I got a comment yesterday about this blog from a friend and co-worker; Cozy Dave. I haven't tried translating his nickname to English before, sounds awesome.
He thinkgs there aren't enough pictures here. Now, he might be right. I know I sometimes get a little carried away with the writing, hence many posts being heavy on text with an abrupt endingwhen I realise I've probably written to much yibberish and try and stop.
So I'll try and make my posts easier on the eyes with more copyrights-protected images. For starters I updated the "Pretty Art"-post since it's very topic is graphics in games. Just do a search for "Pretty Art" and you'll find it if the link is broken.
I consider myself to be a big fan of the Fallout-franchise (Black Isle Studios) loving both Fallout and Fallout 2 while thinking Fallout Tactics was a more than decent strategy game. I haven't played Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the "last-gen consoles".
After only two play-sessions of Fallout 3 (Bethesda), I had played for about 15 hours. Today, almost two weeks later I have about 20-25 hours of play.
I haven't touched the game for over a week.
Somehow, I don't miss playing Fallout 3. I'm not intrigued to see what happens next or to discover new areas to venture.
As I said, I love Fallout and Fallout 2. Even today I enjoy playing them. When talking about the games with friends I get excited! I get happy! I'm thinking about how fun the games are, the quirky characters and the great sense of humor even though the game takes place in a all but happy setting.
When thinking of Fallout 3, I don't feel that at all. Somehow, it has very little appeal. Admittedly I've spent many hours on the game, especially when I just got it. If the game wasn't any good at all, I would never dedicate that much time for it.
Allow me to draw the conclusion that when playing the game, it's exciting enough and motivates me to keep on playing. So the gameplay isn't at fault here.
The problem with the game is therefore getting me to actually sit down and start the game. But when reminiscing about Fallout 3 I keep thinking about the unappealing aspects.
Instead of thinking about how fun VATS (the combat-system in the game) is (which it really is!) I think about how tedious the game often becomes when I haven't been in a fight for hours. How unexciting it is when I crawl through the sixth railway-station with nearly no lights.
The environments in Fallout 1 and 2 are quite bright but rugged and teared down. They also use some colors which makes the game a little easier on the eyes. Of course, by today's standards they aren't pretty.
In Fallout 3 however, mostly everything is dark. Way too dark if you ask me. And it's eerie; some places seems to come from a horror game like Alone in the Dark (Eden Games) or Silent Hill (Konami) with corpses laying around, bodies hanging from the ceiling with spikes through their torsos and stuff like that. That's doesn't resemble the original Fallout-world in any way!
On top of that the game uses only two colors with some shade-variations; brown and grey. It's so boring and uninteresting it kills me. I understand what they're trying to do with their run down world and everything but I can't respect a decision like that when the result is such a plain and dull esthetic style
Gears of War (Epic Games) only uses grey (not even brown!) and they manage to have it look good. Shame on you Bethesda.
Not only do I find the environments uninteresting (graphics-wise, the content is good) but also ugly. That's right, I said it; ugly. I don't think that quantity is ever an adequate excuse for having the game look less good. I understand that having huge worlds requires some serious optimization and the amount of time available for polishing for each square-inch decrease but for me as a player and not a developer, I shouldn't have to take that into consideration. Players don't care about the magic we call technology, they (we!) only care about what's presented.
I realize this is becoming a post majoring in bashing on the graphics in Fallout 3, so I'll stop now.
Laughter. I love it. I don't get much from Bethesda. Fallout 1 and 2, even though not perfect games in any way have some really funny stuff. Things that'll make you smile and show your teeth whether you want to or not. That's not the case with Fallout 3.
During my 20+ hours I've only found one really funny scenario and that's about 10 minutes into the game when I asked a kid if his mom had boozed up all of his family's food-coupons. Serves him right, stupid kid! Other than that, the game just isn't funny. It's just dark and gritty. Not very Falloutish according to me.
Maybe it's because I've somehow manage to miss and evade every funny thing in the game but if that's the case, that's a major flaw within the game.
It probably sounds like I hate the game. I really don't. I like it a lot. I intend to finish the game at least once, playing as evil of course. I just think it's sad that the game somehow manage to burn all the not so good things with the game right into my brain, making me lose the urge to play it.
If the LittleBigPlanet-release (a game I'm still playing everyday!) hadn't been just a few days away from Fallout's, causing me to leave Fallout for a while, then maybe I wouldn't feel this way about it. If Fallout had been the only game I got during a time span of a couple of weeks, then maybe I would love the game. Y'know, if I'd just kept playing it and playing it as I did in the beginning, not giving myself the chance to see if I actually miss playing it if I don't.
When thinking about the game, I don't smile. That's too bad really; I wanted it to be everything it could have been.
This has really made me realize presenting a steady stream of interesting scenarios and creating pleasant memories is a vital part of game design.
...And we're back!
The blog was down for three days because of a host-change didn't go as smooth as planned to say the least. I apologize for that.
If you notice anything strange, formating looking weird, broken links, anythihng at all, please let me know by posting a comment or contacting me some other way.
Finally Capcom's Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is within reach! Being one of the best fighting-games ever I've been looking forward to its remake since the first announcement. IGN.com (available 23/11-08) has finally released a review of the game and they like it; thank god.
http://ps3.ign.com/articles/932/932390p1.html (available 23/11-08)
David Sirlin, the lead designer of the game got some really interesting stuff to read on his website about the game. It's about how he rebalanced it but the good thing is that he motivates his decisions and talks about the process. I'm guessing his writing is much more rewarding to read if you're already a Street Fighter-fan, so you know what he's referring to when talking about FIreballs and Dragon Punch.
If you're an aspiring game designer with interest in Fighting-games; read it!
Left 4 Dead by Valve seems to be THE game right now.
For a few days now, I constantly get pop-up messages from Steam saying "[Nick] is playing Left 4 Dead". People at work play it during the lunch breaks. The reviews are all giving it good grades with an average of 88,4% right now at Gamerankings.com (21/11-08) for PC and 88.5% for the 360.
So here's my question: What's the big deal?
I tried out the demo for both the PC and 360, I've tried to play it single-player and multi-player, with headphones and 5.1 surround but I still don't see why people are so hooked.
It's not a bad game at all. Its quality in the production is noticable high as expected when it comes to Valve. I'm guessing the name Valve earns some addition to sales alone.
I had two problems with the game:
1. The environments are boring. Maybe the game is in some way a technical achievement, I don't know but the levels feel sterile, empty and not exciting at all. I hear many people argue that it doesn't matter because they're too busy looking at the zombies running at you but I disagree. I looked at them (and that's in no way a level design-injury) because there is nothing else to look at when there aren't any zombies around. (Yes there are moments like that.)
But that's all a small issue, I'm personally all about the gameplay and play a game no matter how freakishly ugly it is if the gameplay is fun. Which leads us to the next thing...
2. The game's feel is for me... Hollow. I keep shooting zombies and when they're dead I think: "So they're dead. Now what?" I don't feel an army of endorphins running trough my system. Actually, I don't feel many of them at all. And the ones I do feel are kind of slow and seems to be limping. If the game doesn't make me feel good for shooting the undead, then the zombie-shooter is a failure in my book.
Too bad really. I was really looking forward to the game, mostly for the co-op but I'm afraid I'll let this one pass.
Today it finally went public with a press release, the game I'm working on:
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Equity Games Production and Halcyon Games Announce Terminator Salvation – The Videogame, an Intense, Action Game Based on the Highly Anticipated 2009 Film
BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Equity Games Production and Halcyon Games announce Terminator Salvation – The Videogame, an action-packed, third-person shooter, to be released in conjunction with the highly anticipated Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures film, which opens nationwide on May 22, 2009.
Based on the upcoming “Terminator Salvation” film, the game offers players the chance to assume the role of John Connor, a soldier in the resistance, battling for survival against the far superior forces of Skynet. Terminator Salvation – The Videogame is a third-person action game with concentrated armed combat against all of the Skynet enemies from the film while encountering new enemies specifically designed for the game. The game was developed by GRIN Studios, published by Equity Games, co-published by Evolved Games and distributed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
“Terminator Salvation – The Videogame allows players to battle for survival against Skynet enemies utilizing an incredibly fluid and realistic control set,” said Cos Lazouras, President of Halcyon Games. “The player will be led through a visceral story with extremely polished production values to create a fully interactive Terminator experience.”
“Building on the incredibly strong franchise, Terminator Salvation – The Videogame will be a cinematic gaming experience that complements the upcoming film,” said John Quinn, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Operations, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “Working with Halcyon and Equity Games, we will expand on the Terminator universe on next generation consoles with action packed gameplay and detailed environments.”
So there you have it; a third-person shooter Terminator-game.
I won't blog too much about it because I honestly don't know what I'm allowed to say.
Edit: I added the pretty picture.
Today Microsoft had the "New Xbox Experience" go online for consumers everywhere to update and be welcomed by a completely new interface instead of the old Dashboard.
First of all; the old Dashboard was never any good! I haven't ever liked it and was very pleased when they announced the new one way back.
So finally it's here, but is it any good?
I'd say yes, it is. It's much sleeker, easier to navigate and first and foremost so much faster! I still don't think it's clean enough (like Sony's Cross Media Bar, or XMB in short) but it's absolutely not bad looking so I'm not sad.
One of the biggest things with the new system is the implementation of Avatars. As you probably already know they're pretty much just better looking versions of Nintendo's Mii. I gotta admit, and this hurts to say, I like them. I really liked the Mii to. Most people like character customization and Xbox's setup is quite good. It's easy enough to scroll through the different options and the end result is a somewhat pleasant character. Hopefully they'll add more items over time since there wasn't very much to choose from right now.
But the one and biggest thing now is the option to install game data on the harddrive, reducing loading time and the noise caused by the disc continually spinning in the console. I haven't tried out this feature yet and I'm not even sure any of games support it but I'm sure it'll work just fine. There are some videos out here on the web showing comparisons of games being installed and not; the difference of the amount of time taken from starting the game from the Xbox-menu to actually be playing the game after the games Main Menu is amazing in games such as GTA IV, Gears of War and Fable 2.
Too bad I only got the 20Gb HDD... I'm guessing it'll fill up quite fast with this new feature.
If you've tried out the new dashboard-menu-thingy yourself, please let me know what you think by commenting.
I truly welcome change and I must give Microsoft the thumbs up for this one, the New Xbox Experience! Sounds epic, doesn't it?
[UPDATED November 30, 2008]: Images added
The graphics and art in games have continually changed over time. One way of saying it would be to say that games are becoming better looking. I’ll exclude the discussion about how beautiful pixels are for now.
If nothing else, at least the games nowadays are more technically impresseive and complex than ever before. With games like Crytek’s Crysis and Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2 leading the train of games with “realisting looking graphics”, developers continue to race towards the absolute photo realism in games.
I’m not all that interested in working towards that goal. Today games have severe problems with the uncanny valley. When things are getting too close to getting real we can see all the small problems much more easily and our suspension of disbelief is shattered.
The uncanny valley is based on a Japanese fellow called Masahiro Mori.
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley (avaliable 9/11-08)
The things that may break the feeling of the game being real can vary, it can be poor lip sync (Bethesda’s Oblivion, anyone?), “dead looking” eyes, an otherwise realistic environment being empty of objects, animations looking unnatural, a human taking a sniper bullet in the head without even falling down.
And one more thing (oh, some of you are gonna hate me for saying this), if I want to look at the reality, I can just look out the window.
Personally I prefer games working with an artistic style that allows the developers to create anything they want without ruining my immersion. I know not everyone is a fan of this, but I’m a huge fan of cel-shading. Of course, not all cel-shaded games look great just because of it but some games… Oh man… Some games just look astonishing!
A truly great looking game that’s not cel-shaded is DICE’s Mirror’s Edge. If you haven’t tried out the demo yet, do it right after you’ve finished this. It’s available on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
What DICE has chosen to do with Mirror’s Edge is giving it an artistic style. It’s clean, futuristic, interesting and it’s cognitively brilliant! They use strong colors to get the players attention and if you ask me, every frame of the game is a great screen shot. It’s mainly the environments in this game that impress me. The enemies you meet aren’t spectacular in any way but nor does the game focus on enemy encounters. It focuses on avatar navigation through the surroundings.
Though, let’s go back to cel-shading.
There’s been quite a number of cel-shaded games and I’m glad to see that the amount seems to increase. Just look at Gametrailers.com (available 9/11-08) for example; pretty many of the games shown there are using one or another form of cel-shading. The new Prince of Persia-game from Ubisoft for example; cel-shaded.
One of the games making the best use of the cel-shading technology isn’t new though. In fact, it’s six years old and has had several sequels since. I’m talking about Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Today, six years after its making I can still look at it and say; “Damn, that looks good!” There is not one thing I feel could be done better thanks to today’s tech. It's amazing how expressive and communicative they've managed to make Link. Show me a game using “realistic looking” graphics that old being that impressive?
Another gorgeous game that recently caught my eye is SEGA’s Valkyria Chronicles for the Playstation 3. As far as I understand it’s using their new engine making it possible to render the game looking like it’s painted with water colors. I don’t know anything else about the engine but as far as I can tell, it does its job. The Valkyria Chronicles demo is available for download right now. With an interesting and anime inspired design the developers manage to get every screenshot to look good. It’s far from perfect and unfortunately some textures on the ground etc. seem very plain. But I still really like the art.
(Same video but on Gametrailers, in HD http://www.gametrailers.com/player/37800.html?type=flv )
Imagine a drum whirl, please, for I will now present you with the best looking game… ever? It’s by far the best looking game right now with its release in February and a Must Buy for many. I’m talking about Street Fighter IV. For me, Capcom does everything right with this title when it comes to the artsy stuff. Really, go out and do some YouTubeing and Gametrailersering (?) and watch the trailers and gameplay-videos if you haven’t already.
With a great sense of style, they use some form cel-shading technology along with superb animations, clear and exaggerated expressions on the characters accompanied by some great effects (the ink! The ink!) and use of strong colors. It’s bold and it’s beautiful.
(Same video but on Gametrailers with much better quality: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/40556.html available 18/11-08)
All these games are free to roam about with creativity, using super moves, quirky beasts, bazooka-carrying knights while we as players suck it all in; completely immersed. There is nothing wrong, for within the context established by the art-style, it's just as plausible as anything.
I don't want a photography, I want a painting.
When looking at this, I see great things in the future.
Yes! I finally aced the Bunker level in LittleBigPlanet. Probably took me 3-4 hours and one play-through of the level is no more than 10 minutes... All I got was a crappy helmet.
[Disclaimer: I'm sorry. After writing this I realise that it's a lot of words... It's just that I got so much to say. I even left some parts out. I'll try and keep it shorter in the future.]
Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet is my new drug. The sensation will most likely wear off but heck, right now, I can't stop thinking about it.
First of all, let's get this out of the way; the game isn't perfect. I wanted it to be, but it really isn't.
The gameplay is focused with a great scope. The controls are really user friendly making this very close to being a pick-up and play title. The plattforming gameplay only requires one analogue stick and two buttons to be used, the rest of the buttons are used for emotes and placing stickers to unlock some secrets.
The friendly approach towards the player is, if you ask me, a wise decision but it can however turn many experienced players off. In an earlier post I described the physics as being part of a moon landing and I'll stick by that claim. It's all very... floaty. The plattforming isn't like Mario, Sonic, Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, Mega Man or any other plattformer you think feels good. LittleBigPlanet is just... slow. The controls can be quite unresponsive because of this and some precision jumping can get you killed because of what you as the player might feel isn't your fault.
However, the more you play it the more you get used to it and starts adjusting your timing accordingly automatically. It's more often not a problem for me nowadays.
Because everything is physics driven you'll probably encounter what I think is the gameplay experience's biggest flaw. Sometimes your (adorable!) sackboy will have a hard time keeping his feet on the surface beneath him. The problem with this is that when you're trying to jump you just... might not. This is because if the sackboy isn't actually standing on something, of course he can't push away from anything to jump. A great example in the game of this is an early level in which you stand on a (mechanical) bull's back and you have to jump off at the end to reach a plattform. Because the bull's back keeps moving, aswell as his neck, I most often needs several tries because actually making what would in any other plattforming game be a very easy jump.
There are, as I see it three parts of the game; the Story Mode created by Media Molecule themself, the community aspects and the creation of new content.
I've finished the Story Mode playing by myself and I've replayed quite a few of them with friends and with randoms on the Internet. The story is about as deep as a puddle of water but that's okay. Actually, it's more than okay, it's great. This is the kind of game that shouldn't take itself too seriously when it comes to narrative and epic story-telling.
The Story Mode is really fun and all but the reason I keep playing is because there are hidden treasures all over each level, giving you more stuff to use in Creation Mode and the fact that Media Molecule's own levels are truly great examples on what you yourself can create. It serves as inspiration like no other if you don't already have many hours spent on the Creation Mode. Let me tell you this; the guys that made this game are quite clever fellows!
Now, playing alone is jolly good fun but playing with friends, local or online, now that's where the fun really takes off! It's hard to make a game boring if it includes co-op, but it's even harder to make a game this much more fun when played with buddies!
When I feel that I want something else than the bundled levels, I can go online and try out all the user-generated content and that's where the second part of the game takes place. There are hundreds, maybe thousands (I don't know) of levels created by other players out there. Let me be honest with you guys... You can keep a secret, right? Most of the community levels sucks... Big time! But hey, that's to be expected and while there are some worse than any episode of Days of our lives, there are also some simply amazing ones. Some levels beat Media Molecules levels in in ingenuity, some in art and some in pure fun to play!
One thing I think is really cool with the community levels is that the creator can choose to share things he or she builds as prizes on the level. Either by having them as a pick-up in the level or as a reward for finishing the level with a pre-requirement fullfilled. Thereby community levels are just as much worth playing as an official level.
The game's Trophies are even encouraging playing both the Story Mode aswell as the community levels. Thumbs up Media Molecule!
The third and final part of the game is to create your own levels for others to play.
Let me just get this off my chest:
Include Keyboard and Mouse-support! Create a patch now and give me some decent controls! I want hotkeys, Ctrl-Click, Mouse-based camera control, Ctrl-Z (Oh god... How I want Ctrl-Z...)! Give me! Gief! I want it! I crave it! I'll even pay for it on PSN! Just... Do it!
When I was to create my first stuff in the Creation Mode I made one big mistake. I got in way over my ears! "How hard can it be? Let's build's some mechanical robot-thingy." ... Well, let me tell you; I failed. Oh man, the first night I was fiddleing with the editor, I got furious. Nothing worked, things kept falling apart, my levers and switches didn't do what I wanted. I got to bed irritated that night...
The entire next day at work I pondered on each tools functionality, I read up on some forums (avaliable 15/11-08) (during breaks, of course) and once I got home, I sat down and started creating some simpler stuff, one step at a time and suddenly I felt enlightened. It all worked. Godrays lit on me from heaven, I had been chosen, I was now one of the creators.
God said: Arcade, damn you're cool!
I answered: Thanks dude, you're not so bad yourself, creating the earth and everything.
God: A mighty fine world I might add.
Me: Yeah, but sorry to dissapoint you. I'm gonna surpass you now. I'm gonna create a world in which everyone is happy. And once I'm done, I won't take a day off to relax.
God: Impudent child! I'll stop you!
Me: You try and do that. Watch me!
It's on! So let's see who's gonna win. Me or God?
Creating, now there's my drive. It's what I love to do and it's what I'm usually good at. I find the tools in LittleBigPlanet to be very limiting and they offer a very slow working environment which at times make me a less than super happy boy with stunning looks.
Yet, I love working with it. Right now, I'm longing for it! I've been away this weekend, and during the time on the trains, I've been sketching ideas for one of my two level projects. At work, I sketch. It's like a drug!
I'm such a LittleBigPlanet sucker that I've bought all their extra in-game clothing available on the PSN-store. One measly T-shirt, only for sale during the first week cost 45 Swedish crowns (4.5 euro or 5.7 US dollars)! Luckily it as the only thing ridiculously expensive.
The game has overall been getting some really great reviews. During the first few hours with the game I thought maybe they were a little too positive but now I see that they were right. This game deserves all the great reviews it gets!
So, I'll see you in LittleBigPlanet?
PS. God, prepare for humiliation!