Jan 102012
 

It was rumored after the Kinect’s release that Microsoft was looking to port the motion capture device to the PC.  Now that rumor has become true with Microsoft announcing Kinect for Windows at this year’s CES conference.

The device is set to hit stores on February 1.  Not only will the Kinect have functionality for some PC games, it will also have a communication usage for it.  Several companies like Toyota and Boeing have confirmed that they will utilize Kinect for Windows within their offices.  According to Microsoft’s Harry Hryb, Kinect for Windows, “will only work on computers running the SDK software”.

The bad news, Microsoft confirmed that the device will cost consumers $250; $100 more than the Kinect for Xbox 360.  Microsoft commented on the high price for Kinect for Windows.

“The ability to sell Kinect for Xbox 360 at its current price point is in large part subsidized by consumers buying a number of Kinect games, subscribing to Xbox LIVE, and making other transactions associated with the Xbox 360 ecosystem, ” said the Kinect to Windows Team.

“In addition, the Kinect for Xbox 360 was built for and tested with the Xbox 360 console only, which is why it is not licensed for general commercial use, supported or under warranty when used on any other platform.”

I think I’ll just stick to Kinect for Xbox 360, and save the extra $250

Source: Kotaku

 

Jan 092012
 

Well, not really, but Bethesda has some big news today. So you may have already heard, or maybe you haven’t, ZeniMax has received a favorable ruling in their suit against Interplay. Here is their own breakdown, straight from the horse’s mouth:

January 9, 2012 (Rockville, MD) –ZeniMax® Media Inc. today announced that a settlement had been reached in the lawsuit filed by its subsidiary, Bethesda Softworks®, against Interplay Entertainment Corporation in 2009, Bethesda Softworks LLC v Interplay Entertainment Corp., seeking cancellation of the license granted to Interplay to develop a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) based on the Fallout brand. Bethesda maintained in its complaint that Interplay had failed to meet the conditions for the license and the license was therefore of no continuing validity.

Under the terms of the settlement, the license granted to Interplay to develop the Fallout MMO is null and void, and all rights granted to Interplay to develop a Fallout MMO revert back to Bethesda, effective immediately. Interplay has no ongoing right to use the Fallout brand or any Fallout intellectual property for any game development. ZeniMax will pay Interplay $2 million as consideration in the settlement, each party will bear its own costs of the litigation, and Bethesda will continue to own all Fallout intellectual property rights. Interplay will be permitted to continue to sell the original Fallout ®TacticsFallout® and Fallout® 2 PC games through December 2013, after which time all rights to market those games revert to and become the sole property of Bethesda. Under the original agreement pursuant to which Bethesda had acquired the Fallout property, Interplay was granted certain merchandising rights to sell those original Fallout games, but those merchandising rights will now expire on December 31, 2013.      

The lawsuit against Interplay arose after Bethesda Softworks acquired all Fallout intellectual property rights from Interplay in April 2007, and conditionally licensed back to Interplay certain trademark rights to make a Fallout MMO, provided Interplay secured $30 million in financing for the MMO and commenced full scale development of the game by April 2009. Bethesda alleged in its complaint that Interplay failed to meet either condition of the license back agreement but refused to relinquish its license and insisted it would develop a Fallout MMO.  Bethesda filed suit to declare the license void.

In a separate but related matter, Bethesda commenced a second action against a purported developer of the Fallout MMO, Masthead Studios, Bethesda Softworks LLC v Masthead Studios Ltd. In the course of the original lawsuit against Interplay, Interplay had claimed that it had engaged Masthead Studios to develop the Fallout MMO under its license, and contended that Masthead was engaged in full scale development of that game. Bethesda filed its separate lawsuit against Masthead to assert copyright infringement and other violations of Bethesda’s intellectual property rights. Under the MMO license granted to Interplay, Interplay was not permitted to sublicense any rights granted without the prior approval of Bethesda, approval which had never been requested or granted.  In responding to Bethesda’s lawsuit, Masthead denied that it had been using any of Bethesda’s intellectual property in developing an MMO. Masthead and Bethesda settled that second lawsuit on December 29, 2011.  In the settlement, Masthead acknowledges it has no legal right to use any Fallout intellectual property, and agrees it will not use any such intellectual property of Bethesda in the future.  No payments were made by either party as part of this settlement. The two settlements resolve all pending litigation over the Fallout intellectual property owned by Bethesda.

Robert Altman, Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax, expressed satisfaction on behalf of the Company with the resolution of the two lawsuits saying, “While we strongly believe in the merits of our suits, we are pleased to avoid the distraction and expense of litigation while completely resolving all claims to the Fallout IP. Fallout is an important property of ZeniMax and we are now able to develop future Fallout titles for our fans without third party involvement or the overhang of others’ legal claims.”

Following the purchase of the property, Bethesda Game Studios, the 2011 ‘Studio of the Year’ and the development team behind the 2011 ‘Game of the Year’, The Elder Scrolls® V: Skyrim™, developed Fallout® 3. ZeniMax Media’s publishing subsidiary, Bethesda Softworks, published Fallout®3, a highly acclaimed sequel which won ‘Game of the Year’ honors in 2008, for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, and Games for Windows. Bethesda also published the popular title, Fallout: New Vegas®, in 2010 for the same platforms. Fallout: New Vegas® Ultimate Edition, which will include the original game and the award-winning downloadable content in one special package, is planned for release by Bethesda in early 2012.

With everything said, we can only hope that this results in a Bethesda backed Fallout MMO, something that many of us have been pining for for quite some time. What do you think?

Jan 092012
 

With the Wii U coming out some time later this year, and rumors flying all over the internet about possible hardware announcements from Microsoft and Sony at this year’s E3, the next console generation is within sight. At this point, we don’t really know much at all about what these new consoles will be, with very little known even about the Wii U. So, instead of speculating about what these consoles may be, I am simply going to run down 10 features I’m hoping for with the next console generation.

10. Spectator Mode

Anyone who was following the Xbox 360 in the months leading up to its launch will be familiar with this one. I’m not sure if it was ever actually stated by Microsoft or if it was just a rumor, but leading up to the launch of the system, many people including myself were under the impression that the Xbox 360 was going to have a spectator feature. The general idea is that you could simply select anyone on your friends list and watch them play as long as they were signed onto Xbox Live, whether they were playing single player or online multiplayer. This seems like it would be a cool feature, and Onlive actually has something just like this. This feature is great if you want to see a game in action before you buy it, and it needs to be implemented into all future consoles.

9. A Hard Drive With Every System

This one is aimed primarily at Microsoft and Nintendo, since Sony already accomplished this in the current generation (but obviously they should continue this trend as well). Nintendo needs to actually put a hard drive in the Wii U, preferably one that is at least 100GB, but anything higher would also be great. The current hard drive shortage due to the Thailand flood notwithstanding, hard drives are not typically expensive, and every system should come with one of decent size. This also means Microsoft better not sell any systems without a hard drive next generation. The fact that there exists Xbox 360′s that do not have hard drives forces the patch size limits to be too small, causing serious problems. Just look at the disaster with Mortal Kombat’s patch issues. NetherRealm wanted to put the DLC characters in patches for those that didn’t buy them to make sure there was 100% comparability when playing online. This was made impossible due to patch limitations, making DLC characters nearly unplayable online unless the players that hadn’t bought the characters were bothered to download an optional compatibility pack. This issue wouldn’t exist if every system had a hard drive built in.

8. Larger Disk Format

Once again Sony gets a pass on this one because they already achieved it this generation. The bottom line is, having a game come on 2 or 3 discs in this day and age is ridiculous, and it needs to stop. Swapping discs isn’t a huge deal, but it would be nice if every game simply came on one disc. It would also be great if pre-recorded cutscenes could actually run in HD and audio could be of a higher quality. All these things would be possible with larger discs, and whether the answer is that Sony and Nintendo need to use Blu Ray or just use some propriety format of similar size doesn’t really matter to me. As long as we have games on discs of 30+ GB, I don’t care what you call it.

Jan 092012
 

It is not uncommon to hear “New Year, New You” around this time of the year.  It is the time where many resolutions are made, some only to be broken.  This year I decided to do something I have never done before, and stick to it.  My new years resolution is to clear out the tremendous backlog of games that I have accumulated and to avoid buying any new video games.   There is a set of rules that I will follow, but before I go into detail, here is a recollection of events that lead to the creation of this challenge:

It is Mid November, I wait in line at that-gaming-retail-store-that-shall-not-be-named after going to the gym.  When it’s my turn to go up to the counter, I purchase a brand new copy of Super Mario 3D Land for my 3Ds.  I’m excited, it is my first ‘quality’ title for the system.  I currently have a lot of games on my plate but I don’t mind.  Enjoying new systems and their new games is one of the many pleasures of being a gamer.

It is Late November and ‘Black Friday’ is taking place.  I’m in the middle of my work week, it is early in the morning and I just got home after working all night.  I’m tired, I want to go to sleep.  I start to regret that I won’t be doing any Black Friday shopping. I always go “early bird” shopping during Black Friday.  I should go to sleep so that I can be well rested for the next workday.  Instead, I get up and go to a mall near my house.  I buy a new copy of Gears of War 3 (to replace my scratched one) as well as RAGE for a relatively low price.  I’m satisfied with my savings.

It is Mid-December and I lay on my bed talking to my cousin on Facebook.  He was a “hardcore” gamer before me, but I have continued to devour games long after his present gaming hiatus.  We discuss everything from work to gaming.  He cuts our current conversation abruptly with “By the way are your downloading SWTOR?”  I’m shocked.  He is the guy who really got into World of Warcraft and for a while it consumed him.  Later on, he quit and vowed to never touch WoW again.  I tell him that I will probably wait until SWTOR’s retail release, since I do not like Origin’s monitoring policies.  We then engage into a conversation about Star Wars, video games, and why I should buy SWTOR.  A few minutes later, I do some research and realize that I do not have to download the Origin client to play SWTOR, I only need to purchase the game from their website.  It wasn’t long before I purchased the Deluxe Digital Edition and stared the download process.

It is late December, I’m at a lesser known retail store with my father.   He is looking for a good deal on a flat screen t.v.   I’m there to decipher all of the tech-geekery-slang that is sure to boggle the mind of the most naive customer.  Essentially he is there to buy and I’m there to make sure it is a good buy.  In the end, he gets his flat-screen, and I take a look at the video game section.  They have a sale.  Most of titles are the usual rejects of bad games or sports games, but there are a few gems hidden in-between the trash.   I see Okami and A Boy and His Blob both for Wii.  Both of them for less than 15 dollars.  I have Okami for PS2 and despite my inability to play it (dam you PS3 Slim), I know that I should get A Boy and His Blob.  So I do and it feels good.  So very, very good.

It is early January, a copy of RAGE (still in the shrink wrap) sits next to a dozen other games, untouched.  I’m not gaming, instead I’m looking at my laptop, reviewing my savings account online.  I notice that my 2011 savings pale in comparison to the ones of the previous year.  In a separate tab of my browser I have my email open. In my inbox, there are emails from amazon regarding my Mass Effect 3 pre-order as well as other ‘amazon suggestions.’  Even though the thought of ‘maybe I buy too many video games’ had crossed my mind, it had never been as crystal clear as that point in time.

As I mentioned earlier, I will try to play through the majority of my backlog.  Currently  I have over 200 titles in my gaming collection.  This is includes everything from NES titles, handhelds and present generation games.  By doing so, I hope that I can achieve a few goals:

  • Play or complete games that were purchased but never played.
  • Finish the majority of games that I have started but never completed.
  • Restrict the amount of game purchases made this year.
  • Cancel Downgrade my Gamefly account during the course of this year.

Naturally there are some rules to help me work towards my goal as well as to provide me with some leeway:

  • I will not buy any new or used video games ( Mass Effect 3 is the only exception to this rule)
  • I can use gift cards given to me during the holidays to purchase games.  This includes 1600 MS points and a 30 dollar gift card.
  • From time to time I review games, these titles do not count and are exempt from this challenge.
  • Free downloadable games are ok, since they do not incur a cost.
  • My subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic is also exempt from this.  However, if for any reason I decide to cancel my subscription, I will not re-activate my account until 2013.
  • Vintage games and vintage gaming hardware are also exempt from this.  Unlike video games for the current generation, I tend to be very selective and picky about what I will buy, so my vintage shopping habits shouldn’t be a problem.

That is all for this week.  Next week I will start an inventory of my small collection and then I can start to tackle this challenge. So far, no games have been purchased in the first week of 2012! Baby steps! Baby steps!

 

Jan 082012
 

Sony’s newest portable device, the Playstation Vita, recently hit stores in Japan. Reviews on it were mixed. Before it launched in Japan though, we were able to take the Vita for a spin ourselves. At the time, we weren’t privy to a lot of details but even without full disclosure, the system has potential to be something big.

The first thing I noticed when I handled the Vita was the fact that it was slightly larger than the standard PSP system. Although it was a slight bit larger, it certainly felt much more solid than the PSP. The touchpad on the back has a noticeably different texture from the rest of the system, meaning that it is quite easy to catch yourself if you have wandering fingers. Overall, the PS Vita doesn’t look aesthetically different than the traditional PSP. It is definitely a different system but someone could tell you that the PSP was given a slight redesign.

The goal here is to roll that orange nugget around and pick up stars until a black-hole appears

The first game I played was a title called Little Deviants. The title is a mini game compilation that focuses on the use of front and back touch panels, augmented reality features and dual analog sticks as well. A few of the games really feel like the free augmented reality games that came with the Nintendo 3DS, but there were a couple other games that really helped the title stand out on it’s own. The minigame I spent the most time with was a game where I rolled my deviant around throughout labrynth stlye mazes that were peppered with hazards like enemies and spikes. The movement of the deviant is dictated by my ability to push up or push down the ground with the use of the touch panels. This feature ultimately was pretty cool since it operated very smooth and showed the response of the touch panels. Some puzzles in the game called for creative use of these features as well, having me create jumps or foxholes to get by obstacles as well. I have no doubt that Little Deviants will be an entertaining launch day title in February.

This one is still more or less the same game we have been playing since the original Wipeout on PS1

The next game I played was Wipeout 2048, one of Playstation’s better known racing franchises. When I played Wipeout 2048, I was able to make use of the tilt functions of the Vita, allowing me to bank into turns with realistic steering. The game also utilizes the touch screen to attack other players and make use of certain weapons. One of the coolest features I got to use with Wipeout 2048 though was the ability to play the game cross platform by playing alongside others in Wipeout HD Fury. The feature (which we saw detailed briefly at E3) allows the Vita player to race on HD Fury maps with PS3 users, meaning that Vita players will not be limited to silly Ad hoc modes in order to play games online. Although the features that Wipeout 2048 uses are quite unique, there were times that I felt like I didn’t have enough fingers to do everything I wanted to while playing.

In-game graphics are quite amazing, don't you think?

The real gem of the PS Vita demo though was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Unlike the other games we had an opportunity to play, Uncharted: Golden Abyss wasn’t focused on heavily using the Vita’s special features. Instead, Uncharted: Golden Abyss was an experience showing the early potential of the system.  The game showcased visuals that could easily be compaired to the original Uncharted on PS3 but also amazing particle effects on things like fire and water. Initially, I was concerned about the functionality of a game like Uncharted being on a portable system, since the game has always been about finding that next jump or seeing enemies before they see you. For the platform sections of the game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss uses one of two different methods. For the traditionalist, Drake is still completely controllable as he is in any of the console games, making full use of the dual analog sticks and shoulder buttons. The Vita also showcased a “Paint mode”, in it you can trace the path you want Drake to take and he will follow it… mostly. As with any Uncharted game, ledges may crumble and pipes may break, so Drake will still stop at these points, making you have to retrace his path. I was perfectly okay with this feature since it does not take away from any of the original excitement that is in all Uncharted games.

The future in portable gaming?

The Vita itself differs from it’s next-gen portable counterpart, the 3DS, mainly due to the fact that the system isn’t focused on a singular feature. The PS Vita offers a graphical improvement over it’s predecessor and better control placement than the PSP (way better than the PSP Go). We can only hope that with the superior launch lineup will indeed give us a solid portable system launch that doesn’t result in a massive price drop after a few months.

What are your thoughts on the Vita? Which game are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comment section below, you’ve got no excuses, you don’t even need to create an account!

Jan 082012
 

Looking for a brand new indie game to sink your teeth into? 3079 may just be the game for you! We actually spent some time playing the game before we did the interview and I have to say that there was quite a bit to do in the game! We were able to catch Phr00t long enough for an interview about his game, needless to say he was quite forthcoming.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Josh Knowles: Hey Phr00t thanks for taking time to talk with us today

phr00tfly: and thank you for taking the time to interview me :)

Josh Knowles: So, 3079 has been getting some great attention on the internet, how would you describe the game to someone who hasn’t heard of it?

phr00tfly: 3079 is a large, open-world action role playing game. It is set in a futuristic era on an alien world stuck in an endless war, you arrive on the planet to try and figure the cause of the war, and hopefully how to stop it.
phr00tfly: It resembles a “first person shooter”, but it has strong roguelike roots in how all items, quests, terrain and enemies are randomly generated

Josh Knowles: We spent some time playing it, saying there is a lot to do is quite an understatement! Where did you get the idea to create a game like this?

phr00tfly: welp, many moons ago, I made a game called 3059, inspired by the roguelike nethack but i was always into futuristic stuff, not medieval and i always liked procedurally generated worlds, because i want to see something different every time i play.
phr00tfly: i then made 3069, wanting to make a 3D game but i admit, it wasn’t what I hoped. :)
phr00tfly: after playing fallout, just cause 2 and minecraft, i just had too many ideas that I wanted to put together and i really wanted to continue the 3059/3069 series, since 3069 wasn’t so great, 3079 was made! :)

Josh Knowles: Wow, so is this the 3rd game you’ve made then?

phr00tfly: oh man, i have no idea how many games i’ve made. i’ve been programming since middle school… starting with QBasic :)
phr00tfly: it’s been a lifelong hobby, i always need a programming project.

Josh Knowles: Wow! What did you use to create 3079?

phr00tfly: the jMonkeyEngine SDK, i just want to say a few things about that because this engine really made this game possible.
phr00tfly: first, jMonkeyEngine is an all-Java engine, which means whatever I write with it, will be compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux and running linux myself, was pretty important :P
phr00tfly: it was also a free engine that was easy to learn and just made things far easier
phr00tfly: i hope a rise in 3079′s popularity results in a rise of jMonkeyEngine’s popularity because they totally deserve it :)
phr00tfly: here is a post about making 3079 with jMonkeyEngine

Josh Knowles: You mentioned that you wanted to make sure your games are accessable on different operating systems, have you given any thought to getting 3079 on a digital distribution platform?

phr00tfly: oh yes!
phr00tfly: a great guy, the PR guy alex for the game Towns, has been helping me get in contact with lots of people, including the guys at Desura.

phr00tfly: just yesterday, my game was approved for publishing and sale at Desura
phr00tfly: but until then, my game is already available on my website, the demo and the full version for purchase

Josh Knowles: Congrats on getting your game on Desura! What kinds of things will players expect to see in the final version of the game?

phr00tfly: oh geez, “final version” :P who knows when that will be? ha
phr00tfly: somebody always comes up with a great addition that needs to be done

Josh Knowles: What future features are you planning on implementing?

phr00tfly: welp, i’m just getting key customization in now.. not that exciting, but requested very often
phr00tfly: a more fun idea that i’ve just started warming up to is fortress building
phr00tfly: i was worried about getting into structure building, because i want to distance myself from minecraft

Josh Knowles: That is a feature I myself would love to see. 3079 has quite a few different function keys. I made a list while we played

phr00tfly: ha, neat! Just remember, you can get a list by pressing F1 during the game, it will tell you all the key bindings, and some tips.

Josh Knowles: How do you plan to institute the building of structures without feeling overly “Minecrafty”?

phr00tfly: welp, that was my worry, not feeling overly “minecrafty”
phr00tfly: but like i was saying, someone in the bay12 forums made a good argument ”minecraft didn’t event building things” (even though they did a very good job at it)
phr00tfly: both the previous titles in the series, 3059 and 3069, had “construction materials” that you could use to build fortresses, traps and the like. so why avoid adding a potentially fun feature, that would fit right in with the world, just because of minecraft?
phr00tfly: there are lots of questing options to go with it, e.g. you could get a quest to survive in your fortress, while it gets bombarded
phr00tfly: since the world is under constant war, it just all fits and in the end, it won’t really be too minecrafty, since you won’t be “mining” for the resources, and there won’t be any crafting of parts

Josh Knowles: Great! Now I’ve found all sorts of neat gear while I’ve been playing, what is your favorite item in 3079?

phr00tfly: the sniper rifle and grappling hook :)
phr00tfly: i loved unreal tournament, the original, so i made the sniper rifle act just like that. except for the instant shots, which i thought would be too imbalanced
phr00tfly: and the grappling hook from just cause 2, which was just so much fun
phr00tfly: by having the sniper rifle, i just needed my game to determine if you made a head shot :P
phr00tfly: i kinda want it to say “HEADSHOT”, like in unreal tournament

Josh Knowles: You should!

phr00tfly: DOUBLE KILL, M-M-M-MONSTER KILL KILL KILL

Josh Knowles: The grappling hook makes me think of Bioshock Infinite, which is quite awesome. Since the game is so large, have you added any easter eggs a la Just Cause 2?

phr00tfly: well if i revealed them, they wouldn’t be easter eggs anymore! ha
phr00tfly: but seriously… i don’t think i’ve had time to
phr00tfly: too many non-easter-egg features need adding and balancing :)

Josh Knowles: How often do you plan on releasing updates for 3079? Do you plan on using a regular system, or just whenever?

phr00tfly: “just whenever” :P
phr00tfly: i’m not too big on using a regular system
phr00tfly: i think it can cause features to go out the door without being properly tested
phr00tfly: i like to set a goal on what features i want for the next release, and make sure those features are solid, then release
phr00tfly: i try to pick features that will take about a week to do and my releases have been spaced out around a week, give or take a few days

Josh Knowles: Now, obviously there has been quite a buzz around 3079, have you had any big names in the industry try the game out yet? (Like Jeb or Notch, Redigit etc?)

phr00tfly: I’m not sure how excited Jeb or Notch are to give a shining review to a competitor :P
phr00tfly: however, those guys are obviously doing very well
phr00tfly: a dream of mine has always been to hopefully become a big name in the indie gaming industry myself, or at least a middle-sized name ;)
phr00tfly: i’ll take a decently-sized name
phr00tfly: i’ll keep improving 3079, and keep writing new games regardless, because it’s what i do :)

Josh Knowles: That brings up a great point, the industry has certainly swung in a favorable direction towards the indie market. What do you think indie devs need to keep the market fresh?

phr00tfly: indie devs are known for their innovation, the big publishers and studios play it safe and churn out systematic stuff.
phr00tfly: indies have more freedom to innovate and there are lots of indie developers, so there is lots of people working on finding something unique and fun
phr00tfly: indie devs just need to keep coming up with ideas, be creative — try to make something that hasn’t been done before, which i’m sure that has been said many times but doing it is really hard
phr00tfly: if i had to suggest something to the indie devs
phr00tfly: focus less on clones, and more on new stuff :)

Josh Knowles: Some XBLIG devs should probably take that advice.

phr00tfly: like, if you like metroid, don’t make a metroid clone
phr00tfly: find out what you like about metroid and make a new game with those elements

Josh Knowles: That is great advice! So, have you had any time to play any games yourself lately?

phr00tfly: not really
phr00tfly: i have a 3 month old son and my free time is developing developing developing

Josh Knowles: Do you have any plans to try to get the game onto consoles eventually?

phr00tfly: i haven’t really given that much thought
phr00tfly: i’m not sure what the development path looks like for java-to-console games
phr00tfly: specifically ones made with jMonkeyEngine
phr00tfly: so, no plans now.. but who knows :)
phr00tfly: if microsoft or sony want to pay me tons of money to do it, i probably would :P

Josh Knowles: Well, since you have a child to tend to, do you have any thanks or shout outs you’d like to give?

phr00tfly: shout out to my son, Jensen, and my wife, Jenny, who I both love very much :)
phr00tfly: also, related to 3079, alexpoysky for helping me out get 3079 out there
phr00tfly: burningpet for the awesome logo design and artistic help and the jMonkeyEngine crew for their great engine and support!
phr00tfly: and of course, all the people who support 3079 :)
phr00tfly: thank you!

Josh Knowles: Well, thanks for spending the time to do this with us!

phr00tfly: and thanks for having me :)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phr00t recently released the latest update to the game, which allows key mapping and a few graphical improvements as well. I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to play 3079, as it is a game with massive amounts of potential. Check it out here!

Jan 062012
 

In episode #10, I covered my first attempt at creating an AI system on a 2d plane.  Now, just 5 episodes later, I’m happy to report that I’ve been extremely happy with the advancement through the weeks and have adapted the original code to something more universal and configurable.  Infact, the same code is used for any of my AI enemies in the development of Stellar.  It’s set up so that customization takes place within the inspector, and ship models are basically plug and play – I import, size them, make em into a prefab, and just attach my script.  Easy peasy.

That said, such a script comes with many variables to maintain:

var reactionDist : float = 10;
var strafeSpeed : float = 25;
var ftReacDist : float = 10;
var rotSpeed : float = 100;
var baseSpeed : int = 25;
var fireAtEnergy : int = 75;
var explosion : Transform;
var bullet : Transform;
var firefrom : Transform;
var damping = 30.0;
var smooth = true;
var canBounce : boolean = true;
var maxHealth : int = 100;
var fireRate : float = 2;
var fireCost : int = 30;
var recharge : float = 0.1;
var targetTag : String = "Player";
var targetRange : int = 100;
var canMine : boolean = false;
var kamikaze : boolean = false;
var thisIsABoss : boolean = false;
var tripleShot : boolean = false;
var tripleSpread : float = 7;
var willMine : boolean = false;
var retribution : boolean = true;
private var target : Transform;
private var front : boolean = false;
private var left : boolean = false;
private var right : boolean = false;
private var farRight : boolean = false;
private var farLeft : boolean = false;
private var lastRand : float = 0;
private var ranDir : int = 0;
private var health : float = 100;
private var playerDist : float;
private var lastfire : float = 0;
private var player : GameObject;
private var playerArr : GameObject[];
private var lastCheck : float = 0;
private var lastPorted : float;

While it may seem complex, I basically replaced any of the numbers or specifics within the script with a variable.  In doing, every little thing can be changed until the movement, reaction time, attack ability, etc. all meet my expectations.

For this article, I’ll cover some of the major functions and explain how they work without errors.  Nothing is ever “perfect”, s this may not be the final product, but it works perfectly for what I need right now.

First, let’s look at how an enemy selects a target:

function findPlayer() {
 if (Time.time > lastCheck) {
  lastCheck = Time.time + 3;
  if (targetTag == "Player") {
  player = GameObject.FindGameObjectWithTag(targetTag);
  } else {
  playerArr = GameObject.FindGameObjectsWithTag(targetTag);
  var rnd = Random.Range(0, (playerArr.Length));
  player = playerArr[rnd];
  }
 var enemies : Collider[] = Physics.OverlapSphere(transform.position, 100);
 for (each in enemies) {
  if (each.transform.tag == "decoy") {
  player = each.transform.gameObject;
  }
 }
 }
}

What I’ve done here is allowed myself to change what the primary target of an enemy is.  In my game, enemies may simply ignore the player and go after another tag-based object, such as a player’s structures.  What we see above will target a player if the inspector has it labelled as such, but we can use any tag we choose otherwise.  At the bottom, you can see that each time the script is executed, an enemy will search within 100 units for a unit with the tag of “decoy” as well.  If this is true, the target first becomes the decoy game object.

This next chunk of code is found within the “Update” section, and is executed every frame:

var inft : RaycastHit;
 var didhit = Physics.Raycast(transform.position, transform.TransformDirection(Vector3.forward), inft, 100, 1 << 8 | 1 << 1 | 1 << 2 | 1 << 4 | 1 << 0);
 var goodShot : boolean = false;
 if (didhit) {
 if (inft.transform.gameObject.tag == "Player" || inft.transform.gameObject.tag == "playerStruct" || inft.transform.gameObject.tag == "decoy") {
 goodShot = true;
 }
 if (canMine == true && inft.transform.gameObject.tag == "genBlock") {
 goodShot = true;
 }
 }
 if ((playerDist < targetRange) && goodShot == true && (health > fireAtEnergy) && (Time.time > lastfire)) {
 lastfire = (Time.time + fireRate);
 health = health - fireCost;
 var fired = Instantiate (bullet, firefrom.transform.position, Quaternion.identity);
 Physics.IgnoreCollision(fired.collider, collider);
 fired.transform.parent = transform;

Im a big fan of the way this one worked out.  In the previous code, an enemy would fire whenever a “Player” was within range – whether or not they were actually aimed at the player.  Of course, we could have done a transform.LookAt, but that would have been unnatural and would have interfered with the way the ship navigated the terrain.  In this instance, we are telling the ship only to fire if the line of sight actually comes from the front of the ship and lands on an object with the labels of “Player”, “playerStruct”, or “decoy”.  In doing, we’ve also solved the problem about firing through walls to get at a target.

Within OnColisionEnter(), we have:

if (transform.tag == "decoy") {
  if (collision.transform.gameObject.tag == "enemybullet") {
  health = health - 75;
  }
 }

Decoy?  That’s right – even though decoy is a target, the same AI code controls the movement of a decoy ship!  This saves us from having to create a whole separate script, and everything is controlled by whether or not the ship has a “decoy” tag on it.

Now, for all intents and purposes, the AI is functional and has no real issue with navigation.  When we play through, we just take a look at various what-if scenarios and go from there.  This is where the idea of “retribution” came from, and this simple little piece of code causes a ship that would normally only attack buildings to turn and attack a player if fired upon:

if (retribution) {
 if (GameObject.FindGameObjectWithTag("Player")) {
 player = GameObject.FindGameObjectWithTag("Player");
 target = player.transform;
 }
 }

Retribution is a toggled ability in the inspector as well, so I can choose (like everything else), if this is something that the enemy naturally does.  By building the script in this way, the AI has become much more robust than before, and each enemy type seems to have a personality of its own.

Building an AI with Unity has been a lot of fun, and I really can’t wait until things for this title are more finalized.  When that happens, I’ll see if it will be possible to release the AI code in its entirety for all to see.  For now, if anyone has questions, feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Jan 062012
 

With the full release of Final Fantasy XIII-2 hitting stores next month, Square Enix is kind enough to provide gamers with a free trial of the much anticipated title.

A demo will be available for both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  Gamers can find the trial on the Xbox Live Marketplace on January 11, 2012, while the Playstation version will be available a day earlier on January 10.  No word yet on the size of both demos, but I’m sure it’s going to be one large file.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is set to be released on January 30 in NA and February 2 in Europe.  The title was released on December 30 in Japan and has so far gained outstanding reviews from Japanese publications.

Source: EGT

Jan 042012
 

Bioware’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic has something to pat itself on the back for.  According to the gaming analysts, the game has reached 350,000 concurrent users since its release late last month.

The figure itself only represents that of players in Europe and North America.  Analysts also stated that there are over 1 million online users already registered for the title.

“We view the early success of Star Wars as an indication of a healthy MMO market,” said Colin Sebastian, Baird Equity Research analyst. “While there is likely some shifting of usage from World of Warcraft, we see a viable market for multiple million-user MMOs in the US and Europe. With more than 1 million registered online users, we see roughly one-third representing peak concurrent usage.”

Sebastian does believe that the title will sell around 3 million copies by the end of March 2012, but disagrees that it will have 1.5-2 million subscribers by the end of 2012.

Source: Gamespot

Jan 032012
 

We all know that the anticipated Nintendo Wii U can do a handful of things, but according to one source, the system will function as an E-Reader as well.

According to one software developer, who was approached by Nintendo, the company is looking to add iOS software to the Wii U.  The source states that Nintendo is researching ways to implement books, magazines, comics, instruction manuals, and even strategy guides.  Not only is the company looking to add the feature to the Wii U, but also as an application for the 3DS.

Nintendo has not released any statements about the rumor, so gamers will have to wait and see what happens with that.  The Wii U is set to have a second showing come January at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Source: Destructoid

 

Jan 032012
 

Anyone whose read any of my work here on Gaming Irresponsibly knows how much of a proponent of good storytelling in games I am. An extension of that is my appreciation for interesting and well developed characters. It’s easy to look all over the internet and find top tens and polls centered around the best characters in video games, but my list is going to be a little different. Most of the time, these lists end up with the major icons of gaming dominating them, but my criteria is that a character must have an actual personality, and be compelling because they are well written and developed. This means I won’t be considering cardboard cut-out mascots like Mario and Master Chief or blank slate silent protagonists like Gordon Freeman and Link. Like any list, I am limited by the games I have played. I have played hundreds of games in my two decades as a gamer, but there are still thousands of games I haven’t played. One final disclaimer, because of my criteria, it just turned out that most the characters are from more modern games, obviously because character development wasn’t as important in the past. Also, possible spoilers.

10. Kratos (God of War Series)

Kratos is a classic tragic anti-hero. After pledging his service to the God of War, Ares, in exchange for saving his life, he is unwittingly tricked into murdering his wife and daughter. This sets off a quest for revenge against Ares. After he kills Ares and ascends to become the new God of War, he is again betrayed by a God, this time his father, Zeus. Once again, he is consumed with the need for revenge, and begins a campaign to kill Zeus along with all the other Olympians. Even though Kratos is the protagonist of the series, he actually winds up being responsible for apocalyptic events, making him worse than any of the villains. Kratos is single mindedly focused on his own goals, not caring what happens to anyone else along the way. He may not be the greatest hero or most likely protagonist, but he is one the best characters in video games.

9. Francis York Morgan (Deadly Premonition)

York is an FBI agent sent to a small town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. He is no ordinary FBI agent however, as he speaks to a mysterious imaginary friend named Zach. York and Zach share everything together, and York loves sharing his taste in movies, music, and unsolved murders with Zach (and by extension, the player). In a game with serious rough edges and low production values, Francis York Morgan stands out as something genuinely interesting and unique.

8. Nathan Drake (Uncharted Series)

Nathan Drake is smart, cocky, sarcastic treasure hunter with a knack for getting involved in evil plots. What makes Drake such an interesting character, is the way he reacts to the situations he gets himself into. He is just as surprised by what happens to him as the player is. While I hesitate to call him “relate-able”; with his overconfident attitude in the face of dozens of armed thugs, movie star good looks, and the way he casually kills hundreds of people; he is certainly much more human than your average video game protagonist.

Jan 012012
 

Sports games have been around since the dawn of video games.  Considering that Pong is a digitized version of tennis, we can easily say that the genre is firmly rooted in the evolution of gaming.  However, the easiest way to see said evolution has us looking to the Canadians.  Hockey games are as good an example of major sporting games as any other sport, however the simplicity and speed of the game have always turned out quality games.  I mean, by the time we got any type of playable football or baseball game, hockey games were already firmly entrenched in as a genre of video game.  Let’s start at the from the beginning and get to the end in an effort to see how the genre has progressed over time, from humble beginnings as a novelty amusement to a simulation which borders on resembling reality.

The one that started it all!

1981 saw the release of the third ice hockey game in history, and the first on the juggernaut of a system, the Atari 2600.  The others came out on the Magnavox Odyssey 2 and Intellivision, but the reason I’m starting with this one is because A.) I don’t either of those older systems or games, and B.) they look like they’re pong variations, taking their inspiration from tabletop air hockey and not the stick-wielding variety we watch on television.  But what’s the first popular ice hockey game called?  Why, Ice Hockey of course!  I love the names of Atari games, they’re short and to the point.  Who do you fight in Space Invaders?  Invaders of course, possibly from space!  In Ice Hockey you actually get a pretty advanced game, with four game modes.  In Game 1 you play against the computer with “Regular Action”, in Game 2 you play against a friend in “Regular Action”.  Modes 3 and 4 are the as one and two respectively, but with “High-speed action” rather than regular.  You play 2 on 2 hockey against the computer or a friend, and the action really takes off with “High-speed” modes.  It’s simple, the controls allow you to pass the puck and get as many goals as you can in 3 minutes.  You have no way of selecting which player you control, rather, when the puck is closer to one teammate than the other, the game automatically switches for you.  It can get kind of tricky sometimes, but it does work.  When you don’t have the puck, the one button Atari gives you will slash at the very bones of your enemies legs in an attempt to steal the puck, often spilling his carcass all over the ice.  When you have control of the puck, your button shoots the puck in whichever direction you’re moving the joystick.   Ice Hockey offers some really good graphics for the time, and with a friend it can give you about an legitimate hour of good honest fun even today.  What we get from this game versus, say, Pong, is the independently moving hockey player who are very visibly skating, team play, and a game where the score is only limited by time.  It feels like a hockey game.

Fun and cartoonish, but hard as hell.

Jumping forwards to 1988, we see Ice Hockey come back from the video game crash of ’83 on the NES .  It’s a very forgettable game, with graphics ripped straight out of Mario Land 3.  Seriously, all the characters look like they could take out a Goomba or two.  This game is a little more involved than it’s Atari predecessor, allowing you change your four-man lineup around between a fat dude, a normal guy, and a tall skinny drink of water.  The fat guy moves slowest and the skinny character gets knocked around easier, but the game is definitely broken.  You fly around the rink like you’re wearing socks on a gymnasium floor, it’s hard to change characters or even tell which one you’re controlling, the controls themselves are broken, and the rink is laid out left to right as opposed to top to bottom.  There are redeeming factors though.  You can choose a nationality to play as, which is patriotically fun.  The music and sound effects are flamboyant and fun, plus when you score the team celebrates in the middle of the rink which is such a nice touch.  I’ve got mixed feelings, but it’s another step towards a more realistic hockey simulator.  It lacks the grit which only Atari can deliver, but it’s much closer to the real thing than the simplicity of the 2600.  The real grudge I bear against this game is that when you play against your friend, neither of you are as good at the game as the computer.

This is the best, I swear.

From the cartoons of the 8-bit NES, we get some resplendent glory in NHL ’94 on the SNES and Sega Genesis.  This game is the one which introduced many to the EA slogan “It’s in the game”, and is the first video game which had the NHL license.  While NHL ’93 had the NHL Players Association stamp of approval, and there were earlier games on the Genesis, this was the one which really started putting hockey games on the map.  I was brought up on this stuff.  The controls are incredibly tight, the pacing is perfect, and the sound effects are gritty and realistic.  It was really fun, allowing you to play full seasons, do a small tournament, or even have a shootout.  You can fully change your lines, which are stocked with some great nostalgic moments as you peruse old greats and rising stars which have since retired.  Playing as folded teams like Hartford or Quebec and seeing future superstars in 32-bit rendering always puts a smile of a hockey fan’s face.  If you go in expecting a fun-to-play video game which you could spend a afternoon playing, this is one of the first sports games which could deliver.

The Great One makes a great one. Who would of thought?

The Nintendo 64 was kind to the genre of sports games, spawning ports of Midway arcade games, introducing the 2KX series along the with Madden and Quarterback Club franchise, with the hockey world getting some great additions.  Blades of Steel, Breakaway ’98, and Faceoff ’98 were all games which could ruin you weekend plans because you’d be hanging out in a friends basement.  Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey ’98 shone above the rest though.  Sure it’s more like a cartoon than the EA produced predecessors, or even the Atari version, but this was the era of NFL Blitz and NBA Jam.  Things had to be over the top, and hockey was no different.  As with the SNES games, Gretzky ’98 had terrific controls and sounds, everything plays really well.

 

The beginning of a pretty bland era.

Jumping ahead to the disc-based games, we see full-motion video and get a real sense of realism which the world had never before seen.  I’ve got EA’s NHL ’03, and the demo mode has popular alternative rock playing over the demo, just like we see today.  It was this era where we got many different play modes and tonnes of teams, introducing international play with a surprising amount of thoroughness with the country rosters and even the international standard sized rink.  It’s little touches like that which really set these games apart from earlier games.  The whole menu system is streamlines and modern, with rendered players showing off in the background, and it’s very easy to navigate.  Loading up the game, we see the two teams coming out on the rink, complete with a highlight reel.  It’s a legitimate attempt to make the player feel like they’re watching programming on television, adding another element of realism to the game which sadly wouldn’t be perfected until the next generation.  But enough about this nit-picking stuff, on to the game!  You get multiple camera angles, from the all too close “Action” camera to the realistic “Broadcast” cam.  I prefer the class “Overhead” view which gives you the best view of the goal.  There’s a fight mechanic, but it’s pretty wooden and can be won by simple button mashing.  Whenever something happens, like faceoffs or goals, you get some dynamic camera angles and close-ups of players.    Again this, combined with the introduction of competent color commentary, is stylized to be like a television broadcast, and it almost works, but there are technical issues associated with the polygon faces and blocky movements which hold it back.  The controls are nice and simple, allowing you to maintain control and lay some big hits.  What else is there to say?  It’s a basic hockey game in the sense that we know today, and fun for the whole family.  Unfortunately, for some reason they chose to omit the shootout minigame, but the actual gameplay is enough to keep you entertained.  I really like this game.  It’s polished, modern, and totally worth the fifty cents I paid for it at EB Games.

 

Look at the little things: The audience, the ice spray, the fact that Tim Thomas is designed to be as unique as Thomas himself...

The most modern iteration of hockey comes once again from EA Sports in NHL 12.  This is by a wide margin the most realistic hockey game I’ve ever played.  The recently added mechanic of using the analogue sticks to fully control your shot is tricky to learn, but once you have it down you can really start getting fancy with the puck.  This style of play can be fun, but if you prefer, they also offer the “classic” controller configuration using the control scheme which dates all the way back to SNES.  The graphics are really great, and I’ve actually caught myself zoning out and thinking I’m watching television.  They somehow managed to make the controls and the presentation so linear that it feels like real life once you get into the game.  It’s definitely different from its cartoonish 64-bit ancestors.  You can go online, get updates to the roaster mid-season, and play as a original character which you develop exclusively in a fictional world.  Every year now, for over a decade, we get a newly polished version of the same game, only now and then getting a new engine or mechanic.  This year, you can play as some of the all-time greatest hockey players and put them into your custom-built teams.  It’s a surprisingly good way to get you to play, as you want to see your favourite players back in action and under your control.  The audiences, I’ve noticed in the research here, are a huge step up from the preceding system generations.  Even the very best graphics on the Xbox or Playstation 2 only allowed for minimalist cardboard cutouts in the audience, but with the might of current processors and graphic capabilities, we see individual people in the stands and unprecedented atmosphere.  If you have NHL 09 or 10 though, I would consider just renting this one, as you already have the current year’s roster and the controls and game engine seem to be the exact same.

Oh sports games, from your humble and cartoonish beginnings we get the realistic simulators played today.

So let’s wrap this whole thing up, and see if we can’t pick out some of the things that tie it all together.  We started out looking at a glorified Pong clone, but one which allows for multiplayer action and functional teamwork.  From there, we got the addition of crowds, customizable lines tailored to your style of play, and celebrations after goals.  The NES version of hockey suffered from the simplicity of the age, but it paved the way for the Super Nintendo incarnations, which set the precedent for all the EA games which would dominate the next two decades.  By NHL ’94 we have commentators, licensed team and player names, multiple game modes like shootout and franchise play, and the classic controls which we can still use today.  The 64-bit era really highlighted how fun a sports game could be.  Goalies turned into brick walls, ambulances run across the bottom of the screen after big hits, and you just can’t help but smile as you get upwards of fifty shots on net.  The disc-based generations of consoles we have today seem to be exclusively going for realism, and it hasn’t been until recently that they’ve been able to pull it off convincingly.  Through fluid controls, recognizable players and arenas, cinematically dramatic cut-scenes  between play, and new game mechanics we enter into almost a virtual reality which borders on the uncanny.  You can manage your teams how you wish and fighting feels more like Fight Night Round 3 then a hockey game.  I can`t express how complex and in-depth these games have become and yet still they remain fun.  But when you boil them all down to the bare bones, it is the few basic commands and multiplayer options that make these games great, and that`s what I set out to find.  They are like sports in real life: simple and repetitive, but impossible to be unbeatable at.