Category Archives: Videogames

I am Murloc!

Illidan Statue at Blizzcon '08

I somehow managed to survive Blizzcon ’08 without my feet exploding from standing in lines for 3 days straight. I’ll say this for Blizzard – they put on one hell of a convention for their fans! The tickets were $100 each, but I think they we got half that back in the goody bag alone. A starter pack of the WoW collectible card game, an account authenticator, three different keychains, and a 4-foot-long inflatable sword among other things. Oh, and a minature bottle of hand-sanitizer. Precious, precious hand-sanitizer.

I’d normally think using hand-sanitizer when you’re not a health-care professional would be a little extreme. I didn’t think that after I sat down at one of the communal Diablo 3 PCs. This is not a joke, or an exaggeration: One of the people who sat at or near that terminal before me smelt like a backed-up toilet. When buying a few shirts from the store, I stood behind a man who smelled like stale urine.

Probably the highlight of the show was the closing ceremony. Patton Oswalt did infact appear to do a show, and I hope some of it appears in his CD coming out next year. The in-house Blizzard band, Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftan played 4 or 5 songs. For those of you not familiar with them, L70etc is a heavy-metal band made up of Blizzard employees, including the Art Director on vocals and the president of the company on Bass. Closing out the night was Videogames Live playing selections from various Blizzard games.

Unfortunately, I missed most of the section on Friday night hosted by Jay Mohr. I’d really liked to have seen the costume contest. Check out the winner. That turtle is not a dude in a costume.

I did get to see the Dance contest, though. Here’s the winner of that:

Space Invaders Extreme

I picked up Space Invaders Extreme for the PSP which was released last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders. When I was a kid, one of the first videogames I played was a Space Invaders handheld that one of my uncles owned. This massive, beige plastic device would occupy all my time until the batteries would die and I could scrounge up some new ones from various TV remotes and other abandoned electronics. I’d sit on the stairs for hours with that thing, fighting off wave after wave of glowing red Invaders as they swept across the fixed LED display. I invented firing through your own shield to open a digital arrow loop.

And that was my entire experience with Space Invaders up until this point – a week spent with that handheld almost 20 years ago.

Well… I’m still playing Space Invaders on a handheld, but everything else has changed! There’s the expected – the graphics are better, although they’ve kept the pixelated look. Every object in the game is colourful and vibrant. The music is all new, including a great remix of the ominous Space Invaders theme. The backgrounds throb and pulse with the new music, music that is accented by the sounds of your ship’s laser firing, and the impact noises on enemies.

The original enemies are all there, but now they can scatter projectiles across the whole screen, drop columns of burning light down on you, even reflect your shots back at you. They come in 3 different sizes now too, which doesn’t sound too game-changing until you fight them. The larger versions are logically equivalent to a group of 4 invaders, all moving at once across the screen. They can take ten times as long to kill it, but fire a quarter of the time that 4 invaders could. The small ones are the real threat – hard to hit and see. Even the regular invaders can turn sideways now, exposing less surface area for you to hit.

The flying saucers that sweep the top of the screen make a return, only this time they have colour variations that reveal their hidden powers. Some saucers will add another invader to the descending column. Others will charge and unleash lasers of their own at you. The bonus points they used to provide are now a real bonus level, where you can rack up points, or charge up your weapons. Oh yes, this is a modern shooter, and there are weapon power ups: Screen-clearing beams, spread shots, explosive and shots. The unmoving shields from classic Space Invaders even make a return as a temporary addition to the front of your ship.

Like the Pac-Man remake on Xbox Live released last year, Space Invaders Extreme keeps enough of the classic game to invoke nostalgia, but also updates the game enough so that people unfamiliar with the original can enjoy it. And at the budget price of $19.99, it’s hard to go wrong.

Wanna know the name?

Devil May Cry 3

After a grueling all-weekend affair with Devil May Cry 3, I finally finished the game on Sunday night. By the end I had maxed out all of the styles (except the somewhat useless Royal Guard) and had enough purple orbs to Devil Trigger for fairly ridiculous stretches of time. I think one of the reviews I read when the game came out said that you should just stick with the Trickster style, and they were probably right.

I got wrapped up in the high-damage style of Swordmaster, but letting any of the later enemies hit you can really mess you up. Better to have level 3 Trickster to Star Dash out of trouble than to take a 4-bar hit from something.

Anyway, with DMC3 out of the way, I can finally start to play Devil May Cry 4. I’m trying this new thing where I have to finish 2 games before I can get 1 new game. This is in the hopes of clearing the ridiculous backlog of games I have, and to stop wasting so much money on them. My friends have already told me “good luck with that.”

GDC 2008

I just got back from a week in San Francisco, attending the 2008 Game Developers Conference. Our flight got back at 6am, so I’ve been sleeping most of the day, trying to recover. This was the first time I’ve been to SF for any significant amount of time, and last time I was here I didn’t get to see around the city that much. It’s a pretty amazing place – the streets and sidewalks are so wide, and everything seems so well maintained. Walking around Union Square, I saw all the fashions I see on TV and wonder “who would ever wear that?” Well, I guess the answer is “people who don’t live where it snows.” I can’t imagine how the average person lives in the city, since it’s so fucking expensive though.

Cable Car

Dante Must Die (a lot)

I’m currently racing to finish Devil May Cry 3 on the Playstation 2 so that I can start playing Devil May Cry 4 on the Playstation 3. Somehow with all the WoW playing I did last year, I got distracted with only half the game finished. It took a while to get used to the game since it’s a bit more difficult than everything else I’ve been playing. I just beat my first new boss since starting up again, and got a new weapon – it’s a scythe shaped like a guitar, and, uh, you can play riffs on it.

I had a talk with a co-worker about DMC. He said that it’s a great looking game with a nonsensical story. My position was that it’s supposed to be the most ridiculous, over-the-top game you can think of, and if I had to write a paper to back that up, I would take a screenshot of Dante playing his scythe-guitar while bats and lightning bolts shoot out of it and hand that in.

Demos A Go-Go

In between rounds of Oasis’s “Wonderwall” in Rock Band, I took the opportunity to download two new demos – “Devil May Cry 4” on the PS3 and “The Club” on 360. Both games are due out in a few weeks; That’s right, the incredibly brief gaming drought is over already. I hope you all finished up Uncharted, Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed, Super Mario Galaxy, Mass Effect and Orange Box in the last few weeks. Oh, you didn’t? Well, too bad.

I’ll talk about “The Club” first, since it doesn’t seem to be getting very much coverage. You might know the developers by their other famous franchise, “Project Gotham Racing“. At first glance, PGR might seem to be just another arcade racer filled with scores of shiny expensive cars. Unlike Ridge Racer or Need For Speed, your objective isn’t just to win races, but to impress everyone by racking up Kudos at the same time. Drifting through corners, 360s and drafting all earn you Kudos points, as does completing sections of the track without hitting anyone. If you can string together these different types of feats with a minimum amount of time passing between each one, you will build up a combo meter which increases your total number of Kudos when the combo finishes. It’s unique enough that PGR’s publisher, Microsoft, owns a patent on the system. Incidentally, this is only one of two patents for a system in a videogame I’m aware of. The other describes the Sanity System for Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.

“The Club” is like PGR, except instead of controlling a car, you control one of an assortment of 8 mercenaries. And instead of pulling off car tricks, you shoot people.

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This flash game has a pretty neat trick to it. You are presented with a series of levels, each of which has a variety of objects you can click on it. After a few seconds, your cursor dies and you start the game over again, but this time with the moves you did before playing again in real time. It’s like a co-op game you play by yourself!


Check it out!: Cursor*10

Assassin’s Creed, the Finishing

Assassin’s Creed got did-ed last night at about 2:30 am. Probably the biggest failing of the game is that it presents itself as a game about blending into crowds, evading enemies and stealthily dispatching your targets.

By the end of the game, it turns into a straight-up beat-em-up in the style of Devil May Cry or Heavenly Sword. I mention those games in particular because while the majority of your Assassin’s Creed experience lets you choose to fight or flee, the last few levels remove that choice entirely. Invisible walls start popping up to prevent you from doing anything but fighting through the clumps of 10-15 enemies you’ll have to dispatch. It just doesn’t feel consistent with the rest of Altair’s actions.

I also have to say I was pretty disappointed with the ending. I’m not going to spoil it, but I felt it was an unsatisfying end to the game, especially since I actually enjoyed Desmond’s story more than Altair.

It’ll be interesting to see what Ubisoft does for the sequel. Hopefully they’ll be provided the time needed to make the game this should have been.

Hey, look what I bought

360 Gamer Too Human Cover (Small)Hey, lookit what I picked up in Chapters today! This isn’t the first cover our game has gotten, but it’s the first one in a while. You should go check it out, there’s a few pictures I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Into the Deep Blue Sea

Talking about the sales figures for Crysis, and thinking about the amount of time and energy that the folks at Crytek put into the game reminded me of a casual game company I read about on Kotaku this morning.

After finishing up work on the Hitman series, a bunch of the developers left IO Interactive and started a new company, The Game Equation, to work on casual games. Much like God of War’s David Jaffe, they decided that spending years of their lives working on one game which may or may not succeed was not for them. So now, a small group of people work on quick, simple games, designed to sell many copies at a low price. I have to say, there is a certain appeal to that. Get the idea polished and done, with minimal risk.

They seem to have two games available right now, both with a demo.

Deep Blue Sea In-game ScreencapDeep Blue Sea will be extremely familiar to anyone who’s played Puzzle Quest or Bejeweled. The goal is to guide your diver to the bottom of the screen by clearing out sets of 3 matching tiles. Every turn you may swap two adjacent tiles, if doing so creates a set of 3 matching tiles in some way. The twist that Deep Blue Sea brings to the genre is that some tiles, when cleared, will provide you with money you can use to buy upgrades to take into the next level. Things like a larger coffer, and special weapons for clearing tiles in rule-bending manners.

Constellations In-game ScreencapConstellations is more interesting to me, as it has a newer gameplay mechanic. You’re dropped in the middle of a multi-coloured starfield, and you have to create links of stars in a specific sequence in order to proceed deeper into the field. The stars you choose can be located anywhere on the screen, but each star you select draws a beam to the previous star, and you cannot choose a star that would link through a previous beam. Fulfilling the requirements for a 3-star chain is easy, but I can imagine how a sequence of 20 stars would prove challenging. A secondary mode has you building chains as quickly as possible in a race to the end of the level.