I have a great idea for a game

So, it’s been a double whammy of bad news for Nintendo zealots. First the taken-so-long-most-people-fogot-it-existed game GEIST is getting the kind of review scores that suggest it’s nothing earthshatteringly innovative or genre breaking. I would link to reviews but, if you’re reading this then you know how to find stuff on the ‘net.

The news of Geist being merely an 70% style game and not some Nintendo uber-game has been something that the usual zealots seem unable to accept. I’ve seen review sources criticised and labelled as ‘questionable’ simply because a fanboy’s bubble has been burst again.

And there’s nothing like hitting a fanboy when he’s down, in a statement that echos the news of Mario 128’s non-existence, Nintendo have told the world that their flagship Gamecube Zelda title will actually not appear before 2006 as originally promised.

I like the way that they attempt to soften the blow be telling us the time will be spent on “incredible” new gameplay elements for Zelda. Fanboys around the world are already chugging this statement down and coming back for more like some nympho crack whore on speed.

Even cuter is Nintendo’s reminder that other great games from the leading name in innovation and revolution will be available for consumer enjoyment by Xmas 2005. They then go off and list a number of franchise sequels, cross platform franchises and sports games featuring Mario.

Yes, I’m biased against Nintendo. But it doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to see this statement from Nintendo is a botched bad-news salvage operation. The fact that the best they can do to make the bad news sound like good news is to give a paper-thin promise of incredible new playability and rattle off a list of IP whoring titles just doesn’t cut it.

However, facts never got in the way of a devoted fanboy and, by gum, they sure aren’t going to get in the way now. Response has been positive with the fanboys being happy that the delay will assure that a great game will be made even better and quoting the a Nintendo endorsed mantra of “A delayed game will eventually be good, a rushed game will be bad forever”. Yeah, well I’ve got three words as a response to that:

Star Fox Adventures

So, like I said, I have a great idea for a game. I really do. I know that I need the creative talent at Running With Scissors to give it the edge it needs. All I can offer is the game’s working title right now. I think it’s a hum-dinger:

Fanboy Holocaust

Games, facts and politics

By now we’ve heard the name Jack Thompson plenty of times. His game-hunting antics are becoming more and more reminiscent of the actions of ambulance chasing lawyers. GTA SA, Sims 2, GTA Vice City and now Killer 7.

Jack’s going for the violence angle once again. Personally, I think Killer 7’s crime is it’s incredible shallowness of gameplay and technical inadequacies. Maybe Jack’s going to mention that, I’m sure we’ll see later.

Anyway, Jack Thompson and facts are like cats and water. You’re just never going to see them get along well and forcing it will probably result in a wild thrashing of claws, an annoying mewing hissing sound and the threat of legal action. Hang on, one of those doesn’t quite fit.

So I read with great relief and satisfaction an article in The Economist which uses facts, figures, pretty graphs and seems to hit many nails squarely on the head. I’m almost tempted to email Jack and send him a link to the article but I’m afraid of some violent retribution.

So, instead, I’ll share it with you:

Videogames: Chasing the dream
(The Economist)

w.bloggar 4.00

My internet access at work has been expanded slightly. I’m still poking around to see just what scope for time-wasting I truly have but one delightful advantage is that the blogging tool mentioned above is now something I can use.

Fantastic! This’ll make more varied and frequent posting a breeze. Expect a button to appear on my site shortly.

wbloggar.com

Most gamers are racist

Alright, calm down love. Hear me out on this one.

I visit a number of gaming websites to catch up on news and views on as many varied aspects of gaming as I can gather. There’s this one site I go to that delivers pretty good news but the views expressed by the contributors and commentators reek of such strong industry bias and feeling of superioty that I makes my blood boil.

Today, in a piece of news they proclaim as ‘non-news’ they cover a tabloid report on Electronic Arts’ proposed releases over the next fiscal year. It appears that, of the 26 titles, 25 of them are franchises or sequels and only one of them is an original.

My first reaction is “This is news?” but then, they already covered themselves by declaring that it’s non-news anyway. So it’s just fuel for the anti-EA brigade’s fire.

Hating EA is a popular passtime for gamers, it’s up there with hating Microsoft and Sony. Just below that level of hate rests that bastard of a publisher who promised GameX as an exclusive and then declared it would be out on other platforms as well. The fiends. But I digress, EA, Microsoft and Sony. What’s to hate? Well, I can see where people come from but I can’t escape noticing that the three popular targets are also the number one companies in their respective fields. Let’s face it, humans love to see the mighty fall.

Now, the critique of EA is based on ignorance, lack of understanding and incredible tunnel vision. To focus so heavily on EA’s activities whilst ignoring every other remotely succesful publisher in the industry borders on the obsessive. A popular statistic cites that of the top ten selling games of the last year, no less than nine of them were sequels or franchises. Only one (God of War) was original.

I know what you’re thinking. The other nine games must have all been EA games right? Well, EA are certainly the worlds largest and most succesful games publisher, but aren’t we forgetting GTA San Andreas (GTA5 by any other name), Halo 2 and Halflife 2? I believe we are. The quality of these games speak for themselves, I believe their success is deserved. But they too are all sequels.

Ah! But EA games aren’t even sequels! They’re just updates! And this is based upon what? Your involvment in their production and development or your instant bias when you see “o5” or “EA” somewhere on the front of a box. Tell you what, next time you write a game sequel – heck – next time you write a game, come back to me with that one. Now Championship Manager mid-season updates – THOSE are updates. Same game, new stats. The yearly stuff that EA do doesn’t just happen by itself. If you think that it does, then go and sit in the corner.

I’ve seen some awesome EA sequels. Burnout 3 anyone? But that’s not EA! Oh but it is. It’s funded by EA and developed by Criterion who are owned by EA. Yeah, but the sucky bits are EA. Which sucky bits? That DJ Stryker and the whole EA Trax thing. Oh, well, I hate to say this but you need to check your facts and read some of the comments on those very topics by Criterion themselves. But, but.. Oh be quiet.

I personally LOVE the SSX games. SSX was one of the earliest PS2 game and was a superb showcase for it’s potential after the lacklustre release of launch titles like Ridge Racer 5. It’s sequel expanded on the promise of the first one and when SSX 3 was announced I wondered just what they could add that wasn’t already in SSX Tricky. They added loads and made the game look even sweeter. A cookie-cutter sequel? Yeah, in precisely the same way Half Life 2 is a cookie cutter sequel.

But they steal licences from other developers!

Pardon? Did you say they STEAL them? How so? Wouldn’t somebody report them to the authorities if this was the case? I don’t believe that licence theft goes on in the industry. However, I do believe that where licences are concerned there are two parties – the licence holder and the company persuing the licence. Now, obtaining licences is a long, messy, legal affair and one that consists of two parties. So, if the licence shifts from being owned by Sega to EA then there’s a good reason for it. The key factor is the licence holder. It’s up to them who they want to sell their licence to. It’s up to the companies persuing the licence to make the most attractive offer. That, in an overly simplified way, is how it works. I guess EA make better offers than their competitors.

The fact of the matter is most gamers might as well be wearing white pointy hats with their unreasoned unsound and ignorant hate campaign against EA. To add insult to ignorance, they don’t chant “White power!” they chant “Nintendo power!” instead.

But that’s another story..

Gaming..

I went on a bit of a game demo download rampage this week.

Fahrenheit
This is a game coming from Quantric Dreams – the developers responisible for the respected Omikron: The Nomad Soul of a few years back.

The game pitches itself more as a psycholigical journey where the player makes decisions to affect the outcome of the protagonist in their environment. I’m not sure I really agree – I think I’ll settle with calling it a 3D adventure game.

It’s certainly got it where it counts. It looks fantastic and the production values are on par with something from the Metal Gear Solid. The direct-to-camera introduction from the game’s director only serves to reinforce it’s point of view. His pronunciation of the word “determine” alone justifies the 300mb download.

The opening of the game basically sets you up for a fall. I mean it REALLY sets you up for a fall. Watch the intro and see your game character go a slash some diner patron whilst suffering a trance. When you finally get control of him, you’re covered in blood, knife in hand and guilty as sin. Game on.

What’s particularly neat in this game is the use of a screen-split to show two scenes or camera angles at once. Think of the show “24” and you’ll know what I mean. It works to great effect too. Whilst you’re trying to clean up the blood-splattered bathroom in the diner the screen smoothly splits to show the cop at the diner eating, then getting up and pacing towards the bathroom. The added tension this brings to the gameplay is just fantastic.

The developers stress that all your actions affect what happens in the game. This means that dashing out of the bathroom will be different to cleaning your face and then dashing out. It certainly compels you re-play scenes over. Which is worth doing – the demo is quite short but totally leaves you wanting more.

I think this game could be very special on release.

Demo resources (300mb)

Dungeon Siege 2 (Single Player)
Hoo boy, That’s a big file!

I rather enjoyed the original Dungeon Siege. It was a pleasantly shallow, stat-light dungeon hack. DS did a great job of tackling many of those niggly issues you find with these games by using a very well thought out interface, a huge inventory system (the pack mule) and a really good loading system that meant the entire world remained cohesive.

With the above in mind I’d been keeping a casual eye on this and was looking forward to it. I have to admit to being a little disappointed. The engine appears identical to the original which has definitely lost that cutting edge feel to it. Additionally, some of the interface’s intuitiveness has been removed. I can’t seem to find a really simple way of telling different party members to use different magics/weapons. This was a one key-press affair in the original, not so here.

It appears that things have been expanded upon though. There’s skill trees for your melee, ranged and magic types. There’s also a clear effort at making stronger narrative and plot.

One thing I am really disappointed at is that the interface just doesn’t work well in higher (1000+) resolutions. It’s a tabbed interaface and ends up being WAY too small on my highest resolution of 1280×1024. After playing my first online RPG (Guild Wars) for only a week this feels like a huge step backwards.

I’m not really sure of this one. After playing the demo I’ll hold out until the reviews.

Demo resources (1.4 gigabyte)

F.E.A.R. (Single Player Demo)
Ah, first person shooters. The PC’s staple gaming diet.

First off, I’m not sure that F.E.A.R is meant as a cunning acronym for a S.W.A.T. style assault team or as the more obvious “ooh, scary” tones. Having played some of this demo I think it’s fair to say that it’s a fair amount of both.

Visually this game is fantastic. The texture and shadow detail are as good as anything in Doom 3 but it’s the peripheral effects that really make this stand out. The now obligatory ‘real’ physics are everwhere – that goes without saying. But the bullet sparks, flying debris and, in particular, the dust that billows around firefights REALLY make a difference. The dust in particular adds to the panic and tension of a good firefight.

Being the ‘wow! his stats are off the chart’ supern00b you are means that you have super keen reactions. These are conveyed by the use of user-activated bullet time. So far, so Max Payne. Monolith raise the bar by going ALL OUT for Matrix effects. When you’re playing in slow mo you can see that air trails your bullets leave as they head towards their targets. The audio slows down too. A really great effect that you’ll proably see way too much of by the game’s climax.

As for the scary parts – the lighting and shadowing do a great job. There’s some cunning stuff in there too. Before your first firefight you’ll have seen a mysterious girl running just ahead of you (did you see it? Was it your imagination?) and there’s more where that came from.

Monolith have often churned out really solid stuff in the FPS department. Some hits (Shogo MAD, N.O.L.F) some misses (Tron 2.0). This is destined to be a hit.

Demo resources (700mb)

Brave new worlds

After countless years playing offline and resisting the temptations of Ultima Online, Everquest and the like I find myself doing a complete about face.

As the more observant will have noticed from my wishlist, I am a spanking new player at Guild Wars. To be perfectly honest with you I’ve played it so little I can’t even give you much feed back. It’s very pretty, I like the way it takes no time to load and I look forward to questing with some like-minded geeks from The Society. If anyone is interested I found that Play.com did the best offer on the game – a measly ?17.99. Nice one.

Ah, but there’s more. I’m venturing into LIVE territory. Xbox Live. I don’t know why but I was utterly convinced it would be nigh-on impossible for me to set up my Xbox the way I wanted it. I was very nearly proved right until a fellow Socialite showed me that I was being dumb in Windows XP. I have the hardware and cabling set the way I want it and, wouldn’t you know, my Xbox Live pack arrived from Amazon at work today. I’ll be trying it out and no doubt getting my ass handed to me at Halo 2 and Outrun 2 tonight.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to go online. I’m sure that NTL fattening my pipe to 2mb for nothing (and imposing an unregulated download cap at the same time) has a lot to do with it. My upload speed is still lacking but I’ve not worried about that until now as I’m what they call a leecher. The fact that MMORPGs and Xbox Live are a regular topic of excited debate at The Society has made me increasingly curious. I certianly don’t want to live online – at least, no more than I do already. I’ve no interest in getting married to some polygons in a fantasy world. I’ve also no desire to be insulted by strangers over an Xbox Live headset. Perhaps my reservations are unfounded. Perhaps I’m just paranoid. I guess we’ll see.

GTA:SA still has a vice-like grip (geddit?) over me. I’m so gay for GTA that when I’m not hunting down graffiti in Los Santos I’m scooting around on the very respectable GBA version of the game. Some people didn’t like it on GBA. I thought it was pretty respectable. The frame-rate suffers sometimes and there’s not the audio variety in the PC/Console versions of the game but considering the limitations of the hardware it’s as good as anyone can expect.. ..until Liberty Cities Stories on PSP blows it away.

As I’m getting busier at work and home expect to the slower updates of this blog to continue. Your co-operation is appreciated.