Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This Title Has Been Procedurally Generated

For this week's post I present to you this, a link to a link to a video clip of (as I've called him before before) master-of-the-art Will Wright's presentation at this year's Game Developer's Conference. Most of the presentation, which changes titles quite a few times throughout, is dedicated to Wright's upcoming game Spore. The presentation is mainly aimed at other people in the field of game development, but Will's humor combined with the gameplay aspects we're shown make it a must see to anyone who takes gaming seriously. A registration is required to watch the video, but sites like help you to retain your anonymity during the process, if that's your cup of tea.

I'm not going to ruin the presentation by going through all the details for the remainder of the post, but this is clearly something to be excited about. With all the flash and sparkle of this year's E3, I haven't seen anything come out of it that seemed truly next generation. With it's procedurally generated everything, and all the possibilities hinted at with it's transparent player created content, Spore is a game that shows that real innovation is still very possible. Several times while watching the presentation, I was unable to stop the creeping of a huge grin on to my face, while other moments literally caused my jaw to drop. Go see for yourself.

In other, ahem, "news" - I've been playing the Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst open beta a bit the week. Honestly, the more I play of it, the less interested I've become with the game. If the combat were more interesting, or if the game world offered more to explore, I could see myself enjoying the game quite a bit more. I guess I've been spoiled by the dynamics of Monster Hunter's combat system, which has a whole lot more depth than PSO's weak attack, strong attack, heavy attack system.

Just because I'm only going to be allowed to play it for a short time, I'll continue to mess around with PSO: BB, but I can't see paying a monthly fee for it, or anything for that matter. Hopefully more games will start to take the route that Anarchy Online has taken with it's "pay if you don't like ads but do like expansion packs" subscription model, because I can see the bursting of the bloated MMO bubble coming sometime soon, and the small time players may be entirely forced out of the industry. Anyway, go watch that Spore presentation.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bursts Of Blue And Other Curiosities

As someone who's heard an awful lot about the Phantasy Star Online series, but never actually played any of the games, I figured it was my duty to try it out at least once. From now until June 9th, you too can try out the Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst Open Beta.

500MB is quite a hefty download, but considering Blue Burst includes PSO Episodes I and II right out of the proverbial box, it's seems to be worth it. I'll tell you, today's world of in-game tutorials being considered a near-necessity has softened me, more so than I originally thought it had. Starting up Blue Burst for the first time, once I got past the character creation screen I was quite hopeless. The Ship/Block thing I was used too, as it's analogous to Monster Hunter's Land/Area/Town system for separating players into more server friendly portions. After that, I could barely move my character around the screen. I actually had to log out and, gasp, read the manual.

I can definitely see Monster Hunter's roots firmly planted in the Phantasy Star Online series. That alone allowed me to have a vague idea of what I should be doing without having to log out yet again for another quick glance at the manual. Though, for now, I still prefer MH's signature brand of co-op boss fights, I can certainly see why PSO has left so many people with night sweats whenever unable to get their fix. I'm assuming that the somewhat simplistic(albeit still pretty) environments are an artifact from the series' Dreamcast roots, as are the comparatively low system requirements. The game still looks good, especially for what it is, and most people don't seem to be into PSO simply for the graphics. I'm not going to tell you what the rest of the game is about, since most people already know. I will tell you this: While I'll definitely not be paying a monthly fee for the privilege of playing Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, I will be playing the beta until forced to stop.

So, E3 has shown us quite a few pretties this year hasn't it? The videos for Killzone 2 and Killing Day on the PS3 were nothing short of amazing if, indeed, these were straight gameplay videos we were looking at. For current systems, there were still quite a few really good looking games coming out, too. What really mystified me was the news on the upcoming SOCOM 3. 32 players online, vehicles, maps with sub-sections for smaller player groups, and a message from Zipper basically saying "Yeah, the lag's gonna suck. There's nothing we can do about that." Fascinating.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

6 Games - One Post

This week's post is something new and exciting, at least for this site. I've done a few roundups before, as you may recall, but until now they've been split up into multiple posts and, more importantly, have been games or mods by entirely different teams/individuals. All that and more goes out the window, and this week's one-post-roundup is devoted entirely to the arcade shooters by Kenta Cho.

The word "abstract" can often be in the same sentence as the title of any of the games I'm about to mention today, which is very fitting. I'd imagine that these games are what people thought the future of gaming would look like, back when Space Invaders was hot shit. They're all simple to pick up and play, and absolutely mesmerizing to look at. From the fast paced intensity of Parsec47, to the art-deco simplicity of noiz2sa - from the boss fight after boss fight of rRootage, to the "reinforce your ship with parts of theirs" mechanic of Tumiki Fighters - from the evade and conquer dynamic of A7Xpg, to the WipeOut meets Tempest bliss that is my favorite, Torus Troopers, there's an awful lot of variety here.

While, for me at least, none of these games are going to keep you playing for hour after hour, each one is perfect for a quick half-hour of fun, or whatever amount of time you may need to kill. The learning curve is steeper for some games than others, but even the strangest can be picked up within a matter of minutes. The graphics for each game follow the theme of "retro-futuristic", and while each game uses OpenGL for some awesome effects, there's a simplicity to the graphics that is very refreshing in this day and age. The only game that doesn't have strictly 2D gameplay is Torus Troopers, my aforementioned favorite. That's not the reason for my affinity for the game - the intensity factor is - but I'm definitely looking forward to some more 3D oriented gameplay if Kenta decides to do some more games in the future.

Each of these games is very polished. I haven't encountered any bugs with a single game, and each one seems a finished game, not a work in progress. Plus, the fact the so many of these games are very random in execution certainly ups the replayablity factor quite a bit. Each download is under 10mb, some a quite a bit smaller - so there's no excuse for anyone reading this right now to not download them immediately. By the way, Windows versions are available for all you non-Linux types.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ann and me. Terri, Tory?: Part 3

OK, so I said this wouldn't happen again, and it did, but it's still all ETF's fault. After a member of the team suggested that my download might be corrupted I downloaded the full 1.3 version of Enemy Territory Fortress, and it still didn't work. I did finally get it to work by installing it in the stock ET directory, instead of my home directory like I'd been doing all along. So, yeah, my bad - but keep that in mind if you're having problems with the game.

Perhaps because it took so long to get the game working, when I finally did log on to a server and start to play, I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed. I've heard a few people complain about the graphics, and they're not really that bad. The characters look kind of cartoony, which I think is a nice touch, but where things start to fall apart graphics wise is the maps. It could be that a lot of them are redone versions of maps of historical significance among the Team Fortress community, but I've seen much better looking maps in Cube, not that I meant that in a bad way toward either game. Intermittent lack of prettiness aside, the maps included with Enemy Territory Fortress seem to be well-balanced and fun.

Gameplay in ETF if much faster and generally more Quake-like than stock Enemy Territory or Total Combat: Elite. This and the class mechanism, I'm sure, are part of the reasons that Team Fortress mods have remained popular for so long. Anybody who's been reading this site since back in the day knows I'm a huge CTF fan and, luckily for me, most any game I jumped into involved flags and the capturing thereof. That's one huge edge over both ET and TC:E in my book.

Since this is a roundup of sorts, I'm going to go ahead and do something I've always thought previous roundups were missing: I'm going to pick a winner. I'll tell you right away, it's not ETF. Sure it's fun, but it just doesn't stand up to True Combat: Elite. Enemy Territory on it's own is a blast, but there's something about True Combat: Elite that just... does it for me. So, there's your winner. That being said, both mods and the stock game itself are as fun as they are free, so if you've got a fast enough connection(you could try dialup, but I wouldn't) go ahead and try them all anyway. By the way, stuff should be back to normal now so expect weekly posting to resume.