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!

May 30, 2009

My Last Weekend

So, I guess I haven't been doing a great job of the whole "write more on the blog" thing. I'll see what I can do about that...

That being said, it's become clear to me that things are going to get very busy for me very soon. We're closing in on a very important milestone at work and it's clear that there's a lot of work still left to be done. As such, this may be my last full weekend for quite some time, at least the next few weeks if not months. It's not something I'm really upset about, just part of the job really. I do love my weekends though, so I've been trying to make the most of it while I have the chance. I've been playing a lot of Infamous and Fable II and otherwise just enjoying the day.

I also got some boardgames in the mail this week which is super exciting. I haven't bought any boardgames in a while and I love checking out the new rules and nuances of the games (yes, I am that nerdy). I got the new Cosmic Encounter, Small World, Dominion, and a couple of decks for Blue Moon. I've only had the chance to briefly try out Dominion and lunch on Friday, but we had to cut the game short. Dominion seems really solid, pretty straightforward, but with loads of subtle, interesting nuances, and a lot of replayability. I've only looked over the rules of the other two but they seem great as well (Cosmic Encounter is already one of my favorites from a previous version). I look forward to trying them all out at my Tuesday night game night, whenever we have the time to meet.

That's pretty much it. Just keeping on keeping on and sort of bracing myself for the coming storm. I honestly don't think it will be that bad, but I've never actually been part of a professional studio in full-on crunch mode so I suppose I am a little anxious to see how bad it can really be, though I don't imagine it can really compare to the Guildhall. Or at least I hope not. At the very least, I look at the other Ratchet & Clank games and remember how awesome they are, and that makes everything feel much more worthwhile. Sometimes when we're really in the thick of it, it's easy to lose sight of what we're working toward, so it's nice to see those games and remember them as a player, not just a developer.

Alright, well, I've got a little more weekend to enjoy, so I better get back to it...

May 26, 2009

Full Moon Show - Season Premiere!

http://podcast.insomniacgames.com/podcasts/fullmoonshow_37.mp3

Season premiere of Insomniac's developer podcast, enjoy!

May 25, 2009

What I'm Playing - 5.25.09

Well, I had planned for this to be a weekly post, but I had also planned for there to be other post in between. This last week was just kind of stressful (except for these last few days of delicious vacation), so I guess I've been spending most of my time at home just trying to relax. Anyway, here's what's going on videogame-wise:
  • KoTOR II: The Sith Lords (PC) - I actually just finished the game on Friday, or I should say the game ended, though I didn't feel I was directly responsible for it's conclusion. The game has a number of strong parts, but I think it will overall stand in my head as a pale shadow of its predecessor. Maybe that's just the unfortunate postion of a sequel to a critically acclaimed game, especially when that sequel gets rushed out the door before it's truly ready. There are several parts in the game that I truly enjoyed (like getting embroiled in the mystery and intrigue of a civil war brewing on one of the planets), but I think that the unfortunately lacking conclusion diminishes the entire game as a whole. Events in the game felt like they were building to something great before it all just stopped without any great explanation or resolution. It's no Soul Reaver, PsiOps, or Halo 2 on this point, but it's still an unsatisfying conclusion. Too bad really. Still I am glad to have played it and enjoyed a great deal of my adventure.
  • Fable II (X360) - After finishing KoTOR 2, I had some overwhelming desire to play this game, and I'm not really sure why. My best guess is all the ads for the new DLC that were litered across my 360's dashboard, but whatever the reason, I've been playing it like crazy and loving it. When the game originally came out, I was neck deep in thesis work so I didn't really have the chance to play it nearly as much as I would have liked before. The game is not without it's flaws for certain, but there's just something fun about being in the world of Albion. There's a great sense of freedom to explore and just really do whatever you want. Often, I would get busy just taking odd jobs and trying to expand my real estate holdings without really moving the main quest forward at all. Other times I'd be exploring every nook and cranny looking for cool, secret areas or "phat loots." It's one of those addicitive expereinces where you keep have one "last" thing to do and before you know it it's 3 AM. As I said, the game has it's shortcomings, which mostly amount to every part of the game (combat, character development, story, etc.) being too shallow. I love the amount of freedom that Fable II just gives me to live in the world and really play a role, I just wish the expereince had deeper levels for me to explore. Still, I've been playing it almost non-stop since Friday (except for a few Memorial Day BBQs) and it's still managed to keep my interest, so I suppose I can't complain too much.
  • Saint's Row 2 (PS3) - I still am playing this only intermittently, but it's great for just kicking back and having fun. There are a remarkable number of varied things to do in any given play session. Similar to Fable II, it supports a lot of player freedom and allows me to just get in and have a good time without having to worry too much about what I should be doing. The story may be a bit weaker for it, but that really not what I'm playing it for, so that's fine with me.
I am also eagerly anticipating the release of Infamous and Red Faction: Guerilla over the next couple weeks. Both had really strong demos, in my opinion, and I am really looking forward to what both games seem to bring to the open-world genre (is that a genre?). Of course, given all the Fable II and Saint's Row 2 I've been playing lately, I'll definitely have to pace myself and maybe throw an RPG or a strategy game in there somewhere :).

May 18, 2009

What I'm Playing - 5.18.09

Whoops, meant to post this yesterday, but I got busy with, well, not doing this anyhow, and then I ended up staying late at work until just a few moments ago. So, anyway...

Here's what I've been playing recently:
  • Sacred 2 (X360) - I picked this up over the weekend, and I have to say I am enjoying it even more than I expected to. I love a good dungeon crawler, and on the consoles, the couch co-op they offer are among the best of my co-op gaming experiences. I expected this game to be a good if rough incarnation of the genre, and was pleasantly surprised to find something closer to a great (if rough) incarnation. The story and quests seem pretty simple, but the world is huge, the classes seem suitably varied and highly customizable, and there seems to be plenty of "phat" loots to find, so what more can you really ask for from an dungeon crawler? I know, you could ask for Diablo 3, so would I and we'd probably be right, but it's not really going to make Blizzard work any faster, nor is it going to allow me to play it from the comfort of my couch. I've also been playing it online with my brother a great deal and have found setting up a connection with one another to be pretty seamless. In fact, with how large the world is and how the game handles "parties" it feels more like playing an MMO without all those other people around to bother you :P. It's a good fun, dungeon crawl with seemingly very long legs, so if that's something you are interested in, check it out, just be prepared for some lower than average framerates and lackluster storytelling.
  • KoTOR II: The Sith Lords (PC) - Due to the marathon of Sacred 2 over the past weekend, I haven't played this too terribly much lately (I don't usually have much time to play during the week), but I am close to finishing the last of initial set of planets, which I believe means I am closing in on the ending. I've been enjoying the game for the most part, though some of the dialogue seems to drag on a bit. Admittedly, this is mostly my own fault since I tend to ask every character everything I possibly can, because I like to get all the background, especially on my allies, but at the same time, if it's been a while since I've been in a good combat scenario I tend to get a bit antsy. I think this is actually where my biggest gripe with the game lies: a significant lack of good combat setups. Oh there's a good deal of combat, but a few lightsaber swings later everyone is dead except for me and my compatriots who have collectively suffered a minor bruise, and this is on the hardest difficulty setting. I have lots of cool powers at my disposal which do make me feel pretty bad-ass, but with no really worthy opponents to use them on the significance is greatly diminished. I recognize that people don't really play RPGs to be challenged, especially when the enemy/experience pool is strictly limited (i.e., no grinding), but I feel if I am choosing to play on a mode called "difficult" I should lose once in a while, and not just because you force me to use the crappy characters for. Still the story is solid, and being a Jedi is still a cool experience, even if it's an easy one.
  • Saints Row 2 (PS3) - I think I only played this once last week, but it kept me up later than intended, so it deserves mentioning. This game may not have the cinematic flare or urban grit of GTA IV, but it makes up for it with moxy and off-the-wall fun. This is the perfect beer-and-pretzels game for you to just pick up and have fun with, without getting too invested. That's not usually my MO, as I prefer to get deeply absorbed in one game at a time, but it can be a refereshing change of pace from some of my more cerebral experiences.
Well, that's it for now. I am hoping to turn this into a recurring thing, I just hope that when I play the same thing for more than I couple weeks my experiences are different enough to have new and interesting things to say about it...at least new things :). Later, all!

May 13, 2009

Infamous comes out with a BANG!

...or maybe a ZAP!

And technically it hasn't "come out" yet...

Anyway, IGN gave it a 9.2 (Outstanding) and the reviewer simply said "Infamous is amazing." Color me excited. Here's a link to the written review.

May 12, 2009

Net Roots

Join the Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time facebook group!

I think we also have a Twitter feed around here somewhere....

May 11, 2009

Narrative Density

So whenever I talk about games, RPGs in particular, I always to end up talking about what I call narrative density, or in the simplest terms, the ratio of story to gameplay. Now, it's not a strict ratio, as a ratio assumes a certain amount of mutual exclusivity, which I don't mean to imply. Storyline and gameplay can exist at the same time, in fact, I think in the best games they often do. Nevertheless, I come back to the original concept, Narrative Density.

The reason I think of this particular concept is because I am currently playing through Knights of the Old Republic 2 (which I should say I am quite enjoying), Obsidian Entertainment's first game (at least as Obsidian). Obsidian has since released Neverwinter Nights 2 and several expansions, and is now working on the action, spy RPG Alpha Protocol. Why is that important? Well, as you are probably aware Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2 are sequels (duh) to what where originially Bioware games (just drop the 2's and you have the original titles). Bioware games I finished, finished very close to thier original release in fact, in additon to playing all of the official expansions to the original Neverwinter Nights. So why then, have I never managed to finish KOTOR2 or NWN 2 (sorry typing those all out got tiresome quickly) despite repeated attempts?

What I think it all comes down to for me is this concept of narrative density, of how much time I spend talking vs. killing monsters and exploring dungeons. I think, as far as I am concerned, Bioware is at almost exactly the right level of density for me, whereas Obsidian misses the mark, spending far more time than I would like talking and telling me the story than allowing me to experience it for myself. On the flip side, I think modern console RPGs have gone the opposite direction. In an attempt to keep achieveing longer and longer RPG expereiences, titles like The Last Remnant and Final Fantasy XII offer up far more in the way of dungeon slogging than they do in story, so much so that occasionally I actually forgot what my overall goal was in the first place.

So what does all this mean? Well, I think it's different for each player. Some players may desire to almost read their way through the story, while others may only be interested in the action, and I think there are plenty of games that they would be satisfied with. The really difficult one to please (such as myself) sits right in the middle, desiring a certain mix of story and action, and that mix may vary from person to person. The desire is not so strong that it completely deprives us of joy if our ideal density is not present. As I said, I am greatly enjoying KOTOR2, despite feeling a bit detached in certain 20 mintue conversations, but it is still something I am aware of, and if I am aware of it, I know it's not ideal. Admittedly, I love talking to Kreia, all her dialogue is intriguing and thought-provoking, so kudos to Obsidian for creating a character that actually makes you think, but I don't think I ever felt this way about the original KOTOR, Mass Effect, or even Jade Empire, and it seems worthy of noting.

In fact, my favorite game of all time, Chrono Trigger, is remarkably short for an RPG. About 12-15 hours for one playthrough and maybe double that to achieve every ending. It seems as though an RPG of that length today would be chastised by the community at large though it is one of the highest rated games of all time according to GameRankings. And I guess that is really my point (I know, I wasn't sure I had one either). As games continue to get more and more complex, there also seems to be this push to have more and more content often at the cost of quality (at least within the RPG market, in my opinion). This trend for the most part disturbs me, and I hope that developers are eventually able to overcome it in favor or shorter much more polished expereiences. While I might personally be a bit upset at a 6 hour experience, if all six of those hours were nothing but top-shelf entertainment, it would probably still go down as one of my games of the year (look at the Gears of War series).

The truth is from the standpoint of a consumer or a developer we would all rather have a game that's too short, than too long. That's all I'm saying...

May 6, 2009

Reading the Past

Man, I just read through some of my older stuff, it's interesting to relive those moments in text. Of course, that may be because my memory is so poor it feels more like reading a book than something I wrote.

I also noticed I used to write A LOT more like every day...and that was when I was working practically all the time. Maybe I'm just lazy...

I'll see about correcting that. :)

My 90 Day Reflection

So, I haven't posted anything in a while, and even longer since it was anything of consequence (not that I don't consider my love of Chuck important). I've been thinking about it lately and I suppose I have confirmed some of my fears about trying to maintain this dear blog while actually working in the industry. The short story: it's hard.

Now I am sure there are a lot of things I could write about, like what I am currently playing (Knights of the Old Republic 2) and what I am the most excited for in the near future (Infamous), but I guess that wasn't exactly what I wanted this blog to be about. I wanted to write about the industry from an insider's view, to talk about how games are actually made, and have some written chronicle of my meteoric rise to the top (or middle as the case may be), but it's proving even harder to do than I expected.

When I was in school I could talk about pretty much everything I was doing, the challenge and excitement of it, the big moments and the let downs. It was a good chance for me to reflect on what I was doing, even if my day was just a lazy Saturday that was lazier than it maybe should have been. Still, it was just a chance to think and evaluate what I was doing. The work is still as challenging and exciting as it was in school, probably even moreso now that it's "real," but of course none of it that I can share.

What I can say is work is going well, really well. I just had my last starter review, and I don't think it could have gone much better. My manager was extremely complimentary of my work, I feel like I am making real contributions to the project, and I am fitting in great with the team. I am really happy with how things are going here, and I am really excited for all of you to tell me what you think of the game when it ships. That's really as much as I can say, and I hope that's enough.

As for what this blog is going to be, that's still up in the air. I suppose I could keep writing about video games in general. I keep thinking up articles I could write like "Why I don't really play multiplayer RTSs" or "The Top 5 places I DON'T want to go in a Star Wars game" (Number one, Nar Shadda...bleh, bo-ring), but I am never really driven to write anything. That's probably just a lazy excuse, but I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with my time, now that I have a life again, and the blog just hasn't rated very highly.

It's weird sometimes to be out of the Guildhall. Everyone there was so driven, working very hard toward a very specific goal. It was hard to be sure, grueling in fact, but also it was so focusing. Like you didn't have time or energy to worry about anything else. Now that I am "free" I find that I have a lot more time to think about what I really want my life to be about (other than the job of course). I guess it makes you think.

Anyway, I am being exceedingly reflective at the moment, but as I said, that was always kind of the point, at least for me. I hope that my random musings are at least an interesting distraction from time to time, and I'll see what else I can do :).

April 28, 2009

I <3 Chuck

So I realize it's been a week and I haven't written anything, but I must reiterate my love for Chuck. I just watched the season finale, and it was nothing short of fantastic. It is probably one of my favorite shows of all time.

Please don't take it away NBC...

Please?

April 21, 2009

This week's Chuck

I just watched this week's Chuck and I have some very important questions:
  • Are they taking my precious Chuck away?
  • Is this some clever ruse or simply trying to write in a way that they can go out gracefully if not renewed?
  • Why don't more people like/watch this show?
I demand answers!

And if you aren't watching Chuck, you should be, it's phenomenal. Easily one of my favorite shows if not the favorite since it originally aired.

Stop watching whatever the hell else is on Mondays at 8:00 and watch Chuck!

Alright, I'm done.

April 18, 2009

Pirates make me sick

http://www.pcworld.com/article/163359/hey_demigod_game_pirates_stop_killing_fun.html

I'm not sure if it's the concept in general or the specific comments from the posters below the article. While I am sure the launch of Demigod could have gone better, the sense or absurd pirate entitlement makes me want to hit something. If you take something without paying for it, it is stealing. Period. The fact that people can feel completely justified in that behavior just makes me want to puke.

BTW, as a former DOTA player I can say that Demigod is pretty good for what it's worth. I think it manages to expand on that formula in interesting ways, and offers a lot of strategic multiplayer action. Though I could do with a little more of a single-player campaign, but I guess you can't have everything.

April 15, 2009

Have you worked 40+ hours this week...

...because I have, not even counting Sunday. I'm not even really upset about it, just tired. Heck, there have been people there every night after I left!

Anyway, it's sleepy time. More news later, maybe after this milestone...

April 12, 2009

Only 6 Posts in March, Really?

I guess that statistic shouldn't really surprise me considering how busy things have been. The sad part (as Rick would be quick to point out) is that half of those are links without any other real description. Oh well, I've been personally and professionally slammed as of late, and considering I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing with this site anyway, it seemed an easy thing to put on the back burner. The far back burner, like one in some else's kitchen...I'm still not sure exactly what I want this blog to be, but I figure as long as I keep trying to write I will, and it can serve as a record of my mental deterioration for when they finally commit me.

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot to say about games since I sadly haven't been playing that many lately. Over the last few weeks I got involved in a number of different social activities including, but not limited to, lindy class, salsa class, church group, board game night, and other ad-hoc social outings. I think I've been running at a bit more extroverted pace that I prefer and I think it has slowly worn me down. Luckily a lot of my social activities have completed or at least reduced their frequency so I can get some time to just relax on the couch with a nice game or movie instead of constantly being on the move.

Unfortunately, I think work sensed my respite, brief though it was, and managed to fill in all that free time with additional work. As such, I had to go in yesterday and today to try to play catch up for having to miss a few days this week as I had to leave town in order to attend a family funeral. It's been a whirlwind week to be sure, but I think the waves are starting die down a little bit, or at least I feel like I have a better handle on them right now. There are some significant deadlines in RCF2 over the next couple weeks so I am sure I'll be busy, but I made some good consistent progress on my goals today, and honestly I think that's all I can really ask for. Any day without significant setbacks or roadblocks is a good day in my book.

Well, I think that should do for now. I haven't had time to play much of anything lately, so I am looking forward to doing some well-deserved gaming before I need to turn in for the evening. Night all!

March 26, 2009

March 24, 2009

Say What?

How is there an RTS trading-card game hybrid by EA that I did not know about?

www.battleforge.com

March 18, 2009

More Checking In

Still not dead, but very busy. Cruise was fun, but I got a pretty bad sunburn out of the deal. More details to follow, but now sleep...

March 5, 2009

Checking In

Just letting the world know I am not dead, just busy...

Work is going well and I'm integrating well with the team which is excellent. I am playing a little bit of everything right now. I started Saints Row 2 again, and have been enjoying the sheer amount of crazy, of-the-wall fun that game is. It really is a true sandbox game in that it is chuck full of fun things to do without out any extra pretenses or requirements. I am also downloading the Empire: Total War demo right now since the game has gotten 9s and above from every major website that has reviewed it. I'm a bit skeptical about ranged Total War gameplay, but the critics seem to think it works very well, so I am eager to give it a shot. I am still making my way through Killzone 2, though I keep getting distracted by the multiplayer (not to take anything away from how polished and enjoyable the single player campaign is). That's about it for now. Later!

February 28, 2009

First Impressions: Killzone 2

In a word: awesome. In two words: ummm...super awesome?

There's certainly hasn't been a shortage of first person shooters since the holidays, but even if you are a little tired of the genre, Killzone 2 gets enough right to pull you in regardless. The most obvious thing is the game's graphics, which are nothing short of mind-blowing. It is easily the best-looking game on the system to date, and probably the best looking game ever released. That being said, graphics aren't everything, but the good news is the Killzone 2 has the gameplay to back them up.

The first thing you'll probably notice is it is a "slow" shooter. I mean a couple things by that, but most literally I mean that your character moves and controls very slowly. Your actions feel like they have some real weight to them, and it takes a little time to get used to, but in the end I think it's one of the things that really makes the game feel unique. In addition, the game features cover-based "stop-and-pop" gunplay over running and gunning. While your character can still take a beating, it's important to move intelligently from cover-to-cover, and never stay out in the open too long.

Having spent a little time with both the single-player and multiplayer offerings, I can say that they are both great, but I find myself really enjoying the multiplayer right now. Much like the single-player campaign, the multiplayer gameplay is very slow and strategic which is right where I want it to be some where between Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War in terms of bullet-to-death ratio. In addition, the list of potential unlocks for the game seems insane, and having put in a few hours now I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what the multiplayer gameplay truly is once more people (including myself) have access to different weapons and classes. Now that I've pulled myself away from the game long enough to write this, I think it's time to dive back in.

If you own a PS3 and don't completely abhor the FPS genre, you should do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Of course, if you fit into that category you probably already have, so I'll see you in the Warzone!

February 25, 2009

Recipe for Disaster

Still at work...need to pee...they are cleaning the one restroom on the floor...

Ehhhhhh.......

February 23, 2009

A Thought on Dawn of War II

If I had an actual fanbase (no offense to my friends and family who actually read my insane ramblings) I imagine this would start some sort flame war. That being said...

The Tyranids are currently ridiculously overpowered. Discuss.

February 22, 2009

Review: Dawn of War II

Dawn of War II's very focused, tactical gameplay make it a unique and enjoyable strategy experience not to be missed.

Well, over the last few days I have had the chance to play a fair bit of Dawn of War II's single player campaign as well as enjoy some of its multiplayer offerings, and I have to say the game is quite good and a title that any strategy gamer should definitely check out. That being said, the biggest thing to be aware of is how much this game differs from its predecessor. Outside of being based in the same universe, and having some allusions to characters and places from the previous games, the two games have relatively little in common, at least in how they play. Proceeding along the same line of thoughts as Relic's Company of Heroes, the game focuses very strongly on tactics and micromanagement of your units, instead of economy management and base building.

There are no longer bases to build, and all the resources used to produce the game's units are found out on the battlefield, where they can be very hotly contested. In addition, moreso than any game I can think of, units are very expensive compared to the rate at which you acquire resources, so it's imporant to know exactly what kind of units you need in a given battle and try to keep them alive as long as possible. Units also acquire experience and multiple levels of veterency by defeating other units, further encouraging you to keep your units in the fight. Throughout a battle, you will only ever be dealing with a handful of units which allows you to focus very intently on making sure your units are positioned well and use their different special abilites effectively, and nowhere is this more true than in the game's single player campaign.

Dawn of War II's single player campaign has you commanding a very small team of space marines against hordes of aliens including the Orks, Eldar, and a new comer to the Dawn of War series, the Tyranids. In any mission, you can have at most four squads deployed, with each squad having only a couple units a piece (except for your force commander who chooses to run solo). Each squad has unique advantages and disadvatages for ranged and melee combat as well as defense. In addition, throughout the campaign the squads gain experience allowing you to choose how they should progress in order to gain better statistics and new abilities. Finally, similar to a classic dungeon crawler, some of the enemy combatants will drop 'loot' in the form of different equipment you can use to outfit your squad. Together, these two systems allow for a great deal of customization, so you can really make your squads suit your playstyle.

The campaign also has an interesting structure that sits somewhere between the completely open style of the Dark Crusade and Soulstorm expansions and the linear style of the original Dawn of War and Winter Assault. At times, you will have to take very specific missions in order to progress the story, while at others you will have a number of missions to choose from including optional missions that can be used to improve your squads, acquire better equipment, and improve your overall score in the campaign. In addition, the game has the option for you to hook up with a friend and play through the game cooperatively, which actually works out very well. With each commander controlling two of the four squads, each player can put additional focus on managing their units and communication is a must. The cooperative play is very good and, in my opinion, feels much more natural than Red Alert 3's cooperative gameplay from last year.

Finally, the last thing to bring up is the game's competitive multiplayer which comes in two flavors: one-on-one, head-to-head matches and three-on-three team battles. Both experiences are very enjoyable and add to the game's already impressive replay value. In both modes, each player controls one stronghold which produces all that player's units. From there, the player must capture points on the map in order to generate requisition (the main resource) and power in order to build units. One-on-one game's feel very tight and action-packed, while the three-on-three matches offer a real battlefield experience with player's coordinating attacks across multiple fronts with many units involved in the skirmishes. The only real complaint I have about the game's multiplayer offerings are the very small map set the game ships with, only 7 in total: three 1v1 maps and four 3v3's. Compared to the twenty or so from Red Alert 3 (my most recent multiplayer RTS) the selection seems a bit thin. Relic has said more maps should be coming soon (ostensibly for free), but no specific details at the moment.

All in all I have been very happy with my time with Dawn of War II and I would definitely recommend it to any strategy gamers. To fans of the series, it's definitely not the same game as its predecessor, so you should definitely try it before you buy it, but if you give it a chance, I think you'll find there's a lot to love about Dawn of War II. Now I've got some aliens that need purging...

February 20, 2009

Home By 8:00, Hot Diggity!

Well, it's been quite the week. We did get Monday off which technically made this a four day week, though I'm pretty sure we just crammed five days worth of work in there. Anyway, this is the first night I've gotten back before 9:00 P.M. and also the first night I can remember not feeling completely bushed after work. We've got a big deadline coming up next week, but I think I managed to get a lot done this week, especially today, so my level is in a good position.

Heh...my level. It feels pretty awesome saying that. As I was working on my stuff today, I really started to see how the level was coming together and what it will be in the end, and it just got me really excited about work all over again. This is one of the only jobs I've ever had where the work itself has actually kept me going. Like just seeing what it was and what it could be inspired me to work harder. It's all very empowering.

Anyway, as I said, it's my first night at home in a while, so I am going to try and make the most of it and play the crap out of some Dawn of War II before I head to bed for the evening. I'll write up a preview or first impression sometime this weekend probably, but in short, I am enjoying it quit a bit. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be: awesome.

February 16, 2009

The Last Box

Well, the last moving box has officially been unpacked as of a few hours ago! Hooray!

I suppose I may be using the term "unpacked" a bit loosely as there is still a great deal of random crap sitting around my apartment waiting to be organized and put away (or discarded/donated), but there are no more boxes waiting to be broken down. I still need to get rid of all the packing remnants as well as a rather large pile of cardboard boxes and packing paper is currently blocking the direct route between my bedroom and the living room forcing me to take a minor detour through the kitchen.

Outside of organizing my apartment, I played more Warhammer Online today, and decided to start yet another class. Last night I got involved in some open RvR (realm vs. realm) content and decided I thought it might be more fun to have some more support abilities like a healer. I really enjoyed being a Bear Shaman in AoC (by far my favorite class in any MMO to date), so I picked the class that most closely resembled that within the Forces of Destruction, the Disciple of Khaine. So I introduce to you, Nalrel the Wise...
He's still new so he doesn't have much in the way of cool looking gear, but he's full of potential. Like most of the time when I start up a new MMO, it's all I've been playing for the last few days. Also, since I've been bouncing around from character to character, there's not much I can say except that I have been enjoying it, especially the PvP content and how it is such a central part of the game experience. Now, if only there was a Warhammer 40K MMO...

February 15, 2009

Warhammer Online: Day 4

So, lately I've been really jonesing for a dungeon crawler, and I ultimately decided to start playing an MMO again now that I have some more free time on my hands. As the subject of this post clearly suggests, I decided to startup Warhammer Online last Thursday. I haven't played it that much since the first couple days I spent most of my time trying to resolve an annoying bug that mad the game stutter as it loaded in new assets despite the fact that my computer should be more than capable of handling it. The issue turned out to be caused by the game's lightmaps which I was unfortunately forced to disable, taking away an unfortunate amount of the game 's visual appeal (in my opinion), but it's more important that it run smoothly...

After that, I've spent the last couple days trying to settle on faction and class (I like to try out several different classes before settling on one), and have decided to go with the Forces of Destruction and the Marauder class - a melee DPS class that can mutate its limbs to get different abilities and attacks. Anyway, my limited experience with it thus far hasn't given me too much to say about it. The PvE content thus far seems a bit lackluster (admittedly, my "main" character is only level 4), but the PvP/RvR content seems very enjoyable. Right now, I've only played with pickup groups, often with very little communication, but it seems like the PvP content could be very enjoyable with a group of friends and some voice chat involved.

I intend to keep playing the game for the rest of my freebie month and decide whether to continue from there. I'm going to try to play it sort of intensely, at least as much as my interest level allows, to see how the content changes at the higher levels. The furthest I've ever been in an MMO was my brief stint with Age of Conan last year, where I managed to get a character to level 47-ish, before deciding to quit for school, though I've heard there isn't a lot more for me to see at that point anyhow. Well, seeing as Insomniac has kindly decided to give its employees tomorrow off I think I'll take some time now to experience a little more of what Warhammer Online has to offer...

Later!

February 10, 2009

LinkedIn

I was checking in on my LinkedIn profile tonight, and I didn't realize that you can apparently look at who is looking at you. Check it out:
  • Designer at Bioware
  • Recruiter at Electronic Arts
  • Designer at The Guildhall at SMU
  • Designer at 3D Realms
  • Recruiter at GameRecruiter.com
I'm pretty sure I know the Designer at Bioware and The Guildhall isn't a big surprise, but beyond that it's kind of neat. Anyway, just thought I would share. If anyone super cool decides to check out my profile, I will certainly let you all know :D

February 8, 2009

First Impressions: Mirror's Edge

Well, I'm still debating how personal I want the blog to be, though some counsel has indicated that completely removing the personal stuff would be a bad thing, so I'm just deciding how personal to get. That being said, what I am certain I can and should be writing about on my little blog is video games - thoughts on what I am playing and other going-ons in the industry. With that, I will offer my brief first impressions on Mirror's Edge, which I just received from GameFly this weekend.

The truth is, I like it a lot more than I expected, certainly more than I liked the demo. I am already through two of the game's chapters after less than an hour of play so it doesn't seem very long (and thus not worth purchasing in my opinion), but I've certainly enjoyed my time with it. The key for me, it would seem, was to turn off "runner vision" (the thing that highlights the path you are supposed to take in bright, immersion-breaking red). I'm not sure if this was a new feature in the patch I just downloaded, but I think it makes the game 100% better for me. Instead of just following the predetermined path, I find myself constantly looking trying to figure out where I am supposed to go and how to get there all while running across rooftops under a constant hail of gunfire. I find it makes the experience much more immersive and exciting, and makes it feel more legitimately like actual parkour (at least as I would imagine it).

Also, I should make a point to say I love the game's music, though I am a sucker for a piano. Pretty much any game music with a piano in it gets an A+ from me. I am not a big fan of the visual style as of yet. The ridulously bright contrasting colors are a bit much for me and pull me out of the experience as the environment doesn't seem even close to realistic even weird, clean, sci-fi realistic (the accounting office I quickly sprinted through that was suffused with an unreasonable amount of bright green light seems like a prime example). Still, I enjoyed my brief stint with it this afternoon, and will no doubt continue playing it throughout the week, so keep your eyes out for a full review in the near future.

I should also mention that I finished the single player campaign of Resistance 2 this afternoon, and though the ending is a complete cliffhanger, it certainly ends with a bang. Despite my general happiness with the game, I have decided not to review/critique it as I don't think I would be able to do so in an unbiased way, and I intend maintain a similar standpoint for all news/reviews surrounding Insomniac games. Sorry if this dissappoints anyone, but I just think it would represent a huge conflict of interest that I don't feel like touching with a ten foot pole. Well, that's the post for today, I hope you all enjoyed it!

February 7, 2009

Lazy Saturday

I'm almost positive I've used that post title before...oh well, it's probably not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last...

I spent most of the day just playing games and enjoying having my weekends back. I started the day with a quick errand, then I sat down for a co-op Resistance 2 session with a few friends from my last job and my brother. The co-op in that game is definitely very unique...it is very simple, but nevertheless very enjoyable. The classes are all very specialized and so they rely on the others for support in order to survive which promotes natural teamwork. Then, like a good dungeon crawl, the game spawns legions of enemies for your crack squad to make your way through. Personally, I'm not very partial to the whole co-op fad that seems to be all the rage right now, but I've definitely put my fair share into R2's co-op mode (more than the competitive multiplayer) and I imagine I will continue to for a while yet.

After Resistance, I spent some time wandering around the internets, mostly reading about an expansion to Space Rangers 2, that had somehow completely slipped under my radar last year. I'll blame it on my thesis or the job search or just trying to finish school....yeah, one of those should work. It's funny, I still think about my interviews sometimes, particularly Insomniac. I realize it shouldn't matter as I already have the job, but I guess because I was so anxious and excited it was really emotionally charged so now it is sort of permanently etched in my brain. Well, as permanent as anything in my brain is....

I also played a few matches of Red Alert 3 with Rick where I think I went 4-1, though he can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong...(all those wins just start sort of blending together :P) When I think about Red Alert 3 apart from it, I can never cite anything particularly good or noteworthy about its construction. I mean, the differences in the sides and units are pretty cool, and I think the micromanagement in the game is actually handled pretty well (which is personally very important to me). Each unit having only one special ability makes it a bit easier to metabolize, for me at least. I guess that is something particular I can cite, also the game is dazzling. When battles start really going colored lasers and missiles and smoke just fill the screen and it makes it feel like a huge battle is taking place even if only a few units are involved. Generally, I guess I would say it is a very solid, well balanced, well polished RTS. I personally think the single player campaign is a bit lackluster, and I think that mostly rests on the efforts to make the campaign cooperative.

Since the campaign is structured around having two commanders who are always available to participate in the mission, I think it made creating more interesting and involved mission structures a bit more difficult. As such, most of the missions are, build a base, blow up other guys base(s), repeat until done. No commando or storyline missions, no desperate defenses or strategic retreats, mostly just a series of what feels like skirmish battles. In the game's defense I have only finished the Soviet campaign and played through about half of the Allied campaign, but it hasn't done a good job of making me want to come back, which is a sign to me. On the other hand, I think the multiplayer is quite good, with a number of interesting units and strategies, and no particular dominant strategy that I have seen so far.

After that I watched the most recent episode of Battlestar Galactica, and ended up buying the Space Rangers expansion I mentioned. I played that for a little bit, then went back to Resistance 2 and played a couple more missions in the single player campaign, before stopping to check my email and write this post. And that was more or less my lazy Saturday, which sort of brings me to my final point.

I've been thinking lately about what this blog should be and why I am doing it. On the one hand, I use it simply as a means to keep people in my life informed of what I am doing and I think it has done that pretty well. At this point however, I can't talk about a lot of what is going on (my job) and the rest of it is my personal life, which is either too personal or not interesting enough to write about. So I ask you all, going forward, what do you think this all should be about? Just my day-to-day adventures, my thoughts on design, games, the industry, or the games I play? I've been finding myself in a bit of writer's block lately when it comes to the blog, so I think I need some new material in order to break out. So what do you all think? I'm open to pretty much anything at this point...

February 5, 2009

Mmmmm...RTS on couch...

Just got done playing with the Halo Wars demo for the last 2+ hours. Lots of fun, go give it a try!

February 3, 2009

Sleepy

Been pulling some longer hours at work lately (not crunch, but more than average...I think), and I'm just tired. Maybe its just me adjusting to a normal sleep schedule, or the fact that I've had a headache the past couple days. Anyway, I'm tired to I am going to unpack a few more things and relax. Work still seems to be going well. This week's a little crazy, but I am starting to get used to everything so that's good. Alright, rest time...

February 2, 2009

Exhausted

Been feeling kind of under the weather lately and I worked a long day today (~11 hours), so I think I'm just going to relax and head to bed early tonight. I got a lot done at work today despite some technical difficulties, and one of the leads took the time to compliment my work, so I think I can feel good about that for at least a little while. Later!

February 1, 2009

Unpack-a-thon

Thanks to my sister-in-law's sister, Gracie (who came to visit today), I have spent pretty much the entire day unpacking and basically trying to get my apartment in order. She helped unpack the rest of my kitchen supplies and also cooked me two meals today, so her company was as always appreciated, though I didn't expect to keep working another 4+ hours after she left, but whatever.

There are only a handful of boxes left now, though they are mostly the small things out of various drawers from my former apartment, so they will take a bit longer to sort through. In truth, the majority of it should probably just be thrown out, so I'll take the opportunity to get rid of as much of it as I can bear (I'm a bit of a pack rat). Anyway, I've still got a little more clean-up to do from today's unpacking, and I'd like to play something today before I go to bed so, later!

January 31, 2009

One of the Best Games You Haven't Played: Valkyria Chronicles

Well, my stuff finally arrived this week which is why my posting has been a bit sporadic lately, but I've finally gotten a good deal of my stuff unpacked (you know, the important things like my computer and my consoles). Today I also had the chance to finally finish Valkyria Chronicles, a task that had been long delayed by my Christmas break (where I had to avoid playing it so not to spoil the story for Rick) and my subsequent move. In fact, with the apartment hunting trip and then my stuff being in transit for almost two weeks it's been quite a while since I had the chance to just sit down and enjoy playing it game. It felt good, made this place actually start feeling at least a little like my new home.

As I said before, my chosen game was Valkyria Chronicles, and having just finished it I can say that that game is one of the best of 2008 at least as far as I'm concerned. It's fun to play, interesting, the story is good and told well, the characters are interesting and they have good (if somewhat predictable) arcs throughout the game. Overall, I think the game stands as a shining example of what made the Playstation and Playstation 2 great: variety. Instead of just being a home for first-person shooters and other action fare, Sony's consoles have always managed to have a whole host of niche titles appealing to a variety of different audiences, and I think that has been largely missing from this generation.

Unfortunately, to this date sales of Valkyria Chronicles have been abysmal (at least in the US), despite the game garnering relatively high praise from critics (86.6% on Game Rankings as of this post). There are a few reasons why I think it is possible that this game didn't sell well, though none of them are good in my opinion, and they make me worry for the future of the industry. The first and foremost reason is likely the complete lack of marketing for the title. I was semi-aware that the title was coming out, but had no idea what it was at the time and largely no interest. I only became aware of the game when Rick picked it up after it started getting high marks in its early reviews. Other reasons such as the game's very niche appeal (turn-based strategy) and exclusivity to the PS3 platform may also have contributed the game's low sales.

All in all, it just worries me that such a good game can do so poorly, while seemingly less deserving games can go on to sell millions of copies. In my opinion Valkyria Chronicles harkens back to the glory days of the original Playstation and games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Vandal Hearts. I wasn't as aware of the industry at the time, but I am pretty sure those games did rather well (I am certain of it with the former, not as much with the latter). This sad truth leads me to believe that I am somewhat on the outside of the mainstream, and that the games and genres that I love are slowly being phased out in favor of the next high-poly, in-your-face, action game on the block.

I don't mean to demonize action games, as there are plenty out there that I have enjoyed a great deal, even in the last year. What worries me is that the more popular, more successful console (I'm not counting you, Wii...we can talk about why you aren't a real video game console later) seems to cater almost exclusively to that demographic with very little else going on, and is often rewarded for it. I may be overreacting, in fact I probably am, but I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Valkyria Chronicles, and how much it tapped into a part of my video game psyche that I felt had been largely unused this generation. I just hope that Sony and the Playstation 3 are able to continue on this course and keep providing the interesting Eastern titles that they always have.

I suppose we will see before long...

January 28, 2009

Quotable

Insomniac is taking everyone on a cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate its 15-year anniversary, and was able to bring a guest. I invited my friend Andy, and in talking about the company he had this to say:

I agree that the company seems awesome and I all I know is that they make good games and take me on cruises. If only there were more companies like that...

January 27, 2009

Autonomy

There's not much to say for today, as the day was pretty uneventful overall. I made good progress on my stuff at work and I think the team is happy with my progress. I got to have lunch with a couple of older GH alums that now work at Insomniac. I also found out that my stuff is finally being delivered tomorrow, which is just fantastic. Other than that it was a pretty normal day.

I did have one thought though - it's nice to be providing for myself once again. There's something empowering about knowing that your car, your home, and your food are all possible because your hard work. I am really grateful for all my family's support in following my dream, I'm just happy to know that I won't be relying on their generosity for the rest of my life. I also realized, I really like my job (I realize it's still early). I mean, I like what I am doing, I think I'm good at it, and I'm excited to keep doing it. That may sound funny to some of you, but it's a new experience for me to like my job, so I am going to relish it as much as I can.

I know there will certainly be stressful, difficult times in the future, but I think the Guildhall has certainly prepared me for that. I think I could really be happy doing this for a long time, and that's still just incredibly exciting to me. Alright, I'll stop gushing, anyway things are quite good and soon I will have my TV and computer back and things will be great... :)