Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Undead Forever

I've just noticed on Penny Arcade that PopCap Games have started parodying Evony's ad campaign to promote their highly rated tower defense game, Plants vs Zombies, complete with zombie cleavage.

That's actually pretty awesome. If anyone is interested (and don't worry, PopCap isn't run by a Chinese gold farmer, as far as I'm aware), the game is somewhat inexplicably 50% cheaper on Steam than it is from PopCap themselves.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unnoticeable Now!

Well, it looks like Evony is at it again. Maybe Angry Helmet Man simply wasn't pulling in the page hits, so they've gone back to their previous advertising scheme.

It's apparently "unnoticeable now" as well as "free forever". I'm not sure exactly sure what they mean by "unnoticeable", as I certainly noticed something about the model they used for the ad.

Clicking on the ad brings you to the new sign-up screen, which clarifies what they mean by "unnoticeable" (although they appear to have a very low opinion of your IT department), as well as giving you a larger picture of unrelated-to-the-game-woman.

Evony is apparently bad news, suspected by some of being an email harvesting trojan supported by an army of spam-bots, so I wouldn't recommend going anywhere near it. I'm sure most of you wouldn't have anyway, but I thought it prudent to warn people nevertheless.

Friday, July 24, 2009

World of Warcraft: The Movie

Okay, so we've probably all read that the upcoming World of Warcraft movie will be directed by Sam Raimi (Army of Darkness, Spiderman). This is unlikely to make any difference to my policy of ignoring all game-based movies, unless Bruce Campbell is cast in it. And even then, only if he's given a leading role.

The idea of a World of Warcraft movie still strikes me as being a lot like Penny Arcade's vision of the Dungeon Siege movie, only with worse dialogue, as Dungeon Siege, being a single player game, didn't have to contend with a torrent of two and three letter abbreviations being spewed into the chat window by its protagonists.

Perhaps, for added authenticity, they could have the characters speak like actual players of the game, and then provide subtitles for the rest of us, who would have no idea what on earth they were talking about. It would make it seem like some sort of strange foreign film, which would instantly increase its appeal with the arty crowd.

I imagine it might look something like this:

Or perhaps:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good Grief, Charlie Bandwidth

I missed out on the original Secret of Monkey Island the first time around, but I still rate Monkey Island 2 as one of the best games I've ever played, so I was understandably excited when LucasArts released their visually and aurally enhanced (but otherwise apparently untouched) Special Edition. The only real decision I had to make was whether to buy the Xbox version from Live Arcade or the PC version from Steam, which wasn't a very tough one. I figured the game would be better suited to mouse control, I was used to playing adventure games on my PC anyway, and I'm not that much of a Gamerscore whore that 200 points worth of achievements were going to sway me. Besides, it was also slightly cheaper on PC; 800 Microsoft Spacebucks equals 10 United States Dollars, but due to the magic of intercontinental price discrimination, 800MSP is R96, whereas 10USD is R80.

So, this morning I purchased it from Steam, only to receive an unpleasant surprise when I tried to install it. You see, the Xbox version is a little over 500MB - I know because I tried to download the trial version to see how the control scheme would work on a gamepad - but the PC version is apparently 2.16GB. Quite why it's so much bigger, I don't know. Uncompressed audio, perhaps, but as the artwork in both games is at the same level of detail in 1080p, it seems odd that the PC version is four times the size. That's quite a chunk of game to download for a person with a 378kb link and capped bandwidth. In fact, 2GB of bandwidth will cost me more than the game itself did, and seeing as I always exceed my cap each month, it's not just an opportunity cost, either. In case it isn't obvious, this is one of the reasons the shift towards digital distribution doesn't excite me that much at the moment. Well, that and the fact that I'm a packrat and like having shiny bits of plastic to show for my expenditure.

This isn't the most ridiculous incidence of this problem I've had, either. I won a code for a copy of Lord of the Rings Online, and I picked up a code for a free copy of Age of Conan from a website giveaway - these are full retail copies with activation and a month's subs included, not trial versions - but I worked out that for the same cost as the bandwidth to download either of these games, I could actually buy a boxed copy of the game from a retailer, and pay for an entire year of subscription to it. I'm sure you'll all agree that the situation there is a bit daft. I'm hoping the Seacom cable going online will help increase our bandwidth and decrease our costs, but even this will apparently take time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Layout Changes

I'm fiddling a bit with the layout at the moment, so just bear with me.

Update: I just went through all of my old posts and had to justify each individual one. Surely Blogger should have some way of letting you do this on the template settings?

Update 2: What do people think of the new layout? It's certainly a little bit less "generic blogspot", but I'm not sure it isn't slightly harder to read than before.

Update 3: I'm having second thoughts about the justified text blocks. They make the text look more, for lack of a better description, professional, which is completely at odds with the actual writing.

Update 4: I've now (manually) removed the justification from the paragraphs of all the posts.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top 5 Songs from Games' Closing Credits

Yes, a top 5 list. Someone call the internet cliche police, I've hit rock bottom. At least we can only go up from here.

I have made it a habit of watching the entirety of the credits roll at the end of every game I finish. I'm not sure when I started doing this, but I like to think of it as a mark of respect to the developers, even though the odds on me remembering even a single name from the list are less than remote. Accordingly, I've listened to a lot of closing themes in games. Most of them don't stick with me, even in games which I've really enjoyed, but there have been a few which have, and here are five (or six) of them:

5. Final Fantasy X - Suteki Da Ne (Rikki/Nobuo Uematsu)
Final Fantasy X, which is incidentally the only Final Fantasy I've completed, was a game which annoyed me almost as much as it enthralled me. It was like everything that was wrong as well as right in JRPGs. One thing I couldn't fault, though, was the music. From the tinkly opening theme in the start menu, to the soaring crescendos in the CGI scenes, it was superb, emotive stuff. The closing theme, which Youtube informs me is called Suteki Da Ne, is a poignant way of ending the game, although I think the real standout theme in the game was the Hymn of the Fayth, which was used at several points in the game (there are apparently 11 versions of it on the FFX OST).

4. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within - Straight Out of Line (Godsmack)
Much has been said about how the Prince's badassitude in Warrior Within was a step back from the more likeable persona created in Sands of Time, and I agree with most of it. By the end of the game, however, you had probably at least come to terms with the new, but not improved, angry prince, and even though the soundtrack lost the delicacy and mystery of the first game, at least it did rock. Ubisoft's selection of Godsmack's Straight out of Line to go with the shifting, burning imagery of the credits roll was a good one, closing the game off on an appropriately badass note.

3. Mass Effect - M4 Part II (Faunts)
Mass Effect is a game I enjoyed tremendously, and after the game's cataclysmic ending it drops to an amazing, spacey bit of indie rock as the credits come up, which I was really taken with. Turns out, the song is M4 (part II) from a band called Faunts. At more than 8 minutes, it's also the ideal song for a long set of credits. I enjoyed it so much that I actually ended up buying the band's EP, and you can too, from Friendly Fire Records.

2. Gears of War - Cole's Rap (Lester Speight, presumably mixed together by the Gears audio team)
Gears' credits start with a more atmospheric piece, but halfway through switches to a rap song presumably put together by Epic's audio team using Augustus "Cole Train" Cole's voice samples from the game, no doubt with a few extra ones recorded by voice actor Lester Speight. Much like Cole's character in the game, it's horrendously cliched and over the top, but manages to get away with it by not pretending to be anything else. In fact, if it weren't for number one on this list, it would probably be the greatest piece of closing music in a game ever. Yeah! Woo! Bring it on sucka! Dis my kinda shit!

1. Portal - Still Alive (GlaDOS, or more accurately, Jonathan Coulton)
Valve's quirky puzzle game succeeded as much due to the humour as it did to the problem solving, with the undisputed star of the game being the deranged AI, GlaDOS. Completing the game rewarded you with this brilliant, oddly touching song during the credits, during which the lyrics popped from text prompts and guaranteed that nobody was going to read the names of any of the poor souls who worked on the game. If you managed to watch the entire song after completing Portal without smiling, then you'd better check your pulse, because you might very well be dead.

Special Mention: Mirror's Edge - Still Alive (Lisa Miskovsky)
The closing track in Mirror's Edge is a really beautiful song, its austere Scandanavian-ness complementing the games aesthetic very nicely. It didn't make the list, though, because I couldn't very well put two songs called Still Alive on it, could I?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Real Life RPG

Okay, so apparently I'm now embedding Youtube videos and calling them updates. What's next? Top ten lists? Actually, I'm fairly sure lists are quite far less egregious than embedded videos on the "Waste of Space on the Internet" scale.

Anyway, I have no idea what happens past the two minute mark in this video because I got way too bored. In fact, the only reason I made it past the one minute mark was that I left the tab open when I switched to something else, so I continued to hear his droning voice for another minute before I had to shut it off.

Seriously, if you really think the problem with your life is that no number on a spreadsheet increases when you play a game of chess or go for a run, then this could be the thing for you. I'm not sure if the video explains how to earn phat lewtz from your activities, but to be fair, that could have been somewhere in the two to eight minute range.

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Mechwarrior Game Coming

It was announced last week that Smith and Tinker, who have acquired the videogame rights to most of FASA's IPs after Microsoft cruelly denuded them, are planning a new Mechwarrior game, aimed at rebooting the series. Developer Pirahna Games hardly has the best track record (fishing and hunting games, the tie-in to the second Transformers movie and PSP ports of Need for Speed and Call of Duty), and they have yet to find a publisher, but I'm still excited by the news.

Eurogamer now have a trailer up here. It's all pre-rendered, and even then most of it seems to involve mechs standing in front of each other firing until the other one falls over, but seeing a Warhammer, Jenner and Atlas smash each other into chunks of metal still makes me geek out a little.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On The Mirror's Edge

I finished Mirror's Edge earlier this week, and I sort of felt I should write something about it. I'm not really sure what I'm trying to achieve here, as I doubt I'm going to say anything that hasn't been more eloquently explained in the 82 reviews of the game that have already been written, but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

The first and most obvious thing about the game is the way it incorporates body movement into the usual FPS. It's really more of a first person platform or free running game than it is a first person shooter, and when it all works well, there's an almost tangible sense of weight and flow to movements that in other games can seem more like the character is skimming across the ground. Unfortunately, while the shift to first person perspective may have allowed greater precision in the shooter genre, it makes platforming a little awkward. On several occassions I was left wishing for a Sands of Time style rewind function after missing what seemed like an easy jump.

The other notable thing about the game is it's use of colour. I think we're so used to FPS games being brown, grey or green that the use of white as the game's base colour really makes it stand out. When other colours are used, they are bright, saturated primary colours (unlike, say, the subtle huing that Assassin's Creed used so well). Visually, the game is really striking, and coupled with the minimalist soundtrack, creates a clean, unique aesthetic unlike anything else on the market.

The final thing I found interesting was that it was possible to play the game without killing anyone. A couple of games have theoretically let you do this, Mirror's Edge is probably the only one I've played that I felt that I should actually try to do so. Faith is a minor felon, an courier of unauthorised information, who is framed for a murder (I don't consider things to be plot spoilers if they're written on the back of the game's box), she has actually not committed any serious crime. As soon as she kills a policeman, even in self-defence, that it no longer the case (unfortunately, this sentiment is not shared by the game's enemies, who shoot to kill from the very first level), so I ended up just discarding any weapon I took from an opponent, even though the game sadly appears to be balanced with the assumption that you are prepared to shoot everyone. Faith is fairly capable in hand-to-hand combat, but as the game started to throw larger numbers of better armed opponents at me, I began to dread the inevitable arrived of red-hued enemies (which cannot be evaded, they have to be subdued before you can progress) on each level.

Toward the end of the game, when I started to feel like some opponents did actually deserve to get shot, I was so close to getting the "Test of Faith" achievement for the completing the game without firing a shot at anyone that I soldiered on with it. If anyone does intend to play through the game in a non-lethal way, I'd recommend playing on easy, which lowers the difficulty of the combat sections, but leaves the running and jumping sequences, which are the best part of the game anyway, unchanged. Pointless number chasers won't lose out on any achievements, either.

There were a lot of things I liked about Mirror's Edge. Not least of these was that it is one of the products of the "new" EA, who allowed DICE to develop a relatively risky new IP rather than forcing them to churn out nothing but Battlefield games. I liked the aesthetic, and I enjoyed the free running sections of the game, both the less structured platforming and the more scripted chase sequences in the game. I did, however, get the impression that DICE had a good idea that was probably not sufficient to turn into a full sized game, but just went for it anyway. I was also expecting something more from the plot, but I suppose it was serviceable enough to justify the action. Still, in this day and age, sequels are an inevitability, and I will be quite interested to see what DICE can do with the series on its second attempt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You A Bad Enough Dude?

I read yesterday that they're making a movie based on the 1979 arcade game Asteroids. I'm not really sure why, as far as I know the game is just an outline of a ship shooting the outline of some giant rocks, although I might be missing something as Asteroids is one of the few arcade games I'm actually too young to have played. It always amazes me how keen Hollywood seems to make movies out of video games, seeing as they're always awful. They tend to be far too ropey to appeal to people who don't know the game, and their complete disregard of game canon often alienates fans of the game. Most times, the best they can hope for is to be so bad they're awesome.

If they have to make video game movies, and I'd really rather they didn't, they could at least try and remain true to the narrative in the game. Many games have strong, well developed plots that could easily sustain a full length film. Take, for example, Data East classic Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja.

They might have to update it slightly for the times, to "President Barack has been captured by the ninjas", but it's a story that needs to be told. Michael Bay would have to direct it. Actually, Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja: The Movie sounds like it would be right up his alley.

A while back it also seemed like there was a disturbing trend of trying to make movies from fighting games, games which have even less plot than most, and involve the protagonists having to solve all of their problems through fighting each other, one at a time. Thankfully, I have heard nothing for a while about the rumoured Tekken and Soul Calibur movies, and I'm doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li doesn't actually exist. But if they have to keep making them, I'd love to see SNK's Art of Fighting receive the treatment, as Ryo Sakazaki's epic quest to locate and rescue his kidnapped sister contains one of my favourite scenes in any game ever.

I simply cannot find words to describe the beauty and humanity of that scene. And if we can't have faithful plot conversions, maybe they could use some of the game's finely wrought dialogue in the movie. If they ever decide to make Fatal Fury: Special: The Movie, for example:

Don't we all?

Sorry, what?

Coming soon to a sinema near you!