Friday, November 28, 2008

Guitar Hero: World Tour First Impressions

I was fortunate enough to have had a lengthy two sessions with a complete (Drums, Bass, Guitar and Microphone) copy of Rock Band, err, Guitar Hero.

It is really good. Why? A number of reasons. Firstly, the drums are great fun, much funner (and harder) than the guitar. It has what makes the guitar fun (and hard) and then increased it. When you are getting a good streak with the drums and you are hitting pads all over the place, it feels really cool - just like when you have a long continuous streak of notes on the guitar.

The problem with the drums is two fold. Firstly, the learning curve is very steep. Even at easy, you must use ALL the pads and the pedal. I understand for it to be fun, pads have to be on opposite sides, so how about leave out the green pad (in the middle) and the pedal - which requires an extra layer of co-ordination.

The other problem is sensitivity. The pads on the your left, a slight tap is enough, any more is excessive, but the pads that are hit less often do not register. This is slightly off putting. The pedal is also really hard to use, and not just because it is not with your hands. Personally, I think it would be better, if a little strange, if it activated star power, as that is also absurdly hard as it is and you use it less frequently than the pedal as it stands.

Despite all this, the drums are great fun. The microphone, on the other hand, feels quite gimmicky. It does have a nice weight to it, and it doesn't look tacky, but actually playing it is more a matter of luck than skill. You can say anything you like, as the game is only measuring the pitch. While I am sure there will be some people who can control their pitch perfectly, the role feels somewhat superfluous and silly. If the game came with a stand, so you could play a instrument at the same time, it would be good, but seeming as the real singer still sings over the top, it just doesn't have the same satisfaction factor as the other real instruments.

So how about the guitars, well they still hold their own. It is easy to forget that amongst all this plastic it was they who started all this 3 short years ago. It is incredible to see how far this genre as come, from ELC style guitars with covers of unheard of records to this - a complete band kit with unembarassing style and a large and impressive set list featuring huge bands.

Which brings me on to my final point: the track list is fantastic. Normally, I am forced to stick with a few indie (in the modern sense, not the non-recorded sense, such as the Killers or Razorlight) tracks and maybe a David Bowie song. GH:WT covers all tastes, with plenty of songs that I like. It is a shame that they removed so many songs to sell back to people (there are giant gaps in the playlist that are being released for DLC, it sucks).

Overall, here is a game that has shown how to refine it's game play to the extreme. They haven't added a lot to this game - open strumming for the bass, a solo thing for the guitar - but it all fits in well to the game mechanics. Now, just don't realease any more, just sell song packs... cheaply?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NXE First Impressions


What, you want me to say more? Well NXE (New Xbox Experience) came out yesterday and was quick download. The avatar creation system is OK, very similar to the Wii, same good parts (quite fun) same problems (quite limited). It seems to me like they have obviously left gaps for DLC.

The new menu system is OK. The old blade system, in my opinion, was an effective way of displaying information. This system is a little confusing as you can't always see every option so you must memorise the order. It is a stab at being Apple with the reflections, but over all, it is more confusing. Maybe I will get used to it, but personally I thought the blade system was excellent.

And then there are parties. Group chat, the actually useful part to them, should have been introduced MONTHS ago. Launching in to a game doesn't actually jump you both in to the game, it just invites all the members to play.

I guess it is fine, but it hardly warranted the over the top video at the start.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gears of War 2 First Impressions

I got Gears of War 2 yesterday at a tidy price of £34.99. My impressions are limited as an annoying string of events that stopped me barely getting past the tutorial (which was a stupid decision - I knew it all already) So, I will save my thoughts on the campaign till later.

What I did get a chance to play on (one of the things that stopped me playing on campaign) was horde. And it is rather good. Scrap that, it is fantastic. We weren't playing it on a particularly hard level and you were already forced to work together as a team. We got to level 13 then the host had to go.

The other thing I did get a chance to play was the online. I had hoped to play a quick game, but it was uber close, 5-4 being the final score (having said that, we were 4-0 up) it took 45 minutes. Maybe it was just because it was such a close game, but the tense gameplay that was so great in Gears 1 is still here.

Overall, although my time with this game is limited the message is clear: everything that was good with Gears 1 is still here, and while the improvements are minor, they all fit well within the scope of the game, keeping it balanced, tense and fun. A solid sequel. More to come.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Childs Play Charity

Penny Arcade is hosting it's annual charity event: Child's Play. It gives money to help children in hospital enjoy the wonders of video games. You can either donate through paypal/bank etc, or you can choose to buy them something off their Amazon wish-list.

Although PA is expecting less this year, due to the economic crisis, as even the video game industry is, surprise surprise, not "recession proof", please give where you can for an honourable cause.

Follow this link to Child's Play Charity

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tom Clancy's EndWar First Impressions

I downloaded the demo of EndWar today. For those who are unaware, EndWar is a RTS for the Xbox 360. Normally, I avoid these with a a vengeance, so what is the difference? It is controlled by your voice. So what it it actually like?

Well, actually, it was rather good. Technically, the voice recognition is fantastic. My only gripe with the actual tech is that is always tries to assign what you said to something. Whilst this is good to a certain extent, when you use the wrong word for rifle men, say infantry, you might accidentally deploy a tank. However, that is a small gripe - providing you say the right word, it is 100% perfect in my experience. The thing takes a couple of seconds to respond, making giving orders to multiple units quickly difficult. However, this is resolved with a easy to use grouping system.

Commanding with your voice may be a good laugh, but it is also a very effective way of controlling your forces in the absence of your mouse. You will be pleased to know that haven't been excesive, as is the case with some Wii games, and it really does feel like it has got the balance between your voice and your controller allowing efficient control of your troops. The whole game is suited to the voice command, the battle's happen before your eyes in a very up-close manner. The whole experience is very hands-on.

Even when you take away the voice control - how this game is controlled is suited to the console. It is possible to play without the mic, and I think this is a perfect demonstration of how an RTS can be adapted to the console. Simplify, zoom in and limit. The mouse and keyboard gives the user so much control, obviously a PC player can handle more. This is why I have faith in this and Halo Wars, console-only is the only way that you will get a game that controls well. A player can't manage a huge army, buildings, an economy and still form a logical plan of attack with two joysticks.

As for the actual gameplay, it is suited well to the controls. You must take objectives. Your units, of which there are a thankfully limited 8, all have simple strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to capture key points - which can only be done with infantry. However, you must protect the infantry, as they do not stand a chance against tanks or helicopters. While tactics aren't hugely diverse- defend your troops while they take the points, use special powers towards the end - as the points are scattered across the maps, your forces must maintain cohesion if you hope to hold on to the ones you have captured and captured more.

That is, if there is a higher difficulty. As per with all demos, this game was very easy. It did, however, offer a nice rating system that ranks how well you performed in the match (on both combat and mobility) One of the most exciting features about this game - a persistent battle world online - was not available in the demo. Online was, but I have not got round to trying it yet.

On a side note, I have completed Fable, posts, reviews etc. coming soon.

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. Clichéd 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


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:

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!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


If ever there was a bigger game, I haven't known it. Maybe in the hardcore world Halo 3 got a little bit more hype, but never before has a game attracted so much media attention, with any and every media outlet running something. This game feels like it has been in development since the start of life itself and reviews have been insanely mixed. I don't mean like they gave it average scores but some give it a 10, others a zero. For a while I was tempted not to give it a score, but that would go against VG protocol. Enjoy the review!

System: PC

Type: Sandox / RTS / Space Explorer / Action

Graphics: 9.5/10

Sound: 8.5/10

Gameplay: 7/10

Story: 9/10

Multiplayer: 9/10

Overall: 8/10

As games go, Spore is very ambitious in it's scope, taking you from the dawn of life right past modern day and into a galactic civilization whilst still including a new approach to game design. It includes a piece of sophisticated model creator software, a real time simulation of player activity on four million planets and basically 5 games to play through. Even Civ doesn't do half of that. So, definitely full marks for effort, the four million planet statistic alone is quite impressive.

The game is, as you probably know, split in to 5 distinct stages. The cell stage, the creature stage, the tribal stage, the civilization stage and the galactic stage. I could give individual reviews for each of these stages, but this would miss the point of the game completely and this review would become very negative very quickly. That is because, with the exception of the galactic stage, which I will come to, all of the stages are very repetitive and simple. You would not be very surprised to find any of them, perhaps with less graphical flair, on an online game site. I did, in an earlier post, give some details about the first 3 stages, so I won't explain them. However, for the uninitiated the Civilization stage is a real time strategy game. However, it is very simple with a very limited number of strategies (3). Even these three strategies are just different names for the same task. Instead of shooting a town, you buy it out, but this is still done with tanks going over to it. It is quite fun sending tanks around with air and naval support, but it is not very challenging or at all thought provoking.

Then you design your spaceship and the galaxy is your oyster, well sort of. When you first take off, you will see your set of tools with loads of empty boxes for other stuff. And there is some really cool stuff there, there is teraforming equipment, teleportation stuff, weapons, and with four million planets and an internet of generated content, where can they go wrong? Then you are told to do some fedex mission, they're not great fun, but they do allow you to advance, collect more money, buy more stuff to do cool stuff with and add some direction to it. That's fine.

You meet other Civilization's, and in the same way as it is good in the earlier stages, it is awesome to be engaging in diplomatic relations with yours and others creations. It is a thing I will end up touching on again and again, but seeing other peoples stuff in your game is, for the most part, a treat. However, then they start demanding tributes. If the game is Civ 4, well that is the point; defending your nation, however, it can be tiresome. In Spore it is worse than tiresome, prepare for a rant.

Another race demanded tribute from me. Anyone who has ever taken a history lesson will know, appeasement is not the answer. So naturally, I declined. Next thing, about 4 races have declared war on me. Fine, if I had a number of units to control, but no, you have ONE SHIP. If you want to defend your planet, you will have to fly that single ship all the way back there. They will attack with maybe four ships, WHICH CAN REGENERATE HEALTH. Finally, I destroyed them using a tactic of my-gun-has-a-marginally-longer-reach-than-yours. On the plus side they dropped some things worth money. However in one instance, and I make no exaggeration, the absolute second I had finished picking stuff up, my planet came under attack again. Once again I defeated them, this time, I thought I might attack them. So I went to one of their (many) planets. About 4 ships again attack and slowly I beat them. Except this time, more keep coming. So you ignore them and attack their cities, their turrets shoot you, their ships shoot you and at the same time, they have launched ANOTHER attack on your home planet. Who thought that was fun?!

Rant over, but it is unacceptable game design. Or lack of. Even if the ships that are attacking me are works of art from someone with too much time, it is unacceptable. The space stage has an imperial ton of potential, but it is all wasted on some lame diplomatic model which expects you to control a galaxy with one ship.

The gameplay isn't without its moments. Everyone will remember the first time an asteroid field collides with your planet in the creature stage, and later when you meet an epic creature, watching it destroy everything that gets in its path including the animals that were killing you. Watching your enemies run in fright is awesome. Then, finally, being able to take down the epic creatures in the Civilization stage. When you first play through, and you don't have a clue what is happening, it feels like I imagine what a creature would feel. “What is going on?” This is a great feeling.

Visually, the game looks great. The worlds are really interesting, if a little stereotypical of retro sci-fi with their vibrant colours. Obviously, the most visually impressive element is how it can simulate how all these creatures walk, attack and even do the Stomp! There are the occasional graphic errors, but for a game generating so much animation on the fly based on what the user does, these are easily overlooked.

The game includes sun rises and it is really interesting to see how you emerge from being a creature, where days and nights span out in immeasurable lengths, to the Galactic age, where you can whiz between the two and see where the day and night end. This gives you a sense of evolution and linkage between the different mini-games. Another example of this linkage is looking at the history of your creature. It is a pleasure seeing how your tiny little creature evolved into some three legged behemoth that you ended up with. Despite this, the mini games can feel a little detached. This is largely due to the fact that what you do has little effect on the next stage. If you are a herbivore in the first stage, peace might be the best option in the stages following. Whereas carnivores will be forced to attack. However, that is basically it. What would be really interesting is to see if you could have scavenger creatures, stealthy creatures etc. It isn't that the game doesn't build these features in, but you can't progress through these strategies.

For example, in the tribal stage, it is true that you can run up and steal the other camps food. But, to advance to the next stage, you must either wipe them out or ally with them, thus making it a tribal only feature for gathering food rather than an actual strategy. What if, to win, you merely had to outlast the others, as is the case in real life. It is really easy to see how this could be expanded in to both the stages below it and above it. For example, if you were fast in the cell stage, maybe in the creature stage it was easier to steal food from dead animals and run off before the rightful owner came and attacked you. Another thing that would benefit this is a bit of emergent evolution. Instead of, “You have chosen X route, that gives you this special power”.

The game is very polished, as I mentioned, the creature animations from a technical perspective at least, are hugely impressive. The audio in this game is also equally well done. The sounds are very believable, even if the munching on the dead animals sound is a little disturbing at first. The music is both dramatic and clichéd when you evolve.

Spore, in addition to the main game, includes a host of editors. These are, as expected, great fun to mess around with. Finally, being able to paint individual parts of something that the creature creator was just crying out for. This is, if I am honest, where most of the fun is coming from. If you enjoyed the creature creator, I would recommend this game, the other editors are fun and it is great to be able to try out all your different creatures, vehicles and buildings in an actual environment. The game also includes a few other editors, including the national anthem editor, which felt a little tacked on and cramped within a clustered window for one stage. I would have liked a flag designer.

However this is far from a serious problem, the biggest problems with this game are the individual stages. No single stage is, in a word, fun. That is a pretty serious accusation to be making, and it isn't entirely true. But they are only as fun as simple addictive mini-games can be. They are easy to play, but they offer little in mental stimulation, except the space stage. However, for reasons stated above, someone messed that up.

Obviously this game will be milked by EA, so hopefully they will fix all of the stages. What do they each need, well the first 4, depth. Just add some more strategies, or at least the potential for more. The space stage, just fix it. Don't make the AI annoying, if you have to, get rid of it. At least let me build space ships to defend my home planet. Let me explore the galaxy in peace.

In conclusion, you must think carefully about this game. On the one hand, the editors are great fun, you will almost certainly not be left dead in the water with this title and it is definitely not without its moments. In this review, I have somewhat stuck to the negative aspects of it, but this isn't because they are the dominating aspects when you are playing, but this game was hyped so much, it is just a huge disappointment. There are some moments that you wish you had captured by camera, like when you lead your pack in to battle against a stronger species and bring it down. And the sense of ever zooming out to get to a grander scale is fantastic, but the unification of the stages is often missing and there is a huge amount of lost potential with this incredible game.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fable 2 is Offline

It has been confirmed that Fable 2 will ship without online co-op. It will be available as a patch, "hopefully within a week" after the American launch. Now, I am pretty sure this will be free, as it would be the biggest joke EVER if it wasn't. However, if they can actually get it patched within the week, why not just delay it for a week. Then I realised, the only people who would gain from this are people without online, in which case it doesn't matter, as it is only the online co-op that is being patched.

So all in all, this is fine, providing it is free and providing it is out within a week. I was looking forward to questing with my friends. Ah well, at least it gives me more time to find a secure castle to hide my wife in while my friends decide to destroy my game!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Gone Gold

Fable 2 has gone gold. The game I am most looking forward to this year has gone gold. Come October 24th, I will be do something big for the blog, maybe a minute by minute impressions like I did with Metroid Prime 3. Or maybe something EVEN bigger.

Fable 1 was one of my all time classics on the original Xbox, it was one of the 3 games that I keep coming back to (Mercanries and Chaos Theory is the answer to your question)

I will be playing Co-op with my friend probably day 2, after I have made an awesome unbeatable character! Fable 2 will be coming out on the 24th October (32 days) or the 21st if you are in America. However, I am planning on wandering over to Lionhead on the 21st to see if I can't barter a copy off them!

Hopefully, Gamespot will have a review up soonish, so looking forward to that.

In other news, I will be reviewing Spore this weekend, so stay tuned for that. It is a really difficult game to review, so it may be another collosal review like Civ (sorry everyone) I am really going to work on cutting it down. It will be out Sunday at 2PM (BST)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How Embarassing

Gamespot have stuck up the Star Wars: Forces Unleashed. As I personally, predicted, the 360 version got an average score (7.5) However, the Wii version got a disappointing 6.

Yes, I know it was naive of me to hope, but I really thought this was going to be the game that showed everyone how to make an awesome Wii game. However, they messed it up, like everyone else.

I might try and rent the 360 version at some point, as the story looks quite interesting and chucking stuff was quite fun in the demo. But this is me disappointed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

R.I.P. Ensemble Studios

Microsoft has confirmed that ancient and legendary game development studio, Ensemble Studios, will be dissolved. Ensemble Studios are most famous for revolutionising and popularising the real time strategy genre in the form of Age of Empires. Fear not 360 owners, this will happen after the unannounced release date for Halo Wars.

I think Ensemble will leave behind an amazing legacy if they not only made PC RTS games work at the start of their career, then at the end, fixed the console end.

Microsoft will be founding a new, 3rd party developer with the management team of Ensemble, so it probably will remain, but, here is my condolences for the Ensemble Studio. Thanks for everything. I am going to go and play on Age of Empires now, in honour!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The End of the World is Nigh

The world will end 8AM tommorow morning. Well, maybe. Well, actually definitely not, but it is still fun to say it is. Yes, that is right tomorrow at 8AM BST (7AM GMT) the worlds largest Atom Accelerator will be turned on. The particles will be going round the giant doughnut at something approaching the speed of light. Then, they will smash in to each other, revealing the secrets of the universe... or creating a black hole.

Technically, the black hole, if it is ever created will collapse on itself so quickly it will have no effect, still, nice to pretend to the uninformed. The actual result will be we can find out about the particles that make up quarks, which make up protons and neutrons, which make up atoms, which make us and everything. The main one is called the Higgs Boson, or the "God" particle, that is meant to breath life in to everything to make it work. It may take until 2010 to find all this out though. But, after that, we should understand a lot more. This will probably be the first really big break through in science since we created the atomic bomb. Hopefully, nothing like that will come out of this.

Well that is your physics interlude. Assuming we don't all die tommorow, I will have continued first impressions of Spore and maybe a review of Brawl coming up.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Spore: Tribal Era

Well I got past the slightly monotonous Creature stage. It does get better, for example, a UFO turned up at one point and dropped off a giant "War Reptile" A creature I had made before in Creature Creator. Except, this time it was huge. It was uber powerful as well, so it would just attack all the creatures near it, killing them instantly. All the creatures were fighting before it turned up, but then they fled.

Also, as you progress in brain size, you can recruit a pack. These creatures follow you around. It is cool to have gang wars with your pack and an enemy pack. Overall, it was enjoyable, and does allow you to properly personalize your creature, but it just goes on too long. I sense they did this as people don't want to be rushed in upgrading. But there really is no need, just make it so you can continue playing and upgrading after your have reached sentinece.

However, that is not what this post is about. The game changes when you get in to the Tribal stage. Suddenly, the camera zooms out and you are in the 5th person (made up by me, but basically you can see more than one camera, like in Real Time Strategy games). The game gets a lot funner (Also not a word...).

Not that it wasn't fun before, but the experience is much less repetitive, more involving and requires more though (because, by this point, your brain has grown!) Your tribe, made up of 3 of your creatures plus one leader must collect food and, like in the Creature stage, either ally with, or destroy, the other tribes on the map. What is cool about this is you can see each of the species evolving at different times. You are the first to evolve, I assume, but when you do, all around you are just nests from creatures. However, these evolve, fairly rapidly, in to tribes for your picking.

Like before, your creatures still have a hunger bar, which you must look after by killing creatures and, a la Age of Empires, gather their food.As you conquer, or ally with, the other tribes, you gain new buildings to add to your village. These allow you to ally with others, destroy others, or gather food, more easily. Once again, attacking was simpler than allying, so I destroyed all of them, as you have to, as far as I can work out, destroy at least 2 to even stand a chance (to unlock the other instruments to ally with the others) of an alliance.

It doesn't involve a huge deal of thinking, but it is quite fun. Couple of annoying control quirks get in the way of the otherwise simple fun (For example, why isn't double click on the units icon zoom to it). Like all the other stages, it is fun, but hardly a ground breaking game on its own. it is very impressive to see many of your creatures scutuling around. There are other options of survival, such as stealing food from neighbouring tribes, but combat always seems to be the easiest. Normally, it comes down to Ctrl-A to select all your troops, right click on the enemey tribe, one at a time.

The civilization stage is reached when you wipe out or ally with all the tribes. It is late now, but I want to publish this, so I will continue with my preview tommorow (I have reached the galatic era, which is fun, but also quite frustrating) If you can't wait for the remainder of the preview and the review: my advice is: get this game if you enjoyed (or think you would enjoy) the creature creator. The extra creators are great fun to mess around with, especially the vehicle and building creators. The games are fun, but not ground breaking, it is very much a play with than a play on game.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spore Cell to Creature

I got Spore yesterday. And what a lot of hassle it was to install. First, it took ages to install, which is never good. Then, having installed it, you have to use the ever complicated log in process. I figured, as I already had a Spore Creature Creator log in, I could log straight in. However, when I did this, it said the password was incorrect. Then I went to the place to reset the password, which I did many times. However, despite saying it had done is successfully, it would still not log me on. Then, I, in an attempt to clear the cache, closed the game and tried to reopen it. Error! Could not find file 1004. I mean, COME ON! This is a brand new game. So, I reinstalled it, again taking a while. Finally, I used the create-an-account-but-when-you-already-have-one log in, and that finally worked.

At last I can start the game. I was going to film it as I was playing, however, many technical issues prevented this. So, instead you will have to read. On the plus side, I have now surmounted these issues so I will be recording from creature to space.

You start off as a single cell organism in what seems like an online Flash game. It is fun, but not riveting. What is quite cool, is you don't get many DNA points, which you can use to evolve your creature. As a result, evolutions can be few and far between, meaning you choose them carefully. I imagine on higher difficulty settings, this has a greater impact on the game. Unfortunately, when you reach the point to evolve to a land based animal, you cannot continue collecting DNA points and evolving your creature, even though you can carry on playing.

After a short cut scene, you put some legs on your creature and march in to the big wide world. Based on your decision to be a carnivore or a herbivores, you can either attack the other animals or ally them. Once you have done this enough, I assume you can move on up. As before, you have a bar at the bottom which gradually fills up as well as extra DNA points for evolution. It is quite amusing, but it is starting to stretch on a little too long and I can't work out how to become friends with other species.

Now, back to the game, which I will be recording and talking on. I can't do live broadcast, but I will post it as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Star Wars: The Forces Unleashed Demo

I downloaded the Xbox 360 Demo (available for free on the Xbox Live Marketplace) yesterday and I have now played through it a couple of times. Firstly, download the demo. The graphics are awsome, the physics are awesome, the star wars troopers clinging on looks great. Some times they can be a little sensitive, but the demo is a great fun to play through. My recomendation is play on lowest diffiucltly level so you can have the most fun by treating it as a sand box game.

However, the demo has further made me decide that if I get this game at all, I get it for the Wii. Why? Well because, it doesn't matter how cool the physics are, that and the story are all that is selling it for me for the 360. The controls are sometimes difficult to use, particully with Force Move (although that is inherient of moving anything in 3D with joysticks). The lightsaber fighting is highly unsatisfying and there is a force meter. How randomly bad is that? The one cool thing about the game is walking around being awesome, and your putting a cap on it?! The game isn't hard on the easy difficultly settings, but it isn't fun on the harder ones' because you can't be awesome.

Spontenuity is the cooler part about it, deciding to randomly rip out an iron bar and place in the Tie Fighters path is cool. I am not going to deny it. But I don't think it is quite enough.

But all the Wii has got is the controls right. And maybe they will ware off too. But it does have an exclusive versus mode. It's still going to have the incredible story, and maybe they will do away with things like the Force Meter and power ups (I know!)

The problem with the 360 version is the physics is a gimick. Just like the Wiimote thing might be. But if there is any company that I trust to make a decent game for the Wii that doesn't just use waggles, it is Lucas Arts. However, I will be waiting for reviews of this game, and I do wish they had made it for Wii Motion Plus. (What, did you think I had forgotten about MotionPlus in my E3 post, no...., just saving it because it is so big *shifts eyes nervously*)

Finally, I would like to publicly appologise for my mistake in the Spore post. There are, as Mr. Anon pointed out, more colours if you simply hold down the colour and more pop up. Also, Project Entropia is good, and I will be telling more about it soon. Very soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spore Creature Creator and Project Entropia

I got the Spore Creature Creator today after finding out that you get the cost subtracted from the game (making it free) and I am loving it. it is so simple to use it is amazing.
You can create some really interesting and diverse creatures. What really makes it though is the simplicity, as I said. Being able to drab and drop legs, arms, eyes and feet on and them just work is out standing.
But above and beyond that the absolute best feature is the ease of sharing. For example, it comes with a built in Youtube uploader.

Perhaps the only bad thing I can say about it is the colouring system. As random as this sounds, it is really bad. Instead of, as you might expect, being able to colour every single limb independently, you must choose a colour scheme of which you can only choose 3 colours. What is worse, is the colour palette is limited to just 10 or perhaps 12 colours. Personally, I was expecting the complete computer spectrum of 256 million.

**Update: As an anonymous reader pointed out, you can infact press and hold on each colour for a further selection. Woops!

I also downloaded Project Entropia. It is very confusing start and I am still not quite sure what I am doing. What initially drew me in to the game is that it doesn't have a pay per subscription, but instead you put (real) money in, but, here is the clever bit, take real money out. So, theoretically, you could make money on it. That, and it's got loads of cool concepts. However, at the moment, I am struggling to learn the controls. Hopefully, in about a months time, I will have sussed out what is going on and tell you more about it. As usual, stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dawn of War 2 Will Have Tyranids

Everyone knew it, but it has finally been confirmed. THQ released this video this morning. Apologies if the video hasn't appeared yet, Youtube can take some time "Processing"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nintendo @ E3

How embarrassing. How disappointing. How painfully bad. These are just some of the ways I could describe Nintendo's press conference. It started with a detailed account of someone's skiing injuries. Then an interesting but lie ridden demo of a snow boarding game using the Wii Balance Board. Then some statistics that don't correlate with Microsoft's, and 3 average looking game trailers. They did, some what inevitably, announce a microphone along with Animal Crossing. It might not look great, and no backwards support was announced, but a room mike is better than no mike I guess...

Animal Crossing looks decidedly average. Average graphics, average set of features etc. However, judging by the rest of the of the show, they might have been underplaying it.

Yes, that's right, Nintendo has a cunning plan. It involves under talking and deliberatly missing out key information to upset core gamers to a point of suicide. The problem is, I haven't worked out how this plan benifits them in any way at all. For example, it turns out a new Mario and Zelda are being created. All they had to do was say along with a quick render of Link. THATS ALL THEY HAD TO DO. No effort, shut everyone up for months. But no.

Then the stage goes dark, at first you think it is Wii music because they haven't mentioned it. But then dry ice starts pooring on to the stage and crazy lights start going. Oh my word! Nintendo have some big old hard core announcment. There is litterally nothing else this can be. Nothing. Wait a minute, thats a drummer. Wii Music... *Collective sigh* Wii music is a game I kind of had hopes for becuase if there is one company that can make an affordable Rock Band it is Nintendo (I actually have an idea of a Nintendo Rock Band which I will detail later, but rest assureed doens't envolve hundereds of pounds) because they have a huge music collection that they can use for free. I will happily drum away to Zelda main theme, you can use Brawl as a juke box, so just take it to the next level.

Sadly not, there is no skill. You press buttons at random. When you want. In any order. GH (Guitaur Hero) managed to breach the gap between non gamers and gamers. It isn't so much Nintendo are breaching this gap, they are just catering to non gamers. Why? Probably because they are making a fortune at the moment.

On the plus side, The Conduit looks intense, and actual real people thought it was a 360 game. Plus, it will, apparently, support Wii Speak. On top of the fact, there is a halrious reinactment of Ninty E3, so every cloud does have a silver lining.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blog Update

OK, I am going to have to post a short post now and then post E3 stuff after I get back from France (for the third time!)

Tomorrow, I set off for France by Eurostar with my friend. So I will be away again, then I get my GCSEs on the 21st then back to school in September. I have holiday snaps, but have not got round to putting them on Picasa, so tough if you were the slightest bit interested.

Personal update out the way, what gaming stuff do I have. That's what you were thinking. I got STALKER. I wanted to get it when it first came out, but it wouldn't run or fit on my old computer. So, having got a new computer, I thought great. Got it for my birthday. It doesn't work on my brand new straight out of the box £500 computer. The most bizzare problem. The disk works in other computers (A vista and my old computer) and my disk drive can read other DVDs. However, when I put the Stalker disk in, it groans for a few minutes then says "Please Insert Disk". A long (and possibly very expensive) phone call to Dell has not resolved it yet. In the mean time, I persuaded (read bullied) my Mum in to letting me install it on her laptop (a Vista XPS). It is a cracking game, difficult with survival a key element. You can't just go running and gunning, a) because you do not have the ammo and b) you have not the got the health or the arms to ever do it and live to tell your Stalking buddies about it. Besides, you also must fight the enviroment, which just refuses to lay down and die. I have not got very far, but I am so far loving every minute. Although, I am very relectutant to drop anything so I am constantly carrying too much causing my character to tire quicker.

While on my French exchange I got the chance to play on Gears of War (which I have played on before, but not to this extent) and it reminded me why it was such a fantastic game. It wasn't the bloody chainsaw gore (although that probably helped) but the fact the campaign is so damn amazing. It never ceases to be like a film. There is so much untold depth once you start turning the difficulty up and you can no longer run and chainsaw. The last act was my favourite, as when you are battling your way up the train, that is Gears of War at is's best. Cover, shoot, psuh forward and so on. As I result, I am now super looking forward to Gears of War 2.

Also got the chance to play on 2 less good games. Firstly, Vegas. Maybe because it is older than I think, but this game looked terrible. The models for the characters looked great, but then the buildings and surrondings looked terrible. Sometimes there would be a physics engine, other times everything would be brittle as a brick. The cover system, on the plus side, did allow you to feel very proffesinal. But, for the most part it was decidedly average.

Lost Planet was weirdly bad. Like, who would have a dead zone anyway. Ceartainly not when you are controling with joy sticks. For the un-initaited, the dead zone is an area in the middle of the screen where the character does not turn when the cross hair is moving about there. This feels slugging (which when on a 360 controller is really bad) and this was after Halo, so there really is no excuse. The game also looked terrible, and had possibly the worst intro level. You were fighting this boss, it wasn't hard, but if anything touched you, you died. No health. Randomly frustrating as there was little you could do except keep moving to the bit where you could beat it. On top of which, it had some of the worst acting/story line I have ever seen. Your body is found in one of these armoured suit things called VS. Then the character who finds you goes, with his tongue no where near his cheek, "If only there was someone who could pilot the VS" I laughed out loud. I don't think this was the intention.

Short update for now, but I am going to be writting one massive rant about Nintendo (they are slipping, fastly, out of my good books) a quick analysis of the console war as it stands at the moment, and my offical review of Brawl. This is going to be like my Halo 2 review, so Nintendo fanboys, watch out. Still not settled on the score, but as a sneak preview, I am torn between 7 and 9. Nothing in between.

Now playing: Blondie - Picture This
via FoxyTunes
Enjoy the rest of your summer/winter (if you are getting as bad weather as me at the momement.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pre-3, Brawl Tourney and Other News

Well, I am going to France this weekend until next week, so it is looking like I am going to miss E3 this year, which is a shame as I was looking forward to finding out what Nintendo had to say. And Microsoft and Sony of course. Obviously, I will catch up on it when I get back, but here are my predictions for the big 3.

I wish I knew. Seriously, they said they had 3 big announcements a while back, and we haven't heard anything since. It could be anything. I think we will hear about additional storage and voice chat, but on the game front, people are saying it could be Star Fox, Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing (that is where my money is) or perhaps a new FPS IP(Intellectual Property). (Talking of which, read below if you are interested in FPS's on the Wii... ) Hopefully there will be some news about the Forces Unleashed as well...

Big long speech about how amazing the 360 is. Then a big old price drop about the aforementioned amazing 360. Then they will talk about all the great games coming out. Namely Fable 2, Gears of War 2 (that's a big one) Fallout 3, EndWar, I could keep listing to be honest. Then they could shock everyone and announce a hand-held console. Or they might not.

Brag about Blu-Ray, talk about MGS sales, have a big old demonstration of LittleBig planet, mention Home, drop the price significantly, again, talk about PSP 2. Which will have motion sensing, mutli-point touch screen and hey, maybe even 2 screens.

What am I looking forward to? Mainly Fable 2, Fallout 3 and Forces Unleashed, and a FPS that I will talk about below. Obviously, should be good to see Gears 2, but I think I know what to expect from that. I am also looking forward to what Nintendo's big announcements are going to be.

What is this FPS I have been talking about then? It goes by the name Conduit and it is not being released on the PS2, making it a Wii game built for the Wii. So obviously, this means better graphics, but when the developers start to say things like

"feels a lot more like they're making a 360/PS3 title than a Wii title"
It is difficult not to get excited. And then they release gameplay footage:

It's damn near impossible. And there will be a playable demo at E3.This, in their words, will revolutionize development for the Wii. 16 player online is the target, they also said they have taken inspiration from the best parts of uber successful shooters, like Halo, hopefully that means match making, party options, playlists, everything. The best part is, they are working with Nintendo to bring the best online experience possible. Stay tuned for more details.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned doing a massive Brawl tourney. Now the aim is to get 64 or 128 people signed up. Let me explain what this tourney is about:

I had this idea ages back when Brawl was coming out in the US, it has now finally arrived in the UK, so now is the time to do it.

It is basically a giant online tournament. We would get as many people as possible (64 or maybe even 128) and set out fixtures for each of the games. All of the games would abide by some set rules. We make sure that everyone can make the dates they need to at the start for the first round, then organise the next round based on who gets through.

Here is where it gets cool however. The matches would be Stock, but with a time limit of 3 minutes. Then, at the start, the most well equipped person to do this, films the match (saving the replay and then recording it with whatever means they have) Now while I know this is a Nintendo forum, I am assuming that some of you have played Halo 3. It would be similar to the service that Bungie offer. Each game would be recorded with the replay available, screen shots taken by the participants and all the data that is presented at the end of the match.

So like Halo, each match would have a page with all this information. Then each registered player would have a page which includes all of their stats (ie. total damage done over the whole tourney) as well as their screen shots, maybe some information about them and there current status in the tourney.

So obviously, this is going to need loads of people (64/128) so if you are interested, there is almost definitely space. You can sign up with a comment on this page (include your Brawl Code and Wii code), or on this forum or you can email me

By pooling all my brawl contacts and some eariler registers, I have got a total 7 people, so we still have a long way to go, but I do believe this can happen.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Super Smash Rant

For everyone's information, my Brawl code is: 5069 - 5371 - 3115, if you add me, be sure to tell me your code. I play Samus.

Ok, so Brawl has come out in the Uk, I got it on launch day and I was considerably less hyped about it then than I was some months ago. Well done Nintendo. This post is a list of all the things that bug me, annoy me or are just plain right stupid.

Online is the biggest one. Why can't I do everything online with Friends? Surely I should be able to do tourney, Co-Op, rotation Special Brawl and custom stages. It is absurd. Why can I not send messages outside a game to my friends? Why am I only online when playing online, can't I be online when playing the campaign. Why isn't there stat tracking or leader boards. Why is the online better in Mario Kart, a 3+, than in Brawl, a 12+ and definitely hard core title. Why are there lag issues when this is the biggest game on the Wii? Why aren't there playlists (ie. for KO fest/ Stock etc)

Why on earth can I not use the point in the menus?! When you are choosing a character, you literally are moving a cursor ideal for a pointer. Did they just not work it out? Why can't it remember which name you use by default. Every time I have to select THK, JUST REMEMBER IT!

The subspace Embissary clearly cost a lot of development time to produce, just look at the fancy cut scenes. So why is it, for the large part, dull or frustrating. Some of the levels are fun, but why isn't it all? Because their level design, in some places, is non existent. Some times it is just really boring, like a flat path with one jump. Other times the controls, which are built for a button bashing fighter, just aren't up to the job of platformer. It isn't without it's positives, but I would have preferred if the development time had been spent on the online.

Why is the game still unbalanced? You have had years to craft these characters, you haven't added that much since Melee, surely balancing Snake wouldn't be too hard.

Unlockable content is fine, to a degree. But unlocking options?! That would be like if you had to play 5 hours on Halo to get the inverted control scheme.

Small gripe, but why are GC controllers players 1 before Wiimotes. Why can't I set the default to not be KO fest in Brawls.

Well, when all is said and done, it isn't as long as I thought it was going to be. Also, happy Bungie day for yesterday. I hope you all downloaded the map and played the playlist, I know I did. I got a Killtacular on Swords, was very happy. The map is one of my favourites from H2 (I think...) and any map with teleporters is always cool. Anyway, more posts to come. FK watchers, you will be pleased to know I have finally got my head round how it is going to fit together (well mostly)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

And We Are Back

After a very long hiatus, Veteran Gamer is back. I have finished my GCSEs, I have Brawl (will post online code soon) I have a new computer, I have Xbox Live Gold, I have played the Civ Rev demo, development for FK has started and I love XNA.

Well during my break, I have lost all my readers, but hopefully I can claw them back. Until I have set up the Frozen Kangaroo website, some of the posts on this blog will be about that. I will be discussing XNA (which I love, have I mentioned that?), game design issues and hopefully revealing some art work.

Brawl is great! It might just be Meelee online, the subspace emissary may be poorly designed, the online may be lacking in featuers, but the tried and true gameplay will keep you coming back for more. However, SSBB is not out of the woods yet, like Halo 2, I am going to heavily critise a game despite knownig I will be playing on it for many years to come!

I am going to be trying to organise a BIG online tourney for Brawl, more details of that and how to sign up to come later when I have discussed it with a couple of other people to see if it can happen.

Is anyone else also hugely dissapointed with the weather at the moment? It just isn't acceptable.

Gaming news I should have posted about:
MGS has multiple cut scense that are 1h30+. I.e. the length of a feature length film
Creature Creator was released to get people excited for Spore; you have to buy it, curses to EA.
And probably lots else which I can't remember.

On the plus side, I may be getting a promo copy of Wall E curtosey of THQ, so it will be interesting to check that out. Yes, it is a game of a film, but just look how cute it is! I will be reviewing, if at all, the Xbox 360 version.

Upcoming posts:

  • Super Smash Bro's Rant
  • Super Smash Bro's Review
  • Racing Games - What They Need to Do
  • Exclusive details about FK
I hope you are all well and everything and having a lovely summer. Oh wait, you haven't finished!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools!

Happy April Fools everybody! Unfortunately, I have not prepared something really cool to trick you all with, however, there are a couple of good ones I have seen. IGN's trailer for a Legend of Zelda movie is probably the best, Gamespots is amusing, I actually feel for Vic Davies one and was about to post a congratulations when I noticed Googles! If you have seen or heard of any good ones, please leave them as a comment.

I can't think of any major news item for this month, it being March. However, I have started the GDD for Frozen Kangaroo so, so far, it is going to plan. This month is my last full month at school (if you can call it full, I have a sort of easter holiday in a weeks time for 2 weeks) and then I go on study leave. During that time I will be revising, however, after June 12th, I will be free until September so expect news, reviews previews and Brawl.

As I mentioned, Fable 2 has an approximate release date of this autumn. The main thing to watch out for this month is GTA. In May there is WiiWare (complete with Gravitronix and Platachen Twist and Paint) and, with any luck, Super Smash Bro's Brawl.

Possibly the biggest news is I have a long term "loan" of one of my most favourite games I have never owned. The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. I was a bit worried that I would be under-amazed by the game as it came out some time ago, but it is as impressive as it was then. I am currently a high ranking member of the Mage's Guild, a warrior in the arena and not too far in to the main quest and I am loving it. I have a friend who got it at a similar time to me, he is being evil, having killed something like 100 people! There is so much to do that you could ignore trice the lack of polish the game has. And, if I am honest, there are unpolished elements, Co-Op would have been nice and some times the draw distance and frame rate is down right shoddy, but that doesn't change the fact that 2 years down the road it is still a very ambitious and highly impressive game.

For my Op-Ed tonight, I will be discussing what makes a "special" game and why they make me, at least, tingle just thinking about them. I will be using Oblivion, Metroid Prime and Civilization as case studies.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Release Dates recently announced some UK release dates, most significantly, for Fable 2. slated the release date as May 30th. This sounds great to me, perhaps a little too near Brawl, but none the less, sounds good. Unfortunately, Lionhead Studios have denied this release date, saying it "is pure speculation". This is obviously disappointing, as the website implied the game would come out when leaves turn brown, ie. autumn. Still, at least it puts a bit of space between Fable and Brawl.

Or does it, a highly reputable source, has released he first realistic release date for Brawl. Tesco have said the release date will be the 1st of January 2020. So, I will be programming the countdown tonight!

On a side note, you may start noticing references to something called Frozen Kangaroo. This is a game that I am designing/developing (still very much in the designing stage). As a result, you will start to see more posts about game design, and references to Frozen Kangaroo will appear, you can use these to piece together the game, as I will not be releasing any official information till further down the line. You can see the first piece of concept art here. If you've got time, check the rest of his DeviantArt, it's good stuff and he will be the lead artist in FROZEN KANGAROO.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii is coming out this Aprile exclusive to, as the name suggests, is exclusive to the Wii. I very much enjoyed Mario Kart Double Dash for the Gamecube as it was great fun in multiplayer and was very accessible to all markets. Surly this would make a perfect game for the Wii, as the whole point about Wii is the accessibility to different markets. I didn't think Mario Kart was perfect however, so here is a wish list of what I want to see improved upon in Mario Kart Wii

Non-Scripted Physics Engine
What made MK so much fun, was the fact that the game would get crazy. Karts would be flying every which way, slipping on bananas, going up jumps, speeding on boost-pads and chucking objects at each other. However, what detracted from the craziness was the linearity of the spinning and crashing. For those who have played the game, picture, when you get hit by a shell, instead of using the pre-animated spin, how you span depended on the incline of the track, the angle at which you were hit etc. Furthermore, with the inclusion of a true physics engine, when you crash in to other cars, there could be huge pile ups. One of the best things about Forza is, when you are racing at 200MPH, you slip and there is a huge pile up. However, in Forza, this is cool, but then, it is basically the end of the race and you have to restart because it is "realistic". In MK, however, there could be massive pile ups and then everyone just drives on.

Increase in Speed
Once again, this comes down to the crazy factor. It is a racing game, so make it possible to go really fast. Obviously, this makes it harder, so make it possible to tone up/down the speed depending on requirements. Sucessfully dodging shells in Double Dash was one of the personal highlights for me. It was a really nice feeling when you see a red shell coming towards you and then you drift just before it hits you and it crashes in to the opponent in front of you. That situation would be so much cooler if it were all taking place at 200MPH and when it hit the opponent in front of you, you would see him shoot behind you (as well as you being forced to doge him thanks to the aforementioned physics engine)

Online Multiplayer
This feature has been pretty much confirmed anyway, but, lets face it, as good as Double Dash Single player was, the multiplayer was where it's at. So, in line with the craziness, lets have lots of people online. For once, I am not at all fussed about lack of communication options or having to have friend codes. It really doesn't matter, maybe let us save fastest times, so people can try and beat them and ranks so non-gamers aren't playing gamers. However, aside from that, you don't need to talk to people while racing, you don't need to add them as a friend because races don't really allow you to pick out favourite opponents. Once again, this is an element that would be enhanced by increased speed and physics.

These features I believe are realistic. Obviously, this title is one Nintendo is going to make non-gamer friendly, but I don't think these features make it and less or more accessible, they just make it better. Obviously, I could ask for the ability to customise cars, or paint them, or have tournaments and leader boards and damage models. But all that isn't going to happen in a non-gamer friendly game. If you want that, play Forza. I will, assuming the reviews aren't terrible, be getting Mario Kart to quench my thirst till Brawl. For anyone who is confused about Brawl's release date, you are not alone. IGN says May 1st, as does Game. Gamespot on the other hand, says June 6th and Nintendo, the publisher and distributor, has not confirmed any release date. So, ignore anyone who says "They KNOW when it is coming out," just ignore them, because unless they occupy a high position at Nintendo, they don't

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Super Smash Brothers Brawl Released in the US

Brawl has been released in America. Now just Europe and the rest of the world to go. While sales reports are yet to come in, both Gamespots and IGNs review of Nintendo's hotly anticipated fighter are up. They both give the game a 9.5, the highest score (bar perfect) While the reviews are not identical, they both have similar criticisms, mainly of the Subspace Emissary.

"...there are some[levels]--in particular the automatically scrolling ones--that the game could have done without"
" it is simply not as balanced or entertaining as the stages designed for multiple human opponents"
Despite this, the Subspace Emissary is just a bonus feature, and when it comes to the actual multiplayer, they do not have a bad word to say. They even declare all four controller options to be completely viable. Also, they say the online plays lag free, and, while you cannot play your own maps online, it doesn't really matter. You can also share photos, videos and stages online. I won't bore you will all the features, as thy are all listed on the Smash Bro's Dojo. It is suffice to say, this is my no. 1 anticipated game for 2008 and I physically don't know if I can wait. Maybe I should just buy an American Wii and play Brawl today. If you want to be excited about Brawl, read the two reviews, check the Dojo for photos from the American users and play Melee.

On a side note, I have set up my real Xbox Live account, what a load of fuss that was, and they expect you to pay for it! My ID: theTHK123, if you send a message saying you read my blog, I will accept you instantly! Current games: Halo and Forza but should be getting Fable and Merc 2 when they come out this year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Terrible Graphics Crysis

In this months Op-Ed, I will be looking at the effects of "Next Generation Graphics" and if we actually need them.

Many thanks to "my friend" whose, up till now, only use was owning a 360. Fortunately, after coming up with the frankly genius title, he will not be the first redundancy here at Veteran Gamer

Last month, I looked at online gaming. I suggested that online may detract from a game because the developers were focusing online. While I still feel this is true, in comparison to the damage the HD graphics can do, it is negligible and online comes with tangibly good benefits. With the exception of the Wii, all current generation consoles, PC included, are pushing the so called High Definition era. Titles built with the sole intention of wowing the user, such as Crysis and games that have physics engines that put real life to shame, such as the one in Burnout: Paradise. But can a thick layer of beauty really cover up for poor gameplay. Or is it even the cause, suffocating originality?

With an introduction like that, you might think I was just going to rant about graphics. I am, after all, a Wii owner. However, graphics, and I mean this term very generally as I include stunning physics engines (as it has similar pros and cons), are, when used to complement rather than dominate, a very powerful tool. For example, one of my criticisms of Mario Kart was, while the action is often crazy, the fact that all the spinning is pre-animated ruins the chaos and makes it feel scripted. On the flip side, when racing in Forza Motor Sport at 200MPH and you slightly slip, you swerve, knocking the other contestants and causing a huge, entirely spontaneous crash. The fact that you know this can happen adds to the tension of the game. Likewise, part of the reason Halo: Combat Evolved became so popular was the Warthog. The Warthog was fun because, when a grenade exploded next to you, you flew backwards. Which leads me on to my next point.

Good graphics can make a truly immersive game. It is difficult to feel like you are inside a game if you are constantly reminded of it's fictiousness by, say, huge artefacts where your allies head should be. Would the world of Talon IV been as interesting to explore if it had just used dull colours and repetitive corridors? Would Gears of War have won game of the year if the chainsaw animation wasn't quite so belivable? The reason is, most people play games to escape their own world, if they can trick themselves this new, improved world is real, they will enjoy it more and stay in it more. Furthermore, another key feature of modern games is exploration. There is no fun in exploration if there is nothing to find but bland, blurred textures. For example, in Assassins Creed, the first time you arrive at a city, it takes your breath away and makes your long journey worthwhile. This wouldn't be quite the same experience if all you could see was the city walls and a blurry tower behind it and then nothing but the horizon.

Let's take Forza Motor Sport as an example. While Forza Motor Sport 2 is not quite Burnout Paradise when it comes to dynamic damage models, when Forza first came out for the Xbox, it was leading the way in realistic damage models. If it just showed you in a little diagram that the front of your car had been ripped off, it wouldn't have been very satisfying. However, because you see your bumper fly off it makes you appreciate the crash. Once again, it immerses you in the gameplay. By making your car more real, you realise that your shocking driving has real consequences. Also, the detailed enviroments serve to place you inside the car. Finally, by, and you may start noticing recurring themes here, making the maps look real, the player wants to explore new tracks to see what there like and makes the world more real.

However, as the gaming industry has recently out-sized the movie industry, there is now a lot 0f money in this once frowned upon market. At first this sounds good, but as many Hollywood films conform to the same clichés and do not try to be inventive, the same is happening to the video game market. So, the big investors who can't really tell a Wii Remote from a PS3 controller and think the Xbox 360 is Microsofts first games console, come in and see that consoles are pushing good graphics. They demand graphics to be this good, and the developer tells them that it will cost X million amount of money. This means that, as investors do not want to risk such large quantities of money, they go with safe bets. Ie. tried and tested game types, like first person shooters. The effect of this is, when an original idea is dreampt up, it sounds too risky for the investors and they turn the game down. To summarize, because graphics are now a must for current gen gaming, games are expensive to produce, meaning high risk, innovative, games are turned down. All is not lost however, thanks to services like the Xbox Live Arcade, that is what next months article will be on.

Also, similar to the last point, decent graphics take a long time to produce. Because of the aforementioned money constraints, developers will be pushed to release the game as quickly as they can. This means, that other elements, such as gameplay, get rushed towards the end, almost as an afterthought. Once again, this is down to pressures of the developers to make HD graphics in a short period of time. Once again, XBLA can take away the need for fancy graphics and let the focus remain on core gameplay.

A point about PC's as well. By increasing the technical prowess for the game, you shrink your market. Take Crysis, you can buy a top of the range computer now, and you still will not be able to play Cryis the way it is meant to played. While people might say that they are prepared to make compromises, the whole point to Crysis, the reason it wasn't released on consoles, the reasons why the system specs are so high, is because the main selling point is to show the world "This is what our games can do". The side effect of this is, gamers such as myself, get turned off modern computer gaming sticking to the classics and turn to consoles for their HD fill.

When I was thinking of a game for this point, I actually found it very tricky. Not because there is a shortage of games that are entirly focused on graphics, but because I do not buy games that are like this. Instead of blabbing on about a game which my entire opinion is based on a single Gamespot review, I will instead comment on the market in general. Many people will be aware that games are much shorter than they used to be. Gears of War, as great as it is, comes in at under ten hours. Likewise, Call of Duty can be done in less than ten hours. Fortunately, these game's gameplay aren't suffering. However, you could argue that the reason why Assassin's Creed has such repetitive mission objectives is because they spent so long making the draw distance breath taking. The problem with all these examples in showing my point is, overall, I believe that they have benefited from the fancy graphics. If anyone has any examples of games that have genuinely suffered because the focus is entirely on the graphics, please leave a comment.

In conclusion, I think we are reaching a split in gaming. I think the games that appear to be being damaged by graphics, the truth is that the developers couldn't improve the gameplay and decided to spend the time making technically amazing graphics so they can still justify charging money f0r it. I also want to point out that I do still believe the reason why the market is flooded with traditional games rather than different games is down to, almost entirely, the huge cost associated with making a game for the HD Era. I do not think it is because humanity has finally ran out of innovative ideas. Furthermore, because graphics need to be so intricate, game length is suffering and I think that developers now need to find a happy balance. Finally, I think that realistic graphics are going to become less prominent because, lets face it, as realistic as Forza looks, it can't compete with the likes of Paradise which just look cool. It all comes down to why you play games, and because it is for entertainment, realism just doesn't have the same wow factor as it used to.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I really appreciate all comments (which I will read out if I do the Podcast) Also if you have any tips on refining my style of writing or have a suggestion for a topic I can do, please post a remark.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Blog Update For February

Brawl has a release date! The 6th of June is supposedly the release date for Super Smash Bro's Brawl in Europe. On Gamespot, this is the listed release date, although, having said that, there has been no such mention on the Dojo. Furthermore, this is some what undermined by Game's website listing the release date as the 1st of May and Nintendo, the publisher of Brawl, refusing to confirm any of these release dates. Personally, I think it will come out 6th June, but that date is not set in stone just yet. It will probably be confirmed after the American release date (March24th)

Also, you will have noticed I have slightly spruced up the design. I hope you like the improvements. The next couple of months I will be working to put the Podcast together and hopeful securing some interviews for the blog. Then the focus will switch to the Flash Media Player - to play said podcasts and videos. Finally, when that is all done, I will hopefully have a proper server and I will build a forum. If you would like to secure your desired user name, because there will be so much demand, I will be setting up a form on the forum page in the coming months. Please do, as it will give me an idea of the no. of users. All you will need to do is write down your desired user name and your email address so I can contact you when the forum is being built.

GDC was this month. There was a very interesting video about Fable Two presented by Peter Molyneux. It really made me want to dig up my copy of Fable. It was a shame, as being English, no one got any of his ironic jokes, however, I still enjoyed it. One highlight was when he went to visit his husband and child (yes, he was female and had to be pregnant - [he apologised for there being no labour mini game) When he arrived, his child ran up to him and was like "Hey Mummy, your home!" Whereas, when he went up to his husband, he was cross that he had left him for so long. Then, his co-op partner just shot his husband. Peter then explained how that was it, game over for his husband. He could not and would not come back. When he went away adventuring, his child would be taken in to an orphanage. I may possibly be doing a 3 part feature, one a preview on F2, one discussing the Good/Bad decisions that make the heart of Fable and a third on something else.

Also, there was a video for the new Unreal Engine. Personal highlight was the "Block of meat we built" This was to demonstrate the soft body physics engine the new build will feature. Also, there were some cool water effects. The engine was demoed with the Gears of War protagonist. Talking of Gears of War, I purchased a copy for a friend on Ebay, so, if it turns up on Wednesday, I will be able to play on it for that evening.

Oh yes, there was a , albeit brief, trailer of Gears of War. Very cool and well worth checking out (All links are at the bottom of the post)

GDC, as good as it is now, will, like E3, change. This is because it is meant to be an academic event and, following the collapse of E3, it has become much more commercialised. I feel this is good, as I don't want another E3, however, the way they are securing this future is by banning all non-full time journalists. Meaning - I can't go.

Also, Civilization Revolutions has been put on indefinite hold for the Wii (not for the 360 or the PS3) This usually means cancelled, which will be a shame as the Wii is the console most suited to this title.

EA Bought 2K this month. 2K being the publisher of Civilization. While Sid doesn't seem to be too fussed, I am worried as EA has a habit of milking cows till they bleed, and even then. I can't count on all my fingers and toes the number of Sims titles there have been, for example. We will have to see where this partnership goes, because, between the two of them, they have quite a lot of every market cornered. The last big publisher is THQ and Sega maybe. Oh, and Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but they don't count.

Op-Ed Article: Graphics Galore (title pending) I will be looking at the supposed "HD Era" and how good good graphics actually are. Can they be the icing on a cake or make up on a elephant? You will have to read tomorrow to find out.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Viva Pinata on Ebay

Just a quick post. Thought I would let you know, in a kind of VG reader exclusive, that I am selling Viva Pinata on ebay. You can bid on this item here. If you are interested please bid, or if you know anyone else who may be interested, please send the link to them. Any questions, you can always leave a comment!

Also, if anyone is interested, I am also selling a Rock Tumbler- Turns stones in to little gems. You can view that here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cloverfield and 28 Weeks Later

I went to go see Cloverfield at the weekend and wow, what a film it is. This film is amazing. As a testimony to this, when I went in, before the film started, it was quite a boisterous audience, however, when I left, when there is normally chat about the film, it was deadly silent. Cloverfield leads you into a false sense of security by showing a gentle humour 10 minute introduction about a party before throwing you in to the deep end. The deep end, as I will refer to it as, is amazing. The film takes elements out of so many great films and combines them perfectly. Obviously, the Hand-Cam comes from The Blair Witch Project, but "the Deep End" takes inspiration from films like Alien, 28 Days Later, King Kong and Godzilla among others. My only criticism is that the ending well, lacks ending. There was a place where I thought it was going to end, however, it didn't and the remaining 5 minutes of the film actually detracted from the entire film. However, considering there presence, I thought there was going to be something such as a mock CNN report on it "Ten Years On" to offer an explanation; which there wasn't. Despite that, I still highly recommend going to see it, although do suspend disbelief, because the camera they are using is amazing, the sound quality, picture quality and battery lift are absolutly outstanding!

Also last month, I managed to see 28 Weeks Later, a film I have wanted to see for quite some time. Is it any good, well, my comment for this film is much the same as it was to 28 Days Later. It starts fantastically, but then gradually degrades to senseless violence. Once again, the shots of an empty London are both creepy and effective, as are the panning shots showing people running away from "the Infected". The story is a little predictable. A highlight in the film for me was when you see an overgrown football pitch as it really adds to the sense of desertion. If you enjoyed 28 Days Later you should enjoy this, if you didn't you won't and if you haven't seen 28 Days Later, do so first as it is better.

Bonus Review!!!
No purchase necessary

I finished watching Green Wing for free on Virgin Media on demand; a fantastic service without a doubt. If you have VM, you can watch all of S1+2 of Green Wing on demand for free (under TV Choice>Comedy>G) If you can, do. It is probably my favourite comedy, out ranking even the Peep Show, and the ending so simply poetic and beautiful you could almost forget it is a bizarre comedy. If after watching the first episode you just thought it was weird, watch another one, because yes, it is weird, but you will get in to it. I would recommend this to anyone who isn't offended by a little nudity.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Medal of Honor 2: Heroes First Impressions

Some of you may have been aware that I got Medal of Honor for the Wii today. Yes. Medal of Honor. As in that clichéd WWII that's been around for too long.And no, I haven't taken leave of my senses. The reason I got Hereos is two fold. Firstly, it is meant to have a sweet control scheme - arguably the future of FPSs. But, more importantly, it has 32 player online. So, is the game any good. Well, as it turns out, I could have told you that before I got it.

Good parts:

  • Sweet controls
  • Neat, lagless online
  • Some funky gimicks
  • The arcade mode is fun
Bad parts:
  • It is so MoH, it feels like it is taking the mic out of itself
  • A couple of the gestures are fidly and annoying
  • The single player is Medal of Honour
I will use the remainder of this post moaning about the fiddly gestures. After briefly stating: no matter what impression you get from this, my initial impressions are good, the online is worth the wait.

The first point of frustration is the melee, executed by chucking the Wiiremote an N/Chuck forwards. This is very difficult to do and will usually end up with you reloading, loosing your aim, loosing your sense of direction and completely missing the enemy. I imagine, however, it is quite realistic, because you do not see the British army melee-ing people left right and centre, however, coming from Halo, it feels an intrinsic part of killing someone! Fortunately, online you do not have to bother with this, as you can just press Z.

The next example, is the sniper rifle. To alter the zoom, you rotate the Wiiremote. Apart from the fact this is very fiddly when you are being shot and you are also trying to line up a head shot, it adds nothing to the game as to zoom in in real life does not involve putting the gun upside down. It is good to see EA using the Wiiremote, but like Super Monkey Ball, some of it feels hit a miss.

Finally, the shotgun requires you to "pump" the N/Chuck. For the first two shots you will forget completely and wonder why you aren't shooting. Then, there are, perhaps, four shots after you have worked it out where it is quite cool and is a really nice finishing touch when you kill someone. The problem is, the shotgun isn't very good, and having to pump after every shot, like the melee, just messes up your aim.

There are some good ones, like the grenade throw, where how you throw actually effects the course of the grenade and of course aiming with the pointer is great! Please buy this game, as it may encourage a real shooter and the multiplayer is genuine fun. Full review coming out in March hopefully.

"All your base are belong to us"