Blog Archives

Completed Games – Mass Effect 2

DeveloperBioware

PublisherElectronic Arts

Release Date – 26 January 2010

I finished Mass Effect 2 earlier this year but for some reason never took the time to do a write up. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a great game, I didn’t like the direction the series has gone but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. While I would’ve liked if Bioware kept the RPG aspect intact instead of toning down the amount of weapons and items, the story & conversation systems is still something no other game does just as well.

I do like how Bioware try to forward the RPG genre by increasingly meshing it with a third person shooter, it makes sense to make it all seamless. The real strength of the game to me was the interesting characters which now you have a whole new crew you recruit and take side missions from. The conversations are as important to the experience as the game play and aren’t static since you have the option to make moral choices and choose the tone of direction. Action is fun enough with the variety of powers you have at your disposal but there is still something missing that doesn’t make it as fun as other shooters, maybe the shooting mechanic is just not refined enough than games that solely focus on this.

Bioware are making the best modern day RPG’s right now and with Mass Effect 3 coming up  early next year it’s a good time to play and finish ME2 if you haven’t already done so.

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Ryan Payton Leaves Microsoft To Start Own Studio

Source – Kotaku

Ryan Payton was the creative director at 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft Studio, working on the next Halo game. He left the company altogether citing the lack of passion for the project and the desire to create a game that he wanted to make. In his CEDEC talk he straight out says the reason he is leaving Microsoft is that the direction of Halo 4 was not going the way he idealised (although he still thinks it turn out to be good game). Not a big deal as there are plenty of passionate people at 343 Industries but it is a blow hearing that Microsoft were not willing to make a creative gamble with this pivotal game for the Halo franchise, the first not made by original developers Bungie Studios.

Now this is a guy who started as a former writer at EGM that got a job in Japan working as an assistant producer on MGS 4 at Kojima Productions. Working directly with Kojima he was responsible for introducing western game design sensibilities to the Metal Gear series which made MGS 4 much more accessible to a global audience while keeping the stealth option. I started to follow his work when he did the the Kojima Production Report, a podcast about all things going on at the company.

After reading the article my admiration for the guy has skyrocketed, this is a guy with great integrity. I learned things I never knew about him and all the terrible things that he has gone through in his personal life. You just have to admire a guy who is creatively motivated and wants to make crazy ambitious games that advance the industry. I look forward to what he does at his new company Camouflaj.

Why I Bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution on Release Day

I rarely buy games the day they are released, in fact I don’t think I’ve bought a game made in 2011 this year (only Portal 2 had me tempted but I haven’t gotten around to buying it yet). But Deus Ex hooked me and after playing it for a couple hours it was well worth it.

In the many times the game was previewed in the past couple years, I was interested mainly due to the near future (2027) cyber punk setting but I didn’t think I would be compelled to pick it up immediately. There were mixed previews of the game, probably down to critics ready to pounce on any minor flaws due to the universal acclaim of the original, but any sort of open world games are hard to preview (which is why Rockstar is so selective with preview coverage of their games). It wasn’t until the critical praise of the game by critics a few days before release that I started to get excited.

What makes this games so great? The combination of a whole bunch of game genres (FPS, RPG, action, adventure, open world) but the main selling point for me was that it is very much a stealth game which rewards you for being creative and patient in the way you tackle the missions. You have freedom in the way you want to play and the levels are designed so well that you can do this without any compromise. It is a stealth game that doesn’t just filter you arbitrarily from room to room, you have an objective and you can approach it anyway you want.

The last game that tried to do something similar was The Darkness but it was no where near as polished or ambitious. Other stealth games like MGS4 and Splinter Cell Conviction where just expected upgrades of a very familiar game play ideas (I still love these games but Deus Ex actually evolves the genre). I’m still fairly early in the game (I haven’t got to any of the much maligned boss battles yet) but look forward to multiple post breaking down different aspects of the game in the coming weeks as I slowly play through it.

Impressions: Resistance 3 Multiplayer Beta

Right now if you are a Playstation Plus member you can download and play the Resistance 3 multiplayer beta for a few weeks before the public gets access to it. I had fun playing the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta but the multiplayer in Resistance 3  is a much bigger selling point for the game and could make or break a buying decision. The game was not instantly fun but once I got familiar with the layout of the maps and the special abilities I could see a place for it in the heavy FPS lineup at the end of the year. The key is the crazy weapons and abilities that Resistance is known for mixed with low respawn times making it more action packed that previous Resistance games (I’ve only played the first Resistance multiplayer).

The two sides you can play as are Human and the Chimera, each play slightly different and have different abilities but nothing that special that makes it unbalanced. For example the Chimera melee attack is a lunge while for humans it is the standard weapon butt. There are 2 types of abilities you can equip (support & tactical) and 2 types of attributes (personal & combat). A support ability is a deployable (bubble shield, ammo beacon) while tactical abilities are for example the ability to create a doppelganger to appear next to you confusing opponents or a lightning shield around you to stun enemies. Personal atributes range from larger ammo clips to showing enemy footprints or the annoying leapers that burst out of you when you die. Combat attributes are things like allowing 2 starting weapons or increasing health.

There is a levelling system which allows you to spend skill points into upgrading a weapon’s abilities. The M5A2 Carbine for example has upgrades for a bayonet attachment and an options to alt fire 3 grenades at once. There are also kill streaks which can be used in combat if you get a certain amount of kills in a row, and unlike COD they don’t disappear when you die. So you can get a 3 kill streak, die and still have the option to use the kill streak ability which is a cloak for Chimera and a shield for humans. The 6 kill streak is the powerful rail gun like Augur. I haven’t encountered more than 6 yet but I’m sure there is more.

After about 4 hours I can say that I really enjoyed my time even though all the additions make it feel very much like Call of Duty. But the setting, weapons and abilities make it different enough that I think Insomniac Games will find a dedicated multiplayer audience base. This might even be a day one purchase for me if the single player holds up.

 

Thoughts on EA Sports Season Ticket

EA announced today the launch of their EA Sports subscription program called EA Sports Season Ticket. For USD$25 or 2000 Microsoft points you get early access to 5 EA Sports games 3 days before release as a digital download, which will expire on retail release but all achievements and progress will carry over if you decide to buy a retail copy. The 5 sport games franchises involved are Madden, Fifa, NCAA, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NHL. The other features of the program are 20% off DLC, free premium web content and membership recognition.

EA have teamed up with game retailer GameStop to market the program and keep intact the dicey relationship between publishers and retailers as digital downloads become more common. Having the early access full digital download expire on retail release is a concession to retailers but sooner or later we’ll see digital downloads day and date for new releases on consoles.

The question now for consumers like me is whether or not I would pay 25 USD for 3 days of early access. For me I only regularly play and buy FIFA and $25 is a steep price to pay for early access and the other features. But I do occasionally rent or pick up way later the Tiger Woods and NHL games and enjoy playing those games. I can see playing the full game of both of theses for 3 days and picking them up way later when they are discounted. So right now I’m unsure of whether I would subscribe to this program but it will mostly hinge on how badly I want to play the next FIFA early.

As for the ramifications of this I can see this being implemented with other multiplayer heavy games with regular releases such as the Battlefield or Call of Duty series. I think this a good idea that caters to the diehard competitive fans and has little effect on everyone else. As long as the multiplayer matching system correctly filters out the experienced players from the inexperienced it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the multiplayer environment for regular players. I can already see the comments that are going to pop up as people decry this as another EA cash grab but what these people don’t understand is that fans will gladly pay the extra money to play the game early and be more involved in the game ecosystem.

Nintendo Cuts 3DS Price by 32% to USD$170

Just 4 months after the release of the 3DS, Nintendo has cut the price by USD$80 effective from August 12th. This was a necessary move for Nintendo as they have been struggling to get people to buy the system after having such great success with the Nintendo DS. With the PSP Vita tentatively coming out at the end of the year for $250 it was expected that a price cut would be made this year but it has come a few month earlier than expected.

Now all Nintendo need to do is to step up the release of quality games from themselves and third party developers. They needed to get the system in more hands so that developers have a greater audience to sell to, which is what the price cuts aims to do but people will still be hesitant if the games aren’t there.

Existing owners (830,000 in America), who Nintendo will automatically register into the Ambassador program, will be able to download 10 NES VC games and 10 Game Boy Advance VC games from the Nintendo eShop for free as part of their early adoption of the Nintendo 3DS. The selection of GBA games are very attractive with Metroid Fusion, Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart Super Circuit, WarioWare, and Mario vs. Donkey Kong all exclusive to those in the Ambassador program. I would love to have these games on my system to play at any time and I’m kind of tempted to buy a 3DS so that I could be part of the program since Nintendo are saying that they have no plans to make these games available to the general public.

Press Release Link (http://www.nintendo.com/corp/nintendo3ds/news/)

Mega Man Legends 3 Canceled – More 3DS Woes for Capcom

Link: Official Announcement (Capcom Unity Blog)

Now this is sad news for Mega Man Legends fans and 3DS owners, Capcom has decided to discontinue development of Megaman Legends 3 (both the prototype and full release) citing inability to meet certain criteria for the company. In the FAQ following the short statement Capcom said that this was not related to Keiji Inafune’s departure from Capcom earlier this year.

Speculating on the reasons as to why it was canceled, one of the big reasons would be the current state of the 3DS which is not selling to expectations just 3 or 4 months after it’s release. Second reason may be shifting resources from 3DS development to other platforms after the poor sales of recently released Resident Evil Mercenaries. Or it could be that neither of these reasons were major factors and instead the game was not good enough or too ambitious for the platform. Whatever the reason this is more troubling news for Capcom, garnering additional negative attention after their permanent save debacle in Resident Evil Mercenaries. It is also one less game to look forward to on the already slim lineup of games for the 3DS.

Tiny Towers Review (iOS)

iTunes Link

The new hot sim game on the iOS platform is a mix between Game Dev Story and The Sims with it’s retro art style and addictive gameplay. From iOS developer NimbleBit who people might know as the developer of Pocket Frogs or Dizzypad, have finally hit it big with a perfect mobile game in the simulation genre. They have nailed the delicate balance for a freemium game, providing the option for a quick build out with the purchase of the valuable in game currency of ‘bux’ but also dolling it out in a non frustrating fashion over time.

The aim of the game is to build up your tower with a variety of residential, commercial and retail levels. The great thing about this concept is there is a lot of variety with the different types of stores you can build. You can build either a retail, food, service, recreation or creative level and it will randomly pop up a shop once the construction period is over. For example the retail stores I have are a game, bike and record store and for food stores I have a vegan and froyo store. Now to staff these stores you have to build residential levels, when people move in you can assign them jobs but each person has different strengths in each type of field. Each person also has a dream job and when you match a person to their dream job you get 3 extra bux, which you can spend to speed up processes in the game. The micro management comes in the optimisation of putting the best employees for the job which gives you discounts on the inventory costs.

Bux can be spent to quickly construct a level, instantly fill up an apartment space or restock a shop’s inventory. The only thing I didn’t think was reasonable was the cost of 1 bux to move a level but it’s not that much of a problem. The other currency, coins, are used to purchase inventory and levels. Coins are received from selling items at the stores or by trading in bux, i.e. 50 bux for 100,000 coins. If you want efficiency tips for getting the most bux and coins out of the game read Maurice Tan’s article at Destructoid.com.

Unlike some other sim games, there is a limit to how much of the currency you can accumulate when you are not playing the game. Because the inventory at the shops will deplete this neatly brings about the need constantly check the game to see if an item is out of stock (there is a notification option to help you with this that is not on by default). The other smart aspect of the game is limiting the boredom factor by alway giving you something to do. There is one elevator which you control by moving it to a visitor’s desired level and usually you just get some coins for doing this. But every so often there is a VIP that arrives which do things like knock off some construction time or a celeb who makes everything sell faster on the floor you drop them off at. There are also missions that pop up to find a certain person in your tower in exchange for an extra bux. The elevator is also the way you populate your residential apartments but it can get frustrating in later levels because the drop off level is random.


The pleasant music and sound effects mixed with the vibrant retro graphics make this game such a joy to play. Tiny Towers by NimbleBit is the next best sim game to come out for the iOS platform since Game Dev Story. It makes the developer a prime acquisition target for casual mobile developer hungry companies such as Zynga or EA but I hope they stay independent and churn out more sim games in the same way Kairosoft has with the their games.

Free iOS App of the Day – Baseball Superstars II Pro and GAMEVIL Sale

iTunes Link

GAMEVIL’s Baseball Superstars games have been very popular mobile games even before they were put out on the iOS. It provided the base for them to expand as a mobile developer with a wide portfolio of games such as Zenonia, Illusia and Kami Retro. I guess they are also celebrating the App Store’s 3rd anniversary by giving away Baseball Superstars II Pro their latest Baseball Superstars game. In addition to the freebie GAMEVIL are having are sale with all of their app’s down to 99c.

Even though I haven’t played a Baseball Superstars game yet, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like it. It’s a fully featured 2D baseball sim game with a deep career mode with lots of customisation and management options. I always drawn to the RPG aspects of these type of sports games and the vibrant Japanese animated style looks great. If you don’t believe me or don’t think you would like this sort of game give it a go anyway, it has a flawless 5 star rating with over 14,000 raters.

Completed Games – Halo 3: ODST

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – September 22 2009

Halo 3: ODST was originally conceived as an expansion to Halo 3 before being expanded to a full retail release and comes with a separate disk including Halo 3 multiplayer and a new multiplayer mode, Firefight. I was surprised by this game as it now my favourite Halo game so far in terms of a single player experience. It changes up the standard Halo formula by making you play not as Master Chief or even a Spartan, you play as an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper).With this you have to play the game differently from past Halo games, you have to play more strategically and keep a closer eye on health, and in general be more stealthy because of you deficiencies when compared to the single army of Master Chief.

What I like most about the game is the desolate open city environment that you can roam around looking for weapons and encountering the occasional covenant patrol. Your drop on New Mombasa goes wrong and your team is spread out all over the city, but when you wake up most of the fight has been done and you piece back the events through flashbacks. It’s not just the same mission after mission, you are given time to explore.

The story for me was also more interesting, it isn’t a grand universe spanning tale but instead focuses on one mission from different perspectives. There is also a side story which is told through terminals which play back pieces of an audio recording of the plight of Sadie in the midst of the covenant invasion of New Mombasa. It is relatively short experience (around 5-6 hours) but I like how self contained it is. Music is also a change in pace with a more jazzy sound instead of the usual orchestral fare. It fits with the graphics which is filtered differently because the game is mostly played at night and you have to turn on a filter which makes the game look very cyber punk.

I’m playing Halo Reach now and I don’t think I’m going to change my position of ODST being my favourite Halo game. Definitely pick it up even if you don’t like Halo games, perfect for anyone who is discouraged by the standard Halo games.