Archives for category: other peoples stuff

Phil Harrison is a visionary – someone whom I greatly admire. That admiration was taken to a new level last week when Phil, not content with just existing in the real world, invaded my dream. His latest vision? That in three years the PlayStation Vita would have an add-on that would cure baldness. Simply plug it in, run then app and rub the OLED screen over your head. Rejoice; hair growth!

If only he hadn’t left Sony…

It’s interesting to read the opinions of the Whale Trail developers with regards to their pricing strategy. I’m paraphrasing from an article on GamesIndustry.biz, but if I’m not mistaken they are losing faith in ‘premium pricing’ (aka – selling stuff for money) because the money they made off the App Store didn’t cover the cost of developing the game. They are also dissatisfied with the sales figures based on their marketing spend, question the validity of even charging for a game on a mobile device, and are using the performance of the title on Android to decide whether to go ‘freemium’ (aka – giving stuff away) in the future.

Some thoughts spring to mind…

Does marketing spend ever correlate with sales? Nope, and when it does it’s pure coincidence.

Should developers be giving stuff away because it doesn’t sell? Nope, they should question the product and their expectations instead of questioning people who didn’t buy. And besides, the game is selling – but given the cost of the game the money earned through sales seems less than great – but at 140,000 downloads to date and 700 subsequent downloads a day – that should actually be a pretty nice earner for an indie.

So what really went wrong here? Well, answer me this:

If the game cost $250,000 to develop – where did the other $240,000 go?

OnLive impressed me – a very slick interface and great way to quickly play any number of games or watch others play. Without a doubt the future of gaming is cloud based – the removal of hardware and other barriers to content gives complete freedom to gamers – you can buy a game anytime and play it on anything that supports the OnLive app. OnLive is a great name for the product and very marketable – without knowing anything about the product it would take a complete hermit no more than a few minutes to have a rough guess at what kind of service a product with that name would provide. In all fairness it’s probably piggy-backing off Microsoft’s Xbox Live too (not to mention the 360 controller) – but that’s a smart move. You’re giving people something completely new but with a touch of the familiar to help lure them in; it’s kind of like the big bad wolf dressing like Red Riding Hood’s granny to get her within eating distance.

Gaikai is actually slicker than OnLive as it doesn’t require any kind of app – everything you need to run a game is somewhere other than your device. The main advantage to this of course is that you can play your games on machines where you wouldn’t usually have access to install any kind of app – such university or work computers, The thing that bugs me about Gaikai however is the name – sure, it’s a better service but the second question on the website’s FAQ is ‘How do I pronounce Gaikai?’. So now you are giving people something completely new, and making them guess your brand name. That’s a tough sell in my opinion.

Of course the other thing to consider is that there’s nothing to stop OnLive from changing its service to be app free as well – they may even be working on this right now. So then Gaikai’s unique feature is no longer unique and it’s left with a name some people can’t say. Let’s also consider the arrival of the ‘big three’ console manufacturers – how are Gaikai and OnLive going to entice consumers to their services when they can’t host any of the first party titles, together with the fact that the games it can offer are also going to be offered by the ‘big three’? Assuming the ‘big three’ do shift into cloud gaming it’s finally going to lay to rest the console war – with no entry fee to their games, everyone will be able to ‘own’ the future ‘hardware’ of the ‘big three’ – that’s worth getting excited about; a future where there are no barriers and only those making the very best content will survive.

Like HL3 (or just plain ol’ Episode 3) a Half Life movie seems like it’s never going to happen. Well, the games probably will in due course – but the movie isn’t going to happen. There are three reasons for this –

1. Valve, as a games company, are untouchable – they have a Midas touch when it comes to producing quality software. They’d struggle to find a film production partner as good at making movies as they are at making games. So the end result would no doubt produce…unforseen consequences!

2. Gordon Freeman doesn’t talk – so how would you go about casting a character that has no voice – you’d probably piss off half the Half Life fans with the choice you make anyway. On the other hand – the movie could stick closely to game and have a main character that doesn’t talk…but for the movie’s producers – there’d be a certain amount of…apprehension!

3. My personal choice probably wouldn’t work anymore as he’s getting on a bit. But Charlie Sheen circa The Arrival would have been a great actor to play Gordon Freeman. Not only did Mr. Sheen actually look like Gordon in that movie – but it also had a sci-fi riff too. Age isn’t the only thing going against Charlie now though, casting him in light of his recent behaviour would be…questionable ethics!

Back when I was 10 years old Super Street Fighter 2 had been released for the Sega Mega Drive. To this day I can still remember the review it got in Sega Power Magazine. It scored 10 out of 10 and the usual review summary (which weighed up a game’s pros and cons quite sensibly) was scrubbed in favour of “Buy this game. Buy this game. Go on, treat yourself, buy this game”. I tried looking around on the Internet to find the actual review page in some kind of archive but couldn’t – but if that isn’t the exact wording I can tell you it is very close. I remember because I literally shouted the words out at my dad. Who then did indeed treat me (Asda, £50 – ouch, sorry dad).

Back then numbers made sense. I can still remember the playground logic in game appraisals with my partner in crime – who was also an avid fan of Sega Power Magazine (we won’t talk about the matching Sega Power patches stitched onto our jeans). If a game didn’t get a 9 or a 10 (or 90% – 100% depending on what publication you were reading) then it was deemed to be not worthy. How completely immature that is. But that was fine because I was 10. That is a perfect excuse – what excuse can (pretty much) every review site and magazine give for still rating games by giving them numbers?  “This realistic driving game gets a 9, this FPS gets a 7, this old-school rehash gets a 10 just because”. What a load of old cobblers.

All you need to tell me is “go play” or “don’t play”.

 

I’ve been loosely following the progress of Double Bear’s Dead State for what seems like at least two years now. The idea behind Dead State is great – it’s a zombie RPG that focuses not only on the advancing hordes of zombies but on the relationships you have with fellow survivors. There isn’t too much in the way of stuff to gawk at on the main website but the forum is very active and has regular posts by the main people driving the project; Brian and Annie Mitsoda. What I love about this project is the openness of the design process – Brian and Annie share their ideas and the community is encouraged to share their own ideas and get involved. It’s great to see these guys taking on what appears to be quite an ambitious project – I genuinely hope it works out for them. I was tempted to call this post ‘You wait ages for one and then two appear’ – the second game I’m referring to is the video game adaptation of The Walking Dead by Telltale – but at this time it’s an unknown quantity because I have no idea how that game is going to play. It could be an RPG given the character-rich source material – but only time will tell. I’m looking forward to both games – but in my heart I’m rooting for Double Bear.

I’ve enjoyed all the games in the Resident Evil series with the exception of the spin-offs. One of the latest spin-offs is Resident Evil: Revelations. I can’t say I’m too excited about this game for the following reasons:

– 3DS Exclusive: I don’t own a 3DS and based on what I’ve seen (or not seen as the case may be) I probably won’t get one. I have a regular DS already and the only game I play on that (rarely) is Picross 3D. Besides, the 3D element of the new DS makes my eyes work overtime – 20 minutes on Resident Evil: Revelations would leave me with tears in my eyes – tears of blood that is!

– Boats: I don’t like games that are set on boats, or have boat levels. Boats don’t inspire the imagination in the same way a city or open landscape can. And boats tend to have boring interiors that are designed purely from a function point of view – so every corridor looks identikit. Resident Evil 5 had a boat chapter – sure it had its moments, but overall? Not a patch on villages, marshes, ancient ruins and secret underground labs. In fact this entire game reminds me of that chapter – so it doesn’t feel like something new.

– After 4, but before 5: I don’t see the value of taking half a step back in terms of story. As a fan of the series I have an interest in the story but I want to experience it in a linear style; and not have to buy a new console to experience it.

In summary  – it looks nice, but it’s not very exciting (with the possible exception of Hunk). I’ll wait for RE6.

However, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City on the other hand, is right up my street. Due for release at the end of this year (on real consoles) it’s a team-based shooter – not story-driven at all – and it’s set in the period and location of Resident Evil 2 and 3 so it will feature the zombies and mutants we all know and love. You’ll also have the opportunity to shoot Leon S. Kennedy in the face – which alone has got to be worth the price of the game. Can’t wait for this one…

I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since the developer released screenshots a couple of years back. This game was originally announced in 2008 and for a while I assumed the project had been shelved because no further news came out for a long time. Well it’s almost upon us (Sept. 9th in UK) and it’s going to be a day-one purchase for me. You only have to watch Zombie Flesh Eaters to realise what an exciting prospect hordes of zombies on a desert island is – and it’s surprising no game has used this setting until now. I’m usually not one for reading too much into a game before it’s released if I’m interested in playing it – there are so many websites competing for your attention that I feel they often go into information-overload, the ones with exclusives etc., that they can spoil the game before you get to play it. All I need is a summary of the game and a brief gameplay video – if I still have doubts (Duke Nukem Forever) then I’ll wait for a few review scores to come through before parting with cash. In the case of Dead Island the gameplay looks solid, and the developer has a track record so it’s looking like a safe bet. Here’s a summary of a few features in Dead Island…

Focus on melee combat
Straight away I think of the Condemned series by Monolith Productions. I have both games and really enjoyed them for their unconventional approach to the FPS genre. However, because these games were obviously built with melee weapons in mind, when you did occasionally come across firearms they didn’t feel as affective as say, a lead pipe – which was both unexpected and detracted from the overall immersion in the game. The same problem was present in Dead Rising 2 as well – I felt far more effective with a baseball bat embedded with nails, or hunting knives strapped to my boxing gloves than with any of the game’s firearms. Going back to Dead Island – it’s fine that they have a focus on melee weapons, but I hope this doesn’t mean the aforementioned problems with firearms. If I can’t run down the beach Baywatch-style, dual-wielding Uzi’s and mowing down zombies in Hawaiian shirts I’m going to be disappointed. It’s good that they are taking the lesser traveled road in the FPS genre – but there’s a reason there’re so many games that fit the typical FPS mould – shooting stuff with guns is great fun.

Open world and RPG elements
Both great qualities for a game, and especially in a game dedicated to zombies. The last game I played that did both of these things really well was Fallout 3. I put over 70+ hours into that game – the level progression and perks were a great motivator to continue exploring the vast Wasteland. It reflects very positively on a game when it can hold your attention when you have no specific goal other than wondering about to see what you can find. I doubt the environment will be as large as the one in Fallout 3 – but as long as it has a similar level of immersion and atmosphere I’ll be happy.

Customisable weapons and vehicles
The obvious comparison here is Dead Rising 2. While that game did feature a very large number of weapons, most of which were combinable, I felt that they were let down by a very short lifespan – so often it felt as though the time and effort spent on finding the right combinable parts just wasn’t worth it – because the weapon would break and be unusable in only a couple of minutes. Hopefully the weapons in Dead Island do not turn out the same way. As for vehicles – best case scenario is being able to create something like Dead Reckoning from Romero’s Land of the Dead. Worse case scenario: gun + jeep = jeep with a gun on it!

Enemies
The game will feature special infected – some which seem like direct lifts from L4D; which I don’t necessarily have a problem with, but since that game did a really good job with balancing them Dead Island is going to have to do the same to ensure they work within the gameplay and not simply dropped in to add variety. It would take balls of brass to release a triple A game with only the standard type of zombie – but maybe that’s what they should have done. Time will tell.

Characters
I’m not keen on the developer’s choice to give the player the option to select one of four pre-existing characters. For this type of game I would prefer to create and name my character from scratch, like Fallout 3. What if you don’t like any of them? You’re stuck with them for the entire game! The characters all seem to have detailed back stories and motivations – the problem with this is that players do not necessarily buy in to that and assuming this is the case won’t be able to emphasis with their avatar. Take Kane and Lynch for instance, two characters you really can’t empathise with; as a result all the things that mean something to them mean nothing to the player and whatever  experience the developer wanted us to have is lost.

Music
A recent post on Kotaku featured three tracks from the game’s soundtrack. They are quality pieces – although the first is a little too reminiscent of 28 Days Later for my liking. If they were going to use a film as inspiration it really should have been Zombie Flesh Eaters, the main theme is one of my favourite tracks:

In any case, I’m excited and looking forward to the game’s release. I’ll be posting a review when I’ve played it. Here’s the excellent preview trailer:

App Spy is an Australian YouTube review show that specialises in iPhone Apps. It’s without a doubt one of the best review shows I’ve come across. Reviews are uploaded daily and each lasts between 1 to 2 minutes. The videos show nothing but gameplay and are accompanied by a no nonsense voice-over review that focuses purely on the merits of the games and doesn’t waste time on misguided attempts at trying to be humourous by focusing on their flaws. Yes – sometimes it’s entertaining to see someone tear into a game – but look hard enough and you will always find something to complain about in every game that’s ever been made. If you are looking for a quick and convenient way to keep up to date on what Apps are on the iPhone then you should definitely subscribe to this show.

Here are my top 5 zombie games of all time.

Number 5: Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993, Sega Mega Drive)

2D Boy versus zombies

I never actually owned this game when I was a kid – but my friend did and that’s how I came to play it. It was the Mega Drive version and back then I was firmly rooted in 2D sides scrollers like Streets of Rage, Revenge Of Shinobi and Golden Axe, so playing something like ZAMN was a welcome change. The game had a lot going for it – the music and presentation were excellent, the number of levels was huge and each showed great creativity and freedom for exploration. Yet despite what the title may have you believe, zombies do not play a central role in the game – there are dozens of famous movie style creatures that share the limelight – but this variety is a welcome addition to the game.  The game has developed a cult following and it’s not surprising – it still holds its own today and is a prime candidate for a remake. Thing to try: drink the potion, turn into a monster and smash a new path through the level.

Number 4: Plants Vs Zombies (2009, PC)

Deceptively addictive gameplay

Everything about this game shines from the moment you start. What appears to be a simple game on the surface will quickly suck you in and hold you for hours at a time. When I started playing the only time I would stop was when I was sleeping or at work – when a game takes over you like this the only logical conclusion is to finish it as fast as possible so you can get your life back. There are a large variety of plants and zombies on offer, each with their strengths and weaknesses – all of which are balanced to perfection. The designer of this game did an amazing job – just as you finish up assembling your plant army the zombies trickle to a stop and the level ends – it’s satisfying yet frustrating at the same time as you wish it would just keep going. Thing to try: the Last Stand mini-game where you start with 5000 sun points and have to assemble your defences upfront before fending off five waves of zombies. Even when you eventually win the level you will not rest until you achieve the ‘perfect’ formation.

Number 3: Resident Evil 2 (1998, PlayStation)

Hordes of zombies

I had a great deal of excitement prior to the release of this game – and not least because of the TV commercials directed by George Romero. This was an absolute ‘day one’ purchase (for my dad) for me. This game pushed the franchise in all the right directions – it kept the familiar puzzle elements and key finding (some say slightly obscure considering the action takes place in a police station – something that never occurred to me at the time – and now that I see this…I don’t really care), it put more zombies on screen to blow in half, gave us another iconic creature in the licker and presented the developing back story over two discs with differing perspectives for each of the game’s protagonists. Several notable moments appear in the game – most memorable of which is probably the giant crocodile in the laboratory sewer. Towards the end of the game plant-type creatures are introduced, and while it’s a shame this angle wasn’t used more it doesn’t detract from an excellent game. Thing to try: complete the game a ridiculous number of times with an A grade in order to play the survivor mode as a piece of tofu.

Number 2: Left 4 Dead 2 (2009, PC)

Bonus point for Depeche Mode tee shirt on Rochelle

The first and second games in this series are equally good – but it wasn’t until L4D2 on the PC that I really got involved with online play. As a single player game Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 are distinctly average – it’s only when you get online do you really appreciate what these games have to offer. I have to say – I love playing as the special infected more than the humans and have on occasion ‘thrown’ a round so my team gets its ass kicked and we can play as the zombies again. To date I’ve clocked around 120+ hours on L4D2 and I think this is attributable to two things: as a casual drop-in, drop-out game its great – the rounds are short so you can jump right into a game and play as many rounds to fit the time you have available. Secondly – no matter how great a round you have it’s never perfect, you’re always left reeling that you didn’t get that survivor before he ran into the safe room or that you didn’t quite manage to escape on the last round. It’s this feeling of ‘next time I will be better’ that keeps me coming back again and again. Playing online is always a mixed bag of personalities – but it’s a win-win situation for me. When players work together and things click it gives me a buzz. On the other hand, when players start acting foolish it provides plenty of laughs. Thing to try: as the Charger, hide behind a closed door opposite an open window or ledge. As the survivor walks past charge at them and take them out the window/off the ledge and down to their instant death. Pulling this off is better than sex.

Number 1:  Resident Evil (1996, PlayStation)

First encounter with a zombie

I’ve played this game so many times I know it inside out. I remember the day my dad bought it in the Another World shop in town. I remember the school summer holidays of 96 that vanished as I would complete it multiple times each week – sometimes twice a day. And I remember the time I almost cried when, on a no-save quest, that Hunter outside the Magnum room popped out and took Jill’s head clean off. I’ve always been a fan of horror films, and Resident Evil was the first game that really had the opportunity, using the PlayStation hardware, to give players a meaningful representation of a film-like experience. And it delivered this experience in a way which is still rare to find even today. The creepy old mansion, shuffling flesh eaters, zombie dogs, giant spiders, a man-eating plant, a secret underground laboratory, backstabbing teammates, multiple endings, a sinister orchestrated soundtrack and the most amazing intro movie to any game, ever. Resident Evil ticks all the boxes and lives up to the type of experience you would want in a game that takes its inspiration from the films of George Romero. I own this game on three different consoles (PlayStation, GameCube and DS) and still find the 2-3 hours it takes to complete at least once every year. Thing to try: complete the game in under 3 hours with no saves to unlock the unlimited rocket launcher.

Itchy.

Tasty.