StarCraft 2 is upon us!

July 27, 2010

That’s right, folks: StarCraft 2 launched today. This is the one and only time I will advise you to stop reading my blog and get thee to a video game retailer, be it online or brick & mortar. I will soon see you on the field of battle.

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And that title is “as sung by Johnny Cash” in case you were wondering.  The unfortunate truth is I actually did hurt myself when I started writing this two weeks ago – on a shark-tooth, no less! About 7 or 8 years ago, some friends went to Hawaii and brought back a “ceremonial dagger” which was probably made in Indonesia or Central China, but the edges of the colorful piece of wood are lined with shark teeth. As with all things like this, it has found its way to the bottom of a box which happens to reside in my closet. While searching all around for my journal (yes, I keep a journal – it’s very therapeutic…although, not so much when you’ve misplaced it for the past 6 months), I stuck my hand down in said box and managed to find the ceremonial dagger or rather, one of the dagger’s shark teeth, with the tip of my finger. Cut. Blood. The whole 9.

That said, the title is actually in reference to a game I somehow stumbled upon on AdultSwim called Amateur Surgeon 2. It is not for everyone as there is excessive cartoonish blood and you are essentially using a pizza cutter to operate on patients, but the premise is hilarious and the gameplay is addictive. Imagine, you are a blackmarket surgeon who uses a few household items to repair even the most devastated bodies. Witty one-liners and ingenious levels that recycle the tools for new uses make this free-to-play flash game a must.

Since beating this particular title (at least the 2 available acts), I have begun playing the original Amateur Surgeon. I can see how much they’ve improved with the second title: sewing wounds rather than stapling, upgrading the usefulness of the tools rather than leaving you (or your patients) to rot, etc. My, how the young Alan Probe has aged in the past 50 years, but he’s still got the chops to pluck your glass and suck out your body poison. No innuendo.

A Touch of Marketing

January 27, 2010

So, I would be remiss to not cross-reference my other blog that is currently taking up most of my free time: The All-in-One Gamer Project is a few weeks underway and I’m feeling pretty good about it so far. In essence, I’m trying to familiarize myself with all aspects necessary to lead an independent game development team. So, for the thousands and thousands of you who are fans of this blog (am I rounding up too high?), jump on over and subscribe, comment and be merry!

Everybody Loves a Winner

October 23, 2009

It’s true: no one truly enjoys a loser (even your mom when she acts like you’ll do better next time). I’m serious. Everyone Loves a Winner.

Mind-blowin' graphics of '96

Mind-blowin' graphics of '96

This week, I witnessed it first hand. With due appreciation for Blues News reporting that Remedy Entertainment has free-released their 1996 hit, Death Rally, I was praised by my peers for my driving prowess and ultimately shunned for my losing streak. This top-down racer pits you against three other drivers equipped with machine guns, mines, spiked bumpers and boosts. All this and I still rose to the top. After about 7 races, I had enough cash to purchase not the next best car, but two cars up from my default Vagabond.

A couple of guys took notice of what I was doing and suddenly I had them asking me to play again so they could watch as I battled for first place against the likes of NPCs Greg Peck and Cher Stone. As any game designer would tell you, keeping your audience involved is key, so I would ask the guys what upgrades I should purchase with my winnings. Suddenly, my “team” really felt like we were all accomplishing something great.  And weren’t we? We were having incredibly humorous discussions about races in a game that is 13-years old! 

Then I bought the Wraith.

Fully Upgraded, Bro

Fully Upgraded, Bro

The Wraith looks like a Porsche 911 for all intents and purposes and is pretty fast. Without at least 3 tire upgrades, I couldn’t seem to handle the turns and my winning streak was shattered. The races were still interesting, but I knew I was underperforming. I took some time to win some easier races and upgrade my Wraith all the way. The “team” came back to see how I was faring and quickly got back into the action as I won a few races.

With their encouragement, I stepped it up to the hard races in order to win the big prizes of $12K for 1st place. Sadly, I was left behind, duking it out for 3rd place against some other poser NPC who, like me, should’ve known better than to enter this level of racing.

The end result is the guys lost interest in watching me get scorched from the starting line and struggling to return to my former glory. They moved on and left me cold and shivering in the shadows of the top four racers (including Duke Nukem, that bastard).

This is something I’ve been trying to get my hands on for the past year but could not wrap my head around paying full price ($40+) for a 3-year old game. Not to worry as www.Direct2Drive.comis currently running their 5th anniversary special and offering many games, such as Techland’s Call of Juarez for the oh-so-sweet price of $5. I say this with no hesitation or averted eyes: This was the best $5 I’ve spent since **EDITED**

"I'll stay awake in church, Preacher. I promise! Just don't shoot!"

"I'll stay awake in church, Preacher. I promise! Just don't shoot!"

But seriously, I love Westerns (and I never thought I’d say that). My brother-in-law introduced me to the greatness of McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove about 5 or 6 years ago and ever since, I’ve had a deep respect for the epic western…and that’s exactly what you get with CoJ. Just about anything you’ve seen in a western is in this game: horse-ridin’, gun-slingin’, cussin’, whores, preachers, Mexicans, Indians, murder, brothers, trains, bridges, eagles, fires, stage coaches and dynamite. I’m telling you, this game is EPIC!

Graphically, I’ve seen better games, but I’ve also seen a lot worse. I’m obviously more fond of story than graphics, so this game is incredible in my opinion. The graphics are more than functional, but less than hyper-realistic. They paint a world you can believe and allow you to envision the rest – that’s all I ask from my games on the visual front.

Sounds – spot on. Guns sound like guns from that era. Six-shooters don’t sound like bass-heavy hand-canons. The biggest complaint I had on the auditory level was the voice acting for Billy Candle, one of the two characters you play in this game. His Texan accent sounded disingenuous at best and was downright painful at certain points in the game (especially if you die in certain areas and have to hear him say lines multiple times). Compared to the greatness of the voice work for Reverend Ray (the other character you play), Billy was greatly lacking.

The two areas that shine the brightest for CoJ are story and gameplay, in that order. I know, I know. I’m a writer so you think I’m a bit biased. Well, to add to that fire, I also know the co-writer of this game – Mr. Haris Orkin – and think he’s the cat’s pajamas (I believe that’s a complimentary phrase). Haris is one of those accomplished writers who is soft-spoken, unassuming, always smiling (even in his in-game Wanted poster) and a natural story-teller. Have a pint with him and you’ll see what I mean. But, beyond thinking this particular writer is a great guy, I’d say that being a writer makes me more critical of story…especially in games. That said, this story is rich in western genre motifs, but does not even come close to being considered cliche. The mistaken actions of Billy Candle setup a great overarching plot, but the true meat of this tale lies in the unfolding past of Reverend Ray. Why does a preacher have a hidden pair of “hog-legs” (revolvers) in his church? What did he do 20 years ago that changed him to a man of God?

Haha! Got 'em!

Haha! Got 'em!

Okay, I mentioned gameplay and talked all about the writing. Sorry. The gameplay struck me as fun simply for the variety. We’re talking about a first-person shooter (FPS, or “Shoot’em-up” for those like my father) and yet so many times throughout the game, there’s no gun in your hand. Granted, at times it is replaced with a bow and arrow, but many times you are finding your way through rough Texas terrain by swinging over canyons with a whip, climbing up Eagle Mountain or riding as fast as you can on the back of a horse. I believe it should be required for FPS games to have this kind of variety now. Gamers, male and especially female, want more from their games than just shooting, so thank you, Techland, for breaking up the monotony.

Buy this game. For $5, it’s a steal. It took me around 10 hours to beat and I was overwhelmingly entertained throughout the entire journey. I will definitely be playing Call of Juarez 2: Bound in Blood soon.

Catching Up on Things

April 9, 2009

It’s easy to be the first to report on such things as Game Developers’ Conference and World of Goo, etc. It takes passion, talent and determination to be the last to report on these things. So, here I am, bringing you the greatness of late news.

Drew McGee in "Manifest Destiny!"

Drew McGee in "Manifest Destiny!"

First things second, I’ve been playing a couple of games including Midway’s last ditch effort at a Mortal Kombat game: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. My complete coverage of this game will be available soon on www.GamersInfo.net, but for now, steer clear. The game was obviously rushed, lacks the gore that MK fans yearn for and the overall fighting mechanics leave you more frustrated than ecstatic.

I also played TellTaleGames new launch: Wallace & Gromit in the Fright of the Bumblebees. My complete coverage of this game is already up here. As you will read, I highly recommend this game for about 5 hours of pure fun.

Okay, San Francisco and the GDC 09. Brilliant! I tip my hat to Aaron Murray, Founder of Tandem Games, for flying me out there and allowing me to experience the greatness. I spent most of my time on the expo floor where we displayed our new casual game, Bumble Tales, in the Garage Games booth. Speaking of which, BT will be available for download in May from sites like www.BigFishGames.com and various other portals, so look for it. A match-3 style game with content galore including 35 unlockable characters and stories, high-res art, full voice-over and more than 100 levels of fun!

There was an awesome game right behind these girls, but they wouldn't move!

There was an awesome game right behind these girls, but they wouldn't move!

I was given a copy of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune by Naughty Dog’s own Richard Lemarchand (couldn’t ask for a nicer guy than this) and immediately popped it in when I got home. If you’re a fan of the Tomb Raider series, this will be right in your wheel house. The music is amazing! I literally found myself sitting there waiting for the music to loop before moving on in the game because it was so big. The music took me back to the movie theater when I first saw Jurassic Park…that good. The puzzles weren’t difficult at all, but the story really made the game come together (and no, I’m not saying that just because I’m a writer). I’m going to say “Buy It” because it’s a good 10 – 15 hours of solid gameplay and finding all the treasures will have you OCD gamers enthralled.

Lastly, World of Goo. Play it! Buy it! I loaded this last night and wanted to try it for 30 minutes. I ended up playing for almost 3 hours. The game design is fan-freakin’-tastic: beautiful levels, hilariously cute Goo balls AND it makes you think! Again, the music in this game could be a soundtrack you listen to for recentering your chi or something. Take my word on this: you won’t regret this purchase.

Post-lastly, Domain of Heroes made a few headlines here and here!  Okay, that catches you up on a lot of things. Leave comments, wishes, or money. Whatever you like.

That’s right, for all you audio lovers, the silky sounds of me are on Cryptic Allusion’s Anniversary Cryptocast. Be forewarned, it’s long and I’m only in it for about 15 – 20 minutes somewhere in the middle, but the guys and gal at Cryptic Allusion are great and worth listening to.

"That's right, I said a PODCAST. They'll be huge one day!"

"That's right, I said a PODCAST. They'll be huge one day!"

For those interested, I pretty much plug Tandem Games and Domain of Heroes and talk about recent games I’ve been playing. I’ve been considering adding a small 5 – 10 minute podcast to this blog maybe twice a month. Do you think it’s worth it? Post a comment and let me know (yes, that means you).

Currently, I do not own a Wii. However, this weekend, I was in San Antonio visiting some family and had the unexpected opportunity to play both Wii Fit and Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2009. I’m choosing to cover this title over Wii Fit because, seriously, I think Fit has been covered.

"Simba, it's me! The great white hunter!"

"Simba, it's me! The great white hunter!"

Dangerous Hunts places you in the role of the hunter of all hunters, Flint Abrams (totally fictitious character, I looked it up). This man puts the late Steve Irwin, if not Steve McQueen, to shame. He can barrel roll with crocs, stab leaping cougars in the throat and rifle butt three hyenas with ease! Mix that in with Flint’s Hunter Sense, which darkens the screen and highlights surrounding beasts and you’ve got an expert who is called around the world to quelch daily issues with wildlife.

There was a bit of a learning curve with the zapper controller (Wii-mote on top as a barrel and the nunchuck as the stock) but once I understood all of this, the game became incredibly fun. One level stood out to me as a writer: India. Tigers escape from a truck hit by a rock slide. Your mission is to track the tigers and tranquilize them; any harm to the tigers results in a failed mission. The interesting part to me is the the herd of water buffalo. Peaceful giants grazing in a field quickly turn to angry, charging death-machines if you disturb them in the slightest. Because there is a time limit to achieve maximum upgrade points (the coolest part of the game: upgrades!), I wound up slaughtering all of the buffalo from a distance to avoid their horns while searching for tigers. It was a decision that gave me pause because I really did not want to kill them, but alas, my greed for a new rifle scope won out.

Pick up the game as a rental and if you end up enjoying it as much as I did, buy it. My nephew loved simply walking in circles and hearing the gun fire. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Flint’s athleticism compared to 95% of the hunters I actually see in Cabela’s.

Gamers, what are you up to?

October 12, 2008

Over the past ten or so days since my last post, I’ve been doing several relevant things (my justification for not blogging) toward my goal of writing in the game industry. I’ll list these things shortly, but I’m interested in what you guys and gals are up to. Now, I know that everyone thinks the indie project they’re working on is the next revolutionary idea and they want to keep it hush-hush, but c’mon. I know you’re dying to let someone know what kind of magic is happening and it might as well be me. Leave a comment with a relevant link to your site or wiki or whatnot; if for no other reason, use my blog as another way to market your project.

...sometimes the void looks back.

...sometimes the void looks back.

As for me, I recently purchased Fable: The Lost Chapters for the PC. I know it’s 4 years old or something, but better late than never, right? AND, with Fable 2 coming out this month, I think I’ve timed it perfectly; none of this waiting forever for a sequel. So, I’m almost finished with the Lost Chapters but feel like the game is more of a grind than actual fun now. I have never really felt all that attached to my character because he never says anything, even when directly asked a question. It’s a throw back to games like the first Final Fantasy or Breath of Fire (I loved this series!), but not in a good way. Don’t you think responses are just as likely to influence your “Good/Evil” gauge, or at least your public identity, as actions?

I also read Joseph Finder’s Power Play. Though this isn’t directly game related, reading is as big a part of writing as writing itself. If a musician doesn’t listen to music, why the hell are they doing it in the first place? If you like a quick read that is very smart and full of action, read this book. Mr. Finder has an amazing ability to keep a hostage situation believable from every perspective, while making you hate the big wigs in corporate America even more.

I just purchased Flint Dille and John Suur Platten’s The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design and wow! In the first 25 pages, I wrote 8 interesting pages based on their exercises. What I wrote may never see the light of day, but it’s writing – and it’s game writing to boot! If you remember, I attended Flint Dille’s panel at the Austin GDC and absolutely loved it. The man has a comfortable presence on stage and spoke with us (the audience) rather than to us. The same goes for the book; it comes across as casual/informal while tackling some very technical issues in an in-depth manner. Though I’m only halfway through it, I highly recommend it.

Lastly, if you haven’t heard, Richard Garriott is in space! This is just a cool thing, no matter how you slice it.

Now, I’ve shown you mine, time to show me yours. What are you up to? Show me, show me, show me!

Two Quick Links

October 1, 2008

I am just taking a moment to post two links for those that don’t make it to my actual website:

Notes on Game Dev posted an article I wrote covering the Austin GDC from a different angle than my blog post.

I also did a small, informal interview for Cryptic Allusion’s podcast (or Cryptocast, as they call it) covering my experience at the GDC, so you can hear my not-at-all polished interviewee voice, complete with a thousand and one “Ummms”.

Let me know what you think. Today, one article and podcast. Tomorrow, the world!