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Halo  (Jare)September 25th, 2007 - 19:53
Unless you are hiding under a rock, or your name is trace, you probably know that Halo 3 has just been released with the hopes of becoming the fastest selling game ever. Regardless what you think of the game or the series, you will probably agree that this video is quite funny. I won't be playing the game until next week, but I'm looking forward to it.

A demo of Crash of the Titans from Radical is also available for the 360. I haven't played it yet, but Penny Arcade apparently liked it a lot.
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Misc  (Jare)September 22nd, 2007 - 02:26
I finally bought a Wii, so I'm playing Super Paper Mario (thanks Houmi!). Very entertaining, although the switching to 3D thing becomes more a gimmick as you play. Still, very imaginative maps and characters.

I also bought Blue Dragon on the 360, and I'm impressed. This thing is HUGE, I can see in excess of 40 hours to complete the main story, and god knows how much more for the side quests. Some grinding may be required to see all the powers and skills, so I imagine I will be playing this on and off for quite a while. I've never been a fan of Toriyama (or manga in general), but the art direction is really good.

Finally, I watched Eastern Promises and 3:10 To Yuma. Eastern Promises is quite good, a contains a particularly brutal fight. Yuma was so-so; the story is good, and both Russell Crowe and Christian Bale deliver top notch performances, but I found many details of the script quite poorly done.
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Crysis Rendering Techniques  (Jare)September 10th, 2007 - 21:58
Very interesting material from Siggraph here. Information overload available at ACM's SIGGRAPH Course index; take it easy. :)
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Prototype  (Jare)September 8th, 2007 - 21:49
Trace wants to know less about the games I play, and more about the games I work on. :) I joined Radical Entertainment to work on the Advanced Technology Group (known as ATG). We create the technology (the "Titanium" engine) that all game teams at Radical use to create their games. Radical's ability to make that happen was one of the things that attracted me here. As I learn more about how they got to this point, I realize that it has been far from easy, but it's not an impossible task like *ahem* previous experiences might suggest.

Prototype is the first "proper" next-gen game that Radical will release. Read the articles and coverage in the net for more details, because I don't really know what is public and what isn't. :) All I will say is that the game is shaping up quite nicely, and even if it's still a long way before it's finished, it has the potential to be one of the most fun and thrilling games of this-next gen.
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And more games  (Jare)September 5th, 2007 - 21:36
Bioshock is really good. It's not perfect, but it does so many things so well, that it has won a place in my "best games of the past few years" list. I'm close to the end now, and I'm pretty sure that I won't play it again after I'm done... but the very fact that I asked myself that question should be quite telling. The only modern games that I replayed immediately after finishing (normally at a higher difficulty) have been... Commander Keen, Doom, Quake, Quake2, Return to Castle Wolfenstein (see a pattern?), Total Annihilation, Devil May Cry and Supreme Commander.

Another incredible game I've been playing lately is Guitar Hero 2 (thanks bro!). I'm a late convert to the Guitar craze, not because I didn't think it was a masterpiece, but because its coordination and physical requirements scared me. Yeah, it can be very intense, although few players should expect to become proficient enough to ever do that.

Still, it's amazing how well crafted it is. I remember the first time I tried it (some easy mode song), and how unforgiving and impossible it felt. After that, I probably came back to my PC and beat a couple of Supreme Commander AIs to regain some lost self-esteem. After a few sessions, however, easy mode songs proved doable, and beating my first medium difficulty song made me feel like a true hero. Progress again, then it's time for a new challenge: hard mode is like being at square one again, unable to keep up with the barrage of notes the game throws at me. Jump back to medium, and it's almost too easy. The learning curve is among the best I have ever seen in a game.

A very interesting thing about Guitar Hero is how easily and naturally puts you in the fabled state of flow. At some point you stop trying to think what you need to do, and you just do it; you are distantly aware of what you're doing, but trying to consciously affect it breaks the spell. In intense programming sessions I have definitely reached it, but few games have achieved that: Geometry Wars and other shmups for a few seconds, maybe Quake 2 multiplayer way back when.
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Bioshock Bugs  (Jare)August 21st, 2007 - 22:53

The game is good, but (a) subtitles are still heavily desynched like in the demo, and (b) save often, or you risk wasting lots of time when it crashes. I have 1:30 to replay. :( This is on 360, so I can't blame the drivers.
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New Kenta Cho Game  (Jare)August 19th, 2007 - 23:52
From Indygamer, Kenta Cho's latest little gem in Flash, Least Best Room. It's very original, and more than a little claustrophobic. If you are curious about what you're supposed to do, check out this video.
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Fun Stuff  (Jare)August 19th, 2007 - 19:45
The Escapist (link in the sidebar) added Yahtzee Crosshaw as a new contributor. Don't miss his previous work.

Also, new to the sidebar is Sarcastic Gamer, with plenty of video, audio and text fun.
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Bioshock  (Jare)August 13th, 2007 - 22:05
The 360 demo is available on Live, and it kicks some serious ass. Combat can get a bit confusing, and there was some odd problem with the timing of subtitles, but I'm sold.
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Siggraph  (Jare)August 11th, 2007 - 23:59
Via Beyond 3D, Non-exhaustive list of papers presented at Siggraph. Unfortunately, no links to the actual papers, but at least you get an idea what to look for, and there's a video at the top that illustrates some of the stuff. Feel free to add links to papers in the replies. One example is Seam Carving.

Also, some details about the new OpenGL standards.
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XNA  (Jare)August 9th, 2007 - 20:37
CoDe Magazine has published a rather large article about XNA games development, with a lot of input from professional developers like Jamie Fristrom and Raph Koster (both linked in the left sidebar). There's a lot of repetition, but it does bring home the point that XNA and C# can be useful even for professional developers today, and will most certainly become more useful in the future. I have only done a couple of minor experiments with XNA 1.0, but I know a few other developers who use it regularly for prototyping or testing ideas.

The biggest problem? Microsoft only; no support for Sony or Nintendo platforms.
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Carmack Q & A  (Jare)August 9th, 2007 - 01:07
From QuakeCon, it's available on video.
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Raid and Boss Design  (Jare)August 7th, 2007 - 21:39
I just ran into this writeup of a presentation by Blizzard lead designers about their processes and criteria for creating instances and bosses. Short but very interesting.
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Smart Shooters  (Jare)August 8th, 2007 - 00:18
By now I have finally accepted that I don't like them. What's a "smart shooter"? A First Person Shooter type of game where the emphasis is more on atmosphere and story (the environment in which you do things) than on raw gameplay (the things you actually do). The classic examples were System Shock 1 & 2... I tried SS1 and had zero fun with it. The story bits and character progression in SS2 kept me hooked for about 2 hours, but at that point the cruddy combat just got to me. In comparison, games like Doom, Quake, Half Life or even the venerable Dark Forces were fun to play every minute, and the story and / or atmosphere just added an extra layer of enjoyment. Recently, The Darkness was about halfway in both narrative and gameplay, but the two aspects met at the sweet spot. I loved that game, and I thought perhaps the years had made me more patient and less action-dependent.

Yesterday I played the demo of Marathon: Durandal on XBox Live Acade. This game was originally released for the Mac one year after Doom rocked the PC world. Many people have praised it since, with the number of innovations it brought to the shooter genre (story, dual wielding, more sophisticated scripting...), and as a precursor of what Halo would be. I remember seeing a later PC port and not thinking much of it, visually or gameplay. The XBLA version was souped up graphically, and since I had already played (and greatly enjoyed) Doom on XBLA, I thought Marathon would be worth another shot.

Oh my. It was even worse than I remembered. Everything from the Field of View to the way textures are designed and used was hideous. Weapons lacked punch, enemies were laughable, and the whole "atmosphere" thing just flew past me. Other than being a pioneer on the Mac, I don't see anything of value in it. Just like the first time, 10 years ago.

SS1, SS2 and Marathon are to this day praised as some of the best games ever made. So, with Bioshock coming soon, to great anticipation by the same crowd who loved these other games, I wonder if it will break the spell.

In the meantime, I'm replaying Quake 4 and having a blast.
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Sunshine  (Jare)July 28th, 2007 - 01:54
Despite a number of oddities, Sunshine is the best Science-Fiction movie in many years. Visually stunning, excellent music, and a story with a lot of personality despite being essentially a mish-mash of sci-fi topics already used in previous movies.

The commercial success of this movie is doomed due to the strange way in which distributors have handled it, with late and staggered releases and a marketing campaign that tells too much. People will love it, hate it, or be ambivalent, but I hope it will become a cult classic.
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Games and demos  (Jare)July 24th, 2007 - 00:45
The Darkness: it's fun, it's creepy, it's quite good. The 360 version looks way better than what I remember of the short PS3 testdrive I did a few weeks ago. Cutscene animations are very stiff.

Tomb Raider Legend: I finally sat down to play it through to the end. Very good platforming and puzzles, simplistic combat, and weird bosses with pretty bad (accelerated?) animations. Quite nice overall, and great value at $19.99.

Flatout Carnage demo: does all the things that made the original fun, with much better production. Might be worth it until, and even could coexist well with, the new Burnout.

Virtua Tennis 3 demo: fun but too simple. Perhaps the full game will have more depth, but I'll to try a real demo first.

Blue Dragon demo: entertaining but repetitive, and with many quirks: crappy sound effects, way too much repetition in encounters. Final Fantasy X was the first japanese RPG that I enjoyed, and this doesn't appear to beat it unless you just love Toriyama character designs.

Ace Combat 6 demo: nice visuals but I didn't find it any fun.

Carcassone for Live Arcade: very neat little board game.

Oh and Prototype, the next game from Radical, has just been unveiled in the Game Informer cover.
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E3, Transformers and a new JJ Abrams Mistery  (Jare)July 15th, 2007 - 10:50
Voodoo Extreme has collected a fantastic index of coverage and trailers from E3. I suppose the new E3 format sucks for game fans and small/hobby game sites and bloggers, but looks much better and useful for developer and publishers doing actual work. As a visitor I'll miss the old E3, as a developer I think I won't.

The Transformers movie was exactly as expected: cheesy, long, boring and mostly irrelevant script, fast and erratic editing, saturated colors, and excellent CGI and explosions. I never watched Transformers in my youth, so I had no idea who was who, and the movie didn't make me care one bit. In the middle of all that, Shia LaBeouf manages to put out a decent performance, and John Turturro is like a bad joke that still makes you laugh.

Before the movie, we were treated to JJ Abrams' latest mind-bender: a surprising movie trailer (accurately described as "Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla"), without a name. When I came home I immediately went to IMDb to find out about the movie in IMDB; I found that 1-18-08 (the release date) and Cloverfield are the work-in-progress names for now, and that it *might* (JJ Abrams denies this) have something to do with some Ethan Haas prophet. Those sites spearhead a web-based ARG marketing mistery, which thousands of people already seem engaged in. Wild speculations include: a "Lost" movie, a "Godzilla" remake, Stephen King's "The Dark Tower", a "The Host" remake, the "Gears of War" movie, the "Halo" movie, the "Rampage" movie, the Cthulhu myths, the Bible's End of Days, and who knows what else. I for one think it's something new.

It would be funny (and interesting) if two ARG marketing campaigns for different products somehow got mixed up.
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From zero to... a f*ng mess  (Jare)July 13th, 2007 - 09:04
A week before E3, someone unveils a Circuit City ad with a PS3 announced for $100 less. People speculate of a PS3 price drop. Sony categorically denies. E3 arrives, and Sony formally announces a $100 price drop. Ok, the deny-then-confirm tactic is old and tired, but hey... the PS3 needs all the help they can get, because they are simply not selling like they should.

E3 goes well for Sony, with a number of interesting exclusive games, and the general impression is that PS3 is going to start taking off. Details about Europe are sketchy, but I just assume that either I missed the confirmation of a price drop in Europe as well, or they left it as "announcement" for the Leipzig Games Convention in August.

Some things don't click quite right, though...

Some Capcom boss is quoted as saying that $100 is not enough and that they expect another price drop before Christmas. Rumours of Metal Gear Solid 4 going multiplatform because of the small PS3 installed base also surface. And Sony announces a new PS3 model with 80GB instead of 60GB and bundled with Motorstorm, for the old price. This means people will pay $100 more for an extra 20GB and a game that, in market terms, is old news and will probably be the first in a hypothetical platinum line launch around christmas. Frankly, that's a weak package to pay $100 for. Ah well, people will probably ignore it and buy the 60GB model.

And then someone gets SCEE president and does this interview. It's too honest for someone in that position, really; They must have got the guy drunk or on drugs.

"...SCEA has given US consumers, i.e. the option to pay a lower price?
- Well, they're not really are they, because what the US are offering from the 1st of August is a USD 599 version with one game. All they're doing is taking their stock in trade that they've got at the moment of the 60GB model, marking the price down and it will all be gone by the end of July."

"- The difference between 60GB and 80GB is not really necessary. The difference in cost between a 60 and 80 is just Euro cents; it's nothing, because the cost of memory is so small."

"- [SCEA] felt that by going down for 100 to 88 [% backwards compatibility], for example, that they'd have to add something in."

"Isn't there a problem with the perception that [GBP 425] is an awful lot of money to shell out?
- It is, but surprisingly, people are paying that amount of money for it."

"- ...because the difference in cultures is you have to go, 'Ra-ra, I'm the best.' We in Europe, and especially the Japanese, don't necessarily accept that."

"- We owe a debt to Nintendo for keeping the industry going in the last couple of years."
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Ratatouille  (Jare)July 10th, 2007 - 23:38
Call me a fanboy if you want, but I just came out of the movie theater feeling that Ratatouille is the best animated movie ever made, and one of the best movies of any kind in many years. Script, characters, visual design, animation, rendering technology, pacing, humour... I absolutely loved all of it. I spent the entire movie with an unmistakable feeling of pure joy in my chest.

It does many things against what we may consider "mainstream business sense", from the rat theme, to the french accents and the adult themes in an animated movie... and it's probably going to pay for it with a less than stellar box office. But god bless Brad Bird and Pixar for taking the risk and giving us such a masterpiece.
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Canada Day  (Jare)July 2nd, 2007 - 23:28
July 1st is Canada Day, so there was lots of partying all over the city. At night they put out a neat fireworks show up over Canada Place. I took the Nikon and a tripod, and went over there with Sergio and Diego. You can see a little gallery here. This is just a sample:

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