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DavoTron's blog

7:12 PM on 11.01.2012

Why I quite like Black


I'm David. Today, I'm going to tell you all about one the earliest games I pre-ordered and loved to death, Black. It wasn't my first pre-order - That prize is with Resident Evil: Outbreak. But let's try and forget about that mess. Onto Black, if you please? Thanks.

Black is a game where your main concern is shooting dudes square in their face, usually in Eastern-Europe & Russian locales. You run along a bit, sometimes under the guise of stealth, but you can quickly ignore that and just run and shoot. The first thing you have to do in the game is shoot a door off it's hinges with a huge shotgun. And that's what I want to talk about - How the game makes you feel.

It's the first game that really ticked all the boxes of "Cinematic Action" for me, and I think even things like the limitation of hardware assisted that. Criterion adapted the Burnout engine for a first person shooter, and managed to really squeeze some great looking environments and assets out of that. When bullets hit walls and the like, it threw up a lot of dust - I imagine this was exaggerated fpr effect rather than create something realistic, but this Hollywood-esque, over-the-top feel they placed over the entire game really gave me that action movie vibe.

Totally ridiculous reloading sequences often took up the entire screen, placing a depth of field effect that blurred out the action behind, forcing you to watch a clip being slammed home or shotgun shells thumbed into the chamber. This is bananas. But in the context of it being totally nuts, putting so much showmanship on simply reloading seems totally fine.

Hiding behind a wall as dust and bullet hits are flying around you everywhere, and as you pop up and fire at barrels / cars / whole oil refineries that explode in glorious sunglazed technicolour. Rudimentary building destruction also felt far more like you had an impact on the world than anything like Red Faction ever did. Little bizarre side collectables that hinted at things like Area 51. Levels that actually took a whole hour to complete. Shells that come out of totally wrong side of the gun because the developers thought "that looked cooler".

Black allowed me to live out some action movie fantasies (and what I still believe to be a far better mockup of "the bathroom from The Rock" than Modern Warfare) on the Playstation 2 that I haven't encountered such a feeling since, as close as Battlefield does. However, when I purchased it on the XBox Originals service online, something didn't feel right. Maybe it takes a while to get going. Or has Battlefield and Call of Duty spoiled me with better mechanics? It's a shame that Bodycount was a lacklustre spiritual successor, as there's still scope for a mindless modern military shooter that doesn't say "Weapons Free" every half hour.   read

8:42 AM on 10.19.2012

Making a Game - Pt. 1: What the hell?

I recently left one of the bands I play in to try and reclaim some time for myself. In this spare time, I thought about having a crack at making a game.

About a year or so back, I downloaded the Unreal Editor. I don't really have a good PC at all, so my experience with that wasn't too great. Although I managed to make something you could walk on.

The only other time I got further into game making was doing about two rooms in Doom, and a single room in Adventure Game Studio.

But I set myself a project - 2013 would be the year I make a game. I want to release it on iOS. Yes, I will.

So I set about downloading Unity, after seeing it pop up multiple times for games like 100000000 and Beat Sneak Bandit (although now I don't remember where I saw this).

I got about two pages into the tutorial before mention of things like "Maya" popped up. Whoa, I forgot about asset creation. Maybe I'm out of my depth. I better start simpler.

So I did. Someone I work with recommended GameSalad for mobile stuff, so I downloaded that. Now, the problem is, they just released an update. This update included a whole host of new UI stuff. The problem this creates is that the Manual and Tutorials they have were for an older version, so I'm still totally none the wise about what they are referring to.

So basically, I'm still no further in learning how to create a game. Damn, this shit is bananas.   read

3:29 PM on 09.16.2012

Black Mesa

Black Mesa is the first game I've sat down at a PC and played in quite a while. Despite it's Duke Nukem Forever-esque development span, you can certainly see why it took so long. It was just people hashing it out in their spare time. That takes time, especially if you're a perfectionist. And judging by my few hours of gameplay, they certainly are.

The whole thing is a joy to go through - Familiar scenes are given a Hollywood remake level of sheen, with little twists and unexpected turns to keep things fresh in your head. Getting the Crowbar for the first time was certainly a nice little turn of events. Voice acting retains the basic, simplistic charm of the first game, with part-timers turning in expert impressions, while adding new dialogue that fits in perfectly. Achievements added into the game give you some incentive to check out different things they've hidden in. Gunplay is given some modern touches - one weapon gives you iron sight aiming - and the AI flank, hunt and retreat as you would expect.

Right now, I've reached the Blast Pit. I look forward to seeing what little touches they have instore for me here...   read

5:20 AM on 09.02.2012

Band Boss

Cross-posted over at the website for my band, the British IBM

The last few months haven't all been rock and roll. There has been a fair amount of looking at spreadsheets, tracking income, deciding how much advertising would cost us, where to record our album, so on.

So it's a little strange to be talking about a digital version of that. I downloaded Band Boss on a bit of a whim on my iPhone, and quickly got sucked into creating a little fictional version of the British IBM. After naming the manager and dressing the band up, I'm thrown into a screen where I have one option - Arrange Tour. Tap on that, and it starts to get pretty deep.

How long does the tour have to be? Longer tours are better for popularity, but can wear the band out. Can I afford to travel in luxury, or are we on the cheap? Advertising - Are we going to do it on flyers, pay for internet ads, even get it on TV? More expensive options will mean more people might turn up, but if we're just starting out...
So I sent the 8-bit Aidy, Paul & I out on the road for two weeks, after selecting a suitable support act, advertised only on flyers and sleeping in the back of a van. Reviews came in thick and fast... and said we looked tired, but put on an okay show. Time for some energy drinks.

Soon, we started knocking out some songs. We all trained a little harder at our musical ability and our visual appeal. Then we could record a single. This throws out some more options - Where can we record it? Can we afford the plush Arbury Road at a whopping $1,000,000, or we do it ourselves? Wait, the producer has a fever - And the only cure is more Cowbell. Also, can we chuck in an extra $271,731 to get that raw cowbell sound we're after.

There's some real fun stuff here - You have to keep happiness levels up, which is difficult when your little band start dating fellow musical stars. You can send them packing away on holidays, or buy them a shiny new watch. It's a pretty fun little time sink, as you're deciding what magazines to give interviews too, although once you've earned yourself a cool few million in Band Boss Bucks, I don't really see it getting better than this high life.

Just like reality, I guess.   read

6:17 AM on 11.07.2011

Peripherals: Turbo Buttons and Menacers

Way back when I was a tiny kiddlywink, I loved me some lightgun games. Any chance to play things like the Terminator 2 Arcade Game or Lethal Enforcers, I lapped up. When I discovered that there was a lightgun for the Mega Drive, I begged and begged and got it that Christmas, and went on a journey of lightgun bliss and tedium, in equal measure.

The game bundled in with the Menacer (which, now I think about it, my parents might have actually got second hand) had 6 games of varying quality, ranging from slightly entertaining to climbing-up-the-walls in boredom. I totally admit, beyond the gun itself, I had to look up on Wikipedia exactly what games the cart had on it - I remembered the slightly "Dirty Harry" one the best (Rockman Zone), shooting cardboard cut-out people in windows, but totally forgot there was a Toejam & Earl themed one. As I totally loved Panic On Funkatron, I thought this one would stick in my mind more, but alas. I did recall Pest Control a bit too - shooting bugs before they get the pizza, and leaving me totally weirded out by the whole thing

The gun was, to my young primary school self, totally fucking amazing, although beyond the base unit you had two extra parts - the rifle butt attachment and a scope, both of which were pretty useless. The other games were also totally forgettable, such as some alien shooting version of Snap, something where you blow up tanks and Whackball!, which even after looking at a screenshot I can't even remember anything about it.

The only other Lightgun I got was for the eventual console port of Time Crisis for the Playstation, the G-Con 45. I used to play the hell out of this game whenever I went to an arcade with it in, creating a running joke that remains in my family today. Beyond that, I got Point Blank (which the RPG mode I still want to play through at some point), and that was the end of my lightgun years. The odd time these days when I'm in an arcade, I'll have a nostalgic sigh and pull the trigger on one of these new lightgun games (ranging from Police 24/7 to whatever House of The Dead they are up to now), but I feel like I grew out of them. To a young kid, the first time I played Time Crisis in an Arcade was the closest I was going to get in a a gun fight. The whole ducking mechanic really amazed me, it had that sense of 'realism' (if one could call it that) that games had not had for me until that point.

My other weird gadget I got, also for my Mega Drive, was a third party, 6 button controller, complete with turbo switches and tacky, cheap buttons. In fact, until this very day I thought six button controllers weren't even supposed to be made for the Mega Drive (Wikipedia coming in handy again, there) - They were brought in for Fighting games. These also had Turbo buttons - You pushed a button, turned the Turbo button on, and it would read that you pushed that over and over again. It was a fucking terrible idea, and the only fun I ever got out of it was making games pause over and over again. I know I had one or two games that only would work with a six button controller, but I can't even remotely remember what they were, nor am I going to even remotely guess.

Later on in life I didn't touch much in the way of bizarre peripherals - I didn't even like using third party controllers that much. I do remember an unofficial memory card we had for the first Playstation, however, that just wiped saves as and when it felt like it. Still managed to complete Final Fantasy 7 twice, though. Recently, however, I heard a little bit about DJ Hero and decided to give it a go. It's sort of embarrassing spinning your little plastic turntable, but less annoying than the hitting of a Rock Band drum kit.   read

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