This is strange. It's dark. There's nothing to see except the black glare of a monitor on the floor and what looks like one of those Microsoft Kinect things in front of it. Hang on, someone's coming out. He's wearing gloves and doesn't want to show his face.
What's that? He's appeared to have made some kind of ritualistic arm motion to the techno-altar. Hmm. Curious.
Hang on. I think I recognis- HOLY SHIT. SHAPES! COLOURS AND SHAPES! MUSIC!
He appears to be manipulating - hang on, nono. That can't be what I think it is? Surely not. Such a recognisable noise... sounds like it's locking on to...
The next five minutes were a blur. They zipped on by, but stoked my desires of always wanting that next gen version of Rez with lush visuals and insane sound. Imagine it in 3D. Imagine it projected onto the biggest wall you could possibly imagine. Imagine it pumped directly into your brains.
Holidays are wonderful things. They can be eye-opening, for starters. Being back in the UK after my two week visit to the glorious shores of the US of A, I realise that there are things which totally seperate our two countries. The US has a myriad of marshmallow-infested treats which will joyfully tell you of their healthy content to make you feel less guilty during breakfast time. Your videogames? Cheaper. I picked up the wonderful new Zelda - Spirit Tracks game for my DS from a friendly GameStop (I had a long chat with the bloke behind the counter about the merits of Street Fighter 4). This game saved me from the 8 hour-long flight back home and transported me away from the screaming babies and the whole, horrible touristy vibe which went on in there.
The thing which really opened my eyes was a place in Downtown Disney called DisneyQuest. I heard about this place from people as it has a vast array of arcade machines which are free-to-play, albeit after the entrance fee. There's other attractions too. There's a horribly unfair and painful VR game called Ride The Comix where you swish a lightsabre around trying to hit the lowest of low polygonal enemies. It's responsive, but the immersion was ruined somewhat by the torture-helmet which gave no room for my spectacles. They have another VR game based on Aladdin which is just as painful and almost claustrophobic in its nature; you ride on a piece of modified gym equipment searching for sparkly 2D gem sprites in a "immersive" 3D world. This game had a lot more to figure out, and although it looked like a decent PSOne game, it was still horrible to play.
Seriously, the Virtuality thing was a mis-step for videogaming. Sure, the Hackers vibe suits such a thing, but it always felt like a gimmick.
The epiphany to this story, dear reader, materalised when I chanced upon the retro arcade section of DisneyQuest's five floor complex. Pac-Man caught my eye. The machine was pristine - if you ignored the Buzz Lightyear bumper car game which also inhabited the gaming space, you'd swear you were in an arcade of the past. The cacophony of multiple arcade machines is an intoxicating sound for a videogamer. Now there are people out there who have only ever played on their PS3, their 360 and their Wii consoles. They may have sampled the Championship Edition of Pac-Man, but here's the thing - you've not really experienced Pac-Man until you get your hands on the arcade itself.
I have to admit, I only ever played Pac-Man on my Atari 2600. It was very, very addicting. There's something about those chunky sprites which makes me realise my continuous love for the pixel. The unforgiving Atari 2600 joystick though, that's no way to play it. My six-year-old hands often cramped up during long play sessions - why would this fun be so painful? I didn't understand. Pac-Man Championship Edition on the 360 is a truly brilliant sequel to the original, but is also hampered by the 360 pad. I was totally frustrated with the loose feel of the LS, the abhorant alternative being the shitty d-pad. There's a disconnect which is all too apparant. Deep down inside, I know I can complete those challenges. "A bad workman always blames his tools" is something I strongly disagree with if the tools themselves aren't up for the job. You can't have a controller which is universal for every gaming experience.
Arcades provide, by their very design, different experiences and different methods of control. Trackballs, joysticks, steering wheels. There is nothing more satisfying than the stab of an arcade button. A huge, generous arcade button. The buttons on the current crop of consoles pale by comparison.
Back to Pac-Man. That joystick. Ohmy. It was a revelation. Not once did I mis-direct the hungry yellow orb. I was in perfect harmony with the machine. I was totally immersed, and realised that I was actually pretty good at the game. Same thing happened with Galaga too; after a short time, I soon got into the zone and was dodging bullets and ships like a pro. I'm not bragging. I really am not. I don't want to appear like the idiot who reviewed Blur for IGN. I think more isn't necessarily better; arcade machines are blessed with a pure simplicity which rewards the player instead of punishing him. Too many videogames these days appear to be unharmonious and fractured in that respect.
If you love videogames and haven't yet enjoyed the pleasure of a classic arcade machine, please do. It'll make you think differently about your passion and pasttime, and perhaps give you some inspiration to hunt down more varied gaming experiences. It saddens me that arcade machines aren't as prevalent as they used to be - we have consoles to blame for that.
You owe it to yourselves to investigate further. Expand your gaming horizons!
I've been working on Flash assets today for the Flash presentation thing I'm doing for Craig, our studio head, and people are coming up and saying how lovely things look. This surprises me sometimes because I consider myself a bit shit on Photoshop, but I suppose I can blag artwork quite easily. I've been productive though, which is the main thing - a busy mind is an occupied mind. Every time I see the demo, it fills my heart with hope - it looks delicious and today I was checking out the demo stuff which has been worked on for the on-foot chasing and combat. In both cases, they do a good impression of showcasing our sprawling cityscape. Necessary Force has a three-tiered social structure - the slums for the lower classes, heading up to the main roads and the supported middle classes, then up to the highest tiers - the skyscrapers - and the rich and famous.
Essentially the game is a huge network of missions and detective work with combat, interrogation, gun-play and driving thrown in. When you look at the thing, it's the anti- Wheelman in looks - it's dark, grotty and grim though still manages to have its own character. We've got a super-sexy cop car which is affected by the dynamic rain, we've got a rain-soaked copper (who I still don't think has a name) and we've got that environment. Oh, and the mood video - which looks good enough to go on GameTrailers for a unsuspecting audience. I think a lot of people think we're just twiddling our thumbs, but we're busy. We got a catch-up e-mail from one of the producers regarding how well we're working - I've been waking up to the sound of the bloke upstairs, and heading into work early. I'm not actually that annoyed by this - in fact, it's almost like being called by Mum to get out of bed and grab some breakfast. I've been sticking around until 6.30 though to make up time - I'm even going to come in on Saturday afternoon and evening to get even more stuff done. I want this thing to shine.
I think we've got a Braveheart mentality now - and the attached image which was in response to this attitude confirmed it. I'm excited. Dave, the bloke who cleans up the studio and who still doesn't know my first name (maybe I haven't told him it..) talked to me outside the studio before I left - he reckons the studio is half optimistic and half pessimistic when chatting to some of the guys while he does his stuff in our kitchen. We compared our mind-notes and realised that we have got something very special, plus the studio is a bargain. If people don't snap us up, it's going to be a tragedy. We have high hopes though and I left the studio today with a spring in my step.
I checked up on mortgage insurance just now - £30 a month to cover my payments. It's tempting, though I may never need it. A quarter of all homes don't have this insurance either. I wonder why... I'm going to hold off for the moment though. I have good feelings jumping about my bones about all of this.
The Quick Looks. They're better than any review. Take the Tony Hawk : Ride Quick Look, for instance. We were all curious to see what was up with that, and our fears were confirmed. A big clunky mess of a game with a big clunky mess of a peripheral. The Quick Looks are almost like you're sitting with the Giant Bomb guys on their big Giant Bomb sofa as they play the game and comment on it. I don't really trust many reviews online, but I trust those Quick Looks.
Also Deadly Premonition. Ohmy. I think the Endurance Runs are slowly persuading me to pick that game up. Sure, it's bad at a lot of things, but it also has a sackload of character which is gleefully picked up upon.
Oh, and those quests. Lovely, lovely quests. Thank you, Giant Bomb!