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.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Review: Sin Episodes: Emergence

I'm one of those crazy people that really, really enjoyed the original Sin, in spite of its crazy bugs, terrible script and retarded characters, or perhaps because of. Sin, as with most of Ritual's games, has an air of audacity to it that i always found deeply refreshing, with its giant chested antagonists and wisecracking beefcake jerk protagonist. Even the annoying hacker kid somehow lent the experience a coherence that many "smarter" games can only dream to match.
So naturally, i've been excited out of my mind about Emergence.

What was i hoping to see?

* Hacking into people's bank accounts to steal their cash.
* Bizarre one-liners and bad jokes from mr John Blade, aka The Most Notoriously Unsympathetic Protagonist In History.
* T&A across the board.
* Some needlessly complex interaction to frustrate the hell out of me.
* Some kind of retarded mutant that makes no sense and has all kinds of muscles.

What did i get?

A pretty, quiet, polished shooter that was over about as fast as i expected it to be, but contained only cruel teases as to the greatness of Sin's mindshattering retardation. I have MILES of goodwill as far as Sin and Ritual goes. I think Ritual are mad testosterone-fuelled artist geniuses that are in sore need of technology help, and are necessary in the ecosystem of the game industry much like defecation is necessary to the human digestive system. Ritual have always represented catharsis at its purest (though sometimes at it's most flawed) with their unapologetically derivative but sparklingly polished creations. I still look at their Heavy Metal FAKK game and consider it a work of art, even though it plays like a cactus in the small intestine. Sin was and still is their magnum opus, sporting impressive levels of interaction, visceral combat, levels packed with set piece battles and more idiotic action movie dialogue than both Bad Boys movies put together. Emergence brings only a morsel of this vision with it.

I might as well get down with the stuff i liked.

Emergence looks as coherent as any Ritual game before it, with one particularly impressive climb up a skyscraper as a standout. Freeport really looks like a town you want to explore or at least blow up good. In terms of creativity it's not a mind shattering experience, but it looks together, tight and makes sense, and i liked it a lot. This coherence extends to everything, colors, uniforms, weapon designs, menus, dialogue.. Freeport is as realized as any game world, and i'm looking forward to more of it.

The weapons, although there are only 3, really do their work very well. The gunplay is always visceral and fast paced, and Emergence marks the return of The Single Most Awesome Handgun In The History Of Ridiculously Huge Handguns. This thing looks *insane* and takes heads off left and right. Emergence sports a headshot effect that never ceases to amuse, and blowing off heads at a distance with the handgun always made me smile. Most enemies, although there aren't many of them, die in creative ways that are always visceral and sometimes utterly hilarious, which is 50% of what makes a shooter experience right there. The limited arsenal holds together just fine for the duration of this experience, and i didn't find myself missing any more. Having only 3 to switch between keeps the action fast and tight, and i liked it a lot.

Now for the rough edges...

Motormouth Blade keeps his mouth shut for the entire adventure (!!!!), and leaves the wisecracking to his largely uninteresting partner, Jessica. Her delivery is flat, and she keeps putting you in situations of terrible danger for the sake of her own pet peeve with the main antagonist of this episode, a drug dealer type named Radek. As a result, i kept wanting to kick her face in, or at least hoped Blade would tell her to shut her yap even ONCE. But no. Ever the silent feller. Freeman can be a silent protagonist because his character is in his ESSENCE, being intellectual rebellion. John Blade is no intellectual; he's an ass-kicker and a name-taker. His rebellion is about fist against face and spitting on corpses, a rebellion against what is socially acceptable. For episode 2, i hope Ritual let this guy speak up, because his wisecracking bs is ESSENTIAL to the Sin experience.

Worse is the detachment you feel from the storyline. Emergence is a game that demands prior knowledge of the Sin universe, and as such is really really hard to get into if you don't have it fresh in mind. The story, being the beginning episode of i don't know what, is shallow and simple, taking you through a short lived chase after this Radek guy, who i have no real reason to want dead other than Jessica's constant bantering about how big of an a-hole he is. So the real reason to fight is simply that everyone apparently wants you dead, and that's not good enough by my book. I felt detached throughout, and it became more about gameplay than experiencing a game world.

Emergence is a game that has the spirit but lacks the soul, and most importantly it lacks the insane audacity and over the top action movie feel Sin'98 had in spades. John Blade's silence is the biggest culprit here. Here's a character that's pretty damn hard to like from the beginning, and when all he ever says is "come in jessica, what's up jessica, come in JC" etc, what are we supposed to feel for him? John Blade MUST SPEAK, lest he become generic. And generic is the last thing Emergence needs.

Was it worth the 20 bucks? I think so. It's a solid shooter experience that's thoroughly enjoyable purely on the merits of its visceral shooty nature and coherent art direction. Is it worth another 20 for episode 2? I hope so, because i will be paying.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Massive huge E3 picture post

By massive i mean the pictures are huge, since i'm too lazy to do thumbnails. Also most of the pictures are meaningless junk, youll find better elsewhere. But i found this stuff interesting though.
A new dragons lair, whut? I like the "full game with/without deaths" menu thing. Who the hell would play dragons lair without the deaths, they're the entire point of the game!

Best game at E3. Easy.

Totally stoked about this one. Gradius colection for psp = rad.

The FEAR expansion has a minigun in it that totally blows shit up good. Awesome,

The lightgun attachment for the Wii

The Wii classic controller.Note that it connects to the Wii remote by the expansion slot, meaning you'll have the remote hanging off it as you use it. Kind of weird.

The Wii booth had people on a roundtable spinning trying to look cool and controlled. It was really weird and kind of creepy.

The Wii hardware. It is so sexy! Note the control bar on the left, which you'll be placing in front of or on top of your tv. The Wii's motion control calibrates to that bar rather than your tv, so there's going to be some kind of software calibration when you first start up your console. I guess itll be some kind of "point at the four crosses" test.

Wow those "normal people" sure look like they're having fun!

I thought this was interesting; the Neverwinter nights 2 editor lets you paint terrain freehand. Bybye tiles, bybye #1 pet peeve about NWN.

These dudes kept getting in my way: This is a god damn vintage R-type arcade cabinet, and i wanted to play so bad! Instead i have to fight sweaty large men to just get a simple shot of the screen, to no avail. Damn you guys! DAMN YOU!!!11

Finally for now, a shot of just how influential WoW has been on MMORPG interfaces. I think this game is called "vanguard" or something. The UI looks *identical* to wow's.

Dark Messiah boss fight

Like i said, this game is the bomb. I know this video blows, but hopefully it gives you a sense of the chaos and danger this game instils in you. It's xvid sans audio, VLC should play it just fine.


Friday, May 12, 2006

E3 report part 1

Second day at E3 is over for me, so i thought it might be an idea to actually pretend i was there to report (which i wasn't).
So, stuff i've found interesting.
  1. Seeing the Fallout 3 poster at Bethesda. I thought i was dead and gone to heaven. No manner of heckling the Bethesda dudes for a copy of the poster would do though.. Curses, it looks so good!

  2. Heavenly sword playable on PS3. I knew this game was beautiful but it plays really good, kind of like God of war, and the lead character is one of the best female character designs i've ever seen i think. A few odd things, like her dramatic running animation coupled with her relatively slow movement speed looked kind of stupid, but nowhere near as bad as the underwater running of Lost Planet.

    Terrible cell phone video

  3. Warhawk on the PS3. This game looks unbelievable, and the tilt control is really fun. I think Sony did right in stealing that idea.

    Another terrible cell phone video focusing on the tilt control

  4. God of war 2 actually looking better than God of war. How the hell is that even possible? It looks possibly even more brutal and more ass-holy than the first one. Def gonna have to keep tabs on this one.

  5. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. This game is.. Let's just say it looks so rad i watched the demo SIX TIMES in a row. The hand to hand combat looks so hard core, the demo guy was kicking enemies into spikes, pushing them into fire, shooting them in the ass with fire arrows throwing them off cliffs, stabbing them in the face, chest, cutting off heads (with a super cool slow motion effect) and fighting huge monsters that really interact with the world to get at you, crawling through tunnels, throwing away rocks you're hiding under, and finally taking your sword to the hilt through the face. I am beyond impressed. It looks amazing, if i could preorder now i would.

  6. Rayman for Wii. I saw a bunch and played a bunch of demos in the Wii booth that made the controller seem needlessly complex and awkward, which is pretty much exactly the opposite of what Nintendo want the controller to do. Michel Ansel is helming a Rayman for Wii though, and from the trailer i can say the following: It looks hot, next gen style, and the controls really take the wii controller for real. There will be no sitting in your couch with your wiimote on your lap for this one, this game is going to animate people something fierce. Just to run you have to move the nunchuck and wiimote up and down alternately, like you would move your arms when you run for real. Basically each of your hands corresponds to each of Rayman's hands, and it looks fun as hell.

  7. Excite Truck. Most of the Wii demos were, frankly, dog ugly. Excite truck is really fast, looks very slick, and controls wonderfully by tilting the wiimote. It is an *excellent* game, make no mistake about that.

  8. Virtual console for Wii. I played a perfectly emulated Super mario world. Then i hit a button, went through an apple front-row like interface and loaded up a perfectly emulated Sonic the hedgehog. This is *hot*

  9. The shy korean girl handing out swagbags at the Shooro stand, trying to look interesting next to the absolutely retarded spectacle of the Fatal1ty stand, a stand so unbelievably stupid and wack it boggles the imagination. "Who's the greatest gamer in the world! Who's the greatest!" Fuck you, for what? For being good at Quake 4 multiplayer? Suddenly i don't want the gamer nomer to my name anymore. Anyhow this girl was super cute and didn't understand a word i said to her. Compared to the terrible booth babes getting in my face with junk i don't want, a shy girl that doesn't know what the hell she's doing there is total attraction.

  10. Chatting with the art director on Sin Episodes, which i am downloading as i type by the way. That game plays good, if a little jittery at times, but their vision is solid and the environments look totally beautiful. Their vision for this game and how they intend to evolve the game with each episode is really sound stuff, like keeping online stats of how players do, and use those statistics to better the next episode.

  11. The absolute HILARITY of people struggling with the bullshit controls on Red steel. Not only does Red Steel look like a damn DOG, but it controls HORRIBLY. The sword fighting sucks, the shooting is jittery, and you have to aim at the edges of the screen to turn. That game needs so much polish to even be remotely presentable.

    Check it out

  12. Dawn of war expansion. Even the Tau look good, and i always thought they were such a boring race. They're also expanding the single player game into this whole Risk type game where you fight for a world map, reinforce regions and build armies. It looks super good, and hopefully the balance will be better this time around as well.

  13. Table tennis on the X360 is a GREAT game. I'll just leave it at that.

  14. That pirate MMORPG i can never remember the name for because it sounds and looks so much like pirates of the caribbean. It looks shit hot. I'll get into that.

Ran out of stuff. I'll hopefully find some more junk to write about by tomorrow, get some photography going. I'd still like to get into the Assassins' creed booth, but i think i may have to kill to get in there. Same with supreme commander. Whats with hiding all this cool stuff from me :(

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nuff said

Saturday, May 06, 2006

E3 prelude

Coming up is E3, and i'm going for my first time. Flight's out on monday, so i'm trying my best to plan ahead; i have no real idea what E3 is like, so i think i may be acting like a beheaded chicken for a good bit of it.

I've been invited to a few parties, euro game developer stuff apparently. Considering i'm a slightly above average flash developer, i'm not sure if i should feel honored or terrified :) One thing is certain though: There will be drinkery. I have a secret wish to perhaps make a complete and utter nuisance out of myself at every opportunity, like breakdancing extremely poorly in front of everyone. I feel it may bring me joy.

What am i excited about this E3? It's tough, because frankly there isn't much. I'm sure there's something i've missed out on, but this next gen junk isn't exciting to me in the least. What do we have in store anyway, better graphics, same junky third person cameras, bigger budgets, same junky characters and gameplay contrivances; you know there's something wack when the biggest thing aside from hardware announcements is playable God of war 2. Yawn.

So Wii then. I want to see people use those crazy controllers and enjoying it. I'm sure the lines will be interstellar, so i'm more keen on just watching someone play. Red steel, god i hope that's more than a Time crisis with swords. Nintendo needs to impress this time around, i hope they can pull it off.

I thought the DS Lite was going to be available in the US during E3, but it appears i have been boned. I was hoping to pick up a few before coming home.. Perhaps that was a little optimistic :)

I'll be taking pictures and hopefully doing some day to day blogging over there. If there's anything in particular you'd like me to check out (since i can't put my finger on something other than Wii i'd like to really check out), leave it in a comment :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Vril + Thule madness

Finally found time to wiki Vril and Thule. If you're unfamiliar with the terms, the Vril and Thule Gesellschaft (society) were occultist secret societies that included and served as advisors for prominent nazi leaders. We look at Indiana Jones and laugh at it, but then you look up Ahnenerbe and realize just what kind of crazy these fools were.

I find the stories about Vril in particular fanciful to where it becomes delightful; The Vril society was apparently something of an inner circle, a big boys club within the already naughty Thule society, and most importantly (for me), they were technologists and considered their work science.

These were people that believed they could build flying saucers that could occupy space in any way its pilot should require it to, meaning flight, invisibility, teleportation, you name it. Where did they get this knowledge from you ask? Why from aryan aliens on Alpha tauri, 93 light years away of course! As hilarious of an idea as "aryan aliens" is, apparently they built one of these devices under the moniker JFM, or Jenseitsflugmaschine (other world flying machine) that underwent some form of testing:

"Two years of channeled flight research was performed with the JFM until 1924 when the machine was hurriedly dismantled for reasons unknown and moved to Augsburg where it eventually was placed in storage at Messerschmitt's facility."

I find this absolutely hilarious.

All this madness leads me to conclude that nazi germany is what happens when artists are given uninhibited power. Fucking crazy artists.

Anywho, interesting reading: