Dec 312011
 

Origin PCs is gaming computer company with a very familiar name. While most gaming PC companies like to try to add a few pounds of “flair” to their systems, Origin seems to be playing it low key and focusing on the performance itself. We had an opportunity to ask Kevin Wasielewski, CEO of Origin, a few questions. Here is what he had to say:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kevin, for those that are uninformed, what is Origin PC?

KW- ORIGIN PC builds custom, high-performance desktops and laptops for gamers and hardware enthusiasts. 

 

I understand that there is an interesting story behind how Origin PC got started, can you tell us about that?

KW- The founders of ORIGIN PC are Hector Penton, Richard Cary, and myself.  Each of us worked together at Alienware for over 10 years.  We helped Alienware grow from less than 10 people to over 700 people worldwide.  Dell bought out Alienware and made significant changes to the product, staff, and the support.  We decided that we did not want to work for Dell and thus we respawned as ORIGIN PC in 2009 and we have been growing ever since.    

 

How did you get personally involved with computers?

KW- My parents always had a PC in the house and I grew up playing DOS games and then games like Police Quest and Space Quest. 

 

The computers I have seen are all quite flashy, yet not over the top. Is it a ongoing goal to stay away from the gaudy look of other high end BTO companies?

KW- We build the same PCs that we would like to see in our homes.  Our style is more about functionality and performance that it is about lights and flashy looks.  Some people call it more of an elegant/luxury product.  Or course, we also build over the top blinged out PCs by request.  Every PC we build is custom built to order per the customer’s request including everything from the desktop case to the wires on the power supply.       

 

What game is causing most PC gamers to seek out a new computer? Back when I was in sales and repair, it was Crysis. Even if they had no idea in the world what it was “Will this run Crysis?” was a continual question.

KW- Skyrim and Battlefield 3 are too great games right now that a lot of people are upgrading for.  As far as which game will tax your hardware the most, Skyrim and BF3 are tough, as well as Metro 2033. 

 

So, your computer company shares the name with a proprietary digital distribution platform. Is that a manageable situation?

KW- ORIGIN PC launched in 2009.  EA’s Origin launched afterwards and we were not happy to see their logo being so similar to ours.  It has created a great deal of confusion from consumers.  We actually get calls and emails daily with people that are actually trying to reach EA and not us. 

 

What specifically sets Origin PCs apart from everyone else?

KW -          Our EON17-S is the only laptop on the market with an overclocked processor up to 4.8GHz AND an overclocked Graphics card

-          We offer the most customized PCs on the market.  For example we will build our GENESIS desktop in any chassis the customer wants. 

-          Our systems have award winning integration and industry leading performance  (We hold PCWorld’s Worldbench record for the highest laptop score by a large margin.  BTW, we also hold their desktop record.) 

-          We offer custom airbrushing and customer laser etching  (Examples here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.433205652917.229158.91389842917&type=1)  

-          Our systems are backed by Free Lifetime Technical Support based in the United States and Free Lifetime Labor on Upgrades 

-          Built and support by industry veterans (I don’t want it to be a main focus, but somewhere you should plug our 10 years of experience with Alienware before starting ORIGIN PC)

If you could make one change to the landscape of PC gaming, what would it be?

KW- Bring down the cost of high end components to make high performance PC gaming more affordable.  I’d also put a high end gaming PC inside every Best Buy and Gamestop nationwide so that gamers could test drive and experience gaming at its best.     

 

There are a lot of new innovations coming to PC gaming, which ones are you looking forward to the most?

KW- The things that we are seeing people do with motion controls are amazing.  Our grandkids will be puzzled when they see the keyboards and mice that will be ancient history eventually! 

 

Do you have any professional endorsements for the Origin PC brand? Who are you currently working with?

KW- Absolutely.  We currently sponsor Team Complexity and we work with Rockstar, Ubisoft, Tripwire Interactive., IGN, GameTrailers, G4TV, Game Informer, NVIDIA, Intel, Wargaming.net, and others.   We have also worked with Fatal1ty, who is a personal friend of ours.   

 

As far as PC vs Console goes, what are the most important things console gamers are missing out on?

KW- The graphics and the controls.  Playing Skyrim at 2560 x 1600 makes playing it on a console is a night and day difference.  Playing BF3 with a mouse and keyboard is so much faster and more precise then playing on a controller.  This goes back to my earlier comment.  I wish we could make trying out a high end gaming PC more accessible so that gamers could experience the difference first hand.  You really don’t know what you are missing until you experience it yourself. 

 

Does Origin PCs have any partnerships with HID companies? What devices do you recommend?

KW- We work with pretty much everyone.  Due to our experience in this industry and our passion for hardware, we have a lot of great contacts and we work with mostly every company out there directly. 

 

What games are you playing currently?

KW- I’m trying so hard to stay away from SWTOR.  I don’t want to get addicted like I was on the last MMO that I played.  I like games that I can get addicted to for a while and then move on.  J

Right now I’m hooked on Skyrim.  I still need to go back and finish up BF3 and play the new expansion.  Then I need to play Batman and I have not even touched MW3 yet!  So many awesome games to play, it’s a great problem to have!

 

Do you have any thanks or shout outs that you’d like to give?

KW- I’d like to thank everyone that has supported ORIGIN PC so far.  We are a new brand and it’s great to see people supporting us from day one.  It’s not our first rodeo so we have a plan and we are executing it well.  It’s great to see so many companies support us and believe in us from our past experience and we plan on even bigger and better things in 2012.  Look for some new announcements from us on 1/10/12!!  Thanks for the interview and happy holidays!

 

 

Dec 302011
 

One of the biggest threats to the online community that we have built on the internet is currently flying through the American congress and attracting a lot of attention. With the threats of boycotts of companies that support the act becoming more common, support has dropped off from some big players and now, gamers have jumped from what appears to be a sinking ship. Earlier, GoDaddy lost over 37,000 domains that were registered to them due to their stance on SOPA.

Nintendo, Sony and EA have all dropped their support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which is basically designed to allow censorship of the humble internet in very aggresive ways, encouraging sites to be blacklisted due to certain content which would ultimately restrict access. Having three of the biggest companies in gaming drop their support is a great step in the right direction. They are still with the ESA, but the public disavowal of SOPA is a very big deal!

(Source)

Dec 302011
 

So Christmas is over and the new year is fast approaching, where this is normally a time for relaxing and reflecting on the year, a couple of news stories have popped up over the past few weeks which have really gotten under my skin. Once more the culprits are responsible of either crappy research or not wanting to step on any toes so welcome to what has pissed me off over the past few weeks and enjoy.


The Sun – Phishing is not hacking

Here we have Rupert Murdochs flagship, phone hacking, constantly getting any unsensational story regarding gaming and cocking it up. Running with the headline “XBOX CYBER HACK” one immediately thinks that LulzSec are back and that they are bored with Sony, the headline alone was enough to make me begin calling the bank to cancel credit cards and begin changing passwords to everything, until I actually read beyond the opening lines “Hack” claims and realised it was morons reporting on morons.

The issue here was not a hack that was causing us to have our accounts emptied to prince Dave the twelfth of Nigeria, this was just phishing. For those possibly out the loop, this means somewhere along the line, login details where tricked out of their owners and the theives then used this information to empty said accounts of card details, giving access to cash. This is nothing new and is not “hacking” this is just a huge lax of intelligence on behalf of the user.

For example, if bob_microsoft_dev@fakemail.com asks for your login details through email because you have won an avatar boat and 5million Microsoft points, you should probably tell him to go suck a lemon rather than actually giving him the valuable details to your valuable account, cash and gamerscore could be at stake here. While it probably sucks very hard for the people affected I just implore you to think before giving any details to anyone and to The Sun to not sensationalise a none sensational story and put it on the front page, it just makes you look even more stupid than you already do.

Political Correctness – Slavery

A while back the Internet was losing its mind when a trailer for Slavery: The Game hit the web. Reddit, 4chan and everyone else began going crazy over what looked to be the single worst tasteful and completely tactless video game to ever emerge from any developer ever. When I first saw the idea I too thought that it was a bad idea, games are about enjoyment and who could ever enjoy something where the general premise is to reenact the torture and enslavement of other human beings, but then I thought about it and realised that we have already been doing it for years.

Long story short, the whole thing was a hoax to raise awareness that slavery is still a very real problem in the world whether it be forced labour or the sex trade and no matter how many times we watch Taken, it is a problem that Liam Neeson alone cannot kick the ass of. But as I said before, we have already tortured people in hundreds of games, we have seen so many world war games which paint all Germans as the only enemy we have ever faced, but this kind of historical accuracy that could upset the German people is acceptable where as something which would make most of the world cringe is not?

The days of the slave trade are a hellish memory that history books will teach us for years to come and films and charity will continue to remains us that the problem is still very real. We should not ostracise something because it forces us to relive awkward historical fact, we should embrace it. Teach kids to understand the horrific things our fore fathers did by showing them through a medium that they can relate too, don’t force them to play, but make an informed decision as too whether the want too learn like this and if we want to teach them. Alas, political correctness would more than likely never let a game like this see the light of day, a fact that upsets me to some extent as it could have been a fantastic way to raise both awareness and money for the charities who are working to put an end to these atrocities.

Political Correctness – Guns

Whilst sat in the car, flicking through a days worth of gaming news just a few days ago, I found the story that the Xbox live market place would soon be removing guns as avatar items from sale. Don’t worry, if you already have them then you will not be affected, but those of us who don’t and may want them in the future, should buy up fast.

The claim comes from Epic games who advised users to grab the gears of war weapons before Microsoft removed them from January 1st 2012, there is still no real word on why but it’s more than likely because of Microsoft having invested so much in making the Xbox more family friendly. This looks to me like political correctness gone totally insane, especially when you take into account that Microsoft has it’s own gun club.

I’m from the UK, our gun control is immensely stricter than that of America and even I think this is over the top. Would it be possible to argue that it is a breah of the American constitution? If a person has the right to bare arms then why does this not extend to an online visualisation of that person?

It’s ridiculous, the avatars on screen don’t go round graphically dismembering other avatars with a Lancer, they are a prop that is used to show off your taste in games. While I may be in the minority I just fail to see the problem with an avatar holding a weapon, why not just make it so that accounts registered to children do not have access to these items or can’t see other avatars holding them rather than essentially punishing the entire community? Not to mention that Microsoft hasn’t addressed the issue personally, meaning the whole thing could either be misinformation or the company planned on doing it spur of the moment and very quietly come next week.

Think I’m wrong? Reckon Slavery would have made a terrible game? Let me know in the comments after you’ve rushed to the Avatar Marketplace to grab some heavy weaponry before the new year ban.
Dec 302011
 

Unity makes everything in the world of sound fairly easy to understand and manipulate to your liking.  Even so, there are a lot of settings that should be understood before diving in to the audio components to help with performance and overall game size.

Import

First, you’ll want to import sounds into your project.  While you can do that with any type of sound file, you’ll want to examine the settings before attaching it to a prefab or GameObject.  An Audio Importer component will be automatically attached, and from there you’ll be able to set your settings to maximize performance.

First, take a look under Audio Format.   Whether or not you want your sound compressed will be dependent on what you want to use the sound for.  While uncompressed sounds will have a higher level of quality, this setting is best used for very short sound effects as opposed to something like in-game music.  In conjunction with this selection, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the “Load Type” section, where you can control how the audio data is pulled from disk and into memory.

Using “Decompress on Load” will be best for those very short sounds – this will keep your game from locking for a frame or two when a new sound happens within a scene.  Basically, you are opting to have the sound readied when the scene is loaded.  For larger sounds, you can choose to keep the file “Compressed in memory”, which will decompress the file as it is played.  If your file is highly compressed, this will cause a bit of load on your target machine, but it will keep initial load times down and keep your available memory more free.  Lastly, you can opt to simply stream the file from the hard drive by selecting “Stream from Disk” – this will save you on memory and loading, but because you are accessing the disk you wouldn’t want to use this setting for more than a few tracks at the same time.  Ideally, just use this setting for music since you will likely only have a1 song playing at once.

The level of compression (if you are choosing to compress your file) will be selectable via this window as well.  You want to aim to compress as much as possible while keeping your file usable for your own purpose.  This may be a setting you’ll want to experiment with – audio files can quickly drive up the file size of your game.

Listen

In each scene, you’ll want to always have just one audio listener.  This will be attached to a main camera by default, which effectively places your player’s head wherever the camera is.  However, you may want to opt into having your listener attached to your game character or some other game object.  If you add the audio listener component to any other object, you’ll want to make sure there is always one in existence in the event your character dies, as an example.  Without a listener, all sound will disappear.

In the cases where I’ve done this myself, often times the best result was achieved by disabling the listener from the player and immediately enabling one attached to the main camera (in the same function that would kill the player).  When the new player spawns, you simply reverse the process in the spawning function.

Effects

Sound effects are versatile, and you can basically opt to use them however best fits your game.  For instance, you can attach a sound to a GameObject and check the box labeled “Play on Awake” – if this is done, the sound will play as soon as the object exists.  While this may seem to be a good object for something like a bullet, you should understand that if the object is destroyed, the sound will disappear with it.

For our purposes, when you examine from a common FPS type perspective, picture we are firing a rifle.  The bullet itself may have a whizzing sound as it flies through the air, but it’s highly likely we’re going to want to attach the gunfire sound to the rifle itself.  This will do two things: keep the firing sound at a constant volume (keeping it from fading as it gets further away), and also keep the sound playing in the event the bullet is destroyed immediately.

Sounds can be added into the inspector like other variables by declaring them as AudioClip.  Once that is done, you can really use basic scripting to customize to your liking.  For example:

var myFireSound : AudioClip;
var myReloadSound : AudioClip;
var reFire : Float;

function Update () {
if (Input.GetKey(“space”) && Time.time > reFire) {
reFire = Time.time + 1;
FireGun();
}

if (Input.GetKey(“r”) && Time.time > refire) {
reFire = Time.time + 1;
ReLoad();
}
}

function FireGun () {
audio.clip = myFireSound;
audio.Play();
}

function Reload () {
audio.clip = myFireSound;
audio.Play();
}

Music

I don’t doubt that one of the most common audio questions relates to adding in-game music.  Unity doesn’t have a specific component for it, but it’s fairly easy to design your own.  In the same vein as the example above, the easiest way will be to attach your music files as inspector variables (perhaps even as an array), and play them accordingly.

An example of this might be something like this:

var musicArray : AudioClip[];  //attach as many tracks as you want in the inspector

function Start() {
ChangeTrack();
}

function ChangeTrack() {
var trackNum = Random.Range(0,musicArray.Length);
audio.clip = musicArray[trackNum];
audio.Play();
WaitTrack();
}

function WaitTrack() {
yield WaitForSeconds(audio.clip.length);
ChangeTrack();
}

Something like this would work for a quick music solution, and extra customization could be added for different areas or situations, etc.  Of course, the GameObject this script is attached to will need to have an audio component – simply don’t attach a specific clip and instead load up the array we’ve just created.

Rolloff

The way sound reacts to its distance from an audio listener component is known as rolloff.  This can be customized like everything else of course, but the easiest to understand will be a simple linear rolloff.  You can find this option available as a visual graph on any audio source component, and depending on what you are doing within your game, you will simply want to be sure that your listener falls within the ranges that the sound will make available.

The easiest way to acclimate yourself with how rolloff affects your game is to play the title within the editor.  As with all of these scripts and components, learning by doing will be invaluable.

Thanks for reading – if anyone gets hung up or has audio issues, feel free to drop me a line in the comments here.  :)

Dec 292011
 

2011 has been one of the greatest years for gaming ever, but while the blockbusters have rolled out one after another, this has led to some large holes being burned in pockets. With so many titles vying for your attention and, most importantly, money who, if anyone, really wins when the top names go head to head? I’m not talking about competition across the year for all games on all platform, but where similar games are released within weeks of one another, leaving the broke gamer to sit and contemplate what they may be missing out on when, had the gap been months instead of weeks, everyone could have been a winner.

First off the people who put out the games, they have to make a decision as to whether or not their game is finished and ready for the public, but by not taking a look at the calendar, could they be hurting themselves all the way to the bank?

Take shooters, Gears of War 3, Battlefield and Modern Warfare are three of the biggest names and each had a new entry to bring to the table. All have a similar fanbase and all are well established, hyped up series on the third installments. The difference between them is that Gears came out way before the others, who for some reason went into direct competition.

Whether it was an ego thing or if both genuinely thought they could come out on top, will EA and DICE have suffered for taking on Modern Warfare? Call of Duty releases are like clockwork, every year around November you can expect a new entry to the series which will have racked up $1billion by the time Christmas shopping has even begun, so why go up against such a Titan of a fanbase when you could get in there early and make some more sales.

Can Anything De-Throne Modern Warfare? And Should Anyone Try?

Personally, I couldn’t have afforded both on day of release so I didn’t buy Modern Warfare, I got Battlefield 3 and swapped with my COD playing brother for a couple of days. So in my household, both lost a sale by releasing the games within weeks of one another, a sale that I can assure you would have been made had the games been released months apart instead.

But it isn’t just the developers who miss out, the consumer probably suffers the most over all. We are given a stark choice of either forming out for two games around the same time, toting up a bill of around $120 at RRP, or about £80 over here. Which, on a low wage, leaves a pretty big hole in your money for the month or leaves you out of the action fo a little while.

Not having the funds to grab a blockbuster on day of release can be devastating, especially if we’re talking multiplayer, as the extra month you wait to pick up the game gives the entire competition plenty of time to work out where everything is across the maps and boost a few levels ahead, ready to pwn any newcomers on arrival. Not to mention the weapons that they will have picked up through experience based unlocks, so by the time you finally get around to playing the experience can be greatly diminished when you spend most of your time on a learning curve that everyone else turned long ago.

On Day Of Blockbuster Release With No Money

Even getting beat online though does not compare to the depressing weeks of having to sit and watch friends, honing skills on a game you want. This also leaves the risk that by the time you have grabbed the game, they will have moved on and you again have the choice of missing out on a title, or playing with friends.  For some this won’t be an issue, but a lot of people have well structured social circles through gaming and being left out is never a nice experience.

While competition leaves both the producer and the consumer in a bit of a predicament, whether it be lost profits or missing out on some great gaming experiences, there is some winners to the  game of games, and that is the middle men, the retailers get it pretty sweet when it comes to a ton of competition across a particular audience.

As well as taking in the profits made from multiple, AAA launches, you also have the added bonus that many people who cannot afford the new titles will be trading in their old games, some of which will be fairly new and as we have covered before, game stores make a ton of cash from the sales of preowned games because after paying ten dollars for a game from you, that you then spent in the store as credit, they also resell for probably double that price making them twenty dollars, pure profit for five minutes of work and a few stickers.

Now I have no problem with preowned games, developers have been makin their money back from online passes and DLC, but it shows that everyone but the stores could be far better off if competing games in the same genre where spread out across the year, there is 12 months on the calendar not weeks. Developers, you can sit back and hang on for a few months, or If your finished, put it out early, make yourselves some more money and keep more of the community happy, instead of trying to stroke your ego and compete with a game that, as much as I love Battlefield, will never outsell a Call of Duty title at release.

While i can see that companies need to, and always will, compete with one another, I just wish they would compete across the year, for all round recognition, rather than those first few weeks of sales. Not only would it result in a better experience for consumers, but there has to be the opportunity for these companies to make better profits by having less day one competition.

Power To The Store?

Dec 282011
 

Next year we finally get to see the first of the next generation consoles in the form of the Wii U. Details at the moment are pretty scarce and there isn’t a whole lot being thrown around in the form of rumours, this isn’t about rumours though, this is what I think that Nintendo’s latest offering needs to really compete in today’s market, what features will make it a day one buy that’s worth queuing for on day of release and that’ll stop it from dusting over within a month or two.

 
The Controller
 
Nintendo have gone for a really different controller, it looks more like a tablet computer than a conventional controller and that’s what I think we need to see. Tablets are all the rage and while as a controller it is new and intuitive, giving it some basic functionality to run music, video and DS or just old school gameboy games would make the controller alone a hit, giving consumers even more bang for thier buck.
 
For the sake of adding a decent battery, headphone jack and some internal memory, Nintendo could use the awesome, new controller to make a fresh dent into the handheld market as well as encroach on one of this years biggest markets. It doesn’t need to be the new iPad or Galaxy tab, but it would be a wasted opportunity not to make the controller do more.
 
Extra Services
 
Consoles have become more than just consoles, on demand TV, massive archives of games, movie rental, the list goes on, consoles have become media centres. Now, I know the current Wii offers some of these, but it’s collection is dwarved by that of Sony and now Microsoft. Both the other big consoles offer multiple channels on demand services and have a far bigger catalogue of movies, games and music for me to download straight to my console, the only stuff I have used on the Wii is a buggy as hell on demand service and the weather, on top of some old gameboy and N64 games.
 
With the Wii U Nintendo aren’t looking to catch up, they’re looking to throw open the doors to the future of consoles and unless the console can excel in the extras department, it risks becoming another pretty white box that sits under the tele, unused and forgotten for months at a time.
 

I Want To Investigate With The Wii!

Back Date The Big Games They Missed

 
While there is some awesome games for the Wii the fact remains that the biggest series have left it in the dark because it’s just not powerful enough. No battlefield, modern warfare, skyrim, L.A. Noire, there have been tons of new titles across the other major platforms this year which have stolen us away from Mario Kart and Zelda and these games will continue to do so for years to come.
 
Now if Nintendo can make these games available for the new console at release and a discounted price, then the console will become an even bigger hit, rather than just having what is available at the time, consumers will be able to grab some of the enormous titles that they’ve missed at a lower price and get a totally new experience from. Imagine Skyrim menus on a touch screen in your hands, allowing you to view everything up close and personal, or playing some L.A. Noire, with Cole Phelps notes allowing you to flick through the evidence properly rather than pushing a button.
 
Multiplayer Overhaul
 
In fairness to Nintendo, when the Wii launched online console gaming was still in it’s infancy but since then it has exploded into a global phenomenon with millions of players sometimes playing just one game, on one console at the same time and the Wii has been left in the dark. To be a success, games like Wii Sports need to be playable in the same way Halo is on the Xbox, a social experience right across the globe, if I buy a Wii U I want to be able to tee off a round of golf with some of my foreign friends and have a chat at the same time.
 
Multiplayer is now king, we like to be able to instantly connect with thousands of other people who share our interests more so than just throwing Mario Kart around a race track with a few unknown Europeans which is all I seem to have done online with my Wii.
 
OnLive Integration
 
For a while there has been talk of the OnLive service merging with another company to link into a console, the launch of apps for the Xbox 360 has only fuelled these rumours, with the next gen Xbox looking like the main contender, but what if Nintendo got in there first?
 
I love OnLive, the concept is incredible and the service is great, if Nintendo did choose to go down this road with the Wii U it could be a match made in heaven. As well as the huge volume of titles which is constantly growing, OnLive already has an exceptional focus on multiplayer. This partnership could kill two birds with one stone for Nintendo, OnLive’s catalogue could not only boost the titles for the system, it could also make use of the touchscreen controller thanks to the services tablet integration, which now allows players to actually play games with their Android tablet or iPad.
 
Original Classics
 
This is a hard one for any company but is also a necessity, when a new console launches it needs titles that will stun an audience, without being a rehash or a sequel. While I enjoy a bit of Mario and Zelda as much as the next guy, the Wii needs new content, they need to stop playing such a safe bet with the classics and invest in new series that can create the same buzz, which is what game development should be about, giving users a new experience that they can rely on for a decade or two.
 
So there we have it, that is what it will take to get me in line, in the freezing British weather to grab a Wii U and I really hope that Nintendo can deliver on the hype and excitement I felt when they first launched the Wii rather than leave me feeling disappointed a few months down the line once the novelty of a touchscreen controller has worn off, just as the motion controllers did a few years ago.
Dec 272011
 

This year has been an interesting one for those of us that work closely with PR folks. To start things out, we had the Redner/DNF fiasco that resulted in Jim’s termination from 2K. Jim called out Ars Technica and their review of DNF, after which he alluded to blacklisting the publication. While it wasn’t an ideal situation, Jim was trying to put it all into his support for his client’s product.I know this for a fact since we have worked with Jim Redner ourselves and can confirm he is a classy guy that will do everything he can to promote his client’s product. Jim handled his situation with class, and other than a few odd remarks on occasion, the media has pretty much put this one behind them.

Then there was the DJ Keemstar/FortressCraft abomination that littered twitter and youtube with filth. DJ Keemstar is an internet troll, famous for recording games of Halo 3 where he teamkills players and “talks trash” (see: acts like a 12 year old). Somehow DJ Arcas found it appropriate to put Keemstar in charge of PR, where he threatened Machinima and also managed to attempt to insult Notch, the creator of the game his was ripping off. After FortressCraft’s buggy launch, many reviewers and media outlets reported on the sub par game. We did this too, Keemstar responded with a call to arms for his followers to attack our site and hilarity ensued. FortressCraft still sells well on XBLIG but from a media level, most sites are done with anything related to it.

Both of these issues were regarding a PR companies reaction to media but there is a special spot in PR hell for those people that attack the consumer, yeah the very same people that they should be winning over. Recently, Ocean Marketing (no link, that’s his goal) had a run in with a few upset consumers. The most public of these was the string of emails that Penny Arcade brought up on their site. In the email exchange, a customer tries to get information on when they should be receiving their preordered controllers, only to be brushed off by Ocean Marketing. The situation escalated and eventually Kotaku, Dtoid, Penny Arcade and others were brought into the fold. Mike from PA got involved and Ocean Marketing continued to do what they do best, be douche bags (or more so, a singular douche bag). The whole exchange is available on PA’s site, you should take a look. After those events took place, Ocean Marketing took the battle to Twitter, calling IGN’s executive editor names and playing the victim.

The truth is this: Paul Christoforo (Ocean Marketing) is an asshole, everything wrong with PR and poison to a company that is behind a controller that is supposed to do great things for gamers with disabilities. Now, because of Paul’s incompetent yammering and venomous behavior, many consumers may avoid the Avenger altogether. People have already taken to Amazon to give the controller a plethora of 1-star votes, which doesn’t hurt anyone other than David Kotkin (the creator of the Avenger). Some would argue that Kotkin is getting what he deserves, as Paul has been documented on the internet for nearly a year, going after consumers with bi-polar rants. While it isn’t a solid business decision, Kotkin was likely working with what he had available (at least I would hope so). Kotkin has since removed Paul and his PR/Customer Service from his company, but the damage may already done.

What are your feelings on the situation?

 

Dec 272011
 

With all the Game of the Year awards given out and the year coming to a close, it’s time to stop looking back and begin looking forward. 2011 was a great year to be a gamer, and 2012 looks to be just as great or even better. With so many great games coming out next year, I had trouble narrowing my list down to ten. But narrow it down I did, and here are my top 10 most anticipated game of 2012.

10. Halo 4 (343 Industries, Microsoft Studios)

The was a time when I was a huge Halo fan, but that time has passed. I really enjoyed Reach, but I felt that was a good place to end the series. Of course, I never had any delusions that Microsoft would let the franchise end, so now we have the first post Bungie Halo game being released in 2012 with the awful title of Halo 4; so much for finishing the fight. Even though I am firmly negative on this game, I still want to see what it turns out to be. So this one is more anticipation for the sake of curiosity, not excitement.

9. Skyrim DLC (Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

While not technically a new game, I have high hopes for the downloadable content for Skyrim. The Shivering Isles add-on for Oblivion mathced the length and quality of most full games, and Bethesda produced some great content for Fallout 3 post release. With this great track record of producing great add-on content, and the high bar the game has already set, I’m expecting some great new content for Skyrim in 2012.

8. Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Valve)

I have played quite a bit of Counterstrike in the past decade, but probably nowhere near as much as some people out there. I love pretty much anything Valve does, and I don’t expect CS:GO to be any different. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, it looks to be Counterstrike with some cosmetic modernization, but the core of game maintained as it always has been, and that seems like the best decision they could have made.

Dec 242011
 
Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

Trine 2

PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Contains: Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.


Back in 2009, after receiving a couple PSN cards for Christmas, I decided to download an interesting game called Trine.  Initially, the $20 price tag seemed a bit steep for a downloadable title (although a hard copy was $40 on PC). Now, looking back two years later, it’s still probably the best $20 I’ve spent.  So, understandably, when news came out about a sequel, I was extremely excited.  It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here!

The Trine franchise is my first foray into the mind of the Finnish developer, Frozenbyte.  They embody the mentality of a small studio perfectly.  Sure, the wait for a sequel was a little longer than I had hoped, but the benefits are plentiful, and far outweigh the one minor inconvenience.  I’d much rather wait six months for a perfect game than be given an inferior game in July, and their attitude and effort mirrors that.

Upon first glance, you’ll notice the side scroller has gorgeous visuals, which are used to convey a great sense of depth.  The background seems as if it goes on for days, and the foreground, which doesn’t go unused, is often just as impressive.  The visuals are eclipse-like.  I’m actually afraid to stare directly at them; fearing I may go blind due to overstimulation.  It’s as if any second, the increased electrical burden coursing through my optic nerves will cause them to melt like an extension cord powering way too many Christmas lights.  Every inch of the lush, vibrant, fantasy world is alive.  I expected to see many shades of green, but I’ve never seen a game use so much pink, purple and orange.  Flora and fauna from diverse ecosystems are well represented.  Plus, all is presented with amazing lighting that accents the world perfectly in both day and night.  A lot can be done graphically with today’s technology, but without some good art direction, it can often fail to impress.  Just a quick look at some of the screen shots will reveal that the developer’s ideas and concepts were impeccably executed. The variation of environments and level of detail is absurd.  Many times I found myself just stopping to take it all in, especially at some of the environments toward the end, which varied drastically from the forest, cavern, and castle motif.  However, the game’s look isn’t the only thing going for it.

At its core the game is a puzzle platformer, relying heavily on its physics engine.  There’s also quite a bit of action to keep an excellent ebb and flow to the pace of the game.  On your journey though the mystical world, you’ll have access to three, awesomely named, characters:  Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Knight.  Bound by the mysterious artifact, the Trine, the three are forced to work together, making their way through a world laid out in storybook fashion, in an attempt to save their kingdom once more.

The characters each have their own personalities and distinct skillsets.  Plus, they have added a few new tricks to their repertoire in their two years of downtime.  Amadeus has the ability to conjure planks and boxes and can levitate objects.  Zoya is the agile archer, relying primarily on her bow, and a grappling hook that can attach to wooden surfaces.  Pontius, the brute, deals devastating damage with his sword and shield, or his more powerful hammer.  Hundreds of experience vials are scattered throughout the world and collecting them yields skill points that can be used to expand and evolve each characters abilities.  In single player mode, these characters can be swapped on the fly, while online and offline multiplayer offer completely different cooperative experiences.

Given all these choices, the player is free to approach puzzles or combat situations as they please.  There are always multiple ways, of varying efficiency or absurdity, to reach a solution.  I love Amadeus, so it’s hard for me to think ‘outside the box.’  Every obstacle is a blank canvas, encouraging experimentation, and ensuring that each playthrough is as unique as the crystalline structure of a snowflake.  This keeps the game fresh and prevents subsequent playthroughs from seeming like missed vial fetch quests.

Some may say 2D platformers are dying.  I hope not, but if that is to be the case, at least the Trine series isn’t going down without a loud, beautiful fight.  The realm of 3D is great, but there are some things that complex polygons just can’t do.  By creating a simplistic side scroller, Frozenbyte has been given the luxury of focusing on the subtle nuances of the visuals and physics, and it shows.  The result is a breathtaking masterpiece that comes one step closer to blurring the line between a game and its concept art.

Much like a Christmas tree, the game is a simple concept on paper.  When you initially throw the tree in your living room, it’s just a boring tree.  Throw some lights, garland, and an assortment of ornaments on it and you’ve created something amazing.  It’s not until you’re able to take a step back and take it all in that you really appreciate all its glory.

I could talk about the game until I’m blue in the face, but the pictures speak for themselves, which is why I’ve chosen to prominently feature them instead of my words.  You’d be hard-pressed to look at the smörgåsbord (or seisova pöytä as Sweden’s neighboring Finns would call it) of pictures here, and not come away impressed, so I’ll just let them do the talking.  Plus, although I planned to, I really can’t fit any more of them on here without this just looking like a gallery with small captions.

I’m not a man who can afford to get you a gift this year; I am but a veritable little drummer boy.  So all I have to offer you is a recommendation for a wonderful game that you may have never seen or considered.  It’s a wonder gift from the fabled Finnish Santa: Joulupukki the Yule Goat.  If it existed 2000 years ago, I’m fairly certain the baby Jesus would have happily traded his dumb frankincense and myrrh for it.  Probably even the gold; it’s just that good!  I hope you hark these tidings, give it a look, and find that it brings you just as much joy as it has me.

Plus, as one of the trailers states, it has 500% more rainbows, which is a breath of fresh air in a world of rainbow-phobic games.

Playstation 3

Graphics

100
 

Audio

95
 

Gameplay

100

Creativity

100
 

Execution

95
 

Offset

100
    

9.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Amazing, polished visuals use the full color spectrum to form a rich fantasy world.
  • Open-ended puzzles encourage creativity and promote replayability.
  • New abilities, enemies, environments, and an improved storybook layout are all welcomed changes.

Cons:

  • There’s not much of a tutorial, so new players may not know how to use all the established tools.
  • The game eventually ends.
  • I now begin the long, arduous task of waiting for Trine 3.

 

Dec 242011
 

You will find a lot if you keep an eye on what is going on in the social media scene. Awhile back, I happened across a developer that was working on a game. It was in pre alpha but looked awesome and I couldn’t help but think of all those great old school shoot-em ups I used to play when I was younger. That developer was Jason from Zanrai Interactive and the game was Heaven Variant. We were able to have a conversation about the progress of his game and get some background information as well, I hope you enjoy it!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Josh Knowles: Well Jason, thanks for taking time to talk to us today. To start things out, who is Zanrai Interactive and how did you all get started?

Jason K: Yeah, thanks for your time as well. Zanrai Interactive is a very indie dev team that consists of a 3 man team. My name is Jason Koohi, I’m the founder of the group, our other members names are Simon Inch and John Etheridge. Both of them were friends of mine as we all attended the University of Texas at Dallas together. When I got out of school I really had no direction so I thought it would be a good idea to take a crack at game development. After a few weeks I had registered a company, put a website up, and after talking with a few people started working on “Heaven Variant” our first game.
Jason K: Outside of that, our group is really just a small band of developers working out of our respective homes. Starbucks ends up being our meeting room quite often. haha.

Josh Knowles: So, what is the inspiration behind “Heaven Variant”? It certainly reminds me of a time before kill streaks and DLC.

Jason K: Most definitely. Heaven Variant really is a throwback to the old shoot ‘em up games of the early and mid 1990s. We’re trying to tap into some of that retro aesthetic, keeping in mind games that established the framework for the genre and building off of that with modern technology and modern sensibilities in the way games are designed today. In a way we’re trying to straddle the line between retro and modern in a well established genre that isn’t necessarily common anymore. The inspiration definitely comes from games like Einhander, the Thunder Force series, and the R-Type series.
Jason K: Especially those.

Josh Knowles: Those are absolutely staples of the Shoot-em Up genre! What type of game engine are you using for Heaven Variant?

Jason K: We’re using the Unreal Development Kit and it has been modified extensively by our programmer, Simon. The engine is set up now to gives us very familiar gameplay with modern graphical capabilities. It’s great, I can’t sing enough praises to the UDK and its ease of access for indie developers to get started making games.

Josh Knowles: Awesome! I noticed in your Alpha Trailer that there appears to be a story line that will accompany the game. As an old school Shmup fan, I know that outside of Einhander, this isn’t common. Will the story play a large role in Heaven Variant?

Jason K: The story will play a large role in how the game unfolds. It will compliment gameplay. With that said, we’re hoping we can differentiate ourselves from the pack by having our story unfold in a cinematic way all in-game as the player continues through the game. Our alpha video is a few months old, and was a prototype for how I wanted to accomplish this, and it opens a lot of interesting and logical gameplay options that have rarely been tried in this genre, like objectives. In the end, older games did this also they just didn’t give you the context in which you were doing. Again, similarly to how I said we were trying to straddle the line between modern and retro earlier, it’d be nice to straddle the line between old-school arcade gameplay and a meaningful story that makes the gameplay mean something once the game is said and done.
Jason K: Haha, this game really has become all about having our cake and eating it, too.

Josh Knowles: Are you saying that there will be branching storylines?

Jason K: It’s something we’re looking into, but right now we have no plans for it. With that said, we’re hoping to allow for some flexibility in the way the story unfolds in game, and while not necessarily as flexible as a full blown branched path, we’re shooting to have NPC characters on the in-game radio react and respond differently to the way the player plays (and whether they accomplish certain tasks or not). We’re also testing a few ways to have multiple lines of dialogue for a single response at a specific section in the game, kind of similar to the way Left4Dead had their characters saying a number of different lines for the same section of a level. It’s really have a cool way of adding more information to the story while making the game feel a little different each playthrough.
Jason K: It’s important for us to blend the story seamlessly into the gameplay and we’re looking at all the options available to us. :]

Josh Knowles: So, can you tell us a little about the story that you have so far? Just from watching the video, I have to admit I was intrigued.

Jason K: Thank you. The alpha video is honestly just a prototype with a few rough ideas for how I’d like things to play out here and ther e(and I hope you’ll forgive my one-man show on the voice acting, haha). Right now, the story for the game takes place about 200 years in the future where Earth is in constant global war. Those that escaped to colonies in space live in relative peace but profit from Earth’s plight by supplying weapons and war materials to the factions at war on the planet. I want the game to explore the ideologies of those that facilitate and in a way perpetuate this system to support their lifestyle. Should a society function to increase war elsewhere so that they may remain in peace? And again, I merely want to ask questions about this and leave it up to the player to decide, because the issue is very complicated. It occurs in our world today, but nothing is truly black of white. The player’s role in this story is mucking it up in the gray area and hopefully coming away with some kind of meaining in the end. While the subject matter is serious, I want the game to retain a tone that isn’t completely depressed though and we’re doing that by having a snarky, detached main character that is able to criticize, make fun of, and joke about the things around him, even if they are very serious. The player’s character, Eind Westgunne, is a colonist from space who has never visited the planet, so his views of Earth will be much different from the player’s. In a way he’s holding a mirror up to the player and quite literally asking why things are the way they are, but still in a way that’s still not taking its subject matter THAT seriously. In the end, the game is just a game about blowing things up gloriously. 

Josh Knowles: That actually sounds quite cool, so what gameplay features are you hoping will set Heaven Variant apart from other games?

Jason K: Right now, we have your traditional 2D shooter gameplay, but we allow the player sacrifice their movement to aim in 360 degrees, which is not the norm for the genre.
Jason K: We also have your staple armor degradation systems for enemies, and when the player is given the ability to manually aim, it allows the player to precisely pick apart enemies, which we’re using to develop gameplay strategies and styles of play. We also have a number of weapons the player can equip ranging from machine guns to melee weapons. We want to give the player a number of options for how to dispatch enemies. Some weapons will be better suited for the situation at hand which adds a strategic element to the gameplay. And again, the presentation of story elements will hopefully set us apart.

Josh Knowles: So far, what is the coolest weapon you have added into the game?

Jason K: Well, that’s very subjective. I’m personally in love with the Energy Blade. It’s exactly what it sounds like and it was feautred in our alpha prototype video halfway through. With the 360 degree aiming, it is really fun to swing around slice enemies with it because the rotation of the weapon is 1:1 to where you aim. With that said, the Vulcan Machine Gun’s constant barrage of sparks and ricochet sounds is pretty sexy, too. Haha.
Jason K: When we get giant chainsaws implemented I’ll have to revise my answer though. Haha.

Josh Knowles: Another cool thing I noticed in the Heaven Variant trailers is the soundtrack. Where did you draw most of your inspiration from?

Jason K: Thanks for the kind words. I’m producing the music to be as nostalgia inducing as possible. Haha. I want to embrace a retro feel because it helps sell the setting and tone of the game. As far as inspirations go, the original StarFox, the Thunder Force series, and hell, everything from Konami in the mid-1990s were major influences.
Jason K: It would also be very wrong of me not to mention Turrican, whose soundtrack is still amazing 20 years later.
Jason K: I could go on and on.

Josh Knowles: So, you obviously have some serious love for the old school shoot-em up, what is your all time favorite?

Jason K: Oh man, that’s like making a father pick which of his children he love’s best! Haha. I suppose I’d have to go with Einhander. It’s resonated with me the most after all these years.
Jason K: Hell, anything by Treasure, too. Haha. Again, I could go on and on about this, too!

Josh Knowles: I certainly see a a bit of Einhander in Heaven Variant, I was a Thunder Force(Spirits)/ Life Force fan myself. Do you plan on the game being solely a PC release?

Jason K: Those are good ones. Props on good taste! :]
Jason K: As far as the release goes, right now we’re aiming for PC. Mac may be a very distinct possibilty also, but PC is are focus currently. If everything goes just swimmingly, we’d love to get the game out on as many platforms as possible, but right now PC is our focus.
Jason K: Any releases on different platforms really hinge on how well the PC release goes.
Jason K: Fingers crossed!

Josh Knowles: Any ideas on a hopeful time frame for release?

Jason K: Shooting for a mid-2012 release. With that said, we’re all doing this on the side, so if we hit any bumps in the road that could get pushed back a hair, but mid-2012 is our goal right now.

Josh Knowles: You’ve certainly been making progress in the right direction! Are any current games doing their best to distract you in the completion of Heaven Variant?

Jason K: My God, man! The Steam sale is going on and is going to ruin not only my productivity but my bank account! Haha. I have a backlog of games on there alone. Right now though, Skyrim has consumed a lot of my life, and I’ll be starting Skyward Sword one of these days once I can kick the addiction. Haha. I actually have been meaning to finish Persona 4, I know I’m late to the party on that one.

Josh Knowles: Outside of Heaven Variant, what’s your most anticipated 2012 release?

Jason K: Metal Gear Rising. Hands down!
Jason K: Any game that lets me fight giant robots with a sword is a game I can get behind. Haha.
Jason K: I’m a little bit of a Metal Gear fanboy.

Josh Knowles: Doesn’t Raiden actually suplex a giant mech in the trailer? I can’t argue, it looks like pure action!

Jason K: *drool* haha
Jason K: Yeah, it looks very cool.

Josh Knowles: To wrap things up, do you have any thanks or shout outs you’d like to give?

Jason K: My team. Simon Inch is a programming wizard. He makes things possible that shouldn’t be. John Etheridge is modeling fiend. He makes amazing 3D art with my paradoxical M.C. Escher concept art! Haha. Without the two of them Heaven Variant’s development would not be possible and I cannot emphasize how absolutely vital the two of them are to the game’s production. They’re cool dudes, too. And a shout out to the University of Texas at Dallas for their cool game development programs.
Jason K: Outside of that, I’d like to thank you for hosting an awesome interview.

Josh Knowles: Any time Jason! I look forward to playing Heaven Variant!

 

Dec 232011
 

Well, it seams that Team Meat, the beloved indie studio behind Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, found themselves in a bit of a pickle recently. It turns out that Super Meat Boy was connecting to a remote MYSQL Database for their online content. After a user pointed out the flaw, they were politely but confidently brushed off.

What appears to of happened next is the involvement of the internet’s most infamous group, Anonymous. Anon hasn’t stepped forward and claimed responsibility for the hack yet but there certainly appears a few familiar pieces of evidence left behind, in usual Anon fashion.

I guess for future notice, turning a helpful hand away may not be the best idea.

Source: Reddit

Dec 232011
 

In Megabite #11, I discussed how to do the basic layout features for both GUI and GUILayout.  In this release, what I’ll be discussing is a bit more in-depth (You will want to already have a basic understanding of the previous article.)

The first thing I want to talk about is GUILayout.Window, which is a very cool feature, especially if you are planning on having a draggable elements such as an inventory system or perhaps a status window.  The command is simple enough, but the setup for a GUI window is a bit more complex than to just add your information into OnGUI.  First, you will want to declare a Rect variable and give it a name:

var myWindow : Rect;

function Awake() {
   myWindow = Rect(0,0,300,100);   //This will default our window to the upper-left corner, and set the minimum size as 300 wide and 200 tall.
}

Now we can set up our window command within OnGUI:

function OnGUI {
myWindow = GUILayout.Window(0, myWindow, MyGUIFunction, “My first draggable window!”);
}

At this point, we have our OnGUI function gather information from 2 places – our variable and also a function we will now create.  The “0″ in the commad above symbolized an ID number for the window, which is also found in this new function.  Because all of our regular GUI stuff will be actually located within this fuction, you may find this method to be a much cleaner way of laying out your regular GUI elements to begin with.

function MyGUIFunction (id: int) {
   GUILayout.BeginHorizontal(“box”);
      GUILayout.Label(“This box is draggable”);
   GUILayout.EndHorizontal();
   GUI.DragWindow();
}

Running your game with all of these pieces of code within a .js file should give you a draggable window.  The initial placement of the window can be manipulated in the section where you declare your Rect variable, and the window should resize based on the content as long as you are using GUILayout as opposed to simply GUI.  Of course, both of these are options an much of how you use this type of setup will be largely based on your own choices.

Next, I wanted to discuss the addition of textures into your GUI.  This could be useful for a lot of reasons, and you can use a standard picture or sprite-type image, or if you use Unity Pro you can actually add a render texture which is quite nice – basically the results of a camera can be sent into a texture format.  If you want a “video” element within your GUI (like a spinning 3d item, etc.), that’s the way to go.

Because access to Unity Basic is more universal, I’ll cover that end of things.  First, you’ll want to declare a texture variable:

var myPicture : Texture;

When you do that, you’ll end up with a drag/droppable section in the editor inspector.  You can import any picture you like into Unity and simply assign the image to the inspector.  Now you can use the GUI.Box or GUILayout.Box elements to display your texture as opposed to showing text.  if using the same code from above, just do it like this:

function MyGUIFunction (id: int) {
   GUILayout.BeginHorizontal(“box”);
      GUILayout.Box(myPicture);
   GUILayout.EndHorizontal();
   GUI.DragWindow();
}

Now you’ve got a fancy picture within your draggable window.  If you managed a render texture, you’ve actually got a video feed, which is also awesome. :)

Now, we’re going to talk about dynamic generation.  With the clean, functional layout we have here, it’s easy to use a FOR loop to actually make your window display information from an Array in a very dynamic way.  In this example, we’re going to replace our function after declaring an array.  For now, we’ll fill that array with a few strings for testing purposes.

var myArray = new Array(“One”, “Two”, “Three”, “F0ur”, “Five”);

function MyGUIFunction (id: int) {
   GUILayout.BeginHorizontal(“box”);
     for (var i=0; i < myArray.Length; i++) {
       GUILayout.Box(myArray[i]);
     }
   GUILayout.EndHorizontal();
   GUI.DragWindow();
}

What will happen here is that our draggable window should have 5 boxes – one for each element in our array.  You may want to eventually add spacing and such depending on what you’re going for, but this should give you an idea of what is possible.

Overall, there are a lot of options within the GUI command subset.  GUI elements are difficult to master, but they are not only a handy thing to learn but also an important part of any game for navigation, inventory, statistics, status readouts, and thousands of other uses.

The above concludes the actual “lesson” portion, but as an added bonus, I’ll paste a few pieces of GUI code functions below for some extra examples:  (as of today, this is code included in “Stellar“, and can be seen in-action here.)

function MakeWindow (id : int) {
 for (i = 0; i < mats.Length; i++) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box(camArray[i], GUILayout.ExpandWidth(false));
 GUILayout.Box("" + mats[i], GUILayout.ExpandHeight(true));
 GUILayout.Box("x " + gotItems[i], GUILayout.ExpandWidth(false));
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }
 GUI.DragWindow ();
}
function MakeCraft (id : int) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ();
 GUILayout.BeginVertical("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Available Upgrades:", GUILayout.ExpandHeight(false));
 scrollPosition = GUILayout.BeginScrollView (scrollPosition, GUILayout.Width (250), GUILayout.Height (450));
 if (gotItems[0] >= 10 && gotItems[1] >= 1 && enginePower <=1150) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Engine Power");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Upgrade")) {
 gotItems[0] = gotItems[0] - 10;
 gotItems[1] = gotItems[1] - 1;
 enginePower += 50;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[0] >= 10 && gotItems[2] >= 1 && rotSpeed <= 450) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Rotational Speed");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Upgrade")) {
 gotItems[0] = gotItems[0] - 10;
 gotItems[2] = gotItems[2] - 1;
 rotSpeed += 50;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[0] >= 10 && gotItems[1] >= 1 && gotItems[2] >= 1 && fireRate >= 0.3) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Firing Rate");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Upgrade")) {
 gotItems[0] = gotItems[0] - 10;
 gotItems[1] = gotItems[1] - 1;
 gotItems[2] = gotItems[2] - 1;
 fireRate -= 0.1;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[1] >= 5 && gotItems[2] >= 5 && gotItems[3] >= 2 && bulletCost >= 8) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Firing Cost");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Upgrade")) {
 gotItems[1] = gotItems[1] - 5;
 gotItems[2] = gotItems[2] - 5;
 gotItems[3] = gotItems[3] - 2;
 bulletCost -= 2;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[3] >= 5 && gotItems[4] >= 2 && boostPower <= 14) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("AfterBurners");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Upgrade")) {
 gotItems[3] = gotItems[3] - 5;
 gotItems[4] = gotItems[4] - 2;
 boostPower += 1;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[0] >= 30 && gotItems[1] >= 5 && gotItems[2] >= 5 && gotItems[3] >= 5 && gotItems[4] >= 5 && radar == false) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Install Radar");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Install")) {
 gotItems[0] = gotItems[0] - 30;
 gotItems[1] = gotItems[1] - 5;
 gotItems[2] = gotItems[2] - 5;
 gotItems[3] = gotItems[3] - 5;
 gotItems[4] = gotItems[4] - 5;
 radar = true;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 if (gotItems[0] >= 20 && gotItems[1] >= 5 && gotItems[2] >= 5 && gotItems[3] >= 5 && bounce == false) {
 GUILayout.BeginHorizontal ("box");
 GUILayout.Box("Bouncing Bullets");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Install")) {
 gotItems[0] = gotItems[0] - 20;
 gotItems[1] = gotItems[1] - 5;
 gotItems[2] = gotItems[2] - 5;
 gotItems[3] = gotItems[3] - 5;
 bounce = true;
 }
 GUILayout.EndHorizontal ();
 }

 GUILayout.EndScrollView ();
 GUILayout.EndVertical();
 GUILayout.BeginVertical ("box"); 
 GUILayout.Box("Current Stats:", GUILayout.ExpandHeight(false));
 //GUILayout.Box("Stats:", GUILayout.ExpandHeight(true));
 GUILayout.Label("Engine Power: " + enginePower);
 GUILayout.Label("Rotational Speed: " + rotSpeed);
 GUILayout.Label("Firing Rate: " + fireRate + " Sec. Delay");
 GUILayout.Label("Firing cost: " + bulletCost + " Energy");
 GUILayout.Label("Afterburners: " + boostPower + "x Speed");
 if (GUILayout.Button("Open Loot Inventory")) {
 showInv = true;
 }
 if (GUILayout.Button("Show Recipie Book")) {
 showRecipies = true;
 cwindowRect = Rect(cwindowRect.x,cwindowRect.y,700,200);
 }
 GUILayout.EndVertical ();
 if (showRecipies == true) {
 GUILayout.BeginVertical ("box");
 //Recipie List
 scrollPosition2 = GUILayout.BeginScrollView (scrollPosition2, GUILayout.Width (250), GUILayout.Height (450));
 GUILayout.Box("Engine Power:\n10 Scrap Metal\n1 Plasmoid");
 GUILayout.Box("Rotational Speed:\n10 Scrap Metal\n1 Nebulite");
 GUILayout.Box("Firing Rate:\n10 Scrap Metal\n1 Plasmoid\n1 Nebulite");
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Dec 232011
 

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Contains: Blood, Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Violence

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.


When the original Assassin’s Creed was released back in 2007, it was a unique and technically impressive game at a time in the console cycle where developers were  just really starting to reach the full potential of the hardware. The innovative crowd dynamics and fun parkour platforming were unlike any other game at the time, and while the game had its fair share of flaws, they were worth looking past to experience the game’s high points. The interesting “secret history” plot with a dash of science fiction made the game quite compelling from a story standpoint, and I was certainly interested in seeing where they would take it next. Two years later, Assassin’s Creed II fixed most of the issues from the first game while digging deeper into the sci-fi, and was an instant hit. Ubisoft then decided to put the series on a yearly development cycle, with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood the next year. I was initially skeptical of Brotherhood because of the one year development cycle and the big marketing push focusing on the addition of multiplayer, instead of my favorite thing about the series; story. I was pleasantly surprised however, and actually considered it to be my favorite game in the series, and with the crazy cliffhanger ending, I was hyped for the most recent game in the series, and the third in three years, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

Before I get into the game, let me issue a warning: If you haven’t played the prior games in the series, you have no business playing Revelations. You will have absolutely no idea what is going on, and it will not be an enjoyable experience at all. If you have any interest in this series, it is basically required that you start at the beginning. In this review, I am going to reference both the plot and gameplay mechanics of the prior games. I will attempt to remain as spoiler free as possible on the events of Revelations, but Assassin’s Creed I, II, and Brotherhood WILL BE SPOILED if you continue to read this review. You have been warned.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations takes place immediately following the events of Brotherhood. During both Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood, the world inside the Animus and the real world were beginning to bleed together for Desmond, and he was losing his grip on reality. After the Apple forced Desmond to stab Lucy at the end of Brotherhood, his mind went into a sort of catatonic state, and Rebecca and Shaun were forced to put him back into the Animus as life support for his mind. Because of this, all but the last 20 seconds of the game takes place inside the Animus. You do still play as Desmond however, but instead of running around the Auditore Villa at Monteriggioni, all the Desmond segments take place on Animus Island. Animus Island is a simulated island within the animus that Desmond can run around when he is not in a memory. Desmond meets up with what is left of subject 16, and he informs Desmond that to stop the fracturing of his mind, he needs to see the conclusion of Ezio and Altair’s journey as Assassins.There are some optional sequences where Desmond internally monologues about his past, and these are fairly interesting, but for the most part the story is focused on Ezio and Altair. Unfortunately, because the whole game takes place in the Animus, the core narrative about the impending catastrophic solar flare and the countdown to the launch of the Templar satellites doesn’t really move forward at all, and in this respect, the game sort of feels like it is a filler episode in the grand scheme of the series.

Ezio’s story picks up about 5 years or so after the end of Brotherhood, with Ezio now in his 50s. The game starts with Ezio heading to Masyaf, the home of the Assassin’s during Altair’s time, to fulfill one of his father’s dreams of learning of all the secrets Altair may have left behind. At Masyaf, Ezio finds a door to Altair’s library, which requires 5 keys to open, each of them hidden somewhere in Constantinople. This leads Ezio to travel to Constantinople, where the majority of the game takes place. Though his primary goal is to find the keys, he of course gets involved in the local politics and a struggle between two princes over the line of succession to become Sultan. Unsurprisingly, the Templar’s have a large presence in the city as well, and it all boils down to the same type of plot you’ve seen in past games in the series. There is also a bit of a romance sub-plot between Ezio and younger Italian woman that happens to be in Constantinople, and we get to see a softer side of Ezio in this game. It also turns out that the keys are actually First Civilization artifacts, with each holding a memory of Altair’s from various points throughout his life. Overall, Assassin’s Creed Revelations seems more interested in delivering back-story for the three main protagonists of the series, and gives some closure for both Ezio and Altair. If you are interested in learning more about these three characters, you will enjoy the story in Revelations, but you may be disappointed if you were expecting something as story significant as the past two games.

Dec 232011
 

Today, the PlayStation Blog has provided plenty of details on the pricing of accessories as well as launch titles for the upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld console.   In the past Sony has been criticized for the amount of money it costs to purchase one of their proprietary format memory cards.  Fortunately for future PSVita owners, it appears that the memory cards for the soon-to-be released handheld will be pretty accessible.  According to the blog, pricing as follows:

4GB Memory Card        $19.99

8GB Memory Card        $29.99

16GB Memory Card     $59.99

32GB Memory Card     $99.99

These prices are lower than what the video game retail store Gamestop had predicted.  As of this time Gamestop’s online store still shows the price of the 4GB memory card at $29.99 and the price for the 32GB memory card at $119.99.

The blog entry also details first and third party launch titles as well as the prices for other PSVita accessories.  For full details on accessory pricing and a complete list of PSVita launch titles head over to PlayStation Blog.

Dec 222011
 

As if speculation on the price of its next console weren’t enough, rumors on the Big N’s beloved franchise, Zelda, are starting to circle around.  This time the rumor involves Nintendo’s official Zelda art book, which according to a user posting on a Japanese website (translated by a Kotaku reader), contains an official timeline.

Is the official timeline kept within its pages?

The legendary, mystical and obscure Zelda timeline (heavily guarded and protected in Nintendo’s HQ by an army of Stalfos) might actually be real.  There are no screen shots of the inside of the art-book as of yet, so this might acutally be completely false.  However, the translation of said time line goes as represented in this graphic from the original Kotaku article:

The first four titles flow into one another, however it is in Ocarina of Time where the bifurcation of  story-lines take place.  If OOT Link fails in his fight with Ganon, then the storyline continues to A link to the Past.  If OOT Link wins against Ganon then the storyline separates into two, Young Link and Adult Link.  If you want to follow the Young Link timeline, then the story continues to Majora’s Mask.  If you follow the Adult Link timeline, then the story continues to the Windwaker.

Once again this is all rumor and speculation.  Through out the years many fans and websites have tried to make sense of a greater, convoluted story to The Legend of Zelda series.  Once such work would be Gametrailer’s The Legend of Zelda Retrospective.

The Official Zelda Art-book, Hyrule Historia, hasn’t been released yet.  Currently it is only planned to be released in Japan.  No word from Nintendo on the leaked timeline or the possibility of the art book being released outside Japan.

 

 

 

Dec 222011
 

In the beginning, there was the Atari 2600...

Christianity has Genesis, atheists have the Big Bang, and gamers have the Atari 2600.  This was the system which introduced millions of people to the interchangeable cartridge as well as the joy of having arcade games in your living room.  This saved the children of the world hundreds of thousands of quarters.  The most popular games were addicting, simple, and incredibly fun.  Over the course of about thirty years, the world very slowly took notice of the money you could make in the video game industry, and from these humble beginnings created an empire which would dominate society.  It spawned gigantic franchises, epic storylines, and currently makes more money than the film industry.  The most modern incarnation of Call of Dutymade a billion dollars faster than the juggernaut movie Avatar, which was not a small feat.  We now live in an age of professional gamers, multi-million dollar industry conventions, and consoles which are powerful enough to usurp big cable companies as the main conduit for news and entertainment.

Oh yes, that is ET: The Extra-Terrestrial. Among other things.

It was this fact that made me stop and really think about how big the video game industry is, how far they’ve come from simple toy and electronic companies.  I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’ve started to say things like “Back in my day, gaming was WAY better,” and I stand by it, however, going back even farther, I see that the games today are standing on the shoulders of giants, who in turn are standing on the shoulders of other giants.  It can be fun to look back on classic and retro games, and it is really interesting if we analyze them to see what made them great.  The Evolution of Gaming will take a critical look at video gaming, from its infancy to the powerhouse industry it is today. We will see the common themes, mechanics, and other traits which flow through gaming history and really solidifies what every inner child loves in games.  This will be the best history lesson ever, so pick up your controller, sit back, and hit start and select, because we’re resetting all the way back to the beginning!

Coming soon, we start off with sports games!

Dec 212011
 

Hideo Kojima’s next project entitled “Project Ogre” is set to veer away from a more linear gameplay style in favor of an open world type environment.

In an interview with CNN, Kojima explained that he would prefer to “make something very free” than something more cinematic like the “Metal Gear Solid” titles.  According to the report, Kojima wants a game with “a very open entrance” for players to explore.

In the interview, Kojima detailed the game stating that it is, “set in a very open world where players can wander around and explore freely. Players should still be able to find new sights and worthwhile adventures after having played the game for as many as 100 hours.”

More details of the game include that it will be developed with a new graphic engine called the Fox Engine that was created by Kojima’s team as well as the game rumored to take place around the Middle East region (based on previously released screenshots).

I wonder what crazy Kojima has up his sleeves this time around?

Source: VG247

Dec 202011
 

With Christmas less than a week away, I’m sure everyone has already filled out their wish lists with the biggest and best games of 2011. Many gamers are going to find things like Gears of War 3, Skyrim, and Uncharted 3 under their trees this year, but I’m sure many may also find an Xbox Live or Playstation Network pre-paid card in their stockings. This far into the console generation, there are dozens of fantastic games available on each of these services. When you’re deciding where to spend you’re digital money this holiday, consider these 10 amazing downloadable titles. As with any list, only games I’ve played are eligible, and you’re always free to disagree. A special caveat for this one; ports, retail games also available for download, and re-releases do not count, only original games or total remakes (graphics, music, etc.) are eligible for this list.

10. Dungeon Defenders (XBLA, PSN, Steam)

Of all the games that try to blend tower defense and action, Dungeon Defenders is the best of the bunch. Whether you are looking for a loot driven Action RPG, a challenging tower defense game, or a fun cooperative experience, you will find a lot to like about Dungeon Defenders. When you think of what you get out of a downloadable game, 5 or 6 hours is usually the most you could expect; but Dungeon Defenders is around 10 hours from the campaign alone, with additional challenge levels and modes of play adding to that amount. When it comes to well realized co-op and bang for your buck, Dungeon Defenders is one of the best downloadable games available on any platform.

9. Wipeout HD (PSN)

Most people don’t think of cheap downloadable games being technical powerhouses, but Wipeout HD certainly is. This game looks fantastic running in 1080p and the silky smooth 60 fps is how this style of game is meant to played. If you’re unfamiliar with this long running series, it is a futuristic arcade style racing game that is sort of a cross between F-Zero and Mario Kart. Wipeout HD features tracks from many of the past games in the series, re-mastered for the PS3, with several different modes of play. There is a challenge based single player campaign, but like most racing games, it really shines in multiplayer.

8. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved (XBLA)

Geometry Wars is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the popularization of the dual joystick shooter. Whether you go with the original or the sequel, you can’t go wrong with Geometry Wars. This game is the definition of easy to learn, hard to master. For such a simplistic game, it sure can eat away the time. Be prepared to continuously tell yourself “just one more try” after hours of trying to beat a friend’s score or nab a tough achievement.

Dec 192011
 

Notch went head-to-head with other game developers in Ludum Dare’s competition.  Ludum Dare describes itself as a “The Rapid Game Creation Community,” with rapid being a gross understatement.   The site’s main draw are its ‘LD48 Comp’ events, which are a competitions to make a game in 48 hours based on a given theme.  After the allowed time is over, the team of game developers submit their projects and vote on them.

Notch, of Minecraft fame, entered this month’s competition and thus Minicraft was born.  The theme for the Ludum Dare’s 22nd competition was ‘Alone.’  The premise for Minicraft is to “kill the only other sentient being in the world, making sure you’ll be alone forever.”  While not entirely original (it is essentially 2D Minecraft), the game shows a great amount of polish for a project created in only 48 hours.

 

Dec 192011
 

For those who downloaded the Back to Karkland expansion pack for Battlefield 3, you’re in for a treat.  On the Wake Island map, developers placed the number “2143″ on a set of boxes, possibly hinting at a sequel in the near future.

The number relates to the outstanding futuristic spin off game of the Battlefield series, Battlefield 2142.  Though this could be a slight homage to Battlefield 2142, this would not be the first time Dice has done this.  In Battlefield 2, the developer hinted at a Battlefield 2142 title after placing the number “2142″ on several boxes in Battlefield 2′s map packs.

Several Dice developers have stated in interviews their fondness with Battlefield 2142 as well as numerous veteran Battlefield gamers who continue to play the game since its release in 2006.

No word yet from Dice or EA at this time, but hopefully something will go on record soon.  Even if it is just a DLC with a few extra maps, developing anything related to 2142 including the ever so popular Titan mode would make many gamers very happy, including myself.

Source: VG247

Dec 182011
 

In the last month, I’ve looked at quite a few different ways to tell a story in video games. Some of them work better than others, but video games still haven’t reached the point where the majority of games tell an engaging story. Video games are relatively young compared to other entertainment mediums, and video games that try to tell a meaningful story are an even newer occurrence. However, regardless of the storytelling method, the one thing that every good story ever told has in common is writing. Good writing can make up for other shortcomings, and no matter how interesting the premise is, poor writing will always drag down the experience.

An example of an interesting setting and premise being hurt by lack of quality writing would be Gears of War. I’ve already talked about Gears of War’s ineptitude in the storytelling department with its poorly executed cutscenes, and the low quality writing contributes to this. The characters in Gears of War are nothing more than standard archetypes with only the minimum of what you would call “personality”. All of Marcus Fenix’s dialogue consists of yelling orders or shouting about the presence of enemies. The other characters fit directly into archetypes we’ve seen in dozens of games and films before. You’ve got the best friend, the guy who thinks he should be in charge, and the over the top racial stereotype. The plot is by no means bad, but when the characters have hardly any characteristics other than cliches, getting the player to care at all about the story becomes more of a challenge. It is possible to tell a good story even when all the characters are cliches, but the lack of any real character interaction other than the “heat of battle” combat chatter makes the whole thing less compelling. We may be told that Marcus and Dom are best friends, but you wouldn’t really know that based on their interactions. As poorly written as the original Gears of War is, the series has gotten better as it went, and Gears of War 3 is at least competent in the writing and storytelling department.

As poorly as Gears of War executed on a somewhat interesting premise, Rockstar is the best in the industry at taking a familiar premise and setting and making it compelling and entertaining. Two perfect example of this are Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The setting and premise of GTA IV is one that has been used in a million times in both video games and other media, but the strong writing and well developed characters make it really stand out. A decent man with a checkered past moving to New York City (or a facsimile of NYC in this case) to try to start over, but getting caught up in criminality once again is certainly a story that has been told before, but those signature Rockstar touches and just strong writing overall make GTA IV an enjoyable experience. Over the course of the game, Niko Bellic meets many characters, and all of them are well realized and unique. Red Dead Redemption also has a fairly standard premise. John Marston in a decent man with a checkered, trying to find someone responsible for betraying him. Many classic westerns have used this or a similar premise, but once again, it is well developed characters and strong writing that make Red Dead Redemption much more than just a boring a rehash of popular western tropes.

Generation Kill was an HBO miniseries that took a realistic approach to war

A common mistake I feel many game developers make is thinking that having solid game design and fun gameplay makes the story less important. Many shooters, like Gears of War, fall into this trap. The Call of Duty games are also a perfect example of this. It’s not just that the writing and storytelling in the Call of Duty games is sub standard, but more like they just decided that it wasn’t important. Granted, to a large percentage of their audience, it isn’t important, but that is no excuse to just phone in the story like they do. I would love to see a modern military game that actually takes a serious approach to storytelling. Most of these so-called “realistic” modern military games are really just over the top action with a juvenile good vs. evil plot. It would be interesting to see a military game take more serious tone along the lines of something like Band of Brothers or Generation Kill. The great thing about video games is that they could still appeal to their current audience with the gameplay and multiplayer, but then give those looking for a serious and compelling story something to like as well.

Dec 172011
 

Cobalt Alpha out now!

Oxeye Studio’s first game is now out for pre-order! Cobalt is being published by Mojang, the developers of Minecraft and Scrolls. Cobalt is a 2D side-scrolling – action –adventure game, at least that is the best way I could think of putting it.

The game is going to be marketed and released the same way Minecraft was, it is being released in an Alpha mode, (which is right now), then will progress into a Beta, and then the full version. All the while, it will be increasing in price. The current alpha price is 9.95€ which is about $13.00. The game looks like great fun, you spend money to buy weapons and ammo in the survival mode, and pick up loot from enemies.

Multiplayer is still up in the air. As of right now, there is local multiplayer, but even though Oxeye would love to put in network multiplayer at some point, they realize it might not happen. You can pre-order the alpha right now at http://www.playcobalt.com/ . This will give you immediate access to the game’s Alpha, as well as free upgrades to the Beta and Gold versions of the game.

Dec 172011
 
We had another opportunity to talk with Geoff Keene, of Sandswept Studios and DETOUR fame, about his latest project. Sandswept’s next game looks to be an epic zombie survival game that will go by “The Dead Linger”. Geoff took some time to answer a few questions about this upcoming game and let us know a little more about what we can expect.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for taking time out to answer some more questions.

Of course! We love talking about our games!

First off, how have you been since the release of Detour? How has feedback been?

As a team, we’ve all been doing well. We’re more than eager to keep on going. As for DETOUR, it’s played out mostly how we expected — highly hit and miss, depending on the audience. Some people find it great and loads of fun, some people don’t.


After the release of Detour, where did you get the inspiration for The Dead Linger?

The Dead Linger was actually inspired long, long before DETOUR. I began writing the idea and design for it when I was 15 or so, about 6 years ago. The game is mostly inspired by Max Brooks “The Zombie Survival Guide”, and all zombie survival games I’ve played since have failed to live up to true zombie survival in so many ways. Only now has the timing and technology caught up to where we want to be to make it a reality. We also found that we should spend more time working on the game ideas we’ve really want to play, instead of short-changing ourselves by trying to fit a market, the way we did with DETOUR.


What can you tell us about the game so far?

The Dead Linger is, simply put, the long awaited first person zombie survival horror that so many players are looking for, but have yet to see created to the full potential that the zombie survival genre offers. The very essence of the game is “What if you were in a realistic, terrifying zombie apocalypse?” The overly saturated zombie genre has been a rotting corpse in the game industry for far too long. We’re bringing the true essence of zombie survival back in at full swing, re-envisioning it the way it should be. The Dead Linger is a true game of apocalyptic survival in a horrifying, desolate, zombie-infested world.


How will the multiplayer features work in The Dead Linger? How many players do you expect to have playing together at the same time?

We’ve built the game from the ground up for multiplayer support, not limited to any specific number. We want you to grab your friends and survive. We’re assuming anywhere from about 1 to 8 people would be the ideal gameplay experience, but it will support many more, including optional player vs. player amongst the zombie hordes.


Is it going to be set up so you can become more proficient in certain things, allowing your skills to help the rest of the survivors?

Yes! We’re planning on doing a fairly fluid skill leveling system — i.e. you do a specific task, you will become better at it. Along with that, we have some ideas for what we’re calling “survivor attributes”. These are planned to let players unlock and choose 3 or so, to further differentiate and respect their playstyle from others. Someone could, for example, have an attribute that makes them a better marksmen, or better with melee weapons, or run more silently.


You mentioned that the world is infinite, what kind of locales will you travel through? Any plans on weather effects?

Yes, the world will be infinite. We may allow the player/host to enforce some limits to keep players within a ‘reasonable’ range, particularly for player vs. player servers, or whatever they might imagine. And that’s the beauty of TDL. We plan to leave most things fully customizable so players can set up servers and play whatever game-within-the-game they can come up with.

The setting is a psuedo-America, so to speak. Nothing will be real world scenes, and everything will be randomly and procedural generated, from the streets to the very room layout of a house. The early builds are planned to feature some basic suburban environments (i.e. neighborhood), some hills, forestry and park space mixed amongst that. After that, the range is quite broad. Rural farmland, densely packed cities (yes, with tall, fully explorable buildings), and a few more that we’re keeping under wraps until we’ve moved a bit further along. Something we’re trying to keep away from is the constant ‘brown’ color you find in modern games. We’re going for a vibrant, colorful, real world. That means houses that are seemingly untouched, as well as a blood-stained sidewalk, or a looted store. We want everyone to experience the world — post zombies outbreak. (Not post brown-tinted nuclear war)

There will definitely be weather. Weather will not only add a certain mood and atmosphere, coming and going, it will also add distinct gameplay advantages and disadvantages. Fog rolling in, for example, can be both a blessing and a curse. You can’t see very far, but neither can the undead. Another example would be rain and thunderstorms, muffling sound and, if you’re lucky, perhaps even allow a gunshot to go unnoticed. We’ll be attempting to add all the various weather types we can think of, as they play such a crucial role in true, real world survival.


How about vehicles, any plans on cars, planes, boats and trains?

We have plans for cars, boats, possibly aircraft, and possibly trains. We have every one of these designed out fairly well in how they would operate and work, but whether or not we implement will be up in the air (hah!) until we have a bit more finished.


I see that there is user created content from your forums, what can we expect to see from that in game?

If someone submits an item (once the submission system goes live on thedeadlinger.com), we will check to ensure it fits all of our item rules, and if it’s awesome, we’ll put it in and give it some gameplay purpose. The list of submittable content will be rather broad, from props to items to vehicles to ‘journals’. Anyone interested in that should definitely keep an eye on the Sandswept.net forums, particularly around the Survivor Creations board.


Which users contribute the most so far?

I couldn’t say right now, but we love seeing the fan-fiction ‘diaries’ and the like. Very cool stuff!


What kind of game will The Dead Linger be? Top down, third person, first person?

First person, all the way. We have no plans to ever break out of first person; not when you’re dying, not when you’re driving, not when you’re grappled. You are the survivor.

That said, we’re open to adding a third person option if the demand is high enough. A lot of gamers seem to really like 3rd person view in horror games, but for me personally, it breaks the atmosphere a lot. Along those same lines, characters will generally remain silent protagonists.


Something I always thought would be cool is risk of infection in a survival game, any plan on that? If so, can you spread the infection?
We have a great system planned for infection. It has always irked me that survivors of zombie films seem to run about with infected blood all over their faces. Zombie just splattered blood on you when you hit it with an axe? You better wash that off. Seriously. We’ll explain the system more in detail on our blog when it is added to a future build.

I know The Dead Linger is still in it’s infant stages, with an alpha on the way. When will you expect for that to launch?

We’re trying to have something recognizable as a playable game around the beginning of next year, and hopefully then we can show it off and let everyone else get their hands on it too. Unfortunately, this will come down to “when it’s ready” and not a moment sooner. Luckily, players will get to play all the way through alpha, beta, and final release! We await this moment in giddy anticipation, and I’m sure many others do as well.


Are you planning on this being solely a Windows, Mac and Linux game, or are you planning on expanding into consoles?

We’re going to focus on the PC platforms for the time being. If the demand is high enough, we will absolutely look at bringing it to other systems.


What do you think the best zombie game has been up to this point?

That’s a tough one, and I had to think about it for awhile. I’d say my favorite has been Left 4 Dead 2, but it’s never given me the scary, survival experience I’ve wanted. Whil it’s certainly a fun action shooter, I’ve been rather disappointed in the zombie genre as a whole. All of the current zombie games simply motivate me further to get The Dead Linger out there for everyone to play.


Have you been playing any games recently? If so, which ones?

Oh boy. Well, I play pretty much everything I can get my hands on, but I suppose the latest one has been Skyrim. That’s a fun adventure, for sure.


Well, I’ll let you get back to creating undead! Any departing words for the readers?

The zombie genre has died. We’re bringing it back from the dead.

Dec 162011
 

As 2011 comes to close and 2012 welcomes gamers with open arms, I must say this year in general was kind of a bore for gaming.  We got a handful of sequels with only a few of them being quite notable, a new Nintendo system that still has gamers in confusion on what it really is, and Xbox Live getting a shitty new dashboard.  Every upcoming new year, I always get a hunch that the next year is going to be a landmark one for gaming.  Even though my record is pretty awful in that assumption,  I have a feeling (the good kind) 2012 will be one to remember in gaming.  Here are some of my bold predictions on what’s to come for the industry in 2012.

-Microsoft to Announce New Console:  This is one I truly believe will happen in 2012.  With the company rumored to be sending next gen developer kits to designers, this is a fairly good sign that that Microsoft has something in the works.  Nintendo announced their new system at E3 2011, so it would be in the company’s best interest to follow in Nintendo’s track to get their start in gaming’s next generation.  The real question here is what to expect from Microsoft concerning a new system.  With Xbox 360 steering away from a sole gaming device to a multimedia platform, will the next Microsoft console be a traditional game system or much more?

-Half Life 3:  When I say Half Life 3, I don’t mean the game being released.  What I mean here is, ANYTHING!  An announcement, a screenshot, a sentence about the much, much anticipated title; anything will do.  Gabe and the team over at Valve have been of course keeping their mouths’ closed about the title.   A few weeks ago,  one Valve employee was seen wearing a Half Life 3 t-shirt at some function.  Can this be the sign gamers have been waiting for, a new Half Life title?  Only 2012 has the answer to that burning question.

-More of the Same Games:  Every year, there seems to be the same old games being released to the public.  You have the first person military shooter in which players fight off against Russia or a Middle Eastern nation.  You have the horror game that instead of thrills and genuine scares come zombies, zombies, and more zombies.  To be frank, I’m tired of seeing the same old copy and paste titles being released by the gaming mill.  Unfortunately, these games sell and the general public enjoy them, and because of that I have a sense gamers will be seeing more of the same come 2012.

-Rise in Independent Games:  In 2011, independent developers launched truly impressive titles that stand as some of the best games of the year.  In 2012, I believe more gamers will come to realize the brilliance and creativity these games hold and begin to gain more of an interest in them.  As I mentioned before with AAA titles being similar depending on their respectable genre, more gamers will grow tired of playing the generic title month after month.  Players will seek a new type of experience in gaming, and I believe that independent games will guide them in doing that.

-Star Wars: The Old Republic Gives World of Warcraft Run for its Money:  My boldest and borderline insane prediction yet.  With the anticipation for the The Old Republic growing and the title being a step forward in the MMO genre in terms of the gameplay, customization, and conversational aspects, this MMO is expected to truly revolutionize the genre.  Based on the anticipation from gamers and the fact that it is Star Wars, I personally believe that The Old Republic will be the one MMO that brings a challenge in terms of fan base against World of Warcraft.  I’m not saying that the title will quickly surpass WoW, but at some point in 2012, The Old Republic will be in the same ranks.  Like I mentioned, it’s a bold prediction, and last time I made this kind of assumption was when Star Trek Online was in development, and look how that game turned out.  If The Old Republic can generate much interest from non-MMO players like myself, than the title will gain popularity unlike anyone had ever imagine it would.

-Microsoft and Nintendo Play the Old Switch-A-Roo: Nintendo has always aimed at the casual gamer audience while Microsoft tends to focus more on the core/hardcore gamer.  However, in 2011, gamers saw a slight movement between both ends of each company’s spectrum.  Now, Nintendo is looking to snag that core gamer audience with their Wii U and attempt to produce more mature titles in the near future.  Microsoft, on the other hand, still continues to reach the core market, but with a strong focus on Kinect and other “casual” gamer oriented applications through Xbox Live, the company is now looking to capture the recreational gamer.  Of course, the two will continue to do what they’re doing, so no worries there.

-Sony Focuses on Playstation 3, Continues to Apologize:  In 2012, I predict that Sony’s going to take a little vacation time after all the hiccups that happened in 2011.  Maybe next year, they’ll focus on optimizing the Playstation 3 with extra security measures, more applications that appeal to a wide range of audiences, etc.  Something tells me that the company is not yet ready to introduce a new system, at least not till the end of 2012.  With no real hint that Sony is in the process of creating a next generation system, don’t be surprised if the company takes time to more so focus on their current hardware than look towards the future of gaming.  Oh yeah, the countless apologies Sony issues every other week, they’ll keep coming.

-Apocalypse:  Not so much a gaming prediction, but it does affect gaming as a whole.  Yes, in 2012, the world will come to an end.  The Mayans prophesized it thousands of years ago that humanity would be wiped from the face of the Earth.  Fire will reign from the sky, oceans will engulf the earth, and dinosaurs will make a triumphant return for some odd reason.  Because of that, you best spend your time doing what you’ve always wanted to do with gaming before time runs out.  Get a 100% on Grand Theft Auto 4, pull out that Nintendo 64 and play some old school Goldeneye.  Hell, go out and finally buy that Virtual Boy you wanted as a kid.  Come December 2012, everything will be gone, including you.  Though, it’d be pretty embarrassing to go down while playing a Virtual Boy, just saying.

Dec 162011
 

Working with Remote Procedure Calls – “RPC”s – is a bit confusing at first.  First, let me go into a bit of applicable context and make things more understandable.

An RPC is needed when we are going to execute a function on a remote machine while connected on a network.  They use what is called a “Network View” to accomplish this, and of course your game must be network-connected.  (There are plenty of different downloads via Unity and the Asset store directly that will get you that far to begin with).

The scripting behind an RPC works similar to a regular function, except it has a tag like this:

@RPC
function MyRPCFunction() {
iDidSomething = true;
}

To execute the function, you need to start it from the Network View component, which can be easily attached to any GameObject.  Via javascript, we do something like this:

networkView.RPC(“MyRPCFunction”, RPCMode.Server);

The RPCMode requirement is tell Unity who we are communicating with.  In this case, what would happen here is that the server for the game would get the “iDidSomething” variable changed, but nobody else would – including the original sender.  This feature is invaluable for manipulating data across a network.  When choosing a mode, we can choose:

  • All
  • AllBuffered
  • Others
  • OthersBuffered
  • Server

Now the trickiness lies in the contingency that we need to be careful to make sure everything flows.  Whatever object our script is attached to must have a Network View component, if we’re trying to change variables or execute things on another connection, we need to be certain that those things already exist on their system as well (If a server has a script that clients do not, for example.)

It can be frustrating at first, but eventually writing these functions becomes second nature.  Fortunately Unity’s development console will give you a list of RPC errors just like any other scripting issue.  For the most part, it will be fairly easy to pin down problems by running your editor as a server and a build as a client, and then vice-versa with your eye on the error readout.  In this way, you can see if the problem is client-side or server-side.

There are many different ways to set up the server/client relationship within Unity.  Because of a more recent project, most of my experience is with an Authoritative server setup, meaning that the server makes all the final calls – each client sends input to the server, and the server moves the player around on their own screen.  This choice was made to ultimately make the game “fair” for multiple players in the event that someone has a sub-par connection.   While I will show how this works within this article, I wanted to first touch on another subject that boggled me as I developed:

Network.Instantiate

There was a distinct lack of information out there on this subject, so I wanted to try and explain how this worked as it applied to me.  Being that my last project was my first networked project, there were a few things I needed to wrap my head around:

  • When we just use Instantiate on a server or client, nothing is networked automatically.  Thus, it can’t be seen on another machine unless we go the extra mile to be sure.
  • If we do an RPC call and make everybody Instantiate an object, that object is seen by all, but also controlled via each machine.  It STILL isn’t truly networked unless we go that extra mile.
  • Network.Instantiate will basically make a single object across ALL machines.  It does all the extra mile work for us, and it is controlled by the machine that spawns it.  If you are using this command, make sure it only is run by one machine (like the server).  If everybody runs the code at the same time, you will have a mess.

“The extra mile”

There are situations where we want to do something similar to Network.Instantiate, but perhaps not exactly.  So, let me be clear about what it actually does when we use it.  Network.Instantiate is powerful because it automatically serializes the object.  In essence, we do have a single object as far as the network is concerned, and when it is affected, it is affected network-wide.  In truth, the command is not as powerful as what it does behind the scenes – automatic serialization.

As we move forward, we will find a great many situations in which we want serialized data.  A health bar is a good example.  Let’s say for instance that an enemy spawns with 100 health.  That enemy is hit by an existing player, and now it has 50 health.  Now, a brand-new player enters the game.  Without serialized data, that new player would perceive that the enemy has full health if the data was not serialized correctly.

So, how do we serialize?  Well, we need a Network View to send/receive the data.  Whatever script contains the health variable can be dragged onto it so it is being “watched”.  Now, we need to tell unity what needs to be transferred over the net:

function OnSerializeNetworkView(stream : BitStream, info :NetworkMessageInfo) {
if (stream.isWriting) {
var healthC : int = currentHealth;
stream.Serialize(healthC);
} else {
var healthZ : int = 0;
stream.Serialize(healthZ);
currentHealth = healthZ;
} }

This section of code came directly from the unity reference for OnSerializeNetworkView.  This is another fancy built-in Unity function that comes in very handy for this exact purpose.  It determines automatically what to send/receive based on ownership, and it will be sure your health variable is the same throughout the network.

Back to the RPCs

After all that, we now understand a bit more about the inner-workings of a network.  Now, let’s put it into a basic, understandable script.  What we’ll do here is have an object that is instantiated into an auth-networked game (Not network.instantiated, just regularly.)  As such, both the player and the server see it on their own screens, and we want to take the player input and give it to the server to make our object shoot.

function Update() {

if (Network.isClient) {
if (Input.GetKey(“space”)) {
shootButton = true;
} else {
shootButton = false;
}
if (shootButton = true && Time.time > nextFire) {
nextFire = Time.time + 1.5;
networkView.RPC(“Fire”, RPCMode.Server);
}
}
}

@RPC
function Fire() {
var fired = Network.Instantiate(bullet, transform.position, Quaternion.identity,0);
fired.GetComponent(bulletControl).enabled = true;
}

So, in this case our player’s spacebar is being monitored for input and rate of fire.  On the server side, we have the server create the bullet and enable the script to control how it moves.  (That way seemed to simplify things much more for me when dealing with eliminating the bullet later in a very clean manner.)  We’ve minimized the amount of RPC data that will be sent for this scenario, which will save a bit of bandwidth as well (instead of sending an RPC at every keypress, we do it only when something can be fired.)  In addition, because the server created the bullet, the server can easily destroy it with Network.Destroy.

Bufferiffic

Lastly, I wanted to speak about the buffer.  Network.Instnatiate automatically does it, so it’s likely that it’s something you’ll want to consider in your design.  An RPC function to “All” or “Others” can also be “AllBuffered” or “OthersBuffered”.  When you buffer, you are keeping a queue of commands that will execute for players if they connect to the server after the commands are run.

This is very useful to consider, because the last thing you want is non-synchronized objects in-game because of bad timing.  RPCs can add things to the buffer, and things can also be manually removed from the buffer in the same manner.

So, before you have a client fire out an RPC call to All or Others, be sure to ask yourself if a player joining thereafter will need to know that this thing just happened.  If so, you will need to be sure your RPCMode is buffered.

 

Dec 162011
 

 

Action/Adventure Game of The Year:

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword won in not only the staff vote but the fan vote as well. We are as glad as anyone else to see Miyamoto’s legendary franchise redeem it’s former greatness.

Role Playing Game of The Year:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Although the fan turnout for Disgaea 4 was impressive, the staff majority beat out the total vote with a small margin. Skyrim certainly has what it takes to be considered one of the greatest games of all time. Bethesda continues to set their expectations higher and higher

Shooter of the Year:

Battlefield 3

The fan vote tipped the scales in the favor of Battlefield 3! EA’s epic shooter has just recieved a nifty expansion as well and with it a whole group of players that left for greener pastures in the meantime.

Fighting Game of the Year:

Mortal Kombat

By an almost unanimous vote, Mortal Kombat beheaded the competition with it’s classic styled gameplay and old school gore. Will we see a continuation of success in the once disgraced fighter or will Mortal Kombat continue as a golden franchise?

Indie Game of the Year:

Terraria

The fan vote truly allowed Terraria to beat out Minecraft in voting by under 1%. The funny thing about that was that their voters didn’t show up until the very end. With that being said, Terraria is an ever growing adventure with crazy weapons and awesome gadgets. With nearly unlimited replayability, it is a game that both you and your friends should be enjoying right now.

Family Game of the Year:

Rayman Origins

Ubisoft’s classic platformer was reinvigorated with hand drawn characters and crisp HD graphics, but what really made gamer’s fall in love with this game were features like couch based 4 player co-op. While the staff seemed split on their decision, readers definately pushed Rayman to the top of the class.

Platformer of the Year:

Super Mario 3D Land

The 3DS seemed destined to fizzle and flop at the begining of it’s life cycle, since many of it’s games were remakes and ports. Now that it is getting original content, such as the super awesome Super Mario 3D Land, the system looks like it has a leg to stand on in the portable console battle. Once again, a strong showing by the readers helped Mario nab another trophy for his collection.

Puzzle/Strategy Game of the Year:

Portal 2

In the most lopsided vote of the year, Portal 2 beat out it’s closest competition by 80% when we considered the staff voting as well! Who doesn’t love an amazing and immersive game that makes your think that also includes one of the most enjoyable co-op campaigns ever created? Obviously our Editor in Chief, Josh Knowles. He hates fun and apparently puppies too.

Sports Game of the Year:

Forza 4

With a full line-up of sports games out this year, the vote came down to Forza 4 and FIFA 12. Our readers’ vote quickly turned the table on a split staff vote. Both games featured some of the most beautiful graphics seen in a sports game this generation but it appears that cars are slightly more beloved than the most popular sport in the world.

Reader’s Choice Game of The Year:

 

Disgaea 4

This is a very special award, while we took votes for 6 games in 10 different categories, we always planned on having 11 awards. The Reader’s Choice Game of the Year represents the game that features the most individual votes. While the game was beat out in it’s individual category by a near unanamous staff vote, the amount of readers that voted for Disgaea 4 eclipsed every other game on the ballot. Folks, let this be a lesson to you all, this is the power of sardines!

Game of the Year 2011:

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Wow. Dovahkiin fus ro dah’d Link and his Skyward Sword right in the face on this one. Skyrim won the reader’s vote and also the staff vote convincingly. Bethesda’s epic RPG ended up becoming one of the most popular games on the internet as well as a source for many different memes. Everything about Skyrim screams “Instant Classic!” and deservedly so, the game allows each player to craft their character’s own story and adventure. This allows you to play the game the way you want to play it. Just remember though, if you get in trouble, make sure you tell the guards that you are “The Thane of Whiterun”.

Dec 152011
 

Today, we stumbled upon an interesting picture posted by Reddit user Simmerj94. It would appear that DICE/EA are continuing to drop little hints about dino fun, that or they are expertly trolling the community (as we know major publishers love to do).

Either way, Battlefield 3 players deserve a pat on the back. They have cause enough fuss to get a major developer stop and pay attention to something silly that happened on the internet and could actually make their game better. They are definitely continuing to pay attention to dino-mania and with every little easter egg they throw in, that could be one step closer to trying to battle a T-rex with a tank.

The new egg happens to be a document that says the following:

Objective:
Retrieve all dinosaurs

Details:
We lost 5 or 6 dinosaurs on the island, it is of the utmost importance that we retrieve all samples and return them safely to HQ!

Additional Details:
The General promised cake!

Dec 142011
 

One of the flagship titles for the PS3′s Move controller was a title called ‘Sorcery.’  Virtually overnight, the PlayStation move demo became one of the most anticipated motion control titles.  That was back in E3 2010 and the team behind sorcery has been silent since then… until now.

Sorcery as shown in E3 2010

The PlayStation blog website has published a hands-on feature with the title.  The footage shown shows an older protagonist and bigger more menacing enemies.  The website also interviewed Brian Upton, the design director of the project, who details some of the changes the game has undergone since its unveiling.

The current build of Sorcery

The interview also revealed that Sorcery is “on-track” to be released this spring.  Read the full interview and check out some in-game footage over at PlayStation Blog.