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Devil May Cry 4  (Jare)February 14th, 2008 - 01:13
It's out, and it's fantastic! Finishing the game is relatively easy even for old farts like me, but the point of the game is killing with style, variety and effectiveness. The game's biggest flaw is that it repeats a lot of content, but it doesn't feel too repetitive to me because it's the fun of fighting that matters.

They pulled off a tough feat when more than half of the game is played with a new character instead of our beloved Dante, and that character doesn't suck! Still, as fun as Nero is to play, it was great to get back to Dante and his insane array of guns, swords and one liners.

In other news, we're crunching for the last push in Prototype so don't expect frequent updates here. :)
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Rez HD  (Jare)January 30th, 2008 - 23:03
The wonderful Rez is back on XBox Live, and it looks and sounds absolutely glorious. Even though the game has an hypnotic and relaxing quality, my right thumb hurts, and with Devil May Cry 4 next week that's just the beginning. :)
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Political commentary in FPS games? No thanks  (Jare)January 26th, 2008 - 17:04
A few monhts ago in Gamasutra, Harvey Smith described the intriguing elements of social and political subversion in his shooter Blacksite: Area 51. The game apparently turned out to be crap, but I never got to try it. Now Gamasutra again introduces us to another contender for "politically conscious FPS games" in the form of Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. From the horrible demo just released, this game is even worse. I'm all for making games more interesting with complex themes and narratives, but the game doesn't have to suck in order to deliver them!

Ah well, the demo for Devil May Cry 4 more than made up for the bad taste. It plays essentially like the other DMC games (1 and 3; 2 was an aberration), and looks beautiful, crisp and smooth. It may not be innovative, but I won't say no to more of a good thing.

Edit: Check this amazing DMC4 demo run. I don't know how he does half the things he does.
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Catfight!  (Jare)January 19th, 2008 - 22:53
Ok, this is funny, or sad, probably both. John Romero attacks and Mike Wilson responds. I never had much respect for either guy's public antics, and this doesn't help, but who cares.
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Cloverfield  (Jare)January 19th, 2008 - 22:57
JJ Abram's latest baby is here, after months of speculation generated by last summer's trailer and an Internet viral campaign. It's basically a Godzilla-like monster movie shown through the eyes of a guy's camcorder. There are many reports of people feeling sick and even throwing up thanks to the savage shaky-cam work. I certainly saw way more people getting up and out of the theater than in any other movie I remember (except for Vatel, but that's a different story).

I liked the movie and had a great time. I don't consider it a great movie by any standards: the plot and writing was crap, the acting was basic at best, and a good quarter of the movie (the beginning) was uninteresting and downright boring. However, the action was intense, the visual style (once you accept the shakycam) worked very well, and the ending was satisfying.

That said, I can't wait for the shakycam fad to pass. It can add to the atmosphere of a movie (see also United 93), but I'd like it to be the exception rather than the norm. Most of the time, when I watch a movie, I want to see what's actually going on.
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Merry Xmas!  (Jare)December 30th, 2007 - 15:36

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Sound effects  (Jare)December 16th, 2007 - 14:01

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Passage  (Jare)December 5th, 2007 - 00:24
Ok, this is really cool. Passage is a sort of artsy-fartsy game that's supposed to make you think and all that, rather than entertain.

Jokes aside, it is a really interesting experiment. It's not pretty, it's not even fun, but it certainly touches some of the ways in which a game can speak about us, both the author and the players. You should play it without reading any instructions, just... well, like creator Jason Roher says, fire it up and play it. And then, if you are like me, be completely unable to get it, read the Creator's Statement, and think about it.
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Fun bits  (Jare)December 3rd, 2007 - 19:54
Fun with boxes in Crysis. If you are not a demoscener then you may not already know that cubes can be beautiful.

Independent Games Festival finalists. Some great-looking stuff there (with interesting emphasis on rhythm games), and some are freely available. Best of lucks to all of them!
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I guess I welcome our new Activision Blizzard overlords  (Jare)December 3rd, 2007 - 10:05
It's been a snowy weekend here in Vancouver, with little expectations in the way of fun or surprises. However, Vivendi Games (who owns my current employer Radical Entertainment) and Activision decided to stir things up a bit by announcing a merger of both companies and naming / branding the result "Activision Blizzard." I'll spare you the "better name suggestion" comment and jokes.

Maybe they cooked it all up in 2 days just to piss off John Riccitello? Nah, he actually said "I think there will be more consolidation to come" so he still ok. Although he will surely make downplay the "we're bigger than EA" message that surrounds the merger press release.

I guess tomorrow will be an interesting Monday at work, with lots of chatter and a few corporate emails about this. Kelly Zmak has so far been very communicative and open (within reason) about the business aspects of Radical. Other than a certain sense of being downplayed (along with other wholly-owned development studios) in the press releases in favor of the 80000-lb gorilla that is Blizzard, I don't expect the new situation to affect our day-to-day life for quite a long time. A bigger muscle behind Prototype, but more games to compete with for marketing attention.

Meanwhile, Activision have put up a specific website to describe the merger; that's pretty neat, even though it's full of predictably corporate language. Both that site and Vivendi's should be hosting a webcast tomorrow morning.
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Montreal Games Summit  (Jare)November 29th, 2007 - 21:57
Some good stuff coming from there, but from all the coverage I have had access to, this talk by Jonathan Blow is the most interesting (and complete - audio and slides included). A bit incomplete in the sense that it doesn't address the need for commercial games to work as commercial products, but commercial viability is not his point anyway.

For some time I have held the belief that games have a hard time as meaningful forms of expression, because the kind of activity and instant-to-instant attention they require tends to overwhelm the mind and distract from what could be meaningful in them. Cutscenes and narrative are hailed by some as the answer, since they are aspects of the game experience where the player is not (necessarily) bombarded with that level of activity, and is more receptive to messages and ideas. However, these tend to be times where the game stops being a game and becomes something else, a purely narrative experience where the player is turned into a spectator, one anxiously deprived of interactive capabilities.

Portal, Bioshock or Half Life (and other games before them) break the mold a bit by rarely coming to a full stop. You can listen to the audio recordings, computer speech or feel the chaos around you while you are moving, exploring or figuring out what's coming next. In Shadow of the Colossus, you have long periods of riding where your mind is free to think about the land and what happened to leave it so barren. But these moments are still not using the power of interaction and player agency.

I think he does a great disservice to World of Warcraft by focusing on a limited set of aspects of that game, and completely ignoring the amount of player-to-player interaction, player-created goals, and encouragement of exploration. If you play WoW as a single-player game and see other people simply as means to achieve your own goals, then yeah, all you have is a very addictive but unfulfilling experience. But if you don't restrict yourself like that, you have access many aspects of human nature: greed, friendship, despair, organization, envy, curiosity, and even conscious self-expression through role-playing. You could say that those are the same experiences you can get with real-life social activities. But, as he says of poetry vs movies vs music, they are all capable of providing interestingly different flavours of the same thing.

I loved his description of games development being poorer as a result of being done as series of problems to solve or squash. It's all too true, especially for a problem-solver kind of developer like myself. :)
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XNA 2.0 Beta  (Jare)November 24th, 2007 - 23:13
The beta is out, so I dusted off my test project and checked it out.

The transition was fairly painless, and the great news is that it works with Visual Studio 2005. No more of that Express crap! (to be fair, VC# Express is quite good for the price)

I was curious about the Content Pipeline stuff since I had never touched it before, so I set out to prepare a custom Model processor that would extract more detailed material parameters from the source art, including a property to specify a specific fx shader / effect. There are better ways to do that if your 3D package has HLSL integration and a good .X exporter, but that was not the point.

All was well until I figured I needed to debug my custom processor. Hm... how do I do that? Read the comments for the gory details.
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Here's to old times  (Jare)November 24th, 2007 - 00:07

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Mario Galaxy  (Jare)November 17th, 2007 - 23:20
It is absolutely incredible. So much charm, creativity, humor, polish and attention to detail. After playing this, you will never again wonder why you bought a Wii.
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Thank you GPG and some PS3 impressions  (Jare)November 11th, 2007 - 12:16
Gas Powered Games have released a patch that removes the SecuROM copy protection crap from Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. The game was released this week, so the patch has taken less than 4 days to arrive. Another game to add to the neverending pile!

I also bought a PS3. I knew I would get one sooner or later, and with the recent price discounts and Ratchet & Clank now out, there just wasn't any reason to delay the inevitable. R&C is fantastic: smooth, beautiful, fun, varied and uncomplicated. In a way it's disappointing, because it feels pretty much the same as the PS2 original when it came out. This once again confirms Jason Rubin's idea that graphics are going to get better but not really add anything new to games.

After the XBox Live experience, the PS Store seems incredibly limited and amateurish in comparison. A crisp but ugly interface, very few demos available, the installation process for these demos can take between 5 and 10 minutes, and it has already crashed once.

I checked out the Heavenly Sword demo, and now think that Zero Punctuation's review was way too positive. Which might explain why the PS3 built-in web browser is unable to play it.

Another let down was the demo for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. This game sounds great on paper: Tomb Raider-style gameplay, great production and graphics, state of the art animation technology, well written story and characters. I didn't see any of that in the demo. Animation in particular looked extremely poor to me, with things like very visible (and I mean VERY) skidding. A nice touch was the way the t-shirt wrinkles as the character moves, but I'll be damned if I'm going to pay $70 for THAT.

At least I can fill a coupon and get 5 free Blue-Ray movies. Edit: or install Yellow Dog Linux on it. In fact I'm typing this from there.

One final note: why do so many recent console games have such bad tearing? I've been looking forward to Switchball (now available on XBox Live) since I saw it at the IGF (2 years ago?), and I was ready to pay the 800 MS points, but the tearing in the demo turned me off instantly.
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Jericho!  (Jare)November 4th, 2007 - 19:40
At last the chaps at Mercury Steam have released their baby. Gore, guts, twisted demons and tortured souls, the kind of stuff you would expect from Clive Barker. NOT subtle. :)

Reviews and fan response so far are quite spread, with a few reviews totally panning the game, a few loving it, and pretty much everything in between. Why? Well, because the game really IS a lot of different things. I'll tell you what I think.

Some aspects of it are quite unpolished: some enemies are annoying and overused, the balance of powers and weapons is a bit off, a number of levels have too generic design, and you will spot all sorts of flaws and cliches in the storyline (no spoilers). The production value is not up to par with other AAA games like Call of Duty, Half Life and the like, but despite having maybe 1/5th of the resources those other games had, I think it's quite commendable that the game can at least compete in that league.

For all its flaws, Jericho has a few redeeming qualities. Chief among them, in my eyes, is the fact that combat is more intense than in any other shooter game since Gears of War. This is a game where you will shoot, melee and move a lot during combat. And you will die a lot, too. When I am being pounded from several directions, trying to shoot back, find good cover, think of a power to use that could save the day, and trying to heal your fallen comrades, well, it's a great adrenaline rush.

The team dynamics work quite well; switching to a different team member, and healing the dead ones becomes second nature fairly quickly. I found two problems though: I can't remember consistently who has which power, and many spaces are too small for so many characters.

Powers are a mixed blessing. There's a lot of variety, but some are way too situational (read: scripted). In practice, with such intense and fast combat, it tends to take too long to figure out which power would work best, remember who has it, switch to that character, and activate it. The end result is not too different from Bioshock: I only use the powers when it's obvious or when it's necessary, and even then I always use one or two of the lot.

The AI is fairly basic. Most enemies either simply run at you, or take cover and advance slowly. Jericho relies on variety and combinations here: in many encounters, you will fight groups with mixed melee and ranged attackers. While not exactly sophisticated, enemies take a lot of bullets to kill, so you need to choose which ones you will leave for your team to kill, and which ones you will concentrate on. And you need to choose the most appropriate character for that task.

Your teammates also rely more on brute force than anything else. They use their powers sparingly and often not at the right time, but with five of them fighting in close quarters, there's enough going on to be satisfied. After all, the player must have the biggest impact, and too good AI might lessen that. In addition, the game does a great job of communicating you what your mates are doing. Seasoned developers will agree that feedback is one of the secrets of making an AI feel smarter than it actually is.

Some flaws could have been corrected with more time and focus testing. Many areas are excessively dark. Most materials have that overused glossy / wet / plastic appearance. The scripted sequences (which are otherwise really cool) give so little time to press the buttons, that they become an annoyance. They could have just removed the ammo rather than have it magically replenish. Music is good but way underused.

Despite the flaws, the game gets many things right, and I'm having a blast with it.
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Collaborative Fiction  (Jare)October 21st, 2007 - 10:27
Via Indygamer, The Abrupt Goodbye is an intriguing little experiment about the nature of user-created content. It's only been active for a few days and it already has over 5K entries, but in practice most conversations still feel very short (do the math). If you are curious, the author is commenting on the process in a forum thread.
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Those Tip of the Day boxes you disable right away  (Jare)October 15th, 2007 - 20:56
I hate them. I run some application, and instead of letting me work right away, it decides to pop up and invariably tell me something I already know. My mind is already anticipating the first steps that I'm going to perform, and that flow is abruptly interrupted by the need to push that evil "Close" button. I normally choose to disable it immediately. However, sometimes there may be useful stuff lurking in there, but I never get to revisit them.

Well, here is a list of some tips for Visual Studio 2005 and later, and you maybe surprised... The Ctrl+Shift+V to cycle through the last few entries in the Clipboard caught my attention. Being a heavy copy/paster, I plan to start using it, and look all cool and knowledgeable when a coworker sees me do it and ask "WTF did you just do?" Ahh the simple pleasures of life. :)
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Orange Box  (Jare)October 12th, 2007 - 20:16
Futureshop: "Sorry we sold out the few units we got."

EBGames: "We only got a few copies and they sold out. Maybe in a few days."

HMV: "Our order hasn't arrived yet."

Interesting launch for a Game Of The Year contender. 360 version BTW.

Edit: As a consolation, Puzzle Quest if finally out in XBLA. It's a fantastic game.

Well, found a copy in Best Buy, and played through the regular Portal missions. It is short but excellent. The trailers had more or less told me what to expect in terms of mechanics and puzzles, but the level of polish and atmosphere of the full game is simply stellar. Someone has released a Flash version that is very entertaining. Now it's time to catch up with the Half Life story in episodes 1 & 2.
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Things pile up  (Jare)October 5th, 2007 - 00:04
Almost done with Halo 3, but hoping for some coop runs. Being near the end of Blue Dragon still means quite a few hours left. Halfway through Super Paper Mario. Stuck in Guitar Hero Hard mode. HL Orange box is coming next week. Courtesy copy of Crash of the Titans arriving soon. Want to try World In Conflict. Still curious about Metroid Prime 3. Jericho in stores shortly. Mario Galaxy next month.

My newfound desire to actually finish games is clashing with the realities of the coming holiday season.
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