Friday, October 31, 2008

Mother 3

I have been meaning to post about this since it came out and I downloaded the patch, but somehow it just slipped through. The Mother 3 fan translation is finally done! You will need to obtain a rom of the original Japanese game which you can always do a quick google search to sort out, then download the patch and apply it to the rom.

Below you can find a trailer showing scenes from the game. It does contain a few spoilers here and there so if you are one of those people who must not see anything at all about any piece of entertainment before you consume it yourself, then don't watch it. :-)

It is an awesome game and the sequel to one of the most charming and unique RPGs I have ever played - Mother 2 (Earthbound in the West). It is interesting, not only because of its setting - a Japanese RPG set in a non-post/pre apocalyptic urban environment - but also because its lead designer and creator Shigesato Itoi is a writer. As a result of this, even though the combat system and the general rpg elements of the games are competent, they are not anything revolutionary. What is really nice about the Mother games though, is the writing.

There's been so much talk around the gaming blogosphere about narrative in games and how games need to escape from the crutch of film and books, but you don't hear a lot about games like the Mother series in those circles. They should be talking about it.

 I currently have Mother 3 on my PSP and I'm playing it via emulation, but I have decided to stop until I finish Mother 2. Once that is done I am going to start a new game of Mother 3 and settle in to enjoy the ride.

On that note, I should also say that I have decided not to pick up anything else once I get Little Big Planet for the PS3, Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360 that is a AAA title for a while. I realise that I have been getting loads of games close to when they come out and I still have a huge pile of stuff on older gen consoles like the PS2 that I haven't even started playing and I am not the only one. I am trying to stop that now, plus next-gen gaming is sooo expensive here it is not even funny. So, pardon me if the number of AAA reviews that come from my end reduce. HOWEVER, I will be covering classic games that should be available for cheap on older consoles, or handheld titles which also go for much cheaper than their home console brethren.

I am also using it as an opportunity to look more critically at 2D games and some of the older games to help me as I slowly journey on the path to making my own games.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

VR1 Crossroads - In Memoriam

Back in 1999/2000 I discovered this text-based massively multiplayer RPG game called Crossroads. It was made by a company known as VR1 and was still in beta. By the time I had discovered it though, most of the beta testers had left and it was obvious that even though its developers might have wanted to keep working on it, their parent company was having none of it.

What was up was still quite fairly detailed though. The background for the game was quite unique, players began in a place known only as 'The City' in their chosen faction HQ. In the HQ, you are given a book/journal/message board that informs you of the history of your faction, why it is in the city and some background info on the world. Most factions will tell you that they all used to belong to a larger faction known as The Division. An uber secret organisation with multiple sub-organisations under it that were kept secret from each other and from the existence of the Division.

The Division was run by mysterious beings known as Archons who one day, just as mysteriously, disappeared, causing the break of the division, and the cutting loose of the factions under it.

From there, depending on which faction you join, you are given goals. Most factions want to control places of power which were sources of a substance known as Odyle, others wanted to control the city via its politicians, mobsters and other influential people. Some wanted to do both. And then some wanted to also gain influence over the dreamworld.

Dreamworld? Yes, this game had it all.
When I first downloaded the client for the game I was asked to create a character. The character creation screen was also quite interesting to me. I had never played Ultima or other text based MUDs before this one, so the use of a personality quiz to determine what kind of character you would be was a novelty for me. After answering some questions, I was then asked whether I preferred fantasy or sci-fi. I chose sci fi out of curiosity and was then given attributes that I had to choose from. Each positive attribute added points to a pool and the total positive points had to be balanced out by a negative points. Different attributes had different points associated with them.

I then got thrown into a faction of alien psychics, unfortunately I don't remember the majority of the faction names, and proceeded to explore the headquarters. It was such a fascinating experience. I realised I was the only person in the faction and so was the de facto leader. Assuming this meant I was the bees knees, I stepped out into the world to explore.

As I said earlier, the game was mostly bereft of players by this point so no one bothered me for my first thirty or so minutes while I got familiar with the command and the interface. I guess I should mention the fact that this was the first text-based game I had ever played with sound. The music was simple from what I remember, but it really set the mood of the various areas I went through and was enough of an addition that it immediately catapulted it to the top of text-based games I had played.

After some roaming about I found a place of power. I had been instructed to use the 'sense' command at these places to confirm the presence of odyle. After doing that, all I had to do to collect power from it was to sleep there for a long enough period. To be honest I can't remember whether all of this was int he faction diary or on the noticeboard, but I knew what I had to do when I found one. I then proceeded to sleep and what faced me was another character creation sequence. This time I had to 'mold' my character from dream stuff and it followed a more conventional character creation set up. After completing this I ascended through light and ended up in a central hub in the dream world. It was so cool! The interface changed slightly and the ambient sounds changed to suit the mood. While the city was mostly realistic and had normal locations like book stores, bars, night clubs and offices, the dreamworld had temples and dungeons and castles with fiends in them. I also traded my trenchcoat for a suit of leather armour and a sword.

I fought a few creatures and explored a bit before suddenly I was wrenched out of the dream world and back into the waking one. I think there was a notice in the dream world hub warning dreamers not to stay out too long as you could only sleep for a fixed amount of time (the exact amount was randomised slightly and was also based on the amount of odyle one had accumulated) and if you weren't in a special zone like the hub, you would lose all the items you had gained in the dream world. The experience taught me to pay more attention to the rules of the world. I dusted off and left to explore the world more before logging off for the first time.

I was hooked.

I proceeded to play the game solid for about 4 - 5 months religiously every day. It also didn't help that I was having a bit of a depressing time in real life and took the first chance I could to excape from it, but the game was really that good. I got attacked a couple of times by rival factions, re-created my character a couple of times and settled on a faction called the Jactara. I became faction head there too since there was no one else and started mapping the city's underground. Hunting down places of power and making sure that one was safe there (as other players could wake you up if they found you) was quite exciting and addictive in its own right, but finding out about the world and what happened to the archons was even more interesting. The writing was quite good from what I remember and all the players in the game were very reluctant to reveal which faction they belonged to although we sometimes shared information about pieces of the story we were able to figure out from our faction's information and our own investigations.

There was also the tussle for influence over the city as you could bribe NPCs to spy for you or just to gain power over them, thereby increasing your influence. This was easier to do, but for a more permanent solution, the best thing was to find a bit of blackmail material on the NPC in question. I was never sure whether they used to spawn in random places or just occurred in one place, but the idea was that blackmail items were unique and so only one player could have them giving them complete control over that NPC until someone else could get that item from them, and there were loads of hiding places.

The dream world also had its own rules as well and items to find, creatures to slay and so on. I became quite adept at sleeping and even learnt some spells that helped keep me asleep for much longer than normal so that I could explore.

There really was so much to do in the game and it was nowhere near finished. There were mystical factions, a faction made of dreamworld inhabitants, psychic factions, alien factions, a super hero faction, and a Men In Black-style faction called D12 (Division 12), which was the only faction to my knowledge that possessed a dossier on all the other factions and the most information about the archons. They were also one of the few factions that could actually kill a player for good.

Normally if you lost in combat your character would be knocked out and you would end up in the dream world. You could then be looted. There were no experience points in the game per se and so you might lose some odyle points, but your influence would remain intact so long as you had your blackmail items and so on. But, if D12 or one of the other factions that had kill requisitions (like a psychic faction called the panopticon) gave one to one of their players, they could kill your character. This did not mean game over however. Your character would instead get stuck in the dream world, never waking up. I don't know what would happen if you then died in the dream world however. It was possible to make it back to the city though if you could break into the dream inhabitants faction HQ and steal a body from there which gave you other abilities.

The game was really awesome and the developers had not yet implemented all the other factions or a lot of the skills or quests or finished areas. A lot of mobs were absent or present in an unfinished form, but it was already very engrossing. The few people who remained were a diehard bunch who still explored the world and had fun griefing one another from time-to-time. Unfortunately, VR1 then announced that it would not be continuing development on Crossroads (I think they couldn't find a publisher or their publisher told them not to continue), deciding instead to focus on more traditional videogames like Nightcaster as well as an mmorpg that was cancelled as well called Lost Continents.

While the forums were still up, some of the players were asking if VR1 or their publisher would be willing to sell the IP to them along with the engine so that they could continue developing it. Even creating a thread on text-based MUD company Skotos' forum asking the company to approach VR1 about purchasing the game. After a while of following the ever dwindling community I gave up on ever seeing Crossroads again. Now, I am not sure whether they even exist any more as a company. I have tried googling them and checked wikipedia but there's no link to a website or anything else. And their former web address is up for sale so who knows?

For a very long time it was the only mmorpg I had seen that had such an interesting setting and backstory. I really hope that games like The Secret World can sate on my yearning for playing in a world inspired partly by HP Lovecraft, contemporary conspiracy theories and a healthy heaping of mystery.

For more information about VR1's Crossroads, you can check out this really nice article on the game here, a press release discussing its then pioneering use of direct music can be found here , and here's an interview with one of their leads discussing Lost Continents.

EDIT: Just found out that they merged with Jaleco USA to form Jaleco Entertainment. No offense to VR1 Entertainment or Jaleco at all, but really? From Crossroads to this? I wonder whether the original designers behind Crossroads and Lost Continent left or are the ones behind the games on the jaleco site as well...

EDIT 2: Also, a link to one of the original designers of the game over on IGN. He also apparently worked on Lost Continent too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some Kill Giants!

The name's Niyi and I'm the newest blogger on the SKG blog: Some Kill Giants. Not to be confused with SKG Dreamworks: Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen. A blog dedicated to bringing you raves and reviews on some of the great- and not so great- games out there today. From the XBOX 360 and Ps3, I'll be giving you my personal opinions and insights on games like GTA IV, Mass Effect, Gears of War, Lost Odyssey, Devil May Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed, to name a few. And hopefully within the next few days, I'll be bringing you a little special review on the much talked about Action RPG: FABLE II. I'll also be talking about the gaming industry, and my personal opinions on what the hell is going on, in respects to game design and why with all the money out there in the industry today, some games are just whack!'s looking forward to keeping you up to date on the best, the worst, and the sometimes more than just mediocre games, on your favorite consoles!
(Note: Post was written under duress after a certain someone threatened to break my legs.)

And yet another game for the pre-harmattan season

Hm...I see that Niyi hasn't introduced himself yet as he ought to, but no matter, I am sure he will come round in time. Or I will have to beat him with a foam bat until he does.

This post is not about him, apart from the fact that he will be involved whether he likes it or not. This post is about Valve. This post is about this game -

I don't know how I was about to let this pass me by. Somehow it seems like I have missed most of the hype for Left 4 Dead. All I knew was that Valve was releasing a zombie shooter, but I had no idea what it was called, and even though I was interested in what "Valve did next", I just kept postponing my looking it up.
Now that I finally have, it has suddenly shot up to number 2 on my most wanted list (Little Big Planet is still whispering sweet words into my ear). I have been waiting for a great co-op game, and I hope that this is it. I trust Valve a lot after Portal lived up to its hype and I have enjoyed all the Half Life games, so a procedural zombie apocalypse to be survived with friends that is being put out there by them is essentially a no-brainer for me.
Definitely getting the 360 version though as it would be a lot easier to get 3 other people on one console to brave it out and maybe it could become our new multiplayer game instead of Halo 3 over system link.

Below are some videos showcasing the gameplay and a trailer so you can see what I am getting pumped about.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New poster

Well, there's a new member of the blog. His name is niyi and he will be posting reviews of games as well as various thoughts of his own on different games and so on. I don't expect we will agree on everything (maybe not even a lot of the time!), but I respect his views and think it will be interesting having another voice on here. It will also force me to take promoting the blog seriously. If I can make the blog a place that Nigerian gamers can hang out and share tips on where and how to get various games legitimately as well as organise meets and so on, it could be very cool.

Anyways, I am sure he will put up a post in a bit introducing himself properly so I will leave that to him.

I am also going to be starting a podcast that should be launching by the end of November. I am hoping to get various gamers here talking about gaming in Nigeria, the challenges involved and our own thoughts on various games and gaming history over here. Look forward to it! "Some Kill Giants podcast".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Immortal Defense 1.1

Just got an email this morning from rinkuhero, developer of one of my fave games this year, Immortal Defense. Version 1.1 is out and available for download. Since he probably has sent out emails to all the people that bought it, this is more a reminder to those who haven't picked it up yet to go ahead and do so!

The company he uses to process his payments take Nigerian credit cards (or at least Access Bank ones) and gave me no trouble at all, so I cannot recommend it enough. $20 is nothing compared to how much we spend on games here so support one of the people who is actually doing the things so many are only talking about in terms of immersive and artistic videogames.

You can download a demo here.

He got me!

Peter Molyneux finally got me...again. I had vowed to myself never to listen to the man since Black & White came out almost ten years ago. Not that it was a bad game, it was just that I thought it was something else. I thought it would be a game about playing with a creature possessing sophisticated AI and using him to conquer the land. What I got was a real-time strategy game with a lot of micro management...and I suck at RTS games. Since then I haven't had anything to do with Lionhead.
Hence, I didn't play the first Fable. I even had an xbox at the time, but a combination of my wariness of Mr. Molyneux's promises and an utter dislike for the art style kept me away from it. Afterwards, the comments on the game made me happy that I didn't succumb to the pre-release hype. A flawed, but very enjoyable game I read. The 'flawed' part was enough to make me justify my decision not to pick it up. That and I really didn't like the art style.
(Okay I just lost my original post because the browser crashed and I thought it was quite awesome and beautiful and witty and succinct and...ah the agony. Anyway, below is a summary. Yes, I am lazy.)
This made me pay attention to Fable 2. I then found out that Edge gave it a 9/10 and that it featured co-op play. That definitely blew my mind. Co-op play in a deep rpg! I really, really hope it is offline as well. I have found that on a lot of websites nowadays, when they say co-op, they could mean online co-op and not offline and not bother highlighting the difference because they can almost assume that most people have broadband internet. That sucks, and it also means that I have no idea whether Fable 2 still has offline co-op. I read a preview of it somewhere that said that the co-op was demo'd on a single system, so I hope that remains. 
But, the dog, the houses, the combat system, all that is really awesome to me now. I still don't really like the art-style in-game, but the concept art is actually strangely compelling...and ugly. I think I am going to be picking this up.
Yes Mr. Molyneux, I am back in your fold, please don't hurt me! 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

TGS 2008 and a Witch in glasses

It has taken TGS 2008 starting to really get me excited about the current-gen of consoles and portables. Platinum Games is finally showing the fruits of their labour, exciting games like Bayonetta, Mad World, Infinite Line (Space?) should hopefully be playable on the floor and we can get impressions. Cave Story is on the Wii! I am hoping this means Pixel, its creator will break through (hopefully) into the mainstream, and maybe he can be inspired to make, and rewarded for making more games. Also, No More Heroes 2!! I haven't played the original yet due to not having a Wii, but anything Suda 51 does I wholeheartedly support because of Killer 7. Also, the teaser trailer is pretty badass. There's also more news and a trailer for the Halo 3 expansion. Apparently called Halo 3: Recon now I am also excited about White Story, Little Big Planet, and a whole host of other games. The preview and gameplay videos are beginning to trickle out at gametrailers and gamevideos, so do check out those sites for more info and nice visuals.

I think the developers are finally beginning to get into their stride with these consoles and with potential gems like Mirror's Edge, Muramasa: Demon Blade (what Vanillaware did next!), Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2 (with Horde mode!), amongst others, I am really quite excited to be a gamer.

Also, do note the change in banner. Bayonetta is my new hottest babe in gaming and actually the game I am most looking forward to at the moment. Whether that's because I am some sort of closet pervert, or whether it's just cos I cannot wait for what Kamiya san has in store for us after Dante and Viewtiful Joe. I am also going through Ninja Gaiden 2 and I am so pumped for another third-person action game.

Random wallpapers I just hustled together for Bayonetta.

And here's some cam footage of the game in action (might be slightly NSFW).