Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Peter Explains why there is no minimaps in Fable 2

Peter Molyenux was in a video interview with the BBC about Fable 2. The video is very interesting and I reccomend watching it. One thing he did touch on was why there was no mini map. For those who cannot be bothered to watch the video, here is what he says:

"Gamers...find it very easy to go from 2D to 3D [that is what you do with mini maps, even if you don't think about it like that] they [non gamers] don't get it, don't understand it"
Apart from the obvious points that Fable is neither a casual gamer game, nor is the game void of other conventions that baffle non gamers such as XP, the point he makes, I think, is wrong. A mini map is entirely logical. It isn't like it was something made up for RPGs, or for games in general. Maps were developed long before video games. The fact that they even have a useful "you are here" symbol makes them even more intuitive. Yes, they could be made to be obtrusive, like using symbols and acronyms, but in their raw state they are just useful maps. Surely removing it entirley just makes it worse.

I will be conducting a thought experiment over the coming week to discover whether Peter is correct, and a mini map is just mad for a non gamer, or I am correct; a mini map is a logical way of presenting information. Yes, the trail used in the game is simple, but it's functionality is limted, ristricting what core gamers can do. This nicely brings me back to my orginal point - Fable is not a causal game, it rewards dedication, you must level your character (if ever a more bizzare and non gamer unfriendly concept ever existed, I have not found it) among other RPG conventions.

Still, it is always enjoyable to listen to Peter talking about games, he is a very interesting character. Oh and for those who are interested, I had my second child, she's called Delliah.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fable 2 First Impressions

I know this is two days late, my excuse: my wife is very demanding! In Fable. And what a game it is. It is not without it's problems, I will come to those in a moment, but this is one of the most staggering games I have played in a long time.

OK let me just get this out of the way, like Fable before it, this is one of the best looking games to date. Technically it is stunning, with light diffracting through trees. beautiful particle effects and virtually no jagged edges or rubbish textures. However, it is the art direction that will continually take your breath away. Only through the cartoony style can this game achieve the beautiful sun sets that you will stare at, the pain in your concious when you kill an innocent person and the true love you feel for your dog. Every location has a unique feel that carries through regardless of the weather.

While I would love to go in to far more detail than this post will allow, it is not the graphics will which pluck the strings of your heart. You really feel emotion in this game. Not just anger, but love, pain and humour. While it is difficult to describe, this is a game which will truly suck you up in to it's universe.


One of the most memorable things I have done so far involves a choice – like all good games. I was playing a good character. I was told not to feed the starving prisoners, there was a lever to do so. Obviously, looking a the prisoners, they need feeding. Should you choose to ignore their plea's, apart from the fact it counts a s an act of evil, you will have to fight the feeling in your stomach, But if you pull the levers, the mind control device activates. This will cause you, not your character, you, to feel pain. Every time it is activated, you see your character grab is head, your controller vibrates then experience orbs come flying out. The orbs you have spent so much time collecting, poring effortlessly out of your head. 12000 XP Lost. How good are you really? It is one of the most difficult and excruciating experiences ever – it was amazing.

Better than that, the moments of hilarity. This is one of the funniest games I have played on. The lines some of the characters come out with, such as when a bandit shouts at you “he was retiring next week!” just after you have killed one of their number. Or when you miss some wood that you were chopping and your dog covers his eye's with his paw and shakes his head. Or the amusing quotes on the loading screens (“I am seeking revenge because bandits killed my mother and sister. Clich├ęd I know, but that's life”) The voice acting is superb and the tongue in check humour, self deprecating irony and good ol' British sarcasm are all out in force.


There is so much I can talk about with this game, but I will have to save that for a later post, lest this goes on for days. Instead, I will skip to the problems with the game.

Firstly, the world still is not open enough! In some ways it is even more frustrating than in Fable 1, sure there are more places to go, but the places where you can't go make even less sense. For example, you can vault over quite a lot of the scenery, so you find yourself running at fences to jump over them. Only to find that that is one of the fences you can't vault.

Loading screens and odd frame rates also plague this game. Loading screens are alleviated by amusing comments (did I mention that, this game is hilarious) but why is the menu, of all things, still so clunky. Given how much the game handles in combat, the framerate is great, so why, when I jump in water, is the splash so slow?

Another problem is spell casting. Changing spells is difficult during the heat of battle. To do so, you must hit RT (Right Trigger) which stops your character moving, then you must use the ultra-sensitive D- Pad to select your spell. Alternatively, you can pause the game to do this. This really messes up the combat for spell slingers such as myself. In Oblivion, changing spells was easy, hotkeys were easy to define. Even in Fable 1 it was better than this. Although, having said that, both of those games had better magic systems than Fable. You have 8 different spells, there is no customisation, no different tactics to use them. Surely they could have done like a half way ground between Fable with the cool spells, and Oblivion with make-your-own.

The penultimate issue is the co-op that they so waved about. There is one simple problem. When you go in to someone elses world, you cannot use your hero. You get your stats, your spells, but not your weapons or, crucially, your appearance. This basically defeats the point of Co-op, because it is basically a way to show off.

The final issue is the map. Why isn't their a mini-map, that is a long held tradition with RPGs. Yes, you can use this trail thing, but what if I don't want to go where it is pointing. I even had to draw my own map of Albion to work out how the provinces join up.

Overall though, this game, despite it's numerous flaws, is incredible. Expect more coverage soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Botworks

Just thought I would give a quick shout out to my new blog: Botwork Studios. For those who are unaware, this is game development company (I love making myself sound important!) Here you will be able to find out the latest developments from the RTS I am working on: Frozen Kangaroo. I will also be posting game design topics, programming techniques and other stuff in that vein. I will try to keep it updated, there should be a mixture of posts for all interests relating to video game development.

The link again: http://botworkstudio.blogspot.com/

The full website is currently in development.

On Piracy and Copy Protection

Recently there has been a lot of controversy after EA's big game: Spore, included copy protection that limited the number of installs per key code. While I do not believe this the ultimate sin (hence it being glossed over in my review) that some people do, I do think it is a stupid way to stop piracy. And when there is such a simple solution...

Basically, Spore includes a piece of software - SecuROM - which installs itself on your computer when you install Spore. It then immediatley contacts EA to tell them that your product key has been installed. EA then checks that it hasn't been installed more than 3 times.

Personally, it has not effected me one bit. Sure, it isn't acceptable to send data off without my permission, and if I was to sell it, this could prove an issue, but other than that, it doesn't matter one bit.

My point is this - it doesn't stop piracy of the game! If you can sell it twice, then you are making a profit. The only way it could work is if you only were allowed one attempt, but then, if your computer failed, the game would fail with it. And the best part - you can email EA and they will give you - legitamitley - extra installs.

And it isn't like there isn't a simple, effective nearly fail-safe method. Just check the disk is in the drive at boot. It isn't hard, games have been doing it for years. Someone has obviously developed a method of it not being burnt when the disk is copied - as I discovered when trying to do a LAN version of Railroad Tycoon 3.

I recently borrowed Sins off a friend, only to discover I don't need the disk to run it. There is now no incentive for me to buy it. (For those who are interested, will be giving impressions). However, I am not going to go to the effort of borrowing a disk every time I want to play on a game. Sure, some people will work their way around it, but they are going to beat you WHATEVER you try. But with a simple disk check, most people will give up and buy the damn thing.

Oh and by the way, for those who need a counter to tell you when games are coming out, I am sorry but Fable 2, which got somewhat disappointing scores from GameSpot, is coming out tommorow! Won't be able to play until like 6/7PM so first impressions will have to wait till Saturday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Call of Duty 5: World at War beta

The Call of Duty beta has started and fortunately I got a code. This for the 360. Full analysis coming soon. Will be posting more videos as and when I upload them. Looks very simmilar to CoD 4 graphically is all I am saying at the moment.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spores first exapansion packs

We all knew that Spore was would have expansion packs, but November 18th really was fast! it is not a full expansion pack but will contain:

more than 100 new creature-building components themed in two distinct styles—charming, cartoon-esque creatures and scary, monster-like creatures

Also announced was a much more promising expansion pack coming out in spring 2009. It is an expansion pack aimed at the space stage. It will allow players to teleport themselves down on to the planet surface; just what someone who I was talking to about this game requested!

Also, pushing the content sharing stuff, it will be possible to design adventures and share them. What these "Adventures" will entail is anyone's guess. Hopefully, they will be more thought-provoking than the fedex missions in the game itself.

Personally, the first expansion pack does not interest me one bit. If it was freely downloadable - to keep consumers interested in the product - then obviously I would download it. But the idea that I will purchase, which I presumably will have to, 100 graphics is absurd. The second expansion back, providing these adventures are as dynamic as the creature creator, sounds highly interesting. Particularly if they fix all the issues I ranted about in my review!

Stay tuned for more updates. Also, some new information has come to light about Halo 3: Recon. The expansion pack to Halo 3 being developed by Bungie. That is - despite the fact it is the only DLC I will pay for - is not in fact downloadable at all. Why? I can only assume it was bigger than 2GB. If Bugie charge £20, I will consider it as a snap, but this is why I hoped it would be DLC. They can now, in theory, get away with £40 - a price too steep for someone who, while did enjoy the H3 campaign, not enough to purchase it again. It has the same online as Halo 3, so little temptation there.

Ah well, Fable is coming. I have agreed with my friend that, once we have both clocked in 30hrs(about a day after getting the game!) of single player, we are, until online is enabled, sleeping round at alternating houses playing local co-op! Stay tuned for the full review upon release on the 24th.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This is DLC I will pay for



This looks awesome, and the final few seconds prove it will be running on Halo's engine. This presumably means that it will be DLC as opposed to a new game. Maps, I do not hold with paying for, I pay for them yearly as far as I am concerned when I cough up £40 for Xbox Live. But a new campaign, that sounds sweet as!

Also, November 19th is the date for the new dashboard with Mii support. Sorry, Microsoft avatars. And, at long last, group private chat. Looking forward to all this, and Fable. That's your Microsoft update for today folks!

 
"All your base are belong to us"