January 17, 2010

End of Line?

The combination of crunch and a new romantic relationship pushed the blog to a far back burner from which hasn't ever returned. I'm still not sure what I want to do with this. I like talking about my random game musings as much as the next avid gamer, but considering how much I do of that in my personal and professional time already, writing about it hasn't seemed like a hugely important issue. Plus, since I am now back to working on another as yet unannounced title, there's not much I can really say about my work. Anyway, for now this will serve as a semi-annual check-in, and I'll see what I want to do about this site in the future.

Stay Tuned!

June 14, 2009

Still Nothing

Sorry for the dearth of posts, just not a lot of free time with the work crunch. I picked up Prototype and got to play it just a little bit Friday night. Pretty cool, Alex (Prototype) feels much more super-powered than Cole (Infamous) did, in my opinion. I think Infamous is clearly a more polished, better produced game, but Prototype may actually be more fun. Still, I've only played Prototype for about an hour, so I'll withhold judgment until I've gotten a bit further into it, which may be a while at this rate. Anyway, that's it for now. Hopefully more in the future. Later!

Oh, by the way, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time won Gamespot's E3 award for best platformer, check it out!

June 13, 2009

Working Weekend

Weekend crunch doesn't leave me a lot of time to post, but here's a little morsel of game for you to tide yourself over. Enjoy!

Little Wheel
Play This Game

June 12, 2009

Late One

I actually got home about an hour ago, but that's still a pretty long day. Anyway, it's bedtime...

June 10, 2009

Sleepy Time

Just got home. Got an early appointment tomorrow morning (not work related), which means I need to go to bed pretty much right now. G'night!

June 9, 2009

Work Night

Another long night at work. Nothing new to report. I read a chapter of Game of Thrones last night and then went straight to bed. I imagine I will do something similar tonight. Later!

June 8, 2009

Admiral Crunch?

Well, crunch "officially" started today so it's going to be a busy...well it's going to be busy for a while. I'm at work waiting for a build right now, and this is probably the first of many similar posts. May be a while before I can post anything major. See you on the other side!

June 7, 2009

What I'm Playing - 6.7.09

Ah, this weekend was just too short, but aren't they always? E3 messed with work a bunch this week as a number of people were out either attending the conference or working it. As such, the hammer on our upcoming deadline didn't drop last week nearly as hard as I thought it might. Nevertheless, the deadline hasn't changed and there's still a lot of work to accomplish between then and now so I imagine things are going to get more busy as I expected. All that being said, I got to play a fair bit this week, so here's what I'm working on:
  • Infamous (PS3) - I played a fair bit of this this week, and just managed to finish it sometime yesterday (playing through the "Hero" storyline). Overall, I'd say the game is quite good, though it may be just a touch overrated in my opinion. I think it was a fun game with an interesting story, but there are a few things that hold it back from being truly great. I feel that Cole's power set is relatively mundane (most of them being electric versions of common weapons such as an automatic pistol, sniper rifle, grenade, and rocket launcher) and the sandbox setting of the game is wasted on very linear setups and repetitive side missions. That being said, there are a number of things the game does very well. The combat is always exciting and dazzling to watch, and moving is incredibly enjoyable. Grinding along power lines, riding atop elevated trains, and gliding through the air all feels incredibly kinetic and satisfying. In contrast to the side missions, the story missions are fun, imaginative, and do a good job of conveying the story, which is an interesting superhero origin story. As far as superhero games go I think I would rate it very highly in that it really makes you feel like a superhero running through the city, but as a sandbox, open-world game I just think it doesn't measure up to the competition. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed playing it, and will probably play through the evil plot line at some point, but I feel like the game could have been so much more.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla (PS3) - I played a bunch of this in the middle of the week and I have loved it. I stayed up way later than I intended several nights in a row just trying to do one more side mission or take out one more high priority target. In my opinion, this game really gets what sandbox games should be about: freedom of approach. The game is all about giving you an objective and letting you decide how to accomplish it. The missions support multiple strategies for the player to employ and avoids missions with only one right "answer." I also tried out the multiplayer a bit and found it to be enjoyable, though it doesn't do anything incredibly original. The multiplayer has backpacks that give the game a sort of lite class system (each player can only wear one backpack at a time, which confers some special power) and there are an assortment of different game types including standard deathmatch, capture the flag, siege (an attackers vs. defenders game), and destruction (sort of like VIP, where the VIP scores for the team by breaking stuff). All in all the multiplayer is fun and seems to leverage the game's destruction engine very well, so I'll probably try playing with it a bit more in the future, but my focus is on the single-player experience.
  • Fallout 3 (PC) - After finishing Infamous yesterday, I was feeling a bit overloaded with sandbox games for the time being so I was looking for something more RPG-ish, and here's where I ended up. I picked up Broken Steel largely for the level cap increase, but also because I heard it cleans up what was an otherwise unfortunate ending. Unfortunately, it seems to preclude me from actually seeing that ending, but maybe I'll YouTube it once I finish the game. Fallout 3 was probably my game of the year last year, and it's still great to wander around the wasteland. I think the game really captures the closest thing to actual role-playing in digital form. It's all about really creating a character in that world and then acting them out. Whether you're a scavenger with a heart of gold, an evil assassin with a chip on your shoulder, or a no-nonsense merc out to make a quick cap, the game allows you to be whoever you want to be and do what you want to do. I find the most fun for me comes from imagining up characters I could create and what they're journey through the wasteland might look like. Everything in the game really seems to react to you as a character and the decisions that you make. For example, in my most recent play session, this one guy hired my to kill some other people and take keys from them. I found out that the keys apparently led to something awesome, so I went back and told him I was keeping the keys. He got mad and attacked me so I was forced to kill him. Unfortunately, my overzealous ally also opened fire and happened to kill an innocent bystander in the process. When I came back to that location a bit later, I talked to a character who was very close to that bystander and who was now mourning the loss of her dear friend, trying to figure out what to do with her life. I felt really bad about that, which was a unique and special experience. I'm sure there's more I could say, but let's just say I'm really enjoying my time with Fallout 3, even after 50+ hours, now that's impressive!
Well that's pretty much it for now. I'm planning to go to the DMV tomorrow morning to finally take my written driving exam and get my CA license, so I need to study my driver handbook and get to bed. That is, if I can exist the alluring calls of my games long enough to study. If not, there's always next week! Later!

June 5, 2009

Movie Marathon

Off to a Back to the Future and salsa (the food not the dance) night with some friends from church. Have a good night!

June 4, 2009

E3 2009 - Reactions

E3 was a blast, but I am very tired, though mostly my eyes more than anything. I have a great deal of respect for the media members that attend the conference from early morning until late at night for three days straight. Serious props to you all. I only attended about 6 hours of the conference, but I tried to make the most of it, so here's what I saw/played (in no particular order, other than my memories):
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum - This game seems pretty cool. I played through the demo grappling onto roof fixtures and silently taking down random goons inside the Asylum, before the Joker unleashed some sort of mutant giant on me (thus ending the demo). The mechanics seem fun, though there wasn't a lot to do in the demo so I hope the game has a bit more variety or it could end up getting repetitive very quickly.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction - No playable demo, but there was a live stage demonstration. The game definitely seems like a good time, and the execution mechanic seems to add significantly to Sam Fischer's badass-ness. If you saw the demo at the Microsoft Press Conference (or was it Ubisoft's?), it was basically the same thing, with some minor, almost random variations. Seeing the game in action makes me want to go back and play SC: Double Agent which I never got even close to finishing.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii - I didn't expect to like this nearly as much as I did. I mean, Mario with 4 players? Really? It doesn't seem like an amazing idea, but in the end it's a lot of fun. Mostly I think because of the competitive co-op aspect of it. On the one hand, players are trying to help each other because if everyone dies, everyone loses. On the other hand, you want to be the one to pick up all the coins and power-ups and have the most lives at the end of the level, so you might "accidentally" throw a friend or two into a pit or two. For whatever reason, it works and it's fun. Nintendo clearly knows what they're doing, but I suppose I should know that already :).
  • M.A.G. - I actually waited in line about 30 min. to play this demo and I was just wholly underwhelmed. The game seems more like a technical demo than an actual game. While getting a 256-player battle functioning and largely lag-free (which it was) is a significant achievement, the game itself is somewhat wanting. It basically plays like a Battlefield-style game, except without the combined arms of vehicles that make those games so much fun. Also, the map we played seemed designed to keep groups of players working on their own specific objectives, but what that boils down to is a bunch of 16 on 16 skirmishes, which seems to kind of defeat the purpose of a massive battlefield. I personally prefer smaller engagements anyhow, and the core gameplay itself just didn't seem to offer anything original beyond the large player number, which I guess was lost on me.
  • God of War III - Didn't play the demo (the line was way too long), but I watched it for a bit. I loved God of War. I loved God of War II. I have every faith that I will love God of War III. Seeing God of War III's slick combo-driven combat and brutal finishing moves in HD was a sight to behold though. Can't wait for this to come out...really, I can't...
  • Uncharted 2 - I didn't get a chance to try out this demo but I watched it for a fair bit, and I now have another beta key which I think brings my total to three. The game looks to be in great shape, the visuals look really nice, and it looks like they've refined the half-action, half-exploration gameplay even further. I am really looking forward to this release, and I may even download the Beta! I should probably also buy a copy of Uncharted (I played through Rick's before)...
  • Dragon Age: Origins - I got to sit in on a demo session, which didn't really do a whole lot for me one way of another. They showed the main character talking to other characters (well-acted and animated, mind you), including a fortunately abbreviated love scene, and then showed a relatively fast battle with a dragon (which was admittedly cool looking). The HUD was off during the battle, so it wasn't clear exactly what the demonstrator was doing, but it looked cool and ended with a fantastic finish. I was, and still am, excited for this game, and I have complete faith in Bioware's ability to make an RPG, the demo didn't really change that much at all. I am curious about how it will work on consoles (and how it will run), but unfortunately only fancy media people got to play with the hands-on console demo.
  • Mass Effect 2 - This demo was sweet. I love Mass Effect. I want to play it again...right now. The demo lasted about 20 min. and looked at dialogue, combat, and how it all relates to the first game (and potentially the next game). Apparently, you will be able to import over your save from the original Mass Effect and the game will use your character and the choices he/she made to define parts of your experience in Mass Effect 2. You can also play without doing this, but it's not clear what impact that will have on the story as a whole. The team seems to be improving the depth of the game's systems overall. The dialogue feels even more integrated and cinematic and the combat seems even more action-oriented than before. It would seem that if you liked Mass Effect, you'll love Mass Effect 2.
  • Split Second - I don't really like most racing games, but this game was a real surprise. It seems like what you would get if you combined Burnout, an action movie, and a kart racing game, where the weapons you pick up are actually built into the track. While racing, you build up a special meter by drifting, drafting, and overtaking other cars, and when the meter reaches certain levels it can be used to activate special powers at different points in the map. Usually these powers cause something to explode fantastically and take a number of your competitors with it, but other times you can use a fully loaded bar to alter the layout of the track, which actually changes the race (and also explodes fantastically and make takeout other drivers). The game seems all about over-the-top action, no better represented than the end of my first race where I raced under a flaming 747 as it crashed onto the runway in front of me. It's crazy over-the-top, and crazy fun. The framerate's a little lower than I'd like, but hopefully they can tighten that up before it ships.
  • Fat Princess - This game seems deceptively strategic and awesome. It's like a full-blown strategic, class-based, multiplayer CTF-style game, packed into an excessively cute and over-the-top violent package. Both teams are trying to steal the other team's princess while trying to fatten their own to prevent the theft. At the same time, the teams can harvest trees in order to earn resources for their team, which can be used by other players to upgrade their character to the different classes (warrior, archer, priest, etc.). The game seems really straightforward and approachable, while still having the strategic depth and teamwork that more hardcore gamers are looking for. I'll definitely being paying closer attention to this title as it gets closer to launch.
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - I actually ended up playing this demo while I was waiting for the next Mass Effect 2 demo to start, and I ended finding myself quite enjoying it. I am a big fan of the Battlefield formula and the original Bad Company was no exception. I looks like they've polished up the engine and gameplay somewhat, while keeping the game true to its predecessor. All I can say is I had a great deal of fun with the demo, and I'll be sure to check it out when it comes out later this year.
  • Final Fantasy: Dissidia - I had zero expectations when I played this, I didn't even know what it was. Apparently, it's a clever little fighting game for the PSP that pits classic Final Fantasy characters against one another in mortal combat. I'm not sure if there's any intention for a greater story behind it, but the reason I call it clever is the gameplay. It's the exact kind of fighting game I like: simple. The special attacks are all pulled off by pressing a direction in combination with a button (think Smash Bros.), that's it. The game seems more about picking the right attacks at the right times, and blocking effectively (again a simple, single button press). I do have a concern that a fighting game on a handheld misses out on one of the genre's strongest points - local multiplayer, but we'll see what they do with that. I can't say I am going to pick it up, but I'll certainly keep an eye on it.
Well I know I saw a lot more, but those were the highlights. Attending my first E3 as a professional game developer was definitely a memorable experience. The conference certainly has its share of "oddities" (like models dressed like game characters or a guy walking around in power armor), but in the end it is an epic spectacle of gaming that really shines a light on all of interactive entertainment, and I'm glad it's back. Now, I need to go ice my eyeballs...

Going to E3 Today!

More news to follow...

June 3, 2009

Red Faction: Guerrilla - First Impressions

So, I didn't post anything yesterday, partly because I've been very tired lately, and partly because I spent the night (more of it than I should have) engrossed in Volition's newest title Red Faction: Guerrilla. In short, I have to say the game is a blast (quite literally, I suppose). If you like blowing stuff up or watching buildings crumble, just go pick it up, you won't be disappointed. Otherwise, I suppose you can read on, though I will try to keep this brief (so I can get back to liberating Mars myself).

The game clearly is cut from the same cloth as Volition's previous Saint's Row titles with a number of side missions (called "guerrilla actions") and optional destruction targets alongside the game's main storyline. In addition, red faction members will also occasionally call you with optional missions like attacking and EDF (the bad guys) convoy or protecting a red faction camp from an EDF assault. My favorite part about all the missions (main and side) is that they are very open-ended about how you do them, which is my favorite thing in a sandbox game. You'll often be tasked with taking out or protecting a target but exactly how you do it is up to you. I also appreciate the "guerrilla-ness" of the game, which I wasn't really expecting. When you start taking up arms against the EDF and start blowing up their stuff they take notice and quick. Enemy reinforcements are fast and numerous which really encourages well-planned, hit-and-run tactics (or at least fast improvisation). Kudos to the team for making me feel (and play) like a real freedom fighter. Very cool.

My favorite example of this is a mission where I had to save a group or miners under EDF house arrest. To start, I broke into the building (through the front door in this case), shot the guards, and untied the hostages. Looking out the front window I could see EDF troops making their way through the front door and more reinforcements on the way, so I threw a det charge on the back wall and blew it open and we all jumped down from there (the second floor) and ran out to my vehicle which was parked a little bit away near the road. We were able to mostly avoid the EDF troops that had surrounded the building, and the whole thing felt very clever, cool, and organic.

I only have a couple complaints right now. The first is that the story doesn't seem particularly long. I can't say for certain how long the game is, but there don't seem to be that many storyline missions, and liberating a whole sector doesn't seem to be the ordeal I would expect it to be. I've only liberated one thus far (which I think was mostly like a prolonged tutorial), so I may be jumping the gun, but I hope the rest of the sectors are far more difficult to liberate, otherwise I think it kind of kills some of the immersion.

The other minor, though frustrating point is that random guerrillas can't get in my vehicle. Once you rally enough support, if you engage the EDF you will gather random colonists who will fight with you. I want to be able to gather them and take them on a sort of improvised raid on the larger destruction targets the game has to offer. Unfortunately, they just won't get in whatever I am driving, so I have to start the raid by myself and just hope some of my friends decide to show up. It's a minor thing, but I would have much preferred to see something similar to the "homie" system from Saint's Row 2, where my loyal allies will stay with me until I release them or they die.

All in all I am really enjoying the game, and it kept me up far later than I should have allowed it. If you haven't checked it out already you should at least download the demo on XBL or the PSN.

RCF: ACiT Stage Show on Gamespot

Check it out!

June 1, 2009

Forests are FULL of trees

Yeah, so that's a kind of silly (ok, very silly) post title, but I do think it captures a lot of what's going through my mind right now. I spent most of today reviewing my levels and trying to capture and prioritize all the things I need to do for our impending deadline. While, I think I've only captured the basic stuff for now, it's certainly not a short or straightforward list. While I think attending E3 would be fun, I'm kind of glad I am not going so I can use the extra time (with less people around) to try and get caught up.

All that being said, it doesn't really explain the post title which only occured to me as I was driving home. Before the end of this year, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time will be on store shelves, with my name and my work inside it, entertaining hundreds of thousands of games out there. That thought just brought a smile to my face. I mean the Guildhall gave me plenty of projects and experience, experience that I don't think could be much closer to the professional reality I am in now, but they never gave me this: an actual game. A game that is going to be played by millions of people.

It's just a really exciting thought, and one that it's very easy to lose sight of on a daily basis I think. Sometimes it's hard to remember what it's like to see what you are working on for the first time. Sometime it's really hard. Anyway, I just thought I would share that. Now I am going to try and wind down for the evening. I haven't been sleeping well for whatever reason over the past couple weeks, so I spent most of today pretty tired. I am hoping that I can force myself to go to sleep earlier and get some real rest. Here's hoping...

May 31, 2009

What I'm Playing - 5.31.09

As my weekend draws to a close, I daresay I really have made the most of it...at least from a relaxation standpoint. I avoided pretty much all things productive over the weekend and managed to keep my time squarely focused on playing games, watching TV and movies, and sleeping. I've also resolved to begin daily posts on the blog again, even if the posts have to be incredibly brief as my available free time trends toward zero. We'll see how my resolution holds over the coming weeks. So here's what I've been playing, mostly over the past few days:
  • Infamous (PS3) - I've been having a blast playing this game. I am a little more than halfway through the game (52% according to my save) and I have to say it's a great, if somewhat repetitive experience. Repetition aside, the gameplay itself is compelling and enjoyable. Whether you are deftly climbing up the side of a building, grinding along power lines, or hurling lighting bolts and electric missiles at a giant trash golem, the game never fails to be exciting to play and dazzling to watch. The game seems to have the most in common with Crackdown and Assassin's Creed, inheriting an unfortunate level of repetition with the latter. While all the main story quests are engaging and exciting, the same cannot be said for all the side missions. Some are great fun, while others leave something to be desired (though opinions may differ on which missions belong to which group), unfortunately the variety is lacking so you will often play the same mission multiple times with in a relatively short span of game time. That being said, the side missions are not required to advance, but some more variety or engaging mission design would have been appreciated. Still, I think the game compares quite favorably with Assassin's Creed in this regard as almost all the missions are more fun than those from AC, plus you're a lightning bolt wielding superhero. So you've got that going for you...In the end I'd say it's a great game that's a real joy to play, but it tastes best in smaller doses where the repetition is less apparent.
  • Fable 2 (X360) - To be honest, I haven't played too much of this this week. I got a bunch of new quests some new areas to explore, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot else for my character to gain at this point. I own an incredible portion of the kingdom, I have yet to find anything that improves weapon or clothing selection, and I've maxed out pretty much every ability I'm interested in. Also, while I like the idea that your skills affect your appearance in theory, in practice I would like my character to be skilled with melee weapons without having to look like a circus strongman, especially considering my character is a woman. Another system I wish had a bit more depth (like maybe your skills give you more freedom in customizing your appearance) but I discussed that at length in my last post. It's still fun to run around Albion and see what there is to see, I just wish it didn't feel like my character was already finished. Maybe I'll find a cool and useful legendary weapon and all will be forgiven. Or maybe some legendary clothes that make me look super sweet. Where are those I ask?
  • Gears of War 2 (X360) - Played this with Rick for a few hours over the weekend sort of on a whim, and we finished my first playthrough (Rick had already beaten the game prior). The ending boss battle is just silly (I smell something that was cut), but on the whole, Gears is loads of fun to play especially co-op. Working with a sibling or best friend to take out a horde of alien mutants all while shouting psuedo-military chatter (and trash talk) back and forth, is an experience not to be missed. Gears of War 2 maybe a bit on the short side, but it's filled with non-stop action and some seriously memorable moments, so I still give it a very high recommendation to any 360 owners.
That's it for now, hopefully I'll have had a chance to play some more before this time next week!