Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Well, this is probably going to be my last post for the year as I gear up for the Christmas holidays. 

Looking back, it has been pretty interesting to say the least. I am pretty happy with the fact that I have been able to keep writing on the blog so far, and of course getting Niyi to help out with more content and then Wale, Siji and Mike for the podcast. Next year should see a whole slew of more interesting stuff as I dig deeper into more old games I played years ago as well as more independent titles, and hopefully some Nigerian-developed games too, some of which I am hoping to drive through the MAG site, and others I will hopefully discover from digging around. I am also working on moving the blog over to wordpress and its own domain at www.somekillgiants.com by next year, hopefully organising the blog better as well as the podcast. Once I can work out how to migrate the feeds and so on it should be done, but yeah, by January it should be done.

To all those that are reading, thanks for hanging in there and being our audience.

Happy holidays, and to those that celebrate it, a merry Christmas! I leave you all with a link to a great album by Doctor Octoroc, featuring Christmas music done in the style of classic NES games.

Enjoy the holidays and see you all next year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Next Metal Gear is...

on the iPhone.



Yea.

So...um...yea. So that this post is not just about that dull announcement (exciting for iPhone owners?), there is gist that Kojima is working on some sort of new ip which is cool.

I am also got my hands on Mirror's Edge which I am actually enjoying immensely despite being crap at it. I can see how the constant starting and stopping might put some people off, but different strokes right? I am actually looking forward to playing through the game again once I have the encounters memorised. Oh and then there's the time trials and I finally have something to do on PSN besides update and browse for themes. Yay!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Omikron: The Nomad Soul (retro)

After the last podcast took me down memory lane a little, I started thinking about all the cool games I played years ago and either didn't finish, or wanted more of.

Reading on Eurogamer about Heavy Rain got me thinking about Quantic Dream's first game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul. I never finished it, and I want more of it.

Omikron: The Nomad Soul was released in 1999 and I think I got it in 2000. The version I had was on the Dreamcast, and as buggy and shoddy a port as it was, it still managed to make me fall in love with it completely. Back then, I had no idea about what was going on in games like this, literally blundering from one plot point to the next, and right now if anybody was to ask me what exactly the game was about, I couldn't tell you. I did remember the beginning though.



I had never seen anything like it before, a game that 'spoke' to you! Wow. I mean before that I had played Metal Gear Solid on the PSOne and faced off against Psycho Mantis, but this was different.

Anyway, so I agreed to 'inhabit' the weird guy's body and off I went into an adventure. The first thing that struck me about the game was how beautiful it looked. Not that the graphics were anything fantastic, in fact, they were quite laughable i some respects, but the art direction, the lighting and the colours, and the music. Oh yes, I remember the music. They had David Bowie in there and he handled music duties alongside Reeves Gabrels , and Xavier Despas  in the game.



It really was unlike anything I had played up till that point really. Now I can tell you that it was a hybrid of adventure game (in the sense of the lucasarts monkey island, grim fandango style of adventure but without the pointing and the clicking), first-person shooter, beat 'em up, and had separate swimming sections. You can see some of that in this trailer for the game. There was also another interesting story/game mechanic. Your character could swap bodies, getting the person's memories and abilities upon the soul swap, just like what happened in the beginning of the game. What I don't remember though, is whether or not this could be done at will or only with certain key characters or at specific times.

Special mention must also go to the visual aesthetic of the game which seemed to have been informed by a futuristic, haute couture renditioning of Bedouins and Maghreb nomadic cultures.

Even the buildings had a heavy Moroccan flavour to them, especially in one of the cities where the buildings are even painted white. It's unfortunate that the main reason I remember this is because I made  myself nauseous running around the rooftops trying to figure out where I had to go. I am even getting slightly motion sick just remembering it.


David Cage, the lead designer (and writer and director) of the game seems to be one of the last people who is out there trying to keep adventure gaming relevant and fun. It's quite odd actually that even though I really enjoy these types of games I haven't played any of the more recent ones like Broken Sword 3 or its sequel or The Longest Journey or its sequel , I have to do something about that state of affairs some time next year, time and money willing.

Quantic Dream went on to release Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy and are now working on Heavy Rain for the PS3. There is also some rumblings about a sequel, but will wait for more concrete info. I haven't played Fahrenheit, but as soon as I am done playing Omikron and finishing it, it is next on my list. I really enjoy the sense of imagination and the visual aesthetic that was brought into The Nomad Soul and from what I have heard about Fahrenheit, even though it is not based in such a fantastical universe, the same level of imagination has been brought to bear.

Any way, the game is pretty tough to get right now, especially from Nigeria, so I guess eBay and amazon are the best bets to buy a copy if you have someone overseas that can ship a copy down to you. It does take some messing about with drivers and compatibility and possibly even a no-cd crack in order to get it working on windows xp, although vista seemed easier strangely enough. You can find out more about getting it to run on modern PCs in this video here and with google. It is running on my system and I have played about 10 minutes so far and I am hooked all over again. The graphics are a tad bit blockier than I remembered, but it does look a LOT sharper than the blurriness of the dreamcast version.

It's a really cool game though and worth playing. Besides, how could you resist a game that has David Bowie looking like this?


I found the majority of the artwork on this very comprehensive Quantic Dream fansite, and you can see more of the excellent artwork here. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Freeware Games for the Holidays - Part 1

A LOT of people I know, and know of, pirate games. Partly it's because the availability of games here is pretty bad, and the prices are atrocious as I spoke about here. But, I think most of the time, it's the same reason people pirate games anywhere else in the world. It's free, and no one has suffered any consequence for it here.

The whole piracy discussion is a whole separate issue which I do not plan on going into here, what I want to do though is make a couple of recommendations based on my own impressions and suggestions based on other peoples' reviews and impressions of high quality, good length freeware games available for the windows PC, Mac and for those who have them, hacked PSPs as an alternative to getting more pirated games this holiday season. Think of it as getting good karma.

I was originally going to break the list down into sections (PC, MAC, PSP) and then into genres (shmup, platformer etc.), but I am too lazy to do that so you will all have to go through the list and check the description to see if it is for your chosen platform.

Here we go.
1.









Cave Story
(PC, MAC, PSP) get it here

Okay, this is hands down one of the best games you will play on any platform guaranteed. It is a platformer/ side-scrolling shooter with heavy exploration elements and a simple but well told story. You will gain hours of play from this as you discover secrets, different paths through the game, hidden weapons and an entire hidden area. You can get all the various versions from here with instructions on setting them up. The game is also being released on the Wii via Wiiware and I will encourage you to buy it, if you can, to support the developer and to try out the extras they are sure to include with its release.

2.










Iji
(PC) get it here

Iji is an side-scrolling action/adventure game with a graphical style reminiscent of Flashback. I haven't finished the game yet, but what I have played is of very high quality. The game features rpg mechanics allowing you to tailor your character in such a way that can even allow you to complete the game without killing anybody at all. It also has rave reviews from all over the indie game web, so it is definitely worth a playthrough.

3.










The Spirit Engine (PC) get it here

This is another side-scroller, but this time its an rpg! The Spirit Engine has good dialogue and an intriguing story. The combat system is quite unique in its approach, and although it may take some getting used, is quite fun once you get used to it. I never finished this because it kept crashing at a particular point in one of the later chapters, but I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

4.











Dwarf Fortress (PC, MAC) get it here

Okay, first a disclaimer, the game fresh off whichever server you get it from doesn't look like the screenshot above. In reality, everything is represented by ascii text until you get a new tile set and replace them, but I didn't want to scare you guys off. Anyway, this is one of the deepest and most rewarding strategy/simulation/rpg roguelikes you are likely to play in the next couple of years. You control a band of dwarves as they make a home in the side of a mountain and fend off all manner of creatures and deal with pregnancy, going berserk and competing craftsdwarves. The Sims Extreme in other words. And I haven't talked about the adventure mode or the fact it generates an entire unique world history and myth for you.

5.








Exult
(PC, MAC, PSP) get it here (PC & MAC) and here for PSP.

Exult is an engine developed to emulate the old computer rpgs Ultima VII: The Black Gate and The Serpent Isle. These are some of the most acclaimed rpgs ever so this is basically a no-brainer. The exult platform does a great job of bringing these games to modern audiences so you should definitely give it a shot.

6.










La Mulana
(PC) get it and the English patch here

La Mulana is a side-scrolling adventure game made to resemble an MSX title. It is fiendishly hard and in fact this is one of the few games I haven't finished due to difficulty, but damn is it FUN! I am including a link to a series of Let's Play... videos on youtube where you can watch someone play through the entire game. So, if you do get stuck, have a look at the series here. It is also one of the longest games on this list, with a full playthrough taking up to 10-12 hours even if one knows what they are doing.

That's it for part 1. Dunno when I will get around to a part 2, but look forward to it and I hope you find something that catches your fancy among these games.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

KILL BILL: Memoirs of the Dead.



We made it to the roof. Francis, Louis, Zoey and I. Only two weeks had passed since the infection and the streets were already littered with the filth of flesh hungry corpses. But we’d noticed something else…the damn critters were mutating, a breed of new horrors awaited us and it wasn’t going to be easy getting where we needed to go. We loaded up our weapons…shotguns and ammo, steeled our hands and prepared to make our descent down into the decadent stench of decaying flesh waiting for us in the belly of a newfound hell (The building). Francis (Tunji) and Louis (Wale) were new to this game; a couple of trigger happy Halo junkies, they had absolutely no idea what fate (The game director) had in store for us. But I did. Zoey (Michael) and I were there at the beginning. I took lead, pulled open the door…a couple of stragglers bumped around at the bottom of the stairs…easy enough. We made our way down the staircase and peered round the corner. A couple a more stragglers jumped at us out of nowhere, nearly scaring the guns (gamepads) out of our hands. The newcomers were proving to be effective, but it wasn’t long before I realized we were going to be in serious trouble. The rule is simple…survive together…or die! Separate…and you’re as good as dead eyes. A lesson we would all come to learn the hard way. The Horde came at us! Panic set in and our fingers pressed down at lightning speed on our triggers. Blood spluttered into the air, bits of rancid flesh exploding all around us, undead after on undead, falling at our feet. A Hunter jumped on Louis as a Smoker grabbed a hold of Zoey; I ran after her and put a bullet in the rotten bastards decaying brain. Francis knocked the Hunter off Louis before emptying a load of shotgun shells in its belly. A few blocks down and someone accidentally set off a car alarm…if it wasn’t an accident, I woulda had to put that puppy down myself. The sound of the alarm drew every flesh eating vermin for two blocks to us in frantic flesh feeding frenzy. We survived…but the damage was done. I watched Zoey and Francis limp for the next few blocks to the safe house. We all got it bad…no one wanted to die; no one wanted to be left behind. We made it to the safe house and patched ourselves up. Finally! A real man’s weapon…M16’s, the best gaddamn friend a soldier ever had, not as good as an AK in my books, but still one hell of a gun. Our new weapons cut through the horde like a hot knife through butter…but the journey was getting more and more difficult as we got closer to Mercy hospital. Smokers came at us out of every corner; Boomers caused us no end of trouble with putrid vomit that brought the horde down on us in unending droves; Hunters pounced on us, tearing at our flesh with talon-like fingers as Tanks smashed us into the floor in depraved rage. Frantic auto-machine gun fire and a well placed pipe bomb saved our butts from certain death more than once. And then…there were those blasted Witches. Each time, we barely survived…paying in full for our negligence of the one unspoken rule…“Stay together…or die.” We struggled our way to the end, to the very top of Mercy hospital. All that was left now was for us to make the call and the chopper would be on its way to rescue us. All the blood and sweat, stench of rotten corpses, broken bones…soon we would be rescued and finally rewarded with a respite from this hellish world. Soon this old dog could breathe a deep sigh and give his tired old bones a well deserved rest. It had been a hard campaign. I looked towards Zoey…she’d been with me through it all…from the very beginning. We’d watched each other’s backs, fought through seemingly impossible masses of zombified flesh eaters, together. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’d saved her ass, but she’d saved me too on occasion and in this old dog’s books, that made us even. But it also made us comrades.

So we loaded up our guns, split into pairs of two and put our backs to the walls at the top and bottom of the stairwell, which ran up the back of the fortified building which was across from the helipad…and made the call. The Horde came in their numbers. Numbers of Hunters, numbers of Boomers, numbers of Smokers. Our strategy worked well, it was easy enough to defend ourselves against the undead knocking down our doors in the narrow space of the stairwell. That is…until the Tanks came into play. Half a ton of mutated rage-pumped human flesh knocked Louis into the ground like one of those steroid-junkie wrestlers beating down a three foot midget. I emptied three clips into the beast before it finally keeled over. And just then…I heard it…the sweetest words I’d ever heard…the sound of Zoey shouting out…“The chopper’s here!” and as luck would have it, the way was clear. We made a run for it, Zoey tagging close behind me, both assuming that Francis (Tunji) and Louis (Wale) would be following close behind us, watching each other’s backs. We were almost there, just a few more feet to safety, a few more steps to the chopper and we'd be safe. As I put my foot down on the ramp leading up to the helipad, I felt a strange tug and suddenly found myself flying backwards. A Smoker had gotten a hold of me…I cried out to Zoey as the Smoker’s wormlike tongue pulled me passed her. The abject horror I should have felt at being pulled into the jaws of certain death was replaced by bewilderment and the morbid realization of what was happening in front of me. With imminent rescue looming before her, Zoey (Michael) didn’t even look back. Not even a glance. The Smoker dragged me away, pulling me up alongside another one of my comrades, who was being mauled to death by a Hunter. Out of the corner of my eyes I could see it was Francis (Tunji), “Ambushed…” I guessed, as he was making his way out of the fortified building. In the distance I saw Zoey, as she finally made it to the safety of the chopper. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Louis (Wale) fighting off straggling undead as he made his way up the ramp to the chopper. It was then that I knew it was over; and as the horde came streaming towards me- the hunger for flesh evident in their blood red eyes- I looked to my side, but Louis was already dead. “Damn!” I thought. “…Should have had that last smoke.”
We had both been abandoned…both been betrayed by people we trusted, both been Left 4 dead. Sigh, but then, who was I to say I wouldn’t have done the same thing. As the chopper took off, a line from a gritty movie I once watched flashed across my mind....the words seeming wiser now than they had the first time I heard them: “An old man dies...a young girl lives….”
“…Fair trade.”
Well, Yegwa asked me to do a write up on the multi-player session that we had a couple of days ago on the Valve developed zombie shooter, so...here it is (above I mean). I couldn't think of any other way to do it really, that wasn't going to be considerably longer than this. And while I am no Stephen King, I think I did a pretty decent job translating the events of the gaming session . As long as you get the idea and realize that on that particular day in question, I discovered why the game developers chose to call the- brilliantly put together- action horror shooter...LEFT 4 DEAD! Mostly thanks to my backstabbing friend Michael(Zoey)...who I wouldn't want to be caught in a real life Zombie apocalypse with, I can tell you. BUT IT WAS LOADS OF FUN!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Game Development Blog

This is just a quick post to let those that are interested that I just started a game development site.

Hoping to gather like-minded individuals who are fresh to game development to join in on discussing game design and posting up their dev diaries on the forum (which I haven't set up yet, but will probably do so by tomorrow).

I am hoping that constant peer review and feedback will encourage us wannabe designers to finish something, even if it is absolute rubbish. To that effect there will be design and development competitions as well as links to the same on other websites. Maybe we too can become a game development collective.

You can check it out at http://somekillgiants.com/mag

L4D Multiplayer

Before I get into a summary of the multiplayer fun we had playing Left 4 Dead over system link, let me make a correction. Yesterday I said that Niyi cries for help as a hunter gouges out his insides. Well, he was actually gasping for breath as a Smoker constricted his windpipe.

With that out of the way...


So, Monday and Tuesday were public holidays in Nigeria because of the Islamic Eid-el-Kabir. I decided to ask the guys if they would be willing to try out the multiplayer co-op in Left 4 Dead on Monday and then play the versus mode and then Halo 3 on Tuesday with a few more people. They said yes!

On Monday night we got together and settled down for some 4 player action, only for El Cij to abandon us because he couldn't find his way out of Cyrodiil back to the real world. We forgive him, but only just. So, Niyi, Michael and I got started and began going through the 'No Mercy' campaign on Normal difficulty.

We actually did pretty well. No one ever died, we stuck together and proved to be a proper Spartan fighting unit, but instead of spears, we had automatic shotguns and assault rifles spitting hot lead. I was even beginning to fear that maybe it was too easy, but the escape from the roof of the hospital proved me wrong.

We wiped out 5 times in our attempt to escape, until I suggested that maybe we try and camp out in the stairwell of the communications room. This worked out very well for us and we took out every zombie that dared show its face including two tanks. Unfortunately, once the helicopter arrived, only three of us made it out with Michael getting stomped by zombies on the way to the helicopter. By the time we realised, the pilot had lifted off, leaving us with a cinematic view of a horde of zombies fighting over Mike's corpse.

Ah well.

What was really cool though, was the times that we didn't make it. It really was like watching a movie. Like when Michael and I would have died and we would watch Niyi fighting with everything he had (and he was using Bill as his character so it made it look even better) with the AI controlling Francis in support. One time, Niyi actually even thought he was dead when he was incapacitated by zombies so he came into the room we were in watching our screen. We then saw Francis shooting zombies off him with the precision of a machine and struggling to get Niyi back on his feet. Michael and I shouted at him to go back to his pad, he still had a chance!

Watching from our own screens we saw him shooting with dual pistols at the horde, giving Francis support until he could get up. Unfortunately, they got seperated by the horde, and that just resulted in them becoming zombie snacks.

It was really cool, and although we tried playing through the Dead Air campaign not long after we finished No Mercy, by the time people were running into walls because they were falling asleep at the controllers, we decided it was time for bed.

The game is really awesome in multiplayer and I can imagine it would have been even more so if Siji hadn't sold us out for the Dark Brotherhood. Sometimes it felt like it would really get too easy once we all got used to the game, but the AI Director really gave us some good scares and paced the levels pretty well. Oh, and we got to burn two witches which was cool. It is also possible the reason it felt like it was too easy was because of how uber Francis was at taking out the specials.

The second day was even more interesting, but I think I will get Niyi to write about that as he was the one playing, I just observed from time-to-time...and laughed a lot.

Design Tour Series


Design Tour - Knytt Stories from David Rosen on Vimeo.

David rosen, developer of indie title Lugaru and its sequel Overgrowth has started a series of videos dicussing the design strengths of various indie games. The one above is from Nifflas' Knytt Stories which is an excellent exploration-based platformer that comes with its own level editor allowing for the creation of ones own levels and an easy way to load third-party levels.

The previous one he did was on the physics puzzler World of Goo which is available on the PC, Mac and Wiiware.

He sounds a bit like Stephen Hawking which I actually find kind of cool and funny at the same time, but he does a good analysis so have a look at the one embedded above and you can see the previous one here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So beautiful I could cry


Nuevos mapas para Mirror´s Edge from Electronic Arts on Vimeo.

Now I have to get Mirror's Edge if only so that I can jump around a world that looks like that. Who says videogames need stories and plot and characterisation and voice acting and script writers and enemies and ludonarrative dissonance and asynchronous psychosomatic game mechanics? What they need is more blocks floating in space. That can be shot at or jumped on/off. Maybe even both...

Give us a world to move around in, a score to beat and the tools to do it. Like Mario Sunshine's abstract levels done by an artist exhibiting at the Tate Modern.

Thanks for pointing this out to me Wale!

Post Xmas Glut Reading

The end-of-year gaming glut has come and hopefully is done with for yet another year, but it also means that the gaming blogosphere in general has settled down and started writing about other things not related to any of the games that have come out recently or at least thoughts on these games without all the hype associated with their releases. Obviously Some Kill Giants is not part of this trend as I have a mega Left 4 Dead post coming up from our experiences with four-player co-op and unfortunately only four-player versus, which WILL be filled with hype, but I digress.

Anyway, been hitting up the ol' Google Reader and going through some of my feeds that I have neglected and I have unearthed some serious gems.


First up is a post by Jim Rossignol on rockpapershotgun on the PC gaming scene in Korea and how it has literally made the country like no other place on Earth in terms of gaming and player culture. It has always fascinated me that they have been able to take computer gaming to the next level and have it as a cultural institution in its own right. I guess the equivalent in America for example would be...uh...er...reality TV stars? Uh...yeah. Anyway, go read the article, it is quite awesome and makes me think that my mad idea to make a nationwide Nigerian gaming intranet for high-speed gaming would be a great idea!

Secondly, over on Ludus Novus, Gregory Weir talks about games that are from parallel dimensions where gaming technology evolved along different lines. I wish I lived in the one where games like Odin Sphere were the norm instead of the exception. He also provides a link to a modern Mode 7 game and coins a new term that I really, really want to see gain traction - pixelpunk. Cool eh? I am sure that you want to see it gain traction too. Let us push it out there and make more games that fit the description.


Cactus, who I have written about before on here made a list of games that he hadn't finished developing, but were playable. The ideas behind them are awesome and messed up as always. You should check out the link if you are tired of high end gaming and looking for something interesting.  The rate he comes up with and discards ideas is quite frankly oppressive!

I think that should be enough for now. Need to go finish working on that L4D multiplayer article. I can give you a text-based trailer though.

Two people die a lot and get incapacitated even more! An example is made of traditional FPS players. Two make a run for the helicopter on the roof, Niyi cries for help as a hunter gouges out his insides. About 100 litres of Boomer vomit was spilled. A witch shrieks and burns as the world goes black and white. Left 4 Dead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Podcast Problem

It just came to my attention that the podcast that's online was not the complete version of the recording at all. You can all blame our crappy internet connection for that as it looks like it cut out about 7-8MB worth of info from the mp3.

Apologies to all those who streamed the podcast or downloaded the low quality version, it should be fixed now.

Monday, December 8, 2008

SKG GiN Podcast Episode 2

The 2nd podcast is finally up. If you are viewing this in your feed reader then you should already be aware of this and maybe even already streaming it.

We discuss the first-person genre of videogames as well as ramble at length on the games we are playing and loads more.

There are a few factual errors here and there, but hey! That's what you get for having a conversation and pulling your facts from memory instead of from a website or something.

Anyway, enjoy, and let us know what you think in the comments.

You can also download it here and a higher quality version here. To stream it, just view this post in your feed reader. We are working on getting it on iTunes as well for those that use it to listen and keep track of their podcasts.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

L4D - No Mercy Couples' Night


My girlfriend and I just finished playing through the No Mercy campaign of Left 4 Dead on easy mode. It took us 2 hours and 7 minutes, and we had one complete wipeout in that time frame.

It was so unbelievably intense and a lot of good fun.

A bit of background first. My girlfriend plays videogames as you can tell from her own blog, but most of the games she plays are either jrpgs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, or games like Phoenix Wright, Puyo Pop, Animal Crossing and some platformers. She is not a player of first-person shooters. At all. I think she may have tried one of the 007 games sometime in 2003/4, but she hadn't touched one since then. She is one to try though and I managed to convince her that since we would be playing on easy, it won't be a problem, and that she would have three people supporting her throughout the entire game. There would be no problems at all!

None whatsoever.

And there were none. As long as you don't consider occasional panic shooting and the fact that we were the only two people that made it out of the city at the end of the day problems. And at least the other two got to see the helicopter before a Tank jumped on top of the helipad and stomped them to oblivion...

Sorry Bill. Sorry Francis.

Playing with her was actually a lot of fun. Originally I had thought that we would get to a certain level, she would get tired, bored or too stressed out by the game and we would quit and watch some TV or something, but she stuck through the entire thing. This highlighted a couple of things about the game for me and reminded me of why I like co-op games.

1. On easy mode at least, Valve has been able to create an FPS that encourages rather than alienates players unused to the conventions of the genre. At a first glance, it would seem that they were able to achieve this because of the nature of the genre. Zombies do not require advanced tactics to beat as they do not flank or take cover or perform any other type of maneuver that may cause non-FPS gamers to balk at the amount of things they have to do in order to have fun. They just point and shoot. However, they have been able to keep the challenge for more regular players of the genre by including the boss zombies as well as allowing the AI Director to activate hordes of zombies that charge the player. This increases the tension and whenever we survived an onslaught of boss and normal zombies, I could see that my girlfriend got a feeling of accomplishment no matter how small even if she didn't kill most of the boss zombies. She was able to keep some of the normal ones at least at bay.

2. The importance of silence. I love how the zombies in Left 4 Dead do not always attack the minute you can see them. The fact that they mostly just hang around either against walls or standing about aimlessly gives newcomers some breathing space within which they can practice their aiming and get used to the controls within the game, but without the constant pressure being under attack would produce. The fact that the pistols have unlimited ammo helps a lot as well.

3. I love games with audio cues and those in Left 4 Dead are really well executed. Within thirty minutes of play, my girlfriend was calling the presence of Boomers, Smokers, and Hunters with confidence (tinged with a bit of apprehension). And of course we were always acutely aware of the presence of a Witch  or a Tank. This also allowed her to participate in the game on another level as well. She could raise the alarm whenever she caught one of these audio cues and I didn't, and sometimes, she was able to take care of a boss zombie threat behind us because of the audio cues. This is a very empowering thing for someone learning how to play the game and in a small way ties into an interview on co-op gaming that Shigeru Miyamoto gave that was pointed out to me by Derek Rumpler. Providing players of different skillsets something to do in a cooperative game is quite important to making sure everybody has fun.

4. The ability to revive fallen comrades was also pretty nice as well. Whenever she got overwhelmed, either I or the AI would get to her in time and set about reviving her. This was pretty cool as it fostered a sense of teamwork as opposed to the standard respawning method that is used in games like Halo 3 for example.

These are all just quick impressions from the playthrough I had with her and I am sure I will have a lot more thoughts on the game once I can play it with four players on a higher difficulty setting.

Oh, and for all the people out there who may be interested in playing the game with a spouse or loved one, nothing is as cool as rescuing someone from the slimy tongue of a smoker with a well placed shot.

L4D - Seamless Tutorial

My girlfriend and I were just discussing how the introductory movie in Left 4 Dead felt like a tutorial of sorts. All of the boss zombies are introduced, you get to see all the moves that the characters can make (apart from the use of first aid kits I think), things that one should be careful of (DO NOT SHINE A LIGHT ON THE WITCH!) and the basic flow of the game.

So, it was really neat to go to Valve's Left 4 Dead site, while I was looking for images for a new banner and another L4D article, and find that they have a blog post up about the very same thing.

These guys are really geniuses. Check out the blog post here. It details the thinking behind the movie and the process they went through to make it happen. Along with early versions of the sequence. Good stuff.

L4D



Played 3 chapters of the first campaign (the levels are called campaigns with chapters further sub-dividing them) in single player, and most of the first chapter with Niyi in co-op.

I have killed a Smoker while it tried to draw me in close, gotten over 100 headshots, and avoided taking damage after been puked on by a Boomer. I say this not to make a feeble attempt at bragging, but to emphasise the fact that all these things happened without me planning to get the achievements. I got all of them in the heat of trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.

I have cracked more than 100 zombie skulls with bullets not because of some hardcore-ness on my part, but because I wanted, needed to survive and we all know what necessity is the mother of...

Random shots fired in panic at a smoker while I was being pulled in? Blind luck! And speaking of blind luck, the episode with the Boomer and me taking no damage? Heh, I was huddled behind my companions and meleeing like a mad man waiting for the damn vomit to disappear. This game is too intense, and I love it!

I have only put give or take roughly 2-3 hours into it and it is already all I could hope for. Now, to see whether it holds up in the long run. Can't wait to play the multiplayer now.

I will post more once we go at it with 4 people.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Next Metal Gear Is...

 
Okay Kojima san, I am ready to play ball. As long as A Next Metal Gear Is not another Metal Gear Solid.
What I wouldn't mind is if it was a hint for a spin off of the core series. What I would really like would be another franchise from Kojima, or maybe an extrapolation of some of his ideas in Boktai or hell even Zone of the Enders (if he can team up with an editor!).
Some people are speculating that it is an IP for the iPhone which I guess makes sense from the imagery of the teaser, but the power symbol at the end is too universal a symbol. They could have been more specific. What about some sort of top-down MGS like in the good ol' days on the MSX and the NES? With the exclamation marks being abstract representations of Snake and Raiden?
Yeah, I know that was a stretch. 
Well, waiting and hoping that it's a good reveal at the end of the day.

Mass Effect via Africa Benson


My Shepard was based on Africa Benson, a character I had created back in 2004 that was supposed to exist in an atypical sense, her story being told across a series of T-shirts, stickers, posters (especially posters), and desktop wallpapers. I ended up writing a few short stories here and there talking about her adventures through multiple dimensions and fleshing out a bit more of the universe she existed in. I have decided that she will be my avatar in any game that allows me to create one. The two of us have a lot in common. We both enjoy the thrill of the new, always take the good and narrow path when we can, love long-range battles but are not afraid to twitch up close when we have to, and I think I could probably learn more about her character by having her in all these different situations, not bound by the pages in a comic book or the fabric of a T-shirt. She would be a denizen of multiple game worlds, in multiple situations, and with a plethora of skill sets. It could make for a hell of a fan-fiction mash-up whenever I get around to writing it...anyway, on with the review experiment.


So. Mass Effect. In summary, I will say I enjoyed the game well enough. I liked most of the game mechanics, and some of the environments were amazing. Having said that, I feel like I am probably going to enjoy it more a second time round as the 'pressure' to get the story over with is now gone and I can take my time and play the game through on what will hopefully be a challenging difficulty. I also feel like it would be a lot more fun as you get to keep all your stats on the next playthrough if you decide to use the same character.

Africa Benson rating - Cool.

Africa Benson exists in a universe with parallel dimensions that contain duplicates of most people across them. In this one, she was called Africa Shepard, a war heroine and only daughter of military parents.

A talented sniper and computer expert with a strong sense of honour and duty, she was also quite open to the idea of relating to other alien races. I figured that since Africa Benson saw so much on her travels through different dimensions that she would have met and rubbed off on her doppelganger in Mass Effect-ruled space.

No, Africa could never be a racist.

I moved her through the Citadel, taking in the sights and admiring the craft of the designers of the structure.


My only problem was that it was just too...blue. As silly as that sounds. Once I got my hands on the Normandy, I was out of there faster than a speeding bullet and I almost never went back.


The galaxy map was a much better fit for Commander Africa Shepard. Here I could realise the dream of exploring the possibilities of the game's Milky Way and travel to uncharted worlds. It soon got dull though. Most of the worlds I visited were just places with rocky terrain and tiny buildings where the only meaningful thing on the planet would occur. I lost interest in exploring these barren landscapes with my trusty rover (the bounciest car in recent memory! Hey, does anyone remember Breakthru? Ah the memories...) and decided to focus on pursuing the main story.

Now this was different! Moving through the worlds designed to be part of the story was always an exciting and interesting experience. From the architecture to the inhabitants of the various systems, to the fact that in these places, my actions had consequences.

The story quickly increased in tension the more I stuck to the main storyline, with only minor diversions brought on by radio messages from the Admiral of the 5th Fleet. This was when I really got into the game. Utilising all the skills I had learned over the course of my playthrough gave me a real sense of accomplishment and I finally got the hang of using the combat menu efficiently and effectively. The real time combat in the game is a bit clunky to be honest. It was also pretty nice to feel that every action I took made its impact felt in the game world and was not just a random aside with no real purpose beyond advancing stats and items.

One fight that I am not sure Africa could win was the one against her inventory. The moment it became full, it was a huge chore going through it all and trying to sell or at least get rid of unwanted items. Minutes went by as I tried to reduce outdated pistols, assault rifles, armour, weapon enhancements, biotic amps and omni tools to omni gel (a sort of mass effect equivalent of hollywood's nanotech). And, there was also the fear that I would destroy or sell off an item that a member of the field team could use just because they were not there for me to compare it against their current equipment.

But, after a while I learnt, and made sure that after every mission, Africa converted or sold off all unnecessary items.


I saw the romantic interlude, and although it was a bit novel for Africa to 'be' with a blue-skinned omnisexual(?) alien, it felt a bit forced and its novelty was the only reward. It was also almost a given that Africa would go with Liara as the only other potential on board the ship was so uninteresting. Then again, to be fair, even the characters that were not potential romantic interests were a bit dull. Case in point, the Turian cop whose name neither I, nor Africa can ever remember. Also, how come Liara had to look female? Africa definitely took offense to this and found it kind of weird that an omnisexual race would look female and not just androgynous or even something weirder. Heck! Now that I think about it, apart from humans and the Quarians of which you only meet one member, I think they are the only females that one encounters in the game. Wrex only ever mentioned the Krogan in passing to Africa. I never once saw them. I need to check that.


The end of the game, unfortunately, was a big let down, in terms of the final fight and to a much lesser extent, with regards to the story. I think Africa thought so too. She has faced off against strange, warlike races, transhuman beings that could shift their perceptions at the drop of a hat. She had seen beautiful angelic beings on her journeys through dimensions and marveled at their 10-dimensional wings folded through time, space and other dimensions we don't have names or concepts for and escaped the clutches of blind, mad gods at the edges of the multiverse. How could she be happy with a game that was this easy? How could she be happy that she didn't see all its sights and hear all its sounds? Surely there were people to save and problems to resolve all around the galaxy as well as within the Citadel? I heard there was even a suicide she could prevent.


The world of mass effect hinted at so much more than she and I had experienced, and until the inevitable sequel, we still had a lot to see and do. It was at this point that we realised that we were a bit harsh and impatient with the world and the inconsequential plots being revealed in all its nooks and crannies.

So, we went back in, but this time, now that I knew the way it all ended, I decided that it would be worthwhile to take my time and ensure that we see everything there was to see in the world and decided we wanted a challenge worthy of Africa's skills and knowledge. The experiences gained from this world, would undoubtedly help Africa in her journeys through other games.

And I decided, no romantic subplots the second time around. I don't know what it was I was thinking, Africa never had one before, and she certainly wasn't going to start now with such uninteresting people. I blame Fox News for being so curious.

I also switched the difficulty to hardcore. I needed to keep things interesting for Commander Africa Shepard.

Podcast Episode 2 - Behind Schedule

This is just a quick post to apologise for the late posting of the podcast. We hope to get it up pretty soon though, so apologies to those who are waiting for it (all five or six of you!).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Dudes formally known as Chris Plante and Sam Ryan save videogames writing

You write about videogames? Want to? Read about videogames? Follow the link below, the Cliffster demands it.

http://www.hardcasual.net/2008/12/02/the-cliffsters-guide-to

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brain Damaged Toon Underworld and more Cactus Goodness

Cactus, who is one of the more prolific and recognisable indie game developers out there teamed up with Ville Krumlinde to form LoFi Minds, an independent game development outfit based in sweden and this

 
is their first game. Which is still in development, and I am sure I have talked about even if briefly on the blog before.
Looks awesome huh? Now, I don't want anyone coming on here and saying how it looks like snes graphics or whatever. You obviously need to broaden your appreciation for videogame art styles. Realistic 3D is not the only way to make a modern game look! Go have a look on their website to see more screenshots and some gameplay videos. They are also planning on making it a high definition release which is really cool. 
Cactus has made a lot of cool games such as Clean Asia, Mondo Medicals, Mondo Agency, Ad Nauseam 2, Psychosomnium and a LOT more. You can find most of them on his website
I find him a major inspiration in terms of what I actually would like to accomplish with the games I make, in terms of having a distinct aesthetic, and being able to put out prototypes without fear. Would probably lead to me finishing games quicker. 
Anyway, just putting his name out there for people who might be interested in trying out some indie games. All of which are free!

He also has a compilation of 17 (!) of his best games in one handy zip file which weighs in at a modest 45mb.


Enjoy!

The above image is from this thread where there are more examples of fanart inspired by Cactus' games.

Auditorium

 

Auditorium is a very atmospheric music/puzzler type flash game. From what I understand on the website, it is a demo of the game which they actually hope to be able to port to the iPhone (excellent idea!) and various consoles.

The game is a great way to waste a couple of minutes and the music is awesome. You can check it out here

Fable 2 (Part two) A MAN'S BEST FRIEND!


Well this is the second part of my two part review of FABLE 2, the adventure-styled RPG from LIONHEAD studios which has made a few mild waves this year. As I already noted in the first part of the Fable 2 review, the game is by far the best RPG I've played this year and it seems that isn't going to change, considering of course that games like Final Fantasy XIII are a long way off in development and games like Last Remnant are being tanked by reviewers all over the net. But even in spite of that, FABLE 2 would still be a worthwhile inclusion to any gamers pile of shame. Anyhow, the crux of this blog is to give a few tidbits and sources for certain things about the title game that some people may have missed (bcos we live in an information media starved country, namely Nigeria or simply really didn't bother with because you didn't really care.)

As I walked out of the gypsy camp for the first time, I had barely made it twenty-feet from the gate when I heard Bengus bark out to me. I turned and was surprised to find that my trusted companion was nowhere by my side. As i turned round I saw Bengus ( which is what i chose to call the mutt) some way behind me in the distance with a curious icon over his head. I as made my way back to him, I came to realize that my trusted companion was beckoning me to follow him. It appeared that he found something hidden in the ground and wanted me to take a look. Much to my surprise, I discovered hidden treasure at the spot he had led me to and praised Bengus for his efforts on my behalf, much to his delight.

For those who don't know, the developers of Fable 2 have decided to spare us the rigorous and often tedious chore of digging in random places for items and hidden treasures, a game dynamic I'm sure has led to many a gamer ripping the hairs on their heads out while playing the previous edition of the Lionhead franchise "Fable". But no more! Now you have man's best friend to sniff out hidden items buried in the ground and cleverly concealed treasure chests placed through out the world of Albion, leaving more time to stick a sword in some Hobbe's belly and crush bandits with your hammer. All in all the addition to the game was a brilliant idea, as your trusty mutt learns his own expressions and as you find and purchase books with tricks you can teach him and other books that improve his ability to find higher level treasures. And at least you have a companion to follow you down dark caves and stand by your side in the midst of battle. And while your faithful companion may not be of much use in a fight, he even alerts you to imminent threats like bandits and Hobbe's hiding in the trees or behind rocks, making it almost impossible for you to get ambushed by enemies. I have to hand it to Peter Molyneux (the game's creative director) the addition of the dog was an absolutely brilliant dynamic for the game.

I've also included game trailers below, which most of us may or may not have seen. Enjoy.



PRINCE OF PERSIA 2008 (Pre-play Review)

Ubisoft are bringing us yet another awesome looking game in the time tested (no pun intended) and highly successful Prince of Persia franchise. The game which was originally developed by Brøderbund and published by them and Konami way back in 1989 for the PC, has seen several transformations in its time as it successfully made the transition from the old platform model to the new age 3d environments of the modern era of gaming, while maintaining the tradition of being available to fans of the franchise on both PC and Game console platforms.
Later editions of the game included: Prince of Persia 2(1994): The Shadow and the Flame, also developed and published by Brøderbund.
Prince of Persia 3D
(1999) : which as the title suggests was the first 3d version of the game and was developed by Red Orb entertainment and published by The Learning Company. (Though in 2000, a version of the game was published by Avalanche software and published by Mattel for the now defunct Dreamcast.)
Prince of Persia
"The Sands of Time Trilogy": Which included Prince of Persia(2003): The Sands of Time, Prince of Persia(2004): Warrior Within and Prince of Persia(2005): The Two Thrones, all developed and published by Ubisoft (Montreal).
The game also had several remakes with versions made for portable gaming with: Battles of Prince Of Persia(2005) for the Nintendo DS, Prince of Persia Classic(2007) which was released on XBOX live arcade, the Playstation network and was also available on Mobile phones, and the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Fallen King(2008) which is the Nintendo DS counterpart to the upcoming Prince of Persia(2008) game that is set to be released anlongside it this december.
I always loved this series and it has proven to have one of the few (if not the only) characters from the stoneage of gaming that has successfully made the often difficult transition to the present era. The success of the Prince of Persia series has also resulted in the Guinness World Records awarding the series 6 world records in its "Gamer's Edition of 2008", with records including "First Motion-Capture Animation in a Video Game" and the highest rated platformer ever on the PS2 and Xbox. Which no doubt, led to the making of the live action movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arteton, Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina set to be released on the 28th of May 2010 entitled Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
So look out for the newest installment in the series coming out this December (if you can get your hands on it) and prep yourself for another exciting adventure in the Prince of Persia saga, because if the history of this game is anything to go by, then we're all in for one hell of a time!

Here's a rather interesting video review on the game from GameTrailers.com