Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Line

I'm sorry to say that Be Attitude for Gains is being put on indefinite hiatus, which is a fancy way of saying that it's all over. You may have noticed that posts have become less and less frequent (and of lower and lower quality); it's not that I've run out of things to write about, I had quite a few posts I wanted to write, the problem is that at the moment I barely have any time to even play games, let alone write about them. I started this blog as a sort of creative outlet while I was unemployed, but I write very slowly and at the moment I just don't have time for it.

According to Blogger I've written 55 posts (not including this one) in the 18 months since I started, and I like to think that some of them have been quite entertaining. I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading the posts. It's been fun, and maybe at some point I'll be able to get back to it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gray Matter

I remember reading about Gray Matter, the next graphic adventure from Gabriel Knight creator Jane Jensen, many years ago when it was first announced (in 2003, I believe), but after hearing nothing for so long, I assumed it had slipped into development hell, never to return.

It seems, however, that if Duke Nukem Forever will actually be released, then nothing is impossible, and Gray Matter is on track to release on February 2011, on the PC and Xbox 360 (it is interesting to note that the 360 seems to be receiving a lot of games from small European publishers in the same way the PS2 benefited from the then-prolific Japanese industry). What's more, there is a demo available now on Live (in the European region).

I downloaded the demo and played through it, and the most striking thing is just how much it feels like an old school graphic adventure. I was worried about how modern shiny 3D graphics would suit a game like this, but it uses 3D characters on hand-drawn backgrounds (necessitating fixed camera angles), which really works well on a large, high definition display.

The game design also feels more like that of a past era. The Telltale adventure games, while amusing, were not particularly challenging and for the vast majority of the game you knew exactly what you had to do next, where you would get the required object and what you would do with it. In the demo for Gray Matter, there was a more inference and less outright instruction, which makes you feel more like you're solving the mystery yourself, but would open up the risk of being stuck not knowing what to do next. I guess you can't have it both ways, but I managed to get through the demo without having to resort to online assistance.

Of course, nobody played graphic adventures for the item combination puzzles or the wondering as to who they need to talk to next, they play them for the plot (or the jokes, depending on the game), and Gray Matter definitely has a similar feel to a Gabriel Knight game, with the demo showing signs of Jane Jensen's trademark blending of fact and fiction. Despite a male lead who doesn't have even a fraction of the charisma of the schattenjäger from New Orleans I was left wanting to know more when the demo ended.

It's not awful on the 360, either. The radial highlight menu all but eliminates pixel hunting (although you still need to do a bit of it when inspecting items close up), and the load times between screens are negligible (the demo runs off the console hard drive, but the full game can be installed). It's a testament to the convergence of the modern console and PC that a game like this doesn't really suffer with a gamepad. I can't see a lot of people dropping full AAA console price for a game like this, but it probably will be released at a lower price point and I hope it does well.

Gray Matter will be released on PC and Xbox 360 in February 2011.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You Are The Waggle

I have a confession to make: I have a pre-order in for Kinect. I feel kind of dirty admitting it. My attitude towards the Wii is still largely one of scorn, yet I'm buying Microsoft's extremely casual gamer focused motion sensing controller, which, judging from early reports, is almost as much of an affront to traditional gamers as was initially feared.

The thing is, I don't for a moment think that Kinect is the way of the future in the way you would have had to to fully embrace the Wii. Kinect is an add-on to a console that I'm already fairly heavily invested in, but not an integral part of it and I'm not worried that designers are going to try and shoehorn in motion controls to games that don't need them.

So why did I decide to purchase it then? The main reason is curiousity as to how the system works, to see if, despite the apparent limitations, the system is as clever as Microsoft says it is. Additionally, buying Kinect in a bundle with a new Xbox S console means it costs less than R1000, whereas retailers want nearly R2000 for the unit by itself, and seeing as I had planned to buy a new S console anyway, now seemed like the best time to do it. It's an experiment, then. It might be a waste of money, but probably no worse than my continued tendency to buy games even though I'm really not finding the time to play them.

There are some Kinect titles aimed at the so-called "core" market being developed, notably Q Entertainment's spiritual successor to Rez, Child of Eden, and at a recent trade show Microsoft also unveiled several titles in development by various Japanese developers, some of which sound pretty interesting. I'm not assuming they're going to work that well, I'm not sure the system is accurate enough to work with games which require any real degree of precision, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. The cost is sunk already, either way.

Kinect is released in South Africa on the 10th of November, which is tomorrow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Demo Round-up: Ninety Nine Nights 2

What to call the sequel to Ninety Nine Nights? One Hundred Nights? N3-2? Ninety Nine Nights Two doesn't seem like the most flowing title, but at least it's better than Two Worlds Two.

I have a confession to make: I actually really enjoyed the original N3. One of the earliest games released for the Xbox 360 in 2006, it was visually impressive, it let you smash entire legions of enemies, and I even liked the Japanese-Tolkienesque setting, even if two of the seven playable characters were pretty awful. It was a simple sort of game, though, and I wasn't really anticipating a sequel.

Ninety Nine Nights 2: Now with Extra Grey

I spotted the demo a month or so ago and thought I'd download it out of curiosity. The demo gives you a single mission with no real exposition (I think it had some fluff on the loading screen, but it didn't really provide much context), with a character who wasn't in the first game. It drops you onto a grey battlefield with a few grey enemies to fight your way through on your way to some grey objectives on your mini-map. It's immediately striking how monotone the demo mission seems; it is probably to try and invoke a smoky, harrowing battlefield, but it just looks dull. The vivid colour palette was one of the defining aspects of the first game's visuals, it seems a shame to have moved away from it.

Repeated presses on the attack buttons see enemies sliced in two around you, but the combat is simplistic and there aren't enough enemies about to distract you with the scale of the battle. Some basic hack 'n slash gets you through to an uninteresting boss creature, which is so busy beating away at the disposable AI allies that you barely have to dodge any attacks as you wear it down. After the boss falls, the demo ends, and I was left with absolutely no desire to have had it go on for any longer. It just seemed so pointless, even if my gaming time wasn't as constrained as it is I couldn't see the point of slogging through something like this. It almost makes you wonder why developers release demos for games like this - I can't imagine anyone playing it and thinking "I've got to get me some more of this", they'd be better off hoping some people who may have enjoyed the first game would pick it up on a whim. This demo is probably only losing them sales.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh, maybe the actual game is more interesting than the demo suggests. Sadly for Konami and Phantagram, a metascore of 45 implies otherwise.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Small Bites Only

I've barely had any time to play games recently, let alone write anything about them, hence this blog's updates have become even sparser than usual. I thought perhaps, just to get myself writing something again, I should put up some impressions of demos I'd played recently. "What?" I hear you say, "You've got a huge (and growing) pile of full retail and Live Arcade games, and you're playing demos of games you probably aren't even going to buy in the foreseeable future?". Well, sort of.

I've upgraded my internet connection, so it's now 4Mbps, and while I'm still capped, I've upgraded my cap to 18GB per month, which is more than I realistically see myself being able to download. So while my connection is still far from first world standards, it's now sufficient to let me download demos without having to agonise over whether they constitute a worthwhile expenditure of my bandwidth.

That's just what gets them onto my Xbox's hard drive. I've been trying a few because I don't actually want to start another game right now that will take me months to get through, I just want to be able to play something for an hour at most, form an opinion and move on, without it making me feel like a quitter when it sits there on my gamercard with only the opening achievements unlocked. Yes, I am aware how ridiculous that sounds.

Anyway, I'm not giving up proper games - in fact, having just finished the season mode of Split/Second, I'm keen to start Halo: Reach, but I'm going to try and put up a few demo impressions just to get myself writing again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Duke Nukem Forever To Actually Get Released

Former vapourware champion / industry joke punchline / 3DRealms investor scam Duke Nukem Forever is actually going to be be released.

Eurogamer's article on the game's history from announcement to 3Drealms shutting their doors in May 2009 is an interesting read for those of us who only vaguely remember the details. It turns out that DNF survived 3DRealms' closure, and 2K Games transferred it to Brothers in Arms and Borderlands developer Gearbox Software, a company notable for it's ability to actually release games they've been working on. The game was formally announced PAX in Seattle last night.

What are you waiting for? Christmas?

This strikes me as a really clever move. Plenty of older gamers would still have some residual enthusiasm for the series from memories of the originals, but 3DRealms' handling of the game would have made them think twice about it. This effectively gives the project a fresh start. Gearbox will be able to avoid the "it took 12 years to make this?" reaction; even if 3DRealms' game was fairly good, it would have never been able to justify it's massive development period. Additionally, it also replaces the somewhat John Romero-like 3DRealms head George Broussard with the likeable Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford, which will make it much easier to generate positive press.

Is a Duke Nukem game still relevant? Will it be any good? I really don't know, but I have to admit that it is intriguing that it will actually see the light of day. Duke Nukem Forever is out in 2011. For realz, yo.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Eurogamer has an interview with THQ Core Games boss Danny Bilson, released to coincide with the start of German gaming expo Gamescom. I'm particularly interested in this page, where he talks about Dawn of War 2: Retribution, and goes on to mention Dawn of War 3.

Announced yesterday, Retribution is a second "expandalone" for Dawn of War 2, due out in Q1 2011. Initially announced as featuring an Ork campaign as well as new units and maps for multiplayer, Bilson's comments indicate it may be more than that. It would appear that all of the races in the game are playable in the campaign, not just the Orks, and that while it is not returning to base building, he implies unit construction will be back in the campaign rather than the fixed squads of DoW2 and Chaos Rising.

Most excitingly, when asked whether there will be a new race, Bilson replies "You'll see at gamescom". Which means yes. If there wasn't, he would have made some comment about adding new units and the importance of keeping the sides balanced. I can't even hazard a guess as to what a possible new race would be, but Gamescom is already underway, so we probably won't need to wait long to find out.

I'm not so excited about the idea of Dawn of War 3 being a free-to-play, MMO style game. My impression of free-to-play titles is that they are massive time sinks with premium paid items to alleviate some of the crushing grind. One of the things I most like about DoW2 is the lack of MMO-style persistence - whether it is your 1st game or your 1000th, your units have the same stats, time (or additional money) invested in the game doesn't give you any advantage over other players aside from practice. Still, DoW3 is a long way off, and depending on the success of Company of Heroes Online, Relic might decide not to go down that route.