Treyarch <3's Gearbox

Game Development No Comments

Treyarch <3's Gearbox

Over the weekend something bad happened.

I play a lot of games, and I have opinions about them (hey, what gamer doesn’t), but talking shit about other developers is unprofessional and is one of the biggest fuck-ups anyone can make. In fact, it’s arrogant, extremely juvenile and unwelcome, especially in an industry that is trying to “grow up” and be like any other professional industry.

Treyarch isn’t in the business of slamming other developers and I’m personally embarrassed and upset about the whole situation. I was distraught and depressed all weekend, especially because Treyarch isn’t a terribly well-liked developer to begin with. I just wanted to go on the record by saying that I think Gearbox makes great games and I hold them in high esteem with other top-notch developers. This is coming from a Treyarch employee.

The fact that those things were said is totally unacceptable and I hope the good people at Gearbox understand that we don’t feel that way at all. We love you guys and I’m sure the next BIA installment will be awesome.

Wii Homebrew Dash!

Game Development, Gaming, Modding 1 Comment

Beer + Wii?I feel bad. I have a Wii, but barely use it. For the first few months of owning a Wii, I played Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports, and eventually Resident Evil 4 (which is better on the Wii than the PS2 or Gamecube, but that’s a different post). I tried to get into the Wii, I really did. I checked out the news and participated in polls, but with long stretches of time with no decent games coming out, I lost interest and took solace in my 360. Plus, the Wii doesn’t give achievements.

A few months ago, I saw that the Wii had been hacked, and the hackers had a video to prove it. Fast forward to today, where Wii homebrew is alive and well, with no mod-chipping required. The Wii homebrew community has matured to the point where tons of documentation is available and it appears very easy to get say, an NES emulator running on the Wii. In fact some crafty coders created something called the “Homebrew Channel” which makes running homebrew apps a piece of cake. After doing a bit of research, I decided to see how long it would take me to get some homebrew apps up and running on my Wii.

I’ll explain all the details in a bit. For now, here are the required supplies:

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Dark Sector: Hey, You Spilled Some RE4 Into My GoW!

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Dark Sector Box 360Dark Sector (DS) is the first project created by Digital Extremes (DE). The release of DS sort of came and went without much fanfare; I didn’t hear much about online and only a few people around the office played it. I heard some pretty mixed DS experiences, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

To say that DS tries to mimic Gear of War would be an understatement. Most of the core mechanics are lifted right from GoW, down to the “chase cam” while holding A to sprint, to moving from cover while engaged in third-person cover. The look of the game even feels like GoW, so when I heard that the people at DE made their own engine, I was completely surprised. I actually didn’t believe it at first, and had to go verify it on my own. Sure enough, DE claims their engine was written from scratch.

In any case, DS only feels like GoW for a short while. Eventually some unique elements are introduced that make DS feel separate from another GoW experience. The “glaive,” a sort of three-bladed boomerang quickly becomes the star of the show, making players forget that Cole Train and Baird won’t be joining you anytime soon.

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Y’all Better Axe Some Bodies

Games for Fun, Gaming 2 Comments

Condemned: Criminal OriginsCondemned: Criminal Origins (C:CO) came out about three years ago and was one of those games I just never got around to playing until now. I’ve been hearing good things about Condemned 2, so I figure I’d play C:CO first.

I didn’t really feel a strong dislike or like for the game. Overall, the experience was pretty average, punctuated by a few “Oh, cool” and a few “What were they thinking?” moments. I was impressed how Monolith pulled off a mainly a melee combat game (pretty uncommon as far as first person games go) by making the environment feel very interactive. You’re able to pull various types of pipes and electrical conduits from the walls, rip doors off lockers and even take the blade from a paper cutter to use as weapons. I was constantly searching around the world for better weapons to use and loved comparing weapon stats. However, you’re practically spoon feed the game at every turn, which detracts from the immersion.

Gun use is heavily downplayed; you’ll only be able to take out a few enemies before you run out of ammo and will have to start scrounging for a piece of rebar. I’m sure this is by design as firearms take enemies down fast and are a rare find. You are also equipped with a taser most of the time which recharges after a few seconds after being fired. Tasering enemies usually makes them drop their weapons, or at least allows you to walk up and disarm them.

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Commander Shepard in: Bringing Down the Sky

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Mass Effect Box 360I finally got around to playing the Mass Effect DLC, Bringing Down the Sky (BDtS). In BDtS, Shepard and the funky bunch land on an asteroid (named X57) in order to prevent it from obliterating a human-colonized world. This adventure turns out to be as epic as it sounds. Landing on X57 initially feels much like a regular side mission from the main game but that isn’t the case. A new race is introduced (the Batarians, a nod to people who have read the Mass Effect novel) along with a complete story line and new gameplay elements.

The thing that stood out to me the most was how much better the combat was in BDtS than in most of the main game. Some of the spaces Bioware used, especially for the final battle were laid out well and fun to fight in; long stretches for snipers, decent cover for close to mid-rage combat and lots of flank routes. Also, the Batarians seem to have more “classes” of enemies. I was fighting a range of soldiers, biotics, robotic drones and four legged creatures all at once.

As for new gameplay elements, Shepard encounters new types of turret guns on the surface of the asteroid that have physical shields which raise and lower depending on your distance from them. These turrets also move along tracks which surprised the shit out of me the first time I encountered them. Fighting armored, moving turrets was much more challenging than turret combat in the rest of Mass Effect. The thinking and strategy required to take out base defenses was a welcome addition.

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Lost: Via Domus Est Iens Domus

Games for Points, Gaming No Comments

Lost: Via Domus Box 360After 1000pting (I just made up a new word, Google that shit!) from my latest Gamefly rental, “Lost: Via Domus (L:VD),” I’m actually pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s like when you go to the doctor for a physical and you’re not completely sure if you’re going to have to turn your head and cough or possibly get a finger in your ass. Playing L:VD was more like the doctor finding a mole inside your thigh which you might have to get removed at a later date. Kinda sucky, but at least you took got it taken care of.

L:VD wasn’t an awesome experience by any stretch of the imagination (well, the 1000pts in about five hours was awesome), and I come from the unique perspective of playing a game based on a TV show which I’ve only seen half an episode of. To me, L:VD actually had a decent story as far as games go. I’m not sure if that’s good for the game, or bad for the games industry in general. I suppose basing your game on a fairly popular television show has some benefits.

I don’t want to spoil the story since it’s really the only thing that keeps you not wanting to succumb to narcolepsy while playing. The gameplay and interactive portions of the game felt like an old point and click adventure style game, except set in a 3-d world and crappy. You basically run around, talk to characters who give you “quests” to go on, which are mainly just linear story events. Talking to guy A opens up talking to guy B, and so on. Eventually, you’ll have a “flashback” where you need to take a picture during some event from your past, at just the right moment. Once you’ve done so, you remember something about yourself (oh yeah, you have amnesia) which you can use to advance the story. Optionally, you can run around during the flashback and find three “memory items” which help fill in the story and unlock more ‘cheeves.

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Grand Theft Auto IV: Committing Every Sin, I’d Do It All Again

Games for Fun, Gaming 2 Comments

GTA IV 360 BoxMake no mistake, Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA IV) is a good game. However, no game is perfect, and even the best games deserve a critical once-over.

Even if you’re not into open world games, you have to appreciate the excellent job Rockstar did with the overall quality of their game. There are plenty of reviews out for GTA IV, so I’ll try not to cover the obvious. I really only want to cover two things: where I think Rockstar made design improvements from previous games in the series, and where I think they need to make improvements in future titles.

I Came a Long Way to See You:

Taxis – You mean I don’t have to drive everywhere if I don’t want to? Being able to call taxis in GTA IV is a lot like using mounts in World of Warcraft, except that you can skip the ride. I’d like to personally thank the developer that came up with that idea. The taxi system has fundamentally changed the way I approach the series and I can’t imagine not having that feature from now on.

Cell Phone Interface – I think Rockstar has managed to make the best cell phone / text message interface in any game to date. EA has tried similar (smack talking emails from rival snowboarders in the SSX series, for example) virtual cell phone systems, but they always fall flat. In GTA IV, the cell phone is integrated into various missions where you must use the camera phone functionality, receive text messages to find car locations to steal and so on. Rockstar even included little details like that static-y interference buzz some phones make when you’re near speakers (I thought it was my real phone the first time I heard it). You can customize and upgrade your phone as well with new themes and ring tones, which really brings the phone to life.

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