The Incredibles, and more movies

Amazing movie, Pixar once again outdoing themselves. Everything in the movie is a joy to see: characters, style, animation, special effects, script, action… It’s just too good to describe it in depth here.

Also watched Alien vs. Predator, which was ok, entertaining and forgettable action. Shaun of the Dead was quite funny, too cheap and sitcom-like to be a classic, but an above-average parody.

A few months ago I bought Blood Simple on DVD, but didn’t get around to watching it until yesterday. I had already seen it way back when it was released, and my only memory was that I liked it. This time I was downright impressed, it’s 100% Coen material. Now if I can lay my hands on the much more mysterious and confusing Barton Fink, I’ll have my Coen filmography revision finished.

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In the news…

Apparently, the other night, while a high-profile soccer match was being aired, a gang of 15 guys with automatic weapons dropped by the central storage facility of Toys’R Us in Madrid, and stole close to a million Euros in videogames material: Playstation 2 consoles, GTA: SA, Halo2, etc. Makes you wonder if videogames have the highest value per volume unit among all toys. Then, again, you have to wonder why a kid’s toy store are selling GTA: San Andreas.

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…And the Half-Life 2 opinion

To sum it up, I’m disappointed after 5-6 hours with it. It’s great to see and play with all the amazing technology tricks shown in the HL2 promo videos; visuals and atmosphere is sometimes brilliant; the gravity gun is a very original and interesting idea. But! In my experience, it just lacks pace and coherence. It starts great, then drives you nuts with an overly long driving sequence, then the whole thing goes to hell when you are thrown into a messy pit of physics puzzles with zombies and a mad guy jumping around. If you hated Max Payne’s psychotic dream sequences, you’ll probably hate this as well.

If a lesson was contained in HL1, it is that fighting intelligent soldiers in a near-future setting is TONS of fun. Why did they think that a bunch of zombie-like mutants with no AI and a cartoony horror setting were a great idea?

Oh well it can only get better from here. But as far as the "best FPS games ever", my money is still with the likes of Halo, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Painkiller, Medal of Honor and Doom 3. And, of course, the original Half-Life (minus the alien world).

PS: Load times don’t help either. The menu in particular is infuriating.

Edit: The game seems to improve after the first half is done and you get the bugbait.

Edit II: The second half is definitely much better, up until the end.

Edit III: The retail game includes SecuROM copy protection AND still requires you to activate? That just doesn’t make any sense. I can only guess that nobody at Vivendi were using their brains this year… SecuROM costs money per unit, creates problems for some people with bad/old drives, annoys players by requiring the CD, and in this case does nothing at all to prevent piracy. It’s a loss / loss situation.

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Halo 2

After the Half-Life 2 experience (not finished yet), I’m in love with FPS games again! Halo 2 is probably the most fluid and downright fun shooter I have ever played. Not terribly innovative, but does everything right, and brings an outstanding dual-wielding feature that will most surely become as standard as the WASD keyboard layout. And I thought it was just eye-candy for the masses when I saw that in the videos… Well written script without imposing overly long narrative sections, a perfect design where different gameplay styles blend smoothly, nice array of weapons and enemies, and again a control and aiming implementation that makes the keyboard and mouse almost obsolete.

A couple minor issues with textures and models popping during cutscenes, but who cares? Kudos to Bungie for delivering once again.

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The EA Spouse

You have probably seen it a million times already if you’re into game development, but here it goes again just in case.

And the current IGDA and slashdot discussion threads on the issue:

Reading the article may be depressing (just like 1999’s Why Being a Computer Game Developer Sucks did), but it also serves as a reminder, for those of us that want to spend the rest of our professional lives making games, that we need to improve our management practices and truly care for the people we work with.

Since this time the article is aimed straight at the most successful games company, and the one that more consistently delivers solid production values on time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of this.

Edit: This piece is relevant as well:

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Classes, Half-Life 2

Yesterday I gave my first session for the Master Course on Videogame development at the UCM. 4 hours describing and discussing the evolution of Spain’s game development industry, as well as a number of personal experiences throughout those years. It was great! I was afraid people would be bored or that I’d run out of material for such a long session. As usual, unfounded fears: the students enjoyed it, asked tons of questions until we were forced out of the classroom (including the satisfying classic "when are you coming again for another session?", yay!), and I had managed to follow the timeline with only minor deviations.

Exhausted head and mouth, but good times.

Another awesome "making of" article at Gamespot, this time about Half-Life 2. You get the clear feeling that he already prepared and wrote another one for last year. 🙂

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World Of Warcraft

Finally started playing the stress test / open beta. My first impression is that it’s a polished and pretty DAoC set in the Warcraft universe. If I actually have the patience to progress my char and see the high-level game, I’ll have more things to say, .

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Random bits…

Check this out! The worst part is, that image IS the poster shown at :

I watched the movie Spartan again, and I loved every bit of it again.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas smashed every record for sales during the first weekend, and easily competes with any major blockbuster movie. Crisis? What crisis? Well… Longtime developer Argonaut (of Starglider fame) went bankrupt, which is not good news.

Bush won, the rest of the world lost.

BCN Party’04 rocked in true demoscene spirit. I was also supposed to participate in a roundtable at Art Futura that same weekend (they paid for my trip), but the session time was changed and I found out too late. 🙁

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