hot  /  reviews  /  video  /  blogs  /  forum

FRESH MEAT  
|   FROM OUR COMMUNITY BLOGS

thomasa's blog

Blogs Promoted Followers (new!)


9:50 PM on 09.04.2009  

PAX, Day 1: Akward Samit

Its bigger then last year!

The HAWP Panel was cool.
Samit made an akward entrance. He did a lone quiet fist thrust. No one saw but me, and made a walk of shame to his seat. What a jerk.

Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles is looking really good. I'm kind of a RE nerd, so revisiting the locals of the previous games (especially 2!) is awesome. Plus I got a free t-shirt!

The set they built for Bioshock 2 is amazing. I have never seen such a thing at a show like this. The whole "touch stuff and find the clues" is really creative. The game is actually shaping up to be pretty good.

Im still looking for Rev. Anthony so I can get into a deep meaningful exchange about the interactive medium.

The issues with shows like this and going with friends is that you feel bad waiting in huge lines for games they have no interest in if you want to stick together.

The show floor is a sensory over load nightmare. I can only be in there like 30-45 minutes before wanting to curl up and cry.

Im heading back soon for the show/ some late night free play.

See you guys there!   read


3:17 AM on 08.24.2008  

Instant replay: The Dig



You know when you visit a place of your childhood? A place you haven't seen since your grown up teeth started growing in and loony-toons t-shirts where all the rage?

Video games were a very integral part of my development. It suffices to say (wether this be good or bad) games are a prominent memory for me when I harken back to my younger days.

Whilst I lived in Sweden, my aunt and uncle lived very close to us, so frequent visits took place. Uncle Jocke worked at some PC software warehouse. So He always had a fresh selection of the latest in PC gaming. I swear, if it not for that man, I would never of been as involved with gaming as I am. I remember looking on in awe at games like Earth Worm Jim and OddWorld. But one in particular sucked me in entirely. It was a rather ignored LucasArts title, one that was a turn off to a lot of fans because of its stern and serious atmosphere.

The Dig.

There is a list of games that to my memory have no name. I just remember seeing them and playing them. Its rather unsettling, to want to play this game you haven't touched in years and not know anything about it except maybe a screenshot in your head. But when you do find it, its like coming across fucking Atlantis itself. One of these occurred a few years ago. I had not seen it in years, and finally finding it was look dusting off an ancient childhood book. Let me elaborate...

This was the second to last LucasArts point and click Scumm based game, the last being Money Island 3. And it is even by todays standard a visual masterpiece. This is truly a beautiful game. With hand painted back drops, excellent voice acting (the main character is voiced by ROBERT FUCKING PATRICK), and a soundtrack that completes what is already an outstanding atmosphere, there are no words to express how much I adore this game. Of all my memories, I remember the color palette the best. The cool blues and purples, contrasted by subtle reds and yellows. The only other thing that I remembered was getting a very deep vibe from it. I couldn't put my finger on it, but this game was special too me. And finally playing this again, I remember what it was.

The premise is as follows:



When a meteor is hurdling towards earth, you, commander Boston Low, along with Maggie Robbins and Ludger Brink, are blasted up there to place some charges on it to blast it into a safe orbit. Upon completion of your mission, you explore the astroid to find it to be some alien space craft and are whisked millions of light years from earth to a desolate, empty deserted planet. With no other living beings in sight, you must piece together what took place that eliminated the now missing beings of this planet, as well as finding your own home.



Im not going to spoil it, but things happen. Ludger starts going insane, Maggie starts to seclude herself, and a bunch of other way-too-heavy-to-appreciate-themes-for-my-6-year-old-head present themselves. The story is only so-so unfortunately, but it is easily forgivable with its spot on atmosphere.

The planet is lonely, strange, and unfamiliar, and it wants you to know.



The Dig left a huge impact on me. Being a rather young creatively inclined person, I am just starting to be able to explore what little experiences I have to create off of. And this is where the impact has come in. The Dig was perhaps the most deciding factor in my perception of what is "beautiful". not the visual kind of "thats pretty" beautiful, I mean the "holy shit this is gonna make my cry because I understand it in such resonating way" beautiful.

I find beauty in desolation and struggle. This game created a deep understanding of what it means to be alone, and what it means to be separated from everything you love and hold dear. It created an understanding of what it means to hold onto hope. It created an understanding of what can drive a man to complete homicidal madness. And most important of all, it created an even deeper need to explore these ideas and feelings in a mature and adult like manner.

The atmosphere, while desolate and empty, is almost like a safe haven for me. I can become lost in this beautiful, strange alien world. Whenever I just need to escape I turn up the speakers, blow scummVM to full screen, and just play The Dig. It has saved my sanity numerous times. This IS my child hood; or at least a memorable enough part to be comforting and safe. When I need some time to clear my head, I plant myself back into this lonely alien planet and just take a breather.



The "replay value" is different depending on what you want. In terms of basic story and puzzles, there's not much to replay for. But The beautiful artwork and brilliant musical score more than make up for this. Like I said, no game has ever nailed an atmosphere like this. Ever.

And that is why I shall forever return to this little thought of piece of brilliance.   read


5:35 PM on 08.01.2008  

Why game graphic design = EPIC FAIL

For years, we have been buying video games with shitty package design and there has never been a reason to change. We don’t usually buy based on the attractiveness of a package when it comes to gaming. We know what the game is before hand, so for all we care, it could just be a brown box with the title written on it in sharpie. That has caused a huge amount of laziness with game box art. Take for example the US box for Resident Evil 4.



This formula is very common.
-Main character in front
-Enemies/secondary characters in back
-Concept art for backdrop
-HUGE fuckin logo smack dab in the most obvious location (i.e., upper third)

This pattern is used for one reason: its safe. It shows just the right amount of info in the most boring unoriginal way, that you cant miss it. It gives no reflection of the product itself, it just says “hey its resident evil with evil zombies and guns WHOOO!”
95% of game packaging follows this pattern in some way. See for yourself:



But for some reason, Capcom Europe has some balls:



Its simple, its moody, but most of all, it leaves an impact. It uses 2 colors, red and black. But its used in a way to create a tension in the visual shapes. You see the character with a bagged head and a chainsaw standing there in the trees, and you know this game is most certainly NOT for the faint of heart. It doesn’t show any other characters, no concept art, no fancy type effects. Just a few shapes and a logo.

laziness is where the danger resides. As much as the hardcore seems to hate this new casual audience, it is necessary to help keep the hardcore lineup of titles existing. And this audience doesn’t know what’s out there so when they take a trip to the local electronic purveyor, all they are exposed is design. And lemme tell you, even the casual games have shitty boxes.
I applaud Nintendo and the approach they took to the Wii packaging. Rather than smother it in foreign (to them) game characters and bright colors, they focused on the design of the hardware and brought a concept out of that: simple, approachable, clean, and bright. Not only that, but they made the unpackaging an experience. Rather than a cluttered form of cardboard and Styrofoam, the Nintendo designers knew exactly what they were doing in making this as simple of a process and possible. Upon opening the flap for the first time you are greeted with two trays, with icons showing what each tray contains.



In closing, the game development community needs to wake up a bit. While you may not give a damn what’s on the box, I promise you, graphic design DOES matter, and it DOES affect what people want to buy. We cant keep producing good games with shitty boxes for much longer. While there are shining examples, (GTA IV had an excellent use of purposefully mis-kerned Helvetica, a reflection of the generic and commercialized Liberty City) they need to start hiring designers that know what the hell they’re doing not just in the visuals of a package, but the impact of the product as a whole. A box is your first taste of what the whole product is, and smart, clever, intelligent design can make all the difference between an underwhelming experience and a "holy crap this game is gonna kick ass" experience.   read


11:06 PM on 05.11.2008  

Ever wanted to play Metal Gear Solid... en espanol?!

Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can now enjoy a classic the way it was MEANT to be
played god damn it!

[embed]85579:11242[/embed]

I (did not) find a copy online that I (did not) burn and (did not) put into my (not) tape and
tissue modded ps2. So far, it is amazing. Amazing in every sense of the word.   read


1:01 AM on 04.18.2008  

GP2X F-200; A video drama. Review.

[embed]82148:10476[/embed]

Correction:

Price: US$ 169.90

All you gotta do is unpack the files on the SD card.   read


3:11 AM on 03.09.2008  

Gamers TV pilot.

[embed]74628:8967[/embed]

Gamers is a TV show that apparently is in production on a larger scale. This pilot doesn't have the best actors, but the writing is funny and worth a laugh.   read


11:27 PM on 02.21.2008  

MegaMan Legends: A game no one ever played. And was Awesome.

This was perhaps around half through the N64/PS generation. Every week or so, I would be
driven down to Blockbuster, that magical place where at any one point there would be five
whole games to choose from! Now the way it went, was if they had something awesome,
that would be your pick. But if not you would wander around scanning uninteresting box art
after uninteresting box art until your pestering parents forced you to do eenie meenie minie
moe (catch a tiger by its toe). One of these uninterested picks was a small game called
MegaMan 64. For the uninitiated, a game called Mega Man legends was released for the
Playstation. It was Later released under the monicker MegaMan 64 with added content.
Mega Man 64 (and legends) was a game that I had never heard of, and I had no idea what
to expect. I remember having MegaMan 6 for the NES in my earlier years, so I was sort of
expecting a game I would suck at. But it was anything but!

This really isn't a MegaMan game per say; but a game that uses a derivative blue robot boy
with the MegaMan name. The story goes that you live with Roll and Barrell Casket, a young
girl and robot old man, and you travel the world "Digging", IE, you wander under ground
catacombs filled with evil robots (?!) and collect spare parts and money. The legend of the
"Mother Lode" is what motivates the story, the legendary treasure the Roll's parents
disappeared searching for. Now keep in mind. I was a N64 kid. I never had a Playstation.
So imagine how amazed I was, at like, 10, that this game featured full voice acting!
Granted, it was terrible, but it was fucking impressive! The game play is essentially what I
imagined what a 3D MegaMan would look like. You run around in 3rd person and fightrobots
with a lock-on mechanism. Instead of Robot Masters implementing new and stronger
weapons, you instead build them out of spare found parts.

The graphics where good, featuring full very expansive 3D environments. The art direction
was very pop anime cutesy, but still contained a certain amount of badass-ery in enemy
design.

What keeps me coming back to the series (and made me find MegaMan legends 2) is the
sense of exploration and curiosity. You travel into these dark mechanic labyrinths filled with
all sorts of treasures and items, and even a sense of danger. Its a shame the series only
had 2 installments, and I doubt a third will ever even be in the pipeline.

But srsly. Its badass.   read


11:20 PM on 02.08.2008  

My Keytar. Let me show you it.

I am steadily learning to play keyboard, so I can actually participate in me and my friends
band Schrdinger's Bat. My newest addition to my musical arsenal is this lovely little toy that I
got the privilege of borrowing.


[embed]69356:7780[/embed]   read


12:02 PM on 01.28.2008  

Boo! (What makes horror games scary?)

I remember the first time I was truly terrified by a video game. It was around 3 years ago,
I got the Resident Evil remake for the Gamecube. My friend still gives me crap for calling
her and asking her to come over so I wouldn't be alone. Needless to say I loved it, but for
years I have had a secret obsession with horror movies. There is something so satisfying
about being scared shitless. I would compare it to playing chicken with a freight train, when
the scaring gets good. Heavy pulse, covering ears, sweating, those are the moments I live
for. But Horror is hard to pull off in all mediums, especially games it seems. The struggle is
literally power. The most distinctive and prominent mechanic of all horror games is a
feeling of powerlessness. In a medium where power is pretty much everything, its a
terrifying feeling to have that sense of power taken away from you.

Having played through Resident Evil 4 at least 20 times, I can tell you the most terrifying
part was the first encounter with a Regenerator. You aren't given a weapon to defeat them
until AFTER you first run into about 3, all in cramped small places. Even after acquiring the
weapon (which is a thermal sniper scope) there is a pressure to get the shots right on very
specific parts of its body. The slow shamble, wheezing, and this pressure to get it right all
add up to the most terrifying experiences in the game. And that all stems from a sense of
helplessness. What makes the rest of the game not that scary is the ability to go fucking
commando and shoot the hell out of everything (which isn't a bad thing mind you, just not
that scary).

Silent Hill is a series that takes this "zen horror" seriously and not only makes you feel
helpless, but adds in a twisted introversive story with terrifying enemy design. The key to
one of the greatest in the series, Silent Hill 3, is in fact the helplessness. You are a teenage
girl, not a government agent trained in 14 styles of kick boxing. You can barely handle a
gun and have to spend most of the game beating things with a pipe. Silent Hill 2 took the
same approach with average everyday guy, but added in a twisted story of subconscious.
Which makes we wonder if the evil in Silent Hill exists in the people that go there, not in the
town itself. Which scares me the most. There is no "boss", there is no human face to put on
the haunted town. There is no solid explanation. There is no limit to the horrors this place
can produce. Its inhuman, and that is SCARY. I can only hope the new Silent Hill developers
understand this.

The primary criticism of the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games is the lack of control of the
camera. Born from a technical limitation in the original Alone in the Dark, it was a fluke that
helped limit the players control on the environment. But I enjoy it and think it adds wonders
to a game that would then only turn into an action game like Resident Evil 4 (which I
remind you, I love). First person allows for even more freedom on the genre in my eyes
(no pun intended), because You are now seeing directly through the eyes of the character.
Things can sneak up behind you (which is the old cheap spring loaded cat scare, but its still
a fun jump when its done well), and a feeling of mental degradation can truly take place;
Condemned was good.

With horror being such a distinctive genre, and a genre so hard to pull off, (Come on
F.E.A.R.! You can try harder than that!) it takes a genius director to understand horror and
not just allow it to become a steroid pumped manly man shooting fest.

(happy? :P)   read


11:01 PM on 01.11.2008  

The games made me do it!

You remember the 20's? When one piece bathing suits where corrupting our youth?
You remember the 60's? When Rock and Roll where destroying our nation?
You remember the 90's? When Video Games were turning us all into violent serial killers?

In every notable era, some fragment of pop culture is accused of corrupting our youth.
Some element is destroying the very foundations of the human race. At this point in our
cultures timeline, you would think parents could claim responsibility and actually do a good
job of RAISING there children. But with the ever growing corruption of the electronic
games, and what they are doing to our poor defenseless children, its a wonder that our
streets are not running with the blood a million sacrificed innocent!

I am part of a generation that loves all sorts of media; music, television, movies, and video
games. And growing up around it, my parents were not blind to the ratings. The first Teen
rated game I ever played was Tomb Raider when I turned 12. And my Mother still refuses
me to have GTA in the house for my little brothers sake. Unlike seemingly every other
parent, my parents paid attention to the ESRB ratings. Why is that so hard? Even the
stores in my area enforce them! Last year I wanted to buy Resident Evil DS at Best Buy
and they refused because I didn't have an ID!

I think we can say our kids are rather safe from Video Games; its terrible parents that are
dangerous. I am confident my child will get a rather inevitable exposure to pop media, and
I will accept the (seemingly) burdening responsibility of choosing what media is and is not
right for them. Its not that hard! People act like video game companies are intentionally
targeting children with violent games. When in reality, its the careless parent who is to
blame.

The biggest case against the Video Game medium and the "neccesity" of censorship seems
to be Columbine, when two teenage boys shot up there school and committed suicide.
People often point out that they played Doom in there off time and it made them violent
people. Well, I think the guys at Penny Arcade summed it up best:

"Oh he had Doom on his computer. Well of course he had Doom on his computer he was a
violent fuck. Violent people like games..."

At the end of the day, all I have to say is, be a parent. Pay attention to what your child is
taking in, and don't rely on the government to do it for you. It just screws things up for us
who are old enough understand it and it only makes you look like a fool.   read


5:51 PM on 01.09.2008  

Why we love Chiptunes.

I, as a retro gamer, am very young. I am 17, meaning I was born at the release of the
Super Nintendo. But being the son of a Young couple in Sweden who's father was going to
college, the best we could afford in our small 2 room apartment was an NES from the
classifieds. Of course I wanted the SNES, and I drooled at the display N64 at the big toy
store in downtown Stockholm, but at the same time I loved my NES and played it too
death.

As I grow and mature as a creative individual, my childhood experiences are always
reflected in what I do, and the things I love. The simple colors and that distinct, beautiful
simple sound that came from that grey box ground themselves into the very core of me. I
am regarded as having weird music by some of my friends, seeing as my iPod is dominated
by NES soundtrack and Chiptunes; which brings us to the point of my post. Why the hell do
people make Chiptunes, and why do we love them?

One can simply write that off as taste, but I think its something deeper. When you grow up
around that kind of sensory input, it truly grows on you. Its like when parents teach morals.
It becomes something that you are founded upon. It becomes something you "believe in".
It is something you carry your whole life.

There is something special about the NES soundchip that can't be reproduced. It was a
weird middle ground where the hardware could produce enough channels for fully layered
compositions, but not quite advanced enough to mimic real instruments. I would personally
classify the NES as its own instrument. There was a distinct sound that existed, and if you
have ever played games like Mega Man 2 or Ninja Gaiden, those composers took that
hardware to the limit and made absolutely awesome music. It was not only good game
music, but good MUSIC. The songs sounded good.

I think the draw to make Chiptunes sprouts from is the subtle almost subconscious concept
behind it. That this technology is outdated and meaningless in a practical sense; so we
apply it in an artistic sense. Typing this, it feels almost hauntingly existentialist. It also
follows the same lines of minimalist art; where the artist creates as much as possible with
as little materials as possible. Where the emotional punch in the piece is achieved with as
few visual (or in this case auditorial) elements as possible. The NES for example has 4
channels of sound, and I have heard some incredible compositions come from that.

If your in the mood the check some of this out, you should check
out 8bitpeoples . They are a new york based art
group who do some amazing stuff. May I recommend Anamanaguchi?   read


1:39 PM on 01.09.2008  

Futura and Rapture: How Typography helped make Bioshock

BIOSHOCK is probably my favorite game of 2007. The engaging combat, interesting
characters, and above all the spectactular city of Rapture. The leaking, almost post
modern metaphor of the decaying forgotten city of Rapture and its maniacle citizens,
aimlessy roaming the flooded halls. The immense detail put into the environment leaks like
the sea from the walls. Being a designer, I always take note of things like posters and
typography, and most of the time its standard Times New Roman fair. But one of biggest
contributing factors to the enviroment in Bioshock is the extensive use of graphic design to
contribute to the atmosphere. The first thing I noticed where the picket signs littered
around the bathysphere chamber. Simple white signs, with all uppercase Futura lettering.
Futura as a typeface is extremely prominent in Bioshock. Hell, its even in the logo. The
significance of this however, is what Futura Represents.

Futura is a geometric sans serif typeface designed in 1927 by Paul Renner. Although
Renner was not associated with the Bauhaus, he shared many of its idioms and believed
that a modern typeface should express modern models, rather than be a revival of a
previous design.

Isnt that what Rapture is? A modern, new model of society, rather than a revival of a an
old one? Granted, it all went to hell, but one can easily imagine the mindset of the graphic
designers in Rapture, and the desires of there clients. Its important to note other very 50's
and 60's esque typefaces are occurant as well.

Covering the walls throughout the game are the smart, realistic posters of Plasmids and
Places. They are appropriate, understandable and examine a realistic chunk of a society
once obsessed with free expression and scientific exploration. While 50's design isn't my
favorite, it is signature of the era, and its ideals are expressed in full when they are used
in the games atmosphere.

So did typography help make the atmosphere in Bioshock? I think so.   read







Back to Top