Once upon a time I made a blog about video games. And this is what's left of it (mostly tweets).

2 July 2008

How does one go around and create one of those free-to-play MMOs the Koreans drop by the dozen? I’ve got ideas.

7 July

#gtaiv Feeling bad I killed D. But they both annoyed me so much anyway, I kinda win in the end.

#gtaiv Oh god I’m only 43% through.

8 July

#gtaiv Just got a posthumous email from D. That’s cruel.

10 July

#gtaiv Okay, Bernie/Florian is offensive.

14 July

Too Human (360 demo)

It’s finally make-or-break time for Too Human: someone out there has decided that the game’s reputation was so bad it needed a demo — or maybe Dyack just thinks the game is so great it will stand out on its own. And it seems to be a meaty demo; in fact, I have no idea how long it is, because I got bored and didn’t finish it.

I wasn’t starting with as bad a prejudice as you might think (because I hate Dyack and every interview he’s ever given): in fact, I did like the main menu and the character selection screen (as cheesy as it seemed in the preview videos, the overall atmosphere and the music make the thing work). Then there was the introduction cutscene that immediately placed the game back in its tracks: it looks like an upscaled cutscene from an early PS2 game with a little more lighting effects — poor modeling all around and particularly on the characters, and boooring writing without an ounce of humor or cynicism. Welcome to the 1980s of videogame design. “Aesir Corp?” Ooh, that’s funny and insightful or something. Matrix glasses? Why, how modern and original!

Anyway… this is a game, so all can be excused for the sake of gameplay. Only it seems to me that, when you remove the part about leveling up your skill tree and managing your inventory (which I hate and is really not something the general public wants), it’s even less interesting than Assassin’s Creed: I guess that you can try and make more intricate combos of some sort, but there’s nothing pushing you to do it, so the average gamer will just go through empty hall after empty hall (like I said, 1980s) just flicking the right stick in the general direction of the enemies. And occasionally pressing the triggers to use guns.

It’s really a strange combination: with the inventory and all, it’s like Mass Effect without the story (well, maybe Too Human’s story becomes interesting, but clearly the universe definitely isn’t, because it doesn’t feel the least bit real) or the user choices or, really, the combat gameplay. Yet Mass Effect managed to please both hardcore and casual gamers, by offering to auto-assign skill points and largely assisting combat, while giving the option to manage everything by hand and aim at enemies like a real first-person shooter; whereas Too Human doesn’t spare you any minute detail of your character’s evolution (unless I missed an option somewhere) but offers the most hands-off combat I’ve ever seen in a game (and, to do so, inflicts awkward controls and poor camera on the player). I just don’t see what audience can really enjoy this.

15 July

E3 2008: Day 1

Since I’m not in one of those periods when I think I can make Beware The Frog into your one-stop shop for all news and commentary about video games, I’ll just focus on the few bits I have an opinion about.

Let’s start with the general aspect of the Xbox’s software redesign: in an unexpected move, Microsoft finally ships a product that really looks like a consumer electronics device rather than a computer (wait, I forgot the Zune 2 — but who doesn’t?). It looks like there might be more “clicks” to access some options, but everything’s prettier, friendlier, more accessible. A very definite win.

On the other hand, there are those avatars who completely look like upscaled miis (even the eye choices are the same; I suppose going all-out anime would have unsettled the more hardcore audience) and have mostly fugly faces; I hope I can buy a 200-point Cylon mask at some point (or a Spartan helmet for lack of a better option).

It’s nice that Microsoft was able to take all of Home’s much-touted functionality and ship it in a nice, straightforward menu system, but it’s still puzzling that there wouldn’t be a real virtual universe for your avatars: what’s the point then? As much as I dislike Home (more for the undiscriminating hype it initially received than its real capabilities), it doesn’t make that much sense to give you avatars if you’re not going to have any place for them to… I don’t know, walk? It’s okay for the Wii because, well, it’s a cheap piece of crap really, so you don’t expect much, but Microsoft’s avatars should definitely find better stuff to do than sit around in Scene-It. If our customization options for the new Xbox are more constrained than gamerpics and blade themes used to be, we should at least get to actually play with our new toys.

Among the less important additions to the new firmware (support for 1680x1050 is nice, although I’m surprised it wasn’t there already), I’m really interested in the ability to copy games to the hard drive and play them from there: if the PS3 game installs are not any indication, that should give much better performance to some games. (Because, unlike the PS3, all games will still be designed to work from the DVD, so the hard drive’s speed could only be beneficial.) A great motivation to buy an overpriced 60GB hard drive, hoping the new functionality works with existing titles — which it should, if they were clever when they designed the console

 

As for games… well, nothing spectacular, really:

  • The Gears of War 2 CG trailer is a missed opportunity: it could have been in-engine and look almost as good

  • The Halo Wars CG trailer, even though it has absolutely no relation to the gameplay, seems to prove that you can actually make something gritty, realistic and modern in the Halo universe, and Halo 3 didn’t need to look like it was powered by Playskool

  • I like how the new Mirror’s Edge gameplay trailer picks up exactly where the previous one left off, but other than that it doesn’t show much of interest (and the final song makes me wonder if EA might actually screw it up after all)

  • Fallout 3 looks kinda pretty, but it still has some of that Oblivion-ness that I can’t quite describe but deters me from playing it (more apparent in the live demo, but the video quality is not representative of the game’s graphics)

  • The Fable 2 “pub games” (Keystone, Spinner, Tower of Fortune), which you can play in-game or on XBLA to earn gold, seem to all rely on chance, which is stupid (and the live demo didn’t show anything new, apart from a wife speaking at the door for ten minutes while the players were elsewhere)

  • I don’t know what Hydrophobia is, but it’s a pity Bioshock didn’t have that technology

Set up port forwarding for your Xbox 360

You figure that, since your Xbox does see and connect to the internet, everything’s fine, and so did I; turns out that it is not actually normal for the console to hang for thirty seconds every time you try and join an Xbox Live game. I’d read about this before, but never bothered to set it up, and it does make online gaming that much smoother.

The link above has a detailed walkthrough, but the quick technical brief is: give your console a fixed IP address, and forward ports udp 88, udp 3074 and tcp 3074. Voilà, instant matchmaking.

16 July

E3 2008: Day 2

I only realize now: Animal Crossing is the inspiration for GTA IV’s most annoying feature, isn’t it? “But if you don’t show your face back home for too long, your neighbors will miss you.

I can’t believe the “Wii Motion Plus” (ugh) unapologetically does just what the wiimote was originally supposed to be designed for, and it ends up being an accessory that you have to buy and plug into your wiimote — and it doesn’t seem like Nintendo intends to build this new technology into future wiimotes, either. What the hell? Not to mention that I don’t think the Wii actually needed more precise motion control; unless you’re using the wiimote to control a real-life robotic arm that handles plutonium bars, precision isn’t really that compatible with efficient gameplay, does it? Don’t Wii Sports or Wii Music work precisely because you can make very approximative gestures?

On the other hand, it’s nice that Nintendo finally realizes that there’s a value to voice chat in games. Especially when you’re not on Xbox Live, but safely within the confines of your redundant friend codes. Wonder how good the quality can be with an omni-directional mic sitting on top of the TV, though.

 

The Infamous visuals look a lot like GTA IV, don’t they? It’s a much better camera view (and the graphics are infinitely nicer) than Prototype, but I can’t quite imagine from the videos what it would be like to play, and that’s not usually a very good sign.

Resistance 2 still doesn’t hook me. In the same way as Bioshock didn’t appeal to me until I played the demo, now that I think about it.

I Am Alive has a cool introduction trailer, although the main character’s face is a little weird. I hope there are no monsters in the game; it would be a nice break. (But I can’t help but expect radioactive mutants somewhere down the line.)

The Ghostbusters trailer has to be the worst I’ve seen in a long while (well, actually, the Haze male model in futuristic armor wasn’t so long ago): mixing gameplay footage with real-life movie clips is a big no-no, as it focuses attention on the fact that video games still don’t look real; and it’s only made worse by the fact that the original Ghostbusters footage from 1984 actually looks like shit. Comedies weren’t entitled to professional directors of photography at the time.

I have no idea what fl0wer is about (or maybe you control a gust of wind?), but it’s got to take a lot of CPU to animate all those blades of grass.

I’m not linking to the God of War 3 trailer because it’s all CG and really doesn’t say anything at all (oh my god, there’s Kratos! and he’s angry!); and I’m so not buying Spore for iPhone.

Prince of Persia

This one gets its own post, because it’s the first “Holy shit” moment I’ve had since the beginning of E3 announcements. It starts with the totally unexpected music and atmosphere (since Gears of War’s “Mad World,” everything is possible), and follows with stunning graphics. From what you see on screen, it looks like it ought to be gameplay, but at the same time it’s very hard to believe.

It better not play like Assassin’s Creed.

17 July

E3 2008: Day 3

It’s confirmed: Prince of Persia (continued here) is the game of the show. The graphics are insane, and gameplay seems very well thought-out, with a nice, clever sidekick giving a body and voice to hints, double jumps and checkpoints all at once — it sounds absurd, but you need to watch the video to see how it makes total sense. And you absolutely have to watch the second video until the end. Stunning.

LittleBigPlanet needs to replace PowerPoint in every business presentation from now on. (It does confirm, by the way, that Sony should scrap Home and replace it with sackboys.)

It’s hard to tell for sure with the video’s quality, but Star Wars: The Force Unleashed seems to be the first iPhone game not to look like crap — using the good old tricks from the DS of integrating characters (which may or may not be live 3D, I’m not sure) on a prerendered static background, all of that on a vivid, high-resolution screen. But, of course, the gameplay seems to be just about as interesting as Dragon’s Lair.

18 July

E3 2008: Day 4

No video today, but some bits of information — and it’s the last day already? That was short. And mosly uneventful.

Spore has an endgame: the space phase doesn’t let you aimlessly roam the galaxy forever (although I’m sure you can if you really want to) but lasts fifteen to twenty hours, and has a fixed “twist ending.” Wanna bet the “twist” duplicates the end of Men in Black?

The LittleBigPlanet sackboys will lip-synch to voice chat (why don’t all games do that? it’s not that hard!) and Stephen Fry’s voice guides you through level creation. You wouldn’t think it was possible, but: nerdgasm++;

Now that Star Wars Galaxies is way beyond any kind of revival, the KOTOR MMO is officially confirmed, and it’s actually developed by Bioware. Which may or may not bode well for the introduction of a Mass Effect MMO after the trilogy ends.

De Blob has an iPhone version, available now and using 2D sprites, so it may not burn through the battery or boil the processor, but I have no idea how it plays so I’m not going to buy it until there’s a demo (or at least a video).

 

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