Saturday, February 28, 2009
One of the most famous cheats in gaming history belongs to one of my favorite childhood game growing up, Contra. That code stayed embedded in my head since the first time I found out about it when I was a little kid. My best friend and I would play this for hours. Of course, back then it was a challenge. Now when I play it on Xbox Live Arcade, I find it very easy to beat. I guess all those years of gaming after I first played Contra for the NES has finally paid off. Do you agree when I say another Contra game should be developed? I wish. Keep it as a platformer, but update it. Kind of like what was done with Bionic Commando. Same game, but with better, well.. everything.
I guess my wish will have to wait another day. But if I actually had a PS3, I could be playing this LittleBigPlanet "Contra" remake. A total of seven different people put in a very thourough representation of every level of the first Contra game. Eight stages total. This is probably the best LittleBigPlanet created project I have seen so far. The Mirror's Edge one was cool, but that's so 2008. Anyone could have made that level. But this? You can tell a lot of effort was put into this and the creators should be proud of their work. Whether it's funner to play the real Contra or not, you've got to give credit where credit is due. Excellent work gentlemen.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I have been wanting to write this blog post since the holidays a few months ago but I wasn't sure if I was the only person who held this sort of view. I didn't see or hear anyone else voicing the same complaint: I have too many games to play and not enough time to play them. Having so many "triple A" and "must have" games is actually killing the amount of time I play online. And of all entities (haha, I just said.. nevermind) the one that validated what I was thinking... was EA.
The games that were released this holiday season were awesome, eh? I couldn't wait to stop playing Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3! Finally, more games being released, so now I can have more options to play with my friends.. right? Do you remember the lineup the last few months of 2008? We had Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Mirror's Edge, Call of Duty: World at War, Dead Space, Need for Speed: Undercover, Midnight Club: Los Angeles Fable 2 and FIFA 09. What I called at the time, "Gamers Nirvana." That's just the 360 games I listed. That doesn't include PS3 games like LitteBigPlanet and Killzone 2 or any of the downloadable games on either of the three consoles' network. I'm not even going to get into the Nintendo games, but look, all I know is.. there are too many games coming out at or around the same time.
I can't remember the last time I could get a group of my friends to play the same game, at the same time. We're all playing different games now. Me personally, I would love for my friends to join me in a match of Left 4 Dead, because as most fans of that game know, it's not much fun playing by yourself. But how can I play with the friends I am so used to playing with online when their attention is focused on a whole other batch of games like COD: World at War, Afro Samurai, Fallout 3, Fable 2 etc. There are just too many options now, when will I and others who share my opinion, be satisfied? Probably never.
There's word from EA now that they are starting to re-think how they release games to the public, especially during the holidays. I'm not a fan of EA, like.. at all, but when you're right, you're right. And I think other developers/publishers should follow EA's lead. Don't get me wrong, I have been trained by EA artists at school and they have employed some amazingly talented artists, I met some truly awesome guys from EA, but as a company in general.. not a fan. I'm not trying to attack anyone or any company. The situation with EA and the game industry is what it is.
So why is it so important for games to come out right before the holiday season? Who is the genius that said gamers will only want to buy games if they come out at the end of the year? Obviously that is not the case. All we need to look at is GTA IV. When did that game come out? April 2008. And correct me if I am wrong, but didn't that break all kinds of sales records? I'm pretty sure it did. So I think when EA and others look at this point, it makes all the sense in the world to release big AAA games to the public, not just in the Fall when it gets closer to the holidays, but throughout the entire year. Don't release garbage games in the middle of the year to keep us busy until the "must have" titles come out. I don't think it's fair to gamers nor is it a smart business decision to release everything you've got, all around the same time. Yes, of course release dates also depend on where the development process is but y'know what? Publishers need to stop forcing developers to finish their game on time just so their numbers will look good for the fiscal year. Games should be finished, when they are finished! Don't give us half assed games so you can make a dollar off us and increase your earnings while you prepare for the bigger money making titles. Not enough people are foolish enough to buy those games. (Although we will rent them if we get bored enough. I'm guilty of that.) Companies should be giving us decent, glitch-free quality titles and you bet your ass gamers will buy them, no matter what time of year. After seeing games like Prototype being delayed, given more time until the game is truly finished, it gives me hope that more people realize the need to release titles, not by the timeline given, but when the game is the best it can be. I don't think companies can afford to keep releasing games that don't match the quality standards of this "next generation" of games that gamers expect now. Especially with the economy the way it is today, companies can't afford to release an unfinished game. It's a waste of money.
In the past, I have heard many people claim that EA games are shit. "Straight up shitty ass games, nothing original, just rehashed Madden and Need for Speed over and over again each year. Nothing different or special in any way shape or form." Oh wait, I forgot.. I said that. I know of some people though, I think I may have read it somewhere, who have complained that EA has finally released some original IP's (Dead Space and Mirror's Edge) but the sales numbers didn't add up to the hype. They expected more sales. Well, why is that? I don't claim to know the entire answer as I am sure there is more to the story than what I perceive in my mind as fact. But don't you think it's a really bad idea to release these new IP's; to introduce a brand new game to the public at the same time as other "proven" titles? Why would you go against the heavy hitters like that? Why not wait until like, now or sometime in the summer when others games are still being developed?
From this article I am sharing with you from gamesindustry.biz, it seems that a light bulb has gone off above EA's head, and they're adjusting their strategy accordingly. It would be a great day in the game industry for EA to get back on track as a respected company and I wish them luck, as long as they don't try to buy other companies again like that whole fiasco with Take Two. As for my view on having too many games and not enough time to play them? There ain't a damn thing I can do about it now. I'll get over it. It is what it is but I caution other publishers, who stick with the same strategy of releasing games at the end of the year to rake in the largest profit, to re-think and learn from the mistakes EA have made. Yes Dead Space and Mirror's Edge are excellent original IP's by EA and I applaud them for moving in the right direction, but what is that worth when there aren't nearly enough people purchasing these games because they are busy with other, more familiar titles?
EA: We've learned our lesson on release dates...
Dead Space & Mirror's Edge sales numbers as of Feb...
Monday, February 23, 2009
I don't know about you, but once I played the multiplayer demo on Xbox Live for the first Lost Planet, I was convinced this game would be my next big online game to play. I had my two best friends playing the demo with me, including a friend that never, ever plays online. So since he was playing, I was like.. yea, once the retail version comes out, we're all gonna have a blast playing this together. Finally a game we're all interested in.
So why is that every time the retail version of a decent game comes out, I'm the only one who actually goes out and purchases it? Same thing just happened with me on Left 4 Dead. I figured hey, it's Valve so everyone will be buying this game. But it didn't work out that way. Not for Lost Planet and not for Left 4 Dead. So maybe Lost Planet 2, since the environments are not entirely covered with a blanket of snow, people will be interested enough to pick this one up.
I honestly believe Lost Planet includes an awesome multiplayer experience but for some reason people aren't really giving it a chance. At least people that I know of. I think Capcom made the right choice though in changing the environments for the Lost Planet sequel. It did get a bit stale after a while. I think the huge boss battles really made that game special to me. After watching this first trailer on Joystiq.com, I can see the huge boss battles are back once again and are even bigger than before. I will keep my eye on this one.
Download this trailer and view still captures at Gamersyde.com...
I don't know how many annoying times this has happened to me but I am positive I am not the only one who has had to deal with other players online like this. Obviously I am not the only one because someone made this Call of Duty video of what a typical match might be like. OK, maybe it's not that typical but it does indeed happen. I guess I don't play COD 4 as much as I used to but I know from my many years of Xbox Live experience with Halo 2 and Halo 3, sometimes you just have to quit a game to regain your sanity. Kids like this make me crazy.
So what about you? Are you guilty of backing out of a game because some noob is talking on their phone or getting yelled at by their mom and you can hear the entire conversation over your headset? If you're playing a Mature rated game and you end up getting yelled at by your mom, you probably shouldn't be playing the M rated game. Where the frack are all the parents at anyway?
Oh, BTW, this video clip is probably NSFW.
Posted by Branden Brushett at 10:16 AM
This is one of the best reviews of a game I have ever seen. This review is very thorough in detailing the specifics of the game for people like me who have not played Street Fighter IV yet. Actually, I can't remember the last time I played any Street Fighter game. All I know is, there is a Unicorn in this video review and where ever there are Unicorns, I will find them. Who doesn't like Unicorns? Better yet, who doesn't like funny Unicorns named Al? Is the word Unicorn even supposed to be capitalized? I don't know. All I know is, after watching this video, I am in a much better mood. Thanks GameDaily.com.. you made my day.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
CG Talk has a few Mudbox related items I'd like to share with you. First up, freelance artist, digital software trainer, author and digital sculpter Wayne Robson shows us how he does a 20 minute concept sculpt in Mudbox. Check out the video below to see his "alien monster-like thingy" come to life. Only use ZBrush? It doesn't matter, the techniques used are transferable into other sculpting programs.. just watch.
Here is how this tutorial video came about:
"I've had a lot of emails asking about how I approach head concept sculpts and get them down in 20 - 30 mins or so. So here's a detailed video in real time explaining why and how every approach is made as I sculpt. Hopefully it gives some insight into my way of working for fast creature concepts for those that asked for it. Its only one of a number of ways I work, but with practice is something anyone can do in mud with ease."
"I've kept it in real time so that its easier to see exactly what is going on at what point and why. Once at this stage normally I'd retopologise the sculpt and do the 'proper' one and take it to a finer level. Remember that my way of working may or may not suit you and isn't set in stone..."
I also wanted to share with you the new Mudbox blog over at Autodesk. This is really good stuff. And it's all free which makes it kick ass! I really got to start producing some new work though. I've been spending all my time looking for things to blog about and watching tutorials instead of working on my portfolio for 2009. These links are inspiring so I think I may try to do some quick 20 minute sculpting concepts. OK, maybe 40 minute concepts.. yea, that sounds more my pace. I haven't tried characters since school so.. this may be interesting.
Friday, February 20, 2009
I just registered on this site right now. I think you should too. If you have already graduated from school, whether it be a game design school or a 4 year University, or if you're currently a student taking video game art & design courses, make sure you're taking full advantage of sites like GamesIndustry.biz.
They announced yesterday they have now upgraded their network to include new features for freelance workers and game students. Here is an excerpt:
"Anybody currently working, or looking for work, in the games industry is welcome to join and advertise their services, while any company already in the Network can post requests for work."
"Meanwhile any students currently studying videogame-related degree courses, or planning to start them soon, can also register for the Network, with the opportunity to discuss courses and careers with fellow students while also posting questions in a special forum for existing industry veterans to answer."
Whether you're interested in this exact site or not is not the issue. The issue is you getting involved in other networks because like I have been told since I was young, and like what it says on gamesindustry.biz, it's not always what you know, it's who you know. So start networking!
The very fortunate guys over at Joystiq just released a YouTube video of the upcoming Halo 3 Mythic Map pack. I'm really digging Assembly. It looks badass, like a mix between Midship and Warlock.. on steroids. I think I'll have fun pwning in this map. They also show off some of the features of the new map Sandtrap. To me, it looked like a level from Tomb Raider, minus the endless amount of ledges to grab onto. Maybe it's the lighting? I dunno but I'm not sure about this map. I am not a big fan of Forge so I don't think I'll be playing this one too much. Which reminds me, can someone explain why and how they find Forge to be a valuable part of the Halo 3 experience? No one that I have talked to or played matchmaking with, plays Forge. I've tried it, but it's just not intuitive enough for me. I guess if I'm not runnin' and gunnin' then I get lost.
Thanks goes out to Joystiq.com for getting their hands on this Halo 3 DLC walkthrough. They even had time for a round of golf afterwards. Lucky bastards.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
When I flew back home from Vancouver, one of the first companies I looked into was Red 5 Studios and Carbine Studios. I had never heard of them before but there was a nice article in The OC Register about two new upstarts in Aliso Viejo and most of them were former Blizzard employees. I thought hell, this is awesome! Two brand new studios with talented people to back it up and all within about a 20 minute drive from home.
I applied and I applied again. I don't remember how many times but fact is, I never heard back from Red 5. I heard back from Carbine but Red 5 remained mysteriously silent. I finally just gave up with them assuming my art style is not what they're looking for.
So why so silent? That's a good question. Well, since the last time I saw what Red 5 was up to, I know from their website that they have moved to a different location, back to familiar Blizzard territory in Irvine, Ca. They had some recent management changes and they are getting ever so close to making an announcement on their first major project. But what is it? World of Warcraft meets Star Wars? It's supposed to be some type of fantasy MMO but who knows? Maybe it's not that at all. They aren't saying anything and as far as I know of, there have been no leaks about the "exciting ideas" they've been working on. Oh speculation...
If you're interested in trying to dissect this interview Red 5 gave to Gamasutra leave a comment and tell me what you think.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Just take 5 minutes to go through some of my past blog posts and you are sure to realize I am a big fan of Valve and the Half-Life series. They really are some of the best First Person Shooter games ever made. Well, it seems some even bigger fans of Half-Life have produced their own take on the series in a Half-Real, Half-CG clip appropriately titled "Escape from City 17." Created by The Purchase Brothers.
More info from their YouTube post:
"The Escape From City 17 short film series is an adaptation based on the Half Life computer game saga by Valve Corporation. Originally envisioned as a project to test out numerous post production techniques, as well as a spec commercial, it ballooned into a multi part series. Filmed guerilla style with no money, no time, no crew, no script, the first two episodes were made from beginning to end on a budget of $500. "
"Valve flew the team out to Seattle last year, and the brothers have been in communication with them since."
"David and Ian Purchase are commercial directors represented by Sons and Daughters in Toronto. They are working on an unannounced feature film. Not HL related."
This video was posted on YouTube on February 12 and already, there are 1.1 million hits and over 10,000 comments at the time I am writing this. The Purchase Brothers website has crashed not once, but twice since posting this due to the amount of traffic. Hollywood producers need to take notice as I see a gold mine if they were to create a full Hollywood motion picture. If we were only so lucky.
So would you want to see a Half-Life movie made? What would you rather see, a Half-Life movie or a Halo movie? And should they be made by creative and talented indie directors like The Purchase Brothers? I think so. Either way, I think gamers are obviously ready for it.
Friday, February 13, 2009
So who is Feng Zhu? Well, he is a concept art director and he works on just about everything in the entertainment industry. From video games, movies, TV commericals, magazines and more. This guy is one of the best if not THE best in the industry. This guy is definitely someone I look up to.
Recently, Feng Zhu has opened the FZD School of Entertainment and Design in Singapore. Can't afford to move to Singapore and take some classes with him? Yeah, me neither. It sucks but at least he has some free tutorials for you to watch on YouTube and he also teamed up with the Gnomon Workshop on multiple DVD's. I'm thinking about buying some myself.
Check out more on Feng Zhu on his website...
Thursday, February 12, 2009
How horrified were you when you saw those 3 red rings on your beloved Xbox 360 console? I have only had to deal with it once. It's been running fine since I got it back so I am hoping the disease has been cured. If not, then maybe these 6 steps to avoiding the Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death from GamePro.com will help?
I'm glad I found this because they made me realize, I have never actually cleaned my 360. Y'know, the ventilation holes in the back? I don't think they're dirty, but then again I don't think I've ever checked up close. Have you?
I finally did it. I've thrown Gears of War 2 in front of their own hype train for good. No more 'EPIC hype' will get me to purchase another Gears of War. The only good thing about GOW is the graphics. They are amazing no doubt, they are the industry standard and what every studio strives to achieve for the current "next gen" games, but I don't want it anymore. Hi-res textures and normal maps do not equal a fun game to me. New features and added technology to the Unreal Engine is not enough to keep me a loyal fan. What killed it for me finally was mostly the multiplayer. Just like in the first Gears of War, the multiplayer mode in Gears 2 was uninspired and overly repetitive. The single player campaign was OK. I enjoyed it while it lasted but couldn't help but feel like this wasn't Gears of War 2. It felt just like the first Gears of War but prettier. Like other sites have said, Gears of War 1.5.
Posted by Branden Brushett at 10:01 AM
Are you into designing characters? Do you want to be a character artist or a concept artist? Look no further than the Character Design Studio. I don't know how many free lessons they will release on this blog but if you find this lesson informative, you can buy the whole DVD set online.
I remember getting instruction in character design from Nic Tay, who was the Art Director of Need for Speed at EA Blackbox at the time. His instruction was awesome and I still remember most of it, although I have not put the skills he taught us to good use in a long time. But what I took most from the experience was knowing the tools and the workflow to generate a great concept art piece. Basically understanding what tools the professionals in the industry use. The 'cool grey' markers, gouache etc. He taught us how to draw lightly and then gradually build each layer of the characters form until somehow, it turns into a masterpiece. Well, his did. Mine pretty much just turned into a piece.. of dookie.
So when you get a chance, head on over to the new Character Design Studio Blog and follow the site in the days/weeks to come to see if more free tutorials become available. If they don't, you may want to consider purchasing the DVD's if you're really confident you want to pursue this as a career.
I totally admit my dream growing up, even though I know it wouldn't likely happen, was to be a fighter pilot. I looked into the Air Force and Navy for a career when getting out of high school but some family members were able to sway me a different direction. I think I really just wanted one joy ride on an F-16 or F-22 Raptor and I'd be good to go. Considering I now have a fear of flying, it may not have been the best idea after all. But luckily for me, Ubisoft and the Tom Clancy gang have given me a new sky high in the name of H.A.W.X.
I've been a Tom Clancy game fan for many years and the first Ghost Recon game is what got me started playing on Xbox Live, on the original. So I am very familiar with their style of games and am somewhat of a fan. However, after the last Ghost Recon, I felt like the Tom Clancy games including Splinter Cell have just lost their way. I was no longer able to enjoy their games and I guess it just lost its luster. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to H.A.W.X. Fighter pilots, F-16's and all.. I didn't care. They won't be able to make it cool. They'll make it just as crappy as Ace Combat 6. Just another generic flying game, whoopee!
Man was I wrong. I haven't played a decent flying game since Top Gun back in I think 1988. Don't act like you don't know what I am talking about. That game was the shit for its time. But fast forward to 2009, and the danger zone never looked so good.
I was in the middle of working on my blog last night but I know I wanted to check out the H.A.W.X. demo that just came out on Xbox Live. I needed to give it a test drive so I could form an honest, reasonable opinion on the game. I decided to give it a chance. I had my girlfriend start playing it first so I could see what it was all about. I watched her go through the tutorials for a few minutes before I felt a gravitational pull towards the controller. I soon snatched it out of her hands to get a little taste of this interesting demo. She said she was getting dizzy anyway from the gameplay so I decided to step in and show her my Tom Cruise skills.
I was very pleasantly surprised how well thought out the gameplay was in this game and how fast I was able to learn how to complete the objectives. At first, I was pissed because I couldn't figure out how to invert the controls back. I really don't like pushing up to go down, and down to go up. It usually confuses the hell out of me but I stuck with the default control setup and I now know this is the right way to go. So I just shut up and play.
First time playing, they had me go into 'assistance mode' I think is what it's called. I found myself going into this mode quite often as it made it easier for close counter dog fights in the sky. The camera view is a bit awkward as it shows you your F-16 in 3rd person, but at weird angles. It was difficult to understand how to turn and it was even more difficult to stay in the direction you wanted to go. It seems like they added wind in the game as well to make it feel more realistic and it does throw you off at first. But I kept playing and I became more comfortable with it after a few minutes. A major issue for me in this game, is the HUD. Wow does it block a lot of your screen! I felt like the only thing missing was a Foxnews scrolling ticker updating me on 'Breaking News' stories. They do give you an option to hide all of the things blocking your view in the UI but it's not ideal. I couldn't tell where the enemies were, where I was supposed to go and what I was was supposed to be blowing up.
One thing I noticed after playing a while, you do not blink at all during this game. My eyes got so hot and dry from staring at the screen that I had to take a break to close my eyes. That happens often to me while gaming but not this hardcore. I really got into it and I am glad I took a chance to play this demo. I've been wanting a decent flying game for a long time and I think I may have found it. I was bummed about the Stormbirds game being cancelled and thought H.A.W.X. was nothing more than a wannabe 'Behind Enemy Lines' type concept. While that may indeed be true, Ubisoft really pulls it off and have surpassed my expectations. I did not think I would be writing a positive demo impression today to be honest with you. I was so ready to tear this game apart with its wonky controls and uninspired terrain. Now that I have played it, I think I may add this game to my collection. I judged this game in the beginning by it's uncreative trailers and the fact that Tom Clancy's name was behind it. It was a 'been there, done that' situation. The demo has changed my attitude and now I want to be there, and do that in H.A.W.X. hopefully along with a friend to be my wingman online.
H.A.W.X. comes out in March.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I've been wanting to include game reviews in The Gamer Report blog since I started doing this, but I have a huge problem with finishing games. I'll play 'em, but not enough to write a review. So this is where my buddy Dane, aka Diggity, comes in. If anyone can take apart a video game and give a decent, honest review, it's him. I met Diggity while playing Halo 2 online about 4 years ago and come to find out, he lived right down the street from me and was having Friday night LAN parties every week. He is one of the few people I can talk about games with and be at the same level of understanding about gaming and the game industry. I trust from his many years of gaming and the many times he tried talking to me about games I've never heard of that he would do a much better job than I would. I think you'll agree I made the right choice. So here it is, The Gamer Report's first of hopefully many game reviews.
It's a rare occasion that I take the chance to play a game that basically received next to no advertisement at all. As a huge fan of the Afro Samurai anime series, I was stoked to be a able to find a copy of the game at Blockbuster, as I did not even know the game was released yet! Afro Samurai was a great series. It was one of the first anime series I have watched that felt very Americanized, unlike most other anime that is very artistic, deep and symbolic. The artistic beauty was definitely there, but this series was all about battles and bloodshed, with a touch of hip hop culture thrown in al la Champloo. It was these characteristics that made me really enjoy this game even though it was flawed in many areas.
Afro Samurai is a game that is full of positives and negatives. Before going into the positives and negatives of this adventure, I would first like to recommend anyone interested in playing this game to do themselves a huge favor and catch up on the anime series before diving into the video game. Not only is the story told very similar, but familiarizing yourself with the style and direction of the story will help you to enjoy the story that much more. Onto the review, lets start with the positives, as they far out-weigh the negatives. This hack and slash button masher will leave your thumbs numb and your neck sore from bobbing your head to the awesome soundtrack inspired by RZA of the infamous Wu Tang Clan. This game is definitely worthy of the mature rating as it is filled with violence, swearing and even the occasional breast or two.
Afro Samurai is a hack-n-slash through and through, which plays most similar to games like the Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry titles. It features deep combos and a very artsy style that somehow makes something as simple as a sword slicing through the air beautiful. That said, the art direction in this game is brilliant. The graphics won't wow anybody, but you can't help but be fascinated with the cell-shaded style of Afro. Short cut scenes play out well throughout the game that help to enhance the mood and story well. Again, if you haven’t seen the anime series, some of the ideas and principles may be a bit confusing or new to the average gamer.
You will do quite a bit of slicing in this game, as there is multiple enemies on the screen at almost all times of the game which can be decimated very graphically as Afro advances through the somewhat simple maps. Arms can be severed, feet cut off, heads lopped and even the rare but awesome slice between the eyes, which leaves a foe split as each half slowly falls to the ground. Call me a lover of violence, but something about a game with a lot of violence just feels more immersive to me. Afro does not skimp in the violence department at all. Pin-point accuracy is delivered through a "Focus Mode" that acts as a slow motion, to allow Afro to aim his slash vertically or horizontally via a line across the enemies body to slash and remove the body part of your choice. It makes for a cool addition to the repetitive and continuous hacking and slashing, and the animations and variety of ways to chop up your foes keeps the fighting exciting. Woah that rhymed! The combo chain ends up getting pretty deep, but you can advance through most of the game by simply mashing combinations of the light and heavy attacks. When you do pull off some of the deeper combos, (especially after leveling up), the animations can be pretty spectacular as well as the names of each combo.
My favorite upside of this game by far was the soundtrack. While it may not be a Marty O-Donnell orchestral masterpiece like Halo, RZA did not disappoint on this one. As a long time hip-hop fan and follower of both RZA and Wu Tang, I found myself cranking up the volume several times during game play. This soundtrack oozes with brilliance from smooth Japanese inspired instrumentals to the occasional Afro-inspired lyrics. This game is a must play for both hip hop fans and music fans alike. To go along with the incredible music and soundtrack, the voice over work by Samuel L. Jackson and Ron Perlman is top notch and somehow adds to the ambiance. While I won't spoil anything, I will say that Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of the witty and comical Ninja Ninja made me laugh quite a bit in this game. I found this game to be one of the funniest video games I have ever played.
With all the upsides of this game, and as much fun as I had fun playing it, there was definitely some issues that were frustrating to say the least. First and foremost, let's talk about the camera set up. There were plenty of times where the camera was just not in the right place at the right time. While you can center the camera behind Afro with the click of the right thumb stick, it just does not feel right. Another frustrating element is that the camera is inverted as far as left to right control goes. While you can switch the vertical axis to non-inverted, there is no option to change the left to right inversion. I have to say, by mid-game I did get the hang of it, but it was almost ruining the experience to begin with for me personally. I actually got so used to the right goes left, left goes right control that I found myself continuing to do it while playing Gears of War after beating the game!
Another issue I found frustrating, was the lack of a UI. While leveling up several times during the game, I never actually knew what I was leveling up. While the press of the back button will show you the various combos and focus moves, you never actually find out what exactly has leveled up. My advice to anyone playing this game is to check the combos and attacks at the start of the game, and then periodically as you start to level up. Another issue that was strange was that there is no in-game option. Don't like the way the camera is set up? Well, you will have to quit your game and change the options from the main menu. Although it's not a huge downside, many might find it a bit frustrating.
While the game is filled with awesome hack and slash action, it tends to try and lend itself to the platforming genre in a poor fashion. There are parts of the game revolving around Prince of Persia style platforming, (wall running, pole swinging and the like) but they are executed poorly both strategically and as far as controls go. Running on walls feels clunky, wall bounces and pole swinging just aren’t dynamic, making the platforming element just lack a certain stickiness that feels like it should be there. Navigating the game was pretty straightforward for the most part, but a few parts with backtracking got a bit confusing as your only option for a map or objective direction consists of a somewhat broken mechanic. A press of the D-Pad pops up Ninja Ninja in a puff of smoke in the direction you are supposed to go, however, because of the horrible camera, he is often gone before you can spin around to see just where you are supposed to go. Again, not a huge issue here but frustrating at times.
All in all I had a great time slashing my way through Afro Samurai. The game does keep some cool statistics, (with even the amount of gallons of blood spilled) but again, they are only accessible from the main menu. Achievement hunters should easily find their way pretty close to 700 achievement points without a problem. A couple boss fights were pretty tough as the game progressed and the lack of even a hint of what strategy to employ made a few of them seem a bit off-pace as far as progression goes. This game is a must for hack and slash or anime fans despite it's minor flaws. Kick back, turn up the volume and get ready to remove some body parts!
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Very interesting story over at GamePolitics.com about a young gamer who turned into a soldier by using the skills he developed while playing on his Xbox. The 19 year old kid was a high school drop out and wanted to be a helicopter mechanic to make his father proud. Well, he didn't quite qualify for that kind of career but he sure qualified to be a drone pilot. Flying a pilotless aircraft about 7,000 miles away, surveying the dangerous terrain and dropping hellfire missiles when necessary. The long hours on the Xbox helped develop skills that naturally trained him to be a drone pilot. In fact, he is one of the best!
I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. But when I think about it, if I was asked if I could be a drone pilot just going off my experience with playing video games, I feel really confident that I could do it. I have an older post about robots going into the heat of the battle being controlled by a Wiimote, check it out: Future Wars to be fought by Wiibots?
It's amazing that this is the world we live in now. This is reality. Robots are taking over the world! haha, I almost couldn't type that.. I'm just messin'. But seriously, the reality is now that soldiers are a completely different breed of men. Most of these drone pilots aren't even overseas with everyone else. They drive into work each day, drop some bombs and patrol the skies over enemy territory for like 8-12 hours and then head home to their families just like you and I would do. Minus the dropping bombs part of course.
So what the hell? Are we heading towards an iRobot society? Are machines going to take over and become cleverer than humans like Google and Nasa believe? Or are we cool because we'll be controlling them with Xbox 360 and Wii Controllers and we can just turn them off if they get all Terminator on our asses? In any case, I hope Arnold Schwarzenegger is around when it happens.
Read more at GamePolitics.com...
See interview with P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War...
Thursday, February 5, 2009
When I started modeling my first environment at VanArts, we had some problems with the ZBrush licenses so I ended up downloading a trial of Mudbox instead. This program totally saved me as it was the perfect tool for what I wanted to do. I wanted to create a cave environment for my demo reel and Mudbox was a perfect fit for me. I loved how similar Mudbox was to Maya, so I was able to learn it very quickly.
The other day I found this demonstration on Mudbox 2009 someone did for Autodesk. It shows a crazy feature at the end of the video that is truly special, you have got to see it. I found this on a forum on some site I had never seen before, 3DM3.com. Ever heard of it? I wanted to make sure I give this site credit and to tell you that this site is frackin' amazing!
There are so many awesome free tutorials for you to learn from. Tutorials for Maya, 3Ds Max, ZBrush, Lightwave, XSI Softimage and some other programs I haven't heard of. Definitely bookmark this site because I think this site is on the level of Polycount, and CGSociety. Very well made, incredibly useful content and a enthusiastic community of CG artists. I don't know why I didn't know about this site before. I thought I had found just about every site I could and then this one comes out of no where. But it's a good find so I'm happy to share it with you.
Pixologic ZBrush has no doubt revolutionized high poly modeling. For the game industry and film industry, ZBrush is becoming the must have 3D sculpting tool. I have spent a lot of time in ZBrush but have yet to reach my potential. The artists featured over at Pixologic's Turntable page are some of the best artists I have ever seen. They have featured some of their ZBrush work all in 3D, so you can get a full 360 degree view of their extremely detailed models. Make sure to bookmark this one as it is very inspiring.
See more at Pixologic...
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Finally the game has been announced! Back in December 2007, I had an opportunity of a lifetime. I had a phone interview with the guys at Rockstar San Diego and they invited me to their studio in San Diego for a full interview. I was so stoked! I was just 2 months out of game school so I was pretty shocked that I got an interview so quickly. And Rockstar of all companies! Yeeaa! Well, the interview went great. It lasted about 4 hours. I met with the team and the art directors, they took me out to an awesome lunch down the street. I really thought I had the position in the bag. Keyword being, thought. But no such luck. However, they did take me around the studio for a tour and I got to see some early development on Rockstar San Diego's newly announced game, Red Dead Redemption. I assume since the game has been announced now, the NDA I signed is no longer valid and I can talk about what I saw. I doubt I will be saying anything that you can't find out on your own anyway. Now, bare with me here as this was well over a year ago and my memory is shitty so I'll try to describe what I saw.
The artists I talked to described the game as an open world type game kind of like Grand Theft Auto IV. So they started calling it Grand Theft Horse (I was hoping they would stick with that name) but it looks like they settled on Red Dead Redemption instead to coincide with the prior Red Dead Revolver game. Anyway, like I said before, I saw an early version of the game so as they were doing a walkthrough of what they wanted to show me, I saw gaps in the terrain, tumble weeds floating in the air, people and horses walking into walls etc. Very glitchy so, early Alpha stage.. if that. But there were some things I found very cool.
Obviously, since this is the old west, you'll be traveling mostly by horse. As you do, there are many animals that cross your path, in between creosote bushes, cacti and the normal desert flora and fauna. I remember seeing rabbits and snakes crossing in front as well as more tumble weeds and dust devils which help bring this HUGE open desert landscape come to life. There was a specific part of the game the developer wanted to show me and it kind of took a while to get there. I really can't say the word HUGE enough times. The mountains, the canyons as far as your eye could see.. it was just immense. He wanted to show me what one of the towns look like so I can see all the people, the saloons, where you "park" your horse, the hookers (OK I don't remember the hookers but I bet they're in there somewhere). But as we were coming up on the town, the most magnificent steam train I had ever seen in a game was passing right through the town. Huge smoke stacks rising off it. I wish I was good at explaining the visual that I have of this old school train but I'm not so, you'll have to imagine what it looks like. Think of the train in "Back to the Future III" and you should be good. But it doesn't fly or anything, so not that part. Let's just say it was impressive. Anyway, you can hop on the train and let that be your transportation if you don't want to ride your horse anymore. So you'll use the train like the subway train in GTA IV, to get to one place to another which will be much faster than trotting on your horse the whole time. And I think it may be a no brainer that you will likely encounter some outlaws trying to rob the train you're on somewhere in the game.
I was hoping I'd remember a lot more but I don't. I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty more from Rockstar in the coming months as the hype machine builds. I only rented Red Dead Revolver but I remember it being a lot of fun. Now that they have incorporated the sequel in an open world setting, I'm looking forward to seeing what this new western open world can offer. The game is being developed on the RAGE engine (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine; same engine as GTA IV) and since the RAGE engine developers are located at the San Diego location I think they will be able to push the engine even further than they did with Rockstar North's GTA IV.
The game should be arriving in Fall 2009 but don't hold your breath. These guys are trying to push the envelope with this one and no one should be surprised to see it delayed. Gamers are getting quite used to that though and it's totally fine by me that a developer or publisher wants to see their game polished until perfection. Take all the time you need Rockstar. Make this one a must have.
Read the announcement at Take Two...
Monday, February 2, 2009
I have to admit, I have a tough time letting my 9 year old nephew play Halo, or Call of Duty or any other game with enough violence in it that it makes me uncomfortable. The problem is, and I know this from experience, kids are going to find a way to play these games anyway. If you don't let your kids play the game they know they shouldn't be playing, they will go to their friends house to play behind your back. It happens all the time. Unfortunately, not every parent is as concerned about what their kids are playing and how it may affect them; their personality, their temper tantrums, their school studies etc. Questions I ask are, is the game even productive for them and what are they getting out of the experience?
The point I am trying to make here is that there are other gaming experiences out there for kids that don't involve shooting, blood, guts, and horror. The best kind of games for kids are games that are productive; games that become learning tools to help develop their young minds. This is where I introduce a new site called ChallengeYou. Kids (8-14) can now create their own multiplayer games to play on their own or with friends and family. ChallengeYou also have contests to see who creates the best multiplayer game which can encourage young kids even more to create something they want to play.
The gamebuilder ChallengeYou uses is called aMazer. All you need is the Adobe Shockwave program and you're on your way to creating custom games directly in your web browser. Let your kids imagination run wild where they can create mazes, 3D art, scavenger hunts or whatever they can imagine. ChallengeYou have made game creation simple by including features you just drag and drop. The best part about this whole program, it's FREE! It won't cost you $60 like a new game would. OK, you're also not getting the realistic HD graphics but that's not what this program is all about. It's about encouraging young minds to be creative and learn from the experience of creating their own game. I cannot imagine where I would be today if I started on game creation when I was just getting into my "tweens."
Look, if you have kids, go check this site out. I've already played a few maps myself and they're quite fun. When introducing something new to your kids that is productive and stimulating, you never know where it may lead. Who knows? Maybe this will be the start of successful game career.
Check out more of ChallengeYou here...
Check out how "safe" ChallengeYou is for your kids...