Holy Hell, Maynard (Puscifer) just showed up in Transformers.

Firstly, excellent game; having a blast playing it. There's a couple of game-play changes from the previous installment that I'm not loving on, but it's still a fantastic experience. And this time they totally nailed the story and characters man; I am SO much more invested then I was during the last one...

And probably to blame for some of that is the awesome main-menu FMV sequence. It has some mellow dramatic scenes of war with Puscifer's "The Humbling River" setting the mood. It is fan-freaking-tastic. Puscifer's no stranger to being in film, but this has to be the first time I've ever heard Maynard's voice coming from a game soundtrack.

I had walked away from the Ps3 the first time it kicked in, and I assumed something had glitched and it was playing music from my hard drive. I only have 4 albums on there and this is from one of them. Too funny.

Apparently they showed a trailer for this previously with the music, but it was news to me. I think I peed a little I was so excited.

5 Comments

Driver San Francisco is flipping awesome.

Driver San Francisco... anybody play this last year? I'm an epic fan of the original, so I don't know how I missed this when it came out... and it is freaking spectacular. I don't get why this game didn't go over bigger.

The graphics aren't anything amazing for a driving game, but for a massive open-world where everything is persistent, they are pretty damn impressive.By everything being persistent I mean, if you see a VW Beetle go around the corner, wait 5 minutes, and then chase after it, it will actually be 2 miles down that road. If you leave a burnout, drive a 100 miles away and come back, it's still there.

It has everything that made the original game such a blast, from the car-chase-heavy missions to the film director mode, and this one's new mechanic of "shifting" makes this ... The single most interesting driving game I've ever played.

Any time you want, for as long as you want, you can "shift" your soul out of your body and either fly around at ground level, or move/hover above a living map of the city. Things slow down to a crawl, and you can jump into the body of any person in any vehicle you want, anywhere on the map. (Like your an agent in the Matrix)

At first I thought it was just a cop-out way of letting you switch between cars without needing any character animation, but it is actually so much more than that. It's a game onto itself, and helps makes this one of the most memorable titles this gen for me. It sounds so simple, but it is such an amazingly fun gameplay mechanic, and changes it from a racer to a kind of hybrid action-driving-puzzle-strategy game.

Losing the race? Jump to a car in an oncoming lane and slam head-first into the guy winning, or shift into a tractor-trailer 30 miles up the road and create a 10 car pile-up that blocks the finish line... Being chased by cops? Watch the entire chase from overhead, shift into a Firetruck when he gets close-by, and T-bone the cop car from a blind corner. You can use your imagination from there, and that's the best part. It was probably an hour in before I truly understood the importance of the mechanic and what the devs are trying to do with it, and I was just floored.

And that's just the point-to-point racing, there's also all kinds of challenges (ala Burnout Paradise), stunt-runs, etc... and the shifting plays a part of all of it. Hell, if you see a cop drive by with his lights on you can shift into him and go on his high-speed chase, or shift again into the guy he's chasing and be the felon. I've only scratched the surface and I am just so damn impressed There are basically no rules, you can do whatever you want, and be whoever you want.

The production quality of everything is just outstanding too. Gorgeous character models/animation for the people in the car with you, fantastic, truly funny writing, great sound design, great VO; everything is top notch. The overall story is kinda boring, but every body you shift into has his own little story going, and those are fantastic. If you jump into a sweet restored Camaro, you'll hear the guy's g/f bitching about how much more he loves his car then her. (That one sent my wife into hysterics) If you shift into a Dodge Neon, you're suddenly a teenage girl complaining on her cell phone. It's all just done so damn well.

On top of what a freaking blast it is to "Shift", somebody behind this game is my flipping soul mate, because this is the driving game I'm always bitching that I want. Detailed car models, in-car views with unique Dash, great arcade style handling... and everything is set-up to encourage you to do crazy things and then watch the amazingly robust replay of your entire gameplay session in Director mode. So, every race essentially plays out like a Hollywood car chase, and then you watch the movie (if you like). You bust through crates and saw-horses, jump through windows, flip through the air, kill hundreds of other drivers though your reckless behavior, etc...

I'm all about 70-80s muscle (I've had a lot of Camaros over the years), and my favorite driving game setting (when it's done well) is on congested city streets. This is that *1000, and it is done well man. Damn well. It is also 95% ALL 70s and 80s Muscle Cars!! Wooo! I already have 4 different Camaros in my garage. Four! I love this game.

It's open world like Midtown Madness or Midnight Club racing, but there's no frustration of missing a turn and losing the race like in those, because you can pause everything at any time and look around or change things to your need. If you screw up, you can just shift to another car and wait for the AI to correct your mistake. If you wanted to, you could shift out of your car, hover over a tree for ten minutes watching the clouds roll by, then flip back into your car as it crosses the finish line and still win the race. The game doesn't care. It's like you're God, in a driving game, in an episode of Starsky & Hutch. Just fantastic. So it becomes more of a fast-action puzzle game then a driving/racing title, and it's a blast.

There is a super-heavy pop-culture influence to it, and almost every car on the road is something you saw in a show or movie. The game makes no illusions about it either, as it is constantly making little references either visually or through trophies/dialogue to some 70s/80s movie or show that had a famous car. Earlier I shifted into a Delorean, and when it got up to 88 it started glowing and I got some trophy named after BttF. Hell, you can drive Eric Foreman's Vista Cruiser if you like...

The only complaints I have are that there's a very strange filter on the game to make it look like an old movie, and it really hurts the PQ. Your stuck with it too, as there is no way to turn it off or adjust any visual settings of any kind. The whole time I keep wanting to adjust the contrast, and you just can't. That and this game suports nothing. No 3D, no custom soundtracks, no steering wheels, nada. And that sucks, becuase I would LOVE to play this with my DFGT listening to some good 70s music. The era is the other major issue too, as they sorta half-assed the time-period. I assume they did it so they could put more modern cars in here, but it would have been better to just go all out with the theme.

You'll be plowing down the road in your 1972 Lemans with 70s songs blasting out the window, a dude who looks like SuperFly in the passenger seat, an intense scratch-filter on the screen... and then a 2011 Camaro drives by. It's just weird. It doesn't ruin the experience, but I would have preferred if they just said it was 1975 and went with it. Might have been more immersive that way. Oh well.

Know what the best part is though? I got the game for $12 in a clearance bin. I'd have paid full price for this in a minute if I'd known it existed. Great game. I think I have a new GOTY for 2011.

It's a real shame this isn't more well known, becuase it totally redeems the Driver franchise. Best one since 1, which really isn't saying much, but it's definitely true.

18 Comments

I can't believe it, but I'm enjoying a Dynasty Warriors game...

So I blindly bought Warriors Orochi 3 the other day off PSN; mostly because it supported 3D and had good ratings, and a little bit because I've been watching too many kung fu movies on Neflix recently...

The last Dynasty Warriors title I even played was on Ps2 or Dreamcast, and I was kinda lack-luster about the experience back then. I remember thinking the vast scale of it was cool, but the game seemed shallow and clunky. Well, I'm glad I went back for another go, because while it's still a little clunky (and dated), this game is mad fun.

I'm wicked impressed with the fighting engine for one thing. It's so much deeper then I thought this franchise ever went. They pull a surprising amount of depth and variety out of two attack buttons and a special move. Apart from that, I had no idea thee was weapon "crafting", or that there were RPG and RTS elements... I had always considered these games to be simple hack-n-slash affairs, and now I see that there's a lot more here then that.

The most amazing part is of course the huge selection of characters, who all seem to play completely differently from each other, which is quite a feat in and of itself in my book... I had no idea DOA corssed over with this franchise either, so seeing those characters was a nice surprise. Half the fun of this game for me so far has just been playing around with creating different teams; it reminds me of when I first played Xmen Vs SF... I've been playing for hours and hours on the same maps, and the game feels as fresh as the first hour I was playing. I have yet to even scratch the surface of weapons or characters the game has to offer. It's just ridiculous.

The graphics are nothing to scoff at either, especially the character models. I just can't get over how detailed every character is when there are this many. It's unfortunate that the evironments don't have the same level of detail, because they are really the only thing holding this game back from looking fantastic... It would be nice to have some interiors and a bit more variety in the scenery, but I suspect they are pushing hardware limits as it is with this many gorgeous character models on screen at once and all the amazing effects. Obviously there are hordes of same-same warriors on every side of the war, but there are so many unique generals and special characters walking around that the repeating models are almost forgivable. (It would really be nice if they had a couple models rather then just one for most infantry, but it's still pretty slick)

The only real complaints I have are that managing the camera is a full-time job, and the amount of crap on the screen is insanely distracting. It's unfortunate that there are no options to move any of the hud elements around or just remove them completely. As important as it is to see the text and health bars, I'd give that info up in a second to unclutter this screen. I had intended to give this game a go in split-screen with the wife, but I suspect the amount of junk covering the screen will make that a royal pain in the neck.

One truly remarkable thing here is that the 3D is fantastic, which is still somewhat rare on Ps3. It surprised the hell out of me just how well it is implemented here... The cutscenes especially are some of the most impressive 3D I've sene outside an IMAX BD. Shit actually sticks out of the screen, there is no ghosting to speak of, and the depth is just amazing. The effect isn't quite as good during gameplay, but it is still up there with some of the best 3D I've played yet, and it really does help immerse you in the playing field.

What a nice surprise this game is for me; I went it to it with very low expectations, and I'm having a blast playing it.

9 Comments

It's like a beautiful dream. The greatest RPG ever returns.

I'm stunned. Aparently, while I was sleeping, the universe answered all of my prayers. Well, not all of them, but one...

As I've often mentioned here when we have discussions about it, there are two titles that I always say I'd be willing to kickstart. An (Eric Chahi created) Out of This World sequel, or a proper RPG return to Shadowrun (SNES). Well, it looks like the latter may actually be coming true.

Original series creator, Jordan Weisman has come out with a kickstart project, to return ShadowRun to it's SNES/PC roots with a new turn-based RPG in the universe.

This is the greatest news in the history of the world.

http://kotaku.com/5898926/the-shadowrun-video-game-youve-always-wanted#

****Update

el_tajij added this link to the KS page (and Jordan's video) below, it should really be up here. On top of it being the place to support the game, the video there just begs to be seen. Jordan has some awesome shit to say, and the clip of them pelting the FPS devs for what they've done to the franchise is worth the price of admission.

@el_tajij said:

Watch the video on this and listen to the world Jordan Weisman describes. Holy mother effing jesus I hope this gets made.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613260297/shadowrun-returns

PLEASE GIVE GENEROUSLY!

65 Comments

My dirty secret, and why I wish more devs were like me.

I have a secret... One that I've been keeping since the day I set foot in the professional development world, and one that I've decided recently I'm done with.

Hello World, I am color blind.

I've always assumed that it would hurt me professionally if anyone knew, so I've kept it as guarded a secret as I could for as long as I could, and simply put, I'm just tired of the lie.

Over the course of my career, a couple of people have figured it out, but most seem to think I'm not paying close enough attention to my work, and that hurts. Just last year I did some contract work for a Playstation game, and no less then three times was I scolded by the art director about something in my delivered files not matching their initial PS comps, and all three times, the discrepancy was color.

I probably should have come clean to them right then, but I wanted to continue getting the contracts, so I said nothing. The sad thing is, that was not an isloated incident, and I've been dealing with this same problem since birth. I'm just over it.

At my day job (which is more code-based then art usually), I'll catch some slack now and then, but based on the extensive review and QA processes this corporation does, I'll usually get a heads up long before anyone in a position of power over me sees it. We did have a thing a few months ago where I was sitting on the phone with my boss and he kept directing me to something that was green, and I kept choosing the one that was black. He didn't catch on what the issue was, but that can actually be worse, because now, he probably just thinks I'm a total moron.

At any rate, I'm not going to send a mass email out to the company about my issue, but I intend to start pointing it out in situation like the ones I mentioned; it might bite me in the ass, it might not, but I'm pushing forward regardless.

Imagine being this confused...all the time.

Moving on, I want to talk about how this relates to gaming, because I often wonder if the normie-eyed devs ever even stop to consider color blindness when they are in development. (It sure doesn't seem like they do)

Let's start with the obvious, games that are entirely color-based. I'm a big fan of puzzle games, and I've probably logged as many hours playing Tetris as I have walking. The trouble here is that 90% of puzzle based games resort to using color for identification, and it effectively makes the games unplayable to people like myself.

A perfect example is Bust-A-move, or Puzzle Fighter. Now, I freaking love SF... Like, with an unhealthy level of obsession; so, since I also love puzzle games, Puzzle Fighter should be my favorite game of all time, but it's not... because I can't play the effing thing. I can sorta make sense of some of the colors when they are against each other (like, yellow sitting next to blue is pretty easy to spot), but when they place similarly tinted colors near each other (red/orange, or blue/purple), they might as well all be white. When you cannot rapidly detect the difference in colors, a game like PF is essentially worthless. And that's just the beginning...

Great, being color blind here, literally gets me beat up.

Now stop for a moment and think about MP gaming in general. Typically, how do you tell your team apart from the enemy? Differences in color. While most of you are able to spot the difference between people on your team and the enemy in a game like CoD, I am completely lost, and usually end up shooting team-mates in the back. Which I'm sure, is the reason I don't play MP shooters.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the entire world needs to game without color to deal with my problem, but it would be nice if it was at least recognized by other developers as an issue. The truth is, there are infinite number of ways to deal with the problem, and the only reason not to is apathy. (or budget to a degree I guess)

For example, this screen is from Puzzle Bobble. Notice that despite there being a wide range of colors, each bubble is uniquely identifiable without it. (Although to be fair to myself, it does take longer that way). The same methods could easily be applied across the industry if they actually cared enough to care.

Genius

Online MP can be solved just as easily... Rather then giving both teams the same uniforms with subtle color variations, or even more egregious, the devs that color the reticule (infinately harder to see for me) depending on what team you are targeting, they could very easily make the distinctions not be color-based. Put one team in camo and the other not, or if you're going to use colors, use black vs red, or blue vs yellow. Using red and orange armbands that i'm supposed to be able to differenciate from 100 paces is just painful and literally makes the game unplayable for me.

Oh, why can't everything be Red Vs Blue

The really crazy thing about this is that both anecdotally and in at least one written publication, I have seen mention that there is some kind of correlation between color blindness and passion/aptitude for gaming. (I don't have the source handy, but I'm going to try and track it down.) Hell anecdotally, you can just look at the GB dudes... I don't remember when, what exact staff, site, or podcast it was, but I vividly remember them having a discussion about colorblindness on a cast at one point a few years back, and several of the guys present were Colorblind. (I believe Jeff G. was one) Point being, it's clearly not only me this is affecting, and seeing as how it's genetic, my soon to be born child may well get stuck with it too. (My father and grandfather both have it)

This is the best visual descriptor of CB-ness that I've ever seen.

So, what do you guys think? Is this a problem for anyone else? Would you non-colorblind guys give two-shits whether or not they had to alter online MP color-schemes so that I/we can play too?

Is there anything holding back overcoming this problem other then ignorance to it?

13 Comments

Holy Hell Capcom, Really?! Dan is gonna shill Gems now?

Ok, I was a little cheesed off about the whole PacMan/MegaMan crap in the first place, but this just takes the freaking cake man.

At the moment, I'm trying to finish off the Challenge mode, as I just love someone kicing me in the crotch for hours on end for some reason...

Anyways, this one match towards the end is the most ridiculous case of "cheating AI" I've seen (outside MK) in a while. It wants to be really difficult, so rather then figuring out a way to make the AI "better", they just released them of any of the laws of the game. For example, Hugo is one of the opponents in the match, who happens to have an air-throw.

In this particular fight, if you jump, Hugo air-throws you. It doesn't matter where you are, what move you're doing, etc.. I've seen him literally slide across the screen/air and pull Ryu out of a mid-air hurricane kick from almost full-screen distance... Yeah, that seems plausible. I've seen one of the other opponents in the match (King) repeatedly yank Zangief out of a spinning lariet and pile drive him. I'm sure there is some frame of animation you can do that in yourself, but no'one has ever done it to me in 20 years of playing SF...

Anyways, point being, this one match is insanely hard, on purpose. As with all the other matches in the challenge mode, it's "hosted" by Dan, and if you lose, he'll typically give you gem usage advice that will help you win that particular match. For example, on the long matches with several opponents, he'll advise you to use a regenerating-health gem.

Well after this match kicked the living hell out of me for a while, I got the following outstanding advice from Dan about my Gem usage:

"I'll be honest, you're getting rocked hard! Let me give you some advice!"

"I got my gems from "that place" Yes, "there", They're much better then regular gems!"

"Of course, "that place" is the STORE. You better check it out!"

- Dan "The Salesman" Hibiki

I mean come on man... that's pretty nasty, and the perfect, shining example of not only exactly what NOT to do with DLC, but exactly what SF fans were worried about when Gems were first announced.

SF has now become pay to play. Buying the game isn't enough; Hell, buying the Collectors Edition had already given some players an unfair advantage, and now Capcom (via Dan) makes it CLEAR that they intend to make this issue much worse. You will literally be harder to beat depending on how much money you spend on gems.

What. The. Balls.

21 Comments

Journey could have been the system seller for Vita.

Anyone else play this game and just feel like it would have been perfect for Vita? That screen is so gorgeous, and this game is so visually stunning... Not to mention that it's a PSN exclusive, and their previous games (Flower/Flow) are pretty synonymous with PSN already...

I haven't even bought a Vita yet, and just from the ten minutes I spent demo-ing one I know this game would have sold me on the system if it had been a launch title. As of now I'm waiting for Mortal Kombat, but this definately would have had one in my hands already if it was exclusive to Vita, or maybe even just supported.

Seems like a blown opportunity if you asked me... This game is early GOTY contender for sure, and will easily be the most memorable game of this gen for me.

16 Comments

inFamous 2: Festival of Blood is definitely not an expansion pack

There’s a reason they made Festival of Blood a stand-alone game and not an expansion pack; in my opinion, that would be because it is most certainly not expanding anything, and actually regresses the game quite a bit, losing some of the original title's charm in the process.

After a painfully slow download and a pretty annoying hassle installing it (that it appears I'm not alone in experiencing), I sunk a couple of hours into this last night to mixed feelings. It’s definately a fun game, and certainly worth the money, but a bit underwhelming and kind of does more to hurt the series then help it really. I think it's fair to say that it is not an expansion as much as a playable chunk of the original game with a cool new story. Yes, you're a vampire now, but unfortunately, you can't really tell, and it's surely not worth the loss of Cole's original selection of abilities... I expected that the vampirism and dark-side-of-the-force powers would merge together to make Cole into some uber, super-being, but it really doesn't come across that way. You don't feel any more powerful than standard Cole, and in most cases, you're actually a lot weaker and more limited.

So far, the only real vampire power I've even seen was a new traversal method that while interesting, is also largely useless apart from it rendering the parkour completely pointless, which I find to be a bizarre choice from a development standpoint... The original title is really carried by three main things, the parkour, the hand to hand combat, and the wealth of powers available. In this incarnation, the parkour is made useless by this new power, the hand-to-hand combat remains largely unchanged (despite the model swap from the tuning fork to the cross-blade), and the powers have been seriously dewindled down. It just feels like a really strange direction to try and take the game, and reminds me a lot of that inevitable moment in a GTA title when you get a helicopter and then realize there's no point to the cars anymore.

I feel like I saw this in a Lost Boys movie...

Ok, so you're a vampire here, so what does that mean in the context of the gameplay? Well, not much really... You can drink blood, but it really only serves the purpose of filling your new (largely un-needed) blood meter, which becomes the well from which you draw the one vampiric power you have, should you choose to use it. You can use this feeding ability to regain health as well, but you'll probably still opt for the good-old power-suck the seires has always had, as it's faster, more convenient, and has less margin for error or damage.

The only other "addition" I've seen (yet) is the new vision mode which plays out a lot like Batman's detective vision, and really serves no purpose other than determining who to bite and who to zap. Were it important to drink blood or determine who was undead, maybe that would serve a purpose, but it rapidly becomes nothing but a minor distraction from the tiny selection of missions available (there is a running side quest where you try to spot the undead hiding in the crowd, but it's largely pointless and uneventful.)

I'm Batman

The other major problem is that the game has been nerfed, hard. I know it's a DLC title and all, so I wasn't expecting the full run of the city, but it does become apparent pretty quickly that you're playing a shadow of the original game. There is virtually no side-content, you fight the same repeating vampire enemies over, and over, and there is really not much to do or see apart from the slim amount of main-missions that I was more than halfway through in less than two hour's time. That might sound ok for the price, but the truth is, the vast majority of that time I was just playing around in the world, and I really only completed a couple of missions. If I had to take a wild guess, there are probably only six-to-eight actual story missions to undertake, and most of them are over fast and largely unremarkable.

The big issue here is variety, and there simply isn’t any. Every enemy is taken from a tiny handful of different vampire models that largely operate and fight in exactly the same way. You will see some take on more of a distanced attack while others will rush you, but apart from that, get used to repeating the same battle against the same enemies, ad nauseum.

I feel like I've seen you before... and twenty of your twins

Obviously, if you’ve played iF2 you know that the battle engine is spectacular, and it still is here, sorta… The lack of any choice or variation in your powers is a severe hit from the main game, and the fact that enemies MUST be dispatched in exactly the same way every time makes the whole thing seem a lot more repetitive then it needed to be. Basically, you choose your method of knocking the enemy down, then walk over and “stake them” with a context-sensitive attack that is really just an animation swap on Cole’s power-drain ability from the regular game. Weak; how about letting me decapitate them, or maybe burn them alive? It seems like there are easy ways to make the vampire hunting more interesting that were ignored...

There is an overall sense of this shallow pool throughout the experience. While there is some progression, and you will upgrade the given powers you have to some degree, there is no longer a menu of options to choose from. You get the base versions of each of Cole’s gifts, and from what I’ve seen, no additional attacks like his super-tornado or anything. For example, in the main game, you have a handful of different "punch blast" attacks that do different things. Here you get the original vanilla from iF1, and from what I've seen, that's just the way it is.

The missions I’ve witnessed so far were also painfully simple and without excitement. Again, I’ve only completed a small handful, but none of the variety from iF2 was in there; these were basically just, go here, fight these same 4 vampires, move on. iF2’s canonical story and missions were a hell of a lot more exciting than that.

She's not quite as intimidating a boss as the beast was...

That said, it’s still an excellent game, just a lesser version of it with a great style and fun story. The visuals while not being hugely changed actually seem to look a lot better than the full disk release, but this is just because of the lighting of the city. The whole game plays out in an 8 hour span between dark and dawn, and the way the city looks is really striking. The lighting effects are just stunning and really breathe new life into this city that I’ve already seen every inch of.

It reminds me a lot of RDR: Undead Nightmare in that sense of something being lost in the translation, but the game still being a blast to play. The only trouble here is that the whole moral aspect has been removed, as well as any variety in the actual game play with the limiting of Cole’s power choices, and that takes a toll on a major fan of the series.

At the end of the day, it’s a REALLY strong DL title, especially at that price point, and as a horror enthusiast, I dig the style; unfortunately, they ripped out a bit too much of what makes the original game great in the process and it feels like a shell of that game. Regardless though, from what I’ve seen so far, it is VERY easy to recommend this game, particularly if you haven’t played the others in the series.

First borns will kick the snot out of you, if you're not careful

***Edit/Update - I just want to add a couple of things here now that I have completed the game.

First, the length. I believe there were 8 main missions, which if you straight-out attacked I would wager you could complete the game (playing it normally) in less then two hours. That said, there is also a signifigantly larger pool of other stuff to do then I first realized. It's still insanely nerfed compared to the full game (which stands to reason), but if you spent time messing around with the world/people and completing all the little side-quests and junk, you could easily stretch this out to 4-6 hours, which is just fine for a $10 DLC title in my book. Add the replayability (which I think is fairly high personally), and it's a home run.

The other thing I want to mention is that I stand completely corrected on the new Vampire abilities usefullness. While I still think Cole is far too weak as a vampire and if they were going to strip powers out they should have ya know, replaced them with vampire ones, his new stuff does actually end up being pretty cool. The new traversal mechanic does eventually upgrade to an attack, and it can be pretty fun to use and really opens up the world to new attack methods (mostly drops). It still drives me nuts that they ripped out his coolest and most useful powers (like levitation of objects and the car-jump), but I grew to really enjoy the powers he does have now.

Also, the Batman vision mode does in fact make a difference. Identifying vampires (first-borns) with the vision mode does play a larger role then simply getting the trophy for it. In actuality, those first borns can be a royal pain to take down, especially if you are also being swarmed by other blood-suckers at the time. Doing a quick scan before a battle to make sure you aren't standing next to a hidden first born is a good idea a lot of the time.

Lastly, I just want to mention how much more I grew to like the battles with the vampires as I got further into the game. I still find the amount of variety to be too small, but they really do kick a bit of ass once it gets going. In several instances I got swarmed by the zippy little teleporting vamps and it became a hectic frenzied blast chasing them around on rooftops all the while other strains of vampires were running at me from the ground and junk; very cool stuff.

13 Comments

Despite the *enhancements, the Star Wars Blu Ray set is awesome.

Not the greatest box art ever, but what's in there is sweet.

I should say "so far" first of all, as I'm only 7 or 8 hours into watching this thing, and I've only seen a fraction of the content. Although there is a lot of stuff that has been included before, there's a wealth of new content as well. I've watched about 3 hours of new special features, and they are just amazing. Even after owning every single DVD released of every one of these movies, there is new stuff in here that I haven't seen before. Amazing deleted scenes like an entire sub-plot about Wampas terrorizing the Rebel base on Hoth, with a ton of new footage of different crazy Wampa action. I've heard murmers about this stuff before, and I've seen little tiny bits and pieces, but nothing like the extensive scenes shown here.

Sweet new Wompa footage

As far as the movies themselves go, I started with New Hope, and I'm about to watch Jedi now; I'm going to watch the prequels tomorrow. I probably should have started at TPM, but I had purposefully avoided watching 4-6 for the past year or two in perperation for the BD release, so I couldn't wait any longer.

The quality is easily the best I've ever seen, and some of it looks like it's been restored even further then the Special Editions. Some of the blacks could be darker, and while most of the transfer is outstanding, there are parts that seem a little washed out or muted (especially in Ep.IV), and a litttle fuzzy, and then other parts are vibrant and sharp.

The audio is just increadible. My reciever only supports up to 5.1 DTS, but even at that quality, it's stunning, and much better then the DVDs imo. I don't think any other film has ever worked out my speaker set like these films do. You constantly hear seperate ambient sounds coming from each speaker that all blend together into the background noise, it's intense. Especially in busy scenes like battles or the cantina band and such.

The additions since SE are not all that huge, but the clearer this movie becomes, the worse those SE additions look. That scene at Mos Eisley with the CG Jabba and Han looks just awful now. Jabba is so sharp and crisp and that footage beneath his is so muddy and blurry that it looks like a colorform laid on top of vintage film.

Thankfully, the changes are subtle.

I wasn't all that bothered by the change to the Dragon sound that ObiWan makes to scare the Tuscans, but it does sound bizarre to hear an effect like that be so altered. The Storm Troopers on the CG Dewbacks looks pretty bad, unfortunate there is no alternate footage even shown for the original version. At the very least they should make a small docu-thing where you can view each alteration of the original through till today and see each version. I think letting us see the evolution of each effect would be interesting.

Also, something dawned on me while watching IV; these dudes:

Trigger happy lizard riding freaks.

Are responsible for the downfall of the entire Empire. If they hadn't decided to barbeque the local farmers based strictly on the word of a roving band of droid theives who would do anything to save thier own necks, this whole misunderstanding may have been avoided.

If Owen was still alive to continue busting Luke's chops, he NEVER would have gone with Obi-Wan, and one or both of the droids would have ended up either in Empire hands or Wiped at Anchorhead and reparing moisture vaporators within two days.

It's all those dude's fault. If they had just exercised a little restraint at the farm, they would still be ruling the galaxy.

At any rate, the package is outstanding, and VERY reasonably priced for what you're getting. I paid $90 at Target (comes with a set of "limited edition" lithographs.), but it's only 79.99 on Amazon. Thats all 6 films, andthree full disks of special features, along with multiple commentary tracks on every disk. Everything is in the best quality is has ever been. This is a double-dip I can happily go for.

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Why you're not going to work in the game industry.

 

I read an interesting article on Kotaku this morning that I'm sure a lot of folks around here have probably heard about by now. See, there's this girl, Erin Michael Vondrak, who wants to work in the game industry. Specifically, she wants to work at Valve. Tired of being ignored through the usual channels, she's created a video love-letter to the company, essentially begging for a job, and said video is now becoming viral.

First of all, if you haven't seen it, give it a watch at the link below. It's a cute, clever video, and it's no doubt going to end up on somebody's desk at Valve eventually. So, in that respect, I can appreciate what she's done, and I admire her creativity in getting her name out there. That said, she makes a pretty weak case, and this whole story is actually an excellent opportunity to talk about this insane delusion so many people are saddled with when it comes to working in this particular industry.

Let's call this, "Stuff I wish I'd known 20 years ago", or "Why Erin is not going to work for Valve."

 1.) Despite what my mom, friends, and high school art teachers told me, I'm not really that talented, and there are eight million other guys who are better then me. If you have trouble believing that about yourself, at least understand that even if you have this great "talent", you probably don't have the skills to apply this talent to something that makes money for someone else, which is really what working is all about.

 
 2.) Being "creative" is not a skill in itself, and does not guarantee you any success. From what I've seen, it's the obnoxious people that succeed, not the creative ones. By that I mean that you can be marginally talented or educated in a field and still achieve great success just by being able to network and bullshit. Of the dozen or so developers I've seen come and go from my current company, maybe two of them were actually talented at the job, the rest were just good at networking and knew how to google for the components or code that they needed. These are your "Duct-tape"' developers, and as much as the concept sounds neausating to me, these guys do very well in corporate situations. They don't do anything to push the boundries or innovate, but they work fast and cheap; guys like myself who want to create every aspect of something from the ground up are not as good for the bottom line and therefore not as well "liked".

 
3.) Being creative doesn't pay very well. (Of course, neither does game development, but that's a whole other issue.) What I mean here is that just because you like to draw and may even have a half-dozen ideas for great games, it doesn't mean you have a marketable skill. In software development, there is no such job as "idea-man". Yes, game designers do need to be creative in their ideas, and innovation surely has its place in any industry, but really, it's not something most companies are clamoring for.

 Game companies are for the most part corporate businesses who only care about one thing, making money. Innovations can sometimes yield impressive results, but there's always a risk, and most businesses don't like risk. This is why we see a new Call of Duty every year rather than a new franchise. Point being, nobody wants your game ideas. If you want to design a game from the ground up, you're looking in the wrong place. Start working on your indie game and stop trying to shoehorn this dream into a job where it doesn't apply.

 

4.) Work is called work for a reason. Yeah, it's awesome getting paid to do something you love, but making something you love your job is also a sure-fire way to stop loving it as much. It doesn't matter if it's gaming, drawing or break-dancing, once someone is paying you to do it; you're going to want to do it for free a lot less often.
I can liken this pretty easily to the pizza place I worked nights at for ten years while I "tried to break into the industry". I used to like pizza; actually, I used to like it a lot. Then I made it, sold it, and delivered it for a decade. You know what? Now I can barely stand the sight or smell of it. Also, despite it being really fun to eat a pizza, it's not really a party to make one. In other words, just because you like playing games does not mean that you will like making them.

 This idea of people wanting to work in gaming because they love playing them is pretty similar to a twelve year-old boy saying he wants to be a gynecologist.

 5.) Game companies aren’t looking for computer nerds with a ton of gaming experience. Well, let me rephrase that… Development or art jobs in the game industry aren’t looking for that, QA on the other hand does have a need for that to a degree, as long as you also posess good writing and communication skills, and the ability to do something absolutely mind-numbing for very little money. (Also, in my personal opinion, doing testing or QA makes you a game developer about as much as writing reviews of restaurants makes you a chef.)

 Anyone in the industry needs to have knowledge of it, but pay attention to this part, because it’s really important and clearly some people don't get it… Spending 16 hours a day playing World of Warcraft does not count as industry experience. Yeah, the guy developing the next Half-Life at Valve has probably played the last one, but he was probably also juggling school, free internships, and nine hours a night working on conversion mods and skinning existing 3D models. Big difference. The people who say they want to work in gaming but have never actually tried creating any aspect of a game are just mind-boggling to me. If you want to be in game development... try developing something! You don't have to create an entire game, try creating a character model for Quake 3 or something. Copies of the game are cheap, all the tools are out there, and there is a monsterous community and wealth of information that will help you. If you like the proces, then by all means, pursue it. If it seemed like insanely frusterating monotonous work to you, or you don't see how you could possibly pull something like that off, then maybe you shouldn't spend 40 grand on a tech-school degree to find that out. That might seem obvious, but I could introduce you to at least a dozen people I know that did exactly that.

  
6.) Ok, this is the big one… This is probably the single biggest misconception about the industry, and that confusion is the impetus for all 47 thousand tech schools in the US offering “game degrees”.      There is no such thing as an education in game design.

Well, let me back up a little… Outside of administration, QA, HR depts., etc, there are really two major fields in game development. There are artists and there are programmers. Yes, there are higher-level jobs that may require a knowledge or experience in both, but those jobs are given to veterans, not newbies. Just like you typically have to play a sport before you can be a commentator, you have to work in the industry before you’re going to be hired to be the guy at the top of the chain. Obviously there are a hundred different delineations or specialties for each of these jobs, such as texture artist versus concept artist, or AI programmer versus netcode programmer, but the point is still the same; half of these guys are artists, the other half are programmers. Most of the time, neither one of them are both.

 Ok, so with that said, let’s take a look at my personal experience here, as I have a degree in “Multimedia communications with an emphasis on 3D modeling and animation” from one of these schools. (Although, to be fair, I went in NY, so I actually got a state accredited degree, which is not typically the case with a lot of these schools in other states, and it's insane). Anyways, my school sold me on the idea of “3D Animation! Game Design!” and I bought it hook, line, and sinker.

 Over the course of my degree, I took classes in programming, scripting, interface design, animation, 3D modeling, you name it. At the end of my run, I had a really great understanding of how games are made, a HUGE bill to pay, and absolutely ZERO marketable skills. I assumed for some reason that my“creativity”, my drive to be in the industry, and this kick-ass jack-of-all-trades degree was surely going to get me a job; well guess what, it didn’t.

 

After graduation, I tried fruitlessly to get a job at Vicarious Visions, simply because it was near me. After a dozen emails, a half-dozen phone calls and many, many months of waiting, I realized that they weren’t going to call me back, and I decided to needed to find out why. A friend of a friend knew a guy that worked there, and through some luck I ended up at a party with this dude and started grilling him. He told me a lot of stuff about working there that I didn’t know (and honestly, he totally scared me away), but the one thing that I took away from that conversation was this, and it went against everything I had thought to be true up till that point.

 He said (paraphrased), “You have a degree in multimedia… That’s not what we’re after. You should have gotten a fine-arts degree if you wanted to be an artist or a CS degree if you wanted to be a programmer.” “We would much rather teach an artist how to use a computer then attempt to teach a computer nerd art skills.”

 I know, it seems so simple, and yet, I had never heard, or even thought about it that way before… Somewhere in learning how to model and animate in 3D I’d forgotten to learn any real art skills. So, while I can model and animate a 3D ball bouncing like you wouldn’t believe, I would be completely lost drawing an accurately proportioned human being in action. Somewhere along the line, I’d gone straight to the end-game without learning any of the fundamentals you need to get there. Luckily I picked up enough programming in college that I was able to change the course of my career and do development on that side, but let me tell you man, it was a massive blow when I realized I wasn’t going to be an artist. I was so sure after twenty years of parents and teachers telling me how great I was that I was going to succeed. What they failed to mention to me that was I had creativity, not skill. There is a WORLD of difference, and I for one don’t think this girl with the viral video has learned that lesson yet.

 To wrap up, I just want to mention that while I did look at Erin’s online portfolio (http://web.me.com/erin.michael/newsite/main.html), I haven’t done any excessive research of what she has and hasn’t done to get into the industry. I was just inspired to write this column as I’ve had this conversation with a few people online this week and this article today just sent me off. For all I know, Erin may well have created some 3D models or done some mod work, but if she did, it’s not present in her video. That’s actually part of the reason this video stuck in my craw so much. You could argue that it’s kitschy or stylized and meant to be funny, but what I see is a bunch of poorly drawn 2d work surrounded by crummy animation. Which part of this video is supposed to inspire people to hire you? Where is the marketable skill here? Does it seem reasonable for Valve to pick you over the 15 million other people clamoring for that job, many of which having a huge body of work and examples to back them up? Yeah, it’s creative, but so what man? I could draw an interesting picture with a stick in some dog poop, but I’m not sure how I would make money off of that…

 

At any rate, I do wish her the best of luck, but I strongly doubt we’ll be seeing her name in the credits for Left 4 Dead 3. Call it a hunch.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNgjecJY76g&feature=player_embedded

 

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