Mar 302012
 

Nippon Ichi Software, the minds behind the Disgaea series, have reached out to let us know about 3 of their upcoming games. From the looks of things, these games will venture slightly out of the norm when compared to some of their past titles, which is equally awesome because they have produced enjoyable games. These new games are: The Witch and the Hundred Knights™, Mugen Souls™ and  Legasista™. Because I am sure you are wondering, the information on each is listed below.

The Witch and the Hundred Knights

NIS America is excited to announce the winter release of The Witch and the Hundred Knights exclusively on PS3 in North America and Europe. Adopting high-res, fully 3D environments and characters, as well as a dark fantasy world brought to life by Takehito Harada, The Witch and the Hundred Knights will deliver a brand-new action RPG experience from Nippon Ichi Software! In The Witch and the Hundred Knights, being bad is good! Save the innocent or take part in the ransacking—it’s all up to you! The Witch and the Hundred Knights will hit store shelves in early 2013.

About The Witch and the Hundred Knights
Two powerful witches have been battling one another for over a hundred years. Now, the Swamp Witch has unleashed the legendary Dark Knights, and seeks to destroy the Forest Witch once and for all!


Features
• A hundred knights at your command: A plethora of ways to utilize your 100-man team!
• Multiple weapons: Equip up to 5 weapons to maximize your combo abilities!
• Chain attacks: The higher you build your chain, the greater damage you will unleash!
• More details coming soon!
You can be the hero who saves the world, or go evil and pillage the village!

 

MUGEN SOULS™

NIS America proudly announced their plan to release Mugen Souls in North America and Europe later this year exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Mugen Souls features a free-roaming battle map, turn-based combat, and massive amounts of customization and growth to maximize the fun fans can have with the game.

About Mugen Souls
There exists a small galaxy in the universe containing seven worlds, shimmering in seven colors… These worlds exist and act independent of one another. This has allowed them to develop and nurture rich, unique cultures. Then one day, a decree was sent out… “I’m gonna make everything in each of these worlds bow to me!” – The Undisputed Goddess, Chou-Chou

Features
• Expansive worlds to explore: Travel freely on each world to explore and find treasures and items. Monsters are roaming about, so be cautious or fight them head-on and make them your subservient peons!
• Free-roaming style battle maps: Use Combo attacks to execute spectacular moves with your allies! Destroy Crystals on the battlefield to activate Hyper mode!
• Moe Kill: Execute the Moe Kill technique to enslave enemies and turn them into items by exploiting their weaknesses!
• Customization: Create a full cast of characters! Customizable body parts, facial expressions, and job classes!

 

LEGASISTA™

NIS America is excited to announce that Legasista will be available exclusively on PlayStation®3 via PlayStation®Network this August. Legasista is a dungeon crawler-style survival action RPG. Extra dungeons that give you better loot are randomly generated and players are able to fully customize their characters, including job classes and equipment. They can also alter their appearance by importing images from their PS3. The game will automatically convert the images into playable characters. Crawl into the dungeon later this summer!

About Legasista
In a world where science has become a thing of the past, people have come to fear this ancient form of knowledge as magic spells and curses. Now a young man named Alto sets off for the mysterious Ivy Tower, which houses ancient relics of the lost art of science.


Features

• Dungeon crawler-style action RPG: Form a team of 3 characters to explore the dungeons of the Ivy Tower! Characters can easily switch in and out from the frontline to the backline.
• Randomly-generated dungeons: Explore different dungeons and cash in on the loot!
• Personalities: Create your own character, from job class to unique personalities! The personality will greatly change the character’s fighting capabilities, so choose well!
• Customization: Customize your character fully with the character creation feature. Even weapons can be customized!

Mar 302012
 

Manipulating time in Unity3d is quite a bit of fun.  When I first created the project you can see below, I wanted to see how difficult it would be it institute something similar to what we see in Braid – basically a button that can turn back time.  For my purposes, I wanted to start out fairly small and be able to attach a script to any game object in the scene that would be affected by this time-shift.  I’ll paste the code here, but be sure to check it out in action at the link below:

Time-manipulation Demo

This was also my first real experience with the new Shiruken particle system, and I have to say I’m rather impressed.  It’s clearly very different, but you can’t argue with the results.  Anyway, I decided to use a simple array to hold the data for time reversal.  The main control key, “R”, simply triggers a boolean variable when held down.  This is located in the regular character movement controls, like this:

//Reversal key
 if (Input.GetKey("r")) {
 isRevving = true;
 } else {
 isRevving = false;
 }

By doing that, I don’t have every instance of the script listening for the R key.  The actual time script looks like this:

var thisHistory = new Array();
function Update () {
 var revControl : boolean = GameObject.FindGameObjectWithTag("Player").GetComponent(charMover).isRevving;

 if (revControl == false) {
 thisHistory.Push(transform.position);
 if (thisHistory.length > 1000) {
 thisHistory.RemoveAt(0);
 }
 }

 if (revControl == true && thisHistory.length > 0) {
 RevOne();
 }
}
function RevOne() {
 var onNum = thisHistory.length;
 transform.position = thisHistory[(onNum - 1)];
 thisHistory.Pop();
}

As you can see, it simply hold the last 1000 frames of position data in memory and begins to delete the old data as time goes on.  If the reverse key is pressed, it stops recording and starts moving backward, deleting each frame as it goes along.  I was quite happy with the results for character movement, and this same thing could be applied to many variables aside from position if the script was extended.  Some ideas that are fairly obvious would be character health, rotation, or any other piece of numerical data that would be important to your game environment.

I didn’t apply the script to the in-game “bullets”, because the script doesn’t support the deletion of the bullet once it rewinds to the point of its origin.  however, something tag-based could be quite easily added into the script if that was a desired feature.

The other fun thing I wanted to do with time in this demo is something similar to bullet-time.  When a target is hit, I thought it would be fun to slow the overall game time down and gradually increase it back to regular speed.  Through the Time.timescale function, unity made this little diddy a snap.  It works something like this:

//time fixer (currently located in the character movement script)
 if (Time.timeScale > 0 && Time.timeScale < 1) {
 Time.timeScale += 0.005;
 }

Make note of the specification that the timescale needs to be above 0. This was added so that a game could still be paused without gradually unpausing itself.  With this if condition added into the Update section of a running script, all we have to do is trigger a drop in timescale based on a condition.  In this case, I used the collision of a bulled with one of the white target blocks:

//This snippet is attached to the white target blocks
var exp : Transform;
function OnCollisionEnter(other : Collision) {
 if (other.transform.tag == "bullet") {
 var splode : Transform = Instantiate(exp, transform.position, Quaternion.identity);
 splode.particleSystem.Play();
 GameObject.FindGameObjectWithTag("Player").SendMessage("Timing");
 Destroy(gameObject);
 }
}
------
//This function was added to the character movement script
function Timing() {
 Time.timeScale = 0.1;
}

With these few pieces of code added to my dull demo platformer, I was able to quickly pull off some quality features with very little programming.  Hopefully readers will find this demo useful as well, and if you have any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments below :)

Mar 282012
 

Recently, a friend of mine recommended that I try out a new Xbox Live Indie Game entitled, ‘Try Not to Fart’. How could I pass it up? So I hopped onto the marketplace, and purchased this indie gem for eighty Microsoft Points, a real steal for such a rich and smelly experience. I loved the game so much, in fact, that it prompted me to begin this series of articles, each featuring a new and popular Xbox Live Indie Game. So, let’s get down to the basics. Try Not to Fart is an Xbox Live Indie Game available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 80 Microsoft Points. It is one of the many titles developed by Silver Dollar Games to be featured in the XBLIG marketplace.

"Whoever smelt it, dealt it."

Try Not to Fart, is simple in theory, but complicated in execution. The story goes as follows. You are a young gentleman that has just met a beautiful woman at a bar, during conversations with her, you must try your best not to break wind in order to move on to the next scene. As you progress throughout your life with this woman, you must retain an eternity of farts, or else your life is over. The game places you in the most awkward scenarios where one would feel it most embarrassing to ‘let one rip’, such as a first kiss, meeting the parents, or even the birth of your son.

The game uses simple mechanic of pressing and holding random buttons on the controller, and letting each one go when prompted. It seems easy at first, sure, but as the game progresses, you will find yourself in similar pain as you would actually trying no to fart. For example, holding the ‘X’ button with the ‘LT’ button seems easy enough, but before releasing, the game will ask that you press a few more buttons, such as ‘B’, ‘A’ and ‘LB’. Not terribly hard, until you consider that each individual button needs to be released at a certain time, causing your mind to wander, your fingers to cramp, and your anus to loosen. With that in mind, the beginning levels will have just three or four button combinations, but towards the end, you will be pushing buttons with fingers you didn’t know you had, trying to keep it all in during complex presses and releases. Your hands will burn, you will use your pinkies and probably your nose too, and you will fart, a lot.

"Beans, beans, they're good for your heart. The more you eat the more you............oops!"

The game is great fun, especially if you have a few friends over. You can ‘Try Not to Fart’ more than the next guy, and the leaderboards can tell each of you who the best at holding bodily functions is. Hardcore mode provides an additional challenge to those that can hold farts like no one should. The story is the real gem of this game, with funny dialogue and cliche comments from the judgmental patrons, the humor doesn’t stop with the flatulent fun.

Silver Dollar Games really hit a home run with this indie title. The ease of use from the controls, the laugh-out-loud hilarity, and the borderline inappropriate humor make this game a steal for just 80 points. You know how you always have to purchase more points than you need in order to buy your Call of Duty map packs, well this game is well worth those spare points, that you would otherwise use to purchase a Call of Duty Avatar item, like a stupid shirt, or some combat boots. Just keep in mind that there are great small games out there that need attention too, and with the amount of fun packed into such a small price, Try Not to Fart is a great example of one of these games.

"Push!!!!! Not too hard though, don't want to stink up the place!"

Every Wednesday, Xbox Live Indie Game of the Week will feature a popular, and entertaining Xbox Live Indie Game. Do you have a suggestion for next weeks game? Have you played an indie game on Xbox Live that knocked your socks off and want to help tell the world? Then follow Ryan Hillis on Twitter @rchillis. You can also like us on Facebook, and leave us feedback on what titles you would like to see featured. 

Mar 272012
 

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.

Sine Mora

PlayStation 3, PS Vita

Contains: Strong Language, Sexual Themes

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.


Sine Mora is straight up one of the best Shoot-em Up games I have played in this current console generation. In fact, it really may be the best I have played since the days of Super Nintendo. No, wait, I forgot about Einhänder. Either way, this game is absolutely a gem that should not be overlooked.

Sine Mora at first looks like a very traditional Shmup title when the game first get’s started. However, when the game get’s past it’s opening stage, you are treated to an entire plethora of unique features that really make Sine Mora stand out. Most notably, Sine Mora uses a time manipulation feature that will allow your pilot to slow the flow of time whilst they move around. This comes in quite handy in the many “Bullet hell” situations that you will be faced with. This feature isn’t just an oddity that is never really discussed, the characters in the story actually end up jumping through time at a point due to the time bending devices. The secondary weapons also add to the game’s creativity due to the fact they often dish out extreme damage and offer a fair amount of utility as well.

Fortunately, damage is a fickle thing in Sine Mora, since your ship will almost never be destroyed due to enemy fire. There is a timer that is continually running down, when the clock hits zero, your ship explodes and the game is over. Power-ups and shooting enemy targets down will help add time to the clock while taking damage and hitting obstacles will take time off in chunks. At first, this makes the game sound a bit on the easy side of things but players will soon find that the time shield system is more of a burden than a boon.

Actually, Sine Mora is an incredibly difficult game. It is easy to say it could be the Dark Souls of it’s genre since it isn’t very forgiving at all. Paying attention to your surroundings and to what the skippable dialog says can be the difference to beating the game and also burning up all of your continues. In some genres, this is an issue, people don’t usually want to get their asses kicked constantly throughout. In Sine Mora, the difficulty actually makes each victory so much more awesome. It is rare in these type of games that you find yourself feeling a sense of accomplishment when doing something so trivial. A great example of this is in one of the chapters where you have to maneuver your ship through a pipe system while staying in debris. If you fail to keep up, you will be awarded with instant death and all the work that you put in to get to where you are will have to be redone. Fortunately, the game’s handling is as good as I could ever hope for it to be and the “bullet time” feature really gives you an edge when things get really messy.

The game’s story is an interesting one, you play as both the anthropomorphic ”villains” and “heroes” of a war that has decimated an entire race. It took me a couple playthroughs before I realized that everyone wasn’t on the same side due to the heinous acts that each side commits in battle. On one side of the battle, Ronotra Koss and his team are hell bent on continuing a serial revenge killing spree that is a result from the beginning of the game. On the other side you have a ragtag band of freedom fighters looking to free the remainders of an obliterated race by attacking their enemies through a series of well planned strikes. Of the many characters in the game, I only found 2 likable, which was more than likely the plan from the start since the rest of the playable characters consist of murderers and criminals… for the most part.

The graphics in Sine Mora are fantastic for the genre itself! Colorful areas feel alive and adventurous whilst the cityscapes are dull and overwhelming , creating an amazing atmosphere wherever you go. Enemies often times appear in the background or even the foreground before entering the standard plane that you fight on, allowing you to plan out your tactics as best as you possibly can. There were times while playing that I actually caught myself admiring water effects or the expansive cities that I was fighting in, only to be quickly snapped back into the game due to the myriad of bullets that were about to tear my time shield to shreds.

While there is a ton of praise, there are also a few things to keep in mind if you are planning on picking up Sine Mora. First, the game’s brutal difficulty only gets worse on other game modes. This can be a problem for those that are not completely familiar with the genre. I found myself having a few issues at parts of the game if there were too many distractions going on in the room and I am extremely versed in the shoot-em up genre. As compelling as the story is, it is also very hard to follow and key points are sometimes communicated through the plotlines. These points are as easy to follow as the actual story, a great example of this is the aforementioned debris chute that you need to navigate. I died a handful of times at that point of the game just because I didn’t realize the chatter between characters was actually telling me what to do.

Overall, Sine Mora is not only an enjoyable and creative game but also one of the best downloadable games I have played this year. Even with the small drawbacks, the additional creativity throughout the alternative game modes and the seperate plot line that becomes available after beating the game on Insane really give you something to keep coming back to. It is an extremely well executed title that offers something for anyone that enjoys the shoot-em up genre.

XBox 360

Graphics

95
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

90
 

Execution

95
 

Offset

90
    

9.1

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Beautiful graphics
  • Challenging gameplay
  • Different game modes
  • Controls are nearly perfect

Cons:

  • Story is hard to follow
  • Sometimes trial and error is the only way to progress

 

Mar 272012
 

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.

I Am Alive

Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Contains: Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

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.


With it being 2012 and according to those crazy Mayans, the world will be a wasteland, why not start with a little apocalyptic simulation courtesy of Ubisoft Shanghai’s new survival title I Am Alive.  The title, which has been in development since 2008, mixes platforming, a little bit of action, and fairly good storytelling that turns out to be one of the most disturbing titles so far this year, despite its adventure genre status.

I Am Alive tells the story of Adam, a husband and father of one who has finally reached the city of Haventon in search of his wife and daughter.  Ever since “The Event” took place a year ago, the world is not the same.  A global environmental disaster wiped out a habitual environment for living things with it killing off a majority of the planet.  All that remains is ruined cities and a toxic haze that lurks in the air, with those who are fortunate to be alive, fighting to survive.

One of the Many Breathtaking Views

It’s a simple plot with little explained about “The Event” or the outcome of the rest of the planet outside of Haventon, but it’s nice to have a title where players are placed in the aftermath of a disaster instead hundreds of cutscenes explaining what happened.  Adam is a likable and interesting character, but a little more background on him would have been nice (along with the supporting characters).  Whereas 99% of games have a main antagonist, I Am Alive oddly enough does not have one, which to me was a great choice.  In a hellish environment like this one, everyone is your enemy and trust is the matter of life and death, so having a super villain would have been inappropriate for a title like this.

Gameplay wise, the title mixes both Assassin’s Creed platforming and first person action sequences.  Platforming itself is most of the game, with players have the ability to climb, swing, and jump from numerous pieces of objects in the destructed city.  There is not as much freedom as something like Assassin’s Creed, but I enjoyed the platforming overall.  It’s just something about climbing a towering skyscraper hundreds of feet in the air that gives an adrenaline rush.  One issue I did have is the controls, especially, with the platforming.  Sometimes, your character won’t be responsive in making a leap or will jump the incorrect way.  Controlling the camera is a nightmare in these parts of the game as well.

People Will Do Anything to Snag A Ticket to The Hunger Games

I Am Alive is definitely no walk in the park in terms of difficulty, and one aspect of the title that takes part in making your life a living hell is the stamina meter.  Now in no way is the stamina meter a bad thing, it’s actually presents a nice challenge to the game.  Every time your character runs, jumps, climbs, breaths in toxic fumes, your stamina meter depletes.  Once the meter hits zero, you’re character begins to lose health or loses his grip on a ledge.  Overall, the stamina bar forces the player to plan out how to climb a skyscraper more carefully to prevent, you know, death.  Also, I found myself on the edge of my seat every time I climbed an object, so it definitely keeps you on your feet.

One big prop to the development team is the production design for the title.  The destructive environment that is the city of Haventon is designed so well that it’s truly a treat for the eyes.  In one memorizing sequence, you climb the tallest skyscraper in the city.  To stand on the edge of the tower and look at the ruined city below is one of the most rewarding yet shocking images to set your eyes upon.  However, all is not particular well in the graphics area.  Though the lighting design and grainy look of the game worked, the graphics in general seemed severely outdated.  From blurring walls to environments loading, the game is not the prettiest in terms of basic graphics, but the design overall is excellent.

Though, all enemies are essentially the same, they are a challenge nonetheless.  The minimal fighting elements are effective in that it’s not all run and gun, but players are truly challenged with the lack of resources.  I may have received a total of 15 bullets the entire game.  Every time you are ambushed, players must find a way to strategize which enemies to attack first (the one with the gun or the one with armor) or to surprise kill them.  There’s a limited amount of combat maneuvers one can do in I Am Alive, but the game more so focuses on the depth of the action sequences rather than weapon types and power ups.  Also, the character interaction with enemies is beyond brilliant.  For example, some enemies will retreat if you point a gun at them, loaded or not loaded.  However, point a gun or run away from someone who does have one, they instantly fire upon you.  It’s interactions like these that truly make I Am Alive one of kind.

Probably Best Not to Look Down....

The title is roughly four hours long, which is fairly on the short side in my opinion.  The title could have easily been extended a good hour or so because the ending itself had potential to continue.  Throughout the title, save points are only in between chapters, which are roughly 30 min or so in length.  This is where the challenge of the title is more of a nuisance rather than enjoyable.  Players gain restarts throughout the game by helping those who don’t want to kill you with providing them food and other survival items.  You help a folk out, you get a restart.  Every time you die, players are forced to use a restart for a checkpoint and once you run out, back to the start of the chapter for you.  It would not have been bad if the developers had allowed to save between checkpoints instead of chapters .

Overall, I Am Alive is a well balanced title that manages to demonstrate a horrifying look at the aftermath of an environmental disaster.  Ubisoft Shanghai created a world full of destruction, violence, and sadness with a realistic spin to it.  If you can get past the weak controls, goofy save system, and lack luster graphics, it’s an rewarding experience that will send a chill down your spine and may even get a tear in your eye (one scene in particular is quite possibly one of the most disturbing and saddening images I can recount seeing in a game).  If you’re looking for a title that doesn’t quite fit in with conventional adventure games on the market, check this one out.  After playing a game like this, you may want to stock up on bottled water, first aid kits, and rat meat.

XBox 360

Graphics

60
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

90

Creativity

85
 

Execution

80
 

Offset

80
    

7.8

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Brilliant Design
  • Balanced Platforming
  • Challenging Action/Enemies
  • Great Character Response System

Cons:

  • So-So Graphics
  • Frusterating Controls
  • Goofy Camera
  • Unfair Save System
  • A Little on the Short Side
Mar 272012
 

This week, Mass Effect Month here on Top 10 Tuesdays comes to a close. To finish the event off, I’ve chosen to end with the Top 10 Mass Effect Missions. Any mission from any Mass Effect game is eligible for this list, with missions being judged on the quality of combat encounters, story elements, character moments, and overall design. While all these things factored into my decision making, ultimately what it really comes down to is how memorable the mission is, and how everything came together as a whole. I may consider doing future month long Top 10 Tuesday events where appropriate, but next week will be back to regular lists.

There will be spoilers, you have been warned.

10. Retaking Earth (Mass Effect 3)

The last ten minutes notwithstanding, the final mission in Mass Effect 3 is pretty damn good. The action itself is fairly standard; there isn’t much in terms on combat encounters to really set it apart from the rest of the game, but it more than makes up for it in other areas. There are tons of awesome looking cutscenes all throughout the mission, from the galactic fleet charging through the Mass Relay, to the shuttle squadron approaching London, to the intimate ground fighting of all the allied races; it’s all really well done. What really makes this mission stand out, for me at least, is being able to say goodbye to your friends and teammates. These conversations turned out to be pretty emotional, and they allow you to say farewell to these characters that we’ve come to know so well over the course of 3 games.

9. Noveria (Mass Effect)

Noveria is a very interesting mission, and one that could really only exist with the way the first game was structured. The first half of the mission is spent in a populated area, talking to people and investigating what at that point is only a rumor of Geth presence. You have several avenues available to you for how you want to proceed, and you eventually find yourself at a research facility overrun by Rachni. After some maintenance, you once again have many different methods of proceeding. You can help the stranded scientists deal with their situation, but if you get too nosy, Benezia will order the stations security personnel to attack you. Whichever method you choose to proceed, you are lead to a showdown with Benezia. Once she is defeated, you’re faced with one of the series’ toughest decisions. Kill or save the Rachni.

8. Rannoch (Mass Effect 3)

The actual mission part of Rannoch is actually quite short and unexceptional. There are a few combat encounters against Geth, and they in no way stand out from any encounter with the Geth from any game in the series. However, when a Reaper destroyer shows up, things get interesting. After using the target designator to call down fire from the Normandy and the entire Quarian Fleet, you are then tasked with ending war 300 games in the making. Over the course of three games, the Geth have gone from stereotypical AIs that want only to destroy organic life, to much more complex beings. After seeing exactly what the initial Geth uprising looked like a few mission prior, the decision become much more difficult. The Geth were the oppressed, and the Quarians were the ones at fault. The Geth, who were once the embodiment of the enemy, are now revealed to be victims, and it all comes to a head at the end of the Rannoch mission. Without getting into the specifics, no matter which choice you make, the result is very emotional. Siding with Quarians in particular was quite brutal, and the game makes great use of the renegade interrupt feature to really make you feel what you are doing. With every pull of the trigger I kept telling myself, “I really don’t want to do this”, but I kept going.

7. Collector Ship (Mass Effect 2)

The Collector Ship is a really well done mysterious mission. The Normandy is tasked to investigate a Collector ship that has apparently been disabled by Turians. For the first half of the mission, you see no enemies. You are simply making your way through the very creepy looking ship, with no Collectors in sight. At a console, EDI discovers that The Collectors are actually indoctrinated and mutated Protheans, which is one of the best reveals in the entire series. After you discover that the whole thing was a trap, you must fight your way out. Once the combat starts, the Collector Ship proves to be one of the most challenging missions in the series. Playing this mission on insanity was particularly challenging, though very rewarding when your tactics and strategy finally win out.

6. Thessia (Mass Effect 3)

Thessia is a very rare thing in the Mass Effect series; it’s an occasion where Shepard loses. I actually think I was struck more by the fall of Thessia than I was the opening scenes on Earth. Part of that is obviously because Earth was basically a tutorial (which I felt somewhat undermined the urgency of the situation), but even so, Thessia was very well done. The Asari have always been the embodiment of stability and peace in the Galaxy, and to see their homeworld fall to the Reapers was a great way of driving home just how dire the war was becoming. Not to mention this mission features an excellent conversation with The Illusive Man, and a decent boss fight against Kai Leng. What really makes this mission work so well is how it starts by giving hope and optimism to the Asari fighting the Reapers, to just total despair and hopelessness by the end.

Mar 262012
 

for the past few weeks, the state of UK high street game stores has been hanging in limbo, the GAME administration fiasco has taken worse turn after worse turn and now it appears the company is fast approaching the end of the line. Rent was due on all of GAME and gamestation’s stores over the weekend and today further revelations seem to show that bills haven’t been paid and the stores are beggining to close.

Sleep Well Sweet Prince

GAME’s website has been taken down and displays only a brief message from it’s administrators outlining the situation, the only silver lining is that the message ends by saying the compny hope to be back online soon. This suggests that the company still hope to remain alive in one form or another, but the consumer advice which has been posted to the company’s website wont give any satisfaction to a lot of the people that it relates to.

1.Online Sales: We expect some disruption to our online services over the next few days while we make some changes. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.

2.Refunds and Exchanges: Until further notice, we will not be able to offer refunds or exchanges for products purchased either before the administration or for products purchased from the date of the administration.

3.Pre-Orders: No new pre-orders can be taken until further notice. No refunds can be given for any pre-order deposits which have been paid. We are reviewing this over the next week.

4.gamestation Elite card: We have had to suspended use of gamestation Elite cards. This means that points can be earned but NOT redeemed until further notice.

5.Gift cards: We have also had to suspend gamestation gift cards. The value on these cards cannot be redeemed. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.

6.Pre-owned Software: You can still buy pre owned products at great prices in your local store or online. If you trade in a pre-owned software item then you will still be able to accrue reward points and use your trade in to exchange for another item. You will not be able to trade in pre-owned software for cash. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.

7.Pre-owned Hardware: We have had to suspend trade in for pre-owned hardware at this time. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.

8.Click and Collect titles: We have had to suspend this service. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

The above information basically tells us all that if you have any points, gift cards or paid pre order then the money is gone, never to be seen again, supposedly. On top of the online problems for the company, the first effects have been felt on the high street with some stores reportedly being told to close up in the middle of today.

 

Mar 262012
 

Recently, we received a correspondence in the form of a newsletter from the ECA (Entertainment Consumer Association). In the newsletter, the ECA announced that the Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009 has been rewritten and reissued in the form of a new bill bearing the same name. The Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2012, if passed, will require all video games, except those with EC (Early Childhood) ratings to be stamped with a warning. The label will read as follows; WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior. 

We are all gamers, in some form or another, and we know this to be not true. Poorly drafted bills, and inaccurate misconceptions have led those without knowledge to believe that video games have a negative effect on those that play them. If this bill were to pass, even games with an ESRB rating of ‘E for Everyone’ would be subject to this very label. Here is what the ECA had to say about the resurrection of this bill:

Rep. Joe Baca (D CA-43), along with Rep. Frank Wolf (R VA-10) as co-sponsor, thinks its 2009 again and have introduced H.R. 4204, “The Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2012.” This bill, if passed, would require a warning label be affixed to all games rated E (for Everyone) or up by the ESRB, regardless of the content descriptors. The warning would read: `WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.’ The ECA needs your help to make sure this bill does not become law. Congress is simply misinformed on this issue. While Congressman Baca has cited “scientific studies,” the vast majority of studies show that there is no proven causal link between violent video games and negatively aggressive behavior. In fact, several studies suggest that playing video games can be helpful to young people, such as this study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Further, the bill requires the label on games that are not rated E or above for violence, which could confuse parents and undermine the ESRB, which according to the FTC is the most enforced media retail system. “The Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2012” is an unconstitutional restraint on speech that would harm consumers and parents alike. Please join with the ECA. Let your Representatives know that you want them to let the industry and parents continue to use a system that works, and have Congress stay focused on the real problems facing our nation.

Obviously, we as gamers have to do our part, and fight against ignorance and intolerance towards the industry we love. The ECA asks that you contact your elected officials and tell them how inaccurate and absurd this bill is. It was beaten down once before, but it must be defeated again! If you want to know more, you can view the ECA Action Alert page here.  Also, you can visit the ECA website and become a member here.

Mar 262012
 

One my most anticipated games of this year may not even see the light of day after several sources have confirmed that Prey 2 has been cancelled.

The Dutch gaming site PS Focus was the first to report on the news stating that it had multiple inside sources confirm the bad news.  According to the sources, publisher Bethesda Softworks made the call to can the title.

A representative from Bethesda Softworks told gaming publications that the company has no comment concerning the report.

Interestingly enough, gameplay videos for Prey 2 were suppose to be shown at this year’s Game Developers Conference, but Bethesda pulled the presentations right before the convention.  Also, another bad sign is that the title’s Facebook fan page has not been updated since Dec 2011.

Hopefully, this is not the actual case for Prey 2.  With the next installment being a open world/non-linear futuristic title, Prey 2 definitely seems promising.  Say it ain’t so, Bethesda!

Source: Gamespot

 

Mar 252012
 

The purpose of this article is to take financial responsibility and make more savvy purchases on forgotten games. These are the games that you may, or may not, have noticed in the used bins at your local game retailer. Often, in times of massive, mega releases, some of the otherwise stellar titles get left by the wayside. Have you ever passed on a new game because of how much money you planned on spending in the foreseeable future, only to completely forget about said game? Well, that is where I come in. Each week, I will stop by a local retailer and dig through the bins to find a great title for a bargain of a price. We are talking about great games, that need to be noticed and for a minimal expense. Welcome to the Bargain Bin.

You can raft, and other fun crap like that.

This week, I dropped in at my local GameStop looking for a cheap and engaging title. After having the clerk ask me tons of questions about games and what I was looking for, I told him of my little venture. He then agreed to print out a list of every game they had available within the company for fewer than five dollars.

I perused throughout the used games bin, looking for something that would spark my interest. I picked up a little title you may have heard of called Kinect Adventures. Now, you might be thinking a couple of things at this point, such as; “What the f#*%”, “Is this guy serious?” and “Doesn’t that game come with the Kinect?” The answer to all of these is yes, even the “What the f#*%” question. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I obtained a Kinect without the included game Kinect Adventures, and since the sale price of the game was $1.79 with a GameStop membership, could I really pass it up?

Its even got some racket ball kinda shit, too!

So there I stood, in front of the counter, a used copy of Kinect Adventures in one hand, and a two dollar bill in the other (yeah, I spend ‘em, whatcha gonna do about it). The young lad that helped me before then asked, “You know you have to have a Kinect to play this game right?” “No, dumbass, I definitely did not see the sea of purple that is the cover of this f#*%ing game.” I didn’t really say that. The total with tax included was $1.93. I was then asked if I wanted to add the seven cents onto my Assassin’s Creed III preorder. Well f#*% it GameStop, the point of this article was to spend as little money as possible, but I guess you can weasel your way into my seven cent change and add it to something else I can buy from you. Greedy bastards. But what can you do with seven cents in change? Give it to a homeless guy? He will laugh at you for only having seven cents in change. Then you will go home and second guess every decision you have ever made in your life, wondering where it all went wrong. Then you end up getting plastered, and playing Kinect Adventures naked. Next thing you know, you are talking to the cops about how the neighbor’s kid saw you jumping around naked because your drunk ass didn’t close the blinds all the way. But I digress.

I took the game home, and fired up the ole 360, hoping no one would send me messages mocking my newest purchase, because let’s be honest, your recent games played list should not say; Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, Kinect Adventures. But after a few short hours of hoping, jumping plugging up leaks and flailing around like a crazy asshole, I realized, “For $1.79, this game is pretty bad ass.” Now as far as retail goes, I am sure it had the standard, watered down price of most Kinect titles at launch, roughly $40.00 or so. Not worth $40.00 or so. But a buck seventy-nine? Worth it.

Now, the basic principle of Kinect Adventures is to complete various “adventures” by obtaining the required amount of Adventure Pins in order to proceed to the next challenge. The game is fast paced, a great workout, and can be played with the whole family (or your friends, if they are drunk enough to agree. *Warning, playing this game drunk could result in dizziness, headaches, projectile vomiting, violent diarrhea, shame, loss of dignity, embarrassing pictures that will undoubtedly find their way to the internet). When you complete ‘adventures’, you are then rewarded with a “living statue” as a result of your accomplishment. This statue will prompt a voice and movement recorder which can be used to give the statue a personality of its own. This is the perfect time to yell obscenities at the screen, (acceptable phrases are as follows: “Suck it!”, “What now, Bitch!”, and the always popular “Who’s your daddy!”) whilst pointing at your crotch, in order to show the world how you just made that adventure your bitch. Other than that, the game is just a compilation of various tasks from the Adventure Challenges, only in different forms (like timed modes and shit).

Look at how much fun these assholes are having. For less than 2 bucks, you could be one of these assholes!

The game is fun for anyone with small children, and if you are at home by yourself, let’s be real. But a deal like that cannot be passed up. If for some reason you own a Kinect, and do not have this title, you must go to GameStop and purchased a used copy for yourself. The “hours of fun/per dollar” ratio is very favorable, and if you hate it, you can always just set it on fire, or wipe your ass with the manual, or whatever destructive thing it is that you wish to do. All in all, the game is a great buy used. Most won’t have this problem however, since most Kinect sensors come with the game included, but trust me, you can’t go wrong with a fun title that costs less than large soda at McDonalds, unless it is summer, because McDonalds usually sells sodas for like .59 cents or some shit.

Mar 242012
 

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

SSX

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Contains: Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.


It’s been nearly 9 years since I last played a SSX game, which if you are counting is SSX 3. It was a great game but one of the last extreme sports games that I would enjoy for quite awhile. The downfall of Tony Hawk games and the emergence of the current generation of consoles really evolved my taste in gaming, or so I thought. SSX’s reboot sought to bring back many of the things that I loved about the genre. As much dislike as EA gets on certain games, they did a great job bringing this series back from oblivion.

Something that caught me immediately off guard when I started playing SSX was that this game actually has a story. It’s not a “let’s save the world, bro” or really anything that really impacts anyone outside of the SSX team and their rival Team Griff. As my tastes in gaming have evolved and my interest in the actual competitive scene has increased, the story feels very real. The SSX team was formed by the best extreme athletes in the world, they apparently decide that they should all start snowboarding throughout the most dangerous locales in the world. Their goal is to be the first to achieve this deadly feat but then their best and brightest rider, Griff, jumps ship and creates his own team. In a nutshell, that is the story behind SSX and honestly, it isn’t bad for what it is. Most of the story is delivered in comic book style cutscenes and they are usually shown after unlocking another main character.

So, how is the gameplay this time around? For starters, I thought I had the hang of the controls after the first few races but I was absolutely destroyed after the first few mountains. The tracks are incredibly well designed with multiple routes available, each route offers it’s own variant to the course as well. What was interesting though was that fact that I really had to choose the right route for the gear I brought with me. I could miss a jump with a board that lacked sufficient speed or fly right off a cliff with a board that didn’t handle as well. This was a great feature as well as a pain in my ass as well. Many times, I found myself learning that the gear I chose wasn’t optimal for the course I took. Restarting became a constant activity but it was hard to complain when the environments and gameplay were in a constant state of evolution.

The actual tools at your disposal are one of the most entertaining features of the game, with items like wing suits and body armor helping you survive a descent while lamps or ice axes make travel not nearly as treacherous. Each special item has it’s own featured survival course, which can be completed for an achievement by not actually bringing the special item with you. This task is actually easy in some cases and extremely hard in others. I had the most issue with the oxygen level, getting close to the end each time.

Along with a RPG-like leveling system with the ability to buy gear for the many different characters in the game (whom each have their own specialties), there is also a rather enjoyable community that goes along with the multiplayer features as well. You can find geo tags hidden on mountains or try to race and get the best time, there is a fair amount that you can do and great awards for participating. Multiplayer may not be strong enough to carry the game by itself but it does provide some enjoyment for players that enjoy a strong community with social aspects.

When I started this review, there was something odd I noticed right off the bat. I was trying to record the game on component video so I could show you all some crazy tricks and let you be the judge of the game mechanics. However, when playing the game on 1080i, the resolution was completely distorted and just a total ugly mess. The game resembled a PS2 game rather than a late generation PS3 game, I nearly went forward with the review until I tried to use my HDMI and noticed a massive improvement in resolution and graphics. I found a few instances online where this was happening with other people as well, so as a heads up, if you play on component video then you may need to be prepared for this graphical bug.

At the end of the day, SSX is the extreme sports game that consoles have been lacking for a long time. It may not be the best in the series but it is the most innovative. The complete dubstep soundtrack can wear on your nerves after awhile, but the ambient sound effects are amazing. If you are looking to fill that void that games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater left, then SSX is certainly the right type of game to fill that void.

Playstation 3

Graphics

70
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

85

Creativity

85
 

Execution

90
 

Offset

80
    

8.2

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Constantly changing gameplay
  • Innovative levels
  • Great sound effects
  • A sharp looking game (on HDMI)

Cons:

  • For those not familiar, the game presents a steep learning curve
  • Component video but makes recording a hassle
  • Dubstep loaded soundtrack comes off as borderline obnoxious
Mar 232012
 

Some users, especially those new to Unity3d, may have issues understanding variables and declarations within a script.  I wanted to take a moment to explain in-depth the different types of variables, how they work, and what your own best practice should be for the usage of each.

Public

First, we’ll speak about public variables.  When using javascript, this is the default variable type.  Declaring one is quite simple:

var myVariable : String;

When using javascript, we don’t actually need to declare using the word “public”.  In C#, this isn’t the case.  The same thing in C# would be:

public string myVariable;

A public variable is two things:

  • A variable which can be accessed by other scripts if needed
  • Available in the Unity editor for quick access and alteration

Regarding the latter, a quick note should be made.  If a public variable is declared and compiled, it will remain the same in the editor even if a dev later changes it in the original script where it is first declared.  For example, if you write something like:

var myVariable : int = 25;

…and then save/compile it (see it in the unity editor), if you change the script to something like:

var myVariable : int = 50;

…then nothing would actually change.  This one thing is confusing to every new unity user (even experienced developers used to other dev tools).

On the other hand, one of the main advantages about public variables is the ability to utilize them anywhere.  Let’s set up an example here.

//This script is ScriptOne.js, and simply makes a public variable.
var scriptOneVar : int = 25;
//This is ScriptTwo.js, and it accesses the variable information from the other script.
var script : ScriptOne;
script = GameObject.GetComponent("ScriptOne");
var accessedVariable : int = script.scriptOneVar;

This same thing will work with public functions as well, but that should be another tutorial altogether.  For now, just know that due to this nifty functionality, you need not declare a variable multiple times for multiple scripts.  Using GetComponent, you can access a script (along with its variables) from any gameObject the script is attached to.

Static

A static variable is one that will be active from the very beginning of the program’s execution.  For this reason, you may want to use them more sparingly, because they will need to be changed manually through script each time, and cannot simply be destroyed along with gameObjects.

//Script name myScript.js
static var myVariable : String = "Steve";

If the code above is used, for example, the variable is equal to “Steve” from the moment the game begins to run.  Static variables can only be declared or altered through script, but I myself have found them handy for overall usage in things that are altered as a player moves from one level to the next.  If you have a script that only contains static variables, you should never need to attach that script to any particular gameObject.

Accessing these variables is as easy as pointing to the script name.  In a project where the above script exists, a separate script that says:

//Other script
print ("The character's name is" + myScript.myVariable);

…should output the static value.  In the same vein, changing the value is as easy as:

myScript.myVariable = "Justin";

Private

A private variable is hidden from the inspector and only usable/accessible from the script it is executed from.  Using these will keep your inspector looking cleaner and make things easier on bigger projects overall.  Declaring them is quite simple:

private var myVariable : int = 55;

By default, I will use a private variable each and every time.  Only if I know that I will need to alter something via the inspector or access the value from another script will I start to decide on other types.  When programming, I find things easier overall if you plan for any project to get much larger than intended, and using private variables will make your code more manageable for the future.

 

Mar 222012
 

duh.

It was January 28th, 1998. I was living in Virginia Beach and we were having quite a white post Christmas at the time. I was one of those kids that, since I obviously couldn’t crack open an ice cold Bud Light Platinum (PRODUCT PLACEMENT!), I would drink cream soda and game all day behind my PS1 and 22” Sony television. You remember, the ones that got some ass to em.’

Who am I kidding. I just drank a twelve pack of cream soda and beat RE1 remake on Gamecube last night.

Last week.

For those of you who don’t remember, Final Fantasy Tactics had just released that day in the US, and I so eagerly picked up my copy from EB Games. Not GameStop, EB f*#%ing Games, brothers and sisters.

Now, for those of you who have never played FFT, 1) WTF have you been doing 2) How on earth can you call yourself a knowledgable gamer and 3) Get a copy NOW you douche bag!

FFT is tactical RPG birthed from the creators of Tactic Ogre. Though not the first Tactical RPG created, it is widely argued to be the main bringer of the genre to our beautiful shores here in the states.

It encompassed an isometric grid combat system, allowing the player to freely rotate the camera around the battlefield and not just have it fixed to one position. You also had the ability to change the job classes of any of your units, just like in FFV, all while experiencing, what I believe to be, one of the deepest and enthralling narratives ever produced by Square. Well, Square Enix, or whatever.

I couldn’t put it down until it was over. I played day in and day out maxing out all my stats, getting lost in the story, the plot twists, and the themes I wasn’t even old enough to understand yet. FFT is literally one of my top favorite games, next to heavy hitters such as Shadow of the Colossus and, oddly enough, Hey You Pikachu! Awful game. But that’s irrelevant! Pikachu is the shit.

But back to the point at hand, anyone that has experienced what I had so many years ago, and over and over again when it was ported to psn and psp, know that this game should not and is not ever taken lightly by those who claim to know gaming. But I want those of you reading to think about this.

What if you could take that gameplay experience and realize it into an MMO. Crazy right? No, asshole! Play Wakfu!

Wakwho you say?

Wakfu is a tactical MMORPG game. It’s a lot of letters, but a whole lot more fun. Take the combat and strategy in the battle system from FFT and Tactics Ogre and shove it into an MMO where you can choose one of thirteen character classes, all with three branching elemental skill trees, battle mobs, crawl through dungeons, grab endless amounts of loot, level up to a cap of 100 and trade and barter all with other REAL players.

It’s got a classic 2D sprite feel, but way more stylistic than the likes of Ragnorok. You even get a little cute pet! No Pikachu available. No worries though. I’ll start a petition about it.

Why would you not want to play this shit!

The fun begins in Incaram, the starting tutorial area for beginners and moves on from there into The World of Twelve, twelve unique nations all offering different experiences and passive buffs to your character.

The community is currently growing at an alarming rate, and based on my experience player are generous to help noobz out by giving them pointers and even gear they don’t need anymore along the way.

Speaking of gear, you can even create you own with the sixteen different harvesting and crafting professions available to you. Farm some shit, build some shit, be the shit!

Craft anything from rings that buff your air elemental to bread that heals you or add different statuses.

The community aspect of it is even better. There is a full, and very alive, political and economic system complete with laws and taxes. Every nation comes complete with a governor, guards, and soldiers who are all real players elected by REAL PLAYERS! The status of your relationship with other nations is constantly changing. One minute you could be over there and kickin’ some international ass, the next minute you could be getting your ass internationally kicked, due to war or rising conflicts for resources or even just sport.

Speaking of resources, I haven’t even mentioned the robust ecosystem.Whatever you kill or cut down or harvest doesn’t come back. If citizens don’t repopulate areas with greenery and animals that were killed it’ll ruin that nation ecosystem. It really pushes you to stay engaged in the ongoings of who you decide to be loyal to and stick to them.

But if you don’t want to be loyal to anything, f*#% it, don’t. Because, you can be an outlaw too!

Go to jail. Break out of jail. Be an all around bad ass that no one wants to fuck with. You’ll even get exclusive gear for being a dick! How sick is that! I plan on becoming an outlaw once I cap out. I don’t want to be some pussy Eastwood who gets rocked at the first sign of the pigs.

Self explanatory...

I partook in the closed beta all the way till the full release and it’s been a blast seeing the changes and being apart of the dev as a beta tester. With all the factors of the living world, choices to make, things to loot and kill, friends to meet and share experiences with, and the battle system that puts a whole new spin to things, Wakfu has been an amazing experience from when I started to when I did three dungeon crawls just last night. In conclusion, all I have to say is, If you loved FFT, or any kind of tactical turn based RPG at that, and you haven’t even tried Wakfu yet. Get off your ass, start an account, and prepare to lose you life WoW style and kick some ass FFT style.

 

Pikachu 4 life.

Mar 222012
 

With BioWare’s recent announcement regarding the “unacceptable” ending to Mass Effect 3, the popular developer may have just opened Pandora’s Box. Now, I am not saying BioWare did anything fishy, and I am not implying that the “horrible” ending was planned or that they were going to issue a new ending from the start, I am just simply suggesting that due to the ending change, BioWare may have just shown other developers and publishers something that may be used against us gamers in the future.

"My God, what have we done!?"

First, if you have not yet read the statement from Ray Muzyka, the c0-founder of BioWare, here it is:

As co-founder and GM of BioWare, I’m very proud of the ME3 team; I personally believe Mass Effect 3 is the best work we’ve yet created. So, it’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations. Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility.

I believe passionately that games are an art form, and that the power of our medium flows from our audience, who are deeply involved in how the story unfolds, and who have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in and support the artistic choices made by the development team. The team and I have been thinking hard about how to best address the comments on ME3′s endings from players, while still maintaining the artistic integrity of the game.

Mass Effect 3 concludes a trilogy with so much player control and ownership of the story that it was hard for us to predict the range of emotions players would feel when they finished playing through it. The journey you undertake in Mass Effect provokes an intense range of highly personal emotions in the player; even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us. This is an issue we care about deeply, and we will respond to it in a fair and timely way. We’re already working hard to do that.

To that end, since the game launched, the team has been poring over everything they can find about reactions to the game – industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. The Mass Effect team, like other teams across the BioWare Label within EA, consists of passionate people who work hard for the love of creating experiences that excite and delight our fans. I’m honored to work with them because they have the courage and strength to respond to constructive feedback.

Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.

The reaction to the release of Mass Effect 3 has been unprecedented. On one hand, some of our loyal fans are passionately expressing their displeasure about how their game concluded; we care about this feedback, and we’re planning to directly address it. However, most folks appear to agree that the game as a whole is exceptional, with more than 75 critics giving it a perfect review score and a review average in the mid-90s. Net, I’m proud of the team, but we can and must always strive to do better.

Some of the criticism that has been delivered in the heat of passion by our most ardent fans, even if founded on valid principles, such as seeking more clarity to questions or looking for more closure, for example – has unfortunately become destructive rather than constructive. We listen and will respond to constructive criticism, but much as we will not tolerate individual attacks on our team members, we will not support or respond to destructive commentary.

If you are a Mass Effect fan and have input for the team – we respect your opinion and want to hear it. We’re committed to address your constructive feedback as best we can. In return, I’d ask that you help us do that by supporting what I truly believe is the best game BioWare has yet crafted. I urge you to do your own research: play the game, finish it and tell us what you think. Tell your friends if you feel it’s a good game as a whole. Trust that we are doing our damndest, as always, to address your feedback. As artists, we care about our fans deeply and we appreciate your support.

Thank you for your feedback – we are listening.

After reading this statement, I couldn’t help but wonder how will this seemingly eventual ending be released? Will it come to us in the form of a required patch, or will it *gasp* cost us money in the form of downloadable content. You can see the dilemma. The possibility of companies botching critical points of the story, like the ending, and offering a small downloadable package to “fix” the problem, squeezing more money out of hardcore fan’s wallets.

As far as BioWare goes, I do not believe they did this intentionally. I feel as if they loved their ending(s), that it was the right ending(s). A developer as big as BioWare, with such an affinity to great storytelling would not resort to something as vile as releasing downloadable content for purchase in order to give fans what they want. But could it be justified?

Let’s say BioWare made a product they stood by. A product that received such rave reviews as Ray Muzyka claimed in his statement. Would it then be fair to charge those that disapproved of the ending, by offering those gamers a different ending if they felt the need? After all, they delivered an excellent game, a game that the end of a great franchise can be proud of. So, if they decided to charge for this DLC, could anyone actually blame them? After all, you bought the game already, you played it through, and because you weren’t satisfied with the ending, BioWare must go back to work and change it so that the complainers can be happy, free of charge? That doesn’t seem quite fair either, almost nearly as unfair as releasing a subpar series of endings.

The point I am trying to make here is, where is the middle ground? How can we, as gamers, make sure that no companies take advantage of another opportunity to charge us for the games we love, while at the same time not coming off as arrogant bastards that will lynch a developer if we are not satisfied with the story? Do we complain about every ending so that we can get the end results that we secretly hoped for all along? Do we boycott games with bad endings so publishers and developers get the point? At this point, I am not too sure.

"Where do we go from here?"

I will say, however, that I am one hundred percent in favor of developers making amends with the community. If there is a problem, and the community is not pleased, it is up to the developer to please the customers. We saw a lot of this with Battlefield 3 and the community becoming outraged with the delay in content and communication. That is a good thing, but to interfere with the creative process is a completely different story. No one changes the endings of books, songs or movies because people didn’t get the end product they expected, so why should video games be any different? These are the kind of situations that give those that do not take video games as a serious art form fuel for their fire. The problem with this game wasn’t a technical issue; it wasn’t even a content issue. The problem that many people have expressed concern about is the story, the creativity of the writers, the tellers of the Mass Effect story. I am sure some people didn’t like the beginning of UP, but does that mean Disney should just go back and say, “We are sorry, that was some sad shit, and many of you did not like it, so we went back and changed it to a more pleasant situation that doesn’t evoke as much emotion in order to please everyone.”

So tell us what you think. Is this really the right move? Do gamers having the ability to change endings tarnish the integrity of the story being told? Is it fair for developers to give out free content because people didn’t appreciate the creative process and accept the story for what it is?

You can follow Rhillis on twitter @rchillis.

Welcome to Gaming Irresponsibly. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/gamingirresponsibly and follow us on Twitter @gamingirrspbly.

Mar 212012
 

Even at 23, Paint is still hilarious.

For those of you who have, like myself, invested hours upon hours into this franchise plundering planets for resources, looting amazing weapons and armor, completing loyalty missions, and overall doing everything you can for the good of your crew and the galaxy with the power of choice, will agree that leaving all our hard work and dedication up to three colors is outright outrageous. Now I’m not here to rant about why I hated any of the sixteen different endings promised, or lack there of, or even cry about not having a renegade prompt to punch that star kid right in his six year old spleen. You’ve heard that story a hundred times over by now.

What I am here to talk about is how I was actually surprised by the reception, of said ending, by our community. I came across at least thirty Youtube videos and countless blogs in my search to find someone just as pissed as I was. As a gamer who mostly plays alone in his room with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a liter of Coke in the other, I was oblivious to the fact that there’s other people out there just like me. In my newly discovered sense of belonging, I found myself clicking web page after web page and blog after blog like a fifteen year old trying to stop watching viral kitten videos.

Over the course of a few hours of reading, and maybe trolling a bit, I came to, what I believe to be, a collective conclusion about how people actually felt. Yeah, the endings were a matter of palette change and of course it’s a big deal that we weren’t really given a choice in the matter, but the real crime here is our deep sense of disconnection.

I know I played Mass Effect to, like others, lose myself in being that hero I always wasn’t in high school. And maybe because I was too scared to make a suave move on that Quarian chick in my third period. Because like any good song, good book, or even piece of poetry, we got connected to the story, characters and events we could, in any way, relate to our daily lives. But what the beauty of Mass Effect is, is that you’re not just “along for the ride.” You build the ride! I didn’t just buy a ticket online for coach seating on the Normandy. I was the f%#^*ing commander, god damn it!

You find me a book where there’s three blank lines, that I can write in, where I’m prompted to put what I want the main character to say and the book just dynamically changes it’s words and outcome to the choice I made in the previous chapter. You won’t! Because that’s that Lord of the Rings shit. That’s that magic shit. Oh wait, that’s that Mass Effect shit!

You see, we all got individually connected to our tailor made stories via the choices we made through all three installments. But when you take away different outcomes that fit our decisions and hard work, you destroy our connectivity to OUR story. That’s just wrong. Something needed to be done.

Well, pretty angry.

Then I came across a petition on www.change.org with 11,000+ signatures demanding DLC with a new ending. I mean, change.org? That’s pretty f@#%ing serious. This completely blew my freaking mind. I couldn’t believe there were actually people as passionate as I was about this and trying to change it. Like really trying to change it, like movements change the government. Granted it may not be as important as some world issue, and we don’t really have a Martin Luther King of gaming behind us, but god damn it I spent countless days at home, NOT getting laid, for this epic journey, and I think I deserve more. Seeing this petition made me realize we all deserved more. Seeing this petition made me realize we can do more.

 

Just recently BioWare published a full statement regarding the fans reaction to the ending. Here it is.

 

We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending.

We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending. Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused.

Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.

This was published just a few days ago and goes to show, more than ever, that the power of our community can get things done and get what we want. The petition only needs 4,000 more signatures. And this wouldn’t just be a victory for the Mass Effect community, but the WHOLE gaming community. We are the consumer! We give you the power! We can and will get what we deserve!

We may not have united the galaxy we fought so hard to protect, but we sure as hell united to get the choice to do so that was stolen from us.

Here’s the hyperlinks to the petitions and the Facebook so you too can join the fight.

Change the end DLC petition

Petition to retake Mass Effect

Demand a better ending Facebook

 

Gamers unite.

 

 

Mar 202012
 

The beginning of the end.

Earlier this month, many fans of the beloved Mass Effect series began throwing their arms in the air demanding that BioWare change the outcome of Mass Effect 3. I was intrigued by this response. I kept asking myself, “Should video game developers or storytellers in general, change the ending of their story to adhere to the fan base?” The more I thought about this, the more I realized my answer would always be, “No.”

This is not because I love every ending to every story, nor is it because I am on the side of any storyteller. The story will always be what it is, as told by the creator. No matter the ending, fans should never allow their own personal preferences compromise the integrity of the story. By attempting to have someone change the story, you have effectively diminished the story, and the message, that the creators had hoped to convey. Good or bad, love it or hate it, take it for what it is, the end of the story.

Should creators let fans influence stories that they feel are unacceptable?

With that being said, there are tons of great books, movies, games, as well as other forms of storytelling that have ended in not so great fashion. Some have ended abruptly, leaving the user dumbfounded and unfulfilled, while others were dragged on too long, causing the user to become disinterested and bored. That is not a flaw with the ending of a story but more of a flaw with the execution of the storytelling process. Don’t make the mistake of having the same definition of a “bad” ending and a badly executed ending.

Also, the endings to these stories are completely subjective to begin with. Depending on who you are, or what your past experiences might have been, the ending could resonate with you on a more positive level than someone with a different background, or even someone in a different mood during the time of the story ending experience. In that case, is it justifiable to want the creator to change the story to something more fitting to you, when someone else already thinks it is perfect as is? Should fans really expect someone to change the outcome of something they did not create in order to help them accept that the story has ended? No.

In the case of BioWare, they recently stated that they were considering changing the ending to Mass Effect 3. I couldn’t help but scoff at the idea. I understand that they create a product, and they want the fans of the product to love it in as many aspects as humanly possible, but to change an ending strictly to appease a small percentage of players seems ridiculous. There may even be cases of larger publishers and developers slapping something together half-assed, and shipping it out to make a quick buck, but I have to believe that a franchise as highly touted as Mass Effect would have warranted enough thought and execution to create a worthy end to the story. EA may come off as the type of publisher that wants to churn out as many games as they can, but those responsible for creating the game, BioWare, would surely want to make sure that a franchise they have worked so hard on for the past five years would be given a proper exit.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Stories are a wonderful thing. They excite us, enthrall us, give us joy, instill sadness and evoke every possible emotion humans have. There are seemingly endless mediums for us to convey these stories to those that wish to experience them, and no matter how the story has been chosen to be told, the end is always just that, the end. Sometimes things end unexpectedly and without warning. Sometimes things end unfairly and without just cause, but they end. We, as a society, need to learn to love the story, enjoy it while it is here, and cherish it when it is over. The creator is the one holding all the cards, and with respect to the one telling the story, we need to accept the way they chose to end it, no matter how it makes us feel. There will always be stories that end in such a way that we become frustrated, but for every case of an angry fan that feels betrayed, there is another, completely happy with the way things turned out.

So, what do you think? Should creators let fans sway the way they tell their story? Should video game developers change an ending in order to appease rabid fans? Let us know what you think in the comment box below.

Mar 202012
 

Mass Effect month continues as we’re now in week 3. This week’s topic will be the Top 10 Mass Effect Decisions. The criteria for this list is simply any decision you have to make at any point throughout the series. I am judging these by the information you are presented with at the moment of the decision, and the choice you are forced to make. Admittedly, some of these turn out to be more significant than others (though none really matter at all given the ME3 endings), but I am not judging these by their impact on the story or later games. This list is simply the most interesting, difficult, or emotional decisions based solely on the moment you make them. Obviously, there will be spoilers for all three games. Be sure to check back next week for the final entry in Mass Effect Month: The Top 10 Missions. For now though, enjoy The Top 10 Decisions.

10. Kill or Save Sidonis (Mass Effect 2)

Prior to Shepard’s reunion with him in Mass Effect 2, Garrus had been running his own team of vigilantes on Omega. However, he was betrayed by one of men, Sidonis, and it resulted in the other 10 members of his team being killed by mercenaries. He swore revenge, and eventually did track Sidonis down on the Citadel. Obviously, Shepard joins him to help, and at the moment of truth, you can either allow Garrus to murder Sidonis, or warn Sidonis and prevent Garrus from going through with it. I know my first instinct was to let Garrus go through with it; he’s my Turian brother, I don’t want to upset him. However, stopping him is actually the best choice for Garrus, as it allows him to see the guilt Sidonis is living with, and ultimately stops him from doing something he would later regret.

9. Geth or Quarians (Mass Effect 3)

This is one comes with a caveat. It is possible to resolve this situation without having to really make a decision as long as reputation is high enough, but had that not been the case, and you really did have to make a choice, this would be number 1. After you defeat the Reaper on Rannoch, you have to choose whether you want to allow the Quarians to finish off the Geth, or allow the Geth to uprgrade themselves to true AI status, and finish off the Quarians. Choosing between the extinction of two races is bad enough, but the fact that you have Legion and Tali right next to you; two close friends and loyal companions representing the races you have to choose between, really makes this a tough choice. Both races have legitimate grievances against the other. The Quarians attempted genocide of the Geth 300 years ago, resulting a long and bloody war. The Geth chose to accept Reaper upgrades to improve themselves when the Quarians attacked. While the Quarians are probably the ones to blame for most of the hostility between the two groups, siding with Geth while Tali, the sweetest and most likeable character in the series, is standing right beside you makes that a very tough choice. Like I said, you can completely avoid the decision with a higher enough reputation, so that really hurts the weight of the situation, though I was definitely glad I didn’t have to kill off either group.

8. Project Overlord (Mass Effect 2)

Project Overlord was a Cerberus operation with the ultimate goal of controlling the Geth. Of course, it went horribly wrong, and as you investigate, you learn that a young autistic man, David Archer, was the key to the whole project. His autistic mind allowed him to interpret the Geth coding, and give them commands. However, this was achieved by hooking him into a giant computer against his will. When Shepard comes across this, you have the choice to either free him, sending him to Grissom Academy, or to allow Cerberus to continue to use him, allowing the possibility to completely control the Geth (at a point when the Geth/heretic dichotomy was not yet known).

7. Anderson or Udina (Mass Effect)

After the battle of the Citadel, the choice of who will represent humanity on the council is given to Shepard. You have the choice between either Captain Anderson, a strong military man with a sense of honor and duty, or Ambassador Udina, a ruthless politician that knows how to get things done, morals be damned. While Anderson will eventually resign if he is chosen (an event that occurs in the novel “Mass Effect: Retribution”), the initial decision is still a tough one. Do you choose your friend and mentor, or the man more suited for the job, even if he is in it only for the power?

6. Geth Heretics (Mass Effect 2)

After meeting Legion, Shepard learns that the Geth he had been fighting up to that point represented only a small faction of Geth known as the Heretics. Only the Heretics worshiped the Reapers, with the majority of Geth just wanting to exist in isolation from organics. This knowledge makes the decision on what to do with the Heretics a more difficulty one. You can either outright destroy the Heretics, effectively removing the threat, or you can rewrite them, making them like the rest of the Geth, also removing the threat. Even Legion can’t decide what would be best, and the decision ultimately comes down to whether forcing an idea on a group of sentient beings is preferable to outright killing them.

Mar 162012
 

Bethesda is looking to develop their own MMORPG based on the widely popular Elder Scrolls series.

According to an industry source, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda will officially announce the title in May 2012.  Setting wise, the title will be rumored to take place a millennium before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

As of now, the only gameplay details to be known is that players will choose between three fractions, each being represented by an animal (lion, dragon, and bird of prey).

The title is planned to make an appearance at E3 as well as Quakecon 2012 in August after the May announcement.

So far, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda have given no comment concerning the matter.  Keep in mind that the companies were also planning on developing a MMO based on Fallout, which was rumored to have fell through.  Either way, there’s some kind of MMO in the works, but time will only tell.

Source: Tom’s Guide

Mar 142012
 

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.

Shoot Many Robots

Windows PC

Contains: Fantasy Violence, Mature Humor, Strong Language

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.


The idea of artificial or robotic intelligence rising up to attack humans is one that has been present in literature, films, television, and video games for about as long as these mediums have existed. In the past few weeks alone I have reviewed two games, Binary Domain and Mass Effect 3, with this theme at the core of their narrative. The topic of this review, Shoot Many Robots, also shares this theme, though it takes itself far less seriously than the two games I just mentioned. Shoot Many Robots is a sidescrolling shooter, released this week on digital download services.

Shoot Many Robots doesn’t have much in the way of story. You play as P. Walter Tugnut, a hillbilly that finds himself in the middle of a robot uprising. Given the situation, his only option seems to be shooting many robots, which is really all the context the game gives for the gameplay. Though there isn’t much of it, what writing there is in the game is quite good. The weapons and equipment all have pretty funny descriptions, though that’s really the only way the game delivers it’s humor.

The game is a pretty standard sidescrolling shooter, with a two types of levels. There are your typical linear levels, with the goal of getting to the end without dying, usually fighting a boss at the end. The other type of level is a survival level, which puts you in a small area and tasks you with surviving as long as possible. These are usually very simply to “complete”, but the longer you survive after the minimum amount of time, the higher your score. Each level, both survival and standard levels, has five possible stars to earn, which result in more money and more levels being unlocked. The more enemies you kill, especially in succession, contributes to a higher star rating. Levels are unlocked as earn stars, though you should be able to unlock all the levels in the game by earning an average of 2-3 stars per level.

On the topic of levels, there are quite a bit in the game, spread out across 3 main areas. The levels get much longer and more difficult as you go, and overall there is a decent amount of content for the price. The problem though, is the levels don’t do much to differentiate themselves from one another. The different areas are wildly different, but you’ll be spending hours in each of the three main areas, and the levels within them are very similar. There are only a handful of texture sets for each area, and the level layouts all seem generic and familiar. I would have vastly preferred a smaller number of more unique levels over the large amount of very similar levels. This is a perfect example of quantity over quality, and that’s a shame.

Another instance where the game goes for quantity is the extensive loot system. In the respect, the game most closely resembles Borderlands. While it doesn’t quite have as many guns as Borderlands, it goes for the same basic idea; a few unique types of guns, with dozens of slightly varying versions of each. Each individual gun has ratings for damage, accuracy, fire rate, and many of the more rare versions have special effects as well. I found this aspect of the game to competently executed, but this type of loot system has never really appealed to me. Once, again, I prefer quality over quantity, and I would much rather have a few dozen unique weapons instead of hundreds of reskinned weapons that all look and behave identically with minor statistical differences. There are still some unique weapons, like assault rifles, shotguns, and so one, but there are many versions of each that are barely different from another. I can’t really hold this against the game too much though, as they achieved what they were going for just fine.

One weird thing about the loot system though, is the way you acquire these items. In most loot games, items and weapons drop from enemies, you pick them up, and you have them. In Shoot Many Robots, there are loot drops just like you would expect, but picking up an item doesn’t give you that item, it only gives you the option of buying it in the in game store, provided you meet the minimum level requirement and have enough money. If you are playing well, you will usually have enough “nuts” (the in-game currency” to buy the item, but it is still a weird restriction. What’s makes matters a little more awkward is the fact that you can choose to spend real money to buy nuts, which just makes the whole loot situation even weirder, and a bit questionable on the part of the developer if you ask me.

As for the most important aspect of a game like this, the actual gameplay, Shoot Many Robots is competent, though not exceptional. The only real aspect of gameplay is combat, there are occasional platforming segments, but the majority of the game is spent shooting robots (big surprise, I know). My biggest problem with combat is the controls. The game controls like a classic side scrolling shooter from the 8 and 16 bit days. You shoot and jump with the face buttons, and move and aim with the left stick. This may have been fine back on the SNES, but controllers have two sticks now. I think the game would have handled better if you fired with the right trigger and aimed with the right stick. You can plant you feet by holding the left trigger, which gives you better aiming precision with the left stick no longer moving your character as well, but this wouldn’t be necessary if you could aim and move independent of one another. Though I still feel the game would have been better with dual analog controls, it isn’t a game breaker. I did get used to the controls after 20 minutes or so, and the game does handle fine.

While the game plays fine, it does suffer from repetition. Whether you’re playing one of the linear levels or a survival level, you sure do shoot a lot robots. I found that the game is best played in short bursts, as any sort of extended play will result in some pretty quick burn out. I found myself having the most fun with the game when I was distracted, whether it was talking to someone else in the room, joining an Xbox Live party full of people, or listening to music; I found the game served best as a mindless way to occupy myself while I was focused on something else. I know that may not be a ringing endorsement, but I did find it was the perfect blend of mindless action and pure reaction over strategy to occupy my mind when I wasn’t in the mood to get to deep into a big story driven or tactical game. The game also has cooperative play, with 2 players locally and 4 players online. This serves well enough for what it is, and if you have people to play it with, that’s a fine to play the game.

Visually, Shoot Many Robots leaves much to be desired. The developer opted to go with polygonal graphics as opposed to 2D sprites, and I think that was a mistake. There is no real reason for the game to be 3D, and the textures and models aren’t very impressive. In addition, the backgrounds look like they were drawn by a child, and the whole game just has a very blurry look. It’s not all bad though, as the game does have a decent looking cell shaded art style, and the various accessories you can buy all appear on the in-game character model. Audio wise, there isn’t a whole lot to the game. There isn’t really much voice work to speak of, and the guns and explosions sound fairly generic. The music works well enough. They go for a lot guitar music, mostly very southern rock sounding, which fits the theme of a hillbilly killing a bunch robots.

In the end, Shoot Many Robots is an inoffensive game. It does what it sets out to do mostly well, though it does little to stand out. If you’re looking for a deep and complex downloadable game to play for hours on end, look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a mindless action game to kill some time, you can certainly do a lot worse than Shoot Many Robots.

XBox 360

Graphics

50
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

75

Creativity

60
 

Execution

70
 

Offset

70
    

6.6

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros:

  • Lots of Loot
  • Decent Amount of Content
  • 4 Player Co-op

Cons:

  • Repetitive Gameplay
  • Lack of Level Variety
  • Unimpressive Visuals

 

Mar 132012
 

The demise of independent game stores in my local area came about relatively recently, 2003/4 to be exact and while it was stores such as GAME and gamestation that killed these small businesses, in recent years I have found myself more attached to these places rather than a supermarket or online retailer. Spending a load of time at these stores has lead me to build great relationships with the guys who work there, I never go to buy a game but more to socialise with the like minded people behind the counter. I feel it important to point out that I actually avoid GAME and shop at gamestation.

The Final Level? (GAME Over Is So Last Week)

Now, having decimated countless indie stores, the bell tolls for GAME and sadly they don’t seem to be going without taking gamestation with them. This leaves me with the choice of buying online or from a supermarket. A stark decision to make, so now it is time to catalogue the death throes of this once great high street brand one that I may not have liked, but one which kept gamestation open after Blockbuster went bust.
May 2007- the beginning of the end?
When Blockbuster began to sink, they realised there was one part of their business which was still turning a decent profit and therefore had some value, gamestation. The sale to GAME is believed to have been for £75 million ($150 million) cash, ultimately saving Blockbuster, but was it more than game could afford? The deal meant GAME had monopolised the video game retail sector, but taking on the future cost of running 217 more stores was going to cost a lot of money.
Christmas 2011 – poor sales put another nail in the coffin
Over the holiday period is the time when a lot of stores make a lot of money and gaming tends to be no exception, every year you have hundreds of thousands of kids after new consoles, games for said consoles as well as the general over spending which often comes with the time of year, not to mention some huge titles. It seems that more people where sucked in by the online stores and super stores as well, most of whom have the advantage of being open at midnight for every title.
January 12 2012 – the figures confirm the worst
Here we have the announcement of GAME groups Christmas and annual takings, it made for depressing reading. The two months over Christmas when compared with those from 2010 showed a decrease in sales ales of 14.7%, GAME originally estimated the figure would be 7% and later had revised this to 10%, it was far worse than anyone expected. Best estimates state that the company was due to make a full year loss of £30 million ($60 million).  GAME group believed they would not be found in breach of loan covenants until February 27th 2012.
February 23rd 2012 – bye Nintendo
As early February rolled around, GAME must have been fully aware that the situation had not improved and that loan covenants where due to be breached. By the 23rd customers were told that the company would no longer be stocking the Wii title The Last Story.
27th February 2012 – Given the companies situation and loss of The Last Story it has to be assumed that this was the day that GAME group had to confirm to lenders and stock holders that the company was intact going to be breaching loan covenants. However, it was widely reported in Uk news papers that there may be a reprise as the company had agreed new loan terms with banks.
29th February 2012 – No more EA titles
Only just over a week before the release of Mass Effect 3, GAME was forced to email customers static that they would not be stocking perhaps the biggest title of the year so far. The company blamed “supply issues” which is supposedly an inability to secure the games from wholesale at a low enough price, essentially they were now a game company who could not afford games.

Perhaps The Biggest Sign Something Was Wrong Was The Biggest Game Absent From The Shelves

March 5th 2012 – The finishing move?
By the beginning of last week, GAME confirmed that they had lost yet another big name and two more big types. Capcom were out and they took Asura’s Wrath and Street Fighter X Tekken with them.
March 8th 2012 – Spring cleaning
From late last week it was reported that many GAME and gamestation outlets had begun to discount stock in order to try and claw back some cash which is currently more important than ever as all of GAME groups over 1,100 stores quarterly rent bill is due within the next two weeks. If this cannot be paid then the company will be forced into administration.
March 11th 2012 – Send in the clowns
This really is looking like the end of the line, as of Sunday one of the biggest tabloids in the UK, The Sunday Times, reported that GAME was not only heading for administration but that Rothschild had been appointed to find a buyer for the company and that failing this Deloitte were line up to deal with any insolvency issues.

Hopefully gamestation Can Survive It's Parent Company Going Down For A Second Time

March 12th 2012 – Halfpenny
As you can probably guess, the header refers to the stock price for GAME as of today. Each share is now worth approximately half of one penny. You literally need two shares to have currency that actually exists in this country, in essence it’s literally worthless.
So there you have it this is the demise of a once great brand, with shares floating below the penny earlier today, it looks as though there is no longer even a slim chance that GAME could survive in any real form but there could be hope yet.
As it stands, GameStop have expressed interest, at least in the Spanish branch of GAME group so whether or not they would be interested in the UK and rest of the world remains to be seen. Hopefully us Brits aren’t going to be doomed to a life where we can only get our games either online or from the big supermarkets. Having had better experience with gamestation in the best and with there ability to remain profitable even during the collapse of Blockbuster then hopefully we can come out the other side with at least one dedicated high street name left for gaming.
Mar 132012
 

Mass Effect Month continues, with this week’s topic being the Top 10 Mass Effect Characters. There will be some spoilers for all three Mass Effect games, as talking about certain individuals’ arcs may require detailed discussion of specific plot points. I won’t be spoiling the overarching plot of any of the games, but I will be going into detail on character specific plots. One final note, in case anyone is looking for inconsistencies, this list will not reflect my top 10 characters list, as that had specific criteria, while this one is simply my 10 favorite Mass Effect characters. Shepard will not be on this list; I want clearly established characters, and Shepard is too much of a variable with the amount of control the player has over how he or she behaves.

 

10. Urdnot Wrex

Wrex has come a long way from where he was at the beginning of the first game. Nothing but a gun for hire, he was working on a contract for the Shadow Broker when he met Shepard. After helping Shepard stop Sovereign and Saren (unless of course you killed him on Virmire), Wrex returned to his homeworld, Tuchanka, to try and unite the Krogan people. In Mass Effect 3, he is the representative for all Krogan, and helps broker the deal with the Turians which results in the Genophage, a fertility plague carried by all Krogan, being cured. Like all Krogan, Wrex is violent and dangerous, but he has a knack for diplomacy not common to his people. Being both a Krogan and a biotic, Wrex is absolutely deadly in a fight; though he also has a strong sense of honor and pride.

9. EDI

The Enhanced Defense Intelligence, or “EDI”, is an artificial intelligence installed aboard the Normandy SR2. She originated as a Virtual Intelligence at an Alliance facility on Earth’s moon, but as she inched toward self awareness, and true AI status, she lost control of the facility. She was salvaged by Cerberus, and installed on the Normandy, in a shackled state, to observe and report on Shepard’s mission. When the Collectors boarded the Normandy, Joker removed EDI’s restrictions in an attempt to save the ship, and she began her journey from highly intelligent machine to person. When she gained her freedom, she not only got control of the ship, but also free will. By the end of the series, she is just as much a person as any other member of the Normandy crew. She has thoughts, feelings, the desire to live, and the will to fight for for her own life and the lives of her friends and loved ones.

8. Thane Krios

Being a Drell, a species without a homeworld, whose population is a mere few hundred thousand, Thane has few true peers. He was raised by the Hanar from the age of 6 to be an assassin. For years he simply killed who he was told, never questioning and never living for himself. Then he met his wife, and he left the service of the Hanar to raise a family. His son, Kolyat, was only a boy when Batarian slavers killed Thane’s wife to get to him. Thane left his son in the care of family, and returned to his work, knowing no other way to live his life. When Shepard recruited him, he was in the early stages of a terminal illness. With Shepard’s help, he was reunited with his son and was also able to do good on a grand scale before his illness took hold.

7. Jeff “Joker” Moreau

Flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau suffers from a rare genetic disorder, Vrollick’s Syndrome, also known as brittle bone disease. His bones are extremely fragile, to the point where any sort of physical activity can be very dangerous. Luckily, physical exertion is not required to pilot a ship, and he is widely considered to be the best pilot in the Alliance Fleet. Joker has known Commander Shepard longer than any other Normandy crew member, and was even willing to join Cerberus to help Shepard in the war against the Reapers. Joker is always ready to get the job done, though he often uses sarcasm to mask his true feelings. Joker was at the helm of the Normandy during the battle of the Citadel, he fired the shot that killed Sovereign, he survived the destruction of the Normandy SR1, he successfully piloted the Normandy SR2 through the Omega-4 relay, and he lead the joint species fleet through the Charon Mass Relay to take back Earth.

6. Legion

Legion is the name given by EDI to the Geth mobile platform that joined Commander Shepard to stop the Collectors. Legion actually consisted of around 100 Geth programs, and was not really an individual. Geth are not true AI, they are networked VIs that can achieve self awareness by combining processing power, but Legion was an evolutionary step for the Geth. Even early on, Legion showed signs of individuality and sentimentality. Legion used Shepard’s old N7 armor to repair itself, even though other materials would have been better suited. When asked why, it could not provide an answer. As the Reapers attempted to control the Geth, Legion was able to resist, continuously growing closer to becoming an individual. In one possible outcome, Legion will sacrifice itself to grant all Geth true individuality, and in the last seconds of his life, Legion evolved from being a group of networked programs to a person.

Mar 122012
 

Major Nelson confirmed this afternoon that Microsoft will increase the limit set for all XBLA and DLC in the coming months.

Nelson wrote on his blog that the limit for XBLA arcade titles will increase from 200 to 400 points, while the limit will be 30 achievements per title.  On the other hand, DLC will increase its limit by 50 points bringing it to 350 points per downloadable content.

The change will be implement in June.  However, according to the report, titles that are released between April 1 and May 31 have a choice between utilizing the new limit set or the old one.  Something tells me that developers would much rather have more obtaining points in their title, so choosing the new system is no brainer.

Source: VG247

Mar 112012
 

Ever since Dragon Age 2, the public opinion of BioWare, at least on the internet, has grown more and more negative. While Dragon Age 2 was not nearly as good as Origins, it was still a good, not great, game with some minor and some more substantial issues. This hate for Dragon Age 2 among the more outspoken BioWare “fans” has spilled over to Mass Effect 3, and for a sequel to a multiple Game of the Year award winner, it sure has gotten a lot of hate prior to its release. After having played the game, I am happy to say that Mass Effect 3 is absolutely a worthy entry in the series, and an early contender for Game of the Year.

There will be very minor story spoilers, but nothing that hasn’t been shown by Bioware themselves in trailers and gameplay videos.

Mass Effect 3 is the conclusion to the trilogy, and the finale for Commander Shepard and his/her war against the Reapers. With the change in lead writers, I was a bit worried about whether the story and characters would reach the same heights as the last two games, but Mass Effect 3 is mostly good in this respect. The writing can get cheesy at times, but for the most part it is well done. At the beginning of the game, the Reapers have finally arrived, attacking Earth and dozens of other planets across the galaxy, primarily targeting the home-worlds of the Citadel races. After a very brief segment on Earth, Shepard flees in the Normandy to venture out gather the fleets of the various races, in the hopes of amassing a large enough force for a counterattack.

The majority of the game is spent traveling across the galaxy, requesting help from pretty much all the major Mass Effect races. This stuff is really well done, and it’s great to see the home-worlds for some of the iconic Mass Effect races. Along the way you’ll run into plenty of old friends and enemies, and the game provides satisfying conclusions to the individual story arcs of pretty much every character from the first two games. If you have a favorite character, chances are you’ll be pleased with how their story wraps up. Unless of course you happen to be a big fan of either Zaeed or Kasumi, as they are as poorly implemented into this game as they were in Mass Effect 2. As for squad members, there are only six, seven counting the DLC character, and 4 of them are Mass Effect 1 characters, with James Vega being the only new character to join your team.

One of the defining features of the Mass Effect trilogy, the ability to transfer your saves from one game to another, has been promised to pay off big in the finale, but its implementation is really hit or miss. The game does a great job of letting you know that it knows what you’ve done in the past. There are things you’ve done in the past being referenced constantly, but there are very few occasions where past choices make a big impact. There are many characters that could possibly be dead that have major roles in the game, and I look forward to playing with one of my characters with tons of people dead to see the changes. In other instances though, decisions have little impact. For instance, if you destroyed the genophage cure in ME2, it doesn’t prevent the genophage from being cured, it only adds a minor consequence. Even if the decisions of past games don’t drastically effect the course of the plot, it is cool to past choices constantly being referenced, and it does make your experience feel very personal.

As for the DLC character, if you were one of those worrying about whether or not this character was vital to the game, you can rest easy. While the character is very interesting and seamlessly integrated into the main game (unlike past DLC characters), he is of zero consequence in the overall plot, and serves only as an interesting, but inconsequential addition. I am by no means defending the decision to make this paid content, but it is not at all  necessary to fully experience the game.

The way the game handles characters is actually a big improvement over the past games in the series. The biggest improvement in the character department has to be the way your various teammates interact with each other, both on the ship and on missions. In past games, characters would occasionally chime in during missions, but each character just said a variation of the same things, so the conversations would make sense no matter which characters you happened to have in your group. In Mass Effect 3, there are conversations for any combination of characters. No matter who you bring on any given mission, they will have unique dialogue with each other. On the ship, characters don’t simply wait at one spot all the time, waiting for you to come talk to them. Character may even visit each other on the ship, and you can walk in and listen to them having conversations. Given that, for the most part, teammates only interacted with Shepard in past games, it is great to see more character interactions in this game.

The only thing that really disappointed me about the story was the ending. I didn’t really have a problem with the Deus Ex Machina that was introduced very early in the game, simply because it is more implausible that you would have any chance of defeating the Reapers in a conventional battle, but I did not like the resolution. None of the three endings, nearly indistinguishable from another, provide any sort of meaningful resolution to the story you’ve been creating over the past three games. My biggest problem is the way they try to explain the origins and motivations of the Reapers. I was perfectly content with the explanation Vigil gave in the first game, “The Reapers are alien, unknowable. Perhaps they need slaves or resources, more likely they are driven by motives and goals organic beings cannot hope to comprehend.” This explanation is much better than the contrived and convoluted “answers” we get at the end of Mass Effect 3. I just wish they had left the Reapers as mysterious beings of immeasurable power and intellect. To put it bluntly, the ending sucks, and I think it puts a stain on the series as a whole. Ultimately though, the last 10 minutes aren’t enough to ruin the awesome 30+ hours it took to get there, or the two fantastic games that have come before. The ending certainly gives closure to the main story arc, but it is not satisfying in the least.

Mar 092012
 

The problem with saving and loading as it pertains to newer programmers is often a lack of understanding.  Like pathfinding or AI, it’s one of those things that needs to be customized to each game.

In the older days, games did not take up a great deal of RAM while running.  As such, it wasn’t a big deal to save everything the game was doing into a file and just load it up.  This practice is commonly referred to as saving and loading “states”.  Games today, however, can fill machines that use anywhere from 2-16+ gigabytes of ram – we wouldn’t want our save files that large, so the process of holding onto data had to adapt.

Today I will cover a few things for more beginner-type saving.  While saving to an actual file on the hard drive is quite possible, what we will cover today will be a basic walkthrough of two things – PlayerPrefs and PlayerPrefsX.

PlayerPrefs is an easy feature that comes with Unity3d by default.  With it, we can quickly and easily save integers, strings, and floats.  Just as easily, we can recall that data and use it however we like.  Here is an example with two functions – one will save a basic score, and the other will load that score into a variable:

function Save(theScore : int) {
PlayerPrefs.SetInt("Score", theScore);
}

var loadedScore : int;
function Load() {
loadedScore = PlayerPrefs.GetInt("Score");
}

As you can see, its pretty streamlined.  However, the ease of use that PlayerPrefs allows comes with its greatest downfall – saving complex numbers, vectors, arrays, etc aren’t easily feasible.  This is where PlayerPrefsX comes it – and it’s something you don’t automatically get with unity by default.  However, it’s free and easy to get set up.

PlayerPrefsX Javascript + Basics

Copy the code from the large code block at the bottom of the page above and save it as PlayerPrefsX.js.  Drop it into your Standard Assets folder and the functions are accessible from any script you choose.

As you can see, this gives you access to the following functions:

  • PlayerPrefsX.SetBool
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetBool
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetVector2
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetVector2
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetVector3
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetVector3
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetQuaternion
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetQuaternion
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetColor
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetColor
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetIntArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetIntArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetFloatArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetFloatArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetBoolArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetBoolArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetStringArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetStringArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetVector2Array
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetVector2Array
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetVector3Array
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetVector3Array
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetQuaternionArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetQuaternionArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.SetColorArray
  • PlayerPrefsX.GetColorArray

All of these will function as you would expect, and in the same way as PlayerPrefs does.  However, you have the versatility of saving Vector3s, Quaternions, String Arrays, and many more.

While PlayerPrefs is a wonderful tool (and actually what PlayerPrefsX uses to function), with this new script in your arsenal you just need to get all of the data you would like to keep into array format.  Saving the positions and rotation of players and game objects becomes this much easier, and saving/loading worlds and levels becomes that much more seamless.

To test this script myself, I created a terrain and used the unity tree generator tool to create a tree gameObject.  When the scene begins, 10,000 trees are created and placed in random positions along the 2000×2000 terrain.  With PlayerPrefsX, I was able to gather the vector3 positions of each tree into a Vector3 array and seamlessly save it into a variable, like so:

//trees
 var allTrees : GameObject[] = GameObject.FindGameObjectsWithTag("tree");
 var numTrees : int = allTrees.length;
 print ("There are " + numTrees + " Trees in this world");
 PlayerPrefs.SetInt("NumTrees", numTrees);
 var treeLocs = new Vector3[numTrees];
 for (x =0 ; x < numTrees-1; x++) {
 treeLocs[x] = allTrees[x].transform.position;
 }
 PlayerPrefsX.SetVector3Array ("TreeLocs", treeLocs);

As you can see, I also used the normal PlayerPrefs function to save the raw number of trees that exist at the time.  To load the trees onto a blank slate terrain, I simply use this code in a Load() function:

//Load new trees at saved locations
 var numTrees : int = PlayerPrefs.GetInt("NumTrees");
 var treeLocs = new Vector3[numTrees];
 treeLocs = PlayerPrefsX.GetVector3Array("TreeLocs");
 print("Tree locations recieved for " + numTrees + " trees");

 for (x =0 ; x < numTrees-1; x++) {
 var tree = Instantiate(treePrefab, treeLocs[x], Quaternion.identity);
 }
 print("added trees in previous locations");

I hope this article can be of some help to you.  While it may be difficult to realize each little thing you want to save, if you build your game with saving and loading in mind, the process becomes much easier to manage.

As always, drop questions or comments into the comment fields below :)

Mar 082012
 

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim took home the top honors yesterday evening at the  2012 Game Developers Choice Awards.

The epic RPG title scored the Game of the Year award, but that wasn’t the only AAA title to go home with a prize.  Puzzle title Portal 2 won Best Game Design, Best Audio, and Best Narrative.  For the Best Technology category, Battlefield 3 surprisingly won that prize, reigning supreme over such titles as L.A Noire and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The GDC Awards was then followed by the 14th Annual Independent Game Festival Awards, in which small, independent titles compete in a variety of categories for the top prize.

Below are all the winners for your viewing.  Just taking a look at the list of winners and nominees, 2011 was indeed a great year for gaming.

 

GAME DEVELOPERS CHOICE AWARDS

Game of the Year
Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
Portal 2 (Valve)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Eidos Montreal)
Dark Souls (FromSoftware)

Best Game Design
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
Portal 2 (Valve)
Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios)
Dark Souls (FromSoftware)

Innovation
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (Toys For Bob)
Portal 2 (Valve)
Bastion (Supergiant Games)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
L.A. Noire (Team Bondi)

Best Technology
Battlefield 3 (DICE)
L.A. Noire (Team Bondi)
Crysis 2 (Crytek Frankfurt/UK)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Naughty Dog)

Best Handheld/Mobile Game
Tiny Tower (NimbleBit)
Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo)
Jetpack Joyride (Halfbrick)
Infinity Blade II (Chair Entertainment)
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Capy Games/Superbrothers)

Best Audio
Bastion (Supergiant Games)
LittleBigPlanet 2 (Media Molecule)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
Dead Space 2 (Visceral Games)
Portal 2 (Valve)

Best Downloadable Game
Stacking (Double Fine)
From Dust (Ubisoft Montpellier)
Bastion (Supergiant Games)
Outland (Housemarque)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7)

Best Narrative
Portal 2 (Valve)
The Witcher 2 (CD Projekt RED)
Bastion (Supergiant Games)
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Naughty Dog)
Saints Row: The Third (Volition)

Best Debut
Supergiant Games (Bastion)
Team Bondi (L.A. Noire)
Re-Logic (Terraria)
BioWare Austin (Star Wars: The Old Republic)
Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex: Human Revolution)

Best Visual Arts
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Naughty Dog)
Rayman Origins (Ubisoft Montpellier)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios)
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (Ignition Japan)
Battlefield 3 (DICE)

Pioneer Award
Dave Theurer, creator of Missile Command, Tempest, and I, Robot

Ambassador Award
Ken Doroshow and Paul M. Smith, game industry lawyers for the Supreme Court case against California

Lifetime Achievement Award
Warren Spector, founder Junction Point Studios

 

INDEPENDENT GAMES FESTIVAL AWARDS

Seumas McNally Grand Prize
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fez (Polytron)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Technical Excellence
Antichamber (Demruth)
Fez (Polytron)
Prom Week (Expressive Intelligence Studio, UC Santa Cruz)
Realm of the Mad God (Wild Shadow Studios & Spry Fox)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Excellence in Visual Art
Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Lume (State of Play Games)
Mirage (Mario von Rickenbach)
Wonderputt (Damp Gnat)

Excellence in Design
Atom Zombie Smasher (Blendo Games)
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle)
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)
Gunpoint (Tom Francis, John Roberts, and Fabian van Dommelen)
Spelunky (Mossmouth)

Excellence in Audio
Botanicula (Amanita Design)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Pugs Luv Beats (Lucky Frame)
To The Moon (Freebird Games)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Best Mobile Game
ASYNC Corp (Powerhead Games)
Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo)
Faraway (Steph Thirion)
Ridiculous Fishing (Vlambeer)
Waking Mars (Tiger Style)

Nuovo Award
(Designed “to honor abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development.”)
At a Distance (Terry Cavanagh)
Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
Fingle (Game Oven Studios)
GIRP (Bennett Foddy)
Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga)
Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
Storyteller (Daniel Benmergui)
Way (CoCo & Co.)

Best Student Game
The Bridge (Case Western Reserve University)
Dust (Art Institute of Phoenix)
The Floor Is Jelly (Kansas City Art Institute)
Nous (DigiPen Institute of Technology)
One and One Story (Liceo Scientifico G.B. Morgagni)
Pixi (DigiPen Institute of Technology – Singapore)
The Snowfield (Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab)
Way (Carnegie Mellon University)

Audience Award
Frozen Synapse (Mode 7 Games)

XBLA Award
Super Time Force (Capybara Games)

Source: Gamespot

Mar 062012
 

After months of rumors and hints from various gaming outlets, Ubi Soft has finally announced the third installment in the Assassin’s Creed series.

The action, adventure title will indeed take place during the American Revolution, where our new protagonist is of half Indian descent fighting against the British during the war.  Rumor has it that the game will have a large, open area in which players are free to explore.  Developing cities will also be at the center of the game’s story with New York being a main locale in the title.

Ubi Soft was also nice enough to provide a launch trailer as well showing our hero fighting off against British soldiers in a snowy forest.  The trailer also showcases groups of British soldiers ready to wage war on the American troops with our protagonist looking from a distance.  It’s trailers like these that foreshadow the intensity to come especially when your enemy is the entire British armed force.

The game will be released on October 31 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.  Ubi Soft also announced that a Wii U version is in the works and is scheduled to be released at the end of 2012.

Source: VG247