're allowed to basically stop time as you change armor.

And speaking of armor, the damage in the game is pretty interesting as well. The game has a concept of area-specific damage, such that if you get shot enough in the head (or you shoot the enemy enough in the head) their perception drops and it's easier to surprise them. There's also enemy weakpoints in the game, that if precisely hit and damaged can make enemies go crazy or slow them down, or do a lot more damage. Shooting an escaping target's legs can slow their speed and allow you to catch up. It's a nice feature that adds more depth to what would be otherwise bland battles.

Now if I just aim for the head I should be fine...

The variety of items in the game isn't huge, but it is quite decent. You have a lot of different weapons with different damage, spread, reload times, and such; armors with different bonuses such as damage reduction or stat bonuses (to charisma or the like); and edibles which act as your standard RPG potions.

The armor and weapons also have weapon degradation, which often has the problem of being annoying. I found though that this annoyance was offset by the fact that it both makes sense, and that enemies' weapons are often degraded as well. This means that if you take out a bunch of Talon Mercenaries, and you have a high enough repair skill, you can take all their armor and repair it together to create something you can wear that is stronger than any of the pieces seperately. It's a neat idea and adds another interesting dimension to the game.

Rocket Launcher + Rocket Launcher = Better Rocket Launcher

The game also allows you to build certain weapons from blueprints using items scattered about the wastelands, and it's really satisfying to scavenge together a flaming sword from a lawnmower and a motorcycle, then go kill Supermutants with it. Only downside is that you can't create blueprints yourself, and there's not that many of them.


Now one thing I haven't mentioned yet is radiation. Quite simply, the game takes place in a nuclear wasteland, so there's a lot of irradiated stuff. Simply eating food or drinking water is going to make you more irradiated, and this too adds another element to the game. Fortunately for your character, there are lots of RadAway packs lying around, and the radiation effects come slowly and aren't too dangerous. Unfortunately for the player, this means that you'll probably ignore the radiation effects most of the time, or at least won't find it much of a threat. Until you hit 600 rads at which point you give up and die.

So to summarize: Great inventory usage and item selection, although there aren't tons of different weapons. Weapon creation is satisfying, and degradation adds a fun element to the game. Area-specific-damage is a nice addition to the battles, giving them more flavour, but the effects of radiation are almost negligible.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Review of Fallout 3 - Part One: Intro & Combat

Well, I got around to "beating" the game (by which I mean: getting to the ending), and I think it's about time I offer my opinion on Bethesda's action-rpg, Fallout 3. Be prepared though, as this is a long one. This is strictly the introduction to the review, and the review of the combat portion of gameplay.

I love the little lightning-bolt in the logo.

To be honest, It's been a while since I've felt such a feeling of duality with a game that I've felt like quitting gaming (mainstream at least) altogether. I think the last time this happened was after playing Final Fantasy 7, and maybe for similar reasons. It's not really a bad game... but I can't honestly say that it's a great game either. There's a lot of reasoning behind both sides, so let's just dig right in.

See, I went into Fallout 3 knowing a few things and expecting a few issues. Yet I expected a decent RPG using a first-person-shooter as its core game mechanic. And in a way, it delivers. Sorta, kind of. In a twisted way.

See, my main problem with Fallout 3 is that there's some great ideas, and there's certainly lots of room for greatness. Yet it just feels like Bethesda "phoned it in" and forgot really crucial aspects. It's like they wanted to tack together an RPG's elements (like stats, leveling, vast world, sidequests, item systems, status effects, and turn-based combat) with a first-person-shooters elements (in this case, shooting people, free movement, and stealth). And for the most part it succeeds pretty well.

V.A.T.S. is where I really had a problem though. It's a nice idea; you can briefly stop time, select opponents body parts that you specifically want to hit while being given a warning of your chance to hit, and then shoot them up by using Action Points.

I'll talk about the super-mutants later. Needless to say, yikes.

But, there's a few flaws with this mode:

1. It breaks immersion. All control is suddenly wrenched from your hands, and while shooting you cannot bob and weave in the slightest. You just have to stand there and get shot while you shoot. Not to mention that after V.A.T.S. is used, there's a split second where you can't move cause you haven't gained back control.

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

2. It limits the damage you take while just standing there. I mean, this was obviously created as a work-around for the fact that you can't bob-and-weave. And I'll admit, you probably take the same amount of damage in V.A.T.S. as you would if you were properly bobbing and weaving. Here's the issue though: V.A.T.S. stands for "Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System". It doesn't stand for "Vault-Tec Targets For You and Prevents Movement System While You're Near-Invincible" I mean, I know that VTFYPMWYNI wasn't as popular a name due to pronunciation issues, but it would've been more authentic.

Oh you know on second thought this doesn't hurt so much.

3. You cannot win a difficult encounter using V.A.T.S. alone, making V.A.T.S. practically pointless anyways. You're not going to win this game if you're bad at FPSs. Okay, that's an overstatement, but the game will be a whole lot harder. This makes V.A.T.S. in its current form practically pointless.

Actually, a better improvement to vats would be to not auto-fire at all, but auto-lock-on and engage bullet-time. What do I mean by that? Well, basically it would work like this:

1. Press V.A.T.S. button to bring up target selection.
2. Select a target based on hit chance and what you're aiming at.
3. Press the confirm button, and bullet-time gets activated.
4. The player returns to normal combat, having full control over moving and shooting, except their crosshair is locked onto the specific enemy area. AP drops constantly while in bullet-time.
5. Either the AP runs out, or the player presses the V.A.T.S. button again. If the former, bullet-time ends and the cross-hair unlocks. If the latter, you either start again at #1 or can disengage lock-on and bullet-time, returning to normal battle.

Personally I think this would work better, and would solve a lot of problems.

Now I would like to say that V.A.T.S. is indeed very satisfying in its current form. Especially when it changes camera angles to show off a good shot. Unfortunately these shots tend to come up even while not killing someone. Near the end of the game, I was finding them boring and repetitive. A better thing to do would've been to make them sparser, sorta like in Max Payne, by only doing the special-angle shots on kills and only rarely. (For those who don't know what I mean, if you snipe someone and kill them there's a chance that the camera will follow the bullet.)

So yeah, in summary: The combat is pretty good, but V.A.T.S. should've been handled differently.

Images used in this review do not belong to me, nor do their contents. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Keyboard Skin for Tachyon: The Fringe

I'm not sure how many people have played it, but there's this cool little space-flight game sorta like Wing Commander, called Tachyon: The Fringe. Well, it had a lot of buttons. So many in fact, that I couldn't remember them all. I usually had the keyboard layout sitting in front of me as I played.

And then I got to thinking: "Well wait a minute, we've got a ton of old keyboards in the house. Maybe if I just cut+paste..." So about half a year ago I decided to actually go ahead and do this.

Voila. If I were to do it again for a different game, I'd probably try and laminate it somehow, because some of the often-used keys fell off or the glue melted under the heat.

Anyways, just a short little update from me. I'll have something big later, don't worry. Or maybe I won't. You'll never know! Muhahaha!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Pre-Mortem of Multiple Games

Okay, so I've only completed one game before. I have a bunch though that failed, for a variety of different reasons, and thought I'd showcase stuff from a few of them to give a glimpse of some of the stuff that died long ago and may one day, like a phoenix, rise from the ashes. Don't hold up any hopes though.

(2007) Chris Herring - Private Investigator: Case 2

Oh damn, this was a good one. I was actually working on this for a long time until I ran into a problem with not being able to portray characters. It was actually the second game in a series, but I lost the first game (which had actually been completed, might redo that one some time). So this would've been his second case, and this one was about a serial killer who was pretending to be a ghost. Sorta like Scooby-Doo but more noir.

It was going to be a first-person adventure game, and I was using SketchUp to create all the locales. My issue though was that, at the time I didn't have any actors for doing FMVs, and my drawing skills were atrocious. (More so, at least.) I'd show some more pictures, but there's nothing really interesting.

(2008) Droid

Now, this one was pretty neat. This was a science-fiction third-person adventure game. The story was that humanity had expanded far into space, and that scientists had done this to escape persecution. You played the game from the perspective of Probe Delta-4, a probe in the first line of robots being programmed with AI, and very experimental emotions.

The game actually had an emotions system, where the game's world would "warp" somewhat with your emotions, since they overloaded you so much. Other robots had been experimented with as well, but got stuck in perpetual emotional stages. One robot was even suicidal. The entire ship was run by MOTHER, which stands for Multi-stringed Operating Terminal of Health, Engineering, and Research. I'll be damned if I know what a Multi-stringed Operating Terminal is.

I was working on it with a guy I knew from the AGS forums, but he randomly disappeared. He was doing all the coding, and I just haven't had the urge to pick it up again since.

(2005-2008) Leh Quest

This was another first-person adventure game I was working on. The premise is simple: A magical talking dog (talking dog, not anthropomorphic dog. See: The Chronicles of Narnia vs. The Wind in the Willows.) appears suddenly in your room, kidnapping you for you are apparently the saviour of another dimension, and you must go discover the secret of a magical substance called "Leh".

Yes, it's about as surreal as it sounds. I wish I had some pictures to show, but they're not on my computer. I'll see if I can find some, if you guys want.

It was actually an FMV game though, and my brother and I did a lot of video recordings done out in the nearby woods for when you entered this alternate dimension. There was also a mix of computer-rendered graphics, plus the somewhat odd use of stuffed animals for most characters.

I'd say the best description I could make of it would be a fairy tale for nerds. I would've loved to play something like that as a kid...

Our main development issues were my brother's college work not leaving much time open for working, and my personal disinterest after a while. That being said, we did some surprisingly high-quality work on parts of it, and I wouldn't mind doing something with this again, now that I know more people and could get some really good actors.

(2008) Darkstone Castle

This was going to be my entry for the Commonplace Book Competiton over on TIGSource. It was gonna be a platforming run and gun with a creepy storyline in Lovecraftian manner. What happened? I bit off WAY more than I could chew, and failed completely in finishing it. All I have is this screenshot of a hobo with a shotgun running at a gargoyle. I believe no further explanation is necessary.

(2007-2008) The Mars Initiative

This is what originally brought together me, my programmer in Droid, and my internet-pal Cinfa together. It was a sci-fi adventure game (seeing a pattern?) in which humanity as a last hope was trying to colonize Mars, and then intrigue happens. I would explain more, but recently Cinfa has been expressing passive interest in working on it again, and so I wouldn't want to spoil anything.

There are a bunch of others that I've worked on too, but I don't want to overload you guys all at once. Besides, I need posting material for this blog.

Stay fiesty guys.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Aliens in games are cool

I don't really view myself as much of a gamer. I certainly wouldn't associate myself with the "culture" it has. [edit: I am so totally a gamer. - Future March] But one thing I do notice in a lot of games I've been playing recently is that, well, aliens are really awesome.

It's not that aliens are fun to play as even. In fact most of the instances I've come across, they're enemies. But what neat and gorgeous enemies they make! For an example, here's one of the alien Akrid from Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions.

I hope 10 grenades is enough...

Yes that's right, it's a giant worm like the infamous one from Dune. Except it lives in the snow. And you can fight it. Can is the important word, as it's optional, but it's still pretty cool. Especially how one of its attacks is just to charge and eat you. Whole. Like bam, you're dead, a giant worm just ate you.

Speaking of worms, another game with worm aliens is Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The game has a unique alien lifeform called a mindworm. They basically drive people to insanity like some odd form of D&D's Frightful Presence. It's rather Lovecraftian in nature, and even look!

Tell Cthulhu he left his children over here.

Like whoa, that's intense. They're kind of a pest at first, sorta like the barbarian tribes in Sid Meier's Civilization, but you can eventually control them, and then they become a potent ally.

But some aliens you just can't control. No, they decide they have to attack earth for some obscure reason... probably something to do with expansion or whatever. But anyways, they come down in their UFOs, first sparsely but then in full force. Yes, it's a UFO Invasion, and only X-COM can stop them! For these are the terrible Greys! Okay, they're called "Sectoids" in the game, but they look like the Greys.

Yes, it is ironic that it was easier to find a decent resolution picture of an early 90's game than it was a mid 2000's game.

I'll be honest, I mainly pointed this one out because X-COM: UFO Defense is pretty much the best strategy/isometric-rpg/resource-management/military-simulation game ever made. Well, perhaps the sequels were better, I haven't played them.

But hey, at least the Greys don't use us as hosts! Not like the next guys, an alien from Half-Life. No, next we're dealing with those devilish monstrosities from the nearby dimension of Xen, Headcrabs.

They're not this cute and fluffy. Trust me.

But hey, there's not just one of these. No, there's two other, more powerful species. That's right. There's a bunch which are super-fast, and then others which inject you with a neuro-toxin and try to kill you with one scratch. That's intense. They also do some pretty crazy stuff, like coupling with your head to turn you into a zombie. I don't know what the transition is like, but considering the end result, really really painful.

Sorta like this, but more blood and screaming in pain.

To sum Headcrabs up, I'll quote myself from playing through a section of Half-Life 2.

Hey, it was damn scary at the time!

Now, I could go on and on about aliens in video games, and list a bunch more examples, but these were just some neat ones I thought I should mention. Read on for some related comments.

About the games referenced:
If you have a chance of playing Lost Planet some time, I'd reccomend you at least play the first half-hour or so. The game is really cinematic, and the Akrid are pretty neat monsters. The gameplay itself is... solid, passable, but not amazing. The graphics are pretty good though.

Alpha Centauri is pretty much Civilizations II except on Alpha Centauri. It basically picks up after the Space Race ending of Civ II anyways. It's a great game if you love sci-fi and the Civ games though, so if you do you should most certainly check it out.

X-COM: UFO Defense is a classic. The game is really complicated and fairly difficult, so be forewarned. Even so, it's very addicting, and the gameplay is really good and plays very well. It also manages to make relatively turn-based battles very tense and edgy. Definitely pick up a copy if you can.

And Half-Life? It's a classic in the FPS genre. The second game is a lot better, and Half-Life2 2 is basically what managed to get me to actually enjoy the genre. It's got a decent story (for a first-person shooter), but the presentation is really amazing. The characters all feel really realistic, which is great and helps make it feel more authentic. It's a good game and you can get it in The Orange Box with Portal, so go get it if you don't mind some pretty gory aliens! (Seriously, Headcrabs are gross!)

Last comments:
I'd also like to make a comment from a creative standpoint here. Aliens are a great way to make interesting and strange creatures without having to resort to magic. They can allow new ways of looking at thing like environments, animals, and races. You can use them to maintain reasonable plots, yet still explore strange new worlds and odd realities.

And they're just cool.

Credits go to the owners of the images contained in these posts, and the owners of the content in the images. I took none of them myself, but merely found them on Google. I assume no ownership and am using them for referential purposes. If you do not wish them to be used, simply send me an e-mail and I will replace them.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Battle TV - Episode 3

Finally after a ridiculous length of time, the third episode of Battle TV is complete.

Enjoy. =D

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Video Games Are For Everyone, And I DO Mean Everyone

Well, in lieu of the fact that I'm supposed to do stuff relating to relationships involving geeks, I think it would be suitable to talk about gaming, a hobby that many geeks enjoy. As The Game Overthinker points out, there are two types of gamers and two categories of games: Hardcore games, and casual games. Since I'm assuming two hardcore or two casual gamers will not have much of a problem engaging in activities of mutual interest, I will move onto a more clashing problem. This problem that may come up is that you (or your date) may be a hardcore gamer, while the other isn't. They may enjoy playing halo while you might rather enjoy Wii Sports or Bejeweled. Well my friends, don't look so dreary, because I'd like to make a point here that was never really made in Game Overthinker:

It is impossible for someone to not like any type of games.

I'll let that sit in for a moment. Now, some of you probably are ready to jump back with "I never played a game I really liked" or something, but I'd like to expand a bit on what I mean. First off, games. Do you know how many types of games exist out there? Puzzle, action, arcade, rhythm, adventure, platformer, shooters, even board and card games... not to mention subcategories like "bullet hell" or FPS games, or mixed categories like action-adventure or survival horror. But the ultimate point in all this is that there is immense variety here.

Again referencing Game Overthinker, we can start at the beginning with casual versus hardcore games, right? Mmm... no. Because even this line is often blurred by certain games. Let me take the game Rock Band for example. Is playing a guitar like playing Rock Band's guitar? Not really. So certainly the harder difficulty is much more of a "hardcore" gaming experience than a casual one. But, what about the singing? That, on the other hand, I have found to be much more casual, and all it requires is a bit of ability to change one's voice pitch. The best part about Rock Band is that you can have a casual gamer choose singing, and put it on easy, and then you can have your hardcore gamer choose guitar, and put it on hard. Instantly, both players' needs are met, and they can cooperate on completing the song.

This is just a case example, based on my experience. I don't have a wide knowledge of what games are available, but Rock Band I always enjoyed because of this. (Although, yes, I have beaten Half-Life 2, I'm a much more casual gamer in a lot of respects.) But let's say that Rock Band is out of the question, so you and your date need to find something else to satisfy you.

Let's go with a different type of hardcore gamer, one that is much more a... niche: The adventure gamer. Okay, okay, you can stop throwing tomatoes. What I mean by this is that, honestly, adventure gamers like I put up with a ton of BS to solve these games, from ridiculous nonsensical puzzles to logic traps so grand you need sheets of paper to get through them. A lot of casual gamers might get frustrated and angrily give up, not having the hours to devote to clicking here and there.

One thing I know about adventure games though is that there is an odd setup to playing them, in that there are actually two types of people who can enjoy them: Those who enjoy controlling them, and those who like coming along for the ride. It's odd, I know, but I've noticed that when it comes to adventure games some people have to be in control, but others are actually more content to just sit back and watch the game unfold.

So imagine this... it's getting dark, the lights are dim, and you decide to pop Barrow Hill into your computer. (I'll assume you'd be the one playing, just so this story is less grammatically confusing.) So you're controlling the game, as the other leans against you to watch. You walk along the path in the dark woods as suddenly, the lights along the path begin to go out. All you see is the dark sky, and you comfortingly hold closer your date as the lights turn back on to reveal...!

Hey, I'm not spoiling the game.

But this is of course an option if the two of you have the patience to sit through such a game, and work through all the reading and the puzzle-solving and the note-taking. And hey, there are plenty of great adventure games of the freeware variety if you can't spend the money on a commercial game. For paranormal, how about the Ben Jordan series? And horror? The Chzo Mythos (or John DeFoe Quadrology) is a great (although very creepy) choice. Or maybe comedy is more your style, in which case there are some great offerings in even the short game category, like Murder in a Wheel. And fantasy/adventure? How about A Tale of Two Kingdoms?

But let's move on again, and now assume both Rock Band and adventure games are out of the question. What else can you engage in that is gaming? I know Super Smash Brothers has always been pretty playable as long as you go co-op against computer players (casual vs hardcore gamer though... not that fun). The thing to remember here is that the important part is that you enjoy yourselves, and that both of you enjoy playing the game. If nothing else is possible, you could always give in to one side, in which case I'd recommend casual games, seeing as how there's a higher possibility of both liking them. (I know a lot of guys who ace Halo 3 on Legendary yet also love Wii Sports.)

But the most important thing to do is to find the bridge. If you really enjoy gaming, then you can share it. It may take a while, but you will always be able to find a game two people can share and enjoy, regardless of their gaming category. And hey, if console games aren't working out, try checking out the Indie Gaming scene on the PC. Just remember: Perseverance. Games aren't some sort of weird hobby only enjoyed by a few people; they're a form of media, widely ranging in their scope, genre, style, and design. There's so many possibilities that, really, finding a person who cannot like games is impossible.

And hey, if all else fails, try some board games. They're like prehistoric video games.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

BioShock (Quick Review)

Well, I just finished playing BioShock. I have to say the ending was pretty good, and pretty reasonable for someone who chose to play the good path. But I bet a lot of you are wondering what I specifically thought of the game, so here's a quick review.

Graphics: Really Nice
The graphics really helped the atmosphere and fit really well into the setting.

Music: Pretty Good
Pretty good, and very well timed.

Voice Acting: Excellent
Okay, yeah, this is one spot the game shined. Really great voice-acting made it feel more believable.

Gameplay: Fairly Good.
Great combination of gameplay styles, and the gene tonics setup really allows great customization of play styles. Hacking minigame is fun, but got a bit repetetive by the end.

Storyline: Alright.
The storyline doesn't stack up against some adventure games, but that's somewhat expected from an FPS. For an FPS storyline though, it was pretty good, and pretty intriguing. Ending was also good, although I was sorta surprised when it didn't fade into credits and instead just cut back to the main menu. Oh well.

Time to Beat: About 25-35 hours I'd say. Not entirely sure, but I spent 3 or 4 long nights on this game.

Glitches: I encountered some graphical glitches in the game, but this may have been due to problems I've been having with my computer. I also encountered problems saving and loading the game while playing full-screen. This would usually cause the program to freeze. This may be due to using Vista though.

Reccomendation: Buy it. The game is the best when you play it at your own pace, and at 20 dollars it's very worth it.