XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based strategy game based on an old PC franchise. In this vidcast I am (once again) rambling in a mini Let’s Play session, wondering if what I’m doing is fun or not. Think that’s weird? Click play to find out why!
Archive for impressions
On the surface, the visuals are gorgeous. The environments are a clear example of the power of Unreal Engine crossed with the skills of the artists who worked on this game. The lighting was superb and the texture quality was just right for the game’s distant camera. Even the character animations were clearly top notch motion capture. The player had smooth transitions for nearly every action he could take from climbing a ladder to an attempted dead-stop after a sprint that causes him to slip as he reaches for something to hold onto. It’s all very striking, but in there lies part of the problem.
Games like Super Meat Boy are built on one simple principle, the player is always right. The visual fluidity of the character’s actions come second only to the player’s input. This allows a platforming character to land seemingly impossible jumps in a predictable manor. The main character in Deadlight suffers from the fact that animations trump input. The player will often walk right off a ledge or miss a jump because the physics could not line up with the player input. Even at a rock solid 60 frames per second, the character always seemed to take 1 step too many before a long jump or just after. This, mixed with Super Meat Boy-like brutal jumps, lead to more frustration than enjoyment. Some jump “puzzles” came down to a simple battle of attrition where I would have to jump over spikes or traps repeatedly until the physics finally did what I wanted them to do. I can recall several times where I restarted at least 30 times over to pass an unreasonable jump puzzle, only to be trolled on the next screen by a pit or more spikes or yet another trap – forced to do it all again. This game could have been better if it just got out of it’s own way.
Speaking of getting in it’s own way; let’s talk about the writing for a moment. This crappy review is like Shakespeare compared to the complete mess that is the writing of this game. The one-note main protagonist makes me want to jump into a pit of “Shadows” every time he opens his mouth. (note: “Shadow” is a zombie in this game… yeah I know, don’t get me started). The character is constantly tossing out cheesy “damn dirty apes” type of comments and stating the obvious like, “that’s gun fire” after a weapon fire can be heard and, “that’s a car crash!” after screeching tires come to a stop with a sudden crash. Thanks Captain Obvious, I’ll call you if I need someone to tell me what it sounds like when I take a piss next time. The story is as flat as the characters and it plays out like something that a 5 year-old wrote in French, then Google translated it Swahili and then to English. Sadly, this would have been a much better game if it was completely void of conversation.
Deadlight is a game filled with promise, but it does little to reach that promise. With loose jump mechanics and terrible writing, this game falls apart in more ways than I’d like to admit. The zombie theme and gloomy but gorgeous visuals seem too good for what ultimately turned out to be a heaping mess of misplaced good intentions.
Well.. Today has been an exhausting experience. I honestly did not think that I would get this involved in the discussions around Microsoft today but it sucked me in like cheap daytime drama. » Read more..
Dear Members of the Press,
In the advent of EA’s most recent PR debacle entitled Sim City, it seems that many review sites have made some changes. Sites have shifted their tactics to withholding their reviews until after the public launch of a game, especially for games in a series that have been known to contain a notable multi-player component or have in the past been exclusively single-player (ala Sim City). Though I completely understand their thought process, I think their approach is completely wrong.
Today’s games are massive. Gone (for the most part) are the days where your “big budget” boxed console game is so short that you don’t even need a save file or passcode. They aren’t the kinds of games you just sit down for an hour and find yourself defeating the final boss. On top of that, just about every AAA game today; for better or worse, has a multi-player component. Some games, like Lara Croft for example, arguably never needed a multi-player component. The part of the game that everyone is expected to play in a traditionally single-player series is likely the most important part of the review. Unfortunately it becomes up to the discretion of each reviewer on how hard the overall review/score should be anchored down based on a feature that many people will probably never use.
Reviews need to change and the solution is simple. Games need to have a single-player review and a multi-player review. With single-player and multi-player experiences being so completely different in nearly all cases, and sometimes developed by separate teams or companies, it makes sense to treat them as such. Reviewers should stop sticking to the old tropes that say just because a feature was shipped on the same disk that it must be part of the same experience. This was probably true before idSoftware invented death-match in 1993 but times have changed and it’s time for reviews to change.
This simple tweak allows the reviewers to, at their discretion, withhold the multi-player review until public servers are available without damaging the credibility of what might be an amazing single-player experience because of wildly different weights of multi-players’ influence on the overall score of a game. Of course games like Sim City, being always on and lacking a single-player experience, would simply have to wait until after launch entirely.
Something I did not mention in this original post but in hindsight feel it’s important to note is that a game should be worth it’s price tag on single or multi-player alone. The opposite feature should be considered an add-value for those who may be interested in both aspects of a game but the overall score should not be buffed under the assumption that the player cares to experience both styles of play.
You’ve been warned, I plan to write openly about my experiences with Halo 4 and if you haven’t played the game and actually care about the story then feel free to hit the back button now.
The short of it this; for better or worse, Halo 4 is Halo in every fiber of its existence. The long of it is going to take a few more, and possibly more critical, words of this beloved franchise.
How Not To Make A Game
Like most games, I seem to find the time for them after the craze has faded. In many ways I like to be late to the party because it helps me enter the game with a clean palette. My opinion is not immediately salted by partisan reviews of perfect 10′s and 1′s. My latest endeavor was a trip down the rabbit hole that is titled Resident Evil 6, or as I like to call it, a relentless exercise in patience.
Patience is a virtue some would say, and it is a very important trait to have if you plan to play Resident Evil 6. From the frustrating controls to the poorly designed encounters, this game is a must-play for any game designer. This game is a perfect example of how not to design a game, a lesson that many of us should take to heart. Below are some tips to help your game execute on equal ground with this tent-pole for bad game design. » Read more..
There seemed to be a disproportionate number of f-bombs and gore at E3 this year. After sitting through countless face-stabbings, skull slices, and shotgun induced decapitations, I began to glass over. I’m beginning to wonder who we are trying to appease. It seems that just one year after the Supreme Courts’ ruling on violence in video games we all decided to celebrate by showing exactly how “adult” games could be. » Read more..
I’ve been pretty busy lately and my roster of freshly shrink-wrapped games has been growing larger each month. After some unfortunate car trouble I was confined to my house for the weekend, and what better way to wait out the weekend than to break open one of those games? The game that sat on the top of my stack was Rage, a title that took a lot of crap for its texture issues and questionable ending. This is one id-fan’s opinion of Rage and how small tweaks could have changed its reception. » Read more..
I wasn’t planning on writing about the conference, but it turns out that I had something to say about it. First, I’d like to say that it is a good thing to see any kind of effort put forth that promotes video game development outside of the bio-dome of gaming better known as the Bay Area. It is a bit refreshing to have a place to go to on the east coast that covers topics of interest to the people creating the games and not just the people who play them.
I would also like to point out that the East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) is not only a short trip for east-side people like myself, but an affordable one at that. With prices for GDC climbing into multiple thousands of dollars for entry alone it is more than refreshing to see a qualified developers’ conference with ticket prices that aren’t only obtainable by Jay-Z himself.
I spent most of the day jumping between a variety of session, spanning Advanced Learning, Visual Arts, and more. Though I did enjoy my time, it wasn’t all rainbows and gum drops. The talks were all varied and fairly interesting, though I would have preferred some deeper discussions on a few of these sessions. The one aspect of GDC that I wish would translate here was a categorization of beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
This was something that I was left wishing for several times. It often meant that I would have to sit through the first 30 minutes of a 1 hour lecture to realize that it wasn’t going to get any deeper than the surface. Most of the lectures felt like they covered a range of beginner and intermediate. There was an unfortunate lack of advanced lectures that would leave me scratching my head, but excited to research as soon as I got home.
A significant portion of the conference was lathered in Epic-ness, from Unreal University to numerous sessions taken to discuss the basics of using the Unreal Engine. Even a few programming topics felt a bit more like an Epic sponsored session than a general topic on better game making. The Epic barrage would not have bothered me as much if they would have dug a little deeper into the inner workings of their systems.
The optimization lecture was a perfect opportunity to cover tips and tricks to better performance, but it felt more like a training seminar for QA testers. I was waiting for QA applications to be passed out at the end of the session.
The keynote, given by NVIDIA’s Tony Tamasi, was slightly winded but interesting all the same. His lecture covered a time-line in graphics processing that started from the earlier days of hardware accelerated 3D to projections about graphics in 2015.
Part of me hopes that he is right, but most of me shivers to think of the level of effort it will take to achieve that vision. Tony projected astronomical numbers in computing power, and claimed that mobile devices would be closing the gap in computing power down to a mere factor of 10x. Though I absolutely agreed with him on the PC and home console side, I found his argument a bit difficult to swallow on the mobile side.
My biggest issue was that he never covered the white elephant in the room, batteries. Currently, most people have trouble running any kind of 3D on their IOS/Android device for more than 5-10 minutes before it starts to burn a whole in their pants and their charge is visibly dropping like sand in an hour glass. Still, a small part of me (well.. a huge part of me…) wants this all to be a lie.
The higher that bar is raised, the lower the chance that anyone has to compete without massive funding. Yes, yes, there will always be the Minecrafts out there but those are diamonds in the rough, not the likely story that we used to see before this generation of graphics. I can only assume that life as an indie will only get worse with these kinds of leaps in visual fidelity.
This was my first year with the ECGC. My experience so far has been fairly positive and I will likely return next year if they continue to play it smart and keep their prices reasonable.
I have finally found a game that answers the question, “can games make you cry?”. It’s not what you think.