Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Updates all around

So, here's what's going on right now:

-- My master plan of getting "The Job" hasn't been going well. At all. I finished that project for How Machines Work back in Feb., but they haven't posted the game anywhere for me to show off. I applied for something else in Lincolnwood, but who knows, right?

-- Speaking of the moneys, I'm actually making quite a bit of it this week. A couple hundred dollars here, a few hundred there...it adds up. This makes it so much easier to be a bum. Really.

-- And speaking of being a bum, I just got through Castlevania. Again. And now I can play the whole damned game as Richter (someone save me the trouble, and tell me if it makes a difference?). Talk about replay value.

-- Also, I've really been flexing my "Fantasy Sports" muscles lately. Yay for exposure.

-- As a consequence of my newfound wealth, I actually have a bit of work to do. So, from the looks of things, the posts this week might be a little scarce. Sorry.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"The Same Could Be Said of All Relgions...but Enough Talk -- Have At You!"

Still working on Castlevania. I had expected to be writing a post right now saying how shitty it was that the game ended so early...etc. I got the "bad ending" the day after I started the game. As soon as I saw the credits (which, might I add, cannot be skipped), I was like, "WHAT!?"

Thankfully, after a little more exploration on my part, I found that contrary to what I had expected, the game was only about half done. I'm starting to see what little things in the game made it so famous.

First of all, there's the inverted castle idea. I think that's BRILLIANT. Think about it -- you have limited disc space, and only room for so many sprites and levels...how do you make the game longer? I KNOW! TURN THE ENTIRE DAMNED CASTLE UPSIDE DOWN!


After beating the castle one way, you have to beat it upside down (which creates different areas and a whole lot more jumping) with much harder enemies. What a great idea!

Next, they really got to work with the "Familiars." Basically, these are dudes that fly around you and have special abilities (the Skull latches on to people and makes them explode, the Fairy can use items for you...etc). The ability to level them up, in addition to discovering them, really adds a level of depth.

Finally, there are things in the game where the purpose is JUST TO SCREW WITH YOU. That's it. There's one room that has a confession boot: if you sit in the chair, the ghost of a priest will come in, close the cloth on the door, and stab you with a series of spears. If you sit in the priests' chair, a female ghost will come in and complain to you.


I've explored about 120% of the castle, and I still haven't even played through it as Richter yet. Hooray for replay value!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I've been a bit neglectful as of late...it's not that I can't hit my own self-imposed deadlines -- it's that something ALWAYS comes up.

Don't take it personally, but if there's a Woot-Off, all of you out there in TV land are second fiddle (although in retrospect, why bother? The Woot-Off has been subpar thus far).

Started chipping away at Castlevania today. Again, I'm not really seeing the "ZOMG" factor here. I guess I really just need to put it in perspective: this game came before all the ones I've played that are based on it. So I guess it is pretty "revolutionary" for its time.

But I'm still not shitting my pants over it. The voice acting is laughable ("Have at you!"), and can't be skipped. There are only so many times that you're willing to hear Alucard say "........." followed by butchered dialogue. ("I am Alucard, and I am a toolbox.")

Also, the save system is very very cruel. I hate getting locked in a room and knowing that I'm going to die. AND THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO, because it takes 3 seconds to use a healing item. At that point, I'm already dead! Can't save before, because the last save point was 15 minutes ago. And besides, if I go back to that point, I don't "get" anything. I just have to fight through the same monsters again, the very same ones that wrecked me so far. I also don't see the point of upgrading your shield. It blocks projectiles. They all do. But any normal attack sends you on your ass -- regardless of how good the shield is.

And while I'm ranting, why do I have to do the crazy-ass combination for each spell? I'm only going to use two -- the one that gives me everyone's life, and the one that lets me shoot fireballs. That's it. Why can't I assign those to a button on the controller? Maybe if I used the right thumbstick or something? Maybe if I CLICK the thumbstick. SOMEthing. Trying to do a dyslexic fireball motion in the heat of battle doesn't work for me.

Still, it has some solid points. I can tell already that this is a LONG game. That's good. Also, the "re-exploration" factor isn't my favorite thing, but at least it's proof that you've progressed at some point.

More on this later.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Woot! Castlevania!

So, I'm going to make this quick because there is a Woot-Off! going on.

Basically, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night hit XBOX Live today. I will confess, I never really played the game. Now, it's not like I'm entirely new to Castlevania (I played through Aria/Dawn of Sorrow), but apparently SotN is quite the classic.

And I've never played it.

That having been said, I downloaded the XBL demo today (which grants 15 minutes of gameplay sans saves, leveling past level 5, and, of course, without being able to get achievements) and gave it a whirl.

It's nothing special, as far as I can tell.

It's just another Castlevania, just like Dawn/Aria/Harmony...etc. Sidescroll and attack shit. Whoop de doo.

But that doesn't mean it isn't good.

I'll have more on this later, when I know.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I'll be bringing the heat with a post.

...later. Not right now.

You'll have to wait.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Brain Bio: TechDawg

Let's do something new, shall we?

I always talk about how the industry needs innovative minds, but I never really give any legit examples other than Will Wright. So, that having been said, I say we introduce a new feature called "Brain Bio." Let's look at some people that ARE getting it right.

And yes, I am spazzing a bit about Line Rider. Sue me.


Using the Line Rider engine, "TechDawg" has become an innovator/guru of sorts. Most Line Rider movies involve complex tricks or a slow decline. However, TechDawg uses a very unique art style to go along with the complexity of his tracks. Often hailed with the usual Line Rider criticisms ("ZOMG THAT WAS TEH AWESOME!11" and "cool. but u have no life"), TechDawg has pulled a Prometheus and brought fire to the people by explaining what he does on his website and message board. Taking the time to design the tracks is one thing, but teaching gets you a boost in my book.

"Innovation within the trick"

One of TechDawg's trends is to re-use an area (keeping the track smaller, but still lengthy in time) but keeping the rider on a set path. Here, TechDawg uses the same ramp over three times, each time producing a different result (based on the speed applied).

"An Art Form"

In addition to using complex runs, TechDawg does something that no one else even comes close to: he uses some fine looking art. In this video, the art around the lines actually meshes with the music (an odd choice). In this example, the lines range from sheet music to Amadeus himself. Also, catch some moves like the intentional nollie at 2:30 and the final ending. Impressive!

"Like Father Like Son"

I really have nothing to say here. This is the culmination of everything I've been talking about. Note the nollie streak at 1:25, and the perspective shift at 2:01. Amazing.

TechDawg, we salute you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not Again

Sorry, but Line Rider has been more addictive than I planned (that, and that I just spent $5 on the old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade Game for XBOX Live). My roommate and I just beat it (in about 15 minutes and the equivalent of $30 in quarters).

Actually, it's baffling to me how people get away with this shit. I mean, that game sold entirely on the fact that, hey, the Turtles were in an arcade game! Wit ha cheesy 8-Bit rendition of the theme song pumping at all times, you don't really care that 90% of the enemies can kill you in 2 hits, with the exception being the bosses (that can kill you in ONE hit).

Worst of all, it's essentially the X-Men arcade game (swap the palates and use your imagination). Really, it's not about how well you hack/slash, but how well you insert coins into the slot.

Shame on you, Konami.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's My Sex-Box, and Her Name is Sony!

Finally, some innovation!

Sequelitis is one disease that apparently has a cure. After being swamped by Game: 4 for the past few months, I'm seeing hope and promise in the world.

First, is Line Rider. Originally a Java app (available if you click HERE), it's apparently being shipped for the DS (good pick!). It's a really simple concept: you draw shit and then let this little sledder dude go all ape-shit on it. Actually, that doesn't really do it justice. Have a look for yourself.

After that, we have hope from, of all places, THE PS3. How did THAT happen? The new game is called LittleBigPlanet, and is basically the XNA studio for people that like pretty colors. And no subscription fees. You can control/make your own games within a game, and then make them with others. Or, just mess up everything your friend tries to make. Again, this requires a video for the full effect.

Actually, I'm excited the MOST about about a game that probably has a billion more years of development: Spore. Still nothing really new since E3 2006, but I'm still waiting to have my life be consumed. If you have 15 minutes to spare, watch this video and shit your pants. Remember -- this is already from HALF A YEAR AGO.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Birth of a Franchise: Worms

And you all thought I was done with these, didn't you?


As long as the universe remains of a victim of "sequelitis" (and if you need proof of that, look at the Ratchet and Clank series), I will be there to point out the missteps and failures along the way. That having been said, let's take a look at where it all started...

Worms (PC, Amiga, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Genesis, Dreamcast, SNES, GC, PS1, PS2, Saturn, XBOX, 1994)

Now THAT is a long list of game consoles. Originally intended to be more realistic (complete with blood, gore, and war sounds in the background), the original Worms had a lot of things going for it -- an interesting war command sim, unique weapons, and a sense of humor. Essentially, it was a violent use of physics (which is basically what Crackdown and Psy-Ops were, anyways).

You could name your worms (giving sheer joy to idiots everywhere), and the environments were entirely destructible, giving an interesting twist to the genre. Speaking of unusual twists, the game featured support for four players...back before anyone knew the internet existed. So really, it was a matter of pushing the keyboard over to your friend. Still, this would be a landmark for the series.

Really, the only noticeable problem with Worms was playing solo. Either the computer was retarded, or it never messed up. Honestly, you can only get whomped on so much by a fake person.

Worms 2/Armageddon (PC...etc, 1997)
See, for me, this is the pinnacle of the Worms series. I include Armageddon with Worms 2, because basically, Armageddon is just an add-on. There really isn't a huge difference between the two.
Worms 2 took everything that was good about Worms and made it better. The sense of humor returned in the form of outlandish weapons (using a Sheep, Skunk, Mole...etc as an explosive instrument of war), and zany character animations.

Also, the improved graphics made it possible for players to create their own levels -- a huge plus. In addition to revamping the graphics and gameplay, Team 17 also went and implemented WormNET, an online place to play the game. Likewise, for people without internet, there was a "Mission Mode" that made playing the game one-player more challenging, and also allowed the player to unlock weapons (like the Aqua-Sheep).

Really, I can't think of anything that could have been done to make this game any better. Any problem from the first game was taken into consideration, and addressed accordingly. Most people would agree with me, but a lot of people think that games are always better in 3D...

Worms 3D/Worms Forts: Under Siege/Worms 4: Mayhem (PC, XBOX, PS2, 2003)

Damn it Team 17, if it ain't broke, DON'T FIX IT. I can't fault them for trying, though.

The 3D forays were not largely well-received, and they earned it: if it's difficult to aim a bazooka using wind on a 2-D plane, imagine how hard it is to do in 3D. Needless to say, lot of frustration there. Also, the wonky camera and confusing physics didn't make things much better.

Again, Team 17 experiments. Some ideas are good (Forts was a pretty interesting spinoff idea), and others are terrible (platforms in 3D). Between the two, Worms 4 came out, and didn't really impress anybody. By the time the game turned out to be playable, it was already too late.

Realizing that the series hit its optimal point with Armageddon, they decided to work backwards. Recent releases, such as Worms: Open Warfare (PSP, DS), and Worms (XBOX Live), are basically just ports of Armageddon, except modified to be used without a mouse (with mixed results in controls...I still can't dominate the ninja rope without a keyboard).

As a matter of fact, those games are all available in some form: Don't just take my word for it -- download!

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Nowadays, people bitch about the smallest details. My personal favorite of the last few weeks has to be PA's complaint that Crackdown uses the default font. If that's the biggest complaint you have about a game, it's not really worth making, now is it.? It could be so much worse.

So much worse.

After yesterday's post, it got me thinking -- what are some of the worst-received games of all time? I know that Pulse Racer is one of the more recent games that has been deemed "crap," but that game would have gotten perfect scores back in 1994. Let's see what people hate, and why.

#1. Superman 64 (N64, 1999)
So, you've probably heard of this one. If you haven't, allow me to fill you in:
Apparently, Superman has been sent into a virtual world to rescue Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, et al before it's too late. Well, I suppose that would kinda be an OK premise.

Then you start playing.

In this game, everything is on a timer. Eat, sleep shit, all to a timer. Now, Superman can do everything this side of getting into Jimmy Olson's pants (don't act like you haven't noticed), so maybe a timer would mix things up a bit. But what's this? The world is mysteriously filled with a green "fog" that in the game industry is usually called an inability to render objects in the distance. See: Draw-Distance. Now, because this isn't really supposed to be about polygon rendering, and more about how shitty the air is in VR, let's fill the whole goddamned screen with this shit! Now you can't see much of anything!

So, OK, you can't really see, and everything is timed, but you still have powers and stuff, right? Well, you can still fly, and brilliant criminal mastermind Lex Luthor has totally built a challenge for you -- fly through some rings.


Yeah, you'll spend the majority of the game flying through these metal hoops (very much like the rings in Starfox 64). Fighting bad guys probably isn't a good idea, because even some retard with a gun can take you down in one shot (the fog can apparently make Superman as strong as Joan Rivers). So you fly through rings. Lots of rings.

Yeah, they look like that. I'm sure that the numbers from the timer are probably burned into the screen, so just in case something ISN'T timed, you won't get sloppy and relaxed because of it.

Granted, no Superman game has been good since the Superman Arcade game I played as a kid. Even the most recent entry from EA has sucked (although they at least got the superpowers down).

Still, you know you have a serious problem when the "S" logo at the bottom right of the screen looks better than anything else in the game.

#2. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Atari 2600, 1982)

The worst thing that can happen to a videogame is when it has a movie tie-in. The movie studio puts you an a harsh deadline, and you are expected to ship that completed game the week that the movie comes out. The game always comes out, but it's never what it's supposed to be.
E.T. the movie had years of development. The game? 5 Weeks. That's it. Howard Scott Warshaw (the same guy who programmed Yars' Revenge) was given $200,000 for the project (and this is in 1980's dollars...that's a lot!). With the short deadline, they skipped audience testing and shipped a generally glitchy game.

But that's not the fun part.

Normally, a bad game gets ridiculed for a month, and people just don't buy it. It then fades into obscurity only to be mentioned by the occasion heckler (read: me). E.T. was not quite so lucky. Anticipating huge sales, Atari made 4 million cartidges. There were only 10 million Atari consoles in existence! After the returns started piling up, Atari realized they were stuck with a huge pile of games that were glitchy and poor. So they did what any logical person would do.

They buried them.

Before declaring bankruptcy, Atari drove all the cartridges from El Paso to a New Mexico landfill. They then crushed and buried all of the games. However, in the heat, the games melted and starting bubbling up to the surface. Atari then sealed the entire burial grounds in concrete.

And you wonder why Atari vanished from 1984 until 1998.

#3. Enter the Matrix (PC, XBOX, PS2, GC, 2003)

This is more a of a personal bias, but who cares? Enter the Matrix was definitely not given any awards other than for sucking. However, as bad as some people may think this game is, I have a personal vendetta against it.
Before that, though, there are a few things that it does do right. First of all, the mo-cap stuff is pretty much dead on. When I hit a button to attack, it looks like it normally does in the Matrix films. Likewise, the "Hacking" terminal (basically a simplified version of DOS) is a game in and of itself, and is a very cool implementation. The movies also add to the game by intertwining the two.

But that's where the cool stuff ends.

See, in order for a game to be playable, there have to be set boundaries. I rented this game back when it came out, and I remember that I was stuck on one part where I was supposed to get a flashlight (or else I was killed by...something). But I couldn't figure out where the hell the flashlight was. Eventually, I just tried running all over the place, and then tried to go down the dark passage. It worked. Once I died, I had to figure out how I got the flashlight. Apparently, the flashlight was all the way in the back of the level, but the designer had neglected to put in the icon, or even a notifier that it was collected. You never knew if you had picked it up unless you tried to run down the tunnel!

Also, the "last level" was an on-rails shooter, but you couldn't tell if you were hitting the damned sentinel. It reminded me of a game called Deep Impact, or Deep Tide or something that was a four disc game that was basically like shooting within a movie. Eventually, either you won the game or you died, but you had no idea when either of those things was going to occur.

In reality, the biggest failing of the game was not including Neo.

You dumb bastards.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Legions in Hiding

And no, I'm not thinking of the song by Testament, but that's a good guess.

Seriously though -- how many times have you seen/read something that just made you drool in anticipation for the future event, and then it never happened? I'm not talking about instances where your friends are "totally getting you strippers for your birthday this year," but rather, games that just never made it.

There's really no rhyme or reason to the games I picked (other than the fact that they have pictures...I know that America can't read without them purdy pictures). Here are a few games that are pissing me off -- RIGHT NOW!

#1. Primal Rage 2 (Arcade, 1996?)

OK, so who here has played Primal Rage? You know, Primal Rage? The fighting game where you control dinosaurs and fight each other with special attacks? Well, if you did, I feel sorry for you. For some reason, Primal Rage was a really popular game in 1994. So much so, in fact, that Atari had planned a sequel (I really didn't see much in it other than the "cheese" system. THAT was clever).
Apparently, the plot was going to revolve around the idea that this "meteor" that crash landed was filled with these human-like deities that were going to fight the dinosaurs.
Wisely, Atari decided to pull the plug in production. What about Enter the Matrix, Atari? What about that!?

#2. Star Fox 2 (SNES, 1995?)
Awww, and they even had the box art ready for this one! Working off of the success of 1993's Star Fox, Nintendo decided to pull out the ol' sequel machine (there have been, what, 4 sequel/spin-offs since?). They had added characters ("Miyu" and "Fay"), customization (now you could customize your ship's stats), and full 3-D roaming. As a matter of fact, an Alpha of the game was shown at E3 that year, and was widely publicized by Nintendo. The game was pretty much done, and never saw the light of day.
What happened?
Apparently, the game was almost too good. Afraid that there would be no distinction in the 3-D between the SNES and Ultra 64 (later the N64), Miyamoto canned the project. Here's what Star Fox 2 programmer Dylan Cuthbert has to say about that: "StarFox 2 was fully completed...[we] expanded Starfox into a full 3D shooting game. The reason for non-release was the then impending Nintendo 64 which of course was intended to be released a lot sooner than it actually was. Miyamoto-san decided he wanted to have a clean break between 3D games on the SNES and 3D games on the new superior 64 bit system. In retrospect, he could have released Star Fox 2 and there would have been over a year and a half before the N64 came out. But hindsight is always 20/20.
Add in the cost of the VFX chip, and you've got yourself a cancellation.

#3. Duke Nukem Forever (PC, "When It's Done")
See, this isn't really fair. Duke isn't exactly canceled...but he has been in production since 1997. He is what we call "VaporWare." Anyways, 3D-Realms recently released this screenshot of the game (in 2007 no less!), so they are still pumping money into it. It's not like they don't have the money either, what with the millions they made off of Duke Nukem 3D and Prey (not to mention Max Payne). Still, 10 years of development has gotta be painful.
Here's the latest peep from the head honchos:
"No, you cannot pre-order the game. If you see some online store saying "We are taking pre-orders", they're just trying to get your money (they usually also make up their own supposed "insider release date info", too). There is no release date set, we are not taking pre-orders for the game. End of story."


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It's In The Cards

Let's get one thing straight -- I love poker. I love everything about the game, from betting to bluffing.

But damn it, Poker video games just aren't fun.

The industry keeps trying, with big budget games like "World Championship Poker 2," all the way down to "Texas Hold 'Em" on XBOX Live. Every game tries to excite you by incorporating online play, improved AI, or even the occasional "play against the pros."

None of them get it right.

In order to succeed, a poker game needs to revamp three things:

#1. Stakes.
Problem: What's to stop you (or any other moron online) from going "All-In" with a 2 and a 7? Without anything truly riding on the game, players are free to bet like lunatics. They can always just join another game with their imaginary money.
Solution: You obviously can't use real money (that's probably illegal, not to mention the danger that could stem from modders/cheaters). Instead, set up an imaginary fund that actually LEADS to something. All players start with 5000 "points" which will enter them in an online tournament. However, if you use up your points, you have to play through the campaign (single player) to get more. You can always play for free in multiplayer, but the ranked tournaments will cost you those points. Use the money you win in ranked tournaments to enter higher stakes (ie more $ exclusive) games. So what makes you keep playing? The points are WORTH something. Let's say it's for 360 -- wouldn't you play to earn 1,000,000 points if you knew it was good for 100 MS points? Maybe not an equal amount, but something to keep the players honest and competitive. Speaking of which...

#2. Competition
Problem: Who the hell am I playing against? You can't really tell when a player is bluffing based on the amount of time that has run off of the timer. Most games support a camera, but no game enforces it.
Solution: Package it with the game. Seriously. Most poker games are basement/budget ($20), every major console supports a camera (not 100% sure about the Wii, but I'll bet it does). Make the game $50, and package a camera that normally costs $40. Might increase your sales, and it makes players MUCH MORE LIKELY to use it.

#3. Creativity
Problem: In regular poker, you have to keep your opponent on their toes, and be able to read them accordingly. To do this, you have to be creative. In most poker games (especially when playing against the AI), there are no "tells."
Solution: Nothing a little innovation won't fix. Add some ways to read the player, no matter how good he is. For example, on the Wii, a player might have to make a gesture with his arm to put chips into the pot. With the motion sensitivity, you could tell if that hand was shaking, was quick, smooth...etc.

Take heed, poker players. I'm waiting.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Weird Steps in Gaming: Yo! Noid

Seeing as there are only so many games that are awesome/shitty depending on my (flawless) viewpoint, maybe it's best to take these games one at a time, and really appreciate what they do (or don't do).

Yo! Noid for the NES was one of those games that you picked out when you were 7 or 8 because it had the Noid on the cover, and you heard of those "Avoid the Noid" commercials. Or, more likely, you picked this game out because you were told to grab "the cheapest game they have." Or, at least, I was.

Here's a brief overview of what's going on in Yo! Noid:

#1. Forget anything you know about the character. Yes, he likes pizza. Yes, he has the signature pogo stick (at one point). But did you know that the Noid also has the ability to utilize ancient ninja techniques that bring pain and suffering upon dock workers? No one realizes the true power of the Noid until it's too late.

#2. The Noid has the stamina of Terry Schiavo. In this strange world where yo-yo's can cause death to the lower class workers, it's one hit and you're dead.

#3. There's actually some originality.


Well, first of all, let's look at the "boss" system.

As you can see here, the Noid clearly has an adversary in his homosexual brother Earl, who also shares the same mental retardation and pizza fetish. (Ed's Note: May or may not be accurate)
In order to defeat "Earl," you actually have to use LOGIC. Unlike contemporary games of the times, the boss wasn't a "rinse and repeat" series of patterns. Instead, you were given a series of "pizzas" in a rock/paper/scissors type card game. 3 pizzas is better than 2, and so on. The objective was to eat the most pizzas first. There were also other items such as the hot sauce (pictured above) which basically negate
d any amount of pizza that the other guy ordered (good for when Earl busts out the occasional 8 or 9 pizzas).

What else is original about this game? Well, it's only the SECOND NES game where Nintendo admitted to changing an existing game. Observe:

Well lookie that! These two screenshots are from the Japanese game "Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru" (Trans: Masked Ninja Hanamaru). You can see where things got changed around. Also, in the second panel, the character is saying: "Sukukita! Ninjiyutsu Kuchibeda" (Trans: I really hope that we don't get ripped off by a fucking pizza mascot and fade into obscurity).

OK, it's really not the best game. But look at it this way -- the manual came with a coupon for $1 off of a Domino's pizza!