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6:07 PM on 06.07.2012

E3: Thoughts From the Show

It has been many years since I last crossed the floors of E3. Much of it was as expected, peppered with a few little surprises. It remains a spectacle, a glorious exercise in the excess, a marketing sledgehammer wielded to force you to think something is cool. The best things don't have to convince you of course, as cool cannot be dictated. Below are some thoughts of this year's offerings.

Strangest: NBA Baller Beats. This is, um, Guitar Hero with basketballs. Really. And I can't even knock it because it looked fun, and any basketball coach of any age team would love this as much as the players.

Most cohesive: World of Tanks/Warplanes/Battleships. They are setting some high goals and look to hit them all. This looks like an amazing gaming community to belong to if these games are your genre of choice. Or not-- they certainly got me interested and I'm not that into wargames.

Most boring: Electronic Arts

Best looking: Ni No Kuni. OMG I cannot wait for this game. There are vids and screenshots aplenty, but actually seeing it up and running is a sight to behold. It's gorgeous. Rayman Legends is a close second, it was what I'd have thought platform games would have evolved to a long time ago.

Best booth: Going to have to say Namco, with that gargantuan screen playing Tekken Tag 2. It was a rare wow moment of the show to round the corner and see that monster.

Best Trailer: Tomb Raider. Not at all what I, nor I assume many fans, expected in tone or presentation. That was some crazy stuff. I don't even know why they chose to keep the Tomb Raider moniker, because it easily had the strength to stand on its own as a new IP.

UPDATE: Wow, I never could have guessed the reaction to this game which has made itself readily apparent. When I watched the trailer I saw it as a rough take on the character, brutal even, and while there were certain implications of darker areas, to me they were just that, naively thinking no game would ever go beyond what a deliberately constructed trailer might lead some people believe. Now I read (with info from the developers themselves) that darker, controversial implications are anything but, and that's unsettling. The deeper issues continue to express themselves, noted in many other posts around the internet

Most diverse: Square Enix. They had a really great slate of games, and look to be making some fine choices as a publisher outside of their own games.

Biggest disappointment: Nintendo. Seriously, why would I ever want to get a Wii U? Maybe its jaded, grumpy old man syndrome, but there was not a single thing shown by Nintendo that excited me. Nintendoland speaks to an audience I am not a part of. Pikmin is just too niche for me. Even New Super Mario Bros. U was... unimpressive. The HD sharpness was definitely there, but I didn't see any of the love or artistic magic that had gone into previous games. Considering the strides that were taken to push the art styles of far more limited systems, finally being given the resolution and processing power of the Wii U did not seem to inspire the Mario team. I hope-- I dearly, truly hope-- I am wrong about this and as the game gets closer the beauty and artistry will be revealed.

UPDATE: I've now seen the official trailer, including footage of the "Van Gogh Level," which is closer to ideas I had hoped to see. More, please!

The Wii U tablet was cumbersome to me, I didn't find it to enhance the game experience. It was strange to decide what screen to look at, the tablet or the monitor. True, the pro controller was much more natural and seeing games like Arkham City and Dead or Alive 5 make things a little more palatable, but nowhere near enough for me to desire the Wii U as a system.

Biggest surprise: 1313. I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to the closed door demo, and man was it a treat. LucasArt's presentation was elaborate, with a clever "staging set" that provided the illusion you were being brought deep into Courscant. You could tell they were really proud of what they were showing. The game itself looks to be Uncharted Star Wars, but that wasn't what stood out. The character models were unlike anything I've seen in gaming to date. For brief seconds I could have been told it was a live action shot, all while being reminded this was in-game engine. The lip-syncing alone was uncanny, and not in the detrimental way. It pretty much puts to shame any character work being done in other games, and especially going back to the show floor and seeing the likes of Sleeping Dogs, there was no comparison. I guess that's what you get when ILM helps you make a game, I truly hope 1313 will live up to the potential shown.

My game of show: Gameglobe. Not a game, per se, but a game maker. Akin to the creation modes of Little Big Planet and Mod Nation Racers and totally browser based. I watched the full demo presentation and immediately signed up in hopes of being accepted into the closed beta. The demo was really impressive, with tools and features that look as fun to use as they are creative. I don't know if they were pulling any tricks but it ran at an amazing speed for what it looked like it was handling, they surely must have a formidable cloud infrastructure not only for storage but for processing. I've sampled just about every consumer-based creator there is, alongside my work in professional game development. Game globe looks to be the best bridge between the two, with its own style and possibilities. And much like Minecraft, I was filled with excitement for the possibilities not only of what I could do with it, but what the community it generates will bring.

Best booth babe: Nina Williams. Not because she's a pretty blonde, but because she played the part. Her costume was the most detailed, though possibly not as suitable for fighting or extended movement as one would be lead to believe. The model took it all in stride and did all the stances and posed with all the fans. That has got to be a tough gig and she should be commended.


8:29 PM on 05.31.2012

True Nature: Memories of Star Road

Like many, many gamers, I have a distinct love for Mario. I'm old enough to remember playing the original Mario Bros. in the arcade, and it remains one of my favorites of the series. Super Mario Bros. as well, where you had to wait in line to play and there were no guarantees you would get a turn before your parents came back for you. But of course Nintendo home consoles came along giving whole new life and a lot more meaning to Mario games. Super Mario Bros. frustrates me in a lot of ways, and Super Mario 2 I remember for its quirkiness, but never really got attached to it. Mario 3 is where the series sunk its hooks in, and it has had me ever since through all of its many incarnations. But there is still one game I always go back to, each time with a renewed fondness and enthusiasm.

Super Mario World.

It is hard to pinpoint why I am attached to it like I am. Over the years I've played it though so many times I can't focus on any specific thing. Not long ago I put it in just because I wanted to hear the music. Next thing I know I was 30 levels deep! Long ago when the game first arrived, I remember bragging to a friend that I'd almost beat the game and he asked how many levels I'd gone through. I said fifty something and he scoffed at me and said, "Dude there's like 80." My mind was blown. I went back to it and it was like playing a whole new game. This is way before the ubiquitous internets, secrets were pretty much word of mouth. As years went on, after enthusiastically attacking new Mario games, playing with awe and wonder as Mario 64 brought 3D into play, it's still Super Mario World that defines the series for me. I love the Switch Palaces, Donut Plains, Ghost Houses, secret exits, feathers, Forrest of Illusion, and of course... Yoshi. But there's another element to Mario's world that always itches my brain, and that is Mario's view of the world himself.

Which brings me to my art piece, "Memories of Star Road." In all the games, in all the levels he's traversed, I can't help but wonder if Mario ever stops to realize what he's been doing. Imagine he's been travelling across all these bizzarre locales and then finds the first warp exit to Star World. Hey, just another level right? Later on Mario takes another path and he gets a good look at where he's been, up in the clouds. Overwhelmed by his trials, he takes repose for the first time and wonders, "What is this crazy shit?"

That was the inspiration for this piece, a little love note to a game that has brought me so much fun and joy. No doubt it will continue to for a long time to come.

Nothing out of the ordinary for the art process. Rough idea in sketchbook, digital pencils and inks in Manga Studio, colors/paint in Photoshop. It was a mellow art experience and I'm happy to share it with you all.   read

11:06 PM on 11.22.2011

Beercade mural: Supreme Awesome in Nebraska?

I don't need to lay out the events that lead me to visit Benson, Nebraska this past weekend. What I need to do is share the mindblowing win that was found on a small-town wall as my gf and I took a walk down Maple Street after breakfast. We both saw it unexpectedly from about half a block away, and by the time we reached the corner, our jaws we on the floor. I believe our exact words were "WHAAAAAAAT???"

Look, I don't know what Beercade is, where it came from, or what it is doing in Nebraska. But I am so very happy I was able to see this mural in person. We were able to glean some information from a local: The owners of a neighborhood cigar shop are purchasing vintage arcade machines in a slow but steady effort to open a wonderful establishment that will clearly contain beer and an arcade. The mural was painted ahead of time in preparation, so all I can say is more power to them and God Speed.

I vaguely recall reading about this or something very similar, maybe even here at Destructoid? Briefly searching online, I've yet to find anything about this specific locale. If any d-toiders or c-bloggers know more, please post a link in the comments! Until then, I took as many pictures as I could. Here are some of the better ones, they don't really do it justice, but they should let you see some of the gamer love that's going down outside of Omaha. And to the artist: Rock on, man.


7:23 PM on 04.30.2011

Have you seen these Super Mario Bros. candy tins???

Maybe you have, but I just wanted to take some cool pictures :-)

I did a double take when I saw these at the checkout in Bed, Bath & Beyond of all places. At first glance I thought they were cheap knockoffs-- but they are actually really nice quality tins! Sure enough, there is a sanctioned Nintendo seal on the bottom.

In addition to the 1-UP they've got a red mushroom and a ? box.

The candy is probably secondary here, but it is tasty, a little like Sweet Tarts. This was also surprising, 'cause if you've ever sampled some of the toy-wrapped treats the Far East usually has to offer, the candy is not far removed from chalk.

At three bucks, these Super Mario Bros. tins are a steal as far as collectibles go!


10:13 PM on 11.15.2010

The unexpected boon of Austin Comic Con: Dragon Quest IX players

A Wizard World convention was in Austin this past weekend... It was pretty cool to be in Artist Alley during the show, and even cooler to meet a few D-toid community members who were able to come by and say hello (thanks guys!!).

But on a whim, the gf and I brought our DS's to the show and popped in a copy of Dragon Quest IX. We hopped into the Stornway Inn and set the mode to "Canvas for Guests." sure enough, by the end of the weekend we had no less than seven new guests!

Not only is that a cool feature for the game that works great in public gatherings (one can only imagine the crowds amassed at something like PAX), but I think it's super cool that there are perfect strangers out there who also got my own character to show up in their game. So if any of you out there have a couple new guests by the name of Edco and Vinx, thanks for the canvas!   read

10:23 PM on 06.15.2010

My D-Toid car for ModNation Racers!

ModNation Racers Career Mode frustrates me to no end, but all I really want to do is make cars-- so here's the Destructoid racecar I just finished!

-- 100% sticker limit!
-- kickass rocket engine!
-- Florida plates, yo!

I think it came out pretty good :-) It should be shared and available if you've got ModNation Racers, the car is simply called "DESTRUCTOID." If it helps searching, my PSN name is Super_Edco.

BUT HEY! Maybe you want to make your own Destructoid car. In that case, I've posted a second car with just the base stickers to do with as you please. It's called "Destructoid STICKER SET." I do have to warn you the stickers add up quick, but if you know your way around the creator, you can ungroup some things and take out some of the finer details that are really only for the larger sizes.

If you make any cars be sure and let me know!   read

12:46 AM on 05.02.2010

2D Sprites I made for Ace Yeti Trapper

There is a special place in my heart for games and artists who keep the Sprite Train steaming along. Once in a blue moon, I get to hop on board.

Ace Yeti Trapper is an iphone game I worked on recently, it's actually a fairly old mobile game the designer (my boss) wanted to upgrade. And he was insistent on using hand-drawn sprites for the, um, sprites. We did do some preliminary work creating 3D models and rendering them out as frames, but it became clear that the character presentation needed to keep that 2D pixel pushin' love.

Here's a look at the development process to define my little dudes. If you look close you can see the original sprite from the mobile game, as well as early versions at a smaller scale. Would you believe I animated sprites for the entire game at the small scale before it was decided to go bigger? In 2D, that's a total do-over. Such are the perils of game development.

This is a close-up look at the game's hero, Jack Bivouac, the titular Ace Yeti Trapper…

… And the elusive Yeti that must be trapped. If you want to see him animating in action, click here.

There are other beasts in the game to be trapped, too. The animals were not done by me, but by a buddy sprite enthusiast. My man Jason totally went to town on these guys-- check out the spots on the snow leopard, which he then animated! Insane!

One of my favorite things to do are object sprites, all the cute little pickups and FX in the game. Above are the various baits you use to catch beasties in the game, they were a lot of fun to create.

For a little more background on how it's done, I do my preliminary sprites and art targets in Photoshop. Then I use a program called ProMotion to animate-- one pixel at a time. Well, ProMotion certainly has a lot of tools to make things easier, but it's fascinating how much nuance can be achieved at the single pixel level.

To see these sprites doing what they do best, you should check out Ace Yeti Trapper for iPhone. I know that's a(nother) shameless plug I've made for it here on D-toid, but trust me when I say there's no crafty marketing team behind this. Modern sprite games are a rare breed and I'm just trying to give the game to get a little attention. Plus I genuinely hope fellow d-toiders and retro-fans would like a look behind the scenes.   read

12:30 AM on 03.09.2010

Final Fanatasy XIII Midnight Madness!

Since I live all of five minutes from a Best Buy, I thought I'd just stroll on over for the special Midnight release of FF13. And that's was the jist of it, no giant crowds to fight through here in North Austin. There were about 20 dedicated FF fans waiting by the door, half of which were revealed to be pre-orders. So, in and out in the time it would take to get back home.

But anyways:

Yes, I am totally psyched to finally have this in hand! I will work diligently to carve out the necessary time needed to enjoy...

Anyone brave any late night release shenanigans?


1:37 PM on 02.02.2010

How a title screen is made: Ace Yeti Trapper

So here's a peek into how I went about creating a title screen for an iPhone game that my company launched recently. Note I do not presume any one methodology is better than another. In fact some graphic artists may find this example to be a little overcomplicated. Anyways I thought the D-toid community would enjoy a look at the process.

Ace Yeti Trapper is in fact an older mobile game that was to be overhauled for iPhone. A lot of that task falls on the art direction and new focal image to represent the updated version of the game. All that was available were assets from the mobile game (really tiny art) and a drawing some unknown artist created several years ago.

First step was to get comfortable with the main characters, hero Jack Bivouac and the titular Yeti. The game's designer (my boss) had very specific details he wanted to keep on them, and while there wasn't total freedom for a re-design I do think I was able to streamline and modernize them a bit.

Trying to keep the feel of the original, I sketched out a pencil drawing. My goal was to have fun and showcase the characters, with some slightly better composition.

Once happy with the initial layout and having the ever-important "approvals," I was still feeling a bit romantic for the pen-and-paper approach and inked the final linework on art board. But from here on out it's all digital. As an artist I have certainly moved neck-deep into the digital creation process over the years, tho I do find myself still working things out on paper when suited.

Coloring is done in Photoshop, in stages. After the linework was scanned in and cleaned up, a "flats" layer is completed to isolate the distinct areas of detail and get an overall feel for the palette. This is also to great benefit when color changes are needed. Next is the rendering stage, which can go a hundred different ways depending on personal tastes and abilities. The overall aim was a colorful, high-contrast image with some decent rendering detail, but holding onto the animated/comic book style that matched the art and attitude of the game.

Next came the logo. Sorry to skip over it so abruptly, but that process is easily a post all its own!

Finally it was time to composite all the assets together with the UI work I was doing concurrently. The background was kept as a textured piece to not compete with all the other junk they kept asking to cram on the title screen (OMG facebook), which now also acted as the main menu. And well, there you go.

I'd be remiss if I didn't add a little shameless promotional plug at this point, if you'll forgive me. The game itself is an action puzzle game with shades of and Dig-Dug and Bomberman. And it's also got sprites! Maybe I'll follow up with a 2D sprite post…

ACE YETI TRAPPER for iPhone/ iPod touch

Thank you for reading :-)   read

12:17 AM on 02.02.2010

I'll be playing Demon's Souls probably for the rest of my life.

I've been playing Demon's Souls since it came out last year. And I'm still on Level 1.

I can't beat the Tower Knight yet. When I can get to him.

Granted, I do not get to play as often as I like, it takes me a notoriously long time to finish games due to other obligations (sometimes referred to as "life"). Hell, half the time I get distracted by another game altogether! (I'm talking to you, Dragon Age) But sometimes you get hooked into a game and it just lingers in the back of your mind, "Aw jeeze, I really should sit down and play some Demon's Souls... If I can only get past that next part..."

When I read initial reports of the game's difficulty, I thought, "Really? I'm no slouch, how hard can it be?" And my thoughts were that a game so difficult as noted could not possibly be fun. But like so many others, I found much enjoyment in tiptoeing my way through the introduction of Demon's Souls, and an immense-- almost profound-- sense of accomplishment for meeting milestones within the game. Hours of play seemingly honed my level traipsing to near perfection, and yet I would regularly die and curse at the top of my lungs. I would boil with rage after losing a healthy wallet of souls, only to die 30 seconds after re-animation and losing them for good. Grrrrr!

Did I mention I haven't finished level 1 yet? I'm not even halfway.

Look, man, the game is brutal. What amazes me most is that I have barely scratched the surface of what the Demon's Souls world has to offer. I really do enjoy playing it, but I fear it will take years for me to finish it. I mean, that game is like a job-- serious dedication is required! I keep thinking to myself why in the world would I even want to invest that amount of time into it? And I remember the sense of elation I felt when I beat that first Phalanx boss. I remember the awe and outright fear of trying to run the castle gauntlet when the dragon flew over and torched the path (that scared the shit out of me). Basically, it is a rare, rare game -- especially after my long gaming history-- that can still elicit those kinds of emotions.

The least I can do is beat the first level.   read

11:07 PM on 01.17.2010

My Mod Nation Racers Beta experience

Yikes! I'm still a daly dtoid reader, but I haven't c-blogged in ages! Let's try and fix that :-)

Over the holidays I was able to spend some quality time with a backlogs of games I've been wanting to play or complete. Tho that effort was almost totally derailed by my luck in getting into the Mod Nation Racers Beta. I love a good cart acer, and this seemed to offer me more than I could have hoped for, even in beta stage.

I did race quite a bit, and earned a fair number of points in the online contests. The game was far from tuned, and I fear glitches in the game lead me to win a race or two under less than noble circumstances. But the racing was alot of fun and it was fascinating how quickly you can learn what other racers' styles of play were. I anticipate a strong community following for this game's eventual release.

Wat really got me? The Mod Shop. I could customize cars for hours in this thing (and I did!). The tools were really intuitive and the cart-proportions of the cars were quite manageable and not overwhelming considering the level of detail you were able to employ in the games beta stage. What killed me was all the locked content that I couldn't make use of, which I'me sure is all part of the shippable game's career mode, and no doubt linked to some online component. How I longed for the different car bodies and parts, all the extra decals and do-dads... I love this kind of stuff! Even with the limited custom sets I think I was able to pull off some cool cars:

Sadly I spent so much time on cars that I hardly got to play with the track editor. That is where some real creativity is set to be unleashed. From what I did mess around with, I was pretty amazed, and judging from the tracks that did get on line, the sky's the limit (literally in some of those insane designs). Based on the beta, I will be first in line to get this game in its final form. I hope a bunch of you all got to check it out, too!   read

12:05 AM on 02.18.2009

Street Fighter IV US print ad = fail, Japan = predictably rad

Continuing the fine tradition of shockingly bad print advertising for videogames here in the states, Street Fighter 4 presents us with this shockingly magenta quandry:

"To Hadouken or not to Hadouken?"

It's got an over-airbrushed Ryu and... E. Honda? Wha-? Cause the first fighter I think about in Street Fighter is E. Honda. Plus a really tiny logo and even tinier screenshots. What is that, a law or something? This ad is running in the currently shelved comic books of our fair nation, and probably a gaming mag or two.

Now for fun, let us compare to the print ads featured in Japan-- which a keen friend from the land of all things awesome was kind enough to forward me after I regained my eyesight and sought redemption. These are ads you'll find in Famitsu, at trade shows, subway platforms, etc.:

"Screenshots? We don't need no stinking screenshots! We have art!" Now lastly is the coolest one, abstractly, perhaps. My friend explains it as "All the special moves written as if from a class studying calligraphy, marked up by the teacher."

Any yet we get to Hadouken or not to Hadouken. How about a Spinning Star Kick to the gonads, pinky.

[/shame]   read

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