Pretentious, opinionated language

Games, technology, music, silliness. Oh and ninjas. Lots of ninjas.

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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Moving...

I'm taking all my junk elsewhere, sad to say.

www.doomsday.no

If i could migrate all my stuff over i would. Sigh :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Imagine Peoplez

Today's obsession for me; Video games for kids with titles ending in z.
Observe.












Ok so i made up Cowz. But come on!

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Open screen project

http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/

I'm stoked. For all us developers this basically kills a ton of aggravations we've struggled with for ages. Joolz on the flashlounge mailing list sums it up beautifully:

"
1) From the point of view of developers, it will be as if there is one flash player to write for. No more Flash Lite and different versions of Actionscript for different platforms. Write once, run everywhere.

2) The general idea is that there will now be a uniform consistency for interfaces across all embeddable devices - TV's, cable boxes, mobile phones, microwave ovens, whatever.

3) There will be no fee payable by companies that embed the Flash Player in devices. Companies implementing Flash previously had to pay a licence fee. The removal of the fee will drive adoption.

4) The api used to implement Flash on a device, has now been opened.

5) Competing Flash Players will now be allowed. Anyone will now be able to write a flash player, previously something that was restricted under licence terms. The significance of this is greater than it seems. One of the criticisms of Flash has been: "What happens if Adobe goes out of business?".

6) The Open Screen Project has been adopted by every important business in the world with the exception of Apple and Google. The massive support for this initiative means almost certain success and much wider adoption of Flash as a platform. Apple with the iPhone and Google with Android, would be the losers if there were a successful adoption of Flash across all imaginable devices.

Basically, those are the nuts and bolts of it. If successful, it could have dramatic effects on the adoption of Flash across the world of devices. The type of device on which Flash could be implemented, is now open ended. It could be the dashboard for your next car."

Fucking spectacular. Personally i'm hoping for videogames adopting flash for 2d UI. I've been wanting Flash to "officially" branch away from web development for years and years, and finally Adobe is doing it right.

Kick ass!

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Forgotten gems: Discworld Noir

Now here's a true modern adventure classic if you ask me.
The third of Perfect's Discworld adventure games, this euro-only 3CD point&click adventure basically slipped in under the radar in 1999 and pretty much stayed there since. Considering how bloody smart and enjoyable it is, that's an enormous shame. Other classics such as Lucasarts' masterpiece adventures enjoy continued life through software like SCUMMVM, while the later installments of the genre stand a very real risk of simply vanishing from memory.

Discworld Noir came at a horrible time for adventure games. Released the year after Half life, console gaming was rising fast, PC gaming was making mile long strides towards purely hardware accelerated high tech gaming, and Noir's admittedly low tech approach did not give it the best legs to stand on. However it's impeccable writing (some of which was supplied by Mr Pratchett himself) made it shine.

As an adventure game, you know the drill; You explore locations, pick up objects, talk to characters and solve puzzles that periodically unlock new locations to explore, advancing the plot as you go. What sets Noir apart though is its inventory system, dialogue and subject matter.

The story concerns a disgraced policeman, Lewton, who makes his living as a private eye. In classical film noir style, he is approached by a beautiful woman (at least that's what they were gunning for) who asks him to find her lost lover. From there on he becomes implied in a murder case, infected with lycanthropy, and eventually have to fight off a world threatening conspiracy.
In Noir's Discworld of endless night and perpetual rain, unsavory characters and vicious murder, Perfect's previous two games' Monty Pythonesque jolly tone fades almost completely, and Pratchett's biting sarcasm and smart dialogue is truly allowed to shine. To be short, this is the best videogame adaption of Pratchett's vision you're likely to find.

On gameplay terms, Lewton is an investigator, and as such you collect clues as well as items. This means you have a book of words, names and locations in addition to your standard box of random items. The genius comes from the fact that you can combine clues with eachother as well as items, which may generate more clues. In addition, you use your clues and items as topics for conversation. The impressive bit is how rarely this becomes a random crapshoot of trying everything together; an old adventure game caveat. In addition to the actual snooping you do, Lewton becomes a werewolf quite early in the game, which gives him certain abilities, such as identifying smells (which can again be combined with inventory items or clues).

The result is an absolute ton of really interesting problem solving, where you combine ideas and dialogue rather than items to solve problems that are often about uncovering more clues. It really feels like solving a case, and it's one of the best twists on adventure games i've ever come across (and i've played a lot of them).

On the visual end, the game is quite rough, with prerendered characters and backgrounds. Lewton himself is polygonal, but he might as well not be. Make no mistake, this game can be downright ugly, which earned it some nasty comments on its release. It is, however, consistent, and the graphics effectively convey the atmosphere Perfect was going for. Things become quite a lot better on the audio end, with great voiceovers and a moody ambient soundtrack.

The real meat to Noir however is undoubtedly its gameplay; something you don't typically say about adventure games. People tend to remember adventures for their stories or graphics, i remember Noir for its sleuthing.

If you ever enjoyed Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, or brainy adventure games with logical puzzles, you owe it to yourself to try this game out. If you can get it working on a modern PC that is.

More reading:
wikipedia
mobygames

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax, 1939 - 2008


"I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else."

Gary Gygax was a true giant, and i owe him more than i can even fathom. There are years of my life that i remember almost exclusively for the gift of his work. Next to John Peel's death, this is the only other time i've felt as touched by the death of a person i never met.

Some retard out there said something along the lines of "He's immortalized through his appearance on Futurama". No you idiot; he's immortalized through shaping a huge part of the foundation of games as we know it, influencing scientists, musicians, writers, painters, and giving millions of people a way to connect through their imagination alone.

Rest in peace man. You've truly earned it.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Will Wright at GDC08



I don't really care much for his games, but he's an absolutely spectacular speaker that's obviously hugely in love with games and world building. Utterly amazing 30 minutes, don't miss them; this applies to more than just games

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Another Wii rant

Everyone saying they havent turned on their Wii in forever belong, according to my awesome theories, to one of two camps:

1. The people that actually bought into the prelaunch hype and thought it was going to utterly revolutionize their world from the get go. This isn't a Wii specific issue. Exactly the same thing happened with the PS3 and 360; lots of promise, very little immediate gratification.

2. Gamers that "grew up" on the previous generation.

I think the Wii appeal comes down to wether you truly like playing games, or you're just some dude who wants one specific thing from the media and that's that.
That's fine! But it's called checking out the market and weighing your preferences against what you buy. You don't typically go eat Italian when you really want Chinese.

I own the whole trinity, and to me the Wii is still the most exciting one. I know there's a heap of fun stuff coming out soon, and most recently? No more heroes, Zack & Wiki, Endless Ocean. Those titles just flat out justified the system for me, AGAIN. Zack & Wiki in particular; it's a truly gorgeous game and i have a hard time picturing it on any other console, including the PS3.

If you want to talk about buying potential, here's how i gauge the future;

Xbox 360 and PS3 will continue to host awesome looking titles with large budgets that take years to come out with gameplay that make increasingly gradual tweaks to existing conventions out of abject fear of losing money. I don't remember who said it, but there was a comment on here recently going something like "WHY IS EVERYTHING AN FPS!!?!" I totally share that sentiment. I'm sick to death of FPS shooters with recharging health, left trigger for iron sights, left stick clicked to duck, A button activates/reloads, yada yada. I know it's mad to be hung up on the controls like that but the games truly start feeling like the same game with a different mod, especially in these UE3 times.

I'd like someone to tell me, honestly, what they think the chances are of a game like Zack & Wiki coming out on the PS3 or 360 anytime soon. If the graphics hadn't been super next generation hootnanny, if there hadn't been fully voiced speech. If there hadn't been the motion sensing conceit. The game would instantly have less foundation for actually entertaining people.
Doesn't take a genius to see how much money would be lost on a Zack & Wiki for the 360.

Fact of the matter is, if a developer isn't up to snuff for the "truly" next gen platforms they're damned either way. I don't think people realize just how crippling the budgets have become.

River city ransom just landed on the virtual console, and i'd almost forgotten how brilliantly simple and entertaining that game is. It made me want to dig out every game i TRULY loved over the years, like Chu Chu Rocket (where's my Wii version already!?), Power Stone 2, Ooga booga, Ninja Gaiden, Monkey Island...

I love games. It's such an engrossing, exciting medium, nothing else out there can do the same. When my dad bought me a Gameboy in 89 i almost instantly dropped out of choir and piano practise. I remember making a papercraft gameboy in school and a simple contraption so i could drag strips of paper through slits on the sides of the "screen" so i could make my own levels and just at the very least see them moving on something LIKE a game console. Ever since then my life has been geared towards just worshipping the medium, as a player and as an academic. I read about them, write them, play them, talk about them, compose for them. They can be such amazing things.

So why in fucks name do people insist that all they now want from them are first person shooters, rpgs or other easily identifiable genres? Games aren't about genres, they're about putting your mind in places you don't normally go, challenging instincts you don't typically challenge.

What's happened is this: Increased consumer demand has forced a competitive industry into an arms race where the production values of the product has necessitated distillation of gameplay into the absolute gray area where EVERYONE can at LEAST enjoy SOME of it. Microsoft's game testing "labs" are a great indicator of how wayward this whole thing has become.

The arms race has to stop, or at least reach a plateau, and i think we're nearing it. I think what we're seeing is hollywood versus direct to video, and i for one am a huge fan of direct to video, where people get to play around with ideas without complete TERROR at the prospect of losing millions of dollars.

The 360 and PS3 are Hollywood. Take from that what you will. I for one am hugely satisfied with my Wii purchase; it lets me play that steady slow tricle of those rare gem direct to video titles.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Akai MPD24 and its crutches


Quick preface: I know i always sound like i hate everything. I don't! I love some things!

I recently had to get a quick replacement for my faulty M-audio Trigger finger MIDI control surface, and the cheapest/nearest alternative was the Akai MPD24.

I haven't used it so much yet, but first impressions are generally good. The hardware itself is weighty and solid, the pads, knobs and faders feel great, and the performance i used it for went down well. Now i've spent a day trying to get used to it, and the thing is just packed with poorly weighted design choices for a general purpose MIDI controller, and if you're looking to buy this thing i think you're entitled to hear about them

Aftertouch with no CC fallback
The vaunted aftertouch for a controller of this sort is a huge misstep. Typically you'll use such a unit with a software sequencer or such and route midi from there. Midi CC, as supported by the Trigger finger, is easily the way to go. The fact of the matter is, you can't use the pressure sensitivity of the MPD24 with any of Ableton Live's effects, nor any other effects on any software that uses CCs for MIDI control mapping. This is a near fatal limitation for me, as the device is used primarily as an effects or DMX controller. The reliance on aftertouch, with no CC alternative, denies me the use of 16 potential controllers on the surface, leaving me with 16 digital switches in their place.

Control knobs with no physical limits
The knobs on the device have no physical limits, nor a center "groove", not letting you check with a light tweak of the knob wether the knob is at an extreme or at a center. Having to actually look at the display to get the current value feels somewhat ridiculous.

"16 levels" mode is pointless
The device has a mode where hitting a switch will map the same pad to all 16 pads and divide their velocity maximum by their pad number. I'm curious as to what situation would require you to play the same note with velocities that precise (yet arbitrary). Particularly for drums!

4 pad bank buttons only alter pad nodes
You get 4 banks of settings to hotswap between during use. Except these don't change CCs for sliders and knobs. Given that the aftertouch basically renders the pads useless for effects use, you're left with 4 sets of 16 digital switches. Not bad if all you want are switches, but there are far better control surfaces available for that exact purpose.

Summary
The MPD24 is, i assume, awesome for whatever purpose the designers at Akai intended for it, but as a general purpose controller it's got some crippling limitations. I just want to make any potential buyers aware of them before comitting; If M-audio's drivers hadn't sucked so bad, i'd actually recommend the Trigger finger.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Turok logo malarky


Anders Psychofreud makes me painfully aware that this new "edgy" Turok logo actually reads "Turdy". Irony.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sins of a solar empire, first impressions

What a name. I can think of a lot of names for a game about interstellar conquest, but i doubt i could top this. Sins of a solar empire.. It's got epic poetry to it. Bodes well.

If you haven't been keeping up with this, Sins of a solar empire is a kind of hybrid real time tactics / 4X strategy game, published by Stardock, the same dudes that rolled out Galactic Civilizations 2, and developed by Ironclad, a bunch of ex Rockstar/Barking dog elopers. The pedigree is impressive.

I've been mildly interested in it, mostly for the name, but after actually playing it i realize it's one of those games that will give and keep giving for a long time, and give proportionally to what you invest.

It's staggeringly elegant, incredibly atmospheric, and even though the tech tree looks (and is) somewhat limited, the game offers a preposterous amount of strategizing. Played at a somewhat sedate pace, the game offers real time galactic strategy, with management down to unit level should you want it. The game adopts the same disdain of the minimap as Supreme Commander, letting you zoom smoothly in and out from a galactic view down to the windshield on a fighter ship. It's natural and direct. In addition, the left side of the view is dominated by a abstract "map" of your empire in the form of a tree, branching from celestial bodies. It looks a hellish mess at first glance, but given a little time it becomes indispensable. It's brilliant.

My favorite example of how thoughtful the game is laid out is in its merging of macro with micro.
Colonizing new worlds is typically done with a colony frigate. You can select your frigate, click on the "colonize" button and then on the planet. Or you can just right click on the planet. Or you can just leave the colony frigate in the same system as the planet and do something else; colony ships have their colonize ability defaulting to auto-cast. When your colony is up you can zoom in, choose your construction frigate, choose to make a crystal refinery, then click on an asteroid. Or you can just click on the asteroid and it will have a button that calls the closest available construction frigate in to make a refinery. Or you can zoom out of that solar system altogether and do something else, choose your new colony from the empire tree, click on "planetary development" and, lo and behold, there are buttons to build crystal and metal refineries if there are available asteroids on which to do so.

It never seems like the choice you want to make is distant. It feels wonderful.

I need to play it more, havent even tried multiplayer yet, and the larger galaxy maps are simply intimidating. Will be back with a review.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

leisure suit larry revival, female protagonists, sexy sexy!


Kotaku pointed me to this excellent interview with LSL series creator Al Lowe, which again directed me to this great summary of the series. Thank you, hypertext markup language, for delivering on your promise.

It's funny how a franchise as sad and awkward as Leisure Suit Larry can be remembered for being funny. The first LSL was a complete horror show to me, filled with people who detest you in a filthy city where imminent death or dishonor is around every corner. There was a strong tone of sadness to the whole experience. Later games in the series became progressively weirder and grew in scope, and the character himself seems to be more of an idea of a lonely guy out of touch with reality than some charicature.

Another point of contention is how the series is often referred to as pornographic, when it's positively tame and thoroughly benign compared to insane things like Dead or alive Xtreme 2, a game i actually bought out of curiosity, and occationally play just to be weirded out by the trippy david lynchian creepiness of it.

Check out the articles, particularly the interview. I thought it was genuinely interesting and a little alarming to be reminded just how mature the games really were compared to the oversexed T&A mania we're seeing in nearly every game with a female character these days.

Speaking of female protagonists, here's a list of some i thought were pretty rad.

  • Cate archer - No one lives forever

    I'm a tremendous fan of this series. I thought they absolutely nailed the female protagonist, with just the right ratio of sexy and elegant. Cate chopped up trenchcoat wearing special agents with her katana stolen from ninjas before picking a lock with her hair pin, investigating the scene of a crime. Later she'll be fighting more ninjas in a house caught in a tornado. Then she reports in on her makeup kit communicator.

    Awesome.




  • Jade - Beyond Good & Evil

    She's downright impossible not to like. She's got an original design that doesn't emphasise her ass and tries to create a character that's simply naturally attractive, and then sets out to make her awesome through her actions.

    I hope i wasn't the only one that thought the idea of sneaking into a compound commando style to get photographic evidence of crimes is a more exciting way to solve a problem than with guns..?

  • Samus Aran - Metroid series

    This is such a nobrainer. Samus is one of the few game protagonists out there where gender is genuinely irrelevant to the character. Samus is a human being in a context where that is exactly all that matters. Her imposing armor serves to remind us of that, and the more recent games frequent audiovisual cues remind us of her femininity. With Samus Nintendo made a female character everyone thinks is a total badass without alienating anyone else based on gender. That's impressive.




  • Julie - Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.²

    Don't roll your eyes just yet. Heavy Metal is a magazine notorious for its t&a content taken at face value, but it's one of the most sexually empowering publications as well. I absolutely love the idea of the fantasy "heavy metal babe" saving a world populated by strong women and weak men against everything inhuman about the corporate entity, all in latex and leather, wielding chainsaws and uzis. It's totally off the hook, but to me the game was a complete fantasy world, and that's something we shouldn't forget; playing with the rules is what makes a fantasy fun.

    Sidenote; Ritual entertainment (RIP) were notorious for this kind of over the top dumbass muscly men and big titted strong women shooting enormous guns at eachother. It was deliriously politically incorrect, and i loved them for it. Here's a toast to Ritual!

It's complete bullshit to say female protagonists should be exempt from sexuality. No male protagonist with a semblance of realism to them is created without sexuality in mind, be it overt or not; it's simply human nature to look at a person of the opposite gender and consider the probability and value of mating.

In my opinion, we need to reinstate a policy of dignified sexy. We live in a society where sexy women tends to be equated with childlike weakness and sexual subservience to man, particularly in terms of fashion. Sexy has become the domain of girls. There was a time when sexy meant dangerous, and was a property of women.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Movie review: Aliens vs Predator Requiem

Wow, just wow. Go to the movies and watch this oedipal train wreck of a film, hollywood's latest and probably not last attempt at fucking its own heritage in the ass.

I suppose we should be given to have some level of understanding that a film called Aliens versus Predator is inherently ridiculous from the offset, but the fact of the matter is, all it takes is one glance at the two franchises being fisted here to realize any attempt at bringing them together should either be left to people with HUGE brains, or left well alone. Two of the most recognizable horror franchises of the pre 00's, stuffed ass first into this, a one and a half hour long cavalcade of off-screen deaths, shaky camera work, shoddy rubber suits, half baked attempts at paying homages to the original films, and exactly no characters to care about. It's a party.

I can't be arsed talking about the plot, because there isn't one. Predators act like drunken sailors and fail to realize one of their guys has a little alien baby coming, smashing their alien-filled ship into America. Always America. Considering it's actually cheaper to shoot a movie filled with unknown actors in eastern europe, i'm frankly surprised the film wasn't moved to a european location. You know, if only to attempt to convince the rest of the world US filmmakers actually know what's outside their own borders. But i digress.

Aliens. On earth. And there's a predator dude out to clean up the mess (presumably). There's a town full of "people", including The Jock, The Sherriff, The Outlaw, The Tough Mom, and The Kid That Needs Saving. There are also some army dudes of unfathomable ineptitude. Who cares.

I'm actually stumped as to what else i can say about this, because it really is one of the dumbest films i've seen in a very long time. What i will do is a point by point list of what i liked and what i didnt.

What i liked
* One nice explosion effect shot.

* It's always good to see Predators wrasslin' it up. Still a fun character.

What i didn't like
* Bodycount overload, on both sides of the fence. There are so many aliens and people biting it here that you become desensitized to it within moments. There is no impact to any death; there are too many bad guys, and they die all the time. There is never any triumph to taking down the villain. In terms of death, this film shouts at you, all the time. It loses its effect rather quickly.

* Terrible, terrible sound work. The aliens apparently have exactly two words in their vocabulary; Hiss, and pitched up elephant. WRrreee. Oh come on. This movie has more pitched up elephant in it than a movie about elephants would have if you pitched it up. Every sound effect that's well done was well done in the 80s. No attempt at playing with the audio template has been made.

* Annoying attention to child murder. I'm not saying child murder is a bad thing. In fact, i fully condone it in the context of the horror film, because it's one of the most disturbing, horrible things i can imagine. Playing it off as The Gimmick Of The Film though, as is done here, is exploitive. Also cue lots of kids watching their parents die. Gnarly.

* Aliens have never, ever been less scary. They're in plain sight, all the time, in all their hobbling man-in-a-suit-ness. Gone are the hideous deliberate biomechanics of Alien, as is the abstract insectoid mob of Aliens. There is nothing particularly alien about these dudes anymore. They're just a bunch of scrawling, whining pig elephants that drip water everywhere and bleed yellow stuff that is SOMETIMES acid and sometimes nothing at all.

* Women get it. Big time. Screw those guys for being able to have children!

* The attempts at homages to the alien films. Woman driving an APC, turning to the camera shouting "Hold on!". Guy named Dallas. Subtle. Retarded.

* The hilarious magical predator/alien hybrid, which looks like a big fat hydrocephalic man with hotdogs hanging off his head.

* One of the single worst soundtracks for a movie of this sort. It's like sci-fi channel originals material.

If you want to see a really freaking dumb movie with lots of people dying and some aliens and also there's a predator, then by all means, support Hollywood's rape of the artform and pay to see this film.

Everyone affiliated with this film deserves a hard knee in the groin.

edit: check out the wikipedia page for this film
It may be as retarded as the film itself. God i love it when people try justifying sci-fi logic.

Friday, December 28, 2007

You, over there by the bar drinking your beer

You're sat in one of the best god damn drink bars in the city, and you sit there sipping your cheap stale piss. What the fuck is wrong with you people?!

If you're at a good bar and you have the option of having a classic drink prepared for you at the same cost, why would you choose NOT to? It's like i'm sitting at the table and everyone but me is sitting on their food. What in gods name.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ace Combat 6 gets my vote for disappointment of the year

BE WARNED; THAR BE MILD SPOILERS

My god what a mess. It's a pretty mess, but compared to the almost impossibly well made Ace Combat 5 and the gritty Zero, Ace Combat 6 is an incredibly hard fall for the series as far as i'm concerned. It literally breaks my heart.

But let's rewind.

Ace Combat is three things since it's proverbial rebirth with Ace Combat 4; It's sci fi, it's army hardware porn, and it's the de facto standard for how arcade flight sims should be made. It's a series of games known for their top notch production values, elaborate storylines and constant flirtations with obscure narrative techniques.
Ace Combat 6 is the first non-Playstation outing for the series. It's also the first next generation Ace Combat, and the Xbox Live demo has had me tearing out my hair in anticipation. After all, after 5 and Zero, both crammed with interesting storytelling and creative set pieces, who can imagine what these dudes can come up with given next gen hardware?
Well, it turns out they pretty much phoned it in. This is a game about pretty graphics and moving the series formally away from Sony hardware, very little else.

The good

Graphics are ridiculously pretty, with huge draw distances and massive battles, and clouds and contrail effects you pretty much believe as you play.

It's rock solid Ace Combat. The gameplay is pretty much exactly what you expect, which is a good thing. The core mechanics of flying around shooting stuff are precise and thoroughly enjoyable. The lack of analog buttons for rudder and other more obscure mechanics do little if anything to hurt the gameplay. Flying around shooting stuff is awesome.

Breaking the missions into larger scale battles divided into operations you can pick and choose from on the fly is great and makes missions feel less scripted. Earning allied support by completing operations, letting you use the allied attack and allied cover options is also great incentive.

The new allied attack/allied defence mechanic is fun and makes a lot of sense in the game's larger scale battles. As you complete operations, forces delegated to that operation will begin following you around the battlefield, and can carry out coordinated attacks by holding up on the d-pad. The result is often dozens of missiles flying at the enemy at the same time, and the satisfaction never really diminishes.

The voice overs during flight are still uniformly top notch. It's simply impossible to be bored playing this game; even simply flying from A to B will typically give you some semblance of narrative advancement.

So the core of Ace Combat gameplay is nudged forward a tiny little bit, the presentation is great, and it makes some worthy next-gen-ish additions to the formula. Where it falters though, and dramatically, is in providing a context for that formula.

The bad

The single worst narrative of any Ace Combat game to date. Again attempting an unconventional approach, Namco have chosen to omit the player character from the narrative in general, and instead focus on a set of side stories involving other characters caught in the conflict, including a distraught mother looking for her annoying little cloneborg daughter, a handicapped enemy commander, a tank crew looking to rob a bank and so forth. The problem with this is that the storyline is spread too thin. The game takes place over 15 missions, and none of the actual in-game narrative push advances any of the storylines of the characters shown in the meandering cutscenes that separate missions. As a result, trying to tell such a wide set of stories in such a short span of time makes each story completely unmemorable, winding up essentially as non-sequiteurs to the simplistic yet at the very least coherent story that propels you from mission to mission. You play an arcade shooter flight sim for one moment, then you're forced to sit though uninteresting melodrama about uninteresting characters that are never allowed the slightest chance to grow on you.

Worse yet, the voice acting and writing for the cutscenes are mindblowingly poor, especially coupled with the enthusiastic and fun voice work on display during gameplay. Abysmal lines delivered by bored actors portrayed by plastic mannequins (rendered in real time with decidedly mixed results) certainly don't help you get involved. A lot of the time, you simply want these boring melodramatic characters to shut the hell up. And, as some have said before, what in gods name is up with the ridiculous "dance with the angels" line? It doesn't sound good, and never makes sense in the context uttered. But i digress.

Let it be said that i am no enemy of melodrama. Ace Combat 5 and Zero really pushed my tolerance, but their narratives were never spread this thin and applied with so little conviction. Even the insane live acted documentary style cutscenes of Zero had real heart, and Ace Combat 5 even managed to make me sit through the credits genuinely happy. Hell, when AC5 made me sit through a long mission where most of it is made up from various squadrons joining yours, singing a peace anthem in wailing false radio voices it was incredibly hard to feel offended by it as much as you wanted to hug the insane people who would subject you to that kind of rampant heart string yank wish such enthusiasm.

Ace Combat 6, however, falls on its ass literally after the first mission, and never recovers.

The last nail in AC6's narrative coffin is the incredible simplicity of the actual campaign arc. Some dudes attack and occupy your country. You counterattack and take back your city (it turns out there is only one city in this country), they counterattack (weakly). You beat them again. The end. Considering the sprawling complex mess of the AC5 campaign, which had branching missions, shifting allegiances, and a near infinite onslaught of sci-fi monstrosity bosses and minibosses, AC6 simply doesn't appear to give a rats ass about anything, and gives you a set of plain excuses to have planes in the air.

Speaking of those sci-fi elements, there are two in AC6, only one of them are remotely fun to fight, and neither require anything special from you. Nothing like the constant divebombing of the Scinfaxi submarines in AC5, or the downing of the Arkbird. The game's set piece count also end with those two battles. Where AC5 wisely saved the tunnel flying and other "xtreme" stuff for the end, AC6 drops it in there like it's every day's business to go flying little jaunts into enemy bases. There is no impact, no triumph, and no holy shit moments. None, zip. It's all in a day's work.

When Ace Combat 6 ends, it ends too soon, without even having become remotely challenging, and you're sat there scratching your head wondering where the rest of the missions went.

Overall

Ace Combat 6 is a great engine and some great gameplay wrapped in an abysmal narrative that somehow drains it all of charm and purpose. When it makes you go "Oh come on" it is never with a smile, and when it ends you want to go up to whoever wrote the manuscript (there were something like 8 of them apparently) and just shake them to bits over how they botched it.

As someone who played the games for sci-fi army wank shootery second, sci-fi army wank melodrama first, i can't recommend this game at all on the basis of its storyline. It is truly preposterously bad, and a huge step back for the series.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

New TV, Metroid Prime 3, Ace Combat 5. Yeah.

Hi! Been a good while since my last post now, and things have happened!

First and foremost, i finally grit my teeth and quit my job. So freelancing from now on! Freedom! Yeah! The first thing i did was invest in a 32" HDTV, which felt crazy when i did it (i have never owned a tv), but was totally worth it. Finally i can play all those 60hz and NTSC games i've wanted to play for so long, as well as finally give my 360 the hardware it deserves. As frivolous as spending that kind of money on a tv seemed, it really does come together when you're playing with R-type Final shaped sunburns.

Lots of gaming since that entered my house! Lots of Speedball 2 and Exit on XBLA (both brilliant), but finally getting my hands on Metroid Prime 3 was sort of a revelation (wiivelation. Ha! HA! I can sense your cringing from here). A properly thought out first person shooter on the Wii really is amazing, and i was double convinced of that after a 5 hour MP3 session followed by attempts at getting back into R6 Vegas. Anyone else think it's funny that R6 uses a scheme that punishes your aim for excessive camera movements, yet is played with a control setup so unprecise rapid camera movements are required to aim precisely? Prime 3, for me, is the best console first person shooter ever made in terms of control. It puts everything else to shame, and there's no autoaim whatsoever. The lock on mechanic is a stroke of genius, as it locks *your movement* on to your target's center of mass, and still requires you to aim precisely from there. It makes circle strafing and such movements second nature, and still demands that you work for your payoff.

Aside from that, soon there's Ace Combat 6 in the house, and i decided to finally finish Ace Combat 5 on the PS2, which i've had a long flirtatious love affair with, playing it on and off and always loving it just as much. The Ace Combat franchise has gone from being a mere arcade flight sim to becoming a sprawling anime EPIC with each installment, with near constant voice overs, sci-fi influences and soundtracks of an incredible calibre. I haven't been playing the series for long, but i did play the original Ace Combat arcade game, and i've been curious about the Playstation installments basically ever since. Simply put, Ace Combat 5 is completely awesome.

It's the kind of awesome where you kind of laugh at yourself for letting it get to you, because the storytelling is amazingly pretentious and contains spoken lines such as "8 skilled pilots against us! The adrenaline! I can feel my heart beating, my body shaking!", but all the insanity is uttered with such conviction (courtesy of a voice acting studio commonly associated with Anime dubs) and understanding of the material that you just can't help but cheer along with it.

Some scenes are staggering. A theme of the game is nations whose people want peace but whose generals want war, and near the game's climax mass army defections take place, their common language a popular song about peace, and you start the mission flying with your squad, as more and more planes from various armies join in, and they're all singing the song! You're flying your jet through the rain with a fleet of other planes that you've been shooting at for hours before, and there's a cacophony of radio broadcast singing coupled with a strong string and brass driven soundtrack. It's a tug on the heartstrings of incredible proportions, and while part of you is screaming "OH COME THE FUCK ON", you can't help but grin at how hard they're trying to move you. If you're like me, it makes you happy.

Ace Combat 5 is a game's game with a big, big heart. In spite of its gameplay pacing problems (they exist bigtime), It's well written, has a fantastic soundtrack, and it makes you care. It also has boss fights where you shoot enormous sci-fi planes firing lasers at you. It's awesome.

I can't wait for the next one. If the demo on live was any indication, we've got good stuff coming!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Bruno Sanfilippo blows my mind

The latest edition of Ultima Thule is dedicated to Bruno Sanfilippo's latest album, simply titled Piano Textures.

listen to Piano Texture 3

It's melancholy, lonely ambient on a level i haven't heard in a long time. Simply numbered rather than titled, tracks 3 and 8 in particular put me in a place that makes me want to curl up and cry.

I often feel as though ambient music is the only genre that can truly transport us somewhere else, sometimes completely changing our state of mind in an instant. I tend to gravitate towards the harsher, darker side of it, but Sanfilippo's work is gentle and moving, and should be listened to by anyone.

Another favorite for me, right next to Lucisferrato's Ingermanland.

Listen to the Ultima Thule broadcast, check out the samples on his site, and if you enjoy it, please buy this album to support this brilliant musician.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gamespot rating system is.. odd...

I know the recent revision to Gamespot's ratings, basically rounding off to halves and adding "achievements" meant well, but i'm confused as to why they still have the decimals at all. Especially when faced with such things as this:

Warhawk : 8.5
Metroid Prime 3 : 8.5

I'm sorry, but i've played both. Warhawk is fun, but it's another Battlefield clone. Prime 3 was apparently "not so good" for being like the previous 2 games in the trilogy. Y'know. Aside from having completely new controls.

We didn't hate on Prime for being different from Super Metroid, so wtf is up now?

These two games don't match up in this way, at least not when you're decimal specific. I argue that decimals are removed. Both getting an 8 i can stand for. Both being equally close to a 9 is weirding me out.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Expresscard universal slot design is insane

I need to vent now that i understand this is a conscious design choice.

I use a laptop for playing live shows and making music. To connect my laptop to my external firewire sound card, i was basically forced to get an expresscard firewire adaptor (apparently laptop firewire ports are shit). I'm mortified to find that the slot for the card is almost twice as wide as the card itself, basically leaving the card "Hanging" with wall contact on one side only, meaning a slight shift of the laptop or a careless hand gesture will easily push the card sideways and out of the slot.

Behold, internet illustration:


Expresscards are apparently "designed to be hot swapped". Well the stuff that connects to expresscards has a nasty tendency of NOT being designed to be hot swapped. Sound cards for instance. They really, really hate being yanked out during mid use. So does XP actually, commonly freezing up completely once this accident happens. And this accident happens a LOT. The firewire cable is short and stiff, meaning as soon as i hook this thing up, i don't dare put my hand anywhere near the right hand side of the machine. Tomorrow i'm playing a show in Berlin and the debate of wether to bring the sound card and enjoy ASIO and zero ground loop and fear The Accident or to accept ground loop and sound like shit but safe is killing me.

I can't believe this design is allowed, and certainly not how the computer or card didnt come with a sort of slot-in object to keep the inserted card from jiggling around. The immediate result is i have to shove some cardboard in there or something, and i HATE THAT.

Fuckers.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Close to god


Easy to forget these things really exist sometimes. It's surreal to watch.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Alien Hominid HD patched

Dunno if this fixes the save bug. But i assume it did! And if so; Great!

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Marathon: Durandal XBLA, a biased review

Halo's granddaddy.

There's something strange about seeing this game running on the 360. Last time i played it in earnest was 12 years ago, on my family's Mac IIsi (if you can believe that). I spent a ridiculous amount of time making mods, maps and scenarios for it, being quite active in the Marathon Map Makes Guild. Rarely you'd see a game inspiring such lavish worship from its fan community on the grounds of its single player experience.

It converts staggeringly well to a console title. I played it primarily with a keyboard as mouselook was jittery, and the translation to analog sticks has worked better here than it does in most big budget 360 FPSes. Put into context; i can play Durandal with aim assist off just fine, turning speed is sensitive enough that 180s are almost mouselook fast, and the look stick deadzone is small enough to make minute adjustments to aim a cinch. The movement stick at its extreme is sprinting speed, substituting the original title's need for a run key, and the addition of analog movement is overall hugely successful, much more so than the 360 Doom port. The more i play the game, the more it seems at home on the 360, which is a very impressive achievement.

The core game is, as always, an objective based first person shooter heavy on exploration and text driven exposition. The classic argument of Doom versus Marathon is side by side proven to be completely pointless, as the games serve different purposes. In fact, Durandal has more in common with the Metroid series than it has with Doom, as a methodical approach is entirely necessary for effective progress, checking your maps and paying close attention to your surroundings. The basis of progress is not so much about getting from A to B as it is about solving riddles and accomplishing objectives in the labyrinthine levels, all named with hints as to the experience that awaits you. It's quite a sizable game, even for today, easily outsizing the original Halo and many other modern action adventures, and considering the story can be quite involving (given the will to fill in a few blanks with your imagination) Durandal feels like you get your money's worth based on the single player campaign alone.

Combat is surprisingly intense, making up for its admittedly retarded AI with large numbers of agressive and strong opponents, color coded like insects for easy threat reference; The richer the color, the more grenades you should lob at it as soon as possible. The game can be quite hard, given that enemy placement often puts you at a distinct disadvantage, ammo conservation and scavenging is a far bigger deal than it was in Doom, clip sizes and reload times have to be taken into account, and health recharge terminals are few and far between. The result is a slow methodical approach, where you often find yourself planning your attack before pushing on. The AI can also be ambushed from behind, as they have a limited cone of vision, often leading to some very satisfying moments when you're down to your last bar of health.

Further improving combat is the inclusion of several interesting firearms with distinct areas of advantage; from crowd control to anti mech to long range, Durandal's weapon selection remains useful from top to bottom throughout the game, with no weapon clearly better than any other depending on the circumstances. In addition, certain weapons can be dual wielded, and most that can't be have twin firing modes, ranging from the pulse rifle inspired assault rifle/grenade launcher to the chargeable fusion pistol. The absolute joy of the collection is still being able to dual wield shotguns, which is still ridiculously enjoyable.

The enemies themselves are an odd crew of alien soldiers, monsters, android suicide bombers, insects, gestapo-style alien inquisitors and monstrous hovering tanks, often from opposing factions. The AI is able to switch allegiance on the fly, so tricking an alien storm trooper to fire a grenade into his comrades may make his comrades very upset with him indeed. Often when low on ammo, using the enemy's numbers against them is a viable tactic, especially with some enemies firing homing weapons that can be pulled into their own ranks with some quick maneuvering. Sometimes you find yourself walking in on battles between opposing factions, choosing sides to take down the tougher opponents first before you mop up the survivors. On occation, this gives an almost emergent feel, as the larger combat scenarios rarely play out exactly the same.

A returning gimmick for the franchise is the motion detector, cleverly updating far slower than is convenient, and completely ignoring any lurking enemies. Seeing the detector erupt in a flurry of red as you blunder into an ambush is remarkably intense.

The end result is a very enjoyable combat experience which belies its age and seems almost up to date in how it approaches large scale battles. Today first person shooters rarely put you up against more than 4-5 opponents to compensate for advanced AI, and it's strangely refreshing to be put up against large numbers where the properties of each opponent are what you need to take into consideration rather than merely surviving how bloody smart they are.

Durandal was known in its day for per-level physics models, which allowed each level to essentially rewrite the rules of the game. Fan mods made the rocket launcher fire people, or made the assault rifle fire fusion pistol bolts. Suddenly the weakest enemy of the game could be nigh unstoppable should the designer wish it so. In the campaign, this translates to shifting allegiances, altered gravity properties, vacuum space walks, underwater missions and other such oddities, and even for today Durandal still keeps you guessing. The basic physics of the game take some getting used to. There's no jumping or crouching, but the game encourages you to exploit its physics to use momentum to take you where you want to go. Occationally this includes what was known as "grenade hopping", using the recoil/blast of the grenade launcher paired with lateral movement to produce a jump. Exploration is constantly rewarded with secret messages, ammunition, health and sometimes weapons.

All this, and i still haven't mentioned the multiplayer. Marathon LAN play was legendary in its day, and what they have basically done here is give it a huge overhaul. 8 players can play games of deathmatch, team deathmatch, tag, "kill the man with the ball", king of the hill or the single player campaign cooperatively. You heard me, 8 player co-op. Play can be done with up to 4 on a single console split screen, through system link or on live. As an added bonus, you and 3 friends on the same console can join live games together. Network play is fast, unsophisticated and frequently hilarious, with king of the hill a complete riot. The real boon here is the co-op however. The campaign is long, difficulty gets ramped up considerably according to the number of players, and ammo conservation becomes a far bigger issue. It's impressive stuff, and makes for one of the most enjoyable multiplayer titles on live arcade as of the moment.

Visually, the game has seen some considerable upgrades, moving from the classic raycaster engine to a true 3d engine (albeit with the same properties as the original raycaster), HD sprite and texture updates, a new interface and the aforementioned updated controls. It also runs at a blistering 60fps that obviously never see a single hickup. The original textures are still available for purists, although this purist found the updates consistently flattering.

Sound is an adequate bunch of bangs, clicks and hisses, while the traditionally crap explosion sounds are still completely crap. But it grows on you. There is, aside from the title theme, no music to speak of, leaving you with the ambient sounds of the world. I wouldn't have it any other way.

There are unfortunately some downsides. Achievements were something i was hugely looking forward to, and Freeverse have really dropped the ball on this one. An early achievement is awarded for merely picking up the assault rifle (along with a reference to the level it is attained in the original marathon). A couple more are given for completing specific chapters, and one for killing 7 enemies with melee attacks. The rest is tuned to multiplayer, with the typical "won 20 games" types of requirements. It's just so incredibly typical and boring. There are no time trials, no "hit an enemy full on with a grenade from 200 yards", no actual exploitation of the intrinsic challenges of the gameplay. Just a list you will easily fill out through normal play. Boo!

There have been reports of motion sickness, particularly IGN's otherwise favorable review, and i'll have to agree. The tight confines, the close perspective, the sensitive motion controls and the constant silky 60fps contribute to some serious nausea if played without precautions. I found very quickly that pushing either movement stick to its extreme is indeed an extreme, with the move stick in particular putting you at a run that in the original was used primarily to exploit the game's nearly weightless default gravity to "jump" across chasms. Moving with a sense of moderation will greatly improve the experience. Games like The Darkness make us curse the protagonist for moving so slowly. In Durandal you want to take it easy.

Overall, i'm astonished. This is clearly a labor of love for Freeverse as it was for Bungie, and by far the best first person shooter experience on live arcade. It puts titles like EA's Wing Commander utterly to shame, and makes for a compelling argument for Marathon's historical place in the FPS family tree. A strong single player campaign, silky and challenging gameplay and a ridiculously well equipped multiplayer suite make this 800pts feel like i paid too little.

Heartily recommended.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mirror's Edge makes me hungry

Latest issue of Edge has a sizable feature on DICE's new first person action adventure, Mirror's Edge, which is being described as a sort of dystopian sci fi first person prince of persia. Think about that for a moment as you look at the design for the protagonist:

That, is BAD ASS. I like this new trend of female protagonists that circumvent classical conceptions of sex appeal and come off triple sexy because of it. Heavenly sword's Nariko was a strong deviation from the Lara Croft formula, and now this. Good job lads!

I heartily recommend picking up this issue just for the article and accompanying concept art. It's some of the most striking stuff i've seen in ages. DICE are describing totalitarian society as "too clean", and the art style reflects this. It's got a Perfect Dark Zero kind of quality to it, without the wet clay look.

I can't wait until there are videos for this thing. The way Edge describes the feedback from walking to sprinting is something i've wanted to see for years. Running in games have always been too slow, never capturing how outright fun it is to run, and why we loved to run as kids.

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled on this one. 360 and PS3 baby. Fuck yeah.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friendly XBLA warnings

So we're getting Marathon 2 on XBLA. We've got Symphony of the night on XBLA. We've got Alien hominid on XBLA. Naturally we now have expectations of the platform. Even veteran titles like Outpost Kaloki X are full games in their own right.

Then came a bevvy of Digital Eclipse driven emulated titles, the grand majority of which are undeserving of your attention.

I was super excited about Super Contra, foolishly thinking it was the SNES Super Contra. Failure. It's the arcade Super Contra, which is nowhere near as rad as the SNES title (sorry #shmups, but arcade apologists < nintendo apologists in this round). Play the demo and weep. It's hard, but what of it? It's also ugly as sin and plays like poo.

The biggest offender though is EA's new Wing Commander title, Arena. This seemed like such a nobrainer for me. Drop players in an enclosed space, maintain the oldschool fly/shoot mechanics, show Project Sylpheed how it's done. Simple, straight forward arcade space shooting. Add teams and mission types, and you'd have tournament material. Hell, i can list you a control scheme:

Left stick: x/y thrusters
click: toggle intertia compensation (y'know, to let you drift freely when releasing thrusters)

Right stick: pitch/yaw
click: target ship closest to crosshairs

Left trigger: brakes
Right trigger: forward thrust
Left button: fire missiles
Right button: fire guns

Dpad left: change missiles
Dpad right: change guns
Dpad up: Shield power to guns
Dpad down: Gun power to shields

What they've done instead is shit all over Wing Commander. The game would have been fine, had it not been saddled with the WC legacy, because to this day there are two series that pulled off arcade space combat that well, and that's Freespace and WC. This third person pseudo 2.5D piu-piu deathmatch bullshit with thimble sized ships, terrible music, and an overall presentation completely devoid of any personality is unworthy.

If you've never played a WC game; this is not what it used to be about.
If you have; don't play this game. You will howl with anguish.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Marathon 2 XBLA Q&A


This is an incredibly encouraging read. I wasn't too psyched about this at first, but they sound like they have their shit together. Also, 8 player co-op is so droolworthy i don't know what else to say about it. M2 CoOp is one of my best gaming memories. Can't wait to do it again.

midines++


This is the sweetest thing i've seen all week. May have to dig out the ol' NES for this.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Total truth

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Halo. A world gone mad

This is pure opinion. I'm through arguing over this. But i will say it again. And again. Because it can't be said enough.

Whoever it is at Bungie that greenlights Marty O'Donnell's Halo soundtracks, in spite of his masturbatory and immature classic rock outbursts, his one-off-and-done-with-it drum sequences and shameless recycling of themes. You should be ashamed.

There are segments of the Halo soundtracks that are completely brilliant. The basic theme was and still is stirring, but it's in danger of self parody at this point, much like George Lucas' rampant reuse of the Star Wars theme in his prequels. The infrequent but solid sequences of ambient music are perfect without exception.

These are elements to be capitalized on.

It would've been easy for me if the Halo soundtracks were just flat out terrible. Instead, they run a pretty static ratio of 3/7 brilliance/garbage. It's the 30% that makes it especially painful, because the insane "look what i can do" flailings that cut the good stuff into slices of yum in a sea of ouch really, really hurt the product.

I'm not a crazy person. I don't have incredible demands. Okami, Viewtiful Joe, Dead Rising, Gears of war, Shadow of the colossus, Ninja Gaiden, Splinter Cell, Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime. I love these soundtracks, and technically O'donnell is more than capable of delivering similar product. Halo and Halo 2, however, have an incredible tendency of half giving me goosebumps, half making me drop "oh come the fuck on!" exclamations.

In a sense, i think it's down to art direction and production, and on that level, i hate to admit, i assume the guitar laden cartoon scifi soundtrack works with the guitar laden cartoon scifi voiceovers (Master Chief in particular has one of the single worst voiceovers ever conceived, both in writing and performance. I mean jesus fucking christ, Marcus Fenix came off more respectable, and THAT sir, is madness), the babylon 5 level scifi clichès, the fact that the protagonist can jump something like half-again his own height.

But it doesn't add up! I adore the art direction, i adore the core creative ideas, during Halo 1 i adored even master chief. Most of all i adore the core single player gameplay, which is just flat out good, in spite of level design flaws.

There's a discrepancy in artistic vision that i can't really put my finger on. It's realism, grave choices, genocides, religion, disinformation. There are interesting ideas at play that are coupled with bumbling and insane mashups of comedy and cartoon dialogue, paired with wailing guitars and piano segments that aren't even up to soap opera levels.

Someone at Bungie, whoever it is that's greenlighting all this, seriously disagrees with me on some fundamental things, and now that the series is basically coming to an end, i suppose i'll merely have to agree to disagree.

I always saw Halo as a cousin of Marathon, but Halo is Armageddon to Marathon's 2001. It's a damn shame.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fallout 3 site live


Old news this, but what the hell:

http://fallout.bethsoft.com/

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sofa cliques, or Why Gaming And Club Scenes Fail

I've thrown a few club events, and without fail, if you ever allow your patrons to become comfortable, you've lost all recruitment to the scene. You have what we call "sofa cliques". You know the type, you enter the venue, and there's like 6 guys sitting around a table talking. Commonly, you'll have several. One in the sofa, one at the bar, one standing in the corner. Instantly, that door is shut for you socially. You come in the door, you immediatly feel discarded.

No matter how rad the music is, if the people into that music are dicks, or you wind up sitting there alone, you're not going to want to partake.

The solution? Keep throwing curveballs. Every party i've thrown since we picked this up have been multiple demographic events. Electro/Reggae/Industrial. Breakcore/ambient/hiphop. Hiphop/jungle/schranz. If you break up preconceptions like that, keeping people on their toes and never letting the attendance coagulate, you get an equally confused and confounded audience every time, and they find unity in their confusion.

Many, confused and happy > few, knowledgable and content.

If anything, the term "gamer" has fucked us up. We have a "language" now. We have "terms". It makes gaming look like buying into a social group, and it really isn't. It should be about pushing the buttons to solve problems, and coming out of it with a smile on your face. Not coming out of it with "cred".

Fuck gamerscores. Fuck kudos. Gamerscores and achievements = sofa clique generators.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Privately owned luxury subs for ultimate greatness



http://www.ussubmarines.com/submarines/phoenix_1000.php3
*starts saving up*

This is a moment for mad ramblings.
If i had the money to construct/maintain that thing i'd:

  • Hire a crew made up entirely of hot asian chicks and/or ninjas. Combination is also acceptable. Hot ninja chicks.

  • Make them wear uniforms that have my name on it, maybe even my face embroidered

  • Train a small army of dolphins to defend the sub from angry whales

  • Hire an angry whale

  • Christen the thing "Deathshark", give it shark decals like jaws etc

  • Paint the thing ninja black.

  • Fill the thing with traps, in case of boarding by pirates.

  • Install a way to electrify the hull in case of boarding by primitive tribes

  • Install an unbelievable sound system. On the outside of the hull. When i'm under the ice caps, scubadivers off hawaii will hear creepy music

  • Arm the thing. Somehow! Please?

If we all get in on it now we could have a FLEET! Imagine! We could rove the seas, solving environmental problems with our supreme knowledge of the seas!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wii gestures that have to die, now

I hate these. Please, please stop putting them in games. Please.

* Nunchuck jerk upwards for jumping. Just. Not. Precise. Enough.

* Shaking the nunchuck and wiimote randomly for "powering up" or whatever.

* Tilt as a gesture. These occur way, way too randomly. A tilt in one direction, then back another is a gesture. A simple tilt anywhere is not. Please!

There. Whew. Thanks for listening.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Wii SD card support sucks almost as bad as the holocaust

I, like many, bought a Wii. It has this thing on it called the virtual console(tm), which indeed lets you play old emulated games. These games take up space. Most are quite small, but some are relatively large. The Wii has 512mb internal memory. I am about to run out.

The Wii has SD card support. To me, this seems logical: cheap and affordable space expansion. Except it doesn't expand shit.

Games can't be saved directly to SD.
Saves can't be read directly from SD.
VC games can't be downloaded directly to SD.
VC games can't be played directly from SD.
Saves or VC games can't be moved quickly from SD to internal memory or vice versa. This requires a copy-then-delete approach.

VC games saved to SD are only playable on the downloading console: this i understand.
Savegames copied to SD can only be loaded by the originating console: this is so blindly retarded i don't even know where to begin chastising it.

What the hell is up with this? I hope to dear god there's going to be some kind of system update to fix the file management, because this is stupid on a level most definitions of poor software design can only imagine beginning to relate to.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Dark crusade no longer broken

Can't believe this passed me by. Patch 1.2 has dropped for Dawn of war Dark crusade, and it pretty much fixes everything.

Crons no longer own everything.
Turret rushes are dead.
Vespid rushes are dead.
Broadside battle suits no longer completely retarded.

Shitloads more positive changes. If you played DoW DC and found it broken, do return now. They did a good job with this patch, least contested patch in years.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

YEAH!


Those kids in the arcade are the best actors in history.
Thanks to Knifehandchop for this :)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Timbaland is a thief, AND an asshole

Whoo-ee this just keeps getting better.

If you're not up to speed on this; watch this.

Done? Here's Timbaland's response.
"It's from a videogame, idiot. Freakin' jerks"
It's around the 6 minute mark.
Not enough for you? Well.

from mtv news:

A European musician Tim is familiar with is, however, is the Finnish producer who accused him of stealing a beat (see "YouTube Clip Claims Timbaland Got Furtado Track From Finnish Dude"). Timbaland called the accusation "foolish."

"It makes me laugh," he said. "The part I don't understand, the dude is trying to act like I went to his house and took it from his computer. I don't know him from a can of paint. I'm 15 years deep. That's how you attack a king? You attack moi? Come on, man. You got to come correct. You the laughing stock. People are like, 'You can't be serious.' "


Great work man. Not only did you demonstrate complete ignorance about how the fuck copyright laws operate, but you showed complete disregard for the hard work of another musician, which makes you, by most standards accepted in western society as fact, a fucking asshole.

I used to have a great deal of respect for this producer, and that respect just became really hard to justify. I find it intensely satisfying that the first hit that pops up on youtube when you search for timbaland is evidence of plagiarism. Rock on.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Ninja Gaiden Black - A reminder

Just in case you forgot. Ninja Gaiden Black is still the single best hard action adventure game on the market. It trounces any and all opposition in terms of putting you in a world, giving you solid controls, stiff opposition and methods of decimating it/being decimated BY it that never get old.

Whenever you think about Tomonobu Itagaki, please, ignore DoA. Remember NG. I don't think the man will ever make as good a game ever again. It is truly a spectacular achievement.

It plays perfectly on the 360 as well, making it the best action adventure on the 360, and, rather alarmingly, one of the best looking ones as well. You can probably pick it up at a budget for a cough and a tip of the hat these days. If you haven't played it, you'd be sorry to miss it.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

zune setup is retarded

three letters. lol.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

PS3 euro lineup

  • Resistance: Fall of Man™ - SCEE - Disc
  • MotorStorm™ - SCEE - Disc
  • Genji™: Days of the Blade - SCEE - Disc
  • FORMULA ONE CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION - SCEE - Disc
  • Ridge Racer™ 7 - SCEE - Disc
  • Tekken®: Dark Resurrection - SCEE - Network
  • Lemmings™ - SCEE - Network
  • Go! Sudoku - SCEE - Network
  • Go! Puzzle - SCEE - Network
  • Blast Factor™ - SCEE - Network
  • flOw™ - SCEE - Network
  • Super Rub’a'Dub - SCEE - Network
  • Call of Duty 3 - Activision UK Ltd - Disc
  • Marvel: Ultimate Alliance - Activision UK Ltd - Disc
  • Tony Hawk’s Project 8 - Activision UK Ltd - Disc
  • Gundam – Target in Sight - Namco Bandai Games - Disc
  • Full Auto™ 2: Battle Lines - Sega®Europe Ltd - Disc
  • Sonic the Hedgehog™ - Sega®Europe Ltd - Disc
  • Virtua Fighter™ 5 - Sega®Europe Ltd - Disc
  • Virtua Tennis™ 3 - Sega®Europe Ltd - Disc
  • World Snooker Championship 2007 - Sega®Europe Ltd - Disc
  • NBA 2K7 - Take 2 International SA - Disc
  • NHL 2K7 - Take 2 International SA - Disc
  • Blazing Angels Squadrons of WWll - Ubisoft Entertainment SA - Disc
  • Enchanted Arms - Ubisoft Entertainment SA - Disc
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent - Ubisoft Entertainment SA - Disc
  • The Elder Scrolls lV: Oblivion - Ubisoft Entertainment SA - Disc
  • Def Jam: Icon - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • Fight Night Round 3 - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • NBA Street 4 Homecourt 2007 - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • Need for Speed Carbon - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • The Godfather: The Don’s Edition - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom - Electronic Arts Ltd - Disc
  • F.E.A.R. Vivendi - Universal Games Intl SA - Disc
  • Gripshift - Sony Online Entertainment - Network
Wow. A list full of stuff that's already out there or perfectly average. Not impressed.

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Crackdown smackdown

Straight up, the Crackdown demo has me convinced. It is rough around the edges, but at its core it's fun in the same way Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was fun. It's just a hugely liberating game, complete with a Verhoeven-esque ironic fascist slant on the future-as-logical-conclusion.

Visually gorgeous, with a subtle cel-shading effect that really plays to the strengths of the engine, and with incredibly fitting sound design. Smashing things this way hasn't really been fun since said Hulk game, and it's about time we got more of it.

Definitely check out the demo on Live. I haven't tried it co-op yet but i'm terrified at how immense that might turn out. I'm literally drooling.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nintendo: Some suggestions follow

I enjoy this here Wii thing you created. I enjoy it much.
However, i must admit a slight tickle of the fearing sort imagining the interface you have created for managing friends and messages within the context of online multiplayer, or even the device's functionality as a community facility.

You appear to have made the assumption that, at an absolute maximum, i will have something like 5 registered friends in my adress book. However, as antisocial as i am, i already have two pages full, and i have a good few more coming. With a list as such, and with online multiplayer on the horizon, i have to ask; how do you intend to facilitate easy communication between groups of individuals rather than simple one-to-one messaging?

Rather than expect a response, i will provide my own personal suggestions for a Wii frontend update, if only to have said it and gain some peace of mind.


  1. Allow me to add more than one recipient for a message
    This seems simple enough. Instead of returning to the message upon selecting a recipient, allow me to "tag" multiple recipients from my adress book and press an "ok" button.
  2. Give us a real message board
    If i have registered John and Mike. And John and Mike have registered me and eachother, shouldn't we be allowed to exchange messages freely as a group, or even DISCUSS through these messages? Give us functionality that allows us to send messages to a public "friends" board, accessible by all registered friends, and readable in chronological top to bottom order rather than the freeform postits-on-a-calendar paradigm. Make it a separate "tab" on the message board screen.
  3. Automatically notify friends when a new game is used on the machine
    A wonderfully underestimated aspect of Xbox Live is the ability to quickly assess what games your friends play and to what extent they appear to enjoy them. A simple implementation of something like it is to be able to send an automatic notice to your registered friends that you have played a game on your Wii you have never played before.
  4. Automatically notify friends when you have achieved generic game goals
    Auto-brag! Tell my friends i've completed Zelda! Tell them i'm Pro at Wii Sports Bowling!
  5. Tag a Mii as ME
    Automatically send it to registered friends and update it whenever i change it.
  6. Let me rate VC games
    Right now there's nothing worse on the Wii than getting a VC game that sucks. Allow me to rate VC games with a 1-5 star scale. When i enter the Virtual Console store, display my registered friends' ratings as an average. If 5 of my friends play a game and rate it at an average of 4 stars, i'll know it's at least worth a purchase. You have no demo functionality like Live Arcade, and frankly you need something like it. This would help greatly.
None of these suggestions require real alteration of your existing online framework, only software on the user end, and would improve the experience quite a bit. As is, my Wii friends are nothing but entries in an adress book, when they could be my Wii community

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Burning crusade will eat your soul

I am, as stated, not a fan of World of warcraft. Tonight the expansion launches.

I thought i'd commemorate this occation by pointing out to you all the things i think are wrong about the game, as a symbol of the genre at which vanguard it stands, howling with fury at the enemy, claymore at the ready. Who is this enemy? Your very soul.

Much of what i'm about to say are matters of fact. Obvious matters even. The important thing, and i can't stress this enough, is the maddening insignificance of it, and the very real toll these insignificances take on you as an individual.

Nothing you do in this game will ever matter. Every moment of your life you spend grinding, spamming heals or dots in raids, talking shit on vent, all these moments, minutes, hours and days are moments you could have spent becoming a better person. You could've spent them tending to your relationship. You could've learned something new, something real. You could've learned how to play an instrument. You could've read a great book. You could've learned how to create your own game. Every hour you clock in is an hour closer to the grave, and hour you'll never get back. And you're paying to undergo this vampirism.

You create nothing in this world. You destroy nothing in this world. Whatever you remove from it is returned in moments. Whatever you give to it is surpassed in moments. Whatever you say in it is forgotten. And you pay for this oblivion.

There is no achievement to be made in this world. Any achievement you meet has been placed in front of you by the designers, and your only boon is the fact that you spent the time and wealth to get at it. Within moments, across the world, your glory is washed over by a tide of insignificance as your achievement is repeated a hundred times over, and you are left with one option; to start over on a different path. But what is the point? Whatever you will do has been done before. Whatever you experience has been experienced before; your ability to manifest yourself with this world instantly nullified by a game design out to make all men and women equal to the molecule. But men and women ARE NOT equal, and should never be forced to partake in such a totalitarian concept of the self. You will never be made truly manifest in this world. And you are paying for this slavery.

Every time you log in, what is truly your goal? A simulacra of a socialite existence? Truly this is not the case, because isn't this a game? A challenge to be overcome, a challenge to your senses, your sensibilities, your intelligence? Shouldn't a game in the true sense of the word pose a question to which your SELF will provide the answer? In this world, you joyfully commit genocide. In this world, you slay women, the weak, animals in the wild, for no reason other than a figurative means to an end that is entirely hollow; a loose concept of achievement and progress that is in itself a lie, because not only is there a physical end to it, but it comes quickly, and when it comes there isn't a thing you can do to surpass it, the only form of progress from that point a test of endurance. And you are paying for this empty, aimless existence.

I loathe everything world of warcraft stands for. Its craftsmanship is a boon to Blizzard's ability, but its popularity is a boon to the game's simplicity. This is a "game" in only the loosest sense of the word, where challenge is solved with time, and failure is punished with time. Time for which you pay hard earned money, but more importantly, time forever lost.

You will never see this day again.

I could level these ballistics at any game of the genre that exists only to mine the bored, the lonely and the easily distracted of both their lifespan and their economy, but in truth WoW is the ugliest of them all, most spectacularly because of its complete disregard for the individual. You are faceless in this world. You are ageless in this world. You can't create. You can't build. Your efforts will pass away into nothing at the push of a button, and none of that effort will ever become something you can be truly proud of, because deep inside your secret heart, you know all you did was waste time.

I love video games. They're a constant flood of wonderful images and ideas, of scary things, pretty things, sad things, funny things. But they should never feed off you. They should never take bleeding chunks out of your life, and they should never grow fat off your loneliness, your disconnection from the world, or from your urges for acceptance and conformity.

Play games, but guard your heart, guard your self. You are guests in their worlds, not them in yours. Don't let them inside, and if you do, don't give them they key.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

I wish sony...

..would stop using the play beyond slogan. Right now it's hurting them so fucking bad.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Bioshock, my 360 is HOWLING for your company

Since i got the Wii, my 360 has seen progressively less play. It could be that i'm all played out on Gears of war online (it needs a patch, srsly), or that i'm not getting Vegas until i can get a reliable co-op partner, but mostly it's my need for peace and quiet in my life right now, and frankly, the 360 sounds like there are gale force winds spelunking in there.

I had almost forgotten how quiet consoles can be. We have become so accustomed to consoles needing multiple fans, disc drives, or motors in general, that we've forgotten a time when you switched on the SNES or Genesis and all you ever heard from it was the click of the power switch.
The 360 is hopefully the noisiest console we'll ever see, because it is seriously crazy. WHOOOSH.

I want Bioshock so bad i can taste it. I have so much faith in Irrational it borders on the irrational. They truly represent Looking Glass to me.


I look at this screen, and something in me just snaps. It's a steampunk mutant with a drill.. In a graveyeard, in a garden, in an art deco underwater city, in the 60s. I can try, hard, but i'll be damned if i can come up with a more perfect setting for a survival horror FPS.

Fuck you 2006

Even in spite of all my efforts to better you, you consistently beat me down, rejected me, turned me away and made a laughing stock of my efforts. You were the worst year i have ever lived through, and i hope to never see anything as voracious in its appetite for breaking down the human spirit.

Fuck you, hard, right in your quantum asshole

Here's a toast to a 2007 to wash all that pain away for all of us. Salud!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

INEXCUSABLE #2: Things i hate about Metal Gear Solid

I 10x hate the controls Kojima and the boys concocted for the MGS games. That's hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate them.

I've played through the Metal Gears on the NES, the MSX, the Playstation, even the Metal Gear Acid ones on the PSP, and as i'm going through MGS3 now there are just some choices that i have no idea why they haven't backed out on. I know they released MGS3 Subsistence now to mend certain things like the draconian camera, but as far as i know the control setup is, was, will always be the wildest bout of controller masturbation any developer ever put a joypad through. Kojima's credo it seems is If It's There Make A Jonesey Of It (i just made that expression up. It means to use it a lot).

The PS2 dual shock joypad has the following buttons:
2 Left buttons
2 Right buttons
8 directional joypad
4 analog face buttons
two analog sticks that depress for another 2 buttons
a select button
a start button

That gives the joypad 20 buttons (TWENTY) which may be utilized by developers.

In every single gameplay mode of MGS, every single button is being put to use. Sometimes the uses differ depending on the situation you're in, how long they're held down, how HARD they're pressed, how they're pressed in combination with others.

With all this in mind, recall that Solid Snake or any other snake progeny moves like a broken matchbox car compared to the more recent Sam Fisher of the Splinter Cell games. Splinter cell has context sensitive buttons. Metal Gear has a button for every context. It's been a while since i played Falcon 4, but if i'm not completely mistaken, it took less than 20 buttons to fly an F-16 fighter/bomber, and that's in real life.

What the fuck is up with a world where a game i've played for almost a decade still baffles me with its technicalities? This is a game where moving towards an enemy slowly and moving towards an enemy stealthily are two separate actions, and as such is mapped to two entirely separate input methods. It was confusing enough in MGS2, but at least that planted you in a somewhat rigid environment. MGS3 places you in an open, "free" area with myriads of tactical possibilities, and as awesome as that is, the moments where the game just flat out stumbles over its torturous button layout are so plentiful it makes me seriously question mr Kojima's prowess as a game designer. As a storyteller and systems engineer i have no doubt in my mind he's a class act through and through, but what makes Miyamoto such a god damn champ is that he can convey this level of perceived complexity through an action that flows through your fingers like a word off your tongue.

Some games revel in complexity. System Shock 2 had an interface that almost felt designed as a moodpiece rather than an actual interface (when else would you want details on what exactly a cup was). Deus Ex thrived on its same level of perceived complexity, where a point and click inventory system would allow users to handle multiple kinds of ammo and other categories of objects. Deus Ex 2 took more flak from die hard players than any other fora, and one of the major reason was a "dumbing down".

Making Solid Snake control like a game character and not some arcane device uncovered in an alien mineshaft wouldn't, in this gamer's eye, be dumbing the game down. If MGS4 controls anything like MGS3, salty tears will fall, because this idiocy is messing up a perfectly good game of storydriven stealth action.